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Title: Grace Harlowe's Problem
Author: Flower, Jessie Graham [pseud.], -1931
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Grace Harlowe's Problem" ***

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[Illustration: Their Dear, Too-brief Holiday was Drawing to a Close.
Frontispiece.]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                        GRACE HARLOWE'S PROBLEM

                     By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A.M.

Author of The High School Girls Series, The College Girls Series, etc.

                             PHILADELPHIA

                         HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY HOWARD E. ALTEMUS.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                               CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

       I. THEIR GREATEST, DEAREST DAY                         7
      II. THE LAST FROLIC                                    22
     III. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE                            29
      IV. MILESTONES                                         39
       V. THE LOCKED DOOR                                    48
      VI. A CLUB MEETING AND A MYSTERY                       61
     VII. HER OWN WAY                                        74
    VIII. ALL IN THE DAY'S WORK                              81
      IX. WHAT EVELYN HEARD ON THE CAMPUS                    93
       X. LAYING THE CORNERSTONE OF A HOUSE OF TROUBLE      102
      XI. THANKSGIVING WITH THE NESBITS                     110
     XII. MISSING--A FRIEND                                 123
    XIII. A DISTURBING CONFIDENCE                           133
     XIV. THE RETURN OF THE CHRISTMAS CHILDREN              141
      XV. THE NEW YEAR'S WEDDING                            153
     XVI. THE LAST WORD                                     163
    XVII. THE SUMMONS                                       170
   XVIII. THE BLOTTED ESCUTCHEON                            182
     XIX. THE SWORD OF SUSPENSE                             194
      XX. THE AWAKENING                                     204
     XXI. KATHLEEN WEST MAKES A PROMISE                     213
    XXII. FIGHTING LOYALHEART'S BATTLE                      222
   XXIII. GRACE SOLVES HER PROBLEM                          230
    XXIV. THE BOND ETERNAL                                  249

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                        GRACE HARLOWE'S PROBLEM

                               CHAPTER I

                      THEIR GREATEST, DEAREST DAY


"And at this time next week we'll all be back at work," sighed Arline
Thayer. "Not that I love work less, but the Sempers more," she
paraphrased half apologetically. "It's been so perfectly splendid to
gather home, and Elfreda was a darling to plan and carry out such a----"

"Noble enterprise," drawled Emma Dean. "Behold in me a living witness to
the truth of it. Before this time, when, oh, when, has this particular
scion of the house of Dean had a chance to play in the nice clean sand
and bathe in the nice green ocean? It is green, isn't it, Grace? Elfreda
says it's blue, and those terrible, tiresome, troublesome twins say it's
gray, but I say----"

A shower of small pebbles, cast with commendable accuracy, rained down
on Emma. Raising herself on her elbows from her recumbent position in
the sand, she looked reproachful surprise at the Emerson twins who,
crouched in the sand and holding a fresh supply of pebbles in readiness,
awaited her next remark.

"There," she declared calmly, "that simply proves the truth of my remark
about terrible, tiresome, troublesome twins."

Two slim blue figures dropped their pebbles, descended upon the
protesting Emma, and dragged her across the sand toward the water.

"Are we tiresome?" demanded Sara sternly, as she and Sue, still
clutching Emma, paused for breath.

"Are we troublesome?" from Julia.

"Not a bit of it," Emma blandly assured them. "I said it only for the
sake of alliteration. You are the most interesting persons I've ever
met. I am so sorry I said you weren't, and I'm so nice and comfortable
now. I hadn't thought of doing any further water stunts to-day." She
struggled to a sitting posture and beamed with owlish significance upon
her captors.

"All right, we'll excuse you this time, but, hereafter, keep away from
alliteration," warned Sara.

"Until next time," chuckled Emma, scrambling to her feet. Graciously
offering an arm to each twin, the trio strolled calmly back to the gay
little party of girls on the sands.

It was a clear, sunshiny morning in early September and nine young women
had taken advantage of the ocean's placid, dimpled mood for an early
morning dip.

For two weeks the Semper Fidelis Club, or, rather, nine of that most
delightful organization of Grace Harlowe's early college days, had been
holding a reunion at the Briggs' cottage, which was situated on the New
Jersey coast, not far from Wildwood, a well-known summer resort. It had
all begun with Elfreda's undeniable yearning to see her friends. Being a
young person of energy, she immediately wrote, and sent forth on their
mission, funny invitations that were a virtual command to the Sempers to
gather at the Briggs' cottage for a two weeks' reunion, and only three
of the club had been unable to accept.

To those who have known Grace Harlowe from the beginning of her
high-school life she has now, without doubt, become a personal friend.
"Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School," "Grace Harlowe's Sophomore
Year at High School," "Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School,"
"Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School" recorded her sayings and
doings as well as those of her three friends, Nora O'Malley, Jessica
Bright and Anne Pierson during their student days at Oakdale High
School.

When the girl chums parted in the autumn following their high-school
graduation, Nora and Jessica went together to an eastern conservatory of
music, while Grace and Anne decided for Overton College and added to
their number no less person than Miriam Nesbit, a schoolmate and friend.
On their first day at Overton circumstance, or perhaps fate, had brought
J. Elfreda Briggs, a somewhat officious freshman, to the trio, and from
a hardly agreeable stranger J. Elfreda became their devoted friend.
During "Grace Harlowe's First Year At Overton College," "Grace Harlowe's
Second Year at Overton College," "Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton
College," and "Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College," the four
girls passed through many new experiences, not always entirely pleasant,
but which served only as a spur to their ambition to gain true college
spirit, and were graduated from Overton at the end of their four years'
course, more than ever the loyal children of Overton, their Alma Mater.

The building of a specially endowed home for self-supporting girls who
were trying to gain a college education, presented to Overton College,
by Mrs. Gray, in honor of Grace Harlowe, Anne Pierson and Miriam
Nesbit, and named Harlowe House, decided Grace as to what her future
work would be. In "Grace Harlowe's Return To Overton Campus" appears the
story of her first year at Harlowe House.

And now the dear, too brief holiday was drawing to a close. To-morrow
would see the house party scattered to the four winds. This was the last
frolic they would have in the water.

"Oh, dear," lamented Arline, her blue eyes mournful with regret, "why is
it that perfectly lovely times go by like a flash, while horrid,
disagreeable ones last forever?"

"'Tis the way of life, my child. 'It is not always May,'" quoted Emma
sentimentally. "I might as well add, right here and now, that I'm glad
of it. May is a dubious and disappointing month, dears. It always pours
barrels on the first. It's a shame, too, when one stops to consider all
the poems that have been composed about that weepy, fickle first day of
May.

    "Oh, radiant May day,
    This is our play day.
    Youth is in its hey day;
    Hail we this gay day;
    Park clouds away day.

"And then down comes the rain and spoils it all," finished the
versifier, lapsing into prose.

Emma's improvisation was greeted with laughter.

"It sounds just about as sensible as a whole lot of those old English
verses," declared Elfreda, who was not fond of poetry.

"It was a deadly insult to English verse," defended Anne Pierson with
twinkling eyes. "You can't expect me to let it pass unnoticed."

"Having been fed as a babe on Shakespeare," agreed Emma, "I will admit
that it gives you some room for criticism, but as a dutiful teacher of
English I feel it entirely within my province to break forth
occasionally into such English ditties as happen to come to my mind,
regardless of Shakespeare."

"Oh, do say another," begged the Emerson twins. They especially
delighted in Emma's poetical outbursts.

"Nothing comes to my mind," averred Emma solemnly. "Wait until the
spirit moves me."

"I wish something would come to your minds about how we are to spend the
rest of the day," put in Elfreda, with her usual briskness. "It isn't
ten o'clock yet, and we've had our breakfast and our swim. Let's get
together and decide now. Remember this is our greatest, dearest day. We
specially reserved it. So we ought to make the most of it."

"I'm _so_ glad we packed most of our things last night," commented
Arline, with satisfaction.

"Girls," Grace was the first to make a suggestion, "it's such a
delightful day, wouldn't you like to go picnicking at the edge of those
woods we passed the other day when we were driving? Don't you remember
how pretty the country was? There was a brook and long green hills
sloping down to it."

"Grace Harlowe!" exclaimed Elfreda, her eyes very round. "You must be a
mind reader, for that's precisely what I've been thinking about all
morning. I'm so glad you proposed it. What do you say, girls? How about
a picnic?"

There was a ringing assent on the part of the others.

"I hardly thought you would care much about going down to Wildwood for a
dance," continued Elfreda. "Somehow when we go to hops we are sure to
separate and not see much of each other until we're going home. What's
the use in having a reunion if the reunionists don't reunite. I guess
I'm selfish, but I can't help it."

"No, you're not, J. Elfreda," laughed Miriam, laying her hand on her
friend's shoulder. "That's the way I feel, too. We can go to plenty of
hops after we have each gone our separate way, but we can't have one
another. Besides, what is _anything_ in the way of amusement compared to
a Semper reunion?"

"Now you're talking," commended Emma, with an encouraging flourish of
her hand. She had been busily scooping up the white sand as she listened
to her friends' conversation. Now she took a fresh handful and let it
fall gently into the open space between the back of Sara Emerson's neck
and her bathing suit. Sara, leaning interestedly forward, was an
opportunity not to be disregarded.

"O-o-o-o," wailed the wriggling twin.

"Why, Sara, whatever _is_ the matter?" inquired Emma with such
exaggerated solicitude that the victim laughed in spite of herself.
"Some ill-natured persons threw pebbles at _me_ a while ago, but I
remained calm. That is, until I was dragged across the sand in a brutal
manner, and had to beg for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Even then I was a credit to Overton and the Sempers. I neither writhed
nor howled."

"Well, we're even now," declared Sara. "I'll foreswear pebbles if you'll
abolish the sand habit."

"I have always liked to look at Emma from a distance," said Julia
Emerson, hastily sliding to the extreme edge of the group.

"Listen, ye babblers," called Elfreda, "to the voice of the oracle.
Let's leave old Father Ocean to himself and get into our everyday
clothes. If we are going on a picnic, we'd better start. We can be on
our way in an hour from now, if we hurry. To-night after dinner we'll
all take a last melancholy stroll down here to find out what the wild
waves are saying."

"Wild waves," jeered Emma Dean. "Did you ever see the ocean smile more
sweetly, the deceitful old thing. When one stops to think of the ships
and people it gobbles up every year one feels like cutting its
acquaintance."

"It is the greatest of all mysteries," said Arline Thayer, her eyes
fixed dreamily on the limitless expanse of water.

"And I, in my Sphinx costume, am next," reminded Emma modestly.

Emma's placid manner of classing together the ocean and a fancy costume
she had worn at a Semper Fidelis bazaar was received with the delight
that always attended her astonishing sallies.

"Come on, children," Grace rose from the sand, looking slim, almost
immature, in her dark blue bathing suit. With her fair skin, which
neither tanned nor sunburned, and her radiant gray eyes, she fully
carried out that look of extreme youth which her friends were wont
frequently to comment on. In obedience to her call the girls scrambled
to their feet and strolled toward the Briggs' cottage, which was within
a very short distance of the beach.

On their way they came face to face with a trio of girls who had
approached from the opposite direction. One of them, a particularly
pretty girl, with auburn curls and a sweet, laughing face, cried out in
surprise, "Why, J. Elfreda Briggs, where did _you_ come from?"

"Madge Morton!" exclaimed Elfreda, holding out her hand delightedly. "I
didn't know you were in this part of the country. Mr. Curtis told me you
had found your father and gone on a trip around the world, but that was
ages ago. And if here isn't Phyllis Alden and Lillian Selden. Will
wonders never cease? But where is Eleanor?"

"She and Mrs. Curtis went out sailing with Tom," answered Phyllis Alden,
an attractive girl with honest, dark eyes.

"Oh, excuse me, girls." Elfreda turned to her party and a general
introducing followed.

"Where are you staying, Madge?" asked Elfreda when the two groups of
girls had finished exchanging bows and smiles.

"Mrs. Curtis has taken a cottage at Wildwood for the rest of the summer.
She only arrived there last week, and Phyllis, Lillian, Eleanor and I
met in New York and came on here yesterday."

"You don't say so. Ma will be delighted to see her. You know they've
been friends for ages. We hadn't heard from her for some time, though.
Sorry you didn't get here sooner. You could have become better
acquainted with my friends," deplored Elfreda. "They are all going away
to-morrow."

"I'm sorry, too," smiled the pretty girl. "I'm sure we'd love to know
them better." She made a gracious little gesture toward the Sempers,
whose eyes were fixed upon her in open admiration.

"Never mind, you are sure to meet some of us in New York this winter, if
you are going to be there," promised Elfreda.

"Yes, Father is going to take a house in New York. He is anxious to look
up his brother officers in the Navy who are stationed there. We are
through traveling for a time."

"The Briggs' family are going to stay in the neighborhood of the sad sea
waves until the first of October, so I'll see you often. Ma will run
over to see Mrs. Curtis the minute she knows about her being here. Tell
me where the cottage is and I'll try to remember the address. I wish I
had a pencil, but they don't usually hang around with bathing suits and
salt water."

After a few minutes' pleasant conversation the three girls said good-bye
and walked on.

"What charming girls," remarked Arline Thayer.

"Did you ever see a sweeter face than Madge Morton's?" asked Elfreda.

"She is beautiful," agreed Grace; "not only that, but she has such a
vivid personality. One loves her on sight."

"She is from the South, isn't she?" inquired Miriam. "She has a decided
southern accent."

"Yes, she was born and brought up in Virginia. Her father was a naval
officer and was court-martialed when she was a baby for something he
didn't do," related Elfreda. "He left home in disgrace and her mother
died soon afterward. He never came back to claim her, so her aunt and
uncle brought her up. Every one believed her father was dead, and so did
she until she grew up; then a perfectly hateful girl, whose father was a
naval officer, told her the story of her father's disgrace while she was
visiting Mrs. Curtis at Old Point Comfort. You see, Madge and her
friends had a little houseboat that they fixed over from an old canal
boat. They used to spend their vacations on it, and one of the teachers
from the boarding school which Madge attended used to chaperon them.
They called their boat the _Merry Maid_, and Madge, the 'Little
Captain.' They had all sorts of adventures, and Madge always said that
she knew her father wasn't dead and that some day she'd find him. The
reason I know so much about her is because Ma has known Mrs. Curtis for
years. Tom and I used to play together when we were youngsters. Tom is
her son."

"Did Miss Morton ever find her father?" asked Ruth Denton eagerly. "I
know just how she must have felt about him."

"Yes, she found him and proved his innocence. He lived for years under
another name and supported himself by translating foreign books into
English. He had a dear friend, an old sea captain, who lived with him in
a funny little house at Cape May. This friend had lots of money, so when
Madge found her father he bought a yacht and took them for a trip around
the world."

"It sounds like 'Grimms' Fairy Tales,' doesn't it," smiled Miriam.

"It's gospel truth," assured Elfreda.

"But standing stock still in the middle of the beach to listen to the
adventures of Madge Morton will never help us on our way to the picnic,"
slyly reminded Emma Dean.

"I should say it wouldn't," agreed Elfreda. "I beg your pardon. Lead on,
my dear Emma."

The little procession moved on again. Elfreda and Miriam brought up the
rear. The comradeship between them was most sincere.

"How I wish we could all see one another more frequently," sighed
Miriam. "Wouldn't you like to live your college life over again,
Elfreda?"

"Every hour of it, even the unpleasant ones," returned Elfreda
fervently. "I'm just as sure as I'm sure of anything, Miriam, that we'll
never again spend so many happy, carefree days together as we spent at
Overton. Since I've been studying law I've learned a whole lot about
human nature that I never knew before. I've learned that it's a rare
thing to be perfectly happy after one begins to look life in the face.
Sorrow may not touch one directly, but one is constantly coming upon the
trials and sorrows of others. There's only one great antidote for all
ills, and that's work."

Miriam made a little gesture of despair. "And I have no work," was her
rueful utterance. "So far, I've done nothing but travel about a lot, and
study music a little. Long ago I planned to go to Leipsic to study,
after I was graduated from Overton, but you see, Elfreda, Mother likes
me to be with her. I thought seriously of going in for interior
decorating, but when I saw how much Mother seemed to count on having me
at home with her I gave it up. While I was studying music in New York,
with Professor Lehmann, she was with me. I shall study again with him
this fall. We intend to close our home and spend the winter in New York.
David is going into business there. We shall take a house, I think."

"You don't mean it! Why didn't you tell me before?" Elfreda's eyes were
wide with surprise. "And to think you've been carrying a jolly secret
like that around without telling me, your lawfully established
roommate."

"Don't be cross, J. Elfreda, dear. I didn't know it myself until this
morning. The letter that I was so long reading after breakfast this
morning was from Mother."

"Hurry along, you laggers," screamed Arline Thayer from a distance. In
the earnestness of their conversation the two girls had dropped far
behind the others.

"Coming, Daffydowndilly," called Elfreda promptly. Then to Miriam,
"We'll see each other a lot this winter then, won't we?"

"I should rather think so," was Miriam's fervent response.

But Elfreda smiled to herself and wondered what Anne, and incidentally,
Everett Southard would say when they heard the news.



                              CHAPTER II

                            THE LAST FROLIC


The Sempers could scarcely have chosen a more perfect day for their last
frolic. The sky wore its most vivid blue dress, ornamented by little
fluffy white clouds, and a jolly vagrant breeze played lightly about the
picnickers, whispering in their ears the lively assurance that wind and
sky and sun were all on their good behavior for that day at least. The
party were to make the trip to "Picnic Hollow," as Arline had named
their destination, in Elfreda's and Arline's automobiles. During the
past year the latter had become greatly interested in automobiles, and
drove her own high-powered car with the sureness of an expert.

"What is the pleasure of this organisation?" called Emma. It was an hour
later, and nine young women stood grouped beside one of the automobiles.
The other was stationed a short distance ahead. "Four beauteous damsels
can ride with Chauffeur Thayer, the other five will have to trust
themselves to the tender, but uncertain, mercy of J. Elfreda."

"If that's your opinion of me you are welcome to ride in Arline's car,"
declared Elfreda.

"Oh, my, no," retorted Emma blandly. "I couldn't think of it. I feel
that my inspiring presence is due to ride on the front seat with you, J.
Elfreda. To aid and sustain you, as it were."

"Yes, sustain me by making me laugh and running us all into the ditch. I
know just how sustaining you can be. Never mind. I'll forgive your
slighting remarks about me, and give you the vacant place on the front
seat. Now, good people," she put on the business-like expression of an
auctioneer, "who bids for the back seat of the Briggs' vehicle?"

"Every one is welcome to it except the Emerson twins," put in Emma. "I
dislike having them sit behind me. I prefer to sit behind them, but as I
can't sit on the front seat and the back seat at the same time, it would
really be better to put the twins in the Thayer chariot."

"We are going to ride with J. Elfreda," was Sara Emerson's defiant
ultimatum.

"I'll sit between you and preserve the peace," volunteered Miriam.

"And me at the same time," added Emma hopefully. "Twins, do your worst.
Sit where you choose. Miriam will protect me." Emma tottered toward
Miriam, looking abjectly grateful and supremely ludicrous.

"That leaves Grace, Anne and Ruth to me," declared Arline. "Now let's
hurry, girls. The sooner we reach Picnic Hollow the longer we'll have to
stay."

The ride to Picnic Hollow was not a long one, but the picnickers were
highly alive to every moment of it.

"We'll have to turn in here and take the road to the left," called
Elfreda over her shoulder. They had reached a point where a narrower
road crossed the highway and wound around the hills, sloping gradually
at the lowest point, into the very heart of the little valley, which
looked particularly cool and inviting.

"All right," caroled Arline. "Lead the way and we'll follow."

Slowly the two cars, propelled by two extremely careful chauffeurs,
wound their way down the country road which, according to Elfreda, was
just wide enough and no wider.

"Bumpity bump, even to the bottom of the hollow, and no bones broken,"
announced Emma Dean, with a cheerful wave of her hand, as she hopped out
of the car, and proceeded to assist the Emerson twins to alight with a
great show of ceremony.

"What a perfectly darling spot!" was Arline's joyous exclamation. "Just
see that cunning brook! It's so pretty where it ripples past that old
tree. It doesn't look deep, either. I'm going in wading. See if I
don't."

"What shall we do first, girls?" Grace, who had been walking ahead with
Arline, a luncheon hamper swinging between them, suddenly turned and
faced the others, as, laden with rugs and cushions, they strolled along
behind her.

"Let's just play around for awhile," proposed Miriam. "There's a field
of daisies and golden rod if any one wants to go blossom gathering. Ruth
spoke of taking some pictures, too. Then we can play in the brook, and
go in wading if we like, only I don't like."

Arline and the Emerson twins elected to go in wading. Miriam and Anne
drifted off to explore the brookside, while Ruth posed Grace, Emma and
Elfreda for snapshots until they rebelled and begged for mercy. Later
half the company stayed near their impromptu camp under the big elm tree
that overhung the brook while the other half went on an exploring
expedition, and when they returned the first half sallied forth.

"We shan't stay away long," warned Arline Thayer. "It's after one
o'clock now, and I'm hungry as a hunter."

"Still we don't intend to let mere hunger conflict with our desire for
exploration," was Emma Dean's firm reminder. "Given a chance, we may
find something wonderful. We may dig the prehistoric mastodon from some
snug corner where he burrowed several thousand years ago. We may----"

"I never knew that mastodons 'burrowed,'" scoffed Sara Emerson. "That's
a new truth in natural history brought to light by Professor Dean."

"Which shall be proven when we return triumphantly with a few armfuls of
bones," flung back Emma as she hurried to catch up with Grace, Arline,
Ruth and Anne, who had already started.

"What would life be without Emma Dean?" eulogized Sue Emerson after
Emma's vanishing back. "Sara and I are always quoting her at home. It
seems so strange that until the Sempers organized we never knew her very
well. It was through Grace we learned to know Emma."

"The longer I know Grace Harlowe the prouder I am to be her friend,"
said Elfreda slowly.

"That is the way we all think about Grace," was Sue Emerson's quick
return. "You and Miriam are especially lucky in having her for a chum."

The four young women talked on until a long, clear trill announced the
return of the other half of the exploring party. "Where, oh, where, are
the mastodon's bones?" called out Sara Emerson jeeringly, as soon as
Emma Dean came within hailing distance and empty-handed.

"Buried out of sight and as hard as stones," came Emma's rhymed
rejoinder.

"How do you know how hard they are if they're buried out of sight!"
scoffed Sara as Emma came up beside her.

"Mere supposition, my child, mere supposition."

The strollers had now reached the impromptu camp and were smiling over
the exchange of words on the part of Emma and Sara.

"It was a delightful walk," declared Grace. "I'd like to spend two or
three days in these woods."

"Stay over another week and do it," tempted Elfreda.

"I can't." Grace shook her head regretfully. "I must spend one week at
home before I leave for Overton, and I simply must be at Overton, and in
Harlowe House, at least a week before it opens. There are so many things
to be done. Thank goodness, I'll have Emma to help me this year. Last
fall I felt as lonely as a shipwrecked mariner when I landed on the
station platform at Overton. Then I heard Emma Dean's voice behind me.
I truly believe that was the pleasantest surprise of my life."

"There, twins! Now you hear what others think of me," exclaimed Emma in
triumph. "Perhaps, hereafter, you'll be more appreciative of my many
lovely qualities."

"We never said you were the worst person in the world," conceded Julia.

"Neither did you ever refer to me as the 'pleasantest surprise' of your
life," reminded Emma.

"You're a constant surprise, Emma, and always a funny one," was Sara's
magnanimous tribute.

"Twins, you are forgiven. You may sit beside me, if you're good, while
we eat luncheon. I can be magnanimous, too."

The big luncheon hampers were brought out by Elfreda and Miriam. A
tablecloth was laid on the grass, and the luncheon was spread forth in
all its glory. There were several kinds of toothsome sandwiches, salads,
olives and pickles, fruit and plenty of sweets for dessert. There was
coffee in two large thermos bottles, and there was also imported ginger
ale. The hungry girls lost no time in seating themselves about this al
fresco luncheon, making the quiet hollow ring with the merry talk and
laughter of their last delightful frolic together.



                              CHAPTER III

                        PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE


After the picnickers had finished luncheon they still sat about the
remains of the feast, talking busily of what they hoped to accomplish
during the coming year.

Elfreda was full of plans as to what she intended to do when she had
finished her course in the law school and passed the bar. "When I'm a
full-fledged lawyer----" she began.

"You mean a lawyeress," corrected Emma. "Don't contradict me. Let me
explain. True the word's not in the dictionary. I just coined it. I'm
going to teach it and its uses in my classes this fall. I shall begin by
referring to my friend, Miss J. Elfreda Briggs, the distinguished
lawyeress. That will excite the curiosity of my classes. Then instead of
satisfying that curiosity as to Lawyeress Briggs' personal and private
history I shall gently lead them to a serious contemplation of the word
itself. Once in use, I'll have it put in a revised edition of the
dictionary. It's high time there were a few new words introduced into
the English language. I can make up beautiful ones and not half try.
It's so easy."

"And the faculty trusted her to teach English," murmured Miriam.

There was a chorus of giggles at this observation, in which even Emma
joined.

"Make up some new words now," challenged Julia Emerson.

"Not when I'm on a picnic," refused Emma firmly. "'Work while you work
and play while you play.' I came out to play."

"Our play days end to-night," smiled Grace. "At least mine do."

"Mine, too," echoed Arline. "Really, girls, you haven't any idea of how
busy settlement work keeps one. I spend several hours each day at the
rooms which Father let me have fitted up for a Girls' Club, and I visit
the very poor people, and almost every evening I have a class or a
meeting. One evening I go to a little chapel on the East Side to tell
stories to children, and I teach classes two other nights. There's
always something extra coming up, too. Father isn't exactly pleased over
it. He thinks I work too hard. Now that Ruth is going to spend the
winter with me I'll make her help. She is the laziest person. She hasn't
accomplished a single thing since she found her father."

"He wouldn't let me," defended Ruth. "It has been hard labor to persuade
him to allow me to stay in New York this winter. Besides I believe that
my business of life, for the present, at least, is to try to make up for
some of the years we spent apart."

"Good for you, Ruth," applauded Miriam. "You and I are of the same mind.
Only I'm enlisted in the cause of a mother instead of a father. But all
this leads up to what I intended to tell you girls before we separated.
We are going to New York City for the winter. David is going into
business there."

"To New York!" came simultaneously from Arline and Grace. There were
murmurs of surprise from the other girls. J. Elfreda Briggs alone smiled
knowingly.

"What are we to do in Oakdale without you, at Christmas time, Miriam?"
asked Grace mournfully. "The Eight Originals Plus Two can't celebrate
unless you are with them. Somehow every year we've all managed to gather
home at Christmas. Now if you go to New York to live next winter perhaps
David won't be able to leave his business, and your mother will need you
and----"

"And do I live to hear Grace Harlowe borrowing trouble?" broke in Emma
Dean. "Our intrepid, dauntless, invincible Grace!"

"I'm afraid you do," admitted Grace. "I couldn't help mourning a little.
It was all so sudden. Anne, aren't you astonished?"

"Anne looks as though she'd known it a long while," observed Elfreda
shrewdly.

"I knew David was going into business in New York," confessed Anne, her
face flushing, "but I didn't know the rest."

"Neither did I, until this morning," smiled Miriam.

"It seems as though we are the only persons in this august body that
haven't any plans," declared Julia Emerson wistfully. "Here are Grace,
Anne and Emma, regular salaried individuals. Arline is a busy little
worker. Miriam and Ruth are at least useful members of society, and
Elfreda is an aspiring professional. Sara and I are just the Emerson
twins, with no lofty aims in view, or deeds of glory to perform."

"You and Sara are not quite useless," comforted Emma. "Just think what a
continual source of inspiration you are to me. Some of my finest
observations on life have been prompted by my acquaintance with you."

"I'm glad we are of some account in the world," grinned Sara. "I'd
really quite forgotten about you, Emma. Thank you so much for reminding
me."

"Oh, not at all," Emma beamed patronizingly upon her. "No matter how
much others may malign you, I am still your friend."

"Emma Dean, you ridiculous creature, why won't you take us seriously?"
laughed Julia, but her voice still held an undercurrent of wistfulness.
"Does the fact that we are twins have this hilarious effect upon you?"

"I wonder if that's the reason," murmured Emma. Then dropping her usual
bantering tone, she fixed earnest eyes on the black-eyed twins.
"Seriously, Julia and Sara, I know just the way you feel about having no
particular life work picked out. When I went home after I was graduated
from Overton I hadn't the least idea of where I'd fit in in life. Then I
found that Father needed my help, and I've been head over ears in work
ever since. One never knows what may happen, or how quickly one's work
may find one. It may not be what one would like it to be, but it will
undoubtedly be the best thing in life for one, and one is likely to see
it coming around the corner at almost any minute."

"That's very, very true." It was Grace who spoke. "Don't you remember
how I worried about finding my work, and it walked directly up to me and
introduced itself on Commencement day?"

"I never dreamed that the stage would put me through college and be my
work afterward," broke in Anne. "When first I went to Oakdale I supposed
I had left it behind forever. But it must have been my destiny after
all."

"I guess it's just about as well in the long run not to worry about what
your work is going to be until it knocks at your door," observed
Elfreda. "Children are always planning and talking about what they're
going to do and be when they grow up; then they always do something
different. What do you suppose I used to say I was going to be when I
grew up?"

"Some perfectly absurd thing," anticipated Miriam. Eight pairs of amused
eyes fixed themselves expectantly on Elfreda.

"Well," Elfreda chuckled reminiscently, "my aim and ambition was to be a
cook. Not because I was so deeply in love with cooking, but because I
liked to eat. No wonder I was fat. I used to haunt the kitchen on baking
days and shriek with an outraged stomach afterward. The shrieking
occurred most frequently in the middle of the night. Then Ma would come
to my rescue, and I'd be forbidden to sample the baking again. So to
console myself in my banishment I'd resolve that when I grew up I'd be a
cook and live in a kitchen all the time. I reasoned that if I _was_ a
cook I'd know how to make everything in the world to eat and could have
what I pleased. Besides no one would dare tell me I couldn't have this
or that. This was all very consoling during the times I had to keep out
of the kitchen. Generally in about a week's time Ma would relent, and,
as our cook was fond of me, I'd be reinstated in my beloved realm of
eats. But it was during these periods of exile that my ambition always
rose to fever heat. Then our old cook got married, and I didn't like our
new one. She didn't appreciate my companionship on baking days. Our old
cook had always encouraged me in my ambition. She used to tell me long
tales about the places where she had worked and the cooking feats she
had performed. The new cook said I was a nuisance, and complained to Ma.
So my ambition died for lack of encouragement, but my appetite didn't. I
became an outlaw instead and made raids on the baking. So that
particular cook and I were always at war. About that time Ma began
giving me a regular allowance, so I haunted the baker and candy shops
instead of the kitchen, and the cook idea declined. In fact all I know
about cooking now, I learned at Wayne Hall, in the interest of my
friends," she finished.

Elfreda's reminiscence awoke a train of sleeping memories in the minds
of the others, and for the next hour the quiet woodland echoed with
their mirth over the curious, quaint and ridiculous aims and fancies of
their childhood. The talk gradually drifted back to serious things and
went on so earnestly that it was well after four o'clock before the
party began to make reluctant preparations to return to the cottage.

"It has been a perfect day and a perfect picnic," declared Grace as she
smiled lovingly at her friends. "We'll never forget Elfreda's house
party."

"I'm going to have you with me at this time every year if it is
possible," planned Elfreda. "So when September comes next year just mark
off the last two weeks on the calendar as set aside for the Briggs'
reunion and arrange your affairs accordingly. Is it a go?"

"Hurrah for the Briggs' reunion," cheered Arline.

The cheers were given and the picnickers started up the hill to where
their automobiles were stationed. Grace and Elfreda brought up the rear
with the luncheon hamper.

"That's dear in you to ask us here every year, Elfreda," said Grace.
"It's a splendid way for us always to keep in touch with one another.
You are forever doing nice things for others."

"Others," retorted Elfreda, gruffly. "I'm the most selfish person that
ever lived. I'm not planning half so much to make you girls happy as I
am to be happy myself. Every time I think that I might have gone to some
other college and never have known you and Miriam and Anne, it nearly
gives me nervous prostration. By the way, Grace, I have an idea Miriam
is going to find her work pretty suddenly. I could see at commencement
that Mr. Southard was in love with her. She didn't know it then. She
knows it now though, and she likes him."

"You certainly _can_ see what is hidden from the eyes of the rest of us.
How do you know she knows it?"

"Oh, she was talking to me the other day about Anne, and she mentioned
Mr. Southard's name in a kind of self-conscious way, not in the least
like her usual self. I could almost swear she blushed, but I couldn't
quite see that," grinned Elfreda.

"I'm surprised," laughed Grace; then she added slowly, "I've known for a
long time that Mr. Southard was in love with Miriam. Anne discovered it
at commencement, too. I hope Miriam _does_ love him. Somehow they seem
so perfectly suited to each other. I never could quite fancy she and
Arnold Evans as being in love."

"It looks as though you'd soon be the only unengaged member of the
Originals," remarked Elfreda innocently.

Grace's face clouded. Elfreda had touched upon a sore subject. Just
before leaving Oakdale on her visit to Elfreda she had seen Tom. He had
not renewed his old plea, but Grace knew that he was still waiting and
hoping for the words that would make him happy.

"Elfreda," her voice trembled a little, "you know, I think, that Tom
wishes me to marry him. I'm sorry, but I can't. I just can't. I suppose
I'll be the odd member of the feminine half of the Originals, but I
can't help it. My work still means more to me than life with Tom, and
I'm never going to give it up. So there."

Elfreda nodded. Her nod expressed more than words, but secretly she had
a curious presentiment that Grace would one day wake up to the fact that
she had make a mistake. Still there was no use in telling her so. It
might make her still more stubborn in her resolve. Elfreda greatly
admired Tom, and, with her usually quick perception, had estimated him
at his true worth. "He's worthy of her, and she's worthy of him," was
her mental summing up, "and it strikes me that '_never_' is a pretty
long time. Whether she can shut love out of her life forever, just for
the sake of her work, is a problem that nobody but Grace Harlowe can
solve."



                              CHAPTER IV

                              MILESTONES


"Sh-h-h! No giggles. If you don't creep along as still as mice she'll
hear you," warned a sibilant whisper.

Five young women, headed by Emma Dean, smoothed the laughter from their
faces and stole, cat-like, up the green lawn to the wide veranda at the
rear of Harlowe House. One by one they noiselessly mounted the steps.
Emma, finger on her lips, cast a comical glance at the maid, who
tittered faintly; then the stealthy procession crept down the hall in
the direction of Grace Harlowe's little office. There was an instant's
silent rallying of forces of which the young woman at the desk, who sat
writing busily, was totally unconscious, then, of a sudden, she heard a
ringing call of "Three cheers for Loyalheart!" and sprang to her feet
only to be completely hemmed in by friendly arms.

"You wicked girls! I mean, you dear things," she laughed. "How nice of
you to descend upon me in a body. I must kiss every one of you. Patience
and Kathleen, when did you set foot in Overton? I've been watching and
waiting for you. Mary Reynolds, this _is_ a surprise. I didn't expect
you until next week, and Evelyn, too, looking lovelier than ever. As for
Emma, she's a continual surprise and pleasure." Grace embraced one after
another of the five girls.

"I'm so glad I thought of this nice surprise," beamed Emma, craning her
neck, and pluming herself vaingloriously. "I have another beautiful
thought, too, seething in my fertile brain. Let's go down to Vinton's
and celebrate."

"I knew some one was sure to propose that," laughed Patience. "I
intended to be that some one, but Emma forestalled me."

"I'm as busy as can be, but I can't resist the call to my old haunts,"
laughed Grace. "Besides, it's such a perfect day. Leave your bags in the
living room, girls. I feel highly honored to know that you and Kathleen
came straight to me, Patience."

"The old case of the needle and the magnet," explained Patience with a
careless wave of her hand.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe I'm so glad to see you," was Mary Reynolds' fervent
tribute.

"So am I," declared Evelyn Ward, with an emphatic nod of her golden
head. "I've had a perfectly wonderful summer, Miss Harlowe. I loved my
part. It hasn't been very hot in New York City, either, and I spent my
Sundays and some of my week days with the Southards at their Long
Island summer home. I have thought of you many times. I hope you'll
forgive me for not writing you oftener. Kathleen and I came down on the
same train." She poured forth all this information almost in a breath.

"Of course I'll forgive you," returned Grace. "I'm a very lax
correspondent, too. I'm so glad you've been well, and that you liked
your part."

"You should have seen her in it, Grace," put in Kathleen. "She made an
adorable Constance Devon, and her gowns were beautiful. The girl who
understudied her, and who will play the part on the road, isn't half so
stunning. Patience saw her, too."

"She was a credit to herself and Overton," verified Patience.

"I thank you, most grave and reverend seniors." Evelyn, her eyes shining
with the pleasure of well-earned praise, made a low bow to Patience and
Kathleen.

"'Most grave and reverend seniors,'" repeated Grace, slipping in between
her two friends, her hand on an arm of each.

Kathleen's sharp black eyes grew tender with the love she bore Grace.
"Yes," came her soft answer, "Patience and I are seniors at last. We've
reached Senior Lane, and I hope to leave some milestones as we pass
through it. Dear as the others have been, I'd like to rise to greater
heights this year. I don't know just what I'd like to do," she flushed
and laughed at her own enthusiasm, "but I'd like to do something worth
while."

"So would I," murmured Evelyn Ward.

"I want to be friends with every one, and not be conditioned," was Mary
Reynolds' modest petition.

"_I_ don't know just what sort of milestones I'd like to leave. Only
decorative ones, of course. I wish to keep my lane free from weeds and
ugly, jagged rocks." This from Patience.

"You might begin at once and leave a milestone at Vinton's, for being a
willing, little reveler," suggested Emma with meaning.

"Come on, girls," rallied Kathleen. "We must show Emma just how willing
we are. Allow me, my dear Miss Dean," she offered her arm to Emma, and
they paraded down the hall, out the door and down the steps with great
ceremony. Mary, Grace, Patience and Evelyn followed. Patience walked
with Evelyn, while Grace and Mary brought up the rear.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe," began Mary, with intense earnestness, "you haven't
any idea of how much Kathleen--she likes me to call her Kathleen--has
done for me this summer. I knew last spring that I must earn my living
through the summer, in some way, but I never dreamed that it would be
in such a nice way."

"I am anxious to hear all about it," returned Grace. "When you wrote me
that Kathleen had secured work for you on her paper I was so pleased."

"Yes, I was the assistant on the woman's page," related Mary. "Of course
my work wasn't so very important. It was mostly clipping things from
other papers, but I used to write the paragraph under the fashion
drawings, and sometimes I went out to the big department stores to look
for interesting new fads and fashions for women. Three times I wrote
short articles, so you see I actually appeared in print. Kathleen made
me take half of her room, and so my board wasn't very expensive. My
salary was fifteen dollars a week. I have enough new clothes to last me
all winter, and I've saved eighty-five dollars. That will help pay my
tuition this year, and Kathleen is sure she can sell some children's
stories I've written. Wouldn't it be glorious, Miss Harlowe, if some day
I'd become a writer?" Mary's eyes shone with the distant prospect of
future honors.

"It looks to me as though you were on the right road," encouraged Grace.
"The only thing to do is to keep on writing. The more you write the
easier it will become--that is, if you are really gifted. Kathleen has
great faith in you. You must show her that it is well founded."

"How inspiring you are, Miss Harlowe." Mary looked her gratitude at
Grace's hopeful words; then she added in a slightly lower tone: "I'm so
glad everything went so beautifully for Evelyn. I saw her twice in 'The
Reckoning.' She looked _beautiful_, and her acting was so clever.
She--she told me of her own accord about"--Mary hesitated--"things. It
would have hurt me dreadfully if Evelyn had not come back to Overton. I
love her dearly."

Grace nodded sympathetically. She understood the remarkable effect of
Evelyn's beauty upon Mary. Still, she reflected, it had not been potent
enough to lure Mary from standing by her colors at the crucial moment.
Grace realized that this poor orphan girl, whose only home was Harlowe
House, possessed a steadfast, upright nature that must in time win her
not only scores of loyal friends, but the respect of all who knew her,
as well.

A sudden trill from Kathleen caused them to quicken their steps. The
others were standing in front of Vinton's, waiting for them. Once inside
the pretty tea room that had been the scene of so many of their revels,
with one accord they made for the alcove table.

"Shades of Arline Thayer," laughed Emma. "I am haunted by her. I can see
her sitting in that chair, her little hands folded on the table, saying,
'What are we going to eat, girls?' She loved this alcove and every stick
and stone of Vinton's. She never cared so much for Martell's."

By this time they had seated themselves at the round table and begun to
order their luncheon. Vinton's was productive of reminiscences, and they
were soon deep in the discussion of past events, grave and gay, that had
dotted their college life. Evelyn and Mary were for the most part
listeners, but Grace, Patience, Emma and Kathleen fairly bubbled over
with by-gone college history.

"I love to hear about the things that happened to Miss Harlowe and Miss
Dean when they were students," confided Mary to Evelyn under cover of a
general laugh over one of Emma Dean's ridiculous reminiscences.

"So do I," nodded Mary, then she added in a still lower tone, "Have you
noticed the girl at the table near the door, Evelyn. She came in about
ten minutes ago, and she's watched this table every second since she
came."

"Yes, I noticed her. She's pretty, isn't she? That's a stunning suit she
is wearing. Her hat is miles above reproach, too." Evelyn could not
repress her admiration for beautiful clothes.

At that moment Kathleen spoke to her and she turned to answer the
latter's question. When next her eyes turned toward the pretty girl it
was just as they were leaving the tea shop. Evelyn was the last member
of the sextette to pass the table. She glanced at the girl only to note
that she was searching a small leather bag frantically, a look of
indescribable alarm in her eyes. "It's gone," she said, half aloud.

Something prompted Evelyn to halt. "Good afternoon," she said. "I
heard--that is--can I help you?"

A shade of annoyance darkened the stranger's face. It was replaced by an
expression of fright. "I've lost my money," she said in a dazed voice.
"It was all I had. I can't pay for my luncheon. I don't know what to
do." Her voice rose to an anxious note.

"Give me your check," said Evelyn quietly. "I'll pay the cashier. You
can pay me later."

"Oh, thank you," breathed the girl. "You don't know how I hated the idea
of going to the cashier and telling her I had no money. I'm _so_ worried
about my purse. I had over a hundred dollars in it. I haven't seen it
since I left the train. Just before we reached Overton I went into the
lavatory to fix my hair. I laid my bag down. There was another woman
there at the mirror. She must have slipped her fingers into my bag and
taken my purse, for when I picked up the bag it was open. I snapped it
shut and paid no attention to it then. I didn't think of it until I
reached for my purse to count out the money for my luncheon."

"What a shame!" exclaimed Evelyn, sympathetically. "I know just how
worried you must feel. Just wait a second." She picked up the check,
which was for a small amount, went over to the desk, and paid the bill.
Then she hurried back to her companion. "Everything is all right now,"
she declared, "but if you have no money you had better come with me. I
will introduce you to Miss Harlowe. My name is Evelyn Ward."

"Miss Harlowe, of Harlowe House?" interrupted the girl.

"Yes, do you know her?"

"I don't know her yet, but I'm going to live at Harlowe House. So I
expect to know her. My name is Jean Brent. Perhaps you've heard of me. A
friend of mine helped me to get the chance to live at Harlowe House."

"Have I heard of you?" laughed Evelyn. "I should say I had. Isn't it
funny how things happen? Why, you are to be my roommate."



                               CHAPTER V

                            THE LOCKED DOOR


When Evelyn and Jean Brent reached the street it was to find the other
young women grouped together in conversation, and not at all alarmed at
Evelyn's non-appearance.

"We weren't worried," Emma Dean assured her. "We've all been known to
lag and loiter."

"I lagged and loitered to some purpose," defended Evelyn. "Miss Harlowe,
this is Miss Brent, my roommate." She introduced the stranger to the
others.

Grace's hand was extended in surprised welcome. "We have been looking
for you since Monday," she said. "You are the girl who sat at the end
table at Vinton's. If I had known you were Miss Brent I would have asked
you to join us. I am so glad Miss Ward broke the ice. How did it
happen?"

"I had lost my purse," returned the girl, rather shyly, in spite of her
air of self-possession. Then reassured by Grace's charming manner, she
told her story.

"You must come with us to Harlowe House at once. It is such a pity that
you met with misfortune." Grace's gray eyes were full of sympathy.
"Have you much luggage?"

"Four trunks," was the rueful answer. "You see I have so many clothes
that--" She stopped abruptly, a deep flush dying her fair skin, "I had
no place--I did not like to leave them, so I had to bring them with me,"
she finished, rather lamely.

Grace did not ask further questions. She noted that the girl was ill at
ease. "I received Miss Lipton's letter regarding you a week ago," she
hastened to say. "I wrote her, as you know, that we could place you. She
answered saying we might expect you at almost any time. After you have
had a chance to rest and make yourself comfortable I will tell you of
Harlowe House and the girls who live there."

One after the other the girls spoke friendly, encouraging words to the
unfortunate freshman. Kathleen and Patience possessed themselves of her
heavy bag, carrying it between them. Grace walked with the newcomer,
pointing out the various interesting features of the little college
town, in an attempt to put the stranger entirely at her ease after her
disquieting experience. So far she had had slight opportunity to observe
this latest freshman arrival. She had a vague idea that Jean Brent was
an unusually attractive girl, but the side view she obtained of her, as
they walked along, was far from satisfactory. The newcomer said little,
and only once during the short walk to Harlowe House did she turn a pair
of very blue eyes directly upon Grace.

It fell to Evelyn Ward to show her to her room, as she was to be
Evelyn's roommate. The girl had exclaimed a little, after the manner of
girls, at the attractiveness of Harlowe House, but in spite of her brief
flare of enthusiasm over the house and grounds, the tasteful living room
and the daintiness of the room she and Evelyn occupied, she encased
herself in a curious, impenetrable shell of mystery that Evelyn's
natural curiosity could find no excuse to penetrate. She listened
gravely and attentively to all that Evelyn told her of Harlowe House and
its lucky household, but she volunteered no information concerning
herself except a reluctant, "I came from the West," in answer to her
roommate's question as to where she lived.

The more Evelyn observed her the more attractive she appeared. She was
of medium height, and, although plump, could not be called stout. Her
face was rather round, with no suggestion of fatness, while her features
were small and regular. Her eyes were not large, but their intense
blueness made them a significant feature of her face. Her hair was light
brown and had a burnished look in the sun. It grew thickly upon her
well-shaped head, and she wore it in a graceful knot at the back of her
head. When she smiled, which had been but once since Evelyn first
encountered her, she displayed unusually white, even teeth. It dawned
upon Evelyn as she watched her unpacking her bag that Jean Brent had not
only her share of good looks but a curious power of attraction as well
that would carry her far toward college popularity if she chose to exert
it. She wondered if she and Jean would get along well together. Although
the new Evelyn had made great progress in ruling her own spirit she was
well aware of her failings. She was quite sure, in her own mind, that
never again would the love of beautiful clothes tempt her to dishonesty,
but of herself, in other respects, she was not so positive. Still she
had resolved to live up to the traditions of Overton College, to emulate
the splendid example Grace Harlowe had already set.

She glanced speculatively at her roommate, but the latter's calm,
impassive expression told her nothing. Suddenly, as though impelled by
Evelyn's gaze, the other girl glanced up and met Evelyn's eyes squarely.
"Well, what do you think of me?" she inquired. "I think _you_ are the
prettiest girl I ever saw."

Evelyn flushed at both the question and the compliment. Jean Brent was
nothing if not frank. "I know I'm going to like you. I was just
wondering if we would fit into each other's lives."

"I have a frightful temper," admitted Jean Brent somberly. "Sometimes
I'm glad of it. If I hadn't--" She paused.

Evelyn waited for her to continue, but she gave a quick sigh, and,
springing to her feet, walked to the window. From there she could look
out at the campus, still green and velvety. For at least five minutes
she stood staring out. Then, with the air of one who casts aside a
disagreeable memory, she turned from the window, saying: "I'm going to
forget everything except the fact that I'm actually an Overton girl."

"Were you anxious to come to Overton?" asked Evelyn.

"No. I came here because of the advantages Harlowe House offers. I heard
of it through a friend. I wanted to go to Smith, but--oh, well, here I
am at Overton. Let's talk about you. I know you are interesting. You
look just like the picture of a girl I saw in a magazine I was reading
on the train. She is an actress. I didn't stop to read her name, but I
loved her picture. I think I brought the magazine along. Oh, yes, there
it is." She reached for the magazine, which lay on the table, and turned
the leaves energetically. "Here is the picture," she declared. Evelyn
found herself gazing at her own likeness. She began to laugh.

"What's the matter?" demanded Jean. Her color rose in instant resentment
of Evelyn's laughter.

Evelyn pointed to the printed name under the picture. "I am Evelyn Ward,
you know."

"But not the _actress_?" Jean's blue eyes were wide with amazement.

Evelyn nodded laughingly. "That's my way of earning my tuition money and
my clothes," she explained. "I was never on the stage until last
summer." She went on to tell the astonished Jean of her meeting with the
Southards and her final stage début.

"How interesting!" exclaimed Jean. "I suppose all the Harlowe House
girls earn their college fees. I wonder how I can earn mine. I had quite
a sum toward them when I left--" again came the abrupt stop. "Oh, dear,"
she sighed the next moment, "I wish I'd been more careful of my money. I
had no business to lay my bag down. What's the use of regretting? I'll
have to think of some way to raise that money. If I can't find it any
other way I can sell my clothes. I have perfectly _beautiful_ things.
Four trunks full. Lots more than I can wear. It is lucky for me that--"
She checked herself guiltily.

"That what?" asked Evelyn. She was beginning to feel a vague impatience
at the strange way in which Jean Brent chopped off her sentences. And
how recklessly she talked about selling her clothes.

"That I have you for a roommate," smiled the mysterious freshman. "I
wonder how much the expressman will charge to bring my trunks from the
station. Then, too, I wonder where I can put them. I wouldn't think of
spoiling the looks of our room with them."

"You can put one of them over in that corner," planned Evelyn, "and we
could get one into the closet. It's large and quite light. The other two
Miss Harlowe will allow you to leave in the trunk room."

"I suppose it will cost a small fortune to have them delivered,"
demurred Jean. "I can't have the sale, either, until I know some of the
girls who would be interested in my wares. I'll have to telegraph my
friend to send me some money. Will you go with me to the telegraph
office. I don't know the way. I'll ask Miss Harlowe to pay the
expressman. Then I'll pay her when my money comes. Frenzied finance,
isn't it? But if you knew--" Again that maddening break.

"I'll pay the expressman," volunteered Evelyn. "If I were you I'd talk
things over with Miss Harlowe. She knows that you lost your purse. Very
likely she has already thought of something you can do. I don't think
she would like to have you sell your clothes."

"I don't see why she should object," declared Jean, with quick
impatience. "However, I'll do my hair over again, and wash my face and
hands, then I'll go down stairs and have a talk with her. She said she'd
be in her office."

"Run down and talk with her now, then we'll go to the telegraph office,"
said Evelyn.

Twenty minutes later Jean entered the little office where Grace sat
engaged in the work she had been doing when interrupted by her friends
earlier in the afternoon. Like Evelyn, she was keenly alive to her
latest charge's good looks. "How attractive she is," was her thought as
she invited Jean to take the chair opposite hers.

"I suppose you would like to know something of our household, Miss
Brent," began Grace. "We are not only a household, but we are members of
a social club as well. You are the thirty-fourth girl. Last year Miss
Thirty-four never materialized, so Miss Ward roomed alone. There isn't
so so much to tell you regarding the rules and regulations of Harlowe
House. The club takes care of most of them with its constitution and
by-laws." Opening a drawer of her desk, Grace took out a paper-covered
booklet and handed it to the freshman. "This will give you nearly all
the necessary information," she said. "If I were in your place I would
go to the registrar's office reasonably early to-morrow morning. You can
then learn whether you will be obliged to take the entrance
examinations. Having been graduated from a preparatory school you may be
exempt. When did Miss Lipton's school close?"

"Last June," returned Jean briefly.

"But you have seen her since then, have you not? Her letter gave me the
impression that you had been with her recently. Do you live in Grafton,
or were you visiting Miss Lipton?"

The fair face opposite her own was suddenly flooded with red.
"I--I--was--on--a visit recently to Miss Lipton," she answered, with
reluctance. She did not volunteer the name of her home town.

For the first time Grace became aware of the curious reticence that had
vaguely annoyed Evelyn. "Where do you live, Miss Brent!" she asked with
the sudden directness so characteristic of her.

For a moment the girl did not reply, then her color receded, leaving
her face very white. "My home is in Chicago," she said slowly. "My
father and mother are dead. I have always lived with"--she
hesitated--"friends. Miss Lipton was a friend of my mother's. Surely her
word will not be questioned by the faculty." She glanced at Grace with a
half challenging air.

Something in her tone brought the color to Grace's cheeks. Why could not
this girl be perfectly frank in her replies? Now that Evelyn Ward had
turned out so beautifully, Grace had been looking forward to a year of
open comradeship with her girls, yet here she was face to face with what
promised to be one of those baffling natures that required especially
tactful handling to bring out the best that lay within it.

"I have no doubt that Miss Sheldon will place the utmost dependence in
Miss Lipton's word," returned Grace gravely.

"If she doesn't, I--oh, well, to-morrow will tell the tale. I wish you
would tell me more of Harlowe House. It is a wonderful place. I wanted
to go to Smith, but I believe this will be nicer after all. Only
I--shall--have to earn my college fees. Miss Ward said perhaps you would
help me think of a way to earn money. I have nothing in the world except
clothes, clothes, clothes. After I've been here for awhile I'd like to
have a sale of them. I have loads of lovely things. If I could only sell
enough of them to pay my fees."

"But you will need your clothing for your own use, will you not?" Jean
Brent was momently growing more inexplicable.

Jean shook her head energetically. "I don't care for clothes," she said
eagerly. "I could live in a coat suit and plenty of blouses all year. I
_do_ care for college, though. If I hadn't cared, I would never--" She
suddenly checked herself. "Do you think the girls would buy my things?"
she asked in the next instant. "They are nearly all new and fresh."

"I am sure they would be interested," was Grace's honest reply, "but I
cannot allow you to hold a sale of your wardrobe. I think such a
proceeding would be unwise. Why----"

"Please don't ask me why, Miss Harlowe, for I can't tell you." Jean had
risen to her feet, two pleading eyes fixed on Grace. "I can only say
that if I had not lost my money everything would be different. There are
strong reasons why I can't explain to you about my being without money,
yet having so many clothes, but I assure you that I have done nothing
wrong or dishonorable. If you are not satisfied with my explanation and
wish to send me away, of course I can only go, but if you are willing
to trust me and let me stay I'll try to do my best for you and Harlowe
House. I'm sorry you disapprove of my having a sale of my things."

Grace looked long at the earnest young face. Mystifying as were her
statements, Jean Brent had the appearance of honesty. Taking one of the
girl's hands in both her own, she said, "I don't in the least understand
you, Miss Brent, but I will respect your secret."

"Thank you so much for your kindness to me, Miss Harlowe." With an
almost distant nod the prospective freshman rose and left the office
with almost rude abruptness.

"What a strange girl," mused Grace.

Her musing was interrupted by the breezy entrance of Emma Dean. "Hello,
Gracious," she hailed. "Why so pensive?"

"I'm not pensive. I'm puzzled, and a little worried," returned Grace.
"Our latest arrival is a most complex study."

"I suspected it," was Emma's cheerful rejoinder. "One of the 'There was
the Door to which I found no Key' variety, so to speak."

"I'm going to tell you all about it," decided Grace, "for I need your
advice." She related her interview with Jean Brent.

"Miss Lipton, the head of the Lipton Preparatory School, at Grafton,
writes beautifully of Miss Brent," went on Grace. "I know the faculty
would consider her word sufficient to enroll this girl, but I feel that
I ought to be doubly careful to keep my household irreproachable. I
don't like mysteries when it comes to admitting a new girl to the fold.
Still, Miss Brent impresses me as being honest and sincere. Besides,
I've promised to help her."

"Don't worry, Gracious," advised Emma, "you may be harboring a princess
unawares. The Riddle may turn out to be the Shahess of Persia, or the
Grand Vizieress of Bagdad or some other royal person. She may be the
moving feature of a real Graustark plot."

"Stop being ridiculous, Emma, and tell me what I ought to do." Grace's
smooth forehead puckered in a frown which her laughing lips denied.

Emma was instantly serious. "We do not know just how much college may
mean to her," was her quick response. "If she chooses to shroud herself
in mystery, I believe it is because of something which concerns herself
alone."

There was a brief silence, then Grace said: "You are right. To be an
Overton girl may mean more to Jean Brent than we can possibly know. I'm
going to take her on faith. Perhaps she'll find college the key that
will unlock the door to perfect understanding."



                              CHAPTER VI

                     A CLUB MEETING AND A MYSTERY


"There!" exclaimed Louise Sampson as she succeeded in firmly
establishing at the top of the bulletin board a large white card,
bearing the significant legend, "Regular Meeting of the Harlowe House
Club. 8.00 P.M. Living Room. _Full Attendance, Please._"

A small, fair-haired girl came down the stairs and joined Louise at the
bulletin-board. She read the notice aloud. "Oh, dear, I've an engagement
with a girl at Wayne Hall to-night. I don't care to miss the meeting,
and I don't like to break my engagement," she mourned.

"I wish you would break it just this once, Hilda," said Louise
seriously. "I am anxious that every member of the club shall attend the
meeting to-night. I have something of importance to say to the girls."

Hilda Moore opened her blue eyes very wide. "What are you going to say,
Louise? Tell me, please. You see I made this engagement over a week ago.
If you'd just tell me now what it's all about, I wouldn't really need to
come to the club meeting. I could----"

"Keep your engagement," finished Louise, her eyes twinkling. "Really,
Hilda Moore, if you knew a tidal wave, or a cyclone or any other
calamity was due to demolish Overton I believe you'd go on making
engagements in the face of it."

Hilda giggled good-naturedly. She was a pretty, sunshiny girl of a pure
blonde type, and had been extremely popular during her freshman year at
Overton, not only with her fellow companions at Harlowe House, but as a
member of the freshman class as well. In spite of her round baby face,
and a carefree, little-girl manner that went with it, she was a capable
business woman and earned her college fees as stenographer to the dean.
The daughter of parents who were not able to send her to college, she
had not only prepared for college during her high-school days, but had
taken the business course included in the curriculum of the high school
which she attended, and had thus fitted herself to earn her way in the
Land of College.

Hilda's unfailing good nature was appreciated to the extent of making
her a welcome guest at the informal gatherings which were forever being
held in the various students' rooms after recitations were over for the
day. The consequence was that, as her studies and clerical duties left
her limited time for amusements, her precious recreation moments were
invariably promised to her friends many days in advance. In fact Hilda
Moore's "engagements" had grown to be a standing joke among them.

"Promise me on your bright new sophomore honor that you'll offer your
polite regrets to the other half of that important engagement of yours
and attend my meeting," appealed Louise.

"Well," Hilda looked concerned, "I _could_ see the girl this afternoon
and change the date." She smiled engagingly at Louise.

"Of course you _will_," Louise agreed, answering the smile. "You see I
know you, Hilda Moore."

"But I wouldn't do it for any one else except Miss Harlowe or Miss
Dean," was Hilda's positive assertion. "Mercy, look at the time! I'll
have to run for it if I expect to reach the office before Miss Wilder.
Good-bye."

Hilda was gone like a flash, leaving Louise to stare contemplatively at
the notice. As the president for the year of the Harlowe House Club she
felt deeply her responsibility. She had been unanimously elected at the
club's first meeting, greatly to her surprise.

Louise Sampson was perhaps better fitted to be president of the Harlowe
House Club than any other member of that interesting household. Emma
and Grace had agreed upon the point when, before the election, the
former's name had been mentioned as a probable candidate. This thought
sprang again to Grace's mind as she came from her office and saw Louise
still standing before the bulletin board, apparently deep in thought.
She turned at the sound of Grace's step.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe!" she exclaimed. "I do hope our meeting to-night will
be a success. Surely some one will have a real live idea for the club to
act upon."

"Thirty-four heads are better than one," smiled Grace. "There is
inspiration in numbers."

"We did wonderfully well with the caramels last year, and this year I
believe they will be more popular than ever. We made twice as many as
usual last Saturday, and sold them all. We were obliged to disappoint
quite a number of girls, too. Our little bank account is growing slowly
but surely. Still there are certainly other things we can do to earn
money, collectively and individually. Really I mustn't get started on
the subject. It is time I went to my chemistry recitation. You'll be at
the meeting to-night, won't you, Miss Harlowe? We couldn't get along
without you."

A faint flush rose to Grace's cheeks at Louise's parting remark. How
wonderful it was to feel that one was really useful. Yes; the
thirty-four girls under her care really needed her. They needed her far
more than did Tom Gray. Grace frowned a trifle impatiently. She had not
intended to allow herself to think of Tom, yet there was something in
the expression of Louise Sampson's gray eyes that reminded her of him.
Resolving to put him completely out of her mind, Grace went into the
kitchen to consult with the cook concerning the day's marketing. The
postman's ring, however, caused her to hurry back to her office where
the maid was just depositing her morning mail on the slide of her desk.

Her letters were from Anne, Elfreda and her mother, and they filled her
with unalloyed pleasure. Her mother's unselfish words, "I hope my little
girl is finding all the happiness life has to offer in her work,"
thrilled her. How different was her mother's attitude from that of Tom
Gray. Surely no one could miss her as her mother missed her, yet she had
given her up without a murmur, while Tom had protested bitterly against
her beloved work and prophesied that some day she would realize that
work didn't mean everything in life.

All that day the inspiring effect of her mother's letter remained with
Grace. Her already deep interest in her house and her charges received
new impetus, and when evening came, she felt, as she entered the big
living room where the thirty-four girls were assembled, that she would
willingly do anything that lay within her power to forward the
prosperity and success of Harlowe House.

After the usual preliminaries, Louise Sampson addressed the meeting in
her bright direct fashion. "Ever since we came back to Harlowe House
this year I've felt that we ought to do something to increase our
treasury money. If the club had enough money of its own, then the
Harlowe House girls wouldn't need to borrow of Semper Fidelis. That
would leave the Semper Fidelis fund free for other girls who don't live
here and who need financial help. Of course we couldn't do very much at
first, but if we could get up some kind of play or entertainment that
the whole college would be anxious to come to see, as they once did a
bazaar that the Semper Fidelis Club gave, the money we would realize
from it would be a fine start for us. Now I'm going to leave the subject
open to informal discussion. Won't some one of you please express an
opinion?"

"Don't you believe that some of the students might say we were selfish
to try to make money for our own house instead of for the college?
Semper Fidelis was organized for the benefit of the whole college, but
this is different," remarked Cecil Ferris.

A blank silence followed Cecil's objection. What she had just said was,
in a measure, true.

Louise Sampson looked appealingly at Grace. She had been so sure that
her plan of conducting some special entertainment on a large scale would
meet with approval. Cecil's view of the matter had never occurred to
her.

"I am afraid that Miss Ferris is right," Grace said slowly. "Much as I
should like to see the Harlowe House Club in a position to take care of
its members' wants I am afraid we might be criticized as selfish if we
undertook to give a bazaar."

"Why couldn't we give one entertainment a month?" asked Mary Reynolds
eagerly. "I am sure President Morton would let us have Greek Hall. We
could give different kinds of entertainments. One month we could give a
Shakespearean play and the next a Greek tragedy; then we could act a
scenario, or have a musical revue or whatever we liked. We could make
posters to advertise each one and state frankly on them that the
proceeds were to go to the Harlowe House Club Reserve Fund. We wouldn't
ask any one for anything. We wouldn't even ask them to come. We'd just
have the tickets on sale as they do at a theatre. If the girls liked the
first show, they'd come to the next one. We'd ask some of the popular
girls of the college who do stunts to take part, and feature them. I
think we'd have a standing-room-only audience every time."

Mary paused for breath after this long speech. The club, to a member,
had eyed her with growing interest as she talked.

"I think that's a splendid plan," agreed Evelyn Ward. "I'm willing to do
all I can toward it. I've had only a little stage experience, but I'd
love to help coach the actors for their parts."

For the next half hour the plan for increasing the club's treasury was
eagerly discussed. A play committee, consisting of Mary Reynolds, Evelyn
Ward, Nettie Weyburn and Ethel Hilton, a tall, dark-haired girl, noted
for making brilliant recitations, was chosen.

"Has any one else a suggestion?" asked Louise Sampson, when the first
excitement regarding the new project had in a measure subsided.

"Why couldn't we have a Service Bureau?" asked Nettie Weyburn. "I mean
we could post notices that any one who wishes a certain kind of work
done, such as mending, sewing or tutoring, could apply to our bureau.
Every one knows that the students of Harlowe House are self-supporting.
We wouldn't be here if we weren't. Some of us have a very hard time
earning our college fees. Some of us have been obliged to borrow money,
and comparatively few of us ever have pocket money. If the girls who
don't have to do things for themselves found that we could always be
depended upon for services I imagine we would have all the work we could
do."

"Hurrah for Nettie!" exclaimed Cecil Ferris. "I think that's a fine
idea."

"So do I," echoed several voices.

"But we'd have to put some one in charge of the bureau, and no one of us
could afford to spend much time looking after it," reminded Louise.

"Oh, we could take turns," was Nettie's prompt reply. "Then, too, we
could have certain hours for business, say from four o'clock until six
on every week day, except Saturday and from two o'clock until five on
Saturday afternoons."

"But where would we receive the girls who came to see about having work
done?" asked Alice Andrews, a business-like little person who roomed
with Louise Sampson.

"I will see that the Service Bureau has a desk installed in one corner
of the living room," offered Grace, who had, up to this point, listened
to the various girls' remarks, a proud light in her eyes. She loved the
sturdy self-reliance of the members of her household. "And there will
also be times when I can do duty on the Bureau, too," she added.

"No, Miss Harlowe, you mustn't think of it," said Louise Sampson. "You
do altogether too much for us now."

"I am here to take care of my household," smiled Grace. "Besides, it
will be a pleasure to help a club of girls who are so willing to help
themselves."

"Miss Harlowe is really and truly interested in the girls here, isn't
she?" Jean Brent commented to Evelyn Ward in an undertone. Having passed
her examinations Jean was now a full-fledged freshman.

"Yes, indeed," returned Evelyn, with emphasis. "She has done a great
deal for me. More than I can ever hope to repay."

"What--" began Jean. Then she suddenly stopped and bent forward in a
listening attitude. The electric bell on the front door had just
shrilled forth the announcement of a visitor. A moment and the maid had
entered the room with, "A lady to see you, Miss Harlowe. I didn't catch
her name. It sounded like Brant."

Jean Brent grew very white. Turning to Evelyn she said unsteadily, "I
don't feel well. I think I will go up stairs." Without waiting for
Evelyn to reply, she rose and almost ran out of the living room ahead of
Grace. As she stepped into the hall she darted one lightning glance
toward the visitor, then she stumbled up the stairs, shaking with
relief. She had never before seen Grace's caller.

"How do you feel?" was Evelyn's first question as she entered their room
fully two hours later. "You missed a spread. We had sandwiches and cake
and hot chocolate."

"I can't help it," muttered Jean uncivilly. Then she said
apologetically, "I'm much better, thank you. Please forgive me for being
so rude."

While in the next room Grace was saying to Emma, who, owing to an
engagement, had not attended the meeting, "Really, Emma, the name
'Riddle' certainly applies to Miss Brent. She came to the meeting with
the others, and when it was only half over she bolted from the living
room and upstairs as though she were pursued by savages. I wouldn't have
noticed her, perhaps, but I had been called to the door. Mrs. Brant came
to see me about my sewing. Miss Brent hurried out of the living room
ahead of me. I saw her give Mrs. Brant the strangest look, then up the
stairs she ran as fast as she could go."

"Grace," Emma looked at her friend in a startled way. "You don't suppose
Miss Brent has run away from home do you? The names Brant and Brent
sound alike. She may have thought that some member of her family had
followed her here."

It was Grace's turn to look startled. "I don't know," she said
doubtfully. "I hope not. I should not like to harbor a runaway unless I
knew the circumstances warranted it, as was the case with Mary Reynolds.
I didn't think of Miss Brent's secret as being of that nature. Surely
Miss Lipton would not countenance a runaway. Still I don't wish to try
to force this girl's confidence. I prefer to let matters stand as they
are, for the present, at least. I've promised to respect her secret,
whatever it may be, and I am going to do so."

Emma shook her head disapprovingly.

"I don't like mysteries, Grace. When we talked Jean Brent over a few
days ago I told you that I didn't think it mattered if she choose to
wrap herself in mystery. But I've changed my mind. I believe you owe it
to yourself to insist on a complete explanation from her. Suppose later
on you discovered that you had been deceived in her, that she was
unworthy. Then, again, she might put you in a disagreeable position
with President Morton or Miss Wilder. You remember the humiliation you
endured at Evelyn's hands. I, who know you so well, understand that your
motive in trusting Miss Brent unquestioningly is above reproach. But
others might not understand. If she proved untrustworthy, _you_ would be
censured far more than she." Emma's tones vibrated with earnestness.

Grace sat silent. She realized the truth of her friend's words. Emma
rarely spoke seriously. When she did so, it counted. Still, she had
given her promise to this strange young girl, and she would keep her
word. After all Jean Brent's secret might be of no more importance than
that of the average school girl.



                              CHAPTER VII

                              HER OWN WAY


The Service Bureau lost no time in preparing and posting notices on the
college bulletin board, and on those of the various campus houses, to
the effect that they were prepared to take care of any requests for
general services that might be made, and the immediate response with
which their venture met was gratifying in the extreme. Certain of the
club members found their spare time fully occupied in tutoring freshmen,
while those who were skilled needlewomen were kept busy mending, making
silk blouses, kimonos and even simple styles of gowns. Grace had
thoughtfully placed a second sewing machine in the sewing room, and it
never stood idle. There were requests for all sorts of services such as
hair dressing, manicuring and countless small labors which affluent
students were glad to turn over to their needy classmates.

Grace and Louise Sampson spent many hours of time and thought upon the
new venture. It required tact and judgment to select the various girls
for the various labors. First there was the customer to please. Second
the fact that each member of the club was anxious to be given the
opportunity to earn a little extra money. It was wonderful, too, the
amount of hitherto undiscovered ability which came to light at the call
for service, and it was not long before Nettie Weyburn had acquired
considerable reputation as a manicurist, while Ethel Hilton gained
lasting laurels as a hair dresser and Mary Reynolds proved herself a
competent tutor. Hilda Moore became a fad among certain girls who
loathed letter writing and willingly paid her for taking their dictation
and typing their home letters, while Cecil Ferris stood alone as an
expert mender of silk stockings. Louise Sampson made silk blouses.
Several members specialized on kimonos. Two girls were kept constantly
busy on hand-painted post cards, posters and cunning little luncheon
favors. There were also occasional requests for a maid or companion for
some special affair. In fact the high standard of excellence which the
Service Bureau aimed for, and obtained, caused its popularity to
increase rapidly.

There was but one member of this earnest and busy household to whom the
Bureau meant nothing. That member was Jean Brent. So far she had
discovered absolutely nothing she could do to earn money. She had not
the patience to tutor, she loathed the bare idea of performing personal
services for others, and she could not sew a stitch. Nevertheless the
fact that she needed money perpetually stared her in the face. True she
had written to Miss Lipton for a loan, and the money had been promptly
sent her. She had repaid Grace and Evelyn the small sums they had
advanced her, but the remainder of the money had dwindled away so
rapidly she could hardly have given an account of the way in which it
had been spent.

Now her thoughts turned to her trunks of unused finery. What possible
objection could Miss Harlowe have to her selling what was rightfully
hers? If she wished to dispose of certain of her own possessions it was
surely no one's affair save her own. Althea Parker, who was Evelyn's
friend, and the leader of a clique of the richest girls at Overton, had
been given an opportunity to see the contents of one of the trunks and
had gone into ecstacies over the dainty hats and frocks Jean had
displayed for her benefit. "For goodness' sake _where_ did you get such
lovely things?" had been Althea's curious question. "They must have cost
a lot of money."

"Do you think the girls in your set would be interested in them?" Jean
had asked, ignoring the other girl's question. "I--I should like to sell
them to any one who wants them. I must have some money. I need it at
once."

"Sell them?" Althea's eye-brows had been elevated in surprise. "How
funny." Then her natural selfishness coming strongly to the surface, she
had said hastily. "I'd love to have that green chiffon evening gown.
It's never been worn, has it?" She decided it was not her business if
Miss Brent chose to sell her clothes. Jean had gravely assured her that
everything in the trunk was perfectly new and fresh, and Althea had,
then and there, bargained for almost a hundred dollars' worth of finery,
and promised to interest the girls of her set in Jean's possessions.

It was not until after Althea had gone that Jean remembered Grace's
objection to her proposed sale. She decided that she could not have the
sale after all. She would sell Althea the things she wished and tell her
the circumstances. But when she laid the matter before Althea the latter
had said lightly, "Oh, don't let a little thing like that worry you.
It's none of Miss Harlowe's business. Besides, I've told my friends, and
they are dying to see your things. Evelyn told me to-day that Miss
Harlowe was going to New York City on Friday night. You can have the
girls come up here on Saturday afternoon. I'll invite Evelyn to luncheon
and keep her away until after six o'clock. She wouldn't like it if she
knew. She's a regular goody-goody this year. What you must do is to get
the things out of the other trunks. Then the girls can see them. I'll
come to-morrow for these things I've selected; so have them wrapped up
for me. If we manage it quietly no one need be the wiser, for the girls
won't breathe a word of it to a soul."

Actuated by her need of money, Jean swallowed her scruples and obeyed
Althea's commands implicitly. Under the pretext of rearranging her
wardrobe, she spent her spare time in the trunk room going over her
effects and picking out those articles most likely to appeal to her
customers, and by Saturday everything was in readiness for the sale.
Evelyn, unsuspecting and jubilant over her luncheon engagement with
Althea, who had so far this term held herself rather aloof from her,
hurried off to keep her appointment, leaving Jean a clear field.

Locking the door, this strange girl began laying out her wares. There
were exquisite evening gowns, with satin slippers and silk stockings to
match, and there were afternoon and morning frocks, walking suits,
separate coats, hats, gloves, fans, scarfs, everything in fact to
delight the heart of a girl. Jean handled them all mechanically, and
without interest. It was only when she heard the murmur of girls'
voices outside her door that a deep flush mounted even to her smooth
forehead. She drew a deep breath and braced herself as for an ordeal,
then answered the peremptory knock on the door.

There were little delighted cries from the ten girls who came to the
sale as they examined Jean's beautiful wardrobe. Being of medium height,
her gowns fitted most of her customers, who exulted over the fact of
their absolute freshness. They were indeed bargains, and, as each girl
had come prepared to buy to the limit of her ample allowance, the money
fairly poured into Jean's hands.

For the rest of the afternoon a great trying-on of gowns ensued, and in
their eager appreciation of the pretty things before them they chattered
like a flock of magpies, arousing not a little curiosity among a number
of the Harlowe House girls who in passing through the hall heard the
murmur of voices and subdued laughter. It was after six o'clock when the
last girl, bearing a huge bundle and a suit case, had departed. Jean sat
down amidst the wreck of her possessions and sighed wearily. She sprang
up the next moment, however, and began feverishly to bundle the various
garments lying about on the bed and chairs into the open trunk. She had
sold many of her possessions. Those that were left would all go into the
one trunk. She must hurry them in before Evelyn returned. She was
likely to come in at almost any moment. Jean had saved a beautiful frock
of yellow crêpe for Evelyn. She intended to give it to her for a
Christmas present. There were shoes, stockings and scarf to match, along
with a wonderful white evening coat, trimmed with wide bands of white
fur and lined with palest pink brocade. In the short time she had known
Evelyn she had become greatly attached to her, and although unlike in
disposition, they had, so far, managed to get along together as
roommates.

Jean knew, however, that Evelyn, who was devoted heart and soul to Grace
Harlowe, could not fail to disapprove of her high-handed disregard of
Grace's authority. She, therefore, determined to remove all traces of
the sale and trust to luck and the honor of the girls who had taken part
in it. If, later, Evelyn should recognize any of the various articles as
Jean's, it would do no particular harm. She would, no doubt, be shocked,
but still past lapses of good conduct never disturbed one as did those
of the present. Feeling that, in her case, at least, the end justified
the means, Jean bundled the last tell-tale effect into the trunk and
banged down the lid, resolving to meet Evelyn as though nothing had
happened, and let the future take care of itself.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                         ALL IN THE DAY'S WORK


With the approach of the Thanksgiving holidays a great pleasure and a
great sorrow came to Grace. The "pleasure" was the joyful news that Mr.
and Mrs. Harlowe had accepted an invitation to spend Thanksgiving in New
York City with the Nesbits. This news meant that, for the first time
since her entrance into college as a freshman, Grace would have the
supreme satisfaction of being with her adored parents on Thanksgiving
Day. Anne, Miriam and Elfreda would be with her, too, which made the
anticipation of her four days' vacation doubly dear.

Then almost identical with this great joy had come the great sorrow.
Miss Wilder was going away. For the past year she had not been well, and
now she had been ordered West for her health. During Grace's first year
at Harlowe House the regard which Miss Wilder had always felt for her as
a student had gradually deepened until the two were on terms of
intimacy. Grace felt the same freedom in going to the dean with her
difficulties as she had with Miss Thompson, her loved principal of
high-school days.

It seemed to her as though this staunch friend, with her kindly
tolerance, and her amazing knowledge of girl nature, could never be
replaced. No matter how worthy of respect and admiration her successor
might be, she could never quite equal Miss Wilder. The possibility of
Overton without her had never occurred to Grace. True she had noted on
several occasions that Miss Wilder looked very pale and tired. She was
considerably thinner, too, than when Grace had entered college as a
freshman, yet she had always given out the impression of tireless
energy. Grace had never heard her complain of ill health, yet here she
was, threatened with a nervous breakdown. The only remedy, a complete
rest. As soon as her successor had been appointed she would start for an
extended western trip in search of health, which only time, the open air
and rest could restore. At the older woman's request Grace spent as much
time as possible in her company. They had long talks over the subject
that lay closest to the young house mother's heart, the welfare of her
flock, and Grace derived untold benefit from the dean's counsel.

It now lacked only a little time until Overton College would lose one of
its staunchest friends. Divided between the anticipation of meeting and
the pain of parting, Grace hardly knew her own state of mind. It was
with a very sober face that she hung the telephone on its receiver one
gray November morning, and slipping into her wraps, set out for Overton
Hall in obedience to Miss Wilder's telephoned request. The new dean,
Miss Wharton, had arrived, and Miss Wilder was anxious that Grace should
meet her. Miss Wharton had expressed herself as interested in Miss
Wilder's account of Harlowe House and its unique system of management.
She had also expressed her desire to meet Grace, and Miss Wilder,
hopeful that this interest might prove helpful to Grace, had readily
acceded to her wish.

Grace set forth for Overton Hall in good spirits, but whether it was the
effect of the raw November morning or that the shadow of parting hung
heavily over her, she suddenly felt her exhilaration vanish. A strange
sense of gloomy foreboding bore down upon her. She found herself
strangely reluctant to meet Miss Wharton. She had a strong desire to
about-face and return to Harlowe House. "What is the matter with you,
Grace Harlowe?" she said half aloud. With an impatient squaring of her
shoulders she marched along determined to be cheerful and make the best
of what she could not change.

As she entered Miss Wilder's office her quick glance took in the short,
rather stout figure seated beside Miss Wilder. This, then, was Miss
Wharton. What Grace saw in that quick glance was a round, red, satisfied
face lit by two cold pale blue eyes, and surmounted by lifeless brown
hair, plentifully streaked with gray. There was neither grace nor
majesty in her short, dumpy figure, and Grace's first impression of her
was decidedly unpleasant. An impression which she never had reason to
change.

Miss Wilder rose to meet Grace with outstretched hand. "My dear, I am
glad to see you this morning."

"And I to see you," responded Grace, her gray eyes full of affectionate
regard. "How are you feeling to-day, Miss Wilder?"

"Very well, indeed, for me," smiled the dean. "Almost well enough to
give up my western rest, but not quite. My heart is in my work here. It
is hard to leave it even for a little while. But I am leaving it in good
hands. I wish you to meet Miss Wharton, Grace."

She presented Grace to the other woman, who did not offer to take the
hand Grace extended, but bowed rather distantly. The color stung Grace's
cheeks at the slight. Still she forced herself to try to say honestly,
"I am glad to know you, Miss Wharton."

"Thank you," was the cold response, "You are much younger than I was
led to believe. It is rather difficult to imagine you as the head of a
campus house. You give one the impression of being a student."

Grace's eyes were fixed on the new dean with grave regard. Was this
salutary speech purely impersonal or did a spice of malicious meaning
lurk within it? Not since those far-off days when Miss Leece, a
disagreeable teacher of mathematics at Oakdale High School, had made her
algebra path a thorny one had she encountered any instructor that
reminded her in the least of the one teacher she had thoroughly
despised. Yet, as she strove to fight back her growing dislike and reply
impersonally, she was seized with the conviction that even as she and
Miss Leece had been wholly opposed to each other, so surely would she
and Miss Wharton find nothing in common. After what seemed an hour, but
was in reality a minute, Grace forced herself to smile and say with
quiet courtesy, "This is my second year as house mother at Harlowe
House. I am frequently taken for a student. I really feel no older than
my girls, and I hope I shall always feel so."

"It isn't years that count with Miss Harlowe," smiled Miss Wilder,
coming to Grace's defense. "It is the ability to keep things moving
successfully, and Miss Harlowe has shown that ability in a marked
degree," she added.

"Has she, indeed?" returned Miss Wharton, with what Grace felt to be
forced politeness. "I shall be interested in visiting Harlowe House and
learning Miss Harlowe's successful methods of management." Then she
turned to Miss Wilder and began a conversation from which it appeared as
though she deliberately sought to exclude Grace.

"I must go, Miss Wilder," said Grace, rising almost immediately. She
decided that she could not and would not endure Miss Wharton's rudeness.

Miss Wilder looked distressed. She could not understand Miss Wharton's
attitude, therefore there was nothing to do save ignore it.

"Very well, my dear. Run in and see me to-morrow. I shall be here from
two o'clock until four in the afternoon." She took one of Grace's soft
hands in both of hers. The brown eyes met the gray questioning ones with
a look of love and trust. Grace's resentment died out. She said a formal
good-bye to Miss Wharton and hurried from the room. She would go to see
Miss Wilder the next day as she had requested. Perhaps Miss Wharton's
rude reception of her was due merely to a brusque trait of character.
Perhaps she belonged to the old school who believed that youth and
responsibility could not go hand in hand. At any rate she would try
hard not to judge. Although she usually found her first impressions to
be correct, still there were always exceptions. Miss Wharton might prove
to be the exception.

On her way home she stopped at Wayne Hall. To her it was a house of
tender memories, and she never entered its hospitable doors without half
expecting to see the dear, familiar faces of the girls long gone from
there to the busy paths of the outside world.

"Why, how do you do, Miss Harlowe?" was Mrs. Elwood's delighted
greeting. "It certainly is good to see you. I think you might run over
oftener when you're so near, but I s'pose you have your hands full with
all those thirty-four girls. Did you come to see Miss West and Miss
Eliot? If you did, they're both at home, for a wonder. Miss West doesn't
have a recitation at this hour, and Miss Eliot's sick."

"Sick!" Grace sprang to her feet. "Oh, I must run up and see her at
once. To tell you the truth, Mrs. Elwood, I came to see you. I hadn't
the least idea that either of the girls were in, but if you'll forgive
me this time I'll run upstairs to see Patience and make you a special
visit some other day."

"Oh, I'll forgive you, all right," laughed Mrs. Elwood. "I'm glad to see
your bright face, if it's only for five minutes, Miss Harlowe."

"You're a dear." Grace dropped a soft kiss on Mrs. Elwood's cheek, then
hurried up the stairs, two at a time. Pausing at the old familiar door
at the end of the hall, she knocked. There was a quick, light step. The
door opened and Kathleen West fairly pounced upon her.

"Look who's here! Look who's here!" she chanted triumphantly. The tall,
fair girl in the lavender silk kimono, who reclined in the Morris chair,
turned her head languidly, then gave a cry of delight.

"You poor girl!" Grace embraced Patience affectionately. "Whatever is
the matter?"

"Oh, just a cold," croaked Patience. "In the words of J. Elfreda, 'I'm a
little horse.'" Her blue eyes twinkled. "It's worth being sick to have
you here, Grace."

"I've been intending to come over every night this week, but I'm so
busy," sighed Grace. "The Service Bureau keeps me hustling."

"What a progressive lot of people you Harlowites are," praised Kathleen.
"Did you know that Mary is doing a story about you and your family for
our paper. Of course there are no names mentioned. I saw to that."
Kathleen flushed. She recalled a time when she had used Grace's name
without permission.

"Yes, I know about it," smiled Grace, "and I know that no names are
mentioned."

Kathleen's color heightened. Then she remarked: "By the way, that Miss
Brent must have realized a nice sum of money from her sale. When did she
have it, Grace? We didn't hear a word of it. It must have been a very
select affair. I'm sorry I didn't know of it, for I wanted to buy an
evening dress. Rita Harris bought a beauty. Tell us about this latest
acquisition to Harlowe House. How does she happen to have such wonderful
clothes, and why didn't she go to work for the Service Bureau instead of
selling them? I'm fairly buzzing with curiosity."

Grace viewed Kathleen in amazement. "I don't understand you, Kathleen,"
she said, in a perplexed tone. "I have heard nothing of a sale."

"But Miss Brent held it at Harlowe House a week ago last Saturday,"
persisted Kathleen. "It is evident she didn't wish you to know it or you
would have been there, too."

Grace's amazed expression changed to one of vexed concern. She now
understood. "One week ago last Saturday I was in New York City," she
said soberly. "Until this moment I knew nothing of any such sale. In
fact I had objected to the plan when Miss Brent proposed it to me. If
she had wished to dispose of certain of her personal belongings to any
one girl I should have said unhesitatingly that it was her own affair,
but a general sale is a different matter. The eyes of the college are,
to a great extent, directed toward Harlowe House. It's position among
the other campus houses is unique. That the girls who live there are
given a home free of charge makes them doubly liable to criticism. They
must be worthy of their privileges."

Kathleen nodded in emphatic agreement. "Of course they must. I
understand fully your position in regard to them, Grace."

"You mean the girl we met that day at Vinton's, don't you?" inquired
Patience. "She had been robbed of her money in the train."

"Yes; she is the very girl."

"How do you reconcile her lack of means to pay her college expenses with
this wonderful wardrobe that Kathleen has just told us of?"

"I don't reconcile them. I can't. That is just the trouble." Grace
looked worried. "Speaking in strict confidence, I have really taken Miss
Brent on trust. I have asked her to explain certain things to me, and
she has refused to do so. On the other hand she is warmly championed by
the principal of one of the most select preparatory schools in the
country. Then, too, she assures me that at some future day she will
explain everything. Emma calls her the Riddle. It's an appropriate name,
too." Grace made a little despairing gesture.

"You are the greatest advocate of the motto, 'Live and let live' that I
have ever run across, Grace," smiled Patience, "but," her face grew
serious, "I believe you ought to insist on Miss Brent's full explanation
of her mysterious ways. If the news of this sale happens to reach
faculty ears _you_ are likely to be criticized for allowing it."

"But I didn't allow it," protested Grace. "I refused my consent to it."

"Yet you are the last one to defend yourself at another's expense,"
reminded Kathleen. "You'd rather be misjudged than to see this girl, who
hasn't even trusted you, placed in an unpleasant position."

Grace's color deepened. "I promised to trust her," she said at last. "At
first I felt just as you do about this. Then I talked with her. She
seemed honest and sincere. I decided that perhaps it would be better not
to force her confidence. Young girls are often likely to make mountains
of mole-hills. Still, Emma thinks just as you do," she added. "She
didn't at first, but she does now. I'm sure _she_ knows nothing of the
sale. She would have told me."

"I just happened to remember," began Kathleen, her straight brows drawn
together in a scowl, "that Evelyn Ward rooms with Miss Brent. Evelyn
must have known of the sale. Do you mind, if I ask her about it?"

"Ask her if you like." Grace spoke wearily. Everything was surely going
wrong to-day. She had intended to tell Patience and Kathleen about her
trip to New York. She had visited Anne and the Southards and spent two
delightful days. After what she had heard she felt that there was
nothing to say. "I must go," she announced abruptly. "I'll come again
to-morrow to see you, Patience. A speedy recovery to you. Come and see
me, both of you, whenever you can. By the way, I met Miss Wharton, the
new dean, this morning."

"What is she like?" asked Kathleen.

"I can hardly tell you. She is different from Miss Wilder. I saw her
only for a moment. She seems distant. Still one can't judge by first
appearances. I must go. Good-bye, girls."

Grace left her friends rather hurriedly. She was ready to cry. The
revelations of the morning had been almost too much for her. It was hard
indeed to be snubbed, but it was harder still to be deceived. "It's all
in the day's work," she whispered, over and over again, as she crossed
the campus. "I must be brave and accept what comes. It's all in the
day's work."



                              CHAPTER IX

                    WHAT EVELYN HEARD ON THE CAMPUS


"Ha! Whom have we here?" declaimed Emma Dean, pointing dramatically, as
Grace opened the door and stepped into their room. One look at Grace's
sensitive face was sufficient. Emma had lived close to her friend too
long not to know the signs of dejection in the features that usually
shone with hope and cheerfulness. "Advance and show your countersign,"
she commanded.

"I haven't any," returned Grace soberly.

"Spoken like a brigadier general who doesn't need one," retorted Emma.
"You are just in time to hear my terrible tale.

    "Oh, a terrible tale I have to tell
    Of the terrible fate that once befell
    A teacher of English who once resided
    In the same recitation room that I did,"

she rendered tunefully.

The shadow disappeared like magic from Grace's face. "Now what have you
done, you funny girl?" she asked, her sad face breaking into smiles.
Emma was irresistible.

"It is not what I have _done_, but what I _might_ have done. What was it
Whittier said in 'Maud Muller'?"

    "There's really no one under the sun
    Can blame you for what you might have done,"

paraphrased Emma briskly.

Grace giggled outright. "Poor Whittier," she sympathized.

"Don't pity him," objected Emma. "Pity me for what nearly happened to
me. The illustrious name of Dean came within a little of traveling about
Overton attached to a funny story, which I will now relate for your sole
edification. You remember that pile of themes I brought home on
Tuesday?"

Grace nodded.

"Well, I finished them last night and wrapped them up ready to take back
to the classroom to-day. They made a good-sized bundle, because I had
collected them from all my classes. This morning I was in a hurry, so I
picked up my bundle and ran. I always like to be in my classroom in good
season. But fate was against me, for I met Miss Dutton, that new
assistant in Greek, and she stopped me to ask me numerous questions, as
she is fain to do unless one sees her first, and from afar off enough
to suddenly change one's course and miss her. Consequently I marched
into my room to find my class assembled. I assumed a dignity which I
didn't feel, for I hate being late, and laid my bundle of themes on my
desk. Every eye was fixed reprovingly upon me. I had said so much
against straggling into class late, yet here I had committed that very
crime. I untied my bundle and was just going to open it when that
black-eyed Miss Atherton asked me a question. I answered the question,
my eyes on her, my fingers folding back the paper. I reached for my
themes and my hand closed over cloth instead of paper. A positive chill
went up and down my spine. I gave one horrified glance at the supposed
theme and poked it out of sight in a hurry. Another second and I would
have offered some one my white linen skirt in full view of my class.
Instead of themes I had brought my clean laundry to English IV."

"Oh, Emma!" gasped Grace mirthfully.

"You're not a bit sympathetic," declared Emma with pretended severity.

How Elfreda would love that tale. She would revel in the vision of Emma
Dean solemnly proffering her linen skirt to an unsuspecting class. "I
declare, Emma, you have driven away the blues."

"Have I?" inquired Emma with guileful innocence. It was precisely what
she had intended to do. "What is troubling you, Gracious?"

"I can't endure the thought of losing Miss Wilder. I went to see her
this morning and met Miss Wharton. I----"

"Don't like her," finished Emma calmly.

"No, I don't," returned Grace, with sudden vigor, "but how did you know
it?"

"Because I don't like her, either. I was introduced to her yesterday
afternoon in Miss Wilder's office. I didn't tell you, because I wished
you to form your own impression of her, first hand."

"She was positively rude to me, Emma. She made me feel like a little
girl. She said I looked more like a student than a person in charge of a
campus house."

"I agree with her," was Emma's bland reply. "You might easily be taken
for a freshman."

"But she didn't mean it in the nice way that you do," said Grace. "I
hope she never comes to inspect Harlowe House. She will be sure to find
fault."

"She'll have to make a sharp search," predicted Emma. "We won't worry
about it until she comes, will we? Now, what else is on your mind?"

"The Riddle," admitted Grace. She related what she had heard from
Kathleen regarding the sale.

"H-m-m!" was Emma's dry response. "They took good care that I shouldn't
hear of it."

"I'm so sorry Evelyn lent herself to something she knew would displease
me," mourned Grace.

"Perhaps she didn't. I know for a certainty that she wasn't in the house
Saturday afternoon, for I met her on the campus and she told me that she
was going to take luncheon and spend the afternoon with Althea Parker."

"She must have _known_ about it."

"I am afraid the news of this sale will travel rapidly," prophesied
Emma. "Not only will Miss Brent be talked over, but you also will be
criticized. You know I advised you, not long ago, to insist that Miss
Brent make a full explanation of things. Take my advice and see her at
once."

"I will," decided Grace. "I'll have a talk with her after dinner
to-night."

Grace was not the only one, however, to whom the news of the sale came
as a shock. Strangely enough Evelyn learned of it during the afternoon
of the same day in which it had come to Grace's ears. Her attention had
been attracted to a smart black and white check coat which Edna
Correll, a very plain freshman who tried to make up in extreme dressing
what she lacked in beauty, was wearing. In crossing the campus on her
way to Harlowe House she had encountered Edna in company with another
freshman. For an instant she had wondered why the sight of the black and
white coat which Edna wore seemed so strangely familiar. Then it had
dawned upon her that it was identical with a coat belonging to Jean.

"How do you like my new coat?" had been Edna's salutation, and Evelyn
had replied. "It's wonderfully smart. Miss Brent has one very much like
it."

"She had one, you mean," Edna had corrected. "Why, weren't you at the
sale last Saturday! I suppose you selected what you wanted beforehand.
That is where you had the advantage."

"What sale?" Evelyn had asked, completely mystified. Then explanations
had followed. White with suppressed anger, Evelyn had bade Edna a hasty
good-bye and sped across the campus toward Harlowe House. Without a word
she brushed by the maid who answered the bell, and rushed upstairs as
fast as she could run. The temper which she had tried so hard to control
was now at a high pitch. How dared Jean deliberately place her in such
an unpleasant position when she was trying so hard to be worthy of Miss
Harlowe's confidence? She flung open the door of her room. Then her eyes
sought and found Jean standing before the wardrobe, her back to the
door, a pair of black satin slippers in her hand.

"How could you do it?" burst forth Evelyn. "You know Miss Harlowe
forbade it. Now she will think that I knew all about it. Just when I am
trying to merit her confidence."

Jean Brent whirled about. Her blue eyes flashed. One of the slippers she
held in her hand swished through the air and landed with a thud against
the opposite wall. The wave of anger with which she faced Evelyn was
like the sudden sweep of a gale of wind out of a clear sky. The other
slipper followed the first one. Then the doors of the wardrobe were
slammed shut with a force that caused it to shake. To Evelyn it was as
though a strong current of air had blown upon her. Here, indeed was a
temper that outranked her own.

"What right have you to speak to me in such a tone?" raged Jean. "You
have nothing to say as to what I shall or shall not do. I won't pretend
I don't know what you mean. I do know. I don't in the least care what
you think about it, either. My clothes are mine to do with just whatever
I please. If Miss Harlowe imagines I am going to be a servant to half
the girls at Overton for the sake of earning my fees she is mistaken.
Why should she or any one else object to my selling my things, if I
like? I don't see how you found it out. The girls promised to keep the
whole affair to themselves. I don't understand why you should be so
concerned, or what it has to do with Miss Harlowe's opinion of you. From
what you say I might almost assume that there had been a time when _you_
were not to be trusted."

Evelyn's beautiful face was crimson with anger and humiliation. She
longed to answer Jean's arraignment with a flood of words as bitter as
her own, but her determined effort of months to rule her spirit now bore
fruit.

"I'm sorry I spoke so abruptly," she said coldly. "I just heard about
the sale from Miss Correll. You were quite right in what you said. There
was a time when I could not be trusted. My trouble was about clothes,
too. Miss Harlowe helped me find my self-respect again, and this year I
am trying very hard to be an Overton girl in the truest sense of the
word. I am telling you this in confidence because I wish you to
understand why Miss Harlowe's good opinion is so dear to me."

"You can go and tell her that you knew nothing about the sale," muttered
Jean sullenly. Something in Evelyn's frank confession had made her feel
a trifle ashamed of herself.

Evelyn's violet eyes grew scornful. "How can you suggest such a thing?"
she asked.

It was Jean's turn to blush. "Forgive me," she said penitently. "I know
you aren't a tell-tale. If she asks me about the sale, be sure I'll
exonerate you."

Evelyn shook her head. "I wish you'd go to her, Jean, and tell her what
you have done. Sooner or later she is sure to find it out."

But Jean Brent was in no mood for this advice. It caused her anger to
blaze afresh. "There you go again," she blustered, "with your
goody-goody advice to me about running to Miss Harlowe with every little
thing I do. I hope I'm not such a baby. If Miss Harlowe sends for me,
don't think for a minute that I'll be afraid to face her, but until she
_does_ send for me I am not going to concern myself about it, and I
would advise you not to trouble yourself, either."

With this succinct advice Jean made a fresh onslaught on the unoffending
wardrobe. Opening it she seized her hat and coat. With a last
reverberating slam of its long-suffering doors she turned her back on it
and Evelyn, and switched defiantly out of the room and on out of the
house.



                               CHAPTER X

             LAYING THE CORNERSTONE OF A HOUSE OF TROUBLE


Jean did not return to Harlowe House for dinner that night. Instead she
turned her steps toward Holland House, where Althea Parker lived,
assured that in Althea she would find sympathy. In spite of the fact
that Jean lived at Harlowe House, a plain acknowledgment of her lack of
means, Althea shrewdly suspected that the mysterious freshman had come
from a home of wealth, and was posing as a poor girl for some reason
best known to herself. Jean's remarkable wardrobe had impressed her
deeply, while Jean herself carried out the impression of having been
brought up in luxury. She was self-willed, extravagant, careless of the
future, and her flippant opinion, delivered to Althea, of the Service
Bureau and work in general, was all that was needed to convince the
shrewd junior of Jean's true position in life. Then, too, Jean was
extremely likable, although Althea stood a little in awe of her
remarkable poise and a certain imperiousness that occasionally crept
into the girl's manner.

Jean rang the bell at Holland House with mingled feelings of resentment
and defiance. Resentment against Evelyn for daring to take her to task;
defiance of Grace and her commands.

"Is Miss Parker in?" she inquired of the maid who opened the door.

"She just came in, miss."

"Very well. I'll go on upstairs. She won't mind me."

Jean knocked on Althea's door. Althea called an indifferent "Come in,"
and she entered to find her engaged in reading a letter that had come by
the afternoon mail.

"Oh, hello, Jean," she drawled at sight of the other girl. "You must
have come in right behind me. What are you glowering about?"

"Evelyn is angry with me because I had the sale," began Jean. "That's
what I came to tell you. I'm sorry I told her that Miss Harlowe had
forbidden me to have it. Now she thinks I ought to go to Miss Harlowe
and tell her that I disobeyed her before she hears of it from some other
source."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Althea. "Don't be so silly. Ten chances to one
she'll never hear of it. If ever she does, it will probably be as
ancient history. I'll caution the girls again to keep still. Who told
Evelyn?"

"That Miss Correll. Evelyn saw her wearing my black and white check
coat and recognized it," returned Jean gloomily. "She came rushing into
my room like a young tornado with the plea that Miss Harlowe would blame
her for my misdeeds." Jean was tempted to add that which Evelyn had told
her in confidence. Then her better nature stirred, and she was silent.

"Evelyn isn't nearly as good company this year as she was last,"
complained Althea. "Ever since the latter part of her freshman year,
she's been so different. I've always had an idea," Althea lowered her
voice, "that last spring she broke some rule of the college and ran
away. One night, just before college closed--it was long after ten
o'clock, too--Miss Harlowe telephoned me and asked if Evelyn were with
me. I found out afterward that she had gone to New York all by herself.
She'd never been there but once before when she spent a week-end with
me, and she didn't know a soul. I never could find out anything else,
though. Evelyn went to her classes on Monday, and not one word did she
ever say about it. I didn't find out about the New York part of it until
this fall, though. A Willston man whom we both know saw her in New York
with that clever Miss West, who wrote 'Loyalheart.'"

Jean listened with attentive gravity. She guessed that Althea had
perhaps hit upon the truth. Evelyn had confessed to her that there had
been that in her freshman year of which she was ashamed. She had said it
was about clothes, yet what had clothes to do with breaking the rules of
Overton and running away to New York? Whatever it was, it should remain
Evelyn's secret. She would tell Althea nothing.

"Let's go to Vinton's for dinner," she proposed, with an abrupt change
of subject. "I've plenty of money now--while it lasts."

"All right," agreed Althea, "only I mustn't stay out late. I've a
frightful lesson in physics to study for to-morrow."

Jean did not particularly enjoy her dinner. In spite of her defiant
manner she had begun to feel slightly conscience-stricken. She almost
wished she had not gone on with the sale. Still she could have obtained
the necessary money in no other way. Now that the mischief was done she
could hope only that Miss Harlowe would hear nothing of it--not for a
long time, at any rate.

As she crossed the campus and ran lightly up the steps of Harlowe House
she resolved to shake off her recent fear of the discovery, on Grace's
part, of her disobedience and act as though nothing had happened.

Her resolution was destined to receive an unexpected jolt. "Miss
Harlowe wants to see you, Miss Brent," were the words with which the
maid greeted her as she stepped into the hall.

Jean's heart sank. So it had come already. She stopped for a moment in
the hall to gather her forces. Her feeling of penitence vanished. She
threw up her head with a defiant jerk and walked boldly into the little
office where Grace sat making up her expense account for November.

"You wished to see me, Miss Harlowe?" Her tone was coldly interrogative,
her eyes hostile, as she stared steadily at Grace.

Grace looked up from her work and calmly studied the pretty, belligerent
girl standing before her. In that glance she realized what a difficult
task lay before her.

"Yes, Miss Brent, I wished to talk with you," she answered. "Sit down,
please."

Jean slid reluctantly into the chair opposite Grace, surveying her with
an expression which said plainly, "Well, why don't you begin?"

"Did you have a sale of your clothes in your room one week ago last
Saturday?"

The directness of Grace's question astonished Jean. She found herself
answering, "Yes," with equal promptness.

"Why did you disobey me?" asked Grace.

"Because I needed the money," declared Jean boldly, "and I couldn't earn
it, Miss Harlowe; I just couldn't."

Grace gazed reflectively at the flushed face opposite her own. "Miss
Brent," she began, "when first you came to Harlowe House I believed that
it was not necessary for me to know certain things which you did not
wish to divulge. I might still be of that opinion if you had not
disobeyed me. It is most peculiar for a girl to come to Overton utterly
without funds, yet possessing quantities of the most expensive clothes.
I have always felt assured of your right to be an Overton and a Harlowe
House girl, yet others might not regard you so leniently. That is why I
refused to allow you to have the sale. I feared you would bring down
undue criticism upon you, and upon me as well. Once you became a subject
for criticism you might be obliged to explain to the dean or the
president of the Overton College what you have refused to explain to me.
It was to protect you that I refused your request. Since you have seen
fit to disregard my authority I can do but one thing. I must insist that
you will tell me fully what you have, so far, kept a secret. In order to
protect you I must know everything. I can no longer go on in the dark."

Jean stood staring at Grace. A look of stubborn resolve crept into her
face. Grace, watching her intently, knew what the answer would be. The
strange girl opened her lips to speak. Then, obeying her natural impulse
to give the other person the greatest possible chance, Grace raised a
protesting hand.

"Don't say you won't do as I ask, Miss Brent. Take a little time to
think over the matter. I am going to give you until after Thanksgiving
to decide whether or not you will trust me. Remember my sole desire is
to help you."

For the first time Grace's sweet earnestness seemed to awaken a
responsive chord in the heart of the obstinate freshman. The ready color
dyed her cheeks crimson. The hard, defiant light left her eyes.

"If only she would tell me now and have it over with," thought Grace,
noting the signs of softening on Jean's part. The girl appeared to be
considering Grace's proposal in the spirit in which it had been made.
Then, all in an instant, she changed. It was as though she had suddenly
recalled something disagreeable.

"There is really no use in waiting until after Thanksgiving for my
answer. I can't tell you. I suppose you will send me away because I
won't tell you, but if I did tell you, you would send me away just the
same. So you see it doesn't really make much difference. It was silly
in me to come here. I might have known better," she ended with a
mirthless smile.

Grace regarded Jean with growing annoyance. She had been offered a
chance to explain herself and she had refused it. True, Grace could also
refuse to allow her to remain a member of Harlowe House, but this she
did not wish to do. Her pride whispered to her that among the girls who
were enrolled as members of the household, made possible by Mrs. Gray's
generosity, there had been no failures. Jean Brent should not be the
first. She would bear with her a little longer.

"I repeat, Miss Brent," she said, "that I do not wish you to answer me
until after Thanksgiving. Then, if you decide, as I hope you will, to be
frank with me, I promise you that I will do my utmost to protect you."

Jean's only response was, "Good night, Miss Harlowe." Then she turned
and left the office.

Grace sat poking holes in an unoffending sheet of paper with her lead
pencil. She wondered what Jean Brent's secret could possibly be, and how
she could best reach this stubborn, self-centered freshman. And in her
wholehearted effort to be of service to the girl, who apparently needed
her help, she did not dream that she was laying the cornerstone of a
house of trouble for herself.



                              CHAPTER XI

                     THANKSGIVING WITH THE NESBITS


"I am sure I never before had so much to be thankful for!" was Grace
Harlowe's fervent declaration as she viewed with loving eyes the little
circle of friends of which she was the center.

It was Thanksgiving eve, and the Nesbits had gathered under their
hospitable roof a most congenial company to help them commemorate
America's first holiday. Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe, in company with Mrs.
Gray, had come from Oakdale. J. Elfreda Briggs had won a reluctant
consent from her family, who invariably spent their Thanksgivings at
Fairview, to make one of Miriam's house party. Anne, who was playing an
extended engagement in New York City, was transplanted from the
Southards' to Miriam's home for a week's stay. There were, of course,
many loved faces missing, but this only made those who had assembled for
a brief sojourn together more keenly alive to the joy of reunion.

"This is the first Thanksgiving since my senior year in high school that
I've been given the chance to sit between Father and Mother and count
my blessings," Grace continued, looking fondly from one to the other of
her parents. She was occupying a low stool between them, her favorite
seat at home when the day was done, and the devoted little family
gathered in the living room to talk over its events.

"We are counting our blessings, too," smiled Mr. Harlowe. "One of them
is very lively, and runs away almost as soon as it arrives." He pinched
Grace's soft cheek.

"But it always runs back again," reminded Grace, "and it's always yours
for the asking. I'd leave my work, everything, and come home on wings if
you needed me."

"I used to hate Thanksgiving when I was a youngster," broke in J.
Elfreda. "We always had a lot of company and I always behaved like a
savage and spent Thanksgiving evening in solitary confinement. I'd wail
like a disappointed coyote and make night generally hideous for the
company. I've improved a lot since those days," she grinned boyishly at
her friends. "I can see now that it was a pretty good thing the Pilgrim
Fathers set aside a day for counting their blessings. If they thought
they were lucky, I wonder what we are."

Elfreda had unconsciously gone from the comic to the serious.

"We are favored beyond understanding," Mrs. Harlowe said solemnly.
"When one thinks of the poor and unfortunate, to whom Thanksgiving can
bring nothing but sorrow and bitterness, it seems little short of
marvelous that we should be so happy."

"I don't wish to be selfish and forget life's unfortunates, but I'd
rather not think about them now," was Miriam's candid comment. "We
mustn't be sad to-night. Grace must sparkle, and Elfreda be funny, and
Anne must recite for us, and I'll play and David must sing. I've
discovered that he has a really good tenor voice. We've been practising
songs together this fall."

"Really?" asked Grace, with interest. "And all these years we never knew
it. David, you can surely keep a secret."

"Oh, I can't sing," protested David, coloring. "Miriam only thinks I
can. Our real singers are among the missing to-night."

"You mean Hippy and Nora?"

"Yes," nodded David. "Isn't it strange we didn't hear from them. I wrote
Tom, Hippy and Reddy to come on here for Thanksgiving if they could.
Reddy and Jessica couldn't make it. They are coming home for Christmas,
though. Tom Gray is away up in the Michigan woods. Still he sent a
telegram that he couldn't come. But Hippy didn't answer. This morning I
sent him a telegram, and so far there's no answer to that, either."

"I hope neither of them is ill." Mrs. Gray's face took on a look of
concern. "It is not like Hippy to neglect his friends."

"Nora is usually the soul of promptness, too," reminded Anne.

"If I don't hear anything to-night, I'll telegraph Hippy again
to-morrow," announced David.

There was a pleasant silence in the room. Every one's thoughts were on
the piquant-faced Irish girl, whose sprightly manner and charming
personality made her a favorite, and her plump, loquacious husband,
whose ready flow of funny sayings never seemed to diminish.

"There aren't any wishing rings nowadays," sighed Grace, "so there's no
use in saying, 'I wish Nora and Hippy were here.' Come on, David, and
sing for us. Miriam says you can, and you know it wouldn't be nice in
you to contradict your sister."

"You can sing, 'Ah, Moon of My Delight,'" suggested Miriam to her
brother. "It is Omar Khayyam set to music, you know"--she turned to
Grace--"from the song cycle, 'In a Persian Garden.'"

"I love it," commented Anne, her eyes dreamy. "Do sing it, David."

As Miriam went to the piano the whirr of the electric bell came to their
ears.

Grace glanced interrogatively at David. "Perhaps it's a telegram," she
commented.

David, who had just risen from his chair to go to the piano, stopped
short and listened. "False alarm. Must be the doctor. One of the maids
is sick." He crossed to the piano where Miriam already stood, turning
over a pile of music. Having found the song for which she was searching,
she took her place before the piano and began the quatrain's throbbing
accompaniment.

David's voice rang out tunefully. He sang with considerable feeling and
expression. He had reached the exquisite line, "Through this same
Garden--and for One in Vain!" when a clear high voice from the doorway
took up the song with him.

With a startled cry of "Nora!" Grace ran to the door.

The song came to an abrupt end. Miriam whirled on the piano stool. One
glance and she had joined the group that now surrounded a slender figure
with a rosy, laughing face and a saucy turned-up nose.

"Nora O'Malley! You dear thing! No wonder David didn't hear from Hippy.
But where is he? Not far away, I hope."

"Ah!" called a voice from behind the thin silk curtain of a small alcove
at one end of the hall, and Hippy emerged, the picture of offended
dignity. "Missed at last," was his sweeping rebuke. "I had begun to
think I was doomed to languish behind that green silk curtain for life.
It's all Nora's fault. If I had been immured there forever and always,
it would be her fault just the same. She proposed that I should hide.
'Make them think I came alone. They will be so disappointed,' was her
deceitful counsel. And I believed her and wrapped myself in the curtain
to wait for you to be disappointed. I see it all now. It was merely a
scheme to attract attention to herself. She is jealous of my
popularity."

"Oh, hush, you wicked thing," giggled Nora. "You didn't give any one
time even to ask for you."

"That sounds well," was Hippy's lofty retort, "but remember, all that
prattles is not truth."

"Squabbling as usual," groaned David, shaking Hippy's hand with an
energy that belied the groan.

"Just as usual," smirked Hippy. "Neither of us will ever outgrow it. You
see we once lived in a town called Oakdale and associated daily with a
number of very quarrelsome people. I wouldn't like to mention their
names, but if some day you should happen to go to Oakdale just ask any
one if David Nesbit and Reddy Brooks ever reformed. They'll understand
what you mean."

"Your Oakdale friends will have cause to inquire what awful fate has
overtaken you if you don't reform speedily," warned David. "I'm obliged
to stand your insults because you are company. Just wait until the
newness of seeing you again wears off, and then see what happens."

"You don't have to show me," flung back Hippy hastily. "I'll take your
word for it. I believe in words, not deeds. You know I used to be so
fond of quoting that immortal stanza about doing noble deeds instead of
dreaming them all day long. Well, I've altered that to fit any little
occasion that might arise. I find it much more comforting to say it this
way:

    "Be wise, dear Hippy, from all violence sever,
    Say noble words, then do folks all day long.
    Avoid rash deeds, by sweet words e'er endeavor
    To prove your friends are wrong."

A ripple of laughter followed Hippy's sadly altered quotation of the
famous lines.

"That's a most ignoble sentiment, Hippy," criticized Miriam. "I can't
believe that you would practice it."

"I didn't say I would practice it," responded Hippy, with a wide grin.
"I merely stated that it was comforting to have around. Must I repeat
that I believe in words, and lots of them."

"We all knew that years ago," jeered David. "I believe in words, too.
Sensible words from Nora explaining how you and she happened to drift in
here at the eleventh hour. You haven't a sensible word in your
vocabulary."

"I have," protested Hippy. "Nora, as your husband, I command you, don't
give David Nesbit any information."

Nora dimpled. "I won't tell David," she capitulated. "I'll tell Miriam
and Anne and Grace." The five Originals were still grouped together in
the hall. "When David's letter came we were just wondering how we would
spend Thanksgiving with not one of the old crowd at home. Hippy handed
me the letter. It came while we were at luncheon. 'Let's go,' we both
said at once. So we locked little fingers, wished and said 'Thumbs.' I
said 'salt, pepper, vinegar,' but Hippy went on indefinitely with such
pleasant reminders as 'death, famine, pestilence, murder.' He believes
in words, you know." She shot a roguish glance at her broadly-smiling
spouse. "Finally I reduced him to reason and we planned to surprise you.
This morning found two lonely Originals hurrying to catch up with their
pals." Nora surveyed her friends with a loving loyalty that brought her
extra embracing from Grace, Anne and Miriam.

"We mustn't be selfish," reminded Grace. "The folks in the living room
are anxious to welcome you."

Hippy and Nora were escorted into the living room by a fond bodyguard,
and were soon exchanging affectionate greetings with the older members
of the house party. J. Elfreda Briggs had not gone into the hall on the
arrival of Hippy and Nora. She could never be induced to intrude upon
the more intimate moments of the Originals.

Hippy, with understanding tact, at once proceeded to draw her into the
charmed circle. "Well, well!" he exclaimed. "Whom do I see? J. Elfreda,
and in the clutches of the law, so I am told."

J. Elfreda's fear of intruding vanished at this sally. Her own sense of
humor caused her to claim kinship with Hippy and his pranks and she
answered him in kind.

"What I don't see is how _you_ ever escaped those same clutches," put in
David. "Don't you have a hard time, usually, to convince the jury that
you are not the defendant?"

"Not in the least," responded Hippy, with dignity. "The jury knows me
for what I am. Just let me tell you that if I were to have _you_
arrested for slander there wouldn't be the slightest chance of my being
mistaken for the defendant."

Even David was obliged to join in the laugh against himself.

"All right, old man. We'll cry quits. I'll bring my law cases to you if
ever I have any."

"And now that you are a broker I'll bring anything I want broken to
_you_," promised Hippy glibly. "So far I've left all those little
business details to the maid. She has successfully broken a number of
our wedding presents, and we look for still greater results. She knows
more about 'brokerage' or, rather 'breakerage,' than would fill a book."

"What a blessed thing it is to find you the same ridiculous Hippy we've
always known," smiled Mrs. Gray, as Hippy seated himself beside her for
a few minutes' sensible conversation. "You and Nora will never be staid
and serious. I'm so glad of it."

She sighed. She was thinking of Tom Gray, her nephew, and of how grave,
almost moody, he had become during the last year. Long ago she had
deplored the fact that no engagement existed between Tom and Grace. Tom
had grown strangely unlike his old cheery self, and in his changed
bearing she read refusal of his love on Grace's part. It saddened her.
Her heart ached for Tom. She had always looked forward to the day when
Grace would give her life into Tom's keeping.

She had never approached Grace on the subject of Tom and his love, but
to-night, as she watched Hippy and Nora, serene in their mutual love and
comradeship, and marked, too, the quiet devotion of Anne and David, who
were to be married in Oakdale on New Year's night, her heart went out to
her gray-eyed boy, far away in the great North woods, and she determined
to say a word for him to Grace.

It was late in the evening before she found her opportunity. With the
arrival of Hippy and Nora the interest soon centered about the piano.
Grace, while not a performer, was an ardent lover of music, and her
delight in Nora's singing was so patent that Mrs. Gray would not disturb
her.

It was during the serving of a dainty little repast that Mrs. Gray
called to Grace, "Come here, Grace, and sit by me."

Grace obeyed with alacrity, drawing her chair close to that of her old
friend.

"I thought I would ask you, my dear--what do you hear from Tom?" began
the dainty old lady with apparent innocence.

Grace felt the color mount even to her forehead.

"I haven't heard from him lately," she confessed. "I--that is--I owe him
a letter."

"I wish you would write to him. Poor boy. He is very lonely, away up
there in the woods."

Grace did not answer for a moment. Then she said in a constrained voice,
"I _will_ write to him, Mrs. Gray. I know he is lonely."

There was an awkward pause in the conversation; then came the abrupt
question, "Grace, do you love my boy?"

"No, Fairy Godmother," replied Grace in a low tone. "I'm sorry, but I
don't. That is, not in the way he wishes me to love him."

"I am sorry, too, Grace. I feel almost as though I were responsible for
his sorrow. For to him it is a deep sorrow. If I had not given Harlowe
House to Overton College, you might have found that your work lay in
being Tom's wife. He has never reproached me, but I wonder if he ever
thinks that."

"I am sure he doesn't," Grace's clear eyes met sorrowfully the kind blue
ones. "Please don't think that Harlowe House has anything to do with my
not marrying Tom. It is only because I do not love him that I am firm
in refusing him. My heart is bound up in my work. Really, dear Fairy
Godmother, I am almost sure I shall never marry. For your sake and his,
I'd rather marry Tom than any other man in the world, if I felt that
marriage was best for me. But I don't. I glory in my work and freedom
and I _couldn't_ give them up. I've wanted to say this to you for a long
time, but I didn't know just how to begin. Now that I have said it, I
hope it hasn't wounded you."

"My dear Grace," Mrs. Gray's voice was not quite steady, "I would give
much to welcome you as my niece, but not unless you love Tom with the
tenderness of a truly great love. If that love ever comes to you, I
shall indeed be happy. But my dear boy is worthy of the highest
affection. If you cannot give him that affection, then it is far better
that you two should spend your lives apart."



                              CHAPTER XII

                           MISSING--A FRIEND


Four days, spent in the society of those one loves best, pass almost
with the rapidity of lightning. Unlike most of her visits to New York
City, Grace gave little of her time to attending the theatres and seeing
the metropolis. By common consent the members of the house party spent
the greater share of their holiday together in the large, luxurious
living room. Only one evening found them away from this temporary home.
That was on Thanksgiving night, when Miriam gave a theatre party in
honor of her guests to see Everett Southard and Anne in "King Lear," and
after the play Mr. and Miss Southard entertained their friends at supper
in one of New York's most exclusive restaurants. Thanksgiving morning
they spent in the church of which Eric Burroughs the actor-minister was
pastor, and in the afternoon they motored through Central Park and far
out Riverside Drive. Aside from this, the rest of their stay found the
thoroughly congenial household gathered about their borrowed fireside,
treasuring the precious moments that flitted by all too fast.

There was but one drawback to Grace's pleasure. The thought that she had
brought even a breath of sadness to her old friend, Mrs. Gray. There
were moments, too, when she experienced a faint resentment against Tom.
Must her reunions with her friends be forever haunted by the knowledge
that she had made one of the Eight Originals unhappy? The approaching
marriage of Anne to David meant, that of the four girls she, only, had
chosen to walk alone. She knew that Anne, Nora and Jessica would hail
joyfully the news of her engagement to Tom. Living in the tender
atmosphere of requited love, their sympathies went out to the lover.

It was not until Sunday morning, after she had accompanied her father,
mother and Mrs. Gray to the railway station and was driving back to the
Nesbits' in David's car, that Anne ventured to broach the subject of Tom
to Grace. Elfreda, Hippy, Miriam and Nora were in the automobile just
ahead. Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe and Mrs. Gray had driven to the station in
David's car, so, on the return, Grace and Anne had the tonneau of the
automobile quite to themselves.

Both girls were unusually quiet, and David, fully occupied in driving
his car through the crowded streets, said little.

"Anne," it was Grace who broke the silence, "if David insisted upon your
giving up the stage entirely, would you marry him?"

"Yes," came Anne's unhesitating answer. "I love him so much that I could
do even that. Only he hasn't asked me to make the sacrifice. He
understands what my art means to me, and is willing to compromise. I am
not going on any more road tours. I may play an occasional engagement in
the large cities, but I have promised, so far as is possible, to remain
in New York."

"But when you were at Overton he was opposed to your stage career,"
reminded Grace. "What made him change his mind?"

"Living in New York and being influenced by Mr. Southard, I think. You
see the Southards knew all about me and my affairs. Long ago Mr.
Southard began educating David to his point of view in regard to the
stage. David is neither narrow-minded nor obstinate, so it has all come
right for me," she ended happily. Then she added, as her hand found
Grace's. "I wish you loved Tom, Grace."

"And you, too, Anne!" Grace's tones quivered with vexation. "Am I never
to be free from that shadow?"

"Why, Grace!" Anne looked hurt. "I didn't dream you felt so strongly
about poor Tom. I'm sorry I said anything to you of him."

"Forgive me, dear, for being so cross." Grace was instantly penitent.
"But it seems as though the whole world, my world, I mean, was
determined to marry me to Tom. You are all on his side--every one of
you. It's the old case of all the world loving a lover. I know you think
I'm hard-hearted. None of you stop to consider my side of it. Oh, yes;
there is one person who does. Mother understands. She doesn't think I
ought to marry Tom, just to please him. She realizes that my work means
more to me than marriage." Grace's tone had again become unconsciously
petulant.

Anne regarded her in silence. Hitherto she had not realized how remote
were Tom's chances of winning Grace's love. It was quite evident, too,
that she had made a mistake in broaching the subject to Grace. It
appeared as though too much had already been said on that score. Anne
resolved to trespass no further. "Please forget what I said, Grace. I'm
sure I understand. I'll never mention the subject to you again."

Grace eyed Anne quizzically. "I ought to be grateful to my friends for
having my welfare at heart," she admitted, "and I do appreciate their
solicitude. Don't think I've turned against Tom because they have tried
to plead his cause. So far, it hasn't made any difference. I can't help
the way I feel toward him. Still, I'd rather not talk about him. It
doesn't help matters, and I am beginning to get cross over it."

"You couldn't be cross if you tried," laughed Anne.

"Oh, yes I could," contradicted Grace. "I could be quite formidable."

At this juncture their talk ended. Their automobile had drawn up before
the Nesbits' home and David stood at the open door of the car to help
them out. During the few short hours that remained to Grace before time
for her train to Overton she and Anne had no further opportunity for
confidences.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was twenty minutes past eleven o'clock that night when the train
reached Overton, and Grace was not sorry to end her long ride. It had
been an unusually lonely journey. For the first time in her experience
she had made it alone, and without speaking to a person on the train.
Then, too, the regret of parting with those she loved still weighed
heavily upon her. "I do hope Emma is awake" was her first thought as she
crossed the station yard and hailed the solitary taxicab that always met
the late New York train, lamenting inwardly that the lateness of the
hour and the weight of her luggage prevented her from walking home
through the crisp, frosty night, under the stars.

The vestibule light of Harlowe House shone out like a beacon across the
still white campus. Grace thrilled with an excess of love and pride at
sight of her beloved college home. How much it meant to her, and how
sweet it was to feel that her business of life consisted in being of
help to others. If she married Tom that meant selfish happiness for they
two alone, but as house mother she was of use to seventeen times two
persons. "The greatest good to the greatest number," she whispered, as
she slid her latchkey into the lock.

The living room was dark. The girls had long since gone to their rooms.
Grace's feet made no sound on the soft velvet carpet as she hurried up
the stairs. A gleam of yellow light from under her door showed that Emma
was indeed keeping vigil for her.

"Hooray, Gracious!" greeted Emma as the door closed behind her roommate.
She flung her long arms affectionately about Grace and kissed her. "Is
it four days or four weeks since I saw you off to New York and returned
to my humble cot to wrestle with the job of managing that worthy
aggregation known as the Harlowites?"

"I should say it was four hours," corrected Grace. "Not that I didn't
miss you, dear old comrade. We all missed you. Every last person wished
you had come with me, and sent you their best wishes. It was splendid to
spend Thanksgiving with Father and Mother, and to see Mrs. Gray and the
others. Did you receive my postcard? I wrote you that Hippy and Nora
were with us. They gave us a complete surprise." Grace related further
details of her visit, walking about the room and putting away her
personal effects as she talked.

As usual Emma had made chocolate and arranged on the center table a
tempting little midnight luncheon for the traveler. It was not long
until Grace had donned a pretty pale blue negligee and the two friends
were seated opposite each other enjoying the spread.

"Now I've told you all my news, what about yours?" asked Grace at last.

"I've only one tale to tell," responded Emma dryly, "and that is not a
pleasant one. The news of Miss Brent's sale has traveled about the
campus like wildfire. We've had a perfect stream of girls coming here.
They have conceived the fond idea that Harlowe House is a headquarters
for second-hand clothing. I have labored with them to convince them that
such is not the case, but still they yearn for the Brent finery.
Judging from what I hear, it must have been 'some' wardrobe. Pardon my
lapse into slang, O, Overton. A number of the teachers have commented on
the affair. I've been asked several pointed questions."

"How dreadful!" broke in Grace, her face clouding. "Still I was almost
sure something would come of it. That was the reason I forbade Miss
Brent to hold a sale when first she proposed it to me. Do you think that
Miss Wilder and--Miss Wharton know it?" Grace hesitated before
pronouncing the latter's name.

"Miss Wilder doesn't know, because she left for California last
Saturday."

A cry of surprise and disappointment broke from Grace. "Miss Wilder
gone, and I didn't say good-bye to her! Why did she leave so suddenly,
Emma? She expected to be at Overton for another week, at least."

"Some friends of hers were going to the Pacific Coast in their private
car, and knowing that she was ordered west for her health, they wrote
and invited her to join them. They had arranged to leave New York City
this morning, so she left Overton for New York yesterday morning. I am
sure she wrote you. One of the letters that came for you while you were
gone is addressed in her handwriting."

Emma reached down, opened the drawer of the table at which they were
sitting, and drew out a pile of letters. "Here's your mail, Gracious. Go
ahead and read it while I clear up the ghastly remains of the spread."

"All right, I will." Grace went rapidly over the pile of envelopes which
bore various postmarks. The majority of the letters were from friends
scattered far and wide over the country. The thick white envelope, Miss
Wilder's own particular stationery, lay almost at the bottom of the
pile. Grace tore it open with eager fingers and read:

     "MY DEAR GRACE:

     "Just a line to let you know how much I regret leaving Overton
     without seeing you again. There were several matters of which I was
     anxious to speak with you at greater length. I had not contemplated
     leaving here for at least another week, but I cannot resist the
     invitation which a dear friend of mine has extended to me, to
     travel west in her private car, so I shall join her in New York
     City on Saturday evening, as she wishes to start on her tour at
     once.

     "As soon as I reach my destination I will forward you my permanent
     address. I wish you to write me, Grace. I shall be anxious to know
     what is happening at Harlowe House and throughout the college.
     Remember distance can make no difference in my interest and
     affection for you. You have been, and always will be, a girl after
     my own heart. With my best wishes for your continued welfare and
     success.

                                        "Your sincere friend,
                                                    "KATHERINE WILDER."

Grace laid the letter down with a sigh and sat staring moodily at it,
her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands.

Emma, who had finished clearing the table, regarded her with
affectionate solicitude. Stepping over to her, she slid her arm over
Grace's shoulders. Grace raised her head. Her eyes met Emma's. Then she
pushed the letter into Emma's hand. "Read it," she commanded.

"Do you think she understood?" was Emma's question as she handed back
the letter.

"About Miss Wharton not liking me?" counter-questioned Grace.

Emma nodded.

"I am afraid she didn't." Grace's gray eyes were full of sad concern.
"And the most unfortunate thing about it is that I must never trouble
her with Miss Wharton's shortcomings. It would worry her, and that would
retard her recovery. If the year brings me battles to fight, I must
fight them alone."



                             CHAPTER XIII

                        A DISTURBING CONFIDENCE


Grace awoke the next morning with the weight of a disagreeable duty
hanging over her. She had given Jean Brent until after Thanksgiving to
decide upon her course of action. Jean's disregard for her wishes had
already placed the freshman in an unenviable prominence in college.
Conscientious to a fault, Grace believed herself to be partly to blame
for what had occurred during her week-end absence from Harlowe House.
She should have insisted, in the beginning, on absolute frankness on the
part of Jean. She had respected the girl's secret and invested her with
an honor which she did not possess. It now looked as though she, as well
as Jean, might already be in a position to reap the folly of such a
course.

With Miss Wilder as dean, Grace knew that Jean's indiscretion would be
treated with leniency, but she was by no means sure of what Miss
Wharton's attitude might be should the story reach her ears. Grace hoped
devoutly that it would not. But whatever happened Jean Brent must impart
to her what she had hitherto kept a secret. Grace was resolved upon
that much, at least. She could not decide as to the wisest course to
pursue until she had heard Jean's story. She decided to wait until the
girls were at luncheon, then ask Jean to come to her office that
afternoon before dinner. At luncheon, however, greatly to her surprise,
Jean walked directly up to her table and said in a low tone, "I have
decided to tell you my secret, Miss Harlowe. When may I talk with you?"

"I shall be in my office when you come from your classes this afternoon,
or I can wait for you in my room, if you prefer." A great wave of relief
swept over Grace as she answered the girl. She had feared that Jean
would prove stubborn in her determination to keep her secret.

"Thank you. I will come to your office." Jean turned away abruptly.

Emma Dean had noted Jean's unusually meek manner. She had endeavored not
to hear what was not intended for her ears, but low as were Jean's
tones, the words reached her. She made no comment, after Jean had taken
her place at one of the other tables, until Grace remarked, "Emma, you
could hardly help hearing what Miss Brent said to me."

"Yes, I heard what she said," responded Emma unemotionally.

"I am so glad she has decided to trust me."

"It might be better for all concerned if she had trusted you in the
beginning," was Emma's dry retort. "I can't help feeling a trifle out of
patience with that girl, Grace. She had no business to commit an act, no
matter how trivial, that would lay you open to criticism."

"Have you heard any one in particular criticizing me?" asked Grace with
quick anxiety.

Emma did not answer for a moment. Grace watched her, her gray eyes
troubled.

"I'll tell you precisely what I heard this morning. Before I left
Overton Hall to come here for luncheon I stopped for a moment to see
Miss Duncan. Miss Arthur, that new teacher of oratory, was with her. I
walked into the room just in time to hear Miss Duncan say 'I can
scarcely credit it. I am surprised that Miss Harlowe--' then she saw me,
turned red and stopped short. Miss Arthur looked rather sheepishly at
me. I pretended that I had heard nothing, asked the question I intended
to ask, and went on my way, much perturbed in spirit. I can't bear to
hear you criticized in the smallest degree, Grace," was Emma's vehement
cry. "I am sure it was about this sale they were talking. It's all very
well for Miss Brent to take the stand that she has the privilege of
doing as she pleases with her own clothing, but there is something
about the very idea of a sale of wearing apparel that quite upsets
Overton traditions and causes Harlowe House to lose dignity. One can't
imagine an enterprising clothes merchant living at Holland or Morton
House or even at Wayne Hall. The students should have had the good taste
to discourage it, but, from what I hear, Miss Palmer had expatiated on
the glories of Miss Brent's wardrobe to the clique of girls she chums
with, and they gathered like flies about a honey pot. You'll usually
find the girls with the largest allowances are always eager to obtain
much for the smallest possible outlay. I think, too, that Miss Palmer's
influence is not wholesome. It led to Evelyn Ward's folly last year.
Evelyn hasn't been unduly friendly with her so far this year. I've
noticed that."

"I can't believe Evelyn had anything to do with this sale," asserted
Grace. "She may have known of it, but she never sanctioned it."

"At least she didn't attend it," commented Emma, "but, come to think of
it, neither did Althea Parker. Don't you remember, I mentioned to you
that I met Evelyn on the campus that fateful Saturday and she said she
was going to spend the afternoon with Miss Parker?"

"Then if Miss Parker was ringleader in the affair, why didn't she have
the courage to attend the sale?" was Grace's quick question.

"For further information inquire of Miss Brent," advised Emma, shrugging
her shoulders.

"I will," sighed Grace. "I seem fated to puzzle over hard questions,
don't I?"

It was half-past four o'clock when Jean Brent entered the office where
Grace sat idly turning the leaves of a magazine.

"Sit down, Miss Brent," invited Grace. Then in her usual direct fashion,
"I am ready to listen to anything you wish to say."

Jean Brent flushed, then the color receded from her fair skin, leaving
her very pale. In a low tone she began a recital that caused Grace
Harlowe's eyes to become riveted on her in intense surprise, mingled
with consternation. An expression of lively sympathy sprang into her
face, however, as the story proceeded, and when Jean had finished with a
half sob, Grace stretched out her hands impulsively with, "You poor
little girl."

Jean clasped the outstretched hands and murmured, "You don't blame me so
much, then, do you, Miss Harlowe?"

"No, I can't," Grace made honest answer, "but I am so sorry that you did
not come to me with this in the beginning. I could have helped you
arrange your affairs nicely. You could have borrowed money from the
Semper Fidelis Fund and later, if you were desirous of selling your
wardrobe you could have disposed of it in New York City for fully as
much as you have received for it here. A dear friend of mine in New York
who is an actress has often told me that the women of the various
theatrical companies who play minor parts are only too glad to purchase
attractive wearing apparel which society women sell after one wearing."

"I didn't know. I am sorry I didn't tell you long ago." Jean was
thoroughly penitent. "Will it make so very much difference now?"

"I hope not. It is hard to say. Unfortunately the news of the sale has
reached the ears of several members of the faculty. Not only you, but I,
as well, have been criticized. We can do nothing except wait for the
gossip about it to die a natural death." Grace's quiet acceptance of the
unpleasantness which Jean's rash act had forced upon her stung the
freshman far more sharply than reproof.

"I can go to the dean and tell her what I have told you," faltered Jean.

Grace shook her head. "No, I should not advise it. This affair belongs
entirely to Harlowe House and should be settled here. I will write to
Miss Lipton to-night. If Miss Wilder were here I should not hesitate to
place matters before her, but I am not so sure of Miss Wharton, the
woman who is filling Miss Wilder's position. For the present, at least,
silence will be best. If Miss Wharton hears of it and sends for you,
then you had better be frank and conceal nothing."

"Do you mean that you intend to keep my secret, Miss Harlowe; that you
will let me stay on at Harlowe House and finish my freshman year?"

"Yes; not only the freshman year, but your sophomore, junior and senior
years as well, provided Miss Lipton approves and advises it. I shall
write to her exactly what has occurred. She is nearest to you and
therefore to her belongs the decision. But, while I am endeavoring to
work for your interest I wish you to work for it, too. I would like to
see you more self-reliant. You have been brought up in luxury, but you
must forget that. As matters now stand you will one day be obliged to
earn your own living. You must build your foundation for a useful life
during your freshman year."

Grace's voice vibrated with an earnestness that visibly moved her
listener.

"I will try. I _will_ try," she declared fervently. "It is wonderful in
you to care so much about me, when I have been so troublesome."

"We won't think of that any longer," smiled Grace. "However, there is
one question which I must ask you. Did Miss Ward know of the sale?"

"No," admitted Jean, looking ashamed. "I kept it a secret from her. Miss
Parker purposely invited her to luncheon that afternoon. She picked out
the things she wanted to buy beforehand and took them out afterward.
Evelyn was very angry. We quarreled, and have not spoken to each other
since. It was my fault."

"Then, to please me, will you try to be friends with Miss Ward again?"

"Yes."

"You must tell no one else what you have told me," stipulated Grace
further. "It must be a secret between us."

"I will tell no one," promised Jean.

The ringing of the door bell and the entrance of the maid with a card,
brought the confidential talk to an end. Grace rose and held out her
hand. "I must go," she said. "I will talk with you again when I hear
from Miss Lipton."

"Thank you over and over again, Miss Harlowe." Jean's eyes were lit with
a strength of purpose rarely seen in them. As she left the office and
thoughtfully climbed the stairs to her room she resolved anew to be
worthy of Grace Harlowe's approval and respect.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                 THE RETURN OF THE CHRISTMAS CHILDREN


"Holy night, peaceful and blest," rose Nora Wingate's clear voice, high
and sweet on the still winter air. A chorus of fresh young voices took
up the second line of the beautiful hymn, filling the calm of the snowy
night with exquisite harmony.

A little old lady, with hair as white as the snow itself, her cheeks
bright with color, her eyes very tender, appeared in the library window
as the song ended. She had concealed herself in the folds of the curtain
while the singing went on, fearing it might come to a sudden stop should
she reveal herself.

Her appearance, however, inspired the singers to fresh effort, for,
immediately they spied her, led by Nora, they burst into the old English
carol, "God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen." They sang it with their rosy,
eager faces raised to her, a world of fellowship in every note, while
she stood motionless and listened, a smile of supreme love and content
making her delicate features radiant.

As they ended this second carol she raised the window. "Come in, this
minute, every one of you blessed children. You can't possibly know how
happy you have made me this Christmas Eve."

"Coming right in the window," declared Hippy, as he made an ineffectual
spring and failed to land on the wide sill.

"Just as I expected," jeered Reddy Brooks, dragging him back. "You might
know Hippy would spoil everything. We all start out, on our best
behavior, to sing carols to our fairy godmother. Then at the most
effective moment, when we are feeling almost inspired, he ruins the
whole effect by trying to jump in the window."

"He might as well try to jump through a ten-inch hoop," seconded David.
"He'd be just as successful."

"They are slandering me, Nora," whimpered Hippy, "and I am the sweetest
carol singer of them all. Protect me, Nora. Tell Reddy Brooks it was his
singing that nearly ruined that last carol. Tell him his voice is as
loud and obnoxious as his hair. And tell David Nesbit that--" Hippy gave
a sudden agile bound out of reach of Reddy's avenging hands, and tore
across the lawn and around the corner of the house, shrieking a wild,
"Good-bye, Nora. Remember I've always been a good, kind husband to you.
Don't forget me, Nora."

[Illustration: "Holy Night, Peaceful and Blest."]

"I'll pay him yet for that remark about my obnoxious hair," grinned
Reddy, as the carol singers trooped across the lawn and into the house.

Mrs. Gray met her Christmas children with welcoming arms. "I am going to
kiss every one of you," she announced.

"We are willing," assured David, and she was passed from one pair of
arms to another, emerging from this wholesale embrace, flushed and
laughing.

"You didn't kiss me," observed a plaintive voice from behind the
portieres that divided the library from the hall. Hippy's round face was
thrust engagingly into view. He had slipped in the side door,
unobserved.

"There he is, Reddy. How did he get in so quietly?" David took a
vengeful step forward. The face disappeared.

"Just wait until I hang up my overcoat," threatened Reddy.

"Don't let him hang it up, Nora. If you value the safety of your
husband, make him stand and hold it," pleaded the plaintive voice.

"Here, Reddy, give me your hat and coat," ordered Nora cruelly.

"Ha! I defy you." Hippy suddenly bounced from behind the curtain into
the midst of the group in the hall. "I would defy forty David Nesbits
and fifty Reddy Brooks for a kiss from my fair lady." He bowed before
Mrs. Gray.

"Bless you, Hippy," she said, as she kissed his fat cheek, "that was
nicely said."

"I am always saying nice things," assured Hippy airily. "Better still
they are always true things. There are some persons, though, who can't
stand the white light of truth. May I rely upon you for protection, Mrs.
Gray? Alas, I am now alone in the world. The person who is supposed to
have my welfare at heart is hob-nobbing with my traducers. Miriam Nesbit
used to be a fairly good protector, but she hasn't done much along that
line lately."

"Come on, Hippy. I'll take care of you. I'm sorry I've neglected you."
Miriam held out her hand. Hippy hung his head and simpered. Then with
his Cheshire cat grin he seized Miriam's hand and toddled beside her
into the library. The others followed, laughing at the ridiculous
spectacle he presented.

"Both our fairy godmother and I are disgusted with you," taunted Nora as
she directed a glance of withering scorn at Hippy, now calmly seated
beside Miriam on the big leather davenport, the picture of triumph. "You
asked her to protect you; then you deserted her and deliberately went
over to Miriam for help."

"Wasn't that awful?" deplored Hippy. "Such inconstancy makes me blush."

"You couldn't blush if your life depended upon it," was David Nesbit's
scathing comment.

"There are others," retorted Hippy.

David glared ferociously at the grinning Hippy.

"There are others," went on Hippy blandly, "who, I might venture to say,
have even greater trouble in producing that much lauded rarity, a blush.
But what does blushing mean? It means turning very red. It isn't always
confined to one's face, either. I once knew a man, a rare creature,
whose very hair blushed. That is, it turned red when he was an infant
and blushed more deeply every year. In fact it never quit blushing."

"I once knew a person, a senseless creature, who didn't know when he was
well off," began Reddy, in an ominous voice. "From the time he learned
to talk he made ill-natured remarks about his friends. But at last he
came to a terrible end. He----"

"I never knew him," interrupted Hippy. "I'm not interested in persons I
don't know. I'd rather talk to Grace. I've known her for a long time,
and we've always been on friendly terms. Come and sit beside me,
Grace."

"Jilted," declared Miriam tragically, as Grace accepted the invitation
and seated herself on Hippy's other side.

"Not a bit of it. I believe in preparedness. The
constant-reinforcements-arriving-every-minute idea appeals to me. You
are both bulwarks of defense."

"I'm surprised that anything except eats appeals to you." This from
Reddy.

"'Eats' did you say? What are eats? Or, better, _where_ are eats?"
demanded Hippy, beaming hopefully at Mrs. Gray.

"They will appear very soon, Hippy," assured Mrs. Gray. "I sent a
dispatch to the kitchen the moment you finished singing."

"For goodness' sake, Grace and Miriam, keep Hippy quiet for a while. No
one else has had a chance to say a word," complained David. "I'd like to
hear a few remarks on 'Life in Chicago' by our estimable pals, Jessica
and Reddy."

"Life in Chicago can't compare with life in dear old Oakdale," said
Jessica. "In spite of the theatres, concerts and all the pleasures that
a big city offers one, Reddy and I are always a little lonely."

"That is because you and Reddy miss me," observed Hippy with positive
modesty.

"You're right, old man. We do miss you," agreed Reddy, with
unmistakable sincerity. For once Hippy forgot to be funny. "You aren't
the only ones who miss the old guard," he answered seriously; then he
added in his usual humorous strain, "I hope some day the Eight Originals
Plus Two and all their friends will emigrate to a happy island and
colonize it. Then there won't be any missed faces or any letter writing
to do, for that matter. David and Reddy can run the business of the
colony and see that we aren't cheated when we trade glass beads and
other little trinkets with the savages. Of course there will be a few
moth-eaten old cannibals. Tom can classify the trees of the forest and
make the obstreperous beasts and reptiles behave. I will represent the
law. I will settle all disputes and administer justice. I'll be a
regular old Father William, like the one in 'Through the Looking Glass,'
I always did love that poem, especially this verse:

    "'In my youth,' said his father, 'I took to the law,
      And argued each case with my wife.
    And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
      Has lasted me all of my life.'"

Nora pretended to pay no attention to Hippy, who waited for her to
protest, an expansive smile wreathing his fat face. "She didn't
understand," he said sadly, after beaming at Nora in vain. "There's no
use in trying to explain. I suppose I'll have to give her an appointment
of some kind on my island. Nora, you may have charge of me. Isn't that a
noble mission? Still she doesn't answer. Oh, well, never mind, I'll go
right on appointing."

"Mrs. Gray, you will be the queen, and Grace can be prime minister. Anne
can have charge of the amusements, and Miriam can help her. Miriam has a
decided leaning toward the drama."

The color in Miriam's cheeks suddenly deepened at this apparently
innocent remark. "I don't think I like your island idea very well," she
said lightly. "I'd much rather have the Originals live right here in
Oakdale." She rose and strolled across the room to where Jessica sat.

"It's not the island idea. It's the dramatic idea that Miriam objects to
discussing," confided Hippy in a low tone to Grace.

"How did you find it out?" asked Grace.

"First of all by observation, my child. Second, through David. He knows
it, too. Southard told him. They have seen a good deal of each other
since the Nesbits have lived in New York. David thinks him worthy of
Miriam."

"I knew he cared. I wonder if Miriam does? She never mentions Mr.
Southard. I hope she loves him. It is so hard when one cares and the
other doesn't." Grace's gray eyes grew sad. Conversation languished
between Hippy and Grace for a little. Then with a half sigh Grace rose,
"I am going to ask Nora to sing," she said.

Before she had time to carry out her intention John appeared pushing a
small table on wheels ahead of him. Its shelves were laden with
sandwiches, olives, salted nuts and delicious fancy cakes, while a maid
followed him with a chocolate service.

Mrs. Gray poured the chocolate, and Anne, always her right-hand man,
assisted her in serving it. Grace, with her ever-present youthfulness of
spirit, found trundling the table about the room a most pleasing
diversion. They were a very merry little company, entering into the joy
of being together with all their hearts, and deeply thankful for the
opportunity to gather once more in the same spirit of friendly affection
that had characterized all their meetings.

It was well toward midnight when the party broke up.

"Mayn't I take you home in my car, Grace," pleaded Tom. Grace stood for
the moment, a little detached from the others, arranging the veil over
her hat.

"Oh, no, Tom," she made quick answer. "It is late. You mustn't go to
that trouble. David is going to take Anne and I in his car. Hippy, Nora,
Reddy and Jessica are going home in Hippy's machine."

Tom's face fell. "May I come to see you to-morrow afternoon, then?"

"Yes, do. Miriam and David are coming over for a while," returned wily
Grace. Her one idea was to avoid being alone with Tom. His sole idea was
to be alone with her. His pride, however, would allow him to go no
further. He had been rebuffed twice in rapid succession.

"Thank you. I'll drop in on you then," he said, trying to summon an
indifference he did not feel.

After his aunt's guests had departed with much merriment and laughter,
Tom turned to go upstairs. He was sure Grace did not intend to be
unkind. It was not her fault if she did not love him. He had determined,
however, to plead with her once more. Then, if she still remained
obdurate, as he feared she might, he would give up all hope of her,
forever, and go his lonely way in the world.



                              CHAPTER XV

                        THE NEW YEAR'S WEDDING


It was New Year's, and Anne Pierson's wedding night. At half-past seven
the ceremony linking her life forever to that of her school-day friend,
David Nesbit, was to be performed in the beautiful old stone church on
Chapel Hill which, in company with her chums, she had faithfully
attended during her years spent in Oakdale.

Anne had, at first, steadily refused to countenance the idea of a church
wedding. She was a quiet, demure little soul, who, aside from her work,
detested publicity. It was Mrs. Gray's wish, however, to see the girl
she had befriended married in the church which bore the memorial window
to the other Anne, her daughter, who had died in her girlhood. So Anne
had yielded to that wish.

Although Grace was Anne's dearest friend, she had insisted that Miriam
should be her maid of honor. Privately she had said, "I'd rather be a
bridesmaid with Nora and Jessica. You know there were only four of us in
the beginning." It had also been decided that in spite of the fact that
Jessica and Nora were really eligible to the position of matrons of
honor, that phase of wedding etiquette should, for once, be disregarded,
and the three friends who had welcomed Anne as a fourth to their little
fold should serve as bridesmaids and be dressed precisely alike. "It
was," declared Anne, who heartily despised form, "as though they were
still three girls together, with husbands in the dim and distant
future."

It was to be a yellow and white wedding, therefore the gowns they had
chosen were of white silk net over pale yellow satin, and very youthful
in effect. Miriam's gown was a wonderful gold tissue, which made her
appear like the princess in some old fairy tale, while Anne, contrary to
tradition, had not chosen white satin. Her wedding dress was of soft,
exquisite white silk, clouded with white chiffon, and was much better
suited to her quiet type of loveliness than satin could possibly have
been.

Mrs. Gray, who was to give the bride away, wore a gown of her favorite
lavender satin, and bustled cheerfully about the Piersons' living room,
in which the feminine half of the bridal party had gathered until time
to drive to the church, where Anne was to play the leading part in a new
and infinitely wonderful drama. Anne's mother had insisted that it
should be Mrs. Gray, rather than herself, who gave Anne into David
Nesbit's keeping. Always a shy, retiring woman, she had shrunk from the
idea of appearing prominently before a church full of persons, many of
whom were strangers to her. Dearly as she loved her talented daughter,
she preferred to sit quietly beside Mary, her older daughter, in the
place of honor reserved for the members of the families of the bridal
party. She and Mrs. Gray had discussed the matter at length, and she had
been so insistent that the former, as Anne's friend and benefactor,
should give away the bride that Mrs. Gray, secretly delighted, had
consented to her request.

"Anne makes a darling bride, doesn't she?" praised Nora, lifting a fold
of the veil of exquisite lace, Mrs. Gray's wedding veil, by the way, and
peering lovingly into her friend's faintly flushed face.

Anne smiled and reached out a slim little hand to Nora. She was
occupying the center of the living room while her four friends, Mrs.
Gray, her mother, Miss Southard and Mary Pierson hovered solicitously
about her.

"How dear you all are to me." She held out her arms as though to clasp
her friends in one loving embrace. "I am so glad now that I am going to
have a real church wedding. I thought at first it would be nicer to be
quietly married and slip away without fuss and feathers, but now I know
that it is my sacred duty to my friends and to David to play my new
part, as I've always played my other parts, in public."

"I always knew that Anne and David would be married some day," declared
Grace wisely. "I believe David fell in love with Anne the very first
time he saw her. Don't you remember Anne, we met him outside the high
school, and he asked us to come to his aeroplane exhibition?"

"I remember it as well as though it happened yesterday," Anne's musical
voice vibrated with a tenderness called forth by the memory of that
girlhood meeting with the man of men.

"Those days seem very far away to me now," remarked Miriam Nesbit. "I
feel as though I'd been grown up for ages."

"I don't feel a bit grown up. It seems only yesterday since I ran races
and tore about our garden with Captain, our good old collie," laughed
Grace. "I'm like Peter Pan. I don't want to, and can't, grow up. And I
shall never marry." She glanced about her circle of friends with an
almost challenging air. She looked so radiantly young and pretty in her
dainty frock that simultaneously the thought occurred to them all, "Poor
Tom." Yet in their hearts, even to Mrs. Gray, they could find no fault
with Grace's straightforward words. If she were almost cruelly
indifferent to Tom as a lover, she had the virtue at least of being
absolutely honest. Even Mrs. Gray admired and respected her candor.

"Did you ever see anything more beautiful than Anne's and Miriam's
bouquets?" broke in Miss Southard, with the intent of leading away from
a not wholly happy subject.

Miriam held her bouquet at arm's length and eyed it with admiration. It
was composed of pale yellow orchids and lilies of the valley, while
Anne's was a shower of orange blossoms and the same delicate lilies.

"If you are determined never to marry, Grace, you won't try to catch
Anne's bouquet," smiled Mrs. Gray.

"Oh, yes, I shall," nodded Grace. "I must do it because it's hers. I
always try to catch the bouquets at weddings. It's good sport. So far,
however, I've never secured one."

"I shall throw this one directly at you," promised Anne.

"Anne, child, the carriages are here," broke in her mother's gentle
voice.

Anne laid her bouquet on the centre table. "Come and kiss Anne Pierson
for the last time, girls." She opened her arms. One by one they folded
her in the embrace of friendship. Her sister and mother came last. As
the arms that had held her in babyhood closed about her, Anne drew
nearer to her mother in this, her hour of supreme happiness, than ever
before, if that were possible.

It was not a long drive to the church. On the way there they stopped to
pick up the two flower girls, Anna May and Elizabeth Angerell, two
pretty and interesting children who lived next door to Grace, and of
whom she and Anne had always been very fond. The little flower maidens
were dressed in white embroidered chiffon frocks with pale yellow satin
sashes and hair ribbons. They wore white silk stockings and white kid
slippers and carried overflowing baskets of yellow and white roses.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe," cried Anna May, when she and Elizabeth were safely
settled in the carriage, one of them on the seat beside Grace, the other
on the opposite side with Anne, "this is about the happiest day
Elizabeth and I ever had. I do hope I won't be scared. Just think, we
have to walk into that great big church, the very first ones, with all
those people looking at us."

"I'm not the least bit scared," was Elizabeth's bold declaration.
"Nobody is going to hurt us. Why, all the people are Miss Anne's
_friends!_ I'm going to think that when I walk up the aisle, and I
shan't be a bit scared. I know I shan't."

"Well, I'm not exactly _scared_," asserted Anna May, greatly impressed
with Elizabeth's valiant declaration. "I guess I'll think that, too."

"Oh, Miss Anne, you look too sweet for anything." Elizabeth clasped her
small hands in rapture. "When I grow up I shall certainly be married,
and have a dress like yours, and just the same kind of a bouquet, and be
married in the church where every one can see me."

"You can't get married unless some one asks you," informed Anna May
wisely.

"Some one will," predicted Elizabeth. "Won't they, Miss Harlowe?"

"I haven't the least doubt of it," was Grace's laughing assurance.
"Still I wouldn't worry about it for a good many years yet, if I were
you. It's just as nice to be a little girl and play games and dress
dolls."

Anne smiled faintly. Grace was again unconsciously voicing her views on
the marriage question.

The two little flower girls kept up a lively conversation during the
ride. They were divided between the fear of facing a church full of
people and the rapture of being really, truly flower girls at the
wedding of such a wonderful person as their Miss Anne.

It was precisely half-past seven o'clock when two tiny flower maidens,
their childish faces grave with the importance of their office, walked
sedately down the broad church aisle toward the flower-wreathed altar.
Following them came a dazzling vision in gold tissue that caused at
least one's man's heart to beat faster. To Everett Southard Miriam was
indeed the fabled fairy-tale princess. Then came the bride, feeling
strangely humble and diffident in this new part she had essayed to play,
while behind her, single file, in faithful attendance, walked the three
girls who had kept perfect step with her through the eventful years of
her school life.

Mrs. Gray, who had preceded the wedding party to the altar, was waiting
there with the bridegroom and his best man, Tom Gray. There was a buzz
of admiration went the round of the church at the beautiful spectacle
the bridal party presented. Then followed an intense hush as the voice
of the minister took up the solemn words of God's most holy ordinance.

Perhaps no one person present at that impressive ceremony realized as
did Tom Gray what the winning of Anne, for his wife, meant to David. On
that June night, almost two years previous, when Hippy and Reddy had, in
turn, made announcement of their betrothal to Nora and Jessica in the
presence of Mrs. Gray and her Christmas children, David's fate as a
lover had been uncertain. Now David had joined the ranks of happy
benedicts. Tom alone was left.

As the minister's voice rang out deeply, thrillingly, "I pronounce you
man and wife," involuntarily Tom's glance rested on Grace, who was
watching Anne with the rapt eyes of friendship. The words held no
significance for her beyond the fact that two of her dearest friends had
joined their lives. Her changeful face bore no sign of sentiment. As
usual, her interest in love and marriage was purely impersonal.

The reception following the wedding was held at Anne's home, and long
before it was over Anne and David had slipped away to take the night
train for New York City. Anne's honeymoon was to be limited to one week
which they had decided to spend at Old Point Comfort. Anne and Mr.
Southard were to open a newly built New York theatre in Shakespearian
repetoire the following week. Their real honeymoon was to be deferred
until the theatrical season closed in the spring, and was to comprise an
extended western trip.

True to her promise, Anne had aimed accurately, and Grace had received
the bridal bouquet full in the face. It dropped to the floor. She
picked it up and commented on her lack of skill in catching it. Tom's
face had brightened as he saw the girl he loved holding the fragrant
token to her breast. It was a good omen.

"I'm going to take you home in my car, Grace," he said masterfully, as
the guests were leaving that night.

"All right," returned Grace calmly. "We can take Anna May and Elizabeth
with us. It's awfully late for them. I promised Mrs. Angerell I'd take
good care of them. They absolutely refused to go when Father and Mother
went."

Tom could not help looking his disappointment. Nevertheless the two
little girls were favorites of his, so he forgave them for being the
innocent means of frustrating his intention of having Grace to himself.

"I'm going back to Washington to-morrow night, Grace," he said, as he
took her hand for a moment in parting. "May I come to see you to-morrow
afternoon?"

"Yes, of course, Tom." Grace could not refuse the plea of his gray eyes.

"All right. I'll drop in about four o'clock."

"Very well. Good night, Tom." Grace could not repress a little impatient
sigh. "He's going to ask me again," was her reflection, "but there is
only one answer that I can ever give him."



                              CHAPTER XVI

                             THE LAST WORD


While Anne Pierson's wedding day had dawned with a light snow on the
ground, the weather underwent a considerable change during the night,
and the next morning broke, gray and threatening. Heavy, sullen clouds
dropped low in the sky, and by four o'clock that afternoon a raw,
dispiriting winter rain had set in, accompanied by a moaning wind that
made the day seem doubly dreary. Promptly at four o'clock Grace saw Tom
swing up the walk without an umbrella. His black raincoat, buttoned up
to his chin, was infinitely becoming to his fair Saxon type of good
looks, and Grace could not repress a tiny thrill of satisfaction that
this strong, handsome man cared for her. The next second she dismissed
the thought as unworthy. She welcomed Tom, however, with a gentle
friendliness, partly due to his good looks, that caused his eyes to
flash with new hope. Perhaps Grace cared a little after all. He had
rarely seen her so kind since their carefree days of boy and girl
friendship, when there had been no barrier of unrequited love between
them.

"Come and sit by the fire, Tom," invited Grace. "I love an open fire on
a dark, rainy day like this." She motioned him to a chair opposite her
own at the other side of the fireplace. Tom seated himself, and the two
began to talk of the wedding, Oakdale, their friends, everything in fact
that led away from the thoughts that lay nearest the young man's heart.
Grace skilfully kept the conversation on impersonal topics. By doing so
she hoped to make Tom understand that she did not wish to discuss what
had long been a sore subject between them. So the two young people
talked on and on, while outside the rain fell in torrents, and the dark
day began to merge into an early twilight.

With the coming of the dusk Grace began to feel the strain. Tom's pale
face had taken on a set look in the fitful glow of the fire. Suddenly he
leaned far forward in his chair. "It's no use, Grace. I know you've
tried to keep me from saying what I came here to-day to say, but I'm
going to tell you again. I love you, Grace, and I need you in my life.
Why can't you love me as I love you?"

Grace's clean-cut profile was turned directly toward Tom. She reached
forward for the poker and began nervously prodding the fire. Tom caught
the hand that held the poker. Unclasping her limp fingers from about
it, he set it impatiently in place. "Look at me, Grace, not at the
fire," he commanded.

Grace raised sorrowful eyes to him. Then she made a little gesture of
appeal. "Why must we talk of this again, Tom? Why can't we be friends
just as we used to be, back in our high-school days?"

"Because it's not in the nature of things," returned Tom, his eyes full
of pain. "I am a man now, with a man's devoted love for you. The whole
trouble lies in the sad fact that you are just a dreaming child, without
the faintest idea of what life really means."

"You are mistaken, Tom." There was a hint of offended dignity in Grace's
tones. "I _do_ understand the meaning of life, only it doesn't mean
_love_ to me. It means _work_. The highest pleasure I have in life is my
work."

"You think so now, but you won't always think so. There will come a time
in your life when you'll realize how great a power for happiness love
is. All our dearest friends have looked forward to seeing you my wife.
Your parents wish it. Aunt Rose loves you already as a dear niece. Even
Anne, your chum, thinks you are making a mistake in choosing work
instead of love. Of course I know that what your friends think can make
no difference in what _you_ think. Still I believe if you would once
put the idea away of being self-supporting you'd see matters in a
different light. You aren't obliged to work for your living. Why not
give Harlowe House into the care of some one who is, and marry me?"

"But you don't understand me in the least, Tom." A petulant note crept
into Grace's voice. "It's just because I'm not obliged to support myself
that I'm happy in doing so. I feel so free and independent. It's my
freedom I love. I don't love you. There are times when I'm sorry that I
don't, and then again there are times when I'm glad. I shall always be
fond of you, but my feeling toward you is just the same as it is for
Hippy or David or Reddy. There! I've hurt you. Forgive me. Must we say
anything more about it? Please, please don't look so hurt, Tom."

Grace's eyes were fastened on Tom with the sorrowing air of one who has
inadvertently hurt a child. Usually so delicate in her respect for the
feelings of others, she seemed fated continually to wound this loyal
friend, whose only fault lay in the fact that his boyish affection for
her had ripened into a man's love. Saddest of all, an unrequited love.

[Illustration: "Look at Me, Grace."]

"Of course I forgive you, Grace." Tom rose. He looked long and
searchingly into the face of the girl who had just hurt him so cruelly.
"I--I think I'd better go now. I hope you'll find all the happiness in
your work that you expect to find. I'm only sorry it had to come first.
I don't know when I'll see you again. Not until next summer, I suppose.
I can't come to Oakdale for Easter this year. I wish you'd write to
me--that is, if you feel you'd like to. Remember, I am always your old
friend Tom."

"I _will_ write to you, Tom." Grace's gray eyes were heavy with unshed
tears. She winked desperately to keep them back. She would not cry.
Luckily the dim light of the room prevented Tom from seeing how near she
was to breaking down. It was all so sad. She had never before realized
how much it hurt her to hurt Tom. She followed him into the hall and to
the door in silence.

"Good-bye, Grace," he said again, holding out his hand.

"Good-bye, Tom," she faltered. He turned abruptly and hurried down the
steps into the winter darkness. He did not look back.

Grace stood in the open door until the echo of his footsteps died out.
Then she rushed into the living room and, throwing herself down on the
big leather sofa, burst into bitter tears.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                              THE SUMMONS


"There are Deans and _deans_," observed Emma Dean with savage emphasis,
"but the Deans, of whom I am which, are, in my humble opinion,
infinitely superior to the dean person stalking about the halls of dear
old Overton."

"What do you mean, Emma?" asked Grace. The dry bitterness of her
friend's outburst regarding deans in general was too significant to be
allowed to pass unquestioned.

It was the evening of Grace Harlowe's return from the Christmas holiday
she had spent with her dear ones at Oakdale. Grace and Emma were in
their room. Despite the one sad memory which time alone could efface,
Grace was experiencing a peace and comfort which always hovered about
her for many days after her visits home. Next to home, however, Overton
was, to her, the place of places, and she had returned to her work with
fresh energy and enthusiasm. She believed that she had definitely put
behind her forever all that unhappy part of her life regarding Tom Gray.
It had been hard indeed, and had brought tears to the eyes so
unaccustomed to weeping. Still Grace was glad that she had faced the
inevitable and seen clearly. Tom would, in time, forget her and perhaps
marry some one else. She wished with all her heart that he might be
happy, and her one regret was that she had caused him pain.

In reality Grace had exhibited toward her old friend a hardness of
purpose quite at variance with her usually sweet nature. She wondered a
little that she could have been so inexorable in her decision, yet she
believed herself to be wholly justified in the course she had taken.
Already she was beginning to commend herself inwardly for her loyalty to
her work, and Emma's blunt arraignment of the dean of Overton College
acted like a dash of cold water upon her half-fledged self-content.

"All day I've been tempted to tell you a few things, Gracious," began
Emma, "but I hated to disturb you. I know just how you feel when you
come back from that blessed little town of yours. So I've been keeping
still while you told me all about Anne's wedding and the good times you
had. It was one glorious succession of good times, wasn't it?"

"Yes." Grace was silent for a brief space of time. Then she said
gravely, "There was only one flaw, Emma. I refused again, and for the
last time, to marry Tom Gray. I was sorry, but I couldn't help it. I
don't love him."

"I'm sorry, too, that you couldn't find it in your heart to care for
him. I liked him best of those four young men."

"Every one likes him. My friends all hoped that we would marry." Grace
sighed. "Still one's friends can't decide such matters for one. One must
solve that particular problem alone."

"Just so," agreed Emma. "Although no one ever asked my hand in holy
matrimony except a callow youth whom I tutored in algebra last summer.
He had failed in his June examination and had to pass in September or be
forever labeled a dunce by his fond family. Now you see why I can
understand the psychology of saying 'no' to a proposal. This stripling,
who was at least five years my junior, proposed to me out of sheer
gratitude. I actually succeeded in drumming quadratic equations into his
stupid head, and he offered me his hand by the way of reward."

Grace's sad expression had by this time vanished. She was regarding Emma
with a smiling face. "Really and truly, Emma, did that happen to you?"

"It did, indeed," averred Emma solemnly. "You aren't half so amazed as I
was. I felt as though one of my Sunday-school class of little boys had
suddenly exhibited signs of the tender passion. I labored long and
earnestly to convince him that I was not his fate, and in due season he
passed his examination and promptly forgot me. I did not weep and wail
at being forgotten, either. Still there was a grain of satisfaction in
being sought. If I go down to my grave in single blessedness I shall at
least have the satisfaction of knowing that some one yearned for my
life-long society." She beamed owlishly at Grace, and laughter routed
the sorrowful face she had turned to Emma only a moment before.

But Emma was only trying to prepare Grace for unpleasant news. Now that
she had put her in a lighter frame of mind, she said: "I might as well
tell you about Miss Wharton, Grace."

Grace's eyes were immediately fixed on her in mute question.

"The news of the sale traveled to Miss Wharton, as I was afraid it
would," began Emma. "Miss Brent wasn't here when first the dean heard of
it. She had gone home with Miss Parker for Christmas. Evelyn Ward wasn't
here, either. She and Kathleen West and Mary Reynolds went to New York.
Mary and Kathleen to work on the paper, and Evelyn to work for two weeks
in that stock company of Mr. Forrest's. You knew about that, of course.
It was the day after Christmas that Miss Wharton heard about the sale.
She sent for Miss Brent and was greatly displeased to find her gone.
However, she had had permission from the registrar, a fact that Miss
Wharton couldn't overlook. Then Miss Wharton sent for me. She said the
sale was a disgrace to Overton, and that she was amazed to think you
allowed such a proceeding. I explained to her that you knew nothing of
it, that you were away at the time it took place, and she said you had
acted most unwisely in placing your responsibilities on the shoulders of
others even for a day. Your place was at Harlowe House every day of the
college year. You had no business to assume such a responsible position
if you did not intend to live up to it.

"That's about the extent of all she said. I was so angry I could
scarcely control myself, but I managed to say quietly that President
Morton and Miss Wilder had never questioned your absences from Harlowe
House, and that I was sure you would lose no time in taking up the
matter with her when you returned. Now you know what you may expect. I
don't know whether she has sent for Miss Brent since she came from New
York. If she hasn't, then mark my words, the summons will come
to-morrow."

Emma proved to be a true prophet. The nine o'clock mail next morning
brought two letters written on the stationery used by the Overton
faculty. One was addressed to Grace, the other to Jean Brent. If the two
young women had compared them they would have discovered that each one
contained the same curt summons to the dean's office. Both appointments
were for half-past four o'clock that afternoon.

Grace stopped at Jean's table at luncheon that day and said softly.
"Will you come to my office after you have finished your luncheon, Miss
Brent?"

Jean turned very pale. She bowed her acquiescence, and Grace went on to
her own place.

"I have been requested to call on Miss Wharton at half-past four o'clock
this afternoon, Miss Brent," informed Grace as, later, Jean stood before
her. "I noted that you also received a letter written on the business
stationery of Overton. Am I right in guessing that you have received the
same summons?"

For answer Jean opened the book she held under her arm and took from it
an envelope. In silence she drew from it a letter, spread it open and
handed it to Grace.

"Just as I thought." Grace returned the letter. "Miss Wharton has
learned of your sale, Miss Brent. She is very indignant. Are you
prepared to tell her what you confided to me?" Grace eyed the girl
squarely.

"Why should I, Miss Harlowe?" burst forth Jean. "No; I will tell Miss
Wharton nothing."

"Nor will I," was Grace's quiet rejoinder. "Whatever she learns must
come from you. I wrote to Miss Lipton and received a letter from her
assuring me that you are not at fault in the matter that made your
advent into Overton College a mystery to me. I need no further
assurance. Miss Lipton's school is known to the public as being one of
the finest preparatory schools in the United States. If it were Miss
Wilder instead of Miss Wharton I should advise you to tell her all. I am
so sorry you did not tell us in the beginning. You must do whatever your
conscience dictates. If necessary I will show Miss Wharton my letter
from Miss Lipton, but I shall not betray your confidence unless you
sanction my speaking."

"Please don't tell her," begged Jean.

"It shall be as you ask," returned Grace, but she was secretly
disappointed at what might be either Jean's selfishness or her pure
inability to see the unpleasantness of the position in which she was
placing the young woman who had befriended her.

When Grace entered the familiar office and saw Miss Wharton's dumpy
figure occupying her dear Miss Wilder's place she felt a distinct
sinking of the heart. The dean surveyed her out of cold blue eyes, that
seemed to Grace to contain a spark of deliberate malice.

"Good afternoon, Miss Harlowe," she said stiffly. As she spoke the door
opened and Jean Brent walked calmly in. She bowed to Miss Wharton in a
manner as chilly as her own and took a seat at one side of the room. The
dean waved Grace to a chair. "Now, young women," she began in a severe
tone, "I wish a full explanation of this disgraceful sale that recently
took place at Harlowe House. I will first ask you, Miss Brent if you had
Miss Harlowe's permission to conduct it?"

"No. She refused to permit it. I held it in her absence," answered Jean,
defiance blazing in her blue eyes.

"I see; a clear case of disobedience. What was your object in holding
it?"

"I needed money. I lost the greater part of my money on the train when I
came to Overton."

"Why did you need money?" Miss Wharton exhibited a lawyer-like
persistency.

"To pay my college fees," Jean made prompt answer.

"But how could a girl with a wardrobe as complete and expensive as
yours--I have been informed that it was remarkable--be in need of money
to pay her expenses, or obliged to live in a charitable institution, as
I believe Harlowe House is?"

"You are mistaken. Harlowe House is _not_ a charitable institution!"
Grace Harlowe's voice vibrated with indignation. "I beg your pardon,"
she apologized in the next instant.

Miss Wharton glared angrily at her for fully a minute. Then, ignoring
the interruption and the protest, turned again to Jean.

"I cannot answer your question," Jean spoke with quiet composure.

"You mean you _will_ not answer it," retorted the dean.

"I have nothing to say that you would care to hear." Jean's lips set in
the stubborn line that signified no yielding.

Miss Wharton turned to Grace. "You have heard what this young woman
says. Can you answer the question I asked Miss Brent?"

"The answer to the question must come from Miss Brent," replied Grace
with gentle evasion.

"Miss Harlowe, you have not answered me." Miss Wharton was growing
angrier. "I insist upon knowing the details of this affair from
beginning to end. Miss Brent's conduct has been contrary to all the
traditions of Overton."

"That is perfectly true," admitted Grace.

"Then if you know it to be true, why do you evade my question? It will
be infinitely better for you to be frank with me. I am greatly
displeased with you and the reports I hear of Harlowe House. I assured
Miss Wilder, when first I met you, that I doubted President Morton's and
her judgment in allowing you to hold a position of such great
responsibility. You are too young, too frivolous. I am informed that
Harlowe House is almost Bohemian in its character."

"Then you have been misinformed." Cut to the heart, Grace spoke with a
dignity that was not to be denied. "Harlowe House is conducted on the
strictest principles of law and order. We try to be a well-regulated
household, upholding the high standard of Overton. If it had not been
for two of my friends and I, Mrs. Gray would never have given it to the
college, and thirty-four girls would have missed obtaining a college
education. Miss Wilder believed in me. She trusted me. I regret that you
do not. Regarding Miss Brent, I have received ample assurance of her
honesty of purpose from Miss Lipton, the head of the Lipton Preparatory
School for Girls. Miss Lipton and I are in possession of certain facts
concerning Miss Brent which enable us to understand her peculiar
position here. I regret, beyond all words, that Miss Brent did not
confide in me before having the sale of her clothing. I do not condone
her fault, but I am sure that in her anxiety to do what was best for
herself she did not intend deliberately to defy me. Here is a letter
from Miss Lipton which I wish you to read."

In her vexation Miss Wharton almost snatched the letter from Grace's
hand. There was a tense stillness in the room while she read it. Jean
kept her gaze steadily turned from Grace. At last the dean looked up
from the letter. "This letter is, by no means, an explanation, although
I am well aware of the excellent reputation Miss Lipton's school bears.
What I am determined to have are the _facts_ of this affair. If I can
prevail upon neither of you to speak them I shall place the matter
before President Morton and the Board of Trustees of Overton College."

Her threat met with no response from either young woman.

"Before taking the matter up with President Morton, however, I shall
give both of you an opportunity to reflect upon the folly of your
present course. Within a few days I shall send for you again. If then
you still continue to defy me I will take measures to have _you_, Miss
Harlowe, removed from your charge of Harlowe House as being unfit for
the responsibility, while _you_, Miss Brent, will be expelled from
Overton College for disobedience and insubordination. That will do for
this morning." Miss Wharton dismissed them with a peremptory gesture.

The two young women passed out of the room in silence. Once outside
Overton Hall, Jean turned impulsively to Grace: "I am sorry, Miss
Harlowe, but I couldn't tell that horrid woman what I told you. She
would neither understand me nor sympathize with me. I know you think I
should have explained everything."

Grace could not trust herself to answer. Humiliated to the last degree
by Miss Wharton's bald injustice, she felt as though she wished never to
see or hear of Jean Brent again. It was not until they were half way
across the campus that she found her voice. She was dimly surprised at
the resentment in her tones. "You chose your own course, Miss Brent,
regardless of what I thought. That course has not only involved you in
serious difficulty, but me as well. If you had obeyed me in the
beginning, I would not be leaving Miss Wharton's office this afternoon,
under a cloud. I quite agree with you, however, that to tell Miss
Wharton your secret now would not help matters. I must leave you here. I
am going on to Wayne Hall."

With a curt inclination of her head, Grace walked away, leaving Jean
standing in the middle of the campus, looking moodily after her.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                        THE BLOTTED ESCUTCHEON


But Grace was destined to receive another shock before the long day was
done. The shadows of early twilight were beginning to blot out the short
winter day when she let herself into Harlowe House. Stepping into her
office she reached eagerly for the pile of mail lying on the sliding
shelf of her desk. The handwriting on the first letter of the pile was
Tom's. Grace eyed it gloomily. It was not warranted to lighten her
present unhappy mood. She opened it slowly, almost hesitatingly. Unlike
Tom's long, newsy letters, there was but one sheet of paper. Then she
strained her eyes in the rapidly failing daylight and read:

     "DEAR GRACE:

     "When you receive this letter I shall be out at sea and on my way
     to South America. I have resigned my position with the Forestry
     Department to go on an expedition up the Amazon River with Burton
     Graham, the naturalist. He is the man who collected so many rare
     specimens of birds and mammals for the Smithsonian Institute while
     in Africa, two years ago. It is hard to say when I shall return,
     and, as it takes almost a month for a letter to reach the United
     States, you are not likely to hear often from me.

     "Aunt Rose is deeply grieved at my going. Still she understands
     that, for me, it is best. When last I saw you in Oakdale I had no
     idea of leaving civilization for tropical wildernesses. Mr.
     Graham's invitation to join his expedition was wholly unexpected,
     and I was not slow to take advantage of it.

     "I would ask you to write me, but, unfortunately, I can give you no
     forwarding address. Mr. Graham's plans as to location are a little
     uncertain. Perhaps, until I can bring myself to think of you in the
     way you wish me to think, silence between us will be happiest for
     us both. God bless you, Grace, and give you the greatest possible
     success in your work. With best wishes,

                                                 "Your friend,
                                                               "TOM."

Grace stared at the sheet of paper before her, with tear-blurred eyes.
She hastily wiped her tears away, but they only fell the faster. Miss
Wharton's injustice, Jean Brent's selfishness, together with the sudden
shock of Tom's departure out of the country and out of her life, were
too much for her high-strung, sensitive nature. Dropping into the chair
before her desk, she bowed her head on the slide and wept
unrestrainedly.

Her overflow of feelings was brief, however. Given little to tears,
after her first outburst she exerted all her will power to control
herself. The girls were dropping in by ones and twos from their classes,
the maid would soon come into the living room to turn on the lights, and
at almost any moment some one might ask for her. She would not care to
be discovered in tears.

Grace picked up the rest of her mail, lying still unopened, and went
upstairs to her room with the proud determination to cry no more. She
was quite sure she would not have cried over Tom's letter had all else
been well. It was her interview with Miss Wharton that had hurt her so
cruelly. Yet, with the reading of Tom's farewell message, deep down in
her heart lurked a curiously uncomfortable sense of loss. It was as
though for the first time in her life she had actually began to miss
Tom. She had not expected fate to cut him off so sharply from her. She
knew that her refusal to marry him had been the primary cause of his
going away. Mrs. Gray would perhaps blame her. These expeditions were
dangerous to say the least. More than one naturalist had died of fever
or snakebite, or had been killed by savages. Suppose Tom were never to
come back. Grace shuddered at the bare idea of such a calamity. And he
did not intend to write to her, so she could only wonder as the days,
weeks and months went by what had befallen him. She would never know.

While she was sadly ruminating over Tom's unexpected exit from her
little world, Emma Dean's brisk step sounded outside. The door swung
open. Emma gave a soft exclamation as she saw the room in darkness.
Pressing the button at the side of the door, she flooded the room with
light, only to behold Grace standing in the middle of the floor, still
wearing her outdoor wraps, an open letter in her hand.

"Good gracious, Gracious, how you startled me! What is going on? Tell
your worthless dog of a servant, what means this studied pose in the
middle of the room in the dark? Not to mention posing in your hat and
coat. And, yes," Emma drew nearer and peered into her friend's face with
her kind, near-sighted eyes, "you've been crying. This will never do.
Tell me the base varlet that hath caused these tears," she rumbled in a
deep voice, "and be he lord of fifty realms I'll have his blood.
'Sdeath! Odds bodkins! Let me smite the villain. I could slay and slay,
and be a teacher still. Provided the faculty didn't object, and I wasn't
arrested," she ended practically.

Grace's woe-be-gone face brightened at Emma's nonsense. "You always
succeed in making me smile when I am the bluest of the blue," she said
fondly.

"I can't see why such strongly dramatic language as I used should make
you laugh. It was really quite Shakespearian. You see I have 'the bard'
on the brain. We have been taking up Elizabethan English in one of my
classes, and once I become thoroughly saturated with Shakespearian verse
I am likely to quote it on all occasions. Don't be surprised if I burst
forth into blank verse at the table or any other public place. But here
I've been running along like a talking machine when you are 'full fathom
five' in the blues. Can't you tell your aged and estimable friend, Emma,
what is troubling you?"

"You were right, Emma. The summons came." Grace's voice was husky. "I've
just had a session with Miss Wharton."

"About Miss Brent?"

"Yes. She sent for both of us. She asked Miss Brent to explain certain
things which she could, but would not, explain. I was in Miss Brent's
confidence. As you know, she told me about herself after I came back
from the Thanksgiving holiday. It entirely changed my opinion of her. I
wish I could tell you everything, but I can't. I gave her my word of
honor that I would keep her secret. But, to-day, when she saw how
unjustly Miss Wharton reprimanded me I thought she might have strained a
point and told Miss Wharton her story. Still I don't know that it would
have helped much." Grace sighed wearily. "Miss Wharton is not Miss
Wilder. She is a hard, narrow-minded, cruel woman," Grace's dispirited
tones gathered sudden vehemence, "and she would misjudge Miss Brent just
as she misjudged me. She is going to send for us again in a few days,
and she declares that, if I do not tell her everything, she will take
measures to have me removed from my position here." Grace turned tragic
eyes to her friend.

"The idea!" rang out Emma's indignant cry. "Just as though she could.
Why, Harlowe House was named for you. If Mrs. Gray knew she even hinted
such thing she'd be so angry. I believe she'd turn Indian giver and take
back her gift to Overton."

"Oh, no, she wouldn't do quite that, Emma." Heartsick though she was,
Grace smiled faintly. "She would be angry, though. She must never know
it. It made her so happy to give Harlowe House to Overton. She would be
so hurt, for my sake, that she would never again take a particle of
pleasure in it. When Miss Wharton sends for me I shall ask her
point-blank if she really intends to try to have me removed from my
position by the Board. If she says 'yes,' I'll resign, then and there."

"Grace Harlowe, you don't mean it? You've always fought valiantly for
other girls' rights, why won't you fight for your own? The whole affair
is ridiculous and unjust. If worse comes to worst you can go before the
Board and defend yourself. The members will believe you."

Grace shook her head sadly, but positively. "I'd never do that, Emma. If
it comes to a point where I must fight to be house mother here, then I'd
much rather resign. I couldn't bear to have the story creep about the
college that I had even been criticized by the Board. I've loved my work
so dearly, and I've tried so hard to do it wisely that I'd rather give
it up and go quietly away, feeling in my heart that I have done my best,
than to fight and win at last nothing but a blotted escutcheon. You
understand how it is with me, dear old comrade."

"Grace, it breaks my heart to hear you say such things! You mustn't talk
of going away." Emma sprang from the chair into which she had dropped
and drew Grace into her protecting embrace. Grace's head was bowed for a
moment on Emma's shoulder.

"Don't cry, dear," soothed Emma.

"I'm not crying, Emma. See, I haven't shed a tear. I did all my crying a
while ago." Grace raised her head and regarded Emma with two dry eyes
that were wells of pain. "I have had another shock, too, since I came
home. Tom Gray has resigned his position with the Forestry Department at
Washington, and has sailed for South America.
I--never--thought--he'd--go--away. He isn't even going to write to me,
Emma, and I don't know when he will come back. Perhaps never. You know
how dangerous those South American expeditions are?"

"Poor Gracious," comforted Emma, "you have had enough sorrows for one
day. You need a little cheering up. You and I are not going to eat
dinner at Harlowe House to-night. We are going to let Louise Sampson
look after things while we go gallivanting down to Vinton's for a high
tea. I'm going to telephone Kathleen and Patience. There will be just
four of us, and no more of us to the tea party. They will have to come,
engagements or no engagements."

"I don't care to see any one to-night, Emma," pleaded Grace.

"You only think you don't. Seeing the girls will do you good. If you
stay here you'll brood and grieve all evening."

"All right, I'll go; just to please you. I must see Louise and tell her
we are going."

"You stay here. I'll do all the seeing. Take off your hat and bathe your
face. You'll feel better." Emma hurried out of the room and up the next
flight of stairs to Louise Sampson's room, thinking only of Grace and
how she might best comfort her. She was more aroused than she cared to
let Grace see over Miss Wharton's harsh edict. She made a secret vow
that if Grace would not fight for her rights _she_, Emma Dean, would.
Then she remembered Grace's words, "I'd rather give it up and go quietly
away, feeling in my heart that I have done my best, than to fight and,
at last, win nothing but a blotted escutcheon." No, she could not take
upon herself Grace's wrongs, unless Grace bade her do so, and that would
never happen.

Fortunately Kathleen and Patience were both at home. Better still,
neither had an engagement for that evening, and at half-past six o'clock
the four faithful friends were seated at their favorite mission alcove
table at Vinton's, ordering their dinner, while Grace tried earnestly to
put away her sorrow and be her usual sunny self.

But while Grace had been passing through the Valley of Humiliation,
there was another person under the same roof who was equally unhappy.
That person was Jean Brent. On leaving Grace she had gone directly to
Harlowe House. Ascending the stairs to her room with a dispirited step,
she had tossed aside her wraps and seated herself before the window. She
sat staring out with unseeing eyes, remorseful and sick at heart.
Grace's bitter words, "If you had obeyed me I would not be leaving Miss
Wharton's office this afternoon, under a cloud," still rang in her ears.
How basely she had repaid Miss Harlowe, was her conscience-stricken
thought. Miss Harlowe had advised and helped her in every possible way.
She had taken her into Harlowe House on trust. She had sympathized with
her when Jean had told her her secret, and she had brought upon herself
the dean's disapproval, would perhaps leave Harlowe House, rather than
betray the girl who had confided in her. Jean's conscience lashed her
sharply for her stubbornness and selfish ingratitude. If only she had
been frank in the beginning. Miss Harlowe would have explained all to
Miss Wilder, and Miss Wilder would have been satisfied. Then she would
have had no sale of her wardrobe, and Miss Harlowe would have been
spared all this miserable trouble.

What a failure she had made of her freshman year? She had made few
friends except Althea and her chums. They were shallow and selfish to a
fault. She had held herself aloof from the Harlowe House girls, who,
notwithstanding their good nature, showed a slight resentment of her
proud attitude toward them and her absolute refusal to join in the work
of the club. Since the day when Evelyn had taken her to task for
disobeying Grace the two girls had exchanged no words other than those
which necessity forced them to exchange. Evelyn had not forgiven Jean
for her passionate advice to her to mind her own affairs. Jean, knowing
Evelyn's resentment to be just, cloaked herself in defiance and ignored
her roommate. Little by little, however, the cloak dropped away and Jean
began to long for Evelyn's companionship. The yellow crêpe gown and the
beautiful evening coat still lay in the bottom of Jean's trunk. In her
own mind she knew that she had begun to hope for the time when she and
Evelyn would settle their differences. She would then give Evelyn the
belated Christmas gift. She grew daily more unhappy over their
estrangement, and heartily wished for a reconciliation. Yet she was
still too proud to make the first advances.

It was hardly likely that Evelyn would make the first sign. Her pride
was equal to, if not greater, than Jean's. She, who abhorred prying and
inquisitiveness, had been accused by Jean of meddling in her affairs.
Evelyn vowed inwardly never to forgive Jean. So these two young girls,
each stiff-necked and implacable, dressed, studied and slept in the same
room in stony silence, passing in and out like two offended shadows.
Gradually this strained attitude became so intolerable to Jean that she
longed for some pretext on which to make peace. As she sat at the window
wondering what she could do to atone for her fault the door opened and
Evelyn entered the room. A swift impulse seized Jean to lift the veil of
resentment that hung between them. She half rose from her chair as
though to address Evelyn. The latter turned her head in Jean's
direction. Her blue eyes rested upon the other girl with the cold,
impersonal gaze of a stranger. Beneath that maddening, ignoring glance
Jean's good intentions curled up and withered like leaves that are
touched by frost, and her aching desire for reconciliation was once more
driven out of her heart by her pride.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                         THE SWORD OF SUSPENSE


When Miss Wharton sent Jean Brent and Grace Harlowe from her office with
the threat of dismissal hanging over them she fully intended to keep her
word. From the moment she had first beheld Grace Harlowe she had
conceived for her a rooted dislike such as only persons of strong
prejudices can entertain. Her whole life had been lived narrowly, and
with repression, therefore she was not in sympathy with youth or its
enthusiasm. According to her belief no young woman of Grace's age and
appearance was competent to assume the responsibility of managing an
establishment like Harlowe House. She had again delivered this opinion
most forcefully in Miss Wilder's presence after Grace had left the
office on the afternoon of their first meeting, and Miss Wilder's
earnest assurances to the contrary served only to deepen Miss Wharton's
disapproval of the bright-faced, clear-eyed girl whose quiet
self-possession indicated a capability of managing her own affairs that
was a distinct affront to the woman who hoped to discover in her such
faults as would triumphantly bear out her unkind criticism.

Miss Wharton had held the position of dean in an unimportant western
college, and it was at the solicitation of a cousin, a member of the
Board of Trustees, that she had applied for the office of dean at
Overton, and had been appointed to it with the distinct understanding
that it was to be for the present college year only. Should Miss Wilder
be unable to resume her duties the following October, Miss Wharton would
then be reappointed for the entire year. The importance of being the
dean of Overton College, coupled with the generous salary attached to
the office, were the motives which caused Miss Wharton to resign her
more humble position, assured as it was, for an indefinite period of
years, for the one of greater glory but uncertain length.

Possessed of a hard, unsympathetic nature, she secretly cherished the
hope that Miss Wilder would not return to Overton the following year.
She also resolved to prove her own worth above that of the kindly,
efficient dean whom the Overton girls idolized, and began her campaign
by criticizing and finding fault with Miss Wilder's methods whenever the
slightest opportunity presented itself. At first her unfair tactics bade
fair to meet with success. The various members of the Board, and even
Dr. Morton, wondered vaguely if, after all, too much confidence had
been reposed in Miss Wilder.

Wholly intent on establishing herself as a fixture at Overton College,
Miss Wharton allowed the matter concerning Jean Brent and Grace to rest
while she attended to what she considered vastly more important affairs.
The thought that she was keeping both young women in the most cruel
suspense did not trouble her in the least. On the contrary she decided
that they deserved to be kept in a state of uncertainty as to what she
intended to do with them, and deliberately put over their case until
such time as suited her convenience.

Both Jean and Grace went about, however, with the feeling that a sword
was suspended over their heads and likely to descend at any moment.
Grace expected, daily, to be summoned to Miss Wharton's office, there to
refuse to divulge Jean Brent's secret and then ask the pertinent
question, "Do you intend to lay this matter before the Board?" If she
received an affirmative answer, then she planned to return to Harlowe
House, write her formal resignation as manager of it and mail it to
President Morton. But day followed day, and week followed week, and
still the dread summons did not come. Grace discussed frequently the
possible cause of Miss Wharton's negligence in the matter with Emma,
her one confidante. Emma was of the opinion that, in trying to fill Miss
Wilder's position, Miss Wharton had her hands full. Although Emma was
apt to clothe the most serious happenings in the cloak of humor, she was
a shrewd judge of human nature.

"Just let me tell you one thing, Gracious," she remarked one blustering
March evening as the two young women fought their way across the campus
against a howling wind. They were returning from an evening spent with
Kathleen West and Patience Eliot. "Miss Wharton is no more fitted for
the position of dean at Overton College than I am for the presidency of
the United States. She may have been successful in some little,
out-of-the-way academy in a jerkwater town, but she's sadly out of place
here. She has about as much tact as a rhinoceros, and possesses the
æsthetic perceptions of a coal shoveler. I'm just waiting for these
simple truths to dawn upon the intellects of our august Board. I
understand that cadaverous-looking man with the wall eyes and the
spade-shaped, beard, who walks about as though he cherished a grudge
against the human race, and rejoices in the euphonious name of Darius
Dutton, is responsible for this crime against Overton. He recommended
her appointment to the Board. It seems that he is Miss Wharton's
cousin. Thank goodness he isn't mine, or Miss Wharton either."

Grace laughed at Emma's sweeping denunciation of Miss Wharton and the
offending Daniel Dutton. Then her face grew sober. "You mustn't allow my
grievances to imbitter you, Emma, toward any member of the Board."

"Oh, my only grudge against Darius D. so far is his having such
detestable relatives and foisting them upon an innocent, trusting
college," retorted Emma with spirit, "but my grudge against Miss Wharton
is a very different matter. It's an active, lively grudge. I'd like to
write to Miss Wilder and Mrs. Gray, and interview Dr. Morton, and then
see what happened. It would not be Grace Harlowe who resigned; but it
might be a certain hateful person whose name begins with W. I won't say
her name outright. Possibly you'll be able to guess it."

Grace's hand found Emma's in the dark as they came to the steps of
Harlowe House. The two girls paused for an instant. Their hands clung
loyally. "Remember, Emma, you've promised to let me have my own way in
this," reminded Grace wistfully.

"I'll keep my promise," answered Emma, but her voice sounded husky.

"I know," continued Grace, "that Miss Wharton's attitude toward me is
one of personal prejudice. From the moment she saw me she disliked me. I
know of only one other similar case. When Anne Pierson and I were
freshmen in Oakdale High School we recited algebra to a teacher named
Miss Leece, who behaved toward Anne in precisely the same way that Miss
Wharton has behaved toward me, simply because she disliked her. But come
on, old comrade, we mustn't stand out here all night with the wind
howling in our ears. Let us try and forget our troubles. What is to be,
will be. I am nothing, if not a fatalist." Grace forced herself to smile
with her usual brightness, and the two girls entered the house arm in
arm, each endeavoring, for the sake of the other to stifle her
unhappiness.

It was not yet ten o'clock and the lights were still burning in the
living room. Gathered about the library table were six girls, deep in
conversation. One of them glanced toward the hall at the sound of the
opening door.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe," she called, "You are the very person we have been
wishing for." It was Cecil Ferris who spoke. Nettie Weyburn, Louise
Sampson, Mary Reynolds, Evelyn Ward and Hilda Moore made up the rest of
the sextette. "We are wondering if it wouldn't be a good plan to give
our grand revue directly after the Easter vacation. It will be our last
entertainment this year, because after Easter the weather begins to grow
warm and the girls like to be outdoors. If you would help us plan it,
then those of us who live here, and are going to take part in it, can be
studying and rehearsing during the vacation. Of course, Evelyn won't be
with us, but she will help us before she goes to New York. When she
comes back she can give us the finishing touches. Here is the programme
as far as we have planned it. We are awfully short of features."

Cecil handed Grace a sheet of paper on which were jotted several items.
There was a sketch written by Mary Reynolds, "The Freshman on the Top
Floor," a pathetic little story of a lonely freshman. Gertrude Earle, a
demure, dreamy-eyed girl, the daughter of a musician, was down for a
piano solo. There was to be a sextette, a chorus and a troupe of dancing
girls. Kathleen West had written a clever little playlet "In the Days of
Shakespeare," and Hilda Moore, who could do all sorts of queer folk
dances, was to busy her light feet in a series of quick change costume
dances, while Amy Devery was to give an imitation of a funny
motion-picture comedian who had made the whole country laugh at his
antics.

"How would you like some imitations and baby songs?" asked Grace,
forgetting for the moment the shadow that hung over her. "I have two
friends who would be delighted to help you."

"How lovely!" cried Louise Sampson. "Now if only we had some one who
could sing serious songs exceptionally well."

"Miss Brent has a wonderful voice," said Evelyn rather reluctantly.

"Then we must ask her to sing," decided Louise. "You ask her to-night,
Evelyn."

But Evelyn shook her head. "I'd rather you would ask her, Louise. Won't
you, please?"

"All right, I will," said Louise good-naturedly, who had no idea of the
strained relations existing between the two girls, and consequently
thought nothing of Evelyn's request.

"Much as I regret tearing myself away from this representative company
of beauty and brains, I have themes that cry out to be corrected,"
declared Emma Dean, who had been listening in interested silence to the
plans for the coming revue.

"You can't hear them cry out clear down here, can you?" asked Mary
Reynolds flippantly.

A general giggle went the round of the sextette.

"Not with my everyday ordinary ears, my child," answered Emma, quite
undisturbed. "It is that inner voice of duty that is making all the
commotion. I would much rather bask in the light of your collected
countenances than listen to those frenzied shrieks. But what of my
trusting classes, who delight in writing themes and passing them on to
me to be corrected?"

"Oh, yes; we all delight in writing themes," jeered Nettie Weyburn, to
whom theme writing was an irksome task. "My inner voice of duty is
screaming at me this very minute to go and write one, but I'm so deaf I
can't hear it."

"If you can't hear it, how do you know it is screaming?" questioned Emma
very solemnly.

"My intuition tells me," retorted Nettie with triumphant promptness.

"Then I wish _all_ my pupils in English had such marvelous intuitions,"
sighed Emma.

"My inner voice of duty is wailing at me to go upstairs and finish my
letter to my mother," interposed Grace, rising. Her face had regained
its usual brightness. She could not be sad in the presence of these
light-hearted, capable girls, whose sturdy efforts to help themselves
made them all so inexpressibly dear to her. She would help them all she
could with their entertainment. She would write Arline and Elfreda to
come to Overton for a few days and take part in the revue.

It was not until she had finished her letter to her mother and begun one
to Elfreda that the sinister recollection again darkened her thoughts.
She was living in the shadow of dismissal. Would it be wise to invite
Arline and Elfreda to Harlowe House for a visit while she was so
uncertain of what the immediate future held in store for her? If she
tendered her resignation she intended it should take effect without
delay. Once she had surrendered her precious charge she could not and
would not remain at Harlowe House. Still she had promised her girls that
she would help them. She had volunteered Arline's and Elfreda's
services, knowing they would willingly leave their own affairs to
journey back to Overton.

Grace laid down her pen. Resting her elbows on the table she cradled her
chin in her hands, her vivid, changeful face overcast with moody
thought. At last she raised her head with the air of one who has come to
a decision, and, picking up her pen, went on with her letter to J.
Elfreda Briggs. If worse came to worst and she resigned before the
girls' entertainment she would courageously put aside her own feelings
and remain, at least, until afterward. It should be her last act of
devotion to Harlowe House and her work.



                              CHAPTER XX

                             THE AWAKENING


The sword which hung over poor Grace's head still dangled threateningly
above her when she left Overton for Oakdale, on her Easter vacation.
Miss Wharton had made no sign. Whether she had, for the time being,
forgotten her words of that unhappy morning of several weeks past, or
was coolly taking her own time in the matter, well aware of the
discomfort of her victims, Grace could not know. She determined to lay
aside all bitterness of spirit and lend herself to commemorate the
anniversary of the first Easter with a reverent and open mind. But there
was one ghost which she could not lay, and that was the the memory of
Tom Gray's face as he said good-bye to her on that memorable rainy
afternoon. Just when it began to haunt her Grace could scarcely tell.
She knew only that Tom's farewell letter had awakened in her mind a
curious sense of loss that made her wish he had not cut himself off from
her so completely. When on their last afternoon together he had pleaded
so earnestly for her love Grace had been proudly triumphant in the
successful accomplishment of what she believed to be her life work.
From the lofty pinnacle of achievement she had looked down on Tom
pityingly, but with no adequate realization of what she had caused him
to suffer.

It was not until she herself had been called upon to prepare to give up
that which meant most to her in life that she began to appreciate dimly
what it must have cost Tom Gray to put aside his hopes of years and go
away to forget. A belated sympathy for her girlhood friend sprang to
life in her heart, and in the weeks of suspense that preceded her return
to Oakdale for Easter she found herself thinking of him frequently. She
wondered if he were well, and tried to imagine him in his new and
dangerous environment. She began to cherish a secret hope that, despite
his belief that silence between them was best, he would write to her.

Her holiday promised to be a little lonely as far as her friends were
concerned. Mrs. Gray had gone to New York City to spend Easter with the
Nesbits. Nora and Hippy had gone to visit Jessica and Reddy in their
Chicago home. Anne and David were in New York. Eleanor Savelli was in
Italy. Even Marian Barber, Eva Allen and Julia Crosby had married and
gone their separate ways. Of the Eight Originals Plus Two, and of their
old sorority, the Phi Sigma Tau, she was the only one left in Oakdale.
To be sure she had plenty of invitations to spend Easter with her chums
and her many friends, but it was a sacred obligation with her always to
be at home during the Easter holidays. She was quite content to do this,
and yet even her father's and mother's love could not quite still the
longing for the gay voices of those dear ones with whom she had kept
pace for so long.

There was one source of consolation, however, which during the first
days at home she had quite overlooked, and that source was none other
than Anna May and Elizabeth Angerell. The two little girls had by no
means overlooked the fact that their Miss Harlowe was "the very nicest
person in the whole world except papa and mamma," and proceeded to
monopolize her whenever the opportunity offered itself.

Grace went for long walks with them. She helped them dress their dolls,
and ran races and played games with them in their big sunny garden. She
initiated them into the mysteries of making fudge and penuchi, while
they obligingly taught her the ten different ways they knew of skipping
the rope, and how to make raffia baskets. They followed her about like
two adoring, persistent little shadows, until imbued with their carefree
spirit of childhood, Grace, in a measure, forgot her woes and joined in
their innocent fun with hearty good will.

"Really, Grace, I hardly know which is older, you or Anna May," smiled
her mother one afternoon as Grace came bounding into the living room
with, "Mother, do you know where my blue sweater is? Anna May and
Elizabeth and I are going for a walk as far as the old Omnibus House."

"It is hanging in that closet off the sewing room," returned her mother.

"Thank you." Dropping a hasty kiss on her mother's cheek, Grace was off.

Mrs. Harlowe watched her go down the walk, holding a hand of each little
girl, with wistful eyes. Grace had not been at home three days before
her mother divined that all was not well with her beloved daughter. Yet
to ask questions was not her way. Whatever Grace's cross might be, she
knew that, in time, Grace would confide in her.

On the way to the Omnibus House Grace was as gay and buoyant as her two
little friends. It was not until they had reached there and Anna May and
Elizabeth had run off to the nearest tree to watch a pair of birds which
were building a nest and keeping up a great chirping meanwhile, that a
frightful feeling of loneliness swept over Grace. She sat down on the
worn stone steps sadly thinking of Tom Gray and the good times the
Eight Originals had had at this favorite haunt.

But why did the memory of Tom Gray continue to haunt her? Grace gave her
shoulders an impatient twitch. How foolish she was to allow herself to
grow retrospective over Tom. She had deliberately sent him away because
she did not, nor never could, love him. Still she wished that the memory
of him would not intrude upon her thoughts so constantly. "It's only
because he's associated with the good times the Eight Originals have
had," she tried to tell herself, but deep in her heart was born a
strange fear that she fought against naming or recognizing.

After having watched the noisy, but successful, builders to their
hearts' content, the children ran over to where Grace sat and challenged
her to a game of tag. But she was in no mood for play, and suggested
they had better be starting home. She felt that she could not endure for
another instant this house of memories. She tried to assume the joyous
air with which she had started out, but even the two little girls were
not slow to perceive that their dear Miss Harlowe didn't look as happy
as when they had begun their walk.

"I think we'd better go and see her to-morrow morning and take her a
present," decided Anna May, after Grace had left them at their own gate.
"She laughed like everything when we started on our walk, but she looked
pretty sad when we were coming back and didn't say hardly a thing. I'm
going to give her my bottle of grape juice that Mother made specially
for me."

"I guess I'll give her that pen wiper I made. It's ever so pretty."
Elizabeth was not to be outdone in generosity.

"We'll take Snowball's new white puppy to show her," planned Anna May.
"She hasn't seen it yet. And a real French poodle puppy is too cute for
anything."

"And we'll sing that new verse we learned in school for her," added
Elizabeth.

True to their word, the next morning the two little girls marched up to
the Harlowes' front door laden with their gifts. Anna May bore with
proud carefulness the cherished bottle of grape juice while Elizabeth
cuddled a fat white ball in her arms, the pen wiper lying like a little
blanket on the puppy's back.

"We came to call as soon as we could this morning, because we thought
you looked sad yesterday," was Anna May's salutation as Grace opened the
door. "Here's a bottle of grape juice. Mother made it specially for me,
but I want _you_ to have it," the child said. Grace ushered her guests
into the living room.

"I hope you'll like this pen wiper, too. I cut it out and sewed it and
everything," burst forth Elizabeth, holding out her offering. "I hope
you'll always use it when you write letters."

"Thank you, girls. You are both very good to me," smiled Grace, "and I'm
so glad to see you this morning."

"We thought you would be," returned Anna May calmly. "We brought
Snowball's puppy to show you. We named him this morning for a perfectly
splendid person that we know. You know him, too. The puppy's name is
Thomas."

"That's Mr. Gray's real name, isn't it?" put in Elizabeth anxiously.
"Every one calls him Tom, but Thomas sounds nicer. Don't you think it
does?"

"We like Mr. Gray better than any grown-up man we know," confided Anna
May enthusiastically. "He's the handsomest, nicest person ever was. Do
you think he'd be pleased to have us name our puppy for him?"

"I'm sure he would." Grace stifled her desire to laugh as she took the
fluffy white ball in her arms and stroked the tiny head. Then the amused
look left her eyes. Perhaps Tom would never know of his little white
namesake. He might never come back from South America. Suppose she were
never to hear of him again. In the past she had, during moments of
vexation toward him, almost wished it, but of a sudden it dawned upon
her that she would give much to look into his honest gray eyes again and
feel the clasp of his strong, friendly hand.

"Miss Harlowe, shall we sing for you?" Anna May wisely noted that Miss
Harlowe had begun to look "sad" again.

"We learned such a pretty new song in school," put in Elizabeth. "Anna
May can play it on the piano, too. Would you like us to sing it, Miss
Harlowe?"

"Yes, do sing it," urged Grace, but her thoughts were far from her
obliging visitors.

The children trotted over to the piano, and after a false start or two,
Anna May played the opening bars of the song. Then the two childish
voices rang out:

    "The year's at the spring
    And day's at the morn:
    Morning's at seven;
    The hillside's dew-pearled;
    The lark's on the wing;
    The snail's on the thorn:
    God's in his heaven--
    All's right with the world!"

Grace listened with a sinking heart. The joy of Browning's exquisite
lines from "Pippa Passes" cut into her very soul. All was not right with
_her_ world. Everything had gone wrong. She had chosen work instead of
love, and what it brought her? She had believed that in rejecting Tom's
love for her work she had definitely and forever solved her problem. Now
it confronted her afresh. She understood too well the meaning of that
strange fear which had obsessed her ever since her return home. Now she
knew why the memory of Tom had so persistently haunted her, and why her
friendly interest in his welfare had grown to be a heavy anxiety as to
whether all was well with him. Wholly against her will she had done that
which she had insisted she could never do. She had fallen in love with
Tom. But her awakening had come too late. Tom had gone away to forget
her. He would never know that she loved him, for she could never, never
tell him. On the night of Jessica's wedding, when they had strolled up
the walk to the house in the moonlight, he had said with an air of
conviction, which then made her smile, that there would come a time when
even work could not crowd out love. His prophecy had come true, but it
meant nothing to either she or Tom now, for it had come true too late.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                     KATHLEEN WEST MAKES A PROMISE


On Grace's return to Overton and Harlowe House from her Easter vacation
she plunged into her work with feverish energy. She wished, if possible,
to free herself of this strange, unbidden love for Tom which seemed to
grow and deepen with every passing day, and which made her utterly
miserable. Then, too, she did not know when the dreaded summons might
come from Miss Wharton, and she longed to do as much as she could for
her girls while the opportunity was yet hers. It was with this spirit
that she entered into the plans for their revue, which was to be given
in Greek Hall, and from the number of tickets already sold promised to
be a sweeping success.

Arline and Elfreda had accepted their invitations with alacrity,
promising to come to Overton several days beforehand for the purpose of
making Grace a visit. The girls who were to take part in the revue were
using every spare moment to perfect themselves in their parts and
specialties, and every night the living room was the scene of much
rehearsing.

According to information received from Emma, Miss Wharton was not
filling Miss Wilder's place with signal success. She had shown herself
to be not only extremely narrow-minded, but quarrelsome as well. She had
antagonized more than one member of the faculty by either tactlessly
criticising their methods of instruction, or seeking to force them into
open dispute. Being only human, those whom she sought to humble
retaliated by taking advantage of her recent assumption of the duties of
dean to make her college path as thorny as circumstances would admit,
and Miss Wharton was obliged to put aside all else, including the
judgment she intended to pass upon Grace, in a powerful contention for
supremacy over those who had worsted her in sundry college matters.

Grace did not flatter herself that this state of affairs could last; she
was certain that, sooner or later, the blow would fall, but she wisely
resolved to put the whole unhappy business from her mind and make hay
while her brief college sun still shone.

The arrival of Elfreda Briggs and Arline Thayer three days before the
date set for the entertainment made things seem like old times.

"It certainly does you a world of good to have Elfreda and Arline here,
Gracious," observed Emma Dean as she stopped in the doorway of Grace's
little office on her way to her room from her morning recitations.

"I can't bear to think of their leaving me," smiled Grace, looking up
from the account book on her desk. Her face had partially regained its
former light and sparkle. "They are coming here to luncheon to-day. Did
you know it?"

"Yes, I saw J. Elfreda on my way across the campus this morning. They
ought to be here soon now."

A ring of the bell, answered by the maid, and the sound of Arline's
clear tones, mingled with Elfreda's deeper ones, proclaimed the arrival
of the two Sempers. The luncheon bell rang almost directly afterward, so
the four friends had time only to exchange salutations before going to
the table.

"Do you know, girls, I can't get used to Overton without Miss Wilder,"
declared Arline Thayer as they seated themselves at Grace's table, which
had been set for four. "I keep looking about me, expecting to meet her at
any minute. You must miss her dreadfully, Grace."

"I do miss her more than I can say," replied Grace briefly. The haunting
shadow lurked for an instant in her gray eyes, then she began to talk
with forced vivacity of the coming revue.

But one pair of keen eyes had seen that shadow, and that pair of eyes
belonged to J. Elfreda Briggs. "I wonder what ails Grace?" was her
thought, "It's something about Miss Wilder's not being here, I'm pretty
certain." She resolved to make inquiries concerning the new dean and
made an excuse to accompany Emma across the campus after luncheon,
leaving Arline and Grace together.

"What's the matter with Grace?" was her abrupt question the instant they
had left Harlowe House behind them. "I could see that she wasn't quite
her old self at luncheon to-day."

"I believe you 'could see' in the dark or with your eyes shut or even if
you had no eyes," teased Emma.

"Then there _is_ something bothering her," said Elfreda triumphantly. "I
knew it."

"Yes, there is. I wish I might tell you," returned Emma slowly, "but I
am in Grace's confidence. It wouldn't be a bad idea for you to ask her,
though. If she would tell you, you might be able to suggest something
helpful. I'll just say this much. It's very serious."

"All right, I'll ask her. If she tells me, I'll talk things over with
you afterward. If she doesn't, then forget that I asked you about it."

It was not until late that afternoon that she found her opportunity to
question Grace. Arline had left her to make a call upon Myra Stone, now
a senior, and Elfreda and Grace sat side by side on Grace's favorite
bench that stood under the giant elm at one end of the campus.

"Grace," Elfreda's matter-of-fact tones broke a brief silence that had
fallen upon the two young women. "What has happened to hurt you?"

Grace started slightly. Her color receded, leaving her very pale. Then
she said simply, "I suppose you 'could see,' Elfreda."

"Yes; I've been 'seeing' ever since I came. I wish you would tell me
about it. Perhaps I can help you."

Grace shook her head. "No one can help me. I'll just say this. Don't be
surprised at anything you may hear a little later. But please remember
one thing, Elfreda. Whatever I have done since I became the manager of
Harlowe House I have done always with the highest interests of my girls
at heart."

"I guess we all know that," retorted Elfreda. "I'll remember what you
say, though. I'm sorry I can't help you. You didn't mind my asking, did
you?"

"You know I didn't. It was affection that prompted the question." Grace
reached out to pat her friend's hand. J. Elfreda caught Grace's hand in
hers.

Again silence reigned. They sat gazing across the campus, their hands
still joined. Grace was thinking that she could not endure telling even
Elfreda of the cloud that hung over her, while J. Elfreda Briggs was
registering a vow to find some means of helping Grace in spite of
herself.

"I must go, Elfreda," said Grace at last, rising from the seat. "I am
anxious to have dinner over a little earlier to-night on account of the
dress rehearsal in Greek Hall. Let me see, who is the person to be
favored with your company at dinner?"

"I'm going to take dinner at Wayne Hall with Kathleen. We'll meet at the
dress rehearsal." Elfreda rose, and the two sauntered across the campus
to the point where their paths diverged.

After stopping for a little chat with Mrs. Elwood, Elfreda climbed the
stairs to the room at the end of the hall, where she received a most
vociferous welcome from Kathleen and Patience. But the moment they
settled down to conversation Elfreda said solemnly, "Girls, something is
breaking Grace Harlowe's proud heart. Emma knows, but she is Grace's
only confidante. I asked Grace point blank, this afternoon, to tell me,
but she wouldn't. It has something to do with that Miss Wharton, the new
dean. Whatever it is, you know, as well as I, that Grace isn't likely to
be in the wrong. If I were going to stay here at Overton, a little
longer, I'd find out all about it."

"You could see," murmured Patience.

"Yes, I could," declared Elfreda with a good-natured grin. "But so long
as I can't be here to see, I'm going to pass the job along to you,
Kathleen. I'm sure that if any one can find out the cause of poor
Grace's woes it will be you. Go after it and run it down just as you
would a big story, and if you can find and kill the wicked monster and
make the princess happy again, well, there isn't anything that J.
Elfreda Briggs won't do for you."

"I'll do it," vowed Kathleen, setting her sharp little chin at a
resolute angle.

"You can't lose much time, either. College closes the second week in
June," reminded Elfreda.

"Trust me to find out before that time."

Having disposed of this important matter, J. Elfreda's gravity vanished
and she became her usual funny self again. The three girls had a merry
time together and set off for the dress rehearsal in high spirits.

When they reached Greek Hall they found that Grace and Arline had
already arrived and were sitting far back in the hall watching a
sextette of girls in smart white linen skirts, blue serge coats and
straw hats, banded with blue ribbon, who were down on the programme for
a song entitled "Our Fraternity Friends," the number ending with a gay
little dance taught them by Hilda Moore.

"Aren't they clever?" asked Grace eagerly, turning to Kathleen. The
three young women had made their way to where she was seated. "They only
began practicing that dance last week. Miss Moore taught them. She
dances beautifully."

The rehearsal proceeded without a hitch. Arline and Elfreda, being sure
of themselves, did not take part in it. Kathleen West's clever one-act
play, "In the Days of Shakespeare," was worthy of her genius. It
presented the scene from the "Taming of the Shrew," where Petruchio
ridicules Katherine's gown and berates the tailor. This scene was
enacted in accordance with the Elizabethan age, when the nobility were
permitted to take seats on the stage with the actors, the latter being
obliged to step around and over that part of the audience in order to
make their entrances and exits. These favored nobles had also the
privilege of expressing freely their opinions of the merits of the
long-suffering mummers, which they usually did in a loud voice. Kathleen
had made a careful study of the conditions prevailing in the theatre at
that period, and the little play was most mirth provoking from beginning
to end.

Mary Reynolds had also scored in the pathetic playlet, "The Freshman on
the Top Floor," depicting a lonely little girl whose poverty and
diffidence kept her out of the carefree college life that went on in the
house where she lived. Cecil Ferris essayed the role of the freshman.

The last number on the programme was Jean Brent's solo. After
considerable coaxing Louise had persuaded her to sing, and Gertrude
Earle accompanied her on the piano. Grace felt her brief resentment
against the girl vanish as she listened to her glorious voice which had
a suspicion of tragedy in it.

There was a certain amount of lingering on the part of the performers to
talk over the success of the dress rehearsal, but at last they all
trooped across the campus to Harlowe House.

By curious chance Evelyn Ward found herself walking directly behind Jean
Brent. She had been greatly affected by her singing. Obeying a sudden
impulse, she leaned forward and touched Jean's arm. "Can't we be friends
again, Jean," she said wistfully. "I--I love your voice, and I care so
much for you. There isn't much of the year left and----"

Jean's blue eyes grew strangely soft. "It was all my fault," she said
huskily. "Let's begin over again, Evelyn." And under the stars they made
a new and truer covenant.



                             CHAPTER XXII

                     FIGHTING LOYALHEART'S BATTLE


The revue was an unqualified success. Greek Hall was filled to
overflowing, and the money fairly poured into the box office for the
Harlowe House fund. There was a general rejoicing the next day among the
performers, and the same night a social session was held in the living
room at Harlowe House. To Grace it seemed as though she had been wafted
back once more to the dear dead days when the Sempers had held forth.
The presence of Arline and Elfreda was the last touch needed to complete
the illusion, and she went about her work feeling happier than she had
for a long time. Even the shadow cast upon her heart by Tom's absence
seemed less gloomy.

But on the heels of her brief elation trod disaster. Miss Wharton had
chosen to become highly incensed because she had not been consulted in
regard to the holding of the entertainment, and the long-suspended sword
fell. The revue had been given on Wednesday evening, and on Friday
morning Jean had received a note summoning her to Miss Wharton's office.
This time Miss Wharton intended to interview the two young women
separately. She believed that Jean would reveal what she had hitherto
kept a secret if Grace were not present. With unreasonable prejudice she
chose to place the brunt of Jean's refusal to speak upon Grace's
shoulders.

Jean obeyed the summons and came away from Overton Hall with a white,
set face. Almost the first person she encountered on the campus was
Evelyn, who was hurrying to one of her classes, and in her anguish of
mind she poured forth the whole bitter story to her roommate.

"Oh, Jean, why didn't you tell me this before," cried Evelyn. "I never
knew until the night of the dress rehearsal that things were not going
smoothly for Miss Harlowe. Kathleen West told me in confidence that
something was wrong, and asked me to find out anything I could
concerning it and let her know. We must go straight to her and tell her
everything. She can help us if any one can. Just for once I'll cut my
English recitation. Come on. Oh, I do hope Kathleen is at home."

But Kathleen was not at Wayne Hall, and after some parleying the two
girls concluded to wait until she returned from her classes to her
luncheon. It was ten o'clock when they rang the bell of the college
house where Grace had spent four happy years, and for the next hour and
a half they waited in an agony of suspense. When Kathleen arrived they
hurried her off to her room and proceeded to acquaint her with all the
facts in their possession concerning the misfortune so soon to overtake
Grace.

Kathleen listened to them without comment. When they had finished
talking she asked one sharp question, "Do you know Miss Wilder's
address?"

Neither girl knew it, but Evelyn was seized with a bright idea. "Hilda
Moore knows it. I am sure she does."

"Then hurry to Overton Hall and get it from her," ordered Kathleen. "I'm
going to send a telegram. Are you sure Miss Wharton hasn't sent for
Grace yet?"

"Yes, yes. She said she intended to send for Miss Harlowe to-morrow
morning. Evidently she has a reason of her own for not sending for her
to-day," was Jean's eager response. "But she is going to report us to
President Morton and the Board within the next day or so."

"Good-bye. I'll be back directly." Evelyn dashed out of the room and
down the stairs on her errand.

Twenty minutes later she returned. "Here it is," she handed it to the
newspaper girl.

Kathleen had not taken off her hat since her arrival at Wayne Hall.
"Come on, girls," she said. "You must go home and have your luncheon.
Just leave everything to me. I think I can promise Miss Wharton a
surprise."

"What did she say to you, Jean?" asked Evelyn as they left Kathleen at
the corner, headed for the telegraph office, and went on to Harlowe
House.

"What didn't she say. She is going to send me away if she can. I told
her everything, but it only made matters worse. I said over and over
again that Miss Harlowe was not to blame, but she grew harder every
minute. How I despise her." Jean shuddered with disgust. "All this is
merely an excuse to oust Miss Harlowe. Why she doesn't like her,
goodness knows. What is Miss West going to do, I wonder?"

"Telegraph Miss Wilder for one thing. Still, she can't write or come
here in time to save Miss Harlowe," declared Evelyn. "Hilda knows about
it. She said Miss Wharton dictated a perfectly horrid letter to Mrs.
Gray, too, about Miss Harlowe this morning."

"Oh, dear," half sobbed Jean. "It's dreadful, and it's all my fault."

Evelyn did not answer. She could not help feeling that Jean deserved
this bitter moment.

"Shall you tell Miss Harlowe?" asked Evelyn as they hurriedly ascended
the steps.

Jean nodded.

When they entered the dining room, for luncheon they learned to their
utter consternation that Grace had gone for the day to visit a classmate
in Westbrook and would not return until after dinner that night. In the
meantime Kathleen West had hurried to the telegraph office and
despatched the following message to Miss Wilder. "Wire President Morton,
delay action, charges made by Miss Wharton against Grace Harlowe, until
word from you. Letter will follow. Answer. Kathleen West."

"There," she chuckled when she heard the tap of the operator's machine,
"that will help a little. Never mind the expense."

She was late to luncheon, and therefore missed Patience, but toward the
close of the afternoon they met, and Kathleen took her into her
confidence. All evening the two girls remained in the living room
listening intently for the ring of the bell that might mean an answer to
Kathleen's urgent message. At ten minutes to nine Kathleen said wearily.
"It's too late to hear to-night. The telegraph office closes at nine
o'clock. The answer will come in the morning. Even as she spoke, the
door bell rang loudly. Pale and trembling with suspense, she herself
answered the door. Hastily signing the messenger boy's book she closed
the door on his retreating back and returned to the living room,
nervously tearing open the envelope as she walked. Then she cried out in
surprise.

"What is it?" questioned Patience in alarm.

Kathleen held out to her the disquieting bit of yellow paper. "Don't be
frightened. It's good news. See." Patience read over her shoulder.
"Start east to-day. Recovered. Don't write. Reach Overton Friday week.
Keep secret. Telegraphed president. Katherine Wilder."

"Hurrah, we've saved the day," rejoiced Kathleen.

"And Kathleen West and Evelyn Ward have left milestones worth leaving
along College Lane," reminded Patience with a smile that was very near
to tears.

       *       *       *       *       *

Grace returned to Harlowe House from Westbrook at a little after eight
o'clock in the evening. She found Jean Brent anxiously awaiting her
arrival, and at Jean's request they went at once to her room, where Jean
acquainted her with the bad news.

Grace listened with compressed lips, saying nothing.

Jean wound up her narration with, "I know it is all my fault, Miss
Harlowe, but truly I tried to make things come right for you. I told
Miss Wharton all about myself and tried to make her understand that you
weren't in the least to blame for my misdeeds. But I only made matters
worse. She is contemptible." Jean's voice vibrated with bitter scorn.

"I thank you for defending me." Grace spoke unemotionally. "I hope that
President Morton will overlook the charge against you. I must go now. I
wish to be alone. I must decide what I am to do. Good night." She had
remained standing near the door during Jean's recital, now she opened it
and walked slowly down the hall to her own door.

She entered her pretty room as one might enter a chamber of death. So
the end had come. Well, she would meet it with a stout heart and a clear
conscience. But she would not wait for Miss Wharton to charge her with
being unfit for the trust Mrs. Gray had reposed in her. She stepped to
the library table and, opening a drawer, took out a sheet of her own
monogrammed stationery and an envelope. Seating herself at the table, she
took her pen from its rack. After a little thought she began writing in
the clear, strong hand that characterized her. Her letter consisted of
not more than a dozen lines. When she had finished she sealed, stamped,
and addressed it to President Morton with a firm, unfaltering hand.

Wrapping a light scarf about her shoulders, she stole softly downstairs
and outdoors without being observed by the knot of girls in the living
room. Crossing the campus, she dropped her letter into the post box at
the farther side, nearest the street. Then she walked slowly back,
stopping at her favorite bench under the giant elm. The moon, almost at
the full, flooded the wide green stretch with her pale radiance. The
fringed arms of the old elm waved her a gentle welcome.

Grace sank upon the rustic seat racked with many emotions. How often she
had sat there and dreamed of what her work was to be, and now, just as
she had begun to reap the glory of it, it was to be snatched from her.

The soft beauty of the spring night coupled with the ordeal through
which she had just passed filled her with an unspeakable sadness. She
bowed her head upon her hands, but her thoughts lay too deep for tears.
Yet even while she sat for the last time in the spot she loved so
dearly, Kathleen West and Patience Eliot were standing side by side
reading the telegram that was to bring light out of darkness.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                       GRACE SOLVES HER PROBLEM


Grace waited impatiently for an answer to her letter of resignation. She
expected hourly a summons to President Morton's office, but it did not
come. It was now six days since Jean Brent's interview with Miss
Wharton. Surely the dean had long since executed her threat to humiliate
and depose Grace from the position of which she had been so proud. Then
why did not President Morton take action at once and end this torturing
suspense? Grace could not answer this question. She could only wonder
and wait.

But while she wondered and waited Kathleen West was leaving no stone
unturned. In the championing of Grace's rights she did nothing by
halves. The very next morning after receiving Miss Wilder's telegram she
marched boldly into President Morton's office for a private interview
with that dignified gentleman. Her newspaper experience had taught her
how to gain an audience with the most difficult persons. She had little
trouble in obtaining admittance to the president's private office. It
was a long interview, lasting, at least, a half hour, and when Kathleen
rose to go President Morton shook her hand and bowed her out in his most
amiable manner.

From Overton Hall she went directly to the telegraph office and sent
another telegram. This time it was addressed to Mrs. Rose Gray, Oakdale,
N.Y., and read: "Come to Overton, but fix arrival Friday. Grace needs
you. Serious. Wire train. Meet you. Kathleen West."

By five o'clock that afternoon she had received this answer: "Arrive
Friday, 9.20 P.M. Arrange for me, Tourraine. Rose Gray," and was
triumphantly showing it to Patience Eliot and planning her work of
vindication in Grace's behalf.

But while her friends were busying themselves in her cause Grace was
engaged in packing her two trunks and arranging her affairs at Harlowe
House. So far as she knew, Emma Dean and Jean Brent, alone, were aware
of what was about to happen. Jean, whose fate still hung in the balance,
went about looking pale and forlorn. Being in Kathleen's confidence,
Evelyn had not informed her roommate of the secret work that was being
done in behalf of Grace. She understood that Jean was suffering acutely,
and longed to tell her that all promised well for Grace, but not for
worlds would she have betrayed Kathleen's confidence.

Emma Dean had learned of the mailing of Grace's resignation from Grace
herself when she had returned to Harlowe House late that same evening.
For once her flow of cheer had failed her, and she had broken down and
cried disconsolately. For the next two days she had been unconsolable.
Her bitterness against Miss Wharton was so great that it distressed
Grace, who sought in vain to comfort her. But on Monday afternoon she
returned from her classes in a lighter, more cheerful frame of mind. In
fact as the week progressed she appeared to have thrown off her sorrow
and was as funny as ever.

Grace tried to be honestly glad that Emma's sorrow had been so
short-lived, but she could not help feeling a little hurt to think that
Emma, of all persons, should forget so quickly. Once or twice Emma
caught the half reproachful gaze of her gray eyes, and had hard work to
refrain from telling Grace that the hateful shadow was soon to be
lifted. For Emma and Kathleen West had had a private confab, during
which both girls had laughed and cried and laughed again in a most
irrational manner.

So the week wore away, and Friday came and went, leaving Grace still
waiting and dreading. If she had happened to pass the Hotel Tourraine at
twenty-five minutes to ten on Friday evening she would have seen a
taxicab drive up to the entrance and a sprightly, little old lady step
out of it, assisted by a keen-faced, black-eyed young woman, who took
her by the arm and hurried her into the hotel. And if she had been on
the station platform when the 11.40 train from the west pulled in she
would have eagerly welcomed the stately dark-eyed woman who signaled a
taxicab and drove off up College Avenue.

Saturday morning dawned, clear and radiant. The glad light of early
summer streamed in upon Grace. For a brief space she forgot her sorrows
as she knelt at the open window and drank in the pure morning air. Then
one by one they came back. She wondered whether the same sun were
shining on Tom, far away in the jungle, and if he were well, and
sometimes thought of her. How happy she might have made him and herself
if only she had not been so blind. Through the bitterness of being found
wanting she had come to realize what a wonderful thing it was to be
truly loved. Never had the love of her parents and friends for her
seemed so sacred. And how beautiful, how steadfast, Tom's affection for
her had been! With a sigh she turned her thoughts away from that lost
happiness. Now came the old torturing question, "Would the summons come
to-day?"

She was still brooding over it when she went downstairs to breakfast.
Stopping in her office, she hastily went over her mail. It was with a
sense of desperate relief that she separated an envelope, bearing the
letter head of Overton College from the little pile of letters on the
slide of her desk, and opened it. It was from President Morton, and
merely stated that he wished her to call at his office at eleven o'clock
that morning.

With the letter in her hand, Grace entered the dining-room. She intended
to show it to Emma, but the latter, who had risen early on account of
some special work she wished to do, had eaten a hasty breakfast and
departed. Grace slipped the letter into her blouse and made a pretense
of eating breakfast. But she had lost all appetite for food. After
sipping part of a cup of coffee she rose from the table and, returning
to her office, opened the rest of her mail.

Under any circumstances but those of the present her letters would have
delighted her. There was one from Eleanor Savelli, written from her
father's villa in Italy, a long lively one from Nora, containing a
breezy account of Oakdale doings, and a still longer letter from Anne.
There was one from Julia Crosby, and an extremely funny note from J.
Elfreda Briggs, describing a visit she had recently made to the night
court.

One by one she read them, then laid them aside with an indifference born
of suffering. If only there had been one for her in Tom's clear, bold
handwriting. But it was useless to linger, even for a moment, over what
might have been. Grace gathered up her letters and, locking them in her
desk, went upstairs, with slow, dragging steps, to dress for her call
upon President Morton.

It was three minutes to eleven when a slim, erect figure walked up the
steps of Overton Hall. Grace wore a smartly tailored suit of white
serge, white buckskin shoes, white kid gloves and a white hemp hat
trimmed with curved white quills. The lining of the hat bore the name of
a famous maker. She had taken a kind of melancholy pride in her toilet
that morning, and the result was all that she could have wished.
Unconsciously the immaculate purity of her costume bespoke the pure,
high, steadfast soul which looked out from her gray eyes. As she paused
at the door for a moment, her hand on the knob, she experienced
something of the thrill of a martyr, about to die for a sacred cause.
Then she opened the door.

For an instant she stood as though transfixed. Was she dreaming, or
could she actually believe her own eyes? A sudden faintness seized her.
Everything turned dark. She swayed slightly, then with a little sobbing
cry of, "Fairy Godmother! Miss Wilder!" she ran straight into Mrs.
Gray's outstretched arms.

That throbbing, wistful cry brought the tears to Miss Wilder's eyes,
while President Morton took off his glasses and wiped them with his
handkerchief. Great tears were rolling down Mrs. Gray's cheeks which she
made no effort to hide. "My little girl," she said brokenly. "How dared
that dreadful woman treat you so shabbily?"

It was at least ten minutes before the three women could settle down to
the exchanging of questions and explanations. President Morton, the soul
of old-fashioned courtesy, beamed his approval on them.

"Now my dear," said Miss Wilder at last, "I wish you to begin at the
very beginning of this affair, and tell us just what has happened."

Grace began with the coming of Jean Brent to Overton and of her refusal
to be frank concerning her affairs. Then she went on to the sale of her
wardrobe which Jean had conducted in her absence and her final
revelation of her secret to Grace after the latter had commanded it.
Then she told of her promise to Jean not to betray her secret and of the
summons sent them by Miss Wharton, to come to her office.

"But what was this secret, Grace?" questioned Miss Wilder gravely. "We
have the right to know."

The color flooded Grace's pale face. She hesitated, then with an
impulsive, "Of course you have the right to know," she went on, "Jean
Brent's father and mother died when she was a child. She was brought up
by an aunt who is very rich. This aunt gave her everything in the world
she wanted but one thing. She would not allow Jean to go to college. She
did not believe in the higher education for girls. She believed that a
young girl should learn French, music and deportment at a boarding
school. Then when she was graduated she must marry and settle down. One
of the friends of Jean's aunt had a son who was in love with Jean. He
had been babied by his mother until he had grown to be a hateful,
worthless young man, and Jean despised him. Her aunt told her that she
could take her choice between marrying this young man or leaving her
house forever. She gave Jean a week to decide. Then she went into the
country to spend a week end with this young man's mother at their
country place. She thought because Jean was utterly dependent upon her
that she would not dare to defy her.

"Jean had a little money of her own, so she packed her trunks while her
aunt was away and went to Grafton to talk things over with Miss Lipton,
who has known her since she was a baby. She was a dear friend of Jean's
mother. As Jean was of age she had the right to choose her own way of
life. Miss Lipton knew all about Overton College and Harlowe House, so
she wrote me and applied for admission for Miss Brent. I had room for
one more girl, and I considered Miss Lipton's recommendation sufficient
to admit Miss Brent to Harlowe House. Naturally I was displeased when
she disobeyed me and held the sale. Still I do not consider that her
offense warrants dismissal."

"Miss Brent will _not_ be expelled from college," emphasized President
Morton.

"What I cannot understand is Miss Wharton's unjust attitude toward you.
Surely she could readily see that you were not at fault," cried Mrs.
Gray in righteous indignation.

Miss Wilder, too, shook her head in disapproval of Miss Wharton's course
of action. President Morton looked stern for a moment. Then his face
relaxed. He turned to Grace with a reassuring smile that told its own
story.

"Miss Harlowe," he said, looking kindly at Grace, "it has always been my
principle to uphold the members of the faculty in their decisions for
or against a student, if these decisions are fair and just. I am
convinced, however, that you have received most unjust treatment at Miss
Wharton's hands. Therefore I am going to tell you in strict confidence
that Miss Wharton has not filled the requirements for dean demanded by
the Overton College Board. On the day I received your letter of
resignation I wrote Miss Wharton, asking for her resignation at the
close of the college year. I had received a letter from Miss Wilder
stating that she would be able to resume her position as dean of this
college next October. I had determined to send for you to inquire into
your reason for wishing to resign the position you have so ably filled,
when I received Miss Wilder's telegram. At her request I delayed matters
until her arrival. Miss West also called at my office in your behalf. I
take great pleasure in assuring you that I was prepared to accept any
explanation you might make of the charges which Miss Wharton made
against you and Miss Brent. In all my experience as president of this
institution of learning I have never known a young woman who has carried
out so faithfully the traditions of Overton College."

Grace listened to the president's words with a feeling of joy so deep as
to be akin to pain. The shadow had indeed lifted. In the eyes of those
whose good opinion she valued so greatly she was worthy of her trust.
She never forgot that wonderful morning in President Morton's office.

When at last she left the president and Miss Wilder, to accompany Mrs.
Gray back to the Tourraine, she said with shining eyes, "Dear Fairy
Godmother, would you mind if we stopped at Wayne Hall. I _must_ see
Kathleen West."

"Of course you must," agreed Mrs. Gray briskly. "I should like to see
her myself. My opinion of that young woman is very high."

It seemed to Grace as though she could hardly wait until their taxicab
drew up in front of Wayne Hall. Mrs. Elwood herself answered the bell.

"Oh, Mrs. Elwood," cried Grace, "is Kathleen in?"

"Yes; she came in only a little while ago."

"I'll wait for you in the living room, Grace. Bring that blessed little
newspaper girl down stairs with you," directed Mrs. Gray.

As Grace hurried up the stairs and down the hall to the end room the
memory of another day, when she had sought Kathleen West to do her
honor, returned to her. Her face shone with a great tenderness as she
turned the knob and walked straight into the room without knocking. An
instant and she had folded in her arms the alert little figure that
sprang to meet her. "Kathleen, dear girl," she cried. "How can I ever
thank you?"

"Don't try," smiled Kathleen, her black eyes looking unutterable loyalty
at Grace. "I had to leave a milestone, you know, and I couldn't have
left it in a better cause. I enlisted long ago under the banner of
Loyalheart. So you see it was my duty to fight for her."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was after three o'clock when Grace left Mrs. Gray at the Tourraine
and went back to Harlowe House. At Mrs. Elwood's urgent invitation they
had remained at Wayne Hall for luncheon, and with Patience added to
their number had held a general rejoicing over the way things had turned
out. Mrs. Gray's last words to Grace on saying good-bye to her at the
hotel were, "Grace, I am coming over to see you this evening."

Grace walked home, her heart singing a song of thanksgiving and
happiness. As she entered the house the maid met her with, "There's a
lady to see you, Miss Harlowe. She just came."

Grace stepped into the living room. A tall, gray-haired woman of perhaps
sixty, very smartly gowned, and of commanding appearance, rose to meet
her. "Are you Miss Harlowe?" was her abrupt question. Then before Grace
had time to do more than bow in the affirmative, she said with a
brusqueness intended to hide emotion, "My name is Brent. Jean Brent is
my niece. Tell me, is she with you still? I could not bring myself to
ask the maid. I was afraid she might say that my niece was not here." In
her anxiety, her voice trembled.

Grace's hand was stretched forth impulsively. "I am so glad," she said
eagerly. "Jean needs you. She will soon be home from her classes. Would
you like to go to her room?"

The woman returned Grace's hand clasp with a fervor born of emotion. She
was trying to hide her agitation, but Grace could see that she was
deeply stirred. Once in Jean's room she gave one curious glance about
her, then sank heavily into a chair and began to cry. "I have been a
stubborn, foolish woman," she sobbed. "I drove my little girl away from
me because I was determined to make her marry a man whom I now know to
be worthless. Oh, I am afraid she will never forgive me."

Grace was touched by the proud woman's tearful remorse, but she doubted
if Jean Brent would forgive her aunt. She had spoken most bitterly
against her. Grace tried to think of something comforting to say. But
before she could put her thoughts into words the door was suddenly
opened and Jean walked into the room. At sight of the familiar figure
she turned very pale. Her blue eyes gleamed with anger. She took a step
forward.

"What brought _you_ here?" she asked tensely.

"Jean, my child, won't you forgive me?" pleaded the woman holding out
her arms.

Grace waited to hear no more. But as she turned to leave the room she
caught one look at Jean's face. The sudden anger in it had died out.
Grace believed that all would be well, but whatever passed between aunt
and niece was not for her ears. She went directly to her room to wait
there until Emma came from her classes. She had so much to say to her
faithful comrade.

In due season Emma appeared with a cheery, "Hello, Gracious. How is
everything?"

"Everything is lovely. Emma Dean, you dear old humbug. No wonder you
couldn't look sad when I talked about leaving Harlowe House. Now,
confess. You were in the secret, weren't you?" Grace stood with her
hands on Emma's shoulders, looking into her face.

"The Deans of whom I am which, have always been advocates of the truth,"
solemnly declared Emma, "therefore I will follow their illustrious
example and answer 'I was.' You tied _my_ hands and _my_ tongue so I
couldn't fight for you, Gracious, but you couldn't tie Kathleen's."

"Oh, Emma, I have so much to tell you. I hardly know where to begin. I'm
so happy. It's wonderful to feel once more that I am considered worthy
of my work. You and I will have many more seasons of it, together."

"I wish we might," returned Emma, but a curious wistfulness crept into
her eyes that Grace failed to note.

The two friends talked on until dinner time and went downstairs
together, arm in arm. After dinner Emma pleaded an engagement with Miss
Duncan, Grace's former teacher of English, and left the house at a
little after seven o'clock. Grace slipped into her little office and
seated herself at her desk. How glad she was that all was well again.
Yes, she and Emma would, indeed, spend many more seasons together. Yet,
somehow, the thought of her work did not give her the same thrill of
satisfaction that it once had. Try as she might she could not keep
thoughts of Tom from creeping into her mind. Where was he to-night? Had
he forgotten her? Mrs. Gray had not once mentioned his name to her, and
she had not dared to ask for news of him. Her somber reflections were
interrupted by Jean Brent and her aunt. A complete reconciliation had
taken place. Miss Brent was now anxious to thank Grace for all she had
done in her niece's behalf. They lingered briefly, then went on to the
Hotel Tourraine, where Miss Brent had registered. They had not been gone
long when the ringing of the door bell brought Grace to her feet. Mrs.
Gray had arrived. She hurried to the door to open it for her Fairy
Godmother. Then she drew back with a sharp exclamation. The tall,
fair-haired young man who towered above her bore small resemblance to
dainty little Mrs. Gray.

[Illustration: Tom's Strong Hands Closed Over Hers.]

"Grace!" said a voice she knew only too well.

"Tom," she faltered. Then both her hands went out to him. His own strong
hands closed over them. The two pairs of gray eyes met in a long level
gaze.

"Come into my office, Tom." She found her voice at last. "I--I thought
you were thousands of miles away in a South American jungle."

"So I was, but I didn't go very deeply into it. Professor Graham met
with a serious accident and we had to turn back to civilization. He fell
and hurt his spine and we had to carry him to the nearest village, two
hundred miles, in a litter. Naturally that broke up the expedition, and
when he became better we decided to sail for home. Reached New York City
last week. I telegraphed Aunt Rose, and she wired me to meet her in
Overton. I came in on that 5.30 train. Of course I was anxious to see
you, so Aunt Rose told me to run along ahead. She'll be here in a
little while."

Once seated opposite each other in the little office, an awkward silence
fell upon the two young people.

"I am so glad nothing dreadful happened to you, Tom." Grace at last
broke the silence. "Those expeditions are very hazardous. I thought of
you often and wondered if you were well." There was a wistful note in
her voice of which she was utterly unconscious, but it was not lost on
Tom.

"Grace," he said tensely, "did you really miss me?" He leaned forward,
his face very close to hers. His eager eyes forced the truth.

"More than I can say, Tom," she answered in a low tone.

Tom caught her hands in his. She did not draw them away. "How much does
that mean, Grace? I know I vowed never to open the subject to you again,
but I never saw that look in your eyes before, and you never let me hold
your hands like this. Which is to be, dear; work or love?"

"Love," was the half-whispered answer. And the gate of happiness, so
long barred to Tom Gray, was opened wide.



                             CHAPTER XXIV

                           THE BOND ETERNAL


The full moon shone down with its broadest smile on the group of young
people who occupied Mrs. Gray's roomy, old-fashioned veranda. As on
another June night that belonged to the past, Mrs. Gray's Christmas
children had gathered home.

"We're here because we're here," caroled Hippy Wingate. "But allow me to
make one observation."

"_One_," jeered Reddy Brooks. "You mean one hundred."

"That's very unkind in you, Reddy," returned Hippy in a grieved tone.
"Just to show you how entirely off the track you are I will make that
_one_ observation and subside."

"I didn't know you had such a word as 'subside' in your vocabulary,"
derided David Nesbit.

"Nora, where art thou? Thy husband is calling," wailed Hippy.

"I would hardly call that an observation," laughed Grace.

"It sounds more like an anguished appeal for help," remarked Anne.

"Or a perpetration by a deaf man who hasn't the least idea of how it
sounds," added Tom Gray cruelly.

"Nora," rebuked Hippy, fixing a disapproving eye on his wife, who was
laughing immoderately, "how can you hear your husband thus derided and
laugh at his suffering? Oh, if Miriam were only here to protect me. By
the way," he went on innocently, "where _is_ Miriam?"

"She will be here a little later," said Grace evasively.

"Ah, yes, I see," smirked Hippy. "I suppose she is looking up further
information on the drama. Miriam is really well-informed on that
subject. Did she go to the library or"--he paused and his smile grew
wider--"to the train?"

Absolute silence followed this pertinent question. Then Jessica giggled.
That giggle proved infectious. A ripple of mirth went the round of the
porch party.

"Here comes Miriam now." Grace pointed down the drive. Two figures were
seen strolling toward the house in leisurely fashion.

"Yes, here she comes. Better ask her what you just asked us," Reddy
satirically advised Hippy.

"Why ask questions when my eyes tell me it _was_ the train? Still, if
you think it advisable I will----"

"Be good," ordered Nora. "Don't you dare say one word."

"But I haven't made my observation yet," reminded Hippy.

"It will keep."

"Ah, here they come! Now for a pretty little speech of welcome." Hippy
rose and puffed out his chest, but before he could utter a word he was
jerked back by the coat tails to the porch seat on which he and Nora had
been sitting.

As Miriam and the man at her side neared the porch every one rose to
greet them. Then the women of the party exchanged smiling glances. On
Miriam's engagement finger shone the white fire of a diamond. The next
instant Everett Southard was shaking hands with Mrs. Gray and the Eight
Originals, while Miriam looked on, an expression of radiant happiness in
her eyes. Then the actor turned to her with the beautiful smile, that
Nora O'Malley had often declared was seraphic, and said: "Shall we tell
them now, Miriam?"

Miriam's black eyes glowed with the soft light that love alone could
lend to them. The pink in her cheeks deepened. "Yes," she acquiesced.

"Miriam and I are going the rest of our way together, dear friends," he
said simply. Anne thought she had never heard his voice take on a more
exquisitely tender tone. "I came from New York to tell you so."

Immediately a flow of congratulations ensued. In the midst of them Tom
Gray's eyes met Grace's. What he read there seemed to satisfy him. When
every one was again seated he walked over to the porch swing where Grace
and Anne sat idly rocking to and fro. Stopping directly in front of
Grace, he held out his hands to her. As she looked up at him her face
took on an expression of perfect love and trust. Placing her hands in
Tom's, Grace rose to her feet. Their friends watched the pretty tableau
with affectionately smiling faces. Then the two young people faced the
expectant company.

"You know, all of you, what I am going to say, so you must know, too,
how happy I am. Grace has promised to marry me." Tom's face was aglow
with happiness.

"My dear, dear child." Mrs. Gray rose, her arms extended to Grace. "I
have hoped for this ever since you were graduated from high school."
Grace embraced the old lady tenderly. Then her chums hemmed her in, and
congratulations began all over again.

"Talk about your surprises," beamed Reddy. "I hadn't any idea that Grace
and Tom had fixed up this one. I can't tell you how glad I am, old
fellow." He shook Tom's hand vigorously. David and Hippy followed suit.
The faces of the three young men fairly shone with joy. They had long
understood the depth of Tom's dejection over Grace's steadfast refusal
to give up her work for his sake.

"We saved it as a special feature of the occasion," laughed Tom, "but
I'll tell you three fellows a secret." He lowered his voice and the
laughter died out of his fine face, leaving it very serious. "I never
expected this happiness was coming my way. Long ago I gave up all idea
of ever being anything but a friend to Grace. I can't understand how it
all came about, and I suppose I never shall."

"Maybe we aren't tickled over your good fortune," said Hippy warmly.
"We've waited for this a long while. I always told Nora that it would
happen some day. I knew there was just one Tom Gray and that it would
only be a question of time until Grace found it out."

"No fair having secrets," called out Nora. "What and who are you boys
talking about in such low, confidential voices?"

"Me," beamed Hippy. "Reddy was just telling me that he never fully
appreciated me until cruel distance separated us. Of course I can't help
feeling touched. It is so seldom that Reddy appreciates anything or any
one. He is----"

The confidential group suddenly dissolved in a hurry. Reddy took hold of
Hippy's arm and rushed him down the steps and around the corner of the
house in an anything but gentle manner. "There," he declared, as he
returned to the porch alone. "That will teach him that he can't make
pointed remarks about me. I guess he felt 'touched' that time."

"N-o-r-a," wailed a pathetic voice. "Come and get me. I want to sit on
the veranda, too."

"Promise you'll be nice to Reddy, or I won't come after you," stipulated
Nora, making no effort to rise.

"I won't promise," came the defiant answer. "I don't like Reddy. He is a
hard-hearted ruffian."

"Thank you," sang out Reddy. "Now come back if you dare."

"I don't want to come back. I'd rather walk around by myself in the
garden."

Nothing further was heard from Hippy for a time. Conversation on the
veranda went on merrily. Apparently no one missed the stout young man.
Suddenly a bland voice at Reddy's elbow said, "Why, good evening,
Reddy." Hippy's fat face appeared between the lace curtains at the open
parlor window. He beamed joyfully at the company, then favored Reddy
with a smile so wide and ingratiating that the latter's fierce
expression changed to a reluctant grin. At this hopeful sign Hippy
clambered through the window and crowded himself into the swing between
Jessica and Anne, who had resumed their seats there. They protested
vigorously, then made room for him.

After announcing their engagement and receiving the congratulations of
their friends, Tom and Grace had seated themselves on a rustic bench a
little apart from the others. Grace's slim fingers lay within Tom's
strong hand.

"Grace," he said, bending toward her so that he could look into her
eyes, "are you perfectly sure that you love me? Are you quite content to
give up your work? You don't think there will ever come a time when you
will be sorry that you chose me instead? It still seems like a dream to
me. I can't believe that you and I are going to spend the rest of our
lives together. It's too much happiness. If you knew how black
everything seemed that rainy day when you sent me out of your life----"

"Hush, you mustn't speak of it," Grace lightly laid the fingers of her
free hand against Tom's lips. "I did not know how wonderful your love
for me was. It took sorrow and separation to make me see it. But I'm
_sure_ now, Tom, perfectly sure. I used to think I could never give up
being house mother at Harlowe House, but now I am entirely satisfied to
have Emma Dean take my place. She will do the work even better than I.
Harlowe House can spare me, but Tom Gray can't, and I can't spare him.
What you said to me so long ago came true, dear. When love came to me,
not even work could crowd it out. I have found my fairy prince at last."

"Then the prince is going to claim the princess and bind her to him
forever with a jeweled circle of gold," said Tom softly. His hand
reached into an inner pocket of his coat. Over Grace Harlowe's slender
finger was slipped the magic circle of gold, a glittering pledge of
eternal devotion, and as she touched the jeweled token with her lips the
knowledge came to her that though Loyalheart's pilgrimage in the Land of
College was ended, an infinitely more wonderful journey on the Highway
of Life was soon to begin.

How Grace Harlowe spent her last summer in her father's house before
starting upon that journey, with Tom Gray as her life-long guide, will
be told in "Grace Harlowe's Golden Summer."

                                THE END

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3 DAVE DARRIN'S THIRD YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or, Leaders of the Second
  Class Midshipmen.

4 DAVE DARRIN'S FOURTH YEAR AT ANNAPOLIS; Or, Headed for Graduation
  and the Big Cruise.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                      THE YOUNG ENGINEERS SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

The heroes of these stories are known to readers of the High
School Boys Series. In this new series Tom Reade and Harry
Hazelton prove worthy of all the traditions of Dick & Co.

1 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN COLORADO; Or, At Railroad Building in Earnest.

2 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN ARIZONA; Or, Laying Tracks on the
  "Man-Killer" Quicksand.

3 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN NEVADA; Or, Seeking Fortune on the Turn of a
  Pick.

4 THE YOUNG ENGINEERS IN MEXICO; Or, Fighting the Mine Swindlers.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                        BOYS OF THE ARMY SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

These books breathe the life and spirit of the United States Army of
to-day, and the life, just as it is, is described by a master pen.

1 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE RANKS; Or, Two Recruits in the United
  States Army.

2 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS ON FIELD DUTY; Or, Winning Corporal's Chevrons.

3 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS AS SERGEANTS; Or, Handling Their First Real Commands.

4 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS IN THE PHILIPPINES; Or, Following the Flag Against
  the Moros.

6 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS AS LIEUTENANTS; Or, Serving Old Glory as Line
  Officers.

7 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS WITH PERSHING; Or, Dick Prescott at Grips with
  the Boche.

8 UNCLE SAM'S BOYS SMASH THE GERMANS; Or, Winding Up the Great War.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                           DAVE DARRIN SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

1 DAVE DARRIN AT VERA CRUZ; Or, Fighting With the U. S. Navy in Mexico.

2 DAVE DARRIN ON MEDITERRANEAN SERVICE.

3 DAVE DARRIN'S SOUTH AMERICAN CRUISE.

4 DAVE DARRIN ON THE ASIATIC STATION.

5 DAVE DARRIN AND THE GERMAN SUBMARINES.

6 DAVE DARRIN AFTER THE MINE LAYERS; Or, Hitting the Enemy a Hard
  Naval Blow.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                     THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS SERIES

                           By JANET ALDRIDGE

1 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS UNDER CANVAS.

2 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ACROSS COUNTRY.

3 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS AFLOAT.

4 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS IN THE HILLS.

5 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS BY THE SEA.

6 THE MEADOW-BROOK GIRLS ON THE TENNIS COURTS.

All these books are bound in Cloth and will be sent postpaid on receipt
of only. $1.00 each.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                        HIGH SCHOOL BOYS SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

In this series of bright, crisp books a new note has been struck. Boys
of every age under sixty will be interested in these fascinating
volumes.

1 THE-HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMEN; Or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and
  Sports.

2 THE HIGH SCHOOL PITCHER; Or, Dick & Co. on the Gridley Diamond.

3 THE HIGH SCHOOL LEFT END; Or, Dick & Co. Grilling on the Football
  Gridiron.

4 THE HIGH SCHOOL CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM; Or, Dick & Co. Leading the
  Athletic Vanguard.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                      GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

This series of stories, based on the actual doings of grammar School
boys, comes near to the heart of the average American boy.

1 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS OF GRIDLEY; Or, Dick & Co. Start Things
  Moving.

2 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS SNOWBOUND; Or, Dick & Co. at Winter Sports.

3 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN THE WOODS; Or, Dick & Co. Trail Fun
  and Knowledge.

4 THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER ATHLETICS; Or, Dick & Co.
  Make Their Fame Secure.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                   HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' VACATION SERIES

                         By H. IRVING HANCOCK

"Give us more Dick Prescott books!"

This has been the burden of the cry from young readers of the country
over. Almost numberless letters have been received by the publishers,
making this eager demand; for Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Tom Reade, and
the other members of Dick & Co. are the most popular high school boys in
the land. Boys will alternately thrill and chuckle when reading these
splendid narratives.

1 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' CANOE CLUB; Or, Dick & Co.'s Rivals on Lake
  Pleasant.

2 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS IN SUMMER CAMP; Or, The Dick Prescott Six
  Training for the Gridley Eleven.

3 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' FISHING TRIP; Or, Dick & Co. in the Wilderness.

4 THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' TRAINING HIKE; Or, Dick & Co. Making
  Themselves "Hard as Nails."

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                        THE CIRCUS BOYS SERIES

                       By EDGAR B. P. DARLINGTON

Mr. Darlington's books breathe forth every phase of an intensely
interesting and exciting life.

1 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE FLYING RINGS; Or, Making the Start in
  the Sawdust Life.

2 THE CIRCUS BOYS ACROSS THE CONTINENT; Or, Winning New Laurels
  on the Tanbark.

3 THE CIRCUS BOYS IN DIXIE LAND; Or, Winning the Plaudits of
  the Sunny South.

4 THE CIRCUS BOYS ON THE MISSISSIPPI; Or, Afloat with the Big Show
  on the Big River.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                     THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS SERIES

                    By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A. M.

These breezy stories of the American High School Girl take the reader
fairly by storm.

1 GRACE HARLOWE'S PLEBE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or, The Merry Doings of
  the Oakdale Freshman Girls.

2 GRACE HARLOWE'S SOPHOMORE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or, The Record of
  the Girl Chums in Work and Athletics.

3 GRACE HARLOWE'S JUNIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or, Fast Friends in
  the Sororities.

4 GRACE HARLOWE'S SENIOR YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL; Or, The Parting of
  the Ways.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

                      THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS SERIES

                          By LAURA DENT CRANE

No girl's library--no family book-case can be considered at all complete
unless it contains these sparkling twentieth-century books.

1 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT NEWPORT; Or, Watching the Summer Parade.

2 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS IN THE BERKSHIRES; Or, The Ghost of Lost Man's
  Trail.

3 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS ALONG THE HUDSON; Or, Fighting Fire in
  Sleepy Hollow.

4 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT CHICAGO; Or, Winning Out Against Heavy Odds.

5 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT PALM BEACH; Or, Proving Their Mettle Under
  Southern Skies.

6 THE AUTOMOBILE GIRLS AT WASHINGTON; Or, Checkmating the Plots of
  Foreign Spies.

Cloth, Illustrated                             Price, per Volume, $1.00





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