kept by his duty as host, Aunt Mary being asleep upstairs.
"Too tired. Won't hurt her; she's used to work, and we must n't pamper her up, as old ladies say," answered Mr. Fred, enjoying his favorite lounge on the grass.
"I would n't ask her to act, if you'll allow me to say so," said Captain John, in his quiet way. "That sort of thing might unsettle her and make her discontented. She steers that little craft over there and is happy now; let her shape her own course, and remember it is n't well to talk to the man at the wheel."
Miss Perry stared; Miss Kay, the sharp girl, nodded, and Miss Ellery said petulantly,—
"As if it mattered what she thought or said or did! It's her place to be useful if we want her, and we need n't worry about spoiling a girl like that. She can't be any prouder or more saucy than she is, and I shall ask her if only to see the airs she will put on."
As she spoke Ruth came up the sandy path from the beach laden with rushes and weeds, sunflowers and shells, looking warm and tired but more picturesque than ever, in her blue gown and the red handkerchief she wore since her old hat blew away. Seeing the party on the cottage steps, she stopped to ask if the things were right, and Miss Ellery at once made her request in a commanding tone which caused Ruth to grow very straight and cool and sober all at once, and answer decidedly,—
"I could n't anyway."