Rose scrambled into the china-closet as rapidly as possible, and there refreshed herself by making faces at Debby, while she settled her plumage and screwed up her courage. Then she crept softly down the hall and peeped into the parlor. No one appeared, and all was so still she felt sure the company was upstairs. So she skipped boldly through the half-open folding-doors, to behold on the other side a sight that nearly took her breath away.
Seven boys stood in a rowall ages, all sizes, all yellow-haired and blue-eyed, all in full Scotch costume, and all smiling, nodding, and saying as with one voice, How are you, cousin?
Rose gave a little gasp, and looked wildly about her as if ready to fly, for fear magnified the seven and the room seemed full of boys. Before she could run, however, the tallest lad stepped out of the line, saying pleasantly
Dont be frightened. This is the Clan come to welcome you; and Im the chief, Archie, at your service.
He held out his hand as he spoke, and Rose timidly put her own into a brown paw, which closed over the white morsel and held it as the chief continued his introductions.
We came in full rig, for we always turn out in style on grand occasions. Hope you like it. Now Ill tell you who these chaps are, and then we shall be all right. This big one is Prince Charlie, Aunt Claras boy. She has but one, so he is an extra good one. This old fellow is Mac, the bookworm, called Worm for short. This sweet creature is Steve the Dandy. Look at his gloves and top-knot, if you please. They are Aunt Janes lads, and a precious pair youd better believe. These are the Brats, my brothers, Geordie and Will, and Jamie the Baby. Now, my men, step out and show your manners.
At this command, to Roses great dismay, six more hands were offered, and it was evident that she was expected to shake them all. It was a trying moment to the bashful child; but, remembering that they were her kinsmen come to welcome her, she tried her best to return the greeting cordially.
This impressive ceremony being over, the Clan broke ranks, and both rooms instantly appeared to be pervaded with boys. Rose hastily retired to the shelter of a big chair and sat there watching the invaders and wondering when her aunt would come and rescue her.
As if bound to do their duty manfully, yet rather oppressed by it, each lad paused beside her chair in his wanderings, made a brief remark, received a still briefer answer, and then sheered off with a relieved expression.
Archie came first, and, leaning over the chair-back, observed in a paternal tone
Im glad youve come, cousin, and I hope youll find the Aunt-hill pretty jolly.
I think I shall.
Mac shook his hair out of his eyes, stumbled over a stool, and asked abruptly
Did you bring any books with you?
Four boxes full. They are in the library.
Mac vanished from the room, and Steve, striking an attitude which displayed his costume effectively, said with an affable smile
We were sorry not to see you last Wednesday. I hope your cold is better.
Yes, thank you. And a smile began to dimple about Roses mouth, as she remembered her retreat under the bed-cover.
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