A LITTLE MAID OF OLD PHILADELPHIA
ALICE TURNER CURTIS
A LITTLE MAID OF PROVINCE TOWN A LITTLE MAID OF MASSACHUSETTS COLONY A LITTLE MAID OF NARRAGANSETT BAY A LITTLE MAID OF BUNKER HILL A LITTLE MAID OF TICONDEROGA A LITTLE MAID OF OLD CONNECTICUT A LITTLE MAID OF OLD MAINE
Illustrated by Edna Cooke
The Penn Publishing Company Philadelphia 1921 Copyright 1919 by The Penn Publishing Company
A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia
Ruth Pernell and Winifred Merrill lived in Philadelphia. The city had been for some time in the hands of General Howe and the British army. Ruth's father was with Washington at Valley Forge, and the little girls were ardent supporters of the American cause, and admirers of the gallant young Frenchman, the Marquis DE Lafayette.
Children in 1778 were much like those of to-day, and Ruth and her friends, eager as they were for the war to end successfully, were fond of dolls and pets, and games and little plays. Yet they kept their ears open, and when Ruth overheard what two British soldiers said she knew how to make good use of her knowledge.
In each of the other "Little Maid" books is the story of an American girl during the Revolution. The other stories are: "A Little Maid of Province Town," "A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony." "A Little Maid of Bunker Hill," "A Little Maid of Narragansett Bay," "A Little Maid of Ticonderoga," "A Little Maid of Old Connecticut."
I. HERO IS LOST 9
II. GILBERT AND LAFAYETTE 19
III. RUTH VISITS GENERAL HOWE 28
IV. AUNT DEBORAH IS SURPRISED 37
V. RUTH DECIDES 43
VI. A DIFFICULT DAY 53
VII. GILBERT'S PLAY 62
VIII. BETTY RUNS AWAY 72
IX. BETTY'S ADVENTURE 84
X. THE LOST PROGRAMME 92
XI. A LONG ROAD 102
XII. A LONG RIDE 113
XIII. HOME AGAIN 123
XIV. THE CANDY DISAPPEARS 133
XV. A FAIRY STORY 142
XVI. BETTY AND ANNETTE 151
XVII. QUEEN BETTY 161
XVIII. A GREAT RESOLVE 171
XIX. THE VISIT 182
XX. LAFAYETTE'S VISIT 193
XXI. AT HOME 205
SHE LOOKED UP TO FIND LAFAYETTE SMILING AT HER FRONTISPIECE
"'TIS A LADY COMING TO CALL" 33
IT WAS A FAVORITE PLAY-HOUSE 95
"THE FIRST OF MAY IS GARLAND DAY" 162
THE BIG HORSE TROTTED DOWN THE STREET 190
A Little Maid of Old Philadelphia
HERO IS LOST
"Where do you suppose Hero can be, Aunt Deborah? He isn't anywhere about the house, or in the shed or the garden," and Ruth Pernell's voice sounded as if she could hardly keep back the tears as she stood in the doorway of the pleasant kitchen where Aunt Deborah was at work.
"Do you suppose the British have taken him?" she asked a little fearfully; for it was the spring of 1778, when the British troops were in Philadelphia, and Ruth was quite sure that every English soldier who saw Hero must want him for his own. The dog was her dearest possession. On her tenth birthday, nearly a year before, her father had given her Hero for a birthday present; and now that her father was with Washington's army his gift seemed even more precious to his little daughter.
Aunt Deborah looked at Ruth for a moment before she answered, and Ruth became conscious that her brown hair was rough and untidy from running about the garden in the March wind, that her hands were not clean, and that there was an ugly rent in her blue checked apron where it had caught on a nail in the shed.
"Was it not yesterday that thee declared Hero was stolen, only to find that he had followed Winifred Merrill home? And on Sunday, thee was sure he had been killed, because he did not appear the first time thee called," responded Aunt Deborah reprovingly. Aunt Deborah was not very large, and her smooth round face under the neat cap, such as Quaker women wear, was usually smiling and friendly; but it always seemed to Ruth that no least bit of dirt or untidiness ever escaped those gray eyes.
"Do you suppose he is at Winifred's? I wish she wouldn't let him follow her," and Ruth's tone was troubled. Of course Winifred was her dearest friend, but Ruth was not willing that Hero should divide his loyalty.
"Very likely," responded Aunt Deborah, "but thee must smooth thy hair, wash thy hands and change thy apron before thee goes to inquire; and put on thy hat. It is not seemly for a girl to run about the street bareheaded."
"Oh, Aunt Deborah! Only to go next door!" pleaded Ruth, but Aunt Deborah only nodded; so Ruth went to her own room and in a few minutes was back tying the broad brown ribbons of her hat under her chin as she ran through the kitchen.
"I do hope Mother will come home soon," the little girl thought as she went down the front steps to the street; "Aunt Deborah is so fussy."
Mrs. Pernell had been away for a week caring for her sister who lived in Germantown, near Philadelphia, and who was ill; and Aunt Deborah Mary Farleigh had come in from her home at Barren Hill, twelve miles distant, to stay with Ruth during Mrs. Pernell's absence.
As Ruth ran up the steps of her friend's house the front door opened, and Winifred appeared.
"Oh, Ruthie! Where are you going?" she asked smilingly.
Winifred was just a month older than Ruth, and they were very nearly the same size. They both had blue eyes; but Ruth's hair was of a darker brown than Winifred's. They had both attended the same school until Lord Cornwallis with his troops entered Philadelphia; since that time each little girl had been taught at home.
"Is Hero here?" Ruth asked, hardly noticing her friend's question.
Winifred shook her head.
"Are you sure, Winifred? Perhaps he ran in your garden and you didn't see him," said Ruth.
"Well, we'll see. We'll call him," Winifred replied, holding the door open for Ruth to come in.
The Merrill and Pernell houses were separated by a high brick wall, and each house stood near the street with broad gardens on each side as well as at the rear.
The two friends went through the house, and out on a narrow porch and Ruth called, "Hero! Hero!" but there was no welcoming bark, no sight of the brown shepherd dog. They went about the yard calling, and Winifred's older brother Gilbert, who was preparing a garden bed near the further wall, assured them that the dog had not been there that morning.
"Then he is lost! What shall I do!" said Ruth despairingly. "I do believe the English have taken him. Only yesterday, on Second Street, when Aunt Deborah and I were coming home, an officer patted him and called him a 'fine dog,'" she continued quickly.
Gilbert and Winifred both looked very serious at this statement. Gilbert was fourteen years old. He was tall for his age, and thought himself quite old enough to be a soldier; but as his father and elder brother were both in Washington's army he realized that he must stay at home and take care of his mother and Winifred.
"I have a mind to go straight to High Street and tell General Howe," said Ruth, "for I heard my mother say that the English general would not permit his soldiers to take what did not belong to them."
Gilbert shook his head soberly.
"That may be true; but you are not sure that your dog has been stolen," he said. "You had best wait a while. Hero may have wandered off and may come home safely. I'd not ask any favors of America's enemies," he concluded, picking up his spade and turning back to his work.
"It wouldn't be a favor to ask for what belonged to me," Ruth answered sharply. But Gilbert's words made her more hopeful; Winifred was sure that Gilbert was right, and that Hero would come safely home.
"Come up to my room, Ruthie; Mother has given me her scrap-bag. I can have all the pieces of silk and chintz to make things for my dolls, and you can pick out something to make your Cecilia a bonnet, and perhaps a cape."
"Oh! Truly, Winifred?" responded Ruth, almost forgetting Hero in this tempting offer. The two little girls ran up the broad stairway to Winifred's room, which was at the back of the house overlooking the garden. The two windows had broad window-seats, and on one of these, in a small chair, made of stiff pasteboard and covered with a flowered chintz, sat "Josephine," Winifred's most treasured doll. Josephine wore a very full skirt of crimson silk, a cape of the same material, and on her head rested a bonnet of white silk, on the front of which was a tall white feather. There were two smaller dolls, and each occupied a chair exactly like the one in which Josephine was seated, but neither of them was so beautifully dressed.
"I made that bonnet myself," Winifred declared, as Ruth knelled down beside the dolls and exclaimed admiringly over Josephine's fine apparel. "And that feather is one that came floating into our garden. Gilbert says it's an eagle's feather," she continued.
"It is lovely!" Ruth said, "and this window is the nicest place to play dolls in all Philadelphia. And these dolls' chairs are splendid. I wish I had one for Cecilia."
"Well, why don't you make one? I helped Grandma make these. All you have to do is cut the pieces out of cardboard, cover them with cloth, and sew them together. I'll help you," said Winifred, as she opened a closet door and drew out a brown linen bag.
"This is the scrap-bag. Look, Ruthie;" and she drew out a long strip of plaided silk.
"That would make a lovely sash for Cecilia," said Ruth, "but of course it would be nice for Josephine," she added quickly, half-afraid that she had seemed grasping of Winifred's possessions.
"Josephine doesn't like a sash," said Winifred. "You take it home and tell Cecilia it's a present from Aunt Winifred."
Then there was a roll of small pieces of pale blue satin; just right to make a bonnet for Ruth's doll.
For some time the little girls played happily with the bright pieces of silk, selecting bits for one or the other of the dolls, so that when the big clock in the hall struck twelve Ruth jumped up in surprise.
"Oh, Winnie! It's dinner-time! What will Aunt Deborah say to me?" she exclaimed, putting on her hat, and gathering up the silk pieces.
"Thank you, Winnie! I must run. Aunt Deborah doesn't like me to be late, ever," she said, hurrying toward the stairway.
"Come over to-morrow and I'll help you make a doll's chair; and I hope you'll find Hero safe at home," Winifred called after her as Ruth ran down the stairs.
At Winifred's words all Ruth's pleasure in the morning's play, in the pretty bits of silk for her dolls, and the plan for making the chairs, vanished. Hero was lost; she knew he was. With his silky coat, and his faithful, soft brown eyes, his eager bark of welcome when his little mistress came running into the garden for a game of hide-and-go-seek with him.
Aunt Deborah had spread the table for dinner, which was one of Ruth's regular duties; and when Ruth came slowly into the room she was just bringing in a dish of baked potatoes hot from the oven.
"I didn't find Hero," said Ruth, throwing her little package of silks on a chair and then her hat on top of it. "What shall I do, Aunt Deborah? What shall I do? I am sure one of those English soldiers has taken him," and now Ruth began to cry.
"Ruth! Stop thy foolish crying. Thy dinner is waiting. Go to thy room and make thyself tidy," commanded Aunt Deborah, "and take thy hat and package," she added.
Ruth obeyed rather reluctantly. "All Aunt Deborah thinks about is keeping 'tidy,'" she whispered rebelliously as she left the room. "I've washed my hands three times already to-day. She doesn't care if Hero is lost. Probably she's glad, because his paws are dirty."
But Ruth was mistaken; Aunt Deborah had spent an hour that morning in going up and down the alley looking for the missing dog, and in a careful search of the house and garden. She valued Hero's faithfulness; and not even Ruth herself would have been more pleased than Aunt Deborah to hear his bark, and see him jump forward from his usual playground in the garden.
"Perhaps Hero has wandered off," Aunt Deborah said when Ruth took her place at the table, "but he will come back, I doubt not, before nightfall."
"If he doesn't I shall go and tell the British General that he must find him," declared Ruth, somewhat to Aunt Deborah's amusement; who was quite sure that the little girl would not dare to approach General Howe, who had comfortably established himself in one of the fine houses on High Street.
GILBERT AND LAFAYETTE
Two days passed and there was no tidings of the missing dog; and even Aunt Deborah began to fear that they should never see him again. It was very difficult for Ruth to attend to the tasks that Aunt Deborah set for her; for all she could think of was Hero.
Gilbert Merrill had gone about the city making inquiries, but no one had seen Hero, or could tell him anything about Ruth's dog. Aunt Deborah was very sorry for her little niece, but she still insisted that Ruth should dust the dining-room as carefully each morning as if Hero was safe in the yard; that the little girl should knit her stint on the gray wool sock, intended for some loyal soldier, and sew for a half hour each afternoon.
Ruth dropped stitches in her knitting, for a little blur of tears hid her work from sight when she thought that perhaps her dear Hero might be hurt, unable to find his way home; or perhaps he was shut up somewhere by some cruel person who did not care if he was fed or not.
Aunt Deborah was very patient with the little girl. She picked up the dropped stitches in the knitting; and when she found how uneven a seam Ruth was stitching she picked out the threads without a word of reproof.
But on the second day, as they sat at work in the little sewing-room at the top of the stairs, Ruth threw down her knitting and began to cry.
"I can't knit! I can't do anything until Hero is found. You know I can't, Aunt Deborah. And I do wish my mother would come home," she sobbed.
Aunt Deborah did not speak for a moment. She had no little girls of her own, and she often feared that she might not know what was exactly right for her little niece. So she never spoke hastily.
"For thy sake, dear child, I wish that thy mother were here: but it is very pleasant for me to have thy company, Ruth," she said in her musical, even voice. "Would thee not like to go and play with Winifred? But be sure thy hair is smooth."
But Ruth made no reply. She stopped crying, however, and looked up at Aunt Deborah.
"Didn't you like Hero?" she asked.
Aunt Deborah knitted on until she came to the last stitch on her needle, then she lay down her work, and looked at Ruth with her pleasant smile.
"Indeed, I liked Hero," she said; "but suppose I decided that because he was lost I would no longer prepare thy breakfast or dinner? that I would not see that thy mother's house was in order. Thee would truly think I had but little sense. It does not prove thy liking to cry because thy dog is lost; to fix thy thoughts on thy own feelings and leave thy tasks for me to do. It does not help bring Hero back. Now, put on thy hat and cape and we will walk toward the river. I have an errand to do," and Aunt Deborah got up and went to her own room to put on her long gray cape and the gray bonnet that she always wore on the street.
She was waiting in the front hall when Ruth came slowly down the stairs. She had put on her brown straw hat, whose ribbons tied beneath her chin, and the pretty cape of blue cloth; for there was a sharp little March wind, although the sun shone brightly. Ruth's face was very sober; there were traces of tears on her cheeks. She wished that she had said she would rather play with Winifred; but it was too late now.
"We need many things, but I fear 'twill not be easy to purchase either good cotton cloth or a package of pepper," Aunt Deborah said as they turned on to Second Street. "There was but little in the shops when the British came, and of that little they have taken for themselves so there is not much left for the people."
"They have taken Hero, I know they have!" Ruth replied. "I wish Washington would come and drive the English out."
"Oh! Ho! So here is a small rebel declaring treason right to the face of an officer of the King!" and Ruth, surprised and frightened, felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to find a tall soldier in a red coat with shining buttons and bands of gilt looking at her with evident amusement.
"You had best whisper such words as those, young lady," he added sternly, and passed on, leaving Ruth and Aunt Deborah standing surprised and half-frightened.
"This is an American city," Aunt Deborah announced calmly, as they walked on. "These intruders can stay but a time. But they have sharp ears, indeed. Does thee know why thy father named thy dog 'Hero'?" she continued, looking down at Ruth.
"Oh, yes! Father said 'hero' meant courage and honor; and so it was the right name for such a fine dog," Ruth answered quickly. "Aunt Deborah! What was that?" she added, stopping short. For she had heard a familiar bark.
But Aunt Deborah had heard nothing. They were passing a house where a number of soldiers were sitting on the porch smoking.
"I heard Hero bark. He is in that house," Ruth declared, and before Aunt Deborah could say a word to prevent such a rash act Ruth had run up the steps.
"Have you found a lost dog, if you please?" she asked, half-frightened, when she found herself facing two red-faced soldiers who looked at her as if she were some wild bird that had flown to the porch. Before they could reply Aunt Deborah's hand was on Ruth's arm, and the little girl heard her aunt saying: "Thee must pardon the child. She has lost her dog, and is greatly troubled. She means no harm."
The younger of the two men stood up and bowed politely, and held his hat in his hand until Aunt Deborah had led Ruth back to the street; but neither of the men had answered her question.
"Oh, Aunt Deborah! What made you? I know Hero is in that house. I heard him bark. You spoiled it all," sobbed Ruth, as Aunt Deborah, holding her fast by the hand, hurried toward home, quite forgetting the errands she wished to do.
Aunt Deborah sighed to herself. She began to fear that Ruth was a difficult child; and that perhaps she did not know the right way to deal with little girls. But she did not reprove Ruth either for her rash act or for speaking with so little regard of Aunt Deborah's authority.
"May I go in and see Winifred?" Ruth asked when they reached home, and Aunt Deborah gave her permission.
"Oh, Winifred! I know where Hero is," Ruth declared, as the two friends went up to Winifred's room, and she hastened to tell the adventures of the walk with Aunt Deborah.
"I am going back after him, Winifred, and you must come with me," she concluded.
But Winifred said that her mother was out, and that she must not leave the house until her return. She looked at Ruth admiringly.
"I think you were brave, Ruth, to ask those soldiers. But I don't believe they would give you back Hero if you do go back. Perhaps they would make you a prisoner," she said a little fearfully; and at last Ruth reluctantly agreed not to go after the dog that day. The little girls decided that the best way would be to go straight to General Howe and tell him that one of his soldiers had taken Hero, and was keeping him from his rightful owner.
"I'll go to-morrow. But we must not let Aunt Deborah know," said Ruth, and Winifred promised to keep the plan a secret.
Now that there seemed a hope of rescuing her dog Ruth was nearly her own happy self again. Winifred got out some squares of pasteboard and very carefully marked out patterns of the back and sides, as well as for the seat, for the dolls' chair. Then she went to find Gilbert to borrow his knife with which to cut the cardboard; and before Ruth started for home the pieces were all ready to be covered. As the two little friends sat in the pleasant window-seat Winifred said: "What do you think, Ruthie! Gilbert wants to change his name. He wants us to call him Lafayette!" and Winifred laughed, as if she thought the idea very funny.
"Why, I think that is splendid!" Ruth replied, her blue eyes shining at the thought of a "Lafayette" next door to her own home. For all the children of Philadelphia knew the story of the brave young Frenchman, hardly more than a boy himself, who had left all the comforts of his Paris home to share the danger and privations of the American soldiers. He had visited Philadelphia the previous summer, 1777, soon after his arrival in America. Gilbert had seen the handsome young officer, and ever since then he had pleaded that he might be called "Lafayette" instead of Gilbert.
"If I were a boy I should wish my name 'Lafayette,'" declared Ruth. "I wish we could do something for him, don't you, Winifred?"
"Yes; but what could two little girls do for him? Why, he is a hero, and a friend of Washington's," Winifred responded. Neither Ruth nor Winifred imagined that it would be only a few months before one of them would do a great service for the gallant young Frenchman.
RUTH VISITS GENERAL HOWE
Aunt Deborah was unusually quiet in her manner toward her little niece when Ruth came home with the cardboard ready to be covered. She did not ask Ruth to set the table for supper, but began to spread the cloth herself.
"I will do that, Aunt Deborah. You know I always do," Ruth said, laying down the parts for the dolls' chair, and coming toward the table.
"I will do it. Thou mayst go to thy room, Ruth; I will call thee when supper is ready," Aunt Deborah replied, without a glance at the little girl.
Ruth felt her face flush uncomfortably as she suddenly recalled the way in which she had spoken to Aunt Deborah after her aunt had led her away from the porch where the English soldiers were sitting, and where Ruth was sure Hero was hidden. She went up the stairs very slowly to her own chamber, a small room opening from the large front room where Aunt Deborah slept. She sat down near the window, feeling not only ashamed but very unhappy.
"If my mother were only here I shouldn't be sent off up-stairs. I don't like Aunt Deborah," she exclaimed, and looked up to see her aunt standing in the doorway.
For a moment the two looked at each other, and Ruth could see that Aunt Deborah was trying very hard to keep back the tears. Then the door closed, very softly, and Ruth was again alone.
"Oh, dear," she whispered, "and I promised my mother to do everything I could to help Aunt Deborah, and now she heard me say that I don't like her," and Ruth leaned her head against the arm of the big chair in which she had curled up and began to cry, quite sure that no little girl in all Philadelphia had as much reason for unhappiness as herself.
After a little she wiped her eyes, and began to think over her misfortunes: First of all, Hero was lost. Then came all the troubles that, it seemed to Ruth, Aunt Deborah was to blame for. As she said them over to herself they appeared sufficient reasons for her dislike: "She is always fussing. Always telling me to brush my hair, or wash my hands, or not to soil my dress. And I do believe she is glad that Hero is lost, and does not wish me to find him because he brings dirt into the house."
As Ruth finished a sudden resolve came into her mind. She would not wait for the next day before going to General Howe to tell her story of Hero's disappearance, and of being sure that he had been taken by an English soldier. She would go at once. If she waited perhaps Aunt Deborah would find some way of preventing the carrying out of the plan.
"Perhaps if General Howe thought I was a grown-up lady, or nearly grown up, he would pay more attention than to what a little girl might ask," thought Ruth. And then a great idea flashed into her mind: she would pretend to be grown up.
"I'll wear Mother's best dress, and do up my hair and wear her bonnet," she decided; and opening her chamber door she ran through Aunt Deborah's room to the deep closet where her mother's best dress, a pretty gown of russet-colored silk, was hanging. Ruth pulled it down, slipped it on over her dress of stout brown gingham, and began to fasten it.
"I didn't know my mother was so big," she thought regretfully, as she managed to turn back the long sleeves, and glanced down at the full breadths of the skirt which lay in a big waving circle about her feet. "I'll have to hold it up as high as I can to walk at all."
In a few minutes the dress was fastened, and she managed to pin up her hair; and now she drew out the bandbox containing her mother's best bonnet. It was made of a pretty shade of brown velvet, with a wreath of delicate green leaves, and strings of pale green ribbon.
Ruth tied the strings firmly under her chin. The bonnet came well down over her face, nearly hiding her ears, but the little girl thought this was very fortunate, as it would prevent any one discovering who she was, if she should happen to meet any friend or acquaintance.
She began to feel hurried and a little afraid that Aunt Deborah might call her to supper before she could escape from the house. Holding up the brown silk skirt, and stepping very carefully, she made her way down the stairs, opened the front door, and with a long breath of relief, found herself standing on the front porch.
The late afternoon was already growing shadowy with the approach of twilight; and there was no one to be seen on the quiet street as Ruth, holding her skirt up in front while the sides and back trailed about her on the dirty pavement, walked hurriedly along toward High Street.
"I'll walk more like a grown-up lady when I get near the General's house," she resolved. "Won't Winifred be surprised when she knows that the English General thought I really was grown up?" and Ruth gave a little laugh of delight at the thought of her friend's astonishment, quite forgetting all the troubles that had seemed so overpowering an hour before.
As she turned into High Street she found herself facing the amused stare of two young ladies who were hurrying home from an afternoon walk.
"I suppose they were laughing because I was holding up my skirt," thought Ruth, quite unconscious of her absurd appearance, "but I'll have to, for I couldn't walk a step if I didn't," she decided.
Two English soldiers were on guard at the entrance of the fine mansion that the English General had taken from its rightful owner for his own use; and as Ruth, now half afraid to go up the steps, stood looking up at them a little fearfully, one of them noticed the queer little figure, and, quite forgetting his dignity, chuckled with amusement.
"Look, Dick! Here is a lady admiring our fine uniforms," he said, calling his companion's attention to Ruth, whose gown now trailed about her, and whose bonnet had slipped to one side.
"'Tis a lady coming to call on the General," responded "Dick," with a wink at the first speaker.
"Did you wish to see General Howe, madam?" he continued, looking down at Ruth, while his companion chuckled with delight.
"Yes, if you please," Ruth managed to reply, beginning to feel a little afraid, and wishing that she had waited until the next day when Winifred might have come with her.
"Kindly walk up the steps, madam, and I will announce you to the General," continued the young soldier, welcoming the hope of a little amusement to break the monotony of his daily duties.
Ruth obeyed, stumbling a little as she reached the top.
"And what name shall I say?" Dick asked, bowing very low.
"Mistress Ruth Dilling ham Pernell, if you please, sir," Ruth replied, gaining a little courage, and trying to stand as tall as possible, hardly sure if the young soldier was really laughing at her, or if he believed her dress to be a proof of at least twenty years of experience.
"'Twill be good sport for the General and his friends. They are just sitting down to dinner," "Dick" whispered to the other guard, as he swung open the big door and ushered Ruth into the hall, and then led the way toward the dining-room.
"What nonsense is this, Dick? We are not rehearsing any play just now," called a gay voice; and Ruth and the young soldier were confronted by a tall officer whom Ruth instantly recognized as the same who had called her a "rebel" that very afternoon on Second Street.
She became really frightened. Suppose he should remember her, and tell General Howe what she had said about Washington driving the English from the city? It might be that, just as Winifred had said, and they would put her in prison. She wished she were safely at home with Aunt Deborah. But "Dick" was speaking to the handsome young officer.
"Ah, now, Major Andre, 'twill be as good as any comedy you have seen in South Street," he declared, "and the General will be well pleased. No harm shall come to the child."
"Well, I'll not interfere. This is a dull town at best," responded the young officer laughingly, and without another glance at Ruth, he entered the dining-room, with a word to the soldier who stood at the door. The big door was now swung wide open by two servants in the livery of the English General. Just beyond them stood Major Andre, who bowed very low as Ruth entered, and said:
"General Howe, a lady who greatly desires to ask a favor of you," and Ruth found herself on the threshold of the beautiful room whose paneled walls were brilliantly lighted by many wax candles in silver sconces. The table was handsomely spread with fine china, glass and silver; and about it were seated a number of English officers.
"More comedy, Andre!" called a pleasant voice; "kindly bring the lady this way," and General Howe rose from his seat at the head of the table, and instantly all his guests were on their feet.
Major Andre held out his hand to Ruth. She well knew that this was the proper moment to make her best curtsy, and in spite of the clumsy skirt, the bonnet which kept nodding over her face, and the long sleeves that had slipped down over her hands, she managed to make a not ungraceful curtsy.
There was a little murmur of applause, and Major Andre smiled kindly upon her, and taking her hand led her toward the head of the table with as much grace and courtesy as if he were handing Miss Peggy Ship pen herself, one of the beauties of the town, to a seat at General Howe's dinner table.
"You are a most welcome guest," declared the English General smilingly, as Ruth stood before him. "I understand you have a favor to ask of me. Whatever it is you may be very sure I will be most happy to grant it," and he smiled down at the queer little figure, quite sure that his young officer Major Andre had planned the whole affair for his amusement.
"If you please, sir, I want my dog," said Ruth falteringly.
AUNT DEBORAH IS SURPRISED
Years after, when Ruth was really "grown up," she often recalled the wonderful night when she sat at General Howe's dinner-table. For Major Andre had lifted her to a seat beside the General; with a friendly word he untied the bonnet-strings and put the bonnet on a side table; and Ruth began to think that it was all a dream from which she would soon awaken to find herself safely at home. She wondered if it really were Ruth Pernell who was answering the General's questions about the missing Hero.
"I can do no less than try to find your dog, little maid," he said, "for when my own dog wandered away to General Washington's camp, in the Germantown fray, the General sent him back to me under the protection of a flag of truce; so, as you tell me your father is with Washington, I must see to it that Hero is found. That is, if one of my soldiers has so far forgotten orders as to have taken him," for the English General took every care that his soldiers should do no harm to the residents of the city.
Ruth was sure that she knew the very house where she had heard Hero's bark; and now that General Howe had promised that a search should be made she was eager to go home, and slid out of the chair just as a servant set a plate before her.
"I must go home. I—I—ran away," she said a little falteringly, looking up at the tall General. "Will you please find Hero the first thing to-morrow?"
"Here, Andre! the young lady wishes to return home," said the General, "and see to it that you take her there safely, and that you find the lost Hero. And find a better plot for your next comedy," the General added, as the young officer came forward.
Ruth wondered what "comedy" meant. She did not know that Major Andre, whose gay good humor and charming manner made him a favorite with all, was depended upon to furnish amusement for his brother officers; or that they had at first believed that Ruth, stumbling into the dining-room dressed as a woman, was the first act of some amusing play of Andre's contriving.
Now that it proved she was only a runaway little girl looking for a lost dog they found it amusing that the young officer should have the trouble of taking her home.
Ruth could never quite remember the manner in which the General bade her good-bye, or if she make her curtsy, or even thanked him for promising that Hero should be found.
Major Andre tied on her bonnet, and opening a door that led to a side entrance, led her to the street.
"Now tell me the way, and I'll have you home in a jiffy," he said pleasantly.
But it was no easy matter for Ruth to walk as rapidly as her companion; she stumbled over the skirt; the strings of her bonnet had slipped so that it kept bobbing over her eyes and had to be pushed back; and she was now so frightened at the thought of what Aunt Deborah would say that she hardly knew in what direction they were going until the young officer stopped at her own door and lifted the knocker whose rap was sure to bring Aunt Deborah hastening to answer it.
"You will not forget about Hero?" Ruth said as they stood on the steps.
"Indeed, I shall not. Be very sure I will do my best to find your dog. I will go to the house on Second Street early to-morrow," responded Andre, and the door swung open and Aunt Deborah, holding a candle in one hand, stood looking at them.
"Here is your little girl, madam; she has done no harm, I assure you. She did but make a friendly call on General Howe, who sent me to bring her safely home," said the young officer, hat in hand, and making his best bow.
"I thank thee for bringing the child home, sir," responded Aunt Deborah, drawing Ruth firmly over the threshold and closing the door before Major Andre could say another word. The young officer hurried back to the General's dinner-table, a little vexed that he had made so much needless trouble for himself by introducing the queer little girl to General Howe.
"Slip off thy mother's dress at once, before you do it further harm," said Aunt Deborah; and Ruth, not daring to look up, hastened to obey, as she stood in the dimly-lit hall.
"I—I—only went to look for Hero," Ruth tried to explain, after a moment's silence.
"So thee had to put on thy mother's very best gown; one that she does not wear herself save on great occasions," responded Aunt Deborah, taking up the silk dress out of which Ruth had just stepped. "It is probably ruined. Go straight to bed. Thou art a willful and unruly child," she continued, as Ruth started toward the stairway.
Aunt Deborah followed her, the dress over her arm, but she said no more until they reached Ruth's chamber.
"I believed thee safe in thy room. When thee did not come to supper I thought thee ashamed and sorry, because of the manner in which thou spoke to me; so I did not open the door. But no; thee was playing at being some one beside thy rightful self; and going to the house of an enemy against whom thy father is fighting. I know not what to say to thee, Ruth, nor how to make thee realize that thee has brought shame upon us," said Aunt Deborah.
Ruth was crying bitterly, and could make no response. Aunt Deborah took the candle and left the room, leaving Ruth to find her way into bed in the dark. She wished with all her heart that she had not worn her mother's silk gown and pretty bonnet. If they really were ruined she knew it would be a long time before her mother could replace them; for there was no extra money in the little household while America was fighting for her rightful liberties.
"None of them, not even General Howe, believed that I was really grown up. They were just laughing at me," she thought. "It would have been just as well if I had waited, and had asked Aunt Deborah if I might not go. Oh, dear! And now I have spoiled Mother's dress."
Ruth was so unhappy that she had quite forgotten that Hero might soon be restored to her.
Ruth slept late the next morning, and when she first awoke it was with the puzzled feeling of waking from a bad dream. Then slowly she remembered the happenings of the previous day.
The spring sunlight filled the room. From a hawthorn tree just below her window she could hear a robin singing as if there were nothing but sunshine and delight in all the world. And then the big clock in the hallway began to strike. "One! two! three! four! five! six! seven! eight! Nine!" counted the little girl, and with the last stroke she was out of bed.
Before she was dressed Aunt Deborah opened the door.
"Good-morning, Ruth," she said pleasantly, quite as if nothing had happened on the previous day, and that Ruth had not slept two hours later than usual. "I have brought thee thy breakfast; and thee may stay in thy room until I call thee," and Aunt Deborah set a small tray on the light stand near the window, and before Ruth could make any response she had left the room.
Ruth was very hungry. She had no supper on the previous night, and she now looked eagerly toward the little tray, which held only, a bowl and pitcher. The bowl was nearly full of porridge, and the pitcher of creamy milk.
That was all very well; and she ate it all, to the last spoonful. But usually there were hot corn muffins and a bit of bacon or an egg to follow the porridge, and Ruth was still hungry.
"Perhaps Aunt Deborah forgot," thought Ruth, "but I don't believe she did. Perhaps she is only provoked at me for being late for breakfast!"
Ruth shook up her pillows, turned back the blankets of her bed, and then went to the window and leaned out. There were two robins now on the top branch of the hawthorn, and for a moment she watched them, wondering if they were planning to build a nest there. The window overlooked the Merrill's' garden; and in a few minutes Ruth saw Gilbert coming along the path toward the wall.
"Lafayette! La-fay-Ettie!" she called. Gilbert looked about as if puzzled, and Ruth called again. "I'm up-stairs. Gil-Bert!" and at this the boy turned and looked up, and waved his hat in response.
"I've found Hero," she called. "Honest! And an English officer is going to bring him home this very morning."
"Come on over and tell Winifred," responded Gilbert. "She has something to tell you, too. Something fine."
"I can't come over this morning. I——" but before Ruth could say another word she felt a firm hand on her shoulder, and she was drawn into the room and the window closed, and Aunt Deborah was looking at her reprovingly.
"Ruth, why did thee think I wanted thee to stay up-stairs this morning?" she asked.
Ruth shook her head sullenly. She said to herself that no matter what Aunt Deborah might say she would not answer.
"Well, my child, then I must tell thee. I hoped thee would think over thy willfulness of yesterday; that thee would realize that thy conduct was such as would grieve and shame thy father and mother. Dost thou think it a small thing nearly to ruin thy mother's best gown? To go dressed as if in a play to the house of an enemy of thy country to ask a favor? And before that thee quite forgot thy good manners in rushing up the steps of that house on Second Street, and then speaking rudely to me, who have no wish but to be kind to thee and help thee be a good girl."
While Aunt Deborah was speaking Ruth looked up at her, a little frightened and sullen at first; then as she saw that Aunt Deborah's face was pale, that she looked as if she had been crying and was nearly ready to cry again, the little girl's heart softened, and she ran toward her aunt, saying:
"Oh, Aunt Deborah! I am sorry I spoke rudely to you. And when I said I did not like you it was only because I was cross and so unhappy about Hero. I do like you, truly I do. And, oh! I did not think about General Howe being our enemy; or that I would spoil Mother's pretty gown. I only thought about Hero." And now Ruth was sobbing, and Aunt Deborah's arm was about her.
But for a moment Aunt Deborah made no response; then she said:
"Dear child, thee has given me happiness again. And now let us both do our best until thy mother returns. But thee knows that it is right for thee to decide if thee should not be punished in some way, so that in future thee will remember not to lose thy temper, to remember thy manners; and above all not to stoop to deceit to gain thy wishes."
Aunt Deborah smiled happily at her little niece as she finished, as if quite sure that Ruth would welcome her suggestion.
Ruth smiled in response. She began to think it would be rather fine to decide on her own punishment, and resolved it should be even more severe than any Aunt Deborah would inflict.
"Yes, Aunt Deborah, I will stay up-stairs all day. And I will eat only porridge for my dinner and supper. I will not call from the window, and I will knit; and not even play with Cecilia," she said eagerly.
"Very well, dear child. But beside these things thee must say over to thyself the reason for thy punishment. Say to thyself: 'Not again will I be rude or unkind, not again will I be thoughtless of my behavior,'" said Aunt Deborah approvingly.
There was a loud knock at the front door, and Aunt Deborah hurried away to answer it. In a moment Ruth heard a joyous bark.
"It's Hero! It's Hero!" she exclaimed, running toward the door. But with her hand on the latch she stopped suddenly. She had promised that she would not leave the room that day. She had set her own punishment for rudeness, and for the thoughtlessness that had perhaps ruined her mother's dress.
"Oh! I wish I hadn't dressed up," she thought, as she turned slowly away from the door, thinking of Hero looking wistfully about for his little mistress. She knew that Aunt Deborah would be kind to him, but not to see Hero after he had been missing so long was a real punishment for the little girl, and she went back to the window and stood looking out wishing that for a punishment she had thought of something beside staying in her room all day.
As she looked out she saw that Gilbert was still in his garden, that Winifred was beside him, and that they were both making motions for her to open the window.
She shook her head soberly. She could see that Winifred was greatly excited about something, and was talking eagerly to her brother. They both looked up at Ruth's window and again motioned with waving arms for her to open it. After a few moments they seemed to realize that she had, for some reason they could not imagine, been forbidden to; and with a good-bye signal they both turned and ran toward the house.
"I do wonder what they wanted to tell me," thought Ruth. "Oh, dear! It is dreadful to stay up here when Hero is home, and when Winifred and Gilbert have a secret." She began to realize that she had set herself no light punishment.
"But it wouldn't be a punishment if I were enjoying it," she finally decided, and getting the half-finished sock from her knitting bag, she drew a small rocking-chair to the center of the room, seated herself and began resolutely to knit.
Now and then she could hear sounds from the rooms below; and once Ruth dropped her knitting and started toward the door, for she had heard Hero's plaintive whine as he waited for admittance. Then had come Aunt Deborah's voice calling him away sternly; and Ruth picked up her knitting, resolved to keep exactly to her promise. She wondered if Major Andre had sent Hero home in charge of "Dick," the smiling young soldier who had spoken to her on General Howe's door-steps. But most of all her thoughts centered about Winifred and Gilbert.
She heard the clock strike eleven, and realized that she was very hungry; and that an hour was a long time to wait before Aunt Deborah would bring her bowl of porridge. A shadow darkened the window, and she looked up with startled eyes to see Winifred's face pressed against the glass.
Ruth ran to the window. "How did you get up here?" she questioned in wonder.
"Open the window, quick!" Winifred responded in an anxious whisper. "The ladder wiggles about, and somebody may see me."
Ruth opened the window and Winifred crawled in, and suddenly the ladder disappeared.
"It's Gilbert. He promised to take it down as soon as I got in. What is the matter, Ruth? Has Aunt Deborah made you stay up-stairs? Did you know Hero was home? A soldier brought him." While Winifred talked she looked at Ruth anxiously, as if to make sure that nothing had really befallen her friend.
Ruth was smiling with delight at her unexpected visitor.
"Oh, Winifred! You were splendid to come up the ladder. I'm staying up-stairs to punish myself. I was rude to Aunt Deborah; and last night I dressed up in my mother's best dress and went to see General Howe!" Ruth answered.
Winifred was too surprised to reply, and Ruth went on telling of her sudden decision, and of the adventures that followed, and concluded with: "And of course I ought not to have dressed up, and I ought not to have run away. So now I am staying up-stairs all day, and all I am to have to eat is porridge and milk. I decided it myself," she concluded, not a little pleased at the thought.
"Why, Ruth Pernell!" exclaimed Winifred admiringly. "I don't know which is the most wonderful, your going to see General Howe, or your deciding to punish yourself. Begin at the time you reached the General's house and tell me everything up to now."
Ruth was quite ready to do this, and the two little friends seated themselves on the window-seat, Winifred listening admiringly while Ruth told over the story of the previous night. She had forgotten all about punishment; but a noise in the hallway and the sound of the clock striking the hour of noon made her stop suddenly in her whispered recital. "It's Aunt Deborah! Winifred, hide, quick! Under the bed," she said, at the same moment giving Winifred a little push.
Aunt Deborah came in smiling and inauspicious, with a well-filled bowl of porridge and a generous pitcher of milk on the tray. It had been a happy morning for Aunt Deborah. Hero was safe at home, none the worse for his adventures; and, best of all, Ruth of her own accord had declared herself to blame, and decided that her faults should be punished. It seemed to Aunt Deborah that after this she and her little niece would have no more misunderstandings. She thought it a fine thing that Ruth wished to stay by herself all that sunny spring day; and she was sure it was no light punishment.
A DIFFICULT DAY
Aunt Deborah did not linger to talk with her little niece, for it was a part of her belief that idle talk was unwise. The door had hardly closed behind her when Winifred's head appeared from under the chintz valance of the bed, and she looked cautiously about.
"Has she gone?" she asked in a cautious whisper.
Ruth nodded, and Winifred now crawled out from her hiding-place.
"I'm glad she didn't see me, Ruth. For when I came to the door this morning she said you could not see any one to-day; so I thought you were being punished, and I was bound to see you. Oh, Ruth! are you to have nothing but porridge?" and Winifred looked at Ruth's tray as if she thought such a dinner would be punishment enough for a much greater offense.
"I chose it! I said I would eat only porridge," responded Ruth, beginning to think that perhaps she had been more severe with herself than had been really necessary; and she wondered, with a little regretful sigh, if Aunt Deborah was having stewed oysters for dinner; for Ruth was sure that nothing could taste better than oysters.
"I had to see you, Ruth; and it was Gilbert who thought of the ladder. He has written a play, and you are to take part in it, and so am I," continued Winifred, who had nearly forgotten her own important news in listening to Ruth's surprising story.
"'A play'?" echoed Ruth questioningly, hardly understanding her friend's meaning.
"Yes! Yes! Don't you know that the English soldiers give plays in the Southward Theater? They dress up and make believe, just as you did last night," Winifred explained, "and Gilbert's play is like that."
"Then I don't want to," Ruth declared. "It's horrid pretending to be somebody besides yourself."
"Oh, Ruth! This isn't like what you did. It's all about Washington and Lafayette," Winifred explained eagerly, "and our pony is to be in it, and so is Hero. It's splendid; truly it is, Ruth; and Gilbert wants you to come and rehearse this afternoon, in our stable. If you are punishing yourself you can come if you wish to."
Ruth shook her head.
"No, I can't. Don't you see I can't, Winifred? I promised just as much as if somebody else had made me. I'll have to stay in this room all day, because I told Aunt Deborah that I would."
Winifred jumped up quickly. "Then I must go right home, for Gilbert said that if you couldn't take part we'd try and get Betty Hastings. She's older and taller than you, anyway, so she'd look more like Lafayette," she said, moving toward the door.
Betty Hastings lived just around the corner on Chestnut Street. She was twelve years old. She was tall for her age, and her hair was brown and very curly. She did not often play with the younger girls.
"Lafayette? Was I to be Lafayette in the play?" asked Ruth. "Oh, Winifred! Ask Gilbert to wait. I'll come over first thing to-morrow morning. You tell him I have to stay up here to-day. Don't ask Betty!" she pleaded, and Winifred finally agreed to try and persuade her brother to wait until the following morning before asking Betty.
"You see, it's to be a birthday surprise for Mother; and her birthday is a week from to-day, so there isn't much time," Winifred explained, as she started toward the door.
"Winifred! Where are you going?" Ruth whispered in alarm; and Winifred laughed at her friend's surprise to see her about to walk boldly from the room.
"I can go down-stairs so your aunt won't know it, and open the front door just as easy, and walk right out. She is in the kitchen and won't hear me," Winifred answered; and with a warning word to be sure and be at the stable at nine o'clock the next morning, the little girl opened the door cautiously and disappeared.
After Winifred had gone Ruth ate her porridge. She began to think of Gilbert's play, and of the fun it would be to take the part of the brave young Frenchman. She walked about the room, looked at Cecilia and the half-finished chair, and sighed deeply at the thought that she might be rehearsing with Winifred and Gilbert, the pony and Hero, instead of staying alone in her room.
At last she remembered her knitting, and took it up rather reluctantly. "I do wish I hadn't worn Mother's dress," she thought. And she was conscious of a little uncomfortable feeling as to Winifred's visit after Aunt Deborah's refusal to admit her.
"But I didn't ask her to come, or help her," she finally decided; although she began to wish that her friend had waited to tell her the great news until the next day and so avoided deceiving Aunt Deborah.
But at last the long afternoon ended; and when the clock struck six there was a joyous bark just outside Ruth's door, and Aunt Deborah opened it for Hero to come bounding in. He had so much to tell his little mistress, with barks and jumps, and faithful pleading eyes, that it was some little time before Aunt Deborah found a chance to speak.
"Thee had best come down to the dining-room and have supper with me. There are creamed oysters and toast and a bit of jelly. I think thee does not need porridge for another meal to-day," she said smilingly.
"I know I'll remember about Mother's dress. It has been hard to stay up here all day," Ruth answered, glad indeed that her time of punishment was over.
"But Aunt Deborah doesn't know just how hard it was," she thought as she followed her aunt down the stairs, with Hero close beside her, thinking over Winifred's great news.
As she took her usual place at the table she was glad that she had not taken Winifred's suggestion to shorten her hours of solitude. The steaming oysters sent out an appetizing odor, the toast was crisp and golden, and the tumbler of amber-colored jelly seemed to reflect the light of the candles in their tall brass candlesticks which stood at each end of the table.
"I have good news for thee, Ruth," said Aunt Deborah, smiling at her across the table. "I have word that thy mother will return early the coming week."
Ruth gave an exclamation of delight.
"Oh, Aunt Deborah! What a lot of nice things happen all together," she said. "You won't go back to Barren Hill when she comes, will you?" For Ruth began to realize that, even with her dear mother safe at home once more, she would miss the kind aunt who had been so unfailingly patient.
It was evident that Aunt Deborah was greatly pleased. Her brown eyes shone, and Ruth suddenly discovered the amazing fact that there was a dimple in Aunt Deborah's right cheek.
"'Tis indeed pleasant that thou should wish me to stay; but I fear my house at Barren Hill needs its mistress. To-morrow is the first of April, and I must see about planting my garden as soon as possible. Perhaps thy mother will let thee come for a visit before long," she responded. "That is, if the English General will take such a great risk as to give a small maid permission to leave the city," for no one could leave Philadelphia at that time without a written permission from an English officer.
Ruth was quite sure that she should like to visit Barren Hill. She knew it was half-way to Valley Forge, where the American soldiers had passed a dreary winter, suffering from cold and hunger, while their enemies had enjoyed the comforts of American homes in Philadelphia. But now that spring had come the American people were more hopeful; they were sure their army would soon drive the enemy from the city.
The people of little settlements like Barren Hill managed to carry food and clothing to the American soldiers. Aunt Deborah, just before coming to Philadelphia, had carried a treasured store of honey to Washington's headquarters, as well as clothing and food for Ruth's father.
Although Aunt Deborah was a Quaker she was sure of the righteousness of America's war against oppression.
"Perhaps I could see my father if I go to visit you, Aunt Deborah," said Ruth hopefully.
But Aunt Deborah could give no assurance as to this. She knew that any day might see Washington's army moving from its winter quarters.
"Thee could help me with the garden," she responded. "The bees will soon be about their work now; and there are many things in the country for a small maid to find pleasure in."
"Did you ever see Lafayette, Aunt Deborah?" Ruth asked.
"Why, child! Did not thy mother tell thee? He stopped at my door one day. He was on horseback, and only two soldiers with him. They had ridden out from camp to make sure no English spies were about, and he stopped to ask for a cup of water. He was pleased to take milk instead. Thee shall see the very cup from which he drank, Ruth. It was one of the pink luster cups, and I put it apart from the others. Some day thee shall have it for thy own," said Aunt Deborah, smiling at Ruth's evident delight.
As Ruth listened she resolved that nothing should prevent her from visiting Aunt Deborah. Perhaps she might see Lafayette as well as her dear father. Perhaps the young Frenchman might again call at Aunt Deborah's door, and she, Ruth Pernell, hand him the pink luster cup filled with milk.
Aunt Deborah's voice interrupted these pleasant day-dreams.
"Now, Ruth, thee may help me wash the dishes; and we will make sure that Hero is safely indoors," she said.
"Yes, indeed. Oh! Aunt Deborah, this has been a splendid day, after all," the little girl responded, thinking of Hero safe at home, of Winifred's visit, and of the pink luster cup that some day would be her own.
Ruth was up in good season the next morning, and Aunt Deborah was quite willing for her little niece to take Hero for a morning call on Winifred; and it was not yet nine o'clock when Ruth pushed open the gate that led from the alley into the Merrill's' garden.
The stable stood beside this gate, and was some distance from the house. Fluff, the pony, had a fine box stall with a window looking into the garden. Fluff belonged to Gilbert; but Gilbert had grown so tall that he thought the pony too small for his use, and on Winifred's last birthday had given her all right and title to the little gray pony, whose thick mane and plume-like tail had made the name "Fluff" most appropriate.
The stable was nearly hidden from the house by shrubs and trees, and Gilbert and Winifred found it a fine play-house. Ruth often wished that there was a stable in her father's garden, and that she had a pony exactly like Fluff.
At the sound of Hero's bark Winifred and Gilbert both appeared in the doorway of the stable, and close behind them stood Betty Hastings. Ruth stood still with a questioning look at Winifred. She was sure that Gilbert had asked Betty to take the part of Lafayette, and for a moment she was tempted to turn away without a word. But before she could act on this impulse there was a chorus of welcoming greetings for her and for Hero, and Winifred came running to meet her.
"Betty is going to take the part of Lord Cornwallis!" Winifred exclaimed, as she put her arm about Ruth and led her to the stable. "Gilbert thinks you were splendid to go straight to General Howe and ask for Hero," she added, "and Betty wants to hear just what Major Andre said," so Ruth, instead of finding herself entirely supplanted by Betty, as she had for a moment feared, was surrounded by the eager interest and attention of the little group. It seemed to Ruth that she had never before known how nice Betty Hastings really was. The older girl was evidently greatly impressed by the fact that Ruth had sat next to the English General at his dinner table.
"I wish I could have been you, Ruth," she declared admiringly.
"It was all right for Ruth to ask for her dog," Gilbert interrupted, "but I wouldn't have sat down at General Howe's table. Not much I wouldn't."
"But Major Andre lifted me up. I didn't do it myself," replied Ruth, suddenly ashamed that she had entirely forgotten that the English officers were her enemies, and had even been rather pleased that no other little girl in Philadelphia could say that she had sat at the dinner table of the great English General.
"And you are no better than a Tory, Betty Hastings," Gilbert continued, looking disapprovingly toward brown-eyed Betty. "You said a little while ago that you would rather be Lord Cornwallis than Washington."
"Well, what if I did? I only meant in your play; because the English uniform is fine. All scarlet and gold," Betty explained. She was smiling, and evidently did not care at all if Gilbert did not approve of her. "Come on and tell us what your play is about," she added.
Gilbert's frown vanished. He drew a roll of paper from his pocket; and, looking soberly at his companions, said:
"The name of my play is 'America Defeats the Foe.' It is in two acts. The first act is Lord Cornwallis, that's you, Betty, on his knees asking Washington to spare his life. The second act is Washington and Lafayette and their triumphant army, Winifred is the army, marching into Philadelphia."
"Um-m," said Betty slowly, "what does Washington say when Lord Cornwallis asks him to spare his life?"
"I don't just know yet," Gilbert admitted. "I thought I'd wait until we rehearsed."
"You said Fluff and Hero were to have parts," Winifred reminded him, a little anxiously.
"What does Lafayette wear?" asked Ruth.
Gilbert's face flushed: "Just like girls, wanting to know everything before I've had time to think. But I can tell you one thing, we'll have to plan our costumes now."
"Mine is all planned," said Betty; "you know there is an English officer lodging at our house, and I'll borrow his scarlet coat."
"My Aunt Deborah has seen Lafayette," Ruth announced proudly, "and I'll ask her to tell me just what he wore, and then perhaps I can look just like him."
Winifred said nothing. Gilbert had already told her that he meant to dress up two broomsticks as American soldiers, and these were to "march" on each side of Winifred, with her aid and assistance. She was always ready to help Gilbert in all his plans, but she was beginning to think that it would be rather a difficult task to be a triumphant army; especially as Gilbert had told her that she must cheer for Washington and Lafayette when they reached the "State House," whose location he had not yet decided on.
"Aren't you going to have any girls or women in your play?" asked Betty, apparently not greatly pleased with Gilbert's brief description. "I think you ought to have Lady Washington in a balcony waving her handkerchief, when the victorious army enters Philadelphia. I could be Lady Washington, because I'll be all through being Lord Cornwallis in the first act," and Betty smiled at her companions as if sure they would be greatly pleased by her suggestion.
"Why, yes——" began Gilbert, but before he could say more a wail from Winifred made them all look at her in surprise.
"Betty Hastings shan't be everything! If she's going to be Lady Washington I won't play. I won't be an army, anyway," she sobbed.
"Oh! I don't care!" said Betty good-humored. "I just happened to think of it, that's all. I'd just as soon be the army."
It was finally decided that Winifred should be Lady Washington, and wave from the top of the grain-bin when the triumphant army passed. Lafayette was to ride on Fluff, and Gilbert said he meant to borrow a horse for George Washington. Hero was to follow the army. It was dinner-time before all these important questions were settled; and it was agreed that they would meet again the next morning for another rehearsal. Gilbert promised to have speeches ready for Lafayette and Cornwallis.
"The way it is now nobody has anything to say but Washington," Betty had said, and Gilbert had agreed that Cornwallis should at least say, "Spare me, noble Washington," while Lafayette could make some response to Washington's speech, which Betty thought far too long, thanking the young Frenchman for his aid to America.
"I wish Gilbert would let you make up our speeches, Betty," said Ruth, looking up at her companion with admiring eyes, as the two girls stopped for a moment at Ruth's door. "It wasn't any play at all until you told him what to do."
"It will come out all right," responded Betty. "It's the dressing up that will be fun. I wish we could get Ned Ferris to play the drum and march ahead."
Ruth agreed that a drummer would make it seem more like a triumphant army.
"Do you suppose the English officer at your house will really lend you his red coat?" questioned Ruth.
Betty laughed. "Of course he will; for he won't know anything about it. 'Tis his best coat, and hangs in a closet in the passage near his room. He wears it only now and then. I shall just borrow it, and then hang it back in the closet," declared Betty. "Just as you did your mother's dress," she added quickly, as if half-afraid of Ruth's disapproval, and with a "good-bye until to-morrow, Lafayette," she ran quickly down the street.
Ruth was a little thoughtful as she went into the house. She wished that she had told Betty that she was sorry about borrowing her mother's dress without permission, and that it would be wiser to ask the soldier to lend his coat. Then she remembered that Betty was nearly thirteen, and of course must know more than a little girl only just past ten.
Aunt Deborah greeted her smilingly. "I have been brushing thy mother's gown, Ruth. 'Twas sadly in need of it, and a tear on the side breadth. But I have mended it so well that 'twill hardly be noticed, and sponged and pressed the dress until it looks as well as ever," she said.
Ruth's face brightened.
"Oh! I am so glad, Aunt Deborah. Then Mother need not know I wore it, or that I went to see General Howe. You will not tell her, will you, Aunt Deborah?" said Ruth eagerly.
The smile faded from Aunt Deborah's face, and she turned away from Ruth with a little sigh.
"No, I will not tell her, Ruth. But thee will surely do that thyself," she answered.
"But you say the dress looks as well as ever," said Ruth, "and, oh, Aunt Deborah! It will make Mother feel so bad to know that I was so thoughtless," and Ruth looked pleadingly toward her aunt.
"Thee shall settle the matter for thyself, Ruth. But I hope thee will tell thy mother," responded Aunt Deborah. But Ruth made no reply.
In the afternoon Winifred came over, and the two little girls sat down on the back porch to talk over Gilbert's play. Winifred said that the broomsticks could be dressed up in some blue coverlets, with cocked hats made from paper, and Ruth promised to help Winifred make the hats.
"Betty is going to borrow her mother's fine silk cape and bonnet for me to wear as Lady Washington," Winifred continued eagerly. "Isn't Betty splendid to let me have the very best part of all, and to get so many nice things for us to dress up in?"
"Will she ask her mother for the cape and bonnet?" Ruth questioned.
"Of course she will," declared Winifred, "and I have thought of something. We can dress Josephine and Cecilia in their best dresses, and have them sit beside Lady Washington on the top of the grain box."
Ruth agreed that such a plan would add to the success of Gilbert's play.
"My mother is coming home in a few days," she said when Winifred said that she must go home.
"Well, I guess she will be proud when you tell her that you went to General Howe and made him find Hero," Winifred replied. For Winifred was sure that it had been a very courageous act to face the English General.
"I am not going to tell her a word about it," was Ruth's reply.
BETTY RUNS AWAY
The days now passed very quickly for Ruth and her friends. Every day Betty Hastings, Winifred, Ruth and Gilbert were in the Merrill's' garden or stable at work on the costumes for "America Conquers the Foe." Ned Ferris, a boy not much older than Ruth, had promised Gilbert to play on his drum, and to march at the head of the "army;" he would not need to rehearse, so would not come until the day decided on for the play. Ned had also offered the loan of his brown pony, a much larger animal than Fluff, for "Washington" to ride; and now Gilbert, Winifred and Ruth were all sure that the play would be a success. Betty Hastings was not so confident. She had begun to fear that it would be no easy matter to borrow the scarlet coat without the owner's knowledge: and she was even more doubtful in regard to her mother's fine cape and bonnet; but she said nothing of this to the others.
If she had known that Gilbert had invited her mother, as well as a number of other friends of Mrs. Merrill's, to what he described as "a birthday surprise for my mother," Betty would doubtless have given up her part; but Gilbert had asked each guest to keep the invitation a secret; and it was probable that a surprise was in store for "Cornwallis" as well as for Gilbert's mother.
Mrs. Pernell returned home from Germantown on the very morning of Mrs. Merrill's birthday, and Ruth was so delighted at her arrival that she nearly forgot to ask her mother to come to the play that afternoon, as Gilbert had requested. Gilbert had said that he wished Mistress Deborah Farleigh would come with Ruth's mother, but added: "It isn't any use to ask her, for Quakers don't believe in plays."
"But this is different; I'm sure she will come," Ruth had responded eagerly; and had been greatly pleased when Aunt Deborah agreed, saying that, "'Twas surely a patriotic lesson that she would like well to see."
Mrs. Pernell also praised Gilbert's cleverness, and promised to be ready in good season. "Perhaps I had best wear my brown silk to do credit to Mrs. Merrill's birthday party," she said, and wondered why Ruth became so silent and looked so sober. For a moment Ruth was tempted to tell her mother the whole story of her visit to General Howe; but she resisted the impulse. "It would spoil everything to make Mother feel bad the very day she has come home," the little girl assured herself; but she no longer felt light-hearted, and when her mother patted Hero's head, and said that she knew he had taken good care of everything in her absence, Ruth grew even more serious.
Aunt Deborah was very quiet; but now and then her eyes rested on Ruth a little questioningly.
"I suppose Aunt Deborah is thinking I ought to tell Mother," thought Ruth, and was glad to hurry away as soon as they finished dinner, saying she must be in good season, as Gilbert had set three o'clock as the hour for the arrival of his audience.
"You must come in through the alley," Ruth reminded her mother and aunt; for Gilbert had decided that the guests were to be a part of the surprise for his mother.
Gilbert was arranging seats for the company just inside the door of the stable behind a rope stretched from the front to the door of Fluff's stall. On the previous day the children had made an excursion to Fair Mount, and had brought home a quantity of blossoming boughs of the white dogwood, branches of pine, and of flowering elder, and these were used to make a background for the seats intended for the guests, to hide a part of the grain-bin, from which Lady Washington was to wave, and made the stable a very attractive and pleasant place. The guests could look through the open door into the garden where blue iris, yellow daffodils and purple lilacs were already in bloom.
When Ruth came running to the stable Winifred called out to her from the top of the grain-bin: "Look, Ruth! Look!" and Ruth stopped in the doorway with an exclamation of surprise. For there was Winifred wearing Mrs. Hastings' beautiful blue mantle of rich silk, and a bonnet with soft blue plumes, and beside her sat two other figures that, for a moment, Ruth believed to be two strange ladies. Then she realized that Winifred had "dressed up" bundles of hay in two old gowns of her mother's, with their "heads" crowned by wreaths of leaves and flowers.
Winifred laughed delightedly at Ruth's astonishment. "You see, Josephine and Cecilia were not tall enough; and of course Lady Washington ought to have company," she explained.
Gilbert, dressed in a blue coat, yellow knee-breeches, and with a crimson and white scarf pinned across his coat, came to the door. He wore a cocked hat, and a wooden sword was fastened at his side, and he endeavored to stand as tall as possible.
"Betty is waiting for you behind the lilac bushes," he said, and vanished; and Ruth ran off to the bunch of lilacs behind the stable where Betty, in a scarlet coat that covered her completely, was holding Fluff's bridle-rein, and close by stood Ned Ferris beside his brown pony.
"Here is your coat and hat, 'Lafayette,'" said Betty, pointing to a bundle, which Ruth hastened to open.
The coat was of blue velvet. It was one that Betty had found in a trunk in her mother's attic. There were ruffles of yellowed lace at the wrists, and tarnished gilt buttons and braid on the shoulders. This old velvet coat had belonged to Betty's grandfather, and was highly valued by her father. But Betty had not asked permission to take it.
Ruth tied up her hair and put on the cocked hat that she had helped Winifred make; then with Betty's aid she slipped on the velvet coat, and with the addition of a wooden sword which Gilbert had made for her she was ready for her part in the play.
The guests all arrived in good season, and were escorted to their seats by "Washington" himself, who then ran to the house to announce to his mother that some friends of hers were in the garden.
Mrs. Merrill, greatly to Gilbert's satisfaction, did not seem to notice that he was not dressed as usual, and walked beside him down the garden path; as a turn in the path brought them in sight of the stable door Gilbert said:
"This is a birthday surprise for you, Mother. It's a play, and here is the programme," and he handed her a strip of white paper bordered with a row of stars cut from gilt paper. At the top Gilbert had printed:
"AMERICA CONQUERS THE FOE"
A Play by Gilbert Merrill for Mother's Birthday
Cornwallis Begs For Mercy
Cornwallis B. Hastings Washington G. Merrill
Washington's Triumphant Army Enters Philadelphia
Washington G. Merrill Lafayette R. Pernell Lady Washington Miss Winifred Merrill
Mrs. Merrill read the programme admiringly.
"It is indeed a wonderful birthday surprise, my dear boy," she said smilingly, "and I am proud of you," and she hurried forward to greet and welcome her friends, while Gilbert ran to summon "Cornwallis" to be ready for the first act.
An old horse-blanket, suspended from the hay-loft in the rear of the stable, served as a curtain behind which knelt Betty in the scarlet coat. Gilbert now took his place beside her, trying to look stern and noble. At Gilbert's whistle Winifred, who was in the hay-loft, was to pull up the blanket by the long strings that Gilbert had skilfully arranged.
The whistle sounded clearly. Up rose the curtain. There was an approving murmur from the audience at the sight of "Cornwallis" on his knees.
"Spare me, noble Washington!" said Betty, but in rather a feeble voice.
Washington's right hand was stretched over the head of his conquered foe.
"Arise, Cornwallis. Flee for your life. My army is at hand," responded Washington; and Betty, stumbling a little, escaped from the rear door, while Washington marched out to meet his army, and the audience applauded.
Betty's mother had noticed the red coat, and wondered what English soldier had consented to lend it for such a purpose. It did not occur to her that Betty had taken it from their lodger's closet.
When Betty had entered the stable by the rear door and knelt according to Washington's directions she could hear the murmur of voices.
"Who is with your mother?" she whispered to "Washington," but there had been no time to answer, and Betty found herself facing not only Gilbert's mother but a dozen other ladies of whom her mother was one; and it was a very anxious and troubled Betty who joined the little group behind the lilac bushes and, slipping off the red coat, put on an old coat and hat belonging to Gilbert's father, and with the dressed up broomsticks, took her place behind Fluff as the "Army."
Ned Ferris sounded a measured "rat-a-tat-tat" on his drum and strode toward the entrance to the stable, followed by Washington and Lafayette, the "Army," and the docile Hero. Lady Washington scrambled from the hay-loft to the top of the grain-bin, drew her fine silk mantle about her, and smiled graciously down upon the assembled guests. Mrs. Hastings looked up at her. "For pity's sake!" her seatmate heard her murmur, "my best mantle and bonnet!"
But at that moment came the quick beat of a drum. Washington's pony, a little annoyed and nervous, and Fluff, determined to reach his stall as quickly as possible, although "Lafayette" endeavored to guide him in the appointed course, entered the stable.
"Washington" drew rein beneath the grain-bin and lifted his hat to Lady Washington, who leaned forward to wave in response; but unfortunately her bonnet strings were not fastened, and the fine bonnet with its blue plumes fell from her head and went tumbling down almost on Hero's brown head. In a second the dog had seized it, and forgetting his part in the procession, jumped this way and that, shaking this new plaything with delighted satisfaction.
Mrs. Hastings kept her seat resolutely. It would have been an easy matter to have stepped from her seat and rescued the bonnet. But Mrs. Hastings knew that such a movement on her part would have brought Gilbert's play to an untimely end, and spoiled the pleasure of all the guests, as well as of the children who took part. So she did not move, even when Hero fled out into the garden with the plumes grasped in his teeth. Betty, Ruth and Winifred never forgot that moment, nor the fact that Mrs. Hastings had apparently not seen what happened. Even in her fright at the results of her "borrowing" Betty Hastings was very proud of her mother.
The drummer played on. The two ponies were swung around face to face; Washington and Lafayette clasped hands for a moment; then side by side, with drum playing, but with a silent army, the little procession vanished through the rear door.
Gilbert was delighted with his success. It seemed to him that everything had gone very well, and he was especially grateful to Betty Hastings for securing the English officer's coat.
But Betty, having seen the ruin of the bonnet, had suddenly realized that it was a serious matter to take the belongings of other people without their permission; and her first thought was of the officer's coat. Whatever happened she must return that coat to the closet from which she had taken it as soon as possible. Then she would try and explain to her mother that she had not meant any harm should befall the borrowed articles. So, grasping the red coat, Betty opened the door into the alley and started off as fast as she could go; while Ruth, still wearing the fine velvet coat, crouched down behind the lilac bushes, too unhappy to care if the play had been a success or not; for as "Lafayette" faced the audience she had seen that her mother was wearing the brown silk dress.
"Come, Ruth, Mistress Hastings is waiting for thy fine velvet coat," and Ruth looked up to see Aunt Deborah smiling down upon her; and in a moment the little girl was clinging to Aunt Deborah's arm, and asking anxiously:
"Did Mother find the mended place in her dress? Oh, Aunt Deborah! I do wish I had told her all about it!"
"Slip off the coat, dear child, and run and tell her now," said Aunt Deborah, and in a moment Ruth was running across the garden to where her mother was standing with Mrs. Merrill. Mrs. Pernell smiled down at her little daughter, and clasping the warm little hand in her own turned toward the gate.
In a moment Ruth was in the midst of her story, and Mrs. Pernell listened without a word until Ruth, breathless and almost in tears, finished by saying:
"I didn't think it would hurt the dress, Mother! I'm so sorry. And I am sorry I didn't tell you the moment you got home."
Ruth felt her hand clasped a little more closely at this; but her mother made no response until they were in Ruth's pleasant chamber. Then Mrs. Pernell drew her little girl down beside her on the broad window-seat; and leaning her head against her mother's shoulder Ruth told of the day she had stayed up-stairs as a punishment for her thoughtlessness.
"Mother, you haven't said a word!" Ruth finally exclaimed, looking up anxiously. "Are you ashamed of me?"
"Why, I think I am rather proud of my little daughter," was the smiling response. "You set your own punishment, and I know you will stop and think when next you plan such a masquerade party. My dress, it seems, is but little the worse, after all; and Hero is well worth some sacrifice. Perhaps if you had not been 'dressed up' you would not have been admitted to General Howe's house, and might not have succeeded in rescuing Hero," said Mrs. Pernell, stooping down to kiss her little girl's flushed cheek.
"Oh, Mother! I do love you," exclaimed the happy child. "I'll never be afraid to tell you everything."
"Of course you will tell me everything. That is what mothers are for," rejoined Mrs. Pernell. "And now I will take off my silk gown, and you had best smooth your hair and make yourself tidy for supper."
"That sounds like Aunt Deborah," said Ruth laughingly. But as she obeyed her mother's suggestion she thought happily that now Mother was at home everything was sure to go smoothly.
When Gilbert's play was over Mrs. Hastings, although sadly troubled over Betty's "borrowings," and the ruin of her pretty bonnet, complimented Gilbert and Winifred on the success of the play; and not until she had chatted for a few moments with Mrs. Merrill did she go to rescue her valued mantle and the treasured velvet coat. She hoped the English officer's coat was none the worse for its part in the play; and, like Betty, she hoped to return it before it was missed by its rightful owner; for it would be no easy matter to explain why it had been borrowed, and she knew its loss would make serious trouble.
She noticed that her mantle was dusty and wrinkled, and that the lace on the velvet coat was torn. The scarlet coat, however, was not to be found, and Betty had also disappeared.
Deciding that she would find her little daughter and the coat safely at home Mrs. Hastings bade her friends good-bye and started for her walk home. But she did not find Betty there. Supper time came, and still no Betty. A servant was sent to Mrs. Merrill's to inquire for the little girl, but came hurrying back with the tidings that Betty had not been seen since the end of the play.
Mrs. Merrill now looked through every room, but Betty was not to be found. She inquired at the homes of her neighbors, but no one had seen the little girl.
The April twilight deepened to dusk; the stars shone out and found Mrs. Hastings anxious and troubled, for she could find no trace of Betty.
When Betty ran down the alley she had thought it would be an easy matter to reach home with the red coat; but she had forgotten that Philadelphia was full of the King's soldiers, and that a bareheaded little girl racing down the street with the coat of an English officer over her arm would not escape notice; and she had only reached Second Street when a passing soldier called to her. His call only made her run the faster, and the soldier sped after her. If Betty had stopped at once, told her own name and address, and the name of the owner of the coat, the soldier would doubtless have taken her directly home and made sure that she had told him the truth, and it is probable that her troubles would have been at an end. But Betty was now too frightened to think clearly. She did not even know the direction in which she ran was straight away from her home. The English soldier ran clumsily, and Betty, turning quickly into another street, soon distanced him; but only to run straight into another soldier, who seized her firmly by both arms, swung her about, and without a word marched her down the street.
"Making off with an officer's coat," he said, after what seemed a very long time to the frightened girl. "What's your name?"
Betty made no response. She resolved that no one should ever know that Betty Hastings had been suspected of such a dreadful thing as taking what she had no right to take.
"Won't speak, eh? Well, I'll take you to Captain De Lance and see what he has to say to you," said the soldier, and the silent little girl, still holding the scarlet coat, was led down one street after another until she saw the shining waters of the Schuylkill River before her, and the soldier led her up the steps of an old stone house whose garden ran down to the river. The soldier was evidently familiar with the house, for he pushed open the door and led Betty into a big pleasant room, and motioned toward a comfortable chair.
"You can sit there until the captain comes in; and you had best tell me your name. 'Twill do you no good to sulk," he said, taking the coat from her reluctant grasp. But Betty only set her lips more firmly. She resolved not to speak, no matter what might befall her.
"Very well, Miss. I'll leave you to find your tongue," said the soldier, laying the coat carefully over a chair and leaving the room. Betty heard him turn the key in the lock. She was tired, and leaned back in the cushioned chair, hardly realizing what had befallen her. She could hear steps now and then outside the door, and every moment expected that it would open and the captain of whom the soldier had spoken would appear.
But the room grew shadowy in the deepening twilight and no one came near. Betty's thoughts flew homeward to the candle-lit dining-room where Dinah, the Hastings' colored servant, would be spreading the table for supper, and Betty realized that she was very hungry.
She left her seat and tiptoed toward a long window at the further end of the room. The window looked out into the garden, and Betty instantly realized that it swung in on hinges and was not fastened, and that it would be an easy matter to let herself down to the ground.
"I must take the coat," she thought, and crept back to the chair where the scarlet coat lay. In a moment she was back at the window and had dropped the coat to the ground; and now, grasping the window sill with both hands, she let herself carefully down. Picking up the coat, and keeping close in the shadow of the house, Betty made her way until she was near the door through which she had entered the house. She went very carefully, peering ahead into the shadows, and listening intently for any sound that might warn her that her flight had been discovered. But she heard no sound, and at last she reached the road.
"It is too dark for any one to know what color the coat is now," she thought, as she hurried along.
Betty realized that she was a long distance from home, but she was sure that she could soon find her way to some familiar street and then it would be an easy matter to reach home. Now and then she passed groups of people homeward bound, or English soldiers sauntering along the street, and then turning a corner she gave a little exclamation of delight, for there, close at hand, were the brick walls of Christ Church, its graceful spire rising against the clear April sky. And now home was near at hand and Betty quickened her pace. She had almost forgotten her mother's ruined bonnet and the fact that she had no excuse to give for borrowing the things for Gilbert's play without permission. All she could think of was the fact that she was in sight of home. She ran up the steps and the door opened as if by magic, and Betty's mother clasped her little girl, scarlet coat and all, in her welcoming arms.
THE LOST PROGRAMME
The scarlet coat, after being carefully brushed and pressed, was returned to its place in the closet; and its owner never knew or imagined the part it had taken in Gilbert's play. The soldier who had locked Betty into Captain De Lance's room, and returned to find that the silent little captive had outwitted him and made her escape, decided that it was best to keep the affair to himself, and say nothing about a little girl with an officer's coat for which she would not account.
Ruth and Winifred came early the next morning to make sure that Betty was safe at home, and listened eagerly to the story of her adventure.
"Do you suppose you could find the way back to the stone house?" questioned Ruth.
"Yes, I am sure I could," responded Betty; but she did not suggest, as Ruth hoped, that they should all make an excursion to the house by the river. In fact, Winifred and Ruth both agreed on their way home that Betty seemed very sober. And it was true that Betty was more quiet than usual for several days; for she realized that she had had a narrow escape from a serious punishment. Nor could she forget the pretty plumed bonnet that Hero had so gaily destroyed. The fact that her mother did not speak of the bonnet only made Betty the more repentant. She and Ruth had both resolved that they would not again take for granted that they could use other people's property without permission.
"Aunt Deborah is going home to Barren Hill to-morrow," said Ruth, as she and Winifred came near home; "Farmer Withal is to call for her. You know he brings in butter and cheese from his farm every Thursday, and Aunt Deborah will ride home in his wagon. I wish I were going with her."
"Oh, Ruth Pernell!" said Winifred reproachfully.
"Well, I do. Barren Hill is half-way to Valley Forge, and perhaps I could see my father. And, Winifred! One day Lafayette stopped at Aunt Deborah's door! Perhaps I might see him; perhaps he might ask me to carry a message for him," said Ruth eagerly.