The very next day Dr. Corliss shut himself up in his new study while Mrs. Corliss and Mary set to work to make the old house as fresh as new. They brushed up the dust and cobwebs and scrubbed and polished everything until it shone. They dragged many ugly old things off into the attic, and pushed others back into the corners until there should be time to decide what had best be done with them. Meanwhile, John was helping to tidy up the little garden, snipping off dead leaves, cheering up the flowers, and punishing the greedy weeds.
The whistles of Crowfield factories shrieked noon before they all stopped to take breath. Then Mrs. Corliss gasped and said:—
Oh, Mary! I forgot all about luncheon! What are we going to feed your poor father with, I wonder, to say nothing of our hungry selves?
Just at this moment John came running into the house with a very dirty face. “There’s some one coming down the street,” he called upstairs; “I think she’s coming in here.” He peeped out of the parlor window discreetly. “Yes, she’s opening the gate now.”
“Let Mary open the door when she rings,” warned his mother. “It will be the first time our doorbell rings for a visitor—quite an event, Mary! I am sure John’s face is dirty.”
“I’m not very tidy myself,” said Mary, taking off her apron and the dusting-cap which covered her curls, and rolling down her sleeves.
The latch of the little garden gate clicked while they were speaking, and looking out of the upstairs hall window Mary saw a girl of about her own age, thirteen or fourteen, coming up the path. She wore a pretty blue sailor suit and a broad hat, and her hair hung in two long flaxen braids down her back. Mary wore her own brown curls tied back with a ribbon. On her arm the visitor carried a large covered basket.
“John!” cried Mary, horrified. For she thought her brother was playing some naughty trick. What did he mean by such treatment of their first caller? Mary ran down the stairs two steps at a time, and there she found John in the hall, staring with wide eyes at the front door.
It was—Something, I don’t know What, that spoke. When she pushed the bell-button it didn’t ring, but it made that. And now I guess she’s gone off mad!
“Oh, John!” Mary threw open the door and ran to the porch. Sure enough, the visitor was retreating slowly down the path. She turned, however, when she heard Mary open the door, and hesitated, looking rather reproachful. She was very pretty, with red cheeks and bright brown eyes.
“Yes, I did,” said the girl, looking puzzled. “But I thought no one was at home. Somebody said so.” Her eyes twinkled.
Mary liked the twinkle in her eyes.