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   Chapter 8 THE FRIENDLESS FRIENDS

A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 15820

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Margaret came to school in great excitement one Monday morning. "I'm going to have a party," she said to Edna. "I'll tell you all about it at recess."

The idea of Margaret's really having a party was most interesting when Edna remembered that it had been just a year since she was adopted by Mrs. MacDonald. She had improved very much in this time, both in speech and manner, and no happier child could be found than she. To be sure she had everything to make her happy, as Dorothy often said, a beautiful home, a kind mother and friends who took pains to make her forget how forlorn she had once been. She was very grateful for all these things, and rarely asked for anything more than was offered to her, so that Mrs. MacDonald was all the more ready to give her pleasures which she did not ask for.

Jennie and Dorothy were admitted into the little group which gathered to hear about the party. "Tell us all about it, Margaret," said Edna. "Just begin at the beginning."

"Well," said Margaret, "mother was saying to me on Saturday evening, 'Margaret, do you know it is almost a year since you became my own little daughter? Now I think we ought to celebrate the day of your coming to your home. What would you like to do?' So I thought and thought, and then I said, 'I never had a party in all my life, would it be too much to celebrate by having one?' and she said, 'Not at all, though I should first like to know what girls you would like to invite,' and I told her all the G. R. Club. 'Anyone else?' she asked, and I thought of Nettie Black. 'I'd like to have Nettie,' I said, and then I remembered how lonely I used to be even at the Friendless, and how glad I used to be when you came to see me, Edna, and I thought of two or three who were still there, girls who haven't been adopted, and I said I'd like to have them. Then mother said, 'Very well, only the others may not want to come if you have poor children like them, and you'd better ask the girls, and if they refuse you can make up your mind which you would rather have, the girls of the club or the Friendlessers.'"

"Oh, Margaret, you know we won't care," said Edna earnestly.

"I knew you wouldn't, but I didn't know about them all. I shall have to ask, you see, because it seems to me that of all the people I know, the Friendlessers are the very ones who ought to come when it is to celebrate my coming away from there, and then, too they don't have good times like we do."

The girls all called the Home of the Friendless "The Friendless" and the children there, "The Friendlessers" so they knew quite well whom Margaret meant.

"How soon is the party to be?" asked Jennie.

"Next Saturday afternoon. The Friendlessers can come then better than any other time, and besides we live out of town, and it will be easier for everyone to come in the afternoon."

"I shall come," said Dorothy decidedly, "and I think it is a beautiful idea for you to have the Friendlessers."

"And of course I shall come," put in Jennie.

"I know my sister will," said Edna.

"And mine," echoed Dorothy.

"There is one thing I hope you won't mind my saying," said Margaret; "mother says please not to wear party frocks, and not to dress up much, on account of the Friendlessers, you know, for of course they won't have any."

"Of course not," agreed the girls.

"Mother says we can have just as good a time if we are not dressed up and as long as it is going to be in the daytime it won't make so much difference."

"Let's go tell the other girls," suggested Edna.

They hunted up Agnes, Celia and the rest of the club members and did not find one who objected to the presence of the "Friendlessers."

However, when the news of Margaret's party was noised abroad, there was much scorn on the part of the Neighborhood Club. "The idea," said Clara, "of going to a party with orphan asylum children! I'd like to see my mother allowing me to associate with such creatures. I can't think what Jennie Ramsey's mother can be thinking of to allow her to go. Besides, Margaret is an orphan asylum girl herself and no better than the rest! I'm sure I wouldn't be seen at her party."

"And they're not even going to wear party frocks, nor so much as white ones," said Gertrude Crane. "I don't see what fun it will be."

"And I suppose there are to be no boys," put in Clara.

"I haven't heard whether there are to be or not," returned Gertrude.

The question of boys did come up later when Mrs. MacDonald asked Margaret if she did not think it would be well to invite Frank and Charley Conway, as one of the "Friendlessers" was a boy. The two Porter boys who came out often to play with the Conway boys, were thought of and were invited, and when Edna returned home on Friday evening Cousin Ben informed her that he, too, was going.

"Why, Cousin Ben," she said in pleased surprise, "how does that happen, when you are such a big boy, really a man, you know?"

"I must confess I fished for an invitation," he told her. "Mrs. MacDonald was over here to ask if Charlie and Frank could come and I said, 'What's the matter with asking me, too?' and so I got my invite. I wouldn't miss it for a six-pence." Cousin Ben and Mrs. MacDonald were great friends and he was quite intimate at the big gray house so it was no wonder that he wanted to be at Margaret's first party.

It was as Ben said "a queer mix-up." The first to arrive were the four children from the Home of the Friendless, three little girls and one little boy. One of the teachers brought them out and remained in order to take them back again. The big gray house looked cheerful and more attractive than usual, for flowers were Mrs. MacDonald's great pleasure and they were everywhere, making up for the plainness of the furnishings, for Mrs. MacDonald did not believe in showiness. Her house was thoroughly comfortable but not elegant.

These first arrivals were very shy, quite awe-stricken and sat on the edges of their chairs scarce daring to move until Margaret took them out to see the greenhouses. After that they were a little more at their ease for each came back with a flower. By a little after three all had arrived, the Porter boys with their Punch and Judy show which they had promised to bring, and Ben with his banjo. All the girls wore plain frocks with no extra ornaments, Margaret herself being not much better dressed than her friends from the Home.

The Punch and Judy show was given first as a sort of prelude to the games which were to follow, and in these even the older girls joined with spirit. The main idea seemed to be that everyone should do his or her best to make the party a success and to give the poorer children as good a time as possible. Ben, be it said, was the life of the occasion. He kept everyone going, never allowed a dull moment, and if nothing else was planned, he would pick up his banjo and give a funny coon song, so that it was no wonder Mrs. MacDonald was glad to have invited him.

Probably in all their lives the Friendlessers never forgot the wonderful table to which they were led when refreshments were served, and which they talked of for weeks afterward. Here there was no stint and the decorations were made as beautiful as possible. There were pretty little favors for everyone, and such good things to eat as would have done credit to any entertainment. It was all over at six o'clock, but not one went away with a feeling of having had a stupid time, for even the older girls agreed among themselves that it had been great fun.

"Did you ever see anything like those children's eyes when they saw that table," said Agnes smiling at the recollection.

"It must have been like a fairy tale to them, poor little things," replied Helen Darby. "I think it was a perfectly lovely thing for Mrs. MacDonald to do. Won't I have fun telling father about it, and how interested he will be. He has

been quizzing me all day about my orphan asylum party, but I know he liked my going."

"I liked that little Nettie Black," Florence remarked. "She has such a nice quaint little face, like an old-fashioned picture. Her name ought to be Prudence or Charity or some of those queer old names. Where did you pick her up, Edna?"

"Oh, she is the little girl that I kept house with at the time of the blizzard," Edna told her. "She lives just a short way up the side road, and she is a very nice child."

"I found that out," returned Florence. "Why doesn't she belong to our club?"

"Because she doesn't go to our school."

"To be sure, I forgot that. Well, she could be made an honorary member or something, couldn't she Agnes?"

"Why, I should think so. We'll have to bring that up at our next meeting. Would she like to belong to the club, do you think, Edna?"

"She would just love to, I know."

"Then we'll have to fix it some way. I'll ask mother or Mrs. Conway what we can do."

"I don't know how we could all get into their parlor," said Edna doubtfully; "it is so very tiny."

"We don't have to," Agnes told her, "for you know the general club-room is up in our attic and I'm sure that is big enough for anyone. If Nettie comes into the club, when her turn comes for a meeting it can be held in the general club-room."

This was very satisfactory, but it did not do away with another difficulty which came to Edna's mind. She knew that Mrs. Black had barely enough means to get along on with the utmost economy and how Nettie could ever furnish even simple refreshments for a dozen or more girls she did not know. However, she would not worry about that till the time came. As yet Nettie was not even a member of the club.

Margaret's party was talked about at school almost as much after as before it came off. Those who had been present discoursed upon the good time they had had, and those who were not there wished they had been. But to offset it, there came the report that Clara Adams was going to have a party and that it would be in the evening and was expected to be a gorgeous affair. Jennie Ramsey was invited but had not made up her mind whether she wanted to go or not. As most of those who would be invited were the children of Mrs. Adams's friends and were not schoolmates of Clara's it did not seem to Jennie that she would have a very good time.

"It will be all fuss and feathers," she told Dorothy and Edna, "and I won't know half the children there, besides I shall hear so much talk about what I shall wear and all that, I believe I'd rather stay at home."

"Clara is going to wear a lace frock over pink silk, I heard her say," Dorothy told them.

"I should think that would be very pretty," declared Edna admiringly.

"I'd rather be dressed as we were at Margaret's," Jennie returned, "for then we could romp around and not care anything about what happened to our clothes." Jennie hadn't a spark of vanity and cared so little for dress as to be a surprise to the others.

"Of course that was nice, but I should like the pretty clothes, too," rejoined Edna with honesty.

"They won't do anything, either, but dance and sit around and look at each other," continued Jennie. "I'd much rather play games like 'Going to Jerusalem' and 'Forfeits' and all those things we did at Margaret's. I have all the dancing I want at dancing-school. No, I shall tell my mother I don't want to go." Jennie had made up her mind, and that was the end of the matter for her.

Therefore the others heard very little of what went on at Clara's party. That it came off they knew, and there was much talk of what this one or that one wore, of how late they stayed and how many dances they had, but that was all, and the stay-at-homes decided that, after all they had not missed much, and if Clara's intention was to rouse their envy she failed of her purpose.

At the next meeting of the club Nettie was voted in as an honorary member. "That seems to be about the only thing we can do," Agnes announced, "and everyone seems to want her." So the thing was done.

If there was one thing above another which Nettie did long for it was to become a member of the club whose wonderful doings she had heard so much of from Edna. The two had seen each other often, and now that the spring was nearing, rarely a Saturday came but that they met. It was Edna who took her the joyful news on Friday evening.

"I've something perfectly lovely to tell you," she announced as soon as she was inside the door of the little house.

"What?" asked Nettie with a quick smile of interest.

"You're going to be a member of our club."

"Oh, Edna, how can I be? I don't go to your school."

"I know, and that is why we had to make you an honorary member," Agnes said.

"Oh, I think you are all the dearest things I ever knew," cried Nettie. Then her face fell, "But, oh, Edna, how can we get all of you girls in this little bit of a house?"

"Oh, you can meet in the general club-room at the Evanses," Edna told her. "Agnes says so and it is in their attic, you know. When a girl can't very well have the meeting at her house we have it there. Once it was to be at Betty Lowndes's house and her little sister had the chicken-pox so we couldn't meet there and we had it in the attic."

Nettie's face cleared, but presently a new difficulty presented itself, one which she hesitated to speak of but which was a very serious one. How should she tell Edna what was in her mind? But she remembered that Edna had seen the poverty of the family stores and that there was no need to make any pretence to her. "There's another thing," she began, "I haven't any money, and I couldn't ask mother for refreshments."

"I thought of that," answered Edna; "we might give them rice," and then they both laughed. "If there were only some way you could earn some money and I could help you," continued Edna with more seriousness. "Perhaps we could think of some way. If it were something we could both do, I could help you."

"You are always so good that way," replied Nettie gratefully.

"Well, anyhow," said Edna, "it won't be for some time yet that you have to have the meeting and perhaps we can think of something. If we can't would you mind if I ask mother what we could do?"

"I'd rather not," replied Nettie doubtfully, "not unless you have to."

"Then I won't unless I have to."

"Perhaps my mother can think of a way, only I don't want to say anything to her, for she will feel badly because she can't let me have the money, and I know I ought not to ask her for it. I won't ask, of course, but if I tell it will be the same as asking, and it will make her feel so unhappy if she must say no, she can't."

"Then we must try very hard to think of a way without telling anyone. You wouldn't need so very much, you know, Nettie, for we can have real cheap things like peanuts and gingerbread, or something like that. I believe fifty cents would be enough to spend, and a dollar would be plenty."

This seemed like a large amount to Nettie, though she did not say so, and the thought of earning that much weighed heavily upon her after Edna had gone home.

Edna's thoughts, too, were busy all the evening, and she was so absorbed in Nettie's dilemma that she sat with arms on the table and doing nothing but looking off into space so that at last her father said. "What's the matter, little girl? You haven't even asked for your favorite children's page of my evening paper," and he handed it over to her.

This was something that Edna always asked for and she took it now with some little interest, and roused herself to look down the columns. Presently she breathed softly. "Oh!" She had seen something which gave her an idea for Nettie, and she went to bed that night full of a hope which she meant her friend should know as soon as possible the next day.

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