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   Chapter 3 THE NEWCOMER

Glenloch Girls By Grace May Remick Characters: 17061

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruth smiled gratefully. "I'm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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