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- Glenloch Girls - 30/38 -
"I'm very sorry to be late," said Ruth penitently, as she walked into Miss Burton's little sitting-room to find the three other girls there before her.
"We were just wondering whether that fiery steed had carried you off so far that you couldn't get back," laughed Miss Burton.
"He's a beauty, and I'd have given anything to have my father see you ride off on him," said Dorothy, who longed to ride, but hadn't yet been able to persuade her father that it was a necessary part of her education.
"You see we didn't wait for you," continued Miss Burton, "so take off your hat and coat, and you shall have a cup of chocolate and some bread and butter as soon as you are ready."
"Riding does give one such an appetite," murmured Ruth apologetically, forgetting that they didn't know that she had been feasting only about an hour before. "But what were you talking about, girls, as I came up-stairs? Your voices sounded so earnest that I felt quite curious."
"We were talking about Mildred Walker," answered Betty. "I don't believe you ever heard of her, Ruth, but she's a girl who always lived here until about three years ago. Her father had a good deal of money, and suddenly he made a great deal more and they went to New York to live. They lived pretty extravagantly, I guess, and now he has lost all his money and is very sick, and Mildred will have to do something to help support the family. She's only nineteen, and she's never done anything but have a good time all her life, so we were wondering how she would get along."
"When my father heard about it," said Dorothy, "he slapped his hand down on the table and said, 'There, that settles it; my girl shall learn to do something to support herself in case need comes.' He looked so fierce and decided that I should have been quite worried if I hadn't made up my mind some time ago what I wanted to do."
"Oh, Dolly, what is it?" cried Ruth, almost upsetting her cup in her earnestness.
"Why, physical culture, of course," answered Dorothy. "I haven't any talent for anything else, and I just love that."
"It's a very good choice, Dorothy, for, even if you're never obliged to teach, it helps one in many ways," said Miss Burton. "I've always been very thankful that my wise father felt just as yours does, for when the time came I was able to take hold and do my part. When father helped me plan my education there seemed no possible chance that I should be obliged to earn my own living, but it came suddenly, as as it so often does, and I'm glad to think that both father and mother lived to see me working happily and successfully."
Miss Burton was smiling as she finished, but there was a soft mistiness in her brown eyes which touched the hearts of her adoring audience.
"Dear little Miss Burton," said Ruth, giving her a swift hug, "we can't be sorry that you had to earn your living if we try, for if you hadn't we never should have known you."
"Who can tell?" said Charlotte with mock solemnity. "Perhaps she might have come into our lives in some other way. Perhaps even now some one is drawing near to us who may be destined to play an important part in our lives or hers." Charlotte's voice grew deeper as she spoke, and her eyes had a faraway look.
"Oh, Charlotte, you goose. You make me feel positively creepy," cried Betty.
"You don't see any one over my shoulder, I hope," said Dorothy with an involuntary backward glance.
"Now, Miss Burton," said Charlotte with a laugh, "I leave it to you if that isn't sufficient proof that I ought to be an actress."
"I'm afraid the modern manager would require still more proof than that, Charlotte," answered Miss Burton, much amused. "But you certainly did that well."
"Let's all tell what we think we could do if we had to," proposed Betty. "What should you do, Ruth?"
"I suppose that after I've studied the violin a few years more I could give lessons," said Ruth thoughtfully. "But somehow I don't seem to look forward to it with any wild joy. Whenever I plan ahead, I always think of myself as in a home, making things look pretty, and having lots of dinner-parties. I believe I should like to be a model hostess," she added honestly.
"Oh, Ruth, just a society woman?" asked Charlotte with scorn in her voice.
"Ruth's idea means more than that, Charlotte, if you think of it in its broadest sense," interposed Miss Burton. "To be a perfect hostess implies capacity for managing one's household, a wide culture, forgetfulness of self and a ready appreciation of the needs of others, sincerity, charm, interest in one's fellow beings, and so many other good qualities that I can't stop to mention them. It's really a beautiful ideal, and Ruth is fortunate in living with a woman who is one of the few perfect hostesses I know."
"I don't think I quite realized before how much it meant," said Ruth. "But it must have been watching Aunt Mary that made me think of it, for I used to have quite different ideas. It just occurs to me," she added with an infections laugh, "that the last time I remember saying anything about it I told father that when I grew up I should keep a candy-shop."
"And eat all you wanted, of course," added Charlotte as they all laughed. "That was my first idea, too."
"And what's your present idea?" asked Betty.
"Oh, mine's so big and impossible, and so slow in coming, that I can't bear to talk about it," answered Charlotte, grown suddenly shy, and then she relapsed into silence, and no amount of urging would make her speak.
"No one asks me about mine," said Betty plaintively after a pause in the conversation, "and I'm just dying to tell."
"Oh, Betty, forgive us, and divulge the secret this very minute," laughed Miss Burton.
"Well," began Betty slyly, "I'm going to be different from the rest of you; I'm going to be married and keep house. And my husband's going to be an invalid, at least I think I shall have him an invalid, and I shall have to support the family. Oh, I forgot to say that before I'm married I'm going to learn all about cooking and--and domestic science. Then I shall do all my own housework, and make cake for the neighbors, and cater for lunch-parties, and raise chickens and squabs, and keep bees, and grow violets and mushrooms, and have an herb-garden. Oh, and in my leisure moments--"
Miss Burton and the girls were quite helpless with laughter by this time, and Betty interrupted herself to look at them with pretended astonishment.
"I was just about to say," she went on severely, "when you interrupted me by laughing so rudely, that in my leisure moments I should make clothing for the children and myself, and also furnish fancy articles for the Woman's Exchange."
"Oh, Betty, when you are funny you are the funniest thing I ever saw," gasped Charlotte, going off into a fresh burst of laughter.
"I'm much obliged to you, Betty, for that laugh," said Miss Burton, wiping her eyes, "and I hope I'll be there to see when you get that model establishment of yours in running order."
"I'll send you samples of the various things if you're not on hand," responded Betty with a twinkle. "But really, Miss Burton," she added with sudden seriousness, "I do want to take a course in cooking and domestic science."
"Judging by the specimens of your cooking I've eaten I should think it would be the thing for you to do," replied Miss Burton heartily. "The opportunities for teaching in that line are many, and even if you never have to earn money by it, to know how to cook is a very great accomplishment."
"I dare say," said Charlotte, "that we shall all do something absolutely different from what we are planning now. Probably Betty will marry a millionaire, and Dolly will take in sewing. Who can say that Ruth may not be an artist? And I--well, I think my strong point is cooking, and I shall undoubtedly be feeding starving families on baked apples for years to come."
"Oh, fudge," said Dolly, much disgusted with her part of the prophecy. "You can't tell fortunes for me, Charlotte; I won't have it."
"I'm sure to be an artist," laughed Ruth. "I can draw a pig with my eyes shut just as well as I can with them open. I should love to splash on color, though."
"You might be a house-painter," said Betty meditatively. "When my millionaire builds his house I'll employ you to do the painting."
"And Charlotte can be cook," suggested Ruth. "But speaking of artists, girls, makes me think of what I've been wanting to ask you ever since I got here. Uncle Henry and I called on Marie this afternoon and found her sitting on the piazza in the sunshine. Just as we were leaving we found out quite by accident that she has been making perfectly lovely little sketches, and Uncle Henry thinks she's a genius. He told her she must study as soon as she got strong, and you should have seen the longing look in those great dark eyes of hers."
"I suppose she hasn't a cent that she feels she can use for lessons," said Miss Burton thoughtfully. She, as well as Ruth's special chums, had become very much interested in Marie, and Mrs. Perrier's little house had been the goal of many a breezy walk.
"I think Uncle Henry means to help her, of course," continued Ruth, "but I was wondering if there wasn't something we could do to earn money. Wouldn't it be great if the Cooking Club could do something to help?"
"I should say it would," responded Dorothy with the greatest
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