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The Girl Scout's Triumph.
by Katherine Keene Galt.
The red-haired girl stared fixedly out of the window. There was nothing to look at but black night, and the light from within turned the glass into a dusky mirror where her image was clearly reflected. But she stared at it unseeingly, busy with her thoughts.
She was very early, but in fifteen minutes or so the Girl Scouts would commence to arrive. It was something of an ordeal to face the strangers and she had planned to be the first one in the room. She thought it a distinct advantage to meet them so rather than to enter the room feeling that the fifteen or twenty pairs of eyes were all noting her and the brains belonging to them were registering the usual formula, "Goodness, what _red_ hair!"
She never could see why people always spoke of her hair. Certainly there were redder heads, and her heavy, waving locks were always perfectly cared for, glossy and brushed with careful attention. She pulled the long braid over her shoulder and looked at it. The braid was thicker than her wrist, and when unbound it reached nearly to her knees. Almost petulantly she swung it behind her and turned her eyes toward the window again. They were queer eyes, a strange sea-green in color, and their black lashes and straight brows gave them a dark and brooding expression. She was pale, but it was not a wholesome pallor. She looked like a girl whose hours were not good, who sat up too late, and ate the wrong kinds of food. Her supple slender hands were bare except for a little finger ring of green jade set in silver. Her wrist-watch showed its tiny face from the center of a silver and jade bracelet. She wore the jewel pushed far up her sleeve.
The door opened, and a tiny figure in the uniform of the Scout Captain entered. The red-haired girl, still staring into the night, did not bother to turn, and with a long glance at the unfamiliar and unfriendly back the little lady who had just entered advanced to the table in the center of the room and arranged the papers lying there. Occasionally she directed a puzzled glance toward the girl at the window, but silence filled the big room and the resolute shoulders showed no sign of curiosity or embarrassment. The little lady at the table smiled. She was well aware that the girl at the window, looking into the dark pane as in a looking-glass, was watching her closely. She frowned suddenly at the girl's rudeness, then smiled and went on with her task.
A little later the door opened and a laughing, chattering group entered.
Then and not until then did the red-haired girl rise and advance.
The girls stared, and the stranger's lip curled. Her red hair! It was always so. Walking slowly toward the table, she started to give a perfunctory salute, a salute which changed character and became snappy enough as she felt her gaze held by a pair of deep, compelling eyes. The Scout Captain was tiny and looked not a day over sixteen; but she was the Captain, and the red-haired stranger reluctantly admitted it to herself. She could not complain of the friendliness of her greeting.
Wanderer as she was, drifting here and there over the world, a Scout in one place after another, she was aware that here were girls filled with the simplest and most charming courtesy. Each one met her with a sweet warmth of manner that almost pierced her chill and reserve, and when she turned and took her seat as the business meeting commenced, the girls were all along wondering if the stranger was shy, sad, or merely bored.
A feeling of puzzled resentment stirred in a few. If the strange girl did not wish to be friendly, why had she brought herself and her jade green eyes and her queer ring into their happy circle?
The meeting progressed quietly. The strange new element cast a spell over the happy group. It was not as though they were depressed; it was rather as though they were waiting for something to happen, as though it was time for the curtain to go up on a new and exciting play.
The girls, all a little restless by nature, smiled, shifted in their seats and occasionally touched each other with friendly, caressing hands. They regarded the little Captain with adoring eyes and cast questioning and friendly glances toward the newcomer.
She, however, ignored them all. It was as though she sat alone, her strange, deep eyes fixed on the Captain's sparkling face, studying it with cool, impersonal interest. She never changed her easy, graceful position, and her delicate hands rested in her lap motionless as though carved from wax.
The meeting closed, and as was their custom when a new girl joined, the Scouts gathered around the stranger with pretty, friendly advances. As they spoke to her, she regarded them with the same curious gaze she had bent on the Scout Captain.
"We are so glad you have joined us," said a sparkling mite, dancing from one tiny foot to the other. "You say your name is Claire Maslin? Mine is Estella LaRue."
"And mine is Jane Smith," said a tall beauty with golden hair and pansy-blue eyes.
"Plain Jane," laughed little Estella, swinging on Jane's arm.
"Have you just moved to Louisville?" asked another girl softly.
"Yes," said Claire. It was the first time she had spoken and the girls waited breathlessly for more information. But the simple yes was her whole contribution.
"Well, you must let us see a lot of you," said a bright-faced girl with docked hair. "Where do you live?"
"At the Seelbach at present," said Claire Maslin. Her voice was very deep and throaty for a young girl, and she spoke slowly.
Again the girls waited, expecting an invitation to call, but Claire said nothing. The silence grew oppressive. At the table the Scout Captain and a group of the girls were deep in some important discussion. No help could be expected from that quarter. It came, however, as the colored house-boy appeared at the door.
"Cunnel Maslin's car," he announced.
"Good-night," said Claire Maslin, her sudden smile sweeping the group and embracing them all. She left them and, moving easily toward the table, said a polite but brief good night to the little Captain.
"We will see you out," said Estella LaRue, tugging at plain Jane and accompanying the newcomer to the door. She passively allowed them to come, and the door closed.
In five minutes the two girls, round eyed and astonished, rushed back.
"Oh, what _do_ you think?" cried Jane.
"Yes, what?" echoed Estella, dancing up and down.
"_I_ think she is a fairy princess in disguise," said Jane, nodding her golden head.
"_I_ think she is a grouch," said a stout girl at the table, turning suddenly.
"Why, Mabel, you positively must not say a thing like that!" said the little Captain in a shocked tone. "She is shy, and it is a good deal to come and meet so many girls at one time."
"Do let us tell you what happened!" begged Estella. "We followed her out into the cloak-room, and she put on the _best_ looking hat and Jane commenced to look for a cloak that might be hers. But I was watching her, and she put her hand inside her blouse, and brought out a little handful of stuff and shook it out, and oh dear, oh dear, you never, never saw anything so wonderful!"
"It was a big scarf of silk or chiffon or crepe. Something soft and cobwebby and heavy all at the same time. She wound it around her, and Estella stuttered, 'Won't you freeze in that?'"
"She said, 'My cloak is in the hall,' and we followed her down to the door, and there--"
"Standing against the wall," broke in Estella--
"Like a graven image," interrupted Jane--
"Was a _Chinaman_!" cried both girls.
"A _Chinaman_!" exclaimed the crowd as one girl.
"Yes," said Jane, while Estella danced up and down and nodded violently.
"He had her cloak over his arm, and she spoke to him in some jabbery language, Chinese I suppose, and he shook the cloak open and put it around her shoulders. It was soft white fur."
"Simply _too_ lovely," sighed Estella.
"Then she said good-night, nothing else, and went out with the Chinaman following," completed Jane.
"Who can she be?" said Estella dreamily.
"A fairy princess, I reckon."
"Fairy fiddlesticks!" laughed the little Captain. "It is all very simple. Her father has been here to see me. He is a colonel in the Army and for a long time was stationed in China. Hence the Chinese servant.
Her father, Colonel Maslin, is very anxious to have her know some nice girls. Claire joined the Girl Scouts when they were stationed in Washington. Colonel Maslin says Claire finds it difficult to make advances, and I want you all to be as friendly as you can be."
"Well, I would hate to have a heathen holding _my_ cloak," said Mabel piously. "What did he have on?"
"Chinese clothes, of course, and made of silk, and all loose and baggy and flowing and embroidered, and sort of bluish and purplish and goldish."
"Must have been rather weird," said Mabel, sniffing.
"It wasn't weird one bit," declared Estella. "It was the most gorgeous thing I ever saw except that white fur cloak. Oh, and did you notice that queer ring she wears? Just exactly the color of her eyes. I suppose that is Chinese too."