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XIII Ermelinda’s Family
Ermelinda entered High School in September. Then, too, she contributed to the High School magazine. Going to and from school she hunted for themes to use in school compositions. She meant to write a story some day! That was Ermelinda’s ambition.

As she looked over magazines at home, she imagined how her name would look printed. Once when she was looking over a big fashion paper, she turned to a department page and found that there was a chance to correspond with an editor lady. So she at once wrote and between the two there grew up a friendly intercourse upon paper. Ermelinda confided her desire to write stories, and though none were awarded prizes in the department, yet Ermelinda regarded the editor lady as a friend. And once she told her how the school had solicited Liberty Bond subscriptions.

[Pg 174]The boys and girls had volunteered for the work, going together from house to house. Ermelinda enjoyed the luck of selling nine bonds on subscription and one fifty dollar one outright. It was all very interesting indeed. Ermelinda grew more and more enthusiastic and her patriotism flamed hot. She went over the territory assigned and then, on her own hook, took up new territory. It was in rather a shabby quarter of the town but one of the girls was with her. So they entered a doorway and went into a tenement. She was surprised to see it so gray and destitute.

They knocked at the first landing, but though they met with a fair reception, they sold nothing. At the second landing it was the same. Ermelinda caught glimpses of bare poverty in the rooms as the door opened at her knock. She had always known that such things were, but the vivid picture of them had never been presented. So she mounted to the top floor and knocked. The door opened. It was a thin little ragged boy who opened the door and there were more thin little ragged boys inside—yes, and little girls and a baby and a mother and a father. All of them were[Pg 175] so poor and so unhappy! Ermelinda explained her errand but, of course, it was hardly any use! Ermelinda wrote to her editor about it that evening. The editor answered, “Well, wouldn’t it be rather jolly to surprise that family with a basket of good things for Thanksgiving Day?”

Oh, indeed it would! She could get the girls at High School to help! She began to plan what to put into the basket. On the way to school the next day she told everybody she met. Ermelinda had a most engaging way of putting facts in story form. But though some contributed five or ten or twenty-five cents, there were others who drifted off as soon as money was mentioned. Then Stella Wilkins came by and Ermelinda grabbed her.

“Say, Stella,” she began, “don’t you want to help, too? I’m getting up a basket for Thanksgiving for a poor family I found in a tenement, they are—” but right here she stopped short. Stella’s expression was almost frightened. For the first time, Ermelinda noticed that Stella might be classed as “poor.” Ermelinda had never thought much about poverty before or noticed whether the boys[Pg 176] and girls who came to classes showed signs of need. She had always liked Stella. “There are some children,” went on Ermelinda. “The little things look sick and hungry. We’re planning to give them a perfectly splendid Thanksgiving—I haven’t a cent to my name but I’m nabbing everybody I see—”

Stella smiled. “Guess you know, Erm, I really can’t, though I’d like to,” she said. “But father lost his work this fall and we’ve all had to do without things. I’m trying ever so hard to get my little sister a winter coat. She hasn’t any and she can’t go to school till she has one—It’s awfully hard, Erm. I’m glad you’re helping them!”

Ermelinda put an arm around Stella. “I’d like to work, too, to get that coat,” she said. “I’ve been lucky all my life and had things done for me but I’d be mighty proud if I could buy my little sister a coat if she needed one!”

They walked toward the class together. Somehow, they had become real friends.

She rushed home the next afternoon early in order to go buy the basket with one of the girls. Oh, Ermelinda’s family was to have[Pg 177] the dandiest Thanksgiving that there ever had been!

She put a gay crêpe tissue paper table-set into the basket. It had a tablecloth and napkins with bright colored fruits upon it. Then all the other things were packed tight and the basket was very heavy and very tempting when Ermelinda’s busy fingers had finished. It was put away in the pantry closet to stand there safely till the time should come.

Next day Ermelinda found Kitty Fowler, who volunteered to help. “You see, Kitty, I can’t carry that big basket all alone myself,” she explained. “I do need somebody ever so much.”

“Then I’ll help and I’ll be at the corner waiting for you at four o’clock.”

When she reached the corner with tired arms, Kitty was not there. Ermelinda waited. It was frightfully windy and cold. It seemed as if it might snow for there was penetrating dampness and chill in the air. She thought of Stella trying to buy the coat for a little sister—she wondered if, by now, the little sister had it. She hoped so. She wondered how Stella[Pg 178] had earned the money—Still Kitty did not come. It was growing dusk.

Ermelinda decided that Kitty must have forgotten. She was that kind—always ready to help but not responsible. It was too late to go home and get moth............
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