"I'm Belding, and I know who you are," replied Belding in hearty amaze, as he stretched forth his big hand. "You're Dick Gale's Dad--the Governor, Dick used to say. I'm sure glad to meet you."
"Thank you. Yes, I'm Dick's governor, and here, Mr. Belding--Dick's mother and his sister Elsie."
Beaming his pleasure, Belding shook hands with the ladies, who showed their agitation clearly.
"Mr. Belding, I've come west to look up my lost son," said Mr. Gale. "His sister's letters were unanswered. We haven't heard from him in months. Is he still here with you?"
"Well, now, sure I'm awful sorry," began Belding, his slow mind at work. "Dick's away just now--been away for a considerable spell. I'm expecting him back any day....Won't you come in? You're all dusty and hot and tired. Come in, and let mother and Nell make you comfortable. Of course you'll stay. We've a big house. You must stay till Dick comes back. Maybe that 'll be-- Aw, I guess it won't be long....Let me handle the baggage, Mr. Gale....Come in. I sure am glad to meet you all."
Eager, excited, delighted, Belding went on talking as he ushered the Gales into the sitting-room, presenting them in his hearty way to the astounded Mrs. Belding and Nell. For the space of a few moments his wife and daughter were bewildered. Belding did not recollect any other occasion when a few callers had thrown them off their balance. But of course this was different. He was a little flustered himself--a circumstance that dawned upon him with surprise. When the Gales had been shown to rooms, Mrs. Belding gained the poise momentarily lost; but Nell came rushing back, wilder than a deer, in a state of excitement strange even for her.
"Oh! Dick's mother, his sister!" whispered Nell.
Belding observed the omission of the father in Nell's exclamation of mingled delight and alarm.