[Frontispiece: "SHE FILLED HER APRON WITH THE CRISP, FRESH COOKIES."]
RUBY AT SCHOOL
The Third Volume of the Ruby Series
MINNIE E. PAULL
AUTHOR OF "RUTH AND RUBY," "RUBY'S UPS AND DOWNS," "PRINCE DIMPLE SERIES," "DOROTHY DARLING," ETC.
ESTES AND LAURIAT
BY ESTES AND LAURIAT.
JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. RUBY IN MISCHIEF II. CARRYING OUT HER PLAN III. LOOKING FOR RUBY IV. CONSEQUENCES V. BOARDING-SCHOOL VI. PREPARATIONS VII. MORE PREPARATIONS VIII. READY IX. THE JOURNEY X. MAKING FRIENDS XI. AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE XII. MAKING ACQUAINTANCE XIII. GETTING SETTLED XIV. SCHOOL XV. BEGINNING SCHOOL XVI. MAUDE'S TROUBLES XVII. LEARNING XVIII. MISADVENTURES XIX. SURPRISES XX. PERSIMMONS XXI. MAUDE XXII. SUNDAY AT SCHOOL XXIII. GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS XXIV. FINIS
"SHE FILLED HER APRON WITH THE CRISP, FRESH COOKIES" . . . Frontispiece
RUBY AND HER MOTHER (missing from book)
RUBY MEETING MAUDE AT THE STATION (missing)
RUBY WRITING A LETTER HOME
"MRS. BOARDMAN WAS VERY PATIENT WITH THE SPOILED CHILD" (missing)
MISS KETCHUM AND THE CATERPILLARS (missing)
"OH, IT HAS DONE SOMETHING TO MY MOUTH!" (missing)
READING THE INVITATION TO AGNES (missing)
RUBY AT SCHOOL.
RUBY IN MISCHIEF.
It does seem quite too bad to begin a new Ruby book with Ruby in mischief the very first thing; and yet what can I do but tell you about it? for it is very probable that if she had not been in this particular piece of mischief, this story would never have been written. "Nobody but Ruby would ever have thought of such a thing," Ann exclaimed, when it was discovered, and it really did seem as if Ruby thought of naughty things to do that would never have entered any one else's head.
Ruby had certainly been having one of her "bad streaks," as Nora called her particularly mischievous times, and perhaps this was because Ruby had been left to herself more than she had ever been in all her life before.
Mamma was sick, and she was only able to have Ruby come into her room when the little girl was willing to be very quiet and move about gently, so as not to disturb her; and she knew very little of what Ruby was about in the long hours which she spent in play.
All summer Ruby had been running wild, coming into the house only to eat her meals, or towards evening nestling down beside mamma, to talk to her for a little while about what she had been doing all day. I am afraid it was not very often that Ruby told her of the many things she had been doing of which she knew mamma would not approve at all.
When Ruby went over to Mrs. Warren's house to visit Ruthy, Mrs. Warren tried to have her do as she wished her own little girl to do, but she found it a very much harder matter to govern quick-tempered, impulsive Ruby than it was to guide her own gentle little daughter, and she often sighed as she thought how distressed Ruby's mamma would be if she knew how self-willed and mischievous her little daughter was growing without her mother's care.
Ruby's papa was very busy with his patients, and when he was at home he spent most of his time in the invalid's room, so he did not have any idea how much the little girl needed some one to look after her, and see that she did not get into mischief.
Ann did her best to take care of Ruby, but she had more work to do than usual, so she had very little time to keep watch of the little girl; and besides, Ruby would not mind Ann unless she said she would tell Dr. Harper if Ruby was naughty, and Ann did not like to complain of Ruby if she could help it.
Altogether you can see that Ruby had a pretty good opportunity to be just as naughty as she wanted to be; and every day it did seem as if she thought of more mischievous things to do than she had ever done in all her life put together before.
Ruby was having a very nice time this afternoon all by herself. It would have been nicer to have had Ruthy to help her enjoy it, but Mrs. Warren was not willing to let Ruthy go over to Mrs. Harper's, now that there was no one to see what the two little girls were about. Ruthy could be trusted not to get into any mischief by herself, but sometimes she yielded to Ruby's coaxing when she had devised some piece of mischief, and then no one knew what the two little girls would do next.
Some carpenters had been at work down by the stable, building a new hen-house, and Ruby had made a playhouse for herself with the boards they had left. She had leaned them up against the low branch of an old tree, with Ann's help, for the boards were rather too heavy for her to move alone, and so she had a tent-shaped house of boards in which she thought it was great fun to play.
Ruby's favorite story was the "Swiss Family Robinson," and she thought that no greater happiness could befall any one than to be cast away upon a desert island. As long as there did not seem to be any prospect of a desert island before her, when the largest piece of water she had ever seen in her life was the small shallow pond where the boys got water-lilies in summer, and skated in winter, she thought the next best thing would be to live in this little house, and not go home at all, except to see her mother.
She was very sure that the rest of the family would not approve of this plan at all, so she did not say anything to them about it, but determined to try it and see how she liked it, without running any chances of being forbidden.
One day, when she knew Ann was busy up in her mother's room, and no one would see what she was doing, she ran up to the garret, and brought down a pair of blankets, an old comforter, and the little pillow that belonged to the crib in which she had slept when she was a baby. She carried all these out to her little playhouse in the yard, and has only just tucked away the last corner of the comforter out of sight, when she heard the sound of wheels as her father's buggy drove into the yard.
Ruby ran out to meet him, afraid that he might come and look into her little wooden tent, and see what she had taken from the house. She was very sure that he would not at all approve of her plan of spending the night out there alone. She slipped her hand into his, and walked up to the house with him, and then ran back to her play.
After dinner she chose a time when Nora would not be in the kitchen, and carried some provisions down to her little house; for though she wanted to imitate the Swiss Family Robinson as far as possible, she was not sure that she would be able to find meals for herself as readily as they did; so, though biscuits and cookies were not at all the sort of food shipwrecked people generally eat, she thought that she had better lay in a supply of them, particularly as there were no kindly cocoanut or bread-fruit trees growing at hand.
She filled her apron with the crisp fresh cookies which Ann had just made, and with biscuit from the stone crock, and then spying a little turnover which she was sure Ann had made for her, she added that to her store.
It began to look quite like a castaway's tent, Ruby imagined, as she sat down in her little house and looked around. To be sure, you would hardly expect any one wrecked upon a desert island to have such a comfortable roof of boards over his head, and certainly one would not find a supply of warm, dry bed-clothing at hand, nor fresh cookies; but Ruby was quite satisfied, and she thought it would be great fun to spend the night out there all by herself, and imagine herself in the midst of a forest all alone. She shut her eyes, and as the wind rustled the branches of the tree, she pretended that she heard the waves breaking upon the shore of her desert island, and that chattering monkeys were jumping about over her head in the branches of great palm and tall cocoanut-trees.
If Ruthy could only be cast away with her it would be ever so much nicer, for then she would not have to enjoy it all by herself; but she reflected that it was just as well that Ruthy could not come over and play, for she probably would be afraid to sleep out there, and would cry and want to go into the house just when the play grew the most interesting.
No thought of fear entered venturesome Ruby's mind. It would be an easy matter for her to slip out of the house after she was supposed to be fast asleep in her trundle bed, which was not beside her mother's bed any longer, but in a room by itself. Ruby did not know that the the last thing her father did every night before he went to bed, was to go and take a look at his little girl, and see that she was sleeping comfortably; and very often he went into her room in the evening, soon after she had gone to sleep.
Of course she knew that she was going to do a naughty thing, but I am sorry to say that Ruby did not very often let that interfere with anything she wanted to do now, she had her own way so much.
She was so excited over her plan for the night that she was very quiet all the rest of the afternoon, and Ann said rather suspiciously,—
"You're up to some new mischief, Ruby Harper, I'll venture, or you would never be so quiet all at once. I know you. Now do be a good girl, and don't keep worrying your poor ma so about you."
"Never you mind what I am going to do," answered Ruby, pertly, and just then Ann saw that her cookies were missing.
"Well, where on earth are all my cookies?" she exclaimed. "Now, Ruby Harper, you tell me this very minute what you have been doing with them. I know just as well as anything that you never ate such a lot as that, and I don't see what you could have been doing with them. You go and get them and fetch them back to me right away."
Ruby made a face at her and darted away. She was not going to bring the cookies back nor tell where they were. What would she do when she was shipwrecked if she did not have a store of provisions in her hut, as she called her little house.
She knew it would not do to tell Nora about her plan, and she was so full of it that she felt as if she could not keep it to herself any longer, so she ran over to Ruthy's house.
She found Ruthy playing with her paper dolls on the wide back porch, and for a few minutes she pretended that she had come over to see her paper nieces and nephews, for the children always called themselves aunts to each other's dolls.
"Oh, I have got a plan to tell you about, Ruthy," she said presently. "I don't want any one to hear me telling you about it, so let's go down under the apple-tree, with the dolls."
Ruthy gathered up her children, and in a few moments the two little girls were sitting side by side on the low bench, which Ruthy's father had put there just for their comfort.
"It's the grandest plan," began Ruby.
"Am I in it, too?" asked Ruthy, half wistfully and half fearfully. She always liked to be in Ruby's plans, and felt a little left out when her little friend wanted to do without her, and yet sometimes Ruby's plans were so very extraordinary that she did not enjoy helping to carry them out at all.
"Well, you could be in it, only you see you can't very well," Ruby answered in a rather mixed up fashion.
"Why can't I?" Ruthy asked.
"Well, I'll tell you all about it, and then you will see that you couldn't very well," Ruby answered. "But first of all you must promise me honest true, black and blue, that you will never, never breathe a word of it to any one."
"Not even to mamma?" asked Ruthy, who always felt better when she told her mother all about everything.
"No, not to anyone in all the wide world," Ruthy answered. "I won't tell you a single word unless you promise, and you will be awfully sorry if I don't tell you, for this is the most splendid plan I ever made up in all my life. It is just like a book."
Ruthy's curiosity overcame her scruples about knowing something which she could not tell her mother.
"All right, I won't tell a single person," she said, earnestly. "Tell me what it is."
"Promise across your heart," Ruby insisted, for just then the little girls had a fashion of thinking that promising across their hearts made a promise more binding than any other form of words.
"I promise, honest true, black and blue, 'crost my heart," Ruthy said very earnestly, and then the two heads were put close together while Ruby whispered her wonderful secret.
No one could have heard them, not even the birds in their nests up in the tree, if she had spoken aloud, but a secret always seemed so delightfully mysterious when it was whispered, that she rarely told one aloud.
"I am going to be cast away on a desert island," she said, and Ruthy's blue eyes opened to their widest extent.
"Why, how can you, when there is n't any desert island anywhere near here for miles and miles?" she exclaimed.
"Oh, you are so stupid," Ruby exclaimed impatiently. "Of course I mean to pretend I am cast away. I am going to pretend that down by the barn is a desert island, and that little house I have built with boards is my hut, and I am going to sleep out there all by myself to-night, and I have some provisions and everything all ready."
"But will you dare stay out there all alone when it gets dark?" asked Ruthy in awed tones, feeling quite satisfied that she was left out of this plan, for she knew she should never dare to do such a thing, no matter how much Ruby might want her to join her.
CARRYING OUT HER PLAN.
"Of course I would dare," answered Ruby, positively. "I am not such a coward as you are, Ruthy. You see, even if your mamma would let you come over and stay at my house, so you could be in the plan, it would n't be of any use, for it would be just like you to get afraid as soon as it was dark, and then you would cry and want to go back into the house."
"I am afraid I would," Ruthy answered meekly, not resenting the accusation of cowardice. "I should think you would be afraid too, Ruby; and then what will your papa and mamma think when they find out in the night that you are gone."
"They won't find out," answered Ruby, easily disposing of that objection. "You see I shall wait till after they think I have gone to sleep to go out to my hut. I will get most undressed to-night at bed-time and then put my nightie on over the rest of my clothes, and when papa comes in to kiss me good-night he will never think of my getting up again. Then I will creep downstairs as softly as a mouse, and out into the yard. It will be such fun to roll up in the blankets, and pretend that they are the skins of wild animals, and I shall lie awake for ever so long listening to hear if any bears come around, or lions. Oh, it will be such fun," and Ruby's eyes sparkled. Ruthy looked troubled.
"I don't think it will be a bit nice," she said presently. "I don't believe your mamma would like it one single bit; and suppose somebody should carry you off when you are out there all by yourself."
"You just can't make me afraid, I guess, Ruthy Warren," sniffed Ruby, scornfully. "You are such a 'fraid-cat that you never want to do anything in all your life but play paper dolls. I might have known you would n't see what fun it is to play Swiss Family Robinson. Now don't you dare tell any one a single word about it. Remember you promised across your heart."
"I sha'n't tell," Ruthy answered, "but I do wish you would n't do it, Ruby. Why, I shall be as scared as anything if I wake up in the night and think that you are out there in your house all alone in the pitch dark. I should be so frightened if I was you that I would just scream and scream till some one heard me and came and got me."
"I would n't have such a baby as you to stay with me," Ruby said. "I am going to do it just as sure as anything, Ruthy Warren, and if you breathe a word of it to any one so I don't get let to do it, I will never, never speak to you again as long as I live and breathe."
"Of course I sha'n't tell when I promised," Ruthy replied, a little hurt at Ruby's doubting her word. "Maybe you won't do it after all, though. Perhaps when it gets dark you will be frightened."
"I never get frightened," Ruby said, tossing her head. "Now I must go home, Ruthy. Come and walk part way with me, won't you?"
"I'll ask mamma," Ruthy answered, and gathering up her paper dolls she ran into the house, coming back in a few minutes with two red-cheeked apples for the little girls to eat on their way, and permission to go as far as the corner with Ruby.
Ruby could talk and think of nothing but her great plan for the night, and Ruthy pleaded with her in vain to give it up. The little girl was so troubled about it that she wished Ruby had not told her about it. She did not see how she would ever be able to go to bed that night, and go to sleep, thinking of her little friend out alone in her little house down by the barn. In the bottom of her heart she wished that Ruby would be caught by Ann on her way out of the house, and prevented from carrying out her plan, but she did not dare whisper this wish to Ruby, as she knew how angry it would make her to think of her plans being thwarted.
By the time Ruby reached home another plan occurred to her busy brain. Nora was not far from right when she said that Ruby could think up more mischief than any three children could carry out. Suppose it should be cold in the night. Ruby could not quite remember what time in the year it was when the Swiss Family Robinson were shipwrecked, but she knew they had to make a fire. She would get some shavings and some little sticks, and get a fire all ready to light in her hut, and then if it should be cold, and she should want to light a fire, it would be all ready.
This new idea added a great charm to the thought of staying out there all night. She was quite sure that she would need a fire, and she bustled around very busily when she got home, gathering up shavings from the place where the carpenters had been at work, and getting little sticks to lay upon them so that the fire would burn up readily. Then she went back to the house, and going up into the spare room, took down the match-box from the tall chest of drawers, and carried it out to the hut where it would be all ready for the night. When this was done she felt as if she could hardly wait for the sun to go down and bedtime to come. She was so excited over her grand plan that her eyes shone like stars, and her cheeks were so flushed that when her father came in, he put his hand on her cheeks to see whether she had any fever. If he had only known what a naughty plan was in Ruby's mind, he would have been more sorry than to have had his little girl sick.
Of course I need not tell you that Ruby knew just how wrong it was to plan something which she knew very well her father and mother would not permit for a moment if they knew of it. But in all the years that you have known her she had not grown any less self-willed, I am sorry to say, and so she thought of nothing but of getting her own way, whether it was naughty or not.
The longest day will have an end at last, and though it seemed to Ruby as if a day had never passed so slowly, yet finally the sun went down. Ruby had had her supper, had kissed mamma good-night, and bed-time had come. She took off her shoes, and her dress, and then slipping her little white night-dress on over her other clothes, she scrambled into bed, and waited for her papa to come and kiss her good-night, her heart beating so loudly with excitement that she was afraid he would hear it, and wonder what was the matter with her. I think if it had been her mother who had come in she would have wondered why only Ruby's dress and shoes were to be seen, and why the little girl had such a flushed, guilty look, and held the bed-clothes tucked up so tightly under her chin; but Ruby's papa did not notice any of these things, so Ruby was not hindered from carrying out her naughty plan.
She waited for what seemed to her a very long time, and then she heard the wheels of her father's buggy going out of the yard, and knew he had gone somewhere to see a patient. She was glad, for that made one person less who would be likely to hear her when she went out. Her mamma she was sure would not hear her, for her door was closed, and if she could only get past the kitchen door without Ann discovering her, she would be safe. When she could not hear any one stirring, she got up and crept softly over to the door. The house was very still, so even the rustle of her night-dress seemed to make a noise as she stepped along the hall. Down the stairs she crept like a little thief, and at last she reached the door. Ann had been sitting with her back to the kitchen door reading when Ruby went past, so she had not noticed the little figure gliding along.
Ruby stepped through the open door out upon the back porch. It was dark, and the noise of the tree toads and frogs seemed to make it more lonely than she had thought it would be. For a moment she was almost willing to give up her plan and go back to bed like a good little girl, but then she thought of Ruthy, and how she would hate to confess to her the next day that she had given up her plan after all; so she went on. Ruby was not inclined to be timid about anything, so, although it did not seem as delightful as she had imagined it would, yet she was not afraid as she ran down the yard to her little house. She was glad, however, that it was not upon a desert island. It was very nice to know that she was not surrounded by great rolling waves on every side, and that if she wished to go back to her home and her mother she could do so in a very few minutes.
She crept into her hut, and finding the bedclothes rolled herself up in them. Oh, why was n't it as nice as she had thought it would be? Ruby was provoked with herself for wishing that she was back in the house curled up in her own little bed, instead of being out here in the night alone. She would not give up and go back, though, she said over and over again to herself. No; she had said that she would stay out all night, and she meant to keep her word, whether she liked it or not.
If Ruby had only been half as determined to keep her good resolutions as she was to keep her bad ones, she would never have found herself in such scrapes.
She rolled herself up in a little ball and drew the blanket closely about her,—not because she was cold, but because it seemed less lonesome. While she was listening to all the music of a summer's night, she fell asleep, and dreamed a very remarkable dream about sleeping in a nest swung from a cocoanut-tree, with a monkey for a bed-fellow.
In the mean time very unexpected events were taking place at the house. A little while after Ruby's father had gone out to see his patient a carriage drove up from the station with a visitor.
It was Ruby's Aunt Emma, who had come to make a visit of a few days, and who had written to say that she was coming, but had only discovered at the last moment that her letter had not been mailed in time for her brother to receive it before her arrival.
After she had had a little talk with Ruby's mother, she was very impatient to see her little niece.
"I wish I could have reached here in time to see her before she went to sleep," she said.
"I am afraid if she woke up now and found you were here she would not go to sleep again all night," said Ruby's mother.
"I won't wake her, but I will just go and peep at her while she is asleep," said Aunt Emma; and lighting a candle, she followed Ann into the room where Ruby was supposed to be fast asleep in her trundle-bed.
Of course there was no Ruby there. The little girl was curled up in her blankets out in the yard, under her little tent of boards; and there was only a little crumpled place in the pillow to show where her head had nestled.
"Why, where can she be, I wonder?" said Ann in surprise.
"Hush! don't let her mother hear, or she will be worried," said Aunt Emma, who knew how easily the invalid would be alarmed. "Perhaps she has gone downstairs to get a drink of water or something."
"No, I am sure she has n't been downstairs, for I have been sitting right there in the kitchen all the evening," said Ann, positively. "Oh, Miss Emma, she has got to be the witchiest girl ever you did see. She's always up to some piece of mischief or another, and it's more than any one but her mother can do to keep her in order. I try my best, but it ain't any use at all. She does just as she likes for all of me, unless I tell her father; and then it worries him so that I don't like to, when he has so much else on his mind."
"I should like to know where she is now," said Miss Emma, looking very much puzzled. "There comes her father," she went on, as she heard the sound of wheels coming into the yard. "Perhaps he will know." She went downstairs softly, and met the doctor who, was very much surprised at this unexpected visitor. After he had told her how glad he was to see her, she told him that Ruby was not upstairs in her bed, and that Ann did not know where she was, and asked him if he knew what had become of the little girl.
He looked very anxious.
"Why, no, I have not the least idea," he said gravely. "I kissed her good-night just before I went out to make a call, and she was all right in her bed then. I do not see what could have become of her. I hope we can keep it from her mother, or she will be sadly frightened if she hears Ruby is not to be found at this hour of the night."
Of course no one could imagine where Ruby had gone, and although they hunted all over the house, there was not a trace of the little girl to be seen.
"Perhaps she has been walking in her sleep," suggested Aunt Emma. "She may have wandered downstairs and out into the yard while she was asleep, and been too frightened when she woke up to know how to find her way back into the house. I have heard of children doing such things."
"But she could n't have gone past the door without my seeing her," said Ann, very positively. "I have been sitting right there in the kitchen all the evening, and I am sure I would have heard her, if she had gone past. I never knew Ruby to walk in her sleep; but then I would n't say she might n't have done it this time, only I know she did n't walk past the kitchen door and go out that way."
"Could she have gone out the front door?" asked Aunt Emma.
The doctor shook his head.
"No; that would be too heavy for her to open alone, after it was locked up for the night. I fastened it myself before I went out, and it is fastened now; so she could not have gone out that way. There is her mother calling. I hope she will not ask for Ruby. She must not have this anxiety if we can spare her."
LOOKING FOR RUBY.
People who are sick are very quick to hear when anything is wrong, and as soon as the doctor opened the door of the sick-room, Ruby's mamma asked anxiously,—
"Is anything wrong with Ruby? Where is she?"
Just then the only possible explanation of her absence occurred to the doctor, and he answered,
"She is not in her bed, my dear, and I am afraid she has run away and gone over to Ruthy's to spend the night. You know she asked permission to stay all night the last time she went over there for supper, and I suppose she has made up her mind to go without permission. It is too bad in her to act this way and worry you. I will drive over after her right away, and bring her back in a few minutes."
"I don't believe she would go all the way up to Ruthy's after dark," said her mother, in anxious tones. "I am afraid something has happened to her, though I cannot imagine what it could be."
"Don't think about it till I bring her back safe and sound," said the doctor as he hurried away.
But it was a great deal easier to give this advice than to follow it. Ruby's mamma could not help worrying about her little girl, and while naughty little Ruby was curled up in her blankets, sleeping as sweetly as a little bird in its nest, her mamma was listening to the wheels of the doctor's buggy, rolling out of the yard, with a beating heart, and wondering what had happened to the little girl who had gone to bed not two hours ago.
It did not take very long to drive over to Ruthy's house, and the doctor did not wait to hitch staid old Dobbin, but jumped out and ran up the steps to the house, anxious to know whether Ruby was really there. Although he was quite sure that she must be, yet he was impatient to satisfy himself.
"Is Ruby here?" were his first words, when Mr. Warren opened the door.
"Why, no," Mr. Warren answered. "I don't think she has been here to-day."
"Oh, yes, she was here a little while this afternoon," said Mrs. Warren coming to the door. "Why, what is the matter, doctor? Is n't Ruby at home?"
"No, she went to bed all right, but a little while ago when her aunt came and went to look for her, she was gone," said the doctor, feeling as if he did not know now where to turn to look for the little runaway; for where could she possibly be at that time of night, if she had not come over to visit her little friend? "Where can the child be?"
"Is n't she in the house somewhere?" asked Mrs. Warren.
"No, we have looked through the house," the doctor answered. "I don't know what will become of her mother, if I have to go back without Ruby. No one could have come into the house and stolen her, that is certain, and yet I cannot conceive where she could have gone to at this hour in the evening. This is dreadful."
Neither Mr. Warren nor his wife could suggest any place to look for Ruby. It was certainly a very strange thing that she could have disappeared from her bed after dark, without any one knowing anything about it. The doctor got into his buggy again and started towards home, wondering what he should do when he had to tell Ruby's mother that her little girl could not be found.
If Ruby could have known what a heartache her father had, as he drove slowly homeward, dreading to take such sad news back with him, I am quite sure the little girl would have tried to be good, and not make those who loved her so anxious about her.
In the mean time, Ruby had stirred uneasily in her sleep, and at last when the owl who lived in the tall elm-tree close by, gave a long, mournful hoot, she awakened, and sat up, wondering, as she rubbed her eyes open, where she was.
The cool evening breeze fanned her face, and the stars looked down upon her, and all at once Ruby remembered where she had gone to sleep. In the very depths of her heart she wished that she was back again in her own little bed, with her head on her pillow, and the white spread drawn over her. It seemed so very, very desolate to be down here at the end of the garden all alone, with a long, dark walk before her if she should go back to the house; and she began to think that the Swiss Family Robinson had a better time than Robinson Crusoe, since they were all together, and poor Crusoe must often have been very lonely all by himself, before his man Friday came to live with him.
If Ruthy had only been there, Ruby thought she would have made a very good man Friday, but she was quite sure that nothing would have persuaded Ruthy to stay out of doors at night.
"I am not a little 'fraid-cat like Ruthy," said Ruby to herself, trying to pretend that she was not at all lonely nor frightened. "I would just as lief stay out here every night. I wonder what time it is. I guess it must be nearly morning. I was asleep just hours and hours, I think. I am dreadfully hungry, so it must be ever so long since I had my supper. I had better eat some provisions, maybe."
Ruby was not really very hungry, but she wanted to be as much like the Swiss Family Robinson as possible, so she sat up and sleepily nibbled at some cookies.
"I don't think these are very nice cookies," she said, as she tried to keep up the pretence that she was very hungry. "I wish they were cocoanuts. They would be ever so much nicer."
"I wish this was a big, tall cocoanut-tree," Ruby went on. "And that it was just full of cocoanuts, and that some monkeys had a nest in it, and would throw me down cocoanuts whenever I wanted one. It would hurt if they hit me on the head though. I guess I would have to live under another tree, so as to be sure the cocoanuts would n't drop on me. I wonder if monkeys live in nests. Of course they don't live in bird's-nests, but maybe they take sticks up into trees, and make little nests, and—and—"
Ruby nodded so hard that she woke up again. She had nearly gone to sleep sitting straight up, she was so sleepy.
"I don't want to go to sleep just yet," she said. "I am going to stay awake, so. I might just as well be in bed as keep asleep out here all the time. I guess I will make a fire, and then that will be just like a real castaway."
The sticks and matches were all ready, and Ruby struck a match and lighted the little fire. It was not a very large pile of sticks, and Ruby had not thought that it would make much of a blaze, but the shavings underneath, and the light, dry sticks upon the top, were very ready to take fire and make as large a blaze as they could, so Ruby was quite dismayed at the size of her fire.
She was a little frightened, too. She had made the fire in the front of her little house, and she could not get past it to go out. The fence made a strong back wall to the house, over which she could not climb, and she could not possibly get away from the smoke and heat without going so near the fire that she was sure her night-gown would take fire.
Suppose the boards that she used in making the house should take fire, what would become of her then. I do not wonder that Ruby was frightened when she looked at the little bonfire, crackling and snapping away as cheerily as if a frightened child was not watching it with tears in her eyes.
"Oh, I shall be all burned up," she cried. "And no one will ever know what became of me. My mamma will cry and cry and wonder where Ruby is, but she will never think that I came down here and made a fire, and burned myself all entirely up. Oh, oh, I do wish I had n't. I do wish I had n't. I wonder if I screamed and screamed for papa, whether he would come down and hear me and come down and get me out. Perhaps he could n't. I don't see how anybody could get past that dreadful blaze. He would just have to see me all burning up and he could n't do one thing to save me. Oh, how sorry he would be," and Ruby cried harder than ever at the thought of her father's distress.
The smoke made her eyes smart and sting, and it choked her so that she coughed and strangled, and I need not tell you that she would have given anything in the world to have been back in her own little bed again.
Just then papa drove through the gate, and you can imagine how much surprised he was to see a fire under some boards down at the end of the yard. He jumped out of the buggy and went down there as quickly as he could, to find out what it was.
He looked into the little house, and there beyond the fire, crying so hard that she did not see nor hear him, was the little girl he had been looking for.
"Why, Ruby!" he exclaimed in amazement; and Ruby looked up, as much surprised at finding her father there, as he had been a second before when he saw her.
"Oh, papa, papa, must I be all burned up?" she cried, but papa was already answering that question. He threw down the boards out of which Ruby had made her house, and striding past the fire, lifted her in his arms, and started up to the house with her.
He was so glad that he had found her, and could take her back to her mother safe and unharmed, that he forgot everything else, and of course, Ruby was happy at being in those strong arms, when she had been so sure that she was going to be burned up; and all the way up to the house she resolved, as she had so many times before, that she would surely, surely be good now, for whenever she was naughty, and did things that she knew would not please her father and mother, she always got into trouble, and was not half as happy as she would have been if she had tried to please them. After all, papas and mammas did know what was best for little girls.
Ruby really had very good reason to be sorry for this last piece of naughtiness. By the time her papa carried her into the house they found that her mamma was very ill with the anxiety about Ruby, and her papa just let her kiss the white face once, and then he hurried her away to bed, so that he might do all that he could for the invalid.
Ruby was very much surprised to find every one up in the house. She had been so sure that it was nearly morning that she could not understand how it was that, after all she had been doing, and the long sleep she had had out in her little cabin, it should only be a little after ten o'clock.
It was some time before Ruby went to sleep, and in that quiet time she had a good opportunity to think how very naughty she had been. "I wish I had n't played Swiss Family Robinson," she said to herself. "I wish I had never, never heard anything about that old book. I should never have thought of it by myself, and then, of course, I would never have done such a thing. And now, it is just perfectly dreadful. I know papa thinks I have been too bad to love any more, and mamma is so sick, and Ann looked as cross at me as if she would just like to bite my head off, and I most know she will scold and scold at me to-morrow, and there, Aunt Emma had to come the first time I ever did such a thing, and now, I suppose she thinks I run away every night, and I never, never did before, and it is n't fair, so;" and Ruby cried softly. "Oh, dear, I do wish I had n't, and it don't make the least speck of difference how many times I wish I had n't now, 'cause it is too late. I wish I always knew beforehand how sorry I would be, and then I would n't do things that make me feel so dreadful bad. I wish I knew how mamma is. If she was n't sick, she would come and love me, and make me feel better; she always does when I have been doing things. It is n't my fault if I do bad things. When my mamma's sick, how can I help doing things. I should n't think anybody would 'spect me to mind Ann, cause she's so cross, and anyway she is n't my mamma, so she need n't pretend that she can tell me when I must n't do things. I won't let anybody but my mamma tell me what I must n't do, 'cept maybe my papa. I think it will be too bad for people to scold me for going out to-night, when I never had one bit a nice time. I can tell Ruthy I went, though, anyway, and she will be just as 'sprised, and she will say, 'I don't see how you ever dared, Ruby Harper.' Ruthy would n't dare go out in the dark. She is a real little 'fraid-cat, that is what she is. I 'm glad I am not so 'fraid of everything."
Ruby flounced about upon her pillow. She wanted to find fault with some one else, so as not to have to listen to what her conscience was telling her about herself, but it was not of much use to try to find fault with gentle little Ruthy. Ruby knew that even if she had not been afraid of going out in the dark, she would never have done anything that she knew would make her mamma and papa feel so badly. Ruthy did things sometimes that she ought not to do, and sometimes forgot her tasks, but it was rarely, if ever, that she deliberately planned a piece of mischief; and if she was concerned in one, it was almost always because Ruby had coaxed her into it.
"If Ann was n't so cross, I don't believe I would do so many things," Ruby went on, still trying to find some one else to blame. "I never did so many things when mamma was well. I am going to ask her to send Ann away, 'cause it is her fault."
But Ruby know better than that. It was because she was so very sure that it had been all her fault that she had done something that she had known perfectly well would displease her mamma and papa if they should know it, and that had worried her papa and made her mamma worse, that she was so anxious to lay the blame upon some one else.
She turned her pillow over and over, and thumped it at last, she grew so impatient because she could not go to sleep.
"I don't think it is very pleasant to stay awake all night, and keep thinking about things," she said. "Oh, dearie me, I do wish I was asleep. I wonder if people think when they are asleep. They can't tell whether they do think or not, I s'pose, 'cause they 're asleep and don't know it. I wish I was asleep, anyway. I wish I had n't gone down into that yard. I guess I do know I ought n't to have done it, and I am just as sorry as I can be. I could n't be any more sorry if papa should call me Rebecca Harper, and scold me like everything, and if mamma should scold me, too. I guess I won't say anything even if Ann scolds me, for I know I ought not to have done such a dreadful thing. Suppose I had been all burned up; and that is just what would have happened if my papa had not come! I wonder how he happened to come down into the yard and see the fire. I never s'posed he would come. I thought I was just going to be all burned up, so I did. Was n't it dreadful to be so close to a fire, and not be able to get away? I would have been all burned up by this time, and my house would have been all burned up, too, and no one would ever have known what became of me. Mamma would always have said, 'I wonder where Ruby could possibly have gone, and why she never, never comes home,' and papa would worry and worry, and Ruthy would have been so lonely, and they would never, never have known."
At the thought of such sad consequences to her mischief, Ruby cried a little, and before her tears had dried, she was fast asleep, so she did not know how ill her mamma was all night, nor how great had been the consequences of her mischief.
In the morning when Ruby waked up, she found Ann by her bedside.
"Here is your breakfast," said Ann, putting down a tray with Ruby's bowl of bread and milk upon it, on a little table. "Your papa says you are to stay here till he comes up and lets you out. Oh, Ruby, how could you be so naughty and worry your poor mamma? You don't know how sick you made her with your cutting up."
Ann did not speak angrily, but she seemed to feel so badly about Mrs. Harper's illness that Ruby felt very subdued and did not try to defend herself as usual.
"I don't want to stay up here. I want to go down and eat my breakfast with Aunt Emma," she said, presently, turning her head away, so Ann might not see the tears which were coming into her eyes.
"Your papa said you must stay up here," Ann repeated, and without saying anything more, she went out, and Ruby heard the bolt slide, and knew that she was a prisoner.
"I don't like to be locked in. I just won't be," she said angrily; and she thought she would jump up and go and pound at the door until some one should come to unfasten it; but then she remembered how sick Ann had said her mamma was, and she knew that a noise would disturb her; and more than that,—it would make her feel so badly to know that Ruby was in a temper.
There was something else that Ruby remembered, too. The last time her papa had told her to stay in her own room till he should come to let her out, he had trusted her and had not fastened the door; and when he went upstairs, he had found that Ruby had gone out, and was down in the yard playing with her kitten, just as if she was not in disgrace; so it was no wonder that he could not trust her this time. Ruby sat down on the side of the bed very meekly when she remembered all this, and I am glad to say, really resolved that as far as she could she would make up for having been so naughty last night, by trying to be as good as possible now, and not give any more trouble to her mother.
Downstairs her father and Aunt Emma were eating their breakfast, and her father was saying sadly,—
"I am sure I don't know what to do with the child. I am so busy with my patients that I can hardly take the time to be with her mother as much as I should be, and Ann does not seem to be able to make her mind. I know she is always getting into mischief, and she certainly does seem to think of more extraordinary things to do than any child I ever knew. She might have been badly burned last night, if I had not seen the blaze, and even if she had escaped herself, the fire might have spread to the boards and fence, and then there is no knowing where it would have stopped. Her mother will never get well while she worries about Ruby, and you see for yourself what harm last night worry did her. I declare I don't know what to do."
"I have a plan," said Aunt Emma, after a little thought. "I will take Ruby back to school with me."
"Take Ruby to school with you?" repeated Dr. Harper in surprise.
"Yes, I think that is the only thing to be done," Aunt Emma answered. "Of course you would miss her, but you would know that she was in safe keeping, and that I would take good care of her, and make her as happy as possible; and then without the anxiety of her whereabouts or her doings upon her mind, her mother would have a better chance to get well. You see you never can know what the child will do next, and if she had not made that fire she might not have been found until morning, and you know in what a state her mother would have been by that time. I have a week yet before I must go back to teach, and I will get her ready and take her back with me."
At first it seemed to Dr. Harper as if he could not possibly let his only little daughter go away to boarding-school, even with her aunt, but as he thought more about it, and talked it over with Aunt Emma, he decided that it was the only thing to do with self-willed, mischievous little Ruby, until her mother should be better again, and able to control her.
The next thing to do was to secure her mother's consent, and Dr. Harper said,—
"I am afraid it will take some time to persuade her that she can let Ruby go away from her. She will miss her so much, and will worry lest Ruby should be homesick."
He was very much surprised, when he suggested the plan, to hear her say,—
"That is just what I have been thinking about myself. If I only knew that she was being taken good care of, and could not get into any more mischief, I would be willing to let her go, for I shall never have another easy moment about her while I am too sick to take care of her myself. I do not know what she will do next."
That was just the trouble. Nobody ever knew what Ruby was going to do next, and as she generally got into mischief first, and then did her thinking about it afterwards, one might be pretty sure that she would carry out any plan that came into her head, whatever its consequences might be.
Dr. Harper was seriously displeased with his little daughter, and he determined to give her ample time to think over her naughty conduct; so after he had eaten his breakfast, and done all that he could for the invalid, he went out to visit his patients, leaving her shut up in her room, where she could not get into any more mischief for a few hours at any rate.
Ruby had dressed herself and eaten her breakfast, feeling very lonely and penitent, and then she expected that her papa would come and let her out. She wanted to go in to her mamma's room and tell her how sorry she was that she had worried her so the night before; but the minutes went by, and still her father did not come, and when at last Ruby heard his buggy wheels going past the house, she knew that he meant to leave her by herself until he should come back.
It seemed a long, long time to Ruby, though it was only two hours really, and she had time to think of all that had happened, and all that might have happened before her papa came back.
Ruby heard him drive around to the stable, and she knew just about how long it would take him to walk up to the house. Presently she heard his step upon the porch, and then he came upstairs, and went first into her mother's room, to see how she was, and then after a few minutes he came out, and Ruby heard him coming towards her room. The moment he opened the door she ran and threw herself into his arms.
"I am so sorry; indeed I am sorry, papa," she cried, bursting into tears.
Her father sat down, and took her up on his knee.
"And you have made us all very sorry, Ruby," he answered. "Your mother is very much worse, because she had such a fright last night. Just think what it was when we thought you were safely asleep for the night to find that you had disappeared, without any one knowing where you had gone. I drove over to Ruthy's to look for you; and I do not know what I should have done if I had not seen the fire, and found you in the yard. I should not have had the least idea where to look for you; and I do not think you can realize what serious consequences your naughtiness might have had. And they might have been very dangerous ones to yourself too. If your clothes had taken fire, as they easily might have done, I cannot bear to think what would have happened to my little daughter."
Ruby cried on, with her face hidden in her father's shoulder.
"Oh, I am so sorry. You can do anything you like to me, papa; indeed, you can," she sobbed. "Perhaps you don't b'lieve how sorry I am, but I never was more sorry for anything; never, never."
"I know you are sorry, Ruby," said her father. "You are always sorry after you have done wrong; but that does not seem to keep you from getting into the next piece of mischief that comes into your head. I cannot let you go on in this way any longer. For your mother's sake, if not your own, I must put a stop to it, or she will never have a chance to get well. I am going to send you away to boarding-school with your Aunt Emma."
"Oh, papa, papa, don't do that! please don't!" exclaimed Ruby, clinging to him. "I don't want to go away from you and mamma. I don't! oh, I don't! Please let me stay home, and you can keep me shut up in this one single room all the time, and I won't say one word; truly, I won't; but do let me stay with you and mamma. I will be so good."
"You think you will now, Ruby; but in a few days you would be in as much mischief as ever. It is better for you to be where some one can take care of you. As soon as your mother is better you shall come home again; and after a few days, I have no doubt but that you will be very happy there with Aunt Emma and the new friends you will make."
"I don't believe Ruthy will like to go," said Ruby presently, after a little thought.
"Ruthy is not going, my dear," answered her father.
"Oh, isn't Ruthy going?" asked Ruby, in surprise. "I thought of course Ruthy would go if I did. Oh, papa, I can't go without Ruthy. I truly can't. Won't you make her go with me? Please do; and then I will try not to cry about going."
"I don't believe Ruthy's papa and mamma would want to spare her," answered the doctor. "But you will be with Aunt Emma, you know, dear; and you love her, and she will take very good care of you."
"But I want Ruthy, too," Ruby said, looking very much as if she was going to begin crying again at the thought of being separated, not only from her father and mother, but from her little friend as well.
"Now Ruby, dear, if you are really sorry that you have been so naughty," said her father, "you will show it by doing all you can to be good now. If you fret and cry and worry about going to school, it will make it very hard for your mother, and perhaps make her worse. If you had been good, and tried to do what you knew would please her when she was not able to watch you, it would not have been necessary to send you away; but you have shown that you need some one to look after you, so there does not seem to be any other way but this of giving your mother a chance to get well without unnecessary anxiety; and of making sure that you are not doing every wild thing that comes into your head. I do not think Ruthy can go with you; so you must try to make the best of things, and go with your Aunt Emma without complaining. If you will do this, I shall know that you really love your mamma and want to do all you can to make her better; and then just as soon as she is well, you shall come home again."
Ruby was silent. It was a very hard way of showing that she was sorry, she thought. She would rather have been shut up in her room, or go without pie or almost anything else that she could think of, instead of going away to boarding-school with Aunt Emma.
Much as she loved her aunt, she did not want to have to leave her father and mother for the sake of being with her. All at once a thought came into her head which made going away seem less hard. I am sure you will laugh when I tell you what it was that could console her in some part for the thought of leaving her father and mother. She remembered that once when she was upstairs in Mrs. Peterson's house, she saw a little trunk standing at the end of the wide hall, studded with brass-headed nails, and upon one end were the letters "M. D. K." She had asked Maude to whom the trunk belonged, and Maude had looked very important when she answered that it was her own trunk, and that the letters upon the end stood for Maude Delevan Birkenbaum. Ruby was wondering whether she should have a trunk like Maude's if she should go to boarding-school. It had seemed just the very nicest thing in the world to have a trunk of one's own with one's initials upon it in brass-headed nails, and she thought she could go, without being quite heart-broken, if only she had a trunk to take with her. Finally she said,—
"Papa, if I go to boarding-school, I shall have to have a trunk, won't I? And may it be a black trunk with my name on it in brass nails?"
Papa smiled, though Ruby did not see him.
"Yes, dear," he answered. "If you are a good little girl, and try not to worry your mother by fretting about going, and don't get into any more mischief before you go, I will certainly give you just such a trunk to take with you, if that will be any comfort to you."
"It certainly would be a comfort," Ruby answered, cuddling up closer to her papa. "And may I take some butternuts in it?"
"You will have to consult your Aunt Emma about what you shall put in it," her father answered, "but I will get you the trunk."
"And it will have a key?" asked Ruby.
"Yes, it will have a key," said her father. "Now, Ruby, mamma wants to see you a little while. Can I trust you to be a good little girl, and not disturb her when you go into her room? Her head aches very badly, and I only want you to stay in there long enough to kiss her and tell her how sorry you are for disturbing her so last night, and then you must go downstairs quietly. Will you remember?"
"Yes, papa," Ruby answered in subdued tones, and then she slipped down from his knee, and walked along the hall on tiptoe, and stole into her mother's room. When she saw her mother's pale face, and traces of tears on her cheeks, and knew that it was because she had been so naughty that the tears were there, Ruby wanted to bury her head in the pillow beside her mother, and have a good cry there; but she remembered what her father had told her, and kept very quiet. She only kissed her mother, and whispering how very sorry she was, she came away, feeling comforted and forgiven by her mother's kiss. "I don't see how I am ever bad to such a lovely mamma," she said to herself.
She was a little shy about going downstairs. It was not very pleasant to remember that the very first thing Aunt Emma had known about her when she came was that she was in mischief, and Ruby thought of course she would say something about it, and perhaps that Ann would reprove her, too.
But she was very pleasantly disappointed when at last she went into the sitting-room, where Aunt Emma was busy with some sewing.
She looked up and greeted her little niece as if she had not seen her before since her arrival; and she seemed so wholly unconscious of anything unusual in Ruby's not being down to breakfast, that the little girl thought perhaps her aunt had forgotten all about it. Ann did not say anything more to her about her naughtiness either, and before dinner-time Ruby was almost happy at the idea of going to boarding-school with a trunk, and a key, which she meant to wear upon a string around her neck.
She intended to persuade Ruthy to go, too, though. She was quite sure that not even the trunk could make her go away happily without her little friend.
Aunt Emma was very pleasant company for some time, but when she went upstairs to the sick-room, Ruby concluded that she would go over and see Ruthy.
She felt quite important as she walked along, thinking of the great news she had to tell. It did not take Ruby very long to forget about her troubles and penitences, and if it had not been for the sight of the blackened remains of the fire, and the pile of boards lying where her father had thrown them when he pushed them down and carried Ruby out, she might not have thought of last night's performance for some time.
As it was, she stopped the happy little song that had been on her lips, and walked along very quietly for a time, thinking how sorry she was that she had made her mother worse, and that she was going to be sent away from home because she could not be trusted.
While going to boarding-school might be a very great event, and an event which was quite unheard-of in the lives of any of Ruby's friends, yet she did not like to have to remember that it was partly as a punishment that she was going.
Before she reached Ruthy's, however, she had banished all unpleasant thoughts, and her one idea was to astonish Ruthy with the information that she was going to boarding-school, and was to have a trunk to take with her. She ran upon the porch calling,—
"Ruthy, Ruthy! Where are you?"
Mrs. Warren came to the door.
"Good-morning, Ruby," she said, looking gravely at the little girl. "How is your mamma this morning after her anxiety last night about you?"
Ruby had not thought that Mrs. Warren knew anything about her plan of playing Swiss Family Robinson, and her face grew very red, as she looked away from Mrs. Warren, and twisted the corner of her apron into a little point.
"How did you know?" she asked very faintly.
"Because your papa came over here looking for you, and then he drove back after a while to let us know that you were found, and were safe. I was very sorry to hear that you had frightened your mother so. How is she this morning?"
"She is worse this morning," and Ruby began to cry. It was so hard to have to tell Ruthy's mamma that she had made her own dear mother worse. "I did n't mean to make my mamma worse; I truly did n't, Mrs. Warren. I love my mamma just as much as Ruthy loves you, and maybe better, even if I do do things I ought n't to do. I never thought she would know about it, I truly didn't. If I had known that she would wake up and be frightened, I never would have gone out one step, even if I did think it would be fun."
Mrs. Warren led Ruby in and took her up in her lap.
"My dear little girl, if you would only stop and think before you get into mischief, I do not believe you would do half so many naughty things," she said. "I know you love your mother, but you think about Ruby first and what she wants to do, and forget to think about your mother until afterwards, and then it is too late to spare her anxiety about you. It would make her very unhappy if she knew how many things you do which, I am sure, you know she would not like."
"Indeed, I am going to try to be good," Ruby answered, wiping away her tears. "And I have a great secret, Mrs. Warren. At least, it is n't a secret exactly. It's somewhere that I am going, but I want to tell Ruthy first of all, and then I will tell you about it; and oh, I do hope you will let Ruthy go too. Will you?"
"I can't answer until I know where you are going," Mrs. Warren answered. "Does your papa know where you are going, Ruby?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am," Ruby answered promptly, glad that for once there was nothing wrong about her plan. "He told me about it this morning. It is only that I want Ruthy to know it the very first of all that I don't tell you about it this very minute, Mrs. Warren. You don't mind, do you?"
"Oh, no," Mrs. Warren replied. "If your papa knows about it, I am quite satisfied."
Ruby jumped down and went in search of Ruthy, who Mrs. Warren said was probably playing out in the barn.
"Ruthy! Ruthy!" called Ruby as she ran down and peeped in through the great doors. "Where are you, Ruthy?"
"Up in the hay loft," answered a smothered voice. "Come up here, Ruby."
So Ruby climbed up and found Ruthy curled up in a little nest of fragrant hay, with one of her favorite story-books.
"Oh, Ruby, tell me about last night," began Ruthy eagerly. "I was so frightened when it began to get dark, and I remembered that you were going to stay out-doors all alone by yourself; and I felt so bad that I almost cried. I could hardly go to sleep, I kept thinking about you so much. Did you go? Was n't it dreadful?"
Ruby was glad that Ruthy did not know how her papa had come over to find if Ruby was with Ruthy.
"Oh, yes," she answered. "I went out and stayed a long time, but it was n't very nice. Anyway, let's don't talk about that, Ruthy. I have got something to tell you that you could never, never guess, I don't believe, if you tried for one hundred times. Now I will give you six guesses, and you can see if you can guess right. I am going somewhere in about two weeks. Can you guess where?"
"Going somewhere?" echoed Ruthy. "Why, I don't believe I could possibly guess, Ruby. Let me think first."
She shut her eyes and tried to imagine where Ruby could be going, but she found it pretty hard work. Neither of the little girls had ever been away from home in their lives, farther than over to the grove where the Fourth-of-July picnics were always held, so it was not very strange that Ruthy could not think of any visit that Ruby would be likely to make. Perhaps Ruby was going to visit the grandmother who sometimes came to stay with Ruby's mamma for a few weeks, and who had sent the little girls their wonder balls when they learned to knit.
"I guess first that you are going to visit your grandma," she said.
"No," answered Ruby, triumphantly. "I just knew you could n't possibly guess right, but try again. I won't tell you until you have guessed six times."
"I am afraid I won't ever know, then," sighed Ruthy. "I can't think of six places to guess. Are you going to New York?"
"No," answered Ruby. "It is a great deal more important than going to New York. You know folks don't stay long when they go to New York, and they don't take a—" but she clapped her hands over her mouth to shut out the next word. "Dear me, I most told you the very most important part of the secret. I won't say another word for fear I will tell. Now guess again."
"I might as well ask you if you are going to the moon," Ruthy said.
"I truly can't guess once more, Ruby, so you will have to tell me."
"I am going to boarding-school," announced Ruby, triumphantly.
Ruthy was just as surprised as Ruby had expected her to be. She sat straight up in the hay, and let her book fall, while she looked at Ruby with wide-open eyes.
"What!" she exclaimed, as if she could not believe her ears. "Did you really say you were going to boarding-school, Ruby Harper?"
"Yes, I really am," Ruby responded, "but there 's more than that to tell you. What do you suppose I am going to have to take with me?"
"I am sure I don't know," Ruthy answered.
"I am going to have a trunk of my very own," said Ruby, proudly. "It will be like Maude Birkenbaum's, papa said it would be. It is to be black, and have a beautiful row of gold nails all around the top, and then at one end there will be 'M. D. B.' in letters made of the nails all driven in rows. Won't that be beautiful?"
"Yes, indeed," answered Ruthy. "But what will 'M. D. B.' stand for, Ruby?"
"Why, for my initials of course," Ruby answered. "Oh, no, I made a mistake. It won't be 'M. D. B.,' but 'R. T. H.,' to stand for Ruby Todd Harper. I forgot that my initials and Maude's were n't the same. But just think of it, Ruthy. To have a trunk of one's own and a key to it! I think that will be too lovely for anything."
"Are you glad you are going to boarding-school?" asked Ruthy, looking at her rather soberly.
"Why, yes, of course I am," said Ruby, trying to forget that it meant going away from home, too.
"How long will you stay, do you suppose?" asked Ruthy.
"Oh, I don't exactly know. Till mamma gets well again, papa said," Ruby replied. "I spose maybe about a year."
Ruby had rather vague ideas about the length of a year. She always counted a year from one Christmas to the next, or from one Fourth of July to the next, whichever happened to be nearest the time from which she was calculating; and though it seemed a long time when she looked back from one holiday to the last, yet she did not have a very good idea how much time it took for twelve months to pass away. Ruby knew her tables, and she could have told you in one minute, that it took three hundred and sixty-five days to make a year, but she did not know how long it took that procession of days to pass along and let the new year come in.
"Oh, dear," and Ruthy buried her face in the hay, and began to cry.
"Why, what is the matter?" asked Ruby, in surprise.
"I shall miss you so dreadfully," sobbed Ruthy. "I shall not have any one to play with, that is, any one like you, and I shall miss you all the time."
"But I am going to ask your mamma to let you go with me," Ruby said comfortingly. "I forgot to tell you, but I truly will. Do you suppose I would go away off to boarding-school without you, Ruthy Warren? You might know I would n't. Of course not. Come and let's go in now and ask your mother if you can't go with me."
But Ruthy cried harder than ever.
"But I don't want to go to boarding-school," she sobbed. "I want to stay with my mamma. I should just die if I went way off away from her. I don't want you to go either, Ruby. I don't see what you think it is nice to go to boarding-school for, anyway."
"Now, Ruthy, I thought you would go with me, even if you didn't think it would be very nice at first," Ruby said, in rather reproving tones. "Of course you think it would n't be nice, but it would be after you got used to it, and you would have a trunk, too, maybe. Wouldn't that be nice?"
But the trunk was no comfort to Ruthy. She could not understand how Ruby could bear to think of leaving her mother. She was quite sure she would never be willing to do it, and not Ruby's most eloquent representations to her of how delightful going away with a trunk would be, could induce her to want to accompany her.
"Oh, I wish you were not going, either," was all that Ruby could coax from her, after she had talked until she was tired.
Thee was nothing that vain little Ruby enjoyed more than a sense of importance, and so she was quite happy for the next few days. All her little friends looked upon her with wonder when they heard that she was going away to boarding-school, and Ruby's announcement to them that she was going to take a trunk added to the importance of the occasion quite as much as she had hoped it would.
There was only a week in which to make all preparations for her going, so you can imagine that they were very busy days. Miss Abigail Hart, the dressmaker who made every one's clothes, when they were not made by people themselves, came to the house every day, and sewed all day long, and Aunt Emma helped her most of the time. If it had not been for the thoughts of the trunk, Ruby would have found some of these days very tiresome. She had to be always ready in case Miss Hart should want to try on any of her dresses, so she could not go very far away from the house, and she found Miss Hart's dressmaking very different from her mother's dressmaking.
Miss Abigail Hart was tall and thin, and as Ruby and many other little girls said, had quite forgotten all about the time when she was a little girl; so when she went to houses to sew, the children usually tried to keep out of her way as much as possible. Her hands were very cold, whether it was summer or winter, and she never liked it if any one whom she was fitting jumped about when her cold fingers touched one's neck. She wore long scissors, tied by a ribbon to her waist, and these scissors were always cold; and it was not at all a pleasant operation to have the waist of a dress fitted, and have Miss Abigail's cold fingers, and her still colder scissors creeping about one's neck.
"If you don't keep still it will not be my fault if you get a cut," Miss Abigail would say, and I am not sure but that some of the little girls were afraid that their very heads might be snipped off by a slip of those shining blades, if they wriggled about when the necks of their dresses were being trimmed down.
Miss Abigail was very slow, so it took a long time to go through this operation, and the worst part of it was that one fitting never was sufficient. At least twice, and sometimes three times she would repeat it, and there were plenty of Ruby's friends who had said that not for all the new dresses in the world would they want to have Miss Abigail fit them. They would rather have but one dress and have that dress made by their mothers, if they had to choose between that and those cold fingers and sharp scissors.
It was very pleasant to go to the store with Aunt Emma, and help choose the pretty calicoes and delaines which were to be made into dresses and help fill the little trunk. Ruby never felt more important than when she was perched upon the high stool before the counter and had four new dresses at once. She fancied that the store-keeper was more respectful in his tone than he usually was when he addressed little girls, and that he was much impressed by the fact that Aunt Emma let her select the pattern herself instead of choosing for her.
The calicoes were very pretty. One was covered with little rosebuds upon a cream-tinted ground, and the other had little dark-blue moons upon a light-blue ground. The delaines were brown and blue; and then besides these dresses, Ruby's best cashmere was to be let down, and have the sleeves lengthened, so that it would still be nice for a best dress.
Ruby had never had so many new dresses all at once in her life before, and she felt very important when her papa brought them home in the buggy, and they were all spread out before Miss Abigail.
Miss Abigail looked at them very wisely, with her head a little upon one side. She rubbed them between her fingers, wondered whether they would wash well, and finally looked at Ruby, and said,—
"I trust you are a very thankful little girl for all the mercies you have. So you know that there are some poor little children who have but rags to wear?"
"Yes 'm," said Ruby, meekly.
"Then don't you think you ought to appreciate all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you?"
"Yes 'm," Ruby replied again.
"Then you must try to be an obedient, gentle child, and do as you are bid in everything."
"Yes 'm," said Ruby, wishing in the bottom of her heart that the dresses were all made.
She had never had very much to do with Miss Abigail herself, although she had often seen her, and two or three times she had spent a day at the house, helping Mrs. Harper make one of her own dresses. Upon those occasions, however, Ruby had spent the day with Ruthy, and so she had only been with Miss Abigail a little while in the morning, and had not had much to say to her.
"If Miss Abigail was my mamma, I would not stay in the same house with her," Ruby said to herself. "I guess that is why she has n't any little girls,—because she don't know how to make them happy. I don't want to be told all the time about being good, I guess."
But Ruby had to listen to a great many lectures, whether she liked them or not, in the next few days. Miss Abigail came and stayed with them for all the rest of the week, and as she believed in little girls being made useful, Ruby had to spend a good deal of time in picking out bastings, and doing other little things for Miss Abigail.
"Oh, dear, I have n't done one single thing since I can remember," Ruby said, impatiently, to Ruthy one day when her little friend came over to see her; "I have n't done one single thing but pick out bastings and have Miss Abigail telling me how good I ought to be 'cause I have so many new dresses. I do wish she was all done and had gone away."
"But then you will go away, too, you know," Ruthy suggested.
"I wish I would n't; I wish I was going to stay here for a week after she went," Ruby answered. "I think Aunt Emma might stop her, I do so."
"How do you mean?" asked Ruthy.
"Well, I know what I would do," said Ruby. "I would say to her this way—" and Ruby held her head very high, and tried to look exceedingly dignified—"I should say, 'Miss Abigail, if you will please tend to making Ruby's dresses, I will tend to her behavior.'"
Ruthy looked rather shocked.
"I am afraid that would make Miss Abigail feel dreadfully bad, to have your auntie say such a thing," she said. "I think Miss Abigail is real nice, I truly do. She saves pretty pieces of calico for my patch-work, and once she gave me a sash for my doll; don't you remember it?—that blue one, with a little rose bud in the middle."
"Well, I don't like her," and Ruby shook her shoulders. "And I don't think it's nice in you to like her, when she makes me perfectly miserable. How would you like it if every time you wanted to do anything you heard her calling you, and had to go in and be fitted and fitted. She holds pins in her mouth, too, a whole row of them, and mamma never lets me do that, so Miss Abigail ought not to, and I just think I will tell her so. She has a whole row of them, just as long as her mouth is wide, and they bristle straight out when she talks. Just suppose she should drop some down my neck when she is talking. They would stick in to me, and hurt me like everything before I could get them out. I guess I would n't like that, would I? And if you had to stand just hours and hours, and have her cold fingers poking around your neck, and those great sharp scissors going snip, snip all around your neck, just where they would cut great pieces out if you dared move, I don't believe you would like that yourself, Ruthy Warren, even if she did give you things for your doll."
"No, I don't s'pose I would like it any better than you do," assented Ruthy, who was determined not to quarrel with her little friend, when they were so soon to be separated.
"Ruby, Miss Abigail wants you," called Aunt Emma.
Ruby made a wry face.
"There she is again," she exclaimed. "It's just the way the whole livelong time. I think if she knew how to make dresses, she ought not to have to fit so much. If I fitted my doll so often when I made her a dress, I guess her head would fall off. It would get shaky anyway, with so much fussing. Wait till I come back, Ruthy, and then we will play."
Miss Abigail was waiting to fit Ruby's blue delaine, and it looked so pretty that Ruby forgot how unwilling she had been to come in and have it fitted.
She showed her pleasure in it so plainly that good Miss Abigail was afraid that the little girl was in danger of becoming vain, and thought it best to warn her against this state of mind.
"I am afraid it is n't the best thing for you, Ruby Warren, to have so many new clothes all at once," she said, with the row of pins waving up and down, as she spoke through her teeth, which she did not open when she spoke, lest the pins should fall out. "If any one thinks more of clothes than they should, then dress is a snare and a temptation to them, and I am much afraid that that is what it is going to be to you. Better for you to have only one dress to your back than to put clothes in the wrong place in your mind, and let them make you vain and conceited. What are clothes, anyway? There is n't any thing to be so proud of in them. Now this nice wool delaine was once growing on a sheep's back. Do you suppose that sheep was vain because it was covered with wool? No, it never thought anything about it. And so you see that you ought n't to be proud of it either."
"I think new dresses are very nice," said Ruby, speaking cautiously, lest she should inadvertently turn her head, and the sharp points of the scissors should run into her neck.
Miss Abigail felt that she must say still more, for it was evident that Ruby was putting too much value upon her dress.
"But it is n't new," she said.
"Oh, Miss Abigail, it truly is," exclaimed Ruby, forgetting herself and turning her head so suddenly that if the scissors had been in the right place, the points would surely have run into her. Fortunately, Miss Abigail had stopped to see how the neck looked, and her scissors were hanging by her side for a moment. "Why, of course, it is new. I went with Aunt Emma to the store, and helped buy it my very own self, so I know it is brand-new. Why, I should think you could tell it is new, it is so pretty and bright, and there is n't one single teenty tonty wrinkle in it."
"Yes, it is new to you," Miss Abigail answered solemnly. "But when you think about the matter, Ruby Harper, you know that the sheep wore it first, and you only have it second-hand, as you might say. Now, I should think a little girl was very silly that thought herself better than any one else, and let her thoughts rest on her clothes because she wore a sheep's old suit of wool made up in a little different way. Shall I tell you some verses that my mother made me learn when I was a little girl, because I was proud of a new pelisse?"
"Yes 'm," said Ruby, meekly, taking a great deal of pleasure in the thought that when Miss Abigail was a little girl she had been naughty sometimes, and had had to learn verses as a punishment.
"'How proud we are, how fond to show Our clothes, and call them rich and new, When the poor sheep and silk-worm wore That very clothing long before.
"'The tulip and the butterfly Appear in gayer coats than I; Let me be dressed fine as I will, Flies, worms, and flowers exceed me still.'"
"I don't think worms look nicer than I do," said Ruby, not very politely, when Miss Abigail had finished. "And I am very sorry for you, Miss Abigail, if you had to learn such ugly verses. If you had had a mamma like mine you would have had a better time, I think."
Miss Abigail looked severely over her brass-bowed spectacles at Ruby, almost too shocked to speak for a moment.
"I am sure, I don't know what your mother would say, Ruby Harper, if she heard you talking that way. I am sure she would think that you were no credit to her bringing-up. You have a good mother, one of the best mothers that ever lived, and your father is such a good man, too, that I am sure I don't see where you get your pert ways from. I was a happy child, because I was, in the main, a good child, and no one ever had a better mother than mine; and I have tried to follow the way in which I was brought up, if I do say it myself. Those were counted to be very pretty verses when I was a child, and I don't know but they were better than to-day. At any rate, in my day, children were taught to have a little respect for their elders, and there are very few that do that now. There were some other verses that I was going to tell a good deal of the nonsense that children learn you, but if that is your opinion of those I did tell you, there is no use in my taking so much trouble."
Miss Abigail looked sorrowful as well as vexed, and Ruby wished that she had not told her what she thought of the verses.
"I suppose she thinks they are nice," she said to herself; "and mamma would be sorry if she thought I had been rude to Miss Abigail."
Ruby was going away from her mother so soon that her conscience was more tender than usual, and she did not want to do what she knew her mother would not like.
"Please tell me the other verses, Miss Abigail," she said. "I did not know you liked those other verses, or I would not have called them ugly."
"I am glad you did not mean to be a rude child," said Miss Abigail, pleased by Ruby's apology. "Your mother takes so much pains with you that it would be a pity for you not to be a good child. Yes, I will tell you the others, and while I am repeating them you can sit down upon this little ottoman, and pick out the bastings in this sleeve."
While Ruby pulled the basting-thread out, and wound it on a spool as Miss Abigail had taught her, half wishing that she had not said anything about the other verses, since she might now have been out at play with Ruthy, Miss Abigail repeated some more of the verses she had learned when she, too, was a little girl like Ruby:—
"'Come, come, Mister Peacock, you must not be proud, Although you can boast such a train; For many a bird, far more highly endowed, Is not half so conceited nor vain.
Let me tell you, gay bird, that a suit of fine clothes Is a sorry distinction at most, And seldom much valued, excepting by those Who only such graces can boast.
The nightingale certainly wears a plain coat, But she cheers and delights with her song; While you, though so vain, cannot utter a note, To please by the use of your tongue.
The hawk cannot boast of a plumage so gay, But piercing and clear is her eye; And while you are strutting about all the day, She gallantly soars in the sky.
The dove may be clad in a plainer attire, But she is not selfish and cold; And her love and affection more pleasure impart Than all your fine purple and gold.
So you see, Mister Peacock, you must not be proud, Although you can boast such a train; For many a bird is more highly endowed, And not half so conceited and vain.'"
"I think I like that ever so much better," said Ruby, jumping up as Miss Abigail finished, and handing back the sleeve, from which she had pulled all the basting-threads.
"Now can I go over to Ruthy's, Miss Abigail? Aunt Emma told me that I must ask you before I went away anywhere, for fear you would want me."
"No, I shall not want you any more until nearly tea-time," Miss Abigail answered, as she scrutinized the sleeve to see whether Ruby had left any bastings in it. "Now remember what I have told you, Ruby, child, about setting your heart upon your fine clothes. Clothes do not make people, and if you are not a well-behaved child, polite and respectful to your betters, it will not make any difference to any one how well you may be dressed."
"Yes 'm," Ruby answered, as she ran away to find Ruthy, thinking that little girls in Miss Abigail's time must have been very different from the little girls she knew, and wondering whether Miss Abigail looked as tall and thin when she was a little girl as she did now, and whether she used to be just as proper and precise.
It was so funny to think of Miss Abigail as a little girl that Ruby laughed aloud at the thought, as she looked for her little friend. She was quite sure of one thing: if she had been a little girl when Miss Abigail was a little girl, she would not have chosen her for a friend. Ruthy was the only little girl in all the world that she could wish to have always for a friend, for who else would be always willing to give up her own way, and yield so patiently to impetuous little Ruby in everything.
Ruby thoroughly enjoyed all the preparations that were being made for her departure. Every day, and a great many times a day, the little trunk would be opened and something more put into its hungry mouth, and it was soon quite full of the things which Ruby was to take with her. Of course she did not get into mischief during these busy days,—there was no time for it. It was only when Ruby had nothing else to think about that she devised plans for mischief. At last everything was ready the evening before she was to start. Miss Abigail had finished all that she had to do; she had bidden Ruby good-by, with a long lecture upon how she ought to behave when she was at school, so as to set a good example to her school-mates, and reflect credit upon her father and mother and the training they had given her, and then she had concluded by giving Ruby something that I am afraid she valued much more than the advice,—a pretty little house-wife, of red silk, which she had made for her, with everything in it that Ruby would need if she wanted to take any stitches.
When Ruby saw it she was sorry that she had twisted about so much, and showed so plainly how impatient she was growing of the long talk which preceded it.
Then Miss Abigail had tied on her large black bonnet, and Ruby had watched her going down the road with a sense of relief that there would be no more fitting of dresses, with cold fingers and still colder scissors, and no more lectures upon good behavior. However, she was so pleased and surprised by the pretty gift that she felt more kindly towards Miss Abigail than she would have believed it possible.
Ruby's old dresses had been made over until they looked just like new ones, and the last stitches had been taken in her new ones, and little white ruffles were basted in the necks, so that they were all ready to put on. Everything had been carefully folded up and packed in her trunk,—not only her clothes, but the little farewell gifts that her friends had brought her.
She had a nice pencil-box, filled with pencils and pen-holders, two penwipers, as well as a box of the dearest little note-paper, just the right size for her to write upon, with her initial "R" at the top of the paper.
Orpah had brought her a mysterious box, carefully tied up in paper, which she had made Ruby promise that she would not open until she unpacked her trunk at school; so that gave Ruby something nice to look forward to when she should reach her journey's end.
Ruby had fully intended to take her kitten with her, and she was very much disappointed when Aunt Emma told her that that was one of the things she would have to leave behind her.
Ann promised to take the very best care of Tipsey, and that promise comforted Ruby somewhat, although she still wished that she might take her pet with her.
It was not until the last evening came that Ruby fully realized that she was going away to leave her papa and mamma the next day. Then she felt as if she would gladly give up her trunk and all her new clothes and everything that she had been enjoying so much, if she might only stay at home.
For the first time her promise to her father to be brave about going away cost her a great effort. Her mother had not been nearly so well since the night she had been so anxious about her little girl, and Ruby knew that she must not worry her by crying or fretting about going away.
But she climbed up on her father's lap after she had eaten her supper, and put her head down upon his broad shoulder, with the feeling that nothing in all the wide world could make up to her for being away from him and from her dear mother.
She wished with all her heart that she had tried to be a good girl during her mother's illness, for then it would not have been necessary to send her away to school. But now it was too late, for everything was all ready for her going, and Ruby was quite sure that coax and tease as hard as she might, her father would not change his plans.
"I don't want to go away, papa," she said, with a little sob in her voice, as Tipsey scrambled up in her lap, and curling herself into a little round ball of fur began to purr a soft little tune.
"Don't you want to leave Tipsey?" asked her father, playfully.
"It is n't only Tipsey," said Ruby, while a big tear splashed down upon her father's hand. "It is you and mamma, most of all, and Ruthy, and everybody. I know I shall not be one single bit happy at school when I can't come home and see you when I want to, and I shall just most die, I am sure I shall."
"Little daughter, we both love mother, don't we?" asked her father, stroking Ruby's dark hair gently.
"Yes, sir," answered Ruby, with a tremulous voice.
"And we would do anything to help her get well again?"
"Why, of course," Ruby answered again.
"Then we must do some things that are hard, if we really want to help her. You know how sick she has been the last few days. I don't want you to feel as if I was sending you away only as a punishment for running away that night. Perhaps if you had not done that particular thing, I might not have given my consent to this plan, but I am sure you are enough of a little woman to see what a help it will be to mother. If she is to get well again, she needs to have her mind kept perfectly free from worry; and when you are running about with no one to take care of you except Ann, who is too busy to do much for you, she is worrying all the time for fear something may happen to you, or that you may get into some mischief. Now if she knows you are safe at school with Aunt Emma, where you will be well taken care of, and will study your lessons, and try to be good and obedient, then she will feel so much happier about you that it will do more toward helping her to get well than all the medicine in the world. There are some things that I can do for her. I can take care of her, and give her medicine, and see that nothing troubles her in the house, but there is something for you to do that I cannot do. This is to be your share of helping dear mother get well. If you go away bravely, and try to study and be a good girl, so that Aunt Emma can write home in each letter that you are doing just as mother would wish you to do, you will be helping her even more than I will. If you think only about yourself, you will cry about going, and fret to come home, until mother will be troubled about you, and perhaps think it best for you to come home again; but if you think about mother, you will be my own brave little daughter, and then mother will soon be well again, and we will send for our little Ruby, and she will come home wiser and better-behaved than when she went away, and we will all be so happy. I am sure I know which you are going to do."
"I am going to be just as brave as can be," Ruby answered, winking back the tears which had been trying to roll down her cheeks, and rubbing out of sight the great shining one which had splashed down upon Tipsey's soft fur. "Yes, papa, I am going to be just as brave as anything. I won't cry. I won't say one word about wanting to come home in my letters, and I will study so hard that I shall stay up at the head of the class just as I do here, and the teacher will think I am ever so—"
"Be careful, darling," interrupted her father. "I don't want my little girl to think so much of herself. If you go to school thinking that you are going to be so much more clever than all the other little girls, I am afraid you will find out that you are sadly mistaken, and then you will be very unhappy. Don't think of excelling the other girls, but think of doing the very best you can because it is right, and because it will make mother and father happy. I would rather have my little Ruby at the very foot of the class, and have her unselfish and gentle, than have her at the head, with a proud and unlovely spirit. Of course I should be very glad to have my little daughter excel in her lessons, for then I should know that she was studying and trying to improve herself as much as possible, but I don't want to have her as vain as a little peacock over it. And you know, Ruby, that it is generally when you are trusting in yourself that you do something that you are the most sorry for. Pride goes before a fall, you remember."
"I will try not to be proud," said Ruby, penitently. "But you don't know how I like to be praised, papa. It scares Ruthy, and she does n't like it one bit, but I like it from my head down to my feet, I truly do. I like to have people say I am ever so smart, and I don't see how I can help it."
"By trying to forget yourself, dear, and keeping self in the back-ground as much as you can in everything that you do. When you are trying to do anything well, remember that it is only just what you ought to do. God has given you a good memory, and a readiness to learn, and so you ought to do the very best with the powers he has given you. You have no more reason to be vain of them than a peacock has to be vain of his fine tail. And it is better to be lovable than clever, and any one who is conceited never makes the friends that a modest child does. Now promise me that you will try, little daughter, to be gentle and modest, and not come back to us selfish and full of conceit."