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- Glenloch Girls - 6/38 -
"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."
A NEW CLUB
The first days in the new home, while Mr. Shirley was still in New York and within reach, were hard to bear and unpleasant to think of afterward. The new friends were so anxious to help her through the hard time that they scarcely gave her time to think, but in spite of their kindness, Ruth went to bed at night with a lonesome ache in her throat, and got up in the morning with the wild desire to take the first train to New York and catch papa before he should sail.
When at last the day and hour of sailing had come and gone, Ruth found it easier to resign herself to the inevitable, and began to really enjoy life instead of only seeming to do so.
Glenloch was a beautiful town, just far enough from Boston to make it seem like the country, and yet near enough so that concerts and shopping were within easy reach. To Ruth, who, except for brief visits East, had been accustomed ail her life to the level stretches of the Middle West, the New England hills, just now radiant in their autumn coloring were a constant source of delight.
She had been kept so busy seeing Glenloch, meeting Mrs. Hamilton's friends and getting acquainted with her own special chums that she had hardly had time to settle her belongings. Saturday morning, therefore, found her at work in good earnest, for the girls were coming in that afternoon, and she wanted her pretty room to look its prettiest.
"Not homesick, I hope, dear," said Mrs. Hamilton, coming into the room about noon to find Ruth curled up in the big armchair with the black kitten on her lap.
"No, only resting after putting my room in order. I've been so busy and the days have flown so fast that I haven't wholly unpacked my trunk until this morning."
"The pictures make the room look very homelike," said Mrs. Hamilton, glancing at the photographs which adorned desk, mantel and table. "Are these all friends of yours?" she added with a sly smile, as her eye caught the picture of the little Queen of Holland in quaint peasant costume.
"No, most of them are what papa calls my 'admirations,'" answered Ruth with a laugh. "That picture of Queen Wilhelmina is my great joy because she looks like such a nice girl. The others are mostly musicians and composers. Papa bought them to encourage me in my music, because he is so anxious I shall make a success of it."
"Why, this is interesting. I haven't had time yet to find out about your talents. Do you sing or play the piano?"
"A little of both, but I like the violin best and I've taken lessons on it since I was eight years old. I am all out of practice now," she added soberly, "for I've done hardly anything at it since mamma died. She was so fond of it that everything I play reminds me of her, and I can't bear it yet."
"Perhaps you will feel like beginning again this winter," said Mrs. Hamilton, putting her arm around her.
"I am sure I shall," answered Ruth gratefully, giving the kind arm a little squeeze. "Papa thought that just as soon as I got well started in school it would be a good plan for me to go into Boston for violin lessons."
"That will be delightful," said Mrs. Hamilton heartily, "and I shall have to begin practicing so that I can play your accompaniments. Since Arthur has been ill I have neglected my piano dreadfully. I used to play duets with him a great deal, but I suppose nothing would persuade him to touch the piano now."
"Will he never be any better?"
"The doctor gives us every reason to hope that he will be almost well if he can only get over this terrible depression. His father and I can only stand by and help all we can while he fights this battle for himself." There was a long pause while Mrs. Hamilton looked thoughtfully out of the window as though facing problems harder than she could solve, and Ruth racked her brain to think of something encouraging to say.
"If I could only help I should be very glad," she said at last,
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