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´╗┐Title: Glenloch Girls
Author: Remick, Grace May
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Glenloch Girls" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



GLENLOCH GIRLS

By GRACE M. REMICK

Author of
 GLENLOCH GIRLS ABROAD
 GLENLOCH GIRLS' CLUB
 GLENLOCH GIRLS AT CAMP WEST


ILLUSTRATED BY ADA C. WILLLAMSON



To my little cousin

KATHARINE McC. REMICK

whose unfailing interest and appreciation have helped me to write
this book.



Introduction


This is the story of a pleasant winter in the lives of some everyday
girls and boys. That doesn't sound exciting, does it? And yet, if
you stop to think, you will remember that most girls and boys live
comparatively simple lives and that it is given only to a few to
have strange adventures and do valorous deeds. Ruth Shirley, one
of the girls, expects to be very forlorn, but, finding a new home
in Glenloch, she is welcomed by the kindest of friends and becomes
a Glenloch Girl in heart and name. One of the boys is obliged to
learn the lesson of patience and courage when that which he most
prizes is taken away and he supposes it will never be regained.
Like all the rest of us, these young people have their follies and
faults. On the whole, however, they are truthful, good-natured,
peaceable young citizens, full of the business of the hour, but
beginning already to plan for the mysterious future which to them
promises so much. Those who are interested in the story of their
good times together may be glad to read in "Glenloch Girls Abroad"
how Ruth meets her father, what tidings she has from Glenloch, and
something of the new friends she makes on the other side of the
ocean. They will be interested also in the further doings of The
Social Six, as they are related in "Glenloch Girls' Club." And the
adventures and good times of "Glenloch Girls at Camp West."

GRACE M. REMICK.



CONTENTS

    I. RUTH'S FATHER

   II. THREE CHUMS

  III. THE NEWCOMER

   IV. A NEW CLUB

    V. THE SOCIAL SIX

   VI. BAD NEWS AND GOOD

  VII. CAPS AND APRONS

 VIII. CHARLOTTE'S PROBLEMS

   IX. OUT OF THE SNOW

    X. CHRISTMAS PRESENTS XI. ARTHUR COMES BACK

  XII. LOST AND FOUND

 XIII. MISS CYNTHIA

  XIV. TINY ELSA

   XV. PETER PAN

  XVI. TELLING FORTUNES

 XVII. UNCLE JERRY

XVIII. THOSE RIDICULOUS BOYS

  XIX. "HOME, SWEET HOME"



ILLUSTRATIONS

"I WAS AFRAID YOU WEREN'T COMING,"

"DO YOU PROMISE TO KEEP OUR SECRETS?"

"LET ME GIVE YOU YOUR PRESENT NOW"

"IT'S VERY FINE AND BRAVE OF YOU"

IT HAPPENED AS SHE HAD WISHED

"IS YOUR LEMONADE GOOD?"

"TELL THEM YOUR NEWS"



CHAPTER I

RUTH'S FATHER


Just as the key clicked in the lock and the front door opened,
a bright face peeped over the baluster from the hall above. "Why,
papa," said a dismayed voice, "you're very early and I'm not dressed.
I wanted to be at the door to meet you tonight of all nights."

"I'm sorry I'm not welcome, Ruthie," said papa, pretending to
be very much hurt. "Shall I go out and walk up and down the block
until you are ready to receive me?"

"No, indeed, you absurd boy. I'll be down there in three minutes
and a half. Don't get interested in a book, will you, for I want
to talk with you."

"Ail right, my dear," replied papa dutifully, and Ruth flew off to
her room to put the finishing touches to her toilet.

A few minutes later she appeared in the library with flushed cheeks
and very bright eyes. "Now, Popsy, sit down here," she said, leading
him to the big armchair and sitting down in front of him. "Do you
know what day this is, sir?" she continued, trying to look very
stern.

"I think I do," he answered meekly; "it's the seventeenth of
September, I believe."

"And what day is that?" still more sternly.

"That is, why, bless my soul, so it is, that's---"

"Your birthday," finished Ruth triumphantly. "And we're going to
celebrate it just by ourselves. You aren't going out this evening,
are you, Popsy?"

"No, dear, I shall be very glad to stay at home with you. I
am afraid, though, that I shan't be a very good birthday boy, for
there are some business plans that are troubling me, and I want to
talk them over with you."

"Business plans?" said Ruth, surprised. "Why, papa, I never supposed
I could help you about business plans."

"These particular plans have so much to do with you, little girl,
that it's only fair to tell you about them before I decide.  However,
we won't talk about them until after dinner, for I'm as hungry as
a bear."

"Well, do run upstairs and get ready now, for dinner will be ready
in a few minutes, and I'm dying to give you your birthday surprise."

"Dear me, I thought it was enough of a shock to have a birthday,
without more surprises. Give it to me by degrees, please, for in
my starving condition I can't bear much."

Ruth watched her father as he ran lightly up the stairs, and wondered
if any other girl had such a great, strong, handsome papa. "He's
my very best chum," she said to herself, "and sometimes he doesn't
seem a bit older than I do."

Just as the maid announced dinner, papa appeared and Ruth met him
at the foot of the stairs with a sweeping courtesy. He responded
with a ceremonious bow, and the proffer of his arm, which Ruth took
with great gravity.

"Aren't we grand?" she said in a satisfied tone. "It makes me feel
dreadfully grown up to have you treat me so politely."

"I'll stop then," laughed papa. "Fourteen is old enough, and I
don't want my girl to turn into a young lady just yet."

"Now shut your eyes, Popsy, and don't look until I get you into
your chair," said Ruth as they reached the dining-room door.

Her father obediently shut his eyes, and Ruth led him to his place
at the table. Then she slipped around to her own chair, and clapping
her hands said triumphantly, "Now look."

"Oh--o-oh!" gasped her father, almost before he had opened his
eyes. "This is truly superb. Ruth, you're an artist."

"Mary helped me do it," said Ruth, smiling at the pretty maid; "but
I planned it every bit myself. I thought I would make it a pink
and white birthday because pink is your favorite color."

Mr. Shirley looked at the pretty table with appreciative eyes. In
the centre a bowl of pink roses reflected in its shining facets
the lights of the pink candies which filled the candelabra at the
ends of the table. Broad, pink satin ribbons, with rosebuds and
maidenhair fern dropped upon them at intervals, ran from the flower
bowl in the centre to the comers of the polished table, and in front
of papa's plate was a huge birthday cake resplendent with pink and
white icing and glittering with candies.

"You don't have to eat the birthday cake first," said Ruth, as Mr.
Shirley looked somewhat apprehensively in its direction. "You see
I made it myself, and I thought I couldn't possibly wait all through
dinner for it to be put on, so I told Mary we'd make it a sort of
glorified supper, and we could have the cake to look at while we
were eating the other things."

"Do you mean to tell me that you made this gorgeous concoction
yourself?" asked papa, looking at her admiringly. "To think I should
have had such a genius in my house and not have known it."

"I've been practicing ever since the first of September," answered
Ruth proudly, "and Nora said that this one looked quite perfect.
But you mustn't take too long over your supper, for there's another
surprise coming when we are all by ourselves in the library."

"You don't say so. How can I wait until then?" said Mr. Shirley,
beginning to attack the salad with great energy.

It was a delightful birthday supper, Ruth thought, for her father
was his funniest self, and she laughed so much that she had scarcely
time to eat. The cake was a great success, and Mr.  Shirley praised
the maker of it so warmly that she blushed rosily and flew around
the table to give him a hug and kiss.

"Now for surprise number two," cried Ruth as they left the table
and went into the cozy library. "Sit in the big chair, papa, and
I'll bring it to you."

Mr. Shirley waited with pretended anxiety while Ruth opened a
drawer in the desk and took out a small box. "This is for the best
of fathers and the best of chums," she said giving it to him with
a kiss.

"From the best of little daughters," he added as he opened the box.
Inside was a velvet case and opening that he found a gold locket
on which his monogram had been engraved.

"It's for you to wear on your watch-chain," said Ruth. "Now open
it."

Mr. Shirley pressed the tiny spring, and the locket flew open
disclosing two miniatures beautifully painted. One of Ruth with
merry brown eyes and brown curls tied in a knot in her neck, and the
other of a sweet-faced, tender-eyed woman whom Ruth much resembled.

"Popsy, dear," said Ruth, "I couldn't think of anything you would
like half so well as these, so I took the money Uncle Jerry sent
me last birthday and had them painted for you. Isn't it sweet of
mamma?" she added softly.

"Nothing you could have given me would have pleased me so much,"
said Mr. Shirley with an odd little choke in his voice. "Those are
the two dearest faces I could possibly see, and they shall go with
me everywhere."

"I'm so glad you like it. And now, papa, let's have the business
plans. It makes me feel very important to think that you are going
to talk business with me."

"Dear, I'm afraid it's going to make you unhappy, and I hate to
spoil our pleasant evening together. Shan't we get the birthday
safely over, and put off the business plans until tomorrow?"

"Seems to me I remember that you are always telling me something
about 'never putting off until tomorrow,' etc., etc. No, sir," she
continued with mock sternness, "I want to hear all about it."

Still her father hesitated, until Ruth said hopefully, "You
haven't lost all your money, have you? That would be so romantic
and interesting. I think I should go out as a cook, and perhaps
you could get a place as butler in the same house. If it happened
just now, though, I should have to feed them on birthday cake until
I learned to make something else."

Mr. Shirley threw back his head and laughed. "You're a good planner,
Ruthie, but I hardly think you'll be obliged to go out as a cook
just yet. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I really can't say that
I have lost any money."

"Well, then, please tell me all about it, and I'll listen very
quietly," said Ruth perching herself on the arm of the big chair.

"It's just this, little daughter," answered Mr. Shirley, putting
his arm around Ruth and drawing her closer; "it has been decided
that it will be a profitable thing for us to open a branch house
in Germany, and it is important that some member of the firm should
be over there for a year or two to start it."

"And are you the one to go?" cried Ruth, clapping her hands. "Why
should you think that would make me unhappy, when it is one of the
dreams of my life to go abroad?"

"That's just where the trouble comes, Ruthie," said her father
tenderly. "I have thought it all over carefully, and I cannot make
myself think that it would be right or wise to take you over there
with me for the first year. For six months, at least, I shall be
traveling nearly all the time, and I should neither want to take
you with me nor to leave you in a pension."

"But, father, I'd be willing to stay alone if I could only see you
once in a while," cried Ruth with quivering lips. "Or you could
get me a German governess, and----"

"Darling, I've thought over every possible plan, and it still seems
to me better for you not to go over during my first year," answered
Mr. Shirley soberly.

"Oh, papa, I can't bear it," sobbed Ruth, burying her face on her
father's shoulder. "We've been such chums for the last year, and
I can't get along without you. Besides," she said, checking her
tears and looking at him with a pitiful attempt at a smile, "when
mamma died she told me I must try to take her place and always take
care of you, and how can I if you go so far away?"

There was another burst of sobs, and all Mr. Shirley could do was
to hold her close and stroke the soft curls with a remorseful hand.
At last when it seemed to him that he could bear it no longer she
raised her tear-stained face, and said as she used to say when she
was a little girl, "I'm going to be good now, papa."

"That's my brave girl," said Mr. Shirley much relieved. "Here, let
me help you wipe your eyes, darling. You need something bigger than
that scrap of a handkerchief after such a shower."

Ruth laughed weakly as papa sopped her eyes in an unskilful but
efficacious manner. Then as she lay back in his arms quite tired
out after her storm of tears she said soberly, "Tell me all the
rest now, papa, please. What do you mean to do with me?"

"That is the hardest question of all to decide," answered Mr.
Shirley gravely. "I never realized before quite how hard it would
be to find a suitable home for such an attractive young person
as you are. If Uncle Jerry would only find a wife and settle down
within the next month you could go to him, but I'm afraid we can't
manage that."

"Within a month, papa? Must it be so soon as that?" asked Ruth,
looking at him with eyes that threatened to overflow again.

"I'm afraid it must, dear," answered Mr. Shirley. "You see the
sooner I get to Germany the better it will be for the business, and
if you and I have a hard thing to do we may as well get it over as
soon as possible."

Ruth shut her eyes for a moment and clenched her hands. She was
determined not to cry again, at least not when she was with her
father.

"You must have some plan for me in your mind, papa," she said at
last very quietly; "please tell me what it is."

"Well, dear, there are three ways out of it. You must either go to
school, have some one come and live with you here, or go to live
in the family of some one we know."

"I've always thought I should just love to go to boarding-school,"
said Ruth thoughtfully, "but now it seems to me I should hate it.
And I should simply die if you left me in this house, for I should
miss you and mamma every minute."

"That's just what I feared," said Mr. Shirley, "and as to the
boarding-school plan, there are several reasons why I should prefer
to give that up for this year. That leaves plan number three to
be considered, and today I've had what I think is a brilliant idea
regarding it."

"What is it, papa?" asked Ruth, beginning to get interested.

"It seems to me that if I leave you with any of our friends here
in Chicago you will be constantly reminded of mamma and me and will
miss us more than you would if you were in some place where we had
never been together. Just as I was thinking this all over for the
hundredth time this morning a letter came from my old college chum,
Henry Hamilton. It was largely a business letter, but at the end
he inquired for you, and said that they wished very much that they
had a daughter growing up in their family."

"Seems to me I've heard mamma speak of Mrs. Hamilton," said Ruth
musingly. "Didn't they play together when they were little girls?"

"Why, yes, of course they did. Mrs. Hamilton was Mary Ashley, and
you remember that funny story mamma used to tell you about the time
they thought they heard a burglar."

"Oh, yes, and how they went into Boston to a big fair and they lost
Mary Ashley's mother, who was taking care of them and had such a
funny time getting home," said Ruth.

"Well, I called on them the last time I went East, and found them
living not far from Boston in a very delightful home, and when that
letter reminded me of them today I thought at once that their home
would be just the place for you if they were willing to take you."

"Are there any children in the family?"

"One boy about sixteen," replied Mr. Shirley.

"Dear me! I wish he had a sister. But, papa, have you any idea that
they'll want to take a strange girl into their family for a whole
year? If they will take me I shall be so much nearer Europe, shan't
I?"

"Of course you will, darling, and I somehow have the feeling that
they'll be glad to have you with them," said Mr. Shirley. "Now
if you agree with me that it is best to try this plan, I'll write
tonight, for I'm sorry to say our plans must be made quickly."

Ruth's eyes filled with tears which she could not hide. "It all
seems so horrid to me when I think of being without you, papa,"
she said slowly, "that I can't make any choice. You'll have to do
just as you think best, and perhaps I shall learn to be brave."

Mr. Shirley hugged her tight for a moment without speaking. Then he
said tenderly, "Darling, go to bed now and try to sleep.  Perhaps
in the morning things will look brighter to you. We'll talk it over
then and see what is best to be done."

Ruth kissed him and tried to smile, "Goodnight, papa; I'll be
a better chum tomorrow," she said with an effort, and then went
quickly from the room.



CHAPTER II

THREE CHUMS


"Why, how delightful, Henry," cried Mrs. Hamilton, as she finished
reading a letter which her husband had just handed to her. "Of
course we want the little girl to come at once."

"Of course," agreed Mr. Hamilton with equal heartiness. "It will
be nice to have a little daughter around the house to bring me my
slippers and play and sing to me when I am tired. But what will
Arthur think of it?" inquired Mr. Hamilton with a note of anxiety
in his voice.

"I hadn't thought of that," answered his wife, her bright face
clouding. "I dare say he won't like it at all, but I don't see that
we can let him decide it. Perhaps it may do him good in the end."

"Well, I shall leave you to settle it with him," said Mr. Hamilton
rising from the table. "For some reason nothing I say seems to make
much of an impression on him nowadays."

"I must say that I get dreadfully discouraged, too," confessed his
wife. "He is so hopelessly indifferent to everything he used to
like; he utterly refuses to see one of the boys or girls, and he
sits for hours at a time doing absolutely nothing. I can see that
the doctor is really anxious about him," she continued.

"Keep up your courage, dear," said Mr. Hamilton with more cheerfulness
than he felt. "Perhaps we shall find a way out of it soon."

"I'll go up now and tell Arthur about Ruth," said Mrs. Hamilton as
she said goodbye to her husband in the hall. "That will give him
something to think of, whether he likes the prospect or not."

As Mrs. Hamilton entered the little sitting-room which used to be
the pride of her son's heart, it was so full of warmth and light
and brightness that, for a moment, in spite of herself, she felt
as if she must see the cheery boy of six months before. Everything
so suggested him, and it was so clearly the room of a boy who loved
all kinds of outdoor exercise. A pair of tennis racquets crossed
on the wall had evidently resigned their place for the time being
to the golf clubs which stood in one comer. A couple of paddles
occupied another comer, and rigged on the wall near the door was
a complicated arrangement of ropes, pulleys and weights designed
to exercise every muscle in the human body. Mrs. Hamilton sighed
involuntarily as her eye rested on a silver cup which stood proudly
on the centre table, a mute witness to the prowess of its owner.
It was the prize for a hundred yard dash in which Arthur had borne
off the honors.

"He'll never be able to do that again, poor laddie," she said to
herself, as she waited a moment to brush the tears from her eyes
before opening the door into the next room.

"Good-morning, dear boy," she said brightly, as she entered a room
which seemed doubly gloomy to her after the brightness of the one
she had left. "You should provide a boy with a torch so that your
visitors can see to get across the room. What ho! have I found you
at last?" she continued, as she took her son's hand in a tender
grasp and gave him a good-morning kiss.

"Do let's have some sunshine, Arthur," she said, putting up the
curtain and letting in a flood of light. "There, now I feel more
at home. Why don't you get the benefit of the morning sunshine?"

"I don't like to look out just at this time in the morning, mother,"
he answered briefly.

Mrs. Hamilton understood in a flash, for just as they were speaking
a gay group of boys and girls had passed the window, and Arthur,
who had turned involuntarily to look at them, had closed his eyes
quickly as though to shut out the pleasant sight.

"Dr. Holland says you may begin to study again, now, Arthur," said
his mother cheerfully, "and it seems to me you might be ready for
college next fall if you do a little every day. You may have a
tutor any time you are ready."

"What's the use?" answered Arthur languidly. "I can't do anything
in athletics with this confounded leg, and I don't want to go there
just to limp around and grind."

"My dear boy, college training is occasionally useful in the way of
improving one's mind as well as muscles," said Mrs. Hamilton with
mild sarcasm. "Dear, don't think I am unsympathetic," she added
quickly as her son. frowned impatiently. "I realize, in part, at
least, what it must be to you to give up your dreams of athletic
glory; but I know, too, that no one else can fight this battle for
you. You've got to face the question squarely, and I have faith
that you will come out a conqueror if you put your best self into
the effort."

"Mother, you don't begin to know," said Arthur slowly, "what this
means to me. It's not alone giving up the athletics, though that's
hard enough, but it's the sensitiveness I feel about letting any
one see that I'm lame. I believe I was rather proud before," he
continued with a faint smile, "because I was straight and strong
and could almost always beat the other boys at any game we tried;
I know it always seemed to me the most dreadful thing in the world
to be crippled in any way, and now I've got to hop around with a
crutch all the rest of my life. Oh, I believe I'd rather die," he
ended bitterly.

"Arthur, dear, I can understand that feeling perfectly," answered
his mother eagerly, "for at your age I had it as strongly as you have.
I think it is only natural to rejoice in strength and straightness
and skill, and to be sensitive if in any way they are taken away
from us. But for all our sakes you've got to bring yourself out of
this unhappy condition. Begin with your crutches about your room,
and when you get a little skill surprise father and me by coming
downstairs. We miss our boy more than I can say."

There was silence for a moment and then Mrs. Hamilton said:

"I came up with a pocketful of news and have almost forgotten to
tell you about it. We are to have a new member in our family; a
little girl, the daughter of an old friend of mine, is coming to
live with us for a whole year."

"How old is she?" asked Arthur indifferently.

"I'm not quite sure," answered his mother, relieved to find that
he took it so calmly, "but I think she is about fourteen."

"Fourteen! Gracious!" ejaculated Arthur sitting bolt upright in
his dismay. "You don't mean to say that we've got to have a girl
fourteen years old in this house? I thought you meant a child about
four or five when you said 'little girl.'"

Mrs. Hamilton couldn't help laughing at his comical look of
apprehension. "I think she's quite harmless, Arthur, and perhaps
you may find her really agreeable when you know her."

"You know I don't know how to get on with girls, mother," he answered
ruefully. "I shall keep out of her way as much as possible, she
may be sure of that."

"I am sorry to find you so ungraciously disposed toward our guest,"
said Mrs. Hamilton quietly, "for I hoped you would help me to make
it pleasant for her. Her mother died only a little more than a year
ago, and now she is going to lose her father for a year, so I am
afraid the poor child will be rather forlorn."

"We shall make a pretty pair for you and father to get along with,"
said Arthur half ashamed. "I'm blue and disagreeable most of the
time, and she'll probably be ready to burst into tears at a moment's
notice."

"There are other ways of giving way to one's feelings that are fully
as bad as tears, I think, my son," said Mrs. Hamilton significantly.

Arthur said nothing, but his chin went down upon his hand in a way
that seemed to signify that he knew what his mother meant.

Mrs. Hamilton looked at the curly head remorsefully, and longed to
pet and comfort as only mothers can. She knew, however, that Arthur
must be made to see that he was spoiling his life by giving way to
this great trial which had come to him.

"Well, dear boy," she said at last, "I must go now and write to
Ruth and tell her that I shall be glad to welcome her here."

"How soon will she get here?" asked Arthur in a resigned tone.

"Her father wrote that he expects to sail on the fifteenth
of October, and as he wants to have two or three days in New York
before sailing that will probably bring her here about the twelfth
or thirteenth. Not quite three weeks, you see."

"The time does seem short," said Arthur, trying to appear politely
interested.

His mother laughed. "I'll leave you to prepare your mind for this
new infliction while I write the note and do my marketing. Don't
forget that you are going to practice with the crutches as soon as
possible; I shall be so proud of you when you can walk downstairs."

Mrs. Hamilton a little later at her desk was just beginning the
pleasant task of writing to Ruth, when the sound of the doorbell
and a quick scamper of feet up the stairs made her put down her
pen with a smile. "Why, girls," she said as a trio of bright faces
appeared in the doorway. "How does it happen that you are out of
school at this hour of the day?"

"Something happened to the gas-pipes, and there was an awful smell
of gas, and all sorts of workmen walking around the building, so
we were sent home," answered the tallest of the three girls. "And
we thought we'd come in and see you for a few minutes, if you
weren't busy and didn't mind."

"I'm almost never too busy to see you and Charlotte and Dorothy,
Betty, and I'm particularly glad just now, for I want to consult
you all about something."

"How fine," said Dorothy. "I love to be consulted, don't you,
girls?"

"You see," continued Mrs. Hamilton, "I am going to borrow a daughter
for a whole year, and I thought you three would be the very ones
to help me make her happy."

"We will. We'd like to," answered the girls. "How old is she?"
asked Charlotte. "And what's her name?" put in Dorothy. "I always
like to know the name before I begin to think very much about a
person."

"Her name is Ruth Shirley, and she's just fourteen, I believe. She
lost a very lovely mother about a year ago, and now her father is
obliged to go abroad on business, so I suspect the poor child will
feel lonely and homesick for a while."

"We'll give her all the good times we can," said Betty warmly.
"When do you expect her, Mrs. Hamilton?"

"In less than three weeks, I think, and that reminds me that I
want you all to advise me about making her room pretty. Let's go
and look at it now and discuss ways and means."

"Oh, you are going to give her the pink room," cried Dorothy as
they entered it. "I think this is the loveliest room in the house."
It was a pretty room, with its delicate pink and white paper, its
dainty draperies and white furniture, and the girls wondered what
more it could need in the way of preparation.

"It seems to me this is fine enough for any one," said Charlotte,
who usually thought aloud quite frankly. "I don't see what you can
do to make it prettier."

"Perhaps not so much prettier as a little more homelike, Charlotte.
For one thing I mean to have some andirons so that there can be a
fire made here when necessary, for this is likely to be a cold room
in winter."

"That will be jolly," murmured Charlotte. "If there's anything I
adore it's an open fire with a rug before it. I hope she's a nice,
quiet girl and likes to read," she added with pretended anxiety,
"for in that case I shouldn't mind having her in the room with me
when I am enjoying her fire."

They all laughed and Dorothy said, "Charlotte is such an old bookworm
that she won't know how to get on with any one who doesn't like to
read. For my part I hope she will be full of fun and like having
a good time better than poking in books all the time."

"Well," said Betty pensively, "I hope she likes cats."

"Well, girls, I hope Ruth will satisfy your expectations," said
Mrs. Hamilton. "And now I want you to do something for me. I want
each of you to think of something that will make the room look more
homelike and more like a girl's room. You may select anything you
like and if I can get it I shall, for I want you all to feel that
you have had a share in making the room pretty."

"I know something," began Dorothy.

"Don't tell, don't tell," interrupted Charlotte. "Let's tell Mrs.
Hamilton secretly, and after the room is finished we'll see if we
can guess what each one suggested."

"That's a clever idea, Lottchen," said Betty, who admired all that
Charlotte said or did.

This agreed upon, the girls said they must go, and Mrs. Hamilton
settled down to her letter once more.

"MY DEAR RUTH" (she wrote):

"I can't wait any longer to tell you how delighted I am to know
that you are coming to us for a whole year. I have always wanted
a daughter of my own, and the next best thing to that will be to
have a borrowed one. I am afraid you are not so full of delight at
the prospect as Mr. Hamilton and I are, but we hope to be able to
drive away at least a part of the homesickness, and we already feel
an affection for the little girl who is coming to us.

"I am going to send you a photograph of some girls who have just
been in to see me and who have heard the news of your coming. I am
very fond of them, and they call themselves my 'visiting daughters,'
and run in to see me at all hours and on all sorts of errands. They
are very glad to know you are coming and are already wondering how
you look and whether you will like them. The one in the middle of
the picture is Charlotte Eastman, and the plump little girl on her
right is Betty Ellsworth. The other is Dorothy Marshall. I shall
not tell you anything more about them, because you will soon see
them and learn to know them for yourself."

Just here Mrs. Hamilton paused in her letter. "She must know that
I have a son, and I'm afraid she'll think it strange if I don't
mention him," she said to herself. "I can't tell her that he is
dreading her coming, and I certainly can't say with truth that he
is expecting her with pleasure. Well, a very little will do and I
can explain later."

"My son, Arthur," the letter went on, "is slowly recovering from
the effects of a severe accident. He has not yet left his room,
but I hope by the time you arrive he will have greatly improved.

"And now, my dear, I'll close my note and hurry it off so that it
may soon assure you of our hearty welcome. With kindest regards to
your father, and love to yourself, I am,

"Yours very sincerely,

"MARY A. HAMILTON."

Mrs. Hamilton's eyes were very tender as she folded and sealed her
letter. "Poor little girl," she said half aloud, "I suspect she
thinks her heart is broken, but we must try to mend it for her."



CHAPTER III

THE NEWCOMER


At three o'clock on the afternoon of the twelfth of October the
Hamilton house was very still. Mrs. Hamilton had gone into town,
the housemaid was taking her "afternoon out," and the cook, who
had been kept awake by toothache the night before, was enjoying a
nap.

Just about this time Arthur peered cautiously from his room. No one
being in sight he came out slowly and carefully on his crutches.
"I can do miles of exercise in this hall," he said to himself with
grim satisfaction, "as long as there is no one to watch me."

He went up and down once, and then with great effort for a second
time. Just as he was about ready to start again, the door-bell rang.
He went carefully toward the door of his own room, always afraid
of toppling over, and paused when he got there to listen.  The bell
rang again, this time more insistently, and he wondered impatiently
where Katie and Ellen were, and why some one didn't go to the door.
A third peal of the bell sent him back to the hall window. From
there he could see the depot carriage with a trunk on the back, and
the driver looking expectantly at the house. He could hear voices
on the steps below, but could see no one until, after a fourth
ring, a gentleman and a young girl went slowly down the steps and
stood looking back at the house.

"It's that girl, and she's come a day too soon," gasped Arthur. He
threw up the hall window and spoke to them.

"If you will wait a moment longer," he said, "I will try to find
some one to open the door for you."

The gentleman bowed and thanked him, the girl smiled, and Arthur
left the window, inwardly vowing vengeance on faithless maids who
didn't attend to their duties. He groaned as he suddenly remembered
that it was Katie's afternoon out. He might as well go downstairs
himself as take the long journey through the house to find Ellen.

"If I try to go down on these old sticks, they'll have to break
open the door and pick me up," he said to himself with a rueful
smile." I'll try it baby fashion." Sitting down, he let his crutches
slide along beside him, and holding the injured leg straight out
before him hitched along from stair to stair until he reached the
bottom. Then with even greater caution than he had used before he
walked to the door and opened it.

A bright-faced girl stood on the step and without waiting for Arthur
to speak said pleasantly, "I am Ruth Shirley, and I am afraid you
are not expecting me until to-morrow."

"I am sure mother didn't expect you to-day, for she has gone in town
and won't be back before five o'clock," said Arthur, unpleasantly
conscious of his crutches, his dressing-gown and his distracted-looking
hair.

Ruth turned to the gentleman who was with her and held out her
hand. "Thank you very much, Mr. Ingersoll, for taking care of me
so nicely. I shall write father all about your kindness."

"It was a very great pleasure, Miss Ruth," answered Mr. Ingersoll,
"and I shall hope some day to be able to tell your father what a
delightful traveling companion I found you. I am only sorry that I
must say good-bye so soon." The driver having carried in her trunk,
Ruth shook hands warmly with Mr. Ingersoll and watched him with a
little homesick pang as he stepped into the carriage and was driven
away. Then she walked into the house with the curious idea that she
was either just waking from a dream or was just going to begin one.

"I feel like those funny little girls in the wonderland stories who
open mysterious doors and have ail sorts of adventures," she said
with a nervous little laugh.

Arthur was distinctly conscious that he wished she had opened some
other mysterious door than his own. What on earth should he do with
a strange girl for the next hour or more?

"You'd like to go up to your room, I'm sure," he said at last
with almost a gasp of relief. "I'll show you," he added, and then
stopped short. How was he going to get up those stairs again?  Would
it be possible for him to make such an exhibition of himself with
the eyes of a girl upon him?

"I think you'll have to let me tell you where it is," he said
finally. "It is the last room on the right as you go toward the
back of the house, and I think you will find everything there to
make you comfortable until my mother gets home."

Ruth was rather awed by his excessive dignity, and because she was
a little nervous, and tired from her long journey, felt an intense
desire to laugh at him, at herself, or at nothing at all, for that
matter. She managed to restrain herself, however, and with a meek
"thank you," picked up her bag and went up-stairs.

Arthur saw her disappear with a sigh of relief. "I'll wait until
she gets nicely settled in her room, and then I'll crawl up-stairs,"
he said to himself, dropping wearily into one of the hall chairs.
He had sat there but a moment when to his horror he heard some one
coming quickly through the dining-room, and then a surprised voice
said:

"Why, Arthur! How good it seems to see you down-stairs again!"

"Oh, hello, Betty," answered Arthur, immensely relieved to find
that it was no one more formidable. "How did you get in?"

"I slipped in the back door and found Ellen just coming down-stairs
rubbing her eyes. She said she thought she heard the bell ring,
but wasn't sure," finished Betty with a mischievous twinkle in her
eye. "I saw it all from my window, and knew your mother had gone
in town, so I thought I'd run over and see if I could do anything
for any one."

"You're a trump, Betty, and you can do something," answered Arthur
gratefully. "Of course I had to ask her to go up to her room, and
I was just thinking she'd be rather forlorn sitting there until
mother gets here. It will be just the thing for you to go up and
talk to her."

"Well, I will," said Betty, and started up the stairs. Half-way up
she paused and then came back. "I've got to run back home, Arthur.
There's something I want to get before I meet Ruth, and I won't be
gone a minute."

She was out of the house in a second, and Arthur left to himself
wondered if he should have time to get up-stairs before her return.
"I should be afraid to try it," he thought; "she's as quick as a
flash, and I should probably be stuck half-way up by the time she
got back. I'll wait until the girls get to talking and then they
won't hear anything."

In the meantime the pretty pink room was doing its best to make
the new occupant feel at home.

"What a dear room!" Ruth said involuntarily as she stepped across
the threshold, and, as if to welcome the little mistress, the
andirons gleamed brightly, the polished teakettle shone with all
its might, and a capacious couch heaped with pillows and covered
with a gay Bagdad looked so comfortable that Ruth longed to try it
at once. She couldn't resist the temptation to peep into the desk
which stood in the comer, and she oh-ed with delight over the dainty
paper and the pretty silver penholder with her name engraved on
it.

"I suppose you must belong to me, you dear room," she said half
aloud, "but I didn't think that I should have such a pretty one."

She looked at the desk with great satisfaction. She opened the
little drawers and found to her surprise that one was filled with
foreign note-paper in delicate blue. "Just what I want for my
letters to papa," she thought with a little sigh, "and it was so
thoughtful of them to get blue, for that will express my feelings
so much better."

"It's quite like having a fairy godmother," she said aloud, as her
eye took in a carved book-rack filled with books, and wandered to
the pretty tea-table where a tall chocolate pot seemed to proclaim
that nothing so harmful as tea should be taken by the girls who
might make merry there.

"She's every bit as nice as a fairy god-mother," said a gay voice,
and Ruth turned suddenly to see standing in the doorway a plump,
red-haired girl with a fuzzy black kitten nestling on her shoulder.

"On, you are Betty, I know," cried Ruth, much to the astonishment
of her guest.

"I am, but I don't see how you knew," answered Betty, opening her
brown eyes very wide.

"Oh, the fairy godmother wrote me about you," laughed Ruth, "and I've
looked at your picture at intervals all the way on from Chicago."

"Then you know Charlotte and Dorothy, too, and we shan't seem like
strangers," said Betty with great satisfaction. "I live just across
the street, and I saw you come and knew Mrs. Hamilton had gone in
town, so I thought I'd run over and see you."

Ruth smiled gratefully. "I'm glad you did, for I do feel just a
bit lonesome. What a darling kitten," she continued, stroking the
soft head as the black mite blinked sleepily at her and stretched
out a tiny paw.

"I thought I'd bring him over," said Betty, "because kittens are
such a comfort to me, and I hoped you liked them, too. Mrs.  Hamilton
says you may have a kitten if you want one, and I thought this one
would look so well on your white rug that I chose him."

"Is he really for me?" cried Ruth as she took him gently in her arms
and sat down on the rug. "You couldn't have brought me anything I
should have liked better. I had to give away my kitten when I left
home and I had begun to miss the dear thing already."

"I told the girls I was sure you liked kittens," said Betty
triumphantly, "and now I shall crow over them, for they are always
laughing at me for liking them so much. Charlotte says that a kitten
is my trade-mark."

"Tell me about Charlotte," said Ruth eagerly. "Is she as much like
her picture as you are?"

"Charlotte is a dear, and I know you'll like her, though some of
the girls call her queer and odd and never do get really acquainted
with her. She's tall and thin and doesn't look very strong, and
I'm afraid you won't think her a bit pretty. I'm so fond of her,
though, that she always looks pretty to me," ended Betty loyally,
trying to do full justice to her friend and yet be honest.

"She sounds interesting," murmured Ruth, rubbing the sleepy kitten
under its chin and beginning to feel less homesick.

"Interesting! I should say so!" replied Betty energetically. "Why,
she's the cleverest girl I know; there isn't anything she can't
do; and she writes the most beautiful stories. I don't see how,
for it's more than I can do to write the essays we have in school."

"I don't mind so much writing essays, but I do hate arithmetic and
algebra, and I never can get them through my head. Papa says I must
go to school here, but I'm afraid I shan't be far enough along to
go in the class with you," said Ruth soberly.

"Oh, that will be too bad. But if you can't, you can probably go in
with Dorothy, for she's a class behind Charlotte and me.  Dolly's
great fun," continued Betty; "she has long braids of really golden
hair, and blue eyes and the prettiest color in her cheeks. She's
full of fun and always ready for a good time. Her father has a
great deal of money, I suppose, for she has an allowance and lots
of pretty clothes, and doesn't have to economize the way Charlotte
and I do."

"I have an allowance, but it isn't a very big one and I never know
where it goes to," confessed Ruth. "Papa wants me to keep a cash
account this winter, and send it over to him every month. but I
know I shall make awful work of it."

"I tried it once when grandma gave me five dollars to spend just
as I liked," said Betty with a laugh. "I got along pretty well
considering it was the first time, but when I came to balance it
I was forty-three cents short and so I wrote at the end, 'Gone, I
know not where, forty-three cents.' I showed it to father, and he
has never got over it; he said it was the most poetical entry he
had ever seen in a cash account."

Just then there was a knock at the door, and Betty opened it to
find Ellen standing there, with her face wreathed in smiles and a
tray in her hands.

"Mr. Arthur thought you might be hungry, Miss," she said to Ruth,
"and so I brought you up a cup of chocolate and a bit of bread and
butter to make you last till dinner time. I thought perhaps Miss
Betty might like some, too," she added with a sly smile.

"Did you ever know the time when I wasn't ready for a cup of your
chocolate, Ellen?" replied Betty enthusiastically. "She makes the
best chocolate you ever tasted, Ruth."

"Oh, now you're flatterin' me, Miss Betty, dear," said Ellen,
backing out of the door in pretended confusion.

"Not a bit of it. You know it's so yourself," called Betty as the
door closed. "Wasn't it nice of Arthur to think of it?" she added,
as they settled down to their cozy lunch.

"Very," answered Ruth, who, at sight of the thin bread and butter
and the steaming chocolate topped with small mountains of whipped
cream, had just found out that she was really hungry and couldn't
wait another moment.

While the girls had been talking, Arthur had been trying to make
up his mind to start up the stairs again. The flight looked endless
to him, and after the excitement and effort he had just been through
he felt weak and miserable. Time after time he decided to start,
and once he got as far as the stairs, but a sudden sound drove him
back to the hall sofa again. How could he tell that Betty might not
come down at any minute and perhaps bring Ruth with her? At last a
brilliant idea struck him. Ruth must be hungry after her journey,
and if Ellen should take up a lunch it would keep them busy for
some time at least. He made his way out into the kitchen, where
Ellen received him with wonder and delight, and almost cried over
him, so great was her joy at seeing him down-stairs once more.
Then, having waited until the tray was safely in Ruth's room, he
started up-stairs. It was no small undertaking to hitch along, one
stair at a time, dragging a stiff, painful leg, and pulling his
crutches after him. At last, however, with only three more stairs
before him, he stopped to rest a moment and began to breathe more
easily.

"There," said Ruth, as she finished her last piece of bread
and butter and set down her cup with hardly a drop in it, "I feel
like another girl. I didn't know how hungry I was. I couldn't eat
any dinner on the train because I felt so badly over leaving papa
and----"

A strange noise interrupted her. A noise of some one or something
clattering, bumping, sliding down-stairs.

"What do you think it is, Betty?" asked Ruth turning pale.

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," answered Betty, who had
already started for the hall. As they reached the top of the stairs
they stopped short, for there sat Arthur, very red, very much out
of breath and, it must be confessed, very cross.

"Oh, Arthur, how you scared us! I thought some one was just about
killed," cried Betty.

"It was those confounded crutches," answered Arthur gruffly. "They
slipped just as I reached the top stair, and I nearly broke my
neck trying to catch them. I don't see how I am going to get into
my room unless you'll get them for me, Betty," he added helplessly.

"Why, of course; how stupid of me not to think of it!" said Betty,
as she slipped by him and ran lightly down the stairs.

Ruth stood in the hall feeling very ill at ease. She wished Arthur
would laugh and make things seem less solemn. Then as he didn't
look at her or say a word she went back into her room again.

"Wasn't that too bad?" said Betty softly as she came in and closed
the door. "Arthur is dreadfully sensitive about his lameness, and
I am afraid it will take him a long time to get over this afternoon's
experience. Why, just think, this is the first time I've seen him
since his accident."

Betty was trying to look sober, but her eyes were dancing with
merriment in spite of her efforts. Finally she gave a half-stifled
little laugh as she said, "I was dreadfully sorry for him, but he
was so funny sitting there at the top of the stairs and looking
so dignified and cross. I almost know he'd been doing his best to
get up without letting us hear him."

Betty's laugh was irresistible, and Ruth, who had been on the verge
of either laughter or tears ail day, couldn't help joining in.

"Oh, oh," laughed Betty, burying her face in a cushion. "Sh,
sh, he'll hear us," she gasped, as Ruth gave an answering peal of
laughter. "It's dreadful of us," said Betty at last, sitting up
and wiping her eyes, "to laugh at that poor boy. I'm just ashamed."

"So am I," gasped Ruth, "but you're really too funny when you laugh
and I couldn't help it."

Betty's eyes twinkled, and Ruth looked as though a fresh burst were
imminent when a pleasant voice said in the doorway:

"Well, I hear that my girl has stolen a march on me and got here
before I expected her. Your father's telegram has only just arrived,
my dear, and I am so sorry that I wasn't here to welcome you."

Ruth looked with eager curiosity at the tall, gracious woman who
came toward her. Then she put both hands into the welcoming ones
outstretched to meet her, and said with a little quiver in her
voice:

"Papa said that the moment I saw you I should feel at home, and I
do."



CHAPTER IV

A NEW CLUB


The first days in the new home, while Mr. Shirley was still in New
York and within reach, were hard to bear and unpleasant to think
of afterward. The new friends were so anxious to help her through
the hard time that they scarcely gave her time to think, but in
spite of their kindness, Ruth went to bed at night with a lonesome
ache in her throat, and got up in the morning with the wild desire
to take the first train to New York and catch papa before he should
sail.

When at last the day and hour of sailing had come and gone, Ruth
found it easier to resign herself to the inevitable, and began to
really enjoy life instead of only seeming to do so.

Glenloch was a beautiful town, just far enough from Boston to make
it seem like the country, and yet near enough so that concerts and
shopping were within easy reach. To Ruth, who, except for brief
visits East, had been accustomed ail her life to the level stretches
of the Middle West, the New England hills, just now radiant in
their autumn coloring were a constant source of delight.

She had been kept so busy seeing Glenloch, meeting Mrs. Hamilton's
friends and getting acquainted with her own special chums that she
had hardly had time to settle her belongings. Saturday morning,
therefore, found her at work in good earnest, for the girls were
coming in that afternoon, and she wanted her pretty room to look
its prettiest.

"Not homesick, I hope, dear," said Mrs. Hamilton, coming into the
room about noon to find Ruth curled up in the big armchair with
the black kitten on her lap.

"No, only resting after putting my room in order. I've been so busy
and the days have flown so fast that I haven't wholly unpacked my
trunk until this morning."

"The pictures make the room look very homelike," said Mrs.  Hamilton,
glancing at the photographs which adorned desk, mantel and table.
"Are these all friends of yours?" she added with a sly smile, as
her eye caught the picture of the little Queen of Holland in quaint
peasant costume.

"No, most of them are what papa calls my 'admirations,'" answered
Ruth with a laugh. "That picture of Queen Wilhelmina is my great
joy because she looks like such a nice girl. The others are mostly
musicians and composers. Papa bought them to encourage me in my
music, because he is so anxious I shall make a success of it."

"Why, this is interesting. I haven't had time yet to find out about
your talents. Do you sing or play the piano?"

"A little of both, but I like the violin best and I've taken lessons
on it since I was eight years old. I am all out of practice now,"
she added soberly, "for I've done hardly anything at it since mamma
died. She was so fond of it that everything I play reminds me of
her, and I can't bear it yet."

"Perhaps you will feel like beginning again this winter," said Mrs.
Hamilton, putting her arm around her.

"I am sure I shall," answered Ruth gratefully, giving the kind arm
a little squeeze. "Papa thought that just as soon as I got well
started in school it would be a good plan for me to go into Boston
for violin lessons."

"That will be delightful," said Mrs. Hamilton heartily, "and I shall
have to begin practicing so that I can play your accompaniments.
Since Arthur has been ill I have neglected my piano dreadfully.
I used to play duets with him a great deal, but I suppose nothing
would persuade him to touch the piano now."

"Will he never be any better?"

"The doctor gives us every reason to hope that he will be almost
well if he can only get over this terrible depression. His father
and I can only stand by and help all we can while he fights this
battle for himself." There was a long pause while Mrs. Hamilton
looked thoughtfully out of the window as though facing problems
harder than she could solve, and Ruth racked her brain to think of
something encouraging to say.

"If I could only help I should be very glad," she said at last,
timidly.

"I am sure you would," answered Mrs. Hamilton with a grateful kiss.
"And now what are your plans for this afternoon?" she added brightly.

"Oh, the girls are coming in, and I am going to try to get really
acquainted with them. It's so interesting to have three new friends
at the same time."

"They are very nice girls, and each so different from the other
that I sometimes wonder why they are such close friends."

"I am just a little bit afraid of Charlotte still," confessed
Ruth. "She seems to know so much, and she makes such funny, sharp
speeches. But I feel as though I'd known Betty for years."

"Poor Charlotte has had a different sort of life from the others,"
said Mrs. Hamilton with a sigh, "and it has helped to bring out the
sharp comers in her nature. Her mother is an invalid, and Charlotte
has had a great deal of care and responsibility."

"Betty thinks everything that Charlotte does is just right," said
Ruth.

"Betty is one of the most loyal friends imaginable. She puts her
dearest friends on pedestals, and bestows her time and her services
freely upon them. I've known her ever since she was a baby, and
she has always been the same sunshiny little soul."

"She just suits me because she always has a kitten or two trailing
after her," said Ruth. with a laugh. "Dorothy's a dear, too, and in
fact I'm sure we are all going to be such good chums that I shan't
know which one I like best."

"That's the very nicest way," answered Mrs. Hamilton. "Bless me, is
it lunch time?" she added as Katie appeared in the doorway.  "You
are an entertaining hostess, my dear, and you have made me forget
how fast time flies."

Ruth was glad that the cool afternoon gave an excuse for a fire,
for she loved the crackle and warmth, and the soft color that the
fire-glow threw over everything. As she looked around her pretty
room with a satisfied air, there was a patter of feet on the stairs,
a suppressed giggle and then a knock.

"Come in, come in," cried Ruth, throwing the door wide open. "I
was beginning to be afraid you weren't coming."

"It's my fault, as usual," said Charlotte in a resigned tone. "The
girls called for me, and just as we were going to start one of the
twins fell into a kettle of grape-juice that had been left to cool
in the summer-kitchen."

"Oh! Was he badly burned?" cried Ruth.

"No, it was cold, but he'll be purple for the next week, I suppose.
Of course I had to stop and wring him out and make him as clean as
I could. He's a sight, though."

The contrast between Charlotte's tragic tone and the picture she
gave of her small brother was too much for Ruth's gravity, and she
laughed till the tears came.

"How old are they, and do they do those things often?" she gasped
at last.

"They're six, and they do," said Charlotte briefly. "If ever a day
passes that one of those boys doesn't do something to harrow our
feelings I know that it is a sure sign that something more awful
than usual is going to happen the next day."

"It must be exciting to have a large family," said Ruth with a
tinge of longing in her voice.

"It is; desperately exciting," said Charlotte drily. "Now I call
this luxury," she added, dropping down on the fur rug. "Just imagine
having a place like this where you can be absolutely alone with
books and pictures and fire. You're a lucky girl, Ruth."

"It's a perfectly dear room, and I love it," added Ruth. "It was so
good of all of you to help plan it before you even knew me.  Let's
make some fudge, girls," she added. "Who's the best fudge-maker
here?"

"Not I," answered Charlotte lazily. "I'm second to none on eating
it, though."

"Dolly's fudge is great," said Betty.

"You make it then, Dorothy, and I'll help when your arm gets tired,"
said Ruth, getting the chafing-dish from the shelf under the table.
"We'll put the cups on the mantel, girls, and cover the table with
this enamel cloth that Mrs. Hamilton gave me this morning. Isn't
she a dear? She thinks of everything to make me have a good time."

"Have you got much acquainted with Arthur yet?" asked Dorothy, who
was busily mixing the ingredients for the candy.

"Haven't seen him since the day I came," answered Ruth, looking at
Betty with a twinkle in her eye, "and I certainly didn't get very
well acquainted with him then."

"It's a shame that he shuts himself up; he's just about breaking
his mother's heart," declared Dorothy, stirring the savory mixture
with unnecessary vehemence.

"He used to be great fun, and we miss him dreadfully at all our
parties," said Betty with a sigh. "He isn't even willing to see
Frank and Joe, and they used to be such chums."

"We might form ourselves into a society for 'The Restoration to the
World of Arthur Hamilton, Esquire; T.R.T.T.W.O.A.H.E.': wouldn't
that make a fine name for a secret society?" said Charlotte, who
hadn't stirred from the rug. "Don't you want me to help you make
the fudge, girls?" she added amiably, as Dorothy and then Ruth gave
it a vigorous beating.

"Thank you, lazybones. It's done now. But you can help put things
in order," said Dorothy slyly.

Charlotte groaned. "You know that's what I hate most of all. I
should rather have made the fudge."

"Speaking of societies," broke in Betty, who had been in a brown
study for several minutes, "let's have a club of some kind."

"Good idea, Bettikins," approved Charlotte. "Let's make it a dramatic
club, and I'll do the heroes."

"With only four in the club you would have to be hero and villain
and the heroine's white-haired father all in the same play," said
Ruth with a laugh. "It would take all the rest of us to play the
other parts."

"I mean really a nice club," continued Betty, pursuing her own idea
with great seriousness, "and meet once a week and do something."

"Rather vague, that," murmured Charlotte. "If that's all there is
to it we're a club now."

"What's your idea, Betty?" asked Dorothy encouragingly. "Anything
but sewing. I utterly refuse to join that kind of a club."

"I knew a girl in Chicago," said Ruth, "who belonged to a cooking
club. They met every two weeks at the different houses to practice,
and once in two months they cooked a supper and invited other girls
and boys. She said they had great fun and really learned a great
deal."

"That's just my idea," declared Betty promptly, "only I couldn't
get it quite clear in my own mind."

"I don't like cooking," said Charlotte soberly, "but I suppose it
wouldn't hurt me to know something about it."

"The first thing, of course, is to ask our mothers and Mrs.
Hamilton," said Dorothy, who was always practical. "I know mamma
will be glad to have me learn, though I'm afraid the cook won't
like to have us in her kitchen."

"Our Hannah wouldn't mind if you met at our house every time," said
Betty.

"That can all be settled later when we find out whether we can
really do it," declared Charlotte impatiently. "In the meantime
I'm pining for a piece of that fudge; isn't it hard yet, Dolly?"

"Just right," answered Dorothy, taking it in from the window-ledge.

"Dorothy, this is certainly the best fudge I ever tasted," declared
Ruth impressively. "Mine was never half so good. Girls, I move
that in consideration of Miss Dorothy Marshall's skill as a maker
of fudge she be made president of the new club."

"Second the motion," cried both the girls at once, and as there
was no one left to vote on it, it was declared settled.

Dorothy rose, bowed, tapped on the table with the chafing-dish spoon,
and said with a fair imitation of her mother's stately manner:

"Ladies, I thank you for the honor you have conferred upon me."
Then dropping her official manner, she added, "Let's keep it a dead
secret at first from the boys, because they never tell us anything
about their old Candle Club."

"What's that?" asked Ruth with great interest.

"Oh, six of the boys belong to it, and they've fixed up one of the
rooms above our stable," answered Dorothy. "They call it the Candle
Club because at first they used candles, but now the name doesn't
fit."

"They might call themselves 'electric sparks,' now," drawled
Charlotte; "but boys are so unprogressive."

"We shall need some more officers," said Betty. "I think Charlotte
ought to be secretary because she likes to write, and Ruth--"

What Ruth was to be was not destined to be told at that meeting,
for just at that moment there was a loud knock which made the
girls jump. Ruth opened the door and for a second saw no one. Then
a plump, curly-haired boy, very purple as to his face and hands,
and rather bedraggled as to his general appearance, walked in
hesitatingly. Close at his heels followed a depressed-looking Scotch
terrier. At sight of the latter, every individual hair on Fuzzy's
spine stood up straight, and with remarks in several different
languages he fled to the top of a high-backed chair, where he sat
and glared at the enemy.

The girls were convulsed with laughter, and the small visitor,
abashed, fled to Charlotte and buried his face in her lap.

"Irving Eastman, what are you here for?" demanded Charlotte sternly,
trying to raise the curly beau so that she might look the culprit
in the face.

"Wanted to find you," came in smothered accents from her lap. "Me
and Tatterth got lonethome."

"Why didn't you stay with Stanley and the others?"

"Couldn't. Couthin Jothie came and took them out to walk, and I
couldn't go 'cauth I wath all blue."

"How did you get in here?"

"The door wath open, and I came upthtairth and then I couldn't find
you. But I found Arthur, and Tatterth and I thtayed with him."

The girls looked at each other in amazement.

"What did you do in Arthur's room, Irving?" asked Betty soothingly.

"I talked to him and he gave me thith." The purple cherub raised
his head and opening one fat hand displayed a small carved bear of
Swiss manufacture. "He thaid it could be my bear for alwayth," he
declared triumphantly.

"What did Arthur say when you walked into his room?" asked Dorothy.

"He laughed so hard I wath going to come away, but he called me
back."

"Girls, he laughed," repeated Charlotte impressively. "Irving,
I ought to scold you, but this time you are an angel in disguise.
Perhaps this is the first step in the Restoration of A. H., Esq."

"Let's take another, then, by sending him a plate of fudge,"
suggested Ruth.

"Just the thing," exclaimed Betty and Dorothy together, and they
immediately hooked little fingers and proceeded to wish.

"Irving, can you carry some fudge to Arthur?" continued Ruth,
heaping up one of her daintiest saucers. "If you will take this
without spilling any, you shall have some to take home with you."

"I gueth tho," said Irving with an angelic smile, feeling himself
the hero of the occasion.

"Just give the dish to Arthur and come right back," said Charlotte
decidedly. "It's time to go anyway," she continued, "and I must
take the Infant home as soon as possible, or mother will worry."

"He thayth 'thankth,'" said Irving in aloud voice, strolling down
the hall and leaving Arthur's door wide open behind him.

"Shut the door, Irving," said Charlotte in a loud whisper.

"I think he better have it open," answered Irving, who did not feel
disposed to take any extra steps.

"Irving," began Charlotte sternly, then stopped in amazement at
the unexpected sound of Arthur's voice.

"Never mind the door, Irving," he said, "The fudge is out of sight,
girls, or will be in a few moments. Much obliged."



CHAPTER V

THE SOCIAL SIX


It was about time for news of the steamer's arrival to reach Ruth,
and in spite of her many new experiences the thought of her father
was always uppermost in her mind. The morning and evening newspapers
meant to her simply the shipping news, and, several days before
the steamer could possibly arrive, she began her daily study of
the shipping lists. Eight days had seemed long to wait for news
of one's best-beloved chum, but Ruth had to confess that the time
had been filled so full that it had passed quickly.  Starting in
school had not been so great an ordeal as she had expected. To her
joy she was to be allowed to see what she could do in the class
with Betty and Charlotte, and she was determined to succeed, though
she knew it meant harder work than she had ever done in her life.

The Glenloch Academy was the pride of Glenloch and the envy of the
surrounding towns. The money for its establishment and maintenance
had been left the town by a public-spirited citizen, and the fund
had been so generous that the best in the way of teachers and equipaient
had been made possible. It took the place of a high school in its
methods of study, gave a thorough preparation for college, and
offered six years of the most liberal training to those whose school
education must of necessity stop there. Ruth felt an interest at
once in her new teachers, was charmed with the idea of doing regular
gymnasium work in the fine gymnasium which had lately been added
to the school, and altogether felt that her lines had fallen in
pleasant places.

"Don't be in such a rush," called Dorothy, as Ruth ran down the
school steps. "I want to talk to you."

"I'm in a hurry every day now," confessed Ruth, "to get home and see
if I have any news from papa. Mr. Hamilton thinks that by to-night
surely the ship's arrival will be cabled, and I have a faint hope
that I may have a cablegram from papa almost any minute."

"I'll walk around your way," said Dorothy. "Doesn't it make you
feel terribly important to be expecting a cablegram?"

"Why, I don't know," laughed Ruth, "perhaps it does, a little.
It's been such a long time to wait to hear that papa is safe that
I can't think of anything else."

As she finished speaking a long, low call made them both turn to
see Charlotte and Betty running after them.

"What are you going to do this afternoon, Ruth?" called Charlotte
as they got within speaking distance. "We want you to go to walk
with the 'Social Six.'"

Dorothy raised her eyebrows questioningly, and Ruth asked curiously,
"The Social Six? Who under the sun are the Social Six?"

"It's all right, Dolly," said Betty reassuringly. "You see," she
added, turning to Ruth, "we couldn't tell you about them at first,
because we had all agreed never to have more than six in the club
and our number was full. But just to-day one of the girls has told
us that she is going to resign at this meeting, so we want you to
join right away if you will." "Why, of course I will," said Ruth,
with perfect faith that whatever the three wanted her to do would
be worth doing. "But what is the club for and what do you do?"

"It's a walking club in spring and fall," answered Betty.

"And a skating club when we have ice," added Dorothy. "That's the
best part of it all, for we have bonfires on the edge of the pond,
and go to some house for supper when we get through skating."

"Well, it all sounds lovely, and I shall be delighted to join.
What time do you start?" asked Ruth.

"At two sharp, and we are to meet at the schoolhouse," answered
Charlotte. "Miss Burton is going with us this afternoon, and she's
to be made an honorary member of the club." "All right. I'll be
there," said Ruth, as the girls left her at Mr. Hamilton's door.

Once in the house she looked first to see if there were letters or
the much-desired cablegram, and finding nothing ran up-stairs to
get ready for lunch. The house was strangely still, and she missed
Mrs. Hamilton's cordial welcome, which she had found vastly comforting
in these first days of feeling so much alone.

On her desk was a note which she hastened to open.

"MY DEAR RUTH" (it began):

"I am sorry you will find neither a cablegram nor me writing for
you this noon. Mr. Hamilton has telephoned me that friends of ours
are in town who will not have time to come out to us. So we are
all to dine together in Boston to-night. I am sorry that you will
have two lonely meals, and hope some of the girls will dine with
you. Invite them for me, and forgive me for leaving you in such
unexpected solitude.

"Yours lovingly,

"AUNT MARY."

"How sweet of her to sign herself that way," thought Ruth, as she
folded the note. "I do miss her, and I'm glad there's something
pleasant ahead for this afternoon."

The Social Six to a girl were prompt at the meeting-place, and
as Miss Burton appeared just as the clock was striking two, the
expedition started with no delay. "It's a perfect day for Bear Hill,"
said Dorothy enthusiastically, as she led the way with Miss Burton,
and unconsciously tried to imitate her swinging gait.  Since Miss
Burton had taken charge of the gymnasium, Dorothy, who was always
to the fore in out-of-door life, had been more than ever devoted
to everything pertaining to physical culture.

"See Dolly walk," said Charlotte, who was ambling along in the
extreme rear; "she walks as though she positively enjoyed the mere
motion of it, while I am so lazy that I shouldn't even belong to
the club if it weren't for being with the girls, and for the fun
we have at our parties."

As they crossed the railroad and entered the narrow wood-path
on the other side, the girls fell into single file and walked on
steadily, talking gaily. It was one of those brilliant October days
when all the warmth of the fleeting summer is in the air; when the
sky is a radiant blue, and the red and gold of the foliage casts
a glory over the sombre woods.

Ruth was enchanted. "I've never seen anything so beautiful,"
she said breathlessly, as, after a long walk through the winding,
shaded path, they came out into the open, and almost at the top of
the hill.

"Wait till you get to the tip-top," said Dorothy, her eyes sparkling
from the exercise. "Can you stand it to climb for five minutes
more?"

"Of course," answered Ruth stoutly, "though I'm not sorry that
we're almost there," she added in a low tone to Katharine French
who, with Alice Stevens and Louise Cobb, made up the membership of
the club.

The climb of the last five minutes was harder than ail the rest,
and Ruth groaned as she sank on the ground at the very top. "My
Chicago training hasn't prepared me for this," she said plaintively.
"You'll have to take me in hand, Miss Burton, and help me to get
my muscles in condition."

"Don't sit too long on the ground now," laughed Miss Burton, "or
we shall have to carry you home."

"Miss Burton, would you and Ruth mind going over behind that big
rock for a few minutes?" asked Dorothy. "The club always has its
business meeting the first thing, and as we are to admit a new
member it will take longer than usual."

Over behind the big rock proved to be a very agreeable place to sit,
for the girls had covered some smaller rocks with pine boughs and
a golf cape, and the view of the surrounding country was glorious.

"Rather different from Chicago, isn't it, Ruth?" asked Miss Burton.
"I'm a Western girl myself, and I taught in Chicago for ayear, so
I know how this must seem to you."

"Are you really a Western girl?" cried Ruth interested at once.
"Then you won't mind if I talk Chicago to you once in a while,
will you? This is quite the most beautiful place I've ever lived
in, but," she added honestly, "I'm dreadfully homesick for Chicago
sometimes, and I don't like to confess it because they are all so
lovely to me."

"Come and talk to me when you feel like that," said Miss Burton,
with one of her radiant smiles; "it will do us both good."

"I'd love to," said Ruth fervently, "and----"

She was interrupted by a call from the girls, and with Miss Burton
hastened to join the others, only to stop short in amazement
as they rounded the rock against which they had been sitting. The
girls had worked fast and with no noise, and it was so undeniably
a gypsy camp into which Ruth had walked that she could hardly
believe her eyes. A small fire was built on some rocks, and over
it hung in the crotch of a branch an odd-looking kettle. Three of
the girls had unbraided their hair and made themselves gay with
artificial flowers, bright ribbons and brilliant scarfs. Alice
Stevens, who was dark enough to look really like a gypsy, was
reading Louise Cobb's hand, while Betty looked on and occasionally
stirred an imaginary something in the kettle. Charlotte, Dorothy
and Katharine French, who were all tall and preferred masculine
parts, sat on the other side of the fire dressed in colored paper
caps, and bright sashes draped over one shoulder.

Miss Burton broke the silence by clapping her hands. "It's fine,
girls," she cried with enthusiasm. "I didn't know we were to see
anything really artistic."

"We only do this when we admit a new member," said Betty.

"And not then unless the weather happens to be just right," added
Dorothy. "But we must hurry and make Ruth a member. Go on, Betty."

"Kneel here, Ruth," said Betty, who was presiding officer for the
day. Then looking as solemn as her dimples and twinkling eyes would
permit, she added, "Being about to lose a well-beloved member of
our club," here ail looked at Louise Cobb, "we are at liberty to
admit another. Do you desire to become a member of this club?"

"I do," answered Ruth, much impressed.

"Do you promise to further our interests in all possible ways and
to keep our secrets?"

"I do."

"Then I pronounce you a fully initiated member," said Betty, striking
her on the shoulder with a twig tipped with scarlet leaves. "We
really haven't any secrets," she added unofficially, "except that
we don't want the other boys and girls to know where we go or that
we dress up like this. We don't make our honorary members promise
anything, but we know Miss Burton won't tell."

"Of course not," said Miss Burton. "I feel too much honored to be
admitted to the club to betray their secrets."

"Now, Ruth," continued Betty, "the next thing is that the new member
must do something; sing or dance or tell a story."

"Oh!" gasped Ruth. "I'll resign at once. Imagine me singing or dancing
when I'm so tired I can hardly move; and as for story-telling, I
simply can't."

"Perhaps you'd rather recite a poem," said Charlotte.

"May I have it as short as I please?" asked Ruth as if an idea had
struck her, and as Betty nodded assent, she added, "Give me five
minutes by myself and I'll do it."

The girls chatted while Ruth went just out of hearing and communed
with herself.

"Time's up, Ruth," called Dorothy.

"All right," answered Ruth, walking into the circle and sitting
down, while she met the expectant eyes with a roguish twinkle in
her own. Then she recited:

   "There was a young girl from the West,
    Who very much needed a rest.
    When asked, 'Can you sing?'
    She replied, 'Not a thing:'
    And felt very sadly depressed."

Ruth suited her expression to her last words in so comical a fashion
that the girls shouted with laughter.

"However did you do it, Ruth?" asked Betty. "I couldn't make a
rhyme to save me."

"Oh, father and I got into the habit of making up those five-liners,
and I often do it just for fun."

"We're proud to have such a poetess in the Social Six," said
Charlotte, making her a sweeping bow with her hand on her heart.

"Miss Burton, we don't insist that our honorary member shall perform,
but we'd like it if you would," said Betty.

Miss Burton smiled good-naturedly. "I would tell you a story,
only I am afraid our Western member would be too stiff to move if
she sat through it. How would you like to postpone my part of the
program until after school some day, and then come and have a cup
of chocolate with me?"

"Oh, lovely!" cried Dorothy, always ready for anything that Miss
Burton proposed.

As she spoke a sound as of some one sliding came from behind the
big rock, and then a low but unmistakable chuckle.

"It's some of those horrid boys," said Dorothy tragically.

The girls tore off caps and sashes, but before they could wholly
divest themselves of their gypsy appearance two heads peered around
the rock and a pleading voice said, "Please, may we come in?"

"Indeed you may not," cried Dorothy, quite white with anger. "I
think you're the meanest boy I ever saw, Frank Marshall, and you're
not one bit better, Bert. Between you, you always spoil all my good
times. I think it's the most despicable thing to spy on people,
and----"

There was such a sudden stillness about her that Dorothy became
conscious of Miss Burton's troubled expression and Ruth's surprised
face.

"Well, I don't care; it was a mean trick," she muttered as she
turned her back on the boys and walked away.

"Honestly, girls, we didn't mean to make you mad," said Frank as
his sister finished. "We came up for a walk and didn't know any
one was here till we saw the smoke from your fire. We came over to
find out about that, and heard the young lady from the West recite
her poem. We should have gone off without letting you know if Bert
hadn't slipped on the rock."

"Of course," added Bert with an extremely virtuous air, "if we
had guessed that this was the famous club we should have put our
fingers in our ears and have run away."

"You sinner," said Betty, who couldn't help laughing, "you know
you have tried ever since we have had the club to make me tell you
about it."

"I propose," said Miss Burton, "that we put the boys on their honor
not to tell what they have seen and heard."

"Second the motion," said Charlotte with great promptness. "We have
them there, for boys never tell when they're on honor."

"Good for you, Charlotte," said Frank gratefully. "We'll promise,
won't we, Bert?"

"Of course," agreed Bert. "And, girls," he continued, "we've got
some potatoes roasting in the ashes near here that'll be just the
thing to brace you up for the walk home. Come along and help us
eat 'em."

"I should say we would," accepted Charlotte. "Did you ever know us
to refuse anything to eat?"

The little feast and the walk home became the jolliest things possible.
Tired as she was, no one was merrier than Ruth. for in her inmost
heart she was sure that she should find news of her father waiting
for her.



CHAPTER VI

BAD NEWS AND GOOD


As she entered the house, Ruth's first glance was at the hall table,
but there was no important-looking yellow envelope to suggest that
her cablegram had arrived. Then her eye fell on the evening paper;
perhaps that might tell that the "Utopia" was safely in port.
She started to turn to the shipping news, but her gaze was caught
by a headline on the first page, and she stood rigid, holding the
paper in her shaking hands and trying to make sense of what she
was reading.

     "The 'Utopia' storm-swept
      A passenger injured."

That was what she seemed to read, and below it an inch of fine
type announced that during the severe storm which had hampered all
ocean travel for the last few days the "Utopia" had been swept by
heavy waves, and one of the passengers injured.

One of the passengers injured! That, of course, meant father!
Ruth read it time after time until the printed words swam before
her eyes, and she groped blindly for a chair so that she need not
fall. There she sat feeling that limbs and tongue were in chains,
and that she could neither move nor speak.

Katie, passing through the hall, was startled by the sight of the
rigid little figure in the big hall chair, and frightened out of
her wits when her sympathetic questions failed to bring forth any
response. She flew out into the kitchen to Ellen, who came hurrying
in with a face full of anxiety, and, kneeling before Ruth, took
both the cold hands in her own warm clasp.

"What is it, Miss Ruth, darlin'? Tell me," she said coaxingly. At
the friendly, human touch, Ruth's face relaxed. "Oh, Ellen," she
cried, clinging to her closely, "some one on papa's steamer has
been injured in the storm, and I know it must be papa."

Ellen looked dazed, and Ruth gave her the paper, pointing out the
paragraph as she did so.

"Sure, Miss Ruth, I can't read it quickly when my mind is so unaisy.
Just read it to me, honey."

So Ruth read it over for the twentieth time and was surprised to
find Ellen still looking cheerful as she finished.

"They don't give any names," said Ellen thoughtfully, "and wasn't
it you yourself was telling me that there was over a hundred cabin
passengers on that boat, to say nothing of the steerage?"

"Why, yes," answered Ruth, "but--"

"Well, then," interrupted Ellen, "there's at laste ninety-nine
chances out of a hundred that your blessed father never had a hair
of his head touched, and that's sayin' a good deal, darlin'."

"It is indeed, Miss Ruth," added Katie, who had been hovering around
anxious to do something to help.

Ruth began to look a bit comforted, and Ellen went on, "I do belave
from me soul, Miss Ruth, dear, that before you go to bed tonight
you'll have word from your father. At any rate, you can't bring
it any faster, nor help it one bit by worryin' about it. So now,
darlin', go upstairs and bathe your face and smooth your pretty
curls, and we'll put such a nice dinner on the table for you that
you can't help eatin'."

"It's a shame the poor little thing has got to eat her dinner all
alone," said Ellen, as she and Katie went back to the kitchen.
"I've a great mind--" But what she had a mind to do wasn't told,
for she vanished from the kitchen and Katie heard her climbing the
back stairs.

She went straight to Arthur's room, knocked, and hardly waiting for
an answer walked in. Arthur, who was absorbed in a book, looked up
surprised at her sudden entrance.

"It's only meself, Mr. Arthur," said Ellen, quite out of breath,
"and it's a great favor I've come up to ask of you. You see," she
went on hurriedly, "poor little Miss Ruth has got word in tonight's
paper that there's been an accident on her father's boat, and she's
that frightened and worried that she doesn't know what to do with
herself. It's too bad for her to have to eat her dinner with nothing
but her own sad thoughts for company, and I thought perhaps you--"

"Oh, no, Ellen, I can't," interrupted Arthur decidedly; "why, I
don't really know her yet."

"The more shame to you that you don't when she's been livin' in
your house for two weeks," answered Ellen, as much surprised at
her own boldness as Arthur was. "I've been livin' with your mother
ever since you was a wee baby, Mr. Arthur, and there ain't any one
outside your own family who loves you more than I do, but I must
say I'm disappointed in you."

Arthur looked at her in amazement, but Ellen went on without giving
him a chance to speak.

"Don't you know that life is just made up of knock-downs and get-ups,"
she said quaintly, "and whatever will you do if you stay down the
first time you're hit?"

Something in the homely little sermon touched a responsive chord
in Arthur as nothing else had done. "You're a good fellow, Ellen,"
he said affectionately, "and to prove that I think so I'm going
down to dinner tonight."

"Oh, Mr. Arthur," cried Ellen, almost on the point of tears, and
saving herself from it only by wringing her apron convulsively in
both hands. "It's the angel boy you are to take all the hard things
I said so sweetly. And it's that glad I am that you're going down,
for I don't belave Miss Ruth could eat a mite of dinner without
some man or other to encourage her about her father."

"I'll get down before she does if I can," said Arthur, reaching
for his crutches, "and see what the paper says about the steamer."

"That'a right, Mr. Arthur, do," answered Ellen, "and I'll hurry
down and see to the dinner." But she stopped on her way to knock
on Ruth's door and say coaxingly, "You won't change your mind, Miss
Ruth, dear; you'll surely come down."

Ruth, who was sitting in the big chair with the black kitten in
her arms, looked up soberly. "I don't believe I'll come down after
all, Ellen; I'm not a bit hungry, and I'm sure I couldn't eat a
mouthful."

"Oh, but Miss Ruth," cried Ellen in despair, "you'll spoil all my
plans if you don't. I've just persuaded Mr. Arthur to come down
so that you needn't be alone, and perhaps if he comes the once he
will every day. Just think how happy it will make his father and
mother!"

Ruth's forehead puckered into a frown. She felt much more like
sitting in front of her fire and thinking sad, lonely thoughts.  But
it was such a small thing to do for Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, who had
been so kind to her, and it would mean so much to them if it did
help Arthur to conquer his dread of taking up the old life again.
Then, too, it would be a triumph to tell the girls that one member
of the society for the restoration of Arthur Hamilton to the world
had already begun the good work.

It was with a little smile that she looked up at Ellen, who
was anxiously waiting for her answer, and said, "I'll go down, of
course; I should be a selfish pig not to when you are all so good
to me."

"That's a darlin," cried Ellen much relieved. "And would you please
try to make him feel that it's a great favor to you for him to come
down? You know the men have to be managed a bit," she added slyly.

Ruth made a hasty dinner toilet by running a comb through her waving
locks, patting the big bow at the back of her head, and putting on
a fresh collar. Then she went slowly downstairs, wishing she knew
just what to say to Arthur.

To her relief he looked up from the paper he was reading and said
just as if they had been meeting every day for the past two weeks,
"I'm sure this report makes it seem worse than it is, Ruth. I don't
believe there is any real reason for you to worry about your father."

"Do you really think so? I suppose it's foolish to worry, but it's
pretty hard when he's so far away and I haven't heard for so long."

There was a suspicious quaver in her voice that made Arthur's
thoughts turn longingly to the safe shelter of his own room. What
if he should have a weeping girl on his hands! He turned cold at
the thought. "Oh, I'm sure you'll get some word from your father
before morning," he said with such anxious haste that quick-witted
Ruth guessed at once what he was dreading.

"You think I'm going to cry, but I'm not," she announced with
great dignity. "I hate to cry before people anyway, and I specially
wouldn't before a boy."

"Good for you! I wouldn't cry before a boy either," answered Arthur
with a twinkle in his eye, and then they both laughed and felt
better.

"It was good of you to come down to dinner tonight," said Ruth as
they began on their soup. "If I'd been alone I shouldn't have been
able to keep my mind off that awful newspaper heading for a minute."

"We can telephone in town after a while and find out what they know
at the steamship company's office. I can't help feeling, though,
that the newspaper report is very likely exaggerated."

Ruth felt much comforted by this masculine view of the situation,
and racked her brain to think up some interesting subjects for
conversation, for she wanted to show him that girls could be calm
and self-possessed even under the most trying circumstances.

"Are you fond of football?" she asked suddenly, when the long
silence was getting on her nerves, and she felt that she must say
something. Before he could answer, it flashed across her mind with
painful distinctness that it was at football that Arthur had been
injured. The color flashed into her cheeks, and she unconsciously
looked so appealingly at Arthur that he came to the rescue at once.

"Of course I am," he asserted stoutly. "It's a great old game, and
we've got some ripping good players in Glenloch. You ought to see
some of the Saturday games."

"I should love to," she responded with a fervor that showed her
relief, and then silence fell again. Ruth was in despair. With
athletics cut out, what could she talk about to a boy, particularly
when she was anxious to avoid any reference to anything which would
make her think of her father?

"I'm reading a great book now," said Arthur, whose thoughts for
the last few minutes had been much the same as Ruth's, and who felt
that if he didn't say something soon he never should.

"Oh, what is it? Tell me about it," said Ruth, with such touching
anxiety to help the conversation along that Arthur chuckled silently.

"It's one of Clark Russell's sea stories, and I've just left my
hero in such an exciting situation that I can hardly wait to see
how he is coming out."

It was Ruth's turn to feel amused now. "Too bad that you had to
stop to eat dinner with a mere girl, isn't it?" she said saucily.

Arthur laughed. "I was getting so hungry and thirsty out there in
mid-ocean with my hero, waiting for a sail to turn up, that I really
needed my dinner. Jiminy! it must be awful to have anything happen
to you on the ocean," he continued absent-mindedly; "you must feel
so awfully far away from every one and so helpless."

"Oh, please don't," cried Ruth with such real terror in her voice
that Arthur woke suddenly to a realization of what he'd been saying.

"Of all stupid numskulls!" he said impatiently. "Look here, Ruth,
you can cry if you want to after that, and I won't say a word. I
deserve some punishment for being such a forgetful idiot."

Ruth couldn't help laughing at his penitent expression. "I don't want
to cry any more than you want me to. And you're not a forgetful idiot
any more than I am. Let's call it square," she ended significantly.

"All right, and I'll stand up for girls from now on."

"Will you do me a favor?"

"Anything, fair lady, that you may see fit to ask," replied Arthur
dramatically.

"Then come down to your meals every day," demanded Ruth, inwardly
quaking, but outwardly calm and innocent looking.

Arthur looked as if he were about to protest, but changed his mind
and said firmly, "I never go back on my word, so I'll do it."

Fearing to spoil her victory by saying anything more, Ruth rose
from the table and walked into the hall, leaving Arthur to follow
more slowly. Just as she did so, the bell rang, a sharp, clear peal,
and Katie hurried to the door to return in a second with a yellow
envelope, and a small book for Ruth to sign.

Ruth's hands shook with excitement as she tried to use the stub of
a pencil, and she felt grateful when Arthur took book and all from
her saying gently, "You open your cablegram; I'll sign the book."

Ruth was actually pale as she tore open the envelope, but the color
came back to her cheeks as she read the one word written there. "It
says 'sound,'" she cried exultantly, "and papa said that one word
could mean everything I wanted it to mean. That he is well, and has
had a pleasant voyage, and has arrived safely.  Oh, I am so happy.
It's good news! The best of news, Ellen," she added, as the good
soul's beaming face appeared in the doorway.  "Oh, I can't keep
still," and catching Ellen around her massive waist, Ruth almost
whirled her off her feet in a wild dance of joy.

"Miss Ruth, Miss Ruth, darlin', behave yourself," protested Ellen,
who like other unwieldy objects went on from sheer momentum when
once started. "How can you expect a fat old thing like me to dance?"

"Oh, Ellen, that did me heaps of good," and Ruth sank panting into
a chair, while Arthur laughed as he had never expected to laugh
again, and Ellen tried to look cross, but failed in the attempt.

There was a quick rattle of a key in the lock, and the door opened
suddenly to admit Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton. Their surprise as they
surveyed the jolly group was funny to see, and Ruth and Arthur went
off into a fresh fit of mirth, while Ellen slipped shamefacedly
into the kitchen.

"We gave up our dinner party, and came home," said Mrs. Hamilton,
"because we were afraid that Ruth would be worried about--" She
stopped suddenly, realizing too late that there was no need of
telling Ruth why she should be worried, since evidently she didn't
know.

"Oh, I am dreadfully--I mean I was," cried Ruth incoherently, "and
I don't know what I should have done if Ellen hadn't comforted me,
and Arthur hadn't come down to dinner. But it's all right now, for
my cablegram says 'sound,' and that means everything good."

"So it does, so it does, little girl," said Mr. Hamilton, much
relieved. "It makes you as happy as it makes me feel to see this
tall boy of mine down here. Got back to us for keeps now, Arthur?"
he asked, as he put his arm around his son's shoulder with a smile
that went straight to the boy's heart.

"Yes, sir, I think so," mumbled Arthur, who found it hard to live
up to his standard of manliness, as he felt the quick clasp of his
mother's hand and saw the look in her eyes.

For a moment the three stood there, a little world in themselves.
Then Mrs. Hamilton stretched out a welcoming hand to Ruth.

"You belong too, little daughter," she said lovingly. "We're going
to have good times together, we four. You shall see."



CHAPTER VII

CAPS AND APRONS


"Now, young ladies, please come to order," said Dorothy, rapping
on the table with a wooden spoon, which seemed the most appropriate
symbol of office for the president of a cooking club.

It was a day in late November, and the afternoon sun streaming
in at the windows of the Ellsworth kitchen smiled broadly at the
sight of six cooks in caps and aprons. This was the first working
meeting of the club, and as the girls had thought it better to make
six the membership, Katharine French and Alice Stevens had been
invited to join.

"Usually," continued Dorothy, in an official manner which she
flattered herself was in close imitation of the president of the
Glenloch Fortnightly Club, "Usually we shall choose our dishes
beforehand and bring the materials for making them. As this is the
first meeting, Mrs. Ellsworth is going to let us use her materials,
and she thinks that we'd better get up a simple supper for our
first attempt. I thought that popovers, scalloped oysters, baked
apples, cake, chocolate and some simple dessert would be nice, and
after this you can make things as elaborate as you like."

Dorothy looked so dignified and important as she finished her little
speech that irrepressible Charlotte longed to tickle her or rumple
her hair, two things that the neat Dorothy loathed. As she couldn't
she only said meekly, "Please, ma'am, are we to choose which we'd
rather cook? If we are, I prefer the apples."

"So do I," laughed Katharine; "you're not any lazier than I am,
Charlotte."

"We'll have to write the names of things on slips of paper and draw
for them," said Dorothy, "and no matter what you get you must do
the best you can with it."

"My, but you are stern, Dolly," said Betty admiringly. "I should
probably have let them spend the next half hour wrangling about
what they'll do."

Charlotte, who had been made secretary, wrote the names of the
various dishes on slips of paper and put them in the hat which Betty
brought her. Then with a low bow she presented the hat to Dorothy,
who drew the slip on which was written "scalloped oysters."

"How noble of you, Dolly, to draw the one we should all have hated,"
cried Ruth. "Oh, I'm not sure but this is just as bad," she added,
as the slip marked "dessert" fell to her lot. Betty found herself
staring at the word "popovers," while Katharine and Alice drew cake
and chocolate respectively.

"Girls, I don't need to tell you that 'the lame and the lazy
are always provided for,'" cried Charlotte, as she triumphantly
flourished the "baked apple" slip. "I will prepare my portion of
the feast and then read a while."

"Oh, I forgot to say," said Betty, "that mother suggested that
the one who baked the apples might even up things by building the
fire. She said one of the first duties of a cook was to know how
to manage the stove."

"I wouldn't have believed it of you, Betty," groaned Charlotte, as
she made up a face. "I don't know anything about building a fire.
How under the sun shall I begin?"

"Read this and grow wise," answered Betty, thrusting an open cookbook
under Charlotte's nose. "That tells you just how to do it."

Each of the other girls having brought a cookbook buried herself in
it for the time being, while Charlotte, left to her own resources,
proceeded to build the fire. First she read with great care the
directions in the cookbook, and then looked rather helplessly at
the stove.

"This is the front draught, of course," she murmured, "but where's
the oven draught? Betty, do tell me where the oven draught is on
this stove."

Betty flew over from the further side of the big kitchen, and pointed
out the oven draught. Then she absorbed herself again in her book
so completely that Charlotte hadn't the courage to ask for further
instructions. She noticed a damper in the stovepipe, and wanted to
ask about that, but pride forbade. "I'll do this alone or perish in
the attempt," she said to herself with noble courage, and proceeding
on the principle that she ought to change the existing condition
of everything, she turned the one in the stovepipe and speedily
forgot all about it. Then she put in a layer of twisted papers, laid
the kindlings artistically, with air-spaces between the sticks,
and before putting on the covers stood off to admire her work.
She looked around for sympathy, but the girls were ail absorbed in
their books, and no one gave her a glanee. Then with the sigh of
unappreciated genius, she covered the stove, and touched a match
to the papers through the front grate.

The kitchen was very still except for the crackle of the fire.
The sunshine came like a shower of gold through the west window,
glorifying everything it touched. Charlotte, feeling extremely
capable, began with great energy to add an extra polish to the
apples which she was to bake.

Suddenly Dorothy raised her head and sniffed the air. "I smell
smoke. Oh, Charlotte, look at your stove," she cried.

Even as she spoke the smoke poured out around the covers in great
volume. Clouds of smoke forced their way through hitherto unsuspected
cracks.

"Open the windows," gasped Betty, whom the stinging wood smoke
almost blinded.

"Perhaps I turned the dampers wrong," cried Charlotte, making a
dash for the stove, and turning the oven draught. The result was
disastrous, for the smoke rolled out with still greater violence,
only to be met and beaten back into the room by the air from the
windows. Charlotte turned the oven draught again, and then stood
helpless.

Suddenly Betty bethought herself of what her mother had told her.
"There's a damper in the stovepipe," she choked, covering her
streaming eyes with one hand, and waving the other wildly in the
air. "Did you touch that?"

"Yes," gasped Charlotte.

"Well, turn it the way it isn't, quick," and while Charlotte
reached for the damper, Betty groped her way to the sink to soothe
her afflicted eyes with cold water.

Coughing, and with smarting eyes, the girls stood around, while
as if by magic the clouds of smoke diminished to tiny streams and
then died away altogether.

"How beautifully simple," said Charlotte grimly. "That makes me
feel small."

"It wasn't your fault," said Betty. "Mother told me to be sure to
remember that that damper in the pipe wasn't to be changed, and of
course I had to forget."

Charlotte lifted the cover, and surveyed the fire with a critical
though somewhat humbled air. Then after letting it burn up a little
she put in a goodly supply of coal and went back to her apples.

"The cake and the apples must go in as soon as the oven is hot,"
said Dorothy, emerging from her cook-book. "That will leave the
oven free for my oysters and Betty's popovers."

Ruth gave a squeal of delight. "I've found a recipe for a pudding
that sounds perfectly fascinating, and the cooking can be done on
the top of the stove, which is an advantage."

"I can't decide between a chocolate cream cake and a cake with
caramel filling," wailed Katharine, who loved rich, mushy, sweet
things.

"Goodness, child," said Dorothy, with that superior air which she
so often affected, "don't try anything so hard the first time.
Find something simple."

"Crushed again," muttered Katharine, only loud enough for Ruth to
hear. "Dolly loves to manage everything. You mustn't even breathe
hard, girls, for ten minutes, and don't walk so heavily," she said
as she carried her cake pan across the kitchen and deposited it
in the oven. "This cake is going to be simply dandy, and my heart
will be broken if it falls."

"Better not leave the oven door open so long then," said Betty,
who having nothing to do for the moment was interesting herself in
her neighbor's affairs.

Katharine, who had been absorbed in gazing proudly at her creation,
started guiltily, and the oven door slipping from her fingers shut
itself with a crash that filled her with horror.

"Do you suppose that old door's spoiled it?" she said in a despairing
voice. "I don't see how it can fall, though, till it has begun to
rise," she added hopefully to Betty as she went back to the table
to clear away her cooking dishes.

"Just give a look at my apples when you're looking at your cake,
will you, Kit?" asked Charlotte, who had produced a small book from
some mysterious hiding-place, and was slipping off into a comer
with it.

"That isn't fair," called Dorothy sharply, but Charlotte pretended
not to hear, and Dorothy with a shrug of the shoulders gave her up
as a hopeless case. Dorothy and Charlotte were apt to turn their
sharp edges toward each other, though either would have defended
the other had an outsider interfered.

"Dear me, things look too good to be true," said Ruth a little later
as Katharine took her cake, golden-brown and deliciously light,
from the oven. "It seems as though some one would have to make a
failure of something."

"It won't be my apples," proclaimed Charlotte with great pride.
"Now I call that an artistic piece of cookery; they're not all
mushy and cooked to death, but they've split open just enough to
show that they're done."

"Small credit to you," laughed Alice. "If it hadn't been for Katharine
you wouldn't have come out of your book for the next hour."

"Don't be envious, Al," answered Charlotte sweetly. "Perhaps your
chocolate will be as good as my apples."

"There," said Ruth with a sigh of relief, "now that can cool, and
I'll put the finishing touches on later."

Suddenly the door-bell rang sharply. "You'll have to go to the
door, girls," said Betty, poking her head into the dining-room,
"for there's no one besides us in the house."

There was a murmur of conversation at the door, and then Ruth
came flying into the kitchen with shining eyes and flushed cheeks.
"There's the dearest little old woman at the door, girls," she
said, "with soap and pins and needles to sell, and I'm so sorry
for her because she says she hasn't sold a thing today. And she's
the cleanest-looking old dear you ever saw, and don't you think we
might ask her to stay to supper?"

Ruth stopped for lack of breath, and her face fell as she saw
plainly that both Dorothy and Betty disapproved of her plan. She
started slowly toward the door, wondering how much money she had
in her purse, and whether it would be enough to get the old woman
her supper, when help came from an unexpected quarter. Charlotte,
who at that moment was so completely a Knight of the Round Table
that she could hardly refrain from using the language of chivalry,
and who saw in this instance a chance to bring chivalric ideas into
practical use, said excitedly, "Why not, girls, if she's clean?
She certainly can't run off with the silver with six of us to watch
her."

"She's very respectable looking," pleaded Ruth; "her clothes are
neat, and she looks as though--as though she'd seen better days."

"Mother said she wished we could make our club helpful to some one
besides ourselves," said Betty slowly; "perhaps this is one of the
ways."

"Of course it is," answered Ruth, and was about to make a wild
dash for the door when she remembered that Dorothy was president
and ought to have the deciding voice. "What do you say, Dolly?" she
asked coaxingly. Dorothy frowned. "I don't approve of it a bit,"
she said, "but as you all seem to be against me I won't say anything
more about it." Ruth walked slowly toward the front door, feeling
very undecided, but Charlotte, who had followed her, helped her to
a decision by saying softly, "Go ahead and invite her, Ruth; Dolly
will come round ail right."

Seated in the kitchen the old woman didn't look at all dangerous
even to Dorothy's suspicious eyes. She was dressed neatly in black,
and, though politely urged, refused to take off either bonnet or
shawl. Much conversation with her was impossible, for she was very
deaf and mumbled so in talking that it was hard to understand her.
The girls couldn't help liking the rosy face with its crown of snowy
hair under a black veil, and they felt, too, that gentle glow of
pride which comes of exceeding virtue. The old lady's bright eyes
traveled from one to the other of them as they worked, and occasionally
her whole frame trembled as though with emotion.

"Poor old soul! Perhaps she had daughters of her own," said Alice
in a low voice.

It was impossible for the old woman to have heard, but it seemed
almost as though she had, for just at that moment she sighed deeply,
and drawing from her bag a neatly folded handkerchief wiped her
eyes. Then she settled her spectacles on her nose and looked up
at Ruth with a brave smile. The girls were touched by her courage,
and each resolved privately to buy some of her pins and needles
before she left the house.

At last everything was ready and the girls looked at the table with
pardonable pride. "My, but I'm hungry," sighed Ruth, "and everything
looks so good."

"I don't see why my popovers aren't poppier," said Betty anxiously.
"I thought I followed--Oh, goose! Idiot! What do you think I did?"
she wailed. "I wanted to be sure to have enough, so I doubled the
recipe--but I forgot to double the eggs!"

Betty's despair was so comical that the girls couldn't help laughing,
in spite of the fact that the popovers had not fulfilled the end
and aim of their existence.

"Oh, Betty, to leave out the poppiest part of them," laughed Charlotte;
"now just look at my apples; not a thing left out in cooking those."

The girls shouted again, and the old woman looked around the table
as though wondering what the fun was about.

The supper progressed merrily, and everything, even the unambitious
popovers, tasted good to the hungry cooke. Their guest paid the
highest possible compliment to her hostesses by devouring with
great eagerness everything that was offered to her. After she had
been served three times to scalloped oysters, and had eaten five
popovers and two baked apples, the girls looked at each other in
amazement.

"The poor old thing probably hasn't had a square meal in years,"
said Charlotte softly.

"She'll never be able to walk if she eats ail that cake and pudding
she has on her plate," said Dorothy anxiously, "and that's her
second cup of chocolate. Why, she's got an appetite like--like a
boy."

There was a subdued chuckle from the other end of the table followed
by a laugh which ail the girls recognized. Then the old woman, very
red in the face and very much hampered by her skirts, pushed back
her chair and started for the door.

Quick as a flash Dorothy, looking very determined, stood with her
back against the door. "Guard the other door, girls, and some one
help me here!" she cried. "Now, Joe Bancroft, who helped you get
up this trick?"

Joe, to whom laughter and eating were the main objects of life,
threw back his head and laughed until he choked, and grew so red
in the face that the girls were actually frightened.

"Oh, oh," he gasped at last, "that's done me lots of good. I think
I could eat a little more supper now."

He looked so funny standing there in the neat, black skirt topped
by the respectable bonnet and shawl, the spectacles and white hair,
that the girls went off into shrieks of merriment. Even Dorothy, who
was really angry, couldn't wholly resist the fun of the situation,
but she was sober again in a moment and said sternly, "You haven't
told us yet who are the others. You never got this up all by
yourself, I know."

"Honor forbids me to mention the names of my partners in crime,"
answered Joe with great solemnity. "They will all be glad to know
that you were so kind to a poor old woman--who may have had daughters
of her own," he added with a naughty twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, this is too much. Do let him go, Dolly," begged Charlotte.
"We know well enough that Frank and Bert are in it, and probably
Phil Canfield and Jack."

"No, not Phil and Jack," said Joe quickly, and then groaned inwardly
over his stupidity.

"Thanks. That's all we wanted to know," answered Charlotte with
triumph in her voice.

"That's one for you, Charlotte. You had me there ail right. Now,
ladies, with your kind permission I'll go, leaving you in part
payment for my gorgeous supper my stock in trade."

He drew from his bag and laid solemnly on the table one paper of
pins, one of needles, and a cake of soap. Then, seeing that the
girls at the other door had relaxed their watchfulness, he slipped
past them, through the kitchen and out the back door.

A shout of boyish laughter greeted him, and Dorothy groaned as she
heard it. "Why didn't you keep him, girls? I was going to make him
wash the dishes," she said mournfully.

"It's much nicer to have him out of the way," answered Ruth.
"Besides, I want to taste my pudding and Katharine's cake if that
greedy boy has left any of it."

"Betty's mother will be so pleased to hear that we've begun so
soon to make our club helpful to some one else," observed Charlotte
pensively, as they finished washing the dishes, and the club ended
its first meeting with a burst of laughter.



CHAPTER VIII

CHARLOTTE'S PROBLEMS


There was a cold rain, freezing as it fell, and the outdoor world
looked cheerless and forsaken. In Ruth's room the fire was evidently
doing its best to make one forget that it was winter and almost
Christmas. Ruth was absorbed in the tying of a gorgeous lavender
bow which was to adorn a sweet-grass basket standing on the table
near her. So intent was she on her work that she heard no footsteps
in the hall, and she jumped violently when a voice at the door
said, "Well, this is the cheerfulest place I've found.  May I come
in and stay a little while?"

"Why, Charlotte, of course you may. I'm delighted to see you," and
Ruth's glance swept the table and bed to see if any gift were in
sight which ought to be concealed.

"Don't stop your work; just let me lie here and look at the fire.
Meanwhile you can say nice, soothing things to me, for I'm tired
and cross." Charlotte stretched herself on the rug and even laid
her cheek for an instant on the black kitten, a concession that
would have filled Betty's soul with joy.

"What's the matter?" asked Ruth a bit absently, as she held the
basket out at arm's length and gazed critically at the bow.

"Oh, we're in several different shades of dark-blue over at our
house," answered Charlotte. "Mother has shut herself up with a
raging headache, Molly has quarreled with her best chum and refuses
to be comforted, and one of the twins has the earache. To crown it
ail, Melina, who is usually cheerful, is going around the kitchen
looking as though she'd lost her last friend, and I actually
haven't had the courage yet to find out what's the matter with her.
Fortunately for every one, Cousin Josie blew in, and when she saw
how things were going she made me go out for an hour, and said
she'd stay with the children."

"It must be hard to manage so many," said Ruth who longed to help
but didn't know how. "I'm sure I think you're awfully brave to be
so cheerful all the time."

"Oh, but I'm not; I'm the most doleful thing you ever knew at home
sometimes. And every little while I have to play baby and fuss it
all out to some one. You happen to be the victim this time, but
if it hadn't been you it would have been Mrs. Hamilton, or Betty."
Charlotte's voice quavered, and there was a long silence while
she stared gloomily into the fire and Ruth searched her mind for
something comforting to say. At last she said hesitatingly, "I wish
there was something I could do to help."

"I know you do," answered Charlotte with a smile. "But you can't
except just by understanding, and letting me tell my woes to you
occasionally. After I've really been in the dumps I'm the most
courageous thing you ever saw, and feel that I can accomplish wonders.
I suppose the reason I feel blue just now is because Christmas is
so near."

"Christmas! Why, don't you just love Christmas?"

"Love it! I should say not. I usually hate it."

Ruth's eyes opened very wide as she stared at Charlotte. That any
sane girl should hate Christmas was incomprehensible.

"Christmas won't seem the same to me this year," she said soberly,
"but I love it and I'm going to have as good a time as I can. Why
do you hate it, Charlotte?"

"Oh, for various reasons. Mother always seems sicker at this season,
and father looks anxious and more tired. I always feel that he's
trying to squeeze out a little more money to give us a good time,
and doesn't see how he possibly can. As for me, I'm so hopelessly
in debt to other people in the way of presents that I shall never
swim out." Charlotte tried to speak lightly, but it was a dismal
failure.

"I never felt about it in just that way,--I mean about being in debt
to people. I dare say I've missed giving sometimes when I should
have given, if that's the way of it. I love to choose and make
presents for the people I'm fond of, and that's what Christmas
means to me."

"Well, that's very lovely and quite the proper way to think of it,
I know, but it wouldn't seem quite so easy to you if you didn't
have any money to spend."

"Why not make things?" asked Ruth innocently.

Charlotte laughed. "Bless your heart, child, doesn't it cost money
to buy materials? And I do all the sewing I can possibly make up
my mind to in helping to keep the twins from falling out of their
clothes. You never saw such holes."

There was a long silence while Charlotte lay still, apparently trying
to go to sleep, and Ruth's forehead puckered itself into wrinkles
as she wrestled with a weighty problem.

Suddenly Charlotte opened her eyes. "Look here, Ruth," she said
bluntly, "I didn't mean to come over here and tell a tale of woe
about not having any money, and I'm ashamed because I have. Please
forget all about it."

"Oh, Charlotte," cried Ruth, dropping scissors, thimble and spool
with a clatter as she got up from her chair. "Oh, Charlotte, I wish
you would let me do something I want very much to do."

As she spoke Ruth threw herself on the couch beside Charlotte and
put her arms about her. Charlotte, who was most undemonstrative, was
vaguely comforted by the friendly embrace, and to her own surprise
found herself returning it.

"Charlotte," pleaded Ruth, "I've really more money than I need for
Christmas presents this year, for Uncle Jerry sent me a check to
use just as I please. Now won't you let me give you your present
now, and give it to you in money, so that you may have the fun of
using it before Christmas? Oh, oh, don't you dare say a word yet
if you can't say yes," she said fiercely, putting her hand over
Charlotte's mouth, and in her anxiety pressing so hard that Charlotte
gasped for breath.

"Don't you see what a pleasure you'd be giving me?" Ruth went on.
"I do so love to give people what they really want, and it's so
hard to know. And there won't a soul know about it except us, and
I'm dying to have a secret with some one."

Charlotte couldn't help laughing, Ruth's manner was so funny and
anxious. "Thank you very much, Ruth, but I really couldn't," she
said at last decidedly. "They wouldn't be my presents if I used
your money for them; and besides, it makes me feel as though I'd
no business to complain to you as I've done."

"Oh, Charlotte, they will be. It won't be my money, for I shall give
it to you to use just as you please, and what's the good of having
a friend if you don't tell her your troubles once in a while?"

Charlotte was silent and troubled, but she smiled a little at Ruth's
mixed-up sentences. Ruth thought this was a good sign and rushed
on without giving her a chance for a positive refusal.

"Don't you suppose I know how hard it is for a proud old thing like
you to do it? But I'm just selfish enough to try to tease you into
it because it's going to be such a favor to me. Do, Charlotte,
that's a dear."

With Ruth's arms tightly around her, and Ruth's brown eyes looking
at her with mischievous pleading, Charlotte found it difficult to
be disappointing. "Well--" she said at last.

"You will!" cried Ruth in a tone of rapture. "Oh, Charlotte, you're
a darling, and I'll do as much for you some day."

"I feel as though I'd been in a hold-up," murmured Charlotte, as
Ruth released her after another violent squeeze, and went to her
desk.

"I don't wonder," laughed Ruth coming back with an envelope in her
hand. "Now, Charlotte, I don't want to hurry you, but your hour
is up, and I think you'd better go. I have a premonition that the
twins have fallen into something or other."

Charlotte rose lazily and held out her arms for the coat which
Ruth was holding and into the pocket of which she had slipped the
envelope. "You're a sly thing," she said. "You're afraid if I stay
I'll go back on my bargain."

"Never," laughed Ruth. "You're not that kind. Can't you go into
Boston with me to-morrow and do some shopping? It will be almost
the last chance before Christmas."

"Why, yes. I think so. I'm almost sure I can." Charlotte started
to go, but turned and gripped Ruth's hand. "You're a trump, Ruth,
and you've helped me lots," she said with an effort, "but I must
say I don't feel quite right about taking that money."

"Oh, but I do. I shall enjoy it more than any other present I'm
giving. We'll have a great time to-morrow spending it."

Once out of the house Charlotte couldn't resist the temptation to
take a peep at the contents of the envelope. As she caught a glimpse
of a crisp five dollar bill her first impulse was to go immediately
and make Ruth take it back. She half turned, and waited irresolutely
until the cold sting of the rain forced her to realize that the
middle of the street was no place for deciding a weighty question.
Then she went slowly toward home, uncomfortable because she had
taken the money, happy because of the affection and sympathy Ruth
had shown her.

At home a more cheerful atmosphere reigned, and Charlotte felt her
spirits rise as she walked into the up-stairs sitting-room where
the children were. "You're an angel of peace, Cousin Josie," said
Charlotte gratefully. "I'll try to keep them happy until bedtime,
though I'm no such genius at it as you are."

Charlotte felt so cheered and comforted that she thought of poor
Melina, whose sorrows she had not yet investigated, and turned
toward the kitchen. Melina was one of those rare maids-of-all-work
whose services cannot be estimated, nor can they be paid for in
mere money. Coming into the family when Charlotte was a small child,
she had taken each successive baby into her heart, and had worked
for them all as faithfully and lovingly as if they belonged to her.

As she walked into the room she was startled to find Melina rocking
hard with her apron thrown over her face and audible sniffs going
on behind it. The chair was making such a noise that at first she
didn't hear Charlotte, and the latter had time to wonder whether
it wouldn't be better to steal away softly and come in later. She
knew she should hate to be found crying and she supposed Melina
would. Before she could decide Melina threw down the apron and
jumped up.

"Land, how you scared me," she said huskily. "I guess I was just
having a kind of a little nap."

"Oh, was that it?" answered Charlotte. She felt the delicacy of
the situation, and hated to pry into things that others didn't want
her to know.

"Any cookies, Melina?" she continued carelessly. "I thought I'd
take some up to the children. My, but these are good! Who was it
in your family used to like them so much? Oh, I know, it was your
nephew down in Maine. How is he now, Melina? Does he get any better?"

Melina's answer was so indistinct that Charlotte looked at her in
amazement to see two great tears rolling slowly down her cheeks.
"Oh, Melina, is he worse, and is that what makes you feel so bad?"
she cried sympathetically.

"No, he ain't worse. If anything he's a little mite better."

"What is the matter then? Don't you want to tell me? Perhaps father
or some of us could help."

Melina shook her head. "It's only that I ain't got quite enough
money to make him the Christmas present I'd planned for him, and
what's worse I've been fool enough to write him it was coming.  It's
one of those new-fangled beds so that he can be wheeled around,
and the end raises so that he can sit up a little. He's counting
on it so that I can't bear to disappoint him. All I need is five
dollars, and I thought sure I should have it because some one owes
me just that much. But I got a letter to-day saying she couldn't
pay it until after the first of January, so there 'tis."

"If father was only home he could fix it ail right, but I'm afraid
mother hasn't five dollars she could spare just now," said Charlotte
doubtfully.

"If she had I wouldn't take it," answered Melina, whose business
principles were founded on a rock. "Your father paid me up to
yesterday, and it ain't time for me to have any more."

"Oh, Melina, wait!" cried Charlotte, and she flashed out of the room
and up the stairs, leaving Melina to wonder what had come over the
girl. She was back in a moment, hiding both hands behind her as
she came into the kitchen. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement,
and she was so different from the ordinarily languid Charlotte that
Melina looked at her in astonishment.

"Melina," she said earnestly, "do you remember when I was a little
girl and I used to beg you over and over again to say which hand
you'd take? Now, please, please choose now."

Melina hesitated, but Charlotte's manner was so persuasive that
she couldn't resist, and murmuring, "left hand nearest the heart,"
touched that one.

Charlotte pushed something crisp and crackling into her hand.  "It's
mine to do just what I please with," she cried exultantly, "and I
never wanted to do anything more than I want to do this."

Melina stared at the five dollar bill in her hand. Then she held
it out to Charlotte again. "I can't take your money," she said. "I
ain't saying that I wouldn't like to have it, but I can't take it."

Charlotte looked at her pleadingly. Then she remembered how Ruth
had won her over. "But, Melina, it's a favor to me. You've always
been doing me favors, I know, but you might do just this one more."

Melina shook her head. "It's no use," she began, and then stopped
aghast, for Charlotte, the self-controlled, the hater of tears,
startled Melina and fell forever in her own estimation by bursting
into sobs. "For the land's sake, child, don't do that," ejaculated
Melina, almost whirling herself off her feet in her frantic efforts
to decide whether to throw water on her or burn feathers under her
nose.

Those who rarely cry are likely to do so with great violence when
they once give themselves up to it, and Charlotte's rending sobs
drove poor Melina to the verge of distraction. At last she gathered
the girl's slender figure into her arms and sat down in the big
rocker.

"There, there, lamb," she said, "put your head on Melina's shoulder
and cry all you want to," and she held her tenderly until the
gasping sobs grew less frequent.

"Oh, Melina, if you could only make up your mind to take that
money," said Charlotte at last, getting up and trying hard to keep
back the persistent tears. "I do want that poor boy to have his
bed right away. I think I could stop crying if you only would."

Melina's thin lips tightened.

"Well," she said at last, grudgingly, "I'll take it and call it a
loan. I must say, though, that I think you took an unfair advantage
of me. I ain't seen you cry since you was little more than a baby."

"I didn't do it to get my own way. I've been holding on to myself
all day, and that was just the last straw that made me let go.
Don't call it a loan, for I never want to see it again. Keep it
till you find some one who needs it as much as you do just now,
and then pass it along. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how far
five dollars could travel if it was passed from one to another that
way?"

"Talk about goodness," muttered Melina as Charlotte disappeared,
"that child's a wonder,--sometimes."



CHAPTER IX

OUT OF THE SNOW


Charlotte woke the next morning feeling vaguely uncomfortable and
wondering what was the reason for it. Suddenly it occurred to her
that to-day she must see Ruth and must give a reason for not going
to Boston with her. To explain what she had done with the money was
out of the question, for Charlotte would have been more unwilling
to tell of the performance of a good deed than to confess that she
had done something wrong. If she gave no reason and simply said
she couldn't go Ruth might think she was going to use the money for
herself, and that would be unbearable. But, of course, it would be
enough to say that it was Melina's only chance to go in town, and
she couldn't disappoint her. The fact that her mother was still sick
in bed would be sufficient reason why Charlotte couldn't leave on
the same day.

Melina, herself, was cross, and worked as though she had a personal
grudge against every dish and piece of furniture she touched. The
twins and Molly were actually scared into silence, and forbore
to make their usual demands on her time and patience.  Charlotte,
who understood, kept them and herself as much out of the way as
possible, and helped all she could so that Melina might take an
early train.

As soon as breakfast was over, Charlotte went to Mrs. Hamilton's
and found Ruth just getting ready for her trip to Boston.

"Why, Charlotte, you're surely not ready so early as this," she
said in surprise as her friend walked into her room.

"Why, no; the fact is I can't go to-day. Melina wants to go, and
mother is still too sick to be left alone with the children. I came
over early because I thought you might want to ask some one else."

"Oh, dear! Can't Melina wait till to-morrow? I'm dreadfully
disappointed." Ruth looked so reproachful that Charlotte found it
harder than she had anticipated.

"You see," she explained, "Melina wants to send something off to
her nephew in Maine, and if she doesn't start it to-day it won't
get there for Christmas."

"Bother Melina's nephew! I'd set my heart on having you with me
to-day, and you know why."

Charlotte did know why, and much to her own sorrow. "I'm sorry it's
happened so," she began, but Ruth interrupted her.

"It isn't really necessary for me to go to-day. Why can't we both
go to-morrow? We don't mind if the stores are crowded."

Poor Charlotte looked positively unhappy. In all the labyrinth
of thought through which she had wandered this exceedingly simple
solution of the matter hadn't occurred to her.

"Why, I might," she stammered feeling her way. "No, I can't," she
went on decidedly. "The truth is, Ruth, I'm not going to buy any
Christmas presents this year, after all."

"Oh," said Ruth coldly. "Then, of course, you won't want to go in
town."

"No, I think I'd better not. I'm sorry,--I can't explain."

"You don't need to explain. You have a perfect right to do as
you please, of course." Ruth's tone was so freezingly polite that
Charlotte almost shivered.

"I must run back home," she said at last with an attempt at
cheerfulness. "Would you like to have me ask Betty or Dolly to go
with you?"

"No, thank you," and Ruth busied herself in the tying of a bow
with such complete absorption that Charlotte felt that the best
and only thing she could do was to go. She was so absorbed in her
own disagreeable thoughts that she plodded along through the snow
with her head down, and almost ran over Joe, who was patiently
standing in the middle of the walk hoping for just that result.

"Why don't you warn a fellow when you are coming down upon him
like a ship under full sail, Charlotte?" he asked with pretended
indignation.

"Get right out of my way, little boy," answered Charlotte, with
assumed scorn. "I suppose now that vacation has begun you children
will be under my feet all the time."

Joe chuckled softly. He would have been disappointed if Charlotte
had answered in any other way.

"What's the matter with you, Charlotte?" he asked as she passed
him and he fell into line behind her. "You look as though you had
lost your last friend."

"I feel so," remarked Charlotte briefly, and in a flash was sorry
she had said it.

"I didn't think Ruth was that kind," Joe said after a pause.

"What kind? She isn't. There isn't anything the matter, and it's
all my fault. Ruth's all right, and I don't blame her a bit."

Joe grinned appreciatively behind her back over this mixed statement
of affairs. Then he said, "Good for you, Charlotte.  You're all
right, too. What are you going to do this morning?"

"Shovel snow. It's the only kind of work that I really enjoy."

"Let me help. I like to shovel snow when it isn't in my own yard."

"Run off and play with the other boys," answered Charlotte ungratefully.
"I have the twins and Molly on my hands, and that will be enough
for one day."

"Don't be foolish and refuse a good thing when it's offered you,"
said Joe good-naturedly. "I'll help you amuse them."

"Well, come along in then, and read while I get the children ready.
Oh, they're out now," she added, as they turned the comer and saw
the twins, looking like industrious brownies, rolling a huge snowball
across the yard, while Molly was expending her artistic talent on
the building of a snow-man.

The clean snow-drifts, glittering in the sunshine, fired Charlotte
with the desire to play as she used to play when a child. "Get the
shovels, Joe," she commanded, "and after we've cleared the piazza,
let's build a snow-house and freeze it."

"And my man can be the man that owns it, out for a walk in his
garden," chimed in Molly, who had been too much absorbed in her
work to speak before.

"Nice weather for gardening," said Joe with a wink, as he started
after the shovels.

Work is a cure for many sorrows, and Charlotte felt her heart grow
lighter as she helped Joe cut great blocks of snow and pile them
symmetrically. Betty, who had wandered over to see Charlotte, proved
a most efficient helper, and Frank and Bert, driving by almost
hidden under the branches of a stately Christmas tree, shouted
their greetings and came back later to join in the work.

Both boys and girls worked hard, and the result was a snow hut
large enough to shelter a good-sized family of Esquimaux. An arched
doorway gave entrance to the interior, which was divided into two
rooms. It had taken a large amount of snow to build it, and really
much skill, for the day was growing warmer and it was almost
impossible to make the structure firm enough to stand.

"There," said Charlotte, as she stuck a tiny American flag just
over the entrance, "I consider that the finishing touch. Now if you
boys will come over this afternoon and freeze it it will probably
last for some time."

"What a short morning!" exclaimed Betty as the church clock struck
twelve. "I'm as warm as toast and as hungry as a bear."

"Come in and help me get out the lunch Melina left for us," begged
Charlotte, "and then we can rest till the boys come over this
afternoon."

The boys left in a cloud of snowballs, but Joe found a chance to say
softly to Charlotte as he passed her, "Feeling better, Charlotte?
You look it."

"Run along and don't be foolish," answered Charlotte disdainfully.

"Goodness! Melina must have thought she was going to feed an army,"
laughed Betty, as Charlotte brought out sandwiches, cookies, brown
bread and a plate heaped with the cunning apple turnovers for which
Melina was famous. "Doesn't everything look good?"

"Don't you want to make us some cocoa, Bettina? Yours is so good."

Betty laughed. "Of course, you sly old thing. You know I love to
show off on cooking, don't you?"

"Good reason why; because you're so clever about it. I wish I weren't
such a stupid about doing all the things a girl is expected to do,
and I truly wish I didn't hate it all so."

"You can do other things," answered Betty loyally; "things I'd be
only too glad to do if I could. You ought to have heard all the
nice things Ruth said about you the other day."

Charlotte's heart sank. The joy of working in the keen, clear air
had almost made her forget the unpleasantness of the morning. Now
it ail came back to her with a rush. Ruth would never again say
nice things about her, and there would be an end, of course, to
ail the delightful intimacy which had seemed to promise so much
pleasure for the winter.

"Charlotte, Charlotte, Irving is climbing on the table to get a
turnover," announced Molly in a tone of dignified disapproval, and
Charlotte came to the rescue just in time to defeat the plans of
the small pirate, whose schemes for getting what he wanted were
without end.

It was a jolly lunch, for they were all too hungry to notice Charlotte's
sudden depression, and the twins kept Betty in a perpetual state of
amusement. To Charlotte, however, the tempting food might as well
have been something far less appetizing, for the keen discomfort
she was feeling took away all sense of pleasure.

"I don't believe I want to work any more on the snow-house," she
said soberly, as she and Betty finished putting away the dishes.
"You and the boys can finish up if you like, but I'm almost too
tired to move."

"Well, I don't care," answered Betty good-naturedly. "I ought to
be working on my Christmas presents anyway, and I've had a pretty
good airing this morning. Can't you bring some sewing over to my
house?"

"Sewing! You know I hate it. I hate Christmas presents, too, and
I shall be glad when Christmas is over."

Betty gazed at her in such consternation that Charlotte couldn't
help laughing. "Don't mind me, Bettikins," she said penitently; "I'm
a cross, disagreeable thing, and I ought to know better, Only, if
you love me, don't say Christmas anywhere in my neighborhood, or
I shall certainly explode into some badness."

Betty looked puzzled, but wisely refrained from asking any questions.
"Don't make yourself out too much of a villain," she said with a
comforting pat, "for I shan't believe it, and I shall keep on liking
you just the same."

With a look at the twins and Molly, who were safely at work in the
snow, Charlotte went up-stairs to her mother, wishing in her heart
that she could take her troubles to her as other girls did to
their mothers, but knowing from long experience that nothing of the
kind was possible. Mrs. Eastman had been so long an invalid that
Charlotte could hardly remember the time when it had not been the
first object of her father, and later of herself, to spare her
mother every care and excitement. To-day was one of Mrs. Eastman's
better days, and Charlotte found her dressed and sitting by the
window when she went in with the tray.

"Why, mother, how good it seems to see you sitting up," she said
happily; "are you really feeling better?"

"Yes, really better; so much so that I thought I would give my good
little daughter a pleasant surprise when she came up to see me."

Charlotte looked at her mother with delight. It was many weeks
since she had heard that cheerful tone, had seen the blue eyes so
clear, and the sweet face so untroubled.

"Oh, Mumsey, you are so pretty when you don't have that horrid
pain," she said, setting the tray on the table and kneeling down
to rest her head on her mother's knee.

Mrs. Eastman laughed softly, and patted the tired head with a
tender hand. "I'm glad I look pretty to you," she said. "But where
are Molly and the twins?"

"Out in the yard digging in the snow. The boys and Betty were here
this morning, and we made a grand snow-house, but no one has come
back to finish up." Charlotte looked out as she spoke and opened
the window a crack to remind Irving that he couldn't prance around
on top of the snow-house, because it wasn't strong enough yet for
such treatment.

"Don't you believe you'll be able to come down-stairs pretty soon?
Perhaps you can be with us on Christmas Day; oh, Mumsey," and
Charlotte glowed with delighted anticipation. "It won't make so
very much difference, after all," she added soberly, "for Christmas
won't be much different from any other day."

"Yes, it will; it shall, darling," said Mrs. Eastman. "I know we
can't spend much money for presents, but we'll trim the house, and
we'll have popcorn and apples and--"

Just what her mother intended to add Charlotte never knew, for
a wild shriek from the yard made her rush to the window in terror.
At first she could not tell what had happened. Then she realized that
Molly was dancing wildly around wringing her hands, that Irving's
startled face and sturdy shoulders were emerging from the ruins of
the snow-house, and that no one else was in sight.

"Stanley, where is Stanley?" she called, opening the window wide.

"Under the snow," shrieked Molly. "He can't get out, he can't get
out."

Charlotte said afterward that she never felt sure whether she went
out of the window or over the stairs. She realized only that some
one came swiftly behind her and she screamed, "Go back, go back;
I'll get him out."

But the figure kept silently on, and, before Charlotte could prevent,
her mother was pulling Irving with all her strength.

"Help me lift him," she cried piteously; "my other baby is under
all this snow."

No one knew better than Charlotte the weight of snow which had
fallen on poor Stanley, and she felt sick with terror as they at
last set Irving on his feet.

"Run for Dr. Holland, Molly, and tell the neighbors to come here,"
she said in a voice sharp with fear. Then she seized a shovel which
lay near and began to lift off the snow with a care and slowness
which made her mother frantic,

"Give me the shovel, Charlotte; my baby will smother while you work
so slowly."

"Stop, mother," answered Charlotte. "We may hurt him if we use the
shovel any more. Now I must use my hands."

It seemed hours before Charlotte, plunging in the snow and throwing
it aside with her arms and her whole body, felt the touch of her
brother's coat. And then still hours before she could draw out the
limp, little body.

"Give him to me," cried Mrs. Eastman snatching him to her breast,
and running toward the house. "Get hot water, Charlotte, and
blankets." Charlotte tried to run, but couldn't. She was vaguely
conscious that a sleigh had stopped outside the gate, that figures
were hurrying toward the house, that Joe, looking exceedingly red
and anxious but withal rather indistinct, had almost reached her,
and then she forgot everything.

When she opened her eyes she was on the library sofa, and Mrs.
Hamilton and Betty were smiling reassuringly at her. She looked
at them a moment without speaking, and then all that had happened
came sharply back to her.

"Where is Stanley?" she cried, starting up in alarm.

"Stanley is all right, dear," answered Mrs. Hamilton, putting a
restraining hand on her shoulder. "Dr. Holland says that by to-morrow
he won't know that anything has happened to him."

"And mother? She was out there in the cold and snow."

"She says it hasn't hurt her a bit and she will insist on staying
up to take care of Stanley. Truly they are all right, Charlotte,
and you mustn't worry." Betty's tone was so motherly and insistent
that Charlotte couldn't help smiling. She closed her eyes sleepily
and didn't even trouble to open them when she felt herself lifted
from the sofa and carried up-stairs.

When she awoke it was quite dark in the room except for the light
from the open fire. She could hear in the sitting-room a subdued
murmur of voices, and now and then Irving's giggle, promptly
suppressed by the stern Molly. As she lay there in drowsy comfort
Melina stole into the room and coming softly to the bed peered
sharply at her.

"Hullo," said Charlotte with a suddeness that made Melina jump.
"What time is it, and how is every one?"

"Goodness, I thought you was asleep. They're all right. I've just
made your ma go to bed, though she declares she never felt better
in her life. Stanley's sitting up on the sofa with the pillows ail
around him, feeling like a little king, and Molly's proud as Punch
to be nurse. Now what would you like for your supper?"

"My! Is it supper-time? Oh, bring me anything good. You know what
I like."

"There's a girl in the kitchen--the one that's staying with Mrs.
Hamilton. She wanted I should come up to see how you are, and she
says she'll come to see you just as soon as you want her."

"Oh, ask her to come now, Melina, please. I feel quite well enough
to see her."

Melina began to protest, but Charlotte's eagerness conquered, and
she went grumbling down-stairs to call Ruth.

"Oh, Charlotte, you're a dear to let me come and tell you how mean
I feel. I don't believe I should have slept to-night if I couldn't
'fess up' to somebody."

Charlotte looked at her in astonishment and Ruth went on, "You see
I know all about what you did with the money, for Melina sat with
me coming out on the train."

"Melina told you!" said Charlotte, hardly able to believe her own
ears.

"Yes, I remembered her face and said something to her. She was so
full of joy over having sent the bed off to her nephew that before
she knew it she had told me all about him, and about the five
dollars, too."

"She probably won't tell anything again in a hundred years,"
murmured Charlotte, looking so embarrassed and uncomfortable that
Ruth couldn't help seeing it.

"You're a funny girl to be so ashamed of your good deeds. But,
honestly, Charlotte, I'll never tell if you don't want me to. I'm
simply bowed down with shame myself to think I was so mean and
hateful this morning."

"Oh, that's ail right, Ruth," said Charlotte warmly, "and I'm not
going to be horrid about Christmas any more. I think this will be
the happiest one I've ever had."



CHAPTER X

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS


The day before Christmas Ruth awoke with an ache in her heart, and
an inexpressible longing for mother and father. It was even worse,
she thought, than the Christmas before when grief for her mother
was so keenly new. Then, she and her father had been so occupied
making the hard day easier for each other that it had passed almost
pleasantly. But now, with her best chum so far away, the longing
for her mother increased tenfold, and Ruth found herself wishing
that she could go to sleep again, and not wake until the holidays
were over.

It was hard to look cheerful at the breakfast-table, and every one
missed the gay laugh and chatter which usually made the meal so
pleasant.

"You're not ill, child, are you?" asked Mr. Hamilton as he rose
from the table.

"Oh, no," answered Ruth quickly, feeling that it would be rank
ingratitude to look melancholy after ail their kindness to her.

"That's right," he said with a farewell pat. "We can't have you
looking sober. You know I depend on you to give me a merry Christmas."

"I'll try," answered Ruth dutifully, but she felt that it would be
an impossibility for her to add to any one's happiness.

"Perhaps you will help me a little, Ruth," said Mrs. Hamilton as they
finished breakfast. "I'm going to pack and deliver some Christmas
baskets this morning, and I really need some assistance in order
to get through with it."

"I'd love to. Mother and I always did that, and I used to think
it almost the nicest part of Christmas. Mayn't I buy something to
put in the baskets, or have you all that you can use?"

"It would be very nice if you would, for I've just heard of a
family this morning where the children haven't the necessary winter
clothing. There are four children, the oldest about seven and the
youngest a baby, and I'm sure you will find a great many things
they need at the little store near the post-office. If you feel
like taking that off my mind I shall be truly grateful."

"Indeed I do," and Ruth, looking more cheerful already, ran off
to put on her coat and gay little hat. It is undeniable that doing
for others is the best cure for an ache in one's own heart, and
Ruth felt almost happy for the next half hour as she bought little
suits of underwear, warm petticoats and stockings, and red mittens
enough for the entire family. She felt quite like Santa Claus as she
walked down the street, for she had made a last purchase of toys
and candy, and enticing-looking bundles stuck out in all directions.
Those who passed couldn't help smiling at the pretty girl who, for
the time, at least, was the embodiment of Christmas cheer.

"There, that was fun," she said with a sigh of satisfaction as she
deposited her bundles on the table. "Now, let me help you pack."

For the remainder of the morning there was no time to be unhappy,
for by the time the baskets were packed the sleigh was at the door.
Mrs. Hamilton's errands took them to the outskirts of the town,
where great fields of snow spread their dazzling whiteness, and
the cool, crisp air blew the cobwebs from one's brain. Ruth learned
a helpful lesson in the art of giving, for Mrs. Hamilton was as
beautifully simple and friendly with the poor women she visited as
with her wealthier friends, and it was a pleasure to see the good
comradeship with which she entered into their joys and sorrows.

"This is my last visit for the morning," said Mrs. Hamilton, as the
sleigh drew up before a neat little house. "I have just a little
Christmas remembrance to leave here, and I think you may find this
the most attractive place of all."

Ruth followed Mrs. Hamilton into the house with real curiosity,
only to be met by a cheerful, rosy-cheeked woman who looked clean
and wholesome, though not especially interesting. She was putting
an extra polish on her little parlor, which already looked spotless,
and singing softly as she did so. As the song stopped Ruth realized
that the words were French and she began to feel curious immediately.

"Ah, Mrs. Hamilton, it ees a great pleasure to see you," the woman
said as Mrs. Hamilton shook hands with her. "Marie will be so happy.
She has so wearied for you."

Mrs. Hamilton and Ruth followed the good woman into the little
room, which was dining-room and sitting-room combined, and where
on a couch lay a girl a year or two older than Ruth. The great dark
eyes, looking out of the palest face Ruth had ever seen, lighted
up with joy, and a flashing smile disclosed faultless teeth as the
girl said with an accent even more marked than Mrs.  Perrier's,
"It ees my angel of mercy come again. I am so glad, so glad."

"I thought you might get tired of such an old angel, Marie," laughed
Mrs. Hamilton, "so I've brought a younger one along with me. Come
here, Ruth, and let me make you acquainted with my friend, Marie
Borel, who has left her Swiss mountains, and has come to America
to do great things."

"Such great things I have done!" said Marie, reproachfully. "The
first thing ees to get seeck so that my good aunt should have to
take care of me. I do not like to make so much trouble."

"It is nothing," said her aunt affectionately as she patted the thin
hand. "The uncle and I, we care only for your pain and trouble. It
ees a pleasure to have you with us."

Marie looked at her with such loving gratitude in her soft eyes
that her aunt retreated to the kitchen where Mrs. Hamilton followed
her on the pretext of obtaining a promised recipe.

Left to themselves the girls chatted in friendliest fashion, and
Ruth soon learned at least the outlines of Marie's story. Her father
had been pastor in a quaint little town of French Switzerland, and
there Marie had been born and had lived until death had taken both
father and mother within a year. Then, heart-broken over her loss,
she had accepted with gratitude an invitation from her aunt, who
had gone to America with her husband when Marie was a little girl.

It was a trial of Ruth's self-control when Marie told so simply
and pathetically of the death of her mother and father, for her own
loss seemed so terribly near. "I've lost my mother, too, Marie,"
she said softly, "and my father has gone so far away that sometimes
I feel quite alone."

"Ah, then you can understand how hard it is to be brave when one
has so great a sorrow."

"Indeed I can. And I'm not always brave. But tell me what happened
to you after you got here."

"Something, my grief, perhaps, or the voyage, made me so seeck.
But it ees much better already, for now I can read a little and
can also sew." As she spoke Marie took from a little bag lying by
her side a piece of embroidery which to Ruth's eyes seemed a marvel
of neatness and beauty.

"Oh, how lovely!" she said admiringly. "How can you do such fine
even work?"

"We are taught to make such fine stitches when we are very little
girls," answered Marie much gratified at the praise. "And I also
make the pillow lace. Have you ever seen that made?"

Ruth looked with greatest interest at the plump cushion with its
rows of pins, and watched intently while the thin hands deftly
tossed the bobbins around in most mysterious fashion.

"Oh, you do that so fast and so carelessly," she said at last, "and
yet that beautiful pattern comes so perfectly." "Isn't it wonderful,
Ruth?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, coming into the room. "I hoped Marie
would show you her lace pillow and her embroidery."

"It's perfectly fascinating," declared Ruth, "and I'd like to
learn, but I know I should tie all those threads in a tight knot
right away."

"Come over and I will teach you a simple pattern that in my country
quite little children learn to make," urged Marie, who longed for
another visit from her new friend.

"I'll come again gladly, but I'm not sure that I shall ever have
courage to attempt anything so wonderful," laughed Ruth as she rose
to go.

"I'm so glad you took me there, Aunt Mary," she said as they got
into the sleigh. "You seem to know just what to do for people when
they are miserable."

"I knew that what you wanted most I couldn't give you, dear, so I
tried the next best thing."

"Marie was so cheerful and patient that it made me ashamed to
be anything else when I'm so well and have father. Only it seems
as though I never wanted my mother more than I do to-day." Ruth's
voice trembled and the tears filled her eyes.

"Dear, we think you are brave, and we have appreciated your struggles
more than you suspect," said Mrs. Hamilton tenderly. "We are so
grateful for what you have done for Arthur, and the whole house
seems more cheerful when our borrowed daughter is in it."

Ruth's face brightened, and her hand sought Mrs. Hamilton's under
the robe and squeezed it hard. She was silent for a moment and
then she cried gayly, "From now on I 'solomon promidge,' as some
one used to say, to be good and cheerful for the rest of the day."

"That's right, darling; and now let's see if any Christmas greetings
have arrived while we've been away," said Mrs. Hamilton as they
entered the house.

"I should say they had," said Arthur, who had just come down to
lunch, and was scrutinizing the addresses on several interesting
looking packages. "Here's a heavy box for Ruth, and several small
packages for you, mother."

"Oh, would you open it now, or would you wait until to-morrow?"
cried Ruth, as she weighed the package in her hands and studied
the outside. "It's too fascinating, and I really can't wait," she
decided, and cutting the string with the knife Arthur held out to
her, she soon disclosed a box of unmistakable intent.

"Tyler's!" she said rapturously, "and five pounds of it, I'm sure.
That's Uncle Jerry's writing on the envelope. 'For the Social Six,
whose acquaintance I hope to make in the near future.' How dear
of him! And that means that he's coming to Boston some time this
winter! Oh, I shall be so happy if he does."

"He's a wise young man to pave the way beforehand so sweetly," said
Mrs. Hamilton with a laugh. "Ail the girls will think him quite
perfect."

"He's the nicest uncle that ever lived, and we do have such good
times together. He's only twelve years older than I am, you know,
and he seems more like a brother than an uncle." As Ruth spoke the
front door opened suddenly and Mr. Hamilton entered.

"Am I just in time for lunch?" he asked gaily. "I thought I'd come
out early to-day and play with Ruth. Besides, I have a package here
which she might like to investigate."

He gave Ruth a bundle which was almost covered with seals, stamps
and addresses, and a letter which bore a foreign postmark.

"From father," exclaimed Ruth. "Excuse me if I open it now. Do listen
to this," she said as her eyes traveled quickly over the familiar
handwriting. "'The package which I am sending in Mr.  Hamilton's
care contains some little gifts for the girls and boys about whom
you have written to me. They have all been so kind to you that I
am glad to express my gratitude to them even in so slight a manner.
I shall leave you to bestow them as you think fit, and only hope
that they will enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed choosing them.'

"Isn't that the loveliest thing you ever heard of?" said Ruth,
turning to Mrs. Hamilton. "Won't we have fun deciding about them?"

"Let's have an impromptu party, to-night, if we can get the girls
and boys together," said Mrs. Hamilton, who was as much a girl as
Ruth about some things.

"Splendid!" said Ruth, and then added in comical dismay, "I don't
see how you expect me to eat any lunch with such exciting times in
prospect."

"We'll eat and plan at the same moment," consoled Mrs. Hamilton,
"and then you won't feel that you're losing precious time."

It was decided that they should invite only the Social Six girls,
and the boys of the Candle Club, and to Ruth was left the pleasant
task of telephoning where she could, and sending John with notes
to the others. Every one in the house was busy, for each wanted to
have a hand in making Ruth's first party in her new home a happy
one. Delicious odors began to come from the kitchen, where Ellen
was flying around with a red and beaming face, and even Arthur was
shut up in his room carrying out mysterious directions his mother
had given him.

"I've been racking my brains to think up some quite novel way to
give these presents," said Ruth as she and Mrs. Hamilton finished
making their selections.

"Just leave it to me. I have a plan for that, and all you need to
do is to make them into nice little packages. You can use these
small cards for marking them."

Ruth sat in her room making her parcels gay with gold cord and sprigs
of holly until she heard Mrs. Hamilton calling her. Then she went
down-stairs to find the family assembled in the dining-room for
a light and early supper. Until they had met at the table it had
not occurred to Ruth to wonder how Arthur would take this sudden
festivity.

So it was with real purpose but with an apparently careless manner
that she stopped him on his way to the stairs to say, "Do be down
before any one comes, for I want you to help me out. I feel really
embarrassed over my first party."

"I'm not coming down," he answered abruptly.

"Not coming down? Oh, Arthur, that's too bad of you. Does your
mother know?"

"No, not yet. I told her I'd try, and I have, but I can't manage
it." Arthur's face and manner were so forlorn that it took all
Ruth's courage to continue. She glanced around but there was no
one within hearing, and at last she said, "Why won't you come down?
Is it because you can't bear to have the boys and girls see you on
crutches?"

Arthur nodded uncomfortably. He hated to talk of this to any one,
and he hadn't expected any determined interference in his plans.

"Don't you suppose they ail know about it? And if they do will just
seeing you make any difference?" continued Ruth, quite surprised
at her own eloquence, and still persistently barring the way to
the stairs. "I know that they are all longing to have you with them
again, and that none of the good times seem the same without you.
I heard Frank and Joe say the other day that if you kept up this
sort of thing much longer they were going to make a raid on your
room and have it out with you."

"I wish they would," answered Arthur gloomily. "Perhaps they might
knock some sense into me."

"Well, if you want to know what I think," Ruth went on, feeling that
her courage was fast departing, and on that very account growing
more and more severe, "I think it's cowardly to shut yourself away
from your friends and spoil everything like this. I dare say you
are one of the very boys who think that ail girls are cry-babies,
but I can't see why it isn't playing baby to do as you are doing."



CHAPTER XI

ARTHUR COMES BACK


As soon as Arthur was out of sight Ruth flew up the stairs and into
her room.

"Oh, dear! Now I have done it!" she thought, throwing herself on
the couch and clasping her hands behind her head. "Just as we were
beginning to be good friends, too. Why didn't I keep still and let
his mother manage it?"

Ruth's cheeks were very red and her hands hot and unsteady as she
put on her dainty silk gown. She had expected to enjoy the evening
so much, and now, for the moment, at least, she would be thankful
if there were to be no party. She tormented herself by thinking that
perhaps if she had not interfered things might have gone better.
What boy could ever forgive being called a coward and a baby? Would
she, herself, have been braver or more cheerful if she had suddenly
been condemned to crutches and so inactive a life?

Fortunately for her the sound of the door-bell made her run hastily
down-stairs to receive her guests. It was a relief to find Mrs.
Hamilton in the big music-room, for though she was accustomed to
meeting the three boys who had arrived first, they seemed strangely
formal and unfamiliar in the dignity of their party clothes. They
were doing their best to be cheerful and entertaining, for all felt
oppressed by the fact that there was to be a party in the Hamilton
house without Arthur as host.

Joe, who with Frank and Arthur had formed a trio noted for its
loyalty and good fellowship, looked as solemn as a boy who resembled
a good-natured cherub could, and shook hands with Mrs.  Hamilton
and Ruth with a fervor that made them wince. Arthur had been his
hero and chum ever since they were small boys in knickerbockers.
They had gone to school together, and had been preparing for the
same college when the accident happened which had so changed Arthur.
It had been the first real sorrow of Joe's life to be shut away
from Arthur, and he felt that he should never be reconciled to it.

Philip and John Canfield were brothers who had come lately to Glenloch,
and were much liked by the boys and girls. Phil, the elder, was a
quiet, studious boy, much interested in mechanics and electricity,
and preparing for a course in one of the well-known scientific
schools. He was devoted to his younger brother, who was a brilliant,
artistic lad, but not very strong. The family had come to Glenloch
on account of the fine air, and the out-of-door life.

Glenloch young people were never late in arriving at a party, and
almost before Ruth realized it ail her guests had come.

"What shall we do first?" she whispered to Charlotte, who was
looking really pretty in her red dress, though a little pale still
from her recent fright.

"Let's play Twenty Questions. That breaks the ice beautifully, for
we always get so excited over it."

Dorothy and Bert Ellsworth were selected as leaders and began at once
to choose their supporters. They had not progressed far, however,
when an exclamation from Joe, who was standing in the background,
made them all turn to look at him. He was staring past Mr. and
Mrs. Hamilton out into the hall, his eyes very big and round, and
a broad smile on his face. Before he could speak a voice from the
hall, a voice that tried very hard to be steady, said:

"Can you find a place for me on one of the sides?"

Then, and only then, Joe came to life. Leaping toward the door he
seized the owner of the voice by the shoulders with a force that
threatened to overbalance him.

"It's Art!" he almost shrieked, "by glory, it's Arthur. Of course
you can have a place. You can be on both sides. You can own the
whole party if you want to."

"Hold on, old man," said Arthur with a laugh as he started slowly
into the room with Joe's arm around his shoulders. "Don't rush me
too hard, for I'm not so steady on my pins as I used to be."

Almost before the words were ont of his mouth there was a general
rush of boys in his direction.

"Take care of the sticks, Joe," ordered Frank; "now, Phil, gently
there," and before Arthur could protest he was lifted skilfully
in the arms of his chums, borne in triumphal procession across the
long room, and deposited in the biggest armchair.

"What's the matter with Arthur?" piped Jack, as the boys settled
themselves on the floor around the big chair, and in response a
ringing chorus of boys and girls lustily asserted, "He's all right!"

Arthur held his head high and smiled bravely, but his paleness told
what a struggle for self-control he was making. Quite unconsciously
he looked appealingly at his mother, but saw only her back as she
went quickly from the room.

Betty, who had a positive genius for sensing situations and smoothing
over hard places, saw the look and came to the rescue at once. "Get
up, children," she commanded with mock severity; "this is a party,
and we don't sit on the floor at parties. Besides, we're going to
play a game."

"Oh, we'd rather talk to Arthur," answered Bert bluntly. "You girls
can play games in the library if you want to."

There was a chorus of protest from the girls, in the midst of
which Frank and Joe set Bert forcibly on his feet, while Phil said
paternally, "Son, son, is that the way you talk to your sister?
You're going to have plenty of chance to talk to Arthur from now
on, so come along and play like a good little boy."

It was Dorothy's turn to choose, and she took what her brother called
a mean advantage by immediately choosing Arthur and establishing
her camp around the big chair. Bert's side went reluctantly into
the library, and the game began by sending Philip and Katharine
into the hall to choose what the others should guess.

In spite of the fact that what she most wanted had come to pass
Ruth still felt uncomfortable, indeed almost unhappy. To be sure
Arthur had come down, but would he ever forgive what she had said
to him? She had been quick to see that at first he had resented
her advent into the family, and it was with a secret pride that
she had lately realized that they were getting to be good friends.
"Now I have spoiled all that," she thought mournfully. "He may be
glad I made him come down, but I know he'll never forget the horrid
things I said."

Katharine and Philip fondly hoped that they had chosen something
which would puzzle their friends for some time. It was not long,
however, before Charlotte, whose skilful questioning was the admiration
of her own side and the despair of the other, had gradually drawn
from Philip the fact that the object thought of was the right eye
of the first fish Frank had caught the last time he went fishing. As
Philip reluctantly assented there was a shout of joy from Bert's
side, and an answering chorus of groans from the music-room.
Then Charlotte and Jack went out and tried their best to think of
something almost unguessable, and at last Ruth was sent out to wait
for some one from the other side who seemed to be slow in coming.

She sat down in one of the hall chairs, but started up again and
would have liked to run away when she heard the familiar tap of the
crutches on the polished floor. It was silly to feel so embarrassed,
she thought; she had meant well, at least, in what she had done,
and if she had gone too far she was sorry but it couldn't be helped
now. She tried to think only of the game they were playing and said
brightly to Arthur as he approached:

"I hope you've thought of something hard, for I'm so stupid I can't
think of a thing."

"Oh, hang the game," he answered impatiently. "See here, Ruth, it's
not very easy for me to say things, but I've just been waiting for
the chance to tell you that you've done something for me to-night
that I shall never forget."

"Oh, but I want you to forget all those horrid things I said, and
I take them all back this very minute. I think it's very fine and
brave of you to come down and act just the same as ever."

Arthur looked as if the little speech pleased him, though, being
a boy, of course he couldn't say so.

"It's taken three of you to reform me," he said with a little laugh.
"Mother has tried her hand at it, and good old Ellen, and now you
have put on the finishing touch. At least, I hope it's the finishing
touch," he added soberly.

"Of course it is. You can never feel like shutting yourself up
again when you see how they all want you, and how happy you make
your mother and father."

"I shall be an ungrateful beast if I don't please my mother and
father. You must give me a push if you see me going backward, Ruth.
What's the use of a borrowed sister if she can't help a fellow
along?"

"I will, and you must help me, for boys always have very strict
ideas as to how their sisters should behave," said Ruth with a
mischievous twinkle. "My, but I feel better," she added with a sigh.
"You've been such an awful load on my conscience, Arthur Hamilton,
that I haven't enjoyed one minute of my party. Now I'm going to
have a good time."

She started toward the door of the library just as Joe's voice
called from the music-room, "What under the sun are you two people
taking so long about?"

Ruth flew back to Arthur in dismay. "Oh, in another second I should
have walked straight back to my own side without choosing a thing,"
she gasped. "Do think of something quick."

Arthur shouted with laughter. "I'd have given anything if you had,"
he choked. "I should have liked to see your face when you came to."

"Mean boy!" she said sternly. "You can only pay up for that by
thinking of something immediately, before I count five. One, two,
three, four---"

"The tip of Fuzzy's tail," answered Arthur, making a useless grab
for the object in question as its small proprietor disappeared up
the stairs.

"All right. But they'll guess it in a minute," declared Ruth as they
took their separate ways. Contrary to her expectations it proved
a hard one, and they were all in gales of merriment before Betty,
whose thoughts turned easily to cats, started the questioning in
the right direction. Charades came next, then a game proposed by
Philip, and after that supper was announced.

Ruth, who had not been let into the secret of the final arrangements,
felt a thrill of delight when she saw the pretty table. A tiny
Christmas tree hung with glittering ornaments, and dotted with
twinkling candies was the centerpiece, while a border of delicate
green vine brightened with sprigs of holly ran all around the table.
At the foot of the little tree were heaped mysterious parcels wrapped
in white tissue-paper and tied with gold cord. Now Ruth knew what
Arthur had been so busy over all the afternoon, for the place cards
were small and very funny snapshots of the guests themselves, neatly
mounted, and with the date in gold lettering.

"The mental effort of playing guessing games gives me almost
an appetite," said Joe pensively, as he watched with hungry eyes
a platter of chicken coming his way. There was a general shout at
this, for Joe was always eating, and never hesitated to proclaim
that he considered the serving of the refreshments the nicest part
of a party.

"You have a fairly good appetite for a boy," remarked Ruth, "or
for a white-haired lady either," she added demurely.

Every one laughed and Joe groaned. He had tried to keep it a dead
secret that his grandmother had been highly indignant because
he had borrowed her best gown without leave, and had cut off his
allowance for several weeks, but it had leaked out, and the girls
didn't mean he should hear the last of it.

"Never mind, old boy," said Arthur. "There's more food in sight
and still more in the kitchen, so pitch in."

It was a delicious supper of chicken and creamed potatoes, crisp
rolls and foamy chocolate, and Ellen's unrivaled ice-cream and
cake to top off with. As they were finishing the ice-cream, Katie
appeared with a tray on which reposed six pound boxes and an equal
number of half pound boxes. All eyes were upon her as she gave a
large box to each girl and a small box to each boy.

"Wow!" said the irrepressible Joe, lifting his box and letting it
fly into the air, so great was his astonishment at finding it empty.

"Oh, here's richness!" cried Dorothy, taking off the cover of hers
to disclose row upon row of tempting chocolates.

The boys with one accord uncovered their boxes, only to find them
empty, and a low groan went around the table.

"I say, Betty, I always did like you," said Frank, gazing covetously
at the sweets so near at hand.

"Tell them about it, Ruth," laughed Mrs. Hamilton.

Ruth tried to look very solemn as she gazed around the table.  "This,
boys," she said impressively, "is intended for an object-lesson, to
show you how nice and kind and generous, and--and everything else
that's good, girls can be when they have the slightest chance. My
Uncle Jerry, who hopes soon to know you all, has sent this candy
to the girls, and now it's their turn to do the next thing."

"Give me your box then, and let me fill it at once before I am
tempted to keep it ail myself," groaned Charlotte, reaching for
Joe's box. "And 'think shame to yourself' for your greediness in
the past."

Meanwhile Mrs. Hamilton was busy with the packages placed around the
little Christmas tree. From somewhere in the midst of the greenery
she extracted a bunch of red and white ribbons and, holding them so
that it was impossible to see to which packages they were attached,
she offered them to each in turn saying, "Girls white, and boys
red, please.

"Now pull and see what you'll get," she said as the last ribbon
left her hand. "These are gifts which have come across the ocean
to you from Ruth's father."

The ribbons were purposely so tangled that at first it was like
pulling in an unwilling fish. There was much friendly squabbling,
and then a chorus of ohs and ahs as the gifts were finally opened.

"Just what I wanted," contentedly sighed Dorothy as she clasped
a turquoise-studded bracelet on her round arm. "What a perfectly
elegant father you must have, Ruth!"

"I should say so," came in a duet from Betty and Katharine who were
respectively gloating over a string of pearl beads and a pretty
hatpin. Alice had found a silver belt-buckle in her parcel, and
Charlotte was gazing at a coral necklace with great satisfaction.

"What vain creatures girls are," said Frank maliciously as he gazed
at the absorbed young ladies. "Now we men, ahem, are presented with
practical gifts." As he spoke he held up a fine knife with views
of Nuremberg on the handle.

"You spoke too soon, Frank," said Phil, showing a pair of cuff
links, while Joe made every one laugh by assuming dandified airs as
he stuck in his tie a pretty scarf-pin. Arthur peacefully attached
a silver pencil to his watch-chain, Bert transferred his small
change to a pigskin purse, and Jack slashed imaginary villains with
a knife similar to Frank's.

"But where's your present, Ruth?" asked Betty. "You ought to have
the nicest of all." Ruth, who had been absorbed in watching the
others, came to herself with a start. "Why--why, I actually forgot
to choose something for myself. I meant to, though," she added
honestly.

"How will this do?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, producing a package that
no one had seen before.

"Why, did father send another package?" said Ruth, looking so surprised
that every one shouted with laughter. The girls eagerly crowded
around her as she cut the cord and disclosed an attractive-looking
box. Opening this she discovered a dainty velvet case in which
reposed the prettiest watch she had ever seen. It was hung on a
slender chain, and Ruth put it around her neck at once and tucked
the little watch under her belt.

"Isn't it a darling?" she said happily. "Father always gives me
what I most want."

"Let's see the wheels go round," suggested Phil, and Ruth opened
the case to find a little picture of her father, taken since he
went away, and looking so very like him that for a moment she could
hardly speak.

"That's my father," she said when she could find her voice. Both
girls and boys crowded around to look at the kind, handsome face
gazing at them from out the little watch, and Ruth's heart swelled
with pride and affection as she listened to their admiring remarks.

"Let's show them the game we tried the other night," said Dorothy
to her brother as they all returned to the music-room.

"Oh, that's too hard for them," answered Frank with affected
superiority. "They couldn't guess anything so difficult as that."

"Try it and see," clamored two or three voices.

So Frank with one finger drew a large circle in the air, and with
elaborate gestures made two points for the eyes and a line each
for nose and mouth. As he did so he recited solemnly:



"The moon is large and full and round; Two eyes, a nose and mouth."

"Now see if you can do it just as I did," he said to Jack, who sat
next him.

Jack tried, imitating as nearly as he could remember all of Frank's
peculiar movements of hand and arm, but as he finished Dorothy and
Frank shouted, "No; not right."

"Do it again, Frank," begged Charlotte, watching him sharply.

Frank did it again, and this time with even more elaboration
of gesture. The eyes were poked in with great firmness, the nose
in its airy curves looked like no possible human feature, and the
mouth was so decidedly turned up at the comers that one might have
fancied it was laughing at them.

Charlotte thought she knew; she had noticed a peculiar curve in
Frank's little finger, and the sudden way in which he had dropped
his hand both times. So she tried her fate with great courage, only
to fail as Jack had done.

"You do it, Dorothy," said Betty.

Dorothy did it, but her method was so different from Frank's that
she gave them no discoverable clue. The features she made were
all small and precise, and she put in a few meaningless flourishes
which puzzled them more than ever.

Then Arthur, who had been watching quietly, said the little speech
and made the drawing in a way quite different from either Frank
or Dorothy, and to the surprise of all the two wise ones admitted
him at once into their fellowship.

"All right, old fellow," laughed Frank. "Now there are three of us
who know."

At last Betty, with a gurgle of triumph, did it in the required
way. Then Phil saw the point, and Alice discovered it almost at the
same time. Finally there was a circle of waving arms, and a chorus
of voices announcing that:

"The moon is large and full and round; Two eyes, a nose and mouth."

Only Ruth failed to guess the secret, and, though she waved with
the others and tried her best to imitate all the various methods
at once, she still failed every time.

"Your arm's in my way, Ruth," said Joe, who happened to be sitting
on her right.

"I'll do it with the other, then," responded Ruth good-naturedly.
To her surprise this attempt was greeted with a shout of, "That's
right," and then every one laughed at her dazed expression.

"Why, I've done it that way dozens of times," she protested.

"No, you haven't," came in a laughing chorus. "Look at us once
more."

Ruth looked and for the first time realized that each one was using
the left hand to make the picture. "What a stupid I am," she said
ruefully. "To think I let all you Glenloch girls and boys get ahead
of Chicago."

"You're a Glenloch girl yourself, now," put in Katharine.

"So I am, and I know a trick game, too. If Betty will come out in
the hall with me I'll have my revenge on you."

She started toward the door as she spoke, but a loud peal of the
door-bell sent her flying back into the room again.

Mr. Hamilton opened the door and took in a yellow envelope which
he handed to Ruth.

She tore it open eagerly and her face flushed with pleasure as she
read the message. "It's from father," she cried, looking at the
expectant faces around her. "He must have guessed that we might be
having a party, for he says, 'Merry Christmas to all.' I just wish
he could know you all, for I'm sure he'd like you."

As she stood there smiling happily, Frank had a sudden inspiration.
Seizing the hands of Charlotte and Alice, who were nearest him, he
began to dance around Ruth, singing at the top of his voice:

"For she's a jolly good fellow, For she's a jolly good fellow, For
she's a jolly good fellow, And we're very glad she came."

All joined in as Mrs. Hamilton caught it on the piano, and Ruth
stood surrounded by a circle of beaming faces, and feeling that
the world was a very good sort of place after all.

As the laughing crowd broke ranks, Ruth was mysteriously drawn
aside by Charlotte, Betty and Dorothy.

"Allow us to crown you," said Charlotte, placing an available holly
wreath on Ruth's head, "as the only successful member of the 'S.
F. T. R. O. A. H. T. T. W.' The object of this society having been
fulfilled, the society will now be officially dissolved."

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Ruth much mystified.

"Don't you remember the society we planned the first day we met
in your room?" demanded Dorothy. "Well, look there, and there, and
see if you haven't accomplished its object."

Ruth looked and found it truly a pleasant sight. Arthur, the central
figure of a group of boys, looked happier than she had ever seen
him, and was evidently making plans for future good times, while his
father and mother beamed contentedly on him from a little distance.



CHAPTER XII

LOST AND FOUND


Ten days after Christmas the ice was declared quite perfect, and
the Social Six were to have their first skating-party of the season
on Holden's Pond. It was planned to invite the usual boys, to begin
skating at about half-past six, and to go to Katharine French's
house at half-past eight for supper and games. Betty's married
brother and his wife, who were great favorites with the girls and
boys, were to chaperone the party.

Ruth was greatly excited over the prospect, for she had hardly
done more than learn to stand up on her Christmas skates, and she
longed to be able to glide off as gracefully as Dorothy did. She
looked very gay in her red suit, with a jaunty tam-o'-shanter set
rakishly on the brown curls, and even Arthur smiled involuntarily
at the pretty picture as she came into the library to say good-bye.

"I wish you were going, Arthur," she said. "But, at least, you'll
escape one trial; you won't have to hold me up."

"I believe I could stand even that," answered Arthur wistfully.  And
then because he had set himself to the task of keeping cheerful,
he added, "Just wait until next winter; I'll get up a special
skating-party for you, and whiz you over the ice at a great rate."

"I hope by that time I'll be able to whiz a little by myself. Just
now I can only wabble and squeal. Oh, I must hurry, for there's
the whistle," and with a gay good-bye Ruth flew out of the house.

Arthur went slowly over to the window to watch the jolly crowd
out of sight. Then he went back to his book and began reading with
an unconscious sigh which made his mother and father look at each
other with troubled eyes.

As they neared the pond with its twinkling bonfires, it seemed
to Ruth there would be small chance for an inexperienced skater
in the midst of the many dark figures which were gliding in every
direction. She felt better about it, however, when she found Philip
taking possession of her to put on her skates, and then starting
off at a slow, steady glide which at once gave her confidence. She
had almost begun to feel that she could really skate, when Frank
came up and took her for a mad dash around the pond at a pace that
fairly made her tremble. She was glad to get back once more to the
little inlet which the club had chosen for its meeting-place, and
where on the bank they had built their bonfire. Joe and Charlotte
skated along at about the same moment, and Ruth was secretly glad
to have Joe claim her as his next partner.

"You're doing wonders, my dear," said pretty Mrs. Ellsworth,
as Ruth came back to the meeting-place after her comfortable spin
with Joe. "Here's Jack waiting to take you out as soon as you are
rested, and I'll get Joe to help me find my husband."

Jack was a fine skater, and Ruth felt so encouraged by her last
attempt that she really enjoyed her skate with him and began to
long to do something by herself. As they came back after circling
the pond, she said earnestly, "Now you go and have a skate with some
one who knows how. I want to rest a minute, and try all by myself
in this inlet, where I shall be out of the way."

Jack refused at first to leave her alone, but she insisted, and
as Betty went by at that moment he was off in pursuit before he
fairly realized what he was doing. He quieted his own conscience
and Betty's protests by promising to find Bert and send him back
to Ruth immediately.

Left to herself, Ruth started out, very timidly at first and very
unevenly. Finding herself still on her feet she gained confidence
and struck out more boldly. The inlet seemed altogether too small,
and she skated out a little way, still keeping near the shore and
well out of the track of the skaters.

She was so busy watching her own feet that she didn't notice Betty
and Jack as they flashed by until they shouted their congratulations
on her success. Then Bert and Dorothy came along and stopped to
tell her that they would all meet at the bonfire in fifteen minutes,
and go from there to Katharine's house. They tried to persuade her
to skate around the pond with them, but she was so in love with
her own efforts that she said no and sent them off in a hurry. Then
she tried again with new courage, and struck out with such energy
that before she knew it she had left the edge of the pond, and
was skating with quick and fairly steady strokes in the direction,
opposite to that in which Bert and Dorothy had gone. It startled her
when she realized that she had left the meeting-place far behind,
and she knew she ought to turn about and try to get back there.
But she was so fascinated by her own success that she hated to turn
for fear the spell would be broken.

Suddenly she caught the toe of her skate in a crack, made a frantic
effort to keep herself from falling, and then went with a crash flat
on her face on the ice. It seemed an age to her before she could
move; then she tried to get up, and some one, rather unskilfully,
helped her to her feet. As she stood there half dazed and shaking,
she put her hand to her face and brought it away all wet.

"Oh, dear, my nose is bleeding," she said aloud, and then became
conscious that she had an audience of two small boys, who were
grinning at her unsympathetically.

"Won't you please take off my skates?" she said as pleasantly as
she could, for it made her very angry to see them laughing at her.
She longed to get out of their sight as quickly as possible, and
she wondered if she could ever make her way across the ice and back
to the meeting-place with her knees trembling under her in such
unwonted fashion. Then she thought of how she must look with her
face streaked with blood, and she decided it would be better to
go home. She felt quite sure that if she went a little way across
the field to the left she should find the road they had come down
earlier in the evening.

"It didn't take us so very long to come down here," she thought,
as she plunged through the snow, "and after I've repaired damages
Uncle Henry will see that I get back to the party."

Her nose was still bleeding, but she stopped it after a while
with applications of snow. Her head ached, and she felt sure the
afflicted nose was swelling and that she should be a fright. She
wished that she hadn't tried to be so smart, that she had stayed
in the little inlet, and all the useless wishes that one makes when
it is too late.

When she came to the road she felt better, and walked along as
cheerfully as her increasing aches would permit. Now that she was
getting farther away from the pond it was very still, painfully
still, she thought. The moon had disappeared, but the sky was thickly
sown with stars and the glistening snow-mantle was more beautiful
than ever. For some reason the road seemed strangely unfamiliar,
and Ruth faltered and almost turned back as she remembered that
she had never before been out alone in the evening. It had been so
light at the pond, with the many bonfires, and so noisily gay that
she had not realized until now what the loneliness of the walk
would be.

"It was stupid of me not to have one of those small boys go for Bert
or Phil," she said to herself. "I should rather it would be Phil,
because he takes care of one so nicely, and I'm sure he wouldn't
laugh. I'd be willing to have them laugh at me, though, if I could
only see them."

By this time Ruth should have begun to see houses, and she had
already decided that she should stop at the first one she saw and
ask for help. But to her dismay no houses appeared, and the road
seemed narrower and more shut in by trees than it had before.

Still she clung tenaciously to the idea that she was on the right
road, and that if she kept on long enough she should come to the
houses. She tried to comfort herself by thinking that she had been
too absorbed on the way down to notice how the road turned and how
far the houses really were from the pond. Her head ached enough
to make her feel a little dazed, and her nose seemed as large as
a small apple when she cautiously touched it.

Suddenly she was quite sure that she was on the wrong road,
and realized that she had no idea in which direction to go to get
home. Besides that she was so tired that she could hardly keep on
walking. Tears started to her eyes, but she winked them away. "I
won't cry," she said boldly, as though she thought that speaking
aloud would make it more binding upon her. "And I will keep moving,
for then I can't freeze, and it seems terrifically cold."

She stood still for a moment trying to peer into the darkness
ahead of her and wondering whether there might be houses near, or
whether it would be better to go back and try to find the pond.

Suddenly on the still, cold air floated the sound of a voice.  "Ruth!"
it called,--and then after a moment of silence, "Ruth Shirley!" The
sound was so drawn-out, so far-reaching, that as it echoed about
her Ruth positively shook with fright and excitement.  Then she
started in the direction from which it seemed to come, a pathetic
little figure stumbling from weariness.

After Ruth's departure Arthur tried hard to fix his mind on his
story, but even the charm of Treasure Island failed to distract
him. In spite of himself his thoughts turned always to the starlit
winter night, and to the pond gay with bonfires and torches and
covered with boys and girls. After a while he closed the book with
a snap, and went to the piano, where he softly tried over some new
music Ruth had left there. Then came a sound of sleigh-bells, the
tramp of feet on the piazza, and the peal of the door-bell.

As Katie opened the door, a cyclone swept in which resolved itself
into Phil, Frank and Joe, all talking at once. "We've come to take
you over to Katharine's for the supper, and you've got to go," they
announced almost as one man.

"It's no use for you to say no," continued Phil, "for we shall use
force if necessary. We've had our orders not to come back without
you, and you surely wouldn't deprive our dear little Joe of the
chance of a supper."

Joe clasped his hands and wriggled imploringly, while Frank tried
to hasten matters by going in search of Arthur's overcoat.

"Well, I'll go," said Arthur hesitatingly. "You'll have to boost
me out to the sleigh, for I couldn't take a step on this snow."

"Of course. Frank and I will bear your lordship to the sleigh, and
Joe can bring the stick. I'm glad that it's only one crutch now,
old fellow," ended Phil so affectionately that Mrs. Hamilton could
have hugged him.

"It's going to be one cane in--well, I don't dare to say just how
long, but soon," announced Arthur with such determination that,
"Hurrah," "Bully for you," "You're a brick," came from the boys
simultaneously.

To Arthur the quick rush through the keen air, the tingle of
the flying snow-needles against his face, above all the wholesome
companionship of his chums, were as rain in thirsty places. The
jokes of the boys seemed the wittiest things he had ever heard,
and he shouted with laughter.

As they reached the piazza Betty opened the door. "Have you seen
Ruth?" she asked anxiously. "She has disappeared, and all the others
except Katharine are out hunting for her."

"Disappeared!" said Frank, looking as though he could not believe
his ears. "How under the sun could she manage to disappear? Wasn't
Jack with her?"

"Yes, but she wanted to be left alone for a while to practice, and
when we were ready to start for Katharine's she was nowhere to be
found. Oh, do hurry and don't stop for explanations." Phil and Joe
were already out of the house, and Frank was soon at their heels.

"It's horrid to be left behind to wait, isn't it, Arthur?" said
Betty, feeling very helpless and realizing how much more so Arthur
must feel.

"It makes me feel like a log," answered Arthur. He was tramping up
and down the long parlor and in his excitement doing better work
with his crutch than he had ever done. "I'm going out on the piazza,
Betty," he announced. "I can't stand it any longer in the house."

As he went through the hall his eye fell on the megaphone which
hung there, and with a dim idea that it might be of use to him he
tucked it under his free arm. The piazza was clean and dry, and he
walked its length, finding the exertion a relief to his feelings.
The megaphone was an awkward burden, and he started to put it down,
only to snatch it up again before it had touched the piazza floor.
When he had brought it out he had thought he might shout a triumphant
"found" through it. Now a better purpose suggested itself to him.

"Ruth! Ruth Shirley!" he called, and his ringing voice flew through
the air in waves of sound.

"Oh, do you see her?" shrieked Katharine, opening the front door.

"No, but I hope she can hear me. I've an idea that she tried to
go home for some reason, and that she has lost herself on one of
those winding roads that lead from the pond. Anyway, I'm going to
shout every two minutes, and the sound may help her find her way."
Katharine retreated, and the two girls wandered about restlessly
in the house and listened for each call of Ruth's name. Suddenly
there was a hurried thump of the crutch and Arthur shouted excitedly:
"She's coming, girls; run and meet her."

The two girls flew out of the house to see just turning into the
yard a weary-looking girl who was unmistakably Ruth. They rushed
to meet her and half carried her up the steps and into the house,
while Arthur shouted a rousing "found" through the megaphone.

"Is that the voice that's been calling me?" asked Ruth as he followed
them into the house. "I believe if it hadn't been for that I should
have given up."

"But where have you been and how did you manage to get lost?"
questioned Betty.

"Oh, don't ask me any questions now, but give me a looking-glass
and some powder so that I can fix this dreadful nose before the
others get here," implored Ruth. "I'm tired to death, but I started
out to make myself look better before I came to your party, and I
want to do it."

The three girls vanished up-stairs, leaving Arthur to poke the fire
and chuckle quietly over this truly feminine ending to the tragedy.

"She's the real thing," he said to himself. "Doesn't want to be
pitied and fussed over."

By the time the others had gathered, Ruth came down-stairs and was
besieged at once with questions.

"It was so foolish of me," she said as she finished telling her
story. "I might so easily have sent one of those small boys across
the pond. All I could think of at first was to go somewhere where
I could take care of my poor nose." As she spoke she shut one eye
and gazed with the other at her red and swollen nose.

"I think the swelling's going down a little, don't you?" she asked
anxiously.

They all laughed, and Jack said almost as if he felt it a personal
grievance, "I don't believe you were so scared as we were after
all."

It was a jolly supper, but to Ruth, who ached from head to foot,
it seemed as if it would never end. She did her best to behave as
usual, and succeeded so well that for some time no one noticed how
pale and tired she looked.

As they got up from the table, Arthur said suddenly: "Say, Phil,
I'm awfully tired. Do you mind getting out your old nag now? And,
Ruth, wouldn't you like to go home too?"

"Oh, yes," answered Ruth, so eagerly that the others realized at
once the cause of Arthur's sudden weariness. No one said a word,
but the girls almost fell over each other in their endeavors to
assist her, and the boys rushed the sleigh to the door in great
haste.

"Ladies first," said Phil gallantly, and before Ruth realized what
was happening, he and Frank had gently picked her up and deposited
her in the sleigh. Then came Arthur, and then the boys piled in on
the front seat.

Mrs. Hamilton met them at the front door. "I'm so glad you came home
early, children. Ruth, you must be tired to death after skating."

"I am. Oh, I am," answered Ruth with a little laugh, and then she
surprised herself by throwing both arms about Mrs. Hamilton's neck
and bursting into tears.

"Don't you dare to think I'm crying, Arthur Hamilton," she managed
to say between her sobs. "I said I wouldn't, and I won't," and
then realizing the absurdity of what she was saying, she laughed
as unrestrainedly as she had cried.

The sight of Mrs. Hamilton's worried face and Arthur's helpless
alarm brought her to her senses, and she said penitently, "Do forgive
me for being so foolish. I've tried so hard not to cry that when
I felt Aunt Mary's arms around me it just had to come out."

"Darling, the best place for you is in bed, and I shall see that
you're tucked in all 'comfy,'" said Mrs. Hamilton tenderly.

As she started up the stairs, Ruth turned to Arthur who was slowly
following. "I really do believe you saved my life," she said
earnestly. "I was so frightened and tired and achy that I couldn't
have gone many more steps if that blessed old voice hadn't led me."

"Oh, some one would have found you before long," answered Arthur,
who hated to take any undeserved credit to himself.

"Perhaps," assented Ruth doubtfully. "At any rate it would have
been a trifle cold sitting there waiting to be found, and I prefer
to think you saved my life. It makes me feel much more important."

"Ail right, we'll call it so then," said Arthur with a laugh. "And
now we're square again, as we were on the night when we first ate
dinner together, for if I saved your life you have certainly saved
my common sense."

"I must say I like it to hear you compare your common sense with
my life. However, I'll shake hands on it," and with a laughing
good-night Ruth followed Mrs. Hamilton into the pink room.

Arthur thumped along into his own room and went happily to bed,
feeling that girls were pluckier that he had thought them, and that
even crutch-bearers could accomplish something in the world.



CHAPTER XIII

MISS CYNTHIA


"Come down to the pond with me this afternoon," said Dorothy as
she and Ruth parted on their way home from school a few days after
the skating-party, "and we'll go into a quiet comer and practice
until you feel sure of yourself."

"All right; I'll go," Ruth answered, "but I can't stay long; I must
study for at least an hour before dinner."

"Well, be at my house by two, and then we shall have the pond
almost to ourselves for a while, and we'll be ready to go home by
the time the crowd gets there."

Dorothy was a good teacher and in the hour they spent on the pond
Ruth gained both skill and confidence.

"I never shall be nervous again about it," she said with enthusiasm
as they took a last swing around the pond together.  "It's like
so many other things; you have to get the feeling of it before you
can really enjoy it."

"That's so," assented Dorothy; "you probably never will lose
it now. My, but it's growing colder every minute, isn't it? Let's
hurry home, and I'll make some hot chocolate. You'll have plenty
of time before you need to study."

Ruth stooped to take off her skates at once. "I'm really as hungry
as a bear," she confessed, "and a cup of your chocolate will be
fine."

When the girls entered the house Dorothy stopped short as she
caught the sound of voices in the library. She listened intently a
second, then she frowned, put her finger on her lips, and grasping
Ruth by the hand led her softly across the hall and up-stairs. Not
until they had reached the large room in the third story and had
closed the door did she break the silence which enfolded them.

"For pity's sake," asked Ruth as she took off her coat and hat,
"what is it and who is it?"

"Oh, it's only Miss Cynthia," answered Dolly carelessly. "I didn't
want mother to know I'm in the house."

"Who's Miss Cynthia?" pursued Ruth with great curiosity, "and why
don't you want your mother to know?"

"Why, Miss Cynthia Atwood, of course. Don't you know her yet?
You're fortunate, that's all I can say. She lives in that funny
little house near the library, and she's the last surviving member
of one of the oldest families here. I ought to know, for she's told
me times enough."

"But why don't you like her?" persisted Ruth, who was toasting herself
in front of the open fire while Dorothy got out the materials for
the chocolate.

"Oh, I don't know," answered Dolly with a shrug. "She's tiresome
and inquisitive, and she's always coming round to make visitations
on days when she ought not to be out, and then we girls or the
boys have to see that she gets home safely. I can't help slipping
out of her way whenever I can."

"Well, you certainly slipped this time," said Ruth with a laugh.  "I
didn't really know what was going to happen to me. What a good-timey
looking room this is, Dolly," she went on, glancing about her.
"I always feel when I am up here as if I can't go away until I've
tried every one of these games."

It was a huge room, rather bare of ornament except for the pictures
Frank and Dorothy had put up, but wholly suggestive of good times,
as Ruth had said. Nothing was too good for use, and everything
promised pleasure of the most wholesome kind.

"Father and mother like us to have our best times at home," said
Dolly sipping her chocolate with a critical air, "and Frank and I
have had this room for a playroom ever since I can remember."

"It must be fine to have a brother or sister," said Ruth wistfully.
"I don't think only children have half so much fun."

"They miss some quarrels, too," laughed Dolly. "Poor old Frankie!
He's splendid discipline for my temper, for he can be the most
exasperating boy I ever saw. I suppose I'm just as exasperating,
though," she added honestly.

"Is that four o'clock?" asked Ruth suddenly. "Dear me, I must go,
though I'd much rather stay here. Your chocolate is great, Dolly,
and those nice little wafers were perfect with it."

"I hate to have you go, but I'll walk over with you just to get a
little more air," said Dolly, settling her fur turban on her blonde
locks. "Now we must go down softly, for Miss Cynthia may still be
here. I dare say Frank is somewhere about, and mother can get him
to take her home," she added, as if she half felt the need of an
apology. "I'm sure it's his turn to go, anyway."

It was with the feeling of being guilty conspirators that the girls
stole down-stairs and tiptoed softly across the hall, and they
both jumped violently, when, even as Dorothy had her hand on the
door-knob, Mrs. Marshall's voice called:

"Dorothy, is that you, dear?"

"Yes, mother," answered Dorothy in a voice expressive of resigned
despair. Then she added in a tragic whisper, "We are lost! There
is no escape from our unhappy fate!"

"Dorothy, Miss Cynthia is here, and I want you to see that she gets
safely home," said her mother.

"Yes, mother," answered Dorothy again, looking at Ruth with an
I-told-you-so expression. "Don't you dare to leave me, Ruth Shirley,"
she went on fiercely. "You'll have plenty of time to go with me.
Come on in now and be introduced to her."

Ruth hardly knew what picture she had formed of Miss Cynthia, but
she certainly hadn't expected to meet the pretty, pink-cheeked old
lady to whom Mrs. Marshall presented her. She was the smallest,
most delicate of creatures, with snowy hair and bright blue eyes,
which in darting glances seemed to absorb in minutest detail the
person to whom she was talking.

"And so this is Ruth Shirley," she said, holding one of Ruth's
hands in both her tiny ones. "I'm very glad to know you, my dear.
It seems as if Mrs. Hamilton might have brought you over to call
on me before this. But then I'm used to being forgotten. How are
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, and how is that dear boy, Arthur?" Miss
Cynthia paused for breath and Ruth gladly released her hand.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton are very well," she answered, "and Arthur
is much--"

"I always said he would be better if he would only make an effort,"
interrupted Miss Cynthia triumphantly. "But I began to be afraid
he never would, and I thought it most likely that he would go off
into a decline, I've often told Mary Hamilton that I should be
worried to death if he were my boy. Do you hear from your father
often? It must be pretty bad to have him so far away; so many things
can happen nowadays that you can't tell from one day to the next
where you'll be or how you'll be. Of course you know that, though,
having lost your mother, poor child."

"She hears very often from her father," said Mrs. Marshall, noticing
Ruth's flushed cheeks, "and he makes the distance seem very short
by sending cablegrams every once in a while. Now, Miss Cynthia, let
me help you on with your cape, and then you can start out with an
escort on each side of you."

"Now, girls, you'll have to excuse me if I don't talk much," said
Miss Cynthia apologetically, as they were leaving the house; "this
icy wind makes my throat feel sore. But I shall be delighted to
hear you talk. Girls always have such a lot to say to each other."

"Please come in and rest yourselves," said Miss Cynthia with urgent
hospitality, as they reached the door of the small old-fashioned
looking house which Ruth had often noticed before.

Dorothy began hasty explanations about being in a hurry to get
home, but Miss Cynthia laid an imploring hand on Ruth's arm and,
looking at her with real appeal in her blue eyes, almost drew her
into the house.

"We'll let Dorothy go if she must," she said decidedly, "but I want
to get acquainted with you, child, and I'm terribly lonesome, too,
these winter afternoons."

Even with every desire to escape Ruth couldn't resist the pleading
old eyes which were looking at her almost tearfully.

"Do come in, Dolly," she begged; "I shall have time before I need
to study to stay a little while." But almost as she spoke Dorothy
vanished unaccountably, and there was nothing left for Ruth but to
follow Miss Cynthia.

"Come right into the parlor and sit down, while I find Luella and
have her light a lamp," said the old lady, hurrying out of the room
with surprising agility.

The room was so dark that at first Ruth hardly dared to move, then
as her eyes became accustomed to the gloom she found her way to a
chair and sat down on the edge of it. She didn't enjoy the situation
in which she found herself, and she wished she were out of it. Even
the algebra which she must study as soon as she got home possessed
a charm for her in comparison with the present moment. She half
smiled as she thought of the suddenness with which Dorothy had
faded from sight.

"She might have waited after getting me into this," she said to
herself impatiently.

Just then with a suddenness which sent her flying out of her chair
a harsh voice said almost in her ear:

"Cheer up! Cheer up! Don't you cry!" and then followed an unintelligible
variety of sounds ending with a cackling laugh.

Ruth knew almost at once that it must be a parrot, but the surprise
had been so great that she stood shaking in the middle of the
room, not daring to move for fear of stepping on the uncanny bird.
She remembered that once when she was a very little girl she had
confidingly held out her finger to a parrot and that the unfriendly
creature had immediately taken a bite out of it. She wished that
the light would come; it made her nervous to be in a dark room with
only a voice for company.

"Who's afraid?" asked the parrot with surprising distinctness.

"I am, Polly," answered Ruth with great truthfulness, and just then
the maid brought in a lamp and her mistress followed.

"Oh, you bad bird," said Miss Cynthia reproachfully, as the friendly
gleam of the lamp disclosed the parrot perched on the back of the
chair next to the one on which Ruth had been sitting.  "You bad
Ebenezer, you've opened your cage again. Isn't it clever of him.
to do it?"

"Very clever," answered Ruth politely, but she still kept a safe
distance from Ebenezer, who cocked his head on one side to look
at her. and then burst into a hoarse, chuckling laugh as though he
had seen something very funny.

"That bird is such a comfort to me," sighed Miss Cynthia, smoothing
the gay plumage. "I named him Ebenezer because it's so nice to have
a man's name that you can call naturally in case you think some
one's in the house. I got a man that worked for us to teach him
what to answer when I call his name. Just listen, my dear."

Miss Cynthia stepped into the hall. "Ebenezer! Ebenezer!" she
called loudly, and to Ruth's amusement Ebenezer answered promptly
in a voice that sounded surprisingly like that of a man, "Yes, I'm
coming."

"I guess that would scare a burglar some," remarked Miss Cynthia,
complacently, "particularly as you never could tell but that Ebenezer
might be right close to the man's ear when he answered. I taught
him to say 'Cheer up, cheer up; don't you cry,' because sometimes
I'm dreadfully lonesome. It helps out even to have a bird to talk
to."

She looked very sober as she ended, but Ebenezer, fixing a solemn
eye on her, barked loudly and then mewed like a cat, evidently
desiring to make his mistress feel that she had a large family to
comfort her.

"He thinks he's a whole menagerie," laughed Ruth.

"Shake hands with her, Ebenezer, and settle it," commanded Miss
Cynthia, and at the word the bird stretched out his funny claw,
which Ruth took in gingerly fashion.

"Ebenezer likes young folks as well as I do," said his mistress
soberly, "but somehow they don't care much about coming to see
us.  Aren't you the girl who likes lace and embroidery?" she asked
suddenly. "I've heard about your going over to see that Swiss girl
make lace. I've been looking over a chest this morning and I've
left all the old dresses out to air. Would you like to see them?"

Ruth assented eagerly. This would be an easy way for her to finish
her call, and she loved to see old-fashioned things. Miss Cynthia
was pleased at her enthusiasm, and after returning Ebenezer to his
despised cage, an attention which he acknowledged by pecking gently
at her white hair and screaming "Bad bird, bad bird," led the way
up the short, steep flight of stairs.

"What a dear room!" exclaimed Ruth giving a quick glance about
her. Then as her eyes fell upon the treasures spread upon the bed
she cried out with pleasure.

"What a beautiful blue gown! Did somebody really ever wear it?"

"That was my great-aunt's wedding gown, my Great-aunt Cynthia. It
was given to the niece who was named for her, and then to me on
account of the name."

Ruth gazed admiringly at the shining satin, blue as a summer sky,
and made in the quaint fashion of years long past.

"Here are the shoes and the gloves which went with it," continued
Miss Cynthia, "and a fan which she carried. These little lace
tuckers were hers, too. She never lived to wear out all her pretty
fineries, poor little soul, but I've been told that her short life
was a happy one and a very sweet memory to all who knew her."

Miss Cynthia's voice and eyes were strangely gentle as she talked
about the youthful great-aunt whose shining gown had been one of
her choicest treasures for so many years, and Ruth began to like
her.

"Do you know how she looked?" she asked with real interest in her
voice. "I should like to imagine her in this lovely dress."

"My aunt," answered Miss Cynthia musingly, "was too young when
she died to remember her; but she has told me many times that her
father, who was the first Cynthia's brother, often said she was
the prettiest creature the sun ever shone on, with black hair and
rosy cheeks and blue eyes that were like violets. I like to talk
about her," added Miss Cynthia. "Here are more things my Aunt
Cynthia left me."

Ruth, who had an instinctive liking for delicate fabrics and fine
embroideries, reveled in the beautiful pieces of hand-work which
Miss Cynthia showed her. There was a muslin gown embroidered
so profusely that one wondered if the patient needlewoman had any
eyes left when her artistic work was completed. There were fichus,
small and large, with patterns simple and elaborate, looking as
though a breath might blow them out of existence, so fragile was
their substance. Ruth laughed gleefully at the face which looked
out at her from the mirror when Miss Cynthia told her to put on
a queer, old bonnet which she called a calash. There was a ribbon
hanging under her chin which the old lady called a bridle, and when
Ruth pulled it the bonnet stretched like the top of an old-fashioned
chaise.

"How funny," laughed Ruth. "Did you. really ever wear one like
this?"

"That was my dear mother's," answered Miss Cynthia, "but I can just
remember having one when I was a little girl."

"Oh, dear. I hate to leave all these interesting things, but I must
go home," said Ruth, reluctantly laying the calash on the bed, and
taking a last look at the beautiful things displayed there. "I've
had a lovely call, Miss Cynthia, and I thank you so much for letting
me see these wonderful old dresses."

"My dear, if you would prize it I should like you to have this
handkerchief which was my Great-aunt Cynthia's."

"Oh, Miss Cynthia, I couldn't take anything so lovely," protested
Ruth.

"My dear child, there's no one else who will care for these things
as I have done, and it's been a great pleasure to show them to
some one who is sympathetic, and--and I know my little great-aunt
would have liked you to have it if she could have known you."

Miss Cynthia's voice was trembling and her eyes looked clouded and
wistful. Ruth could hardly believe that this was the sharp-voiced,
prying old lady whom she had wished to escape meeting earlier in
the afternoon.

"Dear Miss Cynthia," she answered impulsively, "I never shall forget
your Great-aunt Cynthia, and I shall be delighted to own something
that belonged to her. I'm sure I never had anything half so lovely
as this cobwebby handkerchief. Have the other girls," she went on
hesitatingly, "ever seen these beautiful old things?" She would
have liked to ask that they might all see them together some day,
but she hardly dared.

"No," said Miss Cynthia ungraciously, "they haven't. The girls in
this town don't care anything about me or my belongings, and they
never come here if they can help it. The boys are nicer." And
forthwith Miss Cynthia told Ruth some of the kind things the boys
had done for her, and grew quite gentle and friendly again in the
telling.

"I often wish I knew something I could do for them," she added.
"It's so hard to think of anything that would really please boys."

"If they should see the bundles of letters you have there, Miss
Cynthia," suggested Ruth, "I'm sure they'd ask you if you could
spare any stamps. They're all crazy over their collections."

"Are they really?" asked Miss Cynthia, as if a new idea had been
given her. "Why, my dear, those are letters from all over the
world written to my blessed father. One of his dearest friends was
a sea-captain who sailed everywhere, and always mailed letters to
my father from every port he touched."

Even as she spoke, Miss Cynthia was excitedly slipping the letters
out of their envelopes. "Here," she said, thrusting a package into
Ruth's hands. "You help me, and then you may take them home to
Arthur, and he can divide with the others. Of course I don't know
which ones they will like, so I'll send them all."

"Good-bye, Miss Cynthia. I can hardly wait to show these to the
boys," said Ruth as her hostess came slowly down the steep stairs
behind her, and then she jumped and almost screamed when, "Good-bye,
good-bye; come again," came hoarsely from under her very feet.

"It's only Ebenezer out again," said Miss Cynthia serenely. "I must
have the catch on that door made stronger."

Five minutes later Ruth rang the door-bell at home, and, as she
stepped into the house, Dorothy came toward her from the library.

"Oh, did you think I was perfectly dreadful?" cried Dolly, putting
on a very penitent expression.

"Well, yes, I did just at first. Then Ebenezer told me to 'cheer
up' and after that, to tell the truth, I forgot all about you.
I've had a perfectly lovely time."

"A lovely time!" echoed Dorothy. "Well, you are a funny girl."

"Are the boys here with Arthur?" Ruth went on, noticing for the
first time the hum of voices in the library.

"Yes," answered Dolly. "They're busy over their everlasting stamps
as usual. I've just been in to see if Frank was ready to go home
and I told them where you were."

"Do come in again with me," begged Ruth, "and see if they like what
I have for them."

A stormy discussion was in progress when they entered the room,
but Phil, who never forgot his good manners, got up to find chairs
for the young ladies, and the other boys fired a volley of questions
at Ruth, who could hardly stop to answer them, so great was her
excitement. She laid the old envelopes on the table with an air
of triumph. "I do hope you'll find something there that's really
valuable," she added, "for Miss Cynthia was so pleased at the idea
of giving you something you would like. She said you boys had always
been so nice to her."

Ruth's face and manner were the perfection of innocence, but for
some reason there was a tinge of discomfort in the manner of the
boys gathered around the table.

"That looks like a good one, Phil," said Arthur, pushing an envelope
across the table. "Just look it up in the catalogue, will you?"

"She said that Joe," Ruth went on relentlessly, "had always been
very good about doing errands for her and seeing her home from his
grandmother's."

"I never did anything for her," blustered Joe, turning red, "except
what I had to."

"And she told me that for one whole winter, Frank and Bert kept all
her paths clean," pursued Ruth, purposely refraining from looking
at her unhappy victims, "and wouldn't take a cent for it when she
wanted to pay them."

"We did it just because we happened to want to," growled Frank,
looking as uncomfortably guilty as though he had been discovered
in some bad action.

"Say, there are some dandy stamps here," said Phil, fearing that
his turn was coming next and anxious to change the conversation.
"Did you ever see one like that, Art?"

The boys poked over the stamps in an excited silence, gazed at
them through lenses, and hunted in the catalogue with an absorbed
interest which seemed to make them quite forget their guests.  Every
few minutes they found a new treasure.

At last Ruth got up with an air of pretended indignation and walked
toward the door saying, "Come on, Dolly; let's go. We don't seem
to be wanted here."

"Please don't go," said Arthur with an air so distressingly polite
that it wouldn't have deceived any one.

"All right for you," laughed Ruth as she closed the library door
behind her; "just wait until I bring you stamps again."

For a few minutes after the departure of the girls not a word was
spoken. Then Joe gave vent to a sudden groan and put his hand to
his head.

"Is my hair entirely burnt off on the top of my head?" he asked
in comical despair. "These are the hottest coals of fire I've ever
had handed out to me, That wretch of a Ruth knew she was making us
squirm."

"I'm afraid the poor old lady never had any chance to be grateful
to me," said Arthur uncomfortably.

"The worst of it is," confessed Frank, "that father was paying Bert
and me for every bit of that shoveling and Miss Cynthia never knew
it. I feel as if I wanted to go right round there and do something
for her this very minute."

"So do I," agreed Joe and Bert almost at the same time.

"Let's form a secret order," suggested Arthur, "and pledge ourselves
to make Miss Cynthia as happy as possible for the rest of her life."

No one answered for a moment and then Phil said thoughtfully, "We
might call it the 'Order of the Moon.' Cynthia is one of the names
for the moon, you know. Don't you remember, Art, we were reading
in class this morning about 'fair Cynthia's rays' or something like
that?"

"That's great!" said Frank, "and that name will drive the girls
wild, for they'll never guess what it means."

And so the "Order of the Moon" was established then and there,
and to the credit of the boys be it said that the fine purpose for
which it was started was faithfully carried out.



CHAPTER XIV

TINY ELSA


It was the usual custom for Ruth and Arthur to play together for
an hour after dinner, and they had just got fairly under way one
evening when Arthur stopped in the middle of a measure and began
to count the fire alarm. In a small town every one listens when an
alarm is struck, and many go to the fire.

"Sixty-five," said Arthur, as the sound died away on the air.
"That's in the factory settlement, isn't it, father?"

"Yes," answered his father, counting again as a second alarm sounded.
"Get on a warm coat, Ruth. and we'll see what's burning."

"Why don't you let John take you in the sleigh," suggested Mrs.
Hamilton, "and then Arthur can go with you." She had been quick to
notice the regret in Arthur's face, for now that he was beginning
to get out again he longed to do everything the others did.

"Oh, mother, they can't wait for John to harness," he said quickly,
as his father hesitated before replying. "If they did the fire
would be out."

"That's right, son. Very likely it's not much of a fire anyway,
but a little run in this frosty air won't hurt Ruth and me. Are
you warmly dressed, little girl; overshoes on and mittens?" added
Mr. Hamilton, as Ruth came down-stairs.

"Very warmly dressed, Uncle Henry. I've got so much on that probably
I shan't be able to run at all."

Once out in the cold, starlit night none of the warm garments seemed
superfluous, and Ruth ran and walked by turns in order to keep up
with Mr. Hamilton's long strides. As they reached Mr.  Marshall's
house Dorothy and her father and Frank joined them, and just ahead
they could see the Ellsworth boys with Betty and Charlotte.

"Some one says it's that old brown house that was almost ready to
fall to pieces anyway," said Jack coming up behind them with Phil.

"Was any one living there?" asked Mr. Marshall.

"I saw some children playing out in the yard when I drove by the
other day," answered Frank. "Come on, boys, let's run for it," he
added, as a turn in the road enabled them to see the fire.

"Isn't it dreadful?" shuddered Ruth as, with fascinated gaze, she
watched the flames fasten hungrily upon one part after another
of the doomed house, and sweep into the air as though exulting in
their triumph. "Do you suppose these other houses will have to go
too?"

"I hardly think so," answered Mr. Hamilton. "They are beginning to
get the fire under, and they are keeping the other roofs wet."

"Stay here with the girls and Mr. Hamilton, Dolly," said Mr.  Marshall
suddenly. "I want to go over and talk to some of these people."

A little crowd had collected around the door of one of the cottages,
and as Mr. Marshall walked toward them the girls looked after him
with eyes that were frankly curious.

"I remember coming up here with Aunt Mary the day before Christmas,"
said Ruth. "And she left a Christmas basket at this very same
brown house, if I'm not mistaken. Yes, I'm sure of it, and there
were five or six children in the family. Oh, I hope they all got
out safely."

"Lucky that it was early in the evening," observed Charlotte,
stamping her feet to get some warmth into them. "I can't stay much
longer, girls; I'm so cold that--"

"Here comes Mr. Marshall," interrupted Betty eagerly. "Wait a
minute, Char, and we'll all go."

Mr. Marshall, who had been inside one of the houses, came toward
them with something clasped in his arms, and as he drew near they
could see that it was apparently a baby rolled in a heavy shawl.
The child had put both arms around his neck and was hiding her eyes
on his shoulder when he reached the little group. He looked very
grave, and the girlish faces grew sober in sympathy even before he
spoke.

"Oh, father, is the baby hurt?" asked Dorothy anxiously.

"Not injured, dear, but left very much alone. She is a little German
girl, and she and her mother had only been here a few days.  The
mother wanted to get work in the factory, and had taken a room
for herself and the baby with the German family which lived in the
brown house. Every one got out safely, but the excitement was too
much for the poor young mother. She must have had a weak heart,
I'm afraid, for she had to go away and leave her baby."

Ruth's eyes filled with tears as she realized what he meant, and
she stretched out her arms impulsively toward the baby.

"Poor little soul," she said with a choke in her voice; "is she
old enough to know what happened?"

As she spoke the baby raised her head and stared in startled wonder
at the pitying faces about her. The shawl fell back a little from
her head, and, in the brilliant light from the fire, the girls could
see golden rings of hair clustering around a face delicately pink
and white. The big brown eyes gazed at them for a moment, then with
a little sob she buried her head on Mr.  Marshall's shoulder again.

"I must look like some one she has known," he said softly, as he
wrapped the shawl closely around her, "for the minute she saw me
she held out her arms to me, and no one could get her away. These
poor people around here have enough to look out for over night, so
I'll take this baby home. Do you think you can help take care of
her for a while, daughter?"

"Oh, yes, I'd love to," assented Dolly eagerly. "I wish she'd let
me take her," but for the present, at least, the sorrowful baby
refused to leave her safe resting-place, and only clung more tightly
to Mr. Marshall when the girls tried to beguile her.

Mr. Hamilton and Betty's older brothers stayed to make some arrangements
for the poor family that had been turned out-of-doors, and, as by
this time the fire was well under control, the spectators dispersed
in various directions. The girls and boys escorted Mr. Marshall
and the baby home, and then left Ruth at her own door.

By the time she had finished telling Mrs. Hamilton and Arthur about
the fire and the forlorn baby, Mr. Hamilton appeared and was at
once besieged with questions.

"I wish you had been there, Mary," he said to his wife; "you always
seem to know how to make every one comfortable. It is wonderful to
me to see how good those people are to each other.  They were only
too anxious to shelter that poor Schmidt family, in which there are
six children, and I didn't know whether we should ever get them
peaceably divided up. I tried to get more information about the
baby's mother; but no one seems to know anything except that she
was called Mrs. Winter, and had lost her husband quite recently."

"Was she a young woman?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"She looked hardly more than a girl as she lay there, and her face
was so refined and sweet that I couldn't help fancying that the
early part of her life had been spent under very different conditions
from these."

"Didn't the woman they lived with know anything more about them?"
asked Ruth, much disappointed.

"Poor Mrs. Schmidt was so excited, and so anxious to see that her
own brood was safe and to be well cared for, that she didn't know
much about anything else. The poor little mother had only been
with her a few days, and beyond the fact that she seemed very sad
and had cried a great deal, and that the little one's name was
Elsa, she could tell me nothing. Oh, she did say that the mother
and baby looked very much alike, the same large, brown eyes, and
the same fair complexion and fair hair."

"The baby is a perfect little beauty," said Ruth, "and I quite
envy Dolly the fun of having her in the house. I'm going over the
first thing in the morning to see her."

Fortunately the next day was Saturday, and one by one the girls
dropped into Dorothy's house to see the pretty baby. Alice and
Katharine, who hadn't seen the fire the night before, had to hear
the whole story from the other girls, and all were much impressed
when Ruth happened to mention that Mr. Hamilton had thought the
poor young mother looked better than her surroundings.

"I shouldn't wonder a bit," said Dorothy impressively. "Everything
about this baby was just as clean and sweet as could be. Her mother
must have taken her right out of bed, for she had nothing on but
her little nightie when father brought her home. Mother found some
baby clothes of mine, and I had such fun dressing her this morning."

"How old do you suppose she is?" asked Betty.

"Oh, I know. Mrs. Schmidt told father last night that she was two
years old," answered Dorothy.

While the girls were talking about her the baby had sat quietly on
Dorothy's lap looking from one to another with her solemn, brown
eyes. Ruth and Betty had made several attempts to get her to sit
with them, but she only turned her head away and nestled closer to
Dorothy, much to that young lady's delight.

"I wish mother would let me keep her always," said Dolly with a
little sigh. "I should just love to take care of her."

"For how long?" laughed Charlotte.

"Now, Charlotte, don't be horrid. Just because you get tired of
children is no reason I should," answered Dorothy, putting on the
superior air which Charlotte couldn't stand.

"Oh, fudge, you wouldn't like it any better than I do if you really
couldn't get out of it," snapped Charlotte.

"I'm the only one who really needs her, because I haven't any
sister or brother," said Ruth, holding out her arms once more to
the baby. "And, of course, I can't have her."

To her surprise this time the little Elsa half smiled at her, and,
as though wanting to make up to her for the sister she couldn't
have, put out her own chubby hands. Ruth took her quickly before
she should have time to repent and sat down with her.

"She saw your watch," said Dorothy as the baby put up a timid finger
to touch it.

"I'm glad there's something about me she likes," retorted Ruth
quickly. "Perhaps in time, Dolly, she'll love me for myself alone,
as she does you."

Dorothy colored, and it seemed as if the baby were likely to be the
innocent cause of trouble, but Betty, who was a born peacemaker,
stepped into the breach with eager unconsciousness.  She had been
thinking deeply for some minutes and her smooth forehead was puckered
perplexedly as she spoke.

"You're always laughing at me for my queer ideas, girls, but this
time I've really thought of something," she said with repressed
excitement."

"Does it hurt, Betsy?" inquired Charlotte with pretended anxiety.

"Why can't the Social Six," went on Betty, ignoring her flippant
friend, "adopt the baby and bring her up?"

"For goodness' sake, Betty, what do you think we are, millionaires?"
protested Charlotte.

"No, of course not. But I know that I could earn a little money
every week if I wanted to work for it, and I can't bear to think
of this darling baby going into an orphan asylum."

Betty leaned over and kissed the dimpled hand as she spoke, looking
so tender and motherly that the girls forgot to laugh at her. The
baby, who had been sitting contentedly on Ruth's lap, received the
kiss with favor, and then looking at the girls hovering around her
smiled sweetly as if taking them all into her affection at once.

"Isn't she a perfect dear?" cried Dorothy, going down on her
knees before her. "I'm with you, Betty; she shall have most of my
allowance every week, and I know that we can get lots of help if
we are only in earnest about it."

"I'd just love to have the club do it," said Ruth with her usual
enthusiasm. "And wherever I am I shall be a member of the club just
the same, and always be ready to help out with little Elsa. I know
father and Uncle Jerry will be interested in her, too."

"We can all sew for her," suggested Alice, a proposition which caused
Dorothy and Charlotte to look at each other in disgusted silence.

"But where is she going to live?" inquired Katharine, who frequently
put a damper on the enthusiasm of her friends by some exceedingly
practical question. "We can't plant her out in the square at an
equal distance from all of us."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Betty. "I hate to be brought down so suddenly.
I'd forgotten that she'd have to have a home. I was just thinking
of clothes and education, and I had it all planned that she should
be a great singer or a writer, and take care of us in our old age."

Betty's flight of fancy was so absurd that the girls shouted with
laughter, and seeing them so merry little Elsa laughed too, and
showed her white teeth.

"She's ail right, girls; she can see a joke," said Charlotte, who
in spite of herself began to feel the baby's charm.

"Poor little kiddie! I'm sure she's very brave to laugh at the idea
of having to support us all," giggled Ruth.

"Let's ask mother about it," suggested Dorothy, as Mrs. Marshall
came into the room, and the busy woman, who was never too much
occupied to listen to her daughter's plans, or to lend a helping
hand, sat down as calmly as though she had nothing else to do. She
had already begun to consider the problem of Elsa's future, and
she decided immediately that Betty's idea was a good one, and as
helpful for the girls as for the baby.

"You might board her at Mrs. Hall's," she suggested, after listening
to a rather disjointed narrative from the entire club.

"Of course. The very thing," murmured Betty. "Why didn't we think
of it ourselves?"

"And you must organize your work in a businesslike way," continued
Mrs. Marshall. "You might start an Elsa fund with what you can
collect among yourselves, no matter how small. Then you can see
who will be willing to promise regular subscriptions. You will need
a treasurer to take charge of the fund, and a secretary to manage
your correspondence."

The girls looked very thoughtful; they had hardly realized that
their plan would assume so much importance.

"You must understand, girls, before you go into this, that you are
undertaking a serious thing and one you cannot give up lightly,"
continued their adviser. "For my own part I can't think of any
better use to which you can put your energy and your club funds
than to the care of this dear, motherless baby. Of course, you know
that we shall do all we can to find out if she has any relatives,
but there seems small chance of success, as we haven't the slightest
clue to follow."

The girls were silent as Mrs. Marshall went out of the room. Then
Betty, taking the baby in her arms said, "Come here, littlest club
girl; we can't initiate you yet, but you've got six new mothers,
and you'll be taken care of to within an inch of your life."

Then began a busy time for the members of the Social Six. Dorothy
was made secretary and Charlotte treasurer of the Elsa Fund, which
started out with the imposing sum of three dollars, taken bodily
from the club treasury.

In order to help the cause along, Mrs. Marshall invited the
ladies of the Fortnightly Club to meet at her house, and Betty was
persuaded to tell them what the girls hoped to do for the baby. It
was rather a halting little speech, but she ended it most effectively
by stepping to the door and bringing in little Elsa, who had been
waiting in the hall for this very moment. As Betty stood there
before them all smiling at the rosy baby in her arms, the sound
of Ruth's violin broke the silence. It was the simplest lullaby
she was playing, but she made it so tender and appealing that the
hearts of the mothers went out to the dear baby who had no mother,
and all were eager to help.

By the time Mrs. Hall came in to take Elsa home, a substantial
sum was promised for the fund, and duly noted by Charlotte, who
comforted herself for her own lack of money by keeping the accounts
in the most businesslike manner. It was no small task, for promises
of contributions came in so readily that the treasurer was obliged
to take most of her spare time out of school to keep her books in
order.

To her surprise Melina came to her with an air of great mystery
and, first making sure that no one was within sight or hearing,
held out to her a five dollar bill.

"I want to git that five dollars off my mind and start it movin',"
she said grimly when Charlotte looked at her in wonder. "No, there
ain't no use of your refusing. That baby needs it as much as any
one I know just now, and that was the idea, you know, that I should
pass it on."

Charlotte realized that she couldn't refuse without hurting Melina's
feelings. "All right," she said, "I'll take it for her, and when
she gets old enough to understand it I'll explain that she must
start it on again."

For a while it seemed almost as though little Elsa might be hurt
by too much care. The six young mothers made all sorts of errands
into Mrs. Hall's that they might have a chance to play with the
baby, who seemed to love them all with great impartiality. Ruth
and Dorothy almost quarreled one afternoon because each claimed
the privilege of taking her out and neither one was willing to give
up. Just as it threatened to become serious, Betty, who had come
in a few minutes later, slipped off with the baby while the other
two were arguing. She did it so cleverly that when they discovered
her treachery they made common cause against her, and went amiably
home together vowing vengeance upon Miss Betty for her slyness.

By the end of three weeks the novelty had worn off a little and
the girls no longer struggled to be first in the baby's affections,
but were frequently willing to omit going to see her for a day or
two. And just then, when the mothers were beginning to smile and
shake their heads over the situation, something happened which
again made little Miss Elsa the centre of interest.

Mrs. Schmidt, prowling around the blackened ruins of her former
home, came upon a metal box, locked and little harmed by the flames,
which she remembered as belonging to the baby's mother. In great
excitement she took it to Mrs. Hamilton and that evening the girls
were called in solemn conclave to see the box opened.

First, Mr. Hamilton took out four photographs which were passed
from one to another. One pictured a gray-haired man in military
clothes, very erect, very stern and fine-looking. Another was
of a plump, placid, elderly lady who looked the very picture of
motherliness.

"I know that's the baby's grandmother and grandfather," said Dorothy
positively, and no one had any other opinion to offer.

Mr. Hamilton uttered an exclamation of surprise as he took the third
picture from the paper which enfolded it. "That's the poor little
mother," he said softly, and the girls crowded around eagerly
to gaze at the pretty, girlish creature looking out at them with
hopeful eyes which foreshadowed no hint of her sad fate.

The girls were very sober, and no one broke the silence as Mr.
Harnilton unwrapped the remaining picture. It was a young man with
a thim, delicate face and large eyes rather sad in their expression.
On the back was written in German, "Karl von Winterbach, to his
beloved wife."

"He looks like the picture of some German poet," murmured Charlotte
thoughtfully.

"The poor little soul had evidently dropped part of her name," said
Mr. Hamilton, "for the people in the settlement knew her only as
Mrs. Winter."

There was not much else in the box; a few ornaments, a little faded
needlebook which looked as though it had been kept for memory's
sake, and two letters. One of the letters was unsealed, and Mr.
Hamilton took out a slip of paper which said with pathetic brevity,
"If I am dead please send this letter to my dear father.  He will
care for my baby. Emilie von Winterbach."

The girls scrutinized the address on the other letter with the most
excited interest.

To the Herr Baron von Grunwald, 10 Sommerstrasse, Dresden, Germany,
read Ruth slowly over Mr. Hamilton's shoulder. "Why, girls, he's
a baron; Elsa's grandfather is a baron."

"I knew she looked aristocratic," remarked Betty in a satisfied
tone. "I shall go the first thing in the morning to offer her my
humble services."

"Well, young ladies, it looks very much as if the Social Six would
be deprived of their youngest member," said Mr. Hamilton as he put
pictures and letters back into the box. "I shall send that letter
to-morrow morning, and another with it telling all we know about
little Elsa's mother, and I am sure we shall hear something as soon
as possible from the Herr Baron von Grunwald."

The prospect of losing the club baby made her all the more precious
in the eyes of her six adopted mothers, and during the weeks while
they waited for news from across the ocean, they were lavish in
care and affection. They planned to make an elaborate traveling
wardrobe for her, and worked courageously at it every minute they
could spare. Even Charlotte and Dorothy took a hand.  Time was
lacking, however, and their ideas of what their baby really needed
grew less expansive as the days went on. The Candle Club boys felt
that they were offering a neat and appropriate tribute when they
presented the small lady with six pairs of shoes, two black, two
white, and a pair each of red and blue.

"Those are good enough for a baron's granddaughter, don't you think?"
asked Jack, who had been deputed to present them at a meeting of
the Social Six. "I think they're rather neat, myself," he added
with modest pride, as he stood off and gazed admiringly at them.

"They are lovely," said Ruth warmly. "Have some fudge. And here,
take some back to the boys to show that we appreciate their kindness."

"I just know they waited to give them. until they felt sure we
were making fudge," grumbled Dolly as Jack departed. "I know their
tricks."

"I don't care," laughed Ruth. "We've had plenty anyway, and it was
nice of them to spend their money on shoes."

The girls were in Ruth's room, and the rest of the house was very
still, for Mrs. Hamilton had gone to Boston and Arthur was out
with the boys. Tongues were flying fast, and no one heard the bell
ring. Presently Katie appeared in the doorway with the card-tray
saying:

"Miss Ruth, there is a gentleman down-stairs who wants to see Mrs.
Hamilton, and I can't make him understand where she is."

Ruth looked at the card curiously and then fell back on the sofa
with a startled face.

"Girls, it's the Baron von Grunwald," she gasped, "and he's come
without any warning. Oh, why did Aunt Mary go into town to-day!"

"It's much more likely to be one of the boys playing a joke
on us," said Dolly who hadn't had a chance to see the exceedingly
correct-looking card which Ruth was crushing in her agitation. "I
don't believe there has been time yet for Elsa's relatives to get
here."

"Pretty nearly four weeks ago that Uncle Henry sent the letters,"
replied Ruth. "You can't make me believe the boys could get up
anything like this," she added, displaying the card.

"You'll have to go down right off," said Dorothy, quite convinced.
"You mustn't keep him waiting."

"Oh, why not one of you?" groaned Ruth. "He won't know the difference,
and you've lived in Glenloch longer."

"Goosey. As if that made any difference," laughed Charlotte.

"You know more German than any one of us," said Katharine comfortingly.

"Horrors! Shall I have to talk to him in German?" asked poor Ruth
in despair.

"Of course," said Betty. "Didn't Katie say that she couldn't make
him understand?"

Ruth would have liked to run and hide, but instead she went slowly
down-stairs and walked straight into the parlor without giving
herself time to think.

The tall, gray-haired man who rose to meet her was so like the
picture in the box that Ruth felt almost as if she knew him, and
she would have known just what to say if the dreaded German hadn't
embarrassed her. She shook hands with him in silence, and then for
a moment struggled to find a conversational opening which shouldn't
plunge her into deeper distress.

The kind old man evidently understood her difficulty, for his sad
face grew gentle as he said with slow distinctness:

"I can understand English, Fraulein."

He smiled at the extreme relief expressed in Ruth's face and went
on speaking.

"I have come so quick as I can from Germany, Fraulein, my little
grandchild to see, and I find that I am arrived before my letter
gets here. I have seen in Boston Mr. Hamilton, and he has told me
how to find his home and that he will come also so soon as he can."

Ruth drew a breath of relief. "If you will excuse me I will send
for the baby this very minute," she said, and went quickly from
the room.

"Girls, go get Elsa and bring her here as fast as you can," she
exclaimed, popping her head into her own room. "He's perfectly
elegant," and then she was gone again.

Betty and Dorothy running down the stairs soon after heard the
steady hum of conversation in the parlor, and smiled to think how
soon Ruth's terror had vanished. For Ruth the next twenty minutes
seemed very long, and she spent it trying to make the Herr Baron
feel at home, and hoping against hope that Mrs. Hamilton would
arrive by the next train.

To her joy it happened as she had wished, for Mrs. Hamilton and the
baby arrived at the house almost in the same moment. Little Elsa
had grown so used to petting and attention that she was friendliness
itself and went to her grandfather with a gurgle of delight. He,
poor man, almost lost his self-control at sight of her, for she
was wonderfully like his own lost daughter. Ruth slipped out of the
room, because she couldn't bear to see his grief, and went back to
the girls, who were waiting for her with eager curiosity.

A little later Mrs. Hamilton came to them.

"Uncle Henry has come and has taken the Baron off to talk with
Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs. Hall," she said in answer to their questions.
"The poor man says his only daughter married against his wishes,
but that he should have willingly forgiven her and her husband if
they had only given him the chance. He is delighted with little
Elsa, and so grateful to you girls for befriending her. He hopes
to get Mrs. Hall to go with him and the baby to Dresden, and then
he will send her back here. He is very anxious to meet the club
girls and thank them for what they have done, and he's invited us
all to visit him if we go to Germany."

"When will he start for home?" asked Ruth.

"As soon as he can get away," answered Mrs. Hamilton. "And that
reminds me that I must see if I can do anything for Mrs. Hall to
help matters along. I can sympathize with the poor grandfather's
desire to get the baby to her grandmother as soon as possible."

Left to themselves the girls looked at each other blankly.

"So that's the end of the club baby," sighed Betty.

"Why, no, she can be our German member," said Ruth decidedly.



CHAPTER XV

PETER PAN


It was Saturday morning, and Ruth sat down at her desk to write
her regular letter to her father. She laid out her paper, fitted a
fresh pen into the silver holder, and then looked at the calendar.
As she found the date her eyes grew very thoughtful.

"Six months to a day," she murmured. "How fast the time has gone."
Then she began her letter.

"Glenloch, March 17th.

"Darling father:

"I wonder if you remember that just six months ago to-day you and
I were celebrating your birthday together, and that I was heartbroken
when you told me what was going to happen to us.  Nothing could
have made me believe then that I could be so happy now, or that
the time could possibly seem so short. I wonder if you would think
I've changed any. I'm an inch taller than I was when you saw me
last, and I weigh ten pounds more, so I've accomplished something
in six months. I don't believe you've grown an inch; at least not
an up and down inch.

"I just wish you could taste some of my cooking. If I went out as
cook now, I shouldn't have to feed the family on birthday cake,
for I can make perfectly scrumptious little baking-powder biscuit,
and my salad dressing is a joy forever. I can do other things, of
course, but these are my specialties. Oh, and I can make a maple
fudge that just melts in your mouth. I sent a box of it to Uncle
Jerry, and he wrote back right off that I could consider myself
engaged as cook whenever he set up housekeeping.

"I read almost every bit of your German letter myself, though I had
to get Aunt Mary to help me out once or twice. It made me want to
study all the harder to see how quickly she read it. It's ten times
easier now to work hard on French and German, because I hope that
I shall need to use them before very long. Oh, Popsy, won't it
be joyful when I can come over to you!!!! It would take more than
four hundred exclamation points to express my feelings, so you must
please imagine the rest of them.

"I don't want to make you too proud of your daughter, but I must
just tell you that I got an A in French history last month. We have
a dandy history teacher who makes everything interesting, and then
I keep thinking that I must know all about these things before I
go abroad, and that helps lots.

"More than anything I love the Gym. I just wish you could see Miss
Burton; she's the dearest, sweetest teacher I ever had, and so
pretty that I want to look at her all the time. She's a splendid
teacher, too, and the girls are all wild over the lessons and over
her.

"I take only one violin lesson a week now, because, though you may
find it hard to believe, I am really working too hard at school to
go into Boston twice a week. I practice every day and Arthur and
I play together almost every evening. Arthur is so changed and so
jolly now. He uses only one cane and says he means to walk without
any soon. He acts as if he couldn't get enough of the boys and
girls, and his father and mother look perfectly radiant whenever
their eyes light on him. He's gone back to school, and he and Joe
are making all sorts of plans about college.

"I suppose you never noticed that I didn't tell you what Uncle Henry
gave me for a Christmas present, or perhaps you thought he didn't
give me anything. Well, he did give me one of the very nicest presents
I ever had, and that was a course of lessons at a riding-school in
Boston. I was perfectly delighted, and I knew I shouldn't have to
ask you about it because you've always meant to have me learn to
ride. I've been going in every Wednesday since Christmas, taking
a violin lesson first, and then meeting Uncle Henry to go to the
riding-school. He said he was so particular about borrowed articles
that he would never let me go alone. My, but it was hard at first,
and I thought I never should learn to hold my whip and my reins
and myself in the proper way. I had such a darling horse, though,
and it was such fun, that I couldn't help sticking to it, and now
the riding-master says that I really ride very well.

"A week ago Uncle Henry surprised me by buying the horse I've been
riding and he's out in the stable this very minute. He thinks I'm
quite ready to ride with him out here, and he's coming home to lunch
so that we can start off early this afternoon. That last sentence
sounds rather mixed. Of course I mean that it's the horse that's
in the stable, and it's Uncle Henry, not the horse, who's coming
home to lunch.

"There, that cat is out of the bag and I feel better. I suppose
they'll all laugh at me for telling, but I don't care. I thought
at first it would be great fun to surprise you after I got over
there, but I might have known I couldn't keep such a lovely secret
all that time.

"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you that Aunt Mary said her part of
the present was to be my riding-habit, and the first time Arthur
went into Boston he brought me the prettiest little riding-crop
I've ever seen.

"Mercy! My arm's stiff from writing so much, and my little watch
tells me that it's almost lunch-time. I never wrote such a long
letter before and I do hope you'll be properly grateful for it.
I've known you to complain of the shortness of my letters, but you
can't this time.

"With heaps of love to you, I am "Your faithfulest, lovingest chum,

"Ruth."

"There! The dearest of fathers ought to be satisfied with that,"
thought Ruth as she slipped her letter into the envelope, sealed
it and stamped it. "Now for lunch and then my ride."

"Isn't he a beauty, Arthur?" called Ruth, coming out on the piazza
in all the glory of her dark-blue habit, high boots and gauntlet
gloves.

Arthur, who had a pocketful of sugar and was dividing it impartially
between the two horses, turned at the sound of the voice and gave
her an approving glance.

"He certainly is," he answered, "and he's going to have a very
swell-looking rider, too. I like that blue dress and that neat
little hat."

"Glad you're suited," laughed Ruth. "He ought to have a name; do
think up a nice name right off now so that I can have something to
call him this afternoon."

"I like your way of ordering me to think up things on the moment,"
protested Arthur in an aggrieved tone.

"Of course you like it. Do think quick, because Uncle Henry is just
ready to start."

"Peter Pan," suggested Arthur. "And then he'll never grow old and
bony and lame."

"Clever boy," said Ruth approvingly as they started off. "That name
suits me exactly. Can't you just see him doing a shadow dance with
me on his back?"

Arthur watched them until a curve in the road hid them from sight.
Then as he started toward the house a familiar voice hailed him, and
he turned to see Dr. Holland looking at him with approving eyes.

"Pretty nice looking pair of riders, aren't they? Why don't you go
in for that sort of thing, my boy?"

"I shall just as soon as you say I can, doctor."

"Go ahead then, with my blessing. You've always been so used to
riding that the exercise will be the best thing in the world for
you. Leg still pain you any?"

"A little, but it's growing stronger every day."

"Well, keep it up, young man, and you'll come out all right," said
the doctor heartily as he drove off, leaving Arthur to find his
mother and tell her the good news.

In the meantime Ruth and Mr. Hamilton were riding at an easy pace
down the road past the old mill. It was a rare day for March. The
snow had been gone for a fortnight, and to-day the air and sunshine
were full of promises of spring.

To Ruth the ride was a perfect delight. She was happy because the
sun shone, and because fleecy clouds were chasing each other across
a blue sky. She loved the hint of spring in the air, and the fresh
breeze which blew over the lake. Most of all she delighted in Peter
Pan, who responded to her slightest touch, and flew over the ground
so smoothly and surely that fear was impossible.

As they rounded the lake and came out on the side nearest the centre
of the town, Ruth saw a house which seemed strangely familiar to
her.

"Why, it's Mrs. Perrier's house, and there's Marie out on the
porch," she said in great surprise. "I haven't seen it from this
side before and I didn't know it at first. Do you think we might
stop and see Marie for just a few minutes? I haven't been to see
her for two weeks, and I'm afraid she'll think I'm neglecting her."

Mr. Hamilton looked at his watch. "Yes, we shall have time to make
a short call on that sunshiny porch and still get you back in time
for Miss Burton."

Marie was sitting in a steamer chair, well wrapped up, and so
absorbed in her work that she saw nothing of her guests until they
were almost at her side. When she looked up a warm color flushed
her pale cheeks, and she tried to conceal the sheet of paper on
which she had been working.

"This is Mr. Hamilton, Marie, and this is my friend, Marie Borel,
Uncle Henry," said Ruth quickly. "You two should be very good
friends, for Uncle Henry's just been telling me how fond he is of
Switzerland."

"Ah, do you love my country?" cried Marie, all her embarrassment
forgotten. "It ees so good to hear that; I am sometimes so homeseeck
for my mountains."

"Indeed I do love your mountains and your lakes and the good
people who live there," responded Mr. Hamilton with a warmth that
delighted Marie's homesick heart.

"But I must speak to my aunt," said Marie struggling to rise from
her many wraps. "You will perhaps come into the house." "No, sit
still, and I'll tell Mrs. Perrier we're here," urged Ruth. "We can
stay only a few minutes, and we like to sit here in the sunshine."

She disappeared into the house, and while she was gone Mr.  Hamilton
set himself to the pleasant task of getting acquainted with the
shy girl whose wonderful dark eyes looked so confidingly at him.
It needed only a few sympathetic questions to induce her to tell
him of the little town nestled at the foot of the Jura Mountains,
of the sparkling lake on which she used to look from her chamber
window, and of the Jungfrau, seventy miles away, but seeming so
near in clear weather.

"I know just where your old home is, Marie," he said kindly, when,
in her pretty, broken English, she had pictured her birthplace to
him. "I don't wonder that you are homesick, for even I often long
for a sight of those beautiful mountains."

"It gives me much good to talk of them to some one who knows how
beautiful they are," answered Marie simply. "But here comes Miss
Ruth, and--"

"Now, Marie, don't you scold me," interrupted Ruth gaily. "I just
couldn't help bringing out your lace pillow and your embroidery
for Uncle Henry to see."

"Oh, a gentleman," laughed Marie, "a gentleman, he does not care
for fine stitches."

"There, isn't that beautiful, Uncle Henry?" persisted Ruth. "And
what do you think? I've learned to make a very simple pattern."

"You don't say so!" said Uncle Henry, much impressed. "Couldn't
you--couldn't you make me something to wear?"

"What shall it be?" laughed Ruth. "I'll tell you. If you'll promise
to have a black velvet suit and wear it to the office every day,
I'll make you a large lace collar to wear with it."

"I'll let you know when I leave the order for the suit. It will be
time enough to begin. on the collar then," answered Mr. Hamilton,
much amused at the idea. "I'm afraid we must be saying good-bye
to Marie now," he added with a glance at his watch, "or you won't
have any time to rest before starting out again."

But just then Mrs. Perrier came out on the porch carrying a tray,
and nothing would do but that Mr. Hamilton and Ruth must taste her
home-made grape-juice, and the little cakes made from a recipe she
had brought from Switzerland. They were almost as thin as paper,
and so deliciously crisp and toothsome-looking that Ruth couldn't
resist them.

"Oh, Uncle Henry," she cried impulsively, "I am so hungry: and you
have a hungry look, too, hasn't he, Marie? Never mind if we don't
get home quite so soon; I can rest while I'm eating."

"Just as you say, my dear," answered Mr. Hamilton with proper meekness.
He was having an unusual and interesting experience himself, and
didn't in the least mind staying.

The little lunch was delicious, and Ruth sighed as she finished the
last cake she felt she could possibly eat. Mr. Hamilton stooped to
pick up his whip before saying good-bye, and as he did so dislodged
a book which was tucked into the steamer chair. It fell to the
floor, and a paper fluttered out of it and floated almost to Ruth's
feet. She picked it up to return it, but her eye was caught by a
pencil sketch which stood out boldly.

"Why, Marie," she cried in astonishment, "did you draw this? It's
that little piece of the shore of the lake that I've been looking
at while I've sat here. Do let me show it to Uncle Henry."

"Eet ees nothing," faltered Marie, full of shy embarrassment. "I
cannot make eet look as I see eet."

Mr. Hamilton studied the little sketch with kindly, critical eyes.
Then he apparently forgot that there was need to hurry, for to
Ruth's surprise he sat down again by Marie's chair, saying earnestly:
"Have you more sketches in that book I knocked down, child? Let me
see them if you have."

His manner was so serious, so compelling, that Marie gave him the
book without a word. There were sketches in pencil and sketches in
water-color. Those in the first part of the book were tiny drawings
of the interior of Mrs. Perrier's house, with now and again that
smiling woman herself in a characteristic pose. Once in a while
there was a sketch in color of mountains, lake and sky done evidently
from memory. All crude and faulty, but showing so much strength,
so much individuality and color-sense, that Mr.  Hamilton turned
the leaves of the little book again and again, and finally laid it
down reluctantly, saying:

"If I only had time, Marie, I should like to talk them all over
with you. There is so much promise in them that you must keep on
trying; you must study as soon as you are strong enough."

"I am so glad that you think I am not wasting my time when I do
such things," she answered wistfully. "They will never look as I
want them to look, but I cannot help trying. I shall hope to study
some day."

Marie walked to where the horses were tied to show Ruth how much
she had improved, and as they turned to wave a last good-bye to her
Mr. Hamilton said impressively, "Ruth, do you know we've discovered
a genius there. I firmly believe that girl will make a name for
herself some day. We must help her."

"I should like to," answered Ruth, who all the way home seemed to
be in a brown study.



CHAPTER XVI

TELLING FORTUNES


"I'm very sorry to be late," said Ruth penitently, as she walked
into Miss Burton's little sitting-room to find the three other
girls there before her.

"We were just wondering whether that fiery steed had carried you
off so far that you couldn't get back," laughed Miss Burton.

"He's a beauty, and I'd have given anything to have my father see
you ride off on him," said Dorothy, who longed to ride, but hadn't
yet been able to persuade her father that it was a necessary part
of her education.

"You see we didn't wait for you," continued Miss Burton, "so take
off your hat and coat, and you shall have a cup of chocolate and
some bread and butter as soon as you are ready."

"Riding does give one such an appetite," murmured Ruth apologetically,
forgetting that they didn't know that she had been feasting only
about an hour before. "But what were you talking about, girls, as
I came up-stairs? Your voices sounded so earnest that I felt quite
curious."

"We were talking about Mildred Walker," answered Betty. "I don't
believe you ever heard of her, Ruth, but she's a girl who always
lived here until about three years ago. Her father had a good deal
of money, and suddenly he made a great deal more and they went to
New York to live. They lived pretty extravagantly, I guess, and now
he has lost all his money and is very sick, and Mildred will have
to do something to help support the family. She's only nineteen,
and she's never done anything but have a good time all her life,
so we were wondering how she would get along."

"When my father heard about it," said Dorothy, "he slapped his
hand down on the table and said, 'There, that settles it; my girl
shall learn to do something to support herself in case need comes.'
He looked so fierce and decided that I should have been quite worried
if I hadn't made up my mind some time ago what I wanted to do."

"Oh, Dolly, what is it?" cried Ruth, almost upsetting her cup in
her earnestness.

"Why, physical culture, of course," answered Dorothy. "I haven't
any talent for anything else, and I just love that."

"It's a very good choice, Dorothy, for, even if you're never obliged
to teach, it helps one in many ways," said Miss Burton.  "I've
always been very thankful that my wise father felt just as yours
does, for when the time came I was able to take hold and do my part.
When father helped me plan my education there seemed no possible
chance that I should be obliged to earn my own living, but it came
suddenly, as as it so often does, and I'm glad to think that both
father and mother lived to see me working happily and successfully."

Miss Burton was smiling as she finished, but there was a soft
mistiness in her brown eyes which touched the hearts of her adoring
audience.

"Dear little Miss Burton," said Ruth, giving her a swift hug, "we
can't be sorry that you had to earn your living if we try, for if
you hadn't we never should have known you."

"Who can tell?" said Charlotte with mock solemnity. "Perhaps she
might have come into our lives in some other way. Perhaps even
now some one is drawing near to us who may be destined to play an
important part in our lives or hers." Charlotte's voice grew deeper
as she spoke, and her eyes had a faraway look.

"Oh, Charlotte, you goose. You make me feel positively creepy,"
cried Betty.

"You don't see any one over my shoulder, I hope," said Dorothy with
an involuntary backward glance.

"Now, Miss Burton," said Charlotte with a laugh, "I leave it to
you if that isn't sufficient proof that I ought to be an actress."

"I'm afraid the modern manager would require still more proof
than that, Charlotte," answered Miss Burton, much amused. "But you
certainly did that well."

"Let's all tell what we think we could do if we had to," proposed
Betty. "What should you do, Ruth?"

"I suppose that after I've studied the violin a few years more I
could give lessons," said Ruth thoughtfully. "But somehow I don't
seem to look forward to it with any wild joy. Whenever I plan ahead,
I always think of myself as in a home, making things look pretty,
and having lots of dinner-parties. I believe I should like to be
a model hostess," she added honestly.

"Oh, Ruth, just a society woman?" asked Charlotte with scorn in
her voice.

"Ruth's idea means more than that, Charlotte, if you think of it
in its broadest sense," interposed Miss Burton. "To be a perfect
hostess implies capacity for managing one's household, a wide
culture, forgetfulness of self and a ready appreciation of the needs
of others, sincerity, charm, interest in one's fellow beings, and
so many other good qualities that I can't stop to mention them.
It's really a beautiful ideal, and Ruth is fortunate in living with
a woman who is one of the few perfect hostesses I know."

"I don't think I quite realized before how much it meant," said
Ruth. "But it must have been watching Aunt Mary that made me think
of it, for I used to have quite different ideas. It just occurs
to me," she added with an infections laugh, "that the last time I
remember saying anything about it I told father that when I grew
up I should keep a candy-shop."

"And eat all you wanted, of course," added Charlotte as they all
laughed. "That was my first idea, too."

"And what's your present idea?" asked Betty.

"Oh, mine's so big and impossible, and so slow in coming, that I
can't bear to talk about it," answered Charlotte, grown suddenly
shy, and then she relapsed into silence, and no amount of urging
would make her speak.

"No one asks me about mine," said Betty plaintively after a pause
in the conversation, "and I'm just dying to tell."

"Oh, Betty, forgive us, and divulge the secret this very minute,"
laughed Miss Burton.

"Well," began Betty slyly, "I'm going to be different from the rest
of you; I'm going to be married and keep house. And my husband's
going to be an invalid, at least I think I shall have him an invalid,
and I shall have to support the family. Oh, I forgot to say that
before I'm married I'm going to learn all about cooking and--and
domestic science. Then I shall do all my own housework, and make
cake for the neighbors, and cater for lunch-parties, and raise
chickens and squabs, and keep bees, and grow violets and mushrooms,
and have an herb-garden. Oh, and in my leisure moments--"

Miss Burton and the girls were quite helpless with laughter by this
time, and Betty interrupted herself to look at them with pretended
astonishment.

"I was just about to say," she went on severely, "when you
interrupted me by laughing so rudely, that in my leisure moments I
should make clothing for the children and myself, and also furnish
fancy articles for the Woman's Exchange."

"Oh, Betty, when you are funny you are the funniest thing I ever
saw," gasped Charlotte, going off into a fresh burst of laughter.

"I'm much obliged to you, Betty, for that laugh," said Miss Burton,
wiping her eyes, "and I hope I'll be there to see when you get that
model establishment of yours in running order."

"I'll send you samples of the various things if you're not on
hand," responded Betty with a twinkle. "But really, Miss Burton,"
she added with sudden seriousness, "I do want to take a course in
cooking and domestic science."

"Judging by the specimens of your cooking I've eaten I should think
it would be the thing for you to do," replied Miss Burton heartily.
"The opportunities for teaching in that line are many, and even if
you never have to earn money by it, to know how to cook is a very
great accomplishment."

"I dare say," said Charlotte, "that we shall all do something
absolutely different from what we are planning now. Probably Betty
will marry a millionaire, and Dolly will take in sewing. Who can
say that Ruth may not be an artist? And I--well, I think my strong
point is cooking, and I shall undoubtedly be feeding starving
families on baked apples for years to come."

"Oh, fudge," said Dolly, much disgusted with her part of the prophecy.
"You can't tell fortunes for me, Charlotte; I won't have it."

"I'm sure to be an artist," laughed Ruth. "I can draw a pig with
my eyes shut just as well as I can with them open. I should love
to splash on color, though."

"You might be a house-painter," said Betty meditatively. "When my
millionaire builds his house I'll employ you to do the painting."

"And Charlotte can be cook," suggested Ruth. "But speaking of
artists, girls, makes me think of what I've been wanting to ask
you ever since I got here. Uncle Henry and I called on Marie this
afternoon and found her sitting on the piazza in the sunshine.
Just as we were leaving we found out quite by accident that she
has been making perfectly lovely little sketches, and Uncle Henry
thinks she's a genius. He told her she must study as soon as she
got strong, and you should have seen the longing look in those
great dark eyes of hers."

"I suppose she hasn't a cent that she feels she can use for lessons,"
said Miss Burton thoughtfully. She, as well as Ruth's special chums,
had become very much interested in Marie, and Mrs.  Perrier's little
house had been the goal of many a breezy walk.

"I think Uncle Henry means to help her, of course," continued Ruth,
"but I was wondering if there wasn't something we could do to earn
money. Wouldn't it be great if the Cooking Club could do something
to help?"

"I should say it would," responded Dorothy with the greatest
enthusiasm. "Didn't we begin to try even at our first meeting to
make our club helpful to others?"

"I hope we shan't miss the mark the way we did that time," groaned
Charlotte with a disgusted expression on her face.

"Oh, but didn't Joe look too absurd in that ladylike black skirt
and bonnet?" said Ruth going off into a fit of laughter. "I don't
care if the joke was mostly on me; it was the funniest thing I ever
saw."

"We never could pay him off with anything half so clever," laughed
Betty. "But, girls, it's Marie who wants to be an artist, not Joe.
Who's got an idea?"

"Let's have a supper in the Town Hall and cook all we can ourselves
and solicit the rest," proposed Dorothy.

"Too much outside work when we're in school," protested Charlotte.

"If we could have it four weeks from now it would come in the April
vacation," persisted Dorothy.

"Why not have some sort of an entertainment," suggested Miss Burton,
"and seat your audience at small tables? Then at the end of the
entertainment you could serve light refreshments."

"And we could have tableaux and perhaps some music," cried Ruth in
a burst of inspiration. "You'd help us out with it, wouldn't you,
Miss Burton?"

"Of course I would. I've had to plan such things several times."

"Let's choose the prettiest girls we can find in the school for
waitresses," said Betty, "and have them wear cunning aprons and
big bows on their heads."

"Why not have the thing open an hour or so before the entertainment
begins, and give them a chance to buy home-made candy and salted
almonds and some of those specialties which the gifted members of
our club delight in making?" suggested Charlotte. "We shall need
all the money we can get, for just the price of the tickets won't
amount to very much."

"That's a practical idea, Charlotte," said Miss Burton. "And
if you'd like it perhaps I can make some money for you by reading
palms. The boys could build a little tent for me, and I could give
each applicant five minutes of my valuable time."

"Oh, Miss Burton, can you really read palms?" cried Betty much
impressed.

"Well, Betty," said Miss Burton with her radiant smile, "I can,
at least, make it interesting for persons who like to have their
palms read. And fortunately I have a costume which I wore for this
same purpose at a Charity Bazar in Chicago."

"That will be great," said Dorothy. "Oh, girls, I think this is
going to be the grandest affair we've ever had in Glenloch. Can't
you just see how everything is going to look?"

"We'll get the boys to help decorate the hall," suggested Betty.

"They'll be useful in lots of ways," added Charlotte. "Boys come
in handy sometimes."

"We must have a business meeting right away with Kit and Alice,"
continued the practical Dorothy. "We shan't accomplish anything
until we know just what each one is to do."

"There's just one thing," said Ruth hesitatingly. "Do you suppose
we can make a success of it without telling people what we are going
to do with the money? Of course I know," she went on hurriedly,
"that our own families must be told, but it seems to me it will be
much pleasanter for Marie if it isn't generally known."

"That's so," declared Dorothy. "It would be horrid for her to feel
that she is being made an object of charity for the town. Let's
tell just our mothers and fathers, and swear them to secrecy."

"If we give a good entertainment," added Charlotte, "no one will
have any right to ask what we're going to do with the money."

"Good," cried Ruth, much relieved. "I felt almost sorry I'd proposed
it when I began to think about poor Marie."

"Girls, girls, it's half-past six," cried Betty, as Miss Burton's
clock struck the half-hour. "I actually haven't heard that clock
strike before this afternoon."

"Mercy me! We have dinner at six," and Ruth turned to find her coat
and hat.

At that moment there was a knock, and Miss Burton's landlady poked
her head into the room to say there was a gentleman at the door
who wanted to see Miss Ruth Shirley.

"It must be Mr. Hamilton," said Ruth, who felt guilty on account
of the lateness of the hour. "I'll call down and tell him I'll be
there in a minute."

"It's not Mr. Hamilton. It's no one I know," answered Mrs.  Stearns.

Ruth looked puzzled. "Oh, do come down with me," she implored,
catching Miss Burton's hand, and together they went along the hall
and down to the turn in the stairs. Then, as Ruth caught sight
of the tall, handsome man standing in the hall with the lamplight
shining full upon his face, she forgot everything else in the world,
and getting over the remaining stairs in some incomprehensible way,
threw herself into his outstretched arms.

"Oh, Uncle Jerry, Uncle Jerry!" she cried with a little break in
her voice as she buried her head on his shoulder. She was quite
unconscious that, though his arms tightened around her, his eyes
were fixed with eager longing on the smiling girl who had stopped
half-way down the stairs. There was a long second of silence.  Uncle
Jerry's face went white and then red. Margaret Burton's smile faded,
and an expression of perplexity took its place. Then she came down
the stairs, and holding out her hand said:

"I see you haven't forgotten me, Mr. Harper. I am very glad to see
you again."

Ruth looked up in amazement as Uncle Jerry took the white hand in
both of his. "Why, Miss Burton," he began impetuously, "I--" and
then something made him look up to the hall above where three heads
were gazing over the railing with eager curiosity.

"I am more than glad to meet you here," he continued lamely. "I--I
had no idea of meeting an old friend."

"Miss Burton, you never told me that you knew my Uncle Jerry, and
I've talked about him lots of times," protested Ruth in an aggrieved
voice.

"Well, of course, I supposed your Uncle Jerry was Jeremiah Shirley,"
laughed Miss Burton. "You never told me that Jerry stood for Jerome,
nor that his last name wasn't the same as yours."

"Why, so I didn't. And I suppose all the girls think your name is
Jeremiah, and they're probably sorry for you. I'll run up now and
get my hat, and bring them down to be properly introduced."

It seemed only a minute, and a very short one at that, to Jerome
Harper, before Ruth came down-stairs again with the girls behind
her. He ventured a little protesting glance at Miss Burton as she
stepped into the background, and allowed the chattering girls to
absorb him. Being Ruth's Uncle Jerry it was plainly his duty to
show himself in the best possible light to these, her friends, and
he did it in so charming a manner that they all fell in love with
him on the spot.

They left the house together, and only Dorothy noticed that Uncle
Jerry lingered a little to say good-bye to Miss Burton. Dorothy
usually did notice everything connected with Miss Burton, and just
then she had been thinking how pretty she looked in her simple
white wool gown, with her fair hair low on her neck and her brown
eyes shining.

"What under the sun made you say that some one might be coming to
play an important part in Miss Burton's life, Char?" she said in
a low tone to Charlotte as they started off. "Did you really have
a feeling?"

"A feeling? No, goosey; of course I didn't. Why do you ask?"

Dorothy pinched her arm to hush her, and nodded significantly at
Uncle Jerry, who was just ahead of them with Betty and Ruth.

Charlotte looked surprised and then scornful. "I hate to see any
one getting up a romance out of nothing," she whispered almost
crossly. "They're just old acquaintances, of course."

But Dorothy knew that Charlotte hadn't seen Uncle Jerry's face as
he said good-bye.



CHAPTER XVII

UNCLE JERRY


Uncle Jerry stayed only until Monday morning, and his visit seemed
so short to Ruth that after he had gone she could hardly believe
that it had really happened. Neither could she quite reconcile
herself to the fact that out of that brief time he had taken two
whole hours away from his only niece to call on Miss Burton. Her
only consolation was that he had promised to return for the night
of the grand entertainment, and he thought it probable that he
should be able then to stay a week.

She had little time to think about her own affairs, for with the
date of the entertainment once set the days flew by on wings. It
was planned for the second Wednesday in April, which would come in
the middle of the spring vacation, and thus give the girls a chance
to rest after it was over. Once in the midst of their preparations,
the girls began to realize how big a thing they had undertaken, and
were fearful that they should not be able to make it a financial
success. Fortunately their elders realized it, too, and came
promptly to the rescue. Mr. Hamilton offered to pay for the hall,
Mr. Marshall agreed to provide the tables and chairs, and to pay
for having the stage enlarged, and the Candle Club boys devoted
themselves to their hard-working friends, and were ready to do
anything to help.

As time went on the lofty ideals with which the girls had started
gradually diminished in fervor. At first they had planned to make
the ice-cream and cake, but later they accepted with a gratitude
that was almost pathetic Mrs. Hamilton's offer to take upon her
own shoulders the duty of providing both of these necessities.

In spite of all this assistance, however, the week before the
performance passed in a mad whirl of rehearsals and preparation of
costumes, topped off on the very day before by the making of candy
and the doing of innumerable last things. Even at nine o'clock on
Tuesday evening Ruth and Arthur were still at work packing into
paper boxes the crisp wafers which Ruth had engaged Mrs. Perrier
to make for her.

"Fifteen, seventeen, nineteen," murmured Ruth. "Oh, dear, I'm
so tired and sleepy I don't know whether there are twenty-five or
twenty-four in two dozen."

"Go to bed then," laughed Arthur, "and I'll finish. There are not
many more, anyway, and you've got the hustle of your life before
you to-morrow."

Ruth pulled herself out of her chair slowly but with evident
willingness. "Some folks don't give boys credit for being half so
nice as they are, but I do," she announced with a smile of sleepy
gratitude as she started out of the room.

Wednesday morning the Town Hall was the scene of such excited
animation that it was difficult to tell whether anything was being
accomplished or not. The Cooking Club girls and the Candle Club
boys together with a dozen picked helpers had assembled to decorate
the hall, and for the moment there seemed an endless confusion of
boys, step-ladders, hammers and cheese-cloth.

"For goodness' sake, Phil," begged Dorothy, leaving a group of girls
and running over to where Phil and Arthur were talking together,
"won't you and Arthur take the management of this decoration? You've
done it before and you know how it ought to look."

"All right, your Majesty," responded Phil. "Come on, Art; let's
agree on a general scheme, and then you can boss this side of the
room and I'll take the other."

"Ruth! Ruth! you're wanted," called a half-dozen voices at once,
and Ruth stopped her work to find John, Mr. Hamilton's man, waiting
at the door with a good-sized box.

"It's just come by express, Miss Ruth," said John, "and 'twas labeled
Town Hall, so Mrs. Hamilton thought you'd better open it here."

"Help me open it, some one, please," begged Ruth, and as the top
boards were quickly ripped off, she took out first a letter from
New York in Uncle Jerry's writing.

"Dear Ruth" (it began):

"I have just stumbled on a little shop devoted to souvenirs of
Switzerland. The proprietor has a bad attack of homesickness, and
can't stand New York any longer, so he is selling out at a sacrifice.
It occurred to me that I might kill two birds, etc., by contributing
to the good cause at Glenloch and helping this poor fellow at the
same time. I thought you might make a little something by selling
them for any price you can get.

"I shall probably get there almost as soon as the box, so won't
stop to write more.

"Yours with love, Uncle Jerry."

Ruth had an interested audience as she unrolled some of the packages
and peeped into others to see what they contained, and could he
have heard the enthusiastic comments Uncle Jerry would have felt
still more sure of his place in the hearts of his Glenloch friends.

"It's wasting time to look at them now," said Ruth with a sigh.
"We must arrange a table and put them on it this afternoon."

"What a pity that we couldn't have some one in Swiss costume to
sell them," suggested Charlotte, who had paused in her work to take
one look.

Ruth took in a quick breath as the idea struck her. "Do you suppose
Mrs. Perrier,--or Marie," she thought aloud. "Why, Marie might
even feel well enough to come herself if we sent for her and sent
her home. Couldn't some one, couldn't you, Arthur, ride over and
ask her?"

"Why, yes," agreed Arthur, hurrying after John to tell him to bring
Peter Pan to the hall. He came back again in a minute to find Ruth
and say coaxingly:

"Say, Ruth, John's got the carriage outside here, and why can't
you just slip out and drive over with me? It'll do you good to get
away from this noise and confusion for a while."

"Oh, I can't, possibly. It would be mean when the others are working
so hard."

"You'll be back before they know you're gone," pleaded Arthur.
"It'll do you so much good that you'll be able to work a great deal
faster," added the wily youth.

"Go away, and don't tempt me," laughed Ruth. She started to leave
him, but turned back to say earnestly: "Let's make Charlotte go
with you. She's got a splitting headache, and she won't be fit for
anything to-night if she doesn't rest for a while."

Arthur felt that he hadn't got quite all he was asking for, but
he fell in with Ruth's idea cheerfully, and their united arguments
persuaded Charlotte to go for the restful drive through the wooded
roads.

They were back almost before Ruth could realize that they had
started, and announced with an air of triumph that Marie would be
delighted to come, and that Mrs. Perrier had a costume which could
easily be made to do.

"And I begged her to bring her lace pillow," said Charlotte. "I
thought that would add a touch to the whole occasion."

Ruth gave her a rapturous hug. "It will," she said joyfully. "And
isn't it all going to be the finest thing you ever saw?"

The hall hummed like a beehive as the work went on, and little by
little things took shape and began to promise a harmonious whole.
It really seemed as though some good fairy were watching over
affairs, for the carpenters finished their work and went at an
early hour, the chairs and tables arrived in good season, and the
big picture-frame which had been put together for the girls proved
to be all that could be desired.

To be sure there were disagreements, and even accidents, for Bert
and a step-ladder had a difference of opinion and collapsed together,
and Betty dropped a pail of paste on Jack, who had politely stopped
to admire the artistic work she and Frank were doing on the palmist's
tent. As he was looking up and had just opened his mouth to say
something complimentary the result was disastrous, and the poor
fellow stood there blinded and gasping until Dorothy carne to the
rescue with a wet towel.

At one o'clock the workers departed for lunch, a few of the boys
and girls promising to come back in the early afternoon to finish
the little that was left.

"I haven't the slightest idea whether it is going to look pretty
or not," said Ruth wearily as they left the hall.

"Just wait until it's lighted," consoled Betty. "Then you'll see."

When the earliest of the audience arrived that evening the old
hall, dressed in her best, was waiting to receive them. The cool
green and white of the draperies softened the plainness of the walls,
and a huge, round ball made of red and yellow roses and glittering
with diamond dust swung from the centre chandelier and glowed in
its light. Smaller balls hung from the side-brackets, each enclosing
an electric bulb which shone with soft radiance through the vivid
red and pale yellow of the roses.

In the comer nearest the door was a booth draped in pink and blue,
and here two pretty girls in white were ready to sell the various
delicacies made by the members of the Cooking Club. The girls had
worked hard, and Ruth's maple fudge, Dorothy's creamed walnuts and
dates, Katharine's salted nuts, and Alice's peanut brittle made
such a tempting array that none could see without wanting to buy.
Betty's contribution was a dozen glasses of delicious-looking orange
marmalade, and behind them were piled boxes of Mrs.  Perrier's
crisp Swiss wafers.

As a joke Charlotte had brought in quite unexpectedly at the last
moment a huge pan of baked apples, and she insisted on having them
on the table in spite of the fact that the pan in its nest of pink
crepe paper took up a large amount of space.

"The rest of you are represented by your masterpieces," she said,
rolling out the long words with great relish. "So why shouldn't I
put mine there? I'm sure I shall never achieve anything more perfect
than those baked apples, and they're much more digestible than all
that sweet stuff."

As usual Charlotte's argument was unanswerable, and the apples
remained on the table, forming a sturdy and wholesome contrast to
their more dainty companions.

At the front of the hall and quite near the stage sat Marie dressed
in the pretty Bernese costume with its velvet bodice, and silver
pins and chains. Before her was a table covered with Swiss carved
work, bears, paper-knives, picture-frames, watch-stands and dainty
edelweiss pins. Her eyes were sparkling and a faint color stole
into her cheeks as she chatted in her soft voice with those who
came to look at her wares.

In spite of the attractiveness of good things to eat and pretty
things to see, the most popular place in the hall was the gaily
decorated tent where Miss Burton in gypsy costume read palms. From
the time the hall was opened there was a waiting group outside the
tent where Dorothy took the money, and cut each five minutes off
on the dot so that she might get in as many as possible. So many
applicants were there that, when at half-past seven Ruth's Uncle
Jerry arrived with the Hamiltons and a party of their Boston
friends, there seemed to be no immediate chance that he would be
able to penetrate the mysteries of the future with the aid of Miss
Burton.

"Dear me, Miss Dorothy," he said beseechingly, "can't you make a
special appointment for me? I'm afraid my life-line isn't strong
enough to bear me up under such a disappointment."

"I'm afraid I can't, Mr. Harper," answered Dorothy firmly. "There
are enough waiting now to keep the palmist busy until the entertainment
begins, and after that you must take your chance with the others."

In the depths of her heart Dorothy was glad to turn away Uncle
Jerry. He was altogether too much in a hurry, she thought with a
little frown. She didn't want any one to like Miss Burton too much.

Uncle Jerry wandered off disconsolately, but solaced himself by
buying candy and Swiss carvings until his hands were so full that
he couldn't manage his parcels. Then, in a fit of desperation, he
returned them all to the young ladies from whom he had bought them,
begging them to sell them over again for the good of the cause.

At five minutes before eight there was a burst of applause as Phil
appeared on the stage and requested the audience to be seated at
the small tables, as the entertainment was about to begin.

When the confusion had subsided into silence, some one at the piano
began to play softly, and the curtain parted to show in the frame
a beautiful Spanish girl with fan and mantilla. Following her in
quick succession came a fair-haired English girl, a smiling maiden
from Japan with arched eyebrows and bright-colored parasol, and a
rosy Dutch girl in cap and kerchief. Then a Turk sitting cross-legged
upon his cushion smoked his long pipe and beamed affably on the
audience, an Esquimaux gentleman came from his igloo in the north
to pose for a moment, and a boyish Uncle Sam and John Bull shook
hands fraternally.

Each picture was shown twice, but it was ail too short for the
enthusiastic audience, which applauded so vociferously that Frank
was obliged to step before the curtain and announce that owing to
lack of time no encores could be given.

Then followed representations of celebrated paintings; the Girl
with the Muff, a pathetic Nydia, and the charming little Dutch girl
holding a cat. Molly Eastman posed for that with Bagheera, Betty's
largest cat, clutched tightly in her arms. When Bagheera heard the
applause he struggled wildly to escape, nearly knocking Molly over
as he leaped from her arms just as the curtain covered the frame.
Molly looked ready to cry because her picture could not be shown a
second time, then snatching up her beloved Teddy bear, which went
everywhere she did, she stood, triumphant, waiting for the curtain
to be drawn. It was too good to be lost, and the boys pulled the
curtain twice, much to Molly's joy and the delight of the audience.

This was the end of the first part of the program, and there was
a buzz of conversation which softened into silence as the school
orchestra filed on the stage. It was warmly greeted, for this was
its first public appearance, and the proud parents of the performers
were anxious to hear the results of their practice together. Like
wise boys they didn't try to do anything great, but delighted the
hearts of their hearers with a simple arrangement of some of the
old patriotic songs that every one loves. They ended with the Star
Spangled Banner and played it with so much spirit that the entire
audience rose to do honor to the grand old song.

With the second drawing of the curtain, ten dainty Japanese ladies
fluttered upon the stage with mincing steps, waving gay fans and
bowing low as they drew up in line before the audience. So much
did the flowing garments, the fan-bedecked hair and the slanting
eyebrows change the girls that even some of the mothers failed at
first to recognize their own daughters.

"I see Charlotte, and that one on the end is Ruth," announced the
irrepressible Molly Eastman loudly, and then buried her head on
her father's shoulder when every one turned to look at her.

The fan drill was beautiful to see, for the intricate marching, the
delicate swaying of the figures, was done with a precision which
gave no chance for criticism. The performers came out to bow their
thanks for the hearty applause, and, when the audience refused to be
satisfied, fluttered out again with fans held coquettishly before
their faces. Then each girl extracted from her flowing sleeve
a paper bird, and holding it as high as she could reach began to
fan it into motion. It was a pretty sight; the gaily-colored birds
flying in all directions, and the graceful girls, quick of eye and
action, doing their utmost to keep them from falling. There were
one or two narrow escapes, but not one really reached the floor,
and at a signal they were caught upon the outstretched fans and
the little ladies had fled.

"If that looks easy to you just try it," said Mrs. Hamilton during
the pause in the program. "I made an attempt at it the other day
when Ruth was practicing at home, and I found it the hardest thing
I've undertaken for some time. It's wonderful training for the eye
and muscles."

As she finished speaking, slow, dreamy music began on the piano
and the curtains were pulled apart, disclosing a pedestal on which
stood Dorothy in a flowing Greek robe and with her golden hair
dressed in classic fashion. At first she was like a beautiful statue,
then, as the music proceeded, she went through a series of poses,
each one so vivid and graceful that when she became a statue once
more and the curtain hid her from sight the hall rang with applause.

The program was already so long that Dorothy refused to repeat her
number, and when the curtain was drawn again four fine lads stepped
out to swing Indian clubs. The boys did it well and the fathers
and mothers glowed with pride over the straight young figures and
the easy grace which made the clubs seem like mere toys.

The last number was announced as a march by the Glenloch Academy
children, and the boy who made the announcement couldn't keep from
laughing as he hurriedly got out of sight.

"Rather unusual, isn't it, for boys and girls of that age to allow
themselves to be called 'children'?" asked Mr. Hamilton, but even
as he spoke his question was answered, for as the piano began
a simple melody in rushed twelve children, blowing horns, jumping
ropes, and pinching and pulling each other in very real fashion.
There was a roar of laughter from the audience, for the boys were
all figures of fun in their checked aprons and tassel caps. Tall
Phil was a sight never to be forgotten as he smiled amiably on the
world at large, but Joe had the best of it, for he was so plump and
rosy that he looked fairly like the child he was trying to represent.
The girls wore skirts which stuck out stiffly all around, and had
their hair braided in pigtails and tied with ribbons to match their
sashes. Betty looked the very picture of innocent, chubby childhood,
and couldn't forbear making eyes at her adoring father, who sat
near the stage, and seemed to find it difficult to look at any one
but his engaging little daughter.

The piano struck up a stirring march, and the merry children dropped
their toys and formed in line with Jack and Ruth as leaders. The
performers did their best to make it as childlike as possible,
and it was an amusing procession that the two captains led through
intricate ways. It had an ending alike unexpected by performers and
audience, for as they were going through one of the last figures,
Joe slipped, made a heroic effort to recover his balance, and then
sat flat on the floor facing the audience. He had such a funny,
surprised look on his face that every one in the hall roared with
laughter, much to his discomfiture. Then an idea seized him, and
scrambling to his feet he put both fists in his eyes and bellowed
like a naughty child. The others kept on marching, but he stood
there inconsolable, until Betty, always quick to think, gave him a
little shake in passing and held out to him a bright red apple she'd
been nibbling. An ecstatic smile spread over his face, he grabbed
the apple, took a big bite, and fell into line just as they all
marched off the stage. So cleverly was it done that the audience
decided that the fall had been intentional, and the whole thing
a part of the performance, and gave Master Joe an extra salvo of
applause when the children returned to make their bows.

As the curtains fell together for the last time, twenty-five girls
dressed in white and carrying trays came into the hall. They wore
coquettish little aprons, and large ribbon bows in a variety of
color, and suggested butterflies as they flitted among the tables.
One by one the performers, most of them still in costume, slipped
out from behind the scenes.

"Is your lemonade good, Uncle Jerry, and are you having a nice
time?" asked the Japanese maiden leaning confidingly on Mr.  Harper's
shoulder.

"Yes, to both the questions, 'Yuki-San,'" replied her uncle
affectionately. "But, Ruth," he was speaking now in a low tone, "I
shan't be really happy until I have my palm read; and perhaps not
then," he finished inaudibly.

Ruth glanced quickly toward the palmist's tent. "Miss Burton said
she should keep busy while the refreshments were served so as to
make as much money as possible. I'll see if she can take you now."

Uncle Jerry watched until he saw Ruth beckon to him. Then he made
his way quickly to the tent, and started in just as Dorothy resumed
her position outside as guardian.

"Only five minutes, Mr. Harper," said Dorothy decidedly.

"Give me ten, Miss Dorothy," pleaded Uncle Jerry, "and I'll give
you four times the price of admission. It's for the good of the
cause, you know."

"For the good of the cause, then," she answered grudgingly. "Ten
minutes and not an atom more."

"You're a terror, Dolly," laughed Ruth, slipping into the chair
beside her. "How can you be so severe with my beloved Uncle Jerry?"

Dorothy's answer was slow in coming, and Ruth went on happily without
waiting. "Don't you think we've made a big success?  Everything's
sold except two or three boxes of candy and a loaf or two of cake.
And Marie's perfectly radiant because several people have given
her orders for lace and embroidery."

Dorothy was holding her watch in her hand and almost counting each
second as it ticked away. "Eight and a half," she murmured. "Why,
yes, I do think it's a success, and won't it be fun when we can
take the money over to Mrs. Perrier's and surprise Marie? Time's
up, Mr. Harper," she added with cruel promptness, and Uncle Jerry,
fearing the invasion of other applicants, didn't dare to disobey.

Dorothy looked at him critically as he emerged from the tent.  There
was no mistaking the triumphant light in his eye, and she saw that
she must resign herself to defeat.

"Did she give you a good fortune, Uncle Jerry?" inquired Ruth.

"Splendid. The best in the world," he answered with such happiness
in his voice that Dorothy felt her resentment fading away. "Now,
Miss Japan, let's go and buy everything there is left," he added.

Dorothy watched them as they strolled away, and saw Uncle Jerry
draw Ruth into a quiet comer, where he told her something that made
her clasp her hands and look at him with beaming eyes.

"They haven't the least idea I've guessed," said Dolly to herself
with a sad little shake of the head, "but I'll show them that a
girl can keep a secret even when she hasn't been asked to."



CHAPTER XVIII

THOSE RIDICULOUS BOYS


"It's terribly romantic," said Ruth with a satisfied sigh. "She
didn't know he cared anything about her, and he thought she couldn't
care for him because she went away from Chicago without letting
him know or leaving him her address."

"And they're really engaged?" asked Betty for the third time. "I
can't believe it."

It was a warm afternoon in May, and all the girls were out in
Mrs.  Hamilton's garden drying their hair after a shampoo. To the
surprise of every one the spring had made good its early promises,
and buds and blossoms had hurried forth with quivering eagerness.
The soft breeze which rustled the leaves and played caressingly
with the floating locks was as mild as in summer, and the girls
felt that pleasant languor which comes with the first warm days.

"Yes, really engaged. Uncle Jerry wanted to settle it when he first
found her here in Glenloch, but she made him wait until he came the
second time," answered Ruth shaking her hair to the breeze which
curled it into tendrils. "I've been simply bursting to tell you
ever since the entertainment, but I had to wait until Miss Burton
said I might."

"I think it's funny you didn't guess. I felt it in my bones from
the first minute I saw him," said Dorothy. "And I was perfectly
sure of it when I saw him tell you, Ruth."

"Why, Dolly, you're a witch! And you never said a word to any one?"
asked Ruth incredulously.

"No. I didn't think Miss Burton would want me to. And I'm so jealous
of you that I can't see straight, because, of course, she'll have
to like you best," finished Dorothy with a mournful sigh.

"She'll think you're a trump when I tell her that you truly guessed
and never said a word," comforted Ruth. "The only other thing I
can do is to offer you a share in Uncle Jerry."

"You'll have to divide him in small pieces if you're going to share
him," said Charlotte. "Did you ever see anything like the way the
boys took to him?"

"Between the two clubs he had small chance to be alone with Miss
Burton that week he was here," laughed Betty.

"He was a dear to take us all to Boston and give us such a dandy
time," murmured Charlotte.

"What a week we had," said Alice, pulling her black locks apart to
get out the snarls. "Can't you just see Marie's face when we gave
her that two hundred dollars?"

"She's so happy now," added Ruth, "and she's getting better every
day. Arthur and I rode by there yesterday, and she was out helping
her aunt make a garden."

"Isn't your hair most dry, girls?" asked Dorothy, with a sudden
change of subject. "Let's hurry and put it up any old way, and then
have some tennis."

There was a simultaneous groan from Katharine and Charlotte.

"I didn't expect anything of you two lazy things," said Dorothy
coolly. "I'm glad you don't want to, for that leaves just the four
of us without any fuss about deciding."

"I'd like to play," said Ruth, tugging at her refractory curls,
"only you'll have to wait till I do my hair properly, and take this
mess of towels into the house."

"Oh, Ruth, if I didn't like you so much I should say you were
pernickety," cried Dorothy impatiently.

"I suppose I am fussy," confessed Ruth. "But mother was always
very particular about having me keep my own things in order, and
especially about leaving other people's belongings the way I found
them, and I can't get over the habit."

"For goodness' sake, you sound as if you thought it was a crime,"
said Charlotte. "I only wish I had a few such bad habits as that."

"I'm a shining example for you, Charlotte," laughed Betty, "for I
cleared up my top bureau drawer to-day."

"You're a shining example for me in more ways than one, Betsy,"
answered Charlotte with such unexpected earnestness that rosy Betty
grew rosier than ever.

For a few minutes the girls worked busily, and the hair, black,
brown, shining gold and burnished copper, was soon adorning the
heads of its owners in the accustomed way. Ruth and Betty took
in the towels and brought out racquets and balls. Charlotte and
Katharine languidly changed their seats to where they could watch
the court, and the other four began a vigorous game.

It was a long and hotly contested deuce set, and ended in favor of
Dorothy and Alice just as Katie appeared with tray and glasses.

"Ellen thought you'd like some lemonade, Miss Ruth. I'll bring it
out directly."

Ellen's lemonade was a work of art; full of tantalizing and unexpected
flavors of orange, mint and clove. The girls, who knew it of old,
groaned with pleasure at sight of the frosty-looking pitcher with
sprigs of mint at the top.

"This is richness," sighed Dorothy, as she settled herself on the
big rug and took one of the fresh chocolate-frosted cakes that
Katie had brought out.

"Ellen's the best old dear," said Ruth. "I never even have to ask
for things."

"There's a letter on the tray," said Betty suddenly. "No, not a
letter, because there's no stamp on it, but it's for you, Ruth."

Ruth picked it up and opened it. Then she laughed and held it out
to the girls, reading aloud as she did so.

The Candle Club Presents its compliments to The Cooking Club And
requests the pleasure of its company Saturday, May eighteenth, At
half-after six

The Club Room

"My, but they're formal," said Dorothy. "Will you look at the
elegance of 'half-after six'?"

"Jack did the invitations with his new typewriter, I suppose," said
Betty. "I wonder how many sheets of paper he spoiled."

"Of course we'll all go," said Charlotte, lazily pulling herself up
from her seat on the ground. "It's perfectly lovely sitting here
and drinking this delicious lemonade, and I hate to mention it,
but I've got to get home, girls. Betty, you ought to walk 'round
my way to-night; I went with you last night."

"Wait till I get the last drop out of my glass," gurgled Betty,
pulling away at her straw with great diligence.

"We're all going," added Dorothy. "It's almost six anyway."

Ruth went with them to the front of the house and then back to the
tennis ground to pick up racquets and balls. It was so cool and
still and beautiful in the garden that she sat down on the rug
again with her hands clasped around her knees. The old apple-tree
covered with pink and white blossoms rustled softly overhead, a
fat robin cocked his eye at her as he listened for worms, and from
the other side of the garden came the faint, melodious tinkle of
the little fountain.

Something flipped into the grass beside her and the robin flew
away.

"It's just a penny," called a gay voice, "the one they're always
offering for your thoughts, you know."

Ruth looked up as Arthur dropped down on the rug beside her.
"They're worth so much more that I couldn't let you have them for
a penny," she said with a laugh.

"Make it a spring bargain sale and give 'em to me at a great
reduction," he suggested.

"They were perfectly good thoughts," answered Ruth. "I was just
wondering how I happened to drop down in such a lovely place, and
why every one is so nice to me, and thinking how I shall miss you
all when father sends for me."

"Don't begin to think about that," protested Arthur quickly. "You
know you came for a year, a whole year."

"I know," laughed Ruth. "I don't believe you were a bit pleased
when you heard that I was coming for a whole year. I really think
you've got used to me very nicely."

"It's astonishing how soon we get used to things that we know we
must put up with," said Arthur with a sigh of resignation. "Oh, by
the way, there's something I forgot to tell you," he added.

"What is it?" cried Ruth eagerly.

"You won't tell the other girls, will you?"

"Why no, if you really don't want me to."

Arthur looked thoughtful. "I wouldn't for a while, anyway," he said
at last.

"I won't tell until you say I may," said Ruth with great decision.

"Well, then,--I was sent out here to ask you to come in to dinner,"
chuckled the graceless youth, picking himself up from the ground,
and making off with surprising agility.

"Oh, you villain," groaned Ruth, throwing a tennis ball at him with
such unexpectedly good aim that it hit him squarely in the back.

"Good shot! How did it happen? Oh, but you did bite nicely that
time," and Arthur laughed again at her pretended rage.

"If you ever want to be forgiven, come back here and help me take
in the racquets and balls," called Ruth, starting toward the house.

"Sure, I will," responded Arthur amiably. "Give me all the racquets
and you can take the balls. I know," he continued a moment later,
"why every one is so nice to you."

"Is this another sell?" demanded Ruth.

"No, this is truth. You'll find the answer in Mary's Little Lamb
if you change the words a little. You look up the last verse and
see if I'm not right."

Ruth looked thoughtfully at him as they entered the house, and then
sternly repressing the pleased smile that flitted over her face
said with assumed indifference:

"I hope that's a compliment, but how can you expect me to remember
the rhymes of my childhood?"

The days went by so fast that Ruth could hardly keep the run of the
calendar. They were full days, with hard work at school, delightful
rides on Peter Pan with Arthur or his father to accompany her, and
pleasant afternoons with the girls at one house or another. Then
there were important letters from her father and Uncle Jerry which
necessitated lengthy replies, and frequent conferences with Miss
Burton and Mrs. Hamilton.

On the night of the Candle Club party the girls met first at Dorothy's
house, and went out into the stable together. A large room on the
second floor had been given up to the boys who had furnished and
decorated it to suit their taste and their opportunities. An old
piano, begged for by Frank when the Marshalls were buying a new
one, stood under one of the electric lights and looked well-used.
That it had outlived its most tuneful days was not to be denied,
but Arthur could still coax college songs out of it, and for
miscellaneous strumming and tunes with one finger it was invaluable.
It was also a convenient place on which to leave sweaters, hats
and books, and altogether the boys considered it one of the most
valuable of their possessions.

The furniture of the club room could hardly be called ornamental,
but it was certainly comfortable. A couple of steamer chairs, a
roomy couch covered with bright cushions, and an ancient bookcase
offered an impartial welcome to the lazy and the studious, and
bore mute witness to the fact that many happy hours had been passed
there. The boys had made the room gay with banners, and trophies
of past victories, and red curtains and a few rugs added to the
general cheerfulness.

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall went out to the stable with the girls, and as
they went up the narrow stairs there was a shout of laughter from
the club room, laughter so mirth-compelling that the girls giggled
involuntarily. At Mr. Marshall's peremptory knock there was a sudden
stillness; then the door opened a crack and in a choked voice Arthur
said, "Just hold the line a second, please, and we'll let you in."

Almost as he spoke there was a low, "all right now," from Joe, and
Arthur threw the door wide open. For an instant the guests coming
from the dark stairway into the brightly lighted room could hardly
see; then as they took in the general appearance of their hosts
the room rang with laughter.

The boys were all dressed in shirt-waists and skirts, with neat
white collars and little bows of various kinds. The skirts came
to the tops of their boots, and as they had donned the heaviest,
biggest boots they could find, the result was amusing. They all
wore frivolous little aprons, and on their heads jaunty white caps
perched on hair which made the girls go off into fresh fits of
merriment. It was the most wonderful hair-dressing the girls had
ever seen; heavy braids, thick curls, even pompadours--and all made
out of yarn.

"What happened that made you keep us waiting?" asked Ruth as she
wiped real tears from her eyes.

"Betty fell over his skirt and had to fix it on again," said Phil
with a twinkle, realizing that the girls hadn't yet taken in the
full meaning of the performance.

Then it was the boys' turn to laugh, for, looking at Joe's red wig,
the girls knew at once what Phil meant, and each hurried to pick
out the imitation of herself.

"Do you mean to tell me I look like that?" asked Dorothy, pointing
a scornful finger at Jack, who was deeply engaged in tightening a
large, black bow which dangled at the end of his long, yellow braid.

"Why, Dolly, I flattered myself I was the handsomest one of the
bunch, and now you speak harshly to me," protested Jack in a tone
of great grief.

"So far as beauty goes there isn't much choice between you," said
Charlotte meditatively. Her eye was taking in Phil's tall, slender
figure, upon which the skirt hung in limp folds. His brown braids
were twined about his head in a coronet, a style with which
Charlotte's mirror was familiar.

"Oh, those ridiculous boys! Do see my bunch of curls," shrieked
Ruth, getting around where she could better see the back of Arthur's
head.

"Whatever made you think to do it, you silly things?" asked Betty,
eyeing with disfavor the magenta-colored hair which graced the head
of her double.

"Why, we are going to cook a supper for you to-night, and we thought
we couldn't follow better models as to dress than the celebrated
Cooking Club," answered Phil making a low bow with his hand on his
heart.

"Do get to work, then," said Dolly with great disdain. "Let's see
if you can imitate our cooking as remarkably as you have our looks."

A long table stood in the middle of the room, covered with a white
cloth, and on it reposed several chafing-dishes, a pile of plates,
forks, spoons and knives, and a quantity of paper napkins. Olives,
crisp little pickles and plates of crackers were the only visible
evidences of food, and to the hungry girls the prospect was not
encouraging.

"If you will kindly be seated, young ladies," said Frank, whose
woolly black locks made his imposing manner ridiculous, "we will
now show you how much we know."

"How little, you mean," added his sister in an audible whisper.

"I'm not going to have Dolly near me while I cook," said Frank
decidedly. "You go and watch Arthur, Dolly; that's a good girl."

"Don't watch me," groaned Arthur. "Charlotte and Ruth have got their
eyes glued on everything I'm doing already. Watch Phil, Dorothy.
He's much nicer than I am."

Mr. and Mrs. Marshall slipped quietly away about this time, and
then, with their guests showing an irritating and undue interest
in all that they did, the boys began the preparation of the supper.
As the work progressed, wigs were pushed out of place and finally
discarded; hooks and eyes, too fragile for such muscular young
ladies, loosed their hold, and skirts were trampled under foot and
cast aside. At last it was only six boys in girlish-looking waists
who were working with pretended confidence but real anxiety under
the eyes of their unsparing critics.

It leaked out afterward that the boys had been practicing for
several weeks on the special dishes they made, and it was a great
relief to the girls to find this out. On this evening, however,
the lordly creatures asserted that cooking was an art that reached
perfection only when man undertook it, and that a man knew by
instinct quantities, seasoning and time of preparation.

The girls, though not half believing, watched with a surprise not
unmixed with awe while Phil cooked a lobster a la Newburg, seasoned
to perfection, Arthur prepared delicious creamed potatoes, and Frank
did up cold lamb in hot currant jelly in the most approved style.
There were potato chips and buttered brown bread to eat with the
lobster, and warm rolls to go with the second course. Everything
was so good that the girls could only wonder and eat.

"Could I have a glass of water, please?" begged Ruth just before
the feast began.

"Sure. Oh, wait a minute and I'll get you something better than
water," said Joe, plunging down the stairs and into the house, to
return in a moment laden with bottles of ginger-ale.

"Now watch him open them, Ruth," said Charlotte with pretended
admiration. "See how skilfully he does it. No girl could ever attain
to anything like that. After all boys are superior beings and--"

"Wow," gasped Joe, as a fountain of ginger-ale rose from the bottle
and struck him squarely in the face.

"Here, take that bottle out of the way. It's going all over my
creamed potatoes," shouted Arthur.

Blinded and dripping, Joe made a frantic effort to head the bottle
another way, and in the attempt turned a liberal portion over Bert,
who was standing near.

"I was just about to say," continued Charlotte calmly, "that boys
always do everything in such a complete way."

"Well they know when not to talk," growled Joe, mopping himself
with a napkin, and frowning darkly at the offending young lady.

It was a supper of gayety, and good things to eat. The boys were so
proud of their cooking that they disliked to let the conversation
wander from that particular subject, and brought it back by some
skilful remark whenever they thought the interest of the girls was
flagging. Each club toasted the other, and Jack toasted the ladies,
ending with the sentence, which became a byword in Glenloch, "Girls
are all right if you only know how to manage 'em."

"What a lot of dishes," said Betty with a sigh as they rose from
the table.

"We will now show you how the powerful masculine mind handles the
problem of dishes," proclaimed Phil.

"Do those dishes worry us? Not at all," added Bert as the boys
lifted the table bodily and put it in a comer of the room.

"Now you see 'em," said Joe, helping to unfold two screens borrowed
for the occasion, "and now you don't."

"Yes, but they're there all the same," argued Dorothy unconvinced.

"Mrs. Flinn will change all that, little sister," answered her
brother condescendingly. "We have bribed her to spend to-morrow
morning cleaning the club room, and she thinks we are 'blissed
young gintlemen.'"

"Get over on the piano stool, Art, and give us that new music you
were playing last night," begged Joe.

"No, don't play new things," implored Dorothy. "Play some college
songs."

And so Arthur played and they all sang; some on the pitch and some
off, but all happy, and each one deeply satisfied with his own share
of the performance. At last, swinging around on the piano stool,
Arthur looked at Ruth and said mysteriously, "You may as well tell
them your news now, Ruth."

Every one turned to look at Ruth with such sudden interest that
the color flashed into her face.

"It isn't enough to make you all look so curious," she laughed.
"It's only that I can't have many more parties with you, because
my father has sent for me, and I am to sail on the 'Utopia' a month
from to-day."

There was a moment of mournful and incredulous silence; then Dorothy
said indignantly, "I call that a mean shame; you were promised to
us for a year, and that would make it next October."

"I know. But you see father will be ready for me sooner than he
thought, and much as I should love to spend the summer here, I do
want to be with him."

"Strange," murmured Joe.

"And--and there's more news," continued Ruth. "Uncle Jerry and Miss
Burton are going to be married a week before I sail, and go over
with me for a wedding trip,"

"Tell us all about it," pleaded Betty, throwing herself on the
floor at Ruth's feet.

"I have; just about. You see Miss Burton's father and mother are
dead, and she hasn't any near relations except a sister who lives
way out in Seattle. So Mrs. Hamilton has invited her to be married
at her house, and it's going to be a very private wedding."

Distinct disappointment was visible in the girlish faces as Ruth
finished.

"But." she continued hurriedly, "there is to be a reception after
the ceremony, and all of us girls are to be invited to help receive
and the boys to usher."

"How perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Betty.

"I don't think so," mourned Dolly. "What shall we do with Ruth and
Miss Burton both gone?"

"Tell them the rest, Ruth," urged Arthur.

"The rest? Oh, yes. After the reception Uncle Jerry and his
wife--doesn't that sound grand?--are going off somewhere for a week,
and Mrs. Hamilton is going to take me to New York to meet them."

"And Mr. Hamilton and Mr. A. Hamilton are going, too," added Arthur
with great satisfaction.

It was Ruth's turn to look surprised. "Why how perfectly grand!
You never said a word."

"Father just suggested it to-night and I thought I'd surprise you.
He's planning to have four days there before you sail."

"Fine old plans," said Betty soberly. "It's all very nice for Ruth,
but I feel as if all the dolls I ever had were stuffed with sawdust."

"So do I," added Dorothy, with a little catch in her voice.
Charlotte said nothing, but to the surprise of every one she put
her arm around Ruth in a way that was more eloquent than words.

The Candle Club party threatened to end in melancholy fashion,
but the irrepressible Joe came to the rescue as usual. "Ruth can't
leave the country," he announced decidedly. "She has too much live
stock to look after. To my knowledge she owns half a horse, and
the whole of a very enterprising kitten."

Every one laughed, for all knew that Fuzzy's latest escapade had
been the theft of a string of sausages which he had proudly brought
home untouched to show to his mistress.

"It's just as well for me to go before my live stock gets me into
trouble," laughed Ruth. "As for my half of Peter Pan, I shall will
that to Arthur to keep until--"

"Until you come back, of course," interrupted Arthur. "Your father
may have you for a while, and then you must come back to Glenloch,
and this time for a whole year."

"Hear, hear," came in eager chorus from the others, and the party
broke up happily after all.



CHAPTER XIX

"HOME, SWEET HOME"


As the "Utopia" made her slow way out into the harbor Ruth's
eyes clung lovingly to the three people who were waving farewell
to her from the end of the pier. For some time she could see them
distinctly, could tell which was Aunt Mary and which Arthur. Then
the figures on the pier began to melt into each other, the waving
handkerchiefs became mere white specks in the distance, and Ruth
looked up to find Uncle Jerry watching her with quizzical gaze.

"I don't see why that band wants to play 'Home, Sweet Home,'" she
said impatiently as she turned away from the side. "I don't think
it's nice to work on people's feelings that way."

Uncle Jerry laughed. "You're not the first one who's thought that,"
he said consolingly. "Your aunt and a steamer chair are waiting
for you on the other side, so come along and look at your letters
and parcels."

"My aunt," repeated Ruth. "How ridiculous it seems to think of that
little young thing being my aunt."

"Not any more absurd, I'm sure, than that a little young thing like
me should be your uncle. I'm only five feet eleven, and a hundred
and eighty pounds in weight."

Ruth laughed merrily, as Uncle Jerry meant she should, and just
then they came to their chairs, and to the pretty new aunt smiling
a welcome.

"You were so absorbed that we left you for a moment while we secured
our chairs." she said as Ruth dropped down beside her.  "I'm glad
you've come, for I'm so anxious to know what's in these mysterious
packages."

"I brought them up from your stateroom in my bag," added Uncle
Jerry. "I thought you could entertain your youthful uncle and aunt
by taking out one at a time. Sort of a grab-bag arrangement, you
know."

Ruth drew out one of the packages and looked at it curiously.  "That's
Katharine's writing," she said, as she studied the address. Inside
was a round flat pincushion made of blue velvet and embroidered with
a spray of apple-blossoms. Around its edge was a fancy arrangement
of pins of all colors, and fastened at the back hung a sort of
needle-book with leaves of coarse net in which were run invisible
hairpins. On a sheet of paper was written in Alice's small, neat
hand:

Pins for your collar and pins for your hair, Pins for your belt,
and some to spare For any old thing you may want to do. And not
only pins, but our love so true We send in this little package to
you.             Katharine--Alice.

"Isn't that dear of them?" cried Ruth. "I suppose they made it,
and I shall hang it up in my room just as soon as I get a room."

Number two proved to be a letter from Charlotte, and as Ruth opened
it a dainty handkerchief trimmed with narrow lace insertion and
bordered with pink wash ribbon dropped into her lap.

"DEAR OLD RUTH" (the letter ran):

"Don't fall overboard when I tell you I trimmed this handkerchief
myself, and more than that, don't look at the stitches. I thought
I couldn't show my devotion to you more than by poking a needle in
and out.

"Glenloch won't seem the same without you, and I can't bear to
think you've really gone. Do write to me often and tell me all the
interesting things you see and do.

"I can hear weeping and wailing out in the yard, and I know the
twins are into some mischief, so I must stop.

"Love to Uncle and Aunt Jerry from "Yours disconsolately, "CHARLOTTE."

"I should say that was devotion," said Ruth much touched.  "Charlotte
hates sewing, and that handkerchief must have been awfully fussy
to do. But isn't that a nice name she's given you, Aunt Jerry? I
like that and think I shall use it."

The next package was a small book from Marie, filled with little
water-color sketches of Glenloch. Ruth and Mrs. Jerry took such a
long time over it that Uncle Jerry got quite impatient, and threatened
to draw the next one himself if Ruth didn't hurry.

This time she brought out a rolled sheet of paper, and opening it
found a snapshot of Betty's merry face stuck in the centre, and
all around her a circle of kitten pictures. At the bottom she had
written:

"DEAR RUTH:

"Once a lady told me that nothing tasted so good to her on shipboard
as some home-made cookies some one had given her, so I thought I'd
try it for you. I packed them in a new tin pail with a tight cover,
and I hope they'll keep crisp until you can eat them.

"Arthur promised to leave them in your stateroom, so if you don't
find them you'll know it's his fault.

"I shall go in often and pet Fuzzy so that he won't miss you too
much.

"Yours with love and kisses,

"BETTY."

"Isn't that Betty all over?" said Mrs. Jerry with a laugh. "So
practical and helpful and anxious to comfort some one, if it's only
a kitten."

"That accounts for the package down below that I didn't bring up,"
said Uncle Jerry. "I didn't realize it belonged to Ruth."

"Those cookies will taste good," laughed Ruth. "She couldn't have
sent anything more--more Bettyesque."

The next thing was carefully packed and required much unwrapping,
but as the last paper was taken off Ruth squealed with delight over
a little traveling clock in a brown leather case. Enclosed with
it were five cards each bearing a message. The first one that she
read said in a small, even hand:

"This clock is to tick away the hours until you come back to us.
Please hurry so that it won't get too tired.--PHIL."

Then a boyish-looking writing announced, "'Time and tide wait for
no man,' but Glenloch and the Candle Club will wait for the nicest
girl that ever came out of the West.--JACK."

"Dear me! Am I blushing, Aunt Jerry?" asked Ruth quite overpowered
by this last tribute. "This next is Frank's; I know his funny,
scrawly writing."

"'Backward, turn backward, oh, Time in thy flight.' Give us our
Ruth again just for to-night."

"Isn't that neat and sentimental? Now I shall go in and play and
sing 'My Bonnie lies over the Ocean.' Aren't you glad you're out
of ear-shot?--Frank."

Card number four was enlivened by a funny drawing of a boy with
his fists in his eyes standing in a pool of tears, and under it
the inscription: "Bert; his feelings to a T."

The last card said in writing so small that Ruth could hardly read
it:

"Dear Ruth:

"Hope you'll like the clock. We know you are fond of a good
time(-keeper). I am growing thin because I miss you so. Not a morsel
of food has passed my lips to-day; it has all gone in. My kindest
regards to Emperor William.

"Love to Uncle Jerry and Mrs. Jerry.

"Yours,"

"Joe."

Ruth sat back in her chair quite overwhelmed by her latest gift.
"Isn't that a dear clock, and aren't they perfectly dandy boys?"
she asked as she fished around in the bag which was growing empty.

"Here's something from Dolly," she added as she drew out a tiny
package with a note attached.

"DEAR RUTH" (the note said):

"I've decided not to be jealous any more, and just to prove it I'm
sending you my heart.

"Do write soon to

"Yours lovingly, DOROTHY."

Ruth hastened to open the package and found in a little box a tiny,
gold heart. "How lovely! Dolly heard me say I wanted one of these
little hearts," she said in a satisfied tone. "And isn't it sweet
of her to forgive me for letting Uncle Jerry marry you?" she added
with a laugh.

"Now there are just two more packages; a small and a large. Which
shall I take?"

"Take the large one; you've just opened a small one," advised Uncle
Jerry.

Ruth pulled out a large, square package, and opened it to find a
handsome album filled with snapshots of Glenloch scenes and Glenloch
friends.

"That's from Arthur, I know, though it doesn't say so, and that's
what he's been so busy and secret over all these last weeks."

Ruth turned the leaves knowing that here, at least, she should
find an unfailing source of pleasure. There were single pictures
and groups of all the girls and boys she knew best, some of them
so funny she could hardly see for laughing. There was Joe as the
nice old lady; all the Candle Club boys in the costumes they wore at
the last party; Ruth herself starting off on Peter Pan for a ride
with Uncle Henry; Fuzzy in his most bewitching attitudes; and others
so suggestive of the good times that had been that Ruth finally
closed the book with almost a sigh.

"Well, now for the last package," she said diving into the bag.
"Oh, here's a note from Arthur that I didn't find before." She
tucked the envelope down in her lap, and opened first the little
box to which was attached a note from Mrs. Hamilton. In the box
was a brooch, a holly wreath in delicate greenish gold with tiny
rubies for berries. The note said:

"DEAREST OF BORROWED DAUGHTERS:

"This is from Uncle Henry and me to remind you of the Christmas
when you did so much for us. I am beginning to miss you even as
I write this, and I don't like to think of our home without you.
Come to us again soon. With much love,

"AUNT MARY."

Ruth's eyes were suspiciously misty as she held the note and the
little box out to Mrs. Jerry. "You'll have to read that for yourself,"
she said with a choke in her voice.

Then she opened Arthur's note, which began:

"DEAR RUTH:

"This is not a sell, but a real secret. Father has just told me
that if everything goes well we three will take a trip abroad next
year and meet you and your father. We want you to travel with us
if we do. Isn't that great? You can tell your people, but we don't
want it told in Glenloch just yet. I'm going to work like everything
this fall so that when the time comes there won't be anything on
my part to keep us from going.

"Keep jolly, and remember that you're a Glenloch girl and must come
back to us before long.

Yours, ARTHUR."

"Here's a grand surprise, and you two can be in the secret," she
said as she handed the note to Uncle Jerry. "Isn't it fine to think
that the Glenloch good times haven't come to an end?" she continued.
"Do you remember the story of the 'Princess and the Goblins,' and
how the little Princess always felt safe so long as she held one end
of her fairy grandmother's thread? Well, I feel as if I am taking
with me the ends of any number of threads; one from each of the
girls, and a very important one from Aunt Mary, and a great many
others, too. I'm going to keep tight hold of them all, and some
day they will pull me back to Glenloch, I'm sure."

Ruth sat silent for some time looking out with eyes that hardly saw
the heavenly blue of the sky, or the sparkle of the waves as they
rose and fell in the sunshine. Then, as though her spirit had already
traversed the unending stretch of ocean, she said with a throb of
exultation in her voice:

"Now, six days of this, and then Germany and--my father."

Other Stories in this Series are GLENLOCH GIRLS ABROAD
GLENLOCH GIRLS' CLUB GLENLOCH GIRLS AT CAMP WEST





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