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.
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.
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"
"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"
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.
"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."
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."
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."
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.
"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?"
"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.
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."
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."