Elizabeth Ann uncurled herself and stepped down. She found she was standing in a narrow hall with a stout girl who looked as surprised to see her as she herself felt. And that was very surprised indeed.
"Mercy on us!" said the girl again. "I thought I heard somebody crying, and sure enough I did. How did you get on the dumb-waiter?"
"We were playing, and the boys pulled me up," explained the little girl, anxious not to get Albert and his brothers into trouble.
"They were trying to scare you—I know 'em!" said the girl. ' 'You wait a minute, and we'll fix 'em."
She darted down the hall and caught up a heavy bucket. It was almost too heavy for her to carry, but she managed, to lift it on to the dumb-waiter.
"It's half-full of soft soap," she said. "I guess it weighs about as much as you do. Now let the boys pull the waiter down as soon as they want to, and maybe when they don't find you, they'll wish they hadn't been so smart."
She was a jolly-looking girl for all her sharp words, and Elizabeth Ann liked her. She said that she was mopping up the halls, and she took her unexpected guest into one of the ' store-rooms and showed her the brooms and mops and buckets and boxes of soap that were kept there.
"I have the key," said. the girl proudly, showing her a little bunch of keys on a ring like the one Uncle Ralph carried in his pocket. "I've been working here three years now."
She was very kind and took Elizabeth Ann over to one of the high windows and held her up so that she might see the view. The city was spread out below them and the people looked like tiny black specks. When Elizabeth Ann decided that she must go, the girl—her name, she said, was Agnes—showed, her where the stairs were and told her to walk slowly so that she would not get tired.
"You'd better walk," said Agnes, "for if you ring for the elevator Frank will wonder what you are doing up here. And they might not like it if they knew you had been riding on the dumb-waiter."
Frank was the elevator boy.
The little girl walked slowly, but even then she was tired before she reached the first floor. She went outdoors and around into the service court. Jerry saw her first and shouted:
"Hey, here she is! You aren't mad, are you, Elizabeth Ann? Where 've you been?" he cried.
"We pulled the dummy down and there was a bucket of soft soap on it," said Albert. "Who put that on? You're not mad, are you?"
"What did you get off for?" demanded Charles. "Nothing was going to hurt you."
Then Elizabeth Ann told them about Agnes, and although they pretended not to be interested, she knew they were glad nothing had happened to her. No one suggested playing with the dumb-waiter again, and Albert gave her a ride three times around the court in his new express wagon before Rosa came to look for her.
A week or two after Emma Spinelli had visited Elizabeth Ann, she came up to her one morning before the nine o'clock bell rang and put her arm around her.
"When are you coming to see me?" she asked affectionately. "I've got three new kittens to show you, and I'd love to have you any afternoon."
"I'll have to ask Aunt Isabel," answered Elizabeth Ann, quite excited at the thought of going visiting.
She had been to see very few little girls. Out West the ranches were so far apart that when one went visiting the whole family usually went, too; and there were not many little girls anyway.
"Well, you ask your aunt and tell me tomorrow morning," said Emma briskly. "Then I'll tell my mamma, an' you can come right home from school with me."
But Aunt Isabel was not home for dinner that night, and Elizabeth Ann could not see her at breakfast time.
"No, don't go in her room and bother her, dear," said Uncle Ralph, when she asked him if she might speak to her aunt a minute." She has a bad headache. What is it you want—something I can do for you?"
Elizabeth Ann climbed into her chair at the breakfast table, and Rosa brought her a glass of orange juice.
"I wanted to ask her if I might go to see Emma Spinelli," she answered slowly. "She wants to know this morning. It will be all right to go, won't it, Uncle Ralph?"
"Who is Emma Spinelli?" said Uncle Ralph.
So she told him all about the little girl who had come to play with her and how they had taken his carvings out of the cabinet and played with them.
"But we put them all back," she finished hastily. "And we didn't break one. And Aunt Isabel scolded me."
"Well, I do think you and this Emma child might find something else to play with," said Uncle Ralph, smiling, so that she knew he was not angry. "Has Emma's daddy some carvings that she wants to show you now?"
"No, she has three kittens," replied Elizabeth Ann seriously. "Oh, please, Uncle Ralph, say I can go—it is such fun to play with a little girl. Emma and I like the same things."
Uncle Ralph poured himself another cup of coffee from the heavy silver coffee pot before he answered.
"But, my dear," he said then, "you must ask Aunt Isabel. I don't know Emma—she may not be the kind of little girl your aunt wants you to play with. You ask Aunt Isabel, honey, and do as she says. And now kiss me good-bye, because I must hurry away." .
"I know Emma will ask me first thing," she confided to Rosa, who came in to clear the breakfast table. "I might go anyway and tell Aunt Isabel afterward."
"Don't you do anything like that!" said Rosa sharply. "I'd punish David pretty quick if he tried that scheme, and your Aunt Isabel, for all she is so easy-going, would not like it if you went to a girl's house without asking her. You'll probably see your aunt at lunch this noon, and then you can get her permission."
Sure enough, as Elizabeth Ann had guessed, Emma Spinelli was waiting for her inside the iron fence that surrounded the playground of the school.
"When can you come?" cried Emma, dancing up when she saw her coming in at the gate. "When can you come?"
"I didn't see Aunt Isabel yet to ask her," explained Elizabeth Ann. "She didn't come home to dinner last night and this morning she had a headache, so Uncle Ralph and I had breakfast alone. But I'll ask her this noon, truly I will."
" How funny!" Emma stared at her. "Why, at my house, there wouldn't be any dinner unless my mother was home to cook it. And we never sit down to breakfast till she pulls out her chair and brings in the coffee pot. How queer your aunt must be!"
Emma Spinelli, you see, did not know that it is not polite to say what we think of other people, when it is unkind and we have not been asked what we think. Elizabeth Ann knew, of course, that her Aunt Isabel's apartment was very different from Mrs. Spinelli's house, even though she had never seen it, and she knew that Aunt Isabel was not queer at all. But she did not know exactly how to explain this to Emma, so she wisely said nothing.
"Be sure you ask your aunt this noon," urged Emma as the bell rang and they ran to stand in their places in the long line.
Elizabeth Ann hurried home at noon, in- tending to ask Aunt Isabel if she might go to see Emma some afternoon after school and when that afternoon would be. Frank, the elevator boy, who always insisted on taking her up in his elevator, though often she would rather have walked, smiled mysteriously as he closed the wire door.
"There's a lot of company in your apartment," he told her. "A bunch of ladies; I guess your aunt is having a party, though I don't see where you are going to fit in."
Elizabeth Ann stared a little. She did not know anything about a party.
Rosa came to the door when she had knocked and held her finger to her lips.
"Sh! honey," she whispered. "Come on out into the kitchen. Your aunt is giving a luncheon and we forgot to tell you; Annie has your lunch all fixed for you."
A little burst of laughter came from the dining-room as Elizabeth Ann tiptoed after Rosa, and she caught a hurried glimpse of pretty dresses and several strange ladies seated about the round table with Aunt Isabel as she passed the dining-room door.
"Couldn't I see Aunt Isabel just a minute?" she questioned Rosa when they were safely in the kitchen. "I just want to ask her something."
"Mercy, no, you mustn't think of disturbing her," said Rosa. "Nothing upsets your aunt more than to be called, out of the room when she is entertaining. Eat your lunch like a good girl—see Annie has saved some of the ice-cream for you."
Elizabeth Ann smiled gratefully at Annie, who had taken great pains with the lunch she had fixed for her at one end of the kitchen table. But even while she was eating the ice-cream she wondered what she should say to Emma Spinelli.
THE SPINELLI PARTY
When Elizabeth Ann had finished the pink and white rose which was made of ice-cream, and eaten the three pretty cakes with pink and white icing that Annie had saved for her, it was time to go back to school. She walked slowly, and as she went along she wished that Emma would not come to school that after noon.
"Perhaps she will have to stay home and take care of her little brother," Elizabeth Ann thought hopefully. She did not want to have to tell her little friend that she had not yet asked if she could come to visit her.
Then, suddenly, Emma Spinelli came flying around the corner and almost bumped into her.
"Why, I didn't know you came to school this way," cried Elizabeth Ann in great surprise. "Don't you live where you used to, Emma?"
"Of course I do, ' ' said Emma Spinelli, tossing her head. "I came this way on purpose because I wanted to see you. My cousin is going to have a birthday party this afternoon and I want you to come. It's going to be at my house, and my mother said I could ask you."
Elizabeth Ann was more surprised than ever.
"But I don't know your cousin-and I'll have to ask Aunt Isabel," she said uncertainly. "What time is the party?"
"You don't have to know my cousin," retorted Emma impatiently. ' ' She is grown up -she's twenty years old to-day-and my mother is giving her the party. And it starts at two o'clock. We'll have to hurry, because we want to be there before it begins. Come on, we'll have lots of fun."
"But school!" Elizabeth Ann cried. She was so surprised that she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and looked at Emma Spinelli.
"How can we go to a birthday party at two o'clock in the afternoon when there is school? Did you forget that?"
"Oh, dear, how silly you are!" answered Emma, stamping her foot on the pavement. "We're not going to school. One afternoon without school doesn't hurt anyone. My mother will write me an absence excuse. This is an important birthday party."
Elizabeth Ann did not know what an absence excuse was. Indeed Emma talked so fast that she did not really understand what she was saying. She would like to go to the birthday party (though it did seem queer to go to a party given for a girl she did not know), but she had not asked Aunt Isabel. Besides, she thought you always dressed up for parties.
"I haven't my white dress on," she said to Emma. "And I haven't any present to take to your cousin. And I haven't asked Aunt Isabel."
"You haven't asked your aunt?" cried Emma. "Oh, Elizabeth Ann, why not? Don't you want to come to my house?"
Elizabeth Ann felt in her kind little heart that Emma was hurt. Emma couldn't understand how an auntie could he so busy that her small niece could not have a moment's chance to speak to her. Elizabeth Ann was puzzled and she did not know what to do. How could she make Emma understand ?
"Don't you want to come to my house ?" said Emma again. "If you don't want to, you needn't-so there!"
Then Elizabeth Ann did a foolish thing. "Of course I want to come," she declared warmly. "And I will come to the party, Emma."
You see, because she did not want to hurt Emma's feelings, she was deciding to go to Emma's house without asking Aunt Isabel's permission.
"I haven't any present for your cousin," she said, as they walked along, for Emma had begun pulling her up the street as soon as she said she would come to the party.
"You don't need any present," answered Emma. "Lotta won't expect you to bring her anything. And your dress is lovely-I wish I had a pretty dress like that, only I wouldn't wear it to school the way you do; I'd keep it for best."
"Why are we going this way?" asked Elizabeth Ann as Emma turned down a strange street a block before they came to the school street.
"Well, you see, it's too late for school now," explained Emma, "and of course my mamma will write me an absence excuse; but it would look funny if one of the teachers should look out of the window and see us going by. I'm not going to walk past the school."
Elizabeth Ann meant to ask her what an "absence excuse" was, but Emma began to chatter about the party and she forgot the question. Emma said that Lotta, her cousin, was having the birthday party at Emma's house because her own house was too small. She was going to be married the next month, Emma said, and this party was for her friends who wanted to give her pretty things to wear. They called it a "shower."
"I asked Mamma if I couldn't have somebody my own age to play with me," said Emma, "because all Lotta's friends are grown up. And Mamma said yes, I could have one girl, so I asked you."
The two little girls came to the Spinelli house after rather a long walk, and Elizabeth Ann found that it was a three-story red brick with a high stone stoop. All the windows were wide open and they could hear the party before they reached the house.
Emma led her friend down the area steps and into a long dark hall.
"Mamma! " she cried. "Mamma, where are you?"
A door at the other end of the hall opened, and a large, dark-eyed woman wearing a long pink-and-white-checked apron peered out.
"Hello!" she said pleasantly. "You take the little girl upstairs, Emma. I 'm tending to the cakes. Take her into Grandma's room." Emma led Elizabeth Ann up two flights of stairs and into a small front room. There was an old lady in this room, knitting. She was so little and brown and so doubled up in her chair that Elizabeth Ann at first thought she was a brown bundle or blanket. The old lady glanced up, and when she saw Emma she smiled and said something Elizabeth Ann could not understand.
"She can't speak English," explained Emma. "She was born in Italy. Shake hands with her."
Elizabeth Ann shook hands with Emma's Grandma, who smiled at her, and then the two little girls went downstairs and into a large untidy parlor, where one girl was playing on the piano and another was singing. Lotta, the birthday girl, sat on a sofa near the window and on a table beside her were many bundles, some done up in white tissue paper and pink and blue ribbons, and some wrapped in brown paper and tied with bits of string.
"Lotta, this is Elizabeth Ann, a girl I know at school," was the way Emma introduced her guest.
"I'm glad you came to the party," said Lotta, smiling and showing her even white teeth.
"I'll show you all my presents in a minute. Emma, there goes the doorbell."
Emma ran to open the door, and Elizabeth Ann sat down on one of the chairs. She did not know what to do and no one paid any attention to her. Lotta was a pretty girl who laughed a great deal, but Elizabeth Ann did not feel that she would have cared much whether she came to the party or stayed away. The other guests were talking together and she was beginning to wish that she had gone to school instead, when Emma came back and took her out to see the backyard.
It wasn't much of a backyard, but there was an old black cat sitting on the fence and the three kittens Emma had told her about, in an old soap box. Emma had a garden in one corner of the yard where she had planted beans; but these were not up yet, though she proudly showed where they would be when the seeds finally sprouted. They were hunting for catnip, which Emma was sure must be growing somewhere in the yard (though, if they had only known it, it was much too early in the year to look), when Mrs. Spinelli called them to come in and see the presents.
Lotta unwrapped each package, and as she saw what was inside she thanked the one who had given her the gift. Elizabeth Ann wasn't much interested in the presents, towels and lace and napkins and other things for a house, but Lotta seemed very much pleased.
"She'll use them when she is married and has a house of her own," whispered Emma. "My mother made her ten yards of lace for pillow cases."
After every parcel had been opened and the contents admired, Mrs. Spinelli came into the parlor and asked the guests to come downstairs to the dining-room. This was in the basement, and the two little girls trailing along after the others found the long table in the center of the room loaded down with good things to eat. The other girls were rather noisy as they took their places, and Elizabeth Ann was sure Aunt Isabel would not have approved of the way the table was set-the dishes were put on crookedly and the knives and forks straggled "every which way" Rosa would have said. Aunt Isabel was most particular about her table and Rosa took great pains to please her.
"Isn't it fun!" giggled Emma, pulling Elizabeth Ann into a tiny space between two of the girls. "Move over, Gertie, and let us have some room."
Gertie, a pretty girl about seventeen, good-naturedly moved her skirts so that Elizabeth Ann could sit on part of her chair. Emma sat on half of another chair, and Mrs. Spinelli brought them two plates with cold ham and chicken and potato salad heaped on them. Elizabeth Ann could not eat all of hers, and she really did not want all the green and chocolate ice-cream Mrs. Spinelli brought them presently. It was very good, though, and Emma urged her so hard that she managed to finish it. Then everyone went upstairs again to the parlor and Gertie played for them to dance.
THE ABSENCE EXCUSE
Emma did not dance, and neither did Elizabeth Ann. They sat in a corner and watched the others. When the music stopped for a moment, Elizabeth Ann heard a clock striking somewhere. She counted the strokes-there were five!
"Emma, is it five o'clock ?" she asked in dismay. "I must go right away. I never thought it was five o'clock."
"Well, that isn't late," protested Emma. 'Maybe I'd better go part of the way with you -do you know the way home from here?"
That was very kind of her. Elizabeth Ann did not know the way to Aunt Isabel's from the Spinelli house, and she was glad to have Emma offer to show her. Emma rushed away
to get her hat and her little guest's, but Elizabeth Ann knew there was something she must do first.
"I have to say good-bye to your mother," she said firmly." And tell her what a nice time I've had."
"She's in the kitchen washing dishes," answered Emma. "We can go out the basement way just as well."
Though the party was for Lotta, she had not paid any attention to Elizabeth Ann, except for the few words when Emma had introduced her. Elizabeth Ann thought it would be all right if she did not go up to her and say that she must go home. Lotta was dancing and she might not like to be interrupted.
The two little girls went down to the basement and there in the kitchen they found Mrs. Spinelli washing dishes just as Emma had said. There were three other women helping her, and when she saw Elizabeth Ann come into the kitchen with her hat on, Mrs. Spinelli left the sink and came toward her, wiping her hands on her gingham apron.
"I've had the nicest time," said Elizabeth Ann politely. "It was just lovely to ask me to the party."
"Well, you're a good girl to come and say so," replied Mrs. Spinelli, smiling. "Most of the girls Emma brings home from school with her don't pay any attention to me, no more than if I was a piece of the furniture. You must come again to see Emma."
Then Mrs. Spinelli shook hands with Elizabeth Ann and tried to persuade her to take a ham sandwich in her pocket. But she said she wasn't hungry and they would have dinner ready for her at her home, and she and Emma hurried off.
They walked as fast as they could, but it was half-past five before they reached the corner where Emma had met her that afternoon on her way to school. Elizabeth Ann knew the way home from here, and Emma left her and went back to her house. Elizabeth Ann ran all the way, but it was almost six o'clock when she lifted the brass knocker on Aunt Isabel's door.
"Where in the world have you been ?" asked Rosa, who came to the door. "You know perfectly well you are supposed to come right home from school. If you ever do this again I shall have to tell your aunt. I don't know what she would say, or your Uncle Ralph, either."
Rosa was really cross, and no wonder. School was out at three o'clock, and no little girl should go anywhere after school without telling someone at home where she is going. Elizabeth Ann wasn't supposed to. And here she was nearly three hours late.
"Where's Aunt Isabel?" she asked Rosa.
She had decided, as she ran home, that she would tell Aunt Isabel right away about her visit to Emma Spinelli.
"If I wait I may be afraid to tell her," she reasoned, "but if I tell her the minute I get in the house-before we have dinner or anything-then that will be over and I'll be glad."
"Your Aunt Isabel went to a matinee after the luncheon," replied Rosa, "and she is to meet your uncle downtown and go somewhere to dinner. And now come eat your supper, like a good girl."
Elizabeth Ann did not like to eat her supper alone, and when she had to she wished more than ever for another little girl to play with and to eat with her.
' ' Or Mr. Robert would be nice," she thought, as she sat down at the round table in the lovely dining-room and Rosa brought her milk and toast and rice and stewed apricots. "Mr. Robert is almost as nice as a little girl to talk to."
"I don't see why you didn't eat more supper," said Rosa when she had finished. "I suppose you are like the children at home- they will eat cheap candy when the other boys and girls have it, and then they come in and can't eat plain wholesome food."
Rosa insisted that Elizabeth Ann must go to bed early because, she said, she looked tired. She obeyed without protest and was secretly glad Rosa did not ask her questions, but Rosa seldom asked questions. She said she did not like people to question her, and that questions were not much good anyway, unless they were geography questions or arithmetic questions. The next morning Elizabeth Ann dawdled so over her dressing that Rosa had to come twice to see what was the matter. "Your Uncle Ralph is waiting for you,'' she said the second time. "Breakfast is ready -what does make you so long, child ?"
Elizabeth Ann could not dress quickly, because she was thinking about her visit to Emma Spinelli.
"I have to tell Aunt Isabel this morning," she said to herself as she buttoned her shoes. "Oh, dear, I don't want to a bit; I wish I could have told her last night when I felt like it."
But after all she need not have worried, for Aunt Isabel sent word to Rosa to bring her coffee to her room; she was tired and would not come to the dining-room for breakfast. Uncle Ralph had several letters to read and he was so busy that he did not say much to Elizabeth Ann. But before he went to the office he told her to run in and kiss her aunt before she went to school.
"Well, dearest, is everything all right?" asked Aunt Isabel when she peeped into her room, all ready for school.
Aunt Isabel looked very pretty, lying on her silk sofa with a beautiful blue embroidered robe thrown over her. She kissed Elizabeth Ann and told her to trot along and not be late. You see, there really was no chance for her to tell her aunt about Emma Spinelli and the party just then.
"I have to have a lot of time," she said to herself, on the way to school. " I can't tell her without telling her how much Emma wanted me to come and everything."
The first thing that happened in school every morning, after assembly, which was held in the large auditorium, was the roll call. Miss Brice called the name of each pupil, or sometimes she merely looked down the aisles to see who was present or absent, and then made a mark opposite the name in her book. This morning she did not call the names aloud, but sat at her desk checking the names silently. It was one of her strictest rules that her pupils must not whisper while she was calling the roll, and each boy and girl sat as still as still could be.
"Elizabeth Ann Loring!" said Miss Brice suddenly.
Elizabeth Ann hastily stood up as she had been taught.
"Did you bring your absence excuse?" asked Miss Brice.
"My-what?" stammered Elizabeth Ann, who did not know what an absence excuse was. She remembered that Emma Spinelli had said something about an absence excuse yesterday, but she had not explained what it was.
"You were absent from school yesterday afternoon," said Miss Brice. "And now you must bring me a written excuse from your mother, saying why you were not here."
"But my mother is in Japan," replied Elizabeth Ann seriously.
"Don't be silly-I meant to say your aunt, of course," answered Miss Brice. "Bring me a note from your aunt to-morrow morning, saying why you were not in school yesterday afternoon. Don't forget."
Elizabeth Ann sat down and Miss Brice went on marking the names. She did not say anything to Emma Spinelli, and Elizabeth Ann wondered why she did not have to have an absence excuse. She spoke to Emma about it at recess.
"Why, my mother wrote a note for me, and I left it on Miss Brice's desk before school," explained Emma. "That's the way you do- put it on her desk and she'll read it the first thing. You'd better bring your excuse tomorrow, 'cause she keeps you in if you don't." "But Aunt Isabel doesn't know I went to your house yet, and maybe she won't write me an absence excuse," said Elizabeth Ann, much troubled.
"Yes, she will," Emma said wisely. "You tell her and after she's through scolding she'll write the note for you. Lots of times my mother says she won't write me an absence excuse, but she always does."
Elizabeth Ann went home after school that afternoon-Aunt Isabel had. not been home for lunch and. Miss Brice evidently did not expect the note till the next morning-determined to tell Aunt Isabel all about her visit to the Spinelli house. But Uncle Ralph came home early, too, and wanted, to take them both for a drive, and it was so pleasant to go motoring along the Drive and listen to Uncle Ralph tell stories about the houses they passed, that she could not make up her mind. to say that she had been naughty.
"I'll tell her in the morning-before breakfast," Elizabeth Ann promised. Nancy as she climbed into bed, taking the doll with her for comfort. She wasn't exactly comfortable when she remembered about the Spinelli party.
On to chapter 10
Back to main page