Part 2 out of 5
won't promise until the kitchen is cleaned."
But Arlo Junior went off with a grin on his face. He knew Janice
would not tell if he kept his share of the agreement.
Janice was anxious to know how Delia, the new girl, was getting
on with the housework. There was a strong smell of scorching
vegetables the moment Janice opened the back door. The kitchen
was empty, but the pots on the stove foretold the fact that
dinner was in preparation at least two hours before it was
And the vegetables! Janice ran to save them. There was a
roaring fire under them; but it was the water that had boiled
over, after all. Delia knew nothing, it was evident, about
simmering vegetables. Boiling them furiously was her way.
"Oh, dear," sighed the girl, "I wonder if anything else can
happen to the Days! There must be something the matter with me
or someone would sometime do something right in this house.
Daddy's dinner will not be fit to eat.
"That book on dietary that I got out of the library and tried to
read said that good cooking was most important. I don't know,
for I guess I didn't understand much of the book--not even of
that part I read--but I do know that a well-cooked meal tastes
better than a dried-out one. Oh, dear!"
Janice shoved the pots back on the stove, and shut off the drafts
so that the fire would die down. She
wondered where Delia could be. She had not seen her outside the
house. She ran up the back stairs and looked in the girl's room
before she went to her own.
Delia was not upstairs. Janice could not see that much had been
done in the way of housework--at least on the upper floor. Then,
suddenly, she discovered where the new girl was.
From the living room came the loud drumming of the player piano.
The instrument had not been much in use since the death of
Janice's mother. Somehow it seemed to both Janice and daddy that
they did not care to hear the piano that mother played so
frequently for them in the evening.
But the instrument was in use now--no mistaking it. There are
different ways of playing a mechanical piano. Delia's way was to
get all the noise out of it that was possible.
Janice ran downstairs in some vexation. There was no particular
crime in the new girl's using the instrument, even without asking
permission. Yet when there was so much to do about the house
and, as she saw plainly, there had been so little done, Janice
was vexed enough to give Delia a good talking to.
And then she hesitated with her hand on the knob of the
living-room door. If she got Delia angry the woman might leave
as abruptly as Olga Cedarstrom had left. It was a thought
suggesting tragedy. Janice waited to calm herself while the new
girl pumped away on the piano in a perfect anvil chorus.
Janice opened the door. By the number of rolls spread out on the
top of the piano it was plain that Delia had played more music
than she had done housework. The Garibaldi March came to a noisy
"Oh, my!" sighed Delia, in her squeaky voice, "ain't that
"I should say it was," Janice said quickly. "Wonderful, indeed!"
"Oh!" shrieked Delia, flopping around on the bench and glaring at
Janice, one hand clutching at her bosom. "You scare't me."
"I think you ought to be scared. Your vegetables were boiling
"Oh, you came in so sudden!" gasped the big woman. "I--I've got
a weak heart. You oughtn't to scare me so. I can see mebbe that
Swede girl had a hard time here. There is more than cats is the
matter. And that woman next door has been around to find out how
her cat's leg come broke."
If a fluffy little kitten, chasing a ball of yarn, had suddenly
turned around and attacked Janice, tooth and nail, the girl would
have been no more surprised.
"Why, Delia, I am sorry if I frightened you," Janice said. "But,
you know, this is not your part of the house; and having put on
the vegetables, even if it is too early, I should think you would
remain in the kitchen and watch the pots."
The giantess arose and wiped an eye. She sniveled into the
corner of her apron.
"Well, I didn't expect to be bossed by a child," she squeaked,
"when I came to work here. I don't like it."
She flounced out of the room, leaving the piano open and the
rolls strewn about.
"Oh, dear me! Now I have done it!" groaned Janice Day. "What will
Daddy say if I have got Delia mad, and she goes? It is just
It really did seem to be a tragic situation. Janice shook her
head and looked around the room. Everything was just as it had
been the night before when they went to bed, save the opened
music cabinet and littered piano.
There were daddy's cigar ashes in the tray; a cup with tea
grounds in it as he had left it by his elbow. The smoking stand
was not tidied nor the table. There was dust on everything, and
a litter of torn papers on the rug.
Why had Delia not cleaned up the room, if she had so much time to
play the piano?
"I suppose if I ask her why she did not sweep and dust in here
she will tell me that she forgot whether I said to use the blue
dustcloth or the pink," groaned Janice.
One girl they had had actually gave that excuse as
logical when the work was neglected. There was nothing laughable
in this situation--nothing at all!
"Oh, if I could only do something myself," murmured the young
After what had occurred she thought it best to say nothing more
to Delia at the time. She hated to bother daddy again; but she
wondered what he would do if he had to confront such
circumstances at the bank.
"Of course, men's work is awfully important," Janice sighed; "but
what would daddy do if confronted by these little annoying things
that seem to be connected with the housework?"
There were a dozen things Janice would have preferred to do right
now. But she could not have daddy come home and see such a
looking living-room. She put on apron and cap and went to work
immediately to do what Delia should have done earlier in the day.
In an hour or so the room was swept, dusted, and well aired. She
had returned the music rolls to the cabinet and closed the piano.
She wished there was a key to it so that Delia could not get at
it again, for if the new girl was musically inclined Janice
foresaw little housework done while she was at school and daddy
was at work.
Then Janice ventured into the kitchen. Delia was not there. The
vegetables were already cooked and were in the warmer where they
would gradually become dried out. Janice had done the marketing
on her way to school that morning, and had sent home a steak.
The steak was already cooked and was on a platter, likewise in
the warming oven. And it was yet an hour to dinner time.
Janice opened the door to the stairway. There was no sound from
that part of the house. She went to the back door then, and
there was Delia talking earnestly with Miss Peckham over the
The fact smote Janice like a physical blow. She remembered what
Arlo Junior had said about the cat. Miss Peckham had found the
poor creature and had sent for the veterinary doctor to treat
What Janice had already admitted regarding the cat, and what
Delia might tell Miss Peckham, would breed trouble just as sure
as the world! What should she do?
She might have been unwise enough to have run out and interfered
in the back-fence conference. But just then she heard daddy's
key in the front door and she ran to meet him.
"Oh, Daddy! Did you find out anything more about Olga and where
she went?" the young girl cried as soon as she saw Broxton Day.
"I guess I have found nothing of importance," said her father,
shaking his head gravely.
"Oh, my dear! Nothing?"
"Nothing that explains where the treasure-box went to, Janice,"
he said. "Nor much that explains any other part of the mystery."
"But the telephone number? Who did she call up?"
"Yes, I found out about that," he admitted, hanging up his coat
and hat. "She called the public booths in the railroad station.
There was somebody waiting there to answer her. And who do you
suppose it was?"
"I couldn't guess, Daddy."
"Willie Sangreen. He is the young man who is checker at the
pickle works, and who I told you was Olga's steady company. He
has gone away, and nobody seems to know where."
"They have gone away together!" cried Janice, in despair.
"She knew where he was going to be at that hour, sure enough; she
would probably have called him at the telephone in the railroad
station, anyway. And the catastrophe," he smiled a little, "and
Olga's getting so angry, may have changed their plans completely.
Maybe he did meet her somewhere."
"Oh, Daddy! what kind of a looking man is Willie Sangreen?" cried
"I really could not tell you."
"But maybe it was he who drove the taxicab?" suggested the girl.
"That might be worth looking up," said her father. "And yet, it
does not explain," he added, as they went into the living-room,
"why Olga should have stolen the treasure-box. That seems to be
the greatest mystery."
CHAPTER VIII. THEY COME AND GO
"Daddy, do you mind if we have dinner a little early this
evening?" Janice asked.
"I have my appetite with me, if that is what you want to know,"
said Broxton Day, smiling down upon her.
"Well, Delia has it all ready, I think. Too early, of course."
"Bring it on!" cried her father jovially. "I can do it justice."
Janice wondered if he could. Already the food, she knew, was
drying up in the warming oven. She hurried out into the kitchen.
Delia had not come in from the backyard. Janice shrank from
interfering with that back-fence conference; but she could not
see daddy's dinner spoiled.
"Come, Delia!" she called, opening the door. "My father has come
"Oh, my! Is your paw arrived?" asked the giantess; coming
lingeringly away from the fence.
Janice saw Miss Peckham's snappy little eyes viewing her at the
kitchen door with no pleasant expression. She felt that something
was brewing--something that would not be pleasant. But the
spinster retired without speaking to her.
"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
"Yes. But you have everything ready at five o'clock instead of
"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
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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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
"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,
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"Goodness, mercy me, Janice Day!" exclaimed Amy Carringford.
"I'm awfully glad we don't have to have servants. It must be
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"Well, look here--and here--and here!" Janice tossed as many
frocks upon the bed. "What do you suppose is going to become of
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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,
"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
"Only some of it, Daddy. And I have been a busy bee, now I tell
"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,
"Yes, indeed. And he did work, Daddy! You should have seen
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Amen! Some boy, that!"
"He's a nice boy," declared Janice. "You'll see. And he got the
"Oh, he did! So I see that my Janice is a real 'do something'
"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
"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,"
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Good afternoon, Miss Peckham," Janice said, swinging her books
as she came up the walk from Miss Peckham's gate. "Hello,
"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
"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
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 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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
Neither did Janice understand; but her father looked so funny
that the girl giggled again. Miss Peckham gave her a reproving
"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
"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
"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 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
"Why, of course I know something about most everything," declared
Janice, quite confidently. "And her face doesn't look just
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.