CHAPTER 8 Mrs. Myles’ Advice

THE moment the car had driven away, Connie turned accusingly upon Veve.

“Now you’ve done it!” she exclaimed. “You’ve invited a man we scarcely know to lunch! And what’s worse he’s expecting a big meal.”

“How’d I know he’d accept?” Veve mumbled.

“The other Brownies may not like it one bit,” Connie went on severely. “And who is going to prepare the lunch?”

“Maybe he won’t come.”

“You hope—” said Connie.

“Why, I think it was nice to invite Mr. Vincent,” interposed Miss Gordon. “Especially after he brought us all into Rosedale. The lunch will be no problem.”

Veve felt much better then. Saying good-bye to Miss Gordon she ran into her home. Connie lived next door, while the teacher resided only a half block farther on.

School examinations occupied the Brownies for the next three days. After that came rain and more rain.

By Friday the weather had turned chilly and no one could be certain whether or not it would be possible to visit the tree house on the following day.

“What will we do about having Mr. Vincent to luncheon?” Veve fretted. “I forgot to ask where he lives so I can’t very well get in touch with him. If he should go to the tree house, and we aren’t there—how embarrassing!”

“You should have thought of that when you invited him,” Connie said severely.

Except for Veve, the Brownies did not worry much about Mr. Vincent. During the week they had become engrossed in making periodic searches for old and decorative buttons.

Rosemary excitedly reported that in her mother’s attic she had come upon an old wedding dress with five embroidered taffeta buttons made in a star pattern.

Her “find” had started the other Brownies on an intensive search.

Jane obtained an opaque glass button, very old looking, and another of clear glass on black pigment foil with gold stripes.

But the button Eileen found on an aged coat cuff was the most interesting of all—the head of a horse on a black background.

“If anyone finds two buttons just alike, I’ll trade,” offered Rosemary.

Connie and Veve felt rather discouraged because they could obtain only modern, uninteresting buttons.

“Don’t give up,” Miss Gordon encouraged them. “Our search has only started, you know.”

Veve and Connie asked their friends for buttons and then tried the homes of strangers. On Friday night after school, they stopped at several places near the outskirts of Rosedale. In each instance the lady of the house regretfully told them that she had only modern buttons.

“It’s no use,” declared Veve, ready to give up.

“Let’s try one more house,” urged Connie.

Now it so happened that a Mrs. Listerstrom lived there and by chance she had kept a very pretty cameo button which had belonged to her grandmother.

“You may have it, my dear,” she said to Connie. “I’m sorry I haven’t two of them. But I know where you might find a great many old buttons.”

“Where?” demanded Veve eagerly.

Mrs. Listerstrom directed the girls to a house farther out into the country, not far from the natural park.

“I don’t think we should go out there today,” said Connie. Now that she had her cameo button she was ready to go home.

“Oh, it isn’t far,” insisted Veve. “We can walk fast. And just think! We might find dozens of buttons!”

Connie allowed herself to be coaxed into making the long hike.

After a while the girls came to the house which had been described to them by Mrs. Listerstrom. The dwelling stood some distance back from the highway and looked very old.

Withered vines covered a sagging porch. The house had not been painted in several years. To add to the untidy appearance, chickens and geese ran within the enclosure.

“I don’t like the look of this place,” murmured Connie, holding back.

“It may be a little old, but that’s so much the better,” argued Veve. “We’ll be more likely to find a lot of old clothes. And old clothes mean old buttons.”

Thus encouraged, Connie walked on with her friend to the side door of the dwelling. Someone was at home, they knew, for they could hear movement within the kitchen.

Veve rapped on the door. Soon it was opened by a thin woman in a dark plaid gingham dress.

The two girls were so astonished that for a long moment they could not speak.

Standing before them was the same woman who so abruptly had driven away from them in the park! Her name, Mr. Karwhite had told them, was Minnie Myles.

“Good afternoon,” the woman greeted them as the girls remained silent. “Haven’t I seen you somewhere?”

“Oh, yes,” murmured Veve in confusion.

“At the park,” supplied Connie, wondering if Mrs. Myles would order them away.

“To be sure! To be sure!” The woman spoke most pleasantly. “Do come in, girls.”

Now Veve and Connie were sorry they had chosen this particular house at which to inquire for buttons. However, it was too late to retreat, so they entered the warm kitchen.

Mrs. Myles had been baking bread. Three fragrant, crusty brown loaves cooled on the table. Heat continued to pour from the oven of the old-fashioned cook stove.

“H-m, that smells good!” exclaimed Veve, sniffing the air.

“Wouldn’t you like a piece, with wild grape jelly?” invited Mrs. Myles.

Now the change in the woman’s manner amazed both Veve and Connie.

At the park, Mrs. Myles had seemed unfriendly to all of the Brownie Scouts. The two girls could not understand why she previously had been so cross unless their questions about the sack had annoyed her.

“W-ell,” hesitated Veve. She very much wanted a piece of the warm bread, but did not wish to appear too eager. From the barren appearance of the kitchen she was afraid the woman might not have very much food for herself.

“Of course you want a slice of bread,” declared Mrs. Myles. “I never met a child who wasn’t hungry. I’ll give you each a large slice. I’m sorry I have no butter. Now tell me what brought you here this afternoon.”

Feeling far more at ease, the girls explained that the Brownie Scouts were collecting old and historical buttons.

“Well, that sounds like an interesting hobby,” declared Mrs. Myles.

“The other girls are getting ahead of us,” Veve disclosed. “So we thought we would come here and ask if you have any old ones.”

“Not good buttons,” Connie said, stooping to pet a black and white cat that rubbed against her legs. “Just buttons you no longer use.”

“Let me see,” murmured Mrs. Myles, thinking hard. “Why, yes! I must have dozens and dozens of them.”

“Old ones?” gasped Veve hopefully.

“Goodness, yes! The chest in the storeroom is stacked with old clothes.”

Veve asked if they might see the garments. She was trying hard not to reveal her excitement.

“I’ll see what I can find for you, while you’re eating your bread and jam,” Mrs. Myles offered.

She sliced a generous piece of bread for each girl. Then, leaving them by the fire to play with Tops, the cat, she disappeared into the adjoining room.

During the woman’s absence, Veve and Connie gazed curiously about the kitchen.

The room was scantily furnished. A well-scrubbed kitchen table, a corner cabinet, three chairs and the stove constituted the only visible items. Lacking an ice box, Mrs. Myles had set a milk bottle outside the window.

Connie could see that the dining room was equally bare. The floor had no rug and the curtains were nearly worn out.

“Mrs. Myles must be very poor,” she whispered to Veve. “Maybe we should offer to pay for the buttons.”

Veve did not know what to say. Neither she nor Connie had brought any money with them. Nor did they know how much old buttons might be worth.

By the time the girls had finished their bread and jam, Mrs. Myles returned. Her arms were laden with old garments which smelled faintly of moth balls.

Shaking out a dress for the girls to see, she explained that it had belonged to her grandmother.

“The velvet buttons are very nice,” she remarked. “One doesn’t find their like in the stores these days.”

The front of the dress was decorated with four of the buttons. Of silhouette design, they were made in two pieces with velvet showing through the cut-out metal of the face.

“Oh, I’m sure none of the other Brownies have buttons such as these!” exclaimed Connie. “They’re even nicer than the taffeta ones Rosemary found!”

The girls were hopeful Mrs. Myles would offer them the four buttons. In that event they would have a grand time trading with Rosemary!

However, Mrs. Myles said quite frankly that she did not want to ruin the dress by removing the buttons.

“I know!” she declared. “You may have the button on the belt. It will never be missed.”

Taking her scissors from the sewing basket, she snipped the thread and gave the button to Connie.

“Please, Mrs. Myles,” the little girl offered, “can’t I pay for it?”

“No, my dear. You are welcome to the button. Now let’s see what we can find for this other little girl. You’re—?”

“Veve McGuire.”

“To be sure. Well, we must find a nice button for you also.”

Mrs. Myles examined several of the garments she had brought from the chest. Veve noticed nice buttons on several dresses and would have taken them. Mrs. Myles, however, told her that they were not very old or valuable.

“I know!” she exclaimed suddenly, putting away the pile of clothing.

Again Mrs. Myles disappeared, returning a moment later with a tiny box. From it she removed several small articles, and then came upon the button for which she had searched.

“Recognize this face?” she asked Veve.

Veve looked carefully at the button. “Why, it’s a picture of one of our presidents!” she exclaimed. “President Grant!”

“I see you know your history, my dear. Yes, this is a tintype button popular in Victorian time. It will make a nice addition for your collection.”

“Is it really for me?” Veve asked in awe.

“I have no further use for it, my dear.”

The girls wondered if Mrs. Myles might not have many other interesting buttons in her home.

Not wishing to appear greedy, they did not hint that they would like to see them. Instead, they thanked her for the two she had given them and said it was time to leave.

“Wait!” Mrs. Myles said impulsively. “I have something else to show you. Come with me.”

She led the girls into the living room. The sofa was frayed and the chairs appeared to be falling apart. Lace curtains, once of good quality, had been mended many times.

Nevertheless, the room did have one attractive object. On the sofa was a beautiful pillow decorated in neat cross-stitching.

Veve noticed it at once and remarked on its beauty.

“My mother made that pillow,” said Mrs. Myles proudly. “I’ve had it in the house more years than I can remember. But this is what I want you to see.”

She pointed to a star-shaped match holder on the wall.

Veve and Connie drew in their breath, for the decorative object was made entirely of buttons! Many appeared quite old.

“Oh, wouldn’t the other Brownies be excited if they could see this!” explained Veve.

Mrs. Myles was very pleased by her interest in the match holder. However, she explained it had been made by her mother, and for that reason she could not give it away.

“Anyway, we’re glad to have these other two buttons,” Connie thanked her.

The hour was growing late, so the girls said they must be hurrying home.

“Do come again,” Mrs. Myles invited them cordially. “Tomorrow perhaps? I may be able to find a few more buttons.”

“We’d love to,” accepted Connie.

“But tomorrow’s Saturday,” Veve reminded her friend.

“That’s so,” Connie agreed. “If the weather is nice, all the Brownies will be at our tree house in the park.”

“We’ll be pretty busy too,” added Veve in a worried tone. “You see, we invited Sam Vincent to luncheon.”

The name seemed to startle Mrs. Myles. “Sam Vincent?” she repeated in an odd tone.

“He’s very nice,” declared Connie. “The other day during the storm, he picked us up in his car and drove us to our homes.”

“Sam has plenty of time to go galavanting around in a car it seems!” Mrs. Myles said tartly.

“You know him?” asked Connie in surprise.

“Know him! Well, rather! If I were to give any advice to the Brownies, I’d say to have nothing to do with him! But then, it’s none of my affair! Good afternoon.”

The woman firmly closed the door upon Veve and Connie.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook