Betty blushed. It was her turn now to flash back a glance; and those two sparks kindled the fire of friendship.
It was a jolly Christmas dinner, with the “butler” eating with the family.
“And now the dishes!” thought Betty. It must be admitted the “washing up” after a Christmas dinner of twelve is not a subject for much joy.
“I propose we all help Betty wash the dishes!” cried Rosamond Howitt.
Out in the kitchen every one laughed and talked and got in the way, and had a good time; and if the milk pitcher was knocked on the floor and the pudding bowl emptied in Betty’s lap—why, it was all “Merry Christmas.”
After that they all skated again. When they came in, little Miss Thrasher, looking almost gay in a rose-red gown, met them in the corridor.
“I thought it would be fun,” she said, shyly, “to have supper in my room. I have a big box from home. I couldn’t possible eat all the things myself, and if you’ll bring chafing-dishes and spoons, and those things, I’ll cook it, and we can sit round my open fire.”
Miss Thrasher’s room was homelike, with its fire of white-birch and its easy chairs, and Miss Thrasher herself proved to be a pleasant hostess.
After supper Miss Hyle told a tale of India, Miss Thrasher gave a Rocky Mountain adventure, and the girls contributed ghost and burglar stories till each guest was in a thrill of delightful horror.
“We’ve had really a fine day!”
“I expected to die of homesickness, but it’s been jolly!”
“So did I, but I have actually been happy.”
Thus the girls commented as they started for bed.
“I have enjoyed my day,” said little Miss Thrasher, “very much.”
“Yes, indeed, it’s been a merry Christmas.” Miss Hyle spoke almost eagerly.
Betty gave a little jump; she realized each one of them was holding her hand and pressing it a little. “Thank you, it’s been a lovely evening. Goodnight.”
Rosamond had invited Betty to share her roommate’s bed, but both girls were too tired and sleepy for any confidence.
“It’s been the queerest Christmas!” thought Betty, as she drifted toward sleep. “Why, I haven’t given one single soul one single present!”
Yet she smiled, drowsily happy, and then the room seemed to fill with a bright, warm light, and round the bed there danced a great Christmas wreath, made up of the faces of the three O’Neills, and the thin old rector, with his white hair, and pretty Rosamond, and frightened Miss Thrasher and the homesick girls, and lonely Miss Hyle, and tear-dimmed Hilma.
And all the faces smiled and nodded, and called, “Merry Christmas, Betty, Merry Christmas!”
XIX. OLD FATHER CHRISTMAS