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- Glenloch Girls - 5/38 -
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.
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