Read CHAPTER X of Cloudy Jewel , free online book, by Grace Livingston Hill, on ReadCentral.com.

They were all very weary, and slept well that night; but, strange to say, Allison, who was the sleepy-head, awoke first, and was out looking the town over before the others had thought of awaking.  He came back to breakfast eager and impatient.

“We don’t need to go any farther,” he declared.  “It’s a peach of a place.  There’s a creek that reaches up in the woods for miles; and they have canoes and skating and a swimming-hole; and there are tennis-courts everywhere; and it’s only eleven miles from the city.  I say we just camp here, and not bother about going on to the other place.  I’m satisfied.  If that house is big enough, it’s just the thing.”

“But have you been to the college?”

“No, but I asked about it.  They have intercollegiate games and frats, and I guess it’s all right.  It has a peach of a campus, too, and a Carnegie library with chimes -”

“Well, but, dear, you aren’t going to college just for those things.”

“Oh, the college’ll be all right.  Guardy wouldn’t have suggested it if it wasn’t.  But we’ll go up there this morning and look around.”

“Now, children, don’t get your heart set on it before you know all about it.  You know that house may be quite impossible.”

“Now, Cloudy!” put in Leslie.  “You know Allison told you you were a good sport.  You mustn’t begin by preaching before you find out.  If it isn’t all right, why, of course we don’t want it; so let’s have the fun of thinking it is till we prove it isn’t-or it is.”

Julia Cloud looked into the laughing, happy eyes, and yielded with a smile.

“Of course,” she said, “that’s reasonable.  I’m agreed to that.  But there’s one thing:  you know we’re bound to go on to the other college, because Mr. Luddington expects us; and we can come back here again if we like this better.”

“Oh, we can wire him to come here,” said Leslie.  “Now, let’s go!  First to that house, please, because I’m so afraid somebody will buy it before we get the option on it.  I’ve heard that houses are very scarce in the East just now, and people are snapping them up.  I read that on the back of that old man’s paper at the next table to ours this morning.”

All three of them having the hearts of children, they went at once to hunt up the agent before ever they got even a glimpse of the halls of learning standing brave and fair on the hillside in the morning sunshine.  “Because there are plenty more colleges,” said Leslie; “but there is only one home for us, and I believe we’ve found it, if it looks half as pretty in the daylight as it did at night.”

It took only a few minutes to find the agent and get the key of the house, and presently they were standing on the terrace gazing with delight at the house.

It was indeed a lovely little dwelling.  It was built of stone, and then painted white, but the roof and gables were tiled with great pink tiles, giving an odd little foreign look to it, something like Anne Hathaway’s cottage in general contour, Leslie declared.

The top of the terrace was pink-tiled, too, and all the porches were paved with tiles.  The house itself seemed filled with windows all around.  Allison unlocked the door, and they exclaimed with pleasure as he threw it wide open and they stepped in.  The sunshine was flooding the great living-room from every direction, it seemed.  To begin with, the room was very large, and gave the effect of being a sun-parlor because of its white panelled walls and its many windows.  Straight across from the front door on the opposite side of the room opened a small hallway or passage with stairs leading up to a platform where more windows shed a beautiful light down the stairs on walls papered with strange tropical birds in delicate old-fashioned tracery.

To the right through a wide white arch from the living-room was a charming white dining-room with little, high, leaded-paned windows over the spot for the sideboard and long windows in front.

To the left was an enormous stone fireplace with high mantel-shelf of stone and the chimney above.  The fire-opening was wide enough for an old Yule log, and on either side of it were double glass doors opening into a long porch room, which also had a fireplace on the opposite side of the chimney, and was completely shut in by long casement windows.

Up-stairs there were four large bedrooms and a little hall room that could be used for a sewing-room or den, or an extra bedroom, besides a neat little maid’s room in a notch on the half-way landing, and two bathrooms, white-tiled and delightful, tucked away in between things.  Then Leslie opened a glass door in the very prettiest room of all, which she and Allison immediately decided must belong to their aunt, and exclaimed in delight; for here nestled between the gables, with a tiled wall all about it, was a delightful housetop or uncovered porch, so situated among the trees that it was entirely shut in from the world.

It was perfect!  They stood and looked at one another in delight, and for the time the college was forgotten.  Then Allison dashed away, and came back eagerly almost immediately.

“There’s a garage!” he said, “just behind the kitchen, a regular robin’s nest of a one, white with pink tiles just like the house, and a pebbled drive.  Say, it must be some fool of a guy that would sell this.  Isn’t it just a crackerjack?”

“My dear,” put in Julia Cloud, “it can’t help being very expensive -”

“Now, Cloudy, remember!” said Leslie, holding up her finger in mock rebuke.  “Just wait and see!  And, anyhow, you don’t know Guardy Lud.  If he could see us located in a peach of a home like this, he’d go back to his growley old dear of a wife with happy tears rolling down his nice old cheeks.  Allison, you go talk to that agent, and you give him a hundred dollars if you’ve got it left-here, I guess I’ve got some, too-just to bind the bargain till Guardy gets here.  And say, you go see if you can’t get Guardy on the ’phone.  I don’t want to go a step farther.  Couldn’t you be happy here, Cloudy, with that fireplace, and that prayer meeting to go to?  I wouldn’t mind going with you sometimes when I didn’t have to study.”

Julia Cloud stooped, and kissed the eager face, and whispered, “Very happy, darling!”

And then they went to the agent again and the telephone.

“Guardy Lud” proved himself quite equal to the occasion by agreeing to come on at once and approve their choice, and promised to be there before evening.

“I knew he would,” said Leslie happily, as they seated themselves in the car again for the pleasant run to the college.

They found the dean in his office, and Allison was taken with him at once.

“He isn’t much like that musty little guy in the other college.  He looked like a wet hen!” growled Allison in a low tone to his sister and aunt, while the dean was out in the hall talking to a student.  “I like him, don’t you?” and Julia Cloud sat wondering what the boy’s standards could be that he could judge so suddenly and enthusiastically.  Yet she had to admit herself that she liked this man, tall and grave with a pleasant twinkle hidden away in his wine-brown eyes and around the corners of his firm mouth.  She felt satisfied that here was a man who would be both wise and just.

They made the rounds of the college buildings and campus with growing enthusiasm, and then drove back to the inn to lunch with hearty appetites.

“Let’s go down to the house, and measure things, and look around once more,” proposed Leslie.  “Then we can come back and wait here for Guardy.  We mustn’t be away when he arrives, for he’ll want to get everything fixed up and get away.  I know him.  Allison, did you get a time-table?”

Allison produced one from his coat-pocket, and they studied the trains, and decided that there was no possibility of the arrival of their guardian until three o’clock, and probably not until five.

“That’s all right,” said Leslie.  “Cloudy and I’ll stay here from three to five, and you can meet the trains; but first I want the dimensions of those rooms, so Cloudy and I can plan.  We’ve got a whole lot to do before college opens, and we can’t spare a minute.  O Cloudy!  I’m so happy!  Isn’t that house just a duck?”

They went to the village store, bought a foot-rule, a yardstick, and a tape-measure, and repaired to the house.  Allison took the foot-rule by masculine right; Julia Cloud said she felt more at home with the tape-measure; and Leslie preferred the yardstick.  With pencil and paper they went to work, making a diagram of each room, with spaces between windows and doors for furniture, taking it room by room.

“We’ve got to know about length of curtains, and whether furniture will fit in,” declared Leslie wisely.  “I’ve thought it all out nights in the sleeper on the way over here.  Just think!  Isn’t it going to be fun furnishing the whole house?  You know, Cloudy, I didn’t have hardly anything sent, because it really wasn’t worth while.  We sort of wanted to leave the house at home just as it was when Mamma was living, to come back to sometimes; and so we let it to an old gentleman, a friend of Grandfather’s and Guardy’s, who has only himself and his wife and servants, and will take beautiful care of it.  But I went around and picked out anything I wanted, rugs and pictures and some bric-a-brac, and a few bits of old mahogany that I love, just small things that would pack easily.  Guardy said we might buy our own things.  He set a limit on our spending, of course; but he said it would be good experience for us to learn how to buy wisely inside a certain sum.”

Julia Cloud went around like one in a dream with her new tape-measure, setting down careful figures, and feeling like a child playing dolls again.  It was almost three o’clock when they finally finished their measurements, and Allison hurried them back to the inn, and repaired to the station to meet trains.

Leslie made her aunt lie down on the bed, supposedly for a nap; but no one could have taken a nap even if he had wanted to-which Julia Cloud did not-with an eager, excited girl sitting beside the bed, just fluttering with ideas about couches and pillows and furniture and curtains.

“We’ll have a great deep couch, with air-cushions on the seat and back, and put it in the middle of the living-room facing the fireplace, won’t we, Cloudy?  And what color do you think would be pretty for the cushions?  I guess blue, deep, dark-blue brocaded velvet, or something soft that will tone well with the mahogany woodwork.  I love mahogany in a white room, don’t you, Cloudy?  And I had a great big blue Chinese rug sent over that I think will do nicely for there.  You like blue, don’t you, Cloudy?” she finished anxiously.  “Because I want to have you like it more even than we do.”

“Oh, I love it!” gasped Julia Cloud, trying to set her mind to revel in extravagant desires without compunction.  She was not used to considering life in terms of Chinese rugs or mahogany and brocade velvet.

“I’d like the curtains next the windows to be all alike all over the house, wouldn’t you?  Just sheer, soft, creamy white.  And then inner curtains of Chinese silk or something like that.  We’d want blue in the living-room, of course, if we had the blue rugs and couch, and oh! old rose, I guess, in the dining-room, or perhaps mahogany color or tan.  Green for that sun-porch room!  That’s it, and lots of willow chairs and tables!  And rush mats on the tiled floor!  Oh!  Aren’t we having fun, Cloudy, dear?  Now, I’ll write out a list of things we have to buy while you take a nap.”

And so it went on the whole afternoon, until the sound of a distant whistle warned them that the five-o’clock train was coming in and they must be prepared to meet Mr. Luddington.

According to programme they hurried into their wraps, and went down to the piazza, to wait for the car.  None too soon, for Allison was already driving around the curve in front of the door, and Mr. Luddington sat beside him, radiating satisfaction.  Anything that pleased his adorable wards pleased him, but this especially so, for he was in a hurry to respond to the many telegrams summoning him home to California, and the quicker this little household was settled, the sooner he might leave them.

They drove at once, of course, to the house, Allison and Leslie talking fast and eagerly every minute of the way, their eyes bright and their faces beautiful with enthusiasm; and Mr. Luddington could only sit and listen, and smile over their heads at Julia Cloud, who was smiling also, and who in her new silvery garments looked to him all the more a lady and fit to play mother to his wards.

“Well, now, now, now!” said Guardy Lud after they had gone carefully over every room and were coming down-stairs again.  “This is great!  This certainly is great.  I couldn’t have had it better if I’d made it to order, could I?  And I certainly wish you were settled here, and I could stay long enough to take breakfast with you and enjoy some more of your excellent buckwheat cakes, Miss Cloud.”  He turned with a gallant bow to Julia.  “I hope you’ll teach my little girl here to bake them just like that, so she can make me some when she comes back to California to visit us again.”

They rode him around the town, through the college grounds, and then back to the inn for dinner.  That evening they spent in discussion and business plans for the winter.  The next morning they took Mr. Luddington up to the college, where he made final arrangements for the young people to be entered as students, and afterwards drove to the city.  Mr. Luddington had one or two friends there to whom he wished to introduce them, that they might have some one near at hand to call upon in a time of need.  He also took them all to a bank, and arranged their bank accounts so that they might draw what they needed at any time.  After lunch he went with them to several of the largest stores, and opened a charge account for them.  Then, with a warm hand-shake for Julia Cloud and an emotional good-by for the young people, he left them to rush for his train.

“We might stay in town to-night, and be ready to shop early in the morning,” proposed Leslie.

“No,” said Allison decidedly.  “Cloudy looks worn to a frazzle, and I’m sick to death of the city.  Let’s beat it back to where they have good air.  We can go right to bed after dinner, and get up good and early, and be here as soon as the stores are open.  They don’t open till nine o’clock.  I saw the signs on the doors everywhere.”

So back they went for a good night’s rest, and were up and at it early in the morning, scarcely noticing the way they rode, so interested were they in deciding how many chairs and beds and tables they needed to buy.

“Let’s get the curtains first, and then we can have the windows washed, and put them right up,” said Leslie, “and nobody can see in.  I’m crazy to be shut into our own house, and feel that it belongs to us.  We can select them while Allison’s gone to see what’s the matter with his engine.”

But, when Julia Cloud heard the stupendous price that was asked for ready-made curtains or curtains made to order, with fixtures and installation, she exclaimed in horror: 

“Leslie!  This is foolish.  We can easily make them ourselves, and put them up for less than half the price.  If I had only brought my sewing-machine!  But it was all out of repair.”

“Could we really make them ourselves, Cloudy?  Wouldn’t that be fun?  We’ll get a sewing-machine, of course.  We’ll need it for other things, too, sometimes, won’t we?  Of course we’ll get one.  We’ll buy that next.  Now, how many yards of each of these do we need?”

In a few minutes the salesman had figured out how much was needed, counted the number of fixtures for doorways and windows, and arranged to send the package down to the car at a certain time later in the morning.  Then they went at once and bought a sewing-machine, one that Julia Cloud knew all about and said was the best and lightest on the market.  Leslie was as pleased with the idea of learning to run it as if it had been a new toy and she a child.

“We’ll have it sent right to the little new house, and then we can go there evenings after we are through shopping, and sew.  You can cut, and I can put in the hems, if you think I can do them well enough.  We must get scissors and thread, a lot of it, and silk to match the colored curtains, too.”

They took the rooms one at a time, and furnished them, Allison joining them, and taking as much interest in the design of the furniture as if he had been a young bridegroom just setting up housekeeping for himself.

They had set aside a certain sum for each room so that they would not overstep their guardian’s limit, and with Julia Cloud to put on the brakes, and suggest simplicity, and decide what was in good taste for such a small village house, they easily came within the generous limit allowed them.

It was a great game for Julia Cloud to come out of her simple country life and plunge into this wholesale beautiful buying untroubled by a continual feeling that she must select the very cheapest without regard to taste or desire.  It was wonderful; but it was wearying in spite of the delight, and so the little house was not all furnished in a day.

“Well, the living-room’s done, anyway, and the willow set for the porch room!” sighed Leslie, leaning back with a fling of weariness.  “Now to-morrow we’ll do the dining-room.”

“To-morrow’s Sunday, Les; the stores aren’t open.  Use your bean a little, child.”

“Sunday!”

Leslie’s beautiful face drew itself into a snarl of impatience, the first, really, that Julia Cloud had seen.

“Oh, darn!” said Leslie’s pretty lips.  “Isn’t that too horrid?  I forgot all about it.  I wonder what they have to have Sunday for, anyway.  It’s just a dull old bore!”

“O Leslie, darling!” said Julia Cloud, aghast, something in her heart growing suddenly heavy and sinking her down, down, so that she felt as if she could hardly hold her head up another minute.

“Well, Cloudy, dear, don’t you think it’s a bore yourself, truly?  Come, now, own up.  And I’m sure I don’t see what’s the use of it, do you?  One can’t do a thing that’s nice.  But I’ll tell you what we can do!” her eyes growing bright with eagerness again.  “We’ll measure and cut all the curtains, and turn the hems up.  And, Allison, you can put up the fixtures.  If only the machine could have been sent up to-day, we could have had the curtains all done, couldn’t we, Cloudy?”

But Julia Cloud’s lips were white and trembling, and her sweet eyes had suddenly gone dark with trouble and apprehension.

“O Leslie, darling child!” she gasped again.  “You don’t mean you would work on the Sabbath day!”

“Why, why not, Cloudy, dear?  Is there anything wrong about that?”