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Title: Betty Wales Senior
Author: Warde, Margaret
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 "Betty Wales Senior" ***

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[Illustration: THE STREAM OF GIRLS DESCENDED]

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BETTY WALES SENIOR

by

MARGARET WARDE

_author of_

BETTY WALES, FRESHMAN
BETTY WALES, SOPHOMORE
BETTY WALES, JUNIOR
BETTY WALES, B.A.
BETTY WALES & CO.
BETTY WALES ON THE CAMPUS
BETTY WALES DECIDES

ILLUSTRATED BY EVA M. NAGEL

THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA 1919

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

COPYRIGHT 1907 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY

Betty Wales, Senior

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

INTRODUCTION

For the information of those readers who have not followed Betty Wales
through the first three years of her college career, as described in
"Betty Wales, Freshman," "Betty Wales, Sophomore," and "Betty Wales,
Junior," it should be explained that most of Betty's little circle began
to be friends in their freshman year, when they lived off the campus at
Mrs. Chapin's, and Mary Brooks, the only sophomore in the house, ruled
them with an autocratic hand. Betty found Helen Adams a comical and
sometimes a trying roommate. Rachel Morrison and Katherine Kittredge
were also at Mrs. Chapin's, and Roberta Lewis, who adored Mary Brooks
and was desperately afraid of every one else in the house, though Betty
Wales guessed that shyness was at the bottom of Roberta's haughty
manner. Eleanor Watson was the most prominent member of the group that
year and part of the next. Betty admired her greatly but found her a
very difficult person to win as a friend, though in the end she proved
worthy of all the trouble she had cost.

At the beginning of sophomore year the Chapin House girls moved to the
campus, and "the B's" and Madeline Ayres, who explained that she lived
in "Bohemia, New York," joined the circle. In their junior year Betty
and her friends organized the "Merry Hearts" society, and Georgia Ames,
a freshman friend of Madeline's, amused and mystified the whole college
until she was finally discovered to be merely one of Madeline's many
delightful inventions. But the joke was on the "Merry Hearts" when a
real Georgia Ames entered college. It was when they were juniors, too,
that the "Merry Hearts" took a vacation trip to the Bahamas and
incidentally manoeuvred a romance for two of their faculty friends--which
caused Mary Brooks to rename their society the Merry Match-makers.

And now if any one wishes to know what Betty Wales and her friends did
after they left college, well--there's something about it in "Betty
Wales, B.A.," "Betty Wales & Co.," "Betty Wales on the Campus," and
"Betty Wales Decides."

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CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                       PAGE

      I "BACK TO COLLEGE AGAIN"                             9
     II A SENIOR CLASS-MEETING                             25
    III THE BELDEN HOUSE "INITIATION PARTY"                49
     IV AN ADVENTUROUS MOUNTAIN DAY                        69
      V THE RETURN OF MARY BROOKS                          86
     VI HELEN ADAMS'S MISSION                             106
    VII ROBERTA "ARRIVES"                                 126
   VIII THE GREATEST TOY-SHOP ON EARTH                    143
     IX A WEDDING AND A VISIT TO BOHEMIA                  169
      X TRYING FOR PARTS                                  189
     XI A DARK HORSE DEFINED                              211
    XII CALLING ON ANNE CARTER                            230
   XIII GEORGIA'S AMETHYST PENDANT                        250
    XIV THE MOONSHINERS' BACON-ROAST                      269
     XV PLANS FOR A COOPERATIVE COMMENCEMENT              291
    XVI A Hoop-Rolling and a Tragedy                      308
   XVII BITS OF COMMENCEMENT                              325
  XVIII THE GOING OUT OF 19--                             350
    XIX "GOOD-BYE!"                                       366

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

ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                         PAGE

The Stream of Girls Descended                  _Frontispiece_

"Here Are Some Perfectly Elegant Mushrooms"                76

"Oh, I Beg Your Pardon,"                                  132

"I Do Care About Having Friends Like You," She Said       171

"Well, We've Found Our Shylock," He Said                  224

The Girls Watched Her in Bewilderment                     318

"Ladies, Behold the Preceptress of the Kankakee Academy"  373

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BETTY WALES, SENIOR

CHAPTER I

"BACK TO THE COLLEGE AGAIN"


"Oh, Rachel Morrison, am I too late for the four-ten train?"

Betty Wales, pink-cheeked and breathless, her yellow curls flying under
her dainty lingerie hat, and her crisp white skirts held high to escape
the dust of the station platform, sank down beside Rachel on a steamer
trunk that the Harding baggage-men had been too busy or too
accommodating to move away, and began to fan herself vigorously with a
very small and filmy handkerchief.

"No, you're not late, dearie," laughed Rachel, pulling Betty's hat
straight, "or rather the train is late, too. Where have you been?"

Betty smiled reminiscently. "Everywhere, pretty nearly. You know that
cunning little freshman that had lost her trunks----"

"All those that I've interviewed have lost their trunks," interpolated
Rachel.

Betty waved a deprecating hand toward the mountain of baggage that was
piled up further down the platform.

"Oh, of course, in that lovely mess. Who wouldn't? But this girl lost
hers before she got here--in Chicago or Albany, or maybe it was Omaha.
She lives in Los Angeles, so she might have lost them almost anywhere,
you see."

"And of course she expected Prexy or the registrar to go back and look
for them," added Rachel.

Betty laughed. "Not she. Besides she doesn't seem to care a bit. She
seems to think it's a splendid chance to go to New York next week and
buy new clothes. But what she wanted of me was to tell her where she
could get some shirt waists--just enough to last until she's perfectly
sure that the trunks are gone for good. I didn't want to stick around
here from three to four, so I said I'd go and show her Evans's and that
little new shirt waist place. Of course I pointed out all the objects of
interest along the way, and when I mentioned Cuyler's, she insisted
upon going in to have ices."

"And how many does that make for you to-day?" demanded Rachel severely.

"Well," Betty defended herself, "I treated you once, and you treated me
once, and then we met Christy Mason, and as you couldn't go back with
her I had to. But I only had lemonade that time. And this child was so
comical, and it was such a good idea."

"What was such a good idea?" inquired Rachel.

"Oh, didn't I tell you? Why, after we'd finished at Cuyler's, she asked
me if there weren't any other places something like it, and she said she
thought if we tried them all in a row we could tell which was best. But
we couldn't," sighed Betty regretfully, "because of course things taste
better when you're hungriest. But anyhow she wanted to keep on, because
now she can give pointers to other freshmen, and make them think she is
a sophomore."

"How about the shirt waists?"

"Oh, she had just got to that when I had to leave her." Betty rose,
sighing, as a train whistled somewhere down the track. "Do you suppose
Georgia Ames will be on this one?"

"Who can tell?" said Rachel. "There'll be somebody that we know anyway.
Wasn't that first day queer and creepy?"

"Yes," agreed Betty, "when nobody got off but freshmen frightened to
pieces about their exams. And that was only two days ago! It seems two
weeks. I've always rather envied the Students' Aid Society seniors,
because they have such a good chance to pick out the interesting
freshmen, but I shan't any more."

"Not even after to-day?"

Betty frowned reflectively. "Well, of course to-day has been pretty
grand--with all those ices, and Christy, and the freshmen all so
cheerful and amusing. And then there's the eight-fifteen. Won't it be
fun--to see the Clan get off that? Yes, I think I do envy myself. Can a
person envy herself, Rachel?" She gave Rachel's arm a sudden squeeze.
"Rachel," she went on very solemnly, "do you realize that we can't ever
again in all our lives be Students' Aid Seniors, meeting poor little
Harding freshmen?"

Rachel hugged Betty sympathetically. "Yes, I do," she said. "Why at this
time next year I shall be earning my own living 'out in the wide, wide
world,' as the song says, miles from any of the Clan."

Betty looked across the net-work of tracks, to the hills that make a
circle about Harding. "And miles from this dear old town," she added.
"But we can write to each other, and make visits, and we can come back
to class reunions. But that won't be the same."

Rachel looked at the pretty, yellow-haired child, and wondered if she
realized how different her "wide, wide world" was likely to be from
Katherine's or Helen Chase Adams's--or Rachel Morrison's. To some of the
Clan Harding meant everything they had ever known in the way of culture
and scholarly refinement, of happy leisure and congenial friendship. It
was comforting somehow to find that girls like Betty and the B's, who
had everything else, were just as fond of Harding and were going to be
just as sorry to leave it. Rachel never envied anybody, but she liked to
think that this life that was so precious to her meant much to all her
friends. It made one feel surer that pretty clothes and plenty of
spending-money and delightful summers at the seashore or in the
mountains did not matter much, so long as the one big, beautiful fact of
being a Harding girl was assured. All this flashed through Rachel's mind
much more quickly than it can be written down. Aloud she said
cheerfully, "Well, we have one whole year more of it."

"I should rather think so," declared Betty emphatically, "and we mustn't
waste a single minute of it. I wish it was evening. It seems as if I
couldn't wait to see the other girls."

"Well, there's plenty to do just now," said Rachel briskly, as the
four-ten halted, and the streams of girls, laden with traveling bags,
suit-cases, golf-clubs, tennis-rackets, and queer-shaped bulky parcels
that had obviously refused to go into any trunk, began to descend from
it.

Rachel hurried forward at once, eager to find someone who needed help or
directions or a friendly word of welcome. But Betty stood where she was,
just out of the crowd, watching the old girls' excited meetings and the
new girls' timid progresses, which were sure to be intercepted before
long by some white-gowned, competent senior, anxious to miss no possible
opportunity for helpfulness.

Betty had done her part all day, and in addition had taken Rachel's
place earlier in the afternoon, to give her a free hour for tutoring.
She was tired now and hot, and she had undoubtedly eaten too many ices;
but she was also trying an experiment. Where she stood she could watch
both platforms from which the girls were descending. Her quick glance
shot from one to the other, scanning each figure as it emerged from the
shadowy car and stopped for an instant, hesitating, on the platform. The
train was nearly emptied of its Harding contingent when all at once
Betty gave a little cry and darted forward to meet a girl who was making
an unusually careful and prolonged inspection of the crowd below her.
She was a slender, pretty girl, with yellow hair, which curled around
her face. She carried a trim little hand-bag and a well-filled bag of
golf-clubs.

"Can I help you in any way?" asked Betty, holding out a hand for the
golf-bag.

The pretty freshman turned a puzzled face toward her, and surrendered
the bag. "I don't know," she said doubtfully. "I'm to be a freshman at
Harding. Father telegraphed the registrar to meet me. Could you point
her out, please?"

"I knew it," laughed Betty, gleefully. Then she turned to the girl. "The
registrar is up at the college answering fifty questions a minute, and
I'm here to meet you. Give me your checks, and we'll find an expressman.
Oh, yes, and where do you board?"

The pretty freshman answered her questions with an air of pleased
bewilderment, and later, on the way up the hill, asked questions of her
own, laughed shamefacedly over her misunderstanding about the registrar,
was comforted when Betty had explained that it was not an original
mistake, and invited her new friend to come and see her with that
particular sort of eager shyness that is the greatest compliment one
girl can pay to another.

"Dear old Dorothy," thought Betty, when she had deposited the freshman,
considerably enlightened about college etiquette, at one of the
pleasantest of the off-campus houses, and was speeding to the Belden
for tea. "What a little goose she must have thought me! And what a dear
she was! I wonder if this freshman will ever really care about me that
way. I do mean to try to make her. Oh, what a lot of things seniors have
to think about!"

But the only thing to think about that evening was the arrival of the
eight-fifteen train, which would bring Eleanor, the B's, Nita Reese,
Katherine Kittredge, Roberta Lewis, and Madeline Ayres, together with
two-thirds of the rest of the senior class back to Harding. It was such
fun to saunter down to the station in the warm twilight, to wait,
relieved of all responsibilities concerning cabs, expressmen, and
belated trunks, while the crowded train pulled in, and then to dash
frantically about from one dear friend to another, stopping to shake
hands with a sophomore here, and there to greet a junior, but being
gladdest, of course, to welcome back the members of "the finest class."
Betty and Rachel had arranged not to serve on the reception committee
for freshmen that evening, and it was not long before the reunited
"Merry Hearts" escaped from the pandemonium at the station to
reassemble on the Belden House piazza for what Katherine called a "high
old talk."

How the tongues wagged! Eleanor Watson had come straight from her
father's luxurious camp in the Colorado mountains, where she and Jim had
been having a house-party for some of their Denver friends.

"You girls must all come out next summer," she declared
enthusiastically. "Father sent a special invitation to you, Betty, and
he and--and--mother"--Eleanor struggled with the new name for the
judge's young wife--"are coming on to commencement, and then of course
you'll all meet them. Mother is so jolly--she knows just what girls
like, and she enters into all the fun, just like one of us. Of course
she is absurdly young," laughed Eleanor, as if the stepmother's youth
had never been her most intolerable failing in her daughter's eyes.

Babbie had been abroad, on an automobile trip through France. She looked
more elegant than ever in a chic little suit from Paris, with a toque to
match, and heavy gloves that she had bought in London.

"I've got a pair for each of you in my trunk," she announced, "and
here's hoping I didn't mix up the sizes."

"Sixes for me," cried Bob.

"Five and a-half," shrieked Babe.

"Six and a-half," announced Katherine, "and you ought to have brought me
two pairs, because I wear mine out more than twice as fast as anybody
else."

"What kind of a summer have you had, K?" asked Babe, who never wrote
letters, and therefore seldom received any.

"Same old kind," answered Katherine cheerfully. "Mended twenty dozen
stockings, got breakfast for seven hungry mouths every morning, played
tennis with the boys and Polly, tutored all I could, sent out father's
bills,--oh, being the oldest of eight is no snap, I can tell you, but,"
Katherine added with a chuckle, "it's lots of fun. Boys do like you so
if you're rather decent to them."

"I just hate being an only child," declared Bob hotly. "What's the use
of a place in the country unless there are children to wade in the
brook, and chase the chickens and ride the horses? Next summer I'm going
to have fresh-air children up there all summer, and you
two"--indicating the other B's--"have got to come and help save them
from early deaths."

"All right," said Babe easily, "only I shall wade too."

"And you've got to wash them up before I can touch them," stipulated the
fastidious Babbie. "Where have you been all summer, Rachel?"

"Right at home, helping in an office during the day and tutoring
evenings. And I've saved enough so that I shan't have to worry one
single bit about money this year," announced Rachel triumphantly.

"Good for old Rachel!" cried Madeline Ayres, who had spent the summer
nursing her mother through a severe illness and looked worn and thin in
consequence. "Then you're as glad to get back to the grind as I am.
Betty here, with her summer on an island in Lake Michigan, and Eleanor,
and these lucky B's with their childless farms, and their Parisian
raiment, don't know what it's like to be back in the arms of one's
friends."

"Don't we!" cried a protesting chorus.

"Don't you what?" called a voice out of the darkness, and the real
Georgia Ames, cheerful and sunburned and self-possessed shook hands all
around, and found a seat behind Madeline on the piazza railing.

"You were all so busy talking that you didn't see me at the train," she
explained coolly. "A tall girl with glasses asked if there was anything
she could do for me, and I said oh, no, that I'd been here before. Then
she asked me my name, and when I said Georgia Ames, I thought she was
going to faint."

"She took you for a ghost, my dear," said Madeline, patting her double's
shoulder affectionately. "You must get used to being treated that way,
you know. You're billed to make a sensation in spite of yourself."

"But we're going to make it up to you all we can," chirped Babbie.

"And you bet we can," added Bob decisively.

"Let's begin by escorting her home," suggested Babe. "There's just about
time before ten."

"I saw Miss Stuart yesterday about her coming into the Belden,"
explained Betty, after they had left Georgia at her temporary off-campus
boarding place. "She was awfully nice and amused about it all, and she
thinks she can get her in right away, in Natalie Smith's place.
Natalie's father has been elected senator, you know, and she's going to
come out this winter in Washington."

"Fancy that now!" said Madeline resignedly. "There's certainly no
accounting for tastes."

"I should think not," declared Katherine hotly. "If my father was
elected President, I'd stay on and graduate with 19-- just the same."

"Of course you would," agreed Babbie. "You can come out in Washington
any time--or if you can't, it doesn't matter much. But there's only one
19--."

"And yet when we go we shan't be missed," said Katherine sadly. "The
college will go on just the same."

"Oh, and I've found out the reason why," cried Betty eagerly. "It's
because all college girls are alike. Miss Ferris said so once. She said
if you waited long enough each girl you had known and liked would come
back in the person of some younger one. But I never really believed it
until to-day." And Betty related the story of her successful hunt for
the freshman who was like herself.

Everybody laughed.

"But then," asserted Babbie loyally, "she's not so nice as you, Betty.
She couldn't be. And I don't believe there are freshmen like all of us."

"Not in this one class," said Rachel. "But it's a nice idea, isn't it?
When our little sisters or our daughters come to Harding they can have
friends just as dear and jolly as the ones we have had."

"And they will be just as likely to be locked out if they linger on
their own or their friends' door-steps after ten," added Madeline
pompously, whereat Eleanor, Katherine, Rachel and the B's rushed for
their respective abiding places, and the Belden House contingent marched
up-stairs singing

    "Back to the college again,"

a parody of one of Kipling's "Barrack-Room Ballads" which Madeline
Ayres had written one morning during a philosophy lecture that bored
her, and which the whole college was singing a week later.



CHAPTER II

A SENIOR CLASS-MEETING


It was great fun exercising all the new senior privileges. One of the
first and most exciting was occupying the front seats at morning chapel.

"Although," complained Betty Wales sadly, "you don't get much good out
of that, if your name begins with a W. Of course I am glad there are so
many of 19--, but they do take up a lot of room. Nobody could tell that
Eleanor and I were seniors, unless they knew it beforehand."

"And then they wouldn't believe it about you," retorted Madeline, the
tease.

Madeline, being an A, was one of the favored front row, who were near
enough "to catch Prexy's littlest smiles," as Helen Adams put it, and
who were the observed of all observers as they marched, two and two,
down the middle aisle, just behind the faculty. Madeline, being tall and
graceful and always perfectly self-possessed, looked very impressive,
but little Helen Adams was dreadfully frightened and blushed to the
roots of her smooth brown hair every morning.

"And yet I wouldn't give it up for anything," she confided to Betty. "I
mean--I'll exchange with you any time, but I do just love to sit there,
although I dread walking out so. It's just the same when I am talking to
Miss Raymond or Miss Mills. I wish I weren't such a goose."

"You're a very dear little goose," Betty reassured her, wondering why in
the world the clever Helen Adams was afraid of people, while she, who
was only little Betty Wales, without much brains and with no big talent,
felt perfectly at home with Dr. Hinsdale, Miss Raymond, and even the
great "Prexy" himself.

"I suppose that is my talent," she decided at last,--"not being afraid,
and just plunging right in. Well, I suppose I ought to be glad that I
have anything."

Another senior privilege is the holding of the first class-meeting.
Fresh indeed is the freshman class which neglects this order of
precedence, and in deference to their childish impatience the seniors
always hold their meeting as early in the term as possible. Of course
19--'s came on a lovely afternoon,--the first after an unusually long
and violent "freshman rain."

"Coming, Madeline?" asked Betty, passing Madeline's single on her way
out.

"Where?" inquired Madeline lazily from the depths of her Morris chair.

"To the class-meeting of course," explained Betty. "Now don't pretend
you've forgotten and made another engagement. I just heard Georgia Ames
telling you that she couldn't go walking because of an unexpected
written lesson."

Madeline wriggled uneasily. "What's the use?" she objected. "It's too
nice a day to waste indoors. There'll be nothing doing for us. We
elected Rachel last year, and none of the rest of the crowd will do for
class officers."

"What an idea!" said Betty loftily. "I'm thinking of nominating Babe for
treasurer. Besides Rachel is going to wear a cap and gown--it's a new
idea that the council thought of, for the senior president to wear
one--and Christy and Alice Waite are going to make speeches about the
candidates. And I think they're going to vote about our ten thousand
dollars."

Madeline rose despondently. "All right then, for this once. By the way,
whom are they going to have for toastmistress at class-supper? They
elect her to-day, don't they?"

"I suppose so. I know the last year's class chose Laurie at their first
meeting. But I haven't heard any one mentioned."

"Then I'm going to nominate Eleanor Watson," declared Madeline. "She's
never had a thing from the class, and she's by far the best speaker we
have except Emily Davis."

"And Emily will be class-day orator of course," added Betty. "Oh,
Madeline, I'm so glad you thought of Eleanor. Won't it be splendid to
have a 'Merry Heart' for toastmistress?"

Madeline nodded carelessly. She was thinking more about a letter from
home, with news that her father and mother were to sail at once for
Italy, than about matters of class policy. She loved the Italian sea and
the warm southern sunshine; and the dear old "out-at-elbows" villa on
the heights above Sorrento was the nearest thing she had known to a
home. Father had told her to come along if she liked--ever since she
could remember she had been allowed to make her own decisions. But then,
as Babbie had said, there was only one 19--, and with plenty of "passed
up" courses to her credit she could work as little as she pleased this
year and never go to a class-meeting after to-day.

"Let's stop for the B's," she suggested, as they went out into the
September sunshine. "Bob hates meetings as much as I do. I'm not going
to be the only one to be disciplined."

Before they had reached the Westcott, the B's shouted to them from their
hammocks in the apple-orchard, which they reluctantly abandoned to go to
the meeting. Bob had just had an exciting runaway--her annual spills
were a source of great amusement to her friends and of greater terror to
her doting parents--and she was so eager to recount her adventures and
display her bruises, that nothing more was said about Madeline's plan
for Eleanor.

The class-meeting was large and exciting. The election of a senior
president is as thrilling an event at Harding as the coronation of a
Czar of all the Russias to the world at large. It was a foregone
conclusion that Marie Howard would be the unanimous choice of the class,
but until the act was fairly consummated--and indeed until Marie had
been dined at Cuyler's and overwhelmed with violets to the satisfaction
of her many friends--the excitement would not abate. There was a
pleasant uncertainty about the other class officers. Six avowed
candidates for the treasurership quarreled good naturedly over their
respective qualifications for the position, each one in her secret soul
intending to withdraw in favor of her dearest friend among the other
five. In another corner of the room an agitated group discussed the best
disposition of the ten thousand dollar fund.

"I don't think we ought to dispose of it hastily," Christy Mason was
saying. "It's a lot of money and we ought to consider very carefully
before we decide."

"Besides," added Emily Davis flippantly, "as long as we delay our
decision, we shall continue to be persons of importance in the eyes of
the faculty. It's comical to see how deferential they all are. I took
dinner at the Burton Sunday, and afterward Miss Raymond invited a few of
us into her room for coffee. She didn't mention the money,--she's too
clever for that,--but she talked a lot about the constant need for new
books in her department. 'You can't run an English department properly
unless you can give your pupils access to the newest books'--that was
the burden of her refrain. Marion Lustig was quite impressed. I think
she means to propose endowing an English department library fund."

"Dr. Hinsdale wants books for his department, and a lot of psychological
journals--all about ghosts and mediums--that college professors look up
about, you know," Nita Reese ended somewhat vaguely.

"And Miss Kent is hoping we'll give the whole sum to her to spend for
another telescope," added Babe, whose specialty, if one might dignify
her unscholarly enthusiasms by that name, was astronomy.

"Every one of the faculty wants it for something," said Christy.

"Naturally. They're all human, aren't they?" laughed Emily Davis, just
as Rachel appeared in the doorway, looking very dignified and
impressive in a cap and gown.

"Is the tassel right?" she whispered anxiously, as she passed a group of
girls seated near the platform steps.

"No, put it the other side--unless you're a Ph. D.," returned Roberta
Lewis in a sepulchral whisper. "Father has one. He lectures at Johns
Hopkins," she added, in answer to nudges from her neighbors and
awestruck inquiries as to "how she knew."

Then Rachel called the meeting to order. She thanked the class for the
honor they had done her, and hoped she had not disappointed them.

"I've tried not to consider any clique or crowd," she said--"not to
think anything about the small groups in our class, but to find out what
the whole big, glorious class of 19-- wanted"--Rachel's voice rang out
proudly--"and then to carry out its wishes. I believe in public
sentiment--in the big generous feeling that makes you willing to give up
your own little plans because they are not big and fine enough to suit
the whole class. I hope the elections to-day may be conducted in that
spirit. We each want what we all want, I am sure. We know one another
pretty well by this time, but perhaps it will help us in choosing the
right persons for senior officers if some of the candidates' friends
make brief nominating speeches. It is now in order to nominate some one
for the office of senior president."

Christy was on her feet in an instant, nominating Marie Howard, in a
graceful little speech that mentioned her tact and energy and class
spirit, recalled some of the things she had done to make the class of
19-- proud of her, and called attention to the fact that she had never
had an important office before.

"And she wouldn't be having one now if we hadn't succeeded in throwing
off the rule of a certain person named Eastman and her friends,"
muttered Bob sotto voce.

Alice Waite seconded the nomination.

"I can't make a real speech like Christy's," she stammered, blushing
prettily, "but I want to call attention to Marie's--I mean to Miss
Howard's sparkling sense of humor and strong personal magnetism.
And--and--I am sure she'll do splendidly," ended little Alice,
forgetting her set phrases and sitting down amidst a burst of amused
applause.

Rachel called for other nominations but there were none, so Marie was
elected unanimously, and with tremendous enthusiasm.

After she had assumed the cap and gown, taken the chair, and thanked her
classmates, Barbara Gordon, one of Christy's best friends, was made
vice-president. Babe, to her infinite annoyance, found herself the
victor in the treasurer's contest, and Nita Reese was ensconced beside
Marie in the secretary's chair.

"And you said none of 'The Merry Hearts' would do for officers," Betty
whispered reproachfully to Madeline.

"Well, will they think we are office-grabbers, if I put up Eleanor?"
asked Madeline.

"Oh, no," declared Betty eagerly. "You see Babe's such a general
favorite--she's counted into half a dozen crowds; and Nita is really a
Hill girl, only she never would go to class-meetings when she was a
freshman and so she was never identified with that set. You will propose
Eleanor, won't you?"

"Honor bright," promised Madeline, and returned once more to the pages
of a new magazine which she had insisted upon bringing, "in case things
are too deadly slow."

"The next business," said Marie, consulting the notes that Rachel had
handed her with the cap and gown, "the next business is to dispose of
our ten thousand dollars."

Instantly a dozen girls were on their feet, clamoring for recognition.
Marion Lustig urged the need of books for the English department. Clara
Madison, who after two years of amazement at Harding College in general
and hatred of the bed-making it involved in particular, had suddenly
awakened to a tremendous enthusiasm for microscopic botany, made a funny
little drawling speech about the needs of her pet department. Two or
three of Miss Ferris's admirers declared that zoölogy was the most
important subject in the college curriculum, and urged that the money
should be used as a nest egg for endowing the chair occupied by that
popular lady. The Spanish and Italian departments, being newly
established, were suggested as particularly suitable objects for
benevolence. Dr. Hinsdale's department, the history and the Greek
departments were exploited. 19-- was a versatile class; there was
somebody to plead for every subject in the curriculum, and at least half
a dozen prominent members of the faculty were declared by their special
admirers to stand first in 19--'s affections.

"Though that has really nothing to do with it," said Jean Eastman
testily, conscious that her plea for the modern language departments had
fallen on deaf ears. "We're not giving presents to the faculty, but to
the college. I like Miss Raymond as well as any one----"

"Oh, no, you don't," muttered Bob, who had caught Jean in the act of
reading an English condition at the end of Junior year.

Jean heard, understood, and flashed back an acrimonious retort about
Miss Ferris's partiality for Bob's work.

The newly elected president, whose tact had been extolled by Emily
Davis, found it speedily put to the test. "Don't you think," she began,
"that we ought to hear from the girl who had most to do with our getting
this money? Before we act upon the motion to refer the matter to a
committee who shall interview the president and the faculty and find out
how the rest of the money is to be spent and where ours seems to be most
needed, I want to ask Miss Betty Wales for an expression of her
opinion."

Betty gave a little gasp. Parliamentary law was Hebrew to her, and
speech-making a fearful and wonderful art, which she never essayed
except in an emergency. But she recognized Marie's distress, and rose
hesitatingly, to pour oil on the troubled waters if possible.

"I certainly think there ought to be a committee," she began slowly.
"And I'm sure I know less than any one who has spoken about the needs of
the different courses. I'm--well, I'm not a star in anything, you see. I
agree with Jean that we ought not to make this a personal matter, and
yet I am sure that the head of whatever department we give the money to
will be pleased, and I don't see why we shouldn't consider that and
choose somebody who has done a lot for 19--. But there are so many who
have done a lot for us." Betty frowned a perplexed little frown. "I wish
too," she went on very earnestly, "that we could do something that is
like us. You know what I mean. We stand for fair play and a good time
for everybody--that was why we had the dresses simple, you know." The
frown vanished suddenly and Betty's fascinating little smile came into
view instead. "I wonder--of course Prexy is always saying the college is
poor, and the faculty are always talking about not having books enough,
but I haven't noticed but that they find enough to keep us busy looking
up references." ("Hear, hear!" chanted the B's.) "It seems to me that
Harding College is good enough as it is," went on Betty, looking
reproachfully at the disturbers. "The thing is to let as many girls as
possible come here and enjoy it. Do you suppose the man who gave the
money would be willing that we should use our share of it for
scholarships? Four one hundred dollar scholarships would help four girls
along splendidly. Of course that isn't a department exactly,--and
perhaps it's a silly suggestion." Betty slipped into her seat beside
Madeline, blushing furiously, and looking blankly amazed when her speech
brought forth a round of vigorous applause, and, as soon as
parliamentary order would permit, a motion that 19-- should, with the
consent of the unknown benefactor of the college, establish four annual
scholarships.

"I name Miss Wales as chairman of the committee to interview the
president," said Marie, beaming delightedly on her once more harmonious
constituents. "The other two members of the committee I will appoint
later. The next and last business of this meeting is to elect a
toastmistress for our class-supper. She is always chosen early, you
know, so that she can be thinking of toasts and getting material for
them out of all the events of the year. Nominations are now in order."

"I nominate Eleanor Watson," said Madeline promptly, reluctantly closing
her magazine and getting to her feet. "I needn't tell any of you how
clever she is nor how well she speaks. Next to one or two persons whose
duties at commencement time are obvious and likely to be
arduous"--Madeline grinned at Emily Davis, who was sure to be
class-orator, and Babe leaned forward to pat Marion Lustig, who was
equally sure to be class-poet, on the shoulder--"next to these one or
two geniuses, Eleanor is our wittiest member. Of course our
class-supper will be the finest ever,--it can't help being--but with
Eleanor Watson at the head of the table, it will eclipse itself. To
quote the great Dr. Hinsdale, do you get my point?"

Kate Denise seconded the nomination with a heartiness that made Eleanor
flush with pleasure. Betty watched her happily, half afraid she would
refuse the nomination, as she had refused the Dramatic Club's election;
but she only sat quite still, her great eyes shining like stars. She was
thinking, though Betty could not know that, of little Helen Adams and
her "one big day" when she was elected to the "Argus" board.

"I know just how she felt," Eleanor considered swiftly. "It's after
you've been left out and snubbed and not wanted that things like this
really count. Oh, I'm so glad they want me now."

"Are there any other nominations?" asked Marie. There was a little
silence, broken by a voice saying: "Let's make it unanimous. Ballots
take so long, and everybody wants her."

Then a girl got up from the back row,--a girl to whom Katherine
Kittredge had once given the title of "Harding's champion blunderbuss."
She could no more help doing the wrong thing than she could help
breathing. She had begun her freshman year by opening the door into Dr.
Hinsdale's recitation-room, while a popular senior course was in
session. "I beg your pardon, but are you Miss Stuart?" she had asked,
looking full at the amazed professor, and upon receiving a gasping
denial she had withdrawn, famous, to reappear now and then during her
course always in similar rôles. It happened that she had never heard of
Eleanor Watson's stolen story until a week before the class-meeting,
when some one had told her the unvarnished facts, with no palliation and
no reference to Eleanor's subsequent change of heart or renunciation of
one honor after another. Virtuous indignation and pained surprise
struggled for expression upon her pasty, immobile face.

"Madam president," she began, and waited formally for recognition.

"Oh, I say, it's awfully late," said somebody. "I've got five
recitations to-morrow."

This speech and the laugh that followed it put new vigor into the
Champion's purpose. "I hope I am not trespassing on any one's time
unduly," she said, "by stating that--I dislike to say it here, but it
has been forced upon me. I don't think Miss Watson is the girl to hold
19--'s offices. Miss Wales said that we stood for fair play." The
Champion took her seat ponderously.

The room was very still. Marie sat, nonplused, staring at the Champion's
defiant figure. Madeline's hands were clenched angrily. "I'd like to
knock her down, the coward," she muttered to Betty, who was looking
straight ahead and did not seem to hear.

Hardly a minute had gone by, but more slowly than a minute ever went
before, when Eleanor was on her feet. She had grown suddenly white, and
her eyes had a hunted, strained look. "I quite agree with Miss
Harrison," she said in clear, ringing tones, her head held high. "I am
not worthy of this honor. I withdraw my name, and I ask Miss Ayres, as a
personal favor, to substitute some one's else."

Eleanor sat down, and Marie wet her lips nervously and looked at
Madeline. "Please, Miss Ayres," she begged.

"As a personal favor," returned Madeline slowly, "because Eleanor Watson
asks me, I substitute"--she paused--"Christy Mason's name. I am sure
that Miss Mason will allow it to be used, as a personal favor to every
one concerned."

"Indeed I----" began Christy impetuously. Then she met Eleanor's
beseeching eyes. "Very well," she said, "but every one here except Miss
Harrison knows that Miss Watson would be far better."

It took only a minute to elect Christy and adjourn the ill-fated
meeting.

"I thought she'd feel like hurrying home," said Katherine sardonically,
as the Champion, very red and militant, rushed past her toward the door.

Betty looked wistfully after the retreating figure. "I would rather have
left college than had her say that. It doesn't seem fair--after
everything."

"Serves me right, anyhow," broke in Madeline despondently. "I was
dreaming about castles in Italy instead of tackling the business in
hand. If I had thought more I should have known that some freak would
seize the opportunity to rake up old scores. Don't feel so bad, Betty.
It was my fault, and I'll make it up to her somehow. Come and help me
tell Christy that she's a trump, and that I truly wanted her, next to
Eleanor."

When they had pushed their way through to Christy's side, Eleanor, still
white but smiling bravely, was shaking hands. "It was awfully good of
you not to mind the little awkwardness," she was saying. "The girls
always want you--you know that." She turned to find Betty standing
beside her, looking as if her heart was broken.

"Why, Betty Wales," she laughed, "cheer up. You've made the speech of
the day, and three of your best friends are waiting to be congratulated.
Tell Christy how pleased you are that she's toastmistress and then come
down town with me."

Once out of the crowded room Eleanor grew silent, and Betty, too hurt
and angry to know what to offer in the way of comfort, left her to her
own thoughts. They had crossed the campus and were half way down the
hill when Eleanor spoke.

"Betty," she said, "please don't care so. If you are going to feel this
way, I don't think I can bear it."

Betty stared at her in astonishment. "Why Eleanor, it's you that I care
about. I can't bear to have you treated so."

Eleanor smiled sadly. "And can't you see--no, of course you can't, for
you never did a mean or dishonorable thing in your life. If you had, you
would know that the worst part of the disgrace, is that you have to
share it with your friends. I don't mind for myself, because what Miss
Harrison said is true."

"No, it's not," cried Betty hotly. "Not another girl in the whole class
feels so."

"That," Eleanor went on, "is only because they are kind enough to be
willing to forget. But to drag you in, and dear old Madeline, and all
'The Merry Hearts'! You'll be sorry you ever took me in."

"Nonsense!" cried Betty positively. "Everybody knows that you've
changed--everybody, that is, except that hateful Miss Harrison, and some
day perhaps she'll see it."

That evening Betty explained to Helen, who had never heard a word of the
"Argus" matter, why Eleanor had not been made an editor.

"Do you think there were any others to-day who didn't want her?" she
asked anxiously.

Helen hesitated. "Ye-es," she admitted finally. "I think that Miss
Harrison has some friends who feel as she does. I heard them whispering
together. And one girl spoke to me. But I am sure they were about the
only ones. Most of the girls feel dreadfully about it."

"Of course no one who didn't would say anything to me," sighed Betty.
"Oh, Helen, I am so disappointed."

"Well," returned Helen judicially, "it can't be helped now, and in a way
it may be a good thing. Eleanor will feel now that everybody who counts
for much in the class understands, and perhaps there will be something
else to elect her for, before the year is out."

Betty shook her head. "No, it's the last chance. She wouldn't take
anything after this, and anyway no one would dare to propose her, and
risk having her insulted again."

"I guess we shan't any of us be tempted to do anything dishonest," said
Helen primly. "Doesn't it seem to you as if the girls were getting more
particular lately about saying whether they got their ideas from books
and giving their authorities at the end of their papers?"

"Yes," said Betty, "it does, and I think it's a splendid thing. I went
to a literary club meeting with Nan last Christmas and one of the papers
was copied straight out of a book I'd just been reading, almost word for
word. I told Nan and she laughed and said it was a very common way of
doing. I think Harding girls will do a good deal if they help put a stop
to that kind of thing. But that won't be much comfort to Eleanor."

When Helen had gone, Betty curled up on her couch to consider the day.
"Mixed," she told the little green lizard, "part very nice and part
perfectly horrid, like most days in this world, I suppose, even in your
best beloved senior year. I wonder if Prexy will like the scholarship
idea. I straightened out one snarl, and then I helped make a worse one.
And I shall be in another if I don't set to work this very minute,"
ended Betty, reaching for her Stout's Psychology.



CHAPTER III

THE BELDEN HOUSE "INITIATION PARTY"


Lucile Merrifield, Betty's stately sophomore cousin, and Polly Eastman,
Lucile's roommate and dearest friend, sat on Madeline Ayres's bed and
munched Madeline's sweet chocolate complacently.

"Wish I had cousins in Paris that would send me 'eats' as good as this,"
sighed Polly.

"Isn't it just too delicious!" agreed Lucile. "I say, Madeline, I'm on
the sophomore reception committee and there aren't half enough
sophomores to go round among the freshmen. Won't you take somebody?"

"I? Hardly." Madeline shrugged her shoulders disdainfully. "Don't you
know, child, that I detest girl-dances--any dances for that matter. Ask
me to do something amusing."

"You ought to want to do something useful," said Polly reproachfully.
"Think of all those poor little friendless freshmen!"

"What kind of a class is it this year?" inquired Madeline, lazily,
breaking up more chocolate. "Any fun?"

"The chief thing I've noticed about them," said Lucile, "is that they're
so horribly numerous."

"Fresh?" asked Madeline.

"Yes, indeed," declared Polly emphatically, "dreadfully fresh. But
somehow,--I'm on the grind committee, you know,--and they don't do
anything funny. They just do quantities and quantities of stupid,
commonplace things, like mistaking the young faculty for freshmen and
expecting Miss Raymond to help them look up their English references. I
just wish they'd think of something original," ended Polly dolefully.

"Why don't you make up something?" asked Madeline.

Polly stared. "Oh, I don't think that would do at all. The grinds are
supposed to be true, aren't they? They'd be sure to find out and then
they'd always dislike us." Polly smiled luminously. "I've got a good
many freshmen friends," she explained.

"Which means violet-bestowing crushes, I suppose," said Madeline
severely. "You shouldn't encourage that sort of thing, Polly. You're too
young."

"I'm not a bit younger than Lucile," Polly defended herself, "and they
all worship her." Polly giggled. "Only instead of violets, they send her
Gibson girls, with touching notes about her looking like one."

"Come now," said Lucile calmly. "That's quite enough. Let Madeline tell
us how to get some good grinds."

Madeline considered, frowning. "Why if you won't make up," she said at
last, "the only thing to do is to lay traps for them. Or no--I'll tell
you what--let's give an initiation party."

"A what?" chorused her guests.

"Oh, you know--hazing, the men would call it; only of course we'll have
nice little amusing stunts that couldn't frighten a fly. Is anything
doing to-night?"

"In the house, you mean?" asked Lucile. "Not a thing. But if you want
our room----"

"Of course we do," interposed Madeline calmly. "It's the only
decent-sized one in the house. Go and straighten it up, and let this be
a lesson to you to keep it in order hereafter. Polly, you invite the
freshmen for nine o'clock. I'll get some more sophomores and seniors,
and some costumes. Come back here to dress in half an hour."

"Goodness," said the stately Lucile, slipping out of her nest of
pillows. "How you do rush things through, Madeline."

Madeline smiled reminiscently. "I suppose I do," she admitted. "Ever
since I can remember, I've looked upon life as a big impromptu stunt. I
got ready for a year abroad once in half an hour, and I gave the
American ambassador to Italy what he said was the nicest party he'd ever
been to on three hours' notice, one night when mother was ill and father
went off sketching and forgot to come in until it was time to dress. Oh,
it's just practice," said Madeline easily,--"practice and being of a
naturally hopeful disposition. Run along now."

"I thought I'd better not tell them," Madeline confided to the genius of
her room, when the sophomores were safely out of earshot, "that I haven't
the faintest notion what to do with those freshmen after we get them
there. Being experienced, I know that something will turn up; but they,
being only sophomores, might worry. Now what the mischief"--Madeline
pulled out drawer after drawer of her chiffonier--"can I have done with
those masks?"

The masks turned up, after the Belden House "Merry Hearts" had searched
wildly through all their possessions for them, over at the Westcott in
Babbie Hildreth's chafing dish, where she had piled them neatly for
safe-keeping the June before.

"Madeline said for you each to bring a sheet," explained Helen Adams,
who had been deputed to summon the B's and Katherine. "They're to dress
up in, I guess. She said we couldn't lend you the other ones of ours,
because they might get dirty trailing around the floors, and we must
have at least one apiece left for our beds."

The B's joined rapturously in the preparations for Madeline's mysterious
party. Katherine could not be found, and Rachel and Eleanor were both
engaged for the evening; but that was no matter, Madeline said. It ought
to be mostly a Belden House affair, but a few outsiders would help
mystify the freshmen.

Promptly at quarter to nine Polly, Lucile, and the rest of the Belden
House contingent arrived, each bringing her sheet with her, and
presently Madeline's room swarmed with hooded, ghostly figures.

"Is that you, Polly?" whispered Lucile to somebody standing near her.

"No, it's not," squeaked the figure, from behind its little black mask.

"Why, we shan't even know each other, after we get mixed up a little,"
giggled somebody else, as the procession lined up for a hasty dash
through the halls.

"Now, don't forget that you've all got to help think up things for them
to do," warned Madeline, "especially you sophomores."

"And don't forget to remember the things for grinds," added Polly
Eastman lucidly. "That's what the party is for."

"If the freshmen find out that you had to get us to help you, you'll
never hear the last of it," jeered Babe.

"Now Babe, we're their natural allies," protested Babbie. "Of course we
always help them."

"Sh!" called a scout, sticking her head into the room. "Coast's clear.
Make a rush for it."

The last ghost had just gotten safely into the room, when two freshmen,
timid but much flattered by Polly's cordial invitation, knocked on the
door.

"Come in," called Polly in her natural voice, and once unsuspectingly
inside, they were pounced upon by the army of ghosts, and escorted to
seats as far as possible from the door. The other guests luckily arrived
in a body headed by Georgia Ames, who, having come into the house only
the day before, was already an important personage in the eyes of her
classmates. What girl wouldn't be who called Betty Wales by her first
name, and wasn't one bit afraid to "talk back" to the clever Miss Ayres?

Georgia's attitude of amused tolerance therefore set the tone for the
freshmen's behavior. "Don't you see that it's some sophomore joke?" she
demanded. "Might as well let the poor creatures get as much fun out of
us as they can, and then perhaps they'll give us something good to eat
by and by."

"We'll give you something right away," squeaked a ghost. "Georgia Ames
and Miss Ashton, stand forth. Now kneel down, shut your eyes and open
your mouths."

"Don't do it. It will be some horrid, peppery mess," advised a
sour-tempered freshman named Butts.

But Georgia and her companion stood bravely forth, to be rewarded by two
delicious mouthfuls of Madeline's French chocolate. After this pleasant
surprise, the freshmen, all but Miss Butts and one or two more, grew
more cheerful and began to enter into the spirit of the occasion.

"Josephine Boyd, you are elected to scramble like an egg," announced a
tall ghost.

Josephine's performance was so realistic that it evoked peals of
laughter from ghosts and freshmen alike.

"We'll recommend you for a part in the next menagerie that the house or
the college has," said the tall ghost, who seemed to be mistress of
ceremonies. "The Dutton twins are now commanded to push matches across
the floor with their noses. You'll find the matches on the table by the
window. Somebody tie their hands behind them. Now start at the door and
go straight across to Georgia Ames's chair. The one that wins the race
must send Polly some flowers," added the tall ghost maliciously as the
twins, blushing violently at this barefaced reference to their rivalry
for Polly's affections, took their matches, and at Georgia's signaled
"One, two, three, go!" began their race.

Pushing a match across a slippery floor with one's nose looked so easy
and proved so difficult that both ghosts and freshmen, as they cheered
on the eager contestants, longed to take part in the enticing sport. The
fluffy-haired twin kept well ahead of her straight-haired sister, until,
when her match was barely a foot from Georgia's chair it caught in a
crack and broke in two.

"Oh, dear!" sighed the fluffy-haired twin forlornly, trying to single
out her divinity from among the sheeted ghosts.

Her despair was too much for soft-hearted Polly. "Never mind," she said
kindly "The race is hereby called off."

"And we can both send you flowers, can't we?" demanded the
straight-haired twin, jumping up, flushed and panting from her
exertions.

Every one waited eagerly to hear what the next stunt would be.

"This is for you, Miss Butts," announced the tall ghost, after a
whispered colloquy with her companions, "and as you don't seem very
happy to-night we've made it easy. Tell the name of your most particular
crush. Now don't pretend you haven't any."

"I won't tell," muttered Miss Butts sullenly.

"Then you'll have to make up Lucile Merrifield's bed for two weeks as a
penalty for disobeying our decrees. Now all the rest of you may tell
your crushes' names. I will explain, as some of you look a little dazed
about it, that your crush is the person you most deeply adore."

Some of the freshmen meekly accepted the penalty rather than divulge
their secret affections, one declared that she hadn't a crush, one,
remembering the legend of Georgia Ames, made up a sophomore's name and
after she had been safely "passed" exulted over the simplicity of her
victims. A few, including Georgia, calmly confessed their divinities'
names and gloated over the effect their announcements had upon some of
the ghosts.

When this entertainment was exhausted, the ghosts held another
conference. "Carline Dodge, get under the bed and develop like a film,"
decreed the leader finally.

"Oh, not under mine," cried a tall, impressive-looking ghost
plaintively. "My botany and zoölogy specimens are under it. She'd be
sure to upset the jars."

"There!" said Georgia Ames complacently. "That makes six of you that we
know. Polly Eastman and now Lucile have given themselves away. Babbie
Hildreth crumpled all up when Carline Dodge called out her crush's name.
If she's here, the other two that they call the B's are, and Madeline
Ayres is directing the job. It's easy enough to guess who the rest of
you are, so why not take off those hot things and be sociable?"

"Go on, Carline Dodge," ordered the tall ghost imperturbably.

"But I don't get the idea of the action," objected the serious-faced
freshman, and looked amazed that everybody should laugh so uproariously.

"That's so funny that we'll let you off," said Madeline, when the mirth
had subsided. "I foresee that you've invented a very useful phrase."

And sure enough Carline's reply was speedily incorporated into Harding's
special vocabulary, and its author found herself unwittingly famous.

"Now," said Madeline cheerfully, "you may all chase smiles around the
room for a while, and when I say 'wipe,' you are to wipe them off on a
crack in the floor. Then we'll have a speech from one of you and you
will be dismissed."

Most of the freshmen entered gaily into the "action" of chasing smiles,
and caught a great many on their own and each other's faces. That frolic
ended, Madeline called upon a quiet little girl who had hardly been seen
to open her mouth since she reached Harding, to make a speech. To every
one's surprise she rose demurely, without a word of objection or the
least appearance of embarrassment, and delivered an original monologue
supposed to be spoken by a freshman newly arrived and airing her
impressions of the college. It hit everybody with its absurd humor,
which no one enjoyed better, apparently, than the quiet little freshman
herself.

"Encore! Encore! Give us another!" shouted the freshmen when she had
finished; but their quiet little classmate only shook her head, and
assuming once more the mincing, confidential tone she had been using in
the monologue, remarked: "Do you know, there are some girls in our class
that will forget their heads before long. Why, when they're being hazed,
they forget it and think they're at a real party."

Everybody laughed again, and the tall ghost made the little freshman
blush violently by saying, "You'll get a part in the house play, my
child, and if you can write that monologue down I'll send an 'Argus'
editor around after it."

The little freshman, whose name was Ruth Howard, pinched herself softly,
when no one was looking, to make sure that she was awake. Like Mother
Hubbard she felt a little doubtful of her identity, as she noticed the
admiring glances cast upon her by even the haughtiest of the freshmen.
She had been rather lonely during these first weeks, and it was very
pleasant now to find that the things she could do were going to make a
place for her in this big, busy college world.

"A hazing party isn't a half-bad idea, is it?" said Georgia Ames,
reflectively. "It's got us all acquainted a lot faster than anything
else would, I guess,--even if there wasn't any food."

"Considering that we've done everything else, you children might find
the food----" began one of the ghosts, but a bell in the corridor
interrupted her.

"Is that the twenty-minutes-to or the ten o'clock?" asked another ghost
anxiously.

"Ten," said a freshman. "The other rang while we were chasing smiles."

"Then we're locked out," cried a small ghost tragically, and three
sheeted figures rushed down the hall, tripping over their flowing robes
and struggling with their masks as they ran.

"My light is on. Will they report it?" asked little Ruth Howard shyly
of Georgia Ames.

"Mine will be reported all right before I've done with it," declared a
ghost gloomily. "I've got to study for a physics review. I oughtn't to
have come near this festive function."

"Same here."

"Come on, Carline. Don't you know the action of going home?"

"Jolly fun though, wasn't it?"

The initiation party dissolved noisily down the dusky corridors.

Next day the college rang with the report that hazing was now practiced
at Harding. Strange accounts of the Belden House party were passed from
group to group of excited freshmen who declared that they were "just
scared to death" of the sophomores and wouldn't for the world be out
alone after dark, and of amused upper-classmen who allowed for
exaggerations and considered the whole episode in the light of a good
joke. But a particularly susceptible Burton House freshman, who sat at
Miss Stuart's table and burned to make a favorable impression upon that
august lady, repeated the story to her at luncheon. Miss Stuart received
it in silence, wondered what the truth of it was, and asked some of her
friends about it that afternoon at a faculty meeting. Of course some of
the wrong people heard about it and took it up officially, as a matter
calculated to ruin the spirit of the college. The result was that Miss
Ferris and Dr. Hinsdale were furnished with the names of some of the
offenders and requested to interview them on the subject of their
misdemeanors. Miss Ferris unerringly selected Madeline Ayres as the
ring-leader of the affair and Betty Wales as the best person to make an
appeal to, if any appeal was needed, and set an hour for them to come
and see her.

Madeline, who never looked at bulletin-boards, did not get her note of
summons, and Betty, who had taken hers as a friendly invitation to have
tea with her friend, went over to the Hilton House alone and in the
highest spirits. But Miss Ferris was not serving tea, and Dr. Hinsdale
showed no intention of leaving them in peace to indulge in one of those
long and delightful talks that Betty had so anticipated. Indeed it was
he, with his coldest expression and his dryest tone, who introduced the
subject of the initiation party and demanded to know why Madeline Ayres
had neglected Miss Ferris's summons. Betty had no trouble in explaining
that to everybody's satisfaction, but she longed desperately for
Madeline's support, as she listened to Dr. Hinsdale's stern arraignment
of the innocent little gathering.

"It's not lady-like," he asserted. "It's aping the men. Hazing is a
discredited practice anyhow. All decent colleges are dropping it. We
certainly don't want it here, where the aim of the faculty has always
been to encourage the friendliest relations between classes. The members
of the entering class always find the college life difficult at first.
It's quite unnecessary to add to their troubles."

Betty listened with growing horror. What dreadful thing had she
unwittingly been a party to? And yet, after all, could it have been so
very dreadful? If Dr. Hinsdale had been there, would he have felt this
way about it? A smile wavered on Betty's lips at this thought. She
looked at Miss Ferris, who smiled back at her.

"Say it, Betty," encouraged Miss Ferris, and Betty began, explaining how
Madeline had happened to think of the hazing, relating the absurdities
that she and the rest had devised, dwelling on Ruth Howard's clever
impersonation and Josephine Boyd's effective egg-scrambling. Gradually
Dr. Hinsdale's expression softened, and when she repeated Carline
Dodge's absurd retort, he laughed like a boy.

"Do you think it was so very dreadful?" Betty inquired anxiously,
whereupon her judges exchanged glances and laughed again.

"There's another thing," Betty began timidly after a moment. "I don't
know as I should ever have thought of it myself, but it did certainly
work that way." And Betty explained Georgia Ames's idea of the
hazing-party as a promoter of good-fellowship. "It's awfully hard to get
acquainted with freshmen, you see," she went on. "We have our own
friends and we are all busy with our own affairs. But since that night
we've been just as friendly. That one evening took the place of lots of
calls and formal parties. We know now what the different ones can do. Of
course," Betty admitted truthfully, "it didn't help Miss Butts any,
unless it showed her that at Harding you've got to do your part, if you
want a good time. She's certainly been a little more agreeable since.
But Ruth Howard now--why it would have been ages--oh, I mean months,"
amended Betty blushingly, "before we should have known about her, unless
Madeline had called for that speech."

Again the judges exchanged amused glances, and Dr. Hinsdale cleared his
throat. "Well, Miss Wales," he said, "you've made your point, I think.
You've found the legitimate purpose for a legitimate and distinctly
feminine kind of hazing. And now, if Miss Ferris will excuse me, I have
an engagement at my rooms."

So Betty had her talk and her tea, after all, and went away loving Miss
Ferris harder than ever. For Miss Ferris, by the mysterious process that
brought all college news to her ken, had heard about Eleanor Watson and
the Champion Blunderbuss, and she was looking out for Eleanor, who, she
was sure from a number of little things she had noticed and pieced
together, was now quite capable of looking out for herself. This
confirmation of her own theory encouraged Betty vastly, and she was able
to feel a little more charitable toward the Champion, who, as Miss
Ferris had pointed out, was really the one most to be pitied.



CHAPTER IV

AN ADVENTUROUS MOUNTAIN DAY


"The 19-- scholarships, providing aid to the approximate sum of one
hundred dollars for each of four students, preferably members of an
upper class"--thus the announcement was to appear formally in the
college catalogue. The president and the donor had both heartily
approved of Betty's scheme, and the scholarships were an accomplished
fact. It had been the donor's pleasant suggestion that 19-- should keep
in perpetual touch with its gift to the college by appointing a
committee to act with one from the faculty in disposing of the
scholarships. Betty Wales was chairman, of course. 19-- did not intend
that she should forget her connection with those scholarships. Betty
took her duties very seriously. She watched the girls at chapel, in the
recitation halls, on the campus, noted those with shabby clothes and
worried faces, found out their names and their boarding-places, and set
tactful investigations on foot about their needs. The enormous number of
her "speaking acquaintances" became a college joke.

"Bow, Betty," Katherine would whisper, whenever on their long country
walks, they met a group of girls who looked as if they might belong to
the college. And then, "Is it possible I've found somebody you don't
know? Better look them up right away."

"It's splendid training for your memory," Betty declared, and it was,
and splendid training besides in helpfulness and social service, though
Betty did not put it so grandly. To her it was just trying to take
Dorothy King's place, and not succeeding very well either.

In looking up strangers, Betty did not forget her friends. Nobody could
be more deserving of help than Rachel Morrison. Her hard summer's work
had worn on her and made the busy round of tutoring and study seem
particularly irksome. But Rachel, while she was pleased to think that
she had been the joint committee's first choice, refused the money.

"I could only take it as a loan," she said, "and I don't want to have a
debt hanging over my head next year. I'm not so tired now as I was when
I first got back, and I can rest all next summer. Did I tell you that
Babbie Hildreth's uncle has offered me a position in his school for next
fall?"

Emily Davis, on the other hand, was very glad to accept a
scholarship,--"As a loan of course," she stipulated. She had practically
supported herself for the whole four years at Harding, and the strain
and worry had begun to tell on her. A little easier time this year would
mean better fitness for the necessarily hard year of teaching that was
to follow, without the interval of rest that Rachel counted upon.
Emily's mother was dead now, and her father made no effort to help his
ambitious daughter. She might have had a place in the woolen mills,
where he worked years before, he argued; since she had not taken it, she
must look out for herself.

But with the serious side of life was mixed, for Betty and the rest,
plenty of gaiety. 19-- might not be greatly missed after they had gone
out into the wide, wide world, but while they stayed at Harding
everybody seemed bent on treating them royally.

"You know this is the last fall you'll have here," Polly Eastman would
say, pleading with Betty to come for a drive. "There's no such beautiful
autumn foliage near Cleveland."

Or, "You must come to our house dance," Babbie Hildreth would declare.
"Just think how few Harding dances there are left for us to go to!"

Even the most commonplace events, such as reading aloud in the parlors
after dinner, going down to Cuyler's for an ice, or canoeing in Paradise
at sunset took on a new interest. Seniors who had felt themselves
superior to the material joys of fudge-parties and scorned the crudities
of amateur plays and "girl-dances," eagerly accepted invitations to
either sort of festivity.

"And the moral of that, as our dear departed Mary Brooks would say,"
declared Katherine, "is: Blessings brighten as diplomas come on apace.
Between trying not to miss any fun and doing my best to distinguish
myself in the scholarly pursuits that my soul loves, I am well nigh
distraught. Don't mind my Shakespearean English, please. I'm on the
senior play committee, and I recite Shakespeare in my sleep."

Dearest of all festivities to the Harding girl is Mountain Day, and
there were all sorts of schemes afoot among 19--'s members for making
their last Mountain Day the best of the four they had enjoyed so much.
Horseback riding was the prevailing fad at Harding that fall, and every
girl who could sit in a saddle was making frantic efforts to get a horse
for an all-day ride among the hills. Betty was a beginner, but she had
been persuaded to join a large party that included Eleanor, Christy,
Madeline, Nita, and the B's. They were going to take a man to look after
the horses, and they had planned their ride so that the less experienced
equestrians could have a long rest after luncheon, and taking a
cross-cut through the woods, could join the others, who would leave the
picnic-place earlier and make a long detour, so as to have their gallop
out in peace.

It was a sunny, sultry Indian summer day,--a perfect day to ride, drive
or walk, or just to sit outdoors in the sunshine, as Roberta Lewis
announced her intention of doing. She helped the horseback riders to
adjust their little packages of luncheon, and looked longingly after
them, as they went cantering down the street, waving noisy farewells to
their friends.

"I wish I weren't such a coward," she confided to Helen Adams, who was
starting to join Rachel and Katherine for a long walk. "I love horses,
but I should die of fright if I tried to ride one."

"Oh, they have a man with them," said Helen easily, "and it's a perfect
day for a ride."

Roberta, who almost lived outdoors, and was weatherwise in consequence,
looked critically at the western horizon. "I shouldn't be a bit
surprised if it rained before night," she said. "You'd better decide to
laze around in Paradise with me."

But Helen only laughed at Roberta's caution and went on, whereat Roberta
Lewis was very nearly the only Harding girl who was not drenched to the
skin before Mountain Day was over.

The riding-party galloped through the town and stopped at the edge of
the meadows for consultation.

"Let's go by the bridge and come back by the ferry," suggested Madeline.
"Then we shall have the prettiest part of the ride saved for sunset."

"And you'll have a better road both ways, miss," put in the groom
practically.

So the party crossed the long toll-bridge, the horses stepping
hesitatingly and curveting a little at the swish of the noisy water,
climbed the sunny hills beyond, and dipped down to a level stretch of
wood, in the heart of which they chose a picnic-ground by the side of a
merry little brook.

"We must have a fire," announced Bob, who had fallen behind the
procession, and now came up at the trot, just as the others were
dismounting.

"But we haven't anything to cook," objected Eleanor.

"Coffee," grinned Bob jubilantly. "I've got folding cups stuffed around
under my sweater, and I stopped at that farmhouse back by the fork in
the road to get a pail."

"And there are marshmallows to toast," added Babe. "That's what I've
got in my sweater."

"I thought you two young ladies had grown awful stout on a sudden,"
chuckled the groom, beginning to pile up twigs under an overhanging
ledge of rock.

"And here are some perfectly elegant mushrooms," declared Madeline, who
had been poking about among the fallen leaves. "We can use the pail for
those first, and have the coffee with dessert."

All the girls had brought sandwiches, stuffed eggs, cakes, and fruit, so
that, with the extras, the picnic was "truly elegant," as Babe put it.
They sang songs while they waited for the coffee to boil, and toasted
Babe's marshmallows, two at a time, on forked sticks, voting Babe a
trump to have thought of them.

Then they lay on the green turf by the brook, talking softly to the
babbling accompaniment of its music.

Finally Eleanor shivered and sat up. "Where is the sun?" she asked.
"Oughtn't we to be starting?"

[Illustration: "HERE ARE SOME PERFECTLY ELEGANT MUSHROOMS"]

The sky was not dark or threatening, only a bit gray and dull. The groom
was to stay with the novices--Christy, Babe and Betty--who, as soon as
the rest had mounted, raced down the road to get warm and also to return
the pail that Bob had borrowed, to its owner. By the time they got back,
after making a short call on the farmer's wife, the sun was struggling
out again, but the next minute big drops began to patter down through
the leaves.

The groom considered the situation. "I guess you'll jest have to wait
and git wet. Miss Hildreth's horse is skittish on ferries. I wouldn't
wanter go on with you an' leave her to cross alone."

So they waited, keeping as dry as possible under a pine tree, until the
time appointed for starting to the rendezvous. It was raining steadily
now. Babe's horse objected to getting wet, and pulled on the reins
sullenly. The sky was fairly black. Altogether it was an uncomfortable
situation.

The road to the river was damp and slippery, and most of it was a steep
down-grade. There was nothing to do but walk the horses, Babe's dancing
sidewise in a fashion most upsetting to Betty's nerves. By the time they
had reached the ferry, darkness seemed to have settled, and there were
low growlings of thunder. Babe's horse reared, and she dismounted and
stood at his head while they waited for the ferry to cross to them.

"I guess there's goin' to be a bad shower," volunteered the groom. "I
guess we'd better wait over in that barn till it's over. Animals don't
like lightning."

The ferry seemed to crawl across the river, but it arrived at last, and
each girl led her horse on board. They were all frightened, but nobody
showed the "white feather." Babe's cheeks were pale, though, as she
patted her restive mount, and laughed bravely at Madeline's futile
efforts to feed sugar to her tall "Black Beauty," who jerked his nose
impatiently out of her reach each time she tried.

"Beauty must be awfully upset if he doesn't want sugar," said Babbie,
who was standing next the groom. "He's the greed----" The next minute
Betty found herself holding her own and the groom's horse, while he
plunged after Babbie's, who was snorting and kicking right into the
midst of everything. It had lightened, and between the lightning and
the water Babbie's high-spirited mare was frantic, and was fast
communicating her excitement to the others.

A minute later there was a tremendous jolt which set all the horses to
jumping.

"I swan," said the apathetic ferryman who had paid no attention to the
previous confusion. "We're aground."

The girls looked at one another through the gathering shadows.

"How are we going to get off?" asked the groom desperately.

The ferryman considered. "I dunno."

Babbie's horse plunged again.

"Can we wade to shore?" asked the groom, when something like order was
restored.

"Easy. You see I knew the river was awful low, but I s'posed----"

"The only thing that I can think of," interrupted the groom, "is for us
to leave you girls with the horses, while we get to shore. Then you send
'em off one by one, and we'll catch 'em. Miss Hildreth, you send yours
first. No, Miss Wales, you send mine first, then Miss Hildreth's may
follow better. I'm awfully sorry to make you young ladies so much
trouble."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Babbie bravely, shaking the water out of
her eyes. "Only--do hurry, please."

The "easy wading" proved to be through water up to a man's shoulders,
and it lightened twice, with the usual consequences to Babbie's horse,
before the groom signaled. His horse went off easily enough, but
Babbie's balked and then reared, and Betty's lay down first and then
kicked viciously, when she and Babbie between them had succeeded in
getting him to stand up. Finally Madeline broke her crop in getting him
over the side, and when Black Beauty had also been sent ashore the ferry
lurched a little and floated.

"Do you suppose we shall ever get dry again?" asked Eleanor lightly,
while they waited for the ferryman to come back to them.

Babbie touched her black coat gingerly. "Am I wet?" she whispered to
Betty. "Of course I am, but I'd forgotten it." The reins had cut one of
her hands through her heavy glove, but she had forgotten that too, as
she shivered and clung to the railing that Black Beauty had splintered
when he went over. All she could think of was the horror of riding that
plunging, foam-flecked horse home.

The ferryman took them to his house, which was the nearest one to the
landing; and while he and the groom rubbed down the horses, his wife and
little daughter made more coffee for the girls and helped them wring out
their dripping clothes.

Babe pretended to find vast enjoyment in watching the water trickle off
her skirts and gaiters. Christy, who rode bare-headed, declared that she
had gotten a beautiful shampoo free of charge. Even Babbie smiled
faintly and called attention to the "mountain tarn" splashing about in
the brim of her tri-corn hat.

"I tell ye, them girls air game," declared the ferryman watching them
ride off as soon as the storm was over. "That little slim one on the bay
mare is a corker. Her horse cut up somethin' awful. They all offered to
change with her, but she said she guessed she could manage. Look at the
way she sets an' pulls. She's got grit all right. I guess I'll have to
make out to have you go to college, Annie."

Whereupon little Annie spent a rapturous evening dreaming of the time
when she should be a Harding girl, and be able to say bright, funny
things like Miss Ayres. She resolved to wear her hair like Miss Watson
and to have a pleasant manner like Miss Wales, and above all to be
"gritty" like Miss Hildreth. For the present evening the fiercest steed
she could find to subdue was an arithmetic lesson. Annie hated
arithmetic, but in the guise of a plunging bay mare, that it took grit
to ride, she rather enjoyed forcing the difficult problems to come out
right.

Meanwhile the riding party had reached the campus, a little later and a
little wetter than most of their friends, and they were provided with
hot baths and hot drinks, and put to bed, where they lay in sleepy
comfort enjoying the feeling of being heroines.

Very soon after dinner Betty got tired of being a heroine, and when
Georgia Ames appeared and announced that a lot of freshmen were making
fudge in her room and wished Betty would come and have some and tell
them all about her experiences, she looked anxiously at Helen Adams, who
was the only person in the room just then.

"It's awfully good fudge--got marshmallows in it, and nuts," urged
Georgia. "They want Miss Adams too."

"Can I come in a kimono?" asked Betty. "I'm too tired to dress."

"Of course. Only----" Georgia hesitated.

"There's a man in the parlor, calling on Polly Eastman. And the folding
doors are stuck open. I wish my room wasn't down on that floor. You have
to be so careful of your appearance."

Betty frowned. "I want awfully to come. Can't you two think of a way?"

"Why of course," cried Georgia gleefully, after a moment's
consideration. "We'll hold a screen around you. The man will know that
something queer is inside it, but he can't see what."

So the procession started, Helen and Georgia carrying the screen. At the
top of the last flight, they adjusted it around Betty, and began slowly
to make the descent. At the curve Georgia looked down into the hall and
stopped, in consternation.

"They've moved out into the hall," she whispered. "No--this is Lucile
Merrifield and another man. We've got to go right past them."

"Let's go back," whispered Betty.

"But they've seen us," objected Helen, "and you'd miss the fudge."

A moment later, three girls and a Japanese screen fell through Georgia's
door into the midst of an amazed freshmen fudge party.

"Goodness," said Georgia, when she had recovered her breath. "Did you
hear that horrid Lucile? 'A regular freshman trick'--that's what she
said to her man. They blame everything on us."

"Well if this fudge is regular freshman fudge, it's the best I ever
tasted," said little Helen Adams tactfully.

Later in the evening Betty trailed her red kimono into Helen's room.
"Helen," she began, "did I have on my pearl pin when we started
down-stairs to-night? I can't find it anywhere."

"I don't think you did," said Helen, thoughtfully, "but I'll go and
see. You might have dropped it off when we all landed in a heap on the
floor."

But the freshmen had not found the pin and diligent search of Georgia's
room, as well as of the halls and stairways, failed to reveal it.

"Oh, well, I suppose it will turn up," said Betty easily. "I lost it
once last year, and ages afterward I found it in my desk. I shan't worry
yet awhile. I didn't have it on this morning, did I?"

This time Helen remembered positively. "No, you had on your lucky
pin--the silver four-leaved clover that I like so much. I noticed
particularly."

"All right then," said Betty. "I saw it last night, so it must be about
somewhere. Some day when I'm not so lame from riding and so sleepy, I'll
have a grand hunt for it."



CHAPTER V

THE RETURN OF MARY BROOKS


All through the fall Mary Brooks's "little friends" had been hoping for
a visit from her, and begging her to come soon, before the fine weather
was over. Now she was really and truly coming. Roberta had had the
letter of course, by virtue of being Mary's most faithful satellite; but
it was meant for them all.

"The conquering heroine is coming," Mary wrote. "She will arrive at four
on Monday, and you'd better, some of you, meet the train, because
there's going to be a spread along, and the turkey weighs a ton. Don't
plan any doings for me. I've been to a dance or a dinner every night for
two weeks and I'm already sick of being a busy bud, though I've only
been one for a month--not to mention having had the gayest kind of a
time all summer. So you see I'm coming to Harding to rest and
recuperate, and to watch you children play at being seniors. I know how
busy you are, and what a bore it is to have company, but I shall just
take care of myself. Only get me a room at Rachel's little house around
the corner, and I won't be a bit of trouble to anybody."

"Consider the touching modesty of that now!" exclaimed Katherine. "As if
we weren't all pining for a sight of her. And can't you just taste the
spread she'll bring?"

"We must make her have it the very night she gets here," said Betty
practically. "There's a lot going on next week, and as soon as people
find out that she's here they'll just pounce on her for all sorts of
things."

"I hereby pounce upon her for our house dance," announced Babbie
Hildreth hastily. "Isn't it jolly that it comes this week? I had a
presentiment that I'd better save one of my invitations."

"You needn't have bothered," said Babe enviously. "I guess there'll
always be room for Mary Brooks at a Westcott House dance--as long as
19-- stays anyway."

"Don't quarrel, children," Madeline intervened. "Your dance is on
Wednesday. Is there anything for Tuesday?"

"A psychology lecture," returned Helen Adams promptly.

"Cut it out," laughed Katherine. "Mary isn't coming up here to go to
psychology lectures."

"But she does want to go to it," declared Roberta, suddenly waking up to
the subject in hand. "I thought it was queer myself, but she speaks
about it particularly in her letter. Let me see--oh, here it is, in the
postscript. It's by a friend of Dr. Hinsdale, she says; and somebody
must have written her about it and offered her a ticket, because she
says she's already invited and so for us not to bother. Did you write
her, Helen?"

"No," said Helen, "I didn't. The lecture wasn't announced until
yesterday. There was a special meeting of the Philosophical Club to
arrange about it."

"It's queer," mused Katherine. "Mary was always rather keen on
psychology----"

"On the psychology of Dr. Hinsdale you mean," amended Madeline
flippantly. "But that doesn't explain her inside information about this
lecture. We'll ask her how she knew--that's the quickest way to find
out. Now let's go on with our schedule. What's Thursday?"

"The French Club play," explained Roberta. "I think she'd like that,
don't you?"

Madeline nodded. "Easily. It's going to be awfully clever this time.
Then that leaves only Friday. Let's drive out to Smuggler's Notch in the
afternoon and have supper at Mrs. Noble's."

"Oh, yes," agreed Betty. "That will make such a perfectly lovely end-up
to the week. And of course we shall all want to take her to Cuyler's and
Holmes's. May I have her for Tuesday breakfast? I haven't any class
until eleven, so we can eat in peace."

"Then I'll take lunch on Tuesday," put in Katherine hastily, "because I
am as poor as poverty at present, and a one o'clock luncheon preceded by
a breakfast ending at eleven appeals to my lean pocketbook."

"I should like to take her driving that afternoon," put in Babbie.

"You may, if you'll take me to sit in the middle and do the driving,"
said Bob, "and let's all have dinner at Cuyler's that night--a grand
affair, you know, ordered before hand, at a private table with a screen
around it, and a big bunch of roses for a centre piece. Old girls like
that sort of thing. It makes them feel important."

"With or without food?" demanded Madeline sarcastically, but no one paid
any attention to her, in the excitement of bidding for the remaining
divisions of Mary's week.

All the Chapin House girls and the three B's met her at the station and
"ohed" and "ahed" in a fashion that would have been disconcerting to
anybody who was unfamiliar with the easy manners of Harding girls, at
the elegance of her new blue velvet suit and the long plumes that curled
above her stylishly dressed hair, and at the general air of "worldly and
bud-like wisdom," as Katherine called it, that pervaded her small
person.

They had not finished admiring her when her trunk appeared.

"Will you look at that, girls!" cried Katherine, feigning to be quite
overpowered by its huge size. "Mary Brooks, whatever do you expect to
do with a trousseau like that in this simple little academic village?"

Mary only smiled placidly. "Don't be silly, K. Some of the spread is in
there. Besides, I want to be comfortable while I'm here, and this autumn
weather is so uncertain. Who's going to have first go at carrying the
turkey?"

"I've got a runabout waiting," explained Babbie. "I'm going to drive him
up. There'll be room for you too, Mary, and for some of the others."

The seat of a runabout can be made to hold four, on a pinch, and there
is still standing-room for several other adaptable persons. The rest of
the party walked, and the little house around the corner was soon the
scene of a boisterous reunion.

Mary's conversation was as abundant and amusing as ever, and she did not
show any signs of the weariness that her letter had made so much of.

"That's because I have acquired a society manner," she announced
proudly. "I conceal my real emotions under a mask of sparkling gaiety."

"You can't conceal things from us that way," declared Katherine. "How
under the sun did you hear about that psychology lecture?"

"Why, a man I know told me," explained Mary innocently. "He's also a
friend of the lecturer. We were at dinner together one night last week,
and he knew I was a Harding-ite, and happened to mention it. Any
objections?"

"And you really want to go?" demanded Madeline.

"Of course," retorted Mary severely. "I always welcome every opportunity
to improve my mind."

But to the elaborate plans that had been made for her entertainment Mary
offered a vigorous protest. "My dears," she declared, "I should be worn
to a frazzle if I did all that. Didn't I tell you that I'd come up to
rest? I'll have breakfast with anybody who can wait till I'm ready to
get up, and we'll have one dinner all together. But it's really too cold
to drive back from Smuggler's Notch after dark, and besides you know I
never cared much for long drives. But we'll have the spread to-night,
anyway, just as you planned, because it's going to be such a full week,
and I wouldn't for the world have any of you miss anything on my
account."

"And you don't care about the French play?" asked Roberta, who had moved
heaven and earth to get her a good seat.

"No, dear," answered Mary sweetly. "My French is hopelessly rusty."

"Then I should think you'd go in for improving it," suggested Babe.

"There's not enough of it to improve," Mary retorted calmly.

"Well, you will go to our house-dance, won't you?" begged Babbie.

"Oh, you must," seconded Bob. "I've told piles of people you were
coming."

"We shall die of disappointment if you don't," added Babe feelingly.

Mary laughed good-naturedly. "All right," she conceded, "I'll come. Only
be sure to get me lots of dances with freshmen. Then I can amuse myself
by making them think I'm one, also, and I shan't be bored."

On the way back to the campus the girls discussed Mary's amazing
attitude toward the pleasures of college life.

"She must be awfully used up," said Roberta, solemnly. "Why, she used to
be crazy about plays and dances and 'eats.'"

"No use in coming up at all," grumbled Katherine, "if she's only going
to lie around and sleep."

"She doesn't look one bit tired," declared Betty, "and she seems glad to
be back, only she doesn't want to do anything. It's certainly queer."

"She must be either sick or in love," said Madeline. "Nothing else will
account for it."

"Then I think she's in love," declared little Helen Adams sedately. "She
has a happy look in her eyes."

"Bosh!" jeered Bob. "Mary isn't the sentimental kind. I'll bet she feels
different after the spread."

But though the spread was quite the grandest that had ever been seen at
Harding, and though Mary seemed to enjoy it quite as heartily as her
guests, who had conscientiously starved on campus fare for the week
before it, it failed to arouse in her the proper enthusiasm for college
functions.

On Tuesday "after partaking of a light but elegant noontide repast on
me," as Katherine put it, Mary declared her intention of taking a nap,
and went to her room. But half an hour later, when Babbie tiptoed up to
ask if she really meant to waste a glorious afternoon sleeping, and to
put the runabout at her service, the room was empty, and Mary turned up
again barely in time for the grand dinner at Cuyler's.

"We were scared to death for fear you'd forgotten us," said Madeline,
helping her off with her wraps. "Where have you been all this time?"

"Why, dressing," explained Mary, wearing her most innocent expression.
"It takes ages to get into this gown, but it's my best, and I wanted to
do honor to your very grand function."

"That dress was lying on your bed when I stopped for you exactly fifteen
minutes ago," declared Bob triumphantly. "So you'll have to think of
another likely tale."

Mary smiled her "beamish" smile.

"Well, I came just after you'd gone and isn't fourteen minutes to waste
on dressing an age? If you mean where was I before that, why my nap
wasn't a success, so I went walking, and it was so lovely that I
couldn't bear to come in. These hills are perfectly fascinating after
the city."

"You little fraud," cried Madeline. "You hate walking, and you can't see
scenery----"

"As witness the nestle," put in Katherine.

"So please tell us who he is," finished Madeline calmly.

"The very idea of coming back to see us and then going off fussing with
Winsted men!" Babe's tone was solemnly reproachful.

But Mary was equal to the situation. "I haven't seen a Winsted man since
I came," she declared. "I was going to tell you who was with me this
afternoon, but I shan't now, because you've all been so excessively mean
and suspicious." A waitress appeared, and Mary's expression grew
suddenly ecstatic. "Do I see creamed chicken?" she cried. "Girls, I
dreamed about Cuyler's creamed chicken every night last week. I was so
afraid you wouldn't have it!"

Her appreciation of the dinner was so delightfully whole-hearted that
even Roberta forgave her everything, down to her absurd enthusiasm over
a ponderous psychology lecture and the very dull reception that followed
it. At the latter, to be sure, Mary acted exactly like her old self, for
she sat in a corner and monopolized Dr. Hinsdale for half an hour by the
clock, while her little friends, to quote Katherine Kittredge, "champed
their bits" in their impatience to capture her and escape to more
congenial regions.

The next night at the Westcott House dance Mary was again her gay and
sportive self. If she was bored, she concealed it admirably, and that in
spite of the fact that her little scheme of playing freshman seemed
doomed to failure. Mary had walked out of chapel that morning with the
front row, and, even without the enormous bunch of violets which none of
her senior friends would confess to having sent her, she was not a
figure to pass unnoticed. So most of the freshmen on her card recognized
her at once, and the few who did not stoutly refused to be taken in by
her innocent references to "our class."

She had the last dance but one with the sour-faced Miss Butts, who never
recognized any one; but Mary did not know that, and being rather tired
she swiftly waltzed her around the hall a few times and then suggested
that they watch the dance out from the gallery.

"What class are you?" asked Miss Butts, when they were established
there. "My card doesn't say."

"Doesn't it?" said Mary idly, watching the kaleidoscope of gay colors
moving dizzily about beneath her. "Then suppose you guess."

Miss Butts considered ponderously. "You aren't a freshman," she said
finally, "nor a sophomore."

"How are you so sure of that?" asked Mary. "I was just going to say----"

"You're a junior," announced Miss Butts, calmly disregarding the
interruption.

Mary shook her head.

"Senior, then."

Mary shook her head again.

"I didn't think you looked old enough for that," said Miss Butts. "Then
I was mistaken and you're a sophomore."

"No," said Mary firmly.

Miss Butts stared. "Freshman?"

"No," said Mary, who considered the befooling of Miss Butts beneath her.
"I graduated last year."

"Oh, I don't believe that: I believe you're a freshman after all,"
declared Miss Butts. "You started to say you were a few minutes ago."

"No, I graduated last June," repeated Mary, a trifle sharply. "Here's
Miss Hildreth coming for my next dance. You can ask her. I'm her guest
this evening. Didn't I graduate last year, Babbie?"

Babbie stared uncomprehendingly for a moment. Then she remembered Mary's
plan.

"Why, you naughty little freshman!" she cried reprovingly. "Have you
been telling her that?"

Miss Butts looked dazedly from the amused and reproachful Babbie to
Mary, whose expression was properly cowed and repentant.

"Are you really a freshman?" she asked. "Why, I don't believe you are.
I--I don't know what to believe!"

Mary smiled at her radiantly. "Never mind," she said, "you'll know the
truth some day. Next fall at about this time I'll invite you to dinner,
and then you'll know all about me. Now good-bye."

Babbie regarded this speech as merely Mary's convenient little way of
getting rid of the stupid Miss Butts, who for her part promptly forgot
all about it. But Mary remembered, and she declared that the sight of
Miss Butts's face on the occasion of that dinner-party, with all its
rather remarkable accessories, was worth many evenings of boredom at
"girl dances."

It was not until Friday, that Mary's "little friends" caught her
red-handed, in an escapade that explained everything from the size of
her trunk to the puzzling insouciance of her manner. They all, and
particularly Roberta, had begun to feel a little hurt as the days went
by and Mary indulged in many mysterious absences and made unconvincing
excuses for refusing invitations that, as Katherine Kittredge said, were
enough to turn the head of a crown-princess. Friday, the day that had
been reserved for the expedition to Smuggler's Notch, dawned crisp and
clear, and some girls who had had dinner at Mrs. Noble's farm the night
before brought back glowing reports of the venison her brother had sent
her from Maine, and the roaring log fire that she built for them in the
fireplace of her new dining-room. So Roberta and Madeline hurried over
before chapel to ask Mary to reconsider. But she was firm in her
refusal. She had waked with a headache. Besides, she had letters to
write and calls to make on her faculty friends and the people she knew
in town.

The embassy returned, disconsolate, and reported its failure.

"It's just a shame," said Eleanor. "We've been saving that trip all the
fall, so that Mary could go."

"Let's just go without her," suggested Katherine rebelliously. "There
can't be many more nice days."

But Betty shook her head. "We don't want to hurt her feelings. She's a
dear, even if she does act queerly this week. Besides, every one of us
but Roberta and Madeline has that written lesson in English 10
to-morrow, and we ought to study. I'm scared to death over it."

"So am I," agreed Katherine sadly. "I suppose we'd better wait."

"But we can go walking," said Madeline to Roberta, and Roberta, more
hurt than any of the rest by her idol's strange conduct, silently
assented.

They were scuffling gaily through the fallen leaves on an unfrequented
road through the woods, when they heard a carriage coming swiftly up
behind them and turned to see--of all persons--Mary Brooks, who hated
driving, and Dr. Hinsdale. Mary was talking gaily and looked quite
reconciled to her fate, and Dr. Hinsdale was leaving the horses very
much to themselves in the pleasant absorption of watching Mary's face.
Indeed so interested were the pair in each other that they almost passed
the two astonished girls standing by the roadside, without recognizing
them at all. But just as she whirled past, Mary saw them, and leaned
back to wave her hand and smile her "beamish" smile at the unwitting
discoverers of her secret.

It was dusk and nearly dinner time before Dr. Hinsdale drew his horses
up in front of the house around the corner, but Mary's "little friends"
gave up dressing, without a qualm, and even risked missing their soup to
sit, lined up in an accusing row on her bed and her window-box, ready to
greet her when she stumbled into her dark room and lit her gas.

"Oh, girls! What a start you gave me!" she cried, suddenly perceiving
her visitors. "I suppose you think I'm perfectly horrid," she went on
hastily, "but truly I couldn't help it. When a faculty asks you to go
driving, you can't tell him that you hate it--and I couldn't for the
life of me scrape up a previous engagement."

"Speaking of engagements"--began Madeline provokingly.

"All's fair in love, Mary," Katherine broke in. "You're perfectly
excusable. We all think so."

"Who said anything about love?" demanded Mary, stooping to brush an
imaginary speck of dust from her skirt.

"Next time," advised Rachel laughingly, "you'd better take us into your
confidence. You've given yourself a lot of unnecessary bother, and us
quite a little worry, though we don't mind that now."

"Why didn't you tell us that he spent the summer at the same place that
you did?" asked little Helen Adams.

Mary started. "Who told you that?" she demanded anxiously.

"Nobody but Lucile," explained Betty in soothing tones. "She visited
there for a week, and this afternoon just by chance she happened to
speak of seeing him. It fitted in beautifully, you see. She doesn't know
you were there too, so it's all right."

Mary gave a relieved little sigh, and then, turning suddenly, fell upon
the row of pitiless inquisitors, embracing as many as possible and
smiling benignly at the rest. "Oh, girls, he's a dear," she said. "He's
worth twenty of the gilded youths you meet out in society." She drew
back hastily. "But we're only good friends," she declared. "He's been
down a few times to spend Sunday--that was how I heard about the
lecture--but he comes to see father as much as to see me--and--and you
mustn't gossip."

"We won't," Katherine promised for them all. "You can trust us. We
always seem to have a faculty romance or two on our hands. We're
getting used to it."

"But it's not a romance," wailed Mary. "He took me walking and driving
because mother asks him to dinner. We're nothing but jolly good
friends."

"Nothing but jolly good friends--"

That was the last thing Mary said when, late the next afternoon, her
"little friends" waved her off for home.

"Isn't she just about the last person you'd select for a professor's
wife?" said Helen, as Mary's stylish little figure, poised on the rear
platform of the train, swung out of sight around a curve.

"No, indeed she isn't," declared Roberta loyally. "She'll be a fine one.
She's awfully clever, only she makes people think she isn't, because she
knows how to put on her clothes."

"And it's one mission of the modern college girl," announced Madeline
oracularly, "to show the people aforesaid that the two things can go
together. Let's go to Smuggler's Notch Monday to celebrate."



CHAPTER VI

HELEN ADAMS'S MISSION


The particular mission that Madeline had discovered for the modern
college girl was one that Helen Chase Adams would never probably do much
to fulfil. But Helen had a mission of her own--the mission of being
queer. Sometimes she hated it, sometimes she laughed at it, always it
seemed to her a very humble one, but she honestly tried to live up to
its responsibilities and to make the most of the opportunities it
offered.

The loneliness of Helen's freshman year had made an indelible impression
on her. Even now that she was a prominent senior, an "Argus" editor, and
a valued member of Dramatic Club, she never seemed to herself to
"belong" to things as the other girls did. She was still an outsider. An
unexplainable something held her aloof from the easy familiarities of
the life around her, and made it inevitable that she should be, as she
had been from the first, an observer rather than an actor in the drama
of college life. And from her vantage point of observation she saw many
strange things, and made her own little queer deductions and comments
upon them.

On a certain gray and gloomy afternoon in November Helen sat alone in
the "Argus" sanctum. She loved that sanctum--the big oak table strewn
with books and magazines, the soft-toned oriental rugs, and the
shimmering green curtains between which one could catch enchanting
glimpses of Paradise River and the sunsets. She liked it as much as she
hated her own bare little room, where the few pretty things that she had
served only to call attention to the many that she hadn't. But to-day
she was not thinking about the room or the view. It was "make-up" day
for the sketch department--Helen's department of the "Argus." In half an
hour she must submit her copy to Miss Raymond for approval--not that the
exact hour of the day was specified, but if she waited until nearer
dinner-time or until evening Miss Raymond was very likely to be at home,
and Helen dreaded, while she enjoyed a personal interview with her
divinity. Curiously enough she was more than ever afraid of Miss
Raymond since she had been chosen editor of the "Argus." She was sure
that Miss Raymond was responsible for her appointment, but she had never
gotten up courage to thank her, and she was possessed by the fear that
she was disappointing Miss Raymond in the performance of her official
duties. So she preferred to find Miss Raymond's fascinating sitting-room
vacant when she brought her copy, to drop it swiftly on the table
nearest the door, and stopping only for one look at the enticing
prospect of new books heaped on old mahogany, to flee precipitately like
a thief in the night.

The copy for this month was all ready. There was Ruth Howard's
monologue, almost as funny to read as it had been in the telling, next,
by way of contrast, a sad little story of neglected childhood by a
junior who had never written anything good before, and a humorous essay
on kittens by another junior that nobody had suspected of being
literary. There was also a verse, or rather two verses; and it was these
that caused the usually prompt and decisive Helen to hesitate and even
to dawdle, wasting a precious afternoon in a futile attempt to square
her conscience and still do as she pleased about those verses. One of
them was Helen's own. It was good; Miss Raymond had said so with
emphasis, and Helen wanted it to go into the "Argus." She had rather
expected that Jane Drew would ask for it for the main department of the
magazine; but she hadn't, and her copy had gone to Miss Raymond the day
before. The other verses were also stamped with Miss Raymond's heartiest
approval, and like the rest of the articles that Helen had collected,
they were the work of a "nobody." Helen's vigorous unearthing of
undiscovered talent was a joke with the "Argus" staff, and her own great
pride. But to-day she was not in a benevolent mood. She had refused all
through the fall to have anything of her own in the "Argus"; she did not
believe in the editors printing their own work. But these verses were
different; she loved them, she wanted people to see them and to know
that they were hers.

She had thought of consulting Jane or Marion Lustig, who was
editor-in-chief, but she knew beforehand what either of them would say.
"Put in your own verse, silly child! Why didn't you say you'd like it
used in the other department? We've got to blow our own horns if we want
them blown. Use the others next time--or give them back."

But by next month there might be an embarrassment of good material, and
as for giving them back, Jane could do it easily enough, but Helen,
being queer, couldn't. For who knew how much getting into the "Argus"
might mean to that unknown other girl? Helen had never so much as heard
her name before, though she was a sophomore. She had a premonition that
she was queer too, and lonely and unhappy. The verses were very sad, and
somehow they sounded true.

"Perhaps she'll be an editor some day," Helen sighed. "Anyway I'll give
her a chance."

She put on her coat and gathered up her manuscripts, first folding her
own verses and pushing them vindictively into the depths of her own
particular drawer in the sanctum table.

When she reached the Davidson she noticed with relief that Miss
Raymond's windows were dark. She was in time then. But when she knocked
on the half-opened door she was taken aback to hear Miss Raymond's voice
saying, "Come in," out of the shadows.

"Oh, excuse me!" began Helen in a frightened voice. "I've brought you
the material for the sketch department. Please don't bother about a
light. I mustn't stay."

But Miss Raymond went on lighting the lamp on her big table. As she
stood for a moment full in the glare of it, Helen noticed that she
looked worn and tired.

"I'm very sorry that I disturbed you," she said sadly. "You were
resting."

Miss Raymond shook her head. "Not resting. Thinking. Do you like to
think, Miss Adams?"

"Why--yes, I suppose so," answered Helen doubtfully. "Isn't that what
college is supposed to teach us to do?"

"I shouldn't like to guarantee that it would in all cases," said Miss
Raymond smilingly. "Has it taught you that?"

"Yes," said Helen. "I don't mean to be conceited, Miss Raymond, but I
think it has."

"And you find it, as I do, rather a deadly delight," went on Miss
Raymond, more to herself than to Helen. "And sometimes you wish you had
never learned. When people tell you sad things, you wish you needn't go
over and over them, trying to better them, trying to reason out the whys
and wherefores of them, trying to live yourself into the places of the
people who have to endure them. And when they don't tell you, you have
to piece them out for yourself just the same." Miss Raymond came sharply
back to the present and held out her hand for Helen's bundle of
manuscript.

Helen gave it to her in puzzled silence, and watched her as she looked
rapidly through it.

"Ruth Howard?" she questioned, when she reached the signature of the
monologue. "Do I know her? Oh, a freshman, is she? She sounds very
promising. Ellen Lacey--yes, I remember that story. Cora Wentworth--oh,
I'm very glad you've got something of hers. She needs encouragement.
Anne Carter--oh, Miss Adams, how did you know?"

"How did I know?" repeated Helen in bewilderment.

Miss Raymond looked at her keenly. "So you didn't know," she said. "It
is a mere coincidence that you are going to print her verses."

"I don't know anything about her," Helen explained. "I heard you read
the verses in your theme class last week. And at the close of the hour I
asked you to let me have them and several other things. I used these
first because I had all the prose I needed for this time."

"I see," said Miss Raymond. "Have you told her yet that you want them?"

"No," said Helen, guiltily. "I was going to write her a note as soon as
I got home. I didn't suppose she would care."

"I presume you noticed that they are very remarkable."

Helen blushed, thinking how she had hesitated between these and her own
production, which she was sure could not be considered at all
"remarkable." "I--well, I went mostly by what you said. I don't believe
I am a good judge of poetry--of verses, I mean."

"You needn't be afraid to call these verses poetry. But I don't blame
you for not fully appreciating them. No girl ought to understand the
tragedy of utter defeat, which is their theme."

Miss Raymond paused, and Helen wondered if she ought to go or stay.

"Miss Adams," Miss Raymond went on again presently, "the author of those
verses was in my room just before you came. She wanted to return a book
that I lent her early in the term, by way of answering some question
that she had brought up in my sophomore English class. She says that the
book and the word of appreciation that went with it are the only
kindness for which she has to thank Harding college, and that I am the
only person to whom she cares to say good-bye. I don't know why she
should except me. I had quite forgotten her. I associated nothing
whatever with the name on those verses until I looked at it again just
now. I considered the tragic note in them merely as a literary triumph.
I never thought of the girl behind the tragedy." She waited a moment.
"She's going to leave college," she went on abruptly. "She says that a
year and a half of it is a fair trial. I couldn't deny that. She says
that she has made no friends, leaves without one regret or one happy
memory. Miss Adams, would you be willing, instead of writing her a note,
to tell her personally about this?"

"Why, certainly," said Helen, "if you think she'd like it better."

"Yes, I am sure she would. You won't find her at all hard to get on
with. She has a dreadful scar on one cheek, from a cut or a burn, that
gives her face a queer one-sided look. I suspect that may be at the
bottom of her unhappiness."

On the way across the campus Helen had an inspiration, which led her a
little out of her way, to the house where Jane Drew, the literary editor
of the "Argus" lived.

"I'm so relieved that my department is all made up," she told Jane
artfully, "that I feel like celebrating. Won't you meet me at Cuyler's
for supper?"

Jane promised, a good deal surprised, for Helen was not in the habit of
asking her to supper at Cuyler's; and Helen, after arranging to meet her
guest down-town, hurried on to the address that Miss Raymond had given
her, one of the most desirable of the off-campus houses.

Miss Carter was in, the maid said, and a moment later she appeared to
speak for herself. She flushed with embarrassment when she saw Helen,
and her dreadful, disfiguring scar showed all the more plainly on her
reddened cheek.

"Oh, I supposed it was the woman with my washing," she said. "I don't
have many calls. You must excuse this messy shirt waist. Please sit
down."

"Won't you take me up to your room?" asked Helen, trying to think how
Betty Wales would have put the other girl at her ease. "We can talk so
much better there."

Miss Carter hesitated. "Why, certainly, if you prefer. It's in great
confusion. I'm packing, or getting ready to pack, rather," and she led
the way up-stairs to a big room that, even in its half-dismantled
condition, looked singularly attractive and quite different somehow from
the regulation college room.

"I have a dreadful confession to make," said Helen gaily, when they were
seated.

"I've taken your verses for the 'Argus.' I've already sent them in to
Miss Raymond, and now I've come to ask if you are willing. I do hope you
are."

"Why certainly," said Miss Carter quietly. "You are perfectly welcome to
them of course. You needn't have taken the trouble to come away up here
to ask."

Then she relapsed into silence. Helen could not tell whether she was
pleased or not. She had an uncomfortable feeling that she was being
dismissed; but she did not go. Never in her life had she worked so hard
to make conversation as she did in the next ten minutes. The "Argus,"
the new chapel rules, Miss Raymond and her theme classes, the sophomore
elections,--none of them evoked a responsive chord in the strange girl
who sat impassive, with no thought apparently of her social duties and
responsibilities.

"She must think I don't know how to take a hint," reflected Helen, "but
I don't care. I'm going to keep on trying."

Presently she noticed that from Miss Carter's window could be seen Mrs.
Chapin's house and the windows of her and Betty's old room.

"That was where I lived when I first came to Harding," she began
awkwardly, pointing them out. Then she looked at the girl opposite, read
the misery in her big gray eyes, and opened her heart. Betty Wales, who
had worked so hard to get at a little of the story of Helen's freshman
year would have been amazed at the confidences she poured out so freely
to this stranger. Indeed Helen was surprised herself at the ease with
which she spoke and the dramatic quality that she managed to put into
her brief account of the awkward, misfit, unhappy freshman.

Miss Carter listened at first apathetically, then with growing interest.

"Thank you," she said gravely, when Helen had finished. "I thought I was
the only one who felt so."

"Oh, no, you aren't," said Helen brightly. "There are lots of others, I
guess."

"No one with a thing like this," said the girl, with a swift, passionate
gesture toward her scar.

"Don't," said Helen gently. "Please don't think about it. No one else
does, I'm sure."

"I got it just before I came here," went on the girl, speaking almost
fiercely. "It came in a horrible way, but it's horrible just of itself.
I entered Harding because I thought the college life--the girls and the
good times and the work--would help me to forget it--or to get used to
being so ugly."

Helen considered a moment in silence. "I guess we're even more alike
than I thought," she said at last. "We both expected college to do it
all for us, while we--just sat. But I can tell you--do you play
basket-ball? Anyhow you've seen it played. Well, you've got to keep your
eye on the ball, and then you've got to jump--hard. Have you noticed
that?"

Miss Carter laughed happily at Helen's whimsical comparison. "No," she
said, "I've never been much interested in basket-ball. I'm afraid I've
'just sat' or jumped the wrong way."

Helen considered again, her small face wrinkled with the intensity of
her thought. "You mean you've jumped away from the very things you were
trying to get hold of," she said. "You've expected things to come to
you. They won't. You've got to do your part. You've got to jump very
often, and as if you meant it."

The girl nodded. "I see."

"You can do one thing right away," said Helen briskly, rising and
buttoning her coat. "Do you know Jane Drew? Well, she's an awfully
clever senior and an editor. She's going to have dinner with me at
Cuyler's, and I'd like you to come too. You see one of the things you
have jumped into already is being a star contributor to the 'Argus,' and
we always want to meet our star contributors."

Miss Carter hesitated.

"Never mind your waist," Helen urged tactfully. "It looks perfectly
fresh to me, but you can keep your coat on if you'd rather."

"All right, I'll come," said Miss Carter bravely.

And having yielded, she kept to the spirit, as well as the letter, of
her promise. Jane, who was a very matter-of-fact young person, treated
her with the same off-hand cordiality that she would have bestowed on
any other chance acquaintance with interesting possibilities. The girls
who stopped at the table to speak to Jane or Helen, smiled and nodded
affably when they were introduced. Some of them stared a little, at the
unusual combination of two prominent seniors and an obscure
underclassman, but Miss Carter did not flinch. After dinner, when Jane
had gone to speak to some friends at another table, she leaned forward
toward her hostess. "I want to thank you," she said shyly, "for telling
me about yourself and for bringing me here. Do you know, I was going to
leave college, but I'm not now. I'm going to stay on--and try jumping,"
she ended quickly as Jane reappeared.

So Helen felt that her dinner had been a success, even though she should
have to borrow largely from her next month's meagre allowance to pay for
it.

On her way through the campus she met Miss Raymond, hurrying to meet an
important engagement. But she stopped to inquire about Miss Carter.

"I knew you'd manage it," she said, when she had heard Helen's brief
story of her adventures. "You're a person of resources. That's why we
wanted you on the 'Argus' board."

Helen fairly danced the rest of the way to the Belden. "Perhaps I shan't
be afraid of her next time," she thought. "I'd rather she'd say that
than have sixty verses in the 'Argus.' Oh, what a selfish pig I was
trying to be! I don't deserve to have it all come out so beautifully.
And--oh, dear, I'm late for the meeting of the house play committee, and
Betty said it was awfully important."

She found the committee in riotous and jubilant session in Madeline's
room.

"Three cheers for Sara Crewe!" shrieked Polly Eastman, when Helen
appeared.

"Goodness, I'm not Sara," gasped Helen.

"Oh, I mean the play, not the character," explained Polly impatiently.
"It's going to be simply great. What do you suppose we've got now,
Helen?"

"I don't know," said Helen, sitting down on the floor, since the bed and
all the chairs were fully occupied.

"Well guess," commanded Polly, tossing her a cushion.

"A lot of Turkish-looking things for Mr. Carrisford's study."

"Nonsense! We can get those all right when the time comes."

"Josephine Boyd has learned her part."

"Then she's done a tall lot of work on it since last rehearsal," said
Polly serenely. "I'm sure I hope she has, but this is something any
amount nicer."

"Then I give up."

"Well, it's a monkey," cried Polly triumphantly, "a real live monkey
that belongs to a hand-organ man in Boston. The Italian bootblack at the
station knows him, and--did he promise fair and square to get them up
here, Lucile?"

"Fair and square," repeated Lucile promptly. "I said we'd give him five
dollars and his fare up from Boston. It's well worth it. A cat would
have been too absurd when everybody knows the story."

"I hope Sara won't mind carrying a live monkey across the stage," said
Betty. "I should be dreadfully afraid it would bite."

"She ought to have thought of that when she took the part," said
Madeline. "She can't flunk now."

"Let's hurry it through and have the organ-man play for a dance
afterward," suggested the ingenious Georgia Ames. "He'd surely throw
that in for the five dollars."

"Better have him play between the acts too," put in somebody else.
"There's nothing like getting your money's worth."

"And we'll pay him all in pennies," added Polly gleefully. "We can take
turns handing them out to the monkey. How many pennies will there be in
five dollars and a fare from Boston, Lucile?"

Helen listened to their gay banter, wondering, as many thoughtful people
have wondered before her, at the light-hearted abandon of these other
girls. "It must be fun to be like that," she reflected, "but I don't
believe I should want to change places with any of them. They only see
their own little piece of things, and they don't even know it's
little,--like the man who didn't know anything about the forest he was
walking through, because he got so interested in the trees. My tree is
just a scraggly, crooked little sapling that won't ever amount to much,
but I can see the whole big forest, and hear it talk, and that makes
up. I'm glad I'm one of the kind that college teaches to think," ended
Helen happily.

A moment later she made an addendum. "Betty Wales is a kind by herself,"
she decided. "She doesn't exactly think, but she knows. And she's really
responsible for to-day. I wish I could tell her about it."



CHAPTER VII

ROBERTA "ARRIVES"


It was dress rehearsal night for the Belden House play, and the hall in
the Students' Building, where the big house-plays are performed was the
scene of a tremendous bustle and excitement. The play was to be "Sara
Crewe," or rather "The Little Princess," for that is the title of the
regular stage version of Mrs. Burnett's story which the Belden House was
giving by the special permission of the Princess herself. The pretty
young actress who had "created" the part was a friend of Madeline's
father, and Madeline, being on the committee to choose a play, declared
that she was tired to death of seeing the girls do Sheridan and
Goldsmith and the regulation sort of modern farce, and boldly wrote to
the Princess for permission to act her play, because it seemed so
exactly suited to the capabilities of college girls. The Princess had
not only said yes, but she had declared that she should be very much
interested in the success of the play, and when Madeline, writing to
thank her, had suggested that the Belden House would be only too
delighted if she came up to see their performance, she had accepted
their invitation with enthusiasm. Of course the committee and the cast
were exceedingly flattered, but they were also exceedingly frightened
and nervous, and even the glorious promise of a live monkey, with a
hand-organ man thrown in, did not wholly reassure them.

To-night everything seemed to be at sixes and sevens. Though most of the
committee had toiled over it all the afternoon, the stage resembled
pandemonium rather than the schoolroom of Miss Minchen's Select
Seminary, which was to be the scene of the first act. The committee were
tired and, to speak frankly, cross, with the exception of Madeline, who
was provokingly cool and nonchalant, though she had worked harder than
any one else. The cast were infected with that irresponsible hilarity
that always attacks an amateur company at their last rehearsal. They
danced about the stage, getting in the way of the committee, shrieking
with laughter at their first glimpses of one another's costumes, and
making flippant suggestions for all sorts of absurd and impossible
improvements.

Meanwhile, regardless of the fact that the rehearsal ought to have begun
half an hour before, the committee and Mr. Carrisford's three Hindu
servants were holding a solemn conclave at the back of the stage. The
chef-d'oeuvre of their scenic effects was refusing to work; the
bagdads that were to descend as if by Hindu magic and cover the bare
walls of Sara's little attic bedroom when the good fairies, in the guise
of the aforesaid servants, effected its transformation in the second
act. There weren't enough of the draperies for one thing, and some of
them wouldn't unroll quickly, while others threatened to tumble down on
the servants' devoted heads.

"Well, we'll just have to let them go for to-night," said Nita Reese
dejectedly at last. She was chairman of the committee. "To-morrow we'll
fix them all up again, the way Madeline says is right, and you three
must come over and do that part of the scene again. Is everybody ready?"

"Miss Amelia Minchen isn't," said Betty, "She just came in carrying her
costume."

"Then go and help her hurry into it," commanded Nita peremptorily.
"Madeline, will you fix Ram Dass's turban? He's untwisted it again of
course. Georgie Ames, line up the Seminary girls and the Carmichael
children, and see whether any of their skirts are too long. Take them
down on the floor. Everybody off the stage, please, but the
scene-shifters."

"Oh, Nita," cried Polly Eastman, who had just come in, rushing
breathlessly up to the distracted chairman, "I'm so sorry to be late,
but some people that I couldn't refuse asked me down-town to dinner. I
ate and ran, really I did. And Nita, what do you think----"

"I'm much too tired to think," returned Nita, wearily. "What's happened
now?"

"Why, nothing has actually happened, only I was at the station this
afternoon, and I asked the shoe-shine man about the monkey, and he
hasn't heard, but he told the organ-man that the play began at half-past
eight, and all the trains have been horribly late to-day, so if he should
plan to get in on the eight-fifteen----"

"Have him telegraph that it begins at six," said Nita, firmly. "Go and
see to it now."

"Why, I did tell him to," said Polly, sighing at the prospect of going
out again. "Only he's so irresponsible that I think we ought to
decide----"

"Go and stand over him while he telegraphs," said Nita with finality.
"We can't understudy a monkey. Josephine Boyd, come here and go through
your long speech. I want to be sure that you get it right. It didn't
make sense the way you said it yesterday."

"Oh, Nita." It was Lucile Merrifield holding out a yellow envelope.

Nita clutched it frantically. "Perhaps she's not coming. Wouldn't I be
relieved!"

"It's not a telegram," explained Lucile, gently, "only the proof of the
programs that the printer has taken this opportune moment to send up.
The boy says if you could look at it right off, why, he could wait and
take it back. They want it the first thing in the morning."

"Give it to Helen Adams," said Nita, turning back to Josephine. "She can
mark proof. Go on Josephine, I'm listening, and don't stop again for
anybody."

Josephine, who was the father of the large and irrepressible Carmichael
family, had just finished declaiming her longest speech with
praiseworthy regard for its meaning, when somebody called out,
"Ermengarde St. John isn't here yet."

Nita sank down in Miss Amelia Minchen's armchair with a little moan of
despair. "Somebody go and get her," she said. "Betty Wales, you'd better
go. You can dress people fastest."

It seemed to Betty, as she hurried down-stairs and over to the Belden,
that she had toiled along the same route, laden with screens, rugs and
couch-covers, at least a hundred times that afternoon. She was tired and
exasperated at this final hitch, and she burst into the room of the fat
freshman who had Ermengarde's part with scant ceremony. What was her
amazement to find it quite empty.

"Oh, she can't have forgotten and gone off somewhere!" wailed Betty.
"Why, every one was talking about the rehearsal at dinner time."

The cast and committee included so many members of the house that it was
almost depopulated, and none of the few girls whom Betty could find knew
anything about the missing Ermengarde.

"I must have passed her on the way here," Betty decided at last, and
rushed down-stairs again. As she went by the matron's door she almost
ran into that lady, hurrying out.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Kent," she said. "You haven't seen
Ermengarde--that is, I mean Janet Kirk, have you?"

"No, not yet," said Mrs. Kent briskly. "I only heard about it five
minutes ago. I'm just getting ready now to go up and take the poor child
some things she's sent for."

"But she isn't in her room," said Betty, bewildered but certain that
Mrs. Kent's apparent affection for the irresponsible Janet was very
ill-bestowed.

"Of course not, my dear," returned Mrs. Kent, serenely. "She's at the
infirmary with a badly sprained ankle. She'll have to keep off it for a
month at least, the doctor says."

[Illustration: "OH, I BEG YOUR PARDON"]

"Oh, Mrs. Kent!" wailed Betty. "And she's Ermengarde St. John in the
house-play. What can we do?"

Mrs. Kent shook her head helplessly. "You'll have to do without Janet,"
she said. "That's certain. She was on her way home to dinner when she
slipped on a piece of ice near the campus-gate. She lay there several
minutes before any one saw her, and then luckily Dr. Trench came along
and drove her straight to the infirmary. She fainted while they were
bandaging her ankle."

"I'm very sorry," said Betty, her vision of a possible hasty recovery
dispelled by the last sentence. After a moment's hesitation she decided
not to go back to the Students' Building to consult Nita. It would be
better to bring some one over from the house to read the part for
to-night. It was important, but luckily it wasn't very long, and
somebody would have to learn it in time for the play the next evening.

So she hurried up-stairs again and the first person she met was Roberta
Lewis, marching down the corridor with a huge Greek dictionary under her
arm.

"Put that book down, Roberta; and come over to the rehearsal,"
commanded Betty. "Ermengarde St. John has sprained her ankle, and gone
to the infirmary and everybody's waiting."

"You mean that you want me to go and get her?" asked Roberta doubtfully.
"Because I think it would take two people to help her walk, if she's
very lame. She's awfully fat, you know."

"We want you to read Janet's part," explained Betty, "just for to-night,
until the committee can find some one to take it." And she gave a little
more explicit account of the state of affairs at the rehearsal.

"Yes, indeed, I'll be glad to," said Roberta readily. She was secretly
delighted to be furnished with an excuse for seeing the dress rehearsal.
She had longed with all her soul to be appointed a member of the
play-committee, but of course the house-president had not put her on;
she was the last person, so the president thought, who would be useful
there. And Roberta could not screw her courage up to the point of trying
for a place in the cast. So no one knew, since she had never told any
one, that she thought acting the most interesting thing in the world
and that she loved to act, in spite of the terrors of having an
audience. But she had let slip her one chance--the offer of a part in
Mary's famous melodrama away back in her freshman year--and she had
never had another.

And now, because she was Roberta Lewis, proud and shy and dreadfully
afraid of pushing in where she wasn't wanted, she did not think it
necessary to mention to Betty that she had borrowed a copy of the play
from little Ruth Howard, who was Sara, and that she had read it over
until she knew almost every line of it by heart.

Of course the committee were thrown into a state bordering upon panic by
the news of Janet's accident, but Madeline comfortingly reminded them
that the worse the last rehearsal was, the better the play was sure to
be; and there was certainly nothing to do now but go ahead.

So they began to rehearse at last, almost an hour late, and the first
act went off with great spirit, in spite of the handicap of a strange
Ermengarde, who had to read her part because she was ashamed to confess
that she knew it already, and who was supposed not to be familiar with
her "stage business." To be sure, she had not very much to do in this
scene, but at the end everybody thanked her effusively and Ruth Howard
declared that she never saw anybody who "caught on" so fast.

"You ought to take the part to-morrow night," she said.

"Oh, oh!" Roberta cautioned her, in alarm and embarrassment. "They're
going to have Polly Eastman. I heard Nita say so. Besides, I wouldn't
for anything."

Ermengarde's chance comes in the second act, where, half in pity and
half in admiration for the queer little Sara Crewe, she comes up to make
friends with her, and, finding to her horror that Sara is actually
hungry, decides to bring her "spread" up to Sara's attic. There, later,
the terrible Miss Minchen finds her select pupils gathered, and
wrathfully puts an end to their merry-making.

At the opening of this scene the attic was supposed to be lighted by one
small candle, and consequently the stage was very dim.

"I don't believe Roberta can manage with that light," whispered Nita to
Betty who was standing with her in one of the wings.

"Don't let's change unless we have to," Betty whispered back. "You know
we wanted to get the effect of Miss Minchen's curl papers and night-cap.
Why, Nita, Roberta hasn't any book. She's saying her part right off."

"No!" Nita was incredulous. "Why, Betty Wales, she is, and she's doing
it splendidly, fifty per cent, better than Janet did."

Sure enough Roberta, becoming engrossed in the play, had forgotten to
conceal her unwarranted knowledge of it. She realized what she had done
when a burst of applause greeted her exit, and actors and committee
alike forgot the proprieties of a last rehearsal to make a united
assault upon her.

"Roberta Lewis," cried Betty accusingly, "why didn't you tell me that
you knew Ermengarde's part?"

"Oh, I don't know it," protested Roberta. "I only know snatches of it
here and there. Polly can learn it in no time."

"She won't have the chance," said Nita decisively. "You must take it,
Roberta. Why didn't you tell people that you could act like that?"

"I shall have stage-fright and spoil everything," declared Roberta
forlornly.

"Nonsense," said Nita. "You'd be ashamed to do anything of the kind."

"Yes," agreed Roberta solemnly, "I should." Whereupon everybody laughed,
and Nita hugged Roberta and assured her that there was no way out of it.

"Somebody go and get Janet's costume," she ordered, "and any one who has
a spare minute can be fitting it over. We shall have to have an extra
rehearsal to-morrow of the parts where Ermengarde comes in. Go on now,
Sara. Use Lucile's muff for the monkey."

When at last act three was finished it was ten o'clock and Nita gave a
sigh of utter exhaustion. "If Madeline's rule holds," she said, "this
play ought to go like clockwork to-morrow."

And it did, despite the rather dubious tone of the chairman's prophecy.
The Princess arrived duly just after luncheon, and everybody except the
cast, who would do their share later, helped to entertain her. This was
not difficult. She wasn't a college girl, she explained, and she had
never known many of them. She just wanted to hear them talk, see their
rooms, and if it wasn't too much trouble she should enjoy looking on at
a game of--what was it they played so much at Harding? Basket-ball,
somebody prompted. Yes, that was it. The sophomore teams which had just
been chosen were proud to play a game for her, and they even suggested,
fired by her responsive enthusiasm, that they should teach her to play
too.

"I should love it," she said, "if somebody would lend me one of those
becoming suits. But I mustn't." She sighed. "The newspapers would be
sure to get hold of it. Besides they're giving a tea for me at the
Belden. It begins in five minutes. Doesn't time just fly at Harding?"

The monkey also arrived in good season, whether thanks to or in spite of
Polly's exertions was not clear, since his master spoke no English and
not even Madeline could understand his Italian. The bagdads worked
beautifully. The new Ermengarde was letter-perfect, and nobody but
herself had any fear that she would be stage-struck, even though the
Princess would be sitting in the very middle of the fourth row. Janet's
name was still on the program, for Roberta had sternly insisted that it
shouldn't be crossed out; and as neither of the two Ermengardes was very
well known to the college in general, only a few people noticed the
change. But the part made a hit.

"Isn't she just like some little girl who used to go to school with
you--that funny, stupid Ermengarde?" one girl would say to another.
"They're all natural, but she's absolutely perfect."

"Sara's a dear," said the Princess, "but I want to talk to Ermengarde.
Mayn't I go behind? We actor people always like to do that, you know."

So she was escorted behind the scenes, and it was the proudest moment of
Roberta's life when the Princess, having asked particularly for her,
said all sorts of nice things about her "real talent" and "artistic
methods."

"That settles it, Roberta," said Betty, who was behind the scenes in her
capacity of chief dressing-maid and first assistant to the make-up man.
"You've got to try for senior dramatics."

"Do you really think I could get a part?" asked Roberta coolly.

"I think you might," said Betty, amazed beyond words by Roberta's ready
acquiescence. "You probably won't get anything big," she added
cautiously. "There are such a lot of people in our class who can act.
But the girls say that the only way to get a small part is to try for a
big one. Don't you remember how Mary Brooks tried for the hero and the
heroine and the villain and then was proud as a peacock to be a page and
say two lines, and Dr. Brooks and her mother and two aunts and six
cousins came to see her do it."

"Dear me," said Roberta in frightened tones, "do you suppose my father
and my cousin will feel obliged to come?"

"I don't know," laughed Betty, "but I feel obliged to remind you that
the third act of Sara Crewe is on and you belong out there where you can
hear your cue."

"I hope Roberta won't be disappointed about getting a part in the senior
play," Betty confided to Madeline, as they parted afterward in the
Belden House hall. "She did awfully well to-night, but I think she takes
it too seriously. She doesn't realize what tremendous competition there
is for the parts in our plays, nor what lots of practice some of the
girls have had."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry," said Madeline easily. "If she doesn't get
anything, she'll have to do without. She'll have plenty of company. She
probably won't try when the time comes."

"Yes," said Betty, "she will, and she's so sensitive that she'll hate
terribly to fail. So, as I started her on her mad career as an actress,
I feel responsible."

"You always feel responsible for something," laughed Madeline. "While
you're in the business why don't you remember that you're responsible
for a nice little slice of to-night's performance. Miss Ferris says it's
the best house-play she's seen."

"I know. Isn't it just splendid?" sighed Betty rapturously. "And isn't
the Princess a dear? But Madeline, you haven't any idea how my feet
ache."



CHAPTER VIII

THE GREATEST TOY-SHOP ON EARTH


"No," said Betty, "I haven't found it, and now I'm almost sure I shan't,
because Nita's lost hers."

"What has Nita lost?" asked Madeline from her nest of pillows. It was
the evening after the play, and the Belden House felt justified in
taking life easily. "She lost her head last night," chuckled Madeline,
without waiting for Betty's answer. "Did you hear her imploring the
organ-man in her most classic English not to let me take the monkey out
in front to show to the President? As if I really would!"

"You've done just as crazy things in your time, dear," retorted
Katherine Kittredge, who had come over to borrow one of Betty's
notebooks and had found the atmosphere of elegant leisure that pervaded
the room irresistible.

"Do you really think so?" asked Madeline amiably. "Well, before we go
into that I want to know what else Nita has lost."

"Why, a pin," explained Betty,--"that lovely one with the amethyst in
the centre and the ring of little pearls in a quaint old setting. It
used to be her great-grandmother's. Mine wasn't much to lose, and I felt
sure until to-day that it would turn up, but it hasn't, and now I'm
afraid it was really stolen."

"Have you looked all through that?" asked Madeline, pointing to the
miscellaneous assortment of books, papers, dance-cards and bric-a-brac
that littered Betty's small desk to the point of positive inundation.

Betty assented with dignity. "And I haven't had time since to put it
back in the pigeon-holes. When Nita told me about her pin, I got worried
about mine--mother gave it to me and I couldn't bear to lose it for
good--so I went through my desk and all my drawers and it was
sweeping-day, so I asked Belden House Annie to look too. It's not here."

"Is Nita sure hers was stolen?" asked Katherine.

Betty nodded. "As sure as she can be without actually seeing it taken.
She left it on her cushion yesterday when she came down to luncheon, and
when she got back from physics lab, it was gone."

"What a shame!" said Madeline. "She ought to tell Mrs. Kent right away.
I should strongly suspect the new table-girl."

"Oh, but she's a cousin of Belden House Annie's," explained Betty, "and
I'm sure Annie would look after her. We all know that she's as honest as
the day herself, and all the other maids have been here for years and
years."

"It's queer," said Katherine, "if it was an outsider--a more or less
professional thief, I mean--that he or she should come to this house
twice, several weeks apart, and each time take so little. If it was a
college girl now----"

"Oh, don't, Katherine," begged Betty. "I can't bear to think that any
Harding girl would do such a thing. I'd ten times rather never know who
it was than to find it was that way."

Just then the B's appeared airily attired in kimonos concealed under
rain-coats, and laden with a huge pan of marshmallow fudge, which they
had made, they explained, in honor of Roberta's successful début.

"What are you all looking so solemn about?" demanded Bob, when Babbie
had gone in search of Roberta.

Betty told her, and Babe and Bob exchanged glances.

"It's not necessarily any one in this house who's responsible, I guess,"
said Babe. "Babbie's lost a valuable pin too, and Geraldine Burdett has
lost a ring. Oh, about two weeks ago Gerry's was taken, and Babbie's
before that. They've been keeping dark and trying to get up a clue, but
they can't. They'll be all off when they hear about these other
robberies."

"There was one awfully queer thing about Babbie's thief," put in Bob.
"Her little gold-linked purse was on the chiffonier right beside her pin
and it wasn't touched, though it was just stuffed with bills. That makes
them afraid it was some girl who's awfully fond of jewelry and can't
afford any."

"It isn't right to leave our lovely things around so, is it?" said Betty
seriously. "It's just putting temptation in the way of poor girls."

"Exactly," agreed Madeline. "We go off for hours, never locking up
anything, leaving our money and other valuables in plain sight, and if
we do miss anything we can't be sure it's stolen and we don't have time
to investigate for weeks after. It's a positive invitation to
dishonesty."

"But it's such a nuisance to lock up," complained Babe, "and if I hide
things I can't ever find them again, so I might as well not bother."

"I haven't any golden baubles," said Bob, "but I'm going to keep my
money in 'Love's Labor Lost.' You'll find it there if you ever want to
borrow."

"'Much Ado about Nothing' would be the most appropriate place for mine,"
laughed Katherine, "so I choose that. You probably won't find any if you
want to borrow."

"But seriously, girls, let's all be more careful," advised Betty, "and
let's ask other people to be. Think how perfectly awful it is to make
chances for girls to forget themselves. But I shan't believe it's a
Harding girl," she added decisively. "It would be perfectly easy for
any dishonest young woman to go through the houses without being
questioned. Perhaps she got frightened and didn't notice Babbie's money
on that account or didn't have time to snatch up anything but the pin."

Just then Babbie appeared, bringing Roberta and Rachel Morrison who had
met them in the hall, and in the general attack upon the fudge pan more
serious issues were forgotten.

It was now the busiest, gayest part of the long fall term. Flying fast
on the heels of the house play came Thanksgiving Day.

"And just to think of it!" wailed Bob. "Only two days vacation this
year, and Miss Stuart and the president dropping the most awful hints
about what will happen if you cut over. Nobody can go home. I hope the
faculty will all eat too much and have horrible attacks of indigestion."

"Well, we may as well have as much fun as we can out of it," said Babbie
philosophically. "I've written home for a spread; so we shan't die of
hunger."

"Mrs. Kent says she's going to give us the best Thanksgiving dinner we
ever ate," announced Betty cheerfully.

"I hope our matron will be seized with the same lofty ambition," said
Katherine. "If she is, and if the skating holds, I shan't mind staying
here."

"Weren't you going to stay anyway?" asked Helen Adams.

"Being a resident of the remote village of Kankakee, Illinois, and not
having been urged to visit any of my Eastern friends, I was," admitted
Katherine, solemnly, "but that doesn't make it any the nicer to have to
work all day Saturday."

The skating did last, and the man at the rink, being taken in hand by
the B's, sympathized heartily with their wrongs, and promised them a
three days' ice carnival, which meant search-lights, bonfires and a big
band on the ice every evening. There is nothing in the world more
exhilarating than skating to good music. The rink was thronged with
Harding girls and Winsted men, and the proprietor could not easily
regard himself as a bona fide philanthropist.

The paper-chase, to get up an appetite on Thanksgiving morning, was
Katherine Kittredge's idea and the basket-ball game in the afternoon
between the Thanksgiving Dinners and the Training Tables was too
fantastic to have originated with any one but Madeline Ayres.

Georgia Ames, dressed as a huge turkey gobbler, captained the
Thanksgiving Dinners, who were gotten up as bunches of celery and mounds
of cranberry jelly. The captain of the Training Table simulated a big
bottle labeled "Pure Spring Water," and the members of her team were
tastefully trimmed with slices of dry bread. Being somewhat less
spectacular than their rivals, they were a little more agile and they
won the game, which was so funny that it sent two of the faculty into
hysterics.

"And that's almost as bad as indigestion," said Babe, who was a bunch of
celery. At least she had been one until she came into collision with the
water bottle and lost most of her trimmings.

It was really the Thanksgiving game that precipitated the plans for the
senior entertainment for the library fund. The fire the year before had
not only damaged the library considerably, but it had brought its
shortcomings and the absurdly small number of its volumes, compared with
the rapidly increasing number of the girls who used them, to the
attention of the public. Somebody had offered fifty thousand dollars for
a library fund provided the college raised an equal amount. The alumnæ
were trying to get the money, and because they had helped the
undergraduates with their beloved Students' Building, they wanted the
undergraduates to help them now.

On the very evening of the game Marie Howard, the senior president,
caught Madeline on the way to Babbie's spread and laid the matter before
her.

"The alums want us to subscribe to the fund," she explained, "and then
they think each class ought to give an entertainment. Not a bit nervy,
are they? Well, of course 19-- has got to take the lead, and I've fairly
racked my brains to think what we can do. Now it's no trouble to you to
have lovely, comical ideas, and if you'll only help me out with this
entertainment, I'll be your friend for life."

"Why don't you appoint a committee to take charge of it?" inquired
Madeline, serenely.

Marie gave her a mournful look. "I suppose you think I haven't tried.
The girls are all willing to help, but they insist upon having the idea
to start with. I know you hate committees, Madeline, and I'm not asking
you to be on one--"

"You'd better not," interpolated Madeline, darkly, remembering the
drudgery she had submitted to to make the Belden House play a success.

"Just think up the idea," Marie went on, persuasively, "and I'll make a
committee do the rest. I don't care what we have, so long as it's new
and taking--the sort of thing that you always seem to have in your head.
That's what we want. Plays and lectures are too commonplace."

"Marie," said Madeline, laughingly, "you talk as if ideas were cabbages
and my head was a large garden. I can't produce ideas to order any more
than the rest of you can. But if I should think of anything, I'll let
you know."

"Thank you," said Marie, sweetly, and went back to her room, where she
gave vent to some forcible remarks about the "exasperatingness" of
clever people who won't let themselves be pinned down to anything.

It was Betty Wales who, dancing into Madeline's room the next afternoon,
gave, not Madeline, but Eleanor Watson,--who had been having tea with
Madeline and listening to her absurd version of Marie's request,--an
inspiration.

"I wish it wasn't babyish to like toys," she sighed. "I've been
down-town with Bob, and they've opened a big toy-shop in the store next
Cuyler's, just for the holidays, I suppose. Bob got a Teddy bear, and I
bought this box of fascinating little Japanese tops for my baby sister.
They're all like different kinds of fruit and you spin them like
pennies, without a string. I just love toy-stores."

"So do I. So does everybody," said Madeline, oracularly, clearing a
place on the polished tea-table and emptying out the miniature tops.
"They renew your youth. Let's get all these things to spinning at once,
Betty."

"Why don't you have a toy-shop for your senior entertainment?" asked
Eleanor, watching the two absorbed faces.

"How do you mean?" asked Madeline, absently, trying to make the purple
plum she was manipulating stay upright longer than Betty's peach.

"Why, with live toys, something on the plan of the circus that you and
Mary got up away back in sophomore year," explained Eleanor. "I should
think you might work it up beautifully."

Madeline stared at her for a moment, her eyes half-closed. "Eleanor,"
she declared at last, "you're a genius. We could. I can fairly see my
friends turning into toys. You and Betty and the rest of the class
beauties are French dolls of course. Helen Adams would make a perfect
jumping-jack--she naturally jerks along just like one."

"And Bob can be a jack-in-the-box," cried Betty eagerly, getting
Madeline's idea.

"Or a monkey that climbs a rope," suggested Eleanor. "Don't you think
Babe would pop out of a box better?"

"And that fat Miss Austin will be just the thing for a top," put in
Madeline. "We can ask five cents for a turn at making her spin." And
Madeline twirled the purple plum vigorously, in joyous anticipation of
taking a turn at Miss Austin.

"Then there could be a counter of stuffed animals," suggested Eleanor,
"with Emily Davis to show them off."

"Easily," agreed Madeline, "and a Noah's ark, if we want it, and a Punch
and Judy show. Oh, there's no end to the things we can have! Let's go
over and tell Marie about it before dinner."

"You and Betty go," objected Eleanor. "I really haven't time."

"Nonsense," said Madeline firmly. "It's long after five now,
and--Eleanor Watson, are you trying to crawl out of your
responsibilities? It was you that thought of this affair, remember."

"Please don't try to drag me in," begged Eleanor. "I'll be a doll, if
you like, or anything else that you can see me turning into. But Marie
didn't ask me to suggest, and she might feel embarrassed and obliged to
ask me to be on the committee, and--please don't try to drag me in,
Madeline."

Madeline looked at her keenly, for a moment. "Eleanor Watson," she began
sternly, "you're thinking about last fall. Don't you know that that
stupid girl didn't stand for anybody but her own stupid self?"

"She was in the right," said Eleanor simply.

"Not wholly," objected Madeline, "and if she was this isn't a parallel
case. In making you toastmistress 19-- was supposed to be doing you an
honor. You're doing her a favor now, and a good big one."

"And if we tell Marie about the toy-shop, we shall tell her that you
thought of it," put in Betty firmly.

"And we shall also say that you hate committee meetings as much as I
do," put in Madeline artfully, "but that we are both willing to help in
any way that we can with ideas and costumes."

Eleanor looked pleadingly from one to the other.

"We won't give in," declared Betty, "so it's no use to make eyes at us
like that."

"Either we suppress the whole idea and 19-- goes begging for another, or
it stands as yours," said Madeline in adamant tones.

"Well, then, of course," began Eleanor slowly at last.

"Of course," laughed Betty, jumping up to hug her. "I knew you'd see it
sensibly in a minute. Come on, Madeline. We haven't any time to lose."

"Do you remember what she was like two years ago, Betty?" asked Madeline
thoughtfully when Eleanor had left them, persisting that she really had
an engagement before dinner.

"I even remember what she was like three years ago," laughed Betty
happily.

"Fancy her giving up a chance like this then!" mused Madeline. "Fancy
her contributing ideas to the public good and trying to escape taking
the credit for them. Why, Betty, she's a different person."

"I'm so glad you're friends now," said Betty, squeezing Madeline's arm
lovingly.

"That's so," Madeline reflected. "We weren't two years ago. I used to
hate her wire-pulling so. And now I suppose I'm pulling wires for her
myself. Well, I'm going to be careful not to pull any of them down on
her head this time. I say, Betty, wouldn't the Blunderbuss make a superb
jack-in-the-box? I'm sure everybody would appreciate the symbolic effect
when she popped, and perhaps we could manage to smother her by mistake
between times."

The toy-shop took "like hot-cakes," to borrow Bob's pet comparison.
Everybody told Madeline that it was just like her, and Madeline assured
everybody gaily that she had always known she was misunderstood and that
anyhow Eleanor Watson was responsible for the toy-shop. Having spent the
better part of a day in spreading this information Madeline rushed off
to New York on a vague and mysterious errand that had something to do
with sub-letting the apartment on Washington Square.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I remembered after I got down here," she wrote Betty a week later,
"that I couldn't eat my solitary Christmas dinner in the flat if I let
it. Besides my prospective tenants are bores, and bores never appreciate
old furniture enough not to scratch it. But I'm staying on to oversee
the fall cleaning, and we haven't had one for a good while, so it will
take another week. I'm sorry not to be on hand for the toy-shop doings
(don't you let them put it off, Betty, or I can never make up my work),
but I send a dialogue--no, it's for four persons--on local issues for
the Punch and Judy puppets. If they can't read it, tell them to
cultivate their imaginations. I'll print the title, 'The Battle of the
Classes,' to give them a starter.

                                        "Miss me a little,
                                                      "MADELINE.

"P. S. How are the wires working?"

If Eleanor suspected any hidden motive behind Madeline's sudden
departure she had no way of confirming her theory, and when Betty
escorted the entertainment committee, all of whom happened to be
splendid workers but without a spark of originality among them, to
Eleanor's room, and declaring sadly that she couldn't remember half the
features of the toy-shop that they had discussed together, claimed
Eleanor's half-promise of help, why there was nothing for Eleanor to do
but redeem it. Nothing at least that the new Eleanor Watson cared to do.
It was plain enough that the committee wanted her suggestions, and what
other people might think of her motive for helping them really mattered
very little in comparison with the success of 19--'s entertainment. Thus
the new Eleanor Watson argued, and then she went to work.

"The wires are all right so far," Betty wrote Madeline. "The girls are
all lovely, and they'd better be. Eleanor has arranged the dearest play
for the dolls, all about a mad old German doll-maker who has a shop full
of automatons and practices magic to try to bring them to life. Some
village girls come in and one changes clothes with a doll and he thinks
he's succeeded. Eleanor saw it somewhere, but she had to change it all
around.

"Alice Waite wanted the dolls to give Ibsen's 'Doll's House.' She didn't
know what it was about of course, or who wrote it. She just went by the
name. The other classes have got hold of the joke and guy us to death.

"You'd better come back and have some of the fun. Besides, nobody can
think how to make a costume for the mock-turtle. It's Roberta, and it's
going to dance with the gryphon for the animal counter's side-show.
Eleanor thought of that too."

But Madeline telegraphed Roberta laconically: "Gray carpet paper shell,
mark scales shoe-blacking, lace together sides," and continued to
sojourn in Washington Square.

Late in the afternoon of the toy-shop's grand opening she appeared in
the door of the gymnasium and stood there a moment staring at the
curious spectacle within.

The curtain was just going down on the dolls' pantomime, and the
audience was applauding and hurrying off to make the rounds of the other
attractions before dinner time. In clarion tones that made themselves
heard above the din Emily Davis was advertising an auction of her
animals, beginning with "one perfectly good baa-lamb."

"Hear him baa," cried Emily, "and you'll forget that his legs are
wobbly."

"This way to the Punch and Judy," shouted Barbara Gordon hoarsely
through a megaphone. "Give the children a season of refined and
educating amusement. Libretto by our most talented satirist. Don't miss
it."

"Hello, Madeline," cried Lucile Merrifield, spying the new arrival.
"When did you get back? Come and see the puppets with me. They say your
show is great."

"It all looks good to me," said Madeline, "but--is there a top to spin?"

Lucile laughed and nodded. "That fat Miss Austin has taken in two
dollars already at five cents a spin. She says she used to love making
cheeses, and that she hasn't had such a good time since she grew up."

"That's where I want to go first," said Madeline decisively; but on her
way to the tops the doll counter beguiled her.

"Betty Wales," she declared, "when you curl in your lips and stare
straight ahead you look just like the only doll I ever wanted. I saw her
in a window on Fifth Avenue, and the one time in my life that I ever
cried was when daddy wouldn't buy her for me. Where's Eleanor?"

"I don't know," said Betty happily. "She was here a minute ago playing
for the dolls' pantomime. But she's all right. Everybody has been
thanking her and praising the pantomime, and she's so pleased about it
all. She told me that she had felt all this year as if everybody was
pointing her out as a disgrace to the class and the college, and that
she was beginning to think that her whole life was spoiled. And now--"

"Why, Madeline Ayres," cried Katherine Kittredge hurrying up to them,
her hair disheveled and her hands very black indeed. "I'm awfully glad
you've come. There's a class meeting to-morrow to decide on the senior
play and I want--"

"You want tidying up," laughed Madeline. "What in the world have you
been doing?"

"Being half of a woolly lamb," explained Katherine. "The other half
couldn't come back this evening, so Emily has been selling us--or it,
whichever you please--at auction. Now listen, Madeline. You don't know
anything about this play business."

Madeline had heard Katherine's argument, spun Miss Austin, and seen the
"Alice in Wonderland" animals dance before she found Eleanor, and by
that time an interview with Jean Eastman had prepared her for the hurt
look in Eleanor's eyes and the little quiver in her voice, as she
welcomed Madeline back to Harding.

Jean was one of the few seniors who had had no active part in the
toy-shop. "So I'm patronizing everything regardless," she exclaimed,
sauntering up to Madeline and holding out a bag of fudge. "It's a
decided hit, isn't it? Polly says the other classes are in despair at
the idea of getting up anything that will take half as well."

"It's certainly a lovely show," said Madeline, trying the fudge.

"And a big feather in Eleanor Watson's cap," added Jean carelessly. "She
always was the cleverest thing. I'd a lot rather be chairman of the play
committee, or even a member of it, for that matter, than toastmistress.
I suppose you know that there's a class-meeting to-morrow."

"Have you said that to Eleanor?" asked Madeline coldly.

"Oh, I gave her my congratulations on her prospects," said Jean with a
shrug. "We're old friends, you know. We understand each other
perfectly."

Madeline's eyes flashed. "It won't be the least use to tell you so," she
said, "but lobbying for office is not the chief occupation of humanity
as you seem to think. Neither Eleanor Watson nor any of her friends has
thought anything about her being put on the play committee. I made the
mistake once of supposing that our class as a whole was capable of
appreciating the stand she's taken, and I shan't be likely to forget
that I was wrong. But this affair was entirely her idea, and she
deserves the credit for it."

"Oh, indeed," said Jean quickly. "I suppose you didn't send telegrams--"

But Madeline, her face white with anger was half way across the big
hall.

Jean watched her tumultuous progress with a meaning smile. "Well, I've
fixed that little game," she reflected. "If they did intend to put her
up, they won't dare to now. They'll be afraid of seeing me do the
Blunderbuss's act with variations. She'd have been elected fast enough,
after this, and there isn't a girl in the class who could do half as
well on that committee. But as for having her and that insufferable
little Betty Wales on, when I shall be left off, I simply couldn't stand
it."

Madeline found Betty taking off her doll's dress by dim candle-light,
which she hoped would escape the eagle eye of the night-watchman. "I've
come to tell you that the wires are all down again," she began, and went
on to tell the story of Jean's carefully timed insinuations.

"I almost believe that the Blunderbuss was the tool of the Hill crowd,"
she said angrily. "At any rate they used her while she served, and now
they're ready to take a hand themselves."

Betty stared at her in solemn silence. "What an awful lot it costs to
lose your reputation," she said sadly.

"And it costs a good deal to be everybody's guardian angel, doesn't it,
dearie?" Madeline said affectionately. "I oughtn't to have bothered you,
but I seem to have made a dreadful mess of things so far."

"Oh, no, you haven't," Betty assured her. "Eleanor knows how queer Jean
is, and what horrid things she says about people who won't follow her
lead. None of that crowd would help about the toy-shop except Kate
Denise, but every one else has been fine. And I know they haven't
thought that Eleanor was trying to get anything out of them."

Madeline sighed mournfully. "In Bohemia people don't think that sort of
thing," she said. "It complicates life so to have to consider it always.
Good-night, Betty."

"Good-night," returned Betty cheerfully. "Don't forget that the senior
'Merry Hearts' have a tea-drinking to-morrow."

"I'm not likely to," laughed Madeline. "Every one of them that I've seen
has mentioned it. They're all agog with curiosity."

"They'll be more so with joy, when I've told them the news," declared
Betty, holding her candle high above her head to light Madeline through
the hall.

"Dear me! I wish there could be a class without officers and committees
and editors and commencement plays," she told the green lizard a little
later. "Those things make such a lot of worry and hard feeling. But then
I suppose it wouldn't be much of a class, if it wasn't worth worrying
about. And anyway it's almost vacation."



CHAPTER IX

A WEDDING AND A VISIT TO BOHEMIA


Betty and Madeline went to their class meeting on the following
afternoon very much as a trembling freshman goes to her first midyears,
but nothing disastrous happened.

"I fancy that Jean has taken more than Eleanor and me into her
confidence," Madeline whispered. Besides, the Blunderbuss was in her
place, her placid but unyielding presence offering an effectual reminder
to the girls who had been admiring Eleanor's executive ability and
resourcefulness that it would be safer not to mention her name in
connection with the play committee.

But before that was elected the preliminary committee, which, to quote
Katherine Kittredge, had been hunting down the masterpieces of Willy
Shakespeare ever since the middle of junior year, made its report. The
members had not been able to agree unanimously on a play, so the
chairman read the majority's opinion, in favor of "As You Like It," and
then Katherine Kittredge explained the position of the minority, who
wanted to be very ambitious indeed and try "The Merchant of Venice."
There was a spirited debate between the two sets of partisans, after
which, to Katherine's infinite satisfaction, 19-- voted to give "The
Merchant of Venice" at its commencement.

Then the committee to manage the play was chosen, and Betty Wales was
the only person who was much surprised when she was unanimously elected
to the post of costume member.

"I on that committee!" she exclaimed in dismay. "Why, I don't know
anything about Shakespeare."

"You will before you get through with this business," laughed Barbara
Gordon, who had been made chairman. "The course begins to-morrow at two
in my room. No cuts allowed."

[Illustration: "I DO CARE ABOUT HAVING FRIENDS LIKE YOU," SHE SAID.]

Betty's pleasure in this unexpected honor was rather dampened by the
fact that Jean Eastman had proposed her name, making it seem almost as
if she were taking sides with Eleanor's enemies. But Madeline only
laughed at what she called Jean's neat little scheme for getting the
last word.

"Ruth Ford was all ready to nominate you," she said, "but Jean dashed in
ahead of her. She wanted to assure me that I hadn't silenced her for
long."

So Betty gave herself up to the happy feeling of having shown herself
worthy to be trusted with part of 19--'s most momentous undertaking.

"I must write Nan to-night," she said, "but I don't think I shall
mention the costume part. She would think I was just as frivolous as
ever, and Barbara says that all the committee are expected to help with
things in general."

Whereupon she remembered her tea-drinking, and hurried home to find most
of the guests already assembled, and Eleanor, who had not gone to the
class meeting but who had heard all about it from the others, waiting on
the stairs to congratulate her.

"I don't care half as much about being on the committee as I do about
having friends like you to say they're glad," declared Betty, hugging
Eleanor because there were a great many things that she didn't know how
to say to her.

"Yes, friends are what count," said Eleanor earnestly, "and Betty, I
think I'm going to leave Harding with a good many. At least I've made
some new ones this week."

And that was all the reference that was ever made to the way Eleanor's
oldest friend at Harding had treated her.

"Well," said Betty, when everybody had congratulated her and Rachel,
whose appointment on all 19--'s important committees had come to be a
foregone conclusion, "I hope Nita and Rachel and K. won't be sorry they
came. You three aren't so much mixed up in it as the rest of us, but I
thought I'd ask you anyway."

"Do you mean that I can't have my usual three slices of lemon?" demanded
Katherine indignantly.

"Hush, material-minded one," admonished Nita. "There's more than tea and
lemon in this. There's a great secret. Of course we shall be interested
in it. Fire away, Betty."

"And everybody stop watching the kettle," commanded Babbie, who had
taken it in charge, "and then perhaps it will begin to boil."

"What I wanted to tell you," began Betty, impressively, "is that Miss
Hale is going to be married this vacation."

"Good for Miss Hale!" cried Bob, throwing up a pillow. "Did her sister
get well?"

"Yes," said Betty. "She was dreadfully ill all summer, and then she had
to go away for a change. Ethel wanted to wait until she was perfectly
strong, because she had looked forward so to being maid-of-honor."

"I think we ought to send Miss Hale a present," said Babe, decisively.
"Madame President, please instruct the secretary---- Why, we haven't any
president now," ended Babe in dismay.

"Let's elect Betty," suggested Nita.

"She's too young for such a responsible position," objected Bob. "It's
only the dramatics committee that takes infants."

"And besides, her hair curls," added Madeline, reaching out to pull one
of the offending ringlets. "Curly-haired people don't deserve to be
elected to offices."

"Let's have Babe," suggested Rachel.

"She's older than her name, her hair has always been straight----"

"Except once," put in Katherine, and everybody shrieked with laughter at
the recollection of Babe's one disastrous experience with a marcelle
wave.

"And then she looked like a wild woman of Borneo," went on Rachel, "so
it shouldn't count against her. Furthermore this society was organized
to give her a chance."

"All right," agreed Nita. "I withdraw my nomination. Babe, you're
elected. Instruct the secretary to cast a unanimous ballot for
yourself."

"Very well," said Babe with much dignity. "Please do it, Madeline, and
then I appoint you and Betty and Eleanor to choose a present for Miss
Hale. I was just going to say, when I interrupted myself to remark upon
the extraordinary absence of a presiding officer"--Babe coughed and
dropped her presidential manner abruptly--"I was going to say that I'm
all for a stuffed turtle, like those we got in Nassau. I think a ripping
big one would be the very thing."

"Babe!" said Babbie scornfully. "Imagine how a turtle would look among
her wedding presents."

"I think it would look stunning," persisted Babe, "and it would be so
appropriate from us."

"Don't be dictatorial, Babe," advised Rachel. "It isn't seemly in a
president. Perhaps your committee can think of something appropriate
that won't be quite so startling as a turtle. When is the wedding,
Betty?"

"The thirty-first of December at half-past eight," explained Betty.

"New Year's eve--what a nice, poetical time," interposed Babbie,
thoughtfully. "I think that if I ever marry----"

"Hush, Babbie," commanded Nita. "You probably never will. Do let Betty
finish her story."

"Well, it's to be a very small wedding," went on Betty, hastily, "with
no cards, but announcements, but Ethel wrote me herself and she wants us
all--the Nassau ones, I mean--and Mary Brooks, to come."

"Jolly for Miss Hale!" cried Bob, tossing up two pillows this time.

"How perfectly dear of her!" said Babbie.

"The biggest turtle we can get won't be a bit too good for her,"
declared Babe.

"But where could we stay over night?" asked Helen, the practical-minded.

"You don't give me a chance to tell you the whole of anything,"
complained Betty, sadly. "We're invited guests--specially invited, I
mean, and it's all arranged where we are to stay. Ethel is going to have
her sister and four bridesmaids to walk with her, and she wants us girls
to hold a laurel rope along the line of march of the wedding-party, as
they go through the rooms."

"Jolly," began Babe, but she was promptly suppressed by Madeline, who
tumbled her flat on her back and held her down with a pillow while she
ordered Betty to proceed.

"I'll read you what else she says," went on Betty, triumphantly
producing Miss Hale's letter. "She says, 'There won't be many people to
get in the way of the procession, but the aisle effect will be pretty,
and besides I want my match-makers to have a part in the grand
dénouement of all their efforts. Will you ask the others and write Mary
Brooks, whose address I don't know. My uncle's big house next door to
us will have room for you all, and you must come in time for my
bridesmaids' luncheon and a little dance, both on the thirtieth.' Now
isn't that splendid?"

"Perfectly splendid," echoed her auditors.

"Why, we shall be almost bridesmaids," said Roberta Lewis in awestruck
tones. "Does Mary know?"

Betty nodded. "She hasn't had time to answer yet, but she can certainly
go, as she lives so near Ethel."

"The only difficulty about our going," said Babe, "is what to do with
the few days between the wedding and the opening of college."

"And that's easily settled," said Madeline promptly. "Miss Hale lives
just out of New York, doesn't she? Well, you are all to come and stay in
the flat with me. Hasn't it just been beautifully cleaned? And aren't
you all longing for a glimpse of Bohemia?"

That was the climax of the tea drinking. The Merry Match-Makers spent
the evening writing home to their parents for permission to go to the
wedding and considering momentous problems of dress. For Roberta's best
evening-gown was lavender and Babbie's was pink, and the question was
how to distribute Betty, Babe and Helen in white, Bob in blue, Eleanor
in her favorite yellow, Madeline in ecru, and Mary in any one of a
bewildering number of possible toilettes, so as to justify Ethel's hope
that the aisle would be ornamental as well as useful.

How the days flew after that! For besides the wedding there were the
luncheon and the dance to anticipate and plan for, as well as the
unknown joys of Bohemia, New York, not to mention the regular excitement
of going home, the fun of tucking Christmas presents into the corners of
half-packed trunks, and the terrors of the written lesson that some
inhuman member of the faculty always saves for the crowded last week of
the term.

On the afternoon of the twenty-ninth the Merry Match-Makers met in New
York. Babbie had sent a sad little note to Miss Hale and a tearful one
to Betty to say that her mother, who was a good deal of an invalid, had
"looked pretty blue over my running off early, and so of course I won't
leave her;" and Helen Adams had decided that considering all the extra
expenses of senior year she couldn't afford the trip to New York. So
there were only seven "almost bridesmaids," as Roberta called them, or
"posts," which was Bob's name for them, to fall upon one another as if
they had been separated for years, instead of a week, say thank you for
the presents that were each "just what I wanted," and exclaim excitedly
over Betty's new suit, Mary's fur coat, and the sole-leather kit-bag
that Santa Claus had brought Roberta.

"It's queer," said Bob. "I feel as if I'd had one whole vacation
already, and ought to be unpacking and digging on psychology 6 and
history 10. Whereas in reality I'm just beginning on another whole
vacation. It's like having two Thanksgiving dinners in one year."

"Not quite like that, I hope," laughed Eleanor, as they started off to
inspect the wedding present, a beautiful pair of tall silver
candlesticks. Madeline had ransacked New York to find them, and every
one but Babe, who clung to her turtle as far superior to any "musty old
antiques," thought them just odd and distinctive enough to please
Ethel's fastidious taste. And after that there was barely time to catch
the train they had arranged to take out to Ethel's home.

Interest in the bride and in their own part of the wedding ceremony had
caused the "Merry Hearts" to forget Dr. Eaton, and they had never once
considered that of course his college chum, John Alison, would leave the
railroad he was building in Arizona and come east to be Dr. Eaton's best
man. And it was Mr. John Alison who had "finished" Georgia Ames. He
inquired for her at once and so did his brother Tom, who was an usher,
and who explained that he had been invited to keep John in order, and to
intercede for him with the "posts."

"And in return for my services as peacemaker," he said solemnly, "I
expect to be treated with special consideration by everybody."
Subsequent events seemed to show that the special consideration referred
to meant a chance to see as much as possible of Betty Wales.

Even more surprising to three of the posts was the presence of Mr.
Richard Blake in the wedding-party--Richard Blake, editor of "The
Quiver," and one-time lecturer at Harding on the tendencies of modern
drama.

Eleanor's face was a study when she recognized him, but before Miss Hale
could begin any introductions Madeline greeted him enthusiastically and
got him into a corner, where they exchanged low-toned confidences for a
moment.

"I'm particularly glad to meet you again, Miss Watson," he said in a
tone of unmistakable sincerity, when he was presented. "We had a jolly
dinner together once, didn't we?"

"Dick's such an old dear," Madeline whispered to Betty half an hour
later. "He confided to me just now that the first evening he saw Eleanor
he thought her the most fascinating girl he had ever met, and then he
hastened to assure me that that had absolutely nothing to do with his
deciding to keep dark about her story. I don't doubt him for a
moment--Dick perfectly detests cheating. But he can't make me believe
that he's being nice to her now just on my account."

There were plenty of other men at the wedding. "We're the only girls in
the whole family," Charlotte, Ethel's younger sister explained, "and we
have thirty own cousins, most of them grown-up."

"Was that one of the thirty that you were sitting on the stairs with at
the dance?" inquired Mary Brooks sweetly.

Charlotte blushed and Bob flew to her rescue. "We all know why Mary
isn't monopolizing any one," she said. "Are you taking notes for future
use, Mary?"

Mary shrugged her shoulders loftily. "I scorn to answer such nonsense,"
she retorted. "I'm going to be an old maid and make matches for all my
friends."

"We'll come and be posts for you any time after commencement," Babe
assured her amiably. "Did you know, girls, that Mary can't stay over
with Madeline because her mother is giving a New Year's dinner-party.
Who do you suppose will be there?"

The wedding festivities were over at last. "It was all perfectly
scrumptious," Babe wrote Babbie enthusiastically, "and I'm bringing you
a little white satin slipper like those we had filled with puffed rice
for luncheon favors, and a lovely pin that Miss Hale wants you to have
just as if you had come. The nicest thing of all is that vacation isn't
over yet. Is it two weeks or two years since I saw you?"

And next came Bohemia. Before they had quite reached Washington Square
Madeline tumbled her guests hastily off their car.

"I forgot to tell Mrs. McLean when to expect us," she explained. "She is
our cook. So we'll hunt her up now and we might as well buy the luncheon
as we go along."

So first they found Mrs. McLean, a placid old Scotch woman who was not
at all surprised when Madeline announced that she was giving a
house-party for five and had forgotten to mention it sooner. She had a
delicious Scotch burr and an irresistible way of standing in the
dining-room door and saying, "Come awa', my dears," when she had served
a meal. Like everything else connected with the Ayres establishment, she
was always there when you wanted her; between times she disappeared
mysteriously, leaving the kitchen quite clear for Madeline and her
guests, and always turning up in time to wash the fudge-pan or the
chafing-dishes.

From Mrs. McLean's they went down a dirty, narrow street, stopping at a
number of funny, foreign-looking fruit and grocery shops, where they
bought whatever anybody wanted.

"Though it doesn't matter what you have to eat," said Roberta later,
pouring cream into her coffee from an adorable little Spanish jug, "as
long as you have it on this lovely old china."

They had their coffee in the studio, sitting around the open fire, and
while they were drinking it people began to drop in--Mr. Blake, who
roomed just across the Square, a pretty, pale girl, who was evidently an
artist because every one congratulated her on having some things "on the
line" somewhere, three newspaper men from the flat above, who being on a
morning daily had just gotten up and stopped in to say "Happy New Year"
on their way down to Park Row, and a jolly little woman whom the others
called Mrs. Bob.

"She's promised to chaperon us," Madeline explained to her guests. "She
lives down-stairs, so we can't go in or out without falling into her
terrible clutches."

Mrs. Bob, who was in a corner playing with the little black kitten that
seemed to belong with the house, like Mrs. McLean, stopped long enough
to ask if they had heard about the theatre party. They had not, so Mr.
Blake explained that by a sudden change of bill at one of the theatres
Mr. Sothern and Miss Marlowe were to give "The Merchant of Venice" that
evening.

"And I understand from Miss Watson that you people are particularly
interested in that play," he added, "so I've corraled some tickets and
Mrs. Bob and a bunch of men."

"And the Carletons will have an early dinner," put in Mrs. Bob. "Oh, I
forgot. You don't know about that either. Mrs. Carleton won't be back
from the country until four o'clock, so she asked me to give you the
invitation to have New Year's dinner with them."

"But did she know there were six of us?" asked Betty anxiously,
whereupon everybody laughed and Mrs. Bob assured her that Mrs. Carleton
had mentioned seven to her, and hadn't seemed in the least worried.

That was the way things went all through their visit. Mrs. Bob took
them shopping, with frequent intermissions for cakes and tea at queer
little tea-rooms, with alluring names like "The London Muffin Room," or
the "Yellow Tea-Pot." Her husband escorted them to the east-side
brass-shops, assuring them solemnly that it wasn't everybody he showed
his best finds to, and mourning when their rapturous enthusiasm
prevented his getting them a real bargain. The newspaper men gave a
"breakfast-luncheon" for them--breakfast for themselves, and luncheon
for their guests--which was so successful that it was continued that
same evening by a visit to a Russian puppet-show and supper in a Chinese
restaurant. The pretty artist sold one of her pictures and invited them
to help her celebrate, just as if they were old friends, who knew how
hard she had struggled and how often she hadn't had money enough to buy
herself bread and butter, to say nothing of offering jam--in the shape
of oysters on the half-shell and lobster Newburg--to other people.

It was all so gay and light-hearted and unexpected--the way things
happened in Bohemia. Nobody hurried or worried, though everybody worked
hard. It was just as Madeline had told them, only more so. The girls
said a sorrowful good-bye to Mrs. Bob, Mrs. McLean and the little black
kitten and journeyed back to Harding sure that there never had been and
never would be another such vacation for them.

"How can there be?" said Bob dejectedly. "At Easter we shall all have to
get clothes, and after that we shan't know a vacation from mid-year
week."

"Which delightful function begins in exactly fourteen days," said
Katherine Kittredge. "Is there anybody here present whose notes on Hegel
have the appearance of making sense?"

19-- took its senior midyears gaily and quite as a matter of course,
lectured its underclass friends on the evils of cramming, and kept up
its spirits by going coasting with Billy Henderson, Professor
Henderson's ten-year-old son, who had admired college girls ever since
he found that Bob Parker could beat him at steering a double-runner.
Between times they bought up the town's supply of "The Merchant of
Venice,"--"not to learn any part, you know, but because we're
interested in our play," each purchaser explained to her friends.

For there is no use in proclaiming your aspirations to be a Portia or a
Shylock until you are sure that your dramatic talent is going to be
appreciated. Of course there were exceptions to this rule, but the girl
who said at a campus dinner-table, "If I am Portia, who is there tall
enough for Bassanio?" became a college proverb in favor of keeping your
hopes to yourself, and everybody was secretly delighted when she decided
that she "really didn't care" to be in the mob.



CHAPTER X

TRYING FOR PARTS


"Teddie Wilson has gone and got herself conditioned in psych.,"
announced Bob Parker, bouncing unceremoniously through Betty's half-open
door.

"Oh, Bob!" Betty's tone was fairly tragic. "Does that mean that she
can't try for a part in the play?"

Bob nodded. "Cast-iron rule. And she'd have made a perfect Gobbo, young
or old, and a stunning Gratiano. Well, her being out of it will give K.
a better chance."

"But I'm sure Katherine wouldn't want her chance to come this way," said
Betty sadly. "Besides--oh, Bob, have you looked at the bulletin-board
this afternoon?"

"Babe did," said Bob with a grin, "so you needn't worry yet, my child.
Ted says she ought to have expected it, because she'd cut a lot and let
things go awfully,--depended on the--faculty--knowing--us--well--enough--
by--this--time--to--pass--over--any small--deficiencies, and all that
sort of talk. And this just shows, she says, how well they do know her.
She's awfully plucky about it, but she cares. I didn't suppose Ted had
it in her to care so about anything," declared Bob solemnly. "But of
course it's a lot to lose--the star comedy part that was going to be
handed out to her by her admiring little classmates, who think that
nobody can act like Teddie. I wish I was as sure of a part in the mob."

"What are you going to try for, Bob?" asked Betty sympathetically.

Bob blushed. "Oh, I don't know," she said, with a fine assumption of
indifference. "Everybody says that you ought to begin at the top and
then the grateful committee won't forget to throw you a crumb when they
get to passing out the 'supers.'" Bob paused and her air of unconcern
dropped from her like a mask. "I say, Betty, I do want my family to be
proud of me for once. Promise you won't laugh if I come up for
Bassanio."

"Of course I won't," said Betty indignantly. "I'm sure you'll make love
beautifully. Do you know who's going to try for Shylock?"

"Only Jean Eastman," said Bob, "and Christy and Emily are thinking of
it. I came up from down-town with Jean just now. She thinks she's got a
sure thing, though of course she isn't goose enough to say so. If Kate
Denise gets Portia, as everybody seems to think she will, it will be
quite like freshman year, with the Hill crowd on top all around. I think
Jean has been aiming for that, and I also think--you don't mind if I say
it, Betty?"

"I haven't the least idea what you're going to say," laughed Betty, "but
I don't believe I shall mind."

"Well," said Bob earnestly, "I think Jean's counting on you to help her
with her Shylock deal."

"I help her!" said Betty in bewilderment. "How could I?"

"What a little innocent you are, Betty Wales," declared Bob. "Have you
forgotten that you are on the all-powerful play-committee, and that you
five and Miss Kingston, head of the elocution department, practically
decide upon the cast?"

"Oh!" said Betty slowly. "But I can't see why Jean should expect me to
push her, of all people."

"She'll remind you why," said Bob, "or perhaps she expects me to do it
for her. Can't you honestly think of anything that she might make a
handle of?"

Betty considered, struggling to recall her recent meetings with Jean.
"She has been extra-cordial lately," she said, "but she hasn't done
anything in particular--oh, Bob, I know what you mean. She expects me to
help her because she nominated me for the committee."

Bob nodded. "As if fifty other people wouldn't have done it if she
hadn't. I may be wrong, Betty, but she had a lot to say all the way up
from Cuyler's about how glad she was that you were on the committee, how
she felt you were the only one for the place and was glad the girls
agreed with her, how hard she had talked you up beforehand, and so
on,--all about her great and momentous efforts in your behalf. I told
her that Miss Ferris said once that you had a perfect command of the art
of dress and that every one knew you planned the costumes for the Belden
play and for the Dramatic Club's masque last spring, also that Barbara
Gordon particularly wanted you on if she was chairman, so I didn't see
that you needed any great amount of talking up. But she laughed her
horrid, sarcastic little laugh and said she guessed I hadn't had much
experience with class politics."

Betty's eyes flashed angrily. "And in return for what she did, she
expects me to work for her, no matter whether or not I think she would
make the best Shylock. Is that what you mean, Bob?"

"Yes, but perhaps I was mistaken," said Bob soothingly, "and any way I
doubt if she ever says anything to you directly. She'll just drop
judicious hints in the ears of your worldly friends, who can be trusted
to appreciate the debt of gratitude you owe her."

"Bob." Betty stared at her hard for a moment. "You don't think--oh, of
course you don't! The parts in the play ought to go to the ones who can
do them best and the committee ought not to think of anybody or anything
but that."

"And I know at least one committee woman who won't think of anybody or
anything but that," declared Bob loyally. "I only thought I'd tell you
about Jean so that, if she should say anything, you would be ready for
her. Now I must go and study Bassanio," and Bob departed murmuring,

    "'What find I here?
    Fair Portia's counterfeit?'"

in tones so amorous that Belden House Annie, who was sweeping on the
stairs, dropped her dust-pan with a clatter, declaring that she was
"jist overcome, that she was!"

"Which was the only compliment my acting of Bassanio ever got," Bob told
her sadly afterward.

Betty was still hot with indignation over Bob's disclosures when Roberta
Lewis knocked on the door. Roberta was wrapped up in a fuzzy red
bath-robe, a brown sweater and a pink crêpe shawl, and she looked the
picture of shivering dejection.

"What in the world is the matter?" demanded Betty, emptying her history
notebooks out of the easy-chair and tucking Roberta in with a green and
yellow afghan, which completed the variegated color scheme to
perfection.

"Please don't bother about me," said Roberta forlornly. "I'm going back
in a minute. I've lost my wedding-pin--Miss Hale's wedding-pin--well,
you know what I mean,--and caught a perfectly dreadful cold."

"You don't think that your pin was stolen?" asked Betty quickly. There
had been no robberies in the college since Christmas, and the girls were
beginning to hope that the mysterious thief had been discouraged by
their greater care in locking up their valuables, and had gone off in
search of more lucrative territory.

"Yes, I do think so," said Roberta. "I almost know it. You see I hadn't
been wearing my pin. I only took it out to show Polly Eastman, because
she hadn't happened to see one. Then K. came and we went off to walk. I
left the pin right on my dressing-table and now it's gone. But the
queerest part is that Georgia Ames was in my room almost all the time,
because hers was being swept, and before that she was in Lucy Mann's,
with the door wide open into the hall, and my door open right opposite.
And yet she never saw or heard anything. Isn't it strange?"

"She was probably busy talking and didn't notice," said Betty. "People
are everlastingly tramping through the halls, until you don't think
anything about it. Have you looked on the floor and in all your drawers?
It's probably tumbled down somewhere and got caught in a crack under the
dressing-table or the rug."

"No, I've looked in all those places," said Roberta with finality. "You
know I haven't as many things to look through as you."

"Please don't be sarcastic," laughed Betty, for Roberta's belongings
were all as trim and tailor-made as herself. "How did you get your
cold?"

"Why K. and I got caught in a miserable little snow flurry," explained
Roberta, pulling the pink shawl closer, "and--I got my feet wet. My
throat's horribly sore. It won't be well for a week, and I can't try for
the play."

Roberta struggled out of the encumbering folds of the green afghan and
trailed her other draperies swiftly to the window, whose familiar view
she seemed to find intensely absorbing.

"Oh, yes, you can," said Betty comfortingly. "Why, your throat may be
all right by to-morrow, and anyway it's only the Portia and Shylock
trials that come then. Were you going to try for either of those parts?"

"Yes," gulped Roberta thickly.

Behind Roberta's back Betty was free to pucker her mouth into a funny
little grimace that denoted amusement, surprise and sympathy, all
together. "Then I'll ask Barbara Gordon to give you a separate trial
later," she said kindly. "Nothing will be really decided to-morrow. We
only make tentative selections to submit to Mr. Masters when he comes up
next week. He's the professional coach, you know."

But Roberta turned back from the window to shake her head. "I wouldn't
have you do that for anything," she said, brushing away the tears. "I'll
try for something else if I get well in time. I'm going to bed now. Will
you please ask Annie to bring up my dinner? And Betty, don't ever say I
meant to try for Shylock. I don't know why I told you, except that you
always understand."

Betty felt that she didn't quite understand this time, but she promised
to tell Annie and come in late herself to conduct another search for
the missing pin. She had just succeeded in dismissing Ted, Jean and
Roberta from her mind and concentrating it on the next day's history
lesson, when Helen Adams appeared.

"Helen," began Betty solemnly, "if you've got any troubles connected
with trying for parts in the play, please don't divulge them. I don't
believe I can stand any more complications."

"Poor thing!" said Helen compassionately. "I know how you feel from the
times I have with the 'Argus.' Well, I shan't bother you about trying
for a part. I should just love to act, but I can't and I know it. I only
wanted to borrow some tea, and to tell you that Anne Carter has come to
return my call. You know you said you'd like to meet her."

So Betty brushed her curls smooth and, stopping to pick up Madeline on
her way, went in to meet Miss Carter, whose shyness and silence melted
rapidly before Betty's tactful advances and Madeline's appreciative
references to her verses in the last "Argus."

While Helen made the tea, Miss Carter amused them all with a droll
account of her efforts to learn to play basket-ball, "because Miss
Adams says it throws so much light on the philosophy of college life."

"Then you never played before you came here?" asked Betty idly, stirring
her tea.

Miss Carter shook her head. "I prepared for college in a convent in
Canada. The sisters would have been horribly shocked at the idea of our
tearing about in bloomers and throwing a ball just like the boys."

"Oh!" said Betty, with a sudden flash of recognition. "Then it was at
the convent where you got the beautiful French accent that mademoiselle
raves over. You're in my senior French class. I ought to have remembered
you."

"I'm glad you didn't," said Miss Carter bitterly, and then she flushed
and apologized. "I'm so ugly that I'm always glad not to be remembered
or noticed. But I didn't mean to say so, and I do hope you'll come to
see me, both of you,--if seniors ever do come to see sophomores."

The girls laughingly assured her that seniors did sometimes condescend
so far, and she went off with a happy look in her great gray eyes.

"We must have her in the 'Merry Hearts,'" said Madeline. "She's our kind
if she can only get over that morbid feeling about her scar."

"But we must be very careful," Helen warned them, with a vivid
remembrance of her first interview with Miss Carter. "We mustn't ask her
to join until most of us have been to see her and really made friends.
She would just hate to feel that we pitied her."

"We'll be careful," Betty promised her. "I'll go to see her, for one,
the very first of next week," and she skipped gaily off to dress for
dinner. After all there were plenty of things in the world besides the
class play with its unhappy tangle of rivalries and heartburnings.

"And what's the use of borrowing trouble?" Betty inquired the next
evening of the green lizard. "If you do, you never borrow the right
kind."

Jean, to be sure, had done a good deal to justify Bob's theory. She had
remembered an urgent message from home which must be delivered to Polly
immediately after luncheon, and she kept her innocent little cousin
busily engaged in conversation in the lower hall of the Belden House
until Betty appeared, having waited until the very last minute in the
vain hope of avoiding Jean. But when they opened the door there was
Barbara Gordon, also bound for Miss Kingston's office, and much relieved
to find that her committee were not all waiting indignantly for their
chairman's tardy arrival. So whatever Jean had meant to say to Betty in
private necessarily went unsaid.

And then, after all her worriment, Jean was the best Shylock!

"Which is perfectly comical considering Bob's suspicions," Betty told
the green lizard, the only confidant to whom she could trust the play
committee's state-secrets.

All the committee had been astonished at Jean's success, and most of
them were disappointed. Christy or Emily Davis would have been so much
pleasanter to work with, or even Kitty Lacy, whom Miss Kingston
considered very talented. But Emily was theatrical, except in funny
parts, Christy was lifeless, and Kitty Lacy had not taken the trouble
to learn the lines properly and broke down at least once in every long
speech, thereby justifying the popular inversion of her name to Lazy
Kitty, a pseudonym which some college wag had fastened upon her early in
her freshman year.

"And because she's Kitty, it isn't safe to give her another chance,"
said Miss Kingston regretfully, when the fifteen aspiring Shylocks had
played their parts and the committee were comparing opinions. "Yes, I
agree with Barbara that Jean Eastman is by far the most promising
candidate, but----"

"But you don't think she's very good, now do you, Miss Kingston?" asked
Clara Ellis, a rather lugubrious individual, who had been put on the
committee because she was a "prod" in "English lit.," and not because
she had the least bit of executive ability.

Miss Kingston hesitated. "Why no, Clara, I don't. I'm afraid she won't
work up well; she doesn't seem to take criticism very kindly. But it's
too soon to judge of that. At present she certainly has a much better
conception of the part than any of the others."

"You don't think we've been too ambitious, do you, Miss Kingston?" asked
Barbara, anxiously. Barbara knew Jean well and the prospect of managing
the play with her capricious, selfish temperament to be catered to at
every turn was not a pleasant one.

"I've thought so all along," put in Clara Ellis, decidedly, before Miss
Kingston had had a chance to answer. "I think we ought to have made sure
of a good Shylock before we voted to give this play. It will be
perfectly awful to make a fizzle of it, and everything depends on
getting a good Shylock, doesn't it, Miss Kingston?"

"A great deal certainly depends on that," agreed Miss Kingston. "But
it's much too early to decide that you can't get a good Shylock."

"Why, who else is there?" demanded Clara, dismally. "Surely every
possible and impossible person has tried to-day."

Nobody seemed ready to answer this argument, and Betty, glancing at the
doleful faces of her fellow-workers felt very much depressed until a new
idea struck her.

"Miss Kingston," she said, "there have been fifteen senior plays at
Harding, haven't there? And hasn't each one been better than any of
those that came before it?"

"So each class and its friends have thought," admitted Miss Kingston,
smiling at Betty's eagerness, "and in the main I think they have been
right."

"Then," said Betty, looking appealingly at Clara and Barbara, "I guess
we can safely go on thinking that our play will be still better. 19-- is
the biggest class that ever graduated here, and it's certainly one of
the brightest."

Everybody laughed at this outburst of patriotism and the atmosphere
brightened immediately, so Betty felt that perhaps she was of some use
on the committee even if she couldn't understand all Clara's easy
references to glosses and first folio readings, or compare Booth's
interpretation of Shylock with Irving's as glibly as Rachel did.

Just then there was a smothered giggle outside the door and six lusty
voices chanted, "By my troth, our little bodies are a-weary of these
hard stairs," in recognition of which pathetic appeal the committee
hastily dismissed the subject of Shylock in order to hear what the
impatient Portias had to say. They did so well, and there was such a
lively discussion about the respective merits of Kate Denise, Babbie
Hildreth and Nita Reese that the downcast spirits, of the committee were
fully restored, and they went home to dinner resolved not to lose heart
again no matter what happened, which is the most sensible resolution
that any senior play committee can make.

When Betty got home she found a note waiting for her on the hall table
addressed in Tom Alison's sprawling hand and containing an invitation to
Yale commencement.

"I'm asking you early," Tom wrote, "so that you can plan for it, and be
so much the surer not to disappoint me. Alice Waite is coming with Dick
Grayson, and some of the other fellows will have Harding girls. My
mother is going to chaperon the bunch.

"Do you remember my kid roommate, Ashley Dwight? He's junior president
this year. He's heard a lot about Georgia Ames, real and ideal, and he's
crazy to see what the visible part of her is like. I think he meditates
asking her to the prom, and making a sensation with her. Can't I bring
him up to call on you some day when the real Miss Ames will probably be
willing to amuse Ashley?"

As Betty joyously considered how she should answer all this, she
remembered the four box tickets for the Glee Club concert that Lucile
Merrifield had promised to get her--Lucile was business manager of the
mandolin club this year. Betty had intended to invite Alice Waite and
two Winsted men, but there was no reason why she shouldn't ask Georgia,
Tom, and the junior president instead. So she went straight to Georgia's
room.

"All right," said Georgia calmly, when Betty had explained her project.
"I was going to stand up with a crowd of freshmen, but they won't care."

"Georgia Ames," broke in her roommate severely, "I should like to see
you excited for once. Don't you know the difference between going
stand-up with a lot of other freshmen, and sitting in a box with Miss
Wales and two Yale men?"

"Of course I know the difference," said Georgia, smiling good-naturedly.
"Didn't I say that I'd go in the box? But you see, Caroline, if you are
only a namesake of Madeline Ayres's deceased double you mustn't get too
much excited over the wonderful things that happen to you. Must you,
Betty?"

"I don't think you need any pointers from me, Georgia," said Betty
laughingly. "Has Caroline seen you studying yet?"

"Once," said Georgia sadly.

"But it was in mid-year week," explained the roommate, "the night before
the Livy exam. She mended stockings all the evening and then she said
she was going to sit up to study. She began at quarter past ten."

"Propped up in bed, to be quite comfortable," interpolated Georgia.

"And at half-past ten," went on her roommate, "she said she was so
sleepy that she couldn't stand it any longer. So she tumbled the books
and extra pillows on the floor and went to sleep."

"Too bad you spoiled your record just for those few minutes," laughed
Betty, "but I'll take you to the concert all the same," and she hurried
off to dress.

At dinner she entertained her end of the table with an account of
Georgia's essay at cramming.

"But that doesn't prove that she never studies," Madeline defended her
protégée. "That first floor room of theirs is a regular rendezvous for
all the freshmen in the house, so she's very sensible to keep away from
it when she's busy."

"Where does she go?"

"Oh, to the library, I suppose," said Madeline. "Most of the freshmen
study there a good deal, and she camps down in Lou Waterson's room,
afternoons, because Lou has three different kinds of lab. to go to, so
she's never at home."

"Well, it's a wonder that Georgia isn't completely spoiled," said Nita
Reese. "Just to think of the things that child has had done for her!"

And certainly if Georgia's head had not been very firmly set on her
square shoulders, it would have been hopelessly turned by her meteoric
career at Harding. For weeks after college opened she was a spectacle, a
show-sight of the place. Old girls pointed her out to one another in a
fashion that was meant to be inobtrusive but that would have flattered
the vanity of any other freshman. Freshmen were regaled with stories
about her, which they promptly retailed for her benefit, and then sent
her flowers as a tribute to her good luck and a recognition of the
amusement she added to the dull routine of life at Harding. Seniors who
had been duped by the phantom Georgia asked her to Sunday dinner and
introduced her to their friends, who did likewise. Foolish girls wanted
her autograph, clever ones demanded to know her sensations at finding
herself so oddly conspicuous, while the "Merry Hearts" amply fulfilled
their promise to make up to her for unintentionally having forced her
into a curious prominence. But Georgia took it all as a mere matter of
course, smiled blandly at the stories, accepted the flowers and the
invitations, wrote the autographs, and explained that she guessed her
sensations weren't at all remarkable,--they were just like any other
freshman's.

"All the same," Madeline declared, whenever the subject came up, "she's
absolutely unique. If the other Georgia had never existed, this one
would have made her mark here."

But just how she would have done it even Madeline could not decide. The
real Georgia was not like other girls, but in what fundamental way she
was different it was difficult to say. Indeed now that the "Merry
Hearts" came to know her better, she was almost as much of a puzzle to
them as the other Georgia had been to the rest of the college.



CHAPTER XI

A DARK HORSE DEFINED


"Did you see Mr. Masters in chapel this morning with Miss Kingston?"

This was the choice tid-bit of news that 19-- passed from hand to hand
as it took its way to its various nine o'clock classes.

"I thought he wasn't coming until to-morrow," said Teddie Wilson, who
followed every move of the play committee with mournful interest.

"He wasn't," explained Barbara Gordon, "but he found he could get off
better to-day. It's only for the Shylocks and Portias, you know. We
can't do much until they're definitely decided, so we can tell who is
left for the other parts."

"Gratiano and the Gobbos will come in the next lot," sighed Teddie.
"Seems as if I should die to be out of it all!"

Jean Eastman was just ahead of them in the crowd. "Poor Teddie!" Barbara
began, "I only wish---" She broke off abruptly. She didn't want Jean
for Shylock, but it would have been the height of impropriety to let
even Teddie, whose misfortunes made her a privileged person, know it.
"It's a perfect shame," she went on hastily. "You don't feel half so bad
about it as we do."

Ted stared incredulously. "Don't I? I say, Barbara, did you know there
was a girl in last year's cast who had had a condition at midyears? She
kept still and somehow it wasn't reported to Miss Stuart until very
late, and by that time it would have made a lot of trouble to take her
out. So they hushed it up and she kept her part. A last year's girl
wrote me about it."

"I don't believe she had much fun out of it, do you, Ted?" asked
Barbara. "Anyhow I'm sure you--"

"Oh, of course not," interrupted Ted with emphasis.

"What in the world are you two talking about?" demanded Jean Eastman
curiously, dropping back to join them.

"Talking play of course!" laughed Barbara, trying to be extra cordial
because she had so nearly said a disagreeable thing a minute before.

Meanwhile Ted, who felt that she should break the tenth commandment to
atoms if she stayed in Jean's neighborhood another minute, slipped off
down a side hall and joined a group of her classmates who were bound
like herself for Miss Raymond's English novelists. They were talking
play too, of course,--it was in the air this morning,--and they welcomed
Ted joyously and deferred to her opinion as that of an expert.

"Who'll be Shylock, Teddie?" demanded Bob Parker. "That's the only thing
I'm curious about."

"Jean," returned Ted calmly, "or at least the committee think so. I can
tell by the way Barbara looks at her."

"Beastly shame," muttered Bob. "Why couldn't Emily and Christy have
braced up and got it themselves?"

"Now, Bob," Nita Reese remonstrated, "don't you think you're a bit hard
on Jean this time? I know she's a good deal of a land-grabber, but now
she's gone into an open competition just like any one else, and if she
wins it will be because she deserves to."

"Ye-es," admitted Bob grudgingly. "Yes, of course it will. I know that
as well as you do, Nita Reese. Just the same she's never any good in
Gest and Pant, is she, Teddie?"

"In what?" demanded Helen Adams and Clara Madison together.

"Gest and Pant--short for Gesture and Pantomime, senior course in
elocution," explained Teddie rapidly. "Oh, I don't know. I think she's
done some pretty good things once in a while. And anyhow she can't fool
the committee and Mr. Masters."

"Of course not," agreed Bob.

"Just the same," said Madeline Ayres, who had come up in time to hear
the end of the argument, "we'll stand for her if she gets the part, but
until she does we can hope against hope for a dark horse, can't we,
Bob?"

"What's a dark horse?" asked Clara Madison in her funny, slow drawl.

"Your vocabulary's getting a big increase this morning, isn't it,
Clara?" said Madeline quizzically. "Gest and Pant, short for Gesture and
Pantomime; dark horse, short for a person like---- Girls, run in,
quick. She's begun calling the roll."

It was a long morning. The committee watched its hours go by
complacently enough. They had heard Jean again and liked her better; and
the two girls who were to compete with her had improved, too, on second
trial. There was no doubt that the Portias were good. They were also
nervous. Kate Denise didn't even pretend to "Take notes, young ladies,"
though Dr. Hinsdale looked straight at her when he said it, and Babbie
Hildreth made herself the butt of endless jibes by absent-mindedly
mentioning Nerissa instead of Napoleon in History 10. Jean, on the other
hand, was as cool as possible. She sat beside Teddie Wilson in
philosophy, much to the annoyance of that unhappy young person, and
added insult to injury by trying to discuss the play. Teddie was as
unresponsive as she thought consistent with the duty of being lady-like,
but Jean didn't seem to mind, for she went off to lunch smiling a
satisfied, triumphant little smile that seemed to say she had gotten
just what she wanted out of Teddie.

At two o'clock Mr. Masters and Miss Kingston met the play committee in
Miss Kingston's office, and the Shylock trials began. At ten minutes
before three the great Mr. Masters appeared in the door of the office
and tossing a careless "Back at four-thirty sharp" over his shoulder,
ran down the stairs as lightly as though he were not leaving riot and
ruin behind him. A minute later Barbara Gordon came to the door and
explained to the Portias who were waiting to come on at three, that it
had been found necessary to delay their appearance until evening.
Barbara always looked calm and unruffled under the most trying
circumstances, but she shut the door unnecessarily hard and the Portias
exchanged amazed glances.

"Something's happened," declared Babe, sagely.

"'Oh, wise young judge!'" quoted Nita. "Why don't you tell us what it
is?"

"I must go if we have to come back this evening," said Kate Denise, and
hurried off to find Jean, who had promised to meet her in the library.

Kate understood Jean very well and often disapproved of her, but she had
known her a long time and was genuinely fond of her and anxious for her
success. Jean had complained of a headache at luncheon and seemed
nervous and absent-minded. Kate wondered if she could possibly have
broken down and spoiled her chance with Mr. Masters, thus disarranging
the committee's plans.

But Jean scoffed at this idea. "I did my best," she declared, "and he
was awfully nice. You'll like him, Katie. I suppose he had an
engagement, or was tired and wanted to go off somewhere and smoke. He
gets up plays all the time, you know. It must be horribly boring."

Meanwhile Miss Kingston and the play committee sat in mournful conclave.
Nobody had much to say. Clara Ellis looked "I told you so" at the rest,
and the rest looked back astonishment, dismay and annoyance at Clara.

"Is he generally so--so decided and, well,--so quick to make up his
mind?" asked Betty, finally.

Miss Kingston laughed at Betty's carefully chosen adjectives and shook
her head. "He's generally very patient and encouraging, but to-day
something seems to have spoiled his temper. I don't believe, though,
that his irritability has affected his judgment. I agree perfectly with
what he said about Miss Eastman."

"Yes," agreed Barbara, "he put into words what we all felt when we first
heard her. Afterward we wanted so much to think she was good that we
actually cheated ourselves into thinking so."

"Do tell me what happened," begged Rachel Morrison. She had been kept at
home by a belligerent sophomore who insisted upon being tutored at her
regular hour, and had arrived only just in time for Mr. Masters's
dramatic exit.

"Why, he was perfectly calm while the Shylocks were performing,"
explained Barbara. "We had Jean come last because we thought that would
give them all the best chance. He smiled blandly while she was going
through her part and bowed her out as if she had been a second Booth.
Then he sat back and looked at me and said 'Well?' and I said, 'Do you
like her best, Mr. Masters?' He glared at me for a minute and then began
to talk about the seriousness of giving a Shakespearean play and the
confidence he'd felt in us to advise us to give this one, and the
reasons why none of the girls he'd heard would do at all for Shylock.
When he was through he just picked up his hat and coat and told us to go
and get the other girls who tried, as he'd be ready to see them at
half-past four. After that he apologized to Miss Kingston if he'd been
'in the least abrupt'--and went."

"And what are we to do now?" demanded Clara, wearily.

"Get them--the forlorn hopes, as he called them," said Barbara,
determined to be cheerful, "and hope that we shall be happily
disappointed in them. Somebody's got to be Shylock, you know. Betty,
will you go for these three girls on Main Street?" She handed Betty a
slip of paper. "Clara, will you try to find Emily Davis? Rachel, you
look tired to death. Go home and rest. Josephine and I can manage the
campus people."

"There's no use in your getting the Miller girls," said Clara,
decisively. "One lisps and the other stammers."

"That's true," agreed Barbara, cheerily. "We'll leave them out, and
Kitty Lacy has gone home ill. I wish we could think of some promising
people who haven't tried at all. Eleanor Watson used to act very
cleverly. Betty, do you suppose she would be willing to come and read
the part?"

Betty shook her head. "I don't think she would take a part under any
circumstances, but certainly not if she had to compete with Jean.
They're such old friends."

"How about Madeline Ayres?"

"She's set her heart on being the Prince of Morocco," laughed Betty,
"because she wants to be blackened up. Anyway I don't think--"

"No, I don't either, Betty," interposed Miss Kingston. "Miss Ayres
couldn't do a part like Shylock."

"Then I don't believe there is any one else who didn't try before," said
Barbara. "We must just hope for the best, that's all."

Betty had opened the door preparatory to starting on her rounds when she
happened to remember Roberta and her exaggerated disappointment over
missing the last week's trials.

"Barbara," she began timidly, closing the door again, "I know some one
who intended to try but she was sick with the grippe and couldn't. It's
Roberta Lewis. She told me not to speak of her having wanted to try, but
I don't see why she shouldn't have a chance now, do you? She couldn't be
worse than some of them."

"She certainly couldn't," laughed Barbara.

"She did awfully well in that little girl play you had," said Clara
Ellis, condescending to show a little real interest in the question at
issue. "Did you see it, Miss Kingston?"

Miss Kingston hadn't seen "The Little Princess" and didn't know Roberta;
but she agreed that there was no reason why any girl who was willing to
take it shouldn't have a chance to show what she could do toward
satisfying Mr. Masters.

"But it isn't that I think she will do particularly well," Betty
explained, honestly. "Only I was sorry for her because she seemed to
care such a lot. Shall I stop and ask her on my way?"

Barbara said yes and Betty hurried over to the Belden. Roberta was out,
but a neat sign pinned to her door promised that she would be "Back in a
few minutes," so Betty scribbled a hasty note to explain matters and
hurried off again. She had not much idea that Roberta would care to try
for Shylock now, but she was glad she had thought of giving her the
chance. Roberta was so quiet and self-contained and so seldom expressed
a wish or a preference that it was worth while taking a little trouble
to please her.

"Even if there isn't much sense in what she wants," thought Betty, as
she tramped up Main Street.

The Main Street Shylocks all lived in the same house and not one of them
was in. Betty pursued them back to the campus, caught one at the library
and another in chemistry "lab.," and followed the third down town where
she was discovered going into Cuyler's for an ice. As this last captive
happened to be the most promising Shylock, next to the ones that Mr.
Masters had already seen, Betty led her back to the campus in triumph,
too thankful at having her safe to notice that it was fully a quarter to
five before they reached college hall.

Roberta was sitting by herself on a low window-seat near Miss Kingston's
door. She looked pale and frightened and hardly smiled in answer to
Betty's gay little nod and wave of the hand.

"Goodness, I hope she'll do decently," thought Betty, and was opening
the door as softly as possible when somebody gave it a quick push from
the other side. It was the great Mr. Masters coming out again.

"Oh, Miss Lewis," he called over to Roberta, "have you learned the
Portia scenes too? I forgot to ask you. Well, suppose you come over and
read them to-night. We should all like to hear you."

Betty stared in amazement; so did the Shylocks who crowded the stairs
and windowledges. There was no mistaking the fact that this time the
great Mr. Masters was genuinely pleased. He held the door open for Betty
to pass into the office, assured Roberta once more that he should expect
to see her in the evening, and went inside himself, leaving a buzz of
excitement behind him and meeting a similar buzz that hushed politely as
he came forward.

"Well, Miss Kingston," he said, rubbing his hands together with an air
of supreme satisfaction, "we've found our Shylock. I'm glad you let her
in first this time. I was really getting worried. May I ask why you
young ladies kept her up your sleeves so long?"

Barbara explained.

"But you must have known about her," Mr. Masters persisted. "Why, she's
marvelous. She'd save your play for you, single-handed. Hasn't she taken
part in any of your college performances?"

Barbara explained about that too.

"Then how did she happen to come to light at all?" he demanded.

This time Barbara looked at Betty, who blushed and murmured, "I didn't
suppose she could act very much. I really didn't."

Mr. Masters laughed heartily at this. "Well, she seems to be a thorough
mystery," he said. "And now the only question is where we need her most,
in case I don't like your first choice in Portias any better than I did
your Shylocks. We ought to have these other people in, I suppose. Of
course there's no question about Miss Lewis, but we'd better know what
they can all do, especially if there are any more of Miss Wales's dark
horses among them."

[Illustration: "WELL, WE'VE FOUND OUR SHYLOCK," HE SAID.]

By dinner time the astonishing news had spread over the campus. Roberta
Lewis was going to be Shylock. She hadn't been in but one play since she
entered college and then she took somebody's place. Nobody had thought
she would get it. Nobody knew she could act except Betty Wales. Betty
found out about her somehow--she was always finding out what people
could do,--and she got her in at the last minute because Mr. Masters
didn't like Jean's acting,--or somebody didn't. Roberta's was
magnificent. They wanted her for Portia too. Mr. Masters had said it was
a great pity there weren't two of her. How did she take it? Why, she
acted shy and bored and distant, just as usual. She seemed to have
expected to be Shylock!

But she wasn't "just as usual." She was sitting by her window in the
dark, with Mary Brooks's picture clutched tightly in one hand and her
father's in the other, and she was whispering soft little messages to
them.

"Dear old daddy, you were in all the fraternities and societies, and on
all the college papers and the 'varsity eight. Well, I'm on one thing
now. You'll have one little chance to be proud of me, perhaps, after all
these four years.

"Now, Mary Brooks, do you see what I can do? I couldn't write and I
couldn't be popular or prominent or a 'star' in any of the classes. I'm
not that kind. But after all I shall be something but just one of the
Clan before I leave.

"Oh, I wonder if Mary and father would like to sit together at the
play."

While Roberta was considering the probability that they would, Betty
knocked her soft little knock on the door. Roberta always knew Betty's
knock.

"Come," she called in a queer, trembly voice. How was she ever going to
thank Betty for seeing what no one else saw, and helping her to stick to
it and get her chance in a nice quiet way that wouldn't make her feel
awkward if she failed?

But Betty didn't give her time to open her mouth. "You dear old thing!"
she cried. "Oh, I am so happy! I never thought you'd get it. Honestly, I
didn't. I just thought you might as well try. Roberta, you ought to
hear the things Mr. Masters has been saying about you."

Roberta laughed happily. "It's nice, isn't it?" she said. "Didn't you
think I could get a part? You were the one who told me I ought to try."

"Yes," said Betty solemnly, "I thought you'd get one of the Sals
probably--you know the ones I mean,--Solanio, and the others that sound
like him. We call them the Sals for short, I never dreamed of your being
Shylock, any more than I planned for you to be Ermengarde. You did it
every bit yourself, Roberta Lewis, by just happening to come around at
the right times."

"And by coming to the right person," added Roberta.

But Betty only laughed at her. "It's bad enough to be blamed for things
you've done," she said. "I simply won't be praised for things I haven't
done. I never was so pleased in my life. Roberta, Miss Kingston says
you're a genius. To think of my knowing a genius! I must go and tell
Helen Chase Adams."

Down-stairs Madeline was telephoning to Clara Madison, who, owing to her
strong prejudice against bed-making, still lived off the campus. "A dark
horse," she explained, "is a person like Roberta Lewis. I didn't have
time to tell you this morning. Good-b----Oh! haven't you heard? She's
going to be Shylock. No, the committee haven't announced it yet, but Mr.
Masters shouted it aloud in the corridor at college hall. Don't forget
what a dark horse is, Clara."

The B's, innocently supposing that Roberta was out because her windows
were dark, were celebrating in Nita's room, while they awaited her
return. This meant that Babbie was doing a cake-walk with an imaginary
partner, Babe a clog-dance, and Bob a highland fling, while Nita hugged
her tallest vase and her prettiest teacup and besought them to stop
before Mrs. Kent came to see who was tearing the house down.

Bob stopped first, though not on account of Nita's bric-a-brac or a
possible visit from Mrs. Kent.

"Nita," she demanded breathlessly, "did you say Betty thought of
Roberta?"

"Yes," Nita assented. "Nobody else on the committee knows her at all
except Rachel, and she is as surprised as the rest of us."

"Gee!" Bob's tone was deep with meaning. "Then I know who won't like
it."

"Who?" Babe ended her dance to ask.

"Jean Eastman," said Bob solemnly.

Babe gave her a disdainful glance. "How much brains do you think it
takes to find that out, Bob Parker? Of course she won't like it."

But Bob only smiled loftily and declared that if Roberta hadn't come in
by this time they must all go straight home to dinner.



CHAPTER XII

CALLING ON ANNE CARTER


Pleasant things generally submerged the unpleasant ones at Harding, so
Betty's delight in Roberta's unexpected success quite wiped out her
remembrance of Bob's theories about Jean, until, several days after the
Shylock trials, Jean herself confirmed them.

"I want to be sure that you know I'm going to try for Bassanio," she
said, overtaking Betty on the campus between classes, "so you can have
plenty of time to hunt up a rival candidate. I can't imagine who it will
be unless you can make Eleanor Watson believe that it's her duty to the
class to try. But this time I hope you'll come out into the open and
play fair, or at least as nearly fair as you can, considering that you
ought to be helping me. I may not be much on philanthropy, but I don't
think I can be accused of entirely lacking a sense of honor."

"Why Jean," began Betty, trying to remember that Jean was hurt and
disappointed and possibly didn't mean to be as rude as her words
sounded, "please don't feel that way. It wasn't that I didn't want you
for Shylock. Of course Roberta is one of my best friends and I'm glad to
have her get the big part in the play, because she's never had anything
else; but I didn't dream that she would get it."

"Then why did you drag her in at the last minute?"

Betty explained how that had happened, but Jean only laughed
disagreeably. "I consider that it was a very irregular way of doing
things," she said, "and I think a good many in the class feel the same
way about it. Besides--but I suppose you've entirely forgotten that it
was I who got you on the play committee."

"Listen, Jean," Betty protested, anxious to avoid a discussion that
would evidently be fruitless. "It was Mr. Masters, and not I or any of
the other girls, who didn't like your acting, or rather your acting of
Shylock. And Mr. Masters himself suggested that you would make a better
Bassanio. Didn't Barbara tell you?"

"Oh, yes," said Jean, "she told me. That doesn't alter the fact that if
you hadn't produced Roberta Lewis when you did, Mr. Masters might have
decided that he liked my Shylock quite well enough."

"Jean," said Betty, desperately, "don't you want the play to be as good
as it possibly can?"

"No," retorted Jean, coolly, "I don't. I want a part in it. I imagine
that I want one just as badly as Roberta Lewis did. And if I don't get
Bassanio, after what Barbara and Clara Ellis have said to me, I shall
know whom to blame." She paused a moment for her words to take effect.
"My father says," she went on, "that women never have any sense of
obligation. They don't think of paying back anything but invitations to
afternoon tea. I must tell him about you. He'll find you such a splendid
illustration. Good-bye, or I shall be late to chemistry." Jean sped off
in the direction of the science building.

"Oh, dear," thought Betty, sadly, "I wish I weren't so stupid and so
meek. Madeline can always answer people back when they're disagreeable,
and Rachel is so dignified that Jean wouldn't think of saying things
like that to her."

Then she smiled in spite of herself. It was all such a stupid tangle.
Jean insisted on blaming her, and Roberta and the committee had insisted
on praising her for finding 19-- a Shylock, when she never intended or
expected to do anything of the kind. "It just shows," thought Betty,
"that the things that seem like deep-laid schemes are very often just
happenings, and the simple-looking ones are the schemes. Well, I
certainly hope Jean will get Bassanio. Eleanor's window is open. I
wonder if she can hear me."

"Oh, Eleanor," she called, when the window had been opened wider in
response to her trill, "there isn't any committee meeting this
afternoon. Don't you want to go with me to see Anne Carter? Let's start
early and take a walk first. It's such a lovely glitter-y day."

The "glitter-y" day foregathered with a brisk north wind after luncheon,
and it was still mid-afternoon when Betty and Eleanor ran up Miss
Carter's front steps, delighted at the prospect of getting in out of
the cold. At the door they hesitated.

"It's so long since I've regularly called on anybody in college,"
laughed Betty, "that I've forgotten how to act. Don't we go right up to
her room, Eleanor?"

"Why yes. That's certainly what people used to do to us in our freshman
year. Don't you remember how we were always getting caught with our
kimonos on and our rooms fixed for sweep-day by girls we'd never seen?"

"I should think so." Betty smiled reminiscently. "Helen Adams used to
get so fussed when she was caught doing her hair. Then let's go right
up. We want to be friendly and informal and make her feel at home. She
has the front room on the second floor. Helen spoke of its being so big
and pretty. I do hope she's in."

She was in, for she called a brisk "come" in answer to Betty's knock.
She was sitting at a table-desk by the window, with her back to her
door, and when it opened she did not turn her head. Neither did Jean
Eastman who sat beside her, their heads together over the same book.
Jean was reading aloud in hesitating, badly accented French, and paid
even less attention to the intruders than Miss Carter, who called
hastily, "In just one minute, Miss Harrison," and then cautioned Jean
not to forget the elisions.

"But we're not Miss Harrison," said Betty laughingly, amazed and
embarrassed at the idea of meeting Jean here.

At the sound of her voice both the girls turned quickly and Miss Carter
came forward with a hearty apology for her mistake. "I was expecting
some one else," she said, "and I thought of course it was she who came
in. It was very stupid of me. Won't you sit down?"

"But aren't we interrupting?" asked Betty, introducing Eleanor.

"Nothing more important than the tail end of some French," answered Jean
Eastman curtly, going to get her coat, which hung over a chair near the
door. As she passed Miss Carter she gave her a keen, questioning look
which meant, so Betty decided, that Jean was as much surprised to find
that this quiet sophomore knew Betty Wales and her crowd, as Betty had
been to see Jean established in Miss Carter's room on a footing of
apparent intimacy.

"I've been here ever since luncheon," Jean went on, "and I was just
going, wasn't I, Miss Carter? Oh, no, you're not driving me away--not in
the least. I should be delighted to stay and talk to you both if I had
time." And with a disagreeable little laugh Jean pinned on her hat,
swept up her books, and started for the door.

Strange to say, Miss Carter seemed to take her hasty departure as a
matter of course and devoted herself entirely to her other visitors,
until, just as Jean was leaving, she turned to her with a question.

"Oh, Miss Eastman, I don't remember--did you say to-morrow at four?"

For a full minute Jean stared at her, her expression a queer mixture of
anger and amused reproach. "No, I said to-morrow at three," she answered
at last and went off down the stairs, humming a gay little tune.

Betty and Eleanor exchanged wondering glances. Jean was notorious for
knowing only prominent girls. Her presence here and her peculiar manner
together formed a puzzle that made it very difficult to give one's full
attention to what Miss Carter was saying. There was also Miss Harrison.
Was she the senior Harrison, better known as the Champion Blunderbuss?
And if she was coming, why didn't she come?

Betty found herself furtively watching the door, which Jean had left
open, and she barely repressed a little cry of relief when the
Champion's ample figure appeared at the head of the stairs.

"I'm terribly late," she called out cheerfully. "I thought you'd
probably get tired of waiting and go out. Oh," as she noticed Miss
Carter's visitors, "I guess I'd better come back at five. I can as well
as not."

But Betty and Eleanor insisted that she should do nothing of the kind.

"We'll come to see you again when you're not so busy," Betty promised
Miss Carter, who gave them a sad little smile but didn't offer any
objection to their leaving the Blunderbuss in possession.

"Well, haven't we had a funny time?" said Eleanor, when they were
outside. "Did you know that Miss Carter tutored in French?"

"No," answered Betty. "Helen never gave me the impression that she was
poor. Her room doesn't look much as if she was helping to put herself
through college, does it?"

"Not a bit," agreed Eleanor, "nor her clothes, and yet Miss Harrison
certainly acted as if she had come on business."

"Yes, exactly like Rachel's pupils. They always come bouncing in late,
when she's given them up and we're all having a lovely time. Miss Carter
acted businesslike too. She seemed to expect us to go."

"Well then, what about Jean?" asked Eleanor. "I couldn't make her out at
all. Has she struck up some sort of queer friendship with Miss Carter or
was she being tutored too?"

Betty gave a little gasp of dismay. "Oh, I don't know. I hoped you
would. You see--she's trying for a part in the play."

"Then she can't be conditioned," said Eleanor easily. "Teddie Wilson has
advertised the rule about that far and wide, poor child."

"And you don't think Jean could possibly not have heard of it?" Betty
asked anxiously.

"Why, I shouldn't think so, but you might ask her to make sure. She
certainly acted very much as if we had caught her at something she was
ashamed of. Would you mind coming just a little way down-town, Betty? I
want to buy some violets and a new magazine."

Betty was quite willing to go down-town, but she smiled mournfully at
Eleanor's careless suggestion that she should speak to Jean. Asking Jean
Eastman a delicate question, especially after the interview they had had
that morning, was not likely to be a pleasant task. Betty wondered if
she needed to feel responsible for Jean's mistakes. She certainly ought
to know on general principles that conditions keep you out of everything
nice from the freshman team on.

A visit from Helen Adams that evening threw some new light on the
matter.

"Betty," Helen demanded, "isn't Teddie Wilson trying for a part in our
play?"

"Helen Chase Adams," returned Betty, severely, "is it possible you don't
know that she got a condition and can't try?"

"I certainly didn't know it," said Helen meekly. "Why should I, please?"

"Only because everybody else does," said Betty, and wondered if Jean
could possibly belong with Helen in the ignorant minority. It seemed
very unlikely, but then it seemed a sheer impossibility that Helen
should have sat at the Belden House dinner-table day after day and not
have heard Teddie's woes discussed. At any rate now was her chance to
get some information about Miss Carter.

"While we are talking about conditions," she began, "does your friend
Anne Carter tutor in French?"

Helen nodded. "It's queer, isn't it, when she has so much money? She
doesn't like to do it either, but mademoiselle made her think it was her
duty, because all the French faculty are too busy and there was no other
girl who took the senior course that mademoiselle would trust. Anne
thinks she'll be through by next week."

"Were many people conditioned in French?" asked Betty.

"Why, I don't know. I think Anne just said several, when she told me
about it."

"What I mean is, are all those she tutors conditioned?"

"Why, I suppose so," said Helen, vaguely. "Seniors don't generally tutor
their last term unless they have to, do they? There wouldn't be much
object in it. Why are you so interested in Anne's pupils, Betty?"

"Oh, for no reason at all," said Betty, carelessly. "Eleanor and I went
up to see her this afternoon, and some one came in for a lesson, as I
understood it, so of course we didn't stay."

"What a shame! You'll go again soon, won't you?"

"Not until after she gets through tutoring," said Betty, decidedly.

"I wish Helen Adams had never seen that girl," she declared savagely to
the green lizard after Helen had gone. "Or at least--well, I almost wish
so. Whatever I do will go wrong. If I ask Jean whether she knows about
the rule, she'll be horribly disagreeable, but if she gets Bassanio and
then Miss Stuart reports her condition she'll probably come and tell me
that I ought to have seen she was conditioned and warned her. Anyway I
shall feel that I ought. It's certainly much kinder to speak to her than
to ask Barbara to inquire of Miss Stuart. Eleanor can't speak to her. No
one can but me." The lizard didn't even blink, but Betty had an
inspiration. "I know what. I'll write to her."

Betty spent a long time and a great deal of note-paper on that letter,
but at last it read to her satisfaction:

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR JEAN:

"After you left this afternoon Miss Harrison came in, evidently to be
tutored. So I couldn't help wondering if you could possibly have had the
bad luck to get a condition, and if so, whether you know the rule about
the senior play,--I mean that no one having a condition can take part.
Please, please don't think that I want to be interfering or
disagreeable. I know you would rather have me ask you now than to have
anything come out publicly later.

                                                             "BETTY."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later Jean's answer appeared on the Belden House table.

"If you thought I had a condition in French, why didn't you go and ask
mademoiselle about it? She would undoubtedly have received you with open
arms. Yes, I believe that Miss Carter, whom you seem to know so
intimately all of a sudden, tutors the Harrison person. Just why you
should lump me with her, I don't see. I know the rule about conditions
and the play as well as you do, but being without either a condition or
a part, I can't see that it concerns me particularly.

                                                "Yours most gratefully,
                                                "JEAN REAVES EASTMAN."

       *       *       *       *       *

Betty read this note through twice and consigned it, torn into very
small pieces, to her waste-basket. But after thinking the whole matter
over a little more carefully she decided that Jean had had ample grounds
for feeling annoyance, if not for showing it, and that there would be
just time before dinner to find her and tell her so.

Jean looked a good deal startled and not particularly pleased when she
saw Betty Wales standing in her door; but Betty, accepting Jean's
attitude as perfectly natural under the circumstances, went straight to
the point.

"I've come to apologize for my mistake, Jean," she said steadily, "and
to tell you how glad I am that it is a mistake. I don't suppose I can
make you understand why I was so sure--or at least so afraid----"

"Oh, we needn't go into that," said Jean, with an attempt at
graciousness. "I suppose Miss Carter said something misleading. You are
quite excusable, I think."

"No," said Betty, "I'm not. I've studied logic and argument and I ought
to know better than to depend on circumstantial evidence. I'm very, very
sorry."

Jean looked at her keenly. "I suppose you and Eleanor have discussed
this affair together. What did she think?"

"I haven't mentioned it to her since the afternoon we were at Miss
Carter's, and she doesn't know that I wrote you. That day we both felt
the same--that is, we didn't know what to think. If you don't mind, I
should like to tell her that it's all right."

"Why in the world should you bother to do that?" asked Jean curiously.

"Because she'll be so glad to know, and also because I think it's no
more than fair to all of us. You did act very queerly that afternoon,
Jean."

"Oh, did I?" said Jean oddly. "You have a queer idea of fairness. You
won't work for me when I've put you on a committee for that express
purpose; but no matter how disagreeable I am to you about it, you won't
take a good chance to pay up, and you won't let Eleanor take hers."

"Let Eleanor take hers?" repeated Betty wonderingly.

"Yes, her chance to pay up her score. She owes me a long one. You know a
good many of the items. Why shouldn't she pay me back now that she has a
good chance? You haven't forgotten Mary Brooks's rumor, have you?
Eleanor could start one about this condition business without half
trying."

"Well, she won't," Betty assured her promptly. "She wouldn't think of
mentioning such a thing to anybody. But as long as we both
misunderstood, I'm going to tell her that it's all right. Good-bye,
Jean, and please excuse me for being so hasty."

"Certainly," said Jean, and Betty wondered, as she ran down-stairs,
whether she had only imagined that Jean's voice shook.

The next afternoon Mr. Masters and the committee, deciding that Jean's
Bassanio was possibly just a shade more attractive than Mary Horton's,
gave her the part. Kate Denise was Portia, and everybody exclaimed over
the suitability of having the lovers played by such a devoted pair of
friends. As for Betty, she breathed a sigh of relief that it was all
settled at last. Jean had won the part strictly on her merits, and she
fully understood Betty's construction of a committee-woman's duty to the
play. Nevertheless Betty felt that, in spite of all their recent
contests and differences of opinion, they came nearer to being friends
than at any time since their freshman year, and she wasn't sorry that
she had gone more than halfway in bringing about this happy result.

Meanwhile the date of the Glee Club concert was fast approaching.
Georgia Ames came in one afternoon to consult Betty about the important
matter of dress.

"I suppose that, as long as we're going to sit in a box, I ought to wear
an evening gown," she said.

"Why, yes," agreed Betty, "if you can as well as not. It's a very dressy
occasion."

"Oh, I can," said Georgia sadly. "I've got one all beautifully spick and
span, because I hate it so. I never feel at home in anything but a
shirt-waist. Beside my neck looks awfully bony to me, but mother says
it's no different from most people's. The men are coming, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, they're coming," assented Betty gaily, "and between us we've
been asked to every tea on the campus, I should think. So they ought to
have a good time in the afternoon, and college men are always crazy over
our concerts."

"Your man will be all right," said Georgia admiringly, "and I'll do my
best for the other one. Truly, Betty, I am grateful to you. I think it's
awfully good of you to ask me. Even if you asked me because I'm the
other Georgia's namesake, you wouldn't do it if you didn't like me a
little for myself, would you?"

"Of course not, you silly child," laughed Betty.

"I want you to have my reserved seat for the basket-ball game," went on
Georgia. "The subs each have one seat to give away, and I've swapped
mine with a sophomore, so you can sit on your own side."

"I shall clap for you, though," Betty told her, "and I hope you'll get a
chance to play. The other Georgia wasn't a bit athletic, so your
basket-ball record will never be mixed with hers."

Betty repeated Georgia's remark about being nothing but the other
Georgia's namesake to Madeline. "I think she really worries about it,"
she added.

Madeline only laughed at her. "She hasn't seemed quite so gay
lately--that probably means warnings from her beloved instructors at
midyears. It must be awfully hard work to keep up the freshman grind
with everybody under the sun asking you to do things. Georgia hates to
snub people, so she goes even when she'd rather stay at home. Twice
lately I've met her out walking with the Blunderbuss. I must talk to her
about the necessity of being decently exclusive."



CHAPTER XIII

GEORGIA'S AMETHYST PENDANT


"Has your man come yet, Lucy?"

"Mine hasn't, thank goodness! He couldn't get off for the afternoon."

"Mine thought he couldn't and then he changed his mind after I'd refused
all the teas."

"Oh, I wouldn't miss the teas for anything. They're more fun than the
concert."

"Of course she wouldn't miss them, the dressy lady, with violets to wear
and a new white hat with plumes."

"The Hilton is going to have an orchestra to play for dancing. Isn't
that pretty cute?"

"But did you hear about Sara Allen's men? They both telegraphed her last
evening that they could come,--both, please note. And now she hasn't any
seats."

So the talk ran among the merry crowd of girls who jostled one another
in the narrow halls after morning chapel. For it was the day of the
Glee Club concert. The first installment of men and flowers was already
beginning to arrive, giving to the Harding campus that air of festive
expectancy which it wears on the rare occasions when the Harding girl's
highest ambition is not to shine in her classes or star in the
basket-ball game or the senior play, but only to own a "man."

Tom Alison and his junior roommate arrived at the Belden soon after
luncheon. Tom looked so distinguished in a frock coat and high hat that
Betty hoped her pride and satisfaction in taking him around the campus
weren't too dreadfully evident.

Ashley Dwight was tall, round-shouldered, and homely, except when he
smiled, which he did very seldom because he was generally too busy
making every one within hearing of his low voice hysterical with
laughter over his funny stories. He took an instant fancy to Georgia,
and of course Georgia liked him--everybody liked Ashley, Tom explained.
So Betty's last worriment vanished, leaving nothing to mar the
perfection of her afternoon.

The Hilton girls' brilliant idea of turning their tea into a dance had
been speedily copied by the Westcott and the Belden, and the other
houses "came in strong on refreshments, cozy-corners, and conversation,"
as Ashley put it. So it was six o'clock before any one dreamed that it
could be so late, and the men went off to their hotels for dinner,
leaving the girls to gloat over the flower-boxes piled high on the
hall-table, to gossip over the afternoon's adventures, and then hurry
off to dress, dinner being a superfluity to them after so many salads
and sandwiches, ices and macaroons, all far more appetizing than a
campus dinner menu.

"I'll come down to your room in time to help you finish dressing," Betty
promised Georgia. "My things slip on in a minute."

But she had reckoned without a loose nail in the stair-carpet, which,
apparently resenting her hasty progress past it, had torn a yard of
filmy ruching off her skirt before she realized what was happening.

"Oh, dear!" she mourned, "now I shall have to rush just as usual. Helen
Chase Adams, the gathering-string is broken. Have you any pink silk? I
haven't a thing but black myself. Then would you try to borrow some? And
please ask Madeline to go down and help Georgia. Her roommate is going
rush to the concert, so she had to start early."

Helen had just taken the last stitches in the ruffle and Betty was
putting on her skirt again, when Tom's card came up to her. By the time
she got down-stairs they were all waiting in the reception-room and Mr.
Dwight was helping Georgia into her coat and laughing at the chiffon
scarf that she assured him was a great protection, so that Betty didn't
see Georgia in her hated evening gown until they took off their wraps at
the theatre.

"Awfully sorry I couldn't come to help you," she whispered, as they went
out to the carriage, "but I know you're all right."

"I did my little best not to disgrace you," Georgia whispered back. "My
neck is horribly bony, no matter what mother thinks; but I covered some
of it up with a chain."

When they got to the theatre, almost every seat was filled and a pretty
little usher hurried them through the crowd at the door, assuring them
importantly over her shoulder that the concert would begin in one
minute and she couldn't seat even box-holders during a number. Sure
enough, before they had fairly gotten into their places, the Glee Club
girls began to come out and arrange themselves in a rainbow-tinted
semicircle for the first number. They sang beautifully and looked so
pretty that Tom gallantly declared they deserved to be encored on that
account alone; and he led the applause so vigorously that everybody
looked up at their box and laughed. Alice Waite had the other seats in
it, and as the three men were friends and all in the highest spirits, it
was a gay party.

"There's Jerry Holt," Tom would say, "see him stare at our elegance."

"Oh, we're making the rest of the fellows envious all right," Ashley
would answer. "Who's the stunning girl in the second row, next the
aisle? We don't miss a thing from here, do we?"

"Prettiest lay-out I've ever seen, this concert is," Alice's escort
would declare fervently. "Sh, Tommie, the banjo club's going to play."

And then they would settle themselves to watch the stage and listen to
the music for a while.

"It's all good, but what I'm looking forward to is this," said Ashley
Dwight, pointing out the Glee Club's last number on his program. "I
can't wait to hear 'The Fames of Miss Ames.'"

"The what?" asked Betty, consulting her card. "Why, Georgia Ames, is it
about you? Did you know they were going to have it?"

Georgia nodded. "The leader came and asked me if I cared. She seemed to
think it would take, so I told her to go ahead. But I didn't realize
that this concert was such a big thing," she added mournfully, "and I
didn't know I was going to sit in a box."

"Pretty grand to be sitting in a box with the celebrity of the evening,
isn't it, Ashley?" said Tom.

And Ashley said something in a low voice to Georgia, which made her
laugh and blush and call him "too silly for anything."

Finally, after the Mandolin Club had played its lovely "Gondolier's
Song," and the Banjo Club its amusing and inevitable "Frogville Echoes,"
the Glee Club girls came out to sing "The Fames of Miss Ames," which a
clever junior had written and a musical sophomore had set to a catchy
melody. A little, short-haired girl with a tremendous alto voice sang
the verses, which dealt in witty, flippant fashion with the career of
the two Georgias, and the whole club came in strong on the chorus.

    "And now she's come to life,
      (Her double's here).
    And speculation's rife,
      (It's all so queer).
    The ghost associations,
      Hold long confabulations,
    And the gaiety of nations
      Is very much enhanced by Georgia dear!"

It was only shameless doggerel, but it took. Topical songs always take
well at Harding, and never had there been such a unique subject as this
one. Between the verses the girls clapped and laughed, nodded at
Georgia's box, and whispered explanations to their escorts; and when at
last the soloist answered their vociferous demands for more with a
smiling head-shake and the convincing statement that "there wasn't any
more--yet," they laughed and made her sing it all over.

This time Georgia asked one of the men to change seats with her, and
slipped quietly into the most secluded corner of the box, behind Betty's
chair, declaring that she really couldn't stand it to be stared at any
longer. She looked positively pretty, Betty thought, having a chance for
the first time to get a good look at her. The sparkle in her eyes and
the soft color in her cheeks that the excitement and embarrassment had
put there were very becoming. So was the low dress, in spite of the fact
that Georgia was undoubtedly right in considering herself a "shirt-waist
girl." Her neck wasn't particularly thin, or if it was the lovely old
chain that she wore twisted twice around it kept it from seeming so.
Betty turned to ask her something about the song and noticed the pendant
that hung from her chain. It was of antique pattern--an amethyst in a
ring of little pearls, with an odd quaint setting of dull gold. It
looked familiar somehow. It was--yes, it was just like Nita Reese's lost
pin--the one that belonged to her great grandmother and that had
disappeared just before the Belden House play--one of the first thefts
to be laid to the account of the college robber. Only, instead of a pin
this was a pendant, fastened to the chain by a tiny gold ring. That was
the only difference, for--yes, even the one little pearl that Nita had
lost of the circle was missing here.

Betty didn't hear Georgia's answer to her question. She turned back to
the stage, which swayed sickeningly as she watched it. At last the song
ended, and while she clapped mechanically with the rest she gave herself
a little shake, and told herself sternly that she was being a goose,
that it was absurd, preposterous, even wicked--this thought that had
flashed into her head. Nita's pin wasn't the only one of its kind; there
might be hundreds just like it. Georgia's great grandmother probably had
had one too.

Betty talked very fast on the way up to the Belden. She was thankful
that Tom and his friend were going back to New Haven that night and
would have time for only the hastiest of good-byes.

"See you later, Miss Ames," Ashley Dwight called back as he ran down the
steps after Tom.

"He's asked me to the prom, Betty. Think of that!" explained Georgia,
her eyes shining.

"How--nice," said Betty faintly. "I'm awfully tired, aren't you?"

"Tired!" repeated Georgia gaily. "Not a bit. I should like to begin all
over again this minute. I'm hot though. We walked pretty fast up the
hill." She threw back her coat and unwound the scarf that was twisted
over her hair and around her throat. It caught on the amethyst pendant
and Georgia pulled it away carefully, while Betty watched in fascinated
silence, trying to make up her mind to speak. She might never have a
good chance again. Ordinarily Georgia wore no jewelry,--not a pin or a
ring. She had certainly never worn this pendant before at Harding. It
would be so easy and so sensible to say something about it now and set
her uncomfortable thoughts at rest.

Betty wet her lips nervously, made an heroic effort, and began.

"What a lovely chain that is, Georgia." She hoped her voice sounded more
natural to Georgia than it did to herself. "Is it a family heirloom?"

Georgia put up her hand absently, and felt of the chain. "Oh,
that,--yes, it is. It really belongs to mother, but she let me bring it
here. She's awfully fond of old jewelry, and she has a lot. I hate all
kinds, but this covers my bones so beautifully."

"The pendant is lovely too," put in Betty hastily, as Georgia moved off
toward her room. "Is that old too?"

"I don't know," said Georgia stiffly. "That isn't a family thing. It was
given to me--by somebody I don't like."

"The somebody must like you pretty well," said Betty, trying to speak
lightly, "to give you such a stunning present."

Georgia did not answer this, except by saying, "Good-night. I believe I
am tired," as she opened her door.

Up in her own corridor Betty met Madeline Ayres. "Back so soon?" said
Madeline, who refused to take Glee Club concerts seriously. "I've had
the most delicious evening, reading in solitary splendor and eating
apples that I didn't have to pass around. I'm sure your concert wasn't
half so amusing. How did Georgia's song go?"

"Finely," said Betty without enthusiasm. "Did she tell you about it
while you helped her dress?"

"No, for I didn't help her. I went over to the Hilton right after
dinner. Lucile told me, in a valiant attempt to persuade me that I was
foolish to miss the concert."

"Oh," said Betty limply, opening her own door.

Madeline hadn't seen the pendant then. Probably some freshman who didn't
know about Nita's loss had helped Georgia to dress. Well, what did that
matter? She had Georgia's own word that the pin was a gift. Besides it
was absurd to think that she would take Nita's pin and wear it right
here at Harding. And yet--it was just the same and the one little pearl
was gone. But a person who would steal Nita's pin, wouldn't make a
present of it to Georgia. Then the pin couldn't be Nita's.

"I'm getting to be a horrid, suspicious person," Betty told the green
lizard. "I won't think about it another minute. I won't, I won't!"

And she didn't that night, for she fell asleep almost before her head
touched the pillow. Next morning she woke in the midst of a long
complicated dream about Georgia and the green lizard. Georgia had stolen
him and put a ring around his tail, and the lizard was protesting
vigorously in a metallic shriek that turned out, after awhile, to be the
Belden House breakfast-bell jangling outside her door.

"They never ring the rising-bell as loud as that," wailed Betty, when
she had consulted her clock and made sure that she had slept over.
Before she was dressed Georgia Ames appeared, bringing a delicious
breakfast tray.

"Helen said that you have a nine o'clock recitation," she exclaimed,
"and I thought you probably hadn't studied for it and would be in a
dreadful hurry."

Betty thanked her, feeling very guilty. Georgia was wearing a plain
brown jumper dress, with no ornament of any kind, not even a pin to
fasten her collar; and she looked as cool and self-possessed and
cheerful as usual. In the sober light of morning it seemed even more
than absurd to suppose that she was anything but a nice, jolly girl,
like Rachel and K. and Madeline,--the sort of girl that you associated
with Harding College and with the "Merry Hearts" and asked to box
parties with a nice Yale man, who liked her and invited her to his prom.

In the weeks that followed Betty saw a great deal of Georgia, who seemed
intent on showing her gratitude for the splendid time that Betty had
given her. Betty, for her part, felt that she owed Georgia far more than
Georgia owed her and found many pleasant ways of showing her contrition
for a doubt that, do her best, she couldn't wholly stifle. The more she
saw of Georgia, the more clearly she noticed that there was something
odd about the behavior of the self-contained little freshman, and also
that she was worrying a good deal and letting nobody know the reason.

"But it's not conditions or warnings or anything of that sort,"
Georgia's round-eyed roommate declared solemnly to Betty, in a burst of
confidence about the way she was worrying over Georgia. "She sits and
thinks for hours sometimes, and doesn't answer me if I speak to her. And
she says she doesn't care whether she gets a chance to play in the big
game or not. Just imagine saying that, Miss Wales."

"She's tired," suggested Betty loyally. "She'll be all right after
vacation."

Meanwhile, in the less searching eyes of the college world, Georgia
continued to be the spoiled child of fortune. She came back from the
prom, with glowing tales of the good times she had had, and whether or
not she cared about it she was the only "sub" who got a chance to play
in the big game. She made two goals, while Betty clapped for her
frantically and her class made their side of the gallery actually
tremble with the manifestations of their delight.

It was just as Betty was leaving the gym on the afternoon of the game
that Jean Eastman overtook her.

"Could you come for a walk?" she asked abruptly. "There is something I
want to get settled before vacation. It won't take long. It's about
Bassanio," she went on, when they had gotten a little away from the
crowd. "I want to give up my part. Do you suppose Mary Horton would take
it now?"

"You want to give up Bassanio?" Betty repeated wonderingly.

"Yes. There's no use in mincing matters. I did have a condition in
French, and Miss Carter was tutoring me, just as you thought. I had
worked it off the day I answered your note, but of course that doesn't
alter anything. They say mademoiselle never hands in her records for one
semester until the next one is almost over, so nothing would have come
to light until it was too late for a new person to learn the part. Don't
look so astonished, Betty. It's been done before and it may be done
again, but I don't care for it myself." Then, as Betty continued to
stare at her in horrified silence, "If you're going to look like that, I
might as well have kept the part. The reason I decided to give it up was
because I didn't think I should enjoy seeing your face at the grand
dénouement. You see, when you and Eleanor came in that afternoon I
thought you'd guessed or that Barbara Gordon and Teddie Wilson, who knew
of a similar case, had, and had sent you up to make sure. But after
you'd apologized for your note and squared things with Eleanor, I--well,
I didn't think I should enjoy seeing your face," ended Jean, with a
little break in her voice. "I--told you I had a sense of honor, and I
have."

Betty put out her hand impulsively. "I'm glad you changed your mind,
Jean. It's too bad that you can't have a part, but you wouldn't want it
in any such way."

"I did though," said Jean, blinking back the tears. "I knew it would
come out in the end,--I counted on that, and I shouldn't have minded
Miss Stuart's rage or the committee's horror. But you're so dreadfully
on the square. You make a person feel like a two-penny doll. I don't
wonder that Eleanor Watson has changed about a lot of things. Anybody
would have to if they saw much of you."

Betty's thoughts flew back to Georgia. "I wish I thought so."

"Well," said Jean fiercely, "I do. That's why I've always hated you. I
presume I shall hate you worse than ever to-morrow. Meanwhile, will you
please tell Barbara? I can't help what they all think, and I don't care.
I only wanted you to see that I've got a little sense of obligation
left and that after I've let a person apologize--Don't come any further,
please."

Jean ran swiftly down the steep path leading to the lower level of the
back campus and Betty turned obediently toward home, feeling very small
and useless and unhappy. Jean's announcement had been so sudden and so
amazing that she didn't know what she had said in response to it, and
she was quite sure that she hadn't done at all what Jean expected. Then
this confirmation of her suspicions about Jean gave her an uneasy
feeling about Georgia. That baffling young person was just leaving the
gym as Betty got back to it, and the sight of her surrounded by a bevy
of her admiring friends reassured Betty wonderfully. Nevertheless she
decided to go and see Miss Ferris. There was something she wanted to ask
about.

After half an hour spent in Miss Ferris's cozy sitting-room, she started
out to find Barbara, armed with the serene conviction that everything
would come out right in the end.

"How do people influence other people?" she had demanded early in her
call. "There is some one I want to influence, if I could, but I don't
know how to begin."

"That's a big question, Betty," Miss Ferris assured her smilingly. "In
general I think the best way to influence people is to be ourselves the
things we want them to be--honest and true and kind."

Betty mused on this advice as she crossed the campus. "That was a good
deal what Jean said. I guess I must just attend to my own affairs and
wait and let things happen, the way Madeline does. This about Jean just
happened."

She passed Georgia's door on her way up-stairs. The room was full of
girls, listening admiringly to their hostess's reminiscences of the
afternoon. "That sophomore guard was so rattled. She kept saying, 'I
will, I will, I will,' between her teeth and she was so busy saying it
that she forgot to go for the ball. But she didn't forget to stick her
elbow into me between times--not she. I wanted to slug her a little just
for fun, but of course I wouldn't. I perfectly hate people who don't
play fair."

Betty went on up the stairs smiling happily. She wanted to hug Georgia
for that last sentence.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MOONSHINERS' BACON-ROAST


Jean's sudden retirement from the cast of "The Merchant of Venice" was
the subject of a good deal of excited conjecture during the few days
that remained of the winter term. Betty explained it briefly to Barbara,
who in turn confided Jean's story to the rest of her committee. All of
them but Clara Ellis thought better of Jean than they ever had before
for the courage she had shown in owning herself in the wrong. Teddie
Wilson, being in Jean's French division, remembered her letter from the
last year's girl and made a shrewd guess at the true state of affairs;
but realizing just how sorely Jean had been tempted she was generous
enough not to ask any questions or tell anybody what she thought. So the
Harding world was divided in its opinions, one party asserting that
Jean's acting had proved a disappointment, the other declaring that she
had wanted to manage the whole play, and finding that she couldn't had
resigned her part in it. Jean herself absolutely refused to discuss the
subject, beyond saying that she was tired and had found it necessary to
drop something, and she was so sarcastic and ill-tempered that even her
best friends began to let her severely alone. Toward Eleanor her manner
was as contemptuous as ever, and she kept haughtily aloof from Betty.
But one day when two of the Hill girls, gossiping in her room, made some
slighting remarks about Betty's prominence in class affairs, Jean
flashed out an indignant protest.

"She's one of the finest girls in 19--, and if either of you amounted to
a third as much, you could be proud of it. No, I don't like her at all,
but I admire her immensely, so please choose somebody else to criticise
while you're in here."

Meanwhile the winter term had ended, the spring vacation come and gone,
and the lovely spring term was at full tide in Harding. If you were a
freshman, it made you feel sleepy and happy and utterly regardless of
the future terrors of the conditioned state in comparison with the
present joys of tennis and canoeing or the languorous fascination of a
hammock on the back campus,--where one goes to study and remains to
dream. If you were a senior it made a lump come in your throat,--the
fleeting loveliness of this last spring term, when all the trials of
being a Harding girl are forgotten and all the joys grow dearer than
ever, now that they are so nearly past.

"But it's not going to be any daisy-picking spring-term for 19--," Bob
Parker announced gaily to a group of her friends gathered for an
after-luncheon conference on the Westcott piazza. "Isn't that a nice
expression? Miss Raymond used it in class this morning. She wanted to
remind us, she said, that the Harding course is four full years long.
Then she gave out a written lesson on Jane Austen for Friday."

"What a bother!" lamented Babbie, who hadn't elected English novelists.
"Now I suppose we can't have either the Moonshiners' doings or the
'Merry Hearts' meeting on Thursday."

"Who on earth are the Moonshiners?" asked Katherine Kittredge curiously.

"Learn to ride horseback and you can be one," explained Babbie.
"They're just a crowd of girls, mostly seniors, who like to ride
together in the cool of the evening and make a specialty of moonlight.
We're going to have a bacon-roast the first moonlight night that
everybody can come."

"Which will be the night after never," declared Madeline Ayres sagely.

"What's the awful rush about that bacon-roast?" asked Babe. "I should
think it would be nicer to wait awhile and have it for a sort of grand
end-up to the riding season."

"Why, there isn't but one more moon before commencement," explained
Babbie, "and if we wait for that it may be too hot. Who wants to go on a
bacon-roast in hot weather?"

"The 'Merry Hearts' are going to decide about passing on the society,
aren't they?" asked Rachel. "That's a very important matter and we ought
to get it off our hands before too many other things come up. Girls, do
you realize that commencement is only five weeks off?"

"Oh, please don't begin on that," begged Babe, who hated sentiment and
was desperately afraid that somebody would guess how tear-y she felt
about leaving Harding. "I'll tell you how to settle things. Let's go
over all the different afternoons and evenings and see which ones are
vacant. Most of the 'Merry Hearts' are here and several Moonshiners. We
can tell pretty well what the other girls have on for the different
days."

"I'll keep tab," volunteered Katherine, "because I belong to only one of
these famous organizations. Shall I begin with to-morrow afternoon? Who
can't come then to a 'Merry Hearts' meeting?"

"We can't. Play committee meets," chanted Rachel and Betty together.

"Mob rehearsal from four to six," added Bob.

"Helen Adams has to go to a conference with the new board of editors,"
put in Madeline. "I heard her talking to Christy about it. It begins
early and they're going to have tea."

"To-morrow evening--Moonshiners' engagements please," said Katherine
briskly.

"Class supper committee meets to see about caterers," cried Babe. "We
can't put it off either. Last year's class has engaged Cuyler's
already,--the pills! That committee takes out me and Nita and Alice
Waite."

"Rehearsal of the carnival dance in the play," added Babbie promptly,
"and Jessica, alias me, has to go."

"Thursday as I understand it is to be devoted to picking, not daisies,
but the flowers of Jane Austen's thought for Miss Raymond." Katherine
looked at Babbie for directions. "Shall I go on to Friday afternoon?"

"Class meeting," chanted several voices at once.

"It won't be out a minute before six," declared Bob. "We've got to elect
the rest of our commencement performers----"

"Which isn't very many," interposed Madeline.

"Well, there'll be reports from dozens and dozens of committees,"
concluded Bob serenely, "and there'll be quantities of things to
discuss. 19-- is great on discussions."

"In the evening," Betty took her up, "Marie is going to assign the
junior ushers to the various functions, and she's asked most of us to
advise her about it, hasn't she?"

Several girls in the circle nodded.

"Then we come to Saturday," proclaimed Katherine. "Evening's out, I
know, for Dramatic Club's open meeting."

"I'm on the reception committee," added Betty. "We shall have to trim up
the rooms in the afternoon."

"All the play people have rehearsals Saturday."

"Saturday seems to be impossible," said Katherine. "How about Monday
afternoon?"

"The Ivy Day committee has a meeting," announced Rachel in apologetic
tones. "But don't mind me, if the rest can come then."

"The Prince of Morocco has a special audience granted him by Miss
Kingston for Monday at five," said Madeline. "But don't mind him."

"Dear me," laughed Betty. "I hadn't any idea we were such busy ladies.
Is everybody in 19-- on so many committees, do you suppose?"

"Of course not, simple child," answered Bob. "We're prominent
seniors,--one of the leading crowds in 19--. I heard Nan Whipple call
us to a freshman that she had at dinner last Sunday."

"And all of us but Madeline work early and late to keep up the
position," added Babbie grandly.

"The Watson lady is an idler too," put in Madeline, with quick tact,
remembering that Eleanor had mentioned no engagements. "We're content to
bask in the reflected glory of our friends, aren't we, Eleanor?"

Eleanor nodded brightly and Babbie returned to the matter in hand. "We
shall never get a date this way," she declared. "Let's put all the days
of next week after Monday into Bob's cap. The first one that K. draws
out will be the 'Merry Hearts' afternoon; and the next the Moonshiners'
evening. Those that can't come at the appointed times will have to stay
at home."

Everybody agreed to this, and Madeline gallantly sacrificed a leaf from
her philosophy note-book to write the days on.

"Friday," announced Katherine, drawing out a slip, "and Thursday."

"Those are all right for me," said Madeline.

"And for me."

"Same here."

"And here."

"We'd much better have drawn lots in the first place," said Babbie. "Now
if it only doesn't rain on Thursday and spoil the full moon! Tell the
others, won't you, girls? I'm due at the Science Building this very
minute."

It didn't rain on Thursday. Indeed the evening was an ideal one for a
long gallop, with an open-air supper to follow. This was to be cooked
and eaten around a big bonfire that would take the chill off the spring
air and keep the mosquitoes at a respectful distance. Most of the
Moonshiners belonged to the Golf Club, and they had gotten permission to
have their fire in a secluded little grove behind the course. Babbie,
who had organized the Moonshiners and was their mistress of ceremonies,
held many secret conferences with Madeline Ayres and the two spent a
long afternoon sewing behind locked doors, on some dark brown stuff,
which Babbie subsequently tied into a big, untidy parcel and carried up
to Professor Henderson's. So the Moonshiners expected a "feature" in
addition to the familiar delights of a bacon-roast, and they turned out
in such numbers that Bob had to ride a fat little carriage horse and
Babbie bravely mounted the spirited mare "Lady," who had frightened her
so on Mountain Day. But there was no storm this time to agitate Lady's
nerves, and they kept clear of the river and the ferries; so everything
went smoothly and the Moonshiners cantered up to the Club house at half
past eight in the highest possible spirits.

They could see the grove as they dismounted and every one but Babbie was
surprised to find the fire already lighted. The dishes and provisions
had been carried out in big hampers in the afternoon, and the wood
gathered, so there was nothing to do now but stroll over to the fire and
begin.

"Why, somebody's there," cried Betty suddenly. She was walking ahead
with Alice Waite. "I can see two people. They're stooping over the fire.
Why, Alice, it's two dear little brown elves."

"Just like those on my ink-stand," cried Alice, excitedly. "How queer!"

Everybody had seen the picturesque little figures by this time, and the
figures in their turn had spied the riding-party and had begun to dance
merrily in the fire-light. They were dressed in brown from head to foot,
with long ears on their brown hoods and long, pointed toes curling up at
the ends of their brown shoes. They looked exactly like the little iron
figures of brownies that every Harding girl who kept up with the
prevailing fads had put on her desk that spring in some useful or
ornamental capacity. They danced indefatigably, pausing now and then to
heap on fresh wood or to poke the fire into a more effective blaze, and
looking, in the weird light, quite fantastic enough to have come out of
the little hillside behind the fire, tempted to upper earth by the
moonlight and the great pile of dry wood left ready to their hands. For
a few minutes after the Moonshiners' arrival the trolls resolutely
refused to speak.

"'Cause now you'll know we ain't real magic," explained Billy Henderson
indignantly, when his chum had fallen a victim to Bob's wiles and
disclosed his identity.

The fire was so big and so hot by this time that it threatened to burn
up the whole grove, so the small boys were persuaded to devote their
energies to toasting thin slices of bacon, held on the ends of long
sticks, and later to help pass the rolls and coffee that went with the
bacon, and to brown the marshmallows, which, with delicious little
nut-cakes, made up the last course.

The Moonshiners had spent so much time admiring Babbie's brownies that
they had to hurry through the supper and even so it bid fair to be after
ten before they reached the campus. Betty, Bob, and Madeline happened to
get back to the horses first and were waiting impatiently for the rest
to come when Bob made a suggestion.

"Mr. Ware is helping stamp out the fire. Let's get on and start for home
ahead of the others. Then we can let most of them in if they're late.
Our matron will rage if she catches us again this week."

"All right," agreed Madeline. "Mr. Ware said he had told a man to be at
the Westcott, ready to take some of the horses. Let's not tell any one.
They'll be so surprised to find three horses gone."

"We shall have to hurry then," whispered Betty. "They'll be here any
minute."

"On second thought," said Madeline, "I don't believe I can pick out my
own horse. It's inky dark here under the trees." Madeline had ridden all
her life but she seldom went out at Harding, and so hadn't a regular
mount, like most of the other Moonshiners.

"Of course you can, Madeline," scoffed Betty. "You rode Hero, that big
black beast hitched to the last post, next to my horse. Don't you
remember tying him there?"

Bob backed her sturdy cob out from between two restless companions, and
with much laughter and whispering and many injunctions to hurry and to
be "awfully still," the three conspirators mounted and walked their
horses quietly down the drive.

"My stirrups seem a lot too long," Betty whispered softly, as they
passed down the avenue, dusky with the shadows of tall elms. "Whoa,
Tony! Wait just a minute, girls. Why--oh, Bob, Madeline,--I've got the
wrong horse. Somebody must have changed them around. This is Lady."

Whether it was Betty's nervous clutch on the reins as she made this dire
discovery and remembered Lady's antics on the ferry-boat, or whether the
saucy little breeze which chose that moment to stir the elm branches and
set the shadows dancing on the white road, was responsible, is a matter
of doubt. At any rate Lady jerked back her pretty head impatiently, as
if in answer to her name, shivered daintily, reared, and ran. She dodged
cat-like, between Bob and Madeline and out through the narrow gateway,
turned sharply to the right, away from Harding, and galloped off up the
level road that lay white in the moonlight, between the Golf Club and a
pine wood half a mile away.

Betty had presence of mind enough to dig her knees into Lady's sides,
and so managed somehow, in spite of her mis-fit stirrups, to stay on at
the gate. She tugged hard at the reins as Lady flew along, and murmured
soothing words into Lady's quivering ears. But it wasn't any use. Betty
had wondered sometimes how it felt to be run away with. Now she knew. It
felt like a rush of cold wind that made you dizzy and faint. You
thought of all sorts of funny little things that happened to you ages
ago. You wondered who would plan Jessica's costumes if anything happened
to you. You wished you weren't on so many committees; it would bother
Marie so to appoint some one in your place. You made a neat little list
of those committees in your mind. Then you got to the pine wood, and
something did happen, for Lady went on alone.

Madeline, straining her eyes at the gateway, waiting for Bob and Mr.
Ware to come, couldn't see that.

"She was still on the last I could see," she told them huskily, and Mr.
Ware whipped his horse into a run and rushed after Lady.

Madeline looked despairingly at Bob. "Let's go too," she said. "I can't
stand it to wait here."

"All right."

They rode fast, but it seemed ages before they got to the pines. Mr.
Ware was galloping far ahead of them.

"If she's gone so far she'll slow up gradually on that long hill,"
suggested Bob, trying to speak cheerfully.

"Isn't it--pretty--stony?" asked Madeline.

"Yes, but after she'd run so far she wouldn't try to throw Betty."

"Suppose we wait here. Oh, Bob, what shall we do if she's badly hurt?"

"She can't be," said Bob with a thick sob. "Please come on, Madeline.
I've got to know if she's----" Bob paused over the dreadful word.

There was a little rustling noise in the bushes beside the road. "Did
Mr. Ware have a dog?" asked Madeline.

"No," gulped Bob.

"There's something down there. Who's there?" called Madeline fearlessly,
and then she whistled in case Bob had been mistaken about the dog.

"It's I--Betty Wales," answered a shaky little voice, with a reassuring
suggestion of mirth in it. "I'm so glad somebody has come. I'm down here
in a berry-patch and I can't get up."

Madeline was off her horse by this time, pushing through the briars
regardless of her new riding habit.

"Where are you hurt, dear?" she asked bending over Betty and speaking
very gently. "Do you suppose you could let me lift you up?"

Betty held out her arms, with a merry laugh. "Why, of course I could.
I'm not one bit hurt, except scratched. The ferns are just as soft as a
feather bed down here, but the thorns up above are dreadful. I can't
seem to pull myself up. I'm a little faint, I guess."

A minute later she was standing in the road, leaning against Madeline,
who felt of her anxiously and asked again and again if it didn't hurt.

"Hasn't she broken her collar-bone?" asked Bob, who was holding the
horses. "People generally do when they have a bad spill. Are her arms
all right?"

"I suppose I didn't know how to fall in the proper way," explained
Betty, wearily. "I can't remember how it happened, only all at once I
found myself down on those ferns with my face scratched and smarting. If
Mr. Ware went by ahead of you I suppose I must have been stunned, for I
didn't see him."

"He's probably hunting distractedly for you on the hill," said Bob, glad
to have something definite to do. "I think he's caught Lady, and I'll go
and tell him that we've caught you."

Just then Professor Henderson's surrey drove up. It had come for Billy,
and Babbie had thoughtfully sent it on to bring back "whoiver's hurted,"
the groom explained. But he made no objection to taking in Betty,
though, rather to Billy's disappointment, she did not come under that
category.

"I never saw a broken arm, ner a broken leg, ner a broken anything," he
murmured sleepily. "I thought I'd have a chance now. Say, can I please
put my head in your lap?"

"My, but your knees wiggle something awful," Billy complained a minute
later. "Don't you think they're cracked, maybe?"

So Madeline put the sleepy elves in front with the driver and got in
herself beside Betty. Curled up in Madeline's strong arms she cried a
little and laughed a good deal, never noticing that Madeline was crying,
too. For just beyond the berry-patch there was a heap of big stones,
which made everything that Bob and Madeline had feared in that dreadful
time of suspense seem very reasonable and Betty's escape from harm
little short of a miracle.

It was striking eleven when the riding party and the surrey turned up
the campus drive and the B's noticed with dismay that the Westcott was
brilliantly lighted.

"I know what's happened," wailed Babe. "Our beloved matron has found us
missing and she's hunting for us under the beds and in all the closets,
preparatory to calling in the police. Never mind! we've got a good
excuse this time."

But the Westcott was not burning its lights to accommodate the matron.
The B's had not even been missed. Katherine met them in the hall and
barely listened to their excited accounts of their evening's adventure.

"There's been plenty doing right here, too," she said.

"What?" demanded the three.

"College thief again, but this time it's a regular raid. For some reason
nearly everybody was away this evening, and the ones who had anything
to lose have lost it--no money, as usual, only jewelry. Fay Ross thinks
she saw the thief, but--well, you know how Fay describes people. You'd
better go and see what you've lost."

Luckily the thief had neglected the fourth floor this time, so they had
lost nothing, but they sat up for an hour longer, consoling their less
fortunate friends, and listening to Fay's account of her meeting with
the robber.

"I'm pretty sure I should know her again," she declared, "and I'm
perfectly sure that I've seen her before. She isn't very tall nor very
dark. She's big and she looks stupid and slow, not a bit like a crafty
thief, or like a college girl either. She had a silk bag on her arm. I
wish I'd asked her what was in it."

But naturally Fay hadn't asked, and she probably wouldn't see the thief
soon again. Next morning Emily Lawrence telegraphed her father about her
watch with diamonds set in the back, and he sent up two detectives from
Boston, who, so everybody supposed, would make short work of finding
the robber. They took statements from girls who had lost their
valuables during the year and from Fay, prowled about the campus and the
town, and finally went back to Boston and presented Emily's father with
a long bill and the enlightening information that the case was a
puzzling one and if anything more turned up they would communicate it.

Georgia Ames displayed no unusual interest in the robbery. She happened
to tell Betty that she had spent the entire evening of the bacon-roast
with Roberta, and Betty, watching her keenly, was almost sure that she
knew nothing of the excitement at the Westcott until the B's came over
before chapel to inquire for "the runaway lady" and brought the news of
the robbery with them. The "runaway lady" explained that she wasn't even
very lame and should have to go to classes just as usual. Then she hid
her face for a minute on Bob's broad shoulder,--for though she wasn't
lame she had dreamed all night of Lady and stones and briars and broken
collar-bones,--and Bob patted her curls and told her that Lady was going
to be sold, and that she should have been frightened to pieces in
Betty's place. After which Betty covered her scratches with a very
bewitching white veil and went to chapel, just as if nothing had
happened.



CHAPTER XV

PLANS FOR A COOPERATIVE COMMENCEMENT


It was Saturday afternoon and time for the "Merry Hearts'" meeting,
which had been postponed for a day to let every one recover from
Thursday evening's excitement.

"Come along, Betty," said Roberta Lewis, poking her head in at Betty's
half-open door. "We're going to meet out on the back campus, by Nita's
hammock."

"Could you wait just a second?" asked Betty absently, looking up from a
much crossed and blotted sheet of paper. "If I can only think of a good
way to end this sentence, I can inform Madeline Ayres that my
'Novelists'' paper is done. She said I couldn't possibly finish it by
five. See my new motto."

"'Do not let study interfere with your regular college career,'" read
Roberta slowly. "What a lovely sentiment! Where did you get it?"

"Helen gave it to me for a commencement present," said Betty, drawing a
very black line through the words she had written last. "Isn't it just
like her?"

"Do you mean that it's like her to give you something for commencement
that you won't have much use for afterward?"

"Yes," laughed Betty, "and to give it to me because she says I made her
see that it's the sensible way of looking at college, although she
thinks the person who got up these mottoes probably meant it for a joke.
She wishes she could find out for sure about that. Isn't she comical?"

"Yes," said Roberta, "she is. You haven't written as much as you've
crossed out since I came, Betty Wales. We shall be late."

Betty shut her fountain pen with a snap, and tossed the much blotted
page on top of a heap of its fellows, which were piled haphazard in a
chair beside her desk.

"Who cares for Madeline Ayres?" she said, and arm in arm the two friends
started for the back campus, where they found all the rest of the senior
"Merry Hearts" waiting for them. Dora Carlson couldn't come, Eleanor
explained; and Anne Carter and Georgia thought that they were too new to
membership in the society to have any voice in deciding how it should be
perpetuated.

"It's rather nice being just by ourselves, isn't it?" said Bob.

"It's rather nice being all together," added Babbie in such a
significant tone that Babe gave her a withering glance and summarily
called the meeting to order.

The discussion that followed was animated, but it didn't seem to arrive
anywhere. There were Lucile and Polly and their friends in the sophomore
class who would be proud to receive a legacy from the seniors they
admired so much; and there was a junior crowd, who, as K. put it, were a
"jolly good sort," and would understand the "Merry Hearts'" policy and
try to keep up its influence in the college. Everybody agreed that, if
the society went down at all, it ought to descend to a set of girls who
were prominent enough to give a certain prestige to its democratic
principles, and who, being intimate friends, would enjoy working and
playing together as the first generation of "Merry Hearts" had, and
would know how to bring in the "odd ones" like Dora and Anne, when
opportunity offered.

"But after all," said Rachel dejectedly, "it would never be quite the
same. We are 'Merry Hearts' because we wanted to be. The idea just
fitted us."

"And will look like a rented dress suit on any one else," added Madeline
frivolously. "Of course I'm not a charter member of 19--, and perhaps I
ought not to speak. But don't you think that the younger classes will
find their own best ways of keeping up the right spirit at Harding? I
vote that the 'Merry Hearts' has done its work and had its little fling,
and that it would better go out when we do."

"Then it ought to go out in a regular blaze of glory," said Bob, when
murmurs of approval had greeted Madeline's opinion.

"I know a way." Betty spoke out almost before she thought, and then she
blushed vividly, fearing that she had been too hasty and that the "Merry
Hearts" might not approve of her plan.

"Is it one of the things you thought of while you were being run away
with?" asked Madeline quizzically.

Betty laughed and nodded. "You'd better make a list of the things I
thought of, Miss Ayres, if the subject interests you so much."

"Was there one for every scratch on your face?" asked Katherine.

Betty drew herself up with a comical affectation of offended dignity. "I
almost wish I'd broken my collar-bone, as Bob thought I ought to. Then
perhaps I should get a little sympathy."

"And where would the costumes for the play have been, with you laid up
in the infirmary for a month?" demanded Babbie with a groan.

"Do you know that's the very thing I worried about most when Lady was
running," began Betty, so earnestly that everybody laughed again.

"Just the same it wouldn't have been any joke, would it, about those
costumes," said Bob, when the mirth had subsided, "nor about all the
other committee work that you've done and that nobody else knows much
about."

"Not even to mention that we should hate to have anything happen to you
for purely personal reasons," said Madeline, shivering in the warm
sunshine as she remembered how that dreadful pile of white stones had
glistened in the moonlight.

"I think this class would better pass a law: No more riding by prominent
seniors," declared Katherine Kittredge. "If Emily Davis should get
spilled, there would go our good young Gobbo and our Ivy Day orator,
besides nobody knows how much else."

"Christy is toastmistress and Antonio."

"Kate is chairman of the supper committee and Portia."

"Everybody who's anything is a lot of things, I guess," said little
Helen Adams. She herself was in the mob that made the background for the
trial scene in "The Merchant of Venice," and she was as elated over her
part as any of the chief actors could possibly be over their leading
rôles. But that wasn't all. She was trying for the Ivy song, which is
chosen each year by competition. She had been working on her song in
secret all through the year, and she felt sure that nobody had cared so
much or tried so hard as she,--though of course, she reminded herself
sternly it took more than that to write the winning song and she didn't
mean to be disappointed if she failed.

"Order please, young ladies," commanded Babe, who delighted to exercise
her presidential dignities. "We are straying far from the subject in
hand--to adapt the words of our beloved Latin professor. Betty Wales was
going to tell us how the 'Merry Hearts' could go out with a splurge."

"I object to the president's English," interrupted Madeline. "The
connotation of the term splurge is unpleasant. We don't wish to splurge.
Now go ahead, Betty."

"Why, it's nothing much," said Betty modestly, "and probably it's not at
all what Bob is thinking of. It's just that, as Helen says, everybody
who is in anything is in a lot of things and most of the class are being
left out of the commencement plans. I thought of it first that day we
had a lecture on monopolies in sociology. Don't you remember Miss
Norris's saying that there were classes and masses and excellent
examples of monopolies right here in college, and that we needn't wait
until we were out to have a chance to fight trusts and equalize wages."

"Oh, that was just an illustration," objected Bob blandly. "Miss Norris
didn't mean anything by it."

"She's a Harding girl herself," Betty went on, "and it's certainly true,
even if she didn't intend it to be acted on. Thursday night when I went
over the things I had to do about commencement and thought I couldn't do
any of them I felt dreadfully greedy."

"But Betty," Rachel took her up, "don't you think it takes executive
ability to be on committees and plan things? Commencement would be at
sixes and sevens if the wrong girls had charge of it."

"Yes, of course it would," agreed Betty. "Only I wondered if all the
left-out people are the wrong kind."

"Of course they're not," said Madeline Ayres with decision. "What is
executive ability, anyway?"

"The thing that Christy Mason has," returned Bob promptly.

"Exactly," said Madeline, "and that is just practice in being at the
head of things,--nothing more. Christy isn't much of a pusher, she isn't
particularly brilliant or particularly tactful; but she's been on
committees as regularly as clockwork all through her course, and she's
learned when to pull and when to push, and when to sit back and make the
rest push. It's a thing any one can learn, like French or bookkeeping or
how to make sugar-cookies. I hate it myself, but I don't believe it's a
difficult accomplishment."

"Perhaps not," protested Bob, "but it takes time, if it's anything like
French or cookies--I never tried the bookkeeping. We don't want to make
any experiments with our one and only commencement."

"Why, I'm an experiment," said Roberta hastily, as if she had just
thought of it and felt impelled to speak.

"Yes, but you're the exception that proves the rule," said Nita Reese
brusquely. Nita's reputation for executive ability was second only to
Christy's and she was badly overworked, and tired and cross in
consequence. "I don't think I quite get your idea, Betty. Do you want
K., for instance, to give up her part in the play to Leslie Penrose,
who was told she could have it at first and cried for a whole day when
she found there had been a mistake?"

"Come, Nita," said Madeline lazily, but with a dangerous flash in her
gray eyes. "That's not the way to take our last chance to make more
'Merry Hearts.' Let Betty tell us exactly what she does mean."

"Please do, Betty," begged Nita, half ashamed already of her
ill-tempered outburst.

"Of course I don't want K. to give up her part," began Betty with a
grateful look at Madeline and a smile for Katherine. "I only thought
that some of us are in so many things that we're tired and rushed all
the time, and not enjoying our last term half as much as we might."

"My case exactly," put in Nita repentantly.

"Whereas there are girls in the class who've never had anything to do
here but study, and who would be perfectly delighted to be on some
little unimportant commencement committee."

"But they ought to realize," said Babbie loftily, "that in a big
college like Harding very few people can have a chance to be at the head
of things. Our commencement is pretty enough to pay our families for
coming even if the girls they are particularly interested in don't have
parts. Being on a committee isn't a part anyway."

"Girls who are never on them think it is," said Helen Adams.

There was an ominous silence.

At the end of it Babbie slipped out of the hammock and sat down beside
Betty on the grass. "It's no use at all fighting you, Betty Wales," she
declared amiably. "You always twist the things we don't want to do
around until they seem simple and easy and no more than decent. Of
course it's true that we are all tired to death doing things that the
left-outs will be blissful at the prospect of helping us with. But it's
been so every year and no other class ever turned its play and its
commencement upside down. And yet you make it seem the only reasonable
thing to do."

"Lucky our class-meeting happened to be postponed," said Bob in
matter-of-fact tones, "Makes it easier arranging things."

"A coöperative commencement will send us out with a splurge all right,"
remarked Babe.

Thus the B's made a graceful concession to the policy of trying more
experiments with 19--'s commencement.

"One man, one office--that's our slogan," declared Katherine, when Babe
had announced that the vote in favor of Betty's plan was unanimous. "No
hard and fast policy, but the general encouragement of passing around
the honors. I haven't but one myself, so I shall have to look on and see
that the rest of you do your duty."

"Let's make a list of the vacancies that will probably occur in our
midst, as it were," suggested Rachel.

"I wonder if we couldn't lengthen the Ivy Day program and make room for
a few more girls in that way," put in Eleanor. "The oration and the song
don't take any time at all."

"Fine idea!" cried Madeline. "We have a lot of musical and literary
talent in the class that isn't being used anywhere. We'll turn it over
to the Ivy Day committee with instructions to build their program
accordingly."

"But we must manage things tactfully," interposed Babbie, "as we did
about the junior usher dresses. We mustn't let the left-overs suspect
that we are making places for them."

"By the way," said Madeline, "have you heard that this year's junior
ushers are going to keep up the precedent, out of compliment to us?"

"Pretty cute," cried Babe. "I hope they'll manage to look as well as we
did."

"And as we are going to again this year in our sweet simplicity
costumes," said Babbie, with a little sigh of regret for the wonderful
imported gown that her mother had suggested buying as part of her
commencement present.

It was growing late, so the "Merry Hearts" made a hasty outline of
procedure, and delegated Rachel to see Marie Howard and ask her to help
with the plan as far as she could at the approaching class-meeting.
Luckily this was not until the following Tuesday, so there was plenty of
time to interview all the right people and get the coöperative campaign
well established before Marie rose at the meeting to read what would
otherwise have seemed an amazing list of committee appointments. Emily
Davis gave up Gobbo at once and Christy, after weighing the relative
glories of being toastmistress and Antonio decided that she could help
more at the class supper. Both girls declared that they were delighted
to be relieved of part of their responsibilities.

"Those toasts that I hadn't time to brown properly were getting on my
nerves," Christy declared.

"And my Ivy oration was growing positively frivolous, it was so mixed up
with young Gobbo's irresponsible way of changing masters," confessed
Emily. "I've wanted to drop out of the play, but I was afraid the girls
would think me as irresponsible as Gobbo. Leslie Penrose knows my part
and she can step into the place as well as not."

It was a surprise to everybody when Kate Denise joined the movement,
without even having been asked to do so. She gave up everything but her
part as Portia, and used her influence to make the rest of the Hill
girls do the same.

"I guess she remembers how we did them up last year on the dress
business," chuckled Bob.

"She's a lot nicer than the rest of her crowd," Babbie reminded her,
"and I think she's tired of acting as if she wasn't."

"I hate freaks," said Babe, "but it is fun to see them bustle around,
acting as if they owned the earth. Leslie's whole family is coming to
commencement, down to the youngest baby, and the fat Miss Austin is
fairly bursting with pride just because she's on the supper committee.
She has some good ideas, too."

"Of course they're proud," said little Helen Adams sententiously.
"Things you've never had always look valuable to you."

Helen had won in the song contest. Her family would see her name and her
song in print on the Ivy Day program, and May Hayward, a friend of hers
and T. Reed's in their desolate freshman year, was to be in the mob in
Helen's place.

All the changes had been made without any difficulty and no one was
worrying lest experiments should prove the ruin of 19--'s commencement.
Mr. Masters had protested hotly against Christy's withdrawal from the
play, but the new Antonio was proving herself a great success and even
Mr. Masters had to admit that the whole play had gained decidedly the
minute that the actors had dropped their other outside interests. But
the great difference was in the spirit of good-fellowship that prevailed
everywhere. Everybody had something to do now, or if not, then her best
friend had, and they talked it over together, told what Christy had
suggested about the tables for class-supper, how Kate was having all her
own dresses made for Portia and Nerissa couldn't afford to, so Eleanor
Watson had lent her a beautiful blue satin, or what the new Ivy Day
committees had decided about the exercises. There was no longer a
monopoly of anything in 19--. Incidentally, as Katherine pointed out,
nobody was resting her nerves at the infirmary.

Betty would have been perfectly happy if she hadn't felt obliged to
worry a little about Georgia Ames. Ashley Dwight had been up to see her
twice since the prom. Betty felt responsible for their friendship and
wondered if she ought to warn Tom that she really didn't know anything
about Georgia. For suppose Georgia hadn't had anything to do with the
Westcott house robbery; that didn't prove anything about her having
taken Nita's pin in the fall.

If Madeline had spoken to her protégée, as she intended to do, about
excluding the Blunderbuss from her acquaintance, Georgia had paid the
advice scant heed. The Blunderbuss came to see her more and more often
as the term went on. To be sure Georgia was very seldom at home when the
senior called. Indeed her roommate was getting to feel decidedly injured
because Georgia never used her room except to sleep and dress in.



CHAPTER XVI

A HOOP-ROLLING AND A TRAGEDY


19-- was having its hoop-rolling. This is the way a senior hoop-rolling
is managed: custom decrees that it may take place on any afternoon of
senior week, which is the week before commencement when the seniors'
work is over though the rest of the classes are still toiling over their
June exams. Some morning a senior who feels particularly young and
frolicsome suggests to her friends at chapel that, as the time-honored
official notice puts it,

    "The day has come, the seniors said,
      To have our little fling.
    Let's buy our hoops and roll them round,
      And laugh and dance and sing."

If her friends also feel frolicsome they pass the word along, and unless
some last year's girls have bequeathed them hoops, they hurry down-town
to buy them of the Harding dealer who always keeps a stock on hand for
these annual emergencies. The seniors dress for luncheon in "little
girl" fashion, skirts up and hair down, and the minute the meal is over
they rush out into the sunshine to roll hoop, skip rope, swing in the
long-suffering hammocks under the apple trees, and romp to their hearts'
content. Freshmen hurrying by to their Livy exam, turn green with envy,
and sophomores and juniors "cramming" history and logic indoors lean out
of their windows to laugh and applaud, finally come down to watch the
fun for "just a minute," and forget to go back at all.

19-- had its hoop-rolling the very first day of senior week. As Madeline
Ayres said when she proposed it, you couldn't tell what might turn up,
in the way of either fun or weather, for the other days, so it was best
to lose no time. And such a gay and festive hoop-rolling as it was!
First they had a hoop-rolling parade through the campus, and then some
hoop-rolling contests for which the prizes were bunches of daisies,
"presented with acknowledgments to Miss Raymond," Emily Davis explained.
When they were tired of hoops they ran races. When they were out of
breath with running they played "drop the handkerchief" and "London
Bridge." After that they serenaded a few of their favorite faculty. Then
they had a reformed spelling-match, to prove how antiquated their
recently finished education had already become.

Finally they sat down in a big circle on the grass and had "stunts."
Babbie recited "Mary had a little lamb," for possibly the thousandth
time since she had learned to do it early in her junior year. Emily
Davis delivered her famous temperance lecture. Madeline sang her French
songs, Jane Drew did her ever-popular "hen-act," and Nancy Simmons gave
"Home, Sweet Home," as sung into a phonograph by Madame Patti on her
tenth farewell tour.

Most of these accomplishments dated back as far as 19-- itself, and half
the girls who heard them knew them by heart, but they listened to each
one in breathless silence and greeted its conclusion with prolonged and
vigorous applause. It was queer, Alice Waite said, but some way you
never, never got tired of seeing the same old stunts.

When the long list of 19--'s favorites was finally exhausted and Emily
Davis had positively refused to give the temperance lecture for a third
time, the big circle broke up into a multitude of little ones. Bob
Parker and a few other indefatigable spirits went back to skipping rope;
the hammocks filled with exclusive twos and threes; larger coteries sat
on the grass or locked arms and strolled slowly up and down the broad
path that skirted the apple-orchard.

Betty, Helen and Madeline were among the strollers.

"One more of the famous last things over," said Madeline with a
regretful little sigh. "I'm glad we had it before the alums, and the
families begin to arrive and muddle everything up."

"Did I tell you that Dorothy King is coming after all?" asked Betty,
who, in a short white sailor suit, with her curls flying and her hoop
clutched affectionately in one hand, looked at least eight years too
young to be a senior, and supremely happy.

"Has she told you, Helen?" repeated Madeline dramatically. "She tells me
over again every time I see her. When is Mary Brooks scheduled to
arrive?"

"Thursday," answered Betty, "so that she can see the play all three
times."

"Not to mention seeing Dr. Hinsdale between the acts," suggested
Madeline. "What do you two say to a picnic to-morrow?"

Helen said, "How perfectly lovely!" and Betty decided that if Helen and
Madeline would come to the gym in the morning and help with the last
batch of costumes for the mob, she could get off by three o'clock in the
afternoon.

"That reminds me," she added, "that I promised Nerissa to ask Eleanor if
she has any shoes to match her blue dress. The ones we ordered aren't
right at all by gas-light."

"There's Eleanor just going over to the Hilton," said Helen.

"Find out if she can go to the picnic," called Madeline, as Betty
hurried off, shouting and waving her hoop. "We'll be asking the others."

"El-ea-nor!" cried Betty shrilly, making frantic gestures with her hoop.
But though Eleanor turned and looked back at the gay pageant under the
trees, she couldn't single out any one figure among so many, and after
an instant's hesitation she went on up the Hilton House steps.

So Betty stepped across the campus alone, and being quite out of breath
by the time she got indoors went slowly up-stairs and down the long hall
to Eleanor's room. The house was very still--evidently its inmates were
all out watching the hoop-rolling. Betty found herself walking softly,
in sympathy with the almost oppressive silence. Eleanor's door was ajar,
so that Betty's knock pushed it further open.

"May I come in?" she asked, hearing Eleanor, as she supposed, moving
about inside. Without waiting for an answer she walked straight in and
came face to face with--not Eleanor, but Miss Harrison, champion
Blunderbuss of 19--.

"Why, what are you doing here?" she asked, her voice sharp with
amazement. "I beg your pardon," she added laughingly, "but I thought of
course it was Eleanor Watson. She came into the house just ahead of me."

"She hasn't been in here yet," said the Blunderbuss. She had been
standing when Betty first caught sight of her. Now she dropped hastily
into a chair by the window. "I was sure she'd be back soon and I wanted
to speak to her for a minute. But I guess I won't wait any longer. I
shall be late to dinner."

"Why, no, you won't," said Betty quickly. "It isn't anywhere near
dinner-time yet." She didn't care about talking to the Blunderbuss while
she waited for Eleanor, but she had a great curiosity to know what the
girl could want with Eleanor. "And I don't believe Eleanor will have any
more idea than I have," she thought.

But the Blunderbuss rose nervously. "Well, anyway, I can't wait," she
said. "I guess it's later than you think. Good-bye."

Just at that minute, however, somebody came swiftly down the hall. It
was Eleanor Watson, carrying a great bunch of pink roses.

"Oh, Betty dear," she cried, not noticing the Blunderbuss, who had
stepped behind a Japanese screen, "see what daddy sent me. Wasn't it
nice of him? Why, Miss Harrison, I didn't see you." Eleanor dropped her
roses on a table and came forward, looking in perplexity first at Miss
Harrison and then around the room. "Betty," she went on quickly, "have
you been hunting for something? I surely didn't leave my bureau drawers
open like this."

Betty's glance followed Eleanor's to the two drawers in the chiffonier
and one in the dressing table which were tilted wide open, their
contents looked as if some one had stirred them up with a big spoon. She
had been too much engrossed by her encounter with Miss Harrison to
notice any such details before.

"No, of course I haven't been hunting for anything," she answered
quickly. "I shouldn't think of doing such a thing when you were away."

"I shouldn't have minded a bit." Eleanor turned back to Miss Harrison.
"Did you want to see me," she asked, "or did you only come up with
Betty?"

The Blunderbuss wet her lips nervously. "I--I wanted to ask you about
something, but it doesn't matter. I'll see you some other time. You'll
want to talk to Miss Wales now."

She had almost reached the door, when, to Eleanor's further
astonishment, Betty darted after her and caught her by the sleeve. "Miss
Harrison," she said, while the Blunderbuss stared at her angrily, "I'm
in no hurry at all. I can wait as well as not, or if you want to see
Eleanor alone I will go out. But I think that you owe it to Eleanor and
to yourself too to say why you are here."

The Blunderbuss looked defiantly from Betty's determined face to
Eleanor's puzzled one. "I didn't know it was Miss Watson's room until
you came in and asked for her," she vouchsafed at last.

"You didn't know it was her room?" repeated Betty coldly. "Why didn't
you tell me that long ago? Whose room did you think you were in?"

"I thought--I didn't know whose it was."

"Then," said Betty deliberately, "if you admit that you were in here
without knowing who occupied the room you must excuse me if I ask you
whether or not you were looking through Eleanor's bureau drawers just
before I came in."

There was a strained silence.

"You can have all the things back," said the Blunderbuss at last, as
coolly as if she were speaking of returning a borrowed umbrella; and out
of the pockets of the child's apron which she still wore she pulled a
gold chain and a bracelet and held them out to Eleanor. "I don't want
them," she said when neither of the others spoke. "I don't know why I
took them. It just came over me that while all the others were out there
playing it would be a good chance for me to go and look at their pretty
things."

"And to steal the ones you liked best," added Betty scornfully.

The Blunderbuss gave her a vaguely troubled look. "I didn't think of it
that way. Anyway it's all right now. Haven't I given them right back?"

"Suppose we hadn't come in and found you here," put in Eleanor.
"Wouldn't you have taken them away?"

"I--I presume so," said the Blunderbuss.

"So you are the person who has been stealing jewelry from the campus
houses all through this year." Betty's voice grew harder as she
remembered the injustice she had so nearly done Georgia and Miss
Harrison's self-righteous attack on Eleanor in that dreadful
class-meeting.

The Blunderbuss accepted the statement without comment. "They could have
had the things back if they'd asked for them," she said. "I couldn't
very well give them back if they didn't ask."

"Will you give them back now?" asked Betty, astonishment at the girl's
strange behavior gaining on her indignation.

The Blunderbuss nodded vigorously. "Certainly I will. I'll bring them
all here to-night. I don't want them for anything. I never wanted them.
I'm sure I don't know why I took them. Oh, there's just one thing," she
added hastily, "that I can't bring. It isn't with the rest. But I've got
everything else all safe and I'll come right after dinner. Good-bye."

[Illustration: THE GIRLS WATCHED HER IN BEWILDERMENT]

The girls watched her go in a daze of bewilderment. Just outside the
door she evidently bumped into some one, and her clattering laugh and
loud, "Goodness, how you scared me!" sounded as light-hearted and
unconcerned as possible.

"How did you ever guess that she was the one?" Eleanor asked at last.

"It just came over me," Betty answered. "But, why, she doesn't seem to
care one bit!"

"About running into me?" asked Jean Eastman, appearing suddenly in the
doorway. "Has she been doing damage in here, too?" No one answered and
Jean gave a quick look about the room, noticing the rummaged drawers,
the girls' excited, tragic faces, and the jewelry that Eleanor still had
in her hand. Then she made one of her haphazard deductions, whose
accuracy was the terror of her enemies and the admiration of her
followers.

"Oh, I see--it's more college robber. So our dear Blunderbuss is the
thief. I congratulate you, Eleanor, on the beautiful poetic justice of
your having been the one to catch her."

"Yes, she's the thief," said Betty, before Eleanor could answer. She had
a sudden inspiration that the best way to treat Jean, now that she
guessed so much, was to trust her with everything. "And she acts so
strangely--she doesn't seem to realize what she has done, and she
doesn't care a bit that we know it. She said----" And between them they
gave Jean a full account of their interview with Miss Harrison.

Jean listened attentively. "It's a pathetic case, isn't it?" she said at
last, with no trace of her mocking manner. "I wonder if she isn't a
kleptomaniac."

Betty and Eleanor both looked puzzled and Jean explained the long word.
"It means a person who has an irresistible desire to steal one
particular kind of thing, not to use, but just for the sake of taking
them, apparently. I heard of a woman once who stole napkins and piled
them up in a closet in her house. It's a sort of insanity or very nearly
that. Of course jewelry is different from napkins, but Miss Harrison has
taken so much more than she can use----"

"Especially so many pearl pins," put in Betty, eagerly. "Haven't you
noticed what a lot of those have been lost? She couldn't possibly wear
them all."

"Perhaps she meant to sell them," suggested Eleanor.

"But her family are very wealthy," objected Jean. "They spend their
summers where Kate does, and she says that they give this girl
everything she wants. She never took money either, even when it was
lying out in plain sight, and her being so ready to give back the things
seems to show that she didn't take them for any special purpose."

"Then if she's a----" began Betty.

"Kleptomaniac," supplied Jean.

"She isn't exactly a thief, is she?"

"No, I suppose not," said Jean doubtfully.

"But she isn't a very safe person to have around," said Eleanor.

"I'll tell you what," said Betty, who had only been awaiting a favorable
opening to make her suggestion. "It's too big a question for us to try
to settle, isn't it, girls? Let's go and tell Miss Ferris all that we've
found out so far, and leave the whole matter in her hands."

Then Jean justified the confidence that Betty had shown in her. "You
couldn't do anything better," she said, rising to leave.

"I wish I'd known her well enough to talk things over with her,--not
public things like this, I mean, but private ones. Betty, here's a note
that Christy Mason asked me to give you. That's what I came in for,
originally. Of course this affair of Miss Harrison is yours, not mine,
and I shan't mention it again, unless Miss Ferris decides to make it
public, as I don't believe she will. By the way, I wonder if you know
that Miss Harrison can't graduate with us."

"You mean that she has been caught stealing before?" asked Eleanor.

"Oh, no, but she couldn't make up the French that she flunked at
midyears, and she must be behind in other subjects, too. I heard rumors
about her having been dropped, and last week I saw the proof of our
commencement program. Her name isn't on the diploma list."

"Oh, I believe I'm almost glad of that," said Betty softly. "It's
dreadful to be glad that she has failed in every way, but I can't bear
to think that she belongs in our class."

So it was Miss Ferris who met the Blunderbuss in Eleanor's room that
night, who managed the return of the stolen property to its owners,
with a suggestion that it would be a favor to the whole college not to
say much about its recovery, and she who, finding suddenly that the
noise of the campus tired her, spent the rest of the term at Miss
Harrison's boarding place on Main Street, where she could watch over the
poor girl and minimize the risk of her indulging her fatal mania again
while she was at Harding. She was nonchalant over having been caught
stealing, but her failure in scholarship had almost broken her heart.
She had worked so hard and so patiently up to the very last minute in
the hope of winning her diploma that, on the very morning of the
hoop-rolling, she had been granted the privilege of staying on through
commencement festivities and so keeping her loss of standing as much as
possible to herself. After listening to Betty's and Eleanor's stories
and talking to Miss Harrison herself, Miss Ferris was fully convinced
that the Blunderbuss was not morally responsible for the thefts she had
committed, and so she was unwilling to send her home at once and thus
expose her to the double disgrace that her going just then would
probably have involved. So she found her hands very full until the
girl's mother could be sent for and the sad story broken to her as
gently as possible.

It was the one unrelieved tragedy in 19--'s history; there seemed to be
absolutely no help for it,--the kindest thing to do was to forget it as
soon as possible.



CHAPTER XVII

BITS OF COMMENCEMENT


But Betty Wales couldn't forget it yet. It stood out in the midst of the
happy leisure and anticipation of senior week like a skeleton at the
feast,--a gaunt reminder that even the sheltered little world of college
must now and then take its share of the strange and sorrowful problems
that loom so much larger in the big world outside. But even so, it had
its alleviating circumstances. One was Miss Ferris's hearty approval of
the way in which Betty and Eleanor had managed their discovery, and
another was Jean Eastman's unexpected attitude of helpfulness. She
assumed her full share of responsibility, discouraging gossip and
speculation about the thefts as earnestly and tactfully as Betty
herself, and taking her turn of watching the Blunderbuss at the times
when Miss Ferris couldn't follow her without causing too much comment.
Betty and Eleanor tried to accept her help as if they had expected
nothing else from her, and Jean for her part made no reference to that
phase of the matter except to say once to Betty, "If Eleanor Watson can
stand by her I guess I can. Besides you stood by me, and I didn't
deserve it any more than this poor thing does. Please subtract it from
all the times I've bothered you."

Betty was very generous with the subtraction. She was in a generous
mood, wanting to give everybody the benefit of the doubt that, with a
good deal of a struggle, she had managed to give Georgia. Of course the
vindicating of the little freshman was quite the happiest result of the
whole affair. It didn't take Betty long to identify the amethyst pendant
as the one article which the Blunderbuss had said she couldn't return;
and she was at once relieved and disappointed, on going over the stolen
jewelry with Miss Ferris, to find that Nita's pin was certainly missing.
Of course that left room for the possibility that the Blunderbuss had
not taken it, and the next thing to do was to consult Georgia and make
sure. Betty waited until after dinner that evening for a chance to see
her alone and then, unable to stand the suspense any longer, broke
abruptly away from her own friends and detached Georgia from a group of
tired and disconsolate freshmen sympathizing over examinations.

"Let's go for a walk all by ourselves," she said.

"No fair, running off to talk secrets," Madeline called after the pair.

"Curiosity killed a cat," Betty chanted gaily back at her, leading the
way to the back campus.

"It's awfully nice of you to ask me to come, when so many people want
you," said Georgia shyly.

"Oh, no, it's not," protested Betty. "I shall have a whole week with the
others after you've gone. Besides, there's something I especially want
to talk to you about. Let's go and sit on the bank below the
observatory."

They found comfortable seats among the gnarled roots of an old elm,
where they could look across at Paradise and down on a bed of gorgeous
rhododendrons, over which great moths, more marvelously colored than
the flowers, flitted lazily in the twilight. Then Betty plunged into
the thick of things.

"You remember the pendant that you wore on your chain the night of the
Glee Club concert. You said it was a present. Would you mind telling me
who gave it to you? I have good reason for asking."

Georgia flushed a little and made the answer that Betty had hoped for.
"The senior Miss Harrison gave it to me last Christmas. I know you and
Madeline don't like her, and I don't like her a bit better. But what can
you do, Betty, when some one takes a fancy to you? You can't snub her
just because she happens to be stupid and unpopular--not if you're a
'Merry Heart,' anyway."

"No," said Betty, "you can't. But if you don't like her you won't feel
so bad about what I've got to tell you."

Georgia listened to the story aghast. "But I'm not so dreadfully
surprised," she said. "It explains so many things. She started to take
Caroline's class-pin one day in our room. I supposed she had picked it
up without thinking, so when she went away I asked her for it and she
acted so funny when she gave it back. And then the way she happened to
give me this pin. I went to call on her once last fall, after she had
asked me to dinner, and I noticed it shining under the edge of the
carpet. When I called her attention to it she didn't seem to understand,
so I picked it up myself. She acted queer then too, and when I admired
it and said what a pretty pendant it would make she fairly insisted on
my taking it. Of course I wouldn't, but she had it fixed to go on a
chain and sent it to me for Christmas." Georgia interrupted herself
suddenly. "It was ages after the Glee Club concert before you found out
about Miss Harrison. What did you think of me all that time?"

"Why just at first I couldn't understand it," said Betty truthfully,
"but after I'd thought it over I was sure you weren't to blame and I've
been getting surer and surer all the time. But I am awfully glad to know
how it all happened."

"And I am awfully glad that it was you who saw it," said Georgia
fervently. "I never wore it but that once. I couldn't make her take it
back, so I decided to send it to her after college was over--I knew
mother wouldn't want me to take such a valuable present from a girl I
knew so slightly, and I thought Miss Harrison would be glad to have it
back then. You see," Georgia explained, "I think she did things for me
in the hope that I would manage to get her in more with the girls I
knew. She has been awfully lonely here, I guess. Well, I felt ashamed of
having the pin and ashamed of knowing her, and the things Madeline said
about her worried me dreadfully, but I couldn't seem to shake her off.
Why, I've done everything I could, Betty, that wouldn't hurt her
feelings. I've fairly lived in other people's rooms, so that she'd never
find me at home, and that hurt my poor little roommate's feelings, so
the other day I had to tell her what the matter was. I've never told any
one else--I hate people who talk about that sort of thing--but I've been
just miserable over it,--indeed I have! And now it seems worse than
ever." Georgia's big brown eyes filled with tears.

But she smiled again when Betty assured her that she thought it was much
better to be bothered and to have things come out all wrong than to be
always thinking just of yourself.

"You see," Georgia confessed, "the first time I met her she seemed nice
enough and I accepted her first invitations without thinking, so when
she wanted to be intimate I felt as if I had been partly to blame for
letting her begin it."

"Yes, you do have to be careful about not being too friendly at first,"
said Betty soberly, "but I think there are a lot of mistakes worse than
that. I'm sorry though, if this has spoiled your first year here."

"Oh, it hasn't," said Georgia, eagerly; "it has just spotted it a
little. It was a lucky thing, I guess, that I had something to bother
me, or I should have been spoiled with all the good times you've given
me. I did try to be a good 'Merry Heart,' Betty. Perhaps I shall have
better luck next time."

"I'm sure you will," said Betty, heartily, and after they had arranged
for the returning of Nita's pin in such a way as not to involve Miss
Harrison, they started back to the Belden, Georgia to begin her packing
and Betty to join the rest of the "Merry Hearts," who were spending the
evening on the piazza.

But after all Betty slipped past them and went on up-stairs. She was in
a very serious mood. She realized to-night as she never had before that
her college days were over. The talk with Georgia had somehow put a
period to a great many things and she wanted to be alone and think them
over. Her little room was stiflingly hot and she threw the window wide
open and sat down before it in the dark, leaning her elbows on the sill.
The piazza was just below; she could hear the laughter and merriment,
and occasionally a broken sentence or two drifted up to her.

"There's nothing left to do now but commence," declared Bob Parker,
loudly.

"And when we have commenced we shall be finished," added Babe, and
laughed uproariously at her bad joke.

That was just Betty's trouble,--"nothing left to do but commence," which
was quite enough if you happened to be a member of the play committee.
But before you "began to commence" all the tangled threads of the four
happy years ought to be laid straight, and they weren't, or at least one
wasn't. Betty had always felt sure that before Eleanor graduated she
would get back her standing with the class. But if she had, there was
nothing to prove it; the feeling of her classmates toward her had
certainly changed but nothing had happened that would take away the
sting of the Blunderbuss's insult last fall and of Jean's taunts at the
time of the Toy Shop entertainment. Eleanor would go away feeling that
on the whole she had failed. Well, it was too late to do anything now.
Betty lit her gas long enough to hunt up a scarf that would furnish at
least a lame apology for her delay, and went down to the gay group on
the piazza. When thoughts will only go round in a circle, the best thing
to do is to stop thinking them.

"I say, Betty," cried Bob eagerly, "did you know that Christy had gone
home? I mean did you know she hasn't come back? She went just for senior
week and now her mother is too ill to leave and she's got to stay."

"Poor Chris!" said Betty, suddenly remembering Christy's note which, in
the excitement over the Blunderbuss she had forgotten to open. "How
lucky that she gave up Antonio."

"Isn't it?" agreed Bob. "She's coming back for Tuesday of course to run
the supper and get her precious little sheepskin. Her mother isn't
dangerously sick, I guess, but there are lots of children and Christy
seems to think she's the only one who can manage them."

"Think of her missing the play!" said Madeline.

"Perhaps she'll get back by Saturday night," suggested Eleanor,
hopefully.

"I think she's a lot more likely not to come back at all," declared
Babe, "but it's no use to worry about that yet. Who's going to meet Mary
Brooks?"

"Everybody who isn't a 'star,' or hasn't got to be made up early must
go," commanded Madeline. "She comes at four-ten, remember. Babbie and
Roberta, go in out of this damp."

Up in her room again Betty closed the window against the invading
June-bug and hunted high and low for Christy's note. She hardly expected
to find it after so long a time, but it finally turned up hidden in the
folds of a crumpled handkerchief which she had stuffed carelessly into
her top drawer. And luckily it was not too late to do Christy's
commission. She merely told of her hasty departure and wanted Betty to
be sure that the supper cards, with the menu and toasts on them, were
ready in time. The printer was about as dependable as Billy Henderson,
Christy wrote; he needed reminding every morning and watching between
times.

Betty dashed off a hasty note of sympathy and apology, promising to make
the printer's life a burden until he produced the supper-cards, and went
to bed.

Next day commencement began in earnest. Gay young alumnæ carrying
suit-cases, older alumnæ escorting be-ribboned class-babies and their
anxious nurses, thronged the streets; inconsiderate families began to
arrive a whole day before there was anything in particular for them to
do. All the afternoon the "mob" people and the other "sups" besieged the
stage door of the theatre waiting their turns to be made up, and then,
donning heavy veils hurried back up the hill. It was tiresome being made
up so early and having to stay indoors all the hot afternoon, but it
couldn't be helped, for there was only one make-up man and he must save
plenty of time for the principal actors.

So the campus dinner-tables were patronized by young persons with
heavily penciled eyebrows and brightly rouged cheeks, who ate cautiously
to avoid smearing their paint and powder, and than ran up-stairs to jeer
at the masculine contingent whose beards and moustaches had condemned
them to privacy and scanty fare.

"I shall die of starvation," wailed Bob Parker, when she reached the
theatre, confiding her sad story to Betty. "I said I didn't mind being a
Jew and having my toes stepped on when the Christians hustle me out of
court. But how can any one eat dinner with a thing like this," and she
held up her flowing beard disdainfully.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Betty absently, consulting a messy
memorandum as if she expected to find directions for eating with a beard
among its items. "Bob, where is Roberta Lewis? The make-up man wants her
this minute. It takes ages to fix on her nose."

"Portia is afraid she is going to be hoarse," announced another "supe"
importantly.

"Then find the doctor," commanded Barbara Gordon swiftly, as Betty
disappeared in search of Roberta. "Be careful, men. Look out for that
gondola when you move the flies. Rachel, please keep the maskers off the
stage."

"Why don't we begin?"

"Did you ever see such a mess?"

"Oh, it's going to be a horrible fizzle. I told you the scenery was too
elaborate."

But two minutes later the "street in Venice" scene was ready and
Antonio and "the Sals," as the class irreverently styled his friends,
were chatting composedly together in front of it.

The house was packed of course and there was almost as much excitement
in front as there was behind the scenes. Of course the under class girls
and alumnæ were delighted, but there was a distinguished critic from New
York in the fifth row, and when Shylock appeared he was as enthusiastic
as Mary Brooks herself. Even the cynical Richard Blake was pleased. He
had come up to see the play and also, so he explained, to be a family
to the bereft Madeline; but as Madeline was behind the scenes Eleanor
Watson was obligingly looking after him. Her father and mother weren't
coming until Saturday, and Jim could only make a flying trip between two
examinations to spend Monday in Harding, so Eleanor had plenty of spare
time with which to help out her busier friends.

"I'm going to make out a schedule of my hours," she told Mr. Blake
laughingly, "for it would be dreadful if I should forget an engagement
and promise to entertain two or three uncongenial people at the same
time."

"Indeed it would," agreed Mr. Blake soberly. "To-night, for instance, it
would have been fatal. I say, Miss Watson, keep an hour or two open
Monday evening. If Madeline should urge me, I believe I'd run up again
for that outdoor concert. It must be no end pretty. Ah, the carnival
scene. I never saw that put on more effectively, Miss Watson."

The next night the fathers and mothers and cousins and aunts went into
ecstasies over "that lovely Portia" and "sweet little Jessica," laughed
at young Gobbo's every motion, and declared that Shylock was "just too
wonderful for anything." A funny little old lady who sat next to
Roberta's father even went so far as to ask him timidly if he didn't
agree with her that Shylock was a man. "I've been telling my sister that
no college girl could act like that. I guess I know an old man when I
see one," she said, and blushed scarlet when he answered in his courtly
way, "Pardon me, madam, but Shylock is my daughter. She will appreciate
your unstudied compliment."

When the curtain finally went down on the last performance of the play
the committee were almost too tired to realize that they were through,
and Katherine Kittredge, alias Gratiano, sank down on the nearest grassy
knoll (made of green cambric) and expressed the universal sentiments of
the cast.

"Not for all the ducats in Belmont will I call Portia a learned judge
again."

"You needn't, K., but please hop up," said Barbara Gordon wearily.
"They're singing to us. Get into the centre, Roberta. We've got to let
them see us again; they won't stop clapping till we do."

And then you should have heard the noise!

"Three cheers for good old Shylock," called somebody, and they were
given with a will. Then they sang to her.

    "Here's to you, Roberta Lewis,
    Here's to you, our warmest friend!"

Then they sang to Barbara and to Kate Denise, and to both the Gobbos.

"I say, ain't you folks goin' home till mornin'?" shouted a jovial
stage-hand, thrusting his head out from the wings.

The crowd laughed and cheered him, then cheered everybody and went home,
singing to Roberta all the way up the hill.

"But you can't blame them," said Betty Wales. "They don't realize how
tired we are, and it's something pretty exciting to have given the play
that Miss Ferris and Mr. Masters both say is the best yet."

"And to have had a perfectly marvelous Shylock," added Kate Denise
warmly.

"And a splendid Portia," put in Roberta.

"Oh, wise young judges, please don't forget to mention Gratiano," said
Katherine Kittredge, and set them all to laughing.

"It's been splendid fun," said Barbara. "Don't you wish we could give it
all over again?"

Then they sat down on the green knolls and the gondolas and Portia's
best carved chairs, and talked and talked, until, as Babbie said, they
all felt so proud of themselves and each other and 19-- that the stage
wouldn't hold them. Whereupon they remembered that to-morrow was
Baccalaureate Sunday and that most of their families had inconsiderately
invited them out to breakfast,--two facts which made it desirable to go
home and to bed as speedily as possible.

It always rains in the morning of Baccalaureate Sunday, but it generally
clears up in time for the service, which is in the afternoon; and even
if it doesn't the graduating class and its friends are willing to make
the best of a bad matter because it would have been so much worse if the
rain had waited for Ivy Day. 19--'s Baccalaureate was showery in an
accommodating fashion that permitted the class to sleep late in the
morning because their families wouldn't want them to go out in the
rain, and cleared off just before and just after the service, so that
they didn't need the carriages that they couldn't possibly have gotten,
no matter how it poured.

And it cleared off for Ivy Day. Helen Adams was up at five o'clock
anxiously inspecting the watery sunshine to see if it would last.

"For they can't plant the ivy in the rain," she thought, "and if they
don't plant it how can they sing the song?"

But the sunshine lasted, Marie planted the ivy,--and the college
gardener carefully replanted it later, "'cause them gals will be that
disapp'inted if it don't live,"--the class sang Helen's song, and the
odes, orations and addresses were all duly delivered.

Then, as Bob flippantly remarked, the fun began. For Mr. Wales had
chartered three big touring cars and invited the "Merry Hearts" to go
out to Smugglers' Notch for luncheon, with Mrs. Adams, who had never
been in an auto before, for chaperon and himself, Will, and Jim Watson
as escorts and chauffeurs.

By the time they got back the campus was festooned with Japanese
lanterns, little tables ready for bowls of lemonade stood under all the
biggest trees, and a tarpaulin dotted with camp chairs covered a
roped-off enclosure near the back steps of College Hall.

"You've got tickets, father," Betty explained, "so you can sit down in
there and listen to the music. Will, you're to call for me."

"For Miss Ayres," Will amended calmly. "Watson is going to take you."

Judge and Mrs. Watson had seats too, so Eleanor and Mr. Blake, Betty and
Jim, and Madeline and Will wandered off together, two and two, enjoying
snatches of the concert, exploring the campus, and engaging in a most
exciting "Tournament"--Madeline's idea of course--to see who could drink
the most lemonade. Will was ahead, with Madeline a close second, when a
mysterious whistle sounded from the second floor of the Hilton.

"Oh, good-bye, Dick," said Madeline briskly, holding out her hand. "It's
time for you to go. Shall I see you to-morrow or not till I get to New
York?"

"Have we really got to go so soon?" asked Will sadly.

Betty nodded. "Or at least we've got to go and put on old dresses, so as
to be ready to join in our class march."

"Why can't we march too?" demanded Mr. Blake.

"Because you're not Harding, 19--," said Madeline with finality.

And so, half an hour later, another procession assembled on the spot
where the Ivy Day march had started that morning. But this time 19-- was
wearing its oldest clothes and heaviest shoes and didn't care whether it
rained or not. Four and five abreast they marched, round the campus, up
Main Street and back, round and round the campus again. "Just as if we
hadn't torn around all day until we're ready to drop," Eleanor Watson
said laughingly. It is a perfectly senseless performance, this "class
march," which is perhaps the reason why every class revels in it.

But the procession was moving more slowly and singing with rather less
enthusiasm, when a small A.D.T. approached the leaders. "Is Miss Marie
Howard in this bunch?" he demanded. "She orter be at the Burton, but
she ain't."

"Yes, here I am," called Marie quickly, and the small boy lit a
sputtering match, so that she could sign his book and read her telegram.
It was from Christy: "Awfully sorry can't come for supper. Writing."

"How perfectly dreadful," cried Marie, repeating the message to Bob, who
was standing beside her. Bob passed on the bad news, and the procession
broke up into little groups to discuss it.

"Why don't you appoint some one to take her place right now?" suggested
Bob. "Then she can sit up all night and get her remarks ready. She won't
have much time to-morrow."

Marie looked hastily around her and caught sight of Betty Wales standing
under a Japanese lantern that was still burning dimly.

"Betty!" she called, and Betty hurried over to her.

"I think we ought to fill Christy's place now," whispered Marie. "Shall
I appoint Eleanor Watson or have her elected?"

"Have her elected," said Betty, as promptly as if she had thought it
all out beforehand.

"Then will you propose her?"

Betty shook her head. "That wouldn't do. Eleanor knows how I feel toward
her. It must come from the people who haven't wanted her. They're all
here, I think." Betty peered uncertainly through the gloom to make sure
that Jean and her friends and the Blunderbuss were still out. "If the
whole class wants her badly enough, they'll think of her."

Marie stepped out into the light of the one lantern and called the class
to order. "It's a queer time to have a class-meeting," she said, "and
I'm not sure that it's constitutional, but who cares about that? You all
know about Christy and as Bob Parker says the new toastmistress ought to
have all the time there is left. So please make nominations."

"Why don't you appoint some one, Marie?" called Alice Waite sleepily.

"Because the toastmistress who presides over our supper ought to be the
choice of her class," said Marie firmly.

"Madam president,"--Jean Eastman's clear, sharp voice broke the
silence. "It's a good deal to ask of any one, to step in at the last
minute like this. Very few of us are capable of doing it,--of making a
success of it, I mean. In fact I only know of one person that I should
be absolutely sure of. Fortunately no one deserves such an appointment
more truly. I nominate Eleanor Watson."

A little thrill swept over the "queer" class-meeting. Everybody had
known more or less about the bitter feud between Jean and Eleanor, and
very few people had had the least suspicion that it had ended. Indeed
even Betty and Eleanor had not been sure how far Jean's friendliness
could be counted upon. Betty, standing back in the shadows where Marie
had left her, gave a little gasp of amazement and clutched Bob's arm so
hard that Bob protested.

"I second that motion, Miss President." It was the Blunderbuss, and her
stolid face grew hot and red in the darkness, as she wondered if any one
who knew that she didn't belong to 19-- now would question her right to
take part in the meeting. "But I was bound to do it," she reflected. "I
guess she isn't the kind of girl I thought she was. Anyhow I didn't
mean to hurt her feelings before, and this will sort of make up."

"Any other nominations?" inquired Marie briskly.

There was silence and then somebody began to clap. In a minute the whole
meeting was clapping as hard as it could.

"I guess we don't need ballots," said Marie, when she could be heard.
"All in favor say aye."

There was a regular burst of ayes.

"Those opposed?"

Silence again.

"There's a unanimous vote for you," cried Bob Parker eagerly. "Speech
from the candidate! Betty, you're killing my arm!"

"Speech!" The class took up Bob's cry.

"Where are you, Eleanor?" called Marie, and Eleanor, coming out from
behind a big bush said, "I'll try to do my best--and--thank you." It
wasn't a brilliant speech to come from the girl who has often been
called Harding's most brilliant graduate, but it satisfied everybody,
even Betty.

"I did it just to show you that I've got the idea," Jean Eastman
muttered sulkily, jostling Betty in the crowd; and that was satisfactory
too. Indeed when Betty went to bed that night she confided to the green
lizard that she hadn't a single thing left to bother about at Harding.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GOING OUT OF 19--


Next morning came the really important part of commencement,--the
getting of your diploma, or, to speak accurately, the getting of
somebody's else diploma, which you could exchange for your own later.

"Let's stand in a big circle," suggested Madeline Ayres, "and pass the
diplomas round until each one comes to its owner."

It wasn't surprising that Eleanor Watson, with her newly acquired duties
as toastmistress, should keep getting outside the circle to consult
various toasters and members of the supper committee; but it did seem as
if Betty Wales might stay quietly in her place. So thought the girls who
had noticed that Carlotta Young, the last girl in the line that went up
for diplomas had not received any. Carlotta was a "prod"; it was only
because she came at the end of the alphabet that she was left out, but
thanks to Betty's fly-away fashion of running off to speak to some
junior ushers, and then calling the Blunderbuss, whose mother wanted to
see her a minute, nobody could find out positively who it was that had
been "flunked out" of 19--.

The next excitement took place when the class, strolling over to the
Students' Building to have luncheon with the alumnæ--why, they were
alumnæ themselves now!--met a bright-eyed, brown-haired little girl,
walking with a tall young man whose fine face was tanned as brown as an
Indian's.

"Don't you know me, 19--?" called the little girl gaily.

"Why, it can't be--it is T. Reed!" cried Helen Adams, rushing forward.

"And her Filipino," shrieked Bob Parker wildly.

"Of course I came. Do you think I'd have missed my own commencement?"
said T., shaking hands with four girls at once. "Frank, this is Helen
Adams, my best friend at Harding. Miss Parker, Mr. Howard. I'm sorry,
Bob, but he's not a Filipino. He's just a plain American who lives in
the Philippines."

"Have you forgotten how to play basket ball, T.?" called somebody.

T. gave a rapturous little smile. "Could we have a game this afternoon?
That's what I came for, really. We meant to get here last week, but the
boat was late. Yes, I'm sorry to have missed the play and the concert;
but it's worth coming for, just to see you all." T.'s bright eyes grew
soft and misty. "I tell you, girls, you don't know what it means to be a
Harding girl until you've been half across the world for awhile. No, I'm
not sorry _I_ left, but it's great to be back!"

Mary Brooks, arrayed in a bewitching summer toilette, stood at the door
of the Students' Building, and managed to intercept Betty and Roberta,
as they went in.

"You may congratulate me now if you like," she said calmly, leading them
off to a secluded corner behind a group of statuary, where their
demonstrations of interest wouldn't attract too much attention. The news
wasn't at all surprising, but Mary looked so pretty and so happy and
assured them so solemnly that she had never dreamed of anything of the
kind at Christmas, that there was plenty of excitement all the same.

"And of course I must have posts at my wedding," said Mary, whereat
Betty hugged her and Roberta looked more pleased than she had when Mr.
Masters called her a genius. "And bridesmaids," added Mary, with the
proper feeling for climax. "Laurie is going to be maid-of-honor, and if
you two can come and be bridesmaids and the rest of the crowd
almost--bridesmaids, in the words of the poetical Roberta----"

She never finished her sentence for the rest of the crowd had discovered
her retreat, and guessing at the news she had for them bore noisily down
upon her.

"It's so convenient that she's going to be married this summer," said
Babbie jubilantly. "We can have our first reunion at the wedding. I
simply couldn't have waited until June to see you all again."

"We couldn't any of us have waited," declared Bob. "Somebody else must
get married about Christmas time."

"Why don't you?" asked Babbie nonchalantly, while Madeline looked hard
at Eleanor and wished New York and Denver weren't so dreadfully far
apart. For how could Dick Blake, busy editor of "The Quiver," make love
to the most fascinating girl in the world when she lived at that
distance.

They had something to eat after a while, sitting on the stairs with
Mary, while Dr. Hinsdale beamed on them all and brought them salad and
ices.

"You mustn't talk about it, you know," Mary explained, "because it won't
be announced until next week, and you mustn't think of running off and
leaving us out here alone."

"All right," Katherine promised her. "We'll be the mossy bank for your
modest violet act. Only do try not to look so desperately in love or
everybody who sees you will guess the whole thing, and it will look as
if we told."

Most of the seniors spent the afternoon at the station seeing their
families off, but Betty left hers in Nan's care and went canoeing with
Dorothy King in Paradise. Dorothy was just as jolly and just as sweet as
ever. She wanted to know about everything that had happened at Harding
since she left it, and especially all about Eleanor Watson.

"You've pulled her through after all, haven't you?" she said.

"No, she pulled herself through," Betty corrected her. "I only helped a
little, and a lot of others did the same. Why even Jean helped,
Dorothy."

Dorothy laughed. "I can't imagine Jean in that rôle," she said, "but
I'll take your word for it. Let's go and see Miss Ferris."

Miss Ferris was alone and delighted to see her visitors.

"Everything has come out right, hasn't it?" she said, smiling into
Betty's radiant face.

Betty nodded. "Just splendidly. Did you know about Eleanor's being
toastmistress?"

"Yes, she came in to tell me herself. What has come over Jean Eastman,
Betty?"

"I don't know," said Betty with a tell-tale blush that made Miss Ferris
laugh and say, "I thought you were at the bottom of it."

"Dorothy used to be the person who managed things of this kind," she
went on. "Who's going to take your place, Betty?"

"According to what I hear nobody can do that," said Dorothy quickly, and
Betty blushed more than ever, until Miss Ferris took pity on her and
asked about her plans for next year.

Betty looked puzzled. "Why, I haven't any, I'm afraid. I never get a
chance to make plans, because the things that turn up of themselves take
all my time. I'm just going to be at home with my family."

"Leave out the 'just,'" advised Miss Ferris. "So many of you seem to
feel as if you ought to apologize for staying at home."

"Oh, I'm glad to hear you say that," said Betty soberly. "A lot of girls
in our class who don't need to a bit are going to teach, and Carlotta
Young said to me the other day that she thought we all ought to test our
education in some such way right off, so as to be sure it was really
worth something."

"And you are sure about yours without testing it?" asked Miss Ferris
quizzically.

Betty smiled at her happily. "I'm sure I've got something," she said.
"I'm afraid Carlotta wouldn't call it much of an education and I know I
ought to be ashamed that it isn't more, but I'm awfully glad I've got
it."

"I'm glad you have, too," said Miss Ferris so earnestly that Betty
wondered what she meant. But she didn't get a chance to ask, for
somebody knocked just then and the two girls said good-bye and hurried
off to dress for their respective class suppers.

19--'s was held in the big hall of the Students' Building. The junior
ushers had trimmed it with red and green bunting, and great bowls of red
roses transformed the huge T-shaped table into a giant flower-bed.

"I hope they haven't more than emptied the treasury for those flowers,"
said Babe anxiously, when she saw them.

"Hardly," Babbie reassured her. "Judge Watson sent the whole lot, so you
needn't worry about your treasury. He consulted me about the color.
Isn't he a dear?"

"Yes, he is," said Bob, "and he evidently thinks his only daughter is
another. Where's the supper-chart?"

"Out in the hall," explained Babbie, "with the whole class fighting for
a chance at it. But I know where we sit. Betty thought we'd better keep
things lively down at the end of the T."

"Well, I guess, we can do that," said Babe easily. "Where is Betty,
anyway?"

"Here," answered Betty, hurrying up. "And girls, please don't say
anything about it, but non-graduates don't generally come to the suppers
and the seating committee forgot about T. Reed, so she hasn't any
place."

"The idea!" cried Bob indignantly. "But she can have Eleanor's seat."

Betty hesitated. "No, because they changed the chart after they heard
about Christy's not coming. But Cora Thorne is sick, so I'm going to let
T. have my seat, right among you girls that she used to know----"

"You're not going to do anything of the kind," declared Babbie hotly.
"Shove everybody along one place, or else put in a seat for T."

"The chairs are too close together now and Cora's place is way around at
the other end. It would make too much confusion to move so many people.
Here comes T. now. I shall be almost opposite Eleanor and Katherine, and
I don't mind one bit."

So it happened that Betty Wales ate her class supper between Clara
Madison and the fat Miss Austin, and enjoyed it as thoroughly as if she
had been where she belonged, between Babbie and Roberta. The supper
wasn't very good--suppers for two hundred and fifty people seldom
are--but the talk and the jokes, the toasts and the histories, Eleanor's
radiant face at the head of the table, the spirit of jollity and
good-fellowship everywhere,--these were good enough to make up. Besides,
it was the last time they would all be together. Betty hadn't realized
before how much she cared for them all--for the big indiscriminate mass
of the class that she had worked and played with these four years. She
had expected to miss her best friends, but now, as she looked down the
long tables, she saw so many others that she should miss. Yes, she
should miss them all from the fat Miss Austin who was so delighted to be
sitting beside her to the serious-minded Carlotta Young, with her
theories about testing your education.

Katherine was reading the freshman history, hitting off the reception,
with its bewildering gaiety and its terrifying grind-book, those first
horrible midyears, made even more frightful by Mary Brooks's rumor, the
basket-ball game--when that was mentioned they made T. Reed stand on her
chair to be cheered, and then they cheered the rest of the team, who, as
Katherine said, "had marched so gallantly to a glorious defeat." As
Christy wasn't there, somebody read her letter, which explained that her
mother was better but that the twins had come down with the measles and
Christy was "standing by the ship." So they cheered the plucky letter
and then they sang to its author.

    "Oh, here's to our Christine,
    We love her though unseen,
    Drink her down, drink her down,
    Drink her down, down, down!"

When the team was finally allowed to sit down, Katherine went on to the
joys of spring-term, with its golf and tennis, its Mary-bird club and
its tumultuous packing and partings. When she had finished and been
applauded and sung to, and finally allowed to sit down and eat a very
cold croquette, Betty looked over at Emily Davis and the next minute
for no reason at all she found herself winking back the tears. She had
had such a good time that year and K. had picked out just the comical
little things that made you remember the others that she hadn't
mentioned.

Little Alice Waite was toasting the cast. Alice was no orator. She
stammered and hesitated and made you think she was going to break down,
but she always ended by saying or doing something that brought down the
house.

"I think you ought to have given this toast to somebody else," she began
innocently. "I can't act, and I can't speak either, as it happens.
Besides words speak louder than actions. No, I mean actions speak louder
than words, so I will let the cast toast themselves."

"Roast themselves, you mean," said Katherine, pushing back her chair.

And then began a clever burlesque of the casket scene in which Gratiano
played Portia's part, Shylock was Nerissa, Gobbo Bassanio, and Jessica
the Prince of Morocco. Next Alice called for the Gobbos and Portia and
the Prince of Morocco "stood forth" and went through a solemn travesty
of the scene between the father and son that left the class faint and
speechless with laughter.

Then there were more toasts and when the coffee had been served they
made the engaged girls run around the table. Betty was sorry then that
she wasn't in her own place, to help get Babbie Hildreth started. Her
friends were all sure that she was engaged and she had hinted that she
might tell them more about it at class-supper, but now she denied it as
stoutly as ever. Finally Bob settled the question by getting up and
running in her place,--a non-committal proceeding that delighted
everybody.

After that came the last toast, "Our esprit de corps." Kate Denise had
it, for no reason that Betty could see unless Christy had wanted to show
Kate that the class understood the difference between her and the other
Hill girls. And then Kate was one of 19--'s best speakers and so could
do justice to the subject.

"I think we ought to drink this toast standing," she began. "We've drunk
to the cast and the team, to our presidents, our engaged girls, our
faculty. Now I ask you to drink to the very greatest pride and honor of
this class,--to the way we've always stood together, to the way we stand
together to-night, to the way we shall stand together in the future, no
matter where we go or what we do. It's not every class that can put this
toast on its supper-card. Not every class knows what it means to be run,
not in the interest of a clique or by a few leading spirits, but by the
good-feeling of the whole big class. And so I ask you to drink one more
toast--to the girl who started this feeling of good-fellowship at a
certain class-meeting that some of us remember, and who has kept it up
by being a friend to everybody and making us all want to be friends.
Here's to Betty Wales."

When Betty heard her name she almost jumped out of her chair with
amazement. She had been listening admiringly to Kate's eloquent little
speech, never dreaming how it would end and now they were all clapping
and pushing back their chairs again, and Clara Madison was trying to
make her stand up in hers.

"Speech!" shouted the irrepressible Bob and the girls sat down again and
the big table grew still, while Betty twisted her napkin into a knot and
smiled bravely into all the welcoming faces.

"I'm sure Kate is mistaken," she said at last in a shaky little voice.
"I'm sure every girl in 19-- wanted every other girl to have her share
of the fun just as much as I did. The class cup, that we won at tennis
in our sophomore year is on the table somewhere. Let's fill it with
lemonade and sing to everybody right down the line. And while they're
filling the cup let's sing to Harding College."

It took a long time to sing to everybody, but not a minute too long.
Betty watched the faces of the girls when their turns came--the girls
who were always sung to, like Emily Davis, and the girls who had never
been sung to in all the four years and who flushed with pride and
pleasure to hear their names ring out and to feel that they too belonged
to the finest, dearest class that ever left Harding.

"Now we must have the regular stunts," said Eleanor. There was a
shuffling of chairs and she and Betty and the people who had had toasts
slipped back to their own particular crowds, leaving the top of the
table for the stunt-doers. It was shockingly late, but they wanted all
the old favorites. Who knew when Emily Davis would be back to do her
temperance lecture or how long it would be before they could hear Madame
Patti sing "Home, Sweet Home" through a wheezy gramophone?

"Was it all right?" Eleanor whispered to Betty as they hunted up their
wraps a little later.

"Perfectly splendid," said Betty with shining eyes. "The loveliest
end-up to the loveliest commencement that ever was."

"We haven't got to say good-bye yet," said somebody. "There's a class
meeting to-morrow at nine, you know."

"Half of us will probably sleep over," said Babe in a queer,
supercilious tone. Not for all the morning naps in the world would Babe
have missed that good-bye meeting.



CHAPTER XIX

"GOOD-BYE!"


"And after commencement packing," said Madeline Ayres sadly, "and that's
no joke either, I can tell you."

"Oh, I don't know," said Babe airily. "Give away everything that you
can't sell, and you won't be troubled. That's what I've done."

"I couldn't give up my dear old desk," said Rachel soberly, "nor my
books and pictures."

"Oh, I've kept a few little things myself," explained Babe hastily,
"just to remember the place by."

"My mother wanted to stay and help me," laughed Nita. "She thought if we
both worked hard we might get through in a day."

"Mary Brooks did hers in two hours," announced Katherine, "and I guess
I'm as bright as little Mary about most things, so I'm not worrying."

"Isn't it time to start for class-meeting?" asked Betty, coming out on
the piazza with Roberta.

"See them walk off together arm in arm," chuckled Bob softly, "just as
if they knew they were going to be elected our alumnæ president and
secretary respectfully."

"Don't you mean respectively, Bob?" asked Helen Adams.

"Of course I do," retorted Bob, "but I'm not obliged to say what I mean
now. I'm an alum. I can use as bad diction as I please and the long arm
of the English department can't reach out and spatter my mistakes with
red ink."

The election of officers didn't take long. It had all been cut and dried
the night before, and the nominating committee named Betty for president
and Shylock for secretary without even going through the formality of
retiring to deliberate. Then Katherine moved that the surplus in the
treasury be turned over to "our pet philanthropy, the Students' Aid,"
and Carlotta Young inquired anxiously whether the first reunion was to
be in one or two years.

"In one," shouted the assembly to a woman, and the meeting adjourned
tumultuously. But nobody went home, in spite of the packing that
clamored for attention.

"Good-bye, you dear old thing!"

"See you next June for sure. I'm coming back then, if I do live away out
in Seattle."

"You're going to study art in New York, you say? Oh, I'm there very
often. Here, let me copy that address."

"Going abroad for the summer, you lucky girl? Well, rather not! I'm
going to tutor six young wigglers into a prep. school."

"Wasn't last night fun? Don't you wish we could have it all over
again,--except the midyears and the papers for English novelists."

"Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!"

But these weren't the good-byes that came hardest; those would be said
later in the dear, dismantled rooms or at the station, for very close
friends would arrange to meet again there. But the close friendships
would be kept up in letters and visits, whereas these casual
acquaintances might never again be renewed.

"I've seen you nearly every day for three years," Madeline Ayres told
little Miss Avery, whose name came next to hers on the class-list, "and
now you're going to live in Iowa and I'm going to Italy. The world is a
big place, isn't it?"

But Nita Reese thought it was surprisingly small when she found that
Emily Davis was going to teach French in the little town where she
lived, and Betty got a great deal of comfort from the fact that four
other 19-- girls lived in Cleveland.

"Though I can't believe it's really over," Betty confided to Bob. "I
don't feel a bit like an alum."

"That's because you still look just like a freshman," returned Bob,
unfeelingly. "I'll bet you a trolley-ride to any place you choose that
you'll be taken for one before you leave Harding."

Sure enough Betty, hurrying across the campus a moment later to
intercept the man who had promised to crate her desk and then never come
for it, was stopped by a timid little sub-freshman with her hair in a
braid, who inquired if she was going to take the "major French"
examination, and did she know whether it came at eleven or twelve
o'clock?

"So we're all got to go off on a trolley-ride," shouted Bob jubilantly,
and though Betty protested and called Helen to witness that she hadn't
promised Bob any trolley-ride whatever, everybody agreed that they ought
to have one last picnic somewhere before they separated. So they all
hurried home to do what Katherine called "tall strides of work," and at
four o'clock they were waiting, with tempting-looking bags and bundles
tucked under their arms, for a car.

"We'll take the first one that comes," Bob decided, "and go until we see
a nice picnic-y place."

Generally no one place would have pleased everybody, but to-day no one
said a word against Bob's first choice,--a steep, breezy hillside, with
a great thicket of mountain laurel in full bloom near the summit and a
flat rock, shaded by a giant elm-tree, for a table.

[Illustration: "LADIES, BEHOLD THE PRECEPTRESS OF THE KANKAKEE ACADEMY"]

It was such a comical supper, for each girl had obeyed Bob's haphazard
instructions to bring what she liked best. So Roberta had nothing but
ginger-snaps and Babbie solemnly presented each guest with a bottle of
olives. Madeline had brought strawberries with sugar to dip them in, and
Helen, Betty and Eleanor discovered to their amazement that they had all
chosen chocolate éclairs.

"It's not a very substantial supper," said Madeliner "but we can stop
at Cuyler's on our way back."

"For a substantial ice," jeered Bob.

"Who's hungry anyway after last night?" asked Nita.

"I am," declared Eleanor. "They took away my salad before I was through
with it, and K. stole my ice."

"Well, you're growing fat," Katherine defended herself, "and you've got
to save your lovely slenderness until after Mary's wedding. She'll tell
everybody that you're the college beauty and you must live up to the
reputation or we shall be undone."

Katherine knew that she couldn't come on from Kankakee for that wedding,
and Helen and Rachel knew that they couldn't either, though they lived
nearer. And Madeline was sailing on Saturday for Italy, "to stay until
daddy's paint-box runs out of Italian colors." But they didn't talk
about those things at the picnic, nor on the swift ride home across the
dark meadows, nor even at Cuyler's, which looked empty and deserted when
they tramped noisily in and ordered their ices.

"Everybody else is too busy to go on picnics," said Bob.

"We always did know how to have the best kind of times," declared Babbie
proudly.

"Of course. Aren't we 'Merry Hearts'?" queried Babe. "Being nice to
freaks was only half of being a 'Merry Heart.'"

"_Why_, girls," cried Nita excitedly, "as long as we didn't give away
the 'Merry Hearts,' we can go on being them, can't we?"

"We couldn't stop if we tried," said Madeline. "Remember, girls, two is
a 'Merry Hearts' quorum. Whenever two of us get together they can have a
meeting."

They said good-night with the emphasis strongly on the last syllable,
and went at the neglected packing in earnest. Betty's train didn't go
until nearly ten the next morning, but Helen left at nine and Madeline
and Roberta ten minutes later, so there wouldn't be much time for
anything but the good-byes, that, do what you might, could not be put
off any longer.

But after all they were gay good-byes. Helen Adams, to be sure, almost
broke down When she kissed Betty and whispered, "Good-bye and thank you
for everything." But the next minute they were both laughing at K.'s
ridiculous old telescope bag.

"It's a long rest and a good meal of oats the poor beastie shall have at
the end of this trip," said Katherine. "Ladies, behold the preceptress
of the Kankakee Academy. Father telegraphed me yesterday that I've got
the place, and I hereby solemnly promise to buy a respectable suit-case
out of my first month's salary."

"Oh, you haven't any of you gone yet, have you?" asked Babbie Hildreth,
hurrying up with Eleanor and Madeline. "You see Babe kept more things
than she thought and it was too late to send for another packing-box,
so she put them into a suit-case and a kit bag and a hat-box. And the
carriage didn't come for us, so she tried to carry them all from the
car, and of course she got stuck in the turn-stile. The girls are
getting her out as fast as they can. They sent us on ahead to find you."

Just as Helen's train pulled in Bob appeared with the rest of the "Merry
Hearts" as escort and a small boy to help with her luggage; and they had
a minute all together.

"Well," said Madeline lightly, "we're starting out into the wide, wide
world at last. I'll say it because I'm used to starting _off_ to queer
places and I rather like it."

"Here's hoping it's a jolly world for every one of us," said Rachel.

"Here's to our next meeting," added Katherine.

"Girls," said Betty solemnly, "I feel it in my bones that we are going
to be together again some time. I don't mean just for a 19-- reunion,
but for a good long time."

"With me teaching in Boston," laughed Rachel.

"And me teaching in Kankakee," put in Katherine proudly.

"And Madeline in Italy, and the rest of you anywhere between New York
and Denver," finished Rachel. "It doesn't look very probable."

"It's going to happen though,--I'm sure of it," persisted Betty gaily.

"Oh, I do just hope so," said little Helen Adams, stepping on board her
train.

"They say that what you want hard enough you'll get," said Madeline
philosophically. "Come on, Shylock. Don't any of you forget to send me
steamer letters."

"Wait! we're going on that train too," cried Babe, clutching her
parcels.

"Babe can't make connections if we wait," explained Babbie.

"And she'd get lonely going so far without us," added Bob.

The four who were left stood where they could wave by turns at the two
trains until both were out of sight.

Then Betty caught her three oldest friends into a big, comprehensive
hug. "After all," she said, "whether we ever get together or not, we've
had this--four whole years of it, to remember all our lives. Now let's
go and get one more strawberry ice before train-time."

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

The Books in this Series are:

BETTY WALES, FRESHMAN
BETTY WALES, SOPHOMORE
BETTY WALES, JUNIOR
BETTY WALES, SENIOR
BETTY WALES, B.A.
BETTY WALES & CO.
BETTY WALES ON THE CAMPUS
BETTY WALES DECIDES





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