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“Yes; even us,” repeated her brother. “And how are we arranged for? Left in charge of Larkin! Old Loony Larkin!” “Hush, King, that’s disrespectful,” said Marjorie, laughing in spite of herself. “Well, she is old; and she is Larkin; and I think she’s loony!” “But you mustn’t say so, if you do,” persisted Marjorie. “Indeed you mustn’t,” said Mrs. Maynard, coming into the living room where the three children were holding an indignation meeting. “I’m ashamed of you, King!” “Aw, Mother, forgive me this once, and I won’t ever say such a thing again till next time.” Kingdon sidled up to his mother, and nestled his cheek against hers in such a cajoling way, that Mrs. Maynard smiled, and forbore further reproof just then. “But, dearies all,” she went on, “you mustn’t take such an attitude toward Miss Larkin; she’s good and kind and will look after you nicely till I return.” “Larkin, Larkin,  All the time a-barkin’,” chanted King, pinching his mother’s lips together, so she couldn’t reprimand him.

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Marjorie in Command

(1910)

Carolyn Wells (1862-1942)

ISBN 9783963751233

MARJORIE IN COMMAND

MARJORIE WAS WORKING AWAY AT HER “BIRTHDAY CAKE.”

MARJORIE

IN COMMAND

BY

CAROLYN WELLS

AUTHOR OF

THE “PATTY” BOOKS

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS         NEW YORK

Copyright, 1910, by

DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

PAGE

I.

A Family Confab

1

II.

A Floral Welcome

15

III.

The Lady Arrives

27

IV.

The Ides of March

41

V.

Remorseful Romans

54

VI.

Letters and Cards

68

VII.

A Jinks Party

81

VIII.

Romps and Rhymes

95

IX.

Willing Helpers

110

X.

On the Way Home

121

XI.

A Friend in Need

133

XII.

The House on Spruce Street

146

XIII.

A Birthday Plan

160

XIV.

Henderson Palace

174

XV.

A Fine Celebration

189

XVI.

Window Boxes

203

XVII.

Delightful Anticipations

216

XVIII.

The Arbor Day Festival

230

XIX.

The Contest

244

XX.

A Spring Ramble

258

Transcriber’s Notes can be found at the end of this eBook.

MARJORIE IN COMMAND

CHAPTER IA FAMILY CONFAB

“Well,” said Marjorie, “I think it’s too perfectly, awfully, horribly dreadful for anything in all this world!”

“I do, too,” agreed King. “It’s a calamity, and a catastrophe and a cat,—a cata—cataclysm!”

“Of course it is,” said Kitty, who was philosophical. “But as it’s all settled, and we’ve got to live through it, we may as well make the best of it.”

“The best of it!” grumbled King; “there isn’t any best! It’s all outrageously horrid, and that’s all there is about it! I don’t see how we can stand it.”

“S’pose we say we just won’t stand it,” suggested Marjorie; “do you think they’d stay home?”

“No, indeedy!” declared King. “You know as well as I do, the tickets are bought, and everything is arranged for.”

“Even us,” said Kitty, sadly.

“Yes; even us,” repeated her brother. “And how are we arranged for? Left in charge of Larkin! Old Loony Larkin!”

“Hush, King, that’s disrespectful,” said Marjorie, laughing in spite of herself.

“Well, she is old; and she is Larkin; and I think she’s loony!”

“But you mustn’t say so, if you do,” persisted Marjorie.

“Indeed you mustn’t,” said Mrs. Maynard, coming into the living room where the three children were holding an indignation meeting. “I’m ashamed of you, King!”

“Aw, Mother, forgive me this once, and I won’t ever say such a thing again till next time.”

Kingdon sidled up to his mother, and nestled his cheek against hers in such a cajoling way, that Mrs. Maynard smiled, and forbore further reproof just then.

“But, dearies all,” she went on, “you mustn’t take such an attitude toward Miss Larkin; she’s good and kind and will look after you nicely till I return.”

“Larkin, Larkin,

 All the time a-barkin’,”

chanted King, pinching his mother’s lips together, so she couldn’t reprimand him.

The whole tale of the Maynard children’s tribulations may be told in a few words.

Mrs. Maynard’s health was not quite up to its usual standard, and her husband had decided to take her for a short Southern trip. They would be absent from home about six weeks, and Miss Larkin, a friend of Mrs. Maynard’s, was to come and take care of the household of four children.

Now, though the little Maynards were perhaps more inclined to mischief than model children ought to be, they were a loving and affectionate little brood, and, moreover, they truly tried to correct their faults as pointed out to them by their parents.

The fundamental principle of Mr. and Mrs. Maynard’s training was common-sense, and this, added to deep parental love, made their discipline both wise and kind.

Mrs. Maynard, herself, had some doubts of Miss Larkin’s ability to manage the children tactfully, but there was no one else to ask to stay with them, and they could not be left entirely in charge of the servants, trusted and tried though they were.

But it was only for six weeks, anyway, and as Mr. Maynard said, they couldn’t become thorough-going reprobates in that short time.

Miss Larkin was delighted with the prospect. A quiet and rather lonely spinster, she welcomed the idea of a stay in a merry, lively home, where she should be the commanding spirit over both children and servants.

And so, it was only the four small Maynards who raised objections. Though they didn’t actively dislike Miss Larkin, they felt she was not in sympathy with their childish affairs and they could not know that this arose from ignorance, not unwillingness on her part.

It was a long time since Miss Larkin had been a child, and when she was, she was not like the children of to-day.

She thought she understood young people, but her ideas were old-fashioned, and often quite contradictory to the Maynards’ views.

However, as Kitty had said, the matter was settled. Mr. and Mrs. Maynard were going, Miss Larkin was coming, and all they had to do was to accept the situation and make the best of it.

“And perhaps it won’t be so bad,” said Mother Maynard, as they talked it over. “When Miss Larkin is living here with you, she’ll be more chummy and jolly than when she just comes to call or to spend the day.”

“I hope so,” sighed Marjorie; “you see, it’ll be the worst for me. King’s a boy, and he won’t have to have much to do with her; Kitty doesn’t seem to mind her so much, anyway; and, of course Rosy Posy is too little to care. But I shall have to entertain her, and go walking with her, and,—and, oh, Mother, how I shall miss you!”

Marjorie fairly pulled King out of Mrs. Maynard’s arms, and flung herself into them, with one of her sudden bursts of demonstrative affection.

“Take me with you, Mothery,” she wailed; “oh, do take me with you!”

“Nonsense, Midget,” said Mrs. Maynard, knowing it was best to treat the matter lightly; “why, the family would all go to pieces if you weren’t here. As you just now implied you’re the most important member of the household, and you’re needed here to keep all running smoothly in my absence.”

This was a new view of things, and Marjorie brightened up considerably.

“Shall I be head of the house, Mother? May I sit at the head of the table?”

Mrs. Maynard took a moment to think this over. Marjorie was only twelve, and she was sometimes a harum-scarum little girl; but, on the other hand, if she felt a sense of importance, she often acted with good sense and judgment beyond her years. At last Mrs. Maynard said:

“Yes, Midget; I believe I will let you sit at the head of the table. Miss Larkin is really a guest, and I think it would be better for you to be hostess in my place. Kingdon will sit in his father’s place, and I shall trust you two to uphold the dignity and decorum of the Maynard household.”

“Will Miss Larkin like that?” said Marjorie.

“I think so; or I should not consent to the arrangement. Miss Larkin is, I know, more anxious to please you children, than you are to please her. And so, to please me, I want you all to be very good to her. Kind, polite, deferential, considerate, all the things that a host and hostess should be to their guest.”

“H’m,” said Marjorie, considering; “p’raps she’d better be hostess, and let me be guest.”

“No, Mopsy; that matter’s settled. You shall be the lady of the house; and Miss Larkin your honored guest for whose pleasure and comfort you must do all you can.”

“Pooh,” said King, “if she’s only company, I don’t see why she need come at all.”

“In return for your kindness to her, she will do much for you. She will really keep house, in the sense of giving orders, looking after your clothes and mending, and superintending the servants.”

“Must we obey her, Mother?”

“Well, that’s rather a delicate point, my boy. I hope there’ll be no very serious questions of obedience, for I trust you won’t want to do anything that Miss Larkin will think she ought to forbid.”

“But if she does, must we obey?” persisted Kingdon.

“Hello, hello! What’s all this about love, honor, and obey?” cried a voice in the doorway, and the Maynards looked up to see Mr. Maynard smiling at them as he entered the room.

“Oh, Father!” cried Marjorie, making a spring at him; “do come and help us settle these awful questions. Must we obey Miss Larkin, while you and Mother are away?”

“Me ’bey Miss Larky,” said Rosy Posy, as she toddled to her father and clasped him round the knees, nearly upsetting that genial gentleman. “Me goody gail; me ’bey Miss Larky booful.”

“Kit’s good at it, too,” said King. “So let Kitty and Rosy Posy do the obeying, and Mops and I will count out.”

“What direful deeds are you planning, in defiance of Miss Larkin’s orders?” asked Mr. Maynard, sitting down, and taking the baby up in his arms.

“Not any,” said King; “but I hate to feel that I must do as she says, whether I want to or not.”

“But,” said his father, “you always do as Mother says, whether you want to, or not.”

“Yes, sir; but then, you see, I love Mother.”

This simple explanation seemed to please Mr. Maynard, and he said:

“Well, I wouldn’t bother much about this obedience matter. I doubt if Miss Larkin lays down very strict laws, anyway. Suppose you take this for a rule. Don’t do anything that you think Mother would forbid if she were at home.”

“That’s ever so much better,” said King, with a sigh of relief. “I did hate to be tied to old Larky’s apron strings.”

“Hold on, King, my boy. Stop right there. Obedience is one thing, respect another. You are, at my orders, to be respectful to Miss Larkin, both in speech and in spirit. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sir,” said Kingdon, looking ashamed. “I understand, and I’ll obey; but, Father, we always call her Larky.”

“But you won’t any more. I don’t think you realize what bad taste it is, for a child to speak so of an elder person. Call your school friends by nicknames, if you like, but show to grown-ups the civility and respect that good-breeding calls for.”

“All right; I’ll call her the Honorable Miss Larkin; Dear Madam,” and King swept a magnificent bow nearly to the floor, in token of his great respect for the lady.

“But do hurry home as soon as you can,” said Marjorie, as she squeezed her father’s coat sleeve with one hand, and with the other reached out to grasp a fold of her mother’s trailing gown.

“We’ll be gone just six weeks, dearie,” said Mr. Maynard. “I can’t remain away longer than that. And I think that will be long enough to make the roses bloom once more on Mother’s wan cheeks.” Mrs. Maynard smiled.

“I’m not really ill, Ed,” she said; “it’s more of a pleasure trip than a health trip, I think. And six weeks will be quite long enough to burden Miss Larkin with these four beautiful but not very manageable children.”

“And, oh, Father,” cried Marjorie, “there’ll be an Ourday while you’re gone! What shall we do about that?”

“Bless my stars!” said Mr. Maynard; “so there will. I hadn’t thought of that! Shall we give up the trip, Helen?”

“No,” said Kitty, who always took things seriously; “we can have two Ourdays together when you come back.”

“Bravo, Kitsie!” said her father; “you have a logical head. I think you had better take charge of the family while we’re gone.”

“I’m not old enough,” said Kitty, practically. “But I’ll help all I can.”

“I know you will,” said Mrs. Maynard, caressing her. “And you’ll all do the best you can. I know my quartette, and I can trust them to do right,—if they think in time.”

“That’s just it,” said Mr. Maynard, his eyes twinkling. “I expect King or Midget will pull the house down around Miss Larkin’s ears, and then excuse themselves by saying they forgot it was mischievous until it was all over.”

“All over Miss Larkin, I suppose you mean,” said Marjorie, chuckling at her own joke.

“Oho!” laughed Kingdon; “Mopsy’s quite a wit, isn’t she? Give us another, Midget!”

As he spoke, he affectionately pulled off Marjorie’s hair ribbon, and the mop of dark curls that gave her one of her nicknames came tumbling all over her laughing face.

This was a favorite performance of King’s, and though it never teased Marjorie, there was, of course, but one reply to it. That was to tweak the end of King’s Windsor tie out of its neat bow, and, if possible, out from under his flat round white collar.

But knowing what was coming, King sprang away and around the table before even quick-motioned Midget could catch him. Of course a race ensued. Round the room they went, knocking over a few chairs and light articles of furniture, until King paused and danced maddeningly up and down on one side of the large centre table, while Midget, at the other side, stood alert to spring after him should he run.

“Mopsy, Midget, Midge, just come around the idge!” sang King, as he made a feint of going one way, then another.

But even as he leaned over to smile teasingly in her face, Marjorie made a quick grab across the table, and just gripped the end of his tie enough to untie it.

Then, of course, peace was declared, although a pile of books was knocked off the table, and a small vase upset.

“My dear children,” sighed Mrs. Maynard, as Marjorie, flushed but smiling with victory, came back to her mother to have her hair retied, “why do you have to play so,—so emphatically?”

“Why, I just had to catch him, you see,” was Midget’s plausible explanation, “’cause a hair-ribbon pull-off always means a necktie untie. Doesn’t it, King?”

“Yep,” agreed her brother, who was adjusting his tie before a mirror, “always. If Miss Larkin pulls off my tie, I shall sure go for her hair-ribbon.”

“I believe you would,” said Mrs. Maynard; “and the worst of it is, Miss Larkin will be so anxious to entertain and amuse you, that I’m sure she’ll try to enter into your childish games. If she does, do try to remember she’s a lady and not a member of the Jinks Club.”

“She can be a member if she wants to,” said King, condescendingly; “only if she is, she must take what she gets.”

“Well, she’ll be here pretty soon, and I’ll warn her,” said Mr. Maynard.

“No,” said his wife, “she’s not coming to-night, after all. I expected her, but she telephoned to-day that she can’t come until to-morrow afternoon.”

“And we leave to-morrow morning! Why, my dear, that’s too bad.”

“Yes; I’m sorry, for there are lots of things I want to tell her. I’ll write a long note and leave it for her. And, Marjorie, I trust to you to welcome her properly, and in every way act like a gracious hostess.”

“I think I’ll practise,” said Midget, jumping up. “Now, you be Miss Larkin, Father, and I’ll be me.”

“Very well,” said Mr. Maynard, going out to the hall, and coming in again.

“Why, how do you do, Marjorie?” he said, offering his hand in exact imitation but not caricature of Miss Larkin’s vivacious manner. Marjorie suppressed a giggle, and gave her hand, as she said:

“How do you do, Miss Larkin? I hope you understand that we’re a very bad crowd of children. At least, King and I are. Kit and Rosy are angels.”

“Indeed! I thought you were the angelic one.”

“Oh, no; Miss Larkin. I’m awful bad; and King is even worse.”

“Nothing of the sort,” put in King. “I’m bad, I know, but I can’t hold a candle to Mops for real lovely mischief.”

“You come pretty near it,” said his mother, laughing; “and now scamper, all of you, and make yourselves tidy for dinner.”

“Good-by, Miss Larkin,” said Marjorie, again shaking hands with her father. “You can’t say you haven’t been warned!”

“They’ll lead the poor girl a dance,” said Mrs. Maynard, as she watched the four romp out of the room and up the stairs.

“Oh, it will do her good,” replied Mr. Maynard. “And it will do them good too. Even if there are scenes, it will all be a new experience for Miss Larkin, and a shaking up will do her no harm. As to the children, they’ll live through it, and if they have some little troubles, it will help to develop their characters. And as for us, Helen, we’ll have a good vacation, and come home refreshed and strong to set right anything that has gone wrong in our absence.”

“Very well,” said Mrs. Maynard, agreeing, as she usually did, with her clever, sensible husband.

CHAPTER IIA FLORAL WELCOME

Breakfast next morning was not the gay, cheery feast it usually was.

Mrs. Maynard came to the table with her hat on, and the children seemed suddenly to realize afresh that their mother was going away.

“Oh,” said Marjorie, “I wish I could go to sleep for six weeks, and then wake up the day you come home again.”

“Oh, you have that farewell feeling now,” said Mr. Maynard; “but after we’re really gone, and you find out what fun it is to have no one to rule over you, you’ll begin to wish we would stay six months instead of six weeks.” Marjorie cast a look of reproach at her father.

“Not much!” she said, emphatically. “I wish you’d only stay six days, or six hours.”

“Or six minutes,” added Kitty. But at last the melancholy meal was over, and the good-bys really began.

“Cut it short,” said Mr. Maynard, fearing the grief of the emotional children would affect his wife’s nerves.

They clung alternately to either parent, now bewailing the coming separation, and again cheering up as Mr. Maynard made delightful promises of sending back letters, postcards, pictures and gifts from every stopping-place on their journey.

“And be very good to Miss Larkin,” said Mrs. Maynard, by way of final injunction. “Cheer her up if she is lonely, and then you’ll forget that you’re lonely yourselves.” This was a novel idea.

“Oho!” said King, “I guess she’d better cheer us up.”

“Oh, the four of you can cheer each other,” said Mr. Maynard. “Come, Helen, the carriage is waiting—Good-by for the last time, chickadees. Now, brace up, and let your mother go away with a memory of four smiling faces.”

This was a pretty big order, but the Maynard children were made of pretty good stuff after all, and in response to their father’s request they did show four smiling, though tearful faces, as Mrs. Maynard waved a good-by from the carriage window. But as the carriage passed through the gate and was lost to their sight, the four turned back to the house with doleful countenances indeed.

Rosy Posy recovered first, and at an invitation from Nurse to come and cut paper-dolls, she went off smiling in her usual happy fashion. Not so the others.

Kitty threw herself on the sofa and burying her face in a pillow sobbed as if her heart would break.

This nearly unnerved King, who, being a boy, was specially determined not to cry.

“Let up, Kit,” he said, with a sort of tender gruffness in his tone. “If you don’t you’ll have us all at it. I say, Mops, let’s play something.”

“Don’t feel like it,” said Marjorie, who was digging at her eyes with a wet ball of a handkerchief.

It was Saturday, so they couldn’t go to school, and there really seemed to be nothing to do.

But reaction is bound to come, and after a time, Kitty’s sobs grew less frequent and less violent; King managed to keep his mouth up at the corners; and Marjorie shook out her wet handkerchief and hung it over a chair-back with some slight feeling of interest.

“I think,” Midget began, “that the nicest thing to do this morning would be something that Mother would like to have us do. Something special, I mean.”

“Such as what?” asked Kitty, between two of those choking after-sobs that follow a hard crying-spell.

“I don’t know, exactly. Can’t you think of something, King? Maybe something for Miss Larkin.”

“I’ll tell you,” said King; “let’s put flowers in her room! Mother would like us to do that.”

“All right,” said Midget, but without enthusiasm; “only I meant something bigger. Something that would take us all the morning. We could put a bouquet of flowers up there in five minutes.”

“But I don’t mean just a bouquet,” explained King. “I mean a lot of flowers—decorate it all up, you know.” Marjorie brightened, and Kitty displayed a cordial interest.

“Wreaths and garlands,” went on King, drawing on his imagination, “and a ‘Welcome’ in big letters.”

“Fine!” cried Kitty, who loved to decorate; “and festoons and streamers and flags.”

“All right, come on!” said Midget. “Let’s give her a rousing good welcome. It’ll please her, and it will please Mother when we tell her.”

“But what shall we make our wreaths and garlands of?” asked Kitty, who was always the first to see the practical side.

“That’s so,” said King, “there isn’t a flower in the garden.” As it was only the second week in March, not many flowers could be expected to be in bloom.

“Never mind,” said Marjorie, her ingenuity coming to the rescue, “there’s lots of evergreen and laurel leaves to make wreaths and things, and we can make paper flowers. Pink tissue paper roses are lovely.”

“So they are,” agreed Kitty. “’Deed we will have enough to do to fill up the morning. You go and cut a lot of greens, King, and Mopsy and I will begin on the flowers.”

“Haven’t any pink paper,” said Midget. “Let’s all go downtown and get that first, and then we can get some ice cream soda at the same time.”

“That’s a go!” cried King. “Hurry up, girls.”

In ten minutes the three were into their hats and coats, and arm in arm started for the village drug shop.

In this convenient store, they found pink paper and equally pink ice cream soda. Having despatched the latter with just enough procrastination to appreciate its exquisite flavor and texture, they took their roll of tissue paper and hastened home.

Then Marjorie and Kitty went to work in earnest, and it is astonishing how fast pink paper roses can grow under skilful little fingers. Their method was a simple one. A strip of paper was cut, about twelve inches long and two inches wide. This was folded in eight sections, and the folded tops cut in one round scallop. Thus, the paper when unfolded, showed eight large scallops. These were the rose petals, and were deftly curled a trifle at the edges, by the use of an ivory paper-knife. Then the strip was very loosely rolled round itself, the pretty petals touched into place, the stem end pinched up tight and wound with a bit of wire, which also formed a stem.

Midge and Kitty had made these before, and were adept in the art.

So when King came in, they had a good-sized waste-basket filled with their flowers.

King brought not only evergreens, and laurel sprays, but some trailing vines that had kept green through the winter’s frost.

“There!” he said, as he deposited his burden on the floor; “I guess that will decorate Larky’s room—I mean the Honorable Miss Larkin’s room—just about right. Jiminy, what a lot of flowers!”

“Yes, aren’t they fine!” agreed Marjorie. “We have enough now, Kit, let’s take ’em up.”

Upstairs they went, to the pretty guest room that had been appointed for Miss Larkin’s use, during her stay with the Maynards. Many hands make light work, and soon the room was transformed.

From a dainty, well-appointed chamber, it changed to the appearance of a holiday bazaar of some sort.

Garlands of greens, stuck full of pink roses, wreathed the mirrors and pictures. Wreaths or nosegays were pinned to the lace curtains, tied to the brass bedposts, and set around on bureau, tables, mantel, and wherever a place could be found. The Maynard children had no notion of moderation, and with them, to do anything at all, usually meant to overdo it, unless restrained by older heads and hands.

“I think streamers are pretty,” said Marjorie. “Let’s tie our best sashes on these big bouquets.”

“Oh, yes,” said Kitty, “and some hair-ribbons, too.”

A hasty visit to their bedroom resulted in many ribbons and sashes, which were soon fluttering gracefully from wreaths, bedposts, and chair-backs.

“We must have a ‘Welcome’ somewhere,” said King, as he stood, with his hands in his pockets, admiring the results of their labors.

“There’s a great big ‘Welcome’ sign, up in the attic,” said Kitty; “the one we had for a transparency when the Governor came, you know.”

“Oh, I know!” cried King. “That big white muslin thing, with black letters. I’ll get it.”

He raced away to the attic, and soon came back with the big painted sign.

As it was about ten feet long, it was nearly unmanageable, but at last they managed to fasten it up above the mantel, and it surely gave evidence of a hearty welcome to the coming guest.

“I found this in the attic, too,” said King, unrolling a smaller strip of muslin.

This bore the legend “We Mourn Our Loss,” and had been used many years before, beneath the portrait of a martyred President.

“I thought,” he explained, “that it seemed too bad to make such a hullabaloo over Miss Larkin, and make no reference to Father and Mother.”

“Oh, I think so, too,” cried Marjorie. “It will be lovely to put this up in memory of them. Shall we drape it in black?”

“No, you goose!” said King. “They aren’t dead! We’ll put a little flag at each corner, like a Bon Voyage thing, or whatever you call it.”

“Oh, yes; like the pillow Mother sent to Miss Barstow when she went to Europe. That had a flag in each corner, and Bon Voyage right across it, cattycorner. What does Bon Voyage mean, anyway?”

“It means ‘hope you have a good time,’ ” said Kitty; “and I’m sure we hope Father and Mother will have a good time.”

“Yes, I know,” said Midget, “but what has that got to do with Miss Larkin?”

“Oh, well, we may as well do our decorating all in one room,” said sensible Kitty. “Come on, let’s hurry up and finish; I’m awful tired, and hungry, too.”

“So’m I,” said both the others, and they finished up their decorating in short order.

“Sarah,” called Marjorie, at last, to the good-natured and long-suffering waitress, “won’t you please come and clear away this mess; we’ve finished our work.”

“For goodness’ sake, Miss Marjorie!” exclaimed Sarah, as she saw the guest room; “now, why did you do this? Your mother told me to put this room tidy for the lady, and I did, and now you’ve gone and cluttered it all up.”

“You’re mistaken, Sarah,” said King. “We’ve decorated it in honor of the lady that’s coming. Now, you just take away the stuff on the floor, and sweep up a bit, and straighten the chairs, and smooth over the bed, and the room will look lovely.”

“And perhaps you’d better put on fresh pillow-shams,” added Marjorie; “somehow those got all crumpled. And we broke the lampshade. Can’t you get one out of Mother’s room to replace it?”

“Oh, yes,” said Sarah, half laughing, half grumbling; “of course I can do the room all over. It needs a thorough cleaning after all this mess.”

“Well, thorough-clean it, then,” said Marjorie, patting Sarah’s arm. “But don’t touch our decorations! They’re to assure the lady of our welcome.”

“I’ll not touch ’em, Miss Marjorie; but any lady’d get the nightmare to sleep in such a jungle as this.”

“It is like a jungle, isn’t it?” said King. “I didn’t think of that before. Maybe Miss Larkin will think we mean she’s a wild beast.”

“No,” said Kitty, with her usual air of settling a question. “It’s lovely, all of it. You just tidy up, Sarah, and it will be all right, and Miss Larkin will adore it. Is luncheon ready?”

“Almost, Miss Kitty. It will be by when you’re ready yourselves.”

The children gave one more admiring glance at their decorations, and then ran away to get ready for luncheon.

“What time is she coming?” asked Kitty, as she and Midge tied each other’s hair-ribbons.

“I don’t know, exactly. About four, Mother thought. She told me to show her to her room, and ask her if she’d like tea sent up.”

“Doesn’t it make you feel grown up to do things like that?” asked Kitty, looking at her older sister with admiring eyes.

“Yes—sort of. But I forget it right away again, and feel little-girlish. Come on, Kits, are you ready?”

Luncheon was great fun. Marjorie at one end of the table, and King at the other, felt a wonderful sense of dignity and responsibility. Kitty and Rosy seemed to them very young and childish.

“Will you have some cold beef, Marjorie,” said King, “or a little of the omelet?”

“Both, thank you,” replied Midget, “and a lot of each.”

“Ho! that doesn’t sound like Mother,” said King, grinning.

“I don’t care,” said Marjorie. “Just because I sit in Mother’s place, I’m not going to eat as little as she does! I’d starve to death.”

“All right, sister, you shall have all you want,” and King gave Sarah a well-filled plate for Midget’s delectation.

“Isn’t it fun to be alone?” said Kitty, and then added hastily: “I don’t mean without Mother and Father, I mean without Miss Larkin.”

“Yes,” agreed Marjorie. “I do feel glad that she didn’t come this morning, and we can lunch alone. It’s sort of like a party.”

“I wish it was a party,” said Kitty, “’cause then we’d have ice cream.”

“P’raps we’ll have ice cream a lot, when Miss Larkin gets here,” said Marjorie. “Mother left a letter for her, and it says for her to order everything nice to eat.”

“Then I’m glad she’s coming,” declared Kitty, who loved good things to eat.

After luncheon the hours dragged a little. The house seemed empty and forlorn, and the children didn’t know exactly what to do.

“Why don’t you go over to see Delight?” Kitty asked of her sister; “and then, I’ll go to see Dorothy.”

“I don’t feel like it,” answered Midget. “I feel all sort of lost, and I don’t want Delight, or anybody else—except Mother.”

“Huh!” said King, “squealing already! Chuck it, Mops. Come on outdoors and play tag.”

King’s suggestion proved a good one, for somehow a game of tag in the cool, bracing, outdoor air did them all good, and when at last it was time to dress for afternoon, and to receive Miss Larkin, it was a smiling group of children who awaited the coming guest.

CHAPTER IIITHE LADY ARRIVES

It was about four o’clock when Miss Larkin arrived. Mindful of their newly-acquired dignity, the children awaited her in the drawing-room.

But when Sarah opened the hall door for the guest, a great commotion was heard.

“Yes,” said Miss Larkin’s high, shrill voice; “that trunk must be put in my bedroom; also these two suit-cases, and this hold-all. Oh, yes, and this travelling-bag. That other trunk may be put in your trunk-room if you have one—or attic, if you haven’t. I sha’n’t want it for several weeks yet. This basket, take to the kitchen—be careful with it—and these other things you may put anywhere for the present. Where are the babies? the dear babies?”

“Oh, King, she’s fairly moving in!” said Marjorie, in a whisper, as she saw James, the coachman, carrying a rocking-chair through the hall, and Sarah’s arms piled with wraps and bundles.

But encumbered as she was, Sarah managed to usher Miss Larkin into the drawing-room.