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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMarjorie's Vacation - Chapter 18. Welcome Gifts
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Marjorie's Vacation - Chapter 18. Welcome Gifts Post by :JPMaroney Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :2396

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Marjorie's Vacation - Chapter 18. Welcome Gifts

CHAPTER XVIII. WELCOME GIFTS

"It's all wrong!" declared Marjorie. "I didn't see it before, but I do now. That lady was right, and we oughtn't to try to sell anything that's worth less than a cent for fifty cents, or twenty- five either."

"Shall we go home?" asked Molly, who always submitted to Marjorie's decisions.

"_I don't think it's wrong," began Stella. "Of course the pennyroyal isn't worth much, but we worked to get it, and to make it, and to fix it up and all; and, besides, people always pay more than things are worth when they're for charity."

Marjorie's opinion veered around again. The three were sitting on a large stepping-stone under some shady trees, and Marjorie was thinking out the matter to her own satisfaction before they should proceed.

"Stella, I believe you're right, after all," she said. "Now I'll tell you what we'll do: we'll go to one more place, and if it's a nice lady, we'll ask her what she thinks about it, for I'd like the advice of a grown-up."

This seemed a fair proposition, and the three wandered in at the very place where they had been sitting on the stone.

With renewed courage, they rang the door bell. It was Marjorie's turn to speak, and the words were on the tip of her tongue. Being somewhat excited, she began her speech as the door began to open.

"Don't you want to buy some pennyroyal extract?" she said rapidly; "it's perfectly fine for mosquitoes, measles, and burns, and scarlet fever! It isn't worth a cent a quart, but we sell it for fifty cents a bottle, if you give the bottles back. But if you don't think it's right for us to sell it, we won't."

Marjorie would not have been quite so mixed up in her speech but for the fact that after she was fairly started upon it, she raised her eyes to the person she was addressing, and instead of a kind and sweet-faced lady she beheld a very large, burly, and red-faced gentleman.

Not wishing to appear embarrassed, she floundered on with her speech, though in reality she hardly knew what she was saying.

"Well, upon my soul!" exclaimed the red-faced gentleman, in a loud, deep voice, "here's a pretty kettle of fish. Young ladies peddling extract at decent people's houses!" He glared at the girls with a ferocious expression, and then went on, in even louder tones: "What do you MEAN by such doings? Have you a license? Don't you know that people who sell goods without a license must be arrested? I've a notion to clap every one of you in jail!"

As might have been expected, Stella began to cry, while Midge and Molly gazed at the red-faced old man as if fascinated. They wanted to run away, but something in his look held them there; and, anyway, they couldn't go and leave Stella, who had dropped in a little heap on the floor of the piazza and hidden her face in her arms, while convulsive sobs shook her slender little frame.

At sight of Stella's tears, a sudden and wonderful change seemed to come over the old gentleman. His ferocious expression gave way to an anxious smile, and, stooping, he picked Stella up in his arms, saying: "There, there, baby! don't be frightened; that was only my joking. Why, bless your heart, I wasn't a mite in earnest. There, there, now, don't cry; I'll buy all your extract,--every single drop,--and pay any price you want; and I'll give you back all the bottles, and all the baskets, and all the extract, too, if you want it, and some lovely peaches into the bargain! There, brace up now, and forgive your old Uncle Bill for teasing you so! Jail, indeed! I'll take you into the house instead, and find some plum-cake for you!"

Carrying Stella in his big, strong arms, the strange old gentleman ushered Midge and Molly into the house and made straight for the dining-room.

"Folks all gone away," he went on, still in his gruff, deep tones, but somehow they now sounded very kind; "gone away for an all-day picnic, and left me alone to shift for myself. Jolly glad to have company--jolly glad to entertain you. Here's peaches, here's cake. Have a glass of milk?"

The old man bustled around and seemed so anxious to dispel the unpleasant impression he had made at first that Molly and Midge met him halfway, and beamed happily as they accepted the pleasant refreshments he set out.

"Fall to, fall to," he said, rubbing his big hands together, as he watched the children do justice to the feast.

The girls suddenly discovered that they were both tired and hungry, and the old gentleman's hospitality put them in a much pleasanter frame of mind.

"Now, what's all this about pineapple extract?" he inquired. "I didn't half get the hang of it, and I was only joking you when you all seemed to get scared to death."

So Marjorie told him the whole story from the beginning and asked his opinion as to the wisdom of the plan.

The old man's eyes twinkled. "I've nothing to say about that," he replied, "but I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll buy your whole stock of pennyroyal tea,--or whatever it is,--and I'll pay you ten dollars for the lot. It isn't a question of what the stuff is worth in itself, but a question of its value to me; and I'll rate that at ten dollars, and here's your money. You can spend it yourselves, or give it to your poor people, whichever you like."

"Of course we'll give it to the Dunns," declared Marjorie, "that is, if we take it, but I'm not sure that we ought to take it."

"Go 'long," cried the old man; "take it? Of course you'll take it! and give those children a feast or something. I know you, little Miss Curly Head, you're Steve Sherwood's niece, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Marjorie; "do you know Uncle Steve?"

"Know him? I should say I did! You just tell your Uncle Steve that old Bill Wallingford wanted to make a contribution to charity and he took this way! Now, little ladies, if you think you've enough for one day, nothing will give me greater pleasure than to hitch up and take you home."

The girls were glad to accept this invitation, for they had walked nearly three miles in all, with their heavy baskets; and much of the time with heavy hearts, which are a great hindrance to pedestrians.

So old Uncle Bill, as he instructed the children to call him, harnessed a pair of horses and drove the three young business women back to their respective homes.

"Well, Marjorie Maynard, where HAVE you been?" exclaimed Grandma, as Midge made her appearance.

And, then, without further delay, Marjorie told the whole story.

Uncle Steve lay back in his chair and roared with laughter, but Grandma Sherwood was not entirely amused.

"What WILL you do next, Marjorie?" she cried. "Didn't you know, child, that it is not becoming for a Maynard to go around the streets peddling things?"

"Why not, Grandma?" asked Marjorie, to whom it had never occurred there could be any objection to the occupation. Her only doubt had been as to the price they ought to ask for their goods.

"I'm not sure that I can make you understand," said Grandma, "and it isn't really necessary that you should, at present. But never again must you go out selling things to strangers."

"But we sold things for the Dunns at the bazaar," argued Marjorie.

"You can't understand the difference, my dear, so don't try. Just obey Grandma and don't ever undertake such a big enterprise as that without asking me beforehand. Why, I'm ASHAMED that you should have gone to the Clarkes' and the Fosters' and the Eliots' on such an errand! Really, Marjorie, you ought to have known better."

"But, Grandma, I thought you would be pleased, and it would make you a happy surprise."

"I am surprised, but not at all pleased. However, Mopsy, it wasn't wilful wrong on your part; it was only one of those absurd mistakes that you seem to be continually making."

"You showed a pretty good business instinct, Midget," said her uncle; "if you were a boy I'd expect you to grow up to be one of the Kings of Finance. But, after this, when you're inclined to start a large business enterprise, invite me to go in with you as partner."

"I will, Uncle Steve; but, anyway, we have ten dollars and seventy-five cents from our extract, and I don't think that's so bad."

"Indeed, it isn't," said Uncle Steve, his eyes twinkling; "whoever can get money for charity out of old Bill Wallingford is, indeed, pretty clever! I think, Grandma, that since Midge has earned this herself, she and the other girls ought to have the pleasure of spending it for the Dunns, in any way they choose."

Grandma agreed with Uncle Steve in this matter, and the result was that the next day he took the three girls to town to spend their hard-earned money.

It was always fun to go anywhere with Uncle Steve, and this occasion was a particularly joyful one, for it combined the elements of a charitable excursion and a holiday beside.

They drove first to a large shop, where they bought some clothes for the Dunns.

The girls thought that a few pretty garments, as well as useful ones, would be the nicest way to use their money. So they bought pretty straw hats and cambric dresses for the children, and a blue worsted shawl for Mrs. Dunn, and a little white cap for the baby.

"I don't suppose these things are so awful necessary," Midget confided to Uncle Steve, "but it will be such fun to see how glad they'll be to get them." Molly, who was more practical, advised some aprons and shoes and stockings, while Stella's preference was for toys.

"They don't need so many clothes in summer time," she said, "and something to amuse them will make them forget how hot it is."

It was wonderful how long that ten dollars lasted, and how many things it bought! Marjorie lost count of their expenditures, but every time she asked Uncle Steve if there was any money left, he answered, "Oh, yes, quite a bit more," and so they bought and bought, until the carriage was overflowing with bundles.

At last, Marjorie said: "Now, I'm sure the money is all gone, and I do believe. Uncle Steve, you've been adding some to it; but there are two more things I do want to buy most awfully--and they're both pink."

"I'd hate to have two pink things left out," declared Uncle Steve, "and I'm sure there's just money enough left for the two. What are they, Mopsy?"

"Well, one is a pink parasol for that Elegant Ella. Not a silk one, you know, Uncle, but a sateen one, with a little ruffle around it, and a white handle. She'd be so delighted, she'd just go crazy!"

"Let's send her crazy, then, by all means. Where do you purchase these sateen affairs?"

"Oh, at any dry-goods shop. We'll pick one out."

Into a large department store the girls went, and soon found a parasol, which, though inexpensive, was as dainty and pretty as the higher-priced silk ones. They already had a gayly-dressed doll for Hoopy Topsy, and toys for the little children.

"Now, what's the other pink thing, Midget?" asked Uncle Steve, as they all piled into the carriage again.

"Don't laugh, Uncle, but you see, it's such an awfully hot day and I really think it would comfort them to have--"

"A pink fan apiece, all 'round?"

"No, Uncle, not that at all; something much cooler than that. A can of pink ice cream!"

"Just the thing, Mops! How did you ever come to think of it? We'll take it right along with us, and after we've bestowed all this load of luggage on the unsuspecting Dunns, we'll come back here and get another can of ice cream for ourselves; and we'll take it home to a nice, little green porch I know of, and there we'll all rest after our labors, and regale ourselves."

This plan met with great favor in the eyes of the three young people most concerned, and Uncle Steve drove to the caterer's, where he bought a good-sized can of the cold comfort to add to their charitable load.

And maybe the Dunns weren't pleased with their gifts!

The tears stood in Mrs. Dunn's eyes as she thanked Marjorie and the other girls over and over for their thoughtful kindness. The Dunns were often accounted shiftless, but the poor woman found it difficult to take care of her growing family and by her industry provide for their support.

Nor had she much help from the oldest daughter. The Elegant Ella was, by nature, self-centred and vain; and though a good-natured little girl, she was not very dependable in the household.

But she was enormously pleased with her pink parasol, and after enthusiastic thanks to the donors, she raised it, and holding it over her head at a coquettish angle, she walked away to a broken- down rustic seat under a tree, and, posing herself in what she felt sure was a graceful attitude, proceeded to sit there and enjoy her welcome gift.

But when, last of all, the can of ice cream was presented, the joy of the Dunn children found vociferous expression. Hoopsy Topsy turned somersaults to show her delight, while Dibbs yelled for very glee. Carefully putting down her parasol, and laying it aside, the Elegant Ella sauntered over to where the family were gathered round the wonderful can. "Don't be in such haste," she said, reprovingly, to the boisterous children, "sit down quietly, and I will arrange that the ice cream shall be served properly."

This was too much for the amused observers in the carriage, and, picking up the reins, Uncle Steve, with a hasty good-by, drove away.

The girls leaned out of the carriage to get a last glimpse of the Elegant Ella, and saw her still trying to quell the noisy impatience of the smaller children, but apparently with little success.

"Now our duty's done, and well done," said Uncle Steve, gayly; "and now we'll go for our justly-earned reward. You chickadees may each select your favorite flavor of ice cream and then we'll get a goodly portion of each, with a fair share thrown in for Grandma and myself."

The result was a very large-sized wooden tub, which they managed to stow away in the carriage somehow, and then they drove rapidly homeward that they might enjoy their little feast in Marjorie's porch.

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