A BAD BEGINNING.
On again they went, past more cottages with groups of people gossiping at their doors, or sitting about on low steps or the edges of the pavement, enjoying the cool and calm of the summer evening; up the steep hill where the milk-bottle had come to grief in the morning, past the carpenter’s shop, fast closed now, all but the scent of the wood, which nothing could keep in.
It was a stiff pull to the top for tired people, but it was reached at last. With a deep sigh of satisfaction they crossed the quiet street in leisurely fashion to their own front door, where, summoning what energy they had left, they gave a friendly “whoop!” to let their arrival be known, and burst into the house pell-mell; then stopped abruptly, almost tumbling over each other with the shock, and stared before them in silent, speechless amazement at a pile of luggage which filled the centre of the hall. Betty stepped back and looked at the plate on the door to make quite sure that they had not burst into the wrong house; but Kitty, with a swift presentiment, realized to whom that luggage belonged and what it meant, and her heart sank down, down to a depth she had never known it sink before.
Before she could speak, though, Emily appeared from somewhere, her face a picture of rage, offended dignity, and fierce determination; but as soon as she caught sight of the bewildered, wondering quartette, her whole expression changed. She came to them, as Kitty said afterwards, as though there had been a death in the family and she had to break the news to them. But it was an arrival she had to announce, not a departure, and she announced it abruptly.
“She’s come!” she gasped in a whisper more penetrating than a shout; and her face added, “You poor, poor things, I am sorry for you.”
For once Emily’s sympathies were with them, and even while staggering under the blow they had just received, Kitty could not help noticing the fact.
“What?—not Aunt Pike?—to stay?” gasped Dan.
Emily nodded, a world of meaning in the action. “You’d best go up and speak to her at once, or she’ll be crosser than she is now, if that’s possible. She’s as vexed as can be ’cause there wasn’t nobody to the station to meet her, nor nobody here when she come.”
“But we didn’t know. How could we? And who could have even dreamed of her coming to-day!” they argued hotly and all at once.
“A tellygram come soon after you’d a-gone,” said Emily, with a sniff; “but there wasn’t nobody here to open it. And how was we to know what was inside of it; we can’t see through envelopes, though to hear some people talk you would think we ought to be able to.”
Kitty knew it was her duty to check Emily’s rude way of speaking of her aunt, but a common trouble was uniting them, and she felt she could not be severe then.