“There goes the bell!” exclaimed Gladys, “and I’m not even dressed. It’s some of the boys, I hear their voices,” she said presently, after listening for the sounds from below. “Run down, will you, girls, and entertain them until I come?”
The Winnebagos departed to act the part of hostesses for their friend and Gladys got hurriedly into her dress. Before she was ready to go down she heard a large group of girls arriving, then another delegation of boys. The orchestra had begun playing. Gladys’s foot tapped the floor in time to the music as she fastened up the dress. “Just wait until they see me dance the Butterfly Dance,” she was thinking, with innocent pride. She clasped the butterflies on her shoulders in place and with a last survey of herself in the glass she set forth to greet her guests. When she reached the head of the stairs the bell rang again and she paused to see who it was. From the hall upstairs she could get a view of the entire reception room without being seen herself. The last comer was Emily Meeks, whom the maid was relieving of her wraps. She was all alone, apparently at a loss what to do in company, and—dressed in a white skirt and middy blouse! Gladys could see the coldly amused glances some of the girls were bestowing on her, and the indifference with which she was being treated by the boys. Why did she come dressed in such a fashion? Gladys felt a little indignant at her. Then she reflected that Emily probably had nothing else to wear, and, besides, it didn’t make any difference if one was dressed so plainly; there were enough brightly dressed girls to make the brilliant scene that she loved.
But at the same time a thought struck her which made her decidedly uncomfortable. It was, “How would you like to be the odd one in the crowd, and have all the others take notice of you because you didn’t match your surroundings? To face a battery of eyes that were amused or scornful or pitying, according to the disposition of the owner of the eyes? To feel lonesome in the midst of a crowd and wish you were miles away?” With one foot on the top step Gladys hesitated. In her mind there rose a picture—the picture of her first night in camp when she had seen a Camp Fire Ceremonial for the first time, when she felt lonesome and far away and out of place. Again she saw the figures circling around the fire and heard the words of their song:
“Whose hand above this blaze is
Shall be with magic touch engifted
To warm the hearts of lonely mortals
Who stand without their open portals.
* * * * *
“Whoso shall stand
By this hearthstone
Shall never stand alone——”