The girl scouts triumph;.., p.13
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       The Girl Scout's Triumph; or, Rosanna's Sacrifice, p.13
 

          
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  CHAPTER XIII

  Mabel Brewster may live to be a very old woman but she will never liketo look back at that one night in her life. She could not eat anything;she could not read, although a nice trashy novel invited her. She couldnot sleep. And it was well.

  Mabel had come to a place where she was forced to balance her books. Shehad been _so_ anxious to be a business woman, a professional woman, aFree Soul, that she had not looked once on the debit side of the page.And sooner or later we all must do this.

  She was very, very unhappy, embarrassed and ashamed; but her mind wasmade up. All she longed for was light--the coming of day so that shecould carry out the plans she had formulated.

  She sat thinking, thinking until ten o'clock, then with a queer littlesmile as she noticed the time, she went to the door with caution andturned the key, and slowly, very slowly opened the door.

  It was true. On the cramped, uncomfortable settee, curled up asleep, wasFrank. Mabel stared. So it was true--her brother--just as they had said!For one wild moment her resolves vanished. She felt an overpoweringimpulse to run away, to disappear so the dear people whom she hadutterly failed would never again see her face. But it vanished asquickly as it had come.

  She stepped to Frank's side and laid her hand gently on his shoulder.Instantly his arm shot out in a sweeping blow and he leaped to his feet.The doubled fist missed Mabel by a bare fraction.

  "Don't hit me, dear," she said gently. "Come inside and go to bedproperly. You see I know all about you at last. I can't thank you forbeing so good to me, but I am going to be a better sister to you,Frank."

  Frank, looking rather sheepish at being caught, followed his sister intothe room. He looked about it curiously. He had never been through theapartment, wishing to show by his absence that he disapproved of thewhole thing. Now, however, he was embarrassed and needed a subject forconversation.

  "It is not bad here," he said gruffly.

  "I think it is _perfectly horrid_!" said Mabel. "If you and mother willlet me, I am coming home tomorrow."

  "To stay?" asked Frank incredulously.

  "To stay forever and ever!" said Mabel. "It will take me that long toshow you what a goose I have been, and how I mean to be different. Oh,Frank, there is _no_ such thing as a person living all for herself._Never!_ I wonder if there was ever such a silly, conceited, _selfish_person in the world before."

  "Well, my goodness, Mabe, I wouldn't knock myself like that," saidFrank uncomfortably. "If that's the way you feel, why, it's all right. Iknow mother will be tickled to death to have you home again. She feelspretty bad about your being away. She is lonesome as the dickens foryou. But she is so sweet she wouldn't let you know it."

  Mabel burst into tears.

  "Oh, I have been lonesome too!" she cried. "I have been perfectlymiserable! Oh, Frank, I don't see what ailed me!"

  "Why not pick up some of your things and go home tonight?" suggestedFrank hopefully.

  "No," she said. "If I am going to turn over a new leaf I will have agood many things to do tomorrow. Oh dear, it is going to be perfectlyawful, but I deserve it. We had better go to bed now, Frank. There is abed all made up in the little room next to mine. Oh, how scared I usedto be here all alone!"

  "I wouldn't bother to think about it," said Frank. "I bet we will have agood time after this, Sissy. We will understand each other better. And Ihave learned a lesson myself; and that is to stick by my mother just asclose as ever I can."

  "Here, too!" said Mabel. "Oh, I wish it was morning! I wish tomorrow wasall over!"

  "Can I help?" asked Frank, as he stooped to unlace his shoes.

  "No, thank you," said Mabel grimly. "I started this thing, and I amgoing to finish it."

  "Well, good-night then," said Frank, giving his sister a hearty hug andkiss, which Mabel returned joyfully. The days when she had turned a coldcheek to her brother or had given him a chilly peck were past forever.

  Next morning, Mabel, instead of wadding her nice hair up in buns,braided it neatly in her old fashion, put on her neatest and mostgirlish dress, and went down to the _Times-Leader_ office. All thereporters had received their assignments and had gone out. The CityEditor sat at his desk inside the magic railing that Mabel had plannedto pass. She caught her breath, then walked up and rested her hands onthe rail. When he saw her the Editor rose. He felt as though he wantedto look as tall as he felt, when he said what he intended to say to thispert young person.

  "Well, young lady," he commenced, but Mabel, nodding her head,interrupted him.

  "Yes, sir, I know just what you are going to say," she said, fixing hereyes bravely on his. "I never meant to eavesdrop, but I was here in thecloak-room last evening when you said what you did to Miss Gere. Aboutme, I mean, and my selfishness, and my bad poetry and all of everything.And it is all true. I am glad I heard you. It is perfectly true. But Ihave been finding out since I came in here that I don't amount toanything. And I have been so bad to my mother that perhaps she won'twant me to come home at all. I am sorry you have had to bother with me,and of course I don't deserve any wages. I just wanted you to know thatI am going to go home and beg my mother to forgive me, and if she _will_let me come back, I am going to try to show her that it did pay to letme make this experiment after all."

  Mabel choked, but before the dumbfounded Editor could sit down nearerMabel's level and feel as small as he _wanted_ to feel, she went on:

  "I think mother will let me try again. She is that sort. And you needn'tbe afraid; I will truly, _truly_ be a good girl, and I'm so sorry." Sheturned and bolted for the door and collided violently with Jesse, whohad entered just behind her with a letter for the Editor. Mabel rightedherself and gave the boy a jerky little nod.

  "You heard what I said, didn't you?" she asked. "Well, I mean it! And Iam sorry I was horrid to you. It was just because I was a conceitedlittle prig, and you needn't speak to me again ever!"

  She dodged around the boy and was out of sight.

  "_Cummere!_" roared the City Editor all in one word, but Mabel ranbreathlessly down the dusty stairs toward the street. She simply couldnot stay up there and wait for Miss Gere. She would write her a letteror go to her house. Just as she reached the bottom of the last flightshe heard someone pounding down four steps at a time. It was Jesse, andwhen he reached her, he laid a desperate clutch on her sleeve.

  "Hey, you've got to listen!" he panted. "Gosh, I won't let you go offwithout telling you I think you have got more grit than any girl I eversaw. No matter what you ever did to me, I'm strong for you now allright. Don't you forget that! And I want to shake hands with you if youdon't mind."

  He put out a grimy paw and pumped Mabel's hand vigorously up and down.

  Mabel found herself unable to speak. She dragged her hand away andrushed out of the building, tears blinding her eyes but a strange warmfeeling in her heart. She walked up the street thinking of Jesse; Jessewho had been so utterly scorned.

  How splendid he seemed now! How generous and friendly and loyal! Andwhen you really looked at him, he was not homely. He had freckles, ofcourse, and his nose was snub, and his hair seemed to be all cowlicks:but the teeth that his wide grin disclosed were dazzling white, his blueeyes simply crackled they were so full of twinkles, and his hand,despite the grime, was warm and friendly. Mabel felt her heart lift alittle. It looked as though she had one friend after all.

  Unfortunately she had not understood the roar sent after her by theEditor. It was a pity, because that Editor was quite her ideal ofeverything great, and it would have comforted her to know that, as shescurried up Third Street, he was sitting hunched up in his chair,listening to Jesse's vigorous words as he told of the look on Mabel'sface and her tear-filled eyes as she ran away from him. It would havecomforted Mabel indeed if some kind fairy had whispered to her that shewas one day to be on terms of the greatest friendliness with that sameEditor, with the privilege of entering his magic railing any time sheliked. But no such thought came to comfort her and she rushed on, herfeet trying to keep pace
with her eagerness to reach her mother.

  What she said to that dear mother, what tears they shed together, andwhat plans they made for a new and happy life together, any girl who hasmade a mistake and has owned up everything in the safe circle of hermother's arms will easily guess.

  A couple of hours later Mabel and Frank were at the miserable apartmentcleaning up and packing Mabel's things. Mabel was happy. She was goinghome. She was going to be just a _real girl_ and a _good Scout_, and shefelt as though she wanted to prance for joy. There was a Scout meetingthat night and it was up to her to attend and make her report And sogreatly had her point of view changed and so high had her courage grownthat she did not mind one bit.

  It did seem as though there had never been as good a supper as thathappy family sat down to enjoy. Oh, what a good supper it was! After thechilly canned meats, and olives and delicatessen cakes that Mabel hadbeen subsisting on, to have fluffy hot biscuit, flaky potatoes, tenderasparagus, and perfectly broiled beefsteak--Mabel nearly cried withhappiness. They all helped to get it, and Frank sang at the top of hisvoice while he set the table.

  As soon as supper was over and the dishes stacked in the kitchen, Mrs.Brewster made Mabel get on her Scout uniform, and Frank walked over tothe Hortons with her.

  The girls were all glad to see Mabel, and there was a sort of stir ofexcitement as they one and all remembered that on her return to theScout meetings Mabel was to tell them all about her experiences in thebig world of labor.

  Mabel was so anxious to get her story over with that she could scarcelywait for the business part of the meeting to be finished. The Captainwas anxious, too. As she had had no chance to see Mabel before themeeting opened, she could not guess what Mabel intended to say, althoughshe had an inkling that the experiment had turned out exactly as she hadhoped it would.

  When Mabel's chance finally came, when the Captain had given herpermission to speak, and she rose from her chair and faced the roomfulof girls, she found that her heart was beating heavily and her breathcoming fast. But she did not hesitate.

  "I reckon the first thing to tell you about my experiment in living formyself alone is that it will not work. I don't believe that anyone inthe _world_ can actually live as selfishly as I tried to. A girl needsher mother every minute, and she needs whatever else she has in the lineof a family.

  "Well, to begin at the beginning, I had been reading a lot of sillynovels, and every time I could I went to see a movie about elopementsand girls who were misunderstood by their families. You see I am goingto make this a real honest confession instead of just a report. If Ijust said that I failed, why, some of you perhaps would think you coulddo better than I did, and try it for yourselves. But you needn't wasteyour time. Only I don't believe any other Girl Scout would ever be assilly as I have been.

  "Well, to begin again, I went over to an apartment that a friend of ourswas leaving vacant, and there I stayed all alone. Some of you girls cameto see me, but you didn't act as though you were very crazy over it andI finally learned why. Of course I know how to cook quite a few thingsbut it was not much fun trying to fix meals for just one, and Iremembered all the time how I used to grumble at home because I had toget things for Frank once in awhile. And all the while I was there inthat apartment my dear brother was sleeping on a mean little settee inthe hall because he was afraid I would be scared or sick." Mabel paused,and her eyes filled with tears. Then she continued:

  "Mother arranged for me to take a position under Miss Gere, the SocietyEditor of the _Times-Leader_, I thought I was going to do wonders but Ifound that Miss Gere had to rewrite almost everything I turned in, andno one wanted to be interviewed by a school-girl, anyway. There was anawfully nice boy in the office. I thought I was a great deal better thanhe was, and I snubbed him awfully, and come to find out, he is a greatfriend of Frank's and I am dreadfully ashamed of the way I treated_him_. Everything went from bad to worse. I finally got so I didn't haveanything for meals but cooked stuff from the delicatessens, and at thatI spent everything I made. I just bought me one hat. It costs awfully tolive and buy food. I don't see how grown people do it. Oh, well, I willskip a lot of details. But I was sick as I could be of my experiment,and wished myself back home a million times a day; but I was toostubborn to give in. Besides, I still thought I was a little wonder atwriting. But yesterday! I was in the cloak-room, and overheard theEditor talking to Miss Gere, and oh, girls, he said the most _awful_things about me and the way I worked, and the wretched stuff I wrote,and oh, _everything_! What he thought of me for my disloyalty to mymother, trying to get out and shirk my duty just when she needs me, andeverything! I don't believe he left out anything! And girls, it is alltrue. Every bit!

  "Well, he and Miss Gere went out, and I went home and sat down andthought about everything. I never felt so small. And however small Ifelt, I knew it was my really true size. The size I belong. About aninch high.

  "And presently I looked into the hall, and there was Frank all crunchedup on the settee. I woke him up and asked him to forgive me, and I felta little better.

  "Well, this morning I went down to see the Editor, and before he had achance to tell me what he thought of me, I hurried up and told him whatI thought of myself. He looked sort of surprised. But before he couldsay anything, I dashed out. And when I was almost to the doordownstairs, down came that boy. He had heard everything and he came allthe way down to say he thought I was _brave_, and to shake hands withme. It made me feel a little better.

  "I 'most ran all the way home, and I felt lonelier and littler all theway, and when I opened the door and saw my mother I just fell on her. Iforgot I was going to say that my experiment had failed and that Iwanted to come home. I forgot everything I had planned. When I saw howsweet she looked and how _motherly_, I just cried and cried, and all Isaid at all was, 'Oh, mother, _am_ I your little girl? _Am_ I yourlittle girl for always?' And all she said was, 'Always and always andalways, my darling!'"

  Mabel's voice trailed off to a husky whisper. Her eyes were downcast asshe twisted a button on her blouse, and she did not see that half theeyes were wet. But they were friendly eyes. Not a girl there but likedMabel a thousand times better for her brave and outright confession.

  "That is all," said Mabel after a pause. "Mother says it is wiped outand all past, like a fever, but I shall not forget it. I don't _want_ toforget it. And I want you, every one of you, to come right out and tellme if you ever see me acting conceited or snobbish or silly, because Iwill _not_ go back and be the old Mabel."

  "Well, Mabel, you are a brick!" said Jane, springing up. "I know we aregoing to be the best of friends in the world. I didn't like the oldMabel a bit either!"

  "I don't think there _was_ any old Mabel," said the Captain quietly. "Itwas always this Mabel, sensible and true, but mistaken and sadly on thewrong track. And I am so proud, Mabel, to see how you have profited bythis lesson."

  "Thank you very much," said Mabel: then added grimly, "But new Mabel orold, she deserved it all. And I hope I never have to see that Editoragain."

  But she did.

 
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