The Girl Scout's Triumph - novelonlinefree.info
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"She _is_ a little goose," said Miss Gere, who had had a hard day and was tired out. "And she has the sweetest mother in the world."
"Don't I know? I'll say I do!" said Jesse fervently. "She chaperoned a picnic last week for us, and before the picnic was half over all of us fellows had forgotten the picnic, and the girls and everything, and were sitting around Mrs. Brewster, listening to her talk. I'll say she is all right! And Miss M. Brewster _wouldn't go_! Well, I am sorry for her. She must have a good streak somewhere. Are you going now, Miss Gere?"
They went out together, and Mabel could hear their voices echoing along the empty corridor. She was shaking. Somehow she got out of the building and turned toward Third Street. Frank was not in sight, having been told by Jesse that his sister was not in the office. She hoped fervently that she would not meet him. As she passed a grocery she remembered that her larder was empty, but she did not want to eat ever again. She wanted to get into her room and shut the door on the whole world.
_Her_ world had tumbled. As she made her way blindly past the closed stores and around by the trolley terminal she felt a touch on her arm.
She turned, and a young rowdy fell into step with her, and pushed his battered hat rakishly over his eyes.
"Hello, girlie!" he muttered in a hoarse voice. "Seen you comin' an'
made up my mind you hadn't no date. I like your looks. How's a sody?" He took Mabel by the elbow.
She wrenched herself free, and with a gasp ran fleetingly up the street.
So this was what Frank had been saving her from! Such creatures as the one who had just spoken to her! She looked behind, and saw to her relief that the fellow was not trying to follow her. She choked down her sobs and hurried on. When she reached the apartment she locked the door behind her with trembling fingers, and for the first time looked under beds and in clothes-presses; everywhere where an intruder might lurk.
But she was quite alone.
Mabel Brewster may live to be a very old woman but she will never like to 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 could not sleep. And it was well.
Mabel had come to a place where she was forced to balance her books. She had been _so_ anxious to be a business woman, a professional woman, a Free 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 was made up. All she longed for was light--the coming of day so that she could carry out the plans she had formulated.
She sat thinking, thinking until ten o'clock, then with a queer little smile as she noticed the time, she went to the door with caution and turned the key, and slowly, very slowly opened the door.
It was true. On the cramped, uncomfortable settee, curled up asleep, was Frank. Mabel stared. So it was true--her brother--just as they had said!
For one wild moment her resolves vanished. She felt an overpowering impulse to run away, to disappear so the dear people whom she had utterly failed would never again see her face. But it vanished as quickly 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 bed properly. You see I know all about you at last. I can't thank you for being 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 into the room. He looked about it curiously. He had never been through the apartment, wishing to show by his absence that he disapproved of the whole thing. Now, however, he was embarrassed and needed a subject for conversation.
"It is not bad here," he said gruffly.
"I think it is _perfectly horrid_!" said Mabel. "If you and mother will let me, I am coming home tomorrow."
"To stay?" asked Frank incredulously.
"To stay forever and ever!" said Mabel. "It will take me that long to show 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," said Frank uncomfortably. "If that's the way you feel, why, it's all right. I know mother will be tickled to death to have you home again. She feels pretty bad about your being away. She is lonesome as the dickens for you. 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 perfectly miserable! Oh, Frank, I don't see what ailed me!"
"Why not pick up some of your things and go home tonight?" suggested Frank hopefully.
"No," she said. "If I am going to turn over a new leaf I will have a good many things to do tomorrow. Oh dear, it is going to be perfectly awful, but I deserve it. We had better go to bed now, Frank. There is a bed all made up in the little room next to mine. Oh, how scared I used to be here all alone!"
"I wouldn't bother to think about it," said Frank. "I bet we will have a good time after this, Sissy. We will understand each other better. And I have learned a lesson myself; and that is to stick by my mother just as close as ever I can."
"Here, too!" said Mabel. "Oh, I wish it was morning! I wish tomorrow was all 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 am going to finish it."
"Well, good-night then," said Frank, giving his sister a hearty hug and kiss, which Mabel returned joyfully. The days when she had turned a cold cheek 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 most girlish dress, and went down to the _Times-Leader_ office. All the reporters had received their assignments and had gone out. The City Editor sat at his desk inside the magic railing that Mabel had planned to pass. She caught her breath, then walked up and rested her hands on the rail. When he saw her the Editor rose. He felt as though he wanted to look as tall as he felt, when he said what he intended to say to this pert 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 her eyes bravely on his. "I never meant to eavesdrop, but I was here in the cloak-room last evening when you said what you did to Miss Gere. About me, 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 I have been finding out since I came in here that I don't amount to anything. And I have been so bad to my mother that perhaps she won't want 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 that I 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 let me make this experiment after all."
Mabel choked, but before the dumbfounded Editor could sit down nearer Mabel'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't be afraid; I will truly, _truly_ be a good girl, and I'm so sorry." She turned and bolted for the door and collided violently with Jesse, who had entered just behind her with a letter for the Editor. Mabel righted herself and gave the boy a jerky little nod.
"You heard what I said, didn't you?" she asked. "Well, I mean it! And I am sorry I was horrid to you. It was just because I was a conceited little 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 ran breathlessly down the dusty stairs toward the street. She simply could not stay up there and wait for Miss Gere. She would write her a letter or go to her house. Just as she reached the bottom of the last flight she heard someone pounding down four steps at a time. It was Jesse, and when 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 off without telling you I think you have got more grit than any girl I ever saw. No matter what you ever did to me, I'm strong for you now all right. Don't you forget that! And I want to shake hands with you if you don'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 and rushed out of the building, tears blinding her eyes but a strange warm feeling in her heart. She walked up the street thinking of Jesse; Jesse who had been so utterly scorned.
How splendid he seemed now! How generous and friendly and loyal! And when you really looked at him, he was not homely. He had freckles, of course, 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 blue eyes simply crackled they were so full of twinkles, and his hand, despite the grime, was warm and friendly. Mabel felt her heart lift a little. It looked as though she had one friend after all.
Unfortunately she had not understood the roar sent after her by the Editor. It was a pity, because that Editor was quite her ideal of everything great, and it would have comforted her to know that, as she scurried 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's face and her tear-filled eyes as she ran away from him. It would have comforted Mabel indeed if some kind fairy had whispered to her that she was one day to be on terms of the greatest friendliness with that same Editor, with the privilege of entering his magic railing any time she liked. But no such thought came to comfort her and she rushed on, her feet trying to keep pace with her eagerness to reach her mother.