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Title: Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus
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 Return to Overton Campus" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Mary Meehan, David Newman and the Online Distributed


                 Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus

                      By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A.M.

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



PHILADELPHIA
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
Copyright, 1915



[Illustration: The Girls Worked Busily]



CONTENTS


       I. A Midsummer Pilgrimage

      II. A Welcome Guest

     III. An Unexpected Caller

      IV. The Secret Session

       V. The Way to Perpetual Youth

      VI. Jessica's Wedding

     VII. The Return of Emma Dean

    VIII. A Strange Applicant

      IX. Mary Reynolds Makes a New Friend

       X. The Thirty-Third Girl

      XI. Evelyn Ward, Freshman

     XII. The Harlowe House Club

    XIII. Planning for the Reception

     XIV. A Disquieting Thought

      XV. A Semper Fidelis Reunion

     XVI. The Interrupted Confidence

    XVII. A Week-End in New York

   XVIII. A Humiliating Reprimand

     XIX. An Unintentional Listener

      XX. A Double Puzzle

     XXI. The Puzzle Deepens

    XXII. Two Letters

   XXIII. Kathleen West, Confidante

    XXIV. Conclusion



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


The Girls Worked Busily.

"Why, Emma Dean!" Exclaimed Grace.

"We Decided to Give Our Loyalheart a Loyalty Token."

"Did I Startle You, Miss Ward?"



Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus



CHAPTER I

A MIDSUMMER PILGRIMAGE


"Overton, at last!" exclaimed Grace Harlowe, as, regardless of possible
cinders and stern railroad injunctions, she leaned far out of the car
window to obtain a first eager glimpse of her destination.

It was midsummer, and the quiet, little town of Overton drowsed gently,
not to awaken until the sounds of girl laughter and the passing of light
feet through its sleepy streets roused it to the realization that it was
Overton College that made its hum-drum existence worth while.

"Oh, Mrs. Gray, you can't imagine how happy I feel!" went on Grace, her
eyes eloquent with emotion. "Next to home, I love Overton better than
any other place on earth. I'm so glad we are going to stay at Wayne
Hall, and that Mrs. Elwood is to meet us."

A long shrill whistle, a creaking and groaning of protesting iron
wheels, the stentorian cry of "Overton! Overton!" and then a sudden
jarring stop. Grace reached to the rack overhead for Mrs. Gray's small
leather bag, allowing the dainty little old lady to precede her down the
aisle which was practically clear. Apparently they were the only Overton
passengers in that car. She stood still on the top step of the train
until Mrs. Gray had been safely landed on the platform by the smiling
porter, then, disdaining his helping hand, ran down the steps with a
joyful skip that caused her companion to say indulgently, "You'll never
grow up, Grace, and I'm glad of it. I can't become reconciled to the
fact that Nora and Jessica are brides-to-be and that Anne's art is
making her terribly serious. It's a joy to my old age to see you frisk
about as happily as you did when you were a little thing in short white
skirts with two long braids of fair hair hanging down your back."

"I don't really feel a bit older than I did then," confessed Grace.
"Sometimes I'm almost ashamed of my enthusiasm. It seems as though nice
things are always happening to me, and this summer pilgrimage of just we
two is the nicest of all."

They were walking slowly across the deserted platform now, and Grace was
keeping a sharp look-out on all sides for the short, comfortable figure
of Mrs. Elwood.

"There she is!" Grace hurried forward, her hands outstretched. The next
instant they were held in Mrs. Elwood's welcoming grasp, while she
kissed Grace's soft cheek.

"My dear, dear girl!" she exclaimed, a suspicious moisture in her kindly
blue eyes. "It does seem good to see you again. I'm very glad to welcome
you to Overton, Mrs. Gray," she turned to shake hands with the donor of
Harlowe House, "and delighted to know that you are going to stay with me
instead of going to the Tourraine. Miss Harlowe's old room is ready for
her, and I'm going to put you in the room Miss Nesbit and Miss Briggs
used to have."

"You'll be haunted by the kimono-clad shades of Miriam and Elfreda
drinking tea and eating cakes at unseemly hours of the night," laughed
Grace.

"How are all my girls?" asked Mrs. Elwood. "I don't know what I shall do
without them this year. You will have to come and see me often and tell
me all about them, Miss Harlowe. Now let me see. There ought to be a
taxicab just the other side of the station. Yes, there it is."

The driver touched his cap smilingly to Grace as they climbed into the
automobile, "It does look good to see you here again, miss," he said
respectfully.

"Thank you. I'm glad to see you again." Grace beamed whole-heartedly
upon him. How many times he had carried her to and from the station. It
was he who had driven the car on that memorable day when Ruth Denton had
gone to the station to meet her father. Grace's eyes grew dreamy as they
passed through the familiar streets. How much had happened since the
time when she had entered Oakdale High School as a freshman with college
in the far and hidden future.

To her many friends "Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High
School," "Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School,"
"Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School," and "Grace
Harlowe's Senior Year at High School" are now familiar records.
Equally well known to these friends is the story of her freshman year at
Overton, as set forth in "Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton
College."

Accompanied by her friends, Miriam Nesbit and Anne Pierson, Grace began
her freshman year at Overton College under a cloud which rose from her
ready defense of J. Elfreda Briggs, a disgruntled student who had made
enemies of two sophomores, and whose first days at college were made
very unpleasant by them. J. Elfreda's subsequent casting aside of her
friendship and her tardy realization of Grace's worth brought about a
happy ending of their freshman year.

In "Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College" the four
girls set out to find the rainbow side of their sophomore year. How each
girl found it, but in an entirely different manner, how Grace lived up
to her resolve to choose only the highest in college, and how the famous
Semper Fidelis Club came into existence, made the sophomore year in
college memorable.

"Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College" told of what
befell the four friends as juniors. The advent of Kathleen West, a
newspaper girl, into college was the first link in a chain of petty
difficulties with which Grace was obliged to contend as a junior. The
carnival given by the Semper Fidelis Club in which the Alice in
Wonderland Circus was enacted, the important part which Jean, the old
hunter of Oakdale fame, played in one Overton girl's life, the message
Emma Dean forgot to deliver, and countless other absorbing incidents
served to fill their junior year with ceaseless interest.

"Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College" found Grace
and her friends on the homeward stretch with commencement at the end of
their college trail. The record of Grace's senior year was filled with
happenings grave and gay. It ended in a blaze of honor and glory, and it
was on Commencement day that she made her decision to return to Overton
and look after Harlowe House, lately completed and endowed by Mrs. Gray
in honor of her young friends and dedicated to the use of poor girls who
were making valiant efforts to obtain an education.

It was in reference to Harlowe House, her future home, that Grace and
Mrs. Gray had made this midsummer pilgrimage, as Grace had laughingly
styled it, to Overton. As their car glided through the shady streets of
the dignified college town Grace wondered if it were really eight years
since her freshman days in Oakdale High School. It certainly couldn't be
four years since Mabel Ashe had conducted her and Anne and Miriam to the
Tourraine on that first eventful afternoon. She remembered just how
beautiful Mabel had looked in her white linen frock, with her white
embroidered parasol tilted over one shoulder, an effective frame for her
lovely face and wavy, golden-brown hair.

"Dreaming, Grace?" Mrs. Gray's voice dispelled the vision. "I can't
blame you. I suppose this ride brings up hosts of memories."

Grace nodded. She could not trust her voice to answer. A sudden mist
filled her eyes, a silent tribute to those whose feet had once kept pace
with hers through these beloved ways. Commencement had scattered them
broadcast. She, alone, was coming back again to take up life at the
college. How she would miss them all. The dry irresistible humor of Emma
Dean, the sturdy independence of J. Elfreda Briggs, the daintiness of
Arline Thayer and the steadfast loyalty of Ruth Denton. Last of all
there were Anne and Miriam. Anne, her devoted little comrade of years,
and Miriam, whose faith and good fellowship had never failed her.

A sob rose in Grace's throat, but she quickly stifled it. After all she
was about to begin the work she herself had chosen. She had known when
she announced her determination to take charge of Harlowe House that
things could never be quite the same. It would be selfish, indeed, in
her to break down and cry when Mrs. Gray had come to Overton solely to
help her select the furniture and plan for the opening of Harlowe House
in September.

Grace pulled herself together and, resolutely putting her own sense of
loss behind her, said steadily: "I couldn't help thinking of the girls
for a minute. It made me want to cry, but I've set my face to the future
now, and I'm sure that my new work is going to bring me as much
happiness here as I had during the other dear four years. When I think
of how splendid it was in you to give Harlowe House to Overton, I feel
as though there isn't any sacrifice too great for me to make to insure
its success, and I hope that my coming back to Overton Campus to do my
work is going to mean a thousand times more to me next June than it does
now."



CHAPTER II

A WELCOME GUEST


The summer sun, streaming intimately in at the window of her room, and
touching her hair with warm, awakening fingers, caused Grace to open her
eyes before six o'clock the next morning. She lay looking about her,
unable for the moment to remember where she was. Then she laughed and
reaching for her kimono, which hung folded across the footboard of the
bed, slipped it on, and, thrusting her feet into her bedroom slippers,
went to the window.

"Dear old Overton Hall," she murmured, her eyes fixed lovingly on the
stately gray tower of the building that she had come to regard as a
close friend. Again she found herself overwhelmed by a tide of
reminiscences. How many times she and Anne had stood at the self-same
window, arm in arm, gazing out at the self-same sights. She could see
the very seat at the foot of the big tree where she had sat the day Emma
Dean had poked her head about the big syringa bush and mournfully handed
her the letter from Ruth Denton's father which had been buried in the
pocket of Emma's coat for so many weeks. She smiled as she recalled the
ludicrously penitent expression with which Emma had delivered the
letter. There were the library steps on which Arline Thayer had sat and
cried so disconsolately because she could not go home for Christmas.
Once more she saw a strange procession winding its way across the campus
headed by a walking, chattering scarecrow, Emma Dean again in her famous
representation of "Never Too Late to Mend," which had been one of the
great features of the Famous Fiction dance.

Then she saw four girls, with their shining heads bared to the sun,
strolling across the campus, talking earnestly of what the future held
for them. And still again she saw them in caps and gowns marching toward
the Gate of Commencement. It was only a little time since they had
passed through that gateway, yet how long it seemed.

Suddenly her look of abstraction changed to one of startled interest.
Running to the door she threw it open and listened intently. She heard
Mrs. Elwood's voice raised in pleased surprise, then, could she believe
her ears? she heard another never-to-be-forgotten voice say, "I could
see that there was some one awake and stirring."

With a joyous cry of "J. Elfreda, where, oh, where did you come from?" a
lithe, blue-robed figure raced down the stairs and wrapped both arms
tightly about a plump young woman, in a tailored coat suit, who returned
the warm embrace with interest.

"Oh, Grace, I can't tell you how glad I am to see you again!" exclaimed
J. Elfreda Briggs fervently. "I never was so glad in all my life as when
I found out you were here. The letter was forwarded to me at the beach.
We're at Wildwood for the summer. Maybe I didn't pick up my things in a
hurry. To use slang, which you know I can't resist using occasionally, I
hot-footed it for the station the minute Ma said I could come."

"Which letter do you mean, Elfreda?" asked Grace in a puzzled tone.

"Why the one from Mrs. Gray, of course," returned Elfreda. "Isn't she
here?"

"Yes, but--"

"Grace! Elfreda!" called Mrs. Gray from the head of the stairs, "come up
here, children."

"Come on." Grace seized Elfreda's heavy suit case and started up the
stairs. Elfreda followed with alacrity. "Now," laughed Grace, as she
stepped into Mrs. Gray's room, "I demand an explanation." She laid her
hands lightly upon the old lady's shoulders, smiling down at her, then
bent and kissed her cheek.

"This is certainly a happy meeting," declared Elfreda, as she embraced
Mrs. Gray, who rose to greet her.

"I'm so glad you could come, my dear. I knew that Grace would miss her
friends dreadfully when she came back here. Anne and Miriam are both
away, and Nora and Jessica are too deep in the mysteries of hope chests
and wedding finery to be dragged off on even the most delightful of
midsummer pilgrimages. But my greatest reason for asking you to come was
because I believed you were the very person Grace needed to make her
happy here. You see it will take at least two weeks to set things to
rights and she must have inspiring company. I hope everything has
arrived safely. Suppose we hurry through with our breakfast and go over
to Harlowe House at once. Mrs. Elwood tells me that she informed the
caretaker yesterday of our coming. We shall be obliged to stop at his
house for the key."

"Oh, Elfreda, I'm so sorry that you weren't with us in New York," was
Grace's regretful cry. "We stayed with the Southards, Mrs. Gray, Anne,
Miriam and I. Anne, Miss Southard and Mr. Southard left New York City
for California last week. Mr. Southard and Anne are to appear as joint
stars in film productions of 'As You Like It,' 'Hamlet,' 'King Lear' and
possibly other Shakespearian plays. It is their first experience in
posing before the camera. Anne sent you her love. She will write you as
soon as she is settled."

"Dear little Anne," smiled Elfreda, her eyes growing tender.

"I hope she'll be back in time for the girls' weddings. Nora and Jessica
say positively that they won't be married without her." Grace looked
anxious.

"When are they to be married?"

"The last of September. The date hasn't been set."

"Grace," Elfreda fixed round solemn eyes on her friend, "do you feel
very old this summer?"

"Not the least little bit. I can't realize that I've come back to
Harlowe House to take charge of it. I feel as young as I felt when I
first entered high school."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it, for, to save me, I can't feel responsible
and dignified. I've run and raced and swum and played golf like an
Indian all summer, and honestly I feel ever so much younger than when I
came to Overton four years ago. See how tanned I am? I haven't gained an
ounce either. I weigh just one hundred and thirty-five pounds and no
more," concluded J. Elfreda in triumph.

"You are in splendid condition, Elfreda," praised Mrs. Gray. Grace
nodded emphatic approval.

"Yes, I'm strong enough to hustle furniture, beat rugs, scrub floors, or
do anything else necessary to the beautifying and eternal improvement of
Harlowe House." Then she added slyly, "Lead me to it."

"You'll be led to it fast enough," promised Grace. "Just wait until we
have some breakfast."

At that moment Mrs. Elwood appeared in the open doorway. "Shall I bring
your breakfast upstairs this morning?" she asked. "I thought Mrs. Gray
might like to have it in her room."

"Thank you, but I'd rather go downstairs this morning," nodded the
energetic old lady. "May we breakfast a la negligee?"

"Yes, come down just as you are. There is no one here besides myself and
the maid."

"Miss Briggs, have you had your breakfast? Jane is making waffles. I
thought you--"

"Waffles!" exclaimed Elfreda, rolling her eyes in ecstacy. "If I'd had
fifty breakfasts I couldn't resist waffles. Thank goodness Vinton's
wasn't open."

"Aren't waffles supposed to be fattening?" inquired Grace judiciously.

"Don't ask me," was Elfreda's fervent protest. "I've set my mind on
eating them, even though I have to walk to Hunter's Rock and back in the
glare of the noonday sun to counteract their deadly effects."

It was a merry trio that gathered around the table which Mrs. Elwood had
set on the roomy, vine-covered back porch, and it was fully an hour
after they sat down to breakfast before they rose to go upstairs and
make ready for their visit to Harlowe House.

"There is no use in trying to begin our real work to-day," declared
Grace, as the three left Mrs. Elwood's and strolled slowly along College
Street in the direction of the caretaker's house. Mr. Symes, who had
faithfully executed so many commissions for Grace, had been selected as
the best possible person to look after the house. "Mr. Symes was to see
that everything was unpacked before we arrived. We shall have to employ
two men to move the heavy furniture. Thank goodness and Mrs. Gray, there
are no carpets to be laid. The floors are all hard wood and there are
rugs for every room except the kitchen and laundry."

"I brought an old dress along," Elfreda informed her friends. "I helped
Ma set our cottage to rights this summer and I know something about
work. We had two maids and a scrubwoman. The maids were in my way, so I
sent them off for a holiday and the scrubwoman and I tackled the job and
went through with it like wildfire. Ma nearly had a spasm, but she liked
the looks of things when we had finished. You should have seen me,
though. Ma didn't like my looks. I guess I did resemble a human mop if
you know what that looks like."

"I can imagine," laughed Grace. "If you attack the business of putting
Harlowe House to rights with the same energy, I shall know exactly how
you looked when you cleaned the cottage."

"Perhaps you will," Elfreda grinned boyishly. "I hadn't thought of
that."

"You couldn't see that far ahead, could you?" quizzed Grace with
twinkling eyes.

"No I couldn't," declared Elfreda earnestly, then, catching sight of
Grace's dancing eyes, she laughed good-naturedly. "You will tease me
about that. I can see that you'll never outgrow the habit."

"I can see that Elfreda is going to lighten our labors and make our
tasks merry," smiled Mrs. Gray. "What a joy and a diversion you must
have been to Miriam."

"I was anything but an unqualified source of pleasure during my freshman
year," replied Elfreda. "It is plain to be seen that Grace never told
you my early Overton history."

"Now, Elfreda--" began Grace, but Elfreda was not to be thus easily
deterred from saying her say. She launched forth with a ludicrous
account of her freshman shortcomings that left Mrs. Gray and Grace
breathless with laughter.

"Elfreda, it is hard to say which is funnier, you or Hippy," Mrs. Gray's
eyes twinkled with enjoyment.

"Well, isn't it so?" demanded J. Elfreda. "Isn't that exactly the way I
used to do?"

"It's what I call a highly exaggerated account of your self-named
misdeeds," returned Grace. "You haven't said a word about all the nice
things you did for the girls."

"I don't remember them," evaded Elfreda hastily. "Oh, there's Mr. Symes
now! How are you, Mr. Symes? You didn't expect to see me here, did you?"

"Well, well, if it ain't Miss Briggs," beamed the old man joyfully. His
remembrance of J. Elfreda was decidedly pleasant. She had always paid
him generously for the numerous errands he had run for her. He greeted
Grace with equal enthusiasm, and bobbed like a nodding mandarin before
Mrs. Gray.

"I hope you have been well, Mr. Symes. How is your wife and how do you
like being caretaker of Harlowe House?" asked Grace.

"I'm well, miss, and so's my wife. It's a fine place, miss, that Harlowe
House, an' it'll be finer still when fall comes and it's full of Overton
students. We're pretty proud of our young ladies, we Overton folks.
Excuse me, miss, I'll go over to my house and get the key. I'll be right
along."

"He has a whole lot of real college spirit," commented Elfreda, "or he
couldn't speak so beautifully of the Overton girls."

"He always was a perfect old dear," agreed Grace warmly.

The caretaker soon overtook them with the key, and the little company
crossed the street and traversed the deserted campus.

"How strangely still everything is," commented Grace. "Not in the least
like it was six months ago, is it, Elfreda?"

"It gives me the blues," averred Elfreda in a low tone.

"Here we are," called Mrs. Gray, with a cheery attempt at dispelling the
tiny cloud of dejection that had fallen over the two girls. "Harlowe
House couldn't have a prettier site."

The three women followed Mr. Symes up the steps, then, as if by common
consent, turned and looked out over the green expanse of closely-clipped
lawn, sprinkled with sentinel-like old trees. They had stood guard year
after year and silently watched the comings and goings of the hundreds
of girls who proudly acknowledged Overton as their Alma Mater.

"What's the use of gazing and mooning?" asked Elfreda, with sudden
brusqueness. "Please open that door, Mr. Symes. I shall certainly weep
and wail disconsolately out of pure sentiment if you don't distract my
attention with something else. Show me the furniture, or the boxes it
came in, or anything else that won't call forth tender reminiscences."

Grace's laugh sounded a trifle shaky, but it was a laugh nevertheless.
Something in Elfreda's brusque tones acted as an antidote to her
retrospection. She had been more or less ghost-ridden ever since her
return to Overton. She now resolved to shake off that pleasantly
melancholy sensation and "be up and doing with a heart for any fate."

The caretaker admitted them to a hall crowded with huge packing boxes.
In fact, the whole of the first floor was occupied by the large
shipments of furniture recently delivered into the care of Mr. Symes.

"It's worse than the cottage," announced Elfreda; "a regular howling
wilderness. I'd like to know how we can possibly guess what's what and
why. These boxes all look alike. If we have our minds set upon seeing
the parlor suite, we'll be sure to unpack the kitchen furniture
instead."

"We'll let the men wrestle with the unpacking, girls," decided Mrs.
Gray. "I don't wish my body guard to nurse wholesale bruises and smashed
fingers. Mr. Symes, can you have two men besides yourself here this
afternoon to unpack these things?"

"I certainly can, Mrs. Gray," promised Mr. Symes with respectful
promptness.

"Then we'll have to possess our souls in patience until to-morrow,"
sighed Grace. "Isn't this a lovely, roomy house, Elfreda? I'm so glad,
too, that there isn't a prim, stiff parlor. I like this immense
living-room much better. The girls will surely like it. It will serve as
a library too. That little room just off the hall will make such a
convenient office for me. Imagine me as the head of a college house,
with an office all my own, Elfreda."

"It's a good thing for the house," commented Elfreda. "I hope the girls
that live here will appreciate you, Grace. I hope none of them will be
as silly as J. Elfreda Briggs was."

"Elfreda, how can you?" remonstrated Grace.

"How could I, you mean," flung back Elfreda. "Because I was a spoiled,
selfish ingrate who never stopped to think of any one else's rights."

"Now, now, Elfreda," protested Mrs. Gray.

"Well, I was," insisted Elfreda positively. "It took a whole year to
reduce me to order. I wasn't as hopeless as some of the others. It took
three years to make Alberta Wicks and Mary Hampton real Overton girls,
and two years to instil college spirit into Kathleen West. But Grace
never gave any of us up, even though we treated her so shabbily. That's
why I just said I hoped that the girls would appreciate Grace. I'd hate
to think that some stupid ill-natured freshman, it's more likely to be a
freshman than any one else, would behave like an idiot and spoil her
first year at Harlowe House." There was an expression of anxious concern
on Elfreda's round face.

"Don't worry, Elfreda," reassured Grace, "the students who come to
Harlowe House to live are sure to be nice. Girls who have their own way
to pay through college are usually cheerful and unselfish. They are
anxious to live and willing to let live."

"I don't know about that. Kathleen West wasn't a glaring pattern of
amiability when she entered Overton," reminded Elfreda. "Of course she's
now a brilliant example of what forbearance will accomplish, and you
know that I am very fond of her, but you and I remember what we went
through during the forbearing process."

"Don't croak, J. Elfreda Briggs," admonished Grace lightly, "I don't
imagine that everything will be plain sailing this year. That would be
asking too much. Still I hope I shall not have any serious
misunderstandings with my girls. I'm going to remember my motto,
'Blessed are they that have found their work,' and not shirk anything
that comes within the line of it."

"I guess there isn't the slightest danger of shirking on your part," was
Elfreda's dry retort. "I hope the men that do the unpacking of this
stuff will be imbued with the same spirit. You'd better bring out that
motto and hang it up where they can see it. To change the subject, we
haven't been upstairs yet."

"Come on, then."

"I think I'll wait for you on the veranda, children," said Mrs. Gray.
"Don't stay upstairs too long. I should like to go back to Mrs.
Elwood's, telephone for a taxicab, and make a call upon Dr. Morton this
morning."

"We'll hurry," promised Grace, as they ascended the open staircase which
led to the second floor. "These are to be my quarters," she announced,
opening a door at the end of the hall on the left side of the stairs.
"This left wing was designed especially for me. The right wing has the
same amount of space, but it is divided into two bedrooms. But the left
has a sitting-room and bedroom, with a bathroom between the two. It
seems selfish in me to have so much room, but Mrs. Gray insists that I
need it and wishes me to be thoroughly comfortable. She wanted me to
have circassian walnut bedroom furniture, but I chose oak. I don't wish
my rooms to suggest luxury. It wouldn't seem in touch with the spirit of
my undertaking."

Elfreda regarded Grace with loving admiration. "You're the squarest,
fairest girl I ever knew or even expect to know, Grace," was her
tribute. "And you deserve the best that the Harlowe House girls can give
you."



CHAPTER III

AN UNEXPECTED CALLER


"'And if I do say it as shouldn't,' this room is a credit to our college
and our own sweet native land," proclaimed Elfreda, as she viewed with
critical eyes the long cheerful living-room, to which she and Grace had
just put the final touches. The morning sunshine of a perfect midsummer
day poured in at the windows flooding the scene with dazzling light, as
though smiling its approval of the pretty room. The walls and ceilings
were papered in cream color with a running border of green leaves. The
floor rug was in two shades of green, and the window draperies were in
green and white. The furniture was in mission oak, but there were
several comfortable arm chairs and willow rockers scattered about the
room. A long library table took up considerable space at one end of the
room, and conveniently near it were rows of book shelves, lined with
special books required by the Overton curriculum of study, which, in
price, were out of reach of the more impecunious students, and were in
such constant demand at the library that their temporary possession
often meant weeks of waiting.

There was a piano, of course, but the crowning feature of the room,
however, was the wide window seat built across the bow-window at its
upper end. It was at least four feet wide, upholstered in thick green
velvet and piled high with sofa pillows. It was indeed a cozy corner
which invited rest, and Elfreda confidently predicted that it would be
the most popular spot in the house.

The house itself had not followed the usual plan of modern architecture.
In fact, it was distinctly old-fashioned and built for room rather than
effect. The hall ran the length of the house to the kitchen, dividing it
into two parts. The dining-room was on the side opposite the
living-room, and had also a bow-window. Directly behind it lay the
servants' quarters. Adjoining the living-room was Grace's little office
and behind that was a room furnished with every convenience for the
benefit of those girls who were obliged to launder their own clothing to
save expense.

The second, third and fourth floors were, with the exception of Grace's
suite, given up entirely to bedrooms, of which there were sixteen. This
meant the accommodation of thirty-two students for whom the perplexing
problem of food and shelter was solved for their entire four years'
course at Overton, provided they complied with the rules of Harlowe
House.

"Doesn't it seem wonderful, Elfreda, that through Mrs. Gray's generosity
the girls who come here will be free from the dreadful worry of paying
board? All they will have to look out for is their regular college fees,
and if they happen to be lucky enough to enter Overton on scholarships
they will have absolutely plain sailing." Grace's face was alight with
appreciation of Mrs. Gray's gift.

"What a pity Ruth Denton couldn't have had such a chance," mused
Elfreda. "Poor little Ruth, how hard she worked."

"And now she has everything," returned Grace. "It seems miraculous that
she found her father, doesn't it?"

Elfreda nodded. "Arline Thayer was good to her those first three years.
Do you remember the ridiculous quarrel they had because Ruth wouldn't
tell us what she was like when she was a little girl?"

"I ought to remember it, considering the fact that I officiated as peace
maker," smiled Grace. "How I shall miss Arline. There is only one other
girl, outside of you and Miriam and Anne, whom I shall miss as much."

"Emma Dean?" guessed Elfreda.

"Yes, Emma Dean. I can't begin to tell you how fond of her I am and
always have been. She was the life of Wayne Hall. Mrs. Elwood was
sighing fond remembrance of her only this morning. Really, Elfreda, I
wonder if, ever again, there will be a class quite like 19--?"

"Never," declared Elfreda with quick loyalty, then, glancing up at the
mission clock on the wall, she exclaimed: "I wonder why Mrs. Gray
doesn't come! Let's go out on the veranda and watch for her."

The two young women strolled out onto the veranda just in time to see an
automobile drive up to the house containing two persons. One of them was
Mrs. Gray, the other, to whom she was talking animatedly, was a
broad-shouldered young man, whose gray eyes shone with pleasure as he
caught sight of Grace.

"Why, Tom!" she called in astonishment. "Where did you come from? I
thought you were away up in Maine." She hurried down the steps, her
hands extended.

The young man caught them in his and held them fast. "So I was," he
answered, his eyes searching hers, "but my work there is done for the
present. I am on my way to Washington, but it's a roundabout way, for,
when I received your letter, I was devoured with curiosity to see
Harlowe House, so I took a day off, on my own responsibility, and came
this way."

Grace colored under the young man's ardent gaze. She knew only too well
that it was not alone curiosity to see Harlowe House that had taken Tom
out of his way. "I'm sorry your curiosity didn't devour you sooner," she
retorted mischievously. "If only you had come here last week! You could
have made yourself invaluable. However, you are in time to meet Elfreda,
at least."

"Yes, Tom," declared his aunt, "you can't afford to miss knowing
Elfreda. She is the counterpart of Hippy, and has kept Grace and I in a
perpetual state of smiles during the past two weeks."

Tom helped his aunt out of the automobile and the three walked slowly
toward the veranda where Elfreda stood waiting. A moment later she and
Tom were shaking hands and declaring that, having heard so much of each
other from Grace, they were really old acquaintances.

"When are you going home?" Tom asked, as half an hour later, the party
paused in the living-room after a tour of inspection which included the
four floors.

"That is the main subject under discussion at present," smiled Grace.
"It must be very soon. If not to-morrow, then the day after. Here we are
fairly into August and I have spent a very short time with Father and
Mother. Then, too, the Phi Sigma Tau has a great many mysterious rites
to observe before two of its members enter into that state known as
matrimony. Also we expect Eleanor Savelli soon. She and her father and
aunt are going to be at 'Heartease' for two or three months. Mabel
Allison and her mother are coming east, and the Southards are coming
home with Anne when their motion-picture work in California is done. I
could go on naming plenty of other reasons, but those are the really
important ones."

"I should say they were important ones," agreed Tom. "It sounds as
though there were to be some lively times in Oakdale. I'm going to try
to make my vacation cover the weddings. I can't allow the Originals to
get married, celebrate or jollificate without me."

"Oh, Tom, will you really?" cried Grace with enthusiasm. "I'll let you
know the moment the date of the girls' weddings is set."

"Can you stay over until to-morrow, Tom?" asked Mrs. Gray. "Then we can
go back to Oakdale on the late afternoon train."

"I'm afraid not, Aunt Rose, I'm a day late now. I'll have to take the
night train for Washington. Let me see." He drew a time table from his
coat pocket. "There is a train out of Overton at nine o'clock to-night.
I'm due to catch it. But I'm going to take you all to dinner at the
Tourraine and we are going for a drive afterward which will end at the
station, where you will all see me on my desolate way. Are there any
objections?"

"Nothing but delighted acceptances, my dear boy," assured his aunt,
glancing fondly at her big, good-looking nephew. "I'll venture to answer
for the girls, too."

"We'll come to Tom's dinner party, provided he has luncheon with us,"
stipulated Grace. "It's almost noon now. Mrs. Elwood will have luncheon
ready at one. You'd better come with us, Tom. We are going to have
strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, for dessert."

"You couldn't lose me," asserted Tom with slangy emphasis. "Shall I go
on ahead and telephone for a car, Aunt Rose?"

"No, I'll walk to Wayne Hall with you children," decided Mrs. Gray.

"I wonder if there is anything else to be done," murmured Grace,
surveying the living-room with anxious eyes. "Oh, my motto. It must hang
directly above the archway."

"Where is it?" asked Elfreda. "We have time to put it up before we go to
luncheon, and plenty of skilled laborers." She cast a laughing glance at
Tom.

"It isn't made yet," confessed Grace. "Eva Allen's brother, who is an
artist, is illuminating one for me."

"What is your motto, Grace?" asked Tom interestedly.

"'Blessed are they that have found their work,'" repeated Grace, her
eyes on the spot where she intended the precious motto to hang. Mrs.
Gray had walked on into the hall, so there was only one pair of eyes to
see the sudden tightening of Tom's lips and the look of wistfulness
which crept into his face, and that pair of eyes belonged to Elfreda.

"He cares a whole lot more for Grace than she cares for him," was
Elfreda's quick appraisal. "At heart, Grace is still a little girl, and
will be for a long time to come. I hope when she does wake up it won't
be another prince who will do the awakening."



CHAPTER IV

THE SECRET SESSION


"I feel more as though I were getting ready for a funeral than about to
give a dinner for the Eight Originals," sighed Grace Harlowe, as she
joined her mother on the shady front porch, a little white and gold work
bag, which Miss Southard had brought her from Paris, swinging from her
arm. "I can't realize that, within the next week, Nora and Jessica are
actually going to become Mrs. Hippy Wingate and Mrs. Reddy Brooks. It
seems ridiculous. Why it's only yesterday that Jessica's hair hung down
her back in two braids, and Nora wore curls and short dresses."

"I can't imagine Hippy in the role of a dignified bridegroom," smiled
Mrs. Harlowe. "He is far more likely to convulse the wedding party and
upset the whole solemn service than to conduct himself with strict
propriety."

"He insists that he will cover himself with glory if Reddy doesn't look
at him, and Reddy insists that he will sit and stare him out of
countenance. David is to be Hippy's best man and Tom Gray Reddy's, while
Jessica is to be Nora's maid of honor and Nora Jessica's matron of
honor. She's to be married first, you know. Mabel, Anne, Miriam Nesbit,
Eleanor Savelli and I are to be the bridesmaids at both weddings," went
on Grace. "We'll have a reunion of all our friends. The Gibsons are at
home, Judge Putnam and his sister are coming down earlier from the
Adirondacks; then there are Eleanor and her father, Miss Nevin and the
Southards. Every one who has played an active part in our home lives
will be on hand to see the girls married."

"But how can Nora go away on a wedding journey and be Jessica's matron
of honor, too?" asked Mrs. Harlowe.

"She and Jessica went over that point a dozen times. You see Nora's
wedding takes place in the morning. She is going to have a wedding
breakfast, then she and Hippy will go to the mountains for a week. They
will return to Oakdale on the day of Jessica's wedding, and leave for a
long trip west the next morning. That was the best way they could carry
out a compact they made last June to serve as maids of honor for each
other."

Mrs. Harlowe listened to Grace's flow of eager talk with a smile of
content on her fine face. To her fond eyes Grace looked absurdly
immature in her simple frock of white dotted swiss. She was secretly
glad that Overton, rather than marriage, had claimed her alert,
self-reliant daughter for another year. Like every other mother she
wished some day to see Grace happily settled in a home of her own, but
she preferred to think of that someday as being still far distant.

Grace took out of her bag a guest towel she was embroidering. It was the
last of the half dozen towels she had worked for Jessica's hope chest.
She was not fond of needlework. She preferred to spend her spare time
playing golf and tennis, or riding and walking. This, as well as the
hemstitched table cloth and napkins she had completed for Nora, was a
labor of love. Now as she bent painstakingly over her work, she smiled
to herself and wove a tender thread of loyalty and love into the
pattern.

A long clear trill caused her to raise her head quickly and spring to
her feet with, "Here they are, at last!" She ran to meet them.

Three girls, or rather three young women, came loitering through the
gate and up the walk, laughing gayly at something the girl in the center
was relating for their benefit. "Now what has Hippy done?" guessed Grace
shrewdly.

"You might know it was something about him," said Jessica Bright. "This
time it was a case of what was done to him. Tell the lady all over
again, Nora."

"It certainly was funny," dimpled Nora. "You see, Grace, Hippy and Edith
and I were going for a ride, last night, in his new car. We waited and
waited for him and couldn't imagine why he didn't come. About ten
o'clock he came tearing along at a speed that would have made a traffic
officer turn pale. Edith and I were still sitting on the porch. I
pretended I was dreadfully offended until he told me where he had been,
then Edith and I laughed until we almost cried."

"Where had he been?" asked Grace curiously.

The three girls giggled in unison.

"Locked in the cellar," returned Nora mirthfully. "He was all ready to
go for his car when he happened to remember that he wanted a wrench from
the tool chest in the cellar. His father is away this week and there was
no one in the house but the cook. She was all ready to go away for the
evening, too. She didn't know Hippy was in the cellar, so she locked all
the doors, the cellar door included, and went on her way rejoicing.
Hippy said he pounded and shouted and howled and wailed and pounded some
more. Can't you imagine just how funny he must have looked? He couldn't
climb out of the cellar windows, for they are too small and he is too
fat, so he had to stay there until almost ten o'clock. He says he sat on
the cellar steps most of the time and thought of the happy past. At last
the cook came home and when he heard her walking around upstairs he
pounded and shouted again. She thought he was a burglar, just as though
a burglar would make all that noise, and wasn't going to let him out. He
insists that he ruined his voice forever in trying to convince her that
he was himself. He says his frenzied pleadings finally touched her
adamant heart, and she opened the cellar door very cautiously at the
rate of about a sixteenth of an inch per minute."

Grace laughed with the others, as Nora finished. "Poor Hippy," she
commented, "he is always falling into difficulties. I must ask him about
his evening in the cellar."

"Yes, do," urged Nora. "He tried to swear Edith and me to secrecy, but
we refused to be sworn."

"It will make Reddy so happy," laughed Anne.

"Oh, Anne, dear, you don't know how splendid it seems to have you home
again!" exclaimed Grace. "It's just like old times. I can't help feeling
sad though. We thought when we were graduated from high school that our
parting of the ways had come, but now that we are all standing on the
verge of our life work, it seems to me that this is going to be the real
parting. I can't help wondering if things will seem quite the same again
when we gather home next year."

"Of course they will," declared practical Nora. "Grace Harlowe, don't
you dare to grow gloomy and retrospective. We four are chums for life,
and not all the weddings and stage careers and Harlowe House positions
in the world can change us."

"I know they can't. I won't make any more excursions into the Valley of
Doubt," promised Grace.

They had stopped on the walk to talk, now they moved slowly toward the
veranda, four abreast, a bright-eyed, happy quartette. Mrs. Harlowe
greeted her daughter's friends as affectionately as though they were her
own children. "Did you bring your work, girls, or is it to be a case of
idle hands?"

"Idle hands!" exclaimed Nora. "Far from it. Jessica has a blouse to
finish and I have innumerable initials to embroider."

"I am the only idle one," confessed Anne. "I am sorry to say that I
haven't the least desire to be industrious. I prefer to sit with my
hands folded and watch the rest of you work. It sounds lazy, doesn't
it?"

"Not a bit of it," declared Grace loyally. "You've done your work, Anne.
It's time you took a rest. Make yourselves comfy, girls. Here, give me
your hats and parasols. I'll put them in the hall."

In a moment Grace returned, and sitting down by Nora, who had stationed
herself in the big porch swing, she picked up her work and began to
embroider industriously.

For the space of half an hour the little company worked busily, keeping
up a running accompaniment of merry conversation broken with light
laughter. It was Nora's quick eyes which first saw Grace lay down her
work with an impatient sigh. An instant later Grace discovered that
Nora's industry was flagging. Mrs. Harlowe had just gone into the house.
Anne was leaning back in her chair, her eyes fixed dreamily upon the far
horizon, while Jessica, alone, plodded patiently along, too much
absorbed in the development of the butterfly pattern she was
embroidering to note that two of her companions were lagging. A sudden
silence fell upon them all. It was broken by Nora's quick tones. "I'll
take it all back," she averred. "I'm strictly in favor of idle hands.
Let's put our work away and go for a walk!"

"For this brilliant idea, we thank you," returned Anne, coming out of
her dream in a hurry.

"Why not walk over to the old Omnibus House," suggested Grace.

"Brillianter and brillianter," nodded Nora. "What could be more fitting
than to make a pilgrimage to the scenes of our high school days? I
haven't been there in ages."

"Neither have I," was Grace's quick response. "It's only half-past
three. We'll have plenty of time to go there and back before dinner. The
boys won't be here until six o'clock. You know that Tom Gray arrived
yesterday, I suppose? That makes the Eight Originals complete. We'll
have to do without the Plus Two, because Miriam hasn't come home yet and
Arnold won't be here until the night before Nora's wedding."

"How I miss Miriam," sighed Grace.

"We never dreamed when we were freshmen that she would ever be our close
friend, did we?" asked Nora.

"She's a dear, and no mistake," agreed Jessica. Then, her glance
straying to Anne, "What makes Anne look so mysterious?"

Anne smiled. "I'll tell you the most surprising secret you ever heard,
but not until we get to the Omnibus House and are seated in a row on the
old stone steps behind it."

"Then let's away!" exclaimed Nora. "We won't need our hats. Two parasols
will be enough to shade us from the sun."

Five minutes later the four girls trooped down the steps and strolled
through the familiar streets in the direction of their old playground.
The afternoon sun beamed so gently and kindly upon them that it was not
long before they closed their parasols and walked with their heads
uncovered to his tempered rays. To see a bevy of girls walking in the
quiet streets of the little city without hats was the commonest sight,
and the quartette attracted little attention as they sauntered along.

After leaving Oakdale behind, it was not more than ten minutes' walk
across the fields to the quaint old stone house which had been the scene
of so many of their high school revels.

"What a lot of good times we have had here," mused Nora reminiscently,
as they paused before the quaint old building, that had once been a
tavern, and was, goodness knew, how many years old. "Shall you ever
forget the time we buried the hatchet?"

"Never!" chorused three emphatic voices.

"Wasn't Julia Crosby too ridiculous for words?" declared Jessica. Her
smile of recollection was reflected in the faces of her friends.

"That reminds me," remarked Nora, "I have something to tell you girls
too."

"Let's have a 'secret' session," proposed Jessica. "Every one who wishes
to attend must be ready to tell a secret the moment we sit down on the
steps."

"'A secret is a secret, only, when known to three persons, two of which
are dead,'" quoted Anne mischievously.

"These secrets mustn't be the heart-to-heart,
keep-it-to-yourself-forever kind," stipulated Nora. "They mustn't be of
the complex variety either. Dark secrets are also strictly tabooed from
this session."

"Stop laying down rules and regulations," laughed Grace, "and let us
form our secret row. I am eaten up with curiosity to know what Anne and
Nora know."

"Are you eligible?" quizzed Nora. "That is the important question. Anne,
you must head the row. You began this session."

Anne complied obediently.

Nora sat down beside her.

Grace stood eyeing Nora thoughtfully. Then her eyes sparkled. "I'm
eligible," she announced as she made a third.

"So am I," declared Jessica a trifle soberly, taking her place at the
other end of the row.

"Ladies and no gentlemen," announced Nora, rising and bowing profoundly
to the three girls, "the great secret session of the four inseparables
is about to begin. Remember, you are not limited to one secret. If you
happen to know several, now is the time to tell them. Go ahead, Anne."

Nora seated herself again and with the eyes of her chums fixed
expectantly upon her, Anne began the secret session.



CHAPTER V

THE WAY TO PERPETUAL YOUTH


"This isn't a secret that any one told me," stated Anne. "It's something
I found out for myself. One of the two persons it concerns doesn't know
it yet. Perhaps she will never know."

"How mysteriously interesting," commented Nora. "Hurry on with it, Anne.
Who are the persons concerned?"

"Mr. Southard and"--Anne paused briefly to give due effect to her
words--"Miriam."

A ripple of surprise passed along the row.

"What do you mean, Anne?" was Grace's quick question.

"I mean that for nearly four years Mr. Southard has cared for Miriam,"
replied Anne steadily.

Nora's puckered red lips emitted a surprised whistle.

"This _is_ news," averred Jessica. "But Miriam could never care for him.
He is so much older."

"How old do you imagine Mr. Southard to be, Jessica?" asked Anne slyly.

"Oh, I don't know. He must be--"

Jessica paused reflectively. Then a sudden look of astonishment passed
over her face. "Why how funny! He isn't really old. I don't believe he
is as old as thirty-five, but he _seems_ older."

Anne nodded. "He is thirty-three. That isn't very ancient, is it?"

"Miriam is twenty-four," mused Grace aloud. "She is so brilliant,
self-possessed and stunning that one feels as though she were even older
than that. I know she is very fond of the Southards, but I don't believe
she suspects that Mr. Southard--"

"She doesn't," put in Anne eagerly. "He has been careful that she
shouldn't. I believe Miss Southard knows, but she would never say so,
even to me. Do you remember the time we went to New York City for
Thanksgiving, when we were freshmen at Overton, Grace? Well, it began
then. I know him so thoroughly that I could see things that you girls
couldn't. After that I took particular pains to notice the way he acted
toward Miriam whenever they met, and, as Elfreda says, I could see his
love for her grow and deepen. He cared a great deal last commencement,
and he was so dreadfully afraid she'd find out that he actually kept
away from her."

"I remember that," interposed Grace. "Miriam noticed it, too. She told
me that she was afraid she had in some way offended Mr. Southard, for he
treated her with almost distant courtesy. I suppose he imagines himself
as being too old for Miriam."

"This _is_ an interesting secret and no mistake," said Nora, wagging her
head with satisfaction, "but what about poor Arnold Evans?"

"You are running ahead too fast, Nora," smiled Anne. "Remember Miriam
doesn't suspect that Mr. Southard loves her. The chances are she doesn't
nor never will care for him. But I'll be generous and tell you another
secret. Miriam and Arnold aren't the least bit in love with each other."

"Do you know, Anne, I've always thought that, too," agreed Grace. "They
have always acted more like two good comrades."

"Exactly," replied Anne, "but, as far as I am concerned, girls, to me it
would be a wonderful thing if some day Everett Southard and Miriam
Nesbit should decide that they were necessary to each other's welfare.
They are so admirably suited in temperament, disposition, and all that
goes toward making two persons absolutely happy."

"Hear the sage expound life and love," giggled Nora. "What about poor
David's future happiness?"

Anne flushed. "I can't answer that question," she said, after a little
pause. "It does sound rather silly for me to go on talking about the
love affairs of others when I can't settle my own. Not that I love David
less, but acting more," she finished almost tremulously. "I move that we
go on to the next secret."

"Mine is about Julia Crosby," began Nora, "and I can tell you in few
words. She's engaged to a Harvard man."

"Really!" exclaimed Grace delightedly. "Where did you see her, Nora? I
didn't know she was at home."

"She came home from the mountains yesterday. I saw her in Carlton's,
that new confectioner's shop on Main Street. We had a sundae together
and she told me all about it. She has known her fiancé for two years.
She met him at a Harvard dance. He was graduated last June from the
Harvard law school. The engagement hasn't been formally announced yet.
She's going to give a luncheon to announce it. She wanted me to be sure
and tell you three girls. She is coming to see you soon, Grace."

"I'll receive her with open arms," assured Grace.

"That was a nice secret," commented Anne. "Now, Grace."

"Our fairy godmother is coming to dinner to-night."

"Hurrah!" cried Anne, standing up and waving her hand. "I didn't know
she was within two hundred miles of Oakdale. It seems years instead of
weeks since I saw her. When did she arrive in Oakdale?"

"This morning. She telephoned me. In my last letter I mentioned my
dinner to you girls, and said I wished she might be here too. She came
home from the seashore a week earlier so as not to miss it. She didn't
say not to tell you. I had been holding it back as a surprise. It served
me in good stead by making me eligible to Secret Row."

"Last but not least, Jessica," reminded Nora briskly.

"I was going to tell you this evening when we were all together, and
Reddy promised to help me, but, somehow, I'd rather tell you now, while
we are together on these dear old steps where we've had so much fun."

Something in Jessica's tone caused the eyes of her friends to search
hers inquiringly. It carried with it unmistakable regret. It presaged
parting.

"Reddy and I aren't going to live in Oakdale this winter. We--we--are
going--to--Chicago to live."

"Oh!" Nora ejaculated, drawing her breath sharply. "Oh, Jessica!"

A painful silence fell upon the row of girls, whose voices had only a
moment since rung out so gayly.

Nora sat staring straight ahead of her with quivering lips. Of the three
girls she would miss Jessica the most sorely. Grace, too, felt that
dreadful sense of loss, of which she had complained earlier in the
afternoon, stealing down upon her. Anne's face wore a look of loving
concern, but an expression of resignation to destiny, which was likely
to lead one to the ends of the earth, lurked in her somber eyes. She had
learned young to bow with the best possible grace to the inevitable.

Suddenly a half-stifled sob broke the oppressive quiet.

"Nora, you mustn't," protested Jessica weakly, but Nora's curly head was
already resting on Grace's comforting shoulder, and an instant afterward
Jessica sought the consolation of the other shoulder.

"Girls, girls," soothed Grace, an arm around each, "you mustn't cry."
Nevertheless she experienced a wild desire to lift up her voice and
lament with them. "I know you looked forward to being together this
winter. It's terribly disappointing, but you can write letters and visit
each other, and next summer, Jessica, you must arrange to come to
Oakdale and stay all summer. Why didn't you tell us before?"

"Reddy didn't know it until yesterday," faltered Jessica. "His father
has taken over a large business there and he wants Reddy to manage it
for him. Reddy's mother doesn't want to live in Chicago, so Mr. Brooks
wants Reddy to go."

"It's the real parting of the ways," said Grace softly to Anne.

Anne nodded. "Still, if we had our choice as to whether we would like to
go back and live over our past or go on, I am sure we'd choose to go
on," she said thoughtfully. "Don't you think so, Grace!"

"Of course we would," agreed Grace cheerfully. "Good gracious, girls!"
she exclaimed in sudden consternation. "Whose familiar figures are those
coming across the field? It must be later than I thought."

Nora's and Jessica's mourning heads bobbed up from Grace's shoulders
with simultaneous alacrity.

"Hippy!" gasped Nora. "Do I look as though I'd been crying? I wouldn't
have him know it for the world."

"Reddy!" recognized Jessica. "Are my eyes a sight?"

"Also David and Tom," added Anne. "No, children, you haven't wept enough
to permanently disfigure your charming faces. If the boys had not
appeared we might now be weeping in a melancholy row. I had no idea that
Jessica's secret was to be a positive tragedy."

"Neither had I," responded Grace soberly, laying an affectionate hand on
Jessica's arm.

There was no time for further remarks on the subject, for the four young
men were crossing the last field in record time. As they neared the row
of young women Hippy Wingate picked up his coat and pirouetted toward
them, a wide smile on his round face, as he chanted gayly in a high
voice:

     "Children go, to and fro
      In a merry pretty row;
      Faces bright, all alight,
      'Tis a happy, happy sight.
      Swiftly turning round and round,
      Do not look upon the ground;
      Follow me, full of glee,
      Singing merrily."

With each line of the song Hippy executed a most astonishing figure,
ending on "merrily" with a funny pas-seul that turned the sorrow of the
lately disconsolate audience to laughter.

"How did you like that?" he inquired affably, as he landed directly in
front of the steps. "Shall I sing the chorus now or would you prefer to
hear it later."

"Later, by all means," flung back Nora.

"As you please. As you please," returned Hippy with a careless wave of
his hand. "I am not chary of my art. I ask for but one recompense."

"There he goes," groaned Dave Nesbit.

"I'm not going," retorted Hippy, with dignity. "I'm standing perfectly
still. However, I did not come away out here in this field to quarrel
with you, David Nesbit. I came because I am a--"

"Nuisance," suggested Reddy.

"Precisely. No, I don't mean anything of the sort. I am not a nuisance.
A nuisance is a tall, thin, conceited person with flaming red hair, pale
blue eyes, a freckled nose and a slanderous tongue. His name begins with
R and he is--"

Without finishing his sentence Hippy took to his heels and disappeared
around the corner of the Omnibus House, with an agility worthy of a
better cause.

"I'll see that he keeps at a safe distance from us till we start for
Grace's," was Reddy's grim comment. "You'll see his head appear at that
corner in a minute, and then, look out!"

They waited in mirthful silence. True to Reddy's prediction Hippy's
round face was suddenly thrust into view. Reddy leaped toward him. There
was a horrified, "Oh, dreadful!" from Hippy, and the sound of running
feet.

"He's afraid of me," boasted Reddy in a purposely loud tone.

"Don't you ever believe it," contradicted Hippy's voice. "I like the
view from this side of the Omnibus House. I think Nora would like it,
too."

"Such thoughtfulness is rare," jeered David.

"'Tis better to have thought such thoughts, than never to have thought
at all," retorted the voice plaintively.

"Let's eradicate him from the face of the earth, Reddy," proposed David.
"He's a blot upon the community."

"No-r-a," wailed the voice, "aren't you going to help your little
friend!"

"Rescue him, Nora," declared David disgustedly. "That's the reason he
created all this disturbance."

Nora dimpled, the pink in her cheeks deepening.

"Yes, do," urged Grace. "It is high time for us to start home. We must
be there to receive Mrs. Gray."

"She sent me on ahead," informed Tom. "I wanted to wait and bring her
over in my car, but she is going to have Haynes bring her over in the
carriage."

Nora disappeared around the corner of the house, but reappeared
immediately, leading by the hand a broadly smiling Hippy, who carried a
huge bouquet of buttercups and daisies in his free hand and cavorted at
her side as joyously as the proverbial lambkin on the green.

"You can lead the way with him, Nora," directed David. "I wouldn't trust
him to bring up the rear. Reddy and I want him where we can keep an eye
upon him."

"Certainly we shall lead the way," flung back Hippy, "but not because
you say so. Our superior rank places us in the front row of the
procession. Come on, Nora. May I sing and dance? I haven't sung the
chorus yet, you know."

Without waiting for permission Hippy pranced ahead of her on his toes,
swaying from side to side and scattering the flowers from his bouquet,
his voice rising in a falsetto chorus of:

"Singing merrily, merrily, merrily, Follow me, full of glee, Singing
merrily."

"He'll never grow old," said Anne, as she watched Hippy's ridiculous
performance.

"Neither will the rest of the Eight Originals," reminded Grace loyally.
"Remember, we have a Fairy Godmother who has taught us the secret of
perpetual youth."

"What's the secret?" asked David innocently. He was fond of hearing
Grace's enthusiastic views of things.

"Never lose one's grip on life," she answered simply.

And as the Eight Originals strolled home through the radiant sunset, in
each young soul stirred the resolve to take a firm grip on life and keep
eternally young at heart, no matter what the years might bring forth.



CHAPTER VI

JESSICA'S WEDDING


"Jessica Bright, you will never look prettier in your life than you do
to-night!" exclaimed Grace Harlowe, as she stood off a little from her
friend and gazed at her with loving eyes.

A wave of color dyed Jessica's pale cheeks. "I'm so glad that you think
so," she breathed. "Do you know, girls, I have always hoped that I'd
look nicer on my wedding day than at any other time. I'm glad I decided
to have a green and white wedding, too."

"You always used to say that you were going to have a pink rose
wedding," reminded Anne. "What made you change your mind?"

"Promise you won't laugh and I'll tell you," said Jessica solemnly.

It was the evening of Jessica's wedding and Mabel Allison, Anne Pierson,
Miriam Nesbit, Eleanor Savelli, Nora, now Mrs. Hippy Wingate, and Grace
gathered about their friend with voluble promises of eternal secrecy.
They were in Jessica's room saying good-bye to Jessica Bright, so soon
to become Jessica Brooks.

"I changed my mind," informed Jessica impressively, "on account of
Reddy's hair."

"'On account of Reddy's hair,'" repeated Grace. "Why--" Then, catching
Nora's eye, she laughed.

"You know how dreadfully pink and red clash," Jessica went on, with a
faint giggle, "but I had never thought of it until one night when Reddy
was sitting on our porch. He wrapped my pink scarf around his neck just
for fun, and I made up my mind then and there not to have a pink
wedding. Finally, I chose green and white, and I'm glad now, because he
will look so much nicer."

"I think that was very sweet in you, Jessica," said Eleanor Savelli
decidedly.

"Some of us ought to tell Reddy of Jessica's thoughtfulness," teased
Anne.

"Just as though any of you would," replied Jessica, fondly surveying the
smiling faces of her friends.

"You are very sure of us, aren't you, Jessica?" said Grace gayly.

"And always shall be," answered Jessica simply. "Do you remember, girls,
when I was about fourteen how frightfully sentimental I used to be. I
read every love story I could lay hands on. I was forever imagining my
wedding day. My bridegroom was always tall and dark, with piercing black
eyes and a kingly air, and I always pictured myself as wearing a pink
satin dress and being married in church. Sometimes fate parted us at the
altar and sometimes we lived happily ever afterward. I used to plan that
on the day of my wedding I would lock myself in my room, put on my pink
satin dress and sit all day in rapt meditation. I would eat nothing, and
see no one, not even father, until the moment when I swept grandly out
into the hall and down the stairs to my carriage. Of course, I was
transcendently beautiful and there I were always two or three
disappointed lovers, who came to the church and cast sad, yearning eyes
upon me as I glided up the center aisle with my hero. I never dreamed,
then, that Reddy Brooks, my schoolmate and playfellow, was to be my
destiny," she continued, her eyes growing tender, "or that I should
begin my journey with him in our dear old parlor, surrounded by my
chums. I haven't the least desire to sit alone and moon and meditate. I
want all of you with me. It seems the most natural thing in the world
that I should walk down the same old stairs to the same old parlor to
meet the same old Reddy, just as I've done dozens of times before."

"It's five minutes to eight, girls," announced Miriam Nesbit. "Say
good-bye to Jessica Bright, and don't one of you dare to shed a tear."

One after another the girls embraced Jessica. Nora was last. She and
Jessica remained in each other's arms for a long, sweet moment. Their
devotion was as deep and true as that which existed between Grace and
Anne.

"Here are the flower girls. It's time, Jessica," said Grace softly, as
the two little girls who had been chosen to act in that capacity entered
the room accompanied by Ellen, the Brights' old servant, who had been in
the household since Jessica's babyhood. They were pretty, dark-haired
children, cousins of Jessica's, and wore white lace frocks over pale
green silk. On their heads were wreaths of tiny double white daisies and
they carried small baskets filled to overflowing with the same flower.

Quietly the little procession began to form. Nora, as matron of honor,
followed the flower girls. She wore her wedding gown of white satin, and
carried a huge armful of white roses. Then came the bride. As Grace had
said Jessica would, in all probability, never look lovelier than in her
wedding dress of white satin. Her veil of wonderful yellow-white old
lace, was an heirloom, Jessica being the fourth bride in the family to
wear it, and her bouquet was a shower of lilies of the valley. Jessica
possessed a dazzlingly white skin, and the purity of her complexion had
never showed to better advantage. Her deeply blue eyes were dark with
reverence and her whole face radiated a tender happiness that made it
rarely lovely. The bridesmaids wore gowns of white chiffon over pale
green chiffon which blended into a misty, sea-foam effect. Dainty
girdles of palest green satin and exquisite hair ornaments composed of
tiny chiffon flowers and satin leaves, together with white satin
slippers and white silk stockings, completed their costumes, and they
carried shower bouquets of white sweet peas.

Down the stairs swept the bridal procession to the strains of
Mendelssohn's wedding march played by the orchestra, stationed in a
palm-screened corner of the wide hall. It was the same old orchestra
which had become so closely identified with the good times of the Eight
Originals during their high school days. Jessica had declared laughingly
that it would seem almost a sacrilege to think of being married to the
strains of a wedding march that was not played by them. At the foot of
the stairs the bride was met by her father, and the wedding party moved
slowly into and down the long parlor to the bow window at the end of the
room which had been transformed into a fairy bower of green. Before a
bank of ferns, white roses and white sweet peas stood the old clergyman
who had said the last solemn words over Jessica's mother years before,
and who had come from another city, many miles distant, to marry Jessica
and Reddy. Here it was that the bridegroom, accompanied by his best man,
Tom Gray, awaited his one-time playmate, his boyhood friend, his first
and only sweetheart, who had now come in all the bravery of her wedding
finery to place her hands, trustingly, confidently in his for the
journey over the untrodden trail they were to blaze together.

A soft murmur that was almost a sigh went up from the assembled guests
as Mr. Bright handed his most precious treasure into the keeping of the
man who had claimed her for his own, and the beautiful Episcopal ring
service began. Jessica's responses were clear and unfaltering, while
Reddy's firm earnest tones carried conviction of the sincerity of his
vows. Notwithstanding the fact that the appellation of "Reddy," by which
he was known throughout Oakdale, arose from his unmistakably red hair,
Lawrence Brooks looked singularly handsome on his wedding night and the
expression of proud affection in his eyes, as he took Jessica's hand,
was plainly indicative of the love he bore her.

The moment the ceremony was over Reddy kissed Jessica, who lifted loving
eyes to his, then, turning, wound both arms about her father's neck. The
bridesmaids quickly hemmed them in and the guests crowded about them to
offer their congratulations. Only the intimate friends of Reddy and
Jessica had been invited to attend the ceremony, Mrs. Allison, the
Southards, the Putnams, Mrs. Gibson, Eva Allen and James Gardner, Julia
Crosby, Marian Barber, Mrs. Gray, Miss Nevin, Guido Savelli, Arnold
Evans, Donald Earle, the immediate families of the bride and groom and
the families of the rest of the Eight Originals Plus Two.

The reception, which was to begin at half-past eight, included the
greater part of Oakdale's younger set, and before it was over Reddy and
Jessica were to slip away and motor to the next town, there to catch the
night train to New York. From there they were to take a boat bound for
the West Indies where they had planned to spend a month's honeymoon,
then journey to their Chicago home.

"Well, Reddy," declared Hippy condescendingly, when, a little later the
Eight Originals stood near the flower bank indulging in a brief old-time
chat before the arrival of the reception guests, "I must say that you
did very well, and Jessica, too." He beamed on the bride, with a wide
patronizing smile that caused her new dignity to vanish in a giggle of
ready appreciation of the irrepressible Hippy. "I hoped that you, Reddy,
would glance at me for inspiration. There you stood, like a wooden
Indian, I mean a marble statue, and never winked. But as you stood there
a beautiful thought came to me. I understood precisely why the name of
'Reddy' was appropriate to you. The electric light shone softly down
upon your gleaming Titian locks, as though to call attention to their
crimson glory. There was a look of--"

"Nora, if you value the life of your husband, remove him," broke in
David Nesbit decisively. "Reddy is trying to behave with the becoming
dignity of a newly-wed, and I appeal to you, how can he?"

"He can't," agreed Nora. "I'll remove the obstacle at once."

"You'll have to use strategy to do it," announced Hippy.

"'Come one, come all, this rock shall fly From its firm base as soon as
I!'"

he quoted determinedly, with jerky little gestures. Planting himself
behind Jessica, he caught up a corner of her veil and peered defiantly
through it at David.

"You haven't seen the bride's table in the tent yet, have you, Hippy?"
inquired Grace innocently. "It looks so pretty."

"The bride's table!" Hippy's defiant face broke into an expansive,
affable grin. "No, but I'd love to see it. Show it to me, instantly."

"I'll take charge of him, Grace," interposed Nora. "If he inspects the
refreshment tent it must be under guard."

"I've changed my mind. I don't care to see it. I'd rather stay here and
offer a few more congratulations to Reddy. Grace's strategy was very
clever, but Nora's bullying is all wrong. I won't be taken charge of."

But in spite of his vigorous protests Nora slipped her arm through his
and piloted him in the direction of the huge refreshment tent which had
been erected on the lawn. There the wedding supper was to be served by
caterers at small tables.

"What a treasure Hippy is," said Anne, as the group of young people
smilingly watched Hippy and Nora out of sight. "He is so funny and nice
that he takes away that half-sad feeling that one almost always has at a
wedding. I am sure I don't know why seeing two friends made happy should
inspire one with a desire to cry, but it does."

"Weddings and commencements are always more or less solemn and
productive of weeps," answered Grace. "Remember not one of us is going
to shed a tear when Jessica leaves us. This has been such a sweet, happy
wedding that we mustn't spoil its gladness. Of course, I can't imagine
you boys lifting up your voices in lamentation, but I'm not so sure of
the feminine half of the Eight Originals."

"I couldn't help crying a little when Nora was married," confessed
Jessica. "A church wedding seems so much more solemn, and Hippy was far
too busy being a dignified bridegroom to say funny things."

"He was perfect, wasn't he?" agreed Anne earnestly. "I never dreamed he
could look so reverent and devoted. I don't know which was nicer,
Jessica, Nora's wedding or yours. They were both beautiful." Happening
to catch David's grave eyes fixed searchingly upon her she flushed and
said hastily, "It must be almost time for the reception to begin."

"So it is, and if I'm not mistaken here come the first guests," remarked
Tom Gray.

For the next hour Jessica and Reddy were kept busy receiving the
congratulations of the steady in-pouring of friends who came to wish
them godspeed. Then followed the wedding supper, and it was almost
eleven o'clock when Jessica slipped away from her guests, and a little
later, appeared at the head of the stairs in a smart tailored suit of
brown, with hat, shoes and gloves to match. No secret had been made of
their departure, for their friends were not of those who delighted in
playing embarrassing and discomforting pranks. In fact, the majority of
the reception guests had departed, and it was their intimate friends who
were to see them off on their journey.

Surrounded by her loved ones, Jessica made a second triumphal journey
down the stairs. In the hall a halt was made and the dreaded good-byes
began. Jessica clung first to her father, then to her aunt. Her chums
came next and she was passed from one to the other of them with warm
expressions of affection and good will. Then the procession moved on and
the second halt was made at the drive where a limousine stood waiting to
receive the bridal pair. It glided away amid a shower of rice and
several old shoes, which had been carefully selected beforehand by
Hippy, David and Grace, leaving six of the Eight Originals gazing after
it with eloquent eyes in which lay the meaning of "Auld Lang Syne."

"I love weddings," gushed Hippy sentimentally, as the six strolled back
to the house. "I hope I shall have at least two more wedding invitations
this year."

No one answered this pointed sally. Nora gave her loquacious husband's
arm a warning pinch.

"Stop pinching my arm, Nora," he protested in a grieved tone. "How can
you be so cruel to little me?"

This was too much for the silent four. They looked into each other's
eyes and laughed. Then Dave said quietly, "Not this year, old man."

"Perhaps we can promise you one for next fall, Hippy," said Anne, with a
sudden temerity which surprised her as well as the others.

"Anne!" David's voice vibrated with newborn hope. For the instant he
forgot everything except the fact that Anne had at last approached some
degree of definiteness regarding their future.

"I said 'perhaps,'" laughed Anne, but behind her laughter David read the
blessed truth that in Anne's secret heart there was no "perhaps," and
the little hand which lay so contentedly in his, as they strolled up the
walk to the house, made the assurance of his new joy doubly sure.

"Why can't you make me happy too, Grace?" asked Tom in a low,
reproachful tone. They had dropped a little to the rear of the others.

"I'm sorry, Tom," faltered Grace, "but I can't. I am fonder of you than
any other man I know, but it is the fondness of long friendship. I'm not
looking forward to marriage. It is my work that interests me most. I
don't love you as Anne loves David, and Jessica and Nora love Reddy and
Hippy. I don't believe I know what love means. I don't wish to hurt you,
but I must be perfectly honest with myself and with you. I can only say
that I care for no one else, and that perhaps someday I may care as much
as you."

Grace gazed sorrowfully at Tom as she ended. She knew by the tightening
of his lips and the nervous squaring of his broad shoulders that she had
hurt him sorely.

"All right, Grace," he said with brave finality. "I'll try to be content
with your friendship and live in the hope of that 'someday.' I'm going
to be selfish enough to dream that there will come a time when even your
work won't be able to crowd out love."

Grace made no reply. She felt that there was nothing to be said. The
bare idea that there might come a time when her beloved work would fail
to fill her life was not to be considered, even for a moment. Love was a
vague, far-distant possibility. It might come to her, and again it might
not. But her work--that lay directly before her. The glory of life was
not love, but achievement. Her eyes grew rapt with purpose, and, as Tom
wistfully scanned her changeful face, it fell upon him with a sudden
sinking of the heart that for him the longed-for "someday" might never
come.



CHAPTER VII

THE RETURN OF EMMA DEAN


"'A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!'" chanted a voice in Grace
Harlowe's ear.

Grace whirled about, almost dropping the suit case and golf bag she
carried.

"Why, Emma, _Emma Dean_!" she exclaimed, her voice rising high in
astonishment.

[Illustration: "Why, Emma Dean!" Exclaimed Grace.]

"Yes, it's Emma, _Emma Dean_," returned Emma humorously. "It is I, me,
myself and all the other personally personal pronouns that stand for
your old friend, Emily Elizabeth Dean."

"Wherever did you come from and--oh, Emma"--as the tall thin young woman
pointed significantly to two heavy suit cases and a small leather bag
huddled together on the station platform--"you aren't really--are you--"

"I am," interrupted Emma cheerfully. "I couldn't stay away. I knew you'd
need a comforter this year, so I applied for the position and you can
see for yourself how successful I was. Professor Morton was so grateful
to me for applying that he said with tears in his eyes, 'Emma, I can't
tell you how happy it makes me--'"

"Emma Dean, stop talking nonsense and tell me how you really happened to
be here. It's too good to be true." Grace beamed fondly on her tall,
humorous classmate who had been a never-failing source of amusement to
the Wayne Hall girls.

"Since you are determined to have facts, here goes. I've come back to
Overton, the land of the dig and the home of the sage, to show what four
years of unremittent toil have done for me. I am to be a living
testimonial, one of the 'after taking the prescribed course I can
cheerfully recommend, etc.,' kind. Briefly and explicitly, I dropped off
that train from the south that came in just before your train, and I'm
going to be Miss Duncan's assistant in English."

"You aren't really!" Grace's eyes were dancing. "How splendid! Why I
didn't know you intended to teach."

"Neither did I," returned Emma, a shadow flitting across her face,
"until I went home last June and found that things hadn't been going as
smoothly as they might. Mother and Father never gave me the slightest
inkling last year that money wasn't plentiful in the Dean family. Dear,
unselfish things! They wanted my college life to end in a blaze of
glory. You see, Father had put most of his little capital into a real
estate boom that didn't boom, and it left him with a lot of vacant lots
on his hands that no one, not even himself, wanted. A trolley line was
to pass through the section he owned and it changed its mind, or rather
the directors changed theirs, and straggled off in another direction.
So, unless it straggles back again and Father gets rid of his incubus,
which isn't at all likely, the eldest daughter of the noble house of
Dean will have to hustle indefinitely for her board and keep.

"To go back a little, as soon as I noticed how worried Father looked,
and after I surprised Mother crying one day, I made them tell me all
about it. I wrote straight to Professor Morton. He helped me secure the
position of assistant in English, and here I am. I haven't the least
idea where I'm going to live either. I'd love to go back to Wayne Hall,
but I'm afraid I couldn't preserve a proper attitude of dignity there.
You know my failings. Beverly Place is a house given over to teachers. I
thought I'd try there first. I hope it won't be too expensive. I expect
to send some money home this year."

Grace had listened attentively to Emma's recital. What a splendid girl
Emma was! She had not tried to dodge Life and his inseparable comrades,
Trouble and Hard Work. Instead, she had walked out courageously,
fearlessly, to meet them with smiling lips and a merry heart. Grace was
already enlivened by the prospect of having this free-hearted, jolly
classmate with her during the college year now opening.

"How I wish you could live near me, Emma," she said longingly. Then she
stared at her friend with wide-open eyes, the expression of which
betokened the birth of an amazing idea. "Why--you can," she declared.
"I've just thought of the nicest way. Will you come, Emma? Will you?"

"It depends on the exact spot where the pleasure of my company is
requested," returned Emma waggishly. "If it is to Kamptchatka--no, most
decidedly. I have no insane craving for life among the heathen, and that
'no' includes the Malay Archipelago and darkest Africa. It's too cold in
Greenland and I couldn't countenance terrible Thibet, but if it's any
place nearer home, say Hunter's Rock or Vinton's, I'll be delighted."

Grace laughed happily. "It's a place you haven't guessed or thought of,"
she replied. "I want you to come to Harlowe House and room with me,
Emma. I'm going to have lots of room, a whole suite. There's a
sitting-room, a bedroom and a bath. I need some one to help me and I'd
rather have you than any one else I know. Won't you say 'yes'? Please,
please, do."

Emma regarded Grace with a look of one who could not believe the
evidence of her own ears. "Oh--I couldn't--it wouldn't be right to
impose upon you. I'd love to, but--"

"Wait until you see Harlowe House before you make up your mind not to
live there," interposed Grace slyly. "We'll call a taxicab and go over
to it at once. I have my own key, so we can leave our luggage and go to
Vinton's or any other place we wish for luncheon. You can spend the
night at Harlowe House. We won't be alone there, for the cook and both
maids are supposed to arrive to-day. After you have enjoyed a few hours
of my beneficent society you may refuse to be torn from me and my
sheltering home," she ended banteringly.

"I haven't the least doubt of it," averred Emma in a perfectly serious
tone. "That's why I feel as though I ought to decide now while I am in
my most heroic mood. I never dreamed of any such wonderful good fortune.
Honestly, Grace, I don't know what to say."

"Say 'yes,'" advocated Grace. "You ought to be willing to come if I am
willing to have you. If it will make you feel more independent, you may
pay for your meals. I'll see that you are not overcharged, but as far as
the room is concerned you are welcome to it. Oh, Emma, think how
delightful it will be for us! I say 'will' because you simply can't find
yourself hard-hearted enough to refuse. I'm not obliged to consult a
soul about my plans. Mrs. Gray gave me full permission to do as I think
best. I have no set expense limit. I am to be prudent and economical, of
course; that's part of my trust. After this year there will be an
expense limit. We shall know by next June just what it costs for the
up-keep of a house like Harlowe House. This year, however, we are bound
to do more or less experimenting."

Grace gazed pleadingly at Emma, who stood in the middle of the station
platform, her heavy eyebrows drawn together in deep thought.

"I'm going for that taxicab," said Grace, as Emma still remained silent.
"There's one coming into the station yard now." She signalled to the
driver, who drew up directly in front of where they were standing, then
sprang out and began loading the girls' luggage in the car.

"Come on, Emma," coaxed Grace. "You can finish making up your mind on
the way to Harlowe House."

Emma turned to her friend with a face full of affectionate gratitude.
"I'm going to accept your offer, Grace," she declared. "In fact, I can't
resist it. I am sure you want me to come and I don't know of any other
place where I'd rather be. I can't begin to tell you how much it means
to me, and in so many different ways. Are you sure there won't come a
time when you'll think, 'Oh, if only I had never asked that noisy,
nervous, nosing, messy, meddlesome, moping, miserable, growling,
grumbling, grouchy, greedy, galloping, galumphing Emma Dean to room with
me?'"

"I don't know any such person," denied Grace, laughing merrily at Emma's
remarkable self-arraignment. "It sounds more like a Thesaurus than a
category of your failings, Emma. Come along. We mustn't keep this man
waiting."

Emma dutifully climbed into the automobile. "One never knows what will
happen next," she remarked naively as they seated themselves in the car.
"I feel as Cinderella must have felt when she was suddenly whisked off
to the ball by her fairy godmother. By the way, Grace, how is Mrs. Gray,
the fairy godmother of Harlowe House?"

"I've been so busy coaxing you to come and live with me, I forgot to
tell you that she and I were down here in August, and who do you suppose
we had as a visitor?"

"Arline Thayer?" asked Emma.

"No; but that wasn't a bad guess. J. Elfreda was with us."

"Bless her!" Emma's exclamation told plainly of her affection for the
one-time stout girl. "Was she as funny as ever?"

"Every bit. She kept Mrs. Gray and I in a perpetual state of laughter.
She's going to study law in New York City, and she's promised to come to
Overton for Thanksgiving. Arline Thayer and Mabel Ashe are coming too.
We'll have a great celebration."

"I'm certainly glad I'm here," sighed Emma, contentedly. "There seems to
be a prospect of one continuous round of pleasure."

"I'm glad you are here too," nodded Grace. "You don't know how queerly I
felt to-day when I stepped off the train without seeing a soul I knew. I
suppose there are a number of girls here, although it's early. Classes
won't be called for at least a week or more. We'll surely see some
familiar spirits soon. There are Patience Eliot, Kathleen West, Laura
Atkins, Mildred Evans, Violet Darby, Myra Stone and ever so many others
still due in the land of Overton."

"Why, that's so," declared Emma, her eyes bright with the prospect of
seeing her Overton friends. "Do you know, Grace, I'm ashamed to say I
hadn't really considered those girls. All along I've thought about the
Sempers and how strange and gray everything would seem without them."

"I know it," sighed Grace. "I've felt exactly the same. Anne, Miriam,
Arline, Ruth, Elfreda and you were my absent crushes, but now you are a
present one, and next to you comes Patience Eliot. She always seemed
like a senior. I think I'm going to love the new Kathleen West dearly.
She is so clever, and now that we are friends I hope we can work
together in ever so many ways."

As the taxicab bore them swiftly toward Harlowe House the two young
women talked on of the happy past with its pleasure-marked milestones.

"We're almost there. Look, Emma! You can get a splendid view of all the
campus houses. Now isn't Harlowe House the prettiest of them all?"

"It is, I swear it," returned Emma solemnly, "and, if I'm not mistaken,
one of your household has arrived ahead of you. Certainly some one is
camping out on the front steps."

"Why, so there is. I wonder who she can be. One of the maids, I suppose,
or perhaps the cook. We'll know who she is in a minute."

The car had now come to a full stop. Without waiting for the chauffeur
Grace opened the door and sprang out. "Never mind our luggage," she said
as she paid the driver. "We'll carry it into the house. It's not very
heavy."

Gathering her belongings in one hand, and picking up one of Emma's suit
cases, Grace set off up the stone walk followed by Emma. As she advanced
there rose from the steps and came to meet her a most astonishing little
figure.



CHAPTER VIII

A STRANGE APPLICANT


"This is Harlowe House, isn't it?" was the sharp question that assailed
Grace's ears.

"Yes." Grace's eyes traveled in amazement over the curious little
stranger within her gates. She was a girl of perhaps eighteen, although
there was a strained, anxious expression in her large brown eyes that
made her look positively aged, an effect which the three deep lines in
her high projecting forehead served to emphasize. If she possessed hair
it was not visible under the small round hat of a by-gone style which
set down upon her head like a helmet. She wore a plain, cheap black
skirt and a queer, old-fashioned white blouse made with a peplum. Around
her waist was a leather belt, and on her feet were coarse heavy shoes
such as a farm laborer might wear. In one hand she carried a large
bundle, in a newspaper wrapping.

"I'm so glad. I thought I'd never get here," she said simply.

Grace and Emma exchanged amazed glances. This must be the maid. But such
a maid!

"Are you the young woman Mrs. Elwood engaged?" asked Grace politely.

The girl shook her head. "I don't know what you mean. No one engaged me.
I just came because I heard about Harlowe House and wanted to go to
college. I've passed all my high school examinations and I've a
scholarship too. They wouldn't let me come, so I ran away from home and
walked all the way here. Is it true that a girl can live at Harlowe
House without having to pay her board?" she eyed Grace with a look of
mingled anxiety and defiance.

"Oh," Grace's amazed look changed to one of interested concern, "pardon
me. I thought you were a young woman of whom Mrs. Elwood, of Wayne Hall,
had spoken."

"I don't know Mrs. Elwood. I never heard of Wayne Hall. I don't know a
soul in this town. I only know that I want to go to Overton College more
than I ever wanted anything else in my life. Do you suppose there's a
chance for me to live at Harlowe House and study? I've walked over a
hundred miles to find out," finished the queer little stranger
pleadingly.

"'Over a hundred miles!'" repeated Grace and Emma in chorus.

The girl nodded solemnly.

"You poor child!" exclaimed Emma Dean impulsively. "If your wish to be
an Overton girl brought you that distance on foot, I should say you
ought to have all the chance there is. At any rate you have applied to
the proper authority. This is Miss Harlowe, for whom Harlowe House was
named, and who is to be in charge of it. I am Miss Dean, of 19-- and now
assistant in English at Overton."

But the knowledge that she was face to face with the person who held the
privilege of being a member of Harlowe House in her hands overcame the
quaint stranger with a sudden shyness. She shifted her weight uneasily
from one foot to the other, twisted her thin, bony hands nervously,
while her forehead was corrugated afresh with deep wrinkles.

With the frank, winning smile which was one of Grace's chief charms, she
held out her hand to the other girl. "I am glad to know you," she said.
"Won't you tell me your name?"

"Mary Reynolds," returned the newcomer in a low voice, as she timidly
shook Grace's proffered hand, then Emma's.

"I shall be glad to welcome you to Harlowe House," said Grace cordially,
"provided you can fulfill the requirements necessary for entering
Overton. I am going over to Miss Wilder's office this afternoon, and if
you wish to go with me you can learn all the particulars. Until then,
however, you had better come into the house with Miss Dean and me. I am
sure you must be very tired."

"Yes, I am, but I don't mind that. I'm here and nothing else matters,"
returned the girl so fervently that Grace felt a sudden mist rise to her
eyes, and she determined, then and there, that if this curious,
destitute little stranger succeeded in measuring up to Overton's mental
requirements, she would smooth in every possible way her path, which she
foresaw would be troubled.

"And now for our triumphal entry into Harlowe House," declaimed Emma
Dean, as she and Grace picked up their luggage, and, followed by Mary
Reynolds and her huge newspaper-wrapped bundle, mounted the steps. At
the door Grace again set down her luggage. Fumbling for her latch key
she fitted it to the lock.

"What a perfectly delightful place!" was Emma's enthusiastic cry, as she
stepped into the hall which was done in oak with furnishings to match.
"Commend me to the living-room!" She poked her head inquisitively
through the soft green silk hangings and after surveying the pretty room
for an instant made a dive for the window seat. "Oh, you window seat!"
she laughed with a fine disregard for dignity.

Grace laughed with her, and queer little Mary Reynolds smiled in sheer
sympathy with Emma's irresistible drollery.

"I choose this green window seat for my boon companion," declared Emma,
curling her wiry length cosily upon it, "and may I be ever faithful to
my vows. I expect to have difficulty in protecting my claim, for I
predict this will be the most popular spot in the house. May I put up a
sign, Grace, 'This claim is staked by Emma Dean, no others need apply'?"

"You may stake it, but I won't guarantee that it will stay staked,"
replied Grace.

"Oh, yes, it will," argued Emma confidently, bouncing up and down on the
soft springy cushions. "The freshmen of Harlowe House will be so
impressed with my height, dignity and general appearance that they will
defer to me as a matter of course. One imperious look, like this, over
my glasses, and the world will be mine." She peered over her glasses at
Grace in a ludicrous fashion which was far more likely to convulse,
rather than impress, the prospective freshmen.

Even the solemn stranger giggled outright, then looked as though she had
been caught red-handed in some dreadful crime.

"I'd like to recite English in one of your classes, Emma," smiled Grace.

"Now there is just where you are wrong," retorted Emma. "I shan't have a
single amusing feature in my daily round of recitations. I shall be as
grim as grim can be and a regular slave driver as far as lessons are
concerned. Those freshmen will wish they'd never met me." Emma wagged
her head threateningly.

"Stop making such dire threats and come upstairs to see our quarters,"
commanded Grace.

Emma uncoiled herself from the window seat with alacrity and began
gathering up her belongings.

Grace turned kindly to Mary Reynolds. "If you will come upstairs with
us, Miss Reynolds, I think we can easily find a room for you. So far I
do not know just how many applications Miss Wilder has received. As I
told you, I am going over to the office after luncheon. You had better
go to your room and rest a little, then take luncheon with Miss Dean and
me and go with us to Overton Hall to see Miss Wilder, the dean."

"I--I--thank you," stammered the girl, the dull color flooding her
sunburnt cheeks. "I'm afraid--I--can't go to luncheon--with you.
I'm--not--very hungry."

Emma Dean flashed a quick, appraising glance at her from under her
eyelashes. "Neither are we," she assured the embarrassed girl, "but
still we don't care to miss luncheon entirely. You are a stranger in a
strange land, so you must be our guest, and then some day when you are a
seasoned Overtonite we'll insist on being yours."

Mary Reynolds regarded the two young women with shy, grateful eyes. "You
are so good to me. You must know, of course, that I am very poor. I have
nothing in the world but this bundle of clothes and ten dollars," she
said humbly. "It took me two years to save it, I have been so sure that
there would be some little corner of this wonderful house for me. I
can't bear to think that I may be too late. I don't know where I'd go. I
guess I'd have to try to find some place else. Do you suppose I am too
late?" Her tones vibrated with alarm.

"Of course you aren't," soothed Emma Dean. "I'm always late, but, as I
used to tell Miss Harlowe, I am hardly ever too late. You may be almost
the first girl to apply, or you may be among the latest, but not the too
latest. There, isn't that encouraging? The best thing for you to do is
to have an early luncheon and a long sleep. Suppose we go down to
Vinton's, Grace, as soon as we get the fond souvenirs of the railroad
off our faces. Then I'll come back here with Miss Reynolds and you can
go on to Overton to see Miss Wilder. My business with her will keep
until to-morrow. This little girl is too tired for interviews to-day."

"I think that's dear in you, Emma, and real wisdom too. Now let's go
upstairs, at once." Grace led the way and the trio ascended to the
second story.

"I'm going to put you in this room for the present, Miss Reynolds," said
Grace. She paused before a door that faced the head of the stairs and
threw it open. It was a pretty room, papered in dainty blue and white,
with a blue and white floor rug and white enameled furniture. There were
crisp, white dotted-swiss curtains at the windows and a sheer blue and
white ruffled cover on the dressing table, while on the walls hung
several neatly-framed water color and pen and ink sketches.

The shabby, tired girl gave a long sigh of satisfaction and weariness as
she stood in the middle of the floor, her eyes eagerly devouring the
pretty room.

"The bathroom is at the end of the hall," said Grace gently. "We'll stop
for you in about half an hour."

The other girl did not answer, and Grace and Emma slipped away, leaving
her to get used to her new surroundings.

"Well, did you ever?" asked Emma, the moment they were inside Grace's
sitting-room with the door closed.

Grace shook her head. "Poor little thing," she murmured. "She can't
possibly go about Overton in those clothes, Emma. Yet I can't offer her
any of mine. She seems independent. I am afraid she would resent it. I
wonder what her story is. Did you notice she said that 'they' wouldn't
let her go to college, so she had run away from home? Suppose some one
of her family should follow her here just after we had nicely
established her at Harlowe House? We must find out everything about her.
I won't bother her with questions while she is so tired."

"I am sure she is eighteen," declared Emma positively. "That will free
her from parental sway in this state. I think it would be a greater
tragedy if she has come too late. What is the highest number of girls
Harlowe House will accommodate?"

"Thirty-two," answered Grace.

"Then let us hope that Mary Reynolds is not unlucky thirty-three. The
sooner you go to see Miss Wilder the sooner you'll know her fate. Now
I'm going on a tour of exploration and noisy admiration. I'm sure I
haven't ohs and ahs enough to fully express my feeling of elevated
pleasure at so much magnificence. And to thing that I, ordinary,
every-day me, should be asked to become co-partner to all this." Emma
struck an attitude and launched forth into fresh extravagances over the
tastefully furnished suite of rooms.

"Emma, you ridiculous creature, wind up your lecture and get ready for
luncheon," commanded Grace affectionately.

"Not until I've seen the last saw," returned Emma firmly.

For the next ten minutes she prowled and peered, examined and admired,
to her heart's content. "Now I've seen everything," she averred, at
last, with calm satisfaction, "and I'm twice as hungry as I was. But I
can't leave off thinking what a lucky person Emma Dean is to have all
this grandeur and Grace Harlowe thrown in."

"And I can't help thinking what a lucky person Grace Harlowe is to have
Emma Dean."

"Then we're a mutual admiration society," finished Emma, "and there's no
telling where we'll leave off."

"If I didn't have to go on to Overton Hall I wouldn't wear a hat,"
sighed Grace, half an hour later, reaching reluctantly for her hat. She
and Emma had bathed their faces, rearranged their hair, and put on fresh
lingerie blouses with their tailored suits. "Are you ready, Emma? I
wonder if Miss Reynolds is. I'll stop and see."

Grace knocked lightly on the newcomer's door. It was opened immediately.

"Are you ready, Miss Reynolds?" she asked, her alert eyes noting that
the offending peplum had been tucked inside the black skirt, and that
Mary Reynolds with her hat off was a vast improvement on Mary Reynolds
with her hat on. She also observed that the girl's hair, though drawn
uncompromisingly back from her forehead, showed a decided tendency to
curl. With her usual impulsiveness she exclaimed, "Oh, you have
naturally curly hair, haven't you? It's such a pretty shade of brown. Do
let me do it for you. It's a pity not to make the most of it."

The girl regarded her with grave surprise. "Are you making fun of me?"
she asked seriously.

"'Making fun of you,'" repeated Grace. "I should say not. I think you
have beautiful hair. Why, what is it, Miss Reynolds?" For, with a queer,
choking cry, the odd little stranger threw herself face downward on the
bed and sobbed disconsolately.

Grace stood silent, watching the sob-wracked figure with puzzled,
sympathetic eyes. Emma appeared in the doorway, her eyebrows elevated in
astonishment. Grace motioned for her to come in. The girl on the bed
wept on, while the two young women waited patiently for her sobs to
cease.

Suddenly she sat up with a jerk, and dashed her hand across her eyes.
"I'm sorry--I--was so--so--silly," she faltered, "but I couldn't help
it. No one ever told me that I was anything but plain and ugly before."

"You poor little thing," sympathized Emma.

Grace sat down on the bed beside Mary and put her arm across the thin
shoulders. "Cheer up," she said brightly. "I am sure you are going to be
happy at Overton. You feel blue just now because you are tired and
hungry. Let me fix your hair and we'll hurry to Vinton's as fast as ever
we can. I'm simply starved."

Mary Reynolds obediently sat on the chair Grace placed for her and the
hair dressing began. Grace and Emma both exclaimed in admiration as
Grace unbraided the soft-golden brown hair, which, once free, broke into
waves and curls.

"Did you ever see a prettier head of hair?" exclaimed Emma.

"I think it would look best combed low over her forehead, don't you?"
asked Grace.

Emma nodded her approval as Grace, with deft fingers, arranged the thick
curly locks in a strictly smart fashion which completely changed Mary
Reynolds' forlorn appearance.

"Now look in the glass," directed Grace, when she had finished.

Mary gazed earnestly at her new self. "It can't be me," she said with a
pardonable disregard of English.

"But it is," Grace assured her. "You must learn to do your hair like
that and wear it so. Now let me put a tiny bit of powder on your face to
scare away the tear stains and we'll be off."

The obnoxious helmet-like hat did not seem so unbecoming, now that
Mary's curls peeped from under it, and Grace felt a certain degree of
satisfaction in her efforts to make the new girl at least presentable.
She decided that once her large brown eyes had lost their scared,
anxious expression and her thin face had grown plump, Mary would be
really pretty.

During luncheon at Vinton's Grace quietly studied her charge. There was
something about Mary that reminded one of Ruth Denton, she decided. She
and Emma made every effort to put the prospective freshman at her ease.
By common consent they refrained from asking any questions likely to
produce another flood of tears. As for Mary herself, although visibly
embarrassed at the ultra-smartness of Vinton's, the attention of the
waiter, and the puzzling array of knives, forks and spoons, she managed,
by watching Grace and Emma, to acquit herself with credit. Thanks to
Emma's never-failing flow of humorous remarks the luncheon proved to be
a merry meal and before it ended the forlorn girl looked almost happy.

"I'll see you later," said Grace, as they paused for a moment in front
of Vinton's. "Emma, I leave Miss Reynolds in your care."

"I accept the responsibility," declared Emma, flourishing her parasol in
fantastic salute. "I'm going to march her home and put her to bed."

"While I go on to Overton Hall to learn her fate," smiled Grace.
"Good-bye. You may expect me when you see me."

Grace swung across the campus toward Overton Hall at her usual brisk
pace. A few moments more and she would be fairly launched in her new
undertaking. She had no desire to run out to meet the future, yet she
could not refrain from wondering what her first year on the campus would
bring her. So far it had brought her Mary Reynolds, but somewhere in the
world there were thirty-one other girls whose faces were set toward
Overton and Harlowe House.

A peculiar wave of dismay swept over Grace at the thought of actually
being responsible for the welfare of so many persons. The old saying
concerning the rushing in of fools where angels walk warily came
involuntarily to her mind. Then she laughed and squaring her capable
shoulders murmured half aloud, "I'm neither a fool nor an angel. I'm
just Grace Harlowe, a 'mere ordinary human being,' as Hippy would put
it. I'm not going to be so silly as to expect to get along with a whole
houseful of girls without some friction. Like the gardens Anne and I
planted away back in our freshman year, there are sure to be a few weeds
among the flowers."



CHAPTER IX

MARY REYNOLDS MAKES A NEW FRIEND


"Twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one and Mary Reynolds makes thirty-two.
Isn't it fortunate that there was a place all ready for her?" Grace
Harlowe looked eagerly up from the list of names which she had been
intently scanning.

"Very fortunate," smiled Miss Wilder. "I am quite curious to see your
protege, Miss Harlowe."

Miss Wilder, the dean of Overton College, had been genuinely glad to
welcome Grace Harlowe back to the college fold. During Grace's four
years as a student at Overton she had greatly endeared herself to the
dignified, but kindly, dean, who had watched her pass from honor to
honor with the same sympathetic interest which Miss Thompson, the
principal of Oakdale High School, had ever exhibited in Grace's
progress.

It was now almost four o'clock in the afternoon. Grace had spent a busy
two hours in Miss Wilder's office going over the applications for
admittance to Harlowe House and discussing ways and means with her
superior.

"Do you know, Miss Wilder, that one of the very nicest things about you
is your interest in one's friends and plans?" Grace regarded the older
woman with sparkling eyes. "Away back in my freshman days I can remember
that I never came to you with anything, but that you were interested and
sympathetic."

"My dear child!" Miss Wilder put up a protesting hand.

"It's perfectly true," persisted Grace staunchly. "I am sure I could
never have planned everything so beautifully for Harlowe House if you
hadn't helped me."

"But I had such a wonderful source of inspiration," reminded Miss
Wilder, turning the tide of approbation in Grace's direction.

"I wish I could agree with you," laughed Grace, her color rising. Then
her face grew earnest. "It would make me very happy if I thought that,
as the head of Harlowe House, I could inspire my girls to love Overton
as deeply and truly as I do. I don't intend to preach to them or to
moralize, but I do wish them to gain real college spirit. If they strive
to cultivate that, it will mean more to them than all the talks and
lectures one could give them. Don't you think so?"

"I do, indeed," agreed Miss Wilder warmly.

"Of course," went on Grace thoughtfully, "there is the possibility that
some of these girls may fail in their entrance examinations. Undoubtedly
they will have to take them, for no girl who applies for admission to
Harlowe House will have come from a preparatory school. Naturally, they
will all be high school graduates. Some of them will have scholarships
and some will not. It is going to be more or less of a struggle for
those who have none to earn their college fees--that is, if they haven't
saved the money for them beforehand. I am reasonably certain that poor
little Mary Reynolds hasn't a penny of her own, other than the ten
dollars she has saved. But if she passes her examinations she can borrow
the money for her college fees from Semper Fidelis. Then, too, there is
the subject of rules and regulations to be considered."

"A very important subject," interposed Miss Wilder. "The success of
Harlowe House will depend upon its rules and their absolute
enforcement."

"Don't you think it would be a nice idea to draw up a little
constitution and by-laws as they do in clubs. It would not cost very
much to have a certain number of copies of them printed, and a copy
placed in each girl's room. Oh, Miss Wilder, wouldn't it be splendid if
we could form the girls of Harlowe House into a social club. It would
bring them in touch with one another, teach them to be self-governing,
and do an endless amount of good." Grace finished with sudden
inspiration.

For a moment Miss Wilder did not answer. She was evidently turning the
matter over in her own mind. "It is rather an unusual idea," she said
slowly, "but I should not be surprised to see it work out well. Among a
number of young women who, aside from the advantages Harlowe House
offers them, are practically dependent upon their own resources you are
sure to find a variety of dispositions, some of them a little warped
from their struggle with poverty. I should say that they could be
reached and understood better by becoming members of this club, which
you propose, than by any other method. Yes, decidedly, it is a good
plan."

Grace remained with the dean until after five o'clock talking earnestly
of her new work. "Oh, dear, I can scarcely wait for the next two weeks
to pass I'm so anxious to begin," she sighed, as she gathered together
her gloves, handkerchief and parasol and rose to go. "Miss Dean will
come to see you to-morrow morning, Miss Wilder. I'll send Miss Reynolds
with her."

The sun was well advanced on his daily pilgrimage down the western sky,
and Grace's usually rapid steps lagged as she crossed the dear familiar
campus. Her eyes strayed lovingly from the green velvety carpeting under
her feet to the red and yellow pennants of autumn which the trees were
flaunting so bravely. It was hard to say at which season of the year
Overton campus was most beautiful. To Grace it was like some familiar
friend who was constantly surprising her with new and endearing virtues.

She gazed across the wide stretch of green toward Morton House. Two
girlish figures were seated on the steps apparently deep in their own
interests. A little farther on she met three sophomores, who,
recognizing her, bowed to her in smiling admiration. Grace stopped and
held out her hand with the frank cordiality which characterized her.
After a pleasant exchange of greetings they passed on greatly elated
over the fact that "that clever Miss Harlowe, who was the most popular
girl at Overton last year," had remembered them.

"We're beginning to gather home," she murmured softly. She was passing
Holland House now, and it brought back delightful memories of Mabel
Ashe. Her glance rested wistfully on the front door. She half expected
to see it open and to see coming toward her the lithe, graceful figure
of the girl whose dainty hands had been the first to grasp hers in
friendly welcome, when, as an untried freshman, she had first set foot
in the land of Overton so long ago. "Mabel," she breathed, "dear, dear
girl! If ever I come to mean half as much to lonely freshmen as you
meant to me, I shall feel that I have succeeded gloriously."

Wrapped in recollections of the past, which she realized were bound to
haunt her at every turn until time and work had banished her sense of
loss, Grace did not hear the light footsteps of the tall young woman who
bore noiselessly down upon her like an avenging fate. Suddenly Grace
felt two soft, cool hands close over her eyes.

"Oh!" she gasped. Then she laughed. "I know it's some one I'm anxious to
see. Is it Kathleen?"

The hands did not relax their pressure.

"Is it Laura Atkins?" guessed Grace again.

The pressure tightened a little.

"I know now," cried Grace. "Why didn't I guess you first of all? It's
Patience."

The hands fell away from her eyes. Grace wheeled about into a pair of
encircling arms. A very tall, fair-haired young woman stood looking down
on her with a face full of lively affection. "I wonder if you are as
glad to see me as I am to see you, Grace," was her first speech.

"Every bit as glad," responded Grace with emphasis. "Emma and I have
been looking forward to your coming every day since we came."

"Emma?" interrogated Patience. "Do you mean to tell me that Emma Dean is
here?"

"Yes," replied Grace happily. "She's come back to be Miss Duncan's
assistant. Isn't that splendid?"

"I've been mourning Emma among the rest of the bright departed spirits,"
smiled Patience, "and thinking of how dull Wayne Hall will be this year
without her. Emma is Emma, you know, and cannot be duplicated, imitated
nor replaced. I suppose, as a teacher, she'll live in one of the faculty
houses, instead of Wayne Hall."

"She is going to have part of my suite at Harlowe House," said Grace.
"But, before I say another word, where are you going?"

"To Overton Hall to see Miss Wilder."

"Can't you put off going until to-morrow morning?" asked Grace.

"Yes, if you and Emma will go with me to the six-thirty train to meet
Kathleen and then to dinner at Vinton's afterward."

"Will we?" cried Grace. "I should say--I'm afraid we can't, Patience."
Her jubilant tone changed to one of disappointment. "I forgot all about
Mary Reynolds."

"Who is Mary Reynolds and what did I ever do to her that causes her to
conspire to cheat me of the society of my friends?" inquired Patience
humorously.

"Not a single thing," assured Grace brightening again. "She's the
thirty-second applicant for admission to Harlowe House, but she's living
there as my guest for a few days until she finds out whether she
'belongs.' Suppose you walk over there with me. I wish you to see the
house before the tenants arrive. I'll tell you the strange story of Mary
Reynolds on the way over. Emma's at home, so you can see her, too."

"All right, I'll go, provided you and your entire family, including Mary
Reynolds, escort me to the train to meet Kathleen."

"Here's my hand on it," promised Grace.

Patience caught it in both of hers. "It's good to be here, Grace," she
said earnestly.

"It's good to have you here, Patience," returned Grace, in the same
earnest tone.

Patience was met at the door by Emma, who had seen their approach from
the living-room window, and who now pounced upon Patience and joyfully
escorted her into the living-room.

"The plot thickens," declaimed Emma as the three paused in the middle of
the room. "Hurrah for the old guard! Like Macbeth's immortal witches,
I'll perform my antic round, just to show how jubilant I feel." She
executed a few fantastic steps about Patience, then paused beside her,
one hand on her shoulder. "Where did you acquire Patience, Grace?"

"I acquired this particular kind of Patience on the campus just a few
moments ago. I have never actually acquired the other kind."

"You're not the only one," murmured Emma significantly.

"Where is our freshman-to-be?"

"In her room and fast asleep, I suppose. Although she wouldn't admit it,
I know she was completely tired out. I could see that," she added slyly.

Patience and Grace smiled in quick recognition of J. Elfreda Briggs' pet
phrase.

"How I wish 'I could see' dear old J. Elfreda. Wouldn't it be glorious
if she were suddenly to appear in the flesh," sighed Emma.

"She was here with Mrs. Gray and I in August, Patience." Grace went on
to relate the details of Elfreda's visit. "Emma has heard all this
before. Still, you don't mind hearing it again, do you, Emma?"

"I could listen to it forever, and then ask for a repetition," asserted
Emma with gallant glibness.

"I won't be so malicious as to take you at your word," returned Grace.
"Will you tell Patience all the news while I run upstairs to see Miss
Reynolds?"

"I will," nodded Emma, "and tell it truthfully and without
embellishments. I am not a yellow journal. I am a reliable purveyor of
facts and nothing but facts." She pounded on the library table with her
clenched fist to emphasize her words.

"I believe you," assured Patience with mock solemnity, "and salute you
as a disciple of truth."

Leaving her friends to exchange confidences, Grace ran lightly up the
stairs and knocked on Mary Reynolds' door. Receiving no answer, she
knocked again.

"She must be asleep," thought Grace. Then she turned the knob and
entered the room. Surely enough the tired stranger lay on her couch bed,
tranquil and slumber-wrapped. Sleep had smoothed away the lines of care
and, in repose, her face looked soft and childish.

"Miss Reynolds."

The girl sat up with a little, startled cry. "Oh," she breathed, in
relief. "I was so frightened. I forgot where I was."

"Miss Dean, a friend of ours and I are going to the station to meet
another friend. We wish you to go with us," invited Grace. "That is,
unless you prefer to stay here. You will be all alone in the house."

An expression of alarm showed itself in the girl's eyes. "I'd rather go
with you, if you are sure I won't be in the way."

"Not in the least. We shall start in a few moments." With a cheerful
smile that elicited a faint, answering one from the other girl, Grace
left the room. She was back in an instant with something blue thrown
over her arm. "Here is a little coat I took out of my trunk especially
for you. It is cool enough for a coat to-night. This won't be too long
for you. It's only three-quarter length on me."

"I--I--" stammered Mary, but Grace was gone.

Mary could not help thrilling a little with pure pleasure at sight of
herself in the pretty blue serge coat. "I look just like them," she
murmured. "I'm so glad I came. I won't go back either, and no one shall
make me." She smoothed and patted her curly hair, then putting on her
shabby hat went slowly down stairs.

Her momentary awe of Patience vanished when she discovered that, in
spite of her dignified bearing, this tall, fair young woman was as full
of fun as the droll Emma Dean.

The quartette started for the station with Patience and Emma in the
lead. Grace walked with Mary, talking brightly of Overton to her
absorbed listener. She had just begun to tell Mary of Kathleen West, her
clever work as a newspaper woman and of how her play had won the honor
pin, when they arrived at the station.

"Wait here while I see if the train is on time," directed Grace.

The three young women strolled slowly along the platform, pausing at one
end of it.

"The train's on time," called Grace as she came out of the station and
approached them. "It's due in four minutes. Listen! Didn't you hear it
whistle?"

A minute later it was visible around the bend and bearing down on the
station with a great puffing and whistling.

"I see her," announced Emma. "She's getting off at the upper end of the
train."

An alert little figure in a gray coat suit came swinging down the
platform, a suit case in each hand, her keen, dark eyes scanning every
face. Suddenly she caught sight of her friends. Dropping her luggage she
ran forward, both hands extended. Grace caught them in hers. The two
embraced, then Grace passed Kathleen on to Patience.

"And to think that Emma Dean is to be one of us!" exclaimed Kathleen.
"Emma, the one sure and certain cure for the blues. I didn't half
appreciate you last year." A swift flush rose to her cheeks. "I didn't
appreciate any one. I missed knowing Overton's best, but I'm so thankful
that part of that best has come back again, so that I can really show
how much I care," she finished, her eyes very bright.

The little company lingered on the platform, for there was so much to be
said that they were loath to move on. So absorbed were they in their own
affairs they did not observe that a tall, raw-boned, roughly dressed
man, with a gaunt, disagreeable face had been stealthily edging nearer
the group until within a few feet of them. All at once a long bony hand
was thrust into their midst. The hand landed on the shoulder of Mary
Reynolds, swinging her almost off her feet. She did not scream, but her
face grew white and her eyes horror-stricken. Then she wrenched
desperately to free herself from the cruel clutch, gasping,
"Let--me--alone. I--won't--go back--with--you."

"Oh, ye won't, won't ye," growled the hateful intruder. "We'll see if ye
won't. Get a move on." He half dragged, half shoved the now sobbing Mary
along the platform.

For an instant no one of the astonished girls moved or protested. Then a
small, lithe figure flung itself in front of the brutal fellow, barring
his progress. "Take your hands off that girl," commanded a tense,
authoritative voice.

As if in recognition of its authority the man's cruel hold on Mary's
slender shoulder relaxed. Kathleen West's black eyes were blazing. With
a swift forward movement she threw her arm protectingly across Mary's
shoulder and drew her close. "Now," she said, her whole body tense with
suppressed anger, "touch her if you dare."

"Ye better git out and mind yer own business or ye'll wish ye had,"
threatened the man, his first feeling of fear vanishing. "Yer nothin'
but a lot o' silly girls. You git along," he ordered, fixing his
scowling eyes on Mary.

"This little girl is going to stay with us. It is you that had better
move on. If you aren't out of sight within the next three minutes I'll
have you arrested for annoying us, and it won't be wise for you to come
back again either."

Kathleen's face, as she stood calmly eyeing her disagreeable adversary,
was like a study in stone. She looked as inexorable and relentless as
Fate itself, and the bully understood dimly that here was a force with
which he could not reckon.

"I'm a goin'," he mumbled sullenly, "but I'm a goin' to git the law on
_her_," he pointed to Mary, "and make her git back where she belongs."

By this time several persons had hurried to the scene of the encounter.
Kathleen's sole reply to the threat was a contemptuous shrug of her
shoulders. "Come on, girls," she said so nonchalantly that the curious
ones dropped disappointedly away. Not more than four minutes had elapsed
from the time the uncouth stranger had appeared until he slunk off.
Emma, Grace and Patience found their voices almost simultaneously.

"Well, of all things!" exclaimed Emma.

"I was literally amazed to dumbness," declared Patience.

"So was I for a minute, but Kathleen was so completely sure of herself
that I knew it was better to be silent. She disposed of that
obstreperous individual most summarily. Who is he, Miss Reynolds?" Grace
turned grave eyes upon Mary. "We shall have to know all about him if we
are to help you."

They were now walking slowly up the street.

"He's--my--uncle," faltered the girl. "Mother died last summer just
after I finished high school, and I had no place to go. He wanted me to
go out in the country and live on his farm. He said I could go to
college, but after I went to the farm he and his wife made me do all the
work, and laughed when I spoke of going to college. A nice girl I knew
had told me about Overton and Harlowe House. She was in the town of
Overton last commencement and heard about it. I told them I would go in
spite of them, so they locked me in my room, but I climbed out the
window and into a big tree, one of its branches was quite near the
window, and then slid to the ground."

"How old are you, Miss Reynolds?" asked Kathleen West with apparent
irrelevance.

"I was eighteen last week."

"Then you needn't worry about your uncle. You are of age and can do as
you please."

"Do you mean that he can't make me leave here?" Mary Reynolds' eyes were
wide with surprise and sudden hope.

"Of course he can't," reassured Kathleen. "Girls, I'm going to adopt
Mary Reynolds as my especial charge and help her fight her battles in
the Land of College. Mary, will you let me adopt you?"

Mary regarded Kathleen with shy admiration. She thought her the most
wonderful person she had ever known. She was deeply grateful to Grace
and her two friends for their kindness, but Kathleen's swift, efficient
action on her behalf had completely won her heart. "I'd be the happiest
girl in the world," she said solemnly.

The next morning Grace went frankly to Miss Wilder with the tragic story
of Mary's struggle to obtain an education and the attempt her miserly
uncle had made to force her to return to the farm.

"We shall be obliged to look into the matter," declared the dean. "Send
Miss Reynolds to me as soon as possible. I must be very sure that she is
all she represents herself to be. I should not care to have a repetition
of the station scene later, on the campus, for instance. It would hardly
add to the dignity of Overton."

"I'll bring her to your office to-morrow morning," said Grace, "then you
can form your own opinion of her."

Mary Reynolds' wistful face was the last touch needed to completely
enlist Miss Wilder's sympathy in her behalf. On the strength of the
straightforward story which she repeated to the dean, she was allowed to
proceed with her examinations. Meantime Miss Wilder wrote to the
authorities of the little town near which Mary's uncle's farm was
situated. They conducted a prompt investigation and by the time the
hitherto friendless girl had passed triumphantly through the ordeal of
examinations the faintest trace of objection to her becoming a student
at Overton had been removed.



CHAPTER X

THE THIRTY-THIRD GIRL


"I am sorry," said Grace gently, "but I am afraid it will be impossible
for me to do anything for your sister this year. Harlowe House will
hold, comfortably, thirty-two girls and no more. It isn't so much a
matter of meals. They could, perhaps, be arranged, but I haven't a room
for your sister. Could she afford to rent a room in town and come here
for her meals?" This was an afterthought on Grace's part, born of the
desire to clear away the cruel shadow of disappointment that clouded the
pale face of the woman who sat opposite her in her little office.

"I--am--afraid not," faltered the pale, thin woman, her tired eyes
filling with an expression of resignation. "I thought I might be able to
manage her college fees, if her living expenses could be arranged. We
were so sorry that she did not win a scholarship. You are quite sure
that there is no chance for her here?" she asked pleadingly, for the
fourth time. "She has set her heart on coming to Overton. College means
so much to a girl, and Evelyn is so clever. It seems a pity that she
must stop with only a high school education."

Grace knitted her brows in earnest thought, while the pleading voice
talked on. She felt an overpowering sympathy, not for the sister who
wished to come to Overton, but for the sister who was now advocating her
cause. And even as she thought the way in which one more girl might
partake of the benefits of Harlowe House came to her. It was a way of
sacrifice; she was not even sure that it could be done. Something in the
expression of her face, however, seemed to inspire the woman opposite
her with new hope. She leaned forward, with the eager question: "Am I
wrong or does your face tell me that there is a chance for Evelyn?" For
the first time she mentioned her sister's name.

"'Evelyn,'" repeated Grace half musingly. "What a pretty name. How old
is your sister, Miss Ward?"

"She was eighteen last August."

"I can make you no definite promise yet," returned Grace slowly. "Could
you come to see me this afternoon at four o'clock? I shall know then
whether the plan I have in mind can be carried out."

"I will come," promised the woman eagerly, her eyes kindling with happy
light. "I thank you for your kindness." Her voice trembled with
gratitude. She rose to go, looking as though she would like to say more
but could not find words in which to express herself.

"You are quite welcome. I will try very hard to place her," was Grace's
parting assurance.

After the woman, who had introduced herself as Ida Ward, had gone, Grace
went slowly upstairs and into her pretty sitting-room. She looked long
and fixedly at each attractive appointment, then she walked on into the
bedroom, which she and Emma shared, and surveyed it with the same
searching gaze. "I can't do it unless Emma is willing," she murmured. "I
dislike asking her after inviting her to share my suite. Still, we've
always been frank with each other. I'll tell her the exact circumstances
as soon as she comes home to luncheon, and let her decide what we had
better do." Having determined upon her course of action Grace went
downstairs again and was soon deep in the laying-out of next week's menu
for Harlowe House, a task in which she had been engaged when Miss Ida
Ward was announced.

It was now two weeks since Overton College had opened. The thirty-two
applicants for places in Harlowe House had, without exception, passed
through the trying ordeal of their entrance examinations with varying
degrees of success, but not one had actually failed. They had come into
the house, which was their Open Sesame to college, in twos and threes.
Few of them were pretty, but even the plainest of their faces bore the
unmistakable stamp of intelligence that marks the scholar. The
half-brooding, anxious look in young eyes and the womanly dignity,
prematurely gained through hand to hand conflict with poverty, were
certain indications that the girls of Harlowe House were there for
earnest work and not for play.

And now a thirty-third girl was knocking at the gate for admittance to
the Land of College. Grace wondered vaguely why Evelyn Ward had not come
to plead her own cause. The words of Ida Ward, "I thought I might be
able to manage her college fees," returned to her with disquieting
force. Then she made a little impatient gesture. "Grace Harlowe, what is
the matter with you? You are judging poor Evelyn Ward without giving her
an opportunity to defend herself. You know nothing whatever of the
Wards' affairs. There may be a dozen good reasons for Miss Ward's coming
here in her sister's behalf. Don't be so suspicious. Wait until you see
Evelyn Ward before you judge her."

Although Grace did not realize it she was already thinking of Evelyn
Ward as a member of Harlowe House. There was no fear of refusal on
Emma's part. Long acquaintance with her good-natured, easy-going
classmate had taught her that Emma was equal to, if not more than a
match for, almost any emergency.

"Emma would take her belongings and camp out in the hall if I asked her
to," smiled Grace to herself as she went slowly downstairs to her office
and, seating herself at her desk, took up the writing on which she had
been engaged when her caller was announced.

She was still hard at work when the girls began to come in for luncheon,
one after another, and at last she heard Emma's delightful drawl as she
exchanged pleasantries with one of the freshmen who had opened the door
for her.

"Oh, Emma," she called, stepping to the door of her office, "will you
come in here, please? I need you."

By the time Grace had finished speaking Emma was standing in the
doorway, peering owlishly at her. "Most Gracious Grace," she salaamed,
"what is your majesty's magnificent pleasure with your worthless and
most despicable dog of a servant?"

"I don't know any such person," laughed Grace. Then, her face sobering,
she plunged into the middle of things with, "What would you say, Emma,
if I were to give half of our quarters to some one else?"

"I'd say that I was lucky to have half of the half that's left," was
Emma's prompt retort.

"You're a dear!" cried Grace impulsively. "I knew you were true blue.
Still, I must tell you all about certain things before you decide. It's
just this way, Emma." Grace began with Miss Ward's call and recounted to
Emma all that had passed between herself and the stranger. Emma listened
without comment until Grace had finished with, "Now tell me what you
think, Emma."

"I think it is positively noble in you to be willing to give up one of
your rooms," emphasized Emma. "As far as I am concerned I'm not a
'chooser.' I'm here because of that same saving grace--it's as much a
part of you as your name--which is reaching out now to put one more girl
in Overton. What can any strictly honorable, four-cornered person say
except, 'I'm with you,' and here's my hand in seal and token of it."

"Thank you, Emma," Grace's quiet words and warm handclasp were eloquent
with appreciation of her friend's unselfish viewpoint, "Suppose we run
upstairs for a moment before luncheon to look around and decide which of
the two rooms we can best do without. And, O, Emma, we'll have room for
a thirty-fourth girl, if she happens along. I never thought of that. In
the face of all that a college education will mean to this girl our
personal comfort rather pales into insignificance."

"Who are we that we should revel in the fleshpots of Overton while the
stranger knocks at our gates?" supplemented Emma. "Now which is it to
be? Shall we say, 'good-bye beloved sitting-room, ne'er shall we behold
thy like again,' or shall we bid fond adieu to the bedroom? I ask but
one concession, let us reserve our nice private bathroom. It has a value
above rubies."

"Of course we'll keep our bathroom. There are three others in the house
of which these new girls can have the use. As long as the bathroom opens
into both rooms, I shall bolt the door leading into the room we give
Miss Ward. That may appear a trifle inhospitable on the surface, but I
wish to keep what is left of our apartment as secluded as possible,"
ended Grace, opening the door into the sitting-room. "Now, which shall
it be, Emma?"

Emma prowled contemplatively about the suite, her hands in her coat
pockets, her glasses pushed far over her nose. Finally she paused before
Grace. Settling her glasses at their proper angle she said earnestly, "I
don't wish to seem selfish, Grace, but really I think you are entitled
to the sitting-room. It's larger and lighter. It's more attractive in
every way. I am not thinking of myself in this matter, I am thinking of
you. You are the brains and brawn of Harlowe House, therefore you must
be made comfortable if you are to do good work here. The other room is
easily large enough to accommodate two girls. It is larger than the
rooms we occupied at Wayne Hall."

"I know it." Grace strolled reflectively through the open bathroom door
and on into the bedroom. When she returned, she had decided. "You are
right, Emma. I don't believe it would be selfish to keep this room. Now
how shall we furnish it?"

"Don't ask me to decide that," protested Emma. "I feel as though I ought
to pack my belongings and go to one of the faculty houses, Grace. It
isn't fair to you for me to stay here and be a cumberer of your room."

"Emma Dean, if you do!" Grace caught Emma by the shoulders and proceeded
to shake her.

"Wait! Stop!" implored Emma. "My glasses! And lenses cost money!"

"Will you stay?" demanded a relentless voice. The shaking continued, but
gently.

"I will. That is, I'll have to, or pay the oculist."

Grace's hands fell from Emma's shoulders.

"I didn't want to pack and go," confessed Emma, "but I was trying to be
as fair to you as you are to every one else."

"It wouldn't be one bit fair in you to leave me. You promised to see me
through, you know," reproached Grace.

"So I did, and so I will," declared Emma, "I take back all I said. From
now on I am as much of a fixture here as the kitchen range or the window
seat."

Grace laughed at Emma's absurd declaration. "I couldn't let you go,
Emma. You are too good a comrade. Now let me think. I'll have my
dressing table brought in here, but, in order to make a combination
sitting and sleeping room of this, we will have to buy a couch bed. The
davenport there is a bed too. We'll put it across that corner, and have
the couch against that wall. We'll have to keep the dressing table. We
can't avoid that. I don't know what to do with my bed. It is
three-quarter size. I selected it purposely, so that I'd have room for
two of the girls at a time if they dropped in unexpectedly. I don't like
to sell it. It matches the set."

"Why not leave it in the other room," suggested Emma. "If girl number
thirty-four never materializes then Miss Evelyn Ward can occupy the
whole bed, if she chooses."

"But suppose we do admit another girl?"

"Sufficient unto the day, etc.," shrugged Emma. "When she appears, then
let the committee take action."

"I'll buy a smaller dressing table to match the bed, if I can, and a
chiffonier. I can't quite give mine up to this newcomer. There goes the
luncheon bell. I must hurry downstairs to the kitchen to see if
everything is all right."

Grace hastened down the stairs, with her friend at her heels. Emma went
directly to the dining-room and took her place at the table laid for two
at the lower end of the room. This table belonged exclusively to her and
Grace. The dining-room at Harlowe House had been furnished after the
fashion of a pretty little tea shop at which Grace had often lunched in
New York. The walls were done in white with a faint blue and silver
stripe. The ceiling was white with a decoration of deep blue corn
flowers. The floor was covered with a thread and thrum rug in blue and
white, and instead of two long tables there were several small ones
which seated from four to six persons. In the middle of each table was a
vase of flowers, and the effect of the whole room was dainty and
homelike. Grace had spent much thought on the dining-room. The buffet,
serving tables, tables and chairs were white, and the silver, linen and
various other appointments had been carefully chosen.

"I wish the girls to feel that this room is a place where they can eat
and be merry. It is in the dining-room that they will first become
acquainted with one another," Grace had said to Mrs. Gray while they
were choosing the dining-room furniture. "I like the idea of having the
small tables. The girls can talk quietly and confidentially, if they
choose. Besides it looks so cosy and informal."

As Grace ate her luncheon that day her eyes wandered to the various
tables. She was speculating as to where she would seat Evelyn Ward.
Already she thought of her as one of her girls.

At precisely four o'clock the door bell rang and the maid ushered Ida
Ward into the living-room. Her large eyes were wide with anxiety and
suspense as she sat nervously on the edge of her chair, trying to appear
composed. She tried to answer Grace's reassuring smile, but her anxious
eyes belied her wanly-smiling lips.

"I have good news for you, Miss Ward," said Grace brightly. "I have made
room for your sister. When may I expect her?"

Ida Ward's lips moved, but she made no sound. Then, to Grace's
consternation, she covered her face with her black-gloved hands and
began to cry quietly. For an instant Grace sat in embarrassed silence.
She hardly knew what consolation to offer this poor, pale woman who
looked as though she carried the burdens of the world upon her slender
shoulders. Before she could think of anything to say, Miss Ward suddenly
raised her head, wiped her eyes and said quietly, "Forgive me for
crying. I--am a little tired. I was rather overcome by the good news."

"Suppose we have tea in the living room," was Grace's kindly suggestion.
"What time does your train leave? By the way, I don't think I know where
you live."

"We live in Burton, a little town about two hundred miles from here,
with a population of six thousand people. I am a dressmaker. There are
only Evelyn and I, and I am fifteen years older than she. Mother died
when she was born. Father died only a year later and I have taken care
of her all her life. She is very beautiful. One of the prettiest girls I
have ever seen, and so clever." The plain face lighted as she described
Evelyn.

"How she loves her pretty sister," thought Grace.

Over the tea, dainty sandwiches and cakes, Ida Ward became quite
cheerful. When half an hour later she rose to take her leave, she looked
really happy. "How can I thank you for what you have done for Evelyn?"
she asked tremulously, her lips quivering. "My little sister will be so
glad. I am sure she can't help being happy in this beautiful house."

"Send her to us as soon as you can," advised Grace. "College has been
open for over three weeks and she will have quite an amount of work to
make up. This is Monday. May I expect her on Thursday?"

"Yes, she can leave Burton early Thursday morning. There is a train
which reaches here at two o'clock in the afternoon."

"Very well. I will send some one to meet her," promised Grace.

During the next two days Grace and Emma accomplished their moving so
quietly that no one in the house knew of the new member the morrow was
to bring. When everything had been put in place Emma declared cheerily
that they would never miss the other room.

At the last moment Grace decided to go in person to the train to meet
Evelyn. The memory of Ida Ward's white patient face haunted her. For her
sake her beloved sister should be cordially welcomed. Grace felt the
deepest respect and sympathy for the older sister.

"Miss Ward said her sister was very pretty," reflected Grace, then she
looked a trifle dismayed. She had received absolutely no other
description of the girl she was to meet. She did not know whether Evelyn
Ward was short or tall, stout or thin, dark or fair. "I'll simply have
to use my eyes and guess," was her mental comment, as she walked briskly
along the station platform just as the train whizzed down the track. Her
alert eyes scanned the nearest car steps where the porter was helping a
crotchety old man to the platform. Behind him, came a stout middle-aged
woman and two children. Grace scanned the next set of steps. Then, far
up the platform she saw a tall, slender, blue-clad figure walking toward
her at a leisurely pace. The girl carried a small handbag and a suit
case. When she came directly opposite Grace she paused, then, after a
deliberate survey, walked forward with outstretched hand. "Aren't you
Miss Harlowe?" she asked sweetly. "If you are, I am Evelyn Ward."



CHAPTER XI

EVELYN WARD, FRESHMAN


Grace found herself looking into one of the most perfect faces she had
ever seen. Evelyn Ward was a blonde of the purest type. Her thick golden
hair lay in shining waves under her small, smart blue hat. Her eyes were
deeply, darkly blue with purple depths, while her skin had the sheen and
texture of pale pink rose leaves. Her small, straight nose,
softly-curved red mouth and delicately-arched dark eyebrows added to the
tender beauty of her face. To Grace she came as a revelation, and, so
far as she could remember, she had never seen any other blonde girl who
approached this one in loveliness.

"How do you do, Miss Ward? I am glad to know you," she said, offering
her hand. She noticed that the slender hand that Evelyn put forth to
meet hers was very soft and white. It had evidently done no hard work
and was in sharp contrast to the rough, work-worn hands of her sister.

"I'm sure I am pleased to know you, Miss Harlowe, and very thankful to
you for arranging for my coming to Overton. I would have cried my eyes
out with disappointment if Ida had come home with bad news," returned
the pretty girl in a plaintive tone which impressed Grace with a
curiously uncomfortable feeling that this attractive young woman would
have done nothing of the sort. There was that indefinable something
about her that contradicted, flatly, the idea of tears.

"Your sister was an eloquent pleader, Miss Ward. I would have made an
even greater effort than was necessary to place you, if only to please
her. I was greatly impressed with her unselfishness and nobility of
character," Grace made reply.

An expression of amusement showed itself on Evelyn Ward's face. "Ida is
a perfect old dear," she agreed lightly. "She takes life too seriously,
though. She worries over every little thing. Still her very seriousness
makes a good impression. She has ever so many friends; a great many more
than I." She shrugged her shoulders, as though to convey the fact that
the latter state of affairs did not trouble her.

"As your luggage is not heavy, we might walk to Harlowe House,"
suggested Grace. "This glorious fall weather is ideal for walking. Let
me take your suit case."

"With pleasure. It's altogether too heavy for comfort. Are there no
street cars or busses we can take? I like to walk, but not when I have
luggage to carry."

"We can take a car or an automobile bus if you like," said Grace
courteously, although she experienced a vague sense of annoyance at this
newcomer's calmly expressed preference.

"Oh, let's take the automobile, if it isn't too expensive!" exclaimed
Evelyn eagerly. "I love to ride in an automobile. Are there any girls at
Overton who own cars? If there are I shall certainly cultivate them. I
suppose they won't notice me, though, because I am a freshman and a poor
one at that," she ended with a pout, her fair face taking on almost
sullen lines.

Grace shook her head.

"Being poor doesn't count at Overton," she said, "I know a girl who
lived in a bare, cheerless room in an old house in the suburbs of
Overton and earned her way by doing mending for the students. She worked
in a dressmaker's shop during her summer vacations too, and yet she was
the chum of the richest girl in college."

"Why didn't the rich girl help her if she thought so much of her?"
inquired Evelyn rather sarcastically.

"Because the girl wouldn't allow her to do so. She was too independent
to accept help. She did not wish to become obligated to any one, not
even her dearest friend."

"Foolish girl," was Evelyn's contemptuous comment. "If one can't ask
occasional favors of one's friends one might as well have none. I am
very sure that I would take the goods the gods provide without
murmuring. These extreme standards of ethics and honor are all very
pretty in books, but not at all practical in every-day life."

Grace made no reply. She was lost, for the instant, in a maze of
disagreeable reflection. She was afraid she now understood only too well
why Ida instead of Evelyn Ward had come to see her. In the Ward family
the hard tasks had apparently been thrust upon the patient elder sister,
while the younger reaped where she had not sown, without a conscientious
qualm. And it was for this beautiful, selfish girl that she and Emma had
curtailed their comfort. She almost wished she had been firm in her
first refusal to consider taking another girl into Harlowe House. Then a
vision of Ida Ward's thin face, lighted by two pleading eyes, rose
before her. With an inward rebuke for her own grudging attitude, Grace
squared her shoulders and resolved to look for only the best in this
latest arrival.

It took but a moment to hail an automobile bus which had just run into
the station yard, and they were soon on their way to Harlowe House.
Grace pointed out to Evelyn the various interesting features of Overton.
They impressed the latter but little.

"It must be a sleepy old town," she commented, as they passed through
the quiet streets. She did, however, evince some slight interest in
Vinton's, remarking lightly that she supposed she would never have money
enough to buy a dinner there for herself, let alone ever inviting a
guest.

"Do not look at your college life through such pessimistic spectacles,"
advised Grace. "You will be sure to be unhappy."

Evelyn made a pettish gesture. "You remind me of my sister, Miss
Harlowe. She is forever preaching patience and optimism and all the
other virtues in which I seem to be lacking."

A bright flush rose to Grace's cheeks at this unparalleled rudeness. She
cast a quick, curious glance at Evelyn, whose eyes were for the second
fixed upon the campus which they were now nearing, and who appeared to
be utterly oblivious of her impertinence.

"This is the campus." Grace decided to overlook the pointed remark. "We
are justly proud of Overton College and the campus."

"It is really beautiful," nodded Evelyn, "but I'm going to tell you a
secret. I'm not the least little bit enthusiastic over college. I'd
rather go to a dramatic school and study for the stage. It is Ida who
insists upon my going to college. Thank goodness, I'm not a dunce. It
would be dreadful to be forced into college and then be too stupid to
learn anything, wouldn't it?"

"It would indeed," agreed Grace.

"I suppose my stage aspirations shock you, Miss Harlowe," went on
Evelyn, "but I can't help saying what I think."

"My dearest woman friend is an actress," returned Grace quietly.

"Oh, is she really?" Evelyn's voice rose high with excitement. "What is
her name? Perhaps I've heard of her."

"Anne Pierson."

"I should say I had heard of _her_. She is one of the great stars. She
is with Everett Southard, isn't she? I've seen their pictures in the
magazines."

"She graduated from Overton last year. We were roommates throughout our
four years here. She is from my home town."

"Really and truly?" demanded Evelyn impulsively. "That's the most
interesting piece of news I've heard for a long time. Will you tell me
all about her some time, Miss Harlowe?"

"With pleasure," returned Grace. "It can hardly be to-day, however, for
here we are at Harlowe House."

"What a darling house!" praised Evelyn as they alighted from the
automobile. "I am sure I shall like to live in it."

"I hope that you will be happy here," returned Grace kindly. After all
it might be better not to take this self-willed young woman too
seriously. She had, at least, the virtue of truthfulness. She was
entirely frank in the expression of her opinions. She might have many
other redeeming qualities which would quite overbalance the disagreeably
self-centered side of her character.

Evelyn gazed about in open approval as they ascended the steps of
Harlowe House. As they passed through the hall she peeped into the
living room and exclaimed in admiration of its attractive appointments.
Her voluble appreciation of her own room pleased Grace, who realized
that Evelyn's personality was singularly fascinating and that she could
be exceedingly gracious when she chose.

"I will leave you now," said Grace, after a little further conversation.
"The dinner bell rings at six o'clock. If you need anything, or wish to
ask any questions, you will find me in my office downstairs. It is
rather too late in the day for you to see the registrar. To-morrow
morning will be time enough. You are lucky to be exempt from
examinations."

Grace had hardly established herself in her office when Emma Dean came
breezily in from her work. "Well, Gracie," was her cheery greeting, "has
she materialized, and is she as pathetic and persistent as Sister Ida?"

Grace made a little gesture of resignation. "Prepare for the surprise of
your college career, Emma."

"Didn't she come?" demanded Emma, "That wouldn't surprise me. People are
forever promising to arrive on a certain train and then strolling in
several days later with the barefaced announcement that the time table
had been mysteriously changed."

"She arrived," stated Grace.

"Then wherein lies the surprise?"

"Emma," said Grace solemnly, "Evelyn Ward is the most beautiful girl I
have ever seen, and, if I am not mistaken, one of the most selfish. She
is no more like her sister than I am like Dr. Morton, and she is going
to require more looking after than any other girl in Harlowe House."



CHAPTER XII

THE HARLOWE HOUSE CLUB


"There!" Grace Harlowe laid down her pen and scanned the notice she had
just finished writing. "I'll post this now. The girls will see it this
morning and again when they come in to luncheon. Then they will be sure
to meet me in the living-room before dinner. I hope they will like our
plan."

"They ought to like it," replied Emma Dean. "It makes them a
self-respecting, self-governing body."

"That is precisely what I wish them to be," responded Grace, in all
earnestness. "I believe that being members of Semper Fidelis was of
great benefit to us. Oh, Emma, did I tell you that Mr. Bedfield's gift
to Semper Fidelis is now an endowment? He called to see me on Friday for
the express purpose of telling me that he has arranged the matter with
Professor Morton. The money is to be known hereafter as the Semper
Fidelis endowment. He said he felt certain that we had not handed the
society down to this year's classes. He couldn't imagine any other young
women in our places. Wasn't that nice in him?"

"Very nice and very true," agreed Emma. "I am of the same mind. The
Sempers can never be imitated, passed on to the next class, nor
replaced. They are in a class all by themselves."

"The purpose of this new club which I propose to organize will be one of
welfare. The girls will do more for themselves as a self-governing body
than I can possibly do for them. By the way, I wonder if Miss Ward is up
yet. She overslept and missed her first recitation yesterday morning.
She came down to the dining-room long after breakfast was over. Susan
was rather upset over having to serve an extra breakfast. I was obliged
to tell Miss Ward that if it occurred again she would have to abide by
the consequences of her own tardiness. I can't impose upon the servants
to please a girl who has no thought for any one except herself."

Grace spoke rather bitterly. Her early disappointment in Evelyn Ward had
deepened as the time passed.

"I don't hear a sound from her room," commented Emma, who sat before the
dressing-table brushing her long hair. With hair brush poised in the air
she listened intently. "She is dead to the world."

"Then I'll have to waken her," sighed Grace.

Stepping out into the hall she knocked lightly on Evelyn's door.
Receiving no response she knocked again, this time with more force.

"Come in," called a sleepy voice.

Grace turned the knob. Sure enough, Evelyn lay comfortably back on her
pillow, her wonderful golden hair falling in long, loose waves about
her. Her beauty now made little impression upon Grace, who knew only too
well the tantalizing, troublesome spirit that lay behind it. "It is
almost eight o'clock, Miss Ward. Remember, breakfast is over at nine."

"I know it," responded Evelyn with maddening sweetness. She eyed Grace
speculatively, but made no effort to rise.

Without further words Grace closed the door. She did not wish to betray
her annoyance. She had experienced a wild desire to march over to the
bed and drag the complacent freshman forth from it by the shoulders.

When Evelyn descended to the dining-room she found that most of the
girls had eaten breakfast and gone off to chapel. Happening to recall
that she had not attended the morning services for a week, and with
visions of her unsigned chapel card staring her in the face, she ate a
hurried breakfast and was about to depart when her eyes happened to rest
upon the bulletin board in the hall around which were gathered several
girls. Pausing, Evelyn read Grace's notice. It asked the members of
Harlowe House to be in the living room at five o'clock that afternoon
for the discussion of a most important subject.

"I wonder what it is," said Nettie Weyburn, lively curiosity
overspreading her usually placid face.

"I think I know," volunteered Mary Reynolds. "Miss Harlowe was telling
me only last night that she wishes to organize a club of just Harlowe
House girls, with a president and other officers. The club will have a
constitution and by-laws and every member will have to live up to them."

"Wouldn't that be splendid?" asked Cecil Ferris, a gray-eyed,
black-haired freshman who made up in energy what she lacked in height.

"Who would be president I wonder," murmured Evelyn, shooting a glance of
apparent innocence about the circle.

"You'd make a good president, Miss Ward," declared Mary Reynolds, in
open admiration. To her beauty-loving little soul Evelyn was the most
exquisite person in the world.

"_I_," cried Evelyn in well-simulated amazement. "I wouldn't attempt to
be, I am not clever or popular enough."

"I believe you would be the very one. You are so independent and know
just how to do things." Now that Mary had suggested it, it met with
Nettie Weyburn's placid approval. Cecil Ferris echoed it. She, too, had
fallen under the spell of Evelyn's beauty.

"I must run along or be late to chapel," murmured Evelyn modestly, and
hurried off at precisely the wisest moment to further her own cause. The
ambition to become the president of the proposed club had sprung into
life in her self-centered young soul as she stood reading the bulletin,
and she determined that she would leave nothing undone to obtain the
honor.

At luncheon that day she took particular pains to be unusually friendly
to every one with whom she came in contact, exhibiting a gay
graciousness of manner toward a number of girls she had secretly
labeled, "digs, prigs and plodders." This quite won their trusting
hearts and made them innocently wonder how they had, so far, happened to
miss becoming really well acquainted with Miss Ward.

When at five o'clock the big living room began to fill, Evelyn was among
the first there, with a dazzling smile for all comers. At ten minutes
past five the thirty-three girls who claimed Harlowe House as their home
were sitting or standing expectantly about the room, waiting for Grace,
who stood at one end of the room with Emma, to call the meeting to order
and enter upon the discussion of that "most important subject."

"I have asked you to come here this afternoon because I believe the time
has arrived to try out a plan which I have had in my mind ever since
college began," stated Grace, by way of beginning. Then in clear,
concise sentences she told of her desire that her girls should be
self-governing and of how much good fellowship their banding themselves
together would create. "I thought, if you approved of the plan, we might
elect our officers at once, and appoint a committee to draw up the
constitution and by-laws. I am going to ask you to talk it over among
yourselves for ten minutes, while Miss Dean and I prepare some balloting
slips," she concluded, and at once a loud buzz of eager conversation
began.

It was fifteen minutes before Grace again called the meeting to order,
and appointed four tellers, who distributed ballots. Then nominations
were in order.

"I nominate Miss Ward for president," proposed Cecil Ferris.

"I second the motion," came from Mary Reynolds.

Grace could hardly control the surprise in her voice, when, after
waiting a little, she asked: "Are there any further nominations?" "I
nominate Miss Sampson," called a small pale girl from her perch in the
window seat, with a fond smile in the direction of her roommate. Another
girl seconded the nomination, and it was then moved and seconded that
the nominations for president be closed. The nomination for
vice-president, secretary and treasurer were then in order and after
they were closed the voting began.

"Well, of all things," whispered Emma to Grace, who sank into the chair
beside her friend, a peculiar expression on her fine face. "I never
dreamed of matters taking that turn, did you?"

Grace shook her head. It had indeed come as a shock. She had thought of
the club as a novel and possible means of bringing the Harlowe House
girls into a closer relationship with one another. She had never
considered the possibility of Evelyn being president of the club. It was
evident that her nomination had come about through admiration of her
undeniable beauty. She was absolutely unfit for any such office. Grace
hoped, devoutly, that Miss Sampson, a tall, capable young woman, with a
likable personality and a cheery, hearty manner of speaking, would be
elected.

Emma made no further remark, but watched the tellers with calculating
eyes. At last one of them, who had been industriously making notations
on a sheet of paper, rose to announce the results of the election.

"The total number of votes cast for president was thirty-three. Of these
Miss Ward received twenty-nine"--an enthusiastic clapping of hands
sounded--"Miss Sampson four." She then went on to read the result of the
balloting for the other three officers. Nettie Weyburn had won the
vice-presidency, Cecil Ferris had been chosen secretary, while quiet
little Mary Reynolds had been made treasurer. The reading of each name
elicited its quota of applause, but it was plain that, of the four
officers, Evelyn was, by far, the greatest favorite. After appointing a
committee of four girls to assist her in drawing up the constitution and
by-laws, Grace said pleasantly: "Will the new officers please come
forward so that we can all see you. You must be formally introduced, you
know."

The newly elected officers rose from their various positions which they
occupied in the room and advanced to where Grace stood. About Evelyn
Ward's red lips played a smile of suppressed triumph as she shook the
hand Grace offered her and listened to the former's sincere wish for her
success. For an instant the gray eyes studied the perfect face gravely,
as though trying to penetrate what lay behind its smiling mask. Then
Grace turned to greet the vice-president, just in time to miss the
mocking flash which lighted Evelyn's blue eyes.



CHAPTER XIII

PLANNING FOR THE RECEPTION


The committee on the constitution and by-laws for the new club met the
very next evening and drew up a terse little document setting forth
their object in banding themselves together. Grace had already made note
of the few rules she wished the girls to observe, but, so far as
possible, she wished the committee to draw up their own regulations,
subject to her approval. To create a spirit of independence and
self-confidence in the girls of Harlowe House had been Grace's basic
motive. She realized that many of them were hampered with an undue sense
of gratitude which made them too humble for their own interest. She
purposed to make them self-reliant and free. Therefore the rules which
she herself made were few and sensible, relating chiefly to the care of
rooms, the entertaining of guests and the problems which, if not
properly handled, were the most likely to cause friction among so many
young women of so many different dispositions.

"But what are we to do about money, Miss Harlowe?" asked Mary Reynolds
in a plaintive tone, when the question arose of whether the club should
be assessed for dues, and Grace spoke against it. "Of what use is it to
have a treasureless treasurer?"

The committee set up a unanimous giggle.

"That is really a serious question," smiled Grace, "and one which the
girls will have to decide for themselves. I should not wish any girl to
feel that she were obliged to contribute money to the club, even for
dues. We are not obliged to conform to any particular set of rules. Our
club can be a purely informal organization with no obligations attached
to it."

"But it would be splendid to have a little money in the treasury,"
interposed Louise Sampson. "I know what we can do," she went on eagerly.
"Let us make the dues a dollar a year, and pledge ourselves to earn that
sum. Any one who feels that she can neither earn nor give a dollar can
be a member of the club just the same. Then we could give entertainments
or concerts or something and start a little fund of our own."

Grace's gray eyes sparkled. Louise Sampson was a girl after her own
heart. "Then you must ask your president to call a meeting. She can
instruct the secretary to post a notice on the bulletin board," she
advised.

The committee seized upon Louise's plan with avidity.

"Why can't we post a notice and have done with it?" asked Cecil Ferris
innocently.

"Because we have just made a law that the president shall be notified of
proposed meetings and shall post a bulletin to that effect," reminded
Grace.

The girls remained for another hour, discussing their plans and
reconstructing their by-laws previous to voting on them. It was decided
to have a weekly meeting to take place on each Tuesday between five and
six o'clock in the afternoon, but a special meeting might be called at
any time at the request of a member, but at the president's discretion.

"The last clause in that by-law is unfortunate," criticized Emma, when,
in the privacy of their room that night, Grace went over with her friend
the club rules as she had set them down.

"I know what you mean." Grace gave an impatient sigh. "Still, as
president of the club Miss Ward must be consulted about things. You
think she is likely to refuse to call a meeting at the request of a
member, if she happens to be so inclined, don't you?"

"I do, and she will," prophesied Emma. "I wouldn't lose any sleep over
it, Gracie, but still it's a good plan to be prepared in advance for the
beauteous Evelyn's vagaries. To change the subject, I have heard very
little mention made of the sophomore reception in the house. I wonder if
it is because some of the girls have no evening gowns?"

Grace sat up in her chair, with a start of surprise. "Really, Emma, I
had forgotten all about the reception. I suppose it slipped my mind
because it is to be held so much later this year on account of repairing
the gymnasium. It will hardly be over until Thanksgiving will be upon
us, and then, oh, joy! we'll see the dear old Sempers. I must see if
there is anything I can do to help the girls get ready for it. I hope
they understand that their summer dresses will do nicely."

For the next three days Grace made it a point to inquire tactfully into
the reception plans of the Harlowe House girls. She discovered that
Emma's conjecture had been only too correct. The bare mention of evening
gowns had intimidated them, and, worse still, only three or four of them
had been especially invited by sophomores. This was partly accounted for
by the fact that, while the sophomore class was large, it was completely
outnumbered by the entering class. Remembering that the same state of
affairs had prevailed when she had entered Overton as a freshman, Grace
proceeded to make a round of calls which began with the members of the
reception committee, and included Violet Darby, Myra Stone, Laura
Atkins, Mildred Taylor, Patience, Kathleen and others of the upper
classes whom she knew well, though not intimately. The reception
committee had expressed their absolute willingness to allow the upper
class girls to help them out on escort duty and the girls themselves
entered heartily into the plan.

"I'll walk over to Harlowe House with you now and invite Mary Reynolds,"
declared Kathleen West, who was the last girl on Grace's list. "I'm glad
to have the opportunity. What a bright little thing Mary is! She is
quick as a flash when it comes to grasping an idea. I tell her she has
the making of a good newspaper woman in her."

"She is Emma's star pupil in English. Emma says she writes the most
original themes."

"She has all sorts of queer fancies about people and things," went on
Kathleen. "I can't begin to tell you, Grace, how glad I am to be of some
help to her. I must do something to make up for lost time." A faint
color tinged Kathleen's pale face.

"You are doing a great deal for Mary Reynolds, Kathleen. She loves you
dearly!"

"It certainly is nice to be liked," returned Kathleen softly. "If it
hadn't been for you and Elfreda and Patience I would have gone on in the
same hard, selfish spirit in which I began college."

"As it is, you are one of the literary lights of Overton, and a joy to
your friends," said Grace gayly. "I wish you were at Harlowe House this
year with Emma and me."

"I wish I were," sighed Kathleen, "but I didn't feel that it would be
fair to apply for admission there. You see, Grace, my salary on the
newspaper, during the summer, is a generous one, and, by managing
carefully, I can pay my expenses in college for the year with it. I
don't have to do that, however, for every week I write a story for the
Sunday edition of our paper which more than pays my board at Wayne Hall.
Then I send in extra space articles and go out on special stories during
the Christmas and Easter vacations. I am never really very short of
money, so I'm not eligible as a member of your household."

"You are a clever, capable girl, Kathleen," averred Grace, with honest
admiration, "and I am proud to be your friend."

A long look of perfect understanding passed between the two. It had come
only after many days of misunderstanding and doubt.

"Dear Loyalheart, I can never forgive myself for making you so unhappy,"
Kathleen's crisp tones trembled.

"And I shall never forgive you if you mention it again," retorted Grace.
"You mustn't recall such things. I am enough of a believer in destiny to
feel that we had to go through a kind of probation period before we were
ready to be friends."

"It's dear in you to say so, Grace, but I know myself, and how
contemptibly I behaved. I've been determined to say this to you ever
since I came back to college, but you have never given me the least
chance until now."

"'Loyalheart' was the highest proof of your regard you could have given
me," reminded Grace gently. "I don't need any other reminders. I must
go, Kathleen. Did I hear you say you were going with me?"

"Yes."

Kathleen slipped into her hat and coat, and, as they went down Mrs.
Elwood's familiar stairs and strolled out into the crisp autumn air, arm
in arm, Kathleen felt that she could never be thankful enough to the
girl who had taught her the true meaning of college spirit.



CHAPTER XIV

A DISQUIETING THOUGHT


When half way across the campus the two young women encountered Evelyn
Ward. The cold crisp November air had deepened the pink in her cheeks to
living rose. Her violet eyes fairly blazed with light and sparkle, and
her wonderful golden hair peeped in fascinating little curls from under
her gray velour hat. She wore a three-quarter length gray coat, cut in
the smartest fashion, and a passing glance at her would have left one
with the impression that she was in affluent circumstances.

"How can a girl who can't afford to pay her college expenses wear such
smart clothes?" was Kathleen's appraising comment after they had passed
Evelyn, who nodded to them in condescending fashion.

"Her sister, Ida, makes them. She told me so when she came here to ask
me to take Miss Ward into Harlowe House. She is a very pretty girl,
isn't she?"

Kathleen nodded. "How are things at Harlowe House?" she inquired
irrelevantly.

"Going beautifully. I told you about our club didn't I?"

"Not a word. I haven't seen you for a week."

The newspaper girl listened interestedly to Grace's account of the club.
"It would make a good story for my paper," she commented. "How about it,
Grace?"

"You're welcome to it if the girls don't object. Suppose you come as a
guest to our next meeting and ask their permission."

"I'll do it," promised Kathleen.

Mary Reynolds received and accepted Kathleen's invitation to the
reception with unmistakable joy. Grace had sent home for a pink silk
evening gown, which she had worn but little, and fairly forced it, with
slippers, stockings and gloves, upon the reluctant Mary, with the plea
that pink was not her color and therefore she never wore the frock.
Aside from shortening it, it had needed little alteration, and when the
night of the sophomore reception arrived, Kathleen appeared, an hour
before the time to start for the dance, to help Mary dress. She brought
a cluster of pinky-white roses and a pink chiffon scarf, which, she
diplomatically insisted, did not go well with any of her gowns and
exactly matched Mary's.

"I can't believe that I am I," Mary said happily, as she viewed herself
wonderingly in the round dressing-table mirror. She clasped her thin,
childish hands impulsively together. "I wish every girl in the world had
such good friends and pretty clothes as I have!"

"I hope no one has such elusive hooks and eyes on their clothes as I
have," grumbled Emma Dean, who had appeared in the doorway in time to
hear Mary's heartfelt remark. "I have permanently dislocated one
shoulder and ruined the charming curves of both my elbows forever, in a
vain, but valiant, effort to unite one miserable hook and eye, which I'm
sure the dressmaker purposely sewed out of my reach."

"Poor Emma," sympathized Kathleen. "Let me help you."

Emma surrendered herself to Kathleen's deft fingers with a ludicrous
gesture of resignation.

"Are all the Harlowe House girls going?" asked Kathleen.

"Yes; thanks to the juniors and seniors, not one has been left out. It
is such a clear, pleasant night the campus house girls won't need
carriages," answered Grace. "It is eight o'clock now. Don't you think
you had better start? You go on with the girls, Emma. I'll run over some
time during the evening for a few minutes."

After the merrymakers had set out for the gymnasium, Grace retired to
her office to write a letter to her mother. She had hardly settled
herself when the door bell rang and she heard a high, clear voice asking
the maid for Miss Ward.

"Please tell her to hurry, my car is waiting," instructed the voice, as
the maid ushered the newcomer into the living-room. Grace glanced
through the open door of the office into the next room. In Evelyn's
escort she recognized Althea Parker, one of the most snobbish girls at
Overton College, and a member of the sophomore class. Evelyn's
declaration on her arrival at Overton that she intended to cultivate the
richest girls in college now came back to Grace with disagreeable force.

"Good evening, Miss Harlowe," hailed Althea, as Grace rose and went
forward to greet her. "We are going to be late. I hope Evelyn won't keep
me waiting." There was a touch of impatience in her voice.

Even as she spoke there was a patter of light feet on the stairs, and
Evelyn appeared in the doorway, her evening coat and scarf on her arm.

Grace gave an involuntary gasp of admiration, while Althea cried out
openly, "Evelyn Ward, you are wonderful!"

Evelyn's violet blue eyes flashed with gratified vanity. She wore an
exquisite gown of white silk and lace made in an apparently simple but
very smart fashion, which revealed the pure beauty of her white throat
and rounded arms, increasing her loveliness tenfold. She wore white silk
stockings and white satin slippers with little rhinestone buckles. Her
thick golden hair was drawn high on her head in a graceful knot and
clustered in little curls about her temples and over her forehead, while
her whole face was alive with excitement. At her corsage was an immense
bunch of violets, evidently sent her by her escort.

"Shall I do?" she asked pertly, walking over to the living-room mirror
for a last peep at herself.

"You look very lovely to-night," said Grace honestly.

"Thank you," she swept Grace a curtsey. A faint mocking smile played
about her red lips, as though she doubted the sincerity of the remark.
Slipping on her evening coat of white broadcloth, and placing an
extremely handsome scarf of white and gold over her pretty head, Evelyn
walked to the door, followed by Althea Parker, who, divided between
admiration of Evelyn and fear of being late, was talking rapidly in her
high, excited voice.

"Good night, Miss Harlowe," she nodded.

"Oh, yes, good night," called Evelyn carelessly.

Grace leaned back in her chair and smiled at Evelyn's slightly cavalier
treatment of herself. "How her sister has spoiled her," she mused. "She
treats me as though I were one of the maids. To see her to-night one
would be quite likely to imagine that she, rather than Miss Parker, were
the richest girl in Overton."

A sudden, startled look stole into Grace's eyes. "Why, where--" She
paused as though she had come upon something which did not quite please
her. As a matter of fact it had recurred to her with an unpleasant jolt
that Evelyn was wearing an evening gown entirely too expensive for her
present circumstances. So were her evening coat, her scarf and all the
dainty appointments which so perfectly matched the white silk frock.
Again she recalled that Ida Ward planned and made all her sister's
gowns. Even so, she must have spent considerable money on Evelyn's
evening clothes. Suppose these things were to be noticed and commented
upon by the girls in the house, or by outsiders who knew nothing of the
real source of Evelyn's wardrobe? Suppose some one were ill-natured
enough to say that a girl who could afford such expensive gowns ought to
be able to pay her own expenses and give her place in Harlowe House to
some one more needy. Had not Kathleen asked how Evelyn could afford to
wear such smart clothes?

Yet on the other hand, there was nothing to be done. Grace did not feel
it within her province to take Evelyn to task on the subject of her
wearing apparel. All she could do was to trust that what had perplexed
her would pass unnoticed and uncriticized.



CHAPTER XV

A SEMPER FIDELIS REUNION


"O frabjous day!" rejoiced Emma Dean, using her bath towel as a scarf
and performing a weird dance about the room. "I know I shall go
chortling through my classes this morning in a highly undignified
manner. To think that dear old Semper Fidelis will hold forth again in
the same old haunts! And the most beautiful part is that there will be
no vacant chairs."

Emma's delight was reflected on Grace's face. It was the morning before
Thanksgiving Day and the two young women were preparing to go to
breakfast, full of happy anticipation, for the various afternoon trains
were to bring to them their Semper Fidelis comrades. It had all begun
with Elfreda's and Mabel Ashe's promises to spend Thanksgiving at
Harlowe House. Then Elfreda had persuaded Arline Thayer, whom she saw
frequently in New York, to join them. Arline had written to Ruth, who
had come on to New York for a long visit to her chum in time to swell
the band. Elfreda had promptly written Grace that if she would see that
Miriam and Anne put in an appearance at the proper moment, the Briggs
Helping Hand Society would guarantee that the other members should
appear at Overton on the appointed day.

"Elfreda has taken rather a large contract on her hands," Grace had said
to Emma, on receiving the letter. "She evidently knows what she's doing,
so I had better write to Miriam and Anne."

Miriam's promise to come had been easily obtained, but Anne was not sure
of attending the Semper Fidelis reunion, until the week before
Thanksgiving, when Everett Southard, who was then playing in
Shakespearian repertoire in New York, obligingly arranged to give the
"Taming of the Shrew" on the day before Thanksgiving, and "King Richard
III" on Thanksgiving Day. As Anne did not appear in either play, her
Thanksgiving freedom was assured.

And now the great day had dawned at last! There were to be recitations
in the morning, but college would close at noon, not to reopen until the
following Monday. The Semper Fidelis girls were to be Elfreda's guests
at Vinton's that night at a six o'clock dinner. On Thanksgiving morning
they were to breakfast at the Tourraine as the guests of Ruth and
Arline. Thanksgiving dinner at Martell's was to be Anne's and Miriam's
part of the celebration, while Thanksgiving night Emma and Grace were to
be hostesses at Vinton's, their favorite rendezvous.

Grace would have dearly loved to be hostess at the Thanksgiving dinner,
but she felt that her duty lay with her household. She wondered whether
it would be really right for her to remain away from Harlowe House for
so many meals. After long and earnest discussion, she and Emma had
arranged that she would give up eating Thanksgiving dinner with her
friends, while Emma cheerfully agreed to preside at the Harlowe House
breakfast table on Thanksgiving morning. It was decided that Louise
Sampson, of whom Grace had grown extremely fond, was the best possible
person to leave in charge during their absence on Thanksgiving night,
for neither Grace nor Emma felt that they could bear to miss that last
gathering together of their beloved Semper Fidelis friends.

"I wonder who will be first on the scene," speculated Grace.

"Consult the time table, my child," advised Emma. "I have no time for
speculation. I am starting on a hunt in darkest Deanery for my cuff
links. They are tucked away in some remote corner of the Dean territory,
but which corner?"

"They are in one end of your handkerchief box. I saw you put them there
yesterday, you ridiculous person," laughed Grace.

"Thank you, thank you! 'One good turn deserves another,'" quoted Emma
fervently. "Bring forth the fateful time table and I'll sort out the
trains and the order of arrival of the clan."

"I haven't a time table," confessed Grace.

"Then we'll have to let the trains run merrily on, and the railroad do
its perfect work. I'm sorry I can't pay my debt of gratitude. I am
always helpful. I was always helpful. I have been helpful. I would be
helpful. I might have been helpful and I may yet be helpful," conjugated
Emma hopefully, "but not without a time table."

"I appreciate your splendid spirit of helpfulness even though it isn't
of any use at present," assured Grace satirically. "I suppose--"

A long reverberating ring of the bell cut short her remark.

The two friends exchanged questioning glances.

"It can't be one of the girls. It's only eight o'clock," was Emma's
quick comment.

Grace opened the door and listened intently. Emma joined her, peering
over her shoulder. Then Miss Duncan's dignified assistant in English
gave an unmistakable, though subdued, war whoop, and, seizing Grace by
the hand, made for the stairs. Grace needed no assistance. An instant
later they brought up at the foot of the stairs and made a simultaneous
rush for a tall, plump young woman, enveloping her in a tempestuous
embrace.

"I might have known you'd be the first," cried Grace with joyful
affection. "You must have taken a train in the middle of the night."

"I did," returned J. Elfreda Briggs calmly. "We are living in New York
this winter, so Pa brought me to the station in his own pet car and saw
me safely on my way. Emma Dean, you good old comrade, how are you?"
Elfreda turned from Grace to Emma.

Emma surveyed Elfreda with fond eyes. "Just now I'm overcome at seeing
you, J. Elfreda. How we have missed you!" Depth of feeling for the
moment checked Emma's irrepressible flow of humor. Next to Grace, in her
regard, came the one-time stout girl, now merely plump and extremely
attractive.

Tears flashed across J. Elfreda's eyes as she stood looking into the
faces of these friends, whom she loved so truly, yet saw so seldom.
"Missing people has been my greatest cross this year," she said, her
voice not quite steady. "There's no use in making a fuss, though. I'm
beginning to learn that."

A brief silence fell upon the three classmates.

"Have you had your breakfast, Elfreda?" asked Grace, almost abruptly.

"Are there waffles?" counter-questioned Elfreda.

"There can be. The Harlowe House kitchen boasts of waffle irons, bought
with this occasion in view."

"Then I am heart and soul for breakfast," avowed Elfreda. "I ate my
usual sumptuous repast of half a grape fruit and a piece of dry toast,
plus one small cup of black coffee, on the train. I haven't had a waffle
since I was here in August. I wonder how they would taste," she added
innocently.

"You'll know before long," promised Grace. "Emma take Elfreda upstairs
to our room, while I ask Sarah to make the waffles."

Half an hour later they sat around the breakfast table, a contented
trio. After Emma had left them to go to her work, Grace and Elfreda had
a long confidential conversation over their coffee. The noon train
brought Mabel Ashe, Arline and Ruth, while from off the afternoon trains
stepped Anne and Miriam, the smiling Emerson twins, Elizabeth Wade,
Marian Cummings and Elsie Wilton.

It was a congenial and talkative company that, as Elfreda's guests,
graced Vinton's at six o'clock dinner that night. Kathleen West, who had
been prevailed upon to spend at least one Thanksgiving at Overton,
instead of on duty on her paper, was one of three guests of honor, Mabel
Ashe and Patience Eliot were the others. By special arrangement a table
that would seat fifteen persons had been set in their favorite
rendezvous, the mission alcove. Elfreda, Grace, Anne and Miriam,
rejoicing in their reunion, had made a tour of the stores together that
afternoon, and gleefully carrying the fruits of their shopping to
Vinton's had decorated the table with flowers, ribbons and funny little
favors.

The Overton girls that happened to drop into Vinton's that night smiled
appreciatively at the gay little company in the alcove. A glance in that
direction on the part of the upper class girls was sufficient. They knew
that Semper Fidelis, the darling of the Overton clubs, was making merry.
The freshmen, however, had to have matters explained to them by their
friends.

"That Semper Fidelis club was the life of Overton," Althea Parker
explained to Evelyn Ward. "That's one reason I asked you to come here
with me to-night. I wanted you to see them together." The two were
seated at a small table not far from that of the Sempers.

Evelyn made no response. Her eyes were fixed upon the mission alcove.
She knew, only too well, that Althea's invitation to dinner had not been
disinterested. She had learned to know that Althea was not only
snobbish, but self-seeking as well. For whatever she gave she demanded
value received. Evelyn had been in the living-room when Grace and
Elfreda returned from their shopping. She had heard them discussing the
dinner, and had lost no time in slipping on her wraps and carrying the
news to Althea, who, as she had hoped, had at once invited her to dinner
at Vinton's.

"Althea thinks I'll attract the attention of those girls," Evelyn had
speculated shrewdly.

Meanwhile the girls in the alcove, quite unconscious of the discussion
going on about them at the other tables, were in their element. One
after another the dear wraiths of their Overton days were summoned, to
be laughingly and lovingly reviewed, then lingeringly laid to rest
again.

"Girls, do you remember the dinner we gave here after the ghost party?"
asked Mabel Ashe, her brown eyes alight with mischief. "Some of you
girls weren't here that night, but at least half of you were."

"I ought to remember it," declared Elfreda significantly.

"Yes, Elfreda, it was in honor of you, I believe," laughed Arline. The
dinner to which Mabel referred belonged to Elfreda's freshman year at
Overton.

"It was indeed," affirmed Anne Pierson. "Every one of our four years
brought its own parties."

"And its own problems," supplemented Miriam.

"Of whom we were which," murmured J. Elfreda.

Every one laughed at this naive assertion.

"But we've all turned out creditably," smiled Miriam Nesbit, "thanks to
our Loyalheart. She opened the way to good comradeship for me, long ago,
in my high school days."

"She found my father for me!" said Ruth Denton, her eyes eloquent.

"She stood by me when I needed her most," said Anne.

"Girls, I won't--" Grace half rose from her chair, but was gently shoved
into it again.

"Sit still and hear the rest of your misdeeds," commanded Mabel. "Go on,
Arline."

"She helped me to be unselfish and to think of others," was Arline's
sweet tribute.

"She made me over," asserted Elfreda with emphasis.

"She taught me college spirit," said Kathleen softly.

"Sara and I didn't like college and never had much fun until Grace asked
us to join the Sempers," declared Sue Emerson.

"She was the first to welcome me to Overton, and has given me countless
good times since then," said Patience.

"She taught me to look for the best rather than the worst, even in my
enemies," declared Mabel Ashe.

Elizabeth Wade, Marian Cummings and Elsie Wilton each added their
tribute.

"Girls, if you only knew how terribly this embarrasses me," pleaded
Grace. "Every one of you have done the nicest sort of things for me. I
think--"

"You are not allowed to think," put in Miriam. "We will do the thinking
for the next two minutes. Besides J. Elfreda has something to say. Go
ahead, Elfreda."

"Grace, you've heard what we all had to say about you, but there is a
whole lot that we can never find words for. Each of us knows best what
you've been to us, as individuals, and we all know that there will never
be any other girl quite as dear, and true, and loyal as you are to us.
So we decided to give our Loyalheart a loyalty token, and here it is.
Hold out your arm," commanded Elfreda.

[Illustration: "We Decided to Give Our Loyalheart a Loyalty Token."]

Grace held out her pretty, bare arm in obedient bewilderment. Something
shining slipped over her wrist. She stared at it in fascination.

"How beautiful!" she gasped. "It can't be for me!" The bracelet was a
wide band of dull gold, chased with a pattern of tiny leaves, and, at
intervals, its golden circle was starred with small diamonds. It was the
most expensive piece of jewelry Grace had ever owned.

"Every one of our initials is inside," informed Elsie Wilton
triumphantly. Grace slipped the band off her arm and peered into it.
Sure enough there were rows of tiny initials inscribed on the smooth
gold.

"And now let us drink a toast to our Loyalheart and go up to the
Tourraine," proposed Elfreda, after the excitement attending the
presentation of the bracelet had died out. "Here's to our Loyalheart!
Drink her down!"

The emptied lemonade glasses were set on the table and the party rose to
go.

As they were passing out, Grace and Anne walked with linked arms,
determined to make the most of their brief hour together.

"Oh, Grace, I almost forgot to ask you," began Anne, "who was that
beautiful girl at the next table to the alcove? I saw you speak to her.
She was with Miss Parker, that little girl of 19-- who has so much
money."

"That was Evelyn Ward, Anne, and thereby hangs a tale which I'll
entertain you with to-morrow. One thing about her will interest you. She
wants to become an actress. She thinks you are the wonder of this
century. I'll introduce her to you to-morrow."

"She is beautiful," commented Anne, "and if she is really sincere in her
ambition I might help her to attain her ambition."



CHAPTER XVI

THE INTERRUPTED CONFIDENCE


The days that lay between Thanksgiving and Christmas passed swiftly and
uneventfully for Grace. As the holiday vacation drew near she was
divided, however, between her desire to go home and her duty to Harlowe
House. It was Emma Dean who finally settled the question by announcing
that she did not intend to go home for Christmas and would gladly look
after things during Grace's absence. The trip home was too expensive,
Emma had stated frankly, and her railroad fare would be quite a help
when added to the Dean housekeeping fund. Once she had made her decision
to stay at Overton she began to lay plans for a happy holiday season for
the Harlowe House girls, who, without exception, were also to remain in
Overton for their vacation. Two days before Christmas Grace left Overton
for Oakdale, with many injunctions to Emma to take things easy and to
telegraph her at once if she needed her.

Once at home a round of merry parties began. True to their promise
Jessica and Reddy had come back to Oakdale for Christmas. The only
missing member of the Eight Originals was Anne, and the Sunday morning
following Christmas Day she walked into the Harlowe's living room
accompanied by Everett Southard and his sister. She could not bear to
allow the holidays to pass without seeing her friends, so she and the
Southards had taken the midnight train for Oakdale, determined to spend
at least one day there. That evening a contented, happy company gathered
at the Nesbits, as Miriam's and David's guests, at a dinner given in
honor of the unexpected arrivals. After a short, but exceedingly
earnest, confab in a cosy corner just off the hall, Anne and David had
appeared arm in arm, and, to an accompaniment of meaning smiles, had
announced their engagement. Although Miriam Nesbit was entirely unaware
of it, four pairs of eyes, belonging to the feminine half of the Eight
Originals had kept a lynx-like watch upon her and Everett Southard.
Afterward Grace confided to Anne that she believed Miriam did like Mr.
Southard a little, and it was quite plain to be seen that Mr. Southard
cared for her, while Jessica and Nora were wagging their heads in secret
agreement of the same belief.

Only one thing marred Grace's pleasure in being at home and that was the
thought that she was making Tom Gray unhappy. Outwardly he was the same
sunny, smiling Tom she had known for so many years, but there were times
when the mask of cheerfulness fell away and Grace read in his eyes a
look of pain and longing that caused her to reproach herself. Then her
honest nature would reassert itself and she would vow never to promise
to marry Tom out of sympathy. Unless there came a time when she was
absolutely convinced that he meant more to her than her work she and Tom
would have to go on in the same old way.

But aside from this one cloud it seemed to Grace that she had never
before so fully appreciated her father and mother. "You grow dearer
every minute," she assured them on her last night at home. She sat
between them on a little stool, holding a hand of each. "If you don't
put me out on the steps to-morrow morning with my luggage, and lock the
door in my face, I know I'll never, never have the courage to go away
from you. It is really a tragedy, this wanting to be in two places at
once."

"Dear child," said her mother softly, while her father stroked her
shining hair and wondered how he ever managed to get along without her
during the long months she spent at Overton. "We hate to give you up,
Gracie," he said, "but we love you all the more for your faithfulness to
your work."

And that was the thought which Grace took back with her to Overton. She
smiled to herself as she swung briskly through the quiet streets. Their
approbation had quickened her spirit to put forth fresh effort. She felt
as though she could remove mountains if they happened to rise suddenly
in her path. And in this state of mental exhilaration she ran up the
steps of Harlowe House and, after a second's fumbling with her latchkey,
let herself in.

It was almost six o'clock in the afternoon, and the darkness of early
January had settled down upon the landscape. A wet, discouraging snow,
which made the streets a slush-covered menace to pedestrians, was
falling, and Grace gave a soft sigh of satisfaction as she stepped into
the cheery, well-lighted hall. Knowing that she was quite likely to find
Emma in her room she hurried up the stairs. Her hand was on the door
knob when she heard what sounded suspiciously like a sob. Grace flung
open the door and rushed into her room, her face alive with concern.
What could possibly have happened to make jolly, self-reliant Emma Dean
cry? She exclaimed in quick surprise, however, for, other than herself,
the room held no occupant. "I'm sure I heard some one crying," she
murmured. She listened intently. A moment later the same doleful sound
was again borne to her ears. Walking quickly into the bathroom she stood
by the door that opened into Evelyn Ward's room.

"It comes from Miss Ward's room," was her second surmisal. "I wonder
what I ought to do. She is so easily offended that, if I go to her, she
may resent my call and think me meddlesome and interfering." Grace
continued to listen uneasily to the unmistakable sounds of grief that
came from the next room.

"Something serious has certainly happened. I can't stand it to hear her
cry so. I'll take the risk of being misunderstood," she decided with a
grim little smile.

Stepping out of her room into the hall she knocked softly on Evelyn's
door, receiving no answer. Her second and rather more emphatic knock
elicited a faint, "Who is there?"

"Miss Harlowe," answered Grace. "May I come in for a moment, Miss Ward?"

She heard Evelyn moving about the room for a moment, then the door was
opened slowly, and with apparent reluctance on the part of the pretty
freshman, who had evidently dried her tears for the time being.

"How do you do, Miss Harlowe?" she said in a queer, strained voice. "I
did not know that you had returned from your vacation." She did not
offer her hand to Grace. In her blue eyes lay a look of positive fear.

"I came in not more than ten minutes ago," returned Grace, stepping into
the room and closing the door after her. Then with her usual directness
she said, "Miss Ward, I heard you crying. I came to see if I could help
you."

The look of fear in Evelyn's eyes deepened. She continued to regard
Grace intently, as though trying to discover whether there could be any
other motive for her visit. In spite of the effort she was making to be
natural her face expressed absolute consternation.

"It--was--nothing," she stammered, at last. "I am not feeling very
well."

Grace was not deceived. She knew that Evelyn was not the kind of girl to
cry hysterically over a slight illness. Still she could not force this
perverse young woman to tell that which she did not choose to tell.

"I am sorry you won't let me help you. Are you sure that I can't be of
service to you."

"_You._" Evelyn laughed shortly. "No; I am quite sure that _you_ can't
be."

"Very well." Grace was about to leave the room.

"Wait a minute!" Evelyn's voice rang out sharply. "I--I--will tell you
my trouble, Miss Harlowe. It's about--my college fees. I paid part of
the money when I came here. My--my--sister has been very ill and can't
send the rest of the money. She made a special arrangement with the
registrar to make the other payment in November. I've received two
notices. I don't know what to do. I can't bear to leave Overton."

"Why didn't you come to me before?" asked Grace with gentle reproach. "I
can help you in this matter through the Semper Fidelis fund."

Grace went on to explain the purpose of the Semper Fidelis Club. "We
lend the students the money rather than give it to them, because they
like to feel that they are proceeding on a strictly business basis. It
takes away the slightest idea of charity and makes the girls quite
responsible for themselves."

"I see," murmured Evelyn. "But suppose I borrowed the money and then
found that I couldn't return it for ever so long?"

"There is neither time limit set nor interest charged on any reasonable
sum of money a girl may wish to borrow," returned Grace. "We have the
utmost confidence in our borrowers. The very fact that they come to us
for help is an avowal of their honesty. How much money do you wish to
borrow, Miss Ward?"

Evelyn rather hesitatingly named a sum considerably in excess of that
needed for her college fees. "It--will--pay my expenses for the year and
leave me a little besides for emergencies," she explained
apologetically. "Then poor Ida can get well and won't have to worry. I
am sure I can work at something this summer and pay at least part of the
money back to the club."

She swept a swift, speculative glance at Grace from under her eyelashes
which quite belied her earnest tones. Grace, however, absorbed for a
brief moment in her own thoughts, failed to see it. When she looked at
Evelyn the latter's face bore a sweetly grateful expression that made
her wonder if she had not been mistaken in her estimate of the,
hitherto, troublesome freshman. Her apparent anxiety to relieve her
sister of worry over financial difficulties was distinct evidence of an
affection of which Grace had not believed Evelyn capable. "I have
misjudged her," was Grace's thought. "She really cares for her sister."

Aloud she said, "I will write at once to Miss Thayer, who is the
president of the Semper Fidelis Club, and in whose name the account
stands, telling her the circumstances. Thus far we have not received
many calls for help since college opened, so there is quite a little
money in bank. It is during the last half of the year that we make the
greatest number of loans. I am sorry that your sister has been ill. If
you will give me her address I will write to her to-night."

Evelyn flushed hotly. "Oh, no, you mustn't!" she exclaimed sharply.
"That is--I mean you--mustn't put yourself--to so much trouble for me,"
she added lamely.

"It won't be a particle of trouble," assured Grace. "I should like to do
so."

Evelyn's confusion deepened. "I--can't--" she floundered.

Grace regarded her with quiet, searching eyes. But before she had time
to go on from wonder at Evelyn's strange objection to her writing her
sister to actual suspicion, Evelyn interposed eagerly, "I'll give you
the address, with pleasure, Miss Harlowe. Wait a moment." She sprang to
her open writing desk and seizing a piece of paper and a pencil wrote
energetically for a moment.

"Here it is."

She laid it before Grace, who picked it up and read, "Miss Ida Ward, 320
Duverne Street, Albany, N.Y."

A puzzled frown wrinkled Grace's forehead. "I thought your sister told
me she lived in Burton. I must have misunderstood her."

"So we did," put in Evelyn hurriedly, "but Ida is spending the winter
with my aunt in Albany. She went there just before she was taken ill. We
may never go back to Burton again to live. Of course I am not sure of
that. Perhaps I can find work in a large city during my summer
vacation."

"That reminds me," began Grace. "I had a talk with Miss Pierson when she
was here about your going on the stage. She saw you at Vinton's, and
when I told her you had stage ambitions she said she was quite sure she
could find work for you during the summer in a stock company. She will
try to take you with her."

"Really!" Evelyn sprang to her feet, her blue eyes glittering with
excitement. "Oh, Miss Harlowe, if I could, if she would take me! I'd
work so hard and pay every penny of everything I owe."

"But you don't owe anything yet," reminded Grace, smiling.

Evelyn did not answer. It was doubtful whether she heard Grace's last
words. She stood perfectly still, a curious look on her beautiful face.
Suddenly she said in a low, halting tone, "Miss Harlowe, if you knew
how--"

A knock on the door interrupted her speech. Without finishing, she
stepped to it and turned the knob. "Hello, Mary," she said
indifferently.

"Oh, Miss Harlowe, I didn't know that you had come home," cried Mary
Reynolds. "We have all missed you dreadfully, haven't we, Evelyn?"

"Yes," replied Evelyn in her usual indifferent fashion. Then as Grace
turned to go she said sweetly, "Thank you so much for your kindness to
me, Miss Harlowe."

But Grace reflected disappointedly as she went slowly into her own room
that Mary Reynolds' innocent interruption had occurred just in time to
prevent the establishment with Evelyn of the very footing which she had
been trying all year to gain.



CHAPTER XVII

A WEEK-END IN NEW YORK


True to her promise Grace wrote to Arline Thayer that very evening
concerning the sum of money which Evelyn wished to borrow, and three
days later she opened a fat letter from the president of Semper Fidelis
from which fell the magic slip of paper which, for Evelyn, meant the way
out of her difficulties. Grace pounced with delight upon the letter and
was soon deep in its contents.

"We saw Anne as 'Ophelia' last Friday night," Arline wrote. "After the
play father gave a little supper for her at our house and invited the
Southards, Mabel and Mr. Ashe, Elfreda, Miriam Nesbit and her brother.
Miriam came to New York to visit and shop, and it is not hard to guess
why her brother came with her. We were all so surprised to see her, and
so delighted. She is staying with the Southards, and, Grace, I do
believe Everett Southard is in love with her. It is hard to say whether
she returns his love, for she doesn't manifest the slightest sign of it.
Wouldn't it be splendid if they did decide to go through life together?
He is so clever, and a great actor too. Mabel's lawyer has won the most
difficult case he ever fought for. He has persuaded Mabel to wear his
ring. Their engagement is to be announced next week. I suppose you will
hear from Mabel before many days. How I wish you were here. We all miss
you so. Can't you come to New York for a week end before Easter? Do try
to arrange it. I have so many things to tell you. It would take an age
to write them. Think it over and decide to come. With my dearest love,
Arline"

Grace finished the letter with a happy sigh. She would try to manage to
run down to New York for a week end. She wondered how long Miriam
intended to stay in the city and she smiled faintly over Arline's
comment regarding Miriam and Everett Southard. It was not news to her.
Consulting the calendar that hung above the desk, she decided to go the
first week in February, and began to plan her work accordingly.

In spite of her secret fears that everything was too perfect to last,
not only was her varied household serene, but prospering as well. From
the time the Harlowe House girls became a self-governing body the
question of putting money in the treasury had been continually agitated.
One way and another had been suggested, but it was not until the
Christmas holidays that the inspiration had come in the shape of a most
toothsome batch of caramels which Louise Sampson had descended into the
kitchen and made, one snowy, blustery evening when the club had
assembled in the living-room for a social session. The caramels were a
signal success, and when Cecil Ferris eyed one of the delicious brown
squares lovingly before popping it into her mouth, then asked
reflectively, "Why couldn't we make caramels and sell them to the
Overton girls?" the idea was hailed with cries of "Great," "A good
idea." "We could easily sell pounds of them."

With one accord they had besieged Louise Sampson with curious questions
as to how she had made the caramels and the cost of the ingredients.
Louise had laughingly refused to tell her recipe.

After talking things over Louise had sworn Cecil, Mary Reynolds and one
other girl to secrecy, imparted the precious recipe to them, and on the
next Saturday afternoon they had made their first candy. A gay little
poster, drawn by one of the girls, advertised their wares. It was tacked
to one side of the college bulletin board, and by nine o'clock on
Saturday night the last caramel had gone its destined way, while the
success-crowned merchants counted their money and lamented because they
had not made half enough caramels. From then on, caramel-making occupied
the spare moments of Louise and her faithful band and the "Harlowe House
Caramels" rapidly gained favor. With her usual kindly interest in the
success of others Grace, on her return from the Christmas holidays,
entered into the candy making with spirit and energy, doing much to help
fill the rush of orders. Try as they might the caramel supply was always
running out, for the students found the delicious home-made caramels
quite to their taste and they grew daily more popular.

The Harlowe House girls were extremely proud of the growing fund in the
treasury. One and all, with the exception of Evelyn Ward, they begged so
earnestly to be initiated into the mysteries of caramel making that they
were sworn to secrecy at a special meeting of the club and divided into
caramel-making squads. It was also decided to make candy only twice a
week, on Wednesday and Friday evenings, and set Thursday and Saturday as
the days for selling the caramels, which were put up in neat half-pound
and pound boxes.

But while this little enterprise was being carried on with a will Evelyn
was merely an indifferent onlooker. True she belonged to one squad of
the candy makers, but she usually managed to be absent when they worked.
Apparently she was not interested in the financial affairs of the
Harlowe House Club. For a week or more after the check from Semper
Fidelis had been handed to her she had maintained toward Grace an
attitude of sweet gratitude, too flattering to be wholly sincere. It had
gradually disappeared, however, and the old Evelyn had come to the
surface again. Although she was now careful not to offend openly, Grace
felt that underneath the thin veneer of reluctant gratitude lay the old
dislike which she was sure Evelyn felt for her. In spite of her efforts
to judge this strange selfish girl dispassionately Grace knew in her
heart that she still disapproved of Evelyn.

The first week in February found Grace looking forward to her week end
in New York City. She had arranged to leave Overton on Friday at noon,
and on Friday morning she opened her eyes with that feeling of
exultation over something delightful just around the corner from her.
Then she remembered. In a few hours she would again be with her beloved
friends. She went about her work that morning humming under her breath.
As she was to take the eleven-thirty train she had said a regretful
good-bye to Emma before the latter went to her classes. "How I wish you
were going with me, Emma," she had sighed. Emma's eyes had grown wistful
for an instant, then she had launched forth into a multitude of pompous
and wholly ridiculous reasons why her presence was needed at Harlowe
House that made Grace laugh, and, for the time, banished the shadow from
her face.

Later as she climbed into the taxicab that was to take her to the
station, Emma's face, with its funny little twisted smile, rose before
her, and she experienced fresh regret at leaving her behind. It was
hardly fair that she should have so much and Emma so little. How bravely
Emma had stepped into the breach made by her father's sudden reverse of
fortune. So deep was Grace in her own thoughts that she did not realize
that they had reached the station until the car came to a sudden stop
and the driver stood holding open the door. Handing him her suit case
and traveling bag Grace stepped out of the car, and tendering the man
her fare, gathered up her luggage and headed for the station. Seating
herself on one of the wooden benches inside the station, she placed her
traveling effects on the floor beside her and compared her watch with
the station clock. Then she rose and going to the ticket window, which
had just opened, purchased her ticket and inquired as to whether the
train were on time.

"Fifteen minutes late," was the brief reply.

Grace went back to her bench, and, seating herself, opened a magazine
she had brought with her. She was turning the leaves interestedly when a
sudden banging of the station door caused her to glance up. Her eyes
were riveted in surprise upon Evelyn Ward, who, suit case in hand,
hurried over to her with, "Oh, Miss Harlowe, I wonder if you would mind
my going to New York with you. I am invited to Althea Parker's for the
week end, but she had to go down last night. I tried to see you at
Harlowe House, but you had already gone. I would have spoken to you last
night about going, but I wasn't quite sure whether I could make it or
not." Evelyn's tones were far from concerned.

"You are quite welcome to ride with me," returned Grace briefly. She
hardly liked the situation, yet she made it a rule not to interfere with
the amusements of the Harlowe House girls. When she had lived at Wayne
Hall Mrs. Elwood had never questioned the comings and goings of her
girls. Still Grace was not pleased with Evelyn's careless manner of
passing over her evident intention to go without even informing Grace of
her departure.

Once on the train the two kept up a desultory conversation. But little
sympathy existed between them, and the situation grew momentarily more
strained. Grace caught Evelyn taking sly peeps at the magazine which she
still held. With her usual good nature, Grace hailed the boy who passed
through the train with magazines and candy and bought another magazine.

"There is an article in this number which Miss Dean says is worth
reading," she explained. "Keep my magazine if you like, and I'll read
this."

For the next two hours not a word was exchanged. The two girls read on
and on. As the afternoon began to wane Evelyn finished her magazine,
took off her hat, and, leaning her head against the high green velvet
back of the seat, closed her eyes. At last Grace laid aside her reading,
and idly watched, with half dreaming eyes, the fleeting landscape.
Occasionally her gaze wandered, in unwilling admiration, to Evelyn's
lovely, tranquil face. Why was such great beauty coupled with such
tantalizing perversity of spirit? was the thought that sprang unbidden
to her mind.

It was long after dark when the two young women passed through the iron
gates of the station to where their friends awaited them. Anne, David,
Miriam and Arline stood eagerly watching for Grace. At almost the same
moment Evelyn spied Althea. On seeing Evelyn's companions, Althea
hurried forward in time to receive the much-coveted introduction to
Arline Thayer, Anne and the Nesbits. After a brief exchange of
courtesies Grace's friends bowed themselves off, gleefully escorting
Grace to David's car.

Althea stared moodily after them. "I think they are awfully snobbish,"
she remarked resentfully. "How did you manage to get away, Evelyn?"

"Don't ask me," Evelyn made a gesture of deprecation. "All I hope is
that I'm not found out. I'm glad I overheard Miss Harlowe talking last
night about going to-day. If worse comes to worst, I'll say I came down
here with her."

"But what if she denies it?"

Evelyn shrugged her shoulders. "Ten chances to one I shall not be
missed, but if there is any trouble I'll appeal to her generosity of
spirit to help me. She pretends to be so helpful, let her demonstrate
her helpfulness by standing between me and Miss Sheldon."



CHAPTER XVIII

A HUMILIATING REPRIMAND


To Grace forty-eight hours with her chums seemed hardly longer than
forty-eight minutes, and she found it an exceedingly difficult task to
divide her time equally among them. She went directly to the Southards
for dinner, and to the theater that night with David, Miriam and Miss
Southard to see Everett Southard and Anne as the ill-fated king and
queen in "Macbeth." To her delight she discovered that the opposite box
held Elfreda, Arline, Ruth, Mabel Ashe, Mr. Ashe and Mr. Thayer, and
after the play they were Mr. Ashe's guests at supper.

On Saturday the devoted little band gathered at Arline's home at nine
o'clock in the morning, determined to crowd every possible bit of
pleasure into the hours that were theirs. On Sunday it was Mabel Ashe
who played hostess, and on Sunday night a goodly company saw Grace to
the station and safely on her way.

It was eleven o'clock when she let herself into Harlowe House, and
hurried upstairs, anxious to relax and be comfortable after her long
ride. As she had expected, on opening the door of her room, she saw
Emma, her tall, thin figure wrapped in the folds of a gay crepe kimono,
seated before the table, industriously looking over, and marking,
themes.

"Hello, Gracious," she caroled amiably, laying down the sheet of paper
she held in her hand and making a quick dive for Grace. "I began to
thing you weren't coming home to-night. How are you, and how is
everybody? In spite of being fairly swamped with themes, I managed to
arise in my might and make cocoa. It's in the chocolate pot and there
are some extra fine Dean-made sandwiches to match. Now say, 'Emma, you
are one in a million, and a cook besides.' Give me your coat and hat.
Your kimono and slippers await you."

"What a dear you are, Emma," declared Grace, as she handed her wraps to
Emma and began to unhook her skirt. "How I wish you had been with us.
The girls were so sorry you couldn't come. Elfreda says she is going to
descend upon you some Friday and carry you off for a week end,
regardless of howls and protests."

Emma's expressive face lighted with whimsical tenderness. "J. Elfreda
never forgets, does she? Here's your cocoa, Grace. Help yourself to
sandwiches."

Seating themselves opposite each other at the oak center table, the
plate of sandwiches and the chocolate pot between them, the two young
women settled themselves for a talk which lasted until after midnight.

"We are setting a fearful example for our girls," remarked Grace
yawning, as they finally arose to prepare for bed. "I hope we haven't
disturbed Miss Ward. I haven't heard a sound from her room. She must be
asleep. I wonder when she came back."

"Came back from where?" asked Emma.

"From New York City. She took the same train that I took and sat with me
all the way there."

"She did!" exclaimed Emma. "That doesn't tally with what I heard in the
registrar's office Friday afternoon. I'm afraid she didn't ask
permission to go, Grace."

"Oh, she must have had permission!" A look of surprise, mingled with
consternation, sprang into Grace's eyes.

"Did she tell you she had the joyful sanction of the registrar?" quizzed
Emma.

"No--o. She made a half apology for not telling me that she was going to
New York. She said she was not sure of going until the last minute. I
supposed, of course, that she had permission. Why will she persist in
disobeying the rules of the college?" asked Grace despairingly. "What
was said in the registrar's office, Emma, or aren't you at liberty to
tell me?"

"Of course I am, otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it," declared Emma.
"Friday afternoon I went over to Overton Hall to see Miss Sheldon. Just
as I stepped into her office I met Evelyn coming out looking like a
young thunder cloud. I wondered what had happened to upset her sweet,
even disposition," Emma's tones were distinctly ironical, "and without
asking any questions I soon found out. Miss Sheldon herself looked
anything but pleased and said: 'That Miss Ward is the most insolent girl
with whom I have ever come in contact. I refused to allow her to go to
New York City for the week end and she made some extremely impertinent
remarks to me. She has a condition to work off. I felt justified in
refusing her.'"

"And she disregarded that refusal and went?" questioned Grace
wonderingly. "We would never have dreamed of defying the registrar,
would we, Emma?"

"Hardly," returned Emma. "Even Laura Atkins in her most anarchistic
moods, or Kathleen West with all her thorns set, would have stopped
short of that. I hope the high and mighty Evelyn won't try to drag you
into this affair."

"How can she?" demanded Grace. "I had nothing to do with it."

"Yes, but you rode down to New York City on the same train and in the
same seat with her. She is quite likely to tell the registrar that you
countenanced her going even though Miss Sheldon didn't."

"Oh, she couldn't!" burst forth Grace.

"Why couldn't she?" demanded Emma.

Grace shook her head.

"I think you are a trifle hard on her, Emma. I know she is selfish, but
I don't believe she is malicious."

"I wish I had your faith in people, Grace," said Emma sincerely. "You
always believe them honest until they prove themselves villains, don't
you?"

When the next afternoon, Grace received a curt note from Miss Sheldon
asking her to come to her office at five o'clock, Emma's prophesy loomed
large before her.

"It must be something else," reflected the troubled house mother, as she
prepared for her call on Miss Sheldon. Once in the registrar's office, a
quick glance at the older woman's face, set in lines of annoyance, was
enough to convince Grace that Emma's conjecture had been only too true.
Evelyn had in some way managed to make her a party to her disobedience.

"Good afternoon, Miss Harlowe," said Miss Sheldon stiffly. There was no
trace of her usual friendly manner. "I sent for you this afternoon for
the purpose of clearing up any misunderstanding you may have in regard
to your authority here at Overton. The students in the various houses
are in every instance subject to the rules of Overton College, and it is
the purpose of the faculty to see that these rules are enforced. You
have no authority to grant a student leave of absence, particularly
after that permission has been refused by me."

Then there followed a further sharp reprimand to which Grace listened
gravely, her calm, gray eyes never for an instant leaving Miss Sheldon's
face. Something in the younger woman's composure had its effect upon the
registrar, who, on first seeing Grace, had allowed her displeasure free
rein. She looked searchingly into the quiet face before her and said
more gently, "Perhaps I should have asked you to tell me your side of
the story, before condemning you, Miss Harlowe."

Ah, so there was another side of the story! It was apparently as Emma
had said.

Tears of hurt pride burned behind Grace's eyes, but they never fell.
With a brave effort she steadied her voice. "I do not know what has been
said to you, Miss Sheldon, but I do know that I have never given any
girl at Harlowe House leave of absence from Overton. I would not presume
to do so. I hope I understand the limit of my authority too clearly to
overstep it."

"Then you did not take Miss Ward with you to New York City last Friday
afternoon?"

"Miss Ward was with me on the train and shared my seat, but until I met
her in the station I had not the remotest idea that she intended to go.
I dislike to tell you this, Miss Sheldon, but since you have asked me
this question I can only tell you the truth."

"I am sorry I spoke so hastily, Miss Harlowe," apologized Miss Sheldon,
"but I was greatly displeased. I have sent for Miss Ward. Will you wait
until she comes? You need not unless you wish to do so."

"Thank you," said Grace, a shade of offended dignity in her voice, "but
I must go back to Harlowe House. It is almost dinner time. Good evening,
Miss Sheldon."

Once outside Overton Hall her composure took wings and she brushed the
thick-gathering tears from her eyes as she hurried blindly across the
snow-covered campus in the gray twilight. She was still smarting under
the hurt of the registrar's sharp words. It was unspeakably humiliating
to be told that she had overstepped her authority. She had thought that
Miss Sheldon knew her too well for that. It merely served to show how
little one knew persons, she reflected bitterly. As for Evelyn, the
angry color dyed Grace's cheeks afresh as she thought of the girl's
treachery, and she made a resentful vow that Evelyn Ward should not be
admitted to Harlowe House for her sophomore year.

The brisk walk across the campus in the crisp winter air cooled her
anger, and by the time she had reached the house she felt her
resentment, in a measure, vanishing.

"You were right, Emma," she announced as she walked into their room
where Emma sat plodding laboriously through her weekly mending.

"About Evelyn?"

"Yes."

Emma finished the sleeve of the blouse she was mending with a flourish.
Then, casting a swift, upward glance at Grace, she began singing
dolorously.

     "Mend, mend, mend,
      On the waist that's weary and worn.
      Stitch, stitch, stitch,
      Each tatter so jagged and torn.
      Collar and cuffs and sleeves,
      Cobble and darn and baste,
      Before they gape in a ghastly row,
      And shriek the dirge of the waist."

Grace's gloomy expression changed to a faint smile which broadened as
Emma's chant went on. At the end of the verse she laughed outright.

"I couldn't be sad for long with you about, Emma," she said
affectionately. "How can you think of such funny things on the spur of
the moment?"

"Oh, I don't know," drawled Emma. "Tell me about everything, Gracious."

"I will," nodded Grace, "but I must run downstairs to the kitchen for a
minute. I'll be back directly."

It was fifteen minutes before she returned. Emma had finished her
mending and was on her knees before the chiffonier putting her waists
away.

"Now I'll tell you," began Grace.

Emma turned her head to listen, but before Grace had time to begin the
door was flung violently open and Evelyn Ward rushed in, her blue eyes
bright with anger. "How could you tell Miss Sheldon that I didn't go to
New York with you? You could have helped me and she wouldn't have said a
word to Miss Wilder. Now I shall be expelled from college and it is all
your fault. You are--"

At this juncture, however, Emma Dean took a hand. Without giving Grace
an opportunity to say a word she marched over to the excited Evelyn.
"Miss Ward, leave this room instantly, and do not come into it again
until you have asked Miss Harlowe to pardon you."

In contrast to Evelyn's half-screamed denunciation Emma's voice was low
and even, but it vibrated with stern command.

"I--she--" began Evelyn, but the look in Emma's eyes was too much for
her. With a half-sobbing cry of anger she rushed from the room.



CHAPTER XIX

AN UNINTENTIONAL LISTENER


"Delightful young person," commented Emma dryly, as the resounding slam
of the door echoed through the room.

Grace walked slowly over to the chair which she had been occupying when
Evelyn had made her tempestuous entrance, and sat down. There was a
brief silence, then, "Do you suppose Miss Wilder will send Evelyn home?"

"Grace, you aren't going to try to intercede for that hateful girl after
this," Emma's tones quivered with vexation.

"I don't know. I suppose it wouldn't be of much use. Miss Wilder won't
tolerate out and out disobedience. I--yes, Emma, I'm going to see if I
can save her. I'm going now."

Grace sprang from her chair and began slipping into her wraps.

Emma eyed her moodily, struggling between approval and disapproval, but
saying nothing.

"Good-bye, dear," called Grace over her shoulder as she hurried out the
door. "I'm afraid I'll be late for dinner. Don't wait for me."

Outside the house she paused, glanced toward Overton Hall, then set off
in the opposite direction toward Miss Wilder's home.

"I hope she's at home," was Grace's anxious thought as she rang the
bell.

"Miss Wilder's in the library, miss. I'll call her," informed the maid.
"Come in. It's Miss Harlowe wants to see her, isn't it?"

"Yes," Grace smiled in pleasant appreciation of the maid's remembrance
of her.

"Good evening, Miss Harlowe." Miss Wilder rose to greet her unexpected
visitor and offered her a chair.

Grace returned the greeting, then seated herself directly opposite the
dean.

"Miss Wilder, I came to see you," she burst forth, "to ask you if there
is--if you could give Miss Ward another chance. She came to me to-night
and said that she was to be sent home for what happened last Saturday. I
am sorry that she has put herself in such an unpleasant position, but I
am more sorry still for her sister, who has made so many sacrifices to
give her a college education. I never told you much about Miss Ward,
Miss Wilder. Let me tell you now."

Miss Wilder listened attentively to Grace's eager outpouring.

"Miss Ward's case has not yet been settled," she said slowly. "It rests
with me whether she shall remain at Overton. I will think over what you
have told me. I am not prepared to give you an answer now. Come to my
office at four o'clock to-morrow afternoon and bring Miss Ward with
you."

"Thank you, Miss Wilder. Good night."

Feeling that there was nothing more to be said, Grace rose and held out
her hand to the dean. The older woman took the hand in both of hers and
looked deep into Grace's honest eyes.

"You are a true house mother," she said gently. "I know something of how
greatly Miss Ward has tried your patience, and if I do decide to give
her an opportunity to begin over again it will be largely because you
have asked me."

When Grace let herself into Harlowe House a little later a hasty glance
into the dining-room revealed the fact that dinner was over. "I'll come
down and get mine after awhile," she decided, and ran upstairs to her
own room.

"Well?" inquired Emma as Grace entered.

"Pretty well," retorted Grace. "I won't know positively until to-morrow.
Is Miss Ward in her room?"

"She is," stated Emma, "and, judging from the sounds, packing is in full
swing. I have heard her trunk lid banging frequently and wickedly, and
she is opening and shutting the drawers of her chiffonier in an anything
but gentle manner."

"I must see her," declared Grace.

"Then prepare to be greeted with an icy blast," predicted Emma.

The next moment found Grace knocking on Evelyn's door.

There was a rush of steps, the door was flung open and Evelyn faced her,
white and defiant.

"Miss Wilder wishes you to be in her office at four o'clock to-morrow
afternoon. It will be to your interest to do as she requests," stated
Grace briefly. Without giving Evelyn an opportunity for speech she
turned and walked down the hall to her room.

"Back so soon and no bones broken," commented Emma.

Grace laughed a little in spite of herself. "Really, Emma, this is a
serious matter," she declared. "I'm not at all sure that Miss Wilder
will give Miss Ward another chance."

"Don't think about it and she will. Worry over it and you'll defeat your
own hope. Think about your dinner instead. It's downstairs keeping hot
for you. I'll go down with you and entertain you while you eat. I have a
letter from Elfreda which I've been keeping as a surprise. There is
something in it that you will be glad to know."

The "something" was Elfreda's announcement that Miriam had invited her
to go to Oakdale for the Easter holidays.

"That settles it, Emma, you simply must come home with me!" exclaimed
Grace. "You know you delight in J. Elfreda."

"I do, I do," solemnly agreed Emma. "I'll think it over, Gracious, and
if my finances can be stretched to cover my railroad fare I'll be 'wid
yez.' But who will look after the Harlowites if I fold my tents like the
Arabs and set sail for Oakdale?"

"I don't know yet. Louise Sampson, perhaps. She is so capable and the
girls not only like her but respect her as well. I must talk with her
first. She may not wish to assume the responsibility. Then again she may
have other Easter plans. We shall manage, somehow, to arrange things
satisfactorily."

Louise Sampson had no definite Easter plans, so she said, when Grace
broached the subject to her the following day. With never-failing
good-nature she readily agreed to take charge of Harlowe House during
the absence of Grace and Emma, provided Grace felt confident that she
was able to measure up to her responsibility.

"I'm so thankful that's arranged," sighed Grace as Louise left her
office after luncheon to return to her classes. "I wish some other
things could be as easily disposed of."

As she dressed that afternoon to go to Miss Wilder's office she was far
from joyous. She disliked the idea of meeting Evelyn in the dean's
office. She was confident that Miss Wilder would state frankly to Evelyn
why she had been spared.

Her conjecture was only too well grounded. When Evelyn appeared in the
dean's office at precisely four o'clock, half anxious, half defiant,
Miss Wilder read her a lecture, the cutting severity of which caused
Evelyn to flush and pale with humiliation and anger. "Remember, Miss
Ward," she emphasized, "it is solely due to Miss Harlowe's intercession
in your behalf that I have decided to allow you to remain at Overton."

"Oh, dear, I hope she isn't going to make Evelyn apologize to me," was
Grace's thought. "Why did Miss Wilder ask me to come here to-day?"

As if in answer to her unspoken question, Miss Wilder went on to say,
"Miss Harlowe came to me last night and asked me not to send you home. I
requested her to be present to-day to hear what I wished to say to you.
I trust, Miss Ward, that, hereafter, you will see fit to observe the
rules of Overton College and live up to them, as a second infringement
of this nature will mean instant dismissal from Overton. That is all, I
believe."

Thus dismissed Evelyn left the room without a word.

Grace lingered for a moment's conversation with Miss Wilder, then left
the office and started across the campus for Harlowe House. Half way
there she glanced at her watch. It was not yet five o'clock. She would
have time to do a little shopping before dinner. Turning her steps in
the opposite direction she was soon hurrying along Overton's main
business thoroughfare.

It was ten minutes to six when, her shopping done, she came within sight
of Harlowe House. She wondered if Evelyn were at home. Of late she had
been more intimate than ever with Althea Parker. As Grace walked into
the house and slowly up the stairs the pale face of Ida Ward rose before
her. She was glad that she had been able to avert the disastrous
consequences of Evelyn's disobedience so that Evelyn alone should
suffer.

Entering her room she took off her wraps and began rearranging her hair
preparatory to going downstairs to dinner. The sound of footsteps in the
hall, the opening of Evelyn's door, then Evelyn's voice declaring
excitedly, "You can do it if you want to," caused Grace to lay down her
brush and involuntarily listen for a reply.

It came, and in Mary Reynolds' distressed tones. "Oh, really, I
couldn't, Evelyn. Please, please don't ask me."

"You must," Evelyn's command broke forth sharply.

"I won't," Mary refusal gathered strength. "You have no right to ask me
and I have no right to do it."

"Then you are not my friend if you don't do as I ask," flung back
Evelyn, "and I shall never speak to you again. Please go away and don't
ever come to this room again."

"I am your friend," quivered Mary, "that's why I refuse to do something
which will surely make trouble for you."

"How can it make trouble for me?" demanded Evelyn. "You know as well as
I--"

But Grace, coming to a sudden realization that she was listening to
something not intended for her ears, sprang from her seat before her
dressing-table and went downstairs, wondering not a little what it all
meant.



CHAPTER XX

A DOUBLE PUZZLE


Mary Reynolds slipped into her place at dinner that night with red
eyelids and a woebegone expression on her small face. Evelyn did not
enter the dining-room until after the others had began their meal.
Despite the air of careless indifference with which she took her seat,
Grace fancied she saw a gleam of anxiety in her eyes. From the few words
she had overheard she understood not only the meaning of Mary's
dejection, but also of Evelyn's anxious look. But what was it that
Evelyn had required of Mary and that Mary had bluntly refused to do?
Suppose Evelyn had involved herself in some fresh difficulty. To Grace
the thought was distinctly disturbing. Still she felt that it was not
within her province to interfere. After all it might be nothing of vital
importance, merely a girls' disagreement.

Resolutely dismissing the matter from her mind, Grace thought no more of
it. That evening Evelyn came to her as she sat reading in the living
room and, in her most distant manner, notified Grace that she intended
to go to the dance to be given by the Gamma Kappa Phi, a Willston
fraternity, at their fraternity house. Miss Hilton, a member of the
Overton faculty, would chaperon her. There were four other freshmen
besides herself invited.

Grace made no objection to Evelyn's announcement. After the severe
reprimand she had received it was hardly probable that Evelyn would
again misrepresent matters. Quite by accident the next day she
encountered Miss Hilton upon the campus, and the teacher confirmed
Evelyn's story by mentioning the dance and inquiring if Grace had been
asked to do chaperon duty. "I am surprised that you weren't," had been
Miss Hilton's comment when Grace answered that her services had not been
solicited.

Grace had smiled to herself as she went on her way. She was not in the
least surprised at not being invited by Evelyn to play chaperon. She was
glad that she had not been asked. She decided that she would not have
accepted. The dance was to be held on the Friday evening of the
following week, and on the Saturday morning after she would be on her
way to Oakdale.

How long and yet how short the days seemed that lay between her and
home. Long because of her impatience to see her father and mother, short
because of the multifold details to be attended to in Harlowe House.

"I'm so tired," she sighed when, at seven o'clock on Friday evening, she
saw her trunk and Emma's safely in the hands of the expressman. "Thank
goodness our packing is done and gone and out of the way. Let's do
recreation stunts to-night, Emma. Suppose we call upon Kathleen and
Patience. Incidentally we can pay our respects to Laura Atkins and
Mildred Taylor. If they aren't busy we might have a quiet celebration
just for auld lang syne at Vinton's. We can be home by ten o'clock."

"All right," agreed Emma, who knelt on the floor, her glasses pushed
above her forehead, wrestling valiantly with a refractory strap of her
suit case. A moment and she had buckled it into place with a triumphant
cluck. "There, that won't have to be done at the last minute. Shall I
telephone the girls that we are coming? It's after seven now."

"Yes, do."

Emma left the room returning shortly.

"They are all at home. The sooner we reach Wayne Hall the sooner the
celebration will begin," she reminded.

"Then we'll go at once."

Five minutes later the two young women were on their way across the
campus. As they neared Wayne Hall a limousine passed containing Miss
Hilton, Althea Parker and a freshman friend of Evelyn's. Althea was
driving. She bowed curtly to Grace and Emma as her car whizzed by them.

"They are going for Evelyn, I suppose," commented Emma.

"Yes. Oh, bother!" exclaimed Grace, "I've forgotten a letter to Arline
which I must mail to-night. Will you wait until I go back for it?"

With light feet Grace sped across the campus, letting herself into the
house with her latch key. As she stepped into the hall, a buzz of voices
caused her eyes to be fixed on the living-room. Through the parted
curtains she saw a dazzling figure which was standing in the middle of
the living room, surrounded by a group of admiring girls.

It was Evelyn, looking like some wonderful fairy vision in a gown of
apricot satin and chiffon, embroidered with exquisite little sprays of
tiny rosebuds. The excitement of wholesale admiration had deepened the
blue of her eyes to violet and her usual expression of bored
indifference had changed to one of intense animation, due to her love of
adulation. Grace watched her fascinatedly for a moment, then,
remembering that Emma was waiting for her, she hurried on upstairs for
her letter and out of the house, unobserved by the group of girls in the
living room.

"Was I gone long?" she asked as she rejoined her friend. "I stopped for
a minute in the hall to look at Evelyn Ward. She was posing in the
middle of the living room for the benefit of an admiring populace. She
is going to the Gamma Kappa Phi dance. Miss Hilton and Miss Parker and
some of our girls composed the populace. I suppose I ought to have gone
in and spoken to them instead of slipping out like a criminal, but I
didn't wish to lose time. Really, Emma, I can't begin to tell you how
beautiful Evelyn looked!"

"Her white silk evening gown is a work of art. I wish I had a sister Ida
to sew for me," commented Emma.

"Oh, she wasn't wearing her white silk. Her gown was apricot satin
and--" Grace came to an abrupt stop. "Why--she--that was a new gown. How
could she--"

"Have a new gown when her sister is too ill to make it," supplemented
Emma dryly.

Two pairs of eyes exchanged questioning glances.

"She may have brought it with her when she came to Overton," said Grace.
"She is very secretive, you know. All along she may have been saving it
for some such occasion as this dance."

"True enough," admitted Emma. "Always take people at their face value
until you find they haven't any," she added cheerfully.

"I shall," declared Grace. "I'm not going to spoil my Easter vacation by
worrying over something that is really Evelyn's own affair."



CHAPTER XXI

THE PUZZLE DEEPENS


Grace experienced a pleasure in being at home for Easter so deep as to
be akin to pain. When as a student at Overton she had traveled happily
home for her Christmas and Easter vacations there had been a difference.
Then, her classmates had much to do with making it easier to be away
from her adored father and mother. But now that she had bravely launched
her boat on the tempestuous sea of work, she found that home was a far
distant shore, for whose cheery lights she often yearned. To be sure
Emma was a never-failing source of consolation, but there were more
times than one when the clutching fingers of homesickness were at her
throat.

To Mr. and Mrs. Harlowe, Emma Dean was an unfailing source of amusement
and delight. In Hippy, too, she found a kindred spirit, and when Elfreda
arrived the funny trio was complete. It seemed to Grace that she had not
laughed so much in years. Anne, Jessica and Reddy had not been able to
join their friends for the Easter holidays and were loudly mourned and
sorely missed. Tom Gray managed to come on for a two days' visit and
cause Grace the only unhappy moments she spent at home by again asking
her to give up her beloved work to marry him.

"I'm so sorry for Tom," she confided to her mother, on the night before
leaving home to return to Overton, "but I can't give up my work, even
for him. Really and truly, mother, I wish I did love Tom in the way he
wants me to love him, but I don't. I feel toward him just as I felt when
I first met him. He's a good comrade; nothing more."

"If you loved Tom, your father and I would be glad to welcome him as our
son, Grace," was her mother's quiet reply. "He is a remarkably fine type
of young man, but unless you reach the point where you are certain that
he is, and always will be, the one man in the world for you, you would
be doing not only yourself but him too, the greatest possible injury if
you promised to marry him."

"That is just it!" exclaimed Grace. "I told him so, but I know that
didn't console him. Last June when I came home from Overton I thought
perhaps I might say 'yes' later on. But now that I've been working for
almost a year I find I'd rather keep on working. It would be dreadful,
of course, if some day I should suddenly discover that I did love him
enough to marry him and then he shouldn't ask me. That isn't likely to
happen. I don't believe I could give up my work for any man. My whole
heart is in it."

In spite of her declaration of unswerving loyalty to her work, more than
once, Tom's fine resolute face rose before Grace on the return journey
to Overton. During the afternoon Emma, usually loquacious, became
absorbed in a book, so that Grace, who could not settle herself to read,
had altogether too much opportunity for reflection.

She was inwardly thankful when the lights of Overton twinkled into view.
Emma was still deep in her book. "We are almost there, Emma," she
reminded.

Emma glanced out of the window, then closed her book and began to gather
up her belongings.

"I wonder how things are at Harlowe House," mused Grace, as they crossed
the station platform. "Come on, Emma. There's a taxicab just turning
into the station driveway."

Three minutes later they were speeding through the silent streets. It
was after nine o'clock and there were few persons passing.

"No place like home," caroled Emma as they let themselves into Harlowe
House. In the living-room they found Louise Sampson and half a dozen
girls. At sight of Grace and Emma, Louise came quickly forward.

"We thought you would come!" she exclaimed, "so we decided to watch for
you. We have hot chocolate and sandwiches. Do say you're hungry."

"We are ravenous," assured Emma, "and as soon as we make a trip upstairs
and dispossess ourselves of our goods and chattels we'll come to the
party."

"Everything has gone beautifully," Louise confided to Grace, when later
she dropped down on the window seat beside her, where the latter had
established herself with a sandwich and a cup of chocolate. "Only one
thing bothered me, and that was the way Miss Reynolds moped. She and
Miss Ward had a quarrel and poor Miss Reynolds still goes about looking
like a red-eyed little ghost. No one can find out her trouble and no one
seems to be able to comfort her. One day last week I almost thought I
saw Miss Ward crying too, but I must have been mistaken. She is too
proud to cry over anything. There are several letters for you, Miss
Harlowe. I put them in the top drawer of your desk in the office."

At the word "letters" Grace had risen to her feet. "You'll excuse me if
I go for them at once, won't you?" she asked.

"Of course," smiled Louise.

A goodly pile of letters met her eyes as she opened the drawer. Grace
ran through the envelopes with eager fingers. The square thin envelope
with the foreign postmark meant a letter from Eleanor Savelli. There was
one from Mabel Ashe and another from Mabel Allison, Arline Thayer and
Ruth Denton were also represented in the collection and on the very
bottom of the pile lay a square envelope addressed in Anne's neat hand.

Grace pounced upon it joyfully, and, laying the others on the slide of
her desk, tore it open and became immediately absorbed in the closely
written sheets. When she had finished reading the letter she laid it
down, then picking it up again turned to a paragraph on the last sheet.

"I promised to try to help Miss Ward," wrote Anne. "Well, I have
practically secured an engagement for her with Mr. Forest. It is an
ingenue part in 'The Reckoning,' which is to run in New York City all
summer, at his theater. If she can come to New York as soon as college
closes Mr. and Miss Southard wish her to stay at their home. We can soon
tell whether she can play the part or not. If she can't, Mr. Southard
will be able to give her 'bits' in his company, but the other part is by
far the best engagement if she can make good in it. Both Mr. and Miss
Southard say, however, that they must have a letter of consent from her
sister before they will undertake launching her in the theatrical world.
They will write her if Miss Ward wishes them to do so. It is a really
great opportunity for her. You know how easily and delightfully I earned
my way through college. Let me know as soon as you can, Grace, what she
wishes to do."

Grace read this paragraph half a dozen times. Her other letters lay
unheeded before her. Finally she gathered them up and, with the open
letter in her hand, went slowly upstairs. At Evelyn's door she paused
and listened. She heard the sound of some one moving about within. Yes,
Evelyn was still up. Grace rapped boldly on the door.

A moment and it swung open. Evelyn stood staring blankly at Grace. She
was wrapped in the folds of a pale blue silk kimono. Her hair hung in
loose golden waves far below her waist and she reminded Grace of the
beautiful Rapunzel of fairy tale fame who was shut up in a tower by a
wicked witch and forced each night to let down her golden hair so that
her dreadful jailer might climb up and into the tower window.

"Miss Ward," began Grace, without giving Evelyn time to utter a word, "I
am sorry to disturb you so late in the evening, but I have very good
news for you. Miss Pierson has all but secured an engagement for you in
'The Reckoning,' a new play which is to run in New York City all summer.
Read what she says."

Grace handed the sheet of paper to Evelyn.

The girl stretched forth her hand mechanically for it. She
still regarded Grace dully. Then to Grace's utter amazement she
burst into tears. "I can't--take--the--engagement," she sobbed.
"I'm--not--coming--back--to--Overton--next year."

"What can have happened to her!" wondered Grace. Aloud she said: "Don't
decide too hastily, Miss Ward. Take three or four days in which to think
things over. I'll come in and see you to-morrow."

Evelyn made some incoherent response, unintelligible to Grace. The
latter realized that in her present state Evelyn could not be comforted.
It was best to leave her entirely alone until she had had her cry out.
To-morrow would be time enough to try again to try to discover what had
happened.



CHAPTER XXII

TWO LETTERS


Shortly after Grace returned to her room Emma joined her.

"Where did you go? You are not the only one whose correspondents rose
nobly to the occasion," she exulted, holding up several letters. "You
haven't read yours yet, have you. Let's get ready for bed, put on our
dressing gowns, and have a letter reading orgy."

"All right," agreed Grace. "I've already opened one of mine. It was from
Anne. She sends her love to you, and what do you think, Emma?" Grace
lowered her voice. "She has secured a New York engagement for Evelyn
Ward. I saw Miss Ward to-night, but something is troubling her. When I
went to the door to tell her what Anne had done she began to cry. I
couldn't find out what ailed her, and the more I talked the harder she
cried. She said, however, that she couldn't accept Anne's offer. She
thinks she won't come back to Overton."

"Happy Overton," commented Emma unsympathetically. "Now hurry into your
dressing gown and let's begin our letters."

Evelyn appeared at breakfast the next morning looking weary and haggard.
Her face was very pale and her eyes were heavy. By night, however, she
seemed to have regained something of her old poise. Covertly watching
her, Grace noticed that for some unknown reason she was much subdued.
Several days afterward she came to Grace and finally refused Anne's
offer. "But are you quite certain that you are acting wisely, Miss
Ward?" Grace asked in perplexed amazement. "Last winter you were anxious
to go into dramatic work."

"I have changed my mind," was Evelyn's sole reply.

Grace wrote to Anne advising her of Evelyn's refusal, but adding that
she wished Anne would keep Evelyn in mind. "I can't help feeling that
she is acting against her real desires and that later she will realize
her mistake."

The little that was left of April passed quickly. Life went on placidly
enough at Harlowe House, although Grace found few idle moments. With the
first of June she began a detailed report of her year's work to be
presented to the faculty and to Mrs. Gray. This report had not been
required of her. She was making it merely for her own satisfaction. With
her it was a matter of pride in having been a faithful steward. She had
tried to safeguard not only the interests of the girls under her roof,
but Mrs. Gray's interests as well.

"I hope I've been a good house mother," she murmured wistfully, as,
seated in her office one bright Friday afternoon, she worked on her
report. The ring of the postman caused her to lay down her pen and hurry
into the hall. To her surprise she saw Evelyn Ward had forestalled her.
She had opened the door for the postman, and now stood rapidly going
over the pile of letters in her hand. Grace saw her separate two letters
from the pile. At this instant Evelyn glanced up. She uttered a sharp
exclamation of surprise when she saw Grace standing beside her. Two
letters fell from her hands.

Grace stooped to pick them up. "Did I startle you, Miss Ward? I did not
mean to. I did not know you were in the house. I thought the girls had
gone to their classes."

[Illustration: "Did I Startle You, Miss Ward?"]

"I--I--am late," stammered Evelyn. "I'm going to my botany recitation in
a minute. I--expected a letter. Here is the mail." She thrust the
letters she had been holding into Grace's hand, and, turning, almost ran
up the stairs.

For an instant Grace's eyes followed Evelyn's disappearing figure, then
she turned her attention to the letters. She still held the two she had
picked up from the floor in her one hand. Glancing at them she saw that
they were both addressed to her. No doubt Evelyn had intended to leave
them on her desk. Rapidly sorting the other letters she found another
for herself in Anne's handwriting. Placing the letters for the various
members of the household in the bulletin board Grace retired to her
office to read Anne's letter.

     "DEAREST GRACE:

     "Just a line to tell you that the part in 'The Reckoning' is still
      open. Mr. Forest cannot find the type of girl he wishes for the
      part. She must be dazzlingly, but naturally, blonde and very
      beautiful. I am sure if he were to see Miss Ward he would engage
      her at once, even though she has had no dramatic experience. Why
      not let her read this note? Perhaps she may change her mind. She
      will never have a better opportunity. I am ready and willing to
      help her. Am writing in a rush. It is almost time for me to go on.
      With much love. Will write more fully later.

      "Yours as ever, ANNE."

Grace laid down the letter with a slight frown. Since Evelyn's first
refusal to consider Anne's proposal Grace had held little communication
with her. Of late Evelyn had gone about her affairs with a curious air
of repression, which reminded Grace of the terrible calm that so often
precedes a storm.

"I'll watch for her when she comes in from her classes and give her
Anne's letter," said Grace, half aloud. She picked up the next envelope
and looked curiously at the unfamiliar writing. The postmark was all but
obliterated. Tearing the envelope she drew forth the letter, unfolded it
and read:

     "DEAR MISS HARLOWE:

     "More than once I have planned to write and thank you for your
      goodness to Evelyn, but I have been so very busy that the time has
      slipped by faster than I realized. Fortunately, for Evelyn and me,
      I have had a great deal of work to do and have been in
      exceptionally good health, so that it has been easier than I
      thought to raise the money to pay her college fees. I will enclose
      the second payment of her fee in a letter which I am writing to
      her. I have mentioned in my letter to her that I have written to
      you. I thank you many times for your goodness to my little sister
      and trust that she has been truly appreciative of your kindness to
      her. Trusting that you have been well and that you have met with
      the greatest success in your year's work. With grateful thanks and
      best wishes.

     "Yours sincerely,

     "IDA WARD."

Grace read the letter through three times. When she raised her eyes from
it her face wore an expression of mingled horrified suspicion and
unbelief. Surely it could not be possible, and yet--before her mental
eyes flashed the vision of that wet January afternoon when she had come
back to Harlowe House from her Christmas vacation and had been greeted
by the sound of Evelyn's sobs as she passed her door. How she had gone
to Evelyn's room and there heard the pitiful story of Ida Ward's illness
and her failure to send Evelyn's college fees, and of how, through the
Semper Fidelis Fund, she had come forward and bridged Evelyn's
difficulty.

What did it mean? "She must have--" muttered Grace. In her agitation she
spoke aloud. Then she stopped abruptly. She would not condemn Evelyn
without a hearing, but Evelyn would have to explain, if explanation were
possible. She laid the letter on her desk and turning away from it tore
open the last envelope, which bore the name of a business house in one
corner. It contained a bill from Hanford's, the largest department store
in Overton. At the bottom was written. "This account is long overdue.
Please remit at once." Grace had a charge account at Hanford's on which,
occasionally, she allowed certain girls in the house to buy goods,
merely as a matter of accommodation to them. Her gaze traveled down the
list of items in bewilderment.

"Why!" she exclaimed. "I never bought a gown there that cost
seventy-five dollars, or silk stockings or a scarf. There must be some
mistake. I know that none of the girls have either. I haven't bought
anything since February. Let me see. It's only three o'clock. I think
I'll walk down to Hanford's and have the matter adjusted. I must see
Evelyn too, as soon as she comes in."

Grace went upstairs for her hat and was soon on her way to the business
center of Overton. Her impatience to learn the truth received its first
check with the indifferent assurance of the clerk that Mr. Anderson, the
man in charge of the department of accounts, was busy upstairs.

"Then I'll wait for him." With a sigh of resignation she sat down on the
oak seat just outside the office window to wait.

It was twenty minutes past four when Mr. Anderson appeared.

"I can't let you know about this at once," was the accountant's
discouraging response when Grace laid the matter before him. "We'll take
it up with the saleswoman, then write you."

"Very well. I shall expect to hear from you within the next three days."
Grace turned away, far from satisfied. Yet there was nothing else to do.
Long since she had learned that the system employe of a department store
is a law unto himself, and as unchangeable in his methods as the most
stubborn Mede or Persian ever dreamed of being.

And now for her interview with Evelyn. How could she best approach the
girl whom she suspected of having first shamefully betrayed her sister's
confidence, then purposely misrepresented matters to her? And what had
Evelyn done with the money? These and similar painful questions occupied
her thoughts so fully that she did not realize that she had reached
Harlowe House until she found herself ascending the front steps.

Without giving herself time to consider delaying the disagreeable
interview, Grace hurried up the stairs. To her surprise Evelyn's door
stood partially open. She peered into the room, but it was empty of an
occupant. Stepping inside she glanced about her. Evelyn's hat was gone.
She had come in from her classes and gone out again.

Grace went slowly downstairs. She was sorry that she had not been able
to have her talk with Evelyn before the others came in from their day's
recitations. She decided to wait until after dinner. When Evelyn went to
her room she would follow her there. The longer she delayed facing
Evelyn with her sister's letter the harder the task would become. But at
dinner time Evelyn's place was vacant.

At ten o'clock that night she had not come in.

Becoming alarmed Grace telephoned to Althea Parker to know if Evelyn
were with her. In reply to her anxious inquiry Althea declared she had
not seen Evelyn for two days. Uncertain as to the wisest course to
pursue Grace concluded to wait until Emma came in from an evening's
visit with Patience Eliot.

It was almost eleven o'clock when Emma returned.

"I'm so glad you've come," greeted Grace as her friend entered their
room. "Evelyn Ward hasn't come in yet and I'm worried about her. I saw
her this afternoon, but she hasn't been here since then."

"Very likely she is with Miss Parker." Emma spoke in an unconcerned
tone.

"No she isn't. I telephoned Miss Parker. She hasn't seen Evelyn for two
days."

"She hasn't?" Emma glanced at Grace in surprise. The ring of anxiety in
Grace's voice had not been lost upon her. "What's happened, Gracious!"
she asked.

For answer Grace handed Ida Ward's letter to Emma. "Read it," she
commanded.

Emma read the letter. "Do you think--" she began.

"What do _you_ think?" interrupted Grace. "What can one think? Evelyn
received her letter from Ida Ward before I received this. She knew that
this letter was on the way. This afternoon I found her at the door
sorting the mail. She had two letters in one hand, which she had
separated from the others. When she saw me she dropped the two. I
stooped to pick them up. Both of them were for me. I said, 'Did I
startle you, Miss Ward?' and she stammered something about expecting a
letter. She shoved the other letters into my hands and ran upstairs. I
haven't seen her since."

"Who was the other letter from that she had picked out?"

"Oh, it was a bill from Hanford's. I--" Grace stopped short and stared
at Emma. A horrible suspicion had seized her. She was afraid that she
now understood the meaning of the bill she had received. In one of those
curious, illumining flashes, which sometimes reveal in an instant what
seems hopelessly obscure, she had hit upon the truth.

Briefly she outlined the situation to Emma, who had long been her
confidante.

"You'd better let matters rest till to-morrow," advised Emma. "It's too
late to try to find her to-night. We would only create comment and
arouse suspicion if we telephone to the houses where her friends live.
It wouldn't surprise me if she had left Overton for good and all."

"We must find her," declared Grace with decision.

"What will you do with her if you do find her?"

"I don't know. That will depend entirely upon her. You are right,
though, about waiting until morning. We must protect her from the
consequences of her own foolishness. For she isn't wicked, Emma. She has
been carried away by vanity and love of dress. Perhaps if we gave her
another chance she would live all this down and be a different girl."

"Perhaps," Emma's tone was skeptical. "For the sake of the community at
large let us hope for this much-to-be-desired metamorphosis."

But the next morning brought news of Evelyn in the shape of a letter
addressed to Grace, which came on the first delivery of the mail for the
day. With eager fingers Grace opened it. A slip of blue paper fluttered
to the floor as she unfolded it. Picking it up she saw it was a money
order made payable to Evelyn Ward, then she read:

     "DEAR MISS HARLOWE:

     "When you receive this letter I shall be far away from Harlowe
      House. I have done dreadful things and I cannot face you. All I can
      do is to go away where no one knows me, and begin over again. I
      used the money Ida sent me in the fall for my college fees to buy
      an evening dress. Then I told you that she was ill. I cried
      purposely to gain your sympathy because I knew about the Semper
      Fidelis Fund and was sure you would help me. I meant to pay it all
      back to you, and so I am going to New York to get work and do it,
      even though it takes me a long, long time.

     "But there is something still more dreadful to tell you. I wanted
      another new evening gown to wear to the Willston dance. I had paid
      my college fees for the year, so I thought I could take the money
      that Ida sent me for my payment and buy a gown and other things
      which I wanted. But Ida wrote and said she couldn't send the money
      just then, so I went to Hanford's department store and bought the
      things. I had them charged to your account. When the bill came I
      was terribly frightened. I thought they wouldn't send it for a long
      time. I just happened to see it in the bulletin board, so I took it
      out and tore it up.

     "Then I went to Mary Reynolds and tried to get her to lend me some
      of the treasury money until my money came, but she wouldn't do it.
      That is why she cried so often. When the first of May came I
      watched the bulletin board and took the bill again. It had
      Hanford's address in one corner so I knew it. All the time I kept
      hoping that Ida would send my money before it was too late.
      Yesterday morning it came, but in her letter she said she had
      written to you and told you how well she had been and about her
      work. I knew it would be dreadful for me if you received her
      letter, but I did not know when it would come, so I stayed away
      from my classes and watched the mail. I had the letter from Ida and
      the bill from the store in my hands when you surprised me this
      afternoon. You picked them up before I had a chance to do so. Then
      I knew that there was just one thing to do and that was to go away.

     "Please take the money order and pay the bill at the store. I will
      pay Semper Fidelis as soon as I can. I will write Ida and tell her
      how badly I have behaved, and when I go to work in New York I will
      send for my trunk. It is packed and ready to be shipped.

     "Forgive me if you can. I am sorry for everything. I wish I had been
      different. Good-bye and thank you for your great kindness to me. I
      did not deserve it. Please don't try to find me.

     "Penitently,

     "EVELYN WARD."

For a time Grace sat at her desk with the letter in her hand. Then she
stood up with the air of one who has come to a definite decision. "I'll
go to New York City to-day to look for her," she said half aloud. "I
believe she will try to get work at one of the theaters. Mr. Southard
and Anne will help me find her. She must come back to Overton. I feel
sure that she has suffered enough over this trouble to have learned her
lesson."

Grace ran upstairs and burst into her room with, "Emma, Evelyn has gone
to New York! I'm going to take the next train there. Read this letter.
It will tell you everything. I haven't time. I must make that 9.15
train."

Grace was in the middle of a hasty toilet when a knock sounded on the
door.

Emma answered it.

"Here's a telegram for Miss Harlowe." The maid held out a yellow
envelope.

Grace tore it open. One glance at the telegram and she began a joyful
dance about the room, waving it over her head. "Hurrah for Kathleen
West! She found Evelyn! Read it."

She held the telegram before Emma's eyes.

     "Evelyn with me. Return Overton Sunday. All well

     "KATHLEEN."

read Emma aloud. Turning to Grace she quoted with whimsical tenderness,
"To Kathleen West, girls, drink her down." Then with twinkling eyes she
added, "There's only one thing that I can say to express my sentiments,
and, with my sincerest apologies to the august faculty which trustfully
engaged me to teach English, I say it with heartfelt fervor, 'Can you
beat it?'"



CHAPTER XXIII

KATHLEEN WEST, CONFIDANTE


When Evelyn Ward left Grace Harlowe with the letters, which she had
tried so hard to obtain, in her possession, she had but one thought.
That thought was to leave Harlowe House before Grace realized the full
meaning of her guilt. For two days Evelyn's suit case had been packed
for just such an emergency. She had not been sure that she could stem
the tide of retribution that had set in against her, so she was prepared
to slip away if she failed to obtain the letters that meant her undoing.
Hardly had Grace reseated herself in her office when Evelyn, suit case
in hand, her hat on, the coat to her suit thrown over her arm, stole
stealthily down the stairs and let herself out of the house without a
sound. Once clear of the house she set off across the campus, almost at
a run, in the direction of the station. At four o 'clock there was a
train to New York. She had a little money. She would go there. Once
there she would try to get into a theatrical company.

Arrived at the station she glanced fearfully about her. She did not wish
to meet any one she knew. Leaving her suit case in charge of the station
master she left the station and walked slowly up the street. She would
stroll about until almost train time. She had over an hour's wait. If
she encountered any of the students she knew on the street they would
attach no importance to seeing her.

It was five minutes to four when she purchased her ticket to New York.
To her relief she had seen no one she knew. When the train pulled into
the station she was the first person to board it. She took a seat on the
side of the car farthest from the platform, so she did not see a slim
hurrying girl's figure rush madly down the platform, just as the train
was about to start, and swing herself up the car steps on the last
second, heedless of the warning expostulation of the porter.

Torn with remorse for the past, fearful of the future, which, to her
overwrought imagination, crouched like a huge black monster ready to
spring upon her and engulf her in its cruel jaws, Evelyn watched the
swiftly passing landscape with unseeing eyes. When a voice from the seat
behind her suddenly addressed her with, "Good evening, Miss Ward," she
half sprang to her feet in blind terror. Turning, she found herself
looking into the keen, dark eyes of Kathleen West, the newspaper girl.

"Oh--good evening," she faltered.

"Going to New York?" was the brisk question.

Evelyn nodded.

"I'm coming into your seat. I hate riding alone in a train. I'm so glad
you are going the whole way."

Evelyn made no reply. She wished Kathleen a thousand miles off.

The newspaper girl scrutinized narrowly her companion's lovely set face.
Trained in the study of human nature she had learned to know the outward
signs of a perturbed spirit. Her straight brows knit in a puzzled frown.
Then, noting that Evelyn had colored hotly under the shrewd fixity of
her sharp eyes, she glanced carelessly away.

Neither girl spoke for a little. Evelyn was wondering distractedly how
she could escape from Kathleen, when they reached New York, without
arousing suspicion on the part of the newspaper girl. Kathleen, whose
intuition as well as her eyes told her that all was not well with
Evelyn, racked her brain for the words which would tear down the wall of
stony reticence which this strange girl had built about herself. Try as
she might she could think of no effectual way to begin. Deciding to bide
her time she tried to rouse Evelyn's too-apparently flagging spirits by
a crisp account of a big newspaper story which she had run to earth
during her Easter vacation. At first she met with small success, but as
she talked on Evelyn grew interested in spite of herself and began
asking half timid, half eager questions about New York. Was it hard to
get work there? Could a girl live on six or seven dollars a week in a
large city? How did these girls go about it to find positions? In what
section of the city did most of the working girls, who had no homes,
live?

Kathleen answered her questions imperturbably, telling of her own
experience in New York as a beginner of newspaper work. Later Evelyn
plied her with countless questions regarding the stage, its advantages
and disadvantages. The throb of anxiety in her voice was stronger than
her elaborate pretense of indifference. Figuratively, Kathleen pricked
up her ears. It was only when they had exhausted the subjects of the
working girl and the stage that she launched at Evelyn the seemingly
innocent question, "Where are you going to stay in New York, Miss Ward?"

"I--why--" stammered Evelyn.

"Do you expect to be met at the station? It will be almost midnight when
we reach New York, you know."

"I know," muttered Evelyn. Averting her face from Kathleen she stared
out the window.

"It's now or never," decided Kathleen. Her strong supple fingers closed
suddenly over one of the limp white hands that lay so helplessly in
Evelyn's lap. "Miss Ward," she said in a low tense voice, "something
dreadful has happened to you. I want you to tell me about it. Remember
this. No matter what it is, I am your friend. I feel sure that you are
going blindly and alone, to the coldest, cruelest city in the world and
I should never forgive myself if I allowed you to do it."

Into Evelyn's eyes leaped indescribable terror as Kathleen's hand closed
over hers. For an instant she stared wildly at the newspaper girl, then
the stony reserve, with which she had bolstered herself, gave away, and
tearing her hands free she covered her face with them.

Kathleen waited patiently till the tearless storm which shook Evelyn had
subsided a little. "Now tell me all about it," she urged gently.

Evelyn's hands dropped from her face. The tortured look in her blue eyes
aroused all Kathleen's sympathy. Haltingly, tremblingly, bit by bit,
Evelyn told of the temptation to use her sister's hard-earned money for
fine clothes, and the gulf of deception and dishonesty into which she
had plunged by yielding to it.

Kathleen listened without comment. When Evelyn had finished she said,
"You must go back to Overton, Miss Ward, and to Grace Harlowe. She will
forgive everything and set you right with yourself again."

"Oh, I couldn't," protested Evelyn wildly. "She knows already how
dishonest I've been. I can never go back to Overton. I must stay in New
York and work and never see Ida or any one again. I have forfeited all
claim to friendship or love."

"Nonsense! Just get rid of that idea as fast as ever you can. You are
going to my boarding house with me to-night. To-morrow we will go and
see Anne Pierson. I know where the Southards live. We will ask her to
get you an engagement. Perhaps you can meet Mr. Forest."

"Miss Harlowe told Miss Pierson about me, and she wrote and offered to
get me an engagement," faltered Evelyn, "but I knew I couldn't take it,
so I refused. There wouldn't be any chance for me now. That was several
weeks ago."

"There is sure to be something for you. You are beautiful, you know,"
went on Kathleen in an appraising, matter-of-fact tone. "You are sure to
make good. You must. You're going to pay Semper Fidelis back as soon as
ever you can and you'll have to work hard and save your money."

Forgetting for the instant her remorse and humiliation Evelyn clasped
her hands in an eagerness born of the desire to make reparation. "Oh, I
will!" Then her face clouded. "Miss Pierson won't care to help me after
the dreadful things I've done."

"Who is going to tell her about them? I'm not. I know Grace Harlowe
won't. It isn't necessary for you to tell her either. It shall be a
secret among we three. I know Grace will say so."

The two girls, so strangely brought together and united in this new bond
of fellowship, talked on. It was ten minutes to twelve when they reached
New York City. At the station they were met by a tall clean-cut, young
man with keen blue eyes. "Got your wire, Kathleen." He stooped and
kissed the self-reliant Miss West, who turned very pink. "I'll have to
explain," she smiled as she introduced him to Evelyn. "Mr. Vernon is my
fiancé, but don't you dare breathe it at Overton. Miss Ward won't be
able to see the persons she is to call upon until to-morrow. She's going
to my boarding house with me. You can call a taxicab and ride that far
with us." The newspaper girl's clever explanation bridged a yawning gap.

Kathleen and Mr. Vernon kept up a steady conversation during the ride.
Evelyn sat silent, trying to realize just what had happened to her. She
experienced an immeasurable sense of relief, as though she had been
dragged, just in time, from the edge of a frightful precipice. Long
after Kathleen had gone to sleep that night she lay staring into the
darkness, wide-eyed and wondering at the goodness of this girl whom she
hardly knew, and into her heart crept a sudden revelation of what true
fellowship meant and was to mean to her forever afterward.



CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION


The following morning Kathleen took Evelyn to call on Anne Pierson at
the Southards. She gazed almost in awe at Everett Southard, while her
feeling of admiration for Anne was deep and abiding. Her undeniable
beauty was not lost upon Mr. Southard, who later confided to his sister
and Anne that Miss Ward was the most beautiful blonde girl he had ever
seen. After an hour's chat in the actor's big, comfortable library Mr.
Southard proposed that they call upon Mr. Forest that morning. Miss
Pierson had written Miss Harlowe about the part, he declared, to the
complete mystification of both Kathleen and Evelyn. He was glad Miss
Ward had been able to come. He was sure she would be exactly suited to
the part in "The Reckoning." Kathleen managed to shoot a warning glance
at Evelyn not to betray herself. Later, by adroitly questioning Anne,
she managed to put herself in possession of all the details concerning
the letter Anne had written to Grace.

Mr. Forest quite fulfilled Mr. Southard's prediction. He could not
refrain from showing his satisfaction with Evelyn. Within half an hour
after entering his office she had signed a contract to play the part of
'Constance Devon' in the forthcoming production of 'The Reckoning.'

"First rehearsal July 2d. Here's the part. Study it. Make these hardened
barnstormers help you," declared Mr. Forest with a dry chuckle, as he
handed her the part.

"But how does he know that I can do it?" she questioned, half fearfully,
as they left the office.

"He is going to take a chance," explained Mr. Southard. "In his own mind
he thinks you will do. He knows we will help you. You must work hard and
prove to him that he is right."

To Evelyn the rest of that eventful Saturday seemed like a marvelous
dream. She had never before been in a large city, but despite her
interest in the sights and sounds of New York she could not help
thinking of how different it might all have been if she had not met
Kathleen. The busy, endless streets terrified her and the more she saw
of the great metropolis the less confidence she felt in her own power to
wrest a living from it, single-handed and alone.

After leaving Mr. Forest's office they took luncheon at the Southards.
Mr. Southard and Anne had a matinee in the afternoon. That evening they
were to give the final performance of their season, which had run later
than usual. Kathleen had an assignment for her paper for the afternoon,
so Miss Southard took Evelyn to a matinee at one of the theaters. That
evening the little party met at six o'clock in Mr. Southard's dressing
room, where their dinner was brought in and served to them. Afterward
Kathleen, Miss Southard and Evelyn sat in a box and saw Everett Southard
and Anne in "The Merchant of Venice."

After the theater came a little supper at the Southards' home to which
Mr. Vernon, Kathleen's fiancé, was also invited. Miss Southard had
insisted that Kathleen and Evelyn should be her guests for the remainder
of their stay in New York, and it was under the Southards' hospitable
roof that Evelyn fell asleep that night after one of the happiest, most
eventful days she had ever spent.

Sunday morning soon slipped by. It seemed hardly half an hour from
breakfast until train time. The charming informality with which the
actor and his sister treated her made Evelyn feel as though she had
known them for a very long time. In the enjoyment of the moment she
quite forgot the real reason of her journey to New York, and it was only
when Miss Southard invited her to come to their home to live as soon as
college was over, in order that Mr. Southard might help her with her new
part, that the humiliating remembrance of her misdeeds returned to her
with sickening force.

"You must write to your sister, my dear, and explain everything," said
Miss Southard. "If you will give me her address I will write to her too.
That is one point on which Everett is most particular. He would not
encourage a young girl to enter upon the life of the stage without the
full consent of her parents or guardian."

When finally she and Kathleen had said good-bye to the Southards, who
had seen them to their train, and were settled for the long ride to
Overton, Evelyn faltered, "Kathleen, all the time I was with the
Southards I felt just like a traitor. Do you think I ought to have told
them everything? It's not fair to them to masquerade under false
colors."

Kathleen eyed her companion searchingly. Evelyn's conscience was no
longer sleeping. It was now wide awake and tormenting her.

"I'm glad you feel as you do about it, Evelyn," was her blunt rejoinder.
"It shows that you are on the right road. I don't believe it is
necessary for you to tell the Southards anything. Still there is another
person who must decide that."

"You mean Miss Harlowe?"

Kathleen nodded.

"I can't bear to face her." Evelyn's voice sank almost to a whisper.

"You are not the only one who has said that." There was a curiously
significant ring in Kathleen's voice that made Evelyn look at her in
mute inquiry.

"Let me tell you of another girl who had to face the same situation."
Kathleen began with her entrance into Overton as a freshman and told
Evelyn the story of her hatred of Grace and her betrayal of Grace's
trust, of how Elfreda had shown her the way to reparation and the
gaining of true college spirit, and of how she had tried in a small
measure to redeem the past by writing "Loyalheart" as a belated tribute
to Grace.

Evelyn listened with somber attentiveness. The past three days had
taught her more of life than had her entire eighteen years. She had
lately begun to see what college might mean to the girl who lived up to
its traditions. Until the moment of hearing Kathleen's story she had
felt that Grace Harlowe must despise her utterly. Now she fixed solemn
blue eyes on Kathleen. "Do you believe Miss Harlowe will ever forgive
me?" was her mournful question.

"Of course she will. You don't know her as I do."

Kathleen's emphatic assurance had a visibly cheering effect upon the
other girl. When they reached Overton, however, her dread of meeting
Grace returned with renewed force. "I can't face her to-night," she
pleaded.

"We are going to Harlowe House now. Come on." Kathleen grasped Evelyn's
arm and piloted her up the street at a brisk pace. Neither girl ever
forgot that walk across the campus.

"Here we are." They had mounted the steps of Harlowe House. Kathleen
rang the bell.

A moment's wait and the door opened. Grace stood peering out at the two
girls. "I knew you'd come. I've been watching for you," she cried. She
held out her hands to Evelyn, who dropped her suit case and grasped them
with a half smothered sob.

"Come up to my room." Slipping her arm about Evelyn, Grace drew her
toward the stairs.

"Good night, Grace, I'll see you to-morrow." The vestibule door closed
with a decided click. Kathleen did not wish to be a third party. Grace
and Evelyn were better off without her.

Once in Grace's room Evelyn broke down. "Oh, Miss Harlowe, can you, will
you forgive me?" she sobbed.

"You mustn't cry so, Miss Ward," soothed Grace. "Of course I forgive
you. If Miss West had not brought you home to me I intended to go to New
York City to look for you. Remember, you are, and I hope will be until
your college days are over, a Harlowe House girl."

"You are too good to me," sobbed Evelyn.

Grace led her gently to a chair. "Sit down," she urged.

Evelyn sank into the chair. "I can't come back to Overton next year."
Her head drooped in shame and humiliation.

"You must," said Grace simply, "for your own sake as well as your
sister's. She must never be worried with the slightest inkling of what
has happened. It is to be a secret. Outside of Miss Dean and Miss West
no one except ourselves knows."

"Miss Pierson and Mr. Southard took me to see Mr. Forest. He engaged me
to play a part in his new play 'The Reckoning,'" began Evelyn. "I--I
didn't--tell--the Southards--about--things. Kathleen wouldn't let me,
but she says I must tell them if you say so. I'd--rather. I--I want to
be--honest--now--and--and always." Evelyn's voice shook with the
intensity of her feelings.

"Kathleen was right in not allowing you to tell them. You have suffered
enough, Evelyn. You must look to the future. Your work this summer will
make it possible for you to pay the money you owe Semper Fidelis and
your college expenses too."

Grace's sensible, practical, words, went far toward restoring Evelyn to
her normal self. The two young women talked long and earnestly. It was
after eleven o'clock when Evelyn rose to go to her room.

"I'll prove to you that I am worthy of your trust," she said with
shining eyes. "I'll make you and Ida proud of me yet."

After she had gone to her room Grace sat for a little, her hands idly
folded, her thoughts on the girl who had found herself after many false
starts. How glad she was that everything had turned out so beautifully,
thanks to Kathleen's chance meeting with Evelyn. What a power for good
Kathleen had become. Yes, college was really the place where one
eventually found oneself. And now her first year of work was almost
over. Another week and she would be back in dear old Oakdale. With the
thought of home Tom Gray's earnest, boyish face rose before her. It cast
a faint shadow on the pleasure of the coming reunion with her family and
friends. She hated to feel that she was making Tom unhappy, yet she was
equally certain that, with her, work still came first.

"I can't give up my work," she said aloud.

"Well, who said you should?" demanded Emma Dean's matter-of-fact tones.
The door stood partly open and Emma had entered just in time to hear
Grace's emphatic utterance.

"Has the prodigal returned?"

"She has," smiled Grace. Grace recounted what had taken place that
evening. "Isn't it wonderful how college helps these girls to find
themselves, Emma?" she asked when she had finished her recital.

"College and Grace Harlowe," declared Emma.

"You mustn't say that," Grace colored and shook her head in emphatic
denial.

"Oh, yes, I must, because it is the truth," insisted Emma. "Dear
Loyalheart, your Highway of Life led you back into the Land of College,
didn't it?"

Grace nodded. "I'm going to stay in the Land of College too, Emma. I was
just thinking about it when you came in. That was what made me say, 'I
can't give up my work.'"

"Overton needs you, and Harlowe House needs you, and Emma Dean needs
you, but are you sure that some one else does not need you more than we
do?" questioned Emma slyly.

"That's three to one, Emma, and the majority rules," evaded Grace. "Will
you be my roommate, mentor and comforter next year?"

"Most Gracious Grace, I will, and there's my hand on it."

How fully Emma Dean kept her promise and what Grace's second year on the
campus brought her will be told in "Grace Harlowe's Problem,"
the record of her further college life at Harlowe House.


THE END.





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