CHAPTER 13 Grievous Trouble

“MY, what a big mouth you have!” teased Veve, pretending to gaze in horror at Rosemary’s tiny set of even teeth.

“The better to eat you with, my dear,” responded Rosemary, making a playful lunge at her friend.

In high spirits the two were playing “wolf,” acting out the lines from Little Red Riding Hood.

The entire Brownie Scout troop was en route after school to the home of Sam Vincent. By common consent it had been decided that Jane, who owned the only red cape, was to be Little Red Riding Hood.

The carpenter’s house of white clapboards was not large, but had been well built. A tidy workman, he had surrounded the yard with a neat picket fence, freshly painted.

As they entered through the ornamental gate, the girls saw Mr. Vincent trimming dead wood from a bush in the yard.

“We’re right on time!” sang out Jane. “I’m Red Riding Hood. Are the baskets ready to take to Mrs. Myles?”

“They certainly are,” the carpenter assured her. “My wife has packed them so full of good things to eat that I’m afraid they may be too heavy for even husky Brownie Scouts to carry.”

When the girls saw the two well-filled baskets, they were inclined to share the carpenter’s opinion.

One of the baskets contained a pie and a cake and several pounds of smoked meat, besides numerous other small items.

The larger basket was loaded with staple items such as coffee, tea, sugar and flour.

“I’ll take you most of the way in my car,” Mr. Vincent offered. “Then when we come within view of Mrs. Myles’ house, you may go on alone. Remember—you must never hint to anyone that my wife and I furnished this food.”

The Brownies promised to keep the secret.

Everyone crowded into Mr. Vincent’s automobile, although it was a very tight squeeze. Miss Gordon sat in front, holding the two baskets.

“This is as far as I dare go,” Mr. Vincent announced when the car rolled over a hill and the tumble-down Myles home was seen ahead. “Think you can manage those heavy baskets without me?”

“Oh, yes, we’ll take turns carrying them, even if I am Red Riding Hood,” declared Jane quickly.

Mr. Vincent handed the baskets down from the car after the girls had scrambled out.

“Now don’t forget!” he said in final warning. “Even if Mrs. Myles questions you, don’t let her know I sent the food.”

“We won’t,” promised Connie.

“If you can, without seeming to ask too many questions, learn if she needs money,” the carpenter urged. “We may be able to find a way to help her.”

Carrying the heavy baskets, the Brownie Scouts trudged on to the Myles home.

Jane had been coached in her lines. When Mrs. Myles presently opened the door, she made a very pretty speech about being Little Red Riding Hood.

“And I’m the big bad wolf!” added Veve, not to be cut out of the act.

Mrs. Myles gazed at the two baskets filled to overflowing with attractively wrapped foods.

“Dear me!” she exclaimed. “Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, eh? And what is this?”

“Baskets of food we’ve brought through the woods,” said Jane quickly. “You’re supposed to be Grandma and take the gifts.”

“Come in, come in,” Mrs. Myles invited, belatedly thinking of her manners.

She seemed very flustered as she examined the many packages. The girls could not tell at first whether or not she was offended.

“Now I’m sure you have all of these things,” Miss Gordon said. “The Brownie Scouts like to be helpful, and they especially appreciated the way you gave them buttons the other day. I hope you don’t mind humoring them in this little game.”

“Mind?” Mrs. Myles laughed rather excitedly. “I’ve needed some of these things for a long while.” Aware that she was revealing too much about herself, the woman added hastily: “The grocery store is so far from here, I don’t buy as regularly as I should.”

“Then you’ll keep the things?” Jane demanded.

“I’ll be glad to, my dear.” To Jane’s embarrassment, she stooped and imprinted a prim little kiss on the end of her freckled nose.

“Since it’s so hard for you to get to the grocery store, perhaps we could do some of your shopping for you,” offered Veve. “What else would you like to have?”

“Dear me, I need potatoes and dried beans,” Mrs. Myles revealed. “I would like material for a new dress and—”

She stopped at that point and laughed self-consciously.

“Thank you, my dears, for offering to do my buying for me. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. A check I’ve been expecting for several weeks hasn’t come, so I will have to wait a few more days.”

The Brownies knew then that Mrs. Myles did not have enough money to purchase the things she needed. This information they would relay to Mr. Vincent.

As the girls talked, they heard a loud rap on the front door.

“Now who can that be?” murmured Mrs. Myles.

While the Brownie Scouts waited, she went to open the door.

The girls heard a low murmur of voices. Although they made no attempt to listen, they could not fail to catch a few phrases of the conversation.

Mrs. Myles was talking with a man whom she seemed unwilling to admit to the house.

“I’ll do the best I can, Mr. Jennings,” they heard her tell the caller. “Don’t press me too hard. I work and slave but I can’t make ends meet.”

“I know, Mrs. Myles,” the man replied with sympathy. “I hated to come here today. But you know how it is. I’m merely an employee of the bank.”

“I’ll pay on the loan as soon as I can. You have my promise.”

“We know you mean well, Mrs. Myles. But the bank already has given you an extension of time. You owe three hundred and fifty dollars, not counting the main note of nine hundred and eighty dollars.”

“I can’t pay it this month,” Mrs. Myles said nervously. “Please go away now—I have guests.”

“Very well,” the bank employee said politely. “In due time you will receive written notice of our action. We deeply regret it but to protect our own interests we must collect.”

“Action?” the old lady asked in a quavering voice. “What action do you mean?”

“We must foreclose this property. In fact, steps already are being taken.”

“Oh, no!”

The voices dropped to a murmur again and the Brownies heard no more of the conversation. A moment later, however, Mrs. Myles closed the door and returned to the girls.

Her face was flushed but she spoke brightly to cover her embarrassment and heart-break.

“We were speaking of—buttons?” she inquired.

“Groceries,” corrected Connie.

“Oh, yes, to be sure,” nodded Mrs. Myles. “Well, as I said, a check I’ve been expecting has failed to arrive. So, although I very much appreciate your offer, I can’t allow you to put yourselves to the trouble of assisting me with my shopping.”

As the Brownies started to protest that they would be glad to bring other baskets of food, Mrs. Myles firmly shook her head.

“No, my dears. I understand you are trying to help me, but no one can.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Please go now. I do not wish to be rude, but I have grievous troubles. I must be alone to try to think of a solution.”

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