The Girl from Old Nichol- FIRST LOOK

The Girl from Old Nichol


Chapter Seventeen


page 222-225


One afternoon he was upstairs sleeping, and Gladys was busy in the kitchen baking pies when she heard someone knock at the front door. She tried to pin her hair back as she went to answer the door, but only succeeded in leaving a streak of flour on both her hair and her forehead. When she opened the door, she couldn't have been more shocked if the queen was standing there. Greta Rowland and Jane Newell, dressed in all their finery, both offered a feigned smile and said, "Hello, Gladys."   When Mrs. Newell heard about Tom's accident, she felt sorry, not only for him, but for Gladys as well, and recalling how rude Jane and Greta had been to the poor girl, she decided it was time they apologized. She was surprised and pleased when both girls consented without complaining. She wouldn't have been so pleased had she known that the only reason they wanted to visit Gladys and Tom was to see what sort of home the young couple lived in.   They had heard it was a common peasant dwelling, and because they hadn't forgiven Gladys for lecturing them about their bad manners, they hoped their visit would be more of an embarrassment for her than a pleasure. They had also heard that Tom was no longer handsome, and although neither girl would admit it, they both felt his injuries were somewhat justified for not choosing one of them instead of a barmaid.   When Gladys answered the door in the same work clothes she wore when she worked as housemaid for the Watts, Greta had to stifle a wicked laugh of satisfaction. She nudged Jane in the ribs, but Jane was staring at Gladys in amazement and ignored it. She couldn't believe any girl could be clad so drably and still look so beautiful. In fact, she thought Gladys looked even prettier than she did the day when she wore a fancy frock to Mrs Dundas's tea. When Jane didn't speak, Greta grabbed the large basket from her hand, held it out to Gladys and said, "This is for you. We heard about Tom's accident, and we wanted to let him know how sorry we are. How is he? Could we see him?"   Reluctantly, Gladys took the basket and mumbled a thank you. She would have liked to refuse it, but because she had once criticized them over their rudeness, she felt obliged to invite them in. Although she was sorry to be dressed so shabbily, she decided not to give them the satisfaction of an apology. This was difficult to do, however, when Greta didn't even try to hide a smug smile as she looked around at the bareness of the room. Jane was looking around as well, and when she spotted the two doves, she remarked how pretty they were. Gladys, not quite sure if the compliment was sincere or not, didn't thank her. Instead she answered, "Yes, they are lovely, aren't they?"   They sat in awkward silence for a few seconds before Jane pointed to the basket Gladys had placed on a table, and said, "We thought since you have been visiting Tom at the hospital every day, you would not have had time to shop for food, so Greta and I filled a basket with things we hope you might use."   As she explained the reason for the gift, her expression seemed sincere, so this time Gladys smiled when she said thank you. It was the first time they had shared a smile, and Jane was surprised at the unexpected feeling of friendship she felt. She reached over, took the cloth off the basket, held up a currant cake, and said, "This is our favourite cake at home, Gladys, I hope you like it as much as we do."   "I'm sure I shall. Let's all have a piece with our tea then, shall we?"   Greta didn't have any idea what was going on, but she didn't appreciate Jane's change of attitude and glowered at her. Jane glowered back then shocked her even more by standing up and offering to help make the tea.   Gladys was also surprised, but just smiled and said, "That would be nice, Jane, but you will have to excuse the mess in my kitchen. I was just baking pies when you came in."   "My heavens, do not tell me that you have to do your own cooking." Greta said sarcastically.   "No, Greta, I do not have to do my own cooking. I could have a cook if I wished and as many maids as I want, but I happen to enjoy baking. I don't suppose you have ever done any cooking."   "I should say not!" Greta exclaimed.   Her haughty attitude didn't have any effect on Gladys or Jane, who said, "I've always wanted to try baking, and when I was little, I even asked our cook if she would show me how, but she just laughed and shooed me out of the kitchen. Perhaps you would teach me some time."   "I would be happy to, but let's wait until Tom is well enough to return to duty."   "Wonderful. Speaking of Tom, how is he?"   "He didn't sustain any brain damage, did he?" Greta inquired in a voice void of sympathy.   "No, thank heavens," Gladys replied. "But he is quite sensitive about his appearance, so I would appreciate it if you would try not to wake him up. Jane, you can cut the cake for me and put it on a plate. I will show you where the knives and plates are. Greta, why don't you get out some cups and saucers?" She added, along with a wink at Jane.   Greta could sense they were joking, so put her nose in the air and answered, "I shall leave that up to you. Unlike Jane, I have not the slightest desire to learn how to be a chambermaid."   Gladys laughed, "Forgive me, Greta, of course you don't. It does take a certain talent. You just sit back, and we shall have your tea served in no time."   "And we will even stir it for you, if you like," Jane said, teasingly.   Greta was angry enough to leave, but she was determined to see Tom so she could tell her other friends how ghastly he looked.