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- Glenloch Girls - 10/38 -
won't we, Bert?"
"Of course," agreed Bert. "And, girls," he continued, "we've got some potatoes roasting in the ashes near here that'll be just the thing to brace you up for the walk home. Come along and help us eat 'em."
"I should say we would," accepted Charlotte. "Did you ever know us to refuse anything to eat?"
The little feast and the walk home became the jolliest things possible. Tired as she was, no one was merrier than Ruth. for in her inmost heart she was sure that she should find news of her father waiting for her.
BAD NEWS AND GOOD
As she entered the house, Ruth's first glance was at the hall table, but there was no important-looking yellow envelope to suggest that her cablegram had arrived. Then her eye fell on the evening paper; perhaps that might tell that the "Utopia" was safely in port. She started to turn to the shipping news, but her gaze was caught by a headline on the first page, and she stood rigid, holding the paper in her shaking hands and trying to make sense of what she was reading.
"The 'Utopia' storm-swept A passenger injured."
That was what she seemed to read, and below it an inch of fine type announced that during the severe storm which had hampered all ocean travel for the last few days the "Utopia" had been swept by heavy waves, and one of the passengers injured.
One of the passengers injured! That, of course, meant father! Ruth read it time after time until the printed words swam before her eyes, and she groped blindly for a chair so that she need not fall. There she sat feeling that limbs and tongue were in chains, and that she could neither move nor speak.
Katie, passing through the hall, was startled by the sight of the rigid little figure in the big hall chair, and frightened out of her wits when her sympathetic questions failed to bring forth any response. She flew out into the kitchen to Ellen, who came hurrying in with a face full of anxiety, and, kneeling before Ruth, took both the cold hands in her own warm clasp.
"What is it, Miss Ruth, darlin'? Tell me," she said coaxingly. At the friendly, human touch, Ruth's face relaxed. "Oh, Ellen," she cried, clinging to her closely, "some one on papa's steamer has been injured in the storm, and I know it must be papa."
Ellen looked dazed, and Ruth gave her the paper, pointing out the paragraph as she did so.
"Sure, Miss Ruth, I can't read it quickly when my mind is so unaisy. Just read it to me, honey."
So Ruth read it over for the twentieth time and was surprised to find Ellen still looking cheerful as she finished.
"They don't give any names," said Ellen thoughtfully, "and wasn't it you yourself was telling me that there was over a hundred cabin passengers on that boat, to say nothing of the steerage?"
"Why, yes," answered Ruth, "but--"
"Well, then," interrupted Ellen, "there's at laste ninety-nine chances out of a hundred that your blessed father never had a hair of his head touched, and that's sayin' a good deal, darlin'."
"It is indeed, Miss Ruth," added Katie, who had been hovering around anxious to do something to help.
Ruth began to look a bit comforted, and Ellen went on, "I do belave from me soul, Miss Ruth, dear, that before you go to bed tonight you'll have word from your father. At any rate, you can't bring it any faster, nor help it one bit by worryin' about it. So now, darlin', go upstairs and bathe your face and smooth your pretty curls, and we'll put such a nice dinner on the table for you that you can't help eatin'."
"It's a shame the poor little thing has got to eat her dinner all alone," said Ellen, as she and Katie went back to the kitchen. "I've a great mind--" But what she had a mind to do wasn't told, for she vanished from the kitchen and Katie heard her climbing the back stairs.
She went straight to Arthur's room, knocked, and hardly waiting for an answer walked in. Arthur, who was absorbed in a book, looked up surprised at her sudden entrance.
"It's only meself, Mr. Arthur," said Ellen, quite out of breath, "and it's a great favor I've come up to ask of you. You see," she went on hurriedly, "poor little Miss Ruth has got word in tonight's paper that there's been an accident on her father's boat, and she's that frightened and worried that she doesn't know what to do with herself. It's too bad for her to have to eat her dinner with nothing but her own sad thoughts for company, and I thought perhaps you--"
"Oh, no, Ellen, I can't," interrupted Arthur decidedly; "why, I don't really know her yet."
"The more shame to you that you don't when she's been livin' in your house for two weeks," answered Ellen, as much surprised at her own boldness as Arthur was. "I've been livin' with your mother ever since you was a wee baby, Mr. Arthur, and there ain't any one outside your own family who loves you more than I do, but I must say I'm disappointed in you."
Arthur looked at her in amazement, but Ellen went on without giving him a chance to speak.
"Don't you know that life is just made up of knock-downs and get-ups," she said quaintly, "and whatever will you do if you stay down the first time you're hit?"
Something in the homely little sermon touched a responsive chord in Arthur as nothing else had done. "You're a good fellow, Ellen," he said affectionately, "and to prove that I think so I'm going down to dinner tonight."
"Oh, Mr. Arthur," cried Ellen, almost on the point of tears, and saving herself from it only by wringing her apron convulsively in both hands. "It's the angel boy you are to take all the hard things I said so sweetly. And it's that glad I am that you're going down, for I don't belave Miss Ruth could eat a mite of dinner without some man or other to encourage her about her father."
"I'll get down before she does if I can," said Arthur, reaching for his crutches, "and see what the paper says about the steamer."
"That'a right, Mr. Arthur, do," answered Ellen, "and I'll hurry down and see to the dinner." But she stopped on her way to knock on Ruth's door and say coaxingly, "You won't change your mind, Miss Ruth, dear; you'll surely come down."
Ruth, who was sitting in the big chair with the black kitten in her arms, looked up soberly. "I don't believe I'll come down after all, Ellen; I'm not a bit hungry, and I'm sure I couldn't eat a mouthful."
"Oh, but Miss Ruth," cried Ellen in despair, "you'll spoil all my plans if you don't. I've just persuaded Mr. Arthur to come down so that you needn't be alone, and perhaps if he comes the once he will every day. Just think how happy it will make his father and mother!"
Ruth's forehead puckered into a frown. She felt much more like sitting in front of her fire and thinking sad, lonely thoughts. But it was such a small thing to do for Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, who had been so kind to her, and it would mean so much to them if it did help Arthur to conquer his dread of taking up the old life again. Then, too, it would be a triumph to tell the girls that one member of the society for the restoration of Arthur Hamilton to the world had already begun the good work.
It was with a little smile that she looked up at Ellen, who was anxiously waiting for her answer, and said, "I'll go down, of course; I should be a selfish pig not to when you are all so good to me."
"That's a darlin," cried Ellen much relieved. "And would you please try to make him feel that it's a great favor to you for him to come down? You know the men have to be managed a bit," she added slyly.
Ruth made a hasty dinner toilet by running a comb through her waving locks, patting the big bow at the back of her head, and putting on a fresh collar. Then she went slowly downstairs, wishing she knew just what to say to Arthur.
To her relief he looked up from the paper he was reading and said just as if they had been meeting every day for the past two weeks, "I'm sure this report makes it seem worse than it is, Ruth. I don't believe there is any real reason for you to worry about your father."
"Do you really think so? I suppose it's foolish to worry, but it's pretty hard when he's so far away and I haven't heard for so long."
There was a suspicious quaver in her voice that made Arthur's thoughts turn longingly to the safe shelter of his own room. What if he should have a weeping girl on his hands! He turned cold at the thought. "Oh, I'm sure you'll get some word from your father before morning," he said with such anxious haste that quick-witted Ruth guessed at once what he was dreading.
"You think I'm going to cry, but I'm not," she announced with great dignity. "I hate to cry before people anyway, and I specially wouldn't before a boy."
"Good for you! I wouldn't cry before a boy either," answered Arthur with a twinkle in his eye, and then they both laughed and felt better.
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