"You have dinner ready very early, Delia," Janice said, as the big woman lumbered into the kitchen.
"Didn't you just say your paw had come?" demanded Delia in her squeaky voice.
"Yes. But you have everything ready at five o'clock instead of at six."
"Oh, yes. I don't never believe in keepin' folks waitin' for their victuals," said Delia, tossing her head. "You ain't got any call to be critical—no you ain't."
It was of no use! Janice saw that as plainly as she saw anything. This giantess has a dwarf's brain. As daddy said, when he became particularly "Yankeefied," "she didn't know beans!" It would be quite useless to talk to her, or to expect her to remember what she was told to do.
"I will do all I can to hide the rough corners from Daddy," Janice thought. "I'll watch Delia before I go to school, and come home from school to straighten her out just as quickly as I can. I just won't run to him with every little household trouble."
But it was a wretched dinner. It was so badly cooked that daddy shook his head over it mournfully.
"It is a mystery to me how they manage to boil one potato to mush while another is so hard you can't stick your fork into it," he said. "And no seasoning! This steak now—or is it steak?"
"Now, Daddy!" said Janice, half laughing, yet feeling a good deal like crying.
"Well, I wasn't quite sure," said her father. "I wonder if these cooks think that meat grows, all seasoned, on 'the critter'? They must believe that. However, does she do the other work well?"
"I—I don't know yet," murmured Janice. "I'll help her all I can, Daddy, and tell her how, if she'll let me."
"Well, maybe we can make something of her," said Broxton Day, with his hearty and cheerful laugh. "Remember, Olga wanted to boil fresh pork chops for our breakfast when she first came."
"I do wish we knew where Olga had gone to," said Janice. "It doesn't seem as though that girl would deliberately steal. I can't believe it. And if we don't get back that treasure-box and what it contains, Daddy, my heart will—just—be—broken."
"There, there! Don't give way about it. There is a chance yet of finding Olga—and the box, too," said her father, trying to comfort his little daughter. "I will not give up the search. Willie Sangreen will of course come back to his job, and he must know what has become of Olga. Those Swedes are very clannish indeed, over there at Pickletown; but some of them bank with us, and I am sure they will be on the lookout for the
girl. Only, of course, I have not told them why I am so anxious to find her."
They finished dinner, and Delia came in to clear away, with her plump lips pouting and a general air about her of having been much injured. But Mr. Day, now so used to the vagaries of hired help, made no comment.
He and Janice went into the living-room. This, at least, was homelike and clean. He settled into his chair and picked up the paper. Just then there was a ring at the front doorbell.
Janice would have jumped up to answer it; but she heard the giantess going through the hall. There was a voice. Janice recognized it with a start. Then the giantess approached the living-room door, heavy footed, with a clatter of smaller bootheels behind her.
Delia threw open the door as Mr. Day dropped his paper to look up. Her fat face was wreathed in a triumphant smile, and she said:
"It's the nice lady from nex' door. I guess she come to see your paw about them cats."
Mr. Day looked puzzled.
Janice could have screamed as Miss Peckham marched in. Delia apparently intended to stand in the doorway and enjoy whatever there was to enjoy; but as Mr. Day rose from his seat to welcome the neighbor, he said firmly:
"Thank you, Delia. We shall not need you in here at present. You may go."
The giantess tossed her head and lumbered out of the room, slamming the door behind her with unnecessary violence.
"Good-evening, Miss Peckham," said the man, offering the spinster a chair. "I don't know just what Delia meant about cats; but I presume you will explain."
"Huh!" snapped Miss Peckham, "I guess that girl of yours hasn't told you about what she done to my Sam. No, indeed! I guess not!"
She was evidently working herself up into a violent state of mind, and Mr. Day, who knew his next door
neighbor very well, hastened to smooth the troubled waters.
"I had not heard anything about cats, Miss Peckham, save the misfortune of a cat convention in our back kitchen yesterday morning. Janice told me about that, of course; but she could scarcely be blamed for it."
"I don't know why she shouldn't be blamed!" ejaculated the angry woman. "And my Sam's got a broken leg."
"I am sorry if any of the cats were injured. It was a thoughtless joke of—" he caught Janice's eye and understood her meaning, "of one of the neighbor's boys He meant no particular harm, I fancy."
"You needn't try an' lay it on no boy!" exclaimed Miss Peckham. '"Twas a girl done it. My Sam—"
"You mean that a girl broke the cat's leg?" queried Mr. Day, quietly.
"I mean just that. 'Twas a girl. And that is the girl!" and she pointed an accusing finger at the flushed Janice.
"Oh, I never!" exclaimed the latter under her breath, and shaking her head vigorously.
Mr. Day gave her a smiling look of encouragement.
"I feel sure," he said, to Miss Peckham, "that if Janice had by chance injured an animal—a cat, or any other—she would have told me. But although it may have been a girl who broke your cat's leg, it was not Janice."
"You don't know anything about it!" cried Miss Peckham angrily. "You don't know what goes on here all day long while you are gone. I pity you, Mr. Day—I pity you from the bottom of my heart. You ought to have a woman here to manage this girl of yours. That's what you need!"
"Oh!" gasped Janice, her color receding now. She was very angry.
"Ah! don't you flout me, Janice Day!" exclaimed the spinster, eyeing Janice malevolently. "I know how bad you act. I don't live right next door for nothin'. An' 'tisn't only at home you act badly, but on the street. Fighting with boys like a hoodlum. Oh, I heard about it!"
"Wait! Wait!" exclaimed Mr. Day, with sternness. "I think you are out of bounds, Miss Peckham. I do not ask you to tell me how to take care of my little daughter. And I am sure I do not believe that you are rightly informed about her actions, even if you do live next door."
Miss Peckham sniffed harder and tossed her head. "Let us get back to the cats," he went on quietly. "Have you found that one of your cats has been hurt?"
"His leg's broke. The doctor said it was a most vicious blow. He's put it in a cast, and poor Sam is quite wild."
"But why do you blame Janice?"
"She done it!" exclaimed the spinster nodding her shawled head vigorously. "She ought to be looked after."
"No, Janice did not hurt the cat," said Mr. Day with assurance, "unfortunately the cat was hurt on our premises. But it was the girl working for us, not my little girl, who injured your cat."
"What do you mean?" demanded Miss Peckham sharply. "Not this big thing you've got here—the one that let me in?"
"The Swedish girl," explained Mr. Day. "The cats were shut into our back kitchen, and before Janice could open the door to let them out, Olga, I believe, pelted them with coal."
"But what did she shut 'em up in the kitchen for?' demanded Miss Peckham, still pointing and glaring at Janice.
"Oh, I didn't!" exclaimed the latter, shaking her head vigorously.
"That was not my daughter's doings," Mr. Day repeated. "As I tell you, your cat was undoubtedly hurt on our premises. If I can do anything to satisfy you—pay the doctor's bill, or the like—"
"I don't want money from you, Broxton Day," exclaimed
the woman rising. "I didn't come here for that purpose. I came here to tell you that your house is goin' to rack and ruin and that your girl needs a strong hand to manage her. That's what she needs. You ain't had no proper home here since your wife died."
"I fear that is only too true, Miss Peckham," replied Mr. Day.
"If Mrs. Day knew how things was goin' she'd turn in her grave, I do believe," went on the neighbor, perhaps not wholly in bitterness.
The man's face paled. Miss Peckham did not know how much she was adding to the burden of sorrow in the hearts of Broxton Day and his little daughter. Janice was sobbing now, with her face hidden.
"What you need is an intelligent woman to take hold," went on the neighbor, warming to her subject. "Take this creature you got now. Ugh! Big elephant, and don't scarcely know enough to come in when it rains, I do believe."
"The class of people one finds at the agencies is admittedly not of a high order of intelligence," said Mr. Day softly.
"I should say they weren't—if them you've had is samples," sniffed Miss Peckham. "Why don't you get somebody decent?"
"I wish you would tell me how to go about getting a better houseworker," sighed Mr. Day.
"Get a working housekeeper—one that's trained and is respectable. Somebody to overlook—"
"But I cannot afford two servants," the man hastened to submit.
"I ain't suggesting another servant. Somebody that respects herself too much to be called a servant. Of course it's hard to find the right party.
"However, some women can do it. And that is the kind you need, Broxton Day. Somebody who will be firm with your girl, here, too."
"I am afraid," said Janice's father quietly, "that the sort of person you speak of is beyond my means; perhaps such a marvel is not in the market at all," and he
smiled again. "Thank you for your interest, Miss Peckham."
He rose again to see her to the door. The spinster might have considered remaining longer and offering further advice; but daddy knew how to get rid of people quickly and cheerfully when their business was over.
"Oh, Daddy! what a dreadful woman she is," sobbed Janice, when he came back into the living-room.
"Not so bad as that," he said, chuckling, and patting her shoulder comfortingly. "It is her way to make much of a little. You see, she did not want anything for her injured cat, she merely wanted to come in and talk about it."
"But—but, Daddy," confessed Janice, blushing deeply, "I really did fight Arlo Junior on the street. I boxed his ears."
Mr. Day had great difficulty to keep from laughing, but Janice was too absorbed in her troubles to notice it.
"Well, well! Taking the law into your own hands, were you?"
"Yes, Daddy. I guess it wasn't very ladylike. But I'm not a hoodlum!"
"Why was it that you did not want me to mention Arlo Junior?" asked Mr. Day curiously.
"Well, you see, I sort of promised him I wouldn't tell about what he did to the cats, if he came in here Saturday and helped me clean that back kitchen."
"Ho, ho! I see. Well, perhaps you are quite right to shield the young scamp under those circumstances," said her father, with twinkling eyes.
Mr. Day talked to his daughter for a while longer. He asked her about her school work and her school pleasures, about what the girls and boys in her circle of friends were doing. He tried to keep in close touch with the motherless girl's interests, and especially did he not want her to go to bed with sad and troublous thoughts in her mind.
After a cheerful and happy half hour Janice kissed her
father good-night and went to her own room.
Janice did all she could the next morning before going to school to start Delia right in the housework. But the giantess was still sullen and had much to say about "it comin' to a pretty pass when children boss their elders."
This was an objection that Janice had contended with before. She only said, pleasantly:
"When you have once learned just how we do things here, I sha'n't have to tell you again, Delia. But wherever you go to work, you know, you will have to learn the ways of the house."
"I was doin' housework, I was, when you was in your cradle," declared the woman.
"But evidently not doing it just as we like to have it done here," insisted Janice cheerfully. "Now, try to please daddy, Delia. Everything will be all right then."
Delia only sniffed. She "sniffed" in a higher key than Janice had ever heard anybody sniff before. Certainly Mrs. Bridget Burns was not turning out to be as mild creature as Janice had first believed her to be. She could be stubborn.
When she got to school that morning Janice found that there was another disturbing incident in the offing. Amy Carringford squeezed her arm as they hurried in to grammar recitation, and smiled at her. But it was with gravity that she whispered in Janice's ear:
"I guess I shall have to refuse Stella's invitation."
"Oh, you must go!"
"No, I can't go."
"Don't dare say that, Amy!" responded Janice, earnestly. "You haven't told her you aren't coming, have you?"
"Don't you dare!" repeated Janice.
"But—but, I don't see how I can—"
"Wait! I'll tell you after school. Don't say a word to Stella about not going to the party. I tell you, if you don't go, I sha'n't!"
There was no time for more whispering. Amy's big luminous eyes were fixed on her friend a good deal through the several recitations they both attended. It was evident she was puzzled.
At lunch hour Amy always ran home, for Mullen Lane— at least, the end on which she lived—was not far. And, perhaps, she did not care to join the girls who brought nice lunches in pretty baskets. So Janice could not talk with her new friend until school was out.
Janice had determined to make a friend of Amy Carringford. Oh, yes, when Janice Day made up her mind to a thing she usually did it. And she had conceived a great liking for Amy, as well as a deep interest in the whole Carringford family.
"Now, Janice, what did you mean?" Amy asked, as they set off from the schoolhouse with their books. "I just can't go to that party!"
"Daddy says that it is a mistake to say that the word can't is not in the dictionary, for it is—in the newer ones. But I am sure it ought not to be found in the 'bright lexicon of youth'—like 'fail,' you know," and Janice laughed.
"You are just talking," giggled Amy, clinging to Janice's arm. "I don't know what you mean."
"You are going to know soon, my dear," returned Janice. "Come home with me. Your mother won't mind, will she?"
"No. I'll send word by Gummy."
"My, that sounds almost like swearing—'by Gummy!' exclaimed Janice, her hazel eyes dancing. "And there Gummy goes. Grab him quick. Tell him you'll stay to supper."
"Oh, no! I'll tell him I'll stay till supper," rejoined Amy, as she ran after her brother.
She caught up with Janice within half a block laughing and skipping. Never had Janice seen Amy so light-hearted. Even the thought that she could not go to the party at Stella Latham's house did not serve to make Amy sorrowful for long. And Janice guessed why.
Amy Carringford had been hungry for a close friend. Perhaps Janice was starved, too, for such companionship. At any rate, Amy responded to Janice's friendliness just as a sunflower responds to the orb of the day and turns toward it.
The two girls went on quite merrily toward the Day cottage at Eight Hundred and Forty-five Knight Street. There was plenty to chatter about without even touching on the coming party. Janice had plans about that.
When the two came in sight of the Day house those plans —and almost everything else—went out of Janice's head. There was a high, dusty, empty rubbish cart standing before the side gate of the Day premises; and from the porch a man in the usual khaki uniform of the Highway Department was bringing out a black oilcloth bag which Janice very well remembered.
"Oh, dear me! what can have happened?" Janice cried starting to run. "That is Delia's bag—the very one she brought with her."
She arrived at the gate just as the man came through the opening. He was a dusty-faced man, with a bristling mustache, and great, overhanging brows. He looked very angry, too.
"Oh, what is the matter?" asked Janice, as the man pitched the oilcloth bag into the cart, and turned back toward the house again.
But he was not regarding at all the girl or her chum who then ran up. He turned to bellow in through the open door:
"Hi! Come out o' that, Biddy Burns! Ye poor innocent! Sure, with your two little children home cryin' all day alone and me at work, ye should be ashamed of yerself, me gur-rl! If I was the kind of a feyther ye nade, I'd be wearin' a hairbrush out on ye, big and old as ye be. Come out o' that—or will I come in afther ye?"
"Mercy me!" gasped Amy.
"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed Janice, tugging at the man's
sleeve, "what are you doing to Delia?"
"'Delia,' is it? More of her foolishness. She's Biddy Burns, and her husband is dead—lucky man that he is. And I'm her feyther and the grandfeyther of her two babies—Tessie and 'Melia. And if she don't come home this minute with me, I'll put the young ones in a home, so I will!"
Delia, in the flounced dress, and weeping, just then appeared. She stumbled down the steps and came to the gate, blubbering like a child.
"Sure, he says I've got to go ho-ome," sobbed the giantess. "'Tis me father—he tells the truth. But I wanted to earn money myself. He never lets me do nothing I want to do!"
"Ye big, foolish gur-rl!" ejaculated the man gruffly. "Was it workin' for you she was, Miss?"
"Yes," said Janice breathlessly.
"And they had a pianny," sobbed Delia;. "'Twas be-a-utiful!"
"You come home an' play on the washboard—that's the kind of a pianny you nade to play on," grumbled her father. "I'm sorry for ye," he added turning to Janice, "if your folks has to depend on the likes of her to do the work. Sure, it's not right good sinse she's got."
He came behind the giantess suddenly and boosted her with strong arms up to the seat at the front of the wagon. Then he climbed up himself and the turnout rattled away heavily along the street.
Delia's departure was one of the most astounding things that had happened to the Days during the months of their dependence upon itinerant houseworkers.
CHAPTER IX . SHOCKS AND FROCKS
Janice found herself clinging tightly to Amy Carringford's hand and Amy clinging tightly to hers, as the rubbish wagon rattled away with Delia and her grim father perched on the high seat, while the black oilcloth bag rattled around in the otherwise empty body of the cart.
"Oh, Janice!" gasped Amy at last.
"Oh, Amy!" rejoined her friend. "And no dinner for daddy when he comes home!"
Amy could not comment on this catastrophe for the moment, for Miss Peckham (the only neighbor who seemed to have marked the departure of Delia) came swiftly into view. Miss Peckham's blinds were always bowed, and one never knew which blind she was lurking behind.
"Well!" she exclaimed (and Janice thought she said it quite cheerily), "so that one's gone, has she?"
"They—they just seem to come and go," Janice replied, almost in tears. "Oh, dear! Delia wasn't much; but I did hope she would stay a little longer."
"'Much'!" sniffed Miss Peckham. "I should say she wasn't. And she isn't even sensible. I should think even a girl of your age could have seen she was more'n half crazy. Wouldn't expect your father to notice nothing. He's only a man."
"Oh! Really crazy, do you mean?" Amy Carringford burst out.
"She never was more'n half bright, that Biddy Garrity. That was her name before she married Tom Burns. And he died. Blowed up in the powder mill. That was old Garrity who came for her. She ain't got no right to run off and leave her two children and that old man to get along as best they can. But she does it—often. I thought there would be trouble just as soon as I seen her sitting on your steps t'other day."
"Well, I wish we'd known it," sighed Janice. "She— she did seem sort of funny. But she wasn't much worse than some of the others we've had."
"Humph!" sniffed Miss Peckham, "just what I told your father last night. You need a manager here—somebody to take hold"
"I shall have to take hold now and see about getting dinner for daddy," Janice responded, recovering a measure of her self-confidence. "Come on in, Amy, and watch me work."
"If I come in and help you," said her friend. "I guess you won't have to do it all."
A glance through the lower rooms proved that Delia had done little more toward straightening the house this day than the day before.
"Goodness, mercy me, Janice Day!" exclaimed Amy Carringford. "I'm awfully glad we don't have to have servants. It must be awful!"
"It just is," sighed Janice. "You never know when you come home from school whether you will find the girl or not. And you're 'most always sure to find that not half the work's been done. Well, I can get daddy some sort of a dinner myself tonight."
"What are you going to cook? Let me help," said Amy eagerly. "I know how to make lovely rolls—only you have to set the sponge the night before. And Judge Peters's pudding is just luscious! Only you have to have currants and citron and chopped nuts to go into it."
"We won't have either of those things for dinner, then," said Janice, with a cheerful laugh.
"Well, we don't have them nowadays," sighed Amy. "But we used to."
"I suppose you have had to give up lots of nice things since your father died," rejoined, her friend sympathetically. "But," and she giggled, "Gummy said yesterday he couldn't give up his name."
"The poor boy!" Amy declared, shaking her head. "Give me an apron, Janice. I am going to peel those potatoes and that turnip. Potatoes and turnip mashed together makes a nice dish. And Gummy can't really give up his name."
"'Gumswith'! It's awful," murmured Janice. "How ever—"
"Well I'll tell you. Poor dear father had a half-brother who was lots older than he. Grandmother Carringford had been married before she married our grandfather, you see. And her first husband's name was Mr. Gumswith. John Gumswith. It's not so bad as a last name, you see."
"No," agreed Janice, her eyes twinkling. "Not when you say it quick."
Amy laughed again, busy peeling the vegetables. And she peeled them thin, Janice noticed. Amy had evidently been taught the fine points of frugal housekeeping.
"So poor Gummy got his name from John Gumswith, Junior. I guess father's half-brother was a queer man. He said he'd never marry, because he was always wandering about the world."
"Like a peddler?" ventured Janice.
"No. But he went to foreign countries. He always expected to earn a lot of money by some stroke of fortune, mother says. But none of us children ever saw him. Before Gummy was born Uncle John Gumswith started off for Australia, and mother and father never heard of him, or from him after that."
"But they named poor Gummy after him," commented Janice, busy with the onion she was chopping to season the hamburger roast, and trying to keep the juice of the onion out of her eyes.
"You see," Amy confessed confidentially, "when father and mother were married Uncle John gave them a little nest egg. You understand? He had some money, and he gave some of it to them. And then, he was father's only living relative; so they named the first baby 'Gumswith'—so that the family name should not die out you know."
"My goodness!" exclaimed Janice, but whether because of the saddling of Gummy Carringford with such a name, or because of the squirting of onion juice into her left eye, she did not explain at the moment.
"So Gummy is Gummy," sighed his sister. "Father didn't name him that just for the money's sake. Mother says a million dollars wouldn't really pay for such a name. But father thought a lot of Uncle John Gumswith.
"But when Gummy grows up, he will have to go through life, so he says, signing has name 'G. Carringford,'" and Amy began to giggle at this thought.
"It is really too bad," said Janice, but her mind was on another subject just then. "How quick you are, Amy! You know how to do everything, don't you?"
"No I don't. But what I know, I know well," said her friend in her quiet way. "Is your water hot? This turnip wants to go right on, for it take longer to cook than the potatoes."
"Here you are," said Janice, seizing the pot and carrying it to the stove. There she poured boiling water over the turnip and set the pot where it would continue to simmer. "It's too early to put the roast in yet. Come on upstairs, Amy. I know that Delia neither made up my bed nor dusted my room. I did daddy's before I went to school this morning."
"Such a nice house!" murmured Amy, as she followed Janice upstairs by the way of the front hall.
"And not half kept," sighed Janice. "When dear mother was with us—"
She and Amy said no more until Janice's bedroom was all spick and span again. Janice hugged her friend heartily when at last the pillows were plumped up at the head of the bed.
"You're a dear!" she said. "You do like me, don't you, Amy?"
"Of course I do."
"Then you'll go to Stella's party with me, you?'
"Oh, but, Janice, I can't!"
"There's that word can't' again," said Janice lightly. "I don't believe in it—no ma'am! You can go if you want to."
"I—I haven't a thing nice enough to wear!" confessed Amy desperately, her face flaming and water standing in her eyes. "As though that was a good reason! Let me show you what I am going to wear."
But the pretty black and white dress that Janice brought forth from her closet only made Amy shake her head.
"Yes. I know. But it is new—and very nice."
"I've never worn it yet," confessed Janice.
"And everything I've got is as old as the hills," groaned Amy Carringford.
"Well, look here—and here—and here!" Janice tossed as many frocks upon the bed. "What do you suppose is going to become of those?"
"Oh, Janice! how pretty they are. This pink and white one—"
"M-mm! my mother made them for me," said Janice, trying to speak bravely. "And now they are too small, anyway. I've grown a lot since a year ago."
"So you are going to wear one of them to Stella's party," declared Janice confidently. "The pink and white one if you like."
"Oh, Janice, I can't. My mother wouldn't let me."
"I'm going to make her let you. I'm going to beg her on my knees!" declared Janice, laughing. "Do get into it, Amy, and see if it fits you.
It did. There was no doubt but that Amy was just a wee bit smaller than Janice and that the frocks were an almost perfect fit.
"But—but to take a whole new dress from you—a gift! Oh, Janice! I know it isn't right. Mother will not hear of it"
"Mother's going to hear of it—and from me," declared Janice. "To-morrow's Saturday. After I get all the work done, and Arlo Junior helps me clean that back kitchen, I am going to bring this dress down to your house. I know when she once sees it on you, she won't have the heart to say 'No.'"
So, perhaps Janice Day was sly, after all.
CHAPTER X. OTHER PEOPLE'S TROUBLE
Daddy, of course, laughed. If it had not been for his sanguine temperament, and his ability to see the funny side of life, Janice often wondered what they should do.
"They say," she thought, "that every cloud has a silver lining. But to dear daddy there is something better than silver linings to our clouds. Something to laugh at! I wonder if, after all, being able to see the fun in things isn't the biggest blessing in the world. I am sure Miss Peckham isn't happy, and she never sees anything funny at all! But daddy—"
When she told him at dinner time how Delia had departed on the rubbish wagon with her angry father, Broxton Day laughed so that he could scarcely eat.
"But what are we going to do?" cried Janice.
"Don't be a little Martha, honey, troubled with many things. I would have given a good deal to have seen that departure. 'Good riddance to bad rubbish,' is an old saying back in Vermont where I was brought up, Janice. And Delia going in the rubbish wagon seems fitting, doesn't it?"
"It was funny," admitted his little daughter. "But what shall we do?"
"Why, try the next applicant," said Broxton Day easily. "I will look in at the agencies again."
"I'm afraid that won't do any good, Daddy," sighed Janice. "Delia came from the agency, and you see what she was like. And Olga—"
"No," interrupted Mr. Day, "Olga came direct from Pickletown."
"Well, it doesn't matter. There were plenty of others from the agencies, all as bad or worse than Olga and Delia," and Janice looked much downcast.
"Oh, little daughter, little daughter!" admonished Mr. Day, "don't give way like that. Some time, out of the lot, we'll find the right person."
"Well, maybe," agreed Janice, cheerful once more. "I guess we've already had all the bad ones. Those that are left to come to us must be just ordinary human beings with some good and some sense mixed in with the bad."
It proved to be a very busy day, indeed, for Janice— that Saturday. But she did not overlook her promise to Amy Carringford. Yet it was mid-afternoon when she started for Mullen Lane with the pink and white party dress in a neat package over her arm.
Janice could not overlook the poverty-stricken appearance of the Carringford cottage. It could not, indeed, be ignored by even the casual glance. But its cleanliness, and everybody's neatness about the little dwelling, portrayed the fact that here was a family putting its best foot forward. Mrs. Carringford was proud. Janice Day knew that she must be very cautious indeed if she would see Amy adorned with her own finery.
"Dear Mrs. Carringford," she whispered to her friend's mother, "I've got a surprise for you. I want Amy to come upstairs with me, and by and by, when we call you up, please come and look into her room."
Amy, according to agreement, had said nothing about the dress to her mother. She was eager, but doubtful just the same.
"I don't think it is right, Janice," she declared, over and over. "I don't see how I can accept the dress from you, when I have nothing to give in return."
"Oh, that is a very niggardly way to receive," cried Janice, shaking her head. "If we can't accept a present save when we can return it—why, daddy says that is the most selfish thought in the world."
"For sure! We are too selfish to allow other people to enjoy giving. Don't you see? It's fun to give."
"But it is not fun to be the object charity," complained Amy, with some sullenness.
"Why, my dear," exclaimed Janice Day, "you are not always going to be poor. Of course not. Some day you will be lots better off. Gummy will grow up and go to work, and then you will all be well off. And, besides, this sort of giving, between friends, isn't charity."
"Gummy wishes to go to work now," sighed Amy. "But mother wants to keep him at school."
"He might work after school and on Saturdays."
"Oh, that would be fine! But who would give him such a job? You see, we do not trade much with the storekeepers, and mother isn't very well known—"
"You wait!" exclaimed Janice. "I believe I know somebody who needs a boy."
"Oh, I hope you do, Janice."
Meanwhile Amy was getting into that lovely, dainty dress again.
"You do look too sweet for anything in it," Janice declared. The latter ran out to the stairs and called to Mrs. Carringford. "Oh, do come up and look! Do, Mrs. Carringford!"
She kept Amy's bedroom door shut, and held Mrs. Carringford for a moment at the top of the stairs.
"Oh, Mrs. Carringford," she murmured, "don't you want to make two girls just awfully happy?"
"Why, my dear child—"
"You know, I have been growing just like a weed this past year. Daddy says so. I have outgrown all the pretty clothes my—my mother made me for last summer, and which of course I could not wear. Amy is just a wee bit smaller than I "
"Wait!" gasped Janice, almost in tears she was so much in earnest. "Just wait and see her! And I want her to go to the party. And there are stockings, and pumps, and a hat, and everything! Look at her!"
She flung open the bedroom door. Amy stood across the room from them, flushing and paling by turns, and looking really frightened, but, oh! so pretty.
"Why, Amy!" murmured Mrs. Carringford, her own cheeks flushing.
What mother can look at her little daughter when she is charmingly dressed without being proud of her? She turned questioningly to Janice.
"Does your father know about this?"
"Daddy quite approves," said Janice demurely. "I never could get any wear out of them. You can see that, Mrs. Carringford.
"And if you let Amy wear them, we'll both be so happy!"
Mrs. Carringford kissed her. "You are a sweet, good child," she said rather brokenly. "I don't blame Amy for loving you."
So it was agreed that Amy should wear the party dress. Janice had errands to do at the store, and she begged for the company of Gummy Carringford to help her carry the things she bought.
"You know, I can't carry them all, and sometimes Harriman's delivery doesn't get around until midnight and we have to get up and take the things in."
"Come on," said Gummy, who knew about the dress for his sister, "I'll carry anything you want."
But Janice really had another reason for getting Gummy Carringford to Harriman's store. She maneuvered to get Mr. Harriman himself to wait on her, and when Gummy was out of ear-shot she began to confide in the proprietor.
"Do you see that boy who is with me, Mr. Harriman?" she asked.
"Oh, yes. I've seen him before I guess. One of your neighbors?"
"He goes to our school. And he is a very nice boy."
"What's his name?"
"His name is 'G. Carringford'," Janice told demurely.
"Oh! 'G?'" queried Mr. Harriman. "Is that all?"
"Well, you know, it isn't his fault if he has dreadful name," she said. "And it doesn't really hurt him. He can work just as hard—and he wants work."
"I thought you said he went to school?"
"After school and on Saturdays," she explained. "He doesn't know you, Mr. Harriman, so I suppose he is bashful about speaking to you. But you know him now, because I introduced G. Carringford. Won't you try him?"
The outcome of this attempt to help the Carringfords was one of the many things Janice had to confide to daddy that evening. As she told him, she had put little dependence upon the hope of finding another houseworker easily. And that was well, for Mr. Day had found nobody at the agencies. He would not trust engaging a girl again, unseen.
"Perhaps next week will bring us good fortune, my dear," he said. "How did you get on to-day, all alone? I see the silver has been polished."
"Only some of it, Daddy. And I have been a busy bee, now I tell you."
"Bravo, my dear! The busy bee makes the honey."
"And has a stinger, too," she replied roguishly. "I guess Arlo Junior thinks so."
"So Junior came over according to promise?" said her father, interested.
"Yes, indeed. And he did work, Daddy! You should have seen him."
"The vision of Arlo Weeks, Junior, working really would be worth the price of admission," chuckled Broxton Day.
"That isn't the worst of it—for Arlo," said Janice gaily. "You see, his helping me clean up that back kitchen got him a bad reputation."
"Why, Janice! How was that?"
"Oh, he did the cleaning very well. As well as it could be done. That soft coal made marks on the walls that never will come off until they are painted again. It's awful smutchy—that coal."
"I know," agreed Broxton Day. "But about Arlo?"
"I'm coming to that," she said smiling. "You see, Arlo Junior was just about through when his mother come over looking for him. She wanted him to go on an errand. She saw what he had been doing for me, for he had an apron on and the broom in his hand."
"Caught with the goods, in other words?" chuckled Mr. Day.
"Yes. And we couldn't tell her why he was helping me. So she said right out:
"'Why, Arlo Junior! If you can help Janice like this— and you and she were fighting the other day—you can come right home and clean out the woodshed. It needs it.'
"And—and," laughed Janice, "he had to do it. He worked pretty near all day to-day. And he scowled at me dreadfully this afternoon."
"He will be playing other tricks on you," warned her father.
"Well, there will be no Olga to make them worse," she sighed. "That is one sure thing. Oh, dear, Daddy, I wonder where she is—and the treasure-box! It is too, too hateful for anything!"
"I called up the pickle factory where Willie Sangreen works. They had heard nothing from him. It looks as though Olga and he must have gone away together. Stole a march on all their friends and got married, maybe."
"But why should she take my treasure-box?" cried Janice. "Oh, Daddy! I can never forgive myself for my carelessness."
"Don't worry, child. You could not really be blamed," he rejoined sadly.
"But that doesn't bring back mother's picture and the other things," murmured the anxious Janice, watching his clouding face.
As always when they were alone, daddy washed the supper dishes and Janice dried them. Daddy with an apron on and his sleeves rolled up, and a paper cap on his head (she made him wear that like a regular "chef"), made a picture that always pleased his daughter.
"I think you would make a very nice cook, Daddy dear? she often told him. "In fact, you seem to fit in almost anywhere. I guess it's because you are always ready to do something."
"Flattery! Flattery!" he returned, pinching her cheek.
"But it is so, you know, Daddy. You always know what to do—and you do it."
"That is what they tell me at the bank," said Mr. Day, with rather a rueful smile. "This Mexican mine business is developing some troubles, and they want me to go down there and straighten them out."
"Oh, Daddy!" she cried breathlessly.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "That is what I tell them. I cannot leave you alone."
"But take me!" she cried, almost dancing up and down.
"Can't be thought of, Janice. That is a rough country —and you've got to stick to school, besides. You know, my dear, we had already decided on that."
"Yes, I know," she sighed. "But of course you won't go away and leave me? We—we've never been separated since—since dear mamma died."
"True, my dear. And we will not contemplate such separation. I have told them at the bank it would be impossible." It was not of their own troubles that they talked mostly on this evening, however, but of some other people's troubles. After they were out of the kitchen and settled in the living-room, Janice began to tell him about the Carringfords. "They are just the nicest people you ever saw Daddy. Amy and Gummy are coming over here tomorrow after Sunday School so that you can meet them."
"'Gummy'!" ejaculated Mr. Day.
Janice told him all about that boy's unfortunate name.
"You see," she explained, "Mrs. Carringford told me herself this afternoon that his Uncle John Gumswith was a very nice man."
"Seems to me," said daddy, quite amused, "that doesn't make the boy's name any less unfortunate. And have they never even heard of the uncle since he went to Australia?"
"Well," chuckled Mr. Day, "Gummy had better go to the Legislature and get his name changed. That's a handicap that no boy should have to shoulder."
"It is awful. And it makes Gummy shy, I think. He wanted to work after school hours and on Saturday. But he didn't seem to know how to get a job. So I," Janice proceeded quite in a matter-of-fact way, "got him one."
"Yes, Daddy. I went to Mr. Harriman, the grocer. You know we trade there. And I know that he can use a boy just as well as not. So I told him about Gummy—"
"Did you tell Harriman his name?" chuckled her father.
"I said he was 'G. Carringford,'" Janice replied, her eyes twinkling. "But you needn't laugh. Mr. Harriman did."
"Laugh; I really wanted Gummy to take a nom de plume, or whatever it is they call 'em."
"An alias, I guess it would be, in Gummy's case," said her father. "And wouldn't he?"
"No," said Janice, shaking her head. "Gummy seems to think that he's in honor bound to stick up for his name. That is what he says."
"Amen! Some boy, that!"
"He's a nice boy," declared Janice. "You'll see. And he got the job."
"Oh, he did! So I see that my Janice is a real 'do something' girl."
"Why, yes, I hadn't thought of that," she agreed, all smiles at his praise. "I did do something, didn't I? Gummy is going to work for Mr. Harriman, and that'll help them. But it was about Amy and Stella Latham's party I wanted to tell you"
"Oh, was it, indeed?" her father murmured.
She related the circumstances attached to the coming party and Amy Carringford's reason for not being able to go.
"And you ought to see Amy in that pink and white dress. She's just too sweet for anything!"
"All right, daughter. I agree to give your little friend the frock if her mother is willing."
"I just made Mrs. Carringford agree," said Janice, bobbing her head earnestly. "They are awfully proud folks."
"With a proper pride, perhaps."
"I guess so. They are real nice anyway—even if Gummy does wear patched pants."
"And does he?" asked daddy, seriously. "Perhaps we had better look through my Wardrobe in his behest."
"But, Daddy! he can't wear your clothes. He'd be lost in them," Janice giggled.
"True. But his mother may know how to cut the garments down and make them over for the boy? You ask her, Janice. I will lay out a couple of suits that I will never be able to wear again."
And so they forgot their own troubles, for the time being, in seeking to relieve those of some other people.
CHAPTER XI. MRS. WATKINS
Although it was probable that most of the Day's neighbors felt more or less curiosity, if not interest, in their domestic misfortunes, it was only Miss Peckham who seemed to keep really close observation, in season and out, of all that went on in and about the Day house.
Janice could have wished that the spinster would give more of her attention to her cats and Ambrose, the parrot, and less to neighborhood affairs. For the child knew that not even a peddler came to the door that the sharp-visaged woman behind her bowed blinds did watch to see what Janice did.
"She watches every move I make, Daddy," complained the girl one day. "I don't see why she cares who comes to see me. She's the meanest thing—"
"Now, Janice, dear!"
"I don't care, Daddy, just this once! Why, this afternoon three of the girls were here, and after they left Miss Peckham called me over to the fence and asked me when the Beemans were going to Canada.
"The Beemans talk of going there before long, but are not certain about it; and Annette told the rest of us girls all about it as a great secret. Miss Peckham
deliberately listened at her window, and then, because she couldn't hear all we said, she tried to make me tell her the whole story. Now, isn't that mean?"
"Oh, well, Janice—"
"You wouldn't listen like that, Daddy Day, and you wouldn't let me, so there!"
"Maybe not, Janice. But then, you know, we do many things that Miss Peckham does not approve of—many things that she would not think of doing."
"Now, Daddy, you are joking! You know you are!"
"Maybe so—half way. But then we are responsible for ourselves, and not for Miss Peckham. But I am sorry, daughter, that she troubles you. Perhaps," he added more lightly, "we shall get things on a more satisfactory basis here before long, and then Miss Peckham will not think it necessary to look after us so much."
"You know better than that, Daddy Day. Miss Peckham will look after us till we are hundreds of years old," answered Janice. But now she spoke with a smile on her lips.
The disappointment of the coming and going of Bridget Burns made both father and daughter shrink from trying another houseworker unless she appeared more than ordinarily promising. So for a day or two daddy went personally to the agencies and looked the prospective workers over. His reports to Janice were not hopeful.
"Oh, dear me, Daddy!" Janice sighed, "I do wish I could do it all. Maybe I ought only to go to school part time—"
"No, my dear. We will scrabble along as best we can. You must not neglect the studies."
"At any rate," she exclaimed, "it will soon be vacation time. I can do ever so much more in the house then."
"Nor do I believe that is a good plan," her father said, shaking his head. "The best thing that could happen to you would be for you to go away for a change. I have a good mind to send you back East. Your Aunt Almira—"
"Oh, Daddy! Never! You don't mean it?" cried the girl.
"Why, you'll like your Aunt Almira. Of course, Jase Day is not such an up-and-coming chap as one might wish; but he is a good sort, at that. And there is your cousin, Marty."
"But I don't know any of them," sighed Janice. "And I don't want to leave you."
"But if we cannot get any help—"
"I'll get along. What would you do in this house alone if I went away?" she demanded.
"I'd shut it up and go down to the Laurel House to board."
"Oh, that's awful!"
"No. I get my lunch there now. It's not very bad," said Broxton Day, smiling.
"I mean it's awful to think of shutting up our home for the summer. You haven't got to go away to Mexico, have you, Daddy?" she queried with sudden suspicion.
"Well, my dear, it may be necessary," he confessed.
"And you'd send me away to Vermont while you were gone?"
"I don't know what else to do—if the necessity arises. Jase Day is my half-brother—the only living relative I have. Your mother's people are all scattered. I wouldn't know what else to do with you, my dear."
"Mercy!" she sighed, winking back the tears, "it sounds as though I—I were what you call a 'liability' in your bank business. Isn't that it? Why, Daddy! I want to be an 'asset,' not a 'liability.'"
"Bless you, my dear, you are! A great, big asset!" he laughed. "But you must not neglect the necessary preparation for life which your studies give you. Nor must I let you overwork. Have patience—and hope. Perhaps we shall be able to find a really good housekeeper, after all."
When, on Wednesday afternoons Janice came home from school, she saw Miss Peckham beckoning to her from her front porch, the girl had no suspicion that the maiden lady was about to interfere in her and daddy's affairs. No, indeed!
"Now I wonder what she wants!" murmured Janice, going reluctantly toward the Peckham house. "And she's got company, too."
The spinster was sitting on her porch behind the honeysuckle vines, with her sewing table and the big parrot, Ambrose, chained to his perch beside her. There was, too, a second woman on the porch.
"Good afternoon, Miss Peckham," Janice said, swinging her books as she came up the walk from Miss Peckham's gate. "Hello, Polly!"
"Polly wants cracker!" declared the bird, flapping his wings and doing a funny little dance on his perch.
"Be still!" commanded Miss Peckham. With her sharp little black eyes she glanced from Janice to the other woman. "This is the girl," she said.
Janice, feeling as though she was under some important scrutiny looked at the second woman in curiosity. She found her a not unpleasant looking person. She was much wrinkled, yet her cheeks were rather pink and her lips very vivid. Janice wondered if it was possible that this color was put on by hand.
The woman sat in a rocking chair with her long hands folded idly in her lap. On the hands were white "half mits"—something Janice knew were long out of fashion but which were once considered very stylish indeed.
The woman's eyes were a shallow brown color—perhaps "faded" would be a better expression. It seemed as though she were too languid even to look with attention at any one or anything.
"This is the girl, Sophrony," Miss Peckham repeated more sharply.
"Oh, yes," murmured the strange woman, as though awakened from a brown study. "Yes. Quite a pretty little girl."
"Pretty is as pretty does," scoffed Miss Peckham. "At any rate, she's healthy. Ain't you, Janice Day?"
"Ah—oh—yes, ma'am!" stammered Janice, "I guess I am."
"Well, I don't see the doctor going to your house none," said Miss Peckham, in her snappy way. "I guess I would ha' seen him if he'd called."
"Oh, yes," agreed Janice, "you would have seen him."
"Heh?" Miss Peckham stared at the little girl sharply. But she saw that Janice was quite innocent in making her comment. "Well," said the maiden lady, "this is Mrs. Watkins."
Considering this an introduction, Janice came forward and offered the faded looking woman her hand. Mrs. Watkins' own hand reminded Janice of a dead fish, and she was quite as glad to drop it as Mrs. Watkins seemed to be to have it dropped.
"Oh, yes," said the latter woman, "she is a pretty girl."
"Mrs. Watkins has come to see me," explained Miss Peckham. "She an' I have been friends for years and years. We used to go to school together when we were girls."
"Oh!" said Janice. But she could think of nothing else to say. She did not understand why she was being taken into Miss Peckham's confidence.
"Yes, Sophrony Watkins and I—Sophrony Shepley was her maiden name. She married Tom Watkins—and Tom was a shiftless critter, if there ever was one."
Janice was startled. Miss Peckham seemed to be unnecessarily plain spoken. But the languid Mrs. Watkins made no comment.
"And now Sophrony has come down to doin' for herself," went on the neighborhood censor. "I sent for her to come over here. She's been livin' in Marietteville. You tell your pa that we'll come into see him to-night after supper."
"Oh!" murmured Janice. Then she "remembered her manners," and said, smiling: "Please do, Miss Peckham. I will tell daddy you are coming."
Miss Peckham waved her hand to dismiss her young neighbor. "And if 'twas me," she said complacently to her companion, "first thing I'd do would be to cure that young one of calling her father 'daddy.' That's silly."
Even this remark did not forewarn Janice of what was coming. "I just believe," she thought, going on her way, "that that faded-out little woman is a book agent and will want to sell daddy a set of books he'll never in this world read."
But in getting dinner and tidying up the dining room and living room, Janice forgot all about Mrs. Sophronia Watkins. Janice was working very hard these days— much harder than any girl of her age should work. The evening before she had fallen asleep over her studies, and to-day her recitations had not been quite up to the mark.
The lack of system in the housekeeping made everything harder for her, too. It was all right for daddy to help wash the dinner dishes, and even to blacken the range and the gas stove as he did on this evening, but there were dozens of things going wrong every day in the house which neither Janice nor her father could help.
There were the provision bills. Janice knew very well that the butcher took advantage of her ignorance. She was always in a hurry in the morning, running to school; and she could not stop to see meat weighed, or vegetables properly picked out and measured.
At Mr. Harriman's, the grocer's, it was not so bad. There were certain articles of established standard that she knew her mother had always ordered; but in the matter of butter and cheese and eggs, she realized that she often ordered the best, and got second or third quality and first-quality prices.
Had she been able to spend the time marketing she would have conserved some of daddy's money and things would have been much better on the table. Yet, with the kind of houseworkers they had had, much of the good food that was bought was spoiled in the cooking.
Daddy sometimes said: "The Lord sends the food, but the cooks don't all come from heaven, that is sure, Janice."
He was vigorously polishing the cookstove on this Wednesday evening and they were cheerfully talking and joking, when the sound of bootheels on the side porch announced the coming of visitors.
"Oh, dear me! who can that be?" whispered Janice.
"Save me, My Lady—save me!" cried daddy, appearing to be very much frightened, and dodging behind the stove. "Don't let the neighbors in until I have got rid of this blacking brush and got on my vest and coat—"
But the caller who now hammered on the door with quick knuckles was no bashful person. Mr. Day had no chance to escape from the kitchen Miss Peckham turned the knob and walked right in.
"Come in, Sophrony," she said, over her shoulder, to the person who came behind her. "You can see well enough that this man and his gal need somebody to take hold for 'em. Come right in."
CHAPTER XII. THE FADED-OUT LADY
Janice was not as much surprised—at first as her father was by the appearance of the spinster and Mrs. Watkins. She remembered that Miss Peckham had said she would call this evening, although the girl had not expected her at the back door.
Their neighbor had managed to time her appearance at a rather inopportune moment, and when daddy rose up from behind the stove to confront the two women, in a voluminous apron and with a smutch across his cheek, Janice could not entirely smother her amusement.
"Oh! Oh!" she giggled. "Good evening, Miss Peckham! This—this is Mrs. Watkins, Daddy," and she directed her father's attention to the faded-out lady. "Ahem! I am glad to see you, Miss Peckham—and Mrs. Watkins," Mr. Day said, bowing in that nice way of his that Janice so much admired. Even with a blacking brush in one hand and a can of stove polish in the other, Mr. Broxton Day was very much the gentleman.
"You find us considerably engaged in domestic work," continued Mr. Day, a smile wreathing his lips and his eyes twinkling. "And if you don't mind, I'll finish my job before giving you my full attention. Janice, take
Miss Peckham and her friend into the living room."
"Oh, no. You needn't bother," said Miss Peckham shortly. "Here's chairs, and we can sit down. It's interesting to watch a man try to do housework, I've no doubt."
"You said something then, Miss Peckham," said Mr. Day, cheerfully, and began industriously daubing the stove covers.
"I brought Mrs. Watkins in here to see you, Mr. Day, 'cause I got your welfare and hers at heart," pursued the spinster.
That sounded rather ominous, and Mr. Day poised the dauber and stared doubtfully from his neighbor to the washed-out looking woman.
"Mrs. Watkins is a widow," went on Miss Peckham.
Mr. Day made a sympathetic sound with his lips, but fell to polishing now, making the stove covers rattle. Miss Peckham raised her voice a notch. "She's a widow, and she's seen trouble."
"We're born to it—as the sparks fly upward," observed Mr. Day, under his breath.
"Mrs. Watkins has come to an age when nobody can say she's flighty, I sh'd hope," continued Miss Peckham. "She's settled. And she's got to earn her livin'."
"Now, Marthy!" objected Mrs. Watkins.
"Well, 'tis so, Sophrony, ain't it?" demanded her friend.
"Oh, of course, expenses are heavy, and it's desirable that I should—should—well, add to my income. But I've come to no great age, Marthy Peckham, I'd have you know!"
"Oh, bosh, Sophrony!" ejaculated Miss Peckham. "Well, as I say, Mr. Day, Mrs. Watkins is a widow, and she needs a settled place."
"Just what are you trying to get at, Miss Peckham? I don't understand you," asked Mr. Day, his face actually getting rather pale.
Neither did Janice understand; but her father looked so funny that the girl giggled again. Miss Peckham gave her a reproving glance.
"I sh'd think you'd understand your need well enough, Broxton Day," she said sternly. "First of all that gal ought to be learned manners. But that's incidental, as you might say. What I am tellin' you is, that here's your chance to get a housekeeper that'll amount to something."
"Oh! Ah! I see!" exclaimed Mr. Day in staccato fashion, and evidently very much relieved. "Mrs. Watkins is looking for a position?"
"Well, she ought to be. But it does take a stick of dynamite to get her goin', seems to me. Speak up, Sophrony!"
"Why, I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Day," said the faded-out lady, simpering. "I've been considerin' acceptin' a position such as you have. Of course, I ain't used to working out—"
"Oh, fiddlesticks? put in Miss Peckham, "He don't care nothin' about that, Sophrony. He can see you ain't no common servant."
"Assuredly I can see that, Mrs. Watkins," said Mr. Day, suavely. "But do you think you would care to accept such a position as I can offer you?"
"I should be pleased to try it," said Mrs. Watkins, with a sigh. "Of course, it would be a comedown for me—"
"Land's sake, Sophrony!" ejaculated her friend, "with me to sponsor you, I don't guess anybody in this neighborhood will undertake to criticize."
"Wait a moment," said Mr. Day, and Janice was delighted to see that he was not entirely carried off his feet. "Let us understand each other. I pay so much a month," naming a fair sum, "and I expect the cooking and all the housework except the heavy washing done by whoever takes the place."
"Well, now, Mr. Day," began Mrs. Watkins, "you see, I shouldn't expect to be treated just like an ordinary servant. Oh, no."
"That's what I tell her," snorted Miss Peckham.
"Folks that have had the off-scourings of the earth, like you have had, Broxton Day, in your kitchen, ain't used to having lady-help about the house."
"I hope Janice and I will appreciate Mrs. Watkins' efforts, if she wishes to try the place," Mr. Day said, in rather a bewildered tone.
"That gal herself can do a good deal I sh'd think, morning and night. She ain't helpless," said Miss Peckham, staring at Janice.
"Janice has her school work to do," said Mr. Day firmly. "She takes care of her own room and does other little things. But unless Mrs. Watkins wishes to undertake the full responsibility of the housework it would be useless for her to come."
He was firm on that point. The faded-out lady smiled feebly. "I am always willing to do as far as I can," she sighed. "The work for three people can't be so much. I am perfectly willing to try, Mr. Day. I'm sure nothin' could be fairer than that."
Daddy and Janice looked at each other for an instant. It flashed through both their minds that the faded-out lady did not sound very encouraging. Later when the two had gone, daddy put away the blacklug tools, saying:
"Well, it will be a new experience, Janice. She is different from anybody we have ever had before."
"Oh, Daddy! I think she's funny," gasped the girl.
He smiled at her broadly, shaking his head. "I presume she does seem funny to you. But at least she is a ladylike person. We must treat her nicely."
"Why, as though we wouldn't!" gasped Janice.
"But don't offend her by showing her you are amused," warned her father. "That may be hard, for it does strike me that Mrs. Sophronia Watkins is a character, and no mistake."
"I wouldn't hurt her feelings for the world," declared Janice. "But, Daddy, do you suppose it is rouge she has on her face? And does she use a lipstick?"
"For goodness' sake! Where did you hear about such things?" he laughed.
"Why, of course I know something about most everything," declared Janice, quite confidently. "And her face doesn't look just natural."
"Don't get too curious, Janice," he said laughing. "If she can cook and keep the house clean, as far as I am concerned she can paint herself like a Piute chief."
One shock, however, Mr. Broxton Day was not exactly prepared for. Mrs. Watkins came to the house the next day for a late breakfast—which she got herself, Janice and her father having already cooked their own and eaten it.
"I haven't been used to getting up very early," confessed the woman, preening a bit. "But, of course, I shall change my breakfast hour to conform with yours."
"I hope so," said Broxton Day, hurrying away to business.
He got the shock mentioned at night when he came to the dinner table. The table was very neatly set; but there were three places. The meal was not elaborate but the food seemed to be cooked all right. Mrs. Watkins brought in the dishes and then sat down with Mr. Day and Janice to eat.
Janice did not look at daddy, but her own face was rather red and she was uncomfortable.
"Your daughter," said Mrs. Watkins severely, informs me that you have not been in the habit of having anybody at your table at meal time but your two selves. Of course, I could only engage to assist you here with the understanding that I am to be considered one of the family."
"Why—er—yes; that will be all right," Janice's father said, though a bit doubtfully. "It would scarcely do to consider you, Mrs. Watkins, in the same category as the ordinary help Janice and I have had."
"I am glad you see it that way," said the faded-out lady. And she was quite colorless at the moment. It was evident that the rouge and lip-stick were used only on important occasions.
"I am glad you see it that way," she repeated. "I could consider no let-down as a lady, in accepting any position. Manual labor is no shame; but one must be true to one's upbringing."
"Quite so, Mrs. Watkins—quite so," agreed Mr. Day.
"Janice, child," said the woman quickly, "run out to the kitchen and get the rest of the potatoes. And see if the coffee is ready."
Her tone rather startled Janice; but she did as she was bade and that without even a glance at daddy.
"I never consider I have had a real dinner," Mrs. Watkins continued, "unless I have a bit of good cheese with it. I find none in the house, Mr. Day. Indeed," she added, "your pantry sadly needs stocking up."
"Why—er—that may be so. We have been living a good deal 'catch-as-catch-can,'" and he smiled upon her. "Give Janice a list of the things you need, and she will go to Harriman's for you in the morning."
"No. I prefer to do my own marketing, always. A child like Janice—thank you Janice, for the potatoes— can scarcely be expected to use judgment in the selection of provisions. You might telephone to the stores where you are in the habit of trading and inform them that I have charge of your household now. They will then expect me."
"Oh, well! All right," he said, but doubtfully.
"I have not yet brought my bag from Marthy's, next door. I will go after it when dinner is over, while Janice clears the table. I will send for my trunk, which is at Marietteville, later."
"Suit yourself, Mrs. Watkins," said Mr. Day.
"Have you any choice as to which of the two empty bedrooms I consider mine?" the woman asked, heaping her plate a second time with food.
"What's that?" asked Mr. Day, rather non-plussed.
"Which chamber shall I sleep in?" she repeated, quite calmly.
"Why—I— Really, Mrs. Watkins, isn't the small room beyond Janice's quite sufficient for you?" he asked, a little color coming into his face now.
"Oh, my dear Mr. Day! I could not consider that for a moment. Why, that is the girl's room—merely a bedroom for the hired help. I could not possibly consider myself in the same class—"
"Except on pay-day, Mrs. Watkins?" asked the man bluntly. "We are glad to have you with us, of course; and we will consider your quite different status in the family, as you demand. But—"
"No, Mr. Day," Mrs. Watkins said with decision, interrupting him. "I could not contemplate for a moment occupying the girl's room. Why you might want it again any time."
"Not while you are with us," said Mr. Day wonderingly. "I do not think I could afford to have two helpers."
"It does not matter," said the faded-out lady stubbornly. "Janice, get the coffee now. It does not matter. I refuse positively to sleep in that little, poked-up room. I prefer my windows opening to the east."
"But the east room is the one Mrs. Day always used," said the man, with sudden hoarseness. "I cannot allow you to use that one. The spare chamber on the other side of the hall, if you insist."
"Very well," said the woman with a small toss of her head. "Will you have a cup of coffee, Mr. Day?"
"No, Mrs. Watkins. I prefer a cup of tea at dinner time. A New England habit that has clung to me."
"Indeed? Janice, go and make your father a cup of tea, that's a good child."
"Never mind, Janice," said daddy quickly. "I do not wish it now. And, Mrs. Watkins."
"Yes, Mr. Day?" simpered the faded-out lady.
"I wish it distinctly understood that Janice is to give her complete attention to her school work between dinner and bedtime, unless she should chance to have more freedom during those hours than is usual. She will assist you as you may have need after school, and even in the morning before she goes to school. But the hours after dinner are for her school work. Do you quite understand me, Mrs. Watkins?"
Mrs. Watkins' pale, wrinkled face did not color in the least, nor did the washed-out brown eyes change their expression. But there was an added sharpness to the woman's voice:
"You object to Janice's giving me a hand with the lighter tasks, Mr. Day?" she queried.
"Not at all. But her education must not be neglected."
"Ah! I quite understand," sniffed Mrs. Watkins. "You object to my going out this evening then? But I really must have my bag with my toilet requisites."
"I have no wish to restrict your use of the evening, as long as your work is done," said Mr. Day, rising from the table. "Come, Janice, it is time you were at your books."
He led the way into the living room. Mrs. Watkins gave a violent sniff at their departure. Then she finished her coffee.
CHAPTER XIII. STELLA'S PARTY
It was not going to be altogether pleasant sailing with Mrs Watkins in the house. Broxton Day saw that to be the fact, plainly and almost immediately. Janice had realized it even before her father had occasion to mark Mrs. Watkins' most prominent characteristic.
She was a person who was determined to take advantage if she could. In the parlance of the section of the country from which Broxton Day hailed, she was one of those persons who "if you give 'em an inch they take an ell."
From the first she made a strong attempt to carry things with a high hand. Mr. Day was almost sorry he had allowed her to come into the house. Mrs. Watkins did most of the housekeeping from her station in a rocking chair on the porch where she sat, wearing the mitts aforementioned.
Her idea of keeping the house in order was to clean all the rooms that were not absolutely needed, and then close them up tight, draw the shades down and close the blinds, making of each an airless tomb into which Janice was made to feel she must not enter for fear of admitting a speck of dirt.
Most of the work was done on Saturday, when Janice was at home. There was no playtime now for the girl— none at all.
But Janice would not complain. Mrs. Watkins could be very mean and petty, indeed; but to daddy she showed her best side. And as far as he saw, the house was run much better than had been the case of late.
Mrs. Watkins was ladylike in her demeanor. They became used to her sitting at the table with them and quite governing the trend of conversation at meals, as she did. Neither Janice nor her father liked to have the woman bring her tatting, which was her usual evening employment, into the living-room after dinner, for that was the only time when daughter and father could be confidential. But they did not see how they could overcome this annoyance without offending the woman.
At the end of the month Mr. Day was startled by the increase in the household bills. Mrs. Watkins had served them rather better food, it was true, than they had been getting of late; but a good many cutlets, sweetbreads, chops and steaks, seemed never to have appeared on the dinner table.
"I always feel the need of a hearty lunch Mr. Day," sniffed Mrs. Watkins. "I really need it after doing the morning's work. To keep one's self in condition is a duty we owe ourselves don't you think?"
"You seem to have stocked up pretty well with canned goods, Mrs. Watkins," was Broxton Day's rejoinder, now scanning the long memorandum from Harriman's. "Dear, dear! French peas? And imported marmalade? And canned mushrooms? Do you use all these things, Mrs. Watkins?"
"Oh, they are most useful, Mr. Day. One never knows when one may have company or wish to make a special dish. I have been used to the best, Mr. Day. Of course, if you wish to limit my purchases—" and she sniffed.
"Humph! I am not a rich man. We are not in the habit of using imported provisions of this quality. I expect you to buy good food and all that is sufficient. But such luxuries as these we cannot afford."
Mrs. Watkins merely sniffed again. Broxton Day, when he paid the bills at the stores, pointed out to Mr. Harriman and to the butcher that the goods bought seemed to cost considerably more than they previously had.
"Why, Mr. Day, you are buying a different quality of goods from what you have been used to," said Harriman. "Here's butter, for instance. That is our best— print butter, seven cents a pound higher than the tub butter you used to buy. Those eggs are selected white Leghorns, come to us sealed in boxes, and are fifteen cents more a dozen than ordinary fresh eggs."
The butcher told him something else. "Yes, you are getting the best grade of everything we carry, Mr. Day. That lady at your house evidently knows what she wants."
"Look here!" exclaimed Broxton Day, with some heat. "I haven't suddenly become a millionaire. I can't stand these prices. When she comes in here to buy, give her the grade of meat we have always had. And remember that I can't, and won't, pay for sweetbreads at a dollar and a half a pair."
"Why, bless you!" said the butcher, grinning, "I've never seen the lady. She always telephones. She's some relative of yours, isn't she, Mr. Day? She certainly does order high-handed."
"And she wanted to do the marketing herself," groaned Broxton Day, as he went away after paying the bill. "I wonder what I am up against? Things do go better at the house; but I wonder if I can stand the pressure."
He did not know how much Janice had to do with making things at the house go so much more smoothly. The little girl was determined that daddy should not be troubled by household matters if she could help it.
With Olga Cedarstrom or the half-foolish Delia in the house, it was impossible to keep from daddy's eyes the things that went wrong. Now it was different. Mrs. Watkins was very sly in making everything appear all right before Broxton Day. On the other hand Janice showed an equal amount of slyness (of which she had been previously accused!) in helping hide the numerous things that would have troubled daddy.
There was waste in the kitchen. Mrs. Watkins was a big eater, but a delicate eater. She never wished to see the same thing on the table twice. A poor family could have been fed fairly well from what the woman flung into the garbage.
Janice had never been used to seeing such recklessness, even when only an ignorant servant was doing the work. At those times food was bought with a less lavish hand. Now there was seldom anything left, so Mrs. Watkins said, from one meal to warm up for another.
"I don't know what to do—I really don't," Janice confessed to Any Carringford who, by this time, had become her very closest friend and confidante. "Daddy has many business troubles, I know. It bothers him greatly to be annoyed by household matters. And he ought not to be so annoyed. But that woman!"
"It is too bad, honey," Amy said. "I wish my mother could help you. She knows everything about housekeeping."
"I know that is so," agreed Janice. "I wish Mrs. Watkins was a lady like your mother, Amy. Then the house would go all right and daddy needn't be bothered at all. I feel I ought to do something; but I don't know what."
Aside from cooking the meals, which she did very nicely, it must be confessed, Mrs. Watkins gradually allowed most of the responsibility for the housework to slide on to Janice's young shoulders.
The young girl got up an hour earlier than usual, and she busied herself sweeping and dusting and making beds right up to the minute she had to seize her books and lunch and run to school. She was quite sure that Mrs. Watkins went back to bed after breakfast, and really did little towards keeping the house in order until afternoon.
And if there was any scrubbing, or hard work to do, that was left until Saturday. Nobody ever saw Mrs. Watkins on her knees, unless it was at her devotions!
However, Janice Day was too sanguine to be made melancholy by these affairs. She was of a naturally cheerful nature—an attribute she inherited from her father. It took more than the faded-out lady to cause the girl overwhelming anxiety.
The stroke that had been the hardest for her to bear since her mother's death was the loss of the treasure-box and the heirlooms in it. Whether or not the Swedish girl, Olga Cedarstrom, had carried the valuables away with her, Janice felt all the time that she had only herself to blame because of the loss. And she realized that the loss of the packet of letters had saddened daddy dreadfully.
"If I had not been careless! If I had put the box back into the wall-safe before I went to bed! If I had remembered when I saw Arlo Junior and the cats! Dear me," murmured Janice more than once, "'If,' 'if,' 'if!' If the rabbit hadn't stopped for a nap beside the track, the tortoise would not have won the race."
"But, what under the sun," Gummy Carringford asked, "could have become of Olga and her fella? That is certainly a mystery."
With Amy and her brother, the boy with the odd name, Janice often discussed the lost treasure-box. She and daddy did not speak so much together about it as at first. It seemed to be hopelessly lost.
With the Carringfords Janice had become very friendly, as has been said. In the first place, Mrs. Carringford very much liked Janice Day. And how could she and her children help but be grateful to the little girl who lived at Eight-forty-five Knight Street?
The birthday party at Stella Lathams' house was now at hand. Mrs. Carringford had not yet been able to make over Mr. Day's clothes to fit Gummy; and he was not invited to the party, anyway. He was one grade in advance of the three girls in school, and Stella considered this excuse enough for not inviting him to her birthday fete. But Amy was radiant in the pink and white frock Janice had donated.
"Never mind," said Gummy, who was of a cheerful spirit, too. "I'm glad the party will be on Friday instead of Saturday night. I'll be out of the store early enough Friday night to come to the Latham place to beau you girls home."
"Maybe we'll have beaux of our own and won't want you," said Amy roguishly.
"Don't mind what she says, Gummy," cried Janice. "I won't have any beau but you. I shall expect you. So don't fail me."
Stella Latham's expectations had been high, indeed, regarding her party; nor was she disappointed. Her father and mother had done everything they thought would please their only daughter; and surely the cost had not been considered.
The house, and the grounds around it, were charmingly lighted—the outside lamps being those gaudy and curious forms containing lighted candles, and called Japanese lanterns.
The Latham place on the Dover pike, was one of the show places of the countryside. Mr. Latham was wealthy and could well afford to give his daughter's friends an entertainment that might better, perhaps, have been offered older guests.
Stella was growing up too fast. Because she was aping older and foolishly fashionable folk, she was becoming an exacting, precocious girl—not at all the innocent and joyous child she should have been at fourteen years of age.
Her mother feared that all was not right with Stella; yet she was too weak and easy-going a woman to correct her daughter with a strong hand. She had observed Janice Day on two occasions when the latter had come with other young friends of Stella's to the house, and had commented favorably upon Janice's character.
"There is a girl you might pattern after, Stella, and it would do you good," said the somewhat unwise Mrs. Latham.
"Humph! I don't see why you say that, Ma," said Stella. "Janice Day isn't half as pretty as Mary Pierce. And she dresses in half mourning because of her mother's death. She hasn't got any style about her."
"She is a very shrewd and sensible young person," declared Mrs. Latham. "I wish you were more like her."
It was from this remark that Stella had derived the statement that Janice was "sly." That term, quite justly, might have been applied to Stella. For Stella would have cared very little if neither Janice nor Amy Carringford had come to the birthday party.
Only Mr. Latham had insisted that his daughter should invite every girl in her grade at school. He was wiser than his wife.
"You don't want any ill-feelings among your mates," he told Stella.
Janice Day, therefore, whether "shrewd" or "sly," had helped Stella in the matter of fulfilling Mr. Latham's command. Amy, as sweet as a rose, appeared in the pretty pink and white dress that had been made by the dear fingers of Janice's mother.
At first Janice could scarcely look at her friend in the frock without feeling the tears start to her eyes. But, then,she knew that mother would have approved fully of this gift she had made. And Amy Carringford was good and attractive.
There was such a large number of young folks at the Latham place that evening that when it came time for the refreshments, every one of the farmer's hired help was called in, either as waiters or in the kitchen.
It took a good many waiters, too, for there were many steps to be taken back and forth to the kitchen. Mr. Latham had had a large canvas canopy stretched out in one corner of the yard, and under this were set the tables. And pretty, indeed, did they look under the soft lights of the numerous candles in their shiny whiteness of heavy napery, polished silver, dainty porcelain, and brilliant cutglass.
What appealed more, however, to the hearty appetites of the young people were the quantifies of sandwiches, the olives and pickles and the bowls of salad, the rich cakes, the heaps of ice-cream, the hot chocolate. The Lathams were lavish at all times, and when they gave a formal party the table was heaped with the richest and most delicious food they could provide. No wonder it took many hands to make things run smoothly.
"Goodness!" said Stella, within hearing of Janice and Amy, "there's such a crowd in that kitchen you've no idea! And some of the help are perfectly useless! You know, mother had the folks come up from both tenant houses to help, and one of the women—the Swedish one —has just broken one of mother's biggest cutglass dishes."
"I thought I heard a crash out there," said Janice.
"It is too bad," Amy added. "Of course the woman did not mean to."
"Well!" sniffed Stella, "that won't make the dish whole. It's worth money, too."
"Dear me," said Amy reflectively. "I guess Swedish girls must be bad luck. You know, it was a Swedish girl that stole that box from Janice."
"What box?" asked Stella, quickly. "A jewel box?"
"All the jewelry I owned," said Janice, with rather a rueful smile. "But more than that. Mother's miniature —and other things. At least, we suppose that Olga took the box when she left us so hurriedly."
"Olga!" exclaimed Stella. "Fancy! You don't mean that was her name?"
"Yes, 'Olga' she was called," Janice said wonderingly.
"That's the name Of this girl that broke the dish."
"Why, how funny!" exclaimed Amy . "That's not funny," rejoined Janice seriously. "Is she named Olga Cedarstrom?"
"Goodness! I don't know her last name. She comes from one of our tenant houses. It's far away. Mother sent her home with a flea in her ear, now I tell you, after she had broken that dish."
Janice was disturbed. "I wish you knew her last name. What sort of looking girl is she? Are you sure she has already left the house?"
"Come on!" cried Amy, jumping up. "Let's run around there and see. Take us to the kitchen door, Stella."
"Well, yes. We can look. But I guess she has gone," said the farmer's daughter.
They had been sitting on the front porch. Stella led them quickly around to the rear of the big house.
CHAPTER XIV. COULD IT BE OLGA?
It was a beautiful evening, this of Stella Latham's birthday party. It was not often that the climate gave the people of Greensboro, this early in the season, such a soft and temperate night.
There was no moon, but the stars plentifully besprinkled the heavens, and their light bathed the area surrounding the Latham house, beyond the radiance of the Japanese lanterns, sufficiently for the three girls to see objects at some distance.
Before they reached the back door of the farmhouse, Amy cried aloud:
"Oh, girls! What's that? A ghost?"
"Ghost your granny!" exclaimed Stella. "That is somebody running along the hedge in a white skirt."
"It is a woman or a girl," Janice agreed, staring at the rapidly moving figure. "Is there a path there?"
"That is the path to one tenant house. Wait till I ask Anna, the cook."
She hurried to the back door, and her two friends, waiting at the pasture-lane bars, heard her ask if the woman who had broken the dish had gone.
"The awkward thing!" exclaimed Anna, the cook. "She's just this minute left."
"What is her name, Anna?" asked Stella, knowing that Janice was deeply interested.
"I don't know, Miss. Some outlandish Swedish name."
"Goodness me! Don't ask me what else besides 'Olga' she is named," said the irritable cook, "for I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you my own name, scarcely, to-night. I'm that flurried."
Hearing all this plainly, Janice murmured to Amy: "I wish I dared follow her. Suppose it should be Olga?"
"Well, she is going right to that small house that belongs to Mr. Latham. Stella says she lives there, whoever she is."
Just then a figure popped up beside them. Gummy's cheerful voice demanded:
"What's the trouble, girls?"
"Oh!" cried Janice.
"Goodness!" said the boy's sister. "How you scare one, Gummy! Why, it isn't near time to go home."
"I got off earlier than I expected. So I came out and have been hanging around at the back here for half an hour."
"Oh. Gummy! did you see that woman?" Janice asked, seizing his jacket sleeve.
"See there?' cried his sister, pointing. "That white thing going over the hill."
"Yes, I saw her. She came out of the kitchen, and she was crying. They had a row in there."
"Oh, Gummy! What did she look like?" murmured Janice.
"Yes, Gummy, tell us quick!" urged his sister.
"I tell you she was crying, and she had her handkerchief up to her face. So I did not see much of it. But her hair was 'lasses color, and she had it bobbed back so tight that I guess she couldn't shut her eyes until she undid it," chuckled Gummy.
"Oh, Amy!" ejaculated Janice, with clasped hands, "that is the way Olga used to do her hair."
"Not Olga, the Swede, who robbed you?" demanded the boy, interested at once.
"Yes. It might be Olga. If you had only seen her face—"
"I'll see her face all right," declared Gummy, starting off. "I'll tell you just where she goes and what she looks like. Don't you girls go home without me."
He was gone on the track of the flying woman like a dart. He was out of sight, being in dark garments, before Stella came back from the kitchen door.
"Don't tell her about Gummy," whispered Amy quickly. "She'll think, maybe, that he's been hanging around like those strange boys over the fence in front."
"Not a word," agreed Janice, smiling. "I wouldn't give Gummy away."
"There isn't anybody in the kitchen who knows that girl very well," said Stella, who was really showing herself interested in Janice Day's trouble. "I asked them all. This girl, Olga, is staying with Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson has a little baby to care for and couldn't come to-night. So this friend of hers came up to help. And she helped all right!" concluded Stella, with emphasis. "That dish is in a thousand pieces."
"Isn't it too bad?" said Amy, sympathetically.
"It's a mean shame," Stella declared. "I bet she'd steal. You'd better come over here tomorrow and find her. I'll bring you back in the auto with me after I go shopping, and we'll ride around by Mr. Johnson's house. He's one of father's farmers, you know."
"I'll tell daddy," Janice said, but in some doubt. "I'm awfully much obliged to you, Stella. You are real kind."
This pleased Stella Latham. She liked being praised, and as long as kindness did not cost her much of anything, she was glad to be kind.
The entertainment of her boy and girl friends continued gaily, despite the breaking of the big cutglass dish. It was almost eleven o'clock when the party broke up and the guests began to leave, shouting their congratulations to Stella as they went.
Janice and Amy Carringford found Gummy waiting for them at the front gate.
"Oh, Gummy!" whispered Janice, "did you see her?"
"Sure," declared the boy. "That's what I went after, wasn't it? A sight of the Swedish girl's phisamahogany?"
"Gummy!" remonstrated his sister.
"But was it Olga?" demanded Janice, too deeply interested in the subject of Olga to be patient with sisterly reproof.
"Oh, say! How can I be sure of that? I never saw her before."
"Tell us all about it, Gummy," urged Janice.
"Why, you see," said the excited boy. "I ran's hard as I could and I overbrook that girl at the took"
"What? What?" gasped Janice. "Say that again, Gummy."
His sister went off into a gale of laughter. "Oh, Gummy!" she cried, "you 'overbrook' her at the 'took,' did you? Your tongue's twisted again."
"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed Gummy. "Of course, I mean I overtook her at the brook."
"That's better," giggled Amy. "But you did get awfully 'gummed up,' Gummy, didn't you?"
"Huh!" he snorted.
"He's the most awful boy you ever saw, Janice. He is always getting twisted in his talk."
"Like the young man in church who asked the girl if he could 'occupew a seat in this pie?'"
"Even worse than that," cried Amy, much to her brother's disgust. "Why, years ago when we lived in Napsburg, where the twins were born, he made an awful mistake—and to our minister, too."
"Aw," objected Gummy, "can't you keep anything to yourself?"
"Go on," urged Janice.
"Now, I say!" again protested the boy.
"Listen, Janice!" giggled Amy. "It's awfully funny. The minister met Gummy on the street and asked him what we had decided to call the twins.
"'You know, I expect to christen them, Gumswith,' he said to Gummy, 'and I want to be sure to get the names right. What are they?'
"And what do you suppose Gummy said?"
"I am sure I couldn't guess," Janice declared. "Let's see: the twins are Sydney and Kate, aren't they?
"That is right," giggled Amy. "But Gummy told the minister we had decided to call them 'Kidney and Steak'!"
Janice herself was convulsed with laughter at this. Gummy was annoyed about it.
"Why don't you keep something to yourself once in a while, Amy?" he growled to his sister. "Janice will think I'm a perfect chump."
"Come on now, Gummy," Janice interrupted cheerily. "You are keeping something to yourself that I very much want to know."
"Oh! About that Swede! Amy knocked it clear out of my head," declared the boy.
"Well, let us hear about it," urged Janice.
"Why, I overtook the girl at the brook," said Gummy, getting the statement right this time. "She might be just the girl you are looking for, from what you told me about her looks. I saw her face plainly when I passed her."
"Where did she go?"
"To that little house at the end of the farm road, just where it opens into the turnpike. Oh, I've seen the place before. I drove out past there the other day for Mr. Harriman."
"That must be the Johnson's house," Janice said. "That is what Stella said the tenant's name was."
"Well, she went in there," said Gummy. "She seemed in a dreadful hurry. She pounded on the door, and she called to them in Swedish. I waited behind the hedge until she got in and the family was quieted down again."
"That's good! It's 'most sure to be Olga, Janice, and you can see her to-morrow and get your box back—at least, find out where it is," said Amy encouragingly.
"Well, I'll tell daddy," sighed Janice. "It may be the same Olga. I hope so. And if she has got my box of treasures—well! I'll forgive her anything if I only get back mother's picture and daddy's letters."
CHAPTER XV. THE LOST TRAIL
Mr. Day had not yet gone to bed when the young folks reached the house; but Mrs. Watkins had long since retired. The light in the living room assured Janice that her father awaited her return, and bidding Amy and Gummy good-night at the gate, she ran into the house in great excitement.
"Oh, Daddy! Daddy! Guess!" she cried to him. "Just think! She broke a big cutglass dish, and I'm 'most sure it's Olga—"
"Wait!" exclaimed Mr. Day, putting up both hands. "Mercy, I pray, my dear. I don't know what you are talking about."
"But you know Olga, Daddy."
"To my sorrow," he groaned, "It can't be that you have found out anything about that Swedish girl? I have been searching Pickletown again this evening."
"Oh, Daddy!" she cried, "maybe Olga is just where you can find her to-morrow. And she did break one of Mrs. Latham's very best dishes, and—"
"Let us hear all about this in due order," laughed Broxton Day. "I can see that you are far too much excited to go promptly to bed. Explain yourself, my dear."
When he had heard it all, he did not appear to be as much impressed as Janice expected him to be. It was a small chance, in his opinion, that the girl who had broken Mrs. Latham's dish was the same Olga who had for two months held sway in the Day kitchen.
"But we will make a pilgrimage to the cottage on the back of the Latham farm," Daddy promised. "If I can get away from the bank early to-morrow afternoon, we will go. I know the place, and there is a family of Swedish people living there. Of course, by chance, it might be Olga your friend Gummy followed home."
"Oh, no! It would be providential, Daddy," Janice declared, smiling. "You say yourself that Providence is not chance."
"True," he agreed, with gravity. "If we get back the treasure-box, with all in it, I shall be very, very thankful indeed, and shall consider it a Providential happening."
"Daddy, dear!" whispered Janice.
It was at these times, when they spoke of the lost treasures, that Janice was so heart-stricken because of daddy's expression of countenance. Those letters from her dear, dead mother, which her father prized so highly, were continually in Broxton Day's mind. She realized it was a loss that time would hardly mend.
"And all my fault! All my fault!" she sobbed when she was alone in her bedroom. "Had I not been so dreadfully careless Olga would never have got hold of that box when she was mad and run off with it. And suppose she doesn't think the things in it are worth much? She might throw them away!"
So, despite the good time they had had at Stella Latham's party, Janice went to bed in no happy frame of mind.
Saturday was bound to be a very busy day; and Janice did not wake up early. Daddy left a note for her on the table saying he would be at home with some kind of a conveyance not long after the bank closed at one o'clock.
She knew what that meant. They were to ride out to the Johnson house and make inquiries for the girl, Olga. Janice was sorry she had slept so late, for Mrs. Watkins expected her to do what she termed "her share" of the work.
"If your pa lets you sit up till all hours, so that you're not fit for anything in the morning, should I be blamed?" complained the faded-out lady. "I'm sure I have enough to do every day, and all day. I have got to have some help on Saturdays and that is all there is to it."
Janice knew well enough that the reason the work piled up so upon the last day of the week was because it was allowed to accumulate through the other days. But the kitchen floor did have to be scrubbed. It was a sight!
If the woman would only mop it every other day it would not be so bad; but it seemed to Janice that Mrs. Watkins would just wade through dirt to her knees in the kitchen before she would use either mop or scrubbing brush.
It was true that daddy did not often look into the kitchen, now that there was somebody supposedly capable of keeping the room, as well as the rest of the house, in order. And Janice was glad he did not look around the house much.
Such training as she had enjoyed under her mother's eye had made Janice thorough. Mrs. Day had been a thoroughly good housekeeper.
And she had always kept so well up with her housework that there were never any difficult jobs left to haunt one, and her house looked always neat. Nor was she obliged to keep half her prettily furnished rooms shut up to keep them clean!
Janice did all she could on this short Saturday morning. She had first of all to he sure that daddy's room was dusted—every bit. Then there were the halls and stairs to do. After those, the porches must be swept.
"For you know," sighed Mrs. Watkins, "it looks so much better for a child like you to be out sweeping the porch and paths than what it would me."
Janice could not quite understand this reasoning. But she knew it must be a deal easier for Mrs. Watkins to rock in a chair in the house than to wield the broom. That went without saying.
She did not think of lunch, although the faded-out lady did not neglect her own. Janice was down on her hands and knees, with scrubbing brush and pail, when the housekeeper carried some savory dish or other into the dining room.
"I presume since you had your breakfast so late you will not care to eat now," said the woman. To tell the truth, a tear or two dropped into the strong soda water in the pail.
"Though I don't believe salt will help start the grease-spots on this floor," Janice thought, rubbing her eyes with the wrist of one hand. "There! I am a regular cry-baby. I said I would do something to relieve daddy of bothering about the housework. And if scrubbing a floor is the best I can do—"
Suddenly a shadow appeared at the door. Janice looked up and squealed. There was daddy himself—at least an hour and a half too early.
"Well, well!" exclaimed Broxton Day, rather sternly, "what is the meaning of this?"
"Dirt on the floor boards—scrubbing brush—elbow grease," retorted his daughter, making vigorous explanatory motions. "Didn't you ever see a 'scrub lady' before, Daddy?"
"Humph! so there is a Cinderella in the house is there?" he said.
Mrs. Watkins opened the dining-room door. She was swallowing a mouthful which seemed to go down hard. Mr. Day's unexpected appearance disturbed her.
"Oh, Mr. Day," she cried, feebly, "have—have you had your lunch?"
"I have, Mrs. Watkins," he replied. Then to Janice: "No matter how much you may like to scrub floors, my dear, you will have to leave this one for Mrs. Watkins to finish. There is a car at the door. I have borrowed it for a couple of hours, and you must make haste and put on something different and come with me to look for Olga."
"Well," Janice got up from her knees slowly.
"Hurry," said daddy sternly. And he stood and waited until Janice went out of the room.
"So you will not have lunch, Mr. Day?" asked Mrs. Watkins coolly.
"No. But there is one thing I will have, Mrs. Watkins," he said sternly. "I will have you attend to your work, and not put it on Janice, while you remain here!"
"I do not understand you, sir," said the woman, her nose in the air.
"Let me make myself plain then," said Broxton Day. "I will not pay you wages to shift such work as this," pointing to the scrub-pail, "upon my daughter. I want that understood here and now. I can no longer give you carte blanche at the grocery and provision store. I will do the marketing myself hereafter. You will furnish the lists."
"Sir?" ejaculated Mrs. Watkins haughtily.
"I have kept tabs on the accounts this last week. In no seven days since I was married have the expenses for the table been half what they have been this week."
"I am not used to a poverty-stricken household, Mr. Day!" sneered Mrs. Watkins.
"But you soon will be," Broxton Day told her grimly, "if I let you have a free hand in this way. I am not a rich man, and I soon will be a poor one at this rate."
"I want you to understand, Mr. Day, that no lady can demean herself."
"Wait a moment," said the man, still grimly. "I did not hire you to be a lady. I hired you to do the housework. I can't have you here unless you keep your share of the contract. Please remember that, Mrs. Watkins."
He left her abruptly and walked through to the front of the house. He saw that at her place on the dining table was the remains of a broiled squab-chicken—a very tasty bit for a hard working woman like Mrs. Watkins.
"Are you ready, daughter?" he called up the stairway.
"Just a minute or two, Daddy," replied Janice.
She felt that they were in trouble again. All she had tried to do to keep him from knowing just how badly things about the house were going had been for naught.