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Title: Hester's Counterpart - A Story of Boarding School Life
Author: Baird, Jean K. (Jean Katherine), 1872-1918
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.

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HESTER'S COUNTERPART

[Illustration: THE WATER CREPT UP.--_Page 284._]

THE HESTER BOOKS


HESTER'S COUNTERPART

A STORY OF BOARDING SCHOOL LIFE

BY
JEAN K. BAIRD
Author of "The Coming of Hester"

_ILLUSTRATED BY ADELE W. JONES_

[Illustration]

BOSTON
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.

Published, August, 1910


COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
_All Rights Reserved_

HESTER'S COUNTERPART

NORWOOD PRESS
BERWICK & SMITH CO.
NORWOOD, MASS.
U. S. A.



ILLUSTRATIONS


The water crept up (Page 284)                        _Frontispiece_

                                                       FACING PAGE

"I am Helen Loraine"                                         68

Again Hester deftly returned it                              92

"Oh, girls, do you happen to have any cold cream?"          122

"You remember me, I see, Miss Alden"                        150

They held their breath                                      290



HESTER'S COUNTERPART



CHAPTER I


Debby Alden, to use her own adjective in regard to herself, was not
"slack." To this her friends added another term. Debby was "set." There
could be no doubt of that.

When Hester was but twelve years old, Debby had decided that the girl
should have at least one year at the best boarding-school. Four years
had passed, during which time, Debby's purpose had remained firm,
although not yet ripe for perfecting.

After the experience with Mary Bowerman's taunts and Abner Stout's
guile, Debby decided that the time had come for Hester to have a change
of environment. Miss Richards's advice was again sought. But that old
friend no longer held the full power in her hands. Debby had grown
alive and alert. She knew the standing of the schools throughout the
State, and in what particular line of study or discipline each one
excelled.

For months, she studied catalogues and estimated expenses. She had never
made a study of psychology; but she understood that Hester had reached
the most impressionable age of her life. Each thought and word would
leave its marks upon her. Debby, who believed firmly that tendencies are
inherited, had always with her the fear that Hester would show the
tendencies of an alien race. Her one consolation was that much may be
overcome by training, and too, perhaps, there was in Hester's veins only
a drop of darker blood.

No one understood the position in which Debby Alden was placed. She
always held herself responsible for the death of Hester's mother. Duty
had compelled her to take care of the child, until love had come to her
as a reward for the fulfillment of duty.

There was no one to whom she could speak concerning Hester and her fears
in regard to her. One thing she had done and would do; she would keep
the child far removed from any influence which would tend to the
strengthening of those traits which are supposed rightfully to belong to
the race of slaves.

Debby consulted principals and teachers and read and re-read catalogues.
At length, she decided upon Dickinson Seminary as the school which came
nearest to fulfilling her desires for Hester.

Hester had always been sweet and submissive to Debby Alden. The girl had
more than love for the woman who was mother and father both to her.
Mingled with Hester's love for Debby was an inexpressible gratitude.
Hester realized how much Debby had done and was doing for her. But it
was not the dainty dresses and good home that touched her most. Debby
Alden had given the waif her mother's name, and Hester never wrote in
her big angular hand, Hester Palmer Alden, without feeling a glow of
pride. She had a name of which to be proud, a name which Debby Alden had
always held dear.

"It was the very kindest thing Aunt Debby could do," was a thought which
came often to Hester. "She must have loved me even from the first, or
she would have never given me her own name. She's so proud of being an
Alden. Their name has never had a bit of shame or disgrace touch it."
Then she added an afterthought, "and it never will through me."

One day she brought up the subject of the Alden name while in
conversation with her aunt. Hester expressed herself warmly on the
subject and the elder woman listened with a lightening heart. The pride
of the Alden name and family which Hester showed, pleased her. To Debby
came the thought that only those who had such birthrights could
comprehend and appreciate the honor of possessing them. For a moment,
she believed that she might have been mistaken in regard to Hester's
parentage; but just for a moment. She could not close her eyes to facts.
She, herself, had seen the purple tinge about the finger nails of the
woman and had observed the lips and eyes which were peculiar to another
race.

"It was beautiful of you, Aunt Debby, to give me your name, and I'll
never, never bring shame to it."

"Let us talk no more of the subject," was the curt rejoinder. "We have
much to do before you are ready to go to Dickinson, and we must not
spend our time in telling what is to be done or not to be done a dozen
years from now."

Hester was drying the dishes. At the mention of going to school, she
stopped. Regardless of consequences, she raised her tea-towel in one
hand like a banner, and Aunt Debby's blue cream jug, a relic of the
Alden family, high in the other.

"Dickinson Seminary!" she exclaimed in a voice pitched high with
nervousness. "I'll tell you right this minute, Aunt Debby, I will not
go."

Had the ceiling fallen down upon her, Debby Alden could not have been
more surprised. Hester, the obedient, now in the guise of an insurgent.

"_Will_ not, Hester Palmer Alden, is not the word to use to me. I am the
one to decide what is best for you to do or not to do, and I've decided
upon your going to Dickinson."

The voice of the speaker was strong with the Alden firmness and
decision. Perhaps, she forced herself to unusual firmness lest her
great love for the girl should make her weak in discipline. She expected
that Hester, having once made so strong an affirmation, would cling to
it and perhaps be inclined to disputation. On the contrary, Hester began
to sob.

Debby turned to look at the girl, down whose cheeks the tears were
streaming. Then she said with a show of gentleness: "It's only natural
that you feel bad about leaving home. Everyone does that. I really
should not feel pleased if you did not feel bad. You can not give up to
that feeling. I do not mean to permit you to do so. School is the best
place for you, and you must go. You'll enjoy it after a while."

"I was not thinking about myself, Aunt Debby. I was thinking of you. Do
you think that I can ever enjoy being away and having a good time while
you are here alone?"

"I was used to being alone before you--"

"But you are not used to it now. I'll think of you sitting here alone in
the evening. Every time you leave the house you'll be alone and you'll
come into a lonely house when you come back. I will not go and leave
you here, Aunt Debby, and you cannot make me."

"Hester Alden--." Debby Alden meant to be firm. It was scandalous to
have a child so express herself to her elder, and that elder as a mother
to her. Debby Alden would not be weak. She would be firm, and not so
much as allow Hester to express an opinion.

"Hester Alden," she began, but could say no more because of a queer
little catch in her voice. She turned back to her dish-pan and fell with
great vigor to her dishwashing. After a few moments, she felt that she
could control herself, and turning to Hester, said, "Now, Hester Alden,
we'll have done with this nonsense right here. I've been alone and stood
it fairly well and I can stand it again. What does it matter if I am
alone? I'm no longer a young girl who demands company. I'm just a plain
old--"

"Why, Aunt Debby--you are not. Doesn't everyone say you're beautiful,
and you're not old--and you're never going to get old." Hester turned
and brought her foot down with some vigor, as though she would frighten
old age and gray hair and loneliness from the house.

"Why, Aunt Debby, everyone says you're beautiful. The girls at
school--."

Debby's cheeks flushed. There was something very sweet in the assertion,
although she did not believe it even for a moment. But in all her forty
years, no one had ever used that word in speaking of Debby. Although she
felt that even now love, and not facts, was making use of it, she was
touched. She was a woman after all, and it was sweet to find herself
beautiful in someone's eyes.

But discipline must be maintained. She turned toward Hester. The girl
threw her arms about Debby Alden's neck and sobbed, and Debby held up
her kitchen apron before her eyes and wept silently.

"There, Hester, there!" she said at last. "We're both very silly, very
silly. You must go to school and that's an end to it."

"No, Aunt Debby. I'll never go and leave you here alone. If I go, you
must go with me."

"Go with you! That is the veriest nonsense, Hester. Debby Alden in a
seminary. I'm not in my second childhood yet."

"But you could live in town. Mame Thomas has a cousin who lives in a
little flat. She's a widow and keeps her girls in school. Couldn't you
go and live there. We could see each other--."

"The dish-water is getting cold. Really, Hester, you and I are getting
slack. I believe that is the first time in my life that I ever stood
talking and let my dish-water get cold. It isn't a good way of doing.
Mother never allowed us to be slack about such things. I was not brought
up to talk first and work afterward. Think of me, a woman my age, doing
such a thing!"

Taking up the dish-pan, she left the kitchen to empty the water. Hester
dried her tears. Her heart grew light. She understood Aunt Debby well
and she knew that the talk about letting the work stand was only a
chastisement Debby was giving herself, when she felt herself yielding.

The subject was again discussed during the evening. No decision was
reached. Debby, however, conceded enough to say that she would think the
matter over and would ask Miss Richards's opinion concerning it.

Hester was fully satisfied with this. She knew that her Aunt Debby never
forgot a promise. Hester knew also that Miss Richards would advise Debby
Alden to spend a winter in the city.

The following day, after the housework had been finished and the dinner
dishes put away, Debby Alden dressed and went to call upon her friend.

Hester went with her, as far as Jane Orr's home. "I'll be back shortly,
Hester. You may stay with Jane until I call for you."

She made her way down the main street of the little country town.

Hester paused as she was about to mount the steps, and turned to look at
the retreating figure. She could not restrain a smile. "It's certainly
odd, but Aunt Debby doesn't seem to know how pretty she is."

Hester's adjective was not strong enough to describe Aunt Debby. There
was something infinitely greater and finer in the woman than mere
prettiness.

Debby Alden at twenty-five had been scrawny, hard-featured and severe.
She then had the appearance of one who knew only the hard things of
life, and was giving expression to them in her features and carriage.
But this new Debby Alden was wholly different. Hester had brought love
and interest with her. Debby Alden was alive to the world about her, and
her active interests had given brilliance to her eyes and lightness to
her steps. The angles of twenty-five years had been softened into
curves. Debby was no longer hard-featured and scrawny. She had grown
plump and round.

Some old wise man declares that it is woman's fault if she be not
handsome at forty years; for then the body is but the reflection of life
itself. Debby had been so true and faithful and so big-hearted and
generous, that at forty, beautiful was the only word worthy to describe
her.

Debby's call upon Miss Richards was short. To-day was one day when all
things were working toward favoring Hester's project.

Miss Richards was growing old. She did not wish to travel alone or to be
far from her friends. She was dainty, gracious, and smiling as ever,
but age had laid its finger lightly upon her.

She listened to Debby Alden's plans.

"You are young yet, Debby," she said. "No woman should be content to sit
at home and not improve her time. With Hester gone, there will be
nothing to keep you here. The school is but a short distance from town.
Why not rent a small flat?"

"But what would I do with no responsibilities? Keeping two or three
rooms in order will not employ my time."

"Lockport is famed for lectures and recitals. Study-clubs are plentiful.
You could read and study and you might practise your music, Debby. A few
lessons will do you worlds of good."

"Lessons when I am almost forty years old!"

"Forty years young, my dear girl. Lessons, why not? Life is one long
school term. The pupil who expects a hundred-mark must be learning and
moving onward all the time. I am more than twenty years your senior,
and yet I feel as though I was but beginning to learn how to live."

She paused a moment. Her mind dwelt on the things which were past. Then
with a radiant smile, she turned to her companion. "Be very much alive
while you are alive, Debby. The interests you have outside yourself will
add to your own happiness. If you wish to find perfect happiness, fill
your life with vital interests. Go to Lockport, study, read and work;
see Hester when your heart longs for her. I--" she paused, wondering if
Debby would accept her suggestion.

"I should like to be with you, Debby. I need something new. Each winter
I have been south for so many years that it is a story oft told. Do you
think that you and I could be happy together in a little flat? Hester
then could have two hearts to fill with interest."

She looked wistfully toward Debby. For the first time Debby realized
that her old friend was alone--very much alone as far as hearth-ties and
love were concerned. It was not with thoughts of her own enjoyment that
Debby's heart bounded. As an inspiration, it came to her that she held
within her hands that which would fill the void in her friend's life.

"I am sure we could," said Debby. "We might as well settle the matter
here, and we'll go to town this very week, attend to selecting Hester's
room and we'll look up a nice little place for ourselves. We'll not have
it too far from the school."

Then observing Miss Richards smiling, she added, "I presume you think
I'm a little hasty; but I don't see it in just that way. Anyone with
judgment can readily see that it is just the thing for us to do. When
our minds are made up, there's no use in being slack. We'll go Thursday.
Hester may stay with Jane Orr. Mrs. Orr will be glad to have her. And
now, I must go and tell Hester. I don't understand how that child came
to be so foolishly sentimental. She has taken the notion that she cannot
be happy anywhere without me. Utter nonsense, of course! I've tried to
train her to believe that one's happiness never depends on another."

She went her way, leaving her friend smiling at the speech. When Debby
had gone, Miss Richards spoke aloud: "Debby, Debby Alden, how fearfully
blind you are about yourself and your girl! How could Hester ever think
other than she does when every bit of happiness in the child's life has
emanated from you. Hester has sound judgment for one of her years, and
she knows how much she owes to you."

But Hester did not know the full amount of her debt to her foster aunt
nor did Miss Richards; for Debby kept her own secret in regard to
Hester's parentage and no one but herself knew the fearful weight it was
upon her.



CHAPTER II


Thursday morning, Miss Richards and Debby Alden started for Lockport.
This was a small city and the county seat. Its situation made it a
pleasant place to spend the summer and the population increased and
diminished with the change of seasons.

The town lay between two ridges of high mountains. On one side the river
flowed; on the opposite side Beech Creek, the conjunction of the streams
being at the eastern edge of town. On the brow of the lower hills were
the summer homes of the city folk. There were acres of lawn and grove
with natural ravines through which ran little streams and over whose
banks the laurels grew in wild profusion. Back of these hills, the
mountains towered like great green giants. On foggy days, their peaks
were hidden in clouds. They were awe-inspiring, for fog-covered brows
spoke of mysteries beyond the comprehension of those who dwelt below.

The valley grew narrow toward the western end. Here, nestled close
between hills, was Dickinson Seminary, one of the most exclusive and
rigidly-disciplined schools of the State. The campus and grove beyond
were extensive. Beech Creek lay to the south and was used for bathing
and boating and skating in their seasons. It was a deep, narrow stream.
Being fed only by a few short mountain brooks, it was little affected by
floods.

To the north lay the river. It was serene and powerful, except when its
waters were swollen. Then it made its way over the banks and encroached
upon the campus. The seminary folk were pleased than otherwise at this,
for on the river-soaked campus edge the willows and water birches
thrived, and made a beautiful protection for the campus. The river was
at a distance from the building; yet at flood time on a quiet night as
the girls lay in bed listening, they could hear the noise of its waters.

Debby Alden and Miss Richards reached Lockport just at noon Thursday.
Debby's first thought was of Hester and her accommodations at school.
She visited the seminary, attended to matters there, and returned to the
city. The expenses connected with Hester's education would not be light,
and Debby knew that she would be compelled eventually to use the little
money which her father had put by for a rainy day; the interest of which
had met her living expenses. The woman looked forward and saw the time
when her money would be gone. But, strange to say, contrary as her
present mode of action was to all her inheritance and previous training,
she anticipated no day when she would be reduced to poverty. She
calculated closely, knowing almost to a dime what the three following
years would cost her and Hester.

By that time, perhaps, Hester would be prepared for some life-work and
as for Debby--. She smiled grimly when she thought of coming to a place
where she could not take care of herself. "It's not the Alden way to get
stuck," she repeated to herself.

She mentally reviewed all these conditions before she set out with Miss
Richards in search of a flat suited to their needs. In her look into the
future, Debby believed herself able to see her way clear for three full
years.

"And then, if the worst comes to the worst, I can sell the timber land.
It's never brought in anything."

She put this last thought into words. "Does that mean that you are
pressed for money, Debby?"

"Not yet; but I may be before three years are gone, and Hester is
through with school. I can see my way clear for three years."

"You are fortunate indeed if that be so. A score of things may happen
that you know nothing of now. I have learned to anticipate neither joy
nor sorrow but to take each day as it comes."

"But surely one must look ahead. Money matters do not take care of
themselves. Hester's schooling will cost me almost every cent of my
ready money. I'll have only my little place and the timber tracts
beyond."

"You are not scattering your money in sending Hester to school, Debby.
You are placing it where it will draw the greatest interest. Sometime
you'll draw a big dividend." She smiled reassuringly.

"I hope so; but I wasn't thinking of that now. All I want is to have
Hester prepared for some work--to take care of herself and be a happy
useful woman when I'm gone."

"Meanwhile, we'll stop in here and look at this little place. I think,
Debby, you and I will never be content to shut ourselves up in little
boxes on a second or third floor."

"No, I want room to breathe and some place outside where I can set my
foot on the soil. I'm not one who likes the click of my own heels on the
pavement. There's something about putting your feet on the earth that
makes you feel that you belong."

The place into which they now turned was a little cottage at the extreme
east of town near the conjunction of creek and river, yet high on the
brow of a hill. It was a simple little place, weather-beaten and faded;
but a strip of sod ran about the front and side. The little low porch
was shaded with a Virginia creeper, and an old gnarled tree at the
corner leaned over the roof as though about to rest itself against it.

Its being at the extreme end of town from the seminary was to Debby
Alden the one thing against it.

"If we were at the west end, Hester could slip in each day. The pupils
are allowed an hour 'off campus' you know."

"And she would come to you with every thought that troubled her. You
would be bearing her childish burdens just as you have always done. If
you live where Hester can talk with you each day, she will lose the
greatest benefit a year in school can give her."

"I think you are right," said Debby Alden.

"I like the house. I'm used to low ceilings and big porches and vines.
I'm satisfied with it if you are; and we'll have Hester home but once a
month."

It was best for Hester to be away and to learn to depend upon herself.
That fact settled matters for Debby Alden. If it were good for Hester,
then it should be done and Debby Alden would give no thought to herself
in this matter.

Miss Richards was pleased with the house and the two friends made
arrangements with the care-taker to have it ready for them a few days
before the opening of school. There were papering and painting to be
done. Had it been within her own home, Debby Alden would have done the
work herself. Every bit of woodwork in her own home had been done over
with her own brush, and her paper-hanging had won the admiration of the
country-side.

The next in the course of events was selecting the articles of furniture
which might be spared from home. Debby had no idea of dismantling her
old home. The house had been built and furnished for a large family.
There were furnished bedrooms which Debby and Hester never entered
except at cleaning time; below there were the old-fashioned parlor, the
living-room with its air of comfort, the dining-room, kitchen and what
in that locality was termed the shanty-kitchen. This last was a great
room between the woodshed and kitchen proper. It was provided with every
article for laundry use, and during the canning season was the scene of
most of the household activities.

Since the early spring days when going away to school had first been
mentioned, Hester had viewed the event with dread. She knew nothing of
meeting strangers and imagined there could be nothing pleasant about it.
During the summer while Debby had talked and planned, Hester had shown
little interest and had never of herself, brought up the subject. But
since she had influenced her Aunt Debby to go to the city with her, she
was almost satisfied to go. Her joy would have been unbounded had it
been possible for Debby to be with her within the school. That could not
be. Hester was wise enough to know that. There was one other course that
could be followed, however. She could live in town with Aunt Debby and
Miss Richards and be but a parlor student at the seminary. To Hester's
mind, this would be a very satisfactory arrangement, and she meant to
bring it to pass. Having been successful in persuading her Aunt Debby to
live in town, Hester was confident that it would be no difficult matter
to persuade her to this second course. Hester was naturally a diplomat.
There was nothing deceptive about her; but, young as she was, she
intuitively knew that some times are ripe and some are not for
discussion. The time propitious for bringing up the question of her
being but a parlor student was not until Debby and Miss Richards were
established in their little cottage at the east end of Lockport.

Satisfied that she could bring matters to pass in the fashion she
desired, Hester grew enthusiastic over the preparation for quitting the
old home. There was much to be done in spite of the fact that Debby was
never "slack" in the ways of her household. Every cupboard and closet
was gone over. Bed clothes were aired and laid away where neither mice,
rust, nor mildew could touch them. China and silver were sorted and
again sorted before Debby was able to decide what pieces were best to
take and what best to leave. The flowers were to be potted and put away
to keep for spring planting. When it came to this, Debby began to
realize what leaving home meant.

"I can take the spotted-leaved geranium," she said to Hester while they
were making the rounds of the garden. "I always do pot that for a
house-plant. I suppose it will grow as well at Lockport as here, if I
see that it is attended to. Fortunately for plants, they have no
feelings."

The words showed sentiment enough, but the tones of Debby's voice made
them seem harsh and unfeeling. Hester was not deceived. Debby Alden came
from a race who had for generations looked upon the expression of love
and sentiment as a weakness. Whenever Debby felt her emotions conquering
her, she unconsciously resorted to the ways of her forbears; she lashed
herself into a semblance of sternness in an endeavor to conceal her real
feelings.

"I suppose I'll not get a look at the asters when they bloom. It would
be a shame to let them die on the stalk without a soul pulling one. I
think I'll ask Kate Bowerman to see to them. She might pack up a few and
send to me. I'm curious to see how that new royal purple turns out. I've
been suspicious all summer that it would turn out a scrub. It looks
like a scrub."

She was bending over the plants growing along the fence which divided
her yard-proper from the garden and wood-yards beyond. Debby was proud
of her collection of asters which were of every variety known throughout
the country.

"They certainly are scrubs," she repeated as she bent for a closer
inspection.

"How do you know, Aunt Debby? To me, they look like the other plants."

"I just know," said Debby. "I don't know how I know, but I just do.
Plants show their breed just like people and animals. I've no need when
I look at old Jim Ramsey's horse to be told it's mighty common stock.
Yes; it has the same number of legs and hoofs and its eyes are in the
right place, but it isn't a thoroughbred. Anyone can see that at a
glance. It is just the same with plants. There's a wide difference.
Though I suppose it is only ones who work about them and love them that
see the difference. And with people! Some people are born common stock
and stay common stock all their lives, even if they've lived in
mansions and hold a dozen diplomas."

She paused suddenly. "Run and get some more crocks, Hester," she added.
Debby was annoyed at herself in talking of family in the child's
presence. With Debby's knowledge of Hester's parentage, it was as though
she had thrown a taunt in the child's face. When Hester returned,
bearing in her arms the two, large flower-pots, Debby made a point of
showing her unusual consideration, asking her opinion as to the best
flowers to be potted and whether she did not wish a plant for her window
in school.

From the beginning of these preparations, one duty had been firmly fixed
in Debby's mind. It was not a pleasant one, yet she did not mean to
shirk it; but she did put it off to the very last morning when she and
Hester had brought down the trunks and were preparing to pack their own
personal belongings.

"There are some things in the attic, Hester, which rightfully belong to
you. I've never mentioned them to you before, because you were yet such
a child. But now you are leaving and Providence alone knows what may be
in store for us. I may not come back. Now, don't begin to cry. I expect
to live a good many years yet; but there's no telling. I believe in
doing what Grandmother Alden always said, 'Hope for the best, but be
prepared for the worst.'

"If anything should happen to me, it is only fair that you should have
what is yours by rights. Just let your packing go this morning. We'll
have time to finish this afternoon and not be rushed. I want you to go
with me and look over the clothes that were yours and your mother's.

"I laid your mother out in the best things I could buy; and I kept every
stitch she wore when the accident befell her. Somewhere or sometime,
some of her friends will appear and they may be able to recognize these
clothes."

Debby lead the way to the attic, climbing up the narrow dark stairway
which lead from the kitchen bedroom and Hester followed at her heels.

The attic was low and narrow. Except in the middle, one could not walk
without stooping to escape the rafters. Along one side was a long row of
boxes and trunks in which the Aldens, for generations, had kept their
heirlooms. So far as money value was considered, there was nothing here
worth while. A surveyor's compass and staff, a spinning wheel; old blue
dishes covered with hair-like lines. There was no real lace, and there
were no handsome gowns. Nevertheless, they meant much to Debby Alden.
They were family to her.

A little low trunk was at the extreme end of the attic. It was to this
that Debby directed her steps.

"Everything in this trunk belongs to you, Hester. When I packed it away,
I put a card inside so that you might know that they were your mother's.
There's nothing at all of value. Sit down here and we'll go over them."

She knelt before the trunk and opened it. Hester, obedient to Miss
Debby's wishes, sat down on the floor near the window while the woman
took out each article and passed it to her companion.

"This is the dress your mother wore. I thought from the material that
she must have been well-to-do. She had a gentle, nice way of speaking.
She looked like a woman who had never worked hard and was used to having
things comfortable. That's why I can't understand how she could
disappear and no one search for her. We sent notices to all the papers
for miles about."

Debby Alden paused. She could not justify herself even in her own
thoughts. By withholding what she knew of Hester's parentage, the
newspaper accounts of the death of the French woman, had been
misleading. This was one act of her life that gave her no satisfaction
in thinking over. She put it from her mind and in nervous haste, passed
the other articles of clothing to Hester.

"I've saved even her shoes. You see what a little foot she had. Your
mother was a very pretty woman, Hester. Of course, I saw her only that
hour at dinner when she sat in the kitchen. She had dark eyes and hair
and a plump, round figure. You look like her, only there is a
difference. Your eyes are dark but they don't look as your mother's
did, and your mouth and expression are not as I remember hers to be."

Hester made no comment as she looked over the clothes. She was not at
all moved by the sight of these things. She was sixteen, and had come to
the place where she was able to understand much that Debby did not tell
her.

She knew that something lay back of all this. Why had none of these
people come for her? What were they that they would leave a little child
in the world without ever making an effort to find her? They could not
have been fine people. Hester was confident of that. She had picked up
Debby's word and mentally set down the people from which she had sprung
as "poor stock."

"If I ever am anything at all, it will be because of Aunt Debby's
training," she concluded as the last article of her mother's clothes lay
in her hands.

"It seems strange that they never came for you."

"I'm glad they didn't," responded Hester. Her pride was in arms. If her
own people cared so little for her, she would never grieve for them.

"I am glad--very glad that they didn't," she repeated. "I belong to you.
I'd rather be your girl than anyone's else and I couldn't be that if
they had taken me away when I was a baby."

According to tradition, Hester's sentiment was not at all proper. One
should cherish one's family above all else.

"It isn't right to say such things, Hester. Of course, you and I are
very near to each other; but you cannot feel toward me as though I was
your mother."

"Of course not. I feel a great deal more." She arose to her feet,
dropping on the floor, the articles of clothing which had been in her
lap. "Why, Aunt Debby, I'd treasure an old shoe-lace of yours more than
those things." She pointed to the heap of clothes on the floor.

Debby meant to be firm. She had intended from the first that
Hester should be rigidly disciplined. She believed in "the
speak-when-spoken-to" child. But there are some arguments that cannot be
questioned. She wanted Hester to love her above anyone else. She could
not chide her for doing that. Debby's discipline went to the winds.

"How very foolish you talk, Hester!" she said reprovingly; but she
looked up at the girl with such a tender light in her eyes, that Hester
laughed aloud.

"But you like my foolishness, Aunt Debby. I know you do." She was down
beside Debby Alden with her hand laid caressingly on the woman's arm.

"Now, Hester, you are--"

"But you like me to be foolish. You know you do, Aunt Debby."

"I surely do not--"

Hester laughed again. Aunt Debby was blushing like a young school-girl.

"You cannot say that you do not like it," cried Hester. "You turn the
question every time and do not answer directly."

"We'll finish this work and go back to our packing," was the firm
rejoinder. "Your little baby-clothes are here. Your mother must have
been a fine needle-woman, for the rolled hems and hemstitching are
perfect."

The little dresses and petticoats were yellow with age. There was no
distinguishing mark about them. They were of fine sheer linen, and
exquisitely made. But thousands of babies over the land might have worn
just such garments.

"You had a little handkerchief about your neck like a bib," continued
Debby. "This is it. It was pinned down in front with an odd pin. It's
rather peculiar and not worth much as far as money goes."

She handed the pin to Hester. It was of yellow metal--gold, perhaps--of
oval shape and about the size of a dime. Inside the outer gold edge was
woven a narrow strand of hair, and within this was imbedded a peculiar
yellow stone.

"Isn't it pretty!" cried Hester. She held it in her hands and examined
it eagerly. It was the first interest she had evinced in anything which
belonged to that time before she entered the Alden home.

"I fancy it isn't gold," continued Debby Alden. "I never knew gold to
have that peculiar tinge. It was that way when I unpinned it from your
bib. I tried to brighten it a little, but I couldn't. It looks now just
as it did when I laid it away. That stone, of course, is nothing more
than a bit of yellow glass of small value."

"Yes," said Hester slowly. Her eyes were fixed upon the queer stone. "I
never saw a bit of glass look so. When I hold it one way, it looks like
a spark of fire. It looks as deep as a well, when you look directly into
the center."

"Cut glass," said Debby. "All cut glass reflects light like that."

Cut glass or something more, it appealed to Hester. Turning it about in
her hand, she examined it critically.

"There's a little hook here at the end," said Hester. "Did you notice
that, Aunt Debby?" Debby took the pin in her hand to examine it. "I
didn't notice that before. It has been an old fashioned earring made
into a pin. Earrings used to be fashionable. No lady ever dressed
without them, I've heard my mother say. The breast-pin that I wear with
my gray silk was made from an earring of Grandmother Palmer's. Dear,
dear, I wonder who wore these."

"I'm going to keep this and wear it, Aunt Debby."

"I don't believe I would, Hester. Someone might ask you where you got
it."

"And I shall tell them it was my mother's, and that I wore it when I was
a little baby. That is true. Isn't it, Aunt Debby?"

"You might lose it--" Debby began.

"If I do, no one will care except me. I'd dearly love to have it, Aunt
Debby. Isn't it my own to do with as I please?"

There was no argument to bring against this, and Debby remained silent.
Hester, pleased with the bauble, pinned it on her dress and then set
about replacing the other articles in the trunk.

The pin might be cut glass or something better. Neither Debby nor Hester
knew, nor could they know that it would bring to Hester loss of friends
and--but neither the girl or woman could anticipate that. At present,
all they could do was to admire the glitter of the stone and watch the
changing lights play upon it.



CHAPTER III


I was the last week in August when Debby Alden and Miss Richards moved
into the cottage at the east end of Lockport. The seminary was not to
open until a week later and Hester was with her friends, assisting in
every way she could in putting the place to rights.

Thursday evening, the house was immaculate. There was neither fad nor
fancy about its equipment. Debby had brought down some great
four-posters, old blue china, and solid silver. Miss Richards had
several black walnut armchairs that were old enough to have been
Mayflower Pilgrims, but which were not. There was a rug which Miss
Richards had picked up in Europe twenty years before and a gay screen
which Lieutenant Richards had bought a century before in an old junk
shop in China.

"We look as though we had stepped from a previous century," said Miss
Richards. "We haven't a modern article about us--" She glanced toward
Hester and then added--"except Hester."

"You really need me," responded the girl. "I'm the only piece of
twentieth-century furniture you and auntie have. I think I shall remain
with you. I could study just as well here as shut up in that old stone
building. I really think I could get my lessons better."

"I think so, too," said Miss Richards, "that is if you refer but to book
lessons."

"What other kind could there be?"

"The kind that people teach you. They are all sorts of lessons, as
varied in kind as there are people. The girls at Dickinson will teach
you many a good lesson."

"I should think you and Aunt Debby could do it better. I've quite made
up my mind to be but a parlor student."

"There are some things Debby and I cannot teach you. We love you too
much to give you the very lessons which we know would prove best for
you. The girls at school will do that for us."

"I do not always quite understand," said Hester. "Mr. Sanderson used to
declare that I was neither philosophical nor mathematical. I do not see
deeply into matters. I do know, though, which I like. Just now there is
nothing I should like better than being at home with you and Aunt Debby,
and I have quite made up my mind to that."

"You had better unmake it, Hester," said Debby who, coming into the
house at that moment, had overheard their words.

"You will remain at the seminary even over Saturday and Sunday, except
once each month. Miss Weldon does not approve of pupils coming back and
forth. I think she is quite right. This flitting about gives a most
unsettled feeling. You will not know where you belong, and we'll have
none of it for you."

Hester sighed and turned aside. She was disappointed, only for the time.
Had she been Debby Alden's own daughter, she could not have partaken
more strongly of some of Debby's characteristics. When Hester once made
up her mind, she was quite "set." She had no thought of giving up her
plans.

"About the time that I'm ready to leave them, they'll both realize how
much they'll miss me. Then I'll be able to persuade Aunt Debby to allow
me to board at home."

Confident in her power of persuasion, Hester went about her work as
happy as though the matter had been adjusted to her satisfaction.

There was yet some shopping to be done before Hester's outfit would be
complete. Miss Debby had purposely delayed buying until she came to
Lockport where she believed a better selection might be made.

Miss Richards had friends in town and had gone off to spend the day with
them. After the household duties had been disposed of, Debby and Hester
set out on their shopping expedition.

The morning was delightful and Debby, who took pleasure in the exercise
of her muscles, decided to walk. With the exception of the summer homes
which lay on the outskirts, Lockport was compact. The shopping district
lay within a few squares. The store windows were tastefully decorated
and Hester to whom all this was new, lingered to gaze and comment.

"I never knew hats could be so pretty. Did you, Aunt Debby? Why the
window is a dream--a poem!" She paused to study the millinery display.

She had grown tall. Her shirt-waist suit of white linen was dainty and
simple. She had pushed back her hat. When she was interested in
anything, she was wholly unconscious of herself and what was going on
about her. Now with bright eyes, and flushed cheeks, she stood before
the window. She was a very pleasing sight to passers-by. More than one
person stopped for a backward glance and smiled, well pleased, and
passed on. Someone in particular found her pleasing. A young man
hurrying from the store adjoining, paused a moment to look at Hester.
Her face was in profile. All he could see was the cheek and chin, the
tall, slender figure and the long braid of hair.

He paused but a moment. Then he smiled with delight and advancing, came
up beside her. "Hello, honey. I did not know you were in town. Are you
picking your fall chapeau?"

Hester was startled. She looked about her. Debby Alden had moved on and
unconscious of what was taking place, was studying the display in
windows several yards distant.

At Hester's alarm, a flush came to the young man's face.

"I humbly crave your pardon," he said, lifting his hat. "I mistook you
for my cousin Helen. Believe me, I regret exceedingly--"

Debby Alden had turned at this moment. She came hurrying up. Hester had
been alarmed and turned to lay her hand on Debby's arm.

"He thought I was his cousin," said Hester.

Debby turned toward the young man who would have explained had she
allowed him to do so; but she gave him such a glance that words failed
him.

"Come, Hester, an apology is merely an insult." Hester walked meekly
along. She was not able to grasp the situation.

"He said he thought I was his cousin, Aunt Debby. He seemed so sorry--"

"Nonsense. He had no idea that you were his cousin or anyone else that
he knew. He is just a smart, ill-bred young man, Hester, who, thinking
you a stranger and not used to the ways of a city, did what he could to
annoy you. Never pay any attention to such folk, Hester. Hurry away from
them as fast as you can. They are never desirable people to know."

"But he looked very nice, Aunt Debby. Did you notice his eyes? I liked
the way he spoke. I really do believe that he thought that I was his
cousin."

"It matters little what you think on such matters. Hereafter never give
anyone time to apologize for speaking to you."

Smith and Winter's was the largest store in Lockport. It was on Pine,
between Third and Fourth Streets. It was here that Debby Alden intended
making her purchases.

"Do you think you would like a tan jacket better than a blue one,
Hester?" she asked as the floor-walker was conducting them toward the
coat department.

"I think so, Auntie. But you select what you think is best."

Debby made known her wants to the sales-woman. Jackets of tan and blue,
of many sizes and shades were brought forth and tried on Hester. They
were interrupted in their selection, by one of the girls from the
alteration department, claiming the attention of the clerk.

"Miss Herman, did Mrs. Vail say when she wished her dress?"

"It was to be sent out to-morrow, but she telephoned last evening saying
that she was called away. We are to send the dress on. She may not come
back here. Her cottage will close this week."

"That's odd. She promised to come back for another fitting."

"She often does that; but she's not erratic. She always has a reason for
going off in that way. When you get to know her as I do, you will think
she's the sweetest woman in the world."

"I wasn't thinking of that--nor did I mean to criticise her. I wanted to
know whether or not I should finish her work without another fitting."

"No, I'd wait." The clerk who had been addressed as Miss Herman turned
to Debby Alden and waited her orders.

"Hester thinks the tan will please her best," said Debby. "If you can
send it out to this address," she gave the woman her card. Miss Herman
read it and smiled. "I have mistaken you all along for someone else. I
thought you were Mrs. Loraine. I never met her, but her daughter is a
seminary student here and often comes into my department. I was sure
that this young lady was a younger sister of Helen Loraine's."

"No, we are not related. I know nothing of the people," said Debby
stiffly.

"They are a fine family," said the clerk. "We are always pleased to
serve them."

Hester would have spoken had not Debby silenced her with a look.

"Auntie, did you not hear that name?" she said as they moved away.
"Helen Loraine. Isn't that the name of the girl who is to room with me,
and that young man said his Cousin Helen."

"That young man's cousin exists only in his mind, and as your
roommate--she may be a wholly different person. The name Loraine is
common throughout this section."

"But, Aunt Debby, the clerk thought I looked like--"

"Nonsense. Some people never see further than their own nose. If the
clerk noticed that your hair and eyes were black, she decided that you
looked like every one else she knew who had the same coloring. I fancy
she said that but to make conversation."

The following day when Debby Alden suggested that they make ready to go
to the seminary, Hester brought up again the question of remaining at
home. Debby listened patiently until the girl had expressed herself and
had presented every argument in favor of attending the seminary for
recitations merely. When Hester had finished, Debby Alden said quietly:
"Please put on your hat and gloves, Hester. We must take the next car if
I wish to be back home in time to get supper."

Hester felt that the decision was final and nothing could be gained by
argument. Leaving the room, she soon returned with hat and gloves. These
last articles she swung in her hands as they went down the walk.

"Hester, when at home we were a little lax about certain customs. Here
in Lockport and among strangers, we must be more careful. Put on your
gloves before we leave the house. My mother taught me that a lady must
finish her toilet before she leaves her home."

She waited until Hester had put on and buttoned the gloves. "It seems a
trifle," continued Debby, "but it is trifles which mark the difference
between a cultivated and an uncultivated woman."

When the street car took siding at Williams Street to give right of way
to the east-bound car, a carriage drew up close to the curb. The
coachman was in livery. Hester noticed that at once, for at her home no
distinction in dress was made between the man who drove and he who
employed him.

Servants in livery were not new to Debby Alden. Her attention was
attracted to the sweet-faced woman in the carriage. This woman who was
richly gowned was scarcely older than Debby herself; but her hair was
white. There was some quality in the face which attracted and held.
Perhaps it was the power of self-control. The power to smile sweetly
when the person had cause only for tears. This woman was bending from
the carriage in conversation with a man and woman on the sidewalk. As
the car moved, the nervous horses jerked suddenly. The woman in the
carriage turned her head and met Debby Alden's direct glance. Just for a
moment, these two women looked into each other's eyes. Then the car
moved on; the carriage bowled along. With each woman an impression of
the unusual lingered.

Debby really was troubled. The face of the strange woman was as the face
of a half-forgotten friend.

"That woman in the carriage made me think of someone," she said to
Hester. "But I cannot think who. There was something about the turn of
her head and the way she looked up at me that made me think I have met
her somewhere."

"I did not see her," said Hester. "I was looking at the coachman. I hope
that some day I may have matched horses and a man in livery." Then she
turned toward Debby Alden. "Hasn't this been a peculiar day, Auntie.
Every one thinks I am someone else, and you think every one is some one
you know."

"Every one? You are putting it a trifle too strong, Hester. I have come
in contact with a great many people, but I remember but one who made me
think of someone else. You exaggerate, Hester."

"I'd really rather call it hyperbole," said Hester. "You are a classical
scholar when you use hyperbole and a 'fibber' when you exaggerate."

Debby smiled at the sally. She and Hester were good friends, with a
perfect understanding between them.

"Put your effects toward the classical into working order. I catch a
glimpse of the seminary walls, Hester."

This was the first glimpse Hester had of her new home. There was a long
stretch of grass, old trees and then the low, long, gray wall of stone.
The campus crossed the end of the street. It seemed to the occupants of
the car that they would be carried across the campus and through the
building. But the line turned suddenly and ran along the edge of the
grounds.

"We get off here, Hester," said Debby leading the way out.

Hester's gay spirits ebbed. Silently, she followed Debby Alden to the
entrance. The office-boy swung open the great hall door for them to
enter and escorted them down the long hall to the office.

Hester's eyes grew big. She had not dreamed that any place could be as
beautiful as this. Her feet sank in the soft, thick carpet. She followed
Miss Debby's footsteps as silent as a mouse.

Doctor Weldon was in her private office. Into this, Marshall conducted
the callers. Hester shook hands in silence, and then sank into the
nearest chair. For the first time in her life, her tongue refused to
work as it should. It felt now as though it were glued to the roof of
her mouth. She listened to the conversation between Doctor Weldon and
Debby, but was not able to grasp what it meant.

Then Debby arose to depart. Marshall was sent in search of a hall-girl
to conduct Miss Hester Palmer Alden to Room Sixty-two. Then Hester
realized that she and Debby must part.

"I'll go with you to the door, Aunt Debby," she said. No further word
was said until they stood on the steps and Debby turned for a farewell
embrace. The tears were very close to Hester's eyes; but she forced them
back, determined that she would not vex her Aunt Debby by a show of
feeling.

Debby put her arms about Hester, kissed her warmly and said, "Be a good
girl, Hester and do as the teachers tell you."

Such had been her words ten years before when she had taken her into the
primary grade and left her in Miss Carns's care. Hester answered meekly
now as then, "Yes, Aunt Debby."

Debby went down the winding path. Once she glanced back. Hester was
standing erect with her head thrown proudly back. It was as though she
were declaring, "You may kill me, but I shall not cry."

The haughty proud turn of the head! Where had Debby seen that before?
The experiences of the day rushed over her like a flood. Hester's poise
and turn of the head were like that of the sweet-faced woman in the
carriage.



CHAPTER IV


Miss Loraine, so the hall-teacher informed Hester, would be her
roommate. Miss Loraine, however, was not at the seminary at present. She
had come the previous day and attended to business matters, put her room
in order and had then gone out to the home of her aunt who lived at a
country place called Valehurst.

This information was given to Hester while she was being conducted to
her room. The seminary and living-rooms were under one roof. The main
building was a great rectangular block, containing offices, class rooms,
dining-hall and chapel. From this extended an east dormitory, and one on
the west. Each suite of rooms consisted of a bedroom and a small study
or sitting-room. This was occupied by two students. Number Sixty-two
which Hester was to occupy with Helen Loraine was on the second floor
just where the dormitory joined the main building. It overlooked the
front campus and was considered one of the most desirable rooms in the
school.

Hester, being new to the ways of boarding-school life did not realize
how fortunate she was in securing so fine a location. Helen Loraine had
been a seminary girl for two years and knew the "ropes." The previous
spring, she had put in an application for Number Sixty-two. She had come
down several days before the opening of school to take possession,
feeling sure that if she was once placed there, no misunderstanding
would arise. There had been several instances at Dickinson, where girls
had moved in their trunks and took possession before the rightful
occupant of the room appeared.

The hall-teacher escorted Hester to the door and then left her. She
found that the sitting-room lacked the bareness of dormitory rooms.
Helen had unpacked her trunk and converted it, by means of a gay cover
and cushions into a cosy corner. The study table held a few books and a
candle with a shade. Across one end of the room, gay ribbons had been
stretched across the wall. These were filled with photographs. The
second study table held a great number of posters. On top of these,
Hester found a note addressed to herself.

     "DEAR ROOMMATE-TO-BE: I have put up enough belongings to
     hold the fort until you arrive. I did not like to do more
     until you came. I was afraid you might not like my style of
     decoration. I shall be back within a day or so. Meanwhile
     make yourself comfortable and do not get homesick.

     "HELEN VAIL LORAINE."

Hester read the note several times. It was a thoughtful, kind act for
Miss Loraine to leave the note. Hester was already experiencing the
first tinge of homesickness; but she had no intention of giving way to
her feelings. She could do just as Helen had done. She would keep so
busy that she could not even think of Aunt Debby and Miss Richards
sitting down together at their evening meal.

She unpacked her trunk and put her clothes in order in the closet and
drawers. Helen had rigidly observed the old time custom of the hall and
had stretched a blue ribbon from hook to hook, this portioning off equal
space for herself and roommate.

Hester heard the ten-minute bell ring, but being unused to the ways of
school, did not know its meaning. She opened the door leading from the
sitting-room into the hall. She paused a moment to ascertain the reason
for the bell's ringing. A murmur of voices came from the several rooms
below. They were beautifully modulated with the intonation of those who
have been trained to speak carefully.

"Really, I think you are mistaken, Mame. The Fraulein told me that Helen
had gone to her aunt and would not return until Monday."

"I am not mistaken. Do you think that I do not know Helen Loraine when I
roomed with her two terms?" This voice had in it a touch of petulant
decision, as though the speaker was vexed because the responsibility of
settling all pertinent matters devolved upon her.

"I saw her come across the campus," the speaker continued. "A lady was
with her; but they went into the private office and remained ever so
long. I would have waited had not Miss Burkham come along and informed
me that a public hallway was not the proper place for a young lady."

Hester heard the words and felt the sudden touch of ironical humor in
them; but she did not know of the smile which passed over the group in
the room below; neither did she know Miss Burkham.

"I saw her," a third voice took up the conversation. It was a ringing,
clear, happy voice as though the speaker had always lived in the
sunshine, and her voice had partaken of its rippling notes. "I saw her
when she crossed the campus, and was sure it was Helen. I was just about
to run out and give her a hug--Helen is the dearest girl in the
world--when I saw I was mistaken. She isn't nearly so tall as Helen and
she doesn't wear her hair in a bun as Helen does. She was an awfully
sweet-looking thing, though, and looked for all the world like Helen."

"There's a new girl in Sixty-two. She went in there." The voice was
deliberately low and steady. It was as though the owner had grown weary
of life, but meant to live it down if she could. "Perhaps she may be
Helen's sister, who knows?" The tone of voice would have influenced a
stranger to believe that being sister to Helen Loraine, was a dire
calamity.

A murmur of amusement rippled over the group. "Sara Summerson, do arouse
yourself. Life is worth living, and examinations are months away."

"It will be all the same to me. It will be this term as it was last. I
shall not have time to get out my lessons. When I wasn't getting a drink
for Erma, I was driving my roommate in from the corridor and getting her
down to work. When I thought I could get out my 'Unter Linden,' Miss
Laird would call me to button her waist. If I ever am principal of a
seminary, I'll have a law passed making it criminal for a teacher to
wear a dress buttoned in the back. It's bound to distract the attention
of the pupils from their books." The slow, sad monotone never varied.
The hearers laughed. A bell rang and there was a sound of a general
uprising.

Hester, conscious for the first time that she had been listening,
turned into her room and closed the door. She heard the sound of passing
footsteps, the murmur of voices, and then all grew still.

Alone in the dormitory! It sounded to her as fearful as alone in the
desert. But Hester had not been trained by Debby Alden without effect.
She had not the least intention of sitting down and giving way to her
homesick feeling. The fear that she might give way, aroused her. She
grew antagonistic with herself. There was some unpacking yet to be done
and Hester flew at it as though her life depended on having it done a
certain time and in regular fashion.

The little old-fashioned brooch which her Aunt Debby had given her was
in a tiny box by itself. Hester took it out and examined it carefully.
The little bit of cut glass in the center attracted her strongly. In the
sunlight it gleamed like fire. In the shadow it showed a pale yellow
tinge like the petal of a faded yellow rose.

Hester had no desire to wear it. It was pleasant, however, to have
something which belonged to one's own people. The Alden home was rich
in bits of china, linen, and silverware which had been handed down from
generation to generation; but this little circle of gold, the mat of
hair and bit of glass, was all that Hester had of which she could say,
"This belonged to my family."

Helen's note had bade her make herself comfortable. Hester felt
privileged to inspect the posters, take up the books and to examine the
photographs.

She was growing hungry. The dinner hour must have passed. Perhaps, the
bells which she had heard ringing earlier in the evening were to call
the students to the dining-room. Hester had not understood that, but it
really made little difference. She would not have ventured alone into
the dining-hall though she were starving.

The hall-girl from the west dormitory had evidently forgotten her. It
was the duty of hall-girls to play the part of hostess to new students.
Fortunately for Hester, there were other persons more thoughtful than
the hall-girls.

Hester had reached the stage where a good healthy appetite would have
looked with favor upon crackers and cheese, when a knock came at the
door. She opened to admit a round-faced, dimple-cheeked girl of sixteen,
bearing a tray in her hand.

"I hope I am not intruding," she said. It was the same slow droll voice
which Hester had overheard an hour before in the room below. "I am Sara
Summerson, one of last year's girls. I did not know until after dinner
was over that you were here,--a stranger and starving. The servants are
in the dining-hall, so I asked Mrs. Hopkins if I might bring your dinner
here."

"I am so glad!" cried Hester. "Will you come in?"

The invitation was not necessary. The caller was evidently a lady of
resources, despite the slowness of her speech and movement. She had
entered, moved back the books from the nearest study table and had set
down her tray. "I brought you some tea," she said. "Will you not please
sit down and eat while I fill your cup. We did have cocoa. I did not
know which you like best; but I did know that if one does not like
cocoa, one cannot bear to taste it."

Hester took her place at the table. Her new acquaintance sat opposite.
Hester studied her now and came to the conclusion that she could like
Sara Summerson. She was of Hester's age and physique, but of wholly
different coloring. Her eyes were gray and calm; while Hester's were
black and at times snapping. She wore a simple white gown with a Dutch
neck. She was not at all pretty; but she was good to look at. There was
a repose and calmness about her that had a good effect on Hester. Her
droll slow smile gave an expression of humor to her slightest word.

While Hester was eating, the caller made no attempt to converse. When
Hester had finished her meal, Sara looked across at her, viewed her
slowly and serenely and said, "I saw you to-day when you came from the
car. I thought you were Helen Loraine."

"I have heard that several times to-day," said Hester. "Is Helen Loraine
beautiful?" It was a guileless question and Hester saw no compliment to
herself in the asking. Sara scanned her slowly, deliberately. "If she
were, I should not tell you. I never spoil people by complimenting
them--even though it be over someone's else shoulder. No, she is not
beautiful. She's more than that. She's distingué." She smiled blandly at
Hester.

"I'm afraid I do not know what you mean. That word is new to me."

"It would not be if you could see it printed. It is no doubt, one of
your most intimate words. I've given it the French pronunciation. Miss
Webster declares my French is startling in its originality. You wish to
know of Helen? She is one of those people that you need to glance at but
once to know that she is something. She is tall and fine-looking; but
that is not all. She has an 'air' you know."

Yes; Hester did know. An "air" in this sense meant the same as Debby
Alden's "stock."

"And I look like her? I was mistaken to-day for her while in a store."

"You look much alike, yet there is a difference. Are you related to
her?"

"No, indeed. I never heard the name until to-day."

The subject ended there. Sara sat for some time. She told Hester of the
customs of the hall, the manner of calling and returning calls; the
conventions which were observed when one had a spread, and the social
distinction between that and a fudge party. Fudge-making was always
informal, and often surreptitious. Anyone might be invited to it; but a
spread and chafing-dish party observed a difference.

"It had been known," Sara said, "in that very dormitory that
freshmen--girls who had not been in school a month--had had the audacity
to invite a senior to their parties. But they never did it a second
time."

Thus having put Hester on the right track socially, Sara took up her
tray and departed.

"The first bell rings at nine forty-five," so Sara had informed her.
This gave the girls a half-hour to prepare for bed and for Bible
reading.

Hester looked at the time. It was fully an hour before the retiring bell
would ring. She had a feeling that after the first night, she would not
mind being alone. She felt like an alien now. Perhaps, she would soon
become part. She hoped so at least; for there is nothing quite as
lonesome as being alone among many people. Sara had offered to escort
her to breakfast and to introduce her to the other girls. Had Helen
Loraine been in school, the courtesy would have been hers to fulfill.

To sit idle was impossible to Hester. The little box in which she had
placed her pin, lay on the table. Without thinking, she placed it in the
corner of her wardrobe, where it fitted snugly. In the shadow, it was
hardly distinguishable from the woodwork. She put it safely away and
then, perhaps because it was a new possession, straightway forgot about
it for months.

Helen's photographs were many. The seminary girls had the habit of
exchanging pictures each commencement. So it followed that students who
had gone through their spring semesters, were well provided for in the
line of pictures. Hester looked them over. There were girls and girls
and yet more girls. Some wore evening dresses and hair in party style;
others were in cap and gown. There were gymnasium costumes and bathing
suits--all utilized for the picturing of girls.

Among the hundred or more were but one or two which were not those of
students. There was one, old and fingermarked. It was that of a mother
and children. The mother was young and beautiful. A boy leaned against
her knee and a baby nestled in her arms. The boy was a handsome, manly
little fellow; the baby was dimpled and smiling; its head was covered
with soft dark curls, and its eyes were large and dark.

"Isn't she sweet?" said Hester to herself. "She looks as though she
could eat those children up. She seems so fond of them. Mothers are
always that way. Mrs. Bowerman looks at Mary as though she was the
prettiest thing in the world and Mary is homely--just ordinarily homely,
and Jane Orr's mother--." The thought was too much for Hester. Her lips
quivered, her eyes filled with tears so that she could scarcely
distinguish the features of the picture which she held in her hand.
"It's just a way that mothers have," she said again. "I do wish I had
had a mother!"

Then, as though the thought were unjust to the woman who had taken a
mother's place to her, she added quickly. "But I wouldn't give up Aunt
Debby for any mother--not even Jane Orr's."

She did not realize how long she sat with the picture in her hand,
studying the mother and children. She was awakened from her reverie by
the half-hour bell. She was relieved at the sound of it. Now she could
sleep and forget that she was alone and under a strange roof.

She was very tired and soon fell asleep. An hour passed and in a
half-conscious way she was aware that the light was on in the
sitting-room and someone was moving softly about as though not to
disturb her. She was too far gone in slumber to realize where she was.
She thought that she was back home and Aunt Debby had slipped in to see
that she was properly covered. Satisfied that this was so, she fell
sound asleep. It was broad day when she was awakened by someone bending
over her. She felt the touch of lips on her forehead and the sound of a
sweet musical voice.

"Wake up, little roommate. The rising-bell rang long ago. You will miss
breakfast."

Then as Hester opened her eyes wide, she saw bending over her, a tall,
slender girl enveloped in a soft kimona, and with her dark hair
streaming like waves over her shoulders.

Beautiful! Hester decided at that instant that she had never seen a
sweeter face.

"I slipped in last night so that I might not waken you. I am Helen
Loraine. I hope we shall be good friends, little roommate."

[Illustration: "I AM HELEN LORAINE."--_Page 68._]



CHAPTER V


After a few days' acquaintance with Helen Loraine, Hester understood
what Sara meant by saying that Helen had an "air" about her. She was
always friendly, but never intimate or familiar. The sweep-women in the
hall were accorded the same courtesy as a teacher. She was sympathetic
without being gushing. She was just in her treatment of others, generous
and kind, yet she never allowed herself to be imposed upon. With Hester,
she divided all things equally; neither giving nor keeping a larger
part. She was as just to herself as to others. She would have battled
royally before she would have given up one of her rights. Yet no one
imposed upon her; for there was that about her which instinctively fixed
the boundary line. It was not what she did or said, but what she _was_,
which caused her to find favor among the students.

During the first week, Helen and Hester spent their spare time in
arranging their rooms. It was really marvelous what could be done with
cretonne and dotted swiss. Hester had come prepared to do her part in
the furnishings. Debby Alden, acting upon Miss Richards's suggestion,
had selected for Hester, fancy covers, cushions and a few pictures.

Hester had not realized the importance of the accessories until the
"fixing up" fever was apparent. During the first week of school, the
conversation of the entire dormitory was concerning the arrangement of
their rooms. There were no calls made. The conventions of the hall
frowned upon one student calling upon another until that other had time
to put her rooms in livable condition.

Working together, Helen and Hester soon grew friendly. Before the week
had ended, Helen knew that Debby Alden was the most remarkable article
in the aunt line that the age had produced. She knew also that Hester
had neither sister nor brother; but she did not know that the name Alden
had been given her by courtesy rather than by right, or that Hester and
the beloved Aunt Debby held no ties of blood in common.

On the other hand, Hester learned that Helen was an only child; that she
had a cousin Robert Vail who was almost as a brother to her; that Robert
had neither brother nor sister, and that his mother, who was Helen's
Aunt Harriet, loved Helen and kept her at the Vail home as much as
possible.

"You would like Aunt Harriet," said Helen in one of the confidences. It
was Friday evening. The study hour had been short. The girls in kimonas
and with their hair in braids, sat in their sitting-room. As they
talked, they gave satisfied admiring glances about the room.

"Aunt Harriet is only forty, yet her hair is white. She had nervous
trouble and brain fever that caused her to become gray; but in other
ways she is like a girl. She is most unselfish. The girls in school love
her. She understands what girls like and is always doing something nice
for them. I cannot explain to you in what way she is so attractive. When
you meet her, you'll understand just how she is."

"I may never meet her," said practical Hester.

"You will if you remain at Dickinson. When she is at her home, she comes
to see me very often. Her country home, Valehurst, is back on the hills,
about three miles from here. It is a charming place. You have noticed
how the road gradually rises from Susquehanna Avenue. It ends in a
little plateau and there Aunt Harriet's home stands."

"Her country home? Doesn't she always live there?"

"No, uncle has business which keeps him in the city a great part of the
time. He must be there during the winter. Generally, the family stay at
Valehurst until the last of September. Then Aunt Harriet drives or
motors in each week to see me. She likes her horses best, because they
are alive. She is very fond of animals and was a fine horsewoman when
she was younger. She always takes me for a ride, and best of all, takes
my roommate with me."

"But she does not know me," Hester was tremblingly expectant. At home,
automobiles were rare, and Hester knew no more of them than the smell of
the gasoline. To ride in an automobile would be a joy unspeakable. If
it should chance that Mrs. Vail would take her, she would write and
tell Jane Orr about it and describe the sensations that went with the
ride.

"But she will know you. She makes a point of knowing all my friends. I
know just what she will say the instant she comes into this room. She
has a proud way with her. She carries herself very straight and holds
her head high." Helen arose and moving toward the door, showed to Hester
the grand manner of her Aunt Harriet.

"She will say," continued Helen, "'I am very glad to see you, Helen. I
miss you very much. Have you everything you need for your room and your
wardrobe? If you haven't, make out a list and I shall see that you are
provided for, and your roommate, dear. I hope you like her. I should
like to meet her.'"

Helen came back to her easy chair. She laughed softly as she leaned
back. "And then you'll be brought in and her heart will warm to you. It
always does to every girl she meets, and it will to you. Do you know
what you will do, Hester Palmer Alden?"

"No, about that time, I'll be so embarrassed that I shall not be able
to say a word. If your aunt is haughty and proud, I shall be afraid."

"But she is not that kind of proud. I know what you'll do. You'll do
just what every girl has done. You'll fall heels over head in love with
her and before she goes, you'll be ready to declare that she's the
dearest woman in the world."

"Except Aunt Debby," said Hester with dignity.

"Hester, will you light the alchohol lamp. Let us have a cup of cocoa
before we go to bed. You set the chafing-dish boiling while I look for
Aunt Harriet's picture."

Helen began her search among the pictures which had been heaped in a
basket; for after grave consideration, she and Hester had decided that
photographs ranged about the wall were out-of-date and not at all in
harmony with the other fittings of their rooms.

Hester lighted the alchohol burner; suspended the kettle and brought
forth the cups. This was one of the side-issues of school life on which
she had not counted. She had been anticipating successive days of hard
study and recitations. Having never experienced it, she could not dream
of the little social bits which crept in as easy and naturally as they
did at home; the half hour of confidential chat, the lunches, the visits
into the rooms of the other girls, the walks and rides; the gymnasium
stunts and the dances where the tall girls lead.

The kettle was boiling before Helen found the picture.

"Here it is!" she cried triumphantly. "It is really soiled for I have
kept it out for two or three years. This does not look as Aunt Harriet
does now. It was taken a long time ago." As she talked she held out the
card to Hester.

"Why, that is the picture I liked so well. When you were not here--that
first evening I was alone, I looked over your pictures. What a sweet
face she has and what dear little children! Is that little boy your
cousin Robert?"

"Yes, but he does not look like that now. When I wish to tease him, I
show him this picture. He thinks it is horrid--perfectly horrid--though
the word he uses is 'beastly.' He declares if he could find the man who
took such a picture he'd have him in jail--or have his life."

"What for?" asked Hester.

"Simply for putting out such a picture. Rob says it is libel--pure and
simple, to say he ever looked like that."

"I think it is lovely," said Hester. "Is the baby you?"

"No; that is Aunt Harriet's little girl. I am a year older than she."

Hester studied the picture attentively. While she did so, her mind
reviewed the remarks Helen had made in regard to the Vail family. There
were statements at variance.

"You said Robert had no sisters or brothers," she said.

"He hasn't," was the reply. "They did--that is--" Helen was visibly
embarrassed. She could not equivocate, neither could she go into details
of a family history. She hesitated a moment and said, "Little Dorothy
was not with them long--just a year."

"Poor little baby. It must be dreadful to die when you are little. You
miss so much. If I had died when I was little, I should have been sorry
all the time thinking about what I had missed."

Hester's new logic caused her not to notice that Helen had made no
affirmation in regard to the death of the child.

"Little Dorothy," was what Hester called her. From that time on, at odd
moments, Hester introduced the subject of "little Dorothy," yet never
became aware that the subject was not a pleasing one to Helen who never
encouraged or took part in it.

Taking the card, Helen slipped it into the basket.

"Is your cocoa ready, Hester? I am almost famished. I never eat veal, so
Friday evenings I go hungry. Friday is always veal day at school."

"I was so interested in the picture that I forgot about the cocoa." She
hurried to the alcohol lamp.

"It is burnt out. It really did not have much in it. I should have
filled it, I suppose. But I am not accustomed to cooking in this way.
The water is boiling."

She measured the cocoa and cream into the cups and poured the boiling
water from the kettle upon it.

"I wish your Aunt Harriet would come to see you to-morrow," continued
Hester. "I liked her picture when I first saw it. I know that I should
like her almost as much as I do Aunt Debby. Do you think that she will
come to-morrow?"

"No, not to-morrow. She went away last week. She did not expect to go,
but she heard something which caused her to go to Canada. Poor Aunt
Harriet!"

The last words surprised Hester. She could see no just cause for the use
of that word "poor," in connection with Mrs. Vail. To Hester's mind, a
woman with a city and country home, automobiles, horses, and servants in
livery was far from being poor.

The week had been so filled with new experiences that Hester had been
from her room only for recitations, meals and the required walk about
the campus. She had met a number of the girls, but with the exception of
Helen and Sara, could not remember the name of any.

"I'll never know one girl from another. They all look alike to me," she
said to Sara one day.

"Not when you know them. You'll know Renee--" She stopped in time. She
was not naturally critical. To express her opinion to Hester concerning
the girls, was not fair.

"We are all different," she continued slowly. "All with different
virtues and faults. To be perfectly candid, I'm the only really fine one
in the set."

They had been walking arm in arm up and down the corridor. As they came
to the rear door of the dormitory, Sara paused. "More notices, I see.
Come, Hester, we must know the worst at once. Here is where our dear
Miss Burkham makes known her by-laws."

For the first time, Hester observed the white cards stuck along the edge
of the door. Pausing before them, she read aloud.

"The young ladies will not make use of this entrance except to gain
admittance to the gymnasium. On all other occasions, the front dormitory
door must be used."

Then Sara explained. "Miss Burkham does not approve of visits at rear
doors. When the girls have on the gym suits, they are not permitted to
go to the front of the building. If you go out this door, you can enter
the gymnasium without attracting undue attention."

Sara smiled. Undue attention was Miss Burkham's bugbear. She was always
endeavoring to instill into the minds of her charges, that a lady never
attracts undue attention. The word had been in use so frequently that it
had become a by-word among the students.

"The next card is what makes my mouth water," continued Sara who had
been reading silently.

"Beginning with the first week of the fall term, the ice-cream man will
keep to the front side of the east wing. Plates will be put in their
usual place for Belva to take care of."

"Basket-ball team Number one--known as the Invincibles will hold a
business meeting at 10:30 Saturday morning in the gymnasium."

This last notice was signed, "Helen Loraine, Captain."

"She never told me," cried Hester. "I never suspected that she was
interested."

"Helen never tells anything about herself," said Sara. "Sometimes I
grow quite exasperated about her reticence. She has been on the team
ever since she was a student here. She played well before she came. Her
cousin, Rob Vail, was a captain when he was in school and he taught her
all the tricks of the game."

Hester had no words to express herself. Basket-ball! It was enough to
send the color to her cheeks. She had seen the boys in the high-school
play. At home, girls did not indulge in such games. It might be that she
herself, Hester Alden, could learn to play and be put on one of those
teams. The thought brightened her cheeks and sent the blood through her
veins with excitement.

"Who teaches you? How many teams have you, and how can you get on one?
Does it take long to learn to play?"

Sara looked at her. Sara was deliberate. Her expression now was one of
sad surprise.

"Do you often talk as fast as that?" she asked. "And do you expect your
friends to answer with the same velocity? If you do, Hester Alden, never
come to me with your questions."

Hester laughed. "I always talk fast when I get excited. The words pop
from my mouth like pop-corn over a hot fire."

"Give me time and I'll answer your questions. Our crack team is the
Invincibles. They are the only one we allow to play the tournament games
with outside teams. They play with the girls from the high school, the
Normal Training School and, with some of the seminary teams. I really do
not remember how many games were scheduled last year. They have never
allowed me to play. I'm too--. Helen Loraine is good enough to say
'_deliberate_.' The other girls call it '_slow_.'

"Then of course there must be a scrub team for the Invincibles to battle
against. You must play scrub before you can hope to become an
Invincible. Then the freshies and juniors have substitute teams. They
practice with each other and fill up on the other teams as they are
needed."

"I think I could learn to play," said Hester. "I am not--not very
deliberate."

"I should say not, if you fly at a ball in the same way you talk. You
might get on a substitute team. Miss Watson, the physical-culture
teacher, will hold a meeting soon. The first week of school is generally
so busy that the gymnasium work is not begun.

"But next week, she will meet the girls and make arrangements for the
work on the teams and in the gym. If I were you and really wished to
play, I'd speak to Helen Loraine. She'll get you on if anyone can. You
need a friend at court, for there are always more applications than
there are places or times for practice.

"We must turn back. Miss Burkham would campus us, if we were to go out
at this door." Sara turned and arm in arm, the girls moved toward the
front entrance. "Listen, do you hear that melodious bell? That is
Sykes's cow-bell. Come, and I'll treat you."

Hester followed as Sara lead the way from the front dormitory door out
on to the campus. As they passed the end room, the sound of voices in
conversation came to them.

"Can you let me have some perfume, Erma, and a fine handkerchief? I
neglected to put mine in the laundry."

"Help yourself," was the reply.

Sara smiled. "Erma Thomas is easily worked. If she does not take a firm
stand, she'll keep Renee in perfume and other extras for the entire
year."

Just then the door opened and Renee Loveland came out. She was a tall,
handsome girl, with the bearing of a princess. She bore in her hands a
bottle of perfume and two dainty handkerchiefs.

The campus sloped naturally toward the public road; yet it was several
feet higher. The boundary had been made definite by a low cement coping.
On this, sat several girls, among which was Berenice Smith. Across the
road was an ice-cream wagon, surrounded by a score of girls with their
purses in their hands. The ice-cream man was measuring cream into small
wooden butter-plates.

"Here's the way we do," said Sara as Hester looked dubiously about in
search of means with which she might dispose of her cream.

"This is the way." Sara deftly broke off a bit of the dish where it
curved upward. "These make the best spoons in the world, and one never
need bother keeping them in order."

Soon walking by two's and three's, across the campus, moved the girls,
each bearing in her hand her wooden dish with ice-cream.

Berenice sat alone on the coping. Hester Alden was not a reader of faces
and could give no reasons for her pet likes and dislikes. She
instinctively did not like Berenice, although the acquaintance had gone
no further than a passing word. Berenice was dark, with coloring which
inclined to swarthiness; her brow was low, and her eyes small and deeply
set. She made an effort to be pleasant and invariably made flattering
remarks to those with whom she conversed. As the girls approached, she
held out her purse toward Sara.

"Be good and bring me a chocolate and peach cream," she said. "I am as
far as I am allowed to go."

Taking the purse, Sara performed the commission and returned.

"For how long?" she asked.

"Two weeks. One week is almost over."

This was all Greek to Hester. She looked from one to the other; but
they, taking it for granted that all the school world understood,
offered neither explanation nor information.

As they crossed the tan-bark, Mame Cross met them. She looked like a
fashion-plate in a tailored gown and handsome hat.

"I've had permission to go down town," she said. "Do you want me to get
anything for you?" The question was put to Sara.

"We're out of alcohol. You'd better order some."

"Did you know that Berenice is campused for two weeks? She made fudge
Monday evening after the study bell rang. Miss Burkham discovered it at
once. Anyone passing through the hall could smell fudge cooking."

"It seems strange that Miss Burkham should campus her for that. We made
fudge. It was the first night and no one is expected to observe study
hours during the first evening."

"But Berenice lied. You know Miss Burkham will not tolerate deception.
It was not making fudge but the deception that caused the punishment."

Mame moved away. She would have been a beautiful girl, had she not
looked bored and unhappy.

"You're new suit is beautiful, Mame," said Sara over her shoulder.

"Do you think so? I simply cannot bear it. I never have anything like
other girls."

"That is Maine's old cry," said Sara when she was beyond hearing. "She
is the best-dressed girl in school and she has a father who is devoted
to her. She has everything in the world to make her happy, but she's
always complaining. Now, Erma is different. She's perfectly satisfied.
Every dress she owns is a perfect love of a dress."

Hester had said very little during this hour with Sara; but she had
learned a great deal. There had been no guile or envy in Sara's frank
expression of the virtues and faults of her friends; and not for an
instant did she think she was making an error or stepping over the
border line of kindliness when she told Hester all she knew of those
students.



CHAPTER VI


Hester was not a girl to condescend to subterfuge to gain a point. She
was often frank to painfulness. To her mind when one wished a favor, the
only way was to speak directly and ask for it. She was neither politic
nor tactful. She had decided that basket-ball was the one game that was
really worth playing. Tennis was old and did not appeal to her. She and
Jane Orr had played tennis ever since they had been old enough to hold a
racquet. But basket-ball! The thought of it sent the blood coursing
through her veins.

At the first opportunity, she spoke to Helen. She went to the subject
directly like a bullet to the bull's eye.

"Sara Summerson told me you were captain of the first team and that you
had a good bit of influence in getting the girls on the other teams. I
would like to play and I wish you would put me on. Will you?"

"I cannot put you on the first or even the scrub. I must pick from the
substitute teams to fill any vacancy. I have nothing at all to do with
the sub. The physical instructor does that, and of course picks out the
girls whom she thinks will be able to play the game. But I'll speak to
her about you."

"I wish you would," said Hester. "I'm _fairly_ aching to get into a
game."

"You'll be _completely_ aching after your first practice," said Helen.

"I'll soon get over it. My muscles were sore for days when I tried to
skate, but I didn't mind."

The first gymnasium meeting for new students was held Monday afternoon
and Hester was first girl in the room. Helen had promised to go with her
to see that she met Miss Watson but Helen was deliberate and Hester
impatient. So Hester sat alone in the gymnasium for half an hour before
any one appeared.

Miss Watson was a practical worker. Before many minutes had passed, she
had the students enrolled, the classes organized and the time appointed
for meetings. Having dispatched the regular routine work, she began the
organization of squads for tennis and basket-ball. These were primarily
to train the girls for work in the first teams which played the
tournament games with other schools.

Before she began her arrangements, Helen Loraine spoke with her. The
conversation could not be heard, but Miss Watson looked toward Hester,
smiled and nodded in affirmation. A few minutes later, she read the
names. Among the freshmen substitutes were Hester's and Berenice's
names.

"But Berenice played last year," whispered someone near Hester. "She
plays a good game, too. Why didn't Miss Watson put her first or scrub?"

The reply came but too low for Hester's ears. Helen was waiting in the
corridor when Hester came out. "I know; Miss Watson said she would put
you on. You'll have a good place for passing. You know the game from
observation. But if I were you, I'd read the rules again and again. If
you have them fairly fixed in your mind you are not so apt to make a
foul play. Do your best, and you may work up to one of the other teams
before long. Erma Thomas may not come back after the first of the year.
That will leave one place for a substitute. She plays right guard. She's
one of the finest passers we've had, but she gets rattled if she tries
to make a goal. She's too nervous to play when she is conscious that any
one is looking at her."

Hester was confident that she would not lose her head if the opportunity
to make a goal came to her. Following Helen's instructions, she studied
the book of rules. She was early at the first practice. Miss Watson gave
the positions; Helen was referee. Hester was given the place of right
guard.

"Keep your eyes open," said Helen. "I would give a good bit if you could
make a play to put you on the first team."

Berenice was left guard. A moment before the game was called, she came
up to Hester and spoke low that the others might not hear. "Helen
Loraine knows the game, but there's a whole lot of things she never
sees. Louise Reed is your opponent. She's not at all a suspicious girl.
You see to it that we win. They always pick substitutes from the team
which wins."

Hester knew little of the subtleties of human nature, and consequently
could not grasp the full import of the remark Berenice had made.

Renee Loveland and Josephine Moore were captains. To Hester it seemed
like an hour of intense excitement before the ball was in the air and
Renee had sent it forward toward her.

"Don't hold it--don't hold it," was the one thought in Hester's mind,
for that rule in particular, had made a peculiar impression upon her.
She was naturally a quick actor. Now the ball was scarcely within her
clutches until it was out again across the room to Berenice. Hester
rushed toward the goal, just as Berenice, jerking under the arm of her
opponent, passed the ball back to Hester. Again Hester deftly returned
it; making a backward movement just as Louise was about to cover her.
Again Berenice deftly caught it and dribbled for a yard or more. They
were near enough to the basket for a goal; but Berenice's opponent
covered her. The ball went flying direct across the cage. Louise made a
dash; Hester sprang forward and covered her. In the excitement of the
play, Hester had put forward two hands. Just as quickly she remembered
and swung her right arm about Louise, while with her left hand, she
tossed the ball straight into Renee's clutch. Renee, who knew the game
and played it well, did not lose her presence of mind. Like a flash, she
gave a forward leap and sent the ball to goal. But while it curved
downward in the air, the whistle of the referee was heard.

[Illustration: AGAIN HESTER DEFTLY RETURNED IT.--_Page 92._]

"Foul on the freshmen," she cried. "Right guard used two hands to
cover."

"I think you are mistaken," cried Berenice. "I wasn't playing. Hester
Alden's arm was raised, but it did not touch her opponent."

"Yes; I did!" cried Hester. "I touched her and then remembered."

"I didn't know. It must have been a very slight touch," said Louise.

"We've scored," cried Berenice.

"I am refereeing the game. Foul on the freshmen." Determination shone in
Helen's eyes as she gave Berenice a look that would have subdued a
sensitive person. Turning about, Hester tossed the ball to Louise who
made a goal from the foul of the freshmen team. The ball went back to
center and the game again was on.

At the end of the first half, the score stood six to eight in favor of
the sophomores.

Berenice came up to Hester while she was struggling into her sweater.
"You see how it is," she whispered. Her eyes were snapping with anger
and her voice fairly hissed. "You see what a little prude like you can
do. If you would have sustained me, Renee's goal would have counted us
two, and Louise would have had no chance to make a goal or foul. It
would have been 8 to 7 in our favor."

"But I really did touch," said Hester. "It was a foul, all right. I
suppose I should have remembered in time; but this is my first game, and
there's a lot to learn."

"There's something that you will never learn," was the retort and
Berenice turned and walked away.

Hester did not grasp all that Berenice wished to convey. She believed
the girl was vexed because of the score and attributed Berenice's anger
to righteous indignation at bad playing. Helen came up before the
beginning of the second half. "What about playing this, Hester?" she
asked. "You did some hard playing for a new girl. Do you think you can
stand it for a second half? You'll be stiff to-morrow. I'll ask Renee to
have Edna Bucher substitute for you."

"I'd rather finish, myself," cried Hester. "Why, I wouldn't stop now for
worlds!"

"Your own sore muscles be upon yourself then, little roommate," said
Helen smiling. "I have warned you. All that is left for me is to offer
the use of my witch-hazel and arnica."

"I will not have Edna Bucher substitute," cried Renee coming up. "I am
glad Hester has grit enough to keep to it. This evening we must make a
score."

"And to-morrow there will be wailing and groaning and rubbing of
muscles," said Helen. The ten minutes was up. Helen moved toward the
center of the cage.

During the second half, Hester had no active work. She guarded Louise
and was careful not to make another foul move. Berenice was an active
player, getting so interested in the game that she forgot her special
work. She never played into another's hand. Although Renee was the
champion at throwing goals, Berenice risked the score rather than give
the play to the center. She appeared determined that Hester should not
come within touch of the ball, and she moved like a flash of light,
hither and thither, across the cage, seeming to be everywhere at once.

Helen watched the game closely. She was an impartial referee; her one
desire being to play a fair game. She was aware of Berenice's playing at
cross purposes and watched her closely. At last she called a foul.

"I don't see why," cried Berenice. Her little beady eyes snapped as she
approached Helen and looked defiantly up at her.

"Two-hand dribble--the second time you have done the same thing. The
first I let pass unnoticed just--to give you time."

"I positively did not two-hand the ball. If that is a foul, I--"

"I am a referee. Get out of the game. Edna Bucher is called to
substitute."

"I will not--" began Berenice.

"Get out of the game within a minute or you shall be penalized for all
the games to follow." There was no disputing Helen. Her manner was calm
and her voice low, but authority was in her bearing. She stood ready to
give the signal to play; but before she put the whistle to her lips, she
said quietly, "While I am managing, we'll play an honest game or we will
not play at all."

The girls, except Berenice, cheered and clapped. She was making her way
from the gymnasium. Her heart was filled with anger and a scowl was on
her face. How she hated Helen Loraine! It was not the first time Helen
had criticised her.

"And Hester Alden will be another one just like Helen--too goody-good to
live," was her thought. Even after Berenice was being disqualified,
Hester did not understand fully all that had taken place. It was not
until they were at the baths, that a full understanding came to her.
Outside the bath, were the lockers. Sara and Renee had come up and
paused for a moment.

"Will you allow Berenice to play next game?" asked Sara.

"Miss Watson must settle that. The captain and referee may disqualify
for one game; but to make it permanent penalizing, the matter must be
brought before Miss Watson. It is a very difficult matter to explain.
The best way would be to have Miss Watson referee for one or two games.
Then she would grasp the subtleties of the situation."

They passed on. When they were almost beyond hearing, Renee's voice
sounded loud and clear.

"Sara, I do wish you'd let me wear your tan shoes down town to-morrow
evening. I have permission to go, and I wish to wear my brown suit, but
I have no tan shoes. I wear the same size as you."

Hester smiled. She had known Renee but ten days, during which time she
could not remember one instance when the conversation did not conclude
with "will you lend?"

Hester was deliberate in matters of getting from a gym suit into a
dress. When she was ready to appear, the corridor leading from the
gymnasium baths was deserted except for the sweep-women who were putting
the finishing touches to their work.

Hester hurried out. As she crossed the campus, she found Josephine Moore
sitting on the steps leading up to the dormitory. From this place, there
was an excellent view of the river and the mountain beyond. Josephine
appeared to be spellbound by it. She was a large girl with quantities of
brown hair which she drew loosely back and coiled at the back of her
head. Her eyes were large, lusterless and of a weak and faded blue, but
Josephine had read novels and knew what speaking eyes meant. She tried
to make her eyes soulful. She was of a romantic turn of mind, and
although she would not have prevaricated for the world or done another
harm by repeating anything to their detriment, she was a dreamer of
day-dreams. So well did she dream that it was difficult sometimes for
her to know where truth ended and dreams began.

"Can you not sit a while?" she asked. She moved to make room beside
herself. Her voice was low and full and had in it a pathetic quality
which was in harmony with her dreams. Hester sat down beside her. Being
somewhat awed by this magnificent creature with the soulful eyes, Hester
sat in silence.

"I love this time of day," began Josephine in low rapturous voice. "I
love the gathering twilight. I think this is the hour when poets must
sit and dream. The world and work and all horrid things are passing and
only the tender twilight hangs like a mantle over all." She paused and
looked at her companion. Hester felt that a reply of some sort was
expected. She said the first and easiest thing that came to mind. "Yes,
it is sort of nice."

"'Nice' is scarcely the word. I wish I knew what would exactly express
the feeling. Sublime, soulful--" She paused and raised her eyes as
though to scan the heavens. "I suppose I feel differently from other
people. They tell me that my singing shows soul. I myself have often
noticed the difference between myself and other girls. Would you believe
it? They pass here with laughter and jest. I cannot do that. I always
pause and look at the trees and river. It seems as though a spell comes
upon me. I cannot laugh and jest in the midst of such sublime things."

"Is Hester Alden there?" cried a gay voice. "Oh, is that you, Jo?
Mooning? You had better come in. If you sit on those cold stones, you'll
take cold and your nose will be red and your eyes watery. You'll not be
sublime then." The cheer and good-nature in the voice robbed it of
ill-feeling. Erma laughed as she appeared. No one could take exception
to anything she said. She was too happy--too well satisfied with the
world and the people about her to do anything or say anything in
bitterness.

Josephine arose slowly as became one of a poetic and soulful
temperament.

"You are the slowest mortal, Jo. You are wanted up in Philo Hall. You
haven't fifteen minutes until the first study bell. The girls have been
looking everywhere for you. You are on the program committee."

"I was carried away--," began Miss Moore. But Erma had turned her back
upon the girl. As she was about to speak to Hester, she was diverted
from her intention by the sound of wheels. Both she and Hester turned
to look as a carriage with a coachman in livery, came from
porte-cochere, turned down the driveway and passed within a few feet of
where the girls stood. The carriage passed under an arc light and Erma
and Hester saw distinctly the features of the woman in the carriage. She
had a beautiful face, although marked with care. Her hair was white, yet
her bearing as she sat erect, was that of a young woman.

"What a sweet face!" cried Hester. "That is the carriage that blocked
our way, the day that Aunt Debby came up to school with me. I remember
most distinctly."

The occupant of the carriage had not looked in their direction. Even had
she done so, she could not have distinguished the girls; for they stood
leaning against the pillars and the moving shadows fell dark upon them.

When the carriage had passed, Erma turned to her companion. "Helen was
looking for you. I told her if I saw you, I'd tell you to go to your
room. Helen has had company--at least I saw someone in her room."

"It may be Aunt Debby," cried Hester. She did not wait to explain. She
paused not to excuse herself, but went racing down the corridor as fast
as her feet would carry her. Her heels clattered on the hard wood floors
and the sound of her labored breathing was audible at a considerable
distance.

Just as she reached Number Fifteen, the door opened and Hester was taken
by the arm. This was so unexpected that her first impulse was to jerk
away, and hurry on. Fortunately a sober second thought overcame the
impulse.

"Miss Alden, is the building burning? Why this haste?" Hester raised her
eyes to those of the preceptress. Miss Burkham was the acme of all that
was cultured and elegant. No imagination was strong enough to picture
her, other than deliberate, low-voiced, serene of countenance. Hester
who knew more of bluntness than irony, replied fearlessly, "No, there is
no fire. I wished to get to my room as quickly as possible."

"So I surmised. But I see no necessity for this unladylike haste." Her
restraining hand was yet upon Hester's shoulder. The girl felt herself
quivering with the desire to be off down the corridor and up the stairs
to Number Sixty-two. What if Aunt Debby should really be there waiting
for her? Her heart beat fast with the thought.

Miss Burkham also felt the quivering of flesh under restraint. She
delayed Hester yet longer while she made plain to her the unwritten
by-laws of a lady's conduct.

"No lady races through the halls, in such fashion. It is the manner of a
tom-boy. You may walk slowly down the corridor. I will stand here to see
if you comprehend just what I mean by slowly. I trust that I may not be
compelled to ask you to return in order that I may give you instructions
in regard to the manner in which a lady walks."

"No, Miss Burkham," replied Hester humbly. She controlled her impatience
at being thus detained. Miss Burkham released her and Hester moved
forward as though by well-directed machinery.

On reaching Number Sixty-two, she found Helen standing before her
dressing-table. She was alone. She turned as Hester entered.

"Little roommate," she said smiling a welcome at Hester. "Little
roommate, I am vexed with you. I have been sending messengers everywhere
in the hope of finding you. My dear Aunt Harriet was here and asked for
you in particular. She waited until the last possible moment. And see
there."

Helen pointed to a hamper which stood near the doorway. "She has brought
us fruit, cake, and roasted chickens. No, I did not open the basket.
Aunt Harriet told me what was there. It is for you as well as for me. I
know Aunt Harriet, and I know how the basket is arranged. There will be
a chicken for you and one for me; a box of fudge for you and one for me;
and so on through the entire menu. Aunt Harriet is very much afraid that
some girl will have her feelings hurt or feel slighted. Open up the
basket, Hester. I must take off this waist. The collar hurts me. It
always was too high. I'll feel more comfortable in a kimona."

She turned to her dressing table. "Aunt Harriet brought me something
which pleased me. I have an old pin which belonged to mother when she
was a girl. I thought I had lost it, but Aunt Harriet said I left it at
her home and she brought it with her."

Helen held the pin in her hand while she talked. Then she laid it
carelessly in a little pin tray on the dresser. It was a pin of unusual
style, about the size of a dime. The outer band was of a peculiar gold.
Within this was a yellowish-white stone which reflected the light like a
flame of fire.

Hester's eyes would have opened wide at the sight of the pin, but she
did not see it, for her attention was on the hamper she was unpacking.



CHAPTER VII


There was at Dickinson a Doctor Wilbur who had charge of the
mathematics. He was a man of brilliant mind, sharp tongue, and a poor
opinion of the mental ability of girls in general. He had been at
Dickinson two years, not because he loved the class of students, but the
financial consideration had been the best ever offered to him.

The girls feared him and yet respected him for the power he exercised
over a class.

He did not hesitate to use sarcastic speech. Scarcely a day passed, but
some girl came from Class-room C with her feelings deeply wounded.

Hester, who had a way of "speaking up," had borne her share of Doctor
Wilbur's humor. But she forgot and forgave the instant she left his
recitation.

One day he had been particularly trying, and the sting of his words had
lingered. She had it in mind to tell Helen of the bitter words Doctor
Wilbur had hurled at her, simply because she could not explain the
projection of a perpendicular upon a plane. So far in their school
life--two months had passed--Hester and Helen had spoken to each other
only of the agreeable things. But now Hester meant to express herself
and be sympathized with.

But when she reached Sixty-two, she found Edna Bucher awaiting her. Edna
was tall and slender; long and lank, perhaps would be more nearly her
description. She was colorless and lifeless. Her one desire seemed to be
to be ladylike and to go with the best people. In her lexicon, _best_
meant those with money or influence. Her hands were always cold, and her
face expressionless. She posed as being the leader in classes. She was
literary and musical, if one might believe her own judgment of herself.
She never played, however, for the practice tired her. When she failed
to respond to an invitation to recite--sometimes the invitation was
quite urgent--it was not that she was not prepared to recite, but she
was so nervous that she could not control her voice.

"I've been waiting for you for half an hour," she began as Hester
entered the room. Her tones implied, that although the responsibility be
on Hester's head, she would be good enough to overlook it.

"Were you?" replied Hester. "You surely knew that the freshies were busy
until this hour."

"I presume I did so; but it passed entirely from my mind. I was so
absorbed in my work. I am editor-in-chief of the 'Dickinson Mirror.'"

"Oh," exclaimed Hester. She looked at Miss Bucher again. The glory of
being editor of the "Mirror" cast a halo about the head of the otherwise
unattractive girl.

"Yes, the girls selected me. I do not understand why they did. They
appeared to think I had literary ability. Of course, I do not see that I
have, but everyone speaks about it."

She had an unpleasant little mannerism of talking through closed teeth
and but slightly parted lips. In conversation, she used her lips as
little as possible. It may have been that she wished to keep them from
wearing out, or perhaps, she considered it unladylike to open her mouth
more than was absolutely necessary.

"I came to have you help. We always appoint four girls to collect news,
write special articles and poetry. Of course everything must treat of
school life. Then, when it is printed--"

"Printed," cried Hester, her eyes snapping with fire. "Do you really
have it printed and do the ones who write things have their names in
it?"

"Certainly. It is issued four times a year; once during each semester,
and a special souvenir one for commencement. What do you think you'd
like to do?"

"I'll write some poetry," said Hester. She had never written any in her
life, but she had the feeling that she could do it by half trying.

"Poetry, isn't hard," she replied airily to Miss Bucher's look of
surprise. "Just make out a list of rhymes like this." She took up a
paper and wrote:

    Side
    wide
    right
    might
    knee
    me.

"Then you fill them in," she continued. She held the pencil suspended in
the air. Her brow was puckered with thought. "Of course, it isn't
supposed to read as sensibly as prose. That is one of the greatest
differences between them. In poetry one must use imagination and poetic
license." Then she fell to work upon the paper and wrote steadily and
laboriously for some minutes. Her eye flashed with triumph. "Listen. Of
course this is mere rough work. I'll polish up what I write for the
'Mirror.'

    "Imogen was by his side,
    So they wandered far and wide,
    The woods and vales stretched left and right,
    He loved the girl with all his might,
    So dropping on his bended knee
    He cried, 'Oh, fair one, pity me.'"

A peal of laughter followed this closing line. It was a merry peal
without malice or guile. Hester turned. Erma was standing in the
doorway.

"Oh, but that is rich! He dropped on his bended knee. Could he get on
his knee if it wasn't bended?" She laughed aloud.

"You are so literal!" cried Hester with dignity. "In poetry, one is
allowed--"

"Poetry," another merry laugh. "Is that poetry? Take it to Doctor
Weldon's classes and let her put her seal of approval on it."

Erma had made her way to the door. With a mock courtesy and a sweep of
her skirts, she vanished. But as she went down the corridor, the girls
in Sixty-two caught the echo of her laugh and her song, "And dropping on
his bended knee."

Miss Bucher was a lady who arose to the occasion. She did not give way
to merriment. Her face was colorless and serene.

"I understand fully, Miss Alden, the point you wish to make. Miss Thomas
has no literary appreciation." She paused. There is but one thing worse
in the world than adverse just criticism, and that is praise so faint
that it is damaging. Miss Bucher paused as though to weigh her words.
Then she spoke: "Miss Thomas means well enough, but--well, nature has
not gifted us all in the same way."

It was fair enough, or seemed to be. Yet Hester felt that intangible
something to which one cannot respond, because one feels rather than
knows of its existence.

Miss Bucher arose. She was not given to furbelows. Each line of her
attire accentuated her angles and height.

"I will go now. I am glad you will help me. Could you have your poem or
whatever you decide upon ready by Monday?"

"I shall have it ready to give you when we go into chapel. I shall have
something. Do not fear."

Scarcely had the door closed upon the caller, when Hester was at her
study-table with pencil and writing-pad. Inspiration had seized her. She
would write a poem that would be worthy the name. It would appear in the
"Mirror" with her name below, "Hester Alden." On second thought, decided
to write it Hester Palmer Alden. The Palmer gave an added dignity to
her name. How pleased Aunt Debby would be! What a pleasure it would be
to write! Perhaps in time she might be editor-in-chief. Then when she
left school--at that instant a part of Hester Alden which had been
dormant awoke. The desire for expression came to her. What beautiful
glorious things she would write--some day! Just what they would be or
when she would write them, she knew not. But they were so beautiful that
the tears came to her eyes as she dreamed of them.

Helen did not come back to her rooms until barely time to dress for
dinner. She found Hester with her head on the table, and a huge tablet
before her.

"Sick, little roommate?" asked Helen, bending over her.

"No; I have been writing a poem--that is, I have begun to write one. I
have sat here for an hour and all I have written is the first line. It
was easy."

"First lines usually are," said Helen smiling. In many ways, she was
more years older than Hester than the calendar gave her credit for.

"What is the first line? May I read it?"

"'Doc Dixon had a Freshman Class.' It begins fairly well; but you will
startle your leaders with such a sudden burst into facts. Why not lead
up to the subject and break the news gently?"

"You may all ridicule; but I intend writing a poem. All the ridicule you
cast upon me will make me but the more determined."

"I believe that. I have observed that trait on several occasions. You
make me think of Rob Vail in that way."

"I shall finish after dinner," was Hester's sole comment. "I presume I
had better prepare for it now. Are you wearing a silk dress?" she asked
as she turned toward Helen and saw that she was getting into a little
one-piece suit of checked silk instead of her customary white.

"Yes, mother thinks I dress too thinly. If I wear the white I cannot
wear long sleeves. So I have promised to keep to this dark silk, though
I do not like it nearly so well."

She had slipped into her dress and was looking about for her pins and
rings. "I had a little old pin on my dresser. Did you see anything of
it, Hester?"

"No, indeed. I never presume to touch anything there without your
permission."

"I did not mean to suggest that, little roommate. I carelessly let it
lie there several days ago, and now I cannot find it."

"I have not seen it," said Hester. She spoke quickly and perhaps, with
unusual curtness. At least it seemed so to Helen, who attributed the
curtness to Hester's being hurt at being asked such a question. She let
the subject drop and no further word passed between them until they were
called to dinner.

When study hour came again, Hester pushed aside her text books and fell
to writing. The door of the study, during this time, was always open and
no words were permitted between roommates. Helen, observing that her
roommate was not working at her lessons, gave her several warning
glances; but Hester was unaffected. The muse had laid its hands upon her
and she was helpless in its clutches. She wrote and erased, only to
rewrite and erase again.

It was not until the study period was over that she raised her head and
with a smile of triumph read aloud:

    "Doctor Dixon had a freshman class,
    Whose minds were soft like snow.
    He tried to teach them geometry,
    But he could not make it go.
    He scolded them in class one day;
    He shocked the entire school.
    The tears ran down one sweet girl's face,
    When he called her a mule."

A look of surprise flashed over Helen's face. "Surely Hester, he never
would do that. He is critical and sarcastic, but surely he is a
gentleman."

"Do what?" asked Hester. "Why surely he is a gentleman."

"Surely, he never would dare address one of the pupils in that way. A
mule!"

Hester laughed. "You are taking matters seriously. You must remember
that this is poetry, and allowance must be made. In poetry, one cannot
describe matters as they are. One cannot be too realistic. One must use
what fits in. I was compelled to use the word mule because it was the
only one I could think of which rhymed with school. Now listen to the
rest, please Helen." She continued reading wholly unconscious that her
roommate was not in sympathy with her.

    "And then they ran to him and asked,
    As he came forth from school,
    'Doctor, dear, which is it best to be,
    A driver or the mule?'

    "'The mule has the best of it,' he said,
    'So I'm inclined to think,
    It can be driven to the water's edge,
    But it can't be made to drink.'"

"There, don't you think that is fine, Helen? That will appear in the
next issue of the 'Mirror' with my name at the bottom. Aunt Debby will
be delighted."

There was no enthusiastic response. Hester waited a moment, then looked
at her roommate, and again asked, "Don't you think she will be
delighted? She has never suspected that I was poetic. Indeed, I never
knew it until Miss Bucher asked me to write this."

"If Aunt Debby is the kind of woman I think she is, I am sure she will
not be at all pleased." Helen spoke slowly. Then at the look of surprise
in Hester's eyes, she crossed the room, and sitting down on the arm of
her roommate's chair drew Hester's head close against her and held her
thus in a tender protective embrace, while she continued.

"No, little roommate, I do not believe she will be pleased. I am not. It
is fun--mere fun, I know. Were you and I the only two to know of it, it
would do no harm at all. But consider, little roommate, the 'Mirror'
goes out to all the old students. Hundreds read it. Among them, are many
just as I who took the matter seriously, without considering that the
poet was put to straits to find some word to rhyme with school.

"They will think that we have grown lax here. Many will wonder what sort
of man this Doctor Wilbur is that he dare use such terms in addressing a
student. Do you see now why I wish this would not appear in the
'Mirror'?"

"I see why you think it should not. But really people are very foolish
to cavil over such matters. If I might have my way, I would pay no
attention to them. I would go my way, do as I please and let such people
think as they please."

"It is a very independent way of doing, but it is not at all practical.
We must consider public opinion a great many times. We must hedge
ourselves about with convention when we would be independent, for always
there are some minds which put evil construction upon the slightest
careless act."

"Perhaps you are right," said Hester slowly. Before her faded the dreams
of greatness. Taking up the paper, she deliberately and slowly tore it
into pieces and threw them into the wastebasket. She expressed no word
of regret. She expected no expression of admiration for her fortitude.
She was no weakling. If she believed a thing were right, she would have
performed it, regardless of the sacrifice to herself. She was the
expression of Debby Alden's high ideals and rigid discipline.

"I'll get up earlier than usual to-morrow," said Hester lightly. "I
promised on my word of honor to have a copy ready for Miss Bucher. If I
may not write poetry, at least I can write personals. Let us go to bed
now before the retiring bell rings."

A hurried knock came to the door. Before either girl could respond,
Renee entered. She wore a gay kimona of embroidered silk. Her dark wavy
hair hung over her shoulders. She looked like a goddess as she paused an
instant on the threshold. Then advancing, she cried, "Oh, girls, do you
happen to have any cold cream? I'm out and I do need some particularly
badly."

"Yes, I have some." Helen took a small box from the dresser and gave it
to Renee.

"Thank you ever so much." Without further words, Renee went her way.

Hester waited until the sound of her footsteps had died away.

"I was thinking," she began slowly. Her brow was puckered as though she
were greatly perplexed. "I've been thinking that I never heard Renee say
anything but 'Will you lend me?' Does she not know anything else?"

"I presume she does, but she has allowed the habit to grow. Each year,
she grows worse. I fancy by the time she graduates, she will borrow our
diplomas and essays. It may be that by that time, Renee will have
particular need of them."

Hester had prepared for bed and was sitting on the edge of her own
little iron cot waiting until Helen was ready to say good-night.

"I am going to remain up some time, little roommate. But you need not
wait for me." She crossed the room and kissed Hester affectionately.
Somehow Helen had fallen into the older sister attitude toward her
roommate. Since the first week of school, Hester had never gone to sleep
without Helen's kiss warm on her lips. This had never been done after
the fashion of a sentimental school girl who caresses everything which
comes in her way. Helen was not demonstrative, and what her lips
touched, touched strongly her affections.

[Illustration: "OH, GIRLS, DO YOU HAPPEN TO HAVE ANY COLD CREAM?"--_Page
121._]

"I must make a thorough search for my pin," she said, going back to her
dressing-table, to begin the search. "I must not lose it. It is a
peculiar design. It was once an earring belonging to Grandma Hobart. It
has her hair woven about it. When Aunt Harriet and mama were
babies--they were babies at the same time, you know--grandma had the
earrings made into pins. Mama wore this for years, and then gave it to
me. I should feel bad if I should lose it."

Hester scarcely heard what Helen said. Her mind was busy with thoughts
of the literary work to be ready before chapel. She was running over in
her mind all the material at hand which could be worked into personals
to appear in the "Mirror."



CHAPTER VIII


Before the midwinter holidays, the report was the round of the
dormitories that Hester Alden was playing a good game of basket-ball.
She was alert and quick. Her passing was particularly good and Helen
praised her highly. Hester was brimming with enthusiasm. The one fly in
her cup of ointment was that Aunt Debby could not see her play, for the
games of the substitute teams were never public. If perseverance and
whole-hearted desire meant anything in winning out, Hester meant to be
on the second team. Then she ran the chance of substituting.

Berenice could play the game well, but was inclined to use tricks and
artifices which generally resulted in a foul being called on her own
team. Consequently her good playing and dishonesty barely averaged as
much as the fair dealing of the average player.

Three times each week, the gymnasium work was basket-ball. The day
before Thanksgiving an extra practice was called because the session in
school had been shortened.

Berenice and Hester were playing right and left guard. Berenice who had
never forgiven Hester for her attitude in the first game of the year,
kept the ball as much as possible to herself even risking the game for
the sake of annoying Hester.

"You're wasting your time on grand-stand plays," said Renee while the
referee had called time. "Hester plays well at passing. Give her a show.
You dribble and dribble and half the time make a foul when you might
have played into Hester's hand."

Berenice shrugged her shoulders; her bead-like eyes snapped; but she
made no reply.

While this conversation was going on between them, Erma Thomas had
hurried up to Hester. "Berenice is determined not to play ball into your
hands. It's pure jealousy. Do some playing, Hester, and make goals. Play
ball to me when you wish to pass, and I'll pass it to you for a goal."

Helen put up her whistle and the game was resumed. The ball was at
center with Renee and Maud. Berenice's eyes were alight, and every
muscle quivering with excitement. Scarcely was the ball in air, before
it was in her hand, and she was moving toward the goal. Her guard was
upon her, but by a quick movement, Berenice and the ball slipped under
the outstretched arm, and by deft movements, came close to goal. Making
a sudden spurt with the ball in hands, she pitched for a goal. But at
that instant, the whistle sounded.

"That is the third foul you've made in this game," cried Helen, "and we
have played scarcely ten minutes." She tossed the ball to the opposing
team. "Foul on the first subs."

Mame Cross caught the ball and took a position before the goal, but
Berenice would not accept the decision of the referee.

"Helen has a spite against me. How was I foul there?"

Helen was given no opportunity to answer. Renee, who was just and severe
at times, came forward.

"Foul, of course, it was. It was evident as could be. You are always
stirring up a fuss and holding back the game. You are the only one on
the squad who cannot play an honest game. Leave the cage, and remain
out. Maude may take your place permanently."

With her own captain against her, there was nothing to be done except to
obey. Already Maud was within the cage and at her place.

The game continued. Mame pitched a goal from Berenice's foul. With the
ball again back to center, it was evident that Berenice in spite of her
brilliant playing, had been a drag on the game. Before this, she had
been the team and the others were mere fillers-in. Now each took a more
active part.

Maude was not one who played for her own glory, but to score for the
team. The ball came to her and she passed it to Hester, and hurried
forward to receive it on its return. She reached the basket and might
have made a goal, but she was short while Hester was tall and quick in
movement. Those considerations came to the girl, and quick as a flash
she passed the ball to Hester. There was a sudden upward movement of
Hester's long arms, a slowly curving ball and a final goal. It was the
first score their team had made since the beginning of the game.

This success was like wine in Hester's veins. The desire to make goals
came upon her. It seized her like a mania. It was impossible to tell
whether it were luck or skill. But in the second half of the game,
Hester pitched a goal from every ball which was passed to her. That
practice game went down in the history of Dickinson as the one in which
one player made ten successive goals from the field.

The wealth of the Incas was as nothing to Hester in comparison to the
congratulations of the girls who crowded upon her at the close of the
game.

"You'll get on the scrub, sure," cried Erma in her high excited tones.
"Remember your old friends when you rise to glory."

Their praises were very sweet; but sweetest of all was Helen's quiet
commendation, when after all the excitement had passed, they were back
in Sixty-two.

"I never saw a better play. I never knew a girl who learned the game so
quickly, and I have coached a number during my three years. If you do
as well the next game, I'll substitute you on the scrub team. I have one
girl there who will never learn. She does no better than she did a year
ago."

"Do you suppose I might be called then as substitute on the scheduled
games," cried Hester.

"If you're the best player. I'll pick only the best. I will not risk a
game even for friendship's sake--even for your sake, little roommate."

"I mean to be the best player," said Hester quietly. Helen's calmness
had always the effect of quieting her in her intense excitement.

But Miss Hester had yet to learn that other powers than one's own
desire, enter into results.

The first team had played eight games, four having been in their own
gymnasium and the remainder at different schools. On these trips to the
seminaries and normals, they were treated royally. Hester could imagine
nothing finer than being met by carriages, whirled away to dormitories
where the guest-chambers were at their disposal and later to be
banqueted.

During the fall term, Dickinson had retained second place. Helen was
determined that they should move to first and secure the pennant whose
value was that of the laurel wreaths of the Olympiads. In order to put
up the best game possible, Helen attended every skirmish and practice,
determined that her substitutes should be the best. In addition to her
regular work this self-imposed task of overlooking the substitutes'
games, gave her little leisure.

Each day, before dinner and lunch, there was a quarter-hour relaxation
period. To Helen, this was anything but what the name stood for. The
loss of her pin troubled her. She was confident that it was somewhere in
her bedroom. She very distinctly remembered removing it from her stock
and placing it in the cushion which stood on her dresser. There was a
possibility of its being knocked off, or being caught in ribbon and
ties, and so might have been dropped somewhere. She began a systematic
search. One day, she emptied the drawers in the dresser and examined
every article there, to be sure that the pin was not clinging to it. She
peered under and about each article of furniture. But no pin appeared.
While she was on her knees searching the corners of the room and edges
of the rug, Erma appeared in the doorway. She gave a peal of delight.

"Have you turned Moslem; or is it Mohammed who takes long journeys on
his knees to do penance? I have passed your door twice and each time I
find you crawling about on all fours like a Teddy Bear."

"I've lost my pin. I am sick about it."

"I wouldn't be. No pin is worth being even half sick about. Buy yourself
another, or better yet, Christmas is coming. Throw out a few gentle
hints to your friends. Tell them you have lost your pin. They would be
very stupid not to understand that it was their duty to replace it.
Perhaps more than one will respond as becomes friends. You may have a
half dozen pins in place of one."

"This cannot be replaced. It has belonged to our family for generations.
The story is that one of the Loraines who were French, for political
reasons, left his country and went to Brazil. While there, he discovered
valuable mines. Selecting the finest gems, he returned to France and
presented them to the king, and was immediately restored to favor. Two
stones of the collection were pushed aside as not worthy so great a
ruler. Tourie Loraine kept these for himself and had them made into
rings. Later the rings were made into earrings. I think that was done by
my great-grandfather as a gift to his bride. Grandmother had twin
daughters. Earrings were no longer in style and so the stones were made
into brooches and set about with her hair. Each little girl was given
one. My mother gave hers to me. The other which belonged to Aunt Harriet
disappeared years ago."

Erma laughed with delight. She loved romance either in real life or
between the pages of a book.

"How perfectly lovely to have such glorious things happen in one's
family! Nothing like that ever happened in our family. My people did
nothing more exciting than write charters and fight Indians. I think we
were very commonplace. It is the French people who have the romantic
blood. Tell me some more, Helen. You have no idea how interesting this
is."

"There is little more to tell. After the stones had been in our family
for several generations, it was discovered by the merest accident, that
they were yellow diamonds and very valuable, on account of their size
and purity. They were not really yellow, you know, but sometimes
reflected a peculiar yellow light. We were sorry that we knew the value
of them."

"Sorry! I should think you would have been delighted. I can imagine
nothing to be sorry for in finding that what you thought was a pretty
little stone, was really worth a great deal of money."

"Because if it had been worthless, someone would never have been tempted
as she was. My Aunt Harriet on one of her visits South years before, had
found a little colored girl who was mistreated. She brought her North
and gave her a home. She fed and clothed her and trained her to be an
excellent servant. When she was able to work, Aunt Harriet paid her
wages. She learned the value of Aunt Harriet's pins and rings. She
disappeared and the jewels with her. There were a whole lot of
complications which I cannot go into detail about. But it changed Aunt
Harriet's whole life. I remember Rosa so well. She was a beautiful girl.
She did not look like a colored woman. She was scarcely darker than I
am, and she had the most beautiful eyes and hands."

"And nothing has been heard of her?" Erma was eager to know. She could
have sat there all day to listen and would have forgone both meals and
lessons.

"Nothing. It was surely strange how such a thing could have happened and
not be found sometime. It is not an easy matter for a woman to disappear
and all traces of her be lost."

Hester had not been present during this conversation. As Helen finished,
her roommate came down the corridor and joined the two girls.

"Helen has been telling me the most thrilling tales from her family
history. It is worth writing to make a story. Don't you know something,
Hester? Didn't your family do some wonderful things?"

"No," replied Hester. "The Aldens settled down in one place and remained
there. As Aunt Debby says, they fulfilled their duty to their church and
to their neighbors, but nothing happened in their lives which was not
prosaic."

"But your mother's family," persisted Erma. "Surely there must be
something romantic on her side of the tree."

Hester smiled at the words. There was a little touch of sadness in her
smile. She had never spoken to the girls of her people. They knew that
she was an Alden. The name was well known in the central part of the
State. They knew that an aunt had reared her. That was all the knowledge
that came to them. When other girls talked together of what their
parents and grandparents had done as children and repeated the old-time
stories, which had been handed down to them as part of their family
history, Hester Alden had only listened and had taken no part in the
recital. Now, she would have evaded Erma's direct question, but Erma
was not one who would permit her inquiries to go by the board. She
repeated it. Hester answered slowly.

"When I was a year old I had neither father nor mother. My mother met a
horrible death. Aunt Debby took me. She never could talk of my parents,
so I know little of them. Aunt Debby is mother, father, sister, and
brother to me."

"Oh, forgive me, I did not know. I would not have wounded you for the
world."

Erma was on her feet. Impulsive, loving and quick to act, she put her
hands on Hester's shoulders and touched her lips warmly and
affectionately. "But you have friends. I want to be one, Hester. You
know I've always liked you and I'd love you if you'd give me half a
chance."

Hester, who responded quickly to affection, returned the embrace. "I'd
love to have you for a friend. Aunt Debby is always first, for she is my
friend, too, but you and Helen must be the next best."

The little flow of sentiment might have continued, had not Renee at
that moment, appeared in the doorway.

"I'm awfully sorry to disturb you. But could you lend me your Solid
Geometry, Helen? Did you get that original? Have you really? Isn't that
lovely! Would you object to letting me look over it for a moment?"

Helen took the book from the study-table and drawing out an original,
handed it to Renee who, sitting down, began a thorough study of the
problem she could not solve for herself.

Barely was Renee disposed of than Josephine came in. She moved
languidly. Her eyes were opened very wide, but instead of brilliance or
alertness, they spoke of sentiment and dreaminess. Josephine had made a
study of looking so. Soulful, she thought it to be; but the girls called
it by another name not so complimentary and rallied her good-naturedly
about it.

Renee was quick, in action and thought. Josephine's slowness annoyed
her. Now, she took her eyes from the paper which she had been studying
on, and cried brusquely, "If someone would only set a fire under you,
you'd get somewhere sooner, Jo. Why don't you move, when you move."

Jo was not annoyed. She moved not a whit faster. Gliding in, she seated
herself on a shirt-waist box and assumed a pose of figure which she
believed to be artistic. She showed no annoyance at Renee's speech. She
smiled sweetly and serenely. No matter what was said to her, or done in
her presence, that smile came to her. Her placidity was exceedingly
annoying to this set of girls. "If Jo was not always so sugary sweet,"
was the general complaint. "If she would not always agree to everything.
If only now and then she would express an opinion, one would know at
least that she had formed one." These were the only complaints ever made
against her.

"Has something been troubling you?" she asked Helen. "You appear quite
disturbed."

"I am. I lost a pin." Helen told how she had placed it that evening she
had last worn it, and how it had mysteriously disappeared. Both Jo and
Renee had seen the heirloom, for Helen had worn it at intervals since
she had entered the hall.

"I'd advertise for it. You might have dropped it in the hall somewhere.
Have Doctor Weldon announce it in chapel; and put a notice on the
bulletin board in the main hall." It was Renee who made the practical
suggestion.

"I'm sure I did not lose it outside this room. I am quite sure of that."

"About as sure as one can be of anything. I've noticed, however, that
being sure is no proof."

"What a loss it must be to you!" cried Jo softly. "Of course, the money
value is of little consideration. It is the memories which cling to it
which make it precious. I know how you feel about such matters. You have
so much sentiment. I know what trifles may mean to one. I always wear
this little chain. I have worn it since I was three years old. I never
could bear to part with it. It seems a tie to bind me to my childhood. I
feel as though I could never grow old while I wear it. I shall never
take it off."

Renee shrugged her shoulders. "I'm glad you don't have the same
sentiment toward your collars. What a beautiful sentiment you might
conjure up about a waist which some dear departed chum had embroidered
for you; or perhaps she buttoned it up the back the first time you wore
it and died immediately afterward. I really think the last would be most
touching. Then you would feel that you could never unbutton the buttons
which her dear hands had buttoned."

The irony in Renee's voice was strong. While she had been speaking, she
arose and moved toward the door.

Hester's face had flushed. She feared that Josephine would be angry.
Erma, however, laughed merrily, and smiled and fluttered about like a
gay butterfly. She thought Renee's sarcasm was the finest wit in the
world. If it had been directed toward herself, she would not have cared
at all, and could conceive of no reason why Jo should be hurt.

Josephine raised her brows languidly and smiled sweetly. "Renee laughs
at sentiment," she said. "What is it that Shakespeare says about jesting
at scars because you never felt a wound?"

"If I ever do show wounds," cried Renee, "they will not be ones made by
a tin soldier with a toy pistol. It will take a cannon ball to make me
know that I've been touched."

She sailed out of the room, her head high and her heels coming down with
some show of feeling. Erma burst into a fresh peal of laughter.

"Isn't Renee dear and doesn't she say the most brilliant things? I often
wished I could be witty. All I can do is to laugh at the jokes which
other girls make."

"Why wish to be witty?" asked Josephine. "You're so sweet and womanly
and tender."

"Am I all that?" cried Erma and she laughed again. "I must go and tell
Mame. She has known me for years and has never suspected that I am all
that."

She hurried away. Jo yet lingered.

"I had a letter from Cousin Rob Vail," said Helen to Hester. "He is
coming down Saturday morning in the touring-car with Aunt Harriet and
you and I are invited to take a ride and then have dinner down in the
city. Aunt Harriet is disappointed that she has never been able to meet
you. So be prepared to meet the sweetest woman in the world."

"Mrs. Vail is so sweet!" cried Jo. "I never look at her but there comes
to my mind the picture of the 'Mater Dolorosa,' she's so sad and
pensive."

"She looks sad," said Helen, "but I never knew livelier company. One
cannot be dull with her. She has a sorrow which passes comprehension,
yet, she never worries another with it. She has trained herself to take
an interest in others."

"Saturday!" Hester cried and began prancing about the room. "Two days
until Saturday. I wonder how I shall ever be able to wait until then."

The bell for luncheon rang and the girls moved from the room. As they
passed down the corridor, a number of the girls spoke to Helen about the
loss of her pin and expressed the belief that it had only been mislaid
and would be found.

A number had seen and discussed it. Sara spoke of this. "It was so
peculiar and unusual that anyone who finds it will know it is yours."

Hester walked ahead without taking part in the conversation. It came to
Helen then that her little roommate had shown no interest whatever and
had not assisted in the search or even expressed her sympathy for its
loss.



CHAPTER IX


Hester was deep in literary work for the Philomathean paper. She was not
attempting poetry. After Helen's criticism she had not the heart to
bring her efforts before the public, although she did write in secret.
It is a long and hard drop from being a poet to a hack-writer scribbling
down personals. Poets are born, while any one can write personals.

Hester had been cultivating the unpleasant little mannerism of thinking
aloud or rather in tones under her breath, as she wrote she read. Her
efforts resulted in this form.

"'Miss Erma Thomas has been excused from classes on account of
sustaining a sprained ankle.'

"'Sustain.' I wonder if that is the right word. Sustain a sprain. It
sounds all right. I'll let it be that. If I don't know, the other girls
will not know either."

"Hester, do you realize that you are thinking aloud?" asked Helen after
this performance had continued some minutes.

"Am I? I did not know; but it does not matter. What I am saying is not
private and it makes no difference if all the world hears."

"That is not the idea," said Helen. She was sweet, calm, and decided.
"Has it not come to you that I might wish to study and that monotone is
anything but pleasant?"

Hester's face flushed crimson. "I beg pardon. I was selfish, Helen."

Helen crossed the room and bending over the abashed, confused Hester,
said tenderly, "Do not mind my speaking so, little roommate. If it were
Aunt Debby you would not take it so to heart. Then why should it hurt
from me? Boarding-schools and roommates serve one great purpose--they
rub off the jagged edges of one's manners." She bent and kissed the
girl.

"Helen Loraine, you are the dearest girl I know. I am so glad I have you
for a roommate. We have never quarreled and I hope never will."

"No, we never will," said Helen. She went back to her work.

In addition to her literary efforts, Hester had other claims upon her.
The Christmas season was approaching and her gifts were barely in
preparation. She was embroidering a set of linen collars and cuffs for
Helen, and the efforts to keep the work hidden was making life strenuous
for her.

Whenever Helen left the room, Hester took up the work, took a few
stitches and perhaps was compelled to put it away. There were many
people passing up and down the dormitory halls. It was not always
possible to distinguish Helen's step. Then she had to resort to
subterfuge to get the measure of Helen's collar. She had not
accomplished that yet, but she had her plans laid and meant to carry
them out at the first opportunity.

It came to her sooner than she expected. Saturday morning, after a few
minutes' study, Helen looked at the time, and arose from her work.

"It is almost ten o'clock. Aunt Harriet and Cousin Robert should be
here. I think I'll walk down to the guests' entrance and see if I can
find any trace of them. Bob would not be permitted to come to the
dormitory. Perhaps, Aunt Harriet is waiting with him in the reception
hall. Marshall may have been sent for us, but you know his failing. He
may be fulfilling a half-dozen commissions before he comes for us. If
they are not there, I shall telephone to Auntie."

Hester urged her to be gone. It was with a feeling of relief that Hester
heard the click of Helen's high heels as they went down the hall.
Waiting until she believed that Helen would not be interrupted, Hester
hurried to the wardrobe which they had in common and taking down a waist
began to measure the collar. She had just completed this when she heard
the click of Helen's heels. Quick as a flash the dress was hung up.
Hester was about to close the door when the dress caught. She was
fussing over it and was very red in the face and visibly embarrassed
when Helen entered the room.

"What is the trouble?" Helen asked.

"Nothing at all," was the reply given with unusual curtness. "What
should make you think there was any trouble? I was just opening the
wardrobe door."

Her long speech which was wholly unnecessary and her evident
embarrassment did not pass unobserved. Helen gave her a quick look.
Hester was not herself, that was evident.

"I asked the question because your face was red, and you appeared
excited. That was all. I did not find it necessary to go to the guests'
entrance. Marshall was coming for us. We are to go to the reception
hall. You will meet Aunt Harriet at last."

"How strange it seems that I have been here almost four months and yet
we have not met! She always came when I was home with Aunt Debby, or in
class. I fancy the Fates do not intend that we shall meet."

"You shall meet in two minutes, or I am not a reliable prophet," was
Helen's reply.

Two minutes proved that she was not. Robert Vail alone awaited them in
the reception hall. His mother had not been able to come.

Hester gave a start of surprise when Helen presented the cousin to her.
He was particularly fine-looking and attractive but she was not startled
at that. He was the young man who had accosted her that day on the
street and apologized by saying he had mistaken her for his cousin,
Helen.

"You remember me, I see, Miss Alden. You must have thought I was rude,
but I was confident that you were Helen. I had not seen her for three
months."

"I am glad that I met you so that I can explain to Aunt Debby," said
Hester naively. Then observing his look of surprise, she added, "She
would not believe that you had really made a mistake. She thought you
did it just to annoy me."

"How could she?" cried Helen with a show of feeling. "Cousin Rob--."

"Go slowly, Cousin," laughed the young man. "You must remember that I
was a stranger to Miss Alden and her aunt. They were fully justified in
believing that I was rude."

"I did not," said Hester. "I saw you and I knew that you had really
mistaken me."

"How could your Aunt Debby think of such a thing? Didn't she also see
Rob?" asked Helen.

"I did not believe you could show such a spirit," laughed Hester. "You
are always so calm."

"When things touch myself, but not when they touch my friends," said
Helen.

"Please calm yourself, Helen. You know we made a compact this very
morning and promised never to quarrel or be angry with each other."

"The same old school-girl fashion," said Robert Vail. "If I am a good
prophet, you'll be tearing each other's hair before the day is over."

"Why did Aunt Harriet not come?" asked Helen, abruptly changing the
subject of conversation.

"She went on a little trip into Virginia," he replied. Then observing
the anxious look which came to Helen's face, he continued, "We tried to
persuade her not to go, but she said this might be a real clue and she
could not be satisfied to remain home. Father would have insisted, for
mother is really worn out, but she was so anxious to go that she and
father went off last night."

[Illustration: "YOU REMEMBER ME, I SEE, MISS ALDEN."--_Page 149._]

"Was there anything new, or merely the same old story as before?" asked
Helen.

"Who can tell? You know Rosa's mother had been a house-servant in
Virginia and Rosa had a host of relatives there. Mrs. Mader--you
remember the Doctor Mader who sometimes attends mother? Well, Mrs. Mader
had been West. There she made the acquaintance of a southern woman who
talked much of a Rosa Williams, who did some work for her. Mrs. Mader
was interested and asked all sorts of questions. This Rosa Williams, so
the southern woman said, was a handsome mulatto woman about forty years
old. She also said that she had several children and that one in
particular had neither the features nor coloring of a negro."

"Poor Aunt Harriet!" said Helen. "If only she would give up hope. She is
wearing herself out in this way."

Hester was delighted with this new acquaintance. She had known few boys.
Jane Orr's brother, Ralph, had been her ideal of what a boy should be.
Jane had not let his good qualities pass unnoticed. But Hester was
inclined to think that Robert Vail surpassed Ralph in every particular.
Helen had told her much of this one cousin who took the place of brother
to her. He was in his last year in medical college, and had led his
class for three full years. Yet he was not a bookish man. He was of a
social nature, fond of company, and outdoor life, taking as much
interest in cross-country walks and athletics as he did in his studies.
Hester was thinking of these matters while Helen and Robert were
talking. She had been sitting with her eyes upon the floor, listening in
a half abstracted fashion. She raised her eyes suddenly to find Robert
Vail's eyes fixed on her in scrutiny. Her cheeks grew crimson and she
looked away.

"I beg pardon," cried the young man, "I seem destined to annoy you with
my rudeness. The first time I met you I mistook you for Helen. The
resemblance is not so marked now that I see you together."

"Yet we are often mistaken for each other," said Helen, "if the hall is
just a little dark, the girls mistake us. Often I am called Hester."

"It would have to be very dark if I were to mistake you now after once
seeing you together.

"I wish to explain to Miss Alden why I was looking so intently at her
now. I've seen my mother sitting that way many a time. There was
something about you which made me think of her."

"You told me she was very beautiful," said Hester, saucily turning
toward Helen.

"Hester Alden, are you really fishing for compliments?" asked Helen,
pretending to be shocked at Hester's question.

"There is really no use of fishing when the compliments are floating on
the surface within your reach," said the young man gallantly.

This was all very pleasing to Hester. She had not been accustomed to
receiving such compliments or attention and she felt quite grown up and
elegant.

Robert Vail's gallant manner was of short duration. He looked at Hester
again, and grew quite serious. Very strange ideas came to him. He had a
queer feeling that somehow his mother had made a mistake in not calling
at the seminary that morning, and that he stood nearer the truth than he
had ever stood before. These thoughts prompted him to turn to Hester
with questions which were pertinent and personal.

"Where do you live, Miss Alden?" Hester told him. She wondered as she
did so why he had asked the question as though it were of moment.

"Who are your people? Have you always lived there?"

He had touched Hester on the one delicate subject of her life. She had
pride enough for several girls. Not even Aunt Debby knew how her lack of
parentage and name had hurt her. She had never permitted herself to
think of it, lest she should grow depressed and unhappy. And to think
that now this Robert Vail whom she had liked so much, had presumed to
question her. Like a flash, it came to her that perhaps he had met Kate
Bowerman or Abner Stout and they had told him that she had been left a
waif on Debby Alden's hands and that her people had cared so little for
her that they never came to find her.

For an instant, pride was up in arms. Her one thought was to defend
herself at whatever cost. All Aunt Debby's precious training was flung
to the winds. She raised her head proudly and looked directly at him. In
her eyes was a look of defiance; the crimson of annoyance and shame
flamed on her cheeks.

"Who are my people?" she repeated his question. "As my name is Alden, I
presume my people also were of that name. My father and mother died when
I was a babe, and my father's sister, my Aunt Debby Alden reared me."

Her annoyance was evident. Robert Vail was vexed with himself for having
caused it. "I am always falling into error, Miss Alden. If you forgive
me this once more, I shall promise not to annoy you again. I fancy my
question was personal. I asked it because of the resemblance to my
mother and cousin. It came to me that you might be a relative. Though I
doubt if you would wish to claim us. We are a bad lot. I am really the
only fair specimen among them."

"Such insufferable conceit," said Helen. "Everyone knows that it keeps
all the other members of the family taking care of you."

"Which proves what I have just said. I am the family jewel. It behooves
them to take care of me, lest I be lost or stolen." Turning to Hester,
he held out his hand. "Am I forgiven?" he asked.

Hester, ashamed and abashed, laid her hand within his. "I am sorry I
spoke so hastily," she said. But the red did not leave her cheeks, nor
the hurt look from her eyes. She blushed for the statement she had made.
"'My father was Aunt Debby's brother.' It was a lie--nothing less than a
lie," she kept saying to herself and the thought spoiled the entire day
for her. It spoiled more than that, too. Perhaps, had she told the
truth, she would never again have need to blush for her lack of name or
to misunderstand her people for not coming in search for her. Her little
sin bore its own fruits with it; yet Hester believed she was paying the
debt by being sorry and ashamed.

"About your going with me," Robert turned to his cousin. "Mother said I
was to play escort and take you anywhere you wished to go."

"Aunt Harriet's not coming may make a difference. The preceptress gave
me permission to go with the understanding that we were in your mother's
charge."

"I shall take as good care of you as mother. Better care, I fancy, for
she would be helpless if she had to manage a machine."

"It is the idea of not living up to the conditions," replied Helen. "If
you and Hester will excuse me, I will explain to Miss Burkham. Perhaps,
she will not object to my going with you. She would if you were not a
cousin."

She went directly to the preceptress and in a few moments returned with
that lady herself, who listened to the story of the difficulties.

"We intended stopping to see Aunt Debby," said Hester. "I wrote her a
note yesterday, telling her to expect us."

"You may go under these conditions," said Miss Burkham, "that you go
directly to Miss Alden's aunt's. If she can accompany you further, very
well. Otherwise you remain at her home until you are ready to return to
school. Under any circumstances you must be here before five o'clock. Be
kind enough to set your timepieces with the tower clock. Then there will
be no excuse for not being here on or before the hour appointed. You may
get your wraps. I shall entertain Mr. Vail until your return."

Miss Burkham was always exacting. Her speech was frank and sometimes
even blunt; but she had such a sense of justice and fitness of things,
that her decisive words were never galling, even to the most sensitive
of the girls. Her manner was gracious and her smile kindly. She would
put herself to no end of trouble to add to the happiness of the pupils;
on the other hand, she would go to no end of trouble to see that the
rules of the school were rigidly enforced and that the girls under her
care would do nothing unbecoming a lady or which might bring criticism
upon their heads.

Soon the three were on their way. For three days, Hester Alden had
enjoyed the ride in anticipation. But now something had gone from it.
The buoyancy of spirit which was generally hers and the power of
enjoying the most trifling affairs had deserted her. She sat silent
until Helen rallied her. Then she made an effort to be her usual bright
talkative self; but it was plainly an effort. She was forcing an
interest in what was going on about her. Her mind dwelt only on the
statement she had made to Robert Vail.

"It was a lie, a lie," she kept repeating to herself. She was almost
afraid to meet Aunt Debby. How Aunt Debby despised anything of that
kind! Hester felt that her clear gray eyes would look straight down into
her heart and read the lie which had made a mark there.

Robert Vail observed that Hester was more than quiet. She was depressed
and anxious.

Debby Alden was prepared to receive the guests. She, with Miss Richards,
had a lunch ready to serve. She had smiled when she arranged her table
service. She had given it the right touch of daintiness and refinement.
There had come to her, the remembrance of certain conditions of her life
and her manner of doing things before Hester had come into her life.
She had spoken her thoughts to Miss Richards.

"I have been a different woman ever since I found Hester," she said.
"Life holds so much more for me than it did before--a great deal more
than I ever hoped to have it hold. I wonder what I would have been had
Hester gone her way that day and not have come into my life."

"You would have been Debby Alden," said Miss Richards, "a woman of
conscience and principle. You would have been the same Debby--only with
the narrower view of life. You would have been an old woman instead of a
bright, interesting, beautiful, young girl of forty."

Debby Alden had blushed at the speech.

"You and Hester have conspired to spoil me. I think you are leagued
together to make me vain and worldly. What one does not think of, the
other does. It was only last week that Hester wrote me some very silly
nonsense about not one of the women at the reception, looking half so
fine as I. Of course, I know the child does it merely to please me."

Miss Richards nodded her head in negation. "You know she means every
word she says, Debby. Hester could not prevaricate, even to please you.
As to its being nonsense, you know it is not. We think what we say and
you like to hear us say it. Why not express ourselves? There is nothing
in the world that is as great as love. The greatest thing in the world!
Why then should we go through life with silent lips, or lips which open
only for criticism while all the time love is really in our hearts? Is
it not lovelier and kinder to express our love while the loved ones are
here to listen?"

This had been Miss Richards's philosophy of life. It had been her love
as well as Hester's which had brightened and developed Debby Alden.
Their words concerning Debby's being beautiful were not flattering. She
was beautiful with the beauty which comes from fine principle, high
ideals, and a warm, love-filled heart. People had turned in the streets
for a second look at Debby Alden, while she, wholly unconscious that she
had grown so attractive, moved on her way without knowing of the eyes
turned in her direction.

Debby went down to the gate to meet her guests. She took Hester in her
arms. In an instant her intuition told her that something was wrong.

"What is troubling my little girl?" she asked.

"Nothing, Aunt Debby. Nothing at all. Oh, how sweet to be back home!"
She threw her arms about Debby Alden's neck and hugged her with a
vehemence which caused that lady to gasp for breath.

Helen and Miss Alden had never met. Debby at once noticed the
resemblance between Helen and Hester. She greeted the former as she had
done her own little girl. Then she turned to Robert Vail and holding out
her hand, said merrily, "I shall forgive and believe now, since I know
you have a cousin Helen and she does resemble Hester. Until this time, I
thought it all a myth of your own making, manufactured for the sole
purpose of annoying two plain country folk."

Rob Vail laughed as he took her hand in his own firm clasp. "I do not
know whether I shall allow myself to be forgiven under such
circumstances. You would not have faith in me until I presented the
proof and that is really no faith at all. I wish to be trusted without
evidence."

He laughed again and held Miss Debby's hand tight in his own while they
moved up the walk toward the tiny cottage.

"From this time, I shall have faith in you, though evidence is lacking,"
she said.

She liked the boy. She had never before been so pleasantly impressed by
a young man as she had been by him. He was wholesome, clear-eyed and
unaffected.

Debby Alden recognized these virtues in him and received him at once
into her home and friendship. She liked his college talk; his bright way
of making his smile and voice put his words at fault. Yet, while he
entertained her she was not wholly unconscious of two things--that
Hester was not herself, and that the resemblance between the two girls
was not the result of mere chance. Suddenly she turned to Helen with the
question:

"Have you any sisters? Did you ever have any?"

"No, unfortunately, I am an only child," was the reply.

"Which may account for any peculiar little traits of character or
manner," said Robert Vail. "Only a brother or sister is able to 'comb
one' thoroughly smooth. They trim the plant of self-esteem; they nip the
bud of selfishness before it can bloom; they serve their purpose,
nuisances though they are--these brothers and sisters."

"How unfortunate that you never had any. You might have been--" Helen
left the sentence unfinished, implying by her tone that he might have
been all that he was not.

"But you served the same purpose, cousin. You have never failed in your
duty toward me. You are worth a dozen brothers and sisters when it comes
to 'combing one down.'" They laughed at the sally and might have carried
it further had not Miss Alden led the way to the lunch table.



CHAPTER X


Hester Alden barely escaped being campused for dancing her way through
the main hall and shrieking in wild excess of spirits. To add to the
enormity of the offense, the day on which this had occurred was the day
when the ice-cream wagon came in from Flemington and disposed of its
wares at the front entrance of the campus. At the time of her exhibition
of high spirits, Hester had held high in her hand a paper butter-dish
filled with cream, which had melted and was trickling over the edge of
the dish and down her sleeve. The German teacher had heard the unusual
commotion and appeared on the scene.

"Ach, Fraulein Alden, what matters it by you? To your room go you at
once. To Miss Burkham, I such conduct shall report."

Hester in the exuberance of spirit, hugged the little German lady who
was as fat as a dumpling. "Fraulein Franz, you are a dear old soul if
you do get your English verbs confused. You would dance and laugh and
spill your ice-cream too, if you were to play on the scrub team."

"Gra-shus," said Fraulein. "Pardon me, I did not know the cause. I
wonder not that you much rejoice."

She retired to her room. Hester laughed again, but softly this time for
Miss Burkham's office was not a great distance away.

"The dear old Fraulein! To think of her begging my pardon for
reprimanding me. I am only too glad it was not Miss Burkham. If she had
seen me, I'd had two weeks on the campus and someone else would have
been compelled to carry my cream from the wagon to the coping."

The other east dormitory girls had heard the news and were quite as well
pleased as Hester. Mame Cross had been forbidden by her father to play
any but practice games. He thought she grew too excited for her own
good. It was her place on the second squad which Hester was to fill.

Helen had used her influence in behalf of her roommate; for there were
ten other players who would have been as well pleased as Hester was, had
it fallen to their lot to substitute. Fortunately they were a liberal,
broad-minded set of girls. They were not envious, but rejoiced with
Hester in her good fortune.

As Hester hurried down the main hall to the dormitory stairs, she found
her own particular set of friends waiting for her on the landing.

"Here she is!" cried Erma. "We have been looking everywhere for you.
Isn't it simply grand to think that one of our set got on?"

"I'm glad you've got it, since I couldn't," said Mame. She had always
the expression of one on whom Fortune had frowned. On the contrary, she
had fairly basked in that lady's smiles, since the first day of her
babyhood.

"I don't see why father will not let me play. There's no danger of my
hurting myself, and what if I should? He has an idea that I am such a
precious article that I should be done up in cotton. One thing, Hester,
if you play a match game, you'll look better than I do. My basket-ball
suit was a fright; but then, I never do have anything that looks like
other girls."

Hester was about to express herself contrary to this sentiment, when an
audacious remark from Erma caused her to fall back in silence.

"You see how it is, Hester," explained Erma later as the two walked arm
in arm down the hall. "Mame is the best dresser in school. She has the
best-made clothes and the best taste about choosing them, and you never
see a pin or hook loose. Yet we never yet have heard her say she was
satisfied. So we just concluded that we wouldn't encourage her. When she
begins to complain and find fault with her lot, we'd look as though we
pitied her. It isn't a bit of use of trying to convince her how lucky
she is.

"Now, I am always the other way." Here Erma paused long enough to laugh
merrily. "I'm satisfied with everything. My father is simply grand; I
just adore this old seminary, and I think the girls on our hall are the
sweetest things, and I never had a dress in all my life that wasn't
simply a dream."

The girls rejoiced with Hester, all except Berenice. She went through
with the form of congratulations, but her voice had a sarcastic touch
and her eyes had narrowed themselves into mere slits. Her words were a
little uncertain as to meaning; but Hester to whom all things appeared
beautiful, was in no mood to take exception.

"I'm sure I'm glad you're on the scrub," she said slowly. "I'm always
glad to see people get what they work so hard for."

"Thank you, Berenice. You girls have all been lovely. You do not have a
bit of jealousy about letting a 'freshie' step in ahead of some who have
been here two and three years."

"We want to win games," cried Louise Reed. "Whoever makes goals for us,
suits us whether she's a freshman or a senior. Get the pennant and we'll
carry you home on our shoulders."

They had come to Sixty-two. Erma and Mame in company with Berenice
walked on down the corridor.

"I'd love to have been put on; but since I wasn't I am glad that Hester
was. It was fair, too. She's played better than any other one on the
team. She gets excited but she doesn't lose her head."

Berenice sneered. "To get on the team, one must learn to toady," she
said. "No doubt if you had played lackey to Helen Loraine, you would
have been playing scrub."

Erma turned suddenly to look at the speaker. There was no laughter now
in either her eyes or voice as she, gazing steadily at Berenice, asked,
"Do you mean to say that Hester Alden plays lackey to Helen? Do you mean
to say that Helen would permit it if Hester were foolish enough to do
so, and furthermore do you mean to say that Hester was not chosen for
the simple reason that she is the steadiest player among the
substitutes?"

Berenice shrugged her shoulders. Her little beady eyes had their lashes
drawn down upon them until they had narrowed into a mere slit.

"How you do fly up, Erma! I really did not think you had such a temper;
but one thing you may rest assured of: it is always you sweet girls who
fly into a passion at the slightest word."

"I have never posed as being a sweet girl, and I am not in a passion
now. I have asked you a question which you have evaded. You have
insinuated things about girls who call me their friend and I will never
let such matters pass. I wish you to answer my question before we go one
step further."

Erma stood still. The others did as she did. Berenice laughed lightly.
"How very silly. A perfect tempest in a tea-cup simply because I choose
to get off a joke."

"If that is a joke, it is in horribly bad taste," was Erma's retort.

"You are unjust, Erma. How many times have I heard you laugh at Helen
for trying to stand in with the teachers, and for letting Mame copy her
translations."

"Hundreds of times, but you always heard me laugh and jest when the
girls themselves were present and when every one who heard, knew that it
was mere fun. It was mere give and take between every one of our set who
were present. You have yet to hear me criticise an absent girl, or jest
about her."

Again Berenice shrugged her shoulders as though she would dismiss the
subject.

"I am glad I am not ugly-tempered," she said and walked away without a
backward glance at the others. For a moment, Erma was wounded. Then the
humor of the situation came to her. She laughed until the silvery echoes
rang from one end of the corridor to the other; and the girls begged to
be quiet lest the hall-teacher follow in their footsteps and they be
sentenced to solitary confinement on the campus.

After receiving the congratulations of her friends, Hester had gone to
her room. Helen was busy preparing a lesson for the session the
following morning.

"Of course, you know what has happened," cried Hester. "Of course you
do. I can see by your eyes. Miss Watson sent for me to come to her and
then told me. I knew who proposed my name. It was you, Helen Loraine. I
cannot possibly thank you, and I never in the world can repay you."

Flinging her arms about her roommate's neck, Hester embraced her warmly
all the while declaring that she would never be able to repay her.

"Yes, you surely can," said Helen. "Play a good game and justify my
recommending you. That will please me best of all."

"I shall do that for your sake, for my own, and for the team's."

Helen stood silent a moment, considering whether she had better tell
Hester all her plans. She decided that she would and drawing Hester down
on the cosy corner, which had been improvised from trunks, she
continued: "For several reasons you must play well the next two weeks.
Three weeks from next Saturday, we play the girls from Exeter Hall. They
are the hardest squad we'll meet. Their coach is a college woman and a
specialist in physical culture and athletics. The Exeter team is the
best-trained one we'll come up against. We'll take along four
substitutes. Maud plays well for the first half, but she tires easily. I
intend to substitute for her on the second half, and if you justify my
doing it, I'll let you take her place."

"Really?" That one word was all that Hester Alden could command at that
moment; but it spoke volumes. To the girl it seemed as though the one
ambition of her school life was about to be fulfilled--to play on the
first team.

She did not consider herself alone in this. Aunt Debby was always first
in her thoughts. Ever since Mary Bowerman had taunted her with being a
waif, Hester had realized how much the foster aunt had done for her, and
what sacrifice of time and money, she had made. The one way which Hester
saw to repay the obligation, was to do those things which would reflect
credit on the Alden name. Playing on the first team would do that very
thing for never before in the history of Dickinson, had a freshman been
so honored.

Hester had reached such a degree of happiness that she lacked expression
either by words or motion. She could but sit still in the cosy corner,
her hands clasped in her lap and her eyes looking steadily before her.
So she sat for some minutes but in those minutes, she anticipated every
play in the coming game. She saw the goals she would make; she could
hear the referee call out the score and read the figures which the score
makers were writing down. She could see Aunt Debby sitting in the
gallery; she could hear the applause which swept over the hall.

"Really? Do you really think there is the least chance for me?" she
asked at last.

"I really think so. I might say I am quite sure," replied Helen. "Miss
Watson always permits me to choose my substitutes. I would almost
promise but--"

"Don't promise. I would not have you do that. During the next two weeks
I might lose my head and not play well at all," she said.

"I'm not afraid of that," replied Helen. "But it does not seem fair to
the other girls to have me pledge myself to you, before you have had a
single practice on the scrub. I try to be just, but sometimes I am
afraid I am a little partial in choosing the ones I love best. Because
you are you, I might be unjust to the others. Do you understand why I
would rather not promise, little roommate?"

"Yes, I know."

The subject ended there. Helen went back to her work. Hester tried to
keep her mind upon her books; but one might as well have tried to charm
a butterfly. Her thoughts flew from the game to Aunt Debby, and back to
Helen and the attitude she had taken in regard to the game.

Hester had no doubt that Helen had a great affection for her. There had
been some sweet and gentle evidence of it since the first week of
school. Hester was beginning to understand what the girls had tried to
convey to her that first day of school, when Sara had declared that
Helen had such an air. It was the grace which was the expression of fine
breeding, intellect and kindliness of heart.

As Hester thought of these things, she could have gone down on her knees
to Helen just as she would have done to Aunt Debby.

"We'll be friends all our life. Whatever happens, we will never quarrel.
It is lovely to have a friend like Helen." These were the thoughts which
came to Hester. Inspired by them to express herself, she opened a
note-book and under the date of the month and year, she wrote what had
been in her thoughts.

Helen was one who had much affection in her nature, but was never
sentimental. She was intensely practical when it came to her work.
After her talk with Hester about the work on the team, her mind turned
to the petty details, the fulfillment of which meant success.

"I wear my gray basket-ball suit when we play with an outside team," she
said to Hester. "You have never seen it. It has D. S. in gold and blue
letters. Dickinson Seminary. It looks well, and the suits are really
pretty. Mine, however, is beginning to show wear. I have had it for
three years. The last time we played over at Kermoor, a hook came loose
on the shoulder where my waist fastens. It was a trifle but it almost
caused me to lose that game. It pestered me until I could scarcely think
of anything else. I made up my mind then that I'd never be placed in
such a position again. While I have it in mind, I am going over those
hooks and eyes and sew them so tight that they cannot possibly give."

"Why not come out on the campus now, Helen? The girls are going to walk
along the river's edge as far as the campus reaches and then climb over
the hill and come back the other way. Miss Watson will come with us."

"If I do I'll neglect those hooks. I had my gym work to-day and do not
need exercise. You run along and I'll discipline myself about the
hooks." She laughed softly at her own remarks.

"Very well. If you will not, you will not," replied Hester, drawing on
her red sweater and Tam-o-Shanter. "I'll be off or I'll keep them
waiting, and you know Miss Watson does not approve of that."

She went her way down the hall. She was a picture good to look at, and
which would have pleased more eyes than the partial ones of Debby Alden.

Upon Hester's departure, Helen went to her sewing. The gray gymnasium
suit hung in a public press at the end of the hall, and it took her some
time to find her own among the others which hung there. Her needles and
thread were at hand, but hooks and eyes were lacking. She found that the
waist required several additional hooks and what were in place hung by a
mere thread.

"I have a card of hooks somewhere," she said to herself. "I remember
distinctly putting in everything in the line of mending that I might
possibly need. I remember now. What I thought I would not need often, I
put in the bottom of the closet."

The closet floor held quite an assortment of boxes. Articles which the
girls used seldom, had been stored here out of the way. Helen remembered
that a box with hooks and eyes, buttons and glove-silk had been placed
in there, early in the fall when she had unpacked the trunk.

She and Hester had been careful about not infringing upon each other's
closet room. Each had her allotted space and number of hooks; but
keeping the floor divided was not so easy. Boxes had been moved and
shoved about until it was impossible to know whose they were.

Helen sat down on the floor and began a systematic search; in turn
opening each box and examining its contents. It required system for the
boxes were many and the confusion great. There were handkerchief boxes,
spool, candy, and shoe boxes of all sizes and conditions.

She had opened each one without discovering the articles which she
needed. She was about to put them back in their places when a little
dark covered box, hidden deep in the corner, attracted her eyes. Without
a thought that she might be infringing on someone's else right, she took
up the box and opened it. She gave a sharp exclamation at the sight of
its contents. She sat with it opened in her hand, looking at it
steadily. Then she replaced the lid and put the box with the contents
just as she had found them, back in the corner. She put the floor of the
closet in order, and then went back to her work. She found her card of
hooks and eyes in the bottom of her sewing-bag. She was busy sewing them
on when Hester came in. They greeted each other as usual, yet Hester was
conscious that something was different.

"Are you ill, Helen?" she asked.

"No, Hester."

"Are you worried?"

"What should I have to worry me? You have been gone less than an hour.
What should happen in that time to make me either ill or anxious? I have
been putting the floor of the closet in order. I am afraid I opened
some of your boxes, but I did not disturb their contents."

"No matter if you did. I am glad the closet is in order. It surely
needed some attention." Going to the door she flung it wide. "How nice
it looks. The boxes piled up like a shoe-store. I wonder how long it
will remain that way."

Helen watched her closely. Hester must indeed be a capital actor, for
she had showed neither anxiety nor embarrassment at hearing that Helen
had opened the boxes.

After dinner that evening, no conversations were carried on between the
two girls. Helen, contrary to her habit, went directly to her room and
did not mingle with her friends in the library or parlor. She was in her
study garb and presumably deep in study when Hester came back to her
room. She neither spoke nor raised her eyes at Hester's entrance. Her
eyes were upon the text, but she was not studying. She was reviewing
certain little incidents of Hester's being with her. A score of trifles
to which she had then given no thought, now appeared in gigantic
proportion with most pretentious signs. Hester had shown no interest
whatever when the pin had been lost. She had not helped look for it.
Just before the holidays, Helen remembered it clearly now, she had found
Hester in the closet. Hester had blushed and stammered and appeared much
confused and had replied curtly to Helen's questions. It was really very
suspicious. Helen did not like to think of such matters. She had no
desire to think evil of any one; but the evidence was there. She could
not go past that. She had trusted Hester, and had really loved her.
Hereafter she would trust and love no one.

Even after the close of the study hour, there was no opportunity for
conversation; for at the ringing of the half-hour bell, Helen, contrary
to her habit, went down the hall to the room of one of the seniors. She
did not ask Hester to accompany her and the latter was hurt by the
omission. They had been together almost six months and in that time such
a thing had never before occurred.

Hester slowly made ready for bed. The fumes of chocolate and fudge in
the making were wafted to her from the rooms at the lower end of the
hall, and the chatter and laugh came with them. No one called her to
come. She felt forsaken and lonely. Such occasions previous to this, she
had not waited until a special invitation had been given her, but joined
and helped with the merry-making. She felt that something stood between
her and Helen. Just what that something was, she did not know, nor could
she surmise. There was nothing tangible for her thoughts to work upon to
reach a conclusion. She instinctively felt that something was wrong. In
this particular case, instinct was stronger than reason. She crept into
bed, although the retiring bell had not rung. The two little iron cots
stood side by side with only a narrow space between them. Helen had
always been the deliberate one of the two. Hester was generally in bed
before Helen had finished her reading. It had been the latter's habit to
come to Hester's bed and softly kissing her on the forehead to whisper,
"Good-night, little roommate."

It was for this good-night that Hester was waiting. She would insist
then upon knowing what troubled Helen or what had gone wrong to cause
this feeling of alienation. She would have cried had not her pride
sustained her. The tears were very near the surface but she forced them
back. She would cry for no one, no matter how that one treated her.

A few moments before the retiring bell, Helen came into the bedroom.
Knowing that she was late and that the lights would soon be turned off,
she prepared hastily for bed. She did not once glance toward Hester, but
that might have been because she was hurried. While Hester lay and
watched her, the lights went out. She heard Helen laugh softly and say,
"Just in time. I just gave the last turn to my hair."

Then she moved toward the cot, but she moved toward the outside and not
near that of her roommate. Hester was overcome with homesickness. Her
pride took to itself, wings. Raising herself in bed, she turned toward
Helen.

"Have you forgotten something, Helen? Are you not going to bid me
good-night?"

"Surely. Good-night, Hester."

"But not that way, Helen. I mean the way you always have done."

There was silence for an instant. To Hester it seemed as though hours
had passed before Helen replied gently and firmly, "Not to-night,
Hester. I--I--cannot--to-night."



CHAPTER XI


After this, Hester Alden believed that school could never be as it had
been. The first day proved that she was wrong. Outwardly, life at
Dickinson moved on as before. No one appeared to know or care that
Hester Alden had been touched to the quick, and that she was very
miserable and unhappy.

Helen was courtesy itself. She was careful to include Hester in all her
invitations, but it was a carefulness forced upon her from a sense of
duty and not from love. Hester was not dull. She felt the difference.
She could be quite as proud as Helen. So she raised her head a trifle
higher as she walked and drew her shoulders a little more rigid and gave
back to Helen the same rigid courtesy that she was receiving.

To Hester it was tragic. The alienation was a genuine sorrow to her. To
one who merely looked on, the two girls were acting foolishly. A few
words would have cleared away the misunderstanding and saved them from
suffering. Helen acted from what she thought was a high sense of
justice; Hester's action was from pride only.

The other girls in the dormitory knew not the cause of the estrangement,
for both Helen and Hester had that sense of honor which impelled them to
keep closed lips on such matters. The intuition of the girls told them
that affairs between Helen and Hester were not quite the same. That was
as far as their intuition carried them.

In spite of Hester's unhappiness, matters at Dickinson moved on as
before. Renee came to borrow; Erma laughed merrily; Mame wept over the
condition of her clothes which looked as though they were fresh from the
French tailor; Josephine grew eloquent on moonlight, love-stories, and
kindred subjects; Mellie Wright came and went like a gentle ray of
sunshine. The strangest part of all to Hester was that Mellie, who never
appeared to notice what took place, was first to grasp the situation.
Before the week had passed, she made an occasion to join Hester on the
campus. No reference at all was made to the state of depression which
hung over Hester like a cloud, but before the two had parted, the
younger girl carried with her these impressions:

Everything comes right some day, and that day comes when least expected;
nothing matters if one continues to do what is right, regardless of
other people's opinion of one; and if one is blue, the best thing to do
is to do something and do it quickly.

Mellie did not put her philosophy into those words, nor did she make a
personal application for her companion. The strongest impressions are
those which we receive unconsciously. After this talk with Mellie,
Hester's pride and ambition were aroused. She was indignant with herself
that she had given way to any show of feeling and vowed to herself that
from that instant she would not lose control over her emotions.

Fortunately for her, basket-ball practice followed close on her
resolutions and putting her thoughts into action, strengthened her.

She played right guard on the scrub team with Edna Turnbach opposed to
her. Edna was little, wiry, and active, an opponent that was really
worth while.

Hester cast her troubles to the wind and went into the game with all her
energy. Edna was quick, but Hester matched her with cool calculation.
Her long strides were equal to Edna's quick ones; and she had the
advantage of length of arms which could be kept beyond Edna's reach.

The left guard on the scrub team was Emma who resembled a little Dutch
doll wound up and set to moving. Emma had no guile in her disposition
and was utterly lacking in self-assertion. She admired Hester's playing
and never failed to play the ball into her hands. Just the moment
Hester's hand touched the ball, Emma encouraged her with cries of "Show
them how to play, Hessie. Show them how scrubs play when they once get
started."

Emma was both an inspiration and an advantage. Hester played with all
her energy. To watch her, one might believe that all the future depended
upon the winning of the game.

For the first half, she had the ball the instant the captain's hand had
left it. Passing it on to Emma with a quickness and deftness which was
almost beyond belief, she rushed forward in position to receive Emma's
return pass. It was no easy matter for Edna was close at her heels and
the center stood in her way. But by quick side movements, a sudden jerk
beneath outstretched arms, the thing was done.

Only once during the first half was the ball worked back to the goal of
the opposing team; but even then it did not make a score. For three
minutes, it went from end to end of the cage and at last went from the
hands of the scrubs on a foul that Emma had made.

During the game, Hester was not only playing right guard. She played the
game alone with a little assistance from Emma--a game of solitaire. She
was the team and made every score.

Miss Watson and Doctor Weldon stood in the gallery looking on.

"Hester Alden is a brilliant person," said Miss Watson. "She will amount
to something if she continues."

"She can do little in mathematics. She'll pass on about seventy-five per
cent," said Miss Laird. She had long since erased Hester's name from her
good books, for Miss Laird knew only angles and equations, fixed values
and ratios, and had no conception of nor admiration for a mind which was
not as her own.

Miss Watson laughed at this remark. She was more liberal-minded than
Miss Laird and was not disappointed to find that her girls were not all
of the same type.

"You can open an oyster with a pen-knife as well as a chisel," she said.

Miss Laird glanced at the speaker. She was logical but not witty. Seeing
that she did not grasp the meaning, Miss Watson continued.

"Taking the oyster as each one's little world, you know, Miss Laird. I
have known men and women who have achieved a wonderful amount of success
and happiness who could not have made seventy per cent on one of your
examinations."

Doctor Weldon had listened in silence. She had sat watching Hester
during that intense first half. She read deeper than either of her
teachers.

"I am fearful for Hester," she said at last. She spoke so low that only
Miss Watson heard her. "She is too easily hurt, and she'll fight off
showing it until she drops from exhaustion. If I know the girl, her good
playing this evening is not so much for love of the game, as it is to
hide the fact that something has gone wrong."

"Rather an excellent trait. Do you not think so?" said Miss Watson.
"Personally, I despise a whiner, and haven't a bit of sympathy for a
girl who goes about asking for pity. Pride is a good thing when it helps
us cover up our own bruises."

"It is very fine, if it is not overdone. You know you cannot keep all
the steam in a boiler under high pressure. There must be a safety valve
or--trouble. I hope Hester will not be too intense. Intense folk need
such a lot of self-control, or they make every one miserable about
them."

The conversation stopped at this point. The practice game was over and
Miss Watson went below and into the cage to see that the girls were
taking the necessary precautions in regard to wraps.

"Hester Alden will play at Exeter," was the general opinion at the close
of the game.

"I am sure of that," said Sara Summerson. "During the game I was where I
could see Miss Watson. Nothing escaped her. She watched every move
Hester made. Emma was all right at first, but that foul put her on Miss
Watson's black list. I could tell that. You know how Miss Watson presses
her lips together and nods her head when she's pleased. Well, she did
that every time Hester made a good play."

"I will not get a chance to go," said Emma. "I am sure of that. I'd like
to, for I know lots of Exeter girls. There's a whole _bunch_ of them
from up our way."

"You speak as though they were flowers," laughed Erma, as she hurried
down the steps from the gallery to join the girls. "A bunch of girls and
a bunch of flowers, I presume that is a figure of speech, but
nevertheless I would not let Doctor Weldon hear me, if I were you. She
might fail to see how flowery it is, and think you are using slang."

Josephine was leaning against the balustrade. Her cheeks were pressed
upon her upturned palm and her eyes were raised toward some remote
region in the direction of the ceiling. Her hair was bound with a Greek
band. She had seen to it that her short-waisted dress was suggestive of
Grecian lines of beauty.

"I rather like that term," she said slowly. "We say a bunch of flowers;
then why not a bunch of girls. Somehow I always think of flowers when I
see a group of girls together. Do people never make you think of
flowers? Some seem to me like lilies, others like shy, modest violets."

"Oh, cut it out!" said Emma, disregarding the rules in the use of
language. "Just at present they make me think of a lot of empty vessels
which will be emptier if they are not out of these duds and into dresses
before the ten-minute bell rings for dinner."

Emma strode on down the hall, in company with Mame Cross and Edna
Bucher. Edna had her arm around Emma's waist, although she was fully
six years Emma's senior. But the younger girl's father was a bank
president, a railroad magnate, and a number of other important persons,
and Edna believed in cultivating friendship where it would bear fruit
worth while. Emma was lavish and Edna fell heir to many discarded
trifles and was never ignored when Emma had a spread or banquet.

"Josephine is too sentimental," said Emma placidly. "If she would only
waken and talk sense, she would be fine."

"She's such a sweet girl," said Edna. Every woman, girl or child she had
ever known, came under that general heading in Edna Bucher's good books.
They were "sweet." That was always the sum and substance of her
criticism. There might have been a reason for such a general judgment.
As in the case of Josephine, obligation fixed the limit of Edna's
expression. She was at that moment, wearing a shirt-waist which
Josephine had purchased only to find it too small for comfort in
wearing.

During the three weeks before the game with Exeter, nine practice games
were played between the first team and the scrubs. In these Hester
Alden played right guard. She had never missed a goal which she had
attempted and had never made a foul. There had been one or two instances
when she might have done quicker work in passing and kept the ball from
the control of the opponent; but they were minor faults which faded into
insignificance before her more brilliant plays.

During this time, Helen had maintained the letter of courtesy toward her
roommate. But there was no longer any show of affection or love between
them. Nothing had been said about the trip to Exeter. However, Hester
was counting upon it. She knew that her playing had justified Miss
Watson and Helen in selecting her. Miss Watson was the head of the
athletics, yet the choice of players in reality rested with Helen.

Miss Watson permitted this because she believed that girls who were in
sympathy with each other could work together better than where there was
an unfriendly feeling or antagonism. Hester, relying on being chosen as
a substitute for the Exeter game, made ready her suit, purchased a new
pair of gymnasium shoes, and was about to write to Aunt Debby
concerning the trip.

The games were played on Friday evening, unless the distance was too
great for the visiting team to reach the school in a few hours. Then
Saturday afternoon was given over to them. Several days before, Miss
Watson read out the names of the substitutes and the teacher who would
go in charge of the girls. This important reading took place immediately
after the general gymnasium work in the afternoon.

Wednesday morning, Berenice went about with a very wise expression. She
looked as though she could tell a great deal if she were insisted upon.
Erma, meeting her in the hall, fell prey to her hints and insisted that
she tell the secret that was weighing her down.

"I was in the office waiting to see Doctor Weldon," said Berenice. "Miss
Watson was in the private office talking with the doctor. It was
something about the players for the Exeter game. You know Miss Watson
must always give the list to Doctor Weldon before it is announced.
Something unusual happened, for they debated a long time. Of course, I
could not catch the words. I did not try; but I could not help knowing
that there was a discussion."

"There generally is," said Erma. "Doctor Weldon will not allow a girl to
play unless she is up in her work and her conduct. Campused twice, and
your throat is cut for any work in athletics."

Berenice's face flushed. The reference to being campused touched her.

"This was more than that. It was an argument; Miss Watson held to one
idea and Doctor Weldon to another." This was growing interesting. A
group of girls clustered about Berenice to hear the startling news.

"Did you hear who the substitutes were?" asked someone.

"Why ask that?" said Sara Summerson slowly.

"I am not brilliant, nor yet am I observing; but I know who the
substitutes will be if the choice is according to their playing."

"_If_ it is," said Berenice.

"I think it always is," said Mellie gently. "It would be very foolish to
have it otherwise; to risk our securing the pennant on account of a
little personal feeling. I do not like to feel that people are unjust.
They have always treated me fairly."

"They always will," said Erma.

"They have never treated me fairly," said Berenice. "Every one I meet
always tries to make something from me or treats me unfairly."

Erma laughed and the girls followed her fashion.

"They always will, Berenice," she said. "People always find what they
are looking for. You always find in every place just what you carry
there. You are out looking for trouble, and you will find it waiting
around the corner. If you will persist in going about with a chip on
your shoulder, you may be sure that someone will take pleasure in
knocking it off."

"But the players," cried Emma. "Who are they? When will Miss Watson read
the names?"

"I did not hear the names, but I did hear her say that she intended
making them public at gym this afternoon."

"I intend to ask Doctor Weldon if I may go over with the girls," said
Emma. "Of course, I know that I will not be allowed to play and I don't
care much about it. I'd have just as much fun looking on and rooting. I
know a dandy lot of girls over there."

"You had better see her early then," said Louise Reed. "She will not
grant more than ten extra permissions and I know a number of girls who
intend going."

"I'll see her the first thing after luncheon," said Emma. "She will not
let us come before one-thirty."

"Whatever you do, Emma, do not get excited and tell Doctor Weldon that
you know some 'dandy' girls at Exeter. She will not allow any of us to
go if she hears from you that the Exeter girls are of that type. Be
careful, Emma."

Emma shrugged her shoulders and tried to look serious, but the effort
was a failure, for the dimples came to her cheeks and rippled into
smiles. She turned to Mame and asked if she were going.

"I--going?" exclaimed Mame. "How can I go? I haven't a thing fit to
wear."

"You might wear your new blue broadcloth," suggested Louise Reed.

"New? Why, I had that before the holidays. I never did like it. I shall
not go with you girls and look shabby. You always look so well and I
will not put you to shame."

"I am sorry for you," said Erma. "I'd offer you my tan coat suit which I
have worn but two years, only I need it myself; it being the only one of
its kind that I have."

"You may laugh," said Mame. "But I am telling you the truth. I haven't a
dress fit to wear."

"No congregating in the hall, if you please. If you must talk together
you will find the parlor open to receive you." Miss Burkham had come
among them and spoke with a voice of gentle authority.

"Yes, Miss Burkham," replied six voices together, as the six bowed and
moved to their rooms.

The rumor that the names of the players would be read that afternoon
filled the ranks in the gymnasium. A number of girls had received
permission to be absent, but on hearing the rumor, they reconsidered
and decided that they were able to be present. The period of exercise
dragged along. The girls went through with the drills with as much
animation as one might expect from an automatic machine. Their eyes were
upon the clock whose hands moved provokingly slow. But it came to an
end, as all things must after a time.

Miss Watson gave a signal to the pianist to stop playing. Then stepping
to the front, she bade the girls to be seated. They found places on the
floor, on the horse and the mattresses which lay along the outer edge of
the floor. A few drew themselves up on the horizontal bars and balanced
there carefully while Miss Watson drew forth her paper, looked it over
and then began her preliminary remarks. One could have heard a pin drop,
so quiet was the room.

"As you know, we play the Exeter team in their gymnasium, Friday
evening," began Miss Watson in her brisk, business-like way. "The game
will be called at eight o'clock. We shall have a two-hours' ride to
reach Exeter. The last train from our station leaves at four o'clock.
Consequently, the faculty will excuse from lessons Friday afternoon, all
the girls who play."

"Or root?" finished Emma. She was balanced on the bars. The sound of her
own voice so startled her that she nearly lost her balance and was saved
from falling only by Louise's clutching her firmly by the shoulder.

Miss Watson turned toward Emma and looked her reprimand. "What have you
to say concerning the matter, Miss Chase?" she asked. The tones of her
voice would have disconcerted any one but Emma. Hers was an effervescent
spirit which could not be suppressed. She smiled upon Miss Watson as she
replied, "The girls who go along to root--will they be excused, too? You
said the players will not have any lessons Friday afternoon. What about
the girls that root?"

Miss Watson looked her scorn of the question and questioner. One thing
which had been discountenanced by the faculty and by Miss Watson in
particular, was the word "rooting" and all it stood for.

Miss Watson ignored the questions and continued, "Miss Burkham had
planned to accompany you--."

The girls gasped. With Miss Burkham in charge they would not be allowed
to speak above a whisper. She would compel them to be all that was
elegant and conventional.

"--but she has found that to be impossible. Neither Doctor Weldon nor I
can leave the school, so Fraulein Franz will have you in charge."

There was a relaxation of muscles. An expression of amusement and relief
spread over the faces of the girls. Dear Fraulein Franz! She would be
with them like a mother hen with a brood of ducks. With the Fraulein
they would do much as they pleased, and she would attribute it to the
peculiar customs of the country.

"The first team will be made up of the regular players. Three
substitutes will accompany the team. Doctor Weldon thought three would
be sufficient. I shall read the names of players and substitutes."
Taking up the paper, she read.

"Captain, Miss Loraine--Players: Misses Turnbach, Cross, Bucher, and
Loveland. Substitutes: Misses Reed, Chase, and Thomas."

That was all. Hester's heart had been in her throat at the beginning.
Now she felt cold and chill. She had been so confident. The girls knew
that she had expected to be chosen. They knew that she had her suit in
order, with gay new letters across the blouse. She sat quite silent and
motionless on the mattress propped against the wall. She could not raise
her eyes to meet the eyes of the girls. She could not speak to them. The
girls did the kindest thing they could do. They went off without
attempting to speak to her, or to offer her condolence or sympathy.

When she raised her eyes, she found that the gymnasium was deserted and
that she was the only occupant.

She arose and went out into the corridor. She could not go to her room
and meet Helen. Helen had played her false. Perhaps, the recent
assumption of dignity on Helen's part had been to prevent any criticism
of this action.

Hester could not remain alone in the gymnasium, neither in her present
garb would she be permitted to visit the parlor, nor to linger in the
halls. The only alternative was to go to her room, and meet Helen there.
The injustice of the choice of substitutes at last appealed to her. Had
she been an Alden in very truth, she could not have shown the old
revolutionary spirit more.

Wounded feeling gave way; personal pride took to itself wings. The thing
was unjust and she would not bear it even from Helen Loraine. Another
thing she would not bear--she had borne it too long already--and that
was the distant, haughty treatment accorded her by Helen. Hester Alden's
spirit arose. She would have justice though she had to fight for it.

The feeling of humiliation left her. Now she had no dread of meeting the
girls. She raised her head proudly. Her eyes flashed, and a flush came
to her cheeks.

Helen was in the study when she entered. She was evidently doing nothing
and had been doing nothing for some minutes. Perhaps she dreaded the
meeting as much as Hester. She looked up when the latter entered and
spoke, "Well, Hester, are you back from the gym?"

To use Debby's expression, Hester was not one to beat about the bush.
Now, she brought up the subject at once.

"Did you or Miss Watson choose the substitutes?" she asked.

"Why, I did. That is, I recommended the ones I wished to play, and Miss
Watson agreed that they were satisfactory."

"Helen Loraine, did you choose ones who played the best, as you have
boasted that you always do?"

"I took the ones that played well and whom I thought had a right to be
substituted."

"Answer me this." Hester walked directly before her roommate. Standing
so, they looked into each other's eyes. "Answer me this. Do I not play a
better game than either Louise or Emma? Have I not made the score when
their fouls would have brought it down?"

"Yes, you have. You are a better player than either. To do you justice,
Hester, you play as well as any girl on the first team."

"I do, and yet you passed me over for an inferior player. Is that
justice to either the team or me?"

"It does not appear so. Yet one cannot judge from appearances alone. I
believed that I did what was fair and honorable."

"I fail to see it that way," said Hester proudly.

"We do not see it from the same point of view."

"Evidently not. But this much I insist upon. I must know the reason why
you ignored me when you have acknowledged that I was the best player. I
demand the reason."

"Don't you know, Hester Alden? Don't you really know?"

"I do not. There is something else I do not know or understand; that is
your treatment of me for the last three weeks. Do not for a moment think
that I am begging for either your love or friendship. I wish nothing
that does not come to me of its free will. But it was you who first
wished to be friends. It was you who always made the first advances.
Time and time again, you told me that I was nearer to you than any
friend you had ever had and that I seemed more like a sister to you."

"I know," said Helen slowly. "And I meant every word. From that first
night you were here, you were never like a stranger. I meant every word
I told you."

Her voice was low and sorrowful; but Hester was unmoved. The bitter
feeling which had filled her heart for three weeks was now bursting
forth in a torrent.

"Much I care for such affection! If that is the way you treat your
sister, I am very glad I am not she. Suddenly, without a reason, you
grow haughty and rude--."

"Rude! I was never rude, Hester. I was always courteous."

"Yes, with the kind of courtesy which made me angry all over. I wish to
tell you right here, Helen Loraine, that I shall not stand being treated
so without a reason."

"I thought I had a reason. I think yet I have a reason."

"Then why did you not come to me and tell me point blank? It is far
better to accuse me of something definite than to go about acting and
looking unutterable things."

"I could not tell you. Even now, if I should tell you and ask for an
explanation--."

"I would refuse to give it. It was either your place to come directly to
me or to trust me implicitly. I would give no explanation now, if I had
a million of them to give."

"But, Hester, listen. I have been as hurt and miserable about this as
you. Let me tell you--."

"Here you are. I knocked once and you didn't hear me. Hester, would you
just as soon lend me your basket-ball suit? I never gave a thought of
going to Exeter and I haven't any letters for my blouse." It was Renee
who had interrupted them.

"Yes, you may have it," said Hester. She moved away. The talk which
might have resulted in a reconciliation between her and Helen was not
resumed and nothing at all came from it.



CHAPTER XII


There were but twelve girls who went down from Dickinson to the Exeter
game; but to the hundred yet remaining, it seemed as though the
dormitories were vacant. Hester found the afternoon long. Her anger had
passed. She was not sorry that she had spoken as she did, but that no
results had come from her show of spirits. She was not in a mood to
visit with the other girls. Her intimate friends had gone with the
basket-ball team. No study hour was observed Friday evening. The parlors
and library were open. Hester, from her room, could hear the sound of
the piano and the school songs. Instead of enlivening her, it had the
opposite effect.

The girls who went down to Exeter could not possibly return until
Saturday evening. That meant another entire day alone. Hester did not
like to think of that.

"I shall pack my suit-case and to-morrow morning, I shall ask Doctor
Weldon to allow me to go to Aunt Debby."

The decision brought up her spirits. She immediately began to arrange
her work. The books were put in order and a suit-case taken from the
shelf in the closet.

"Aunt Debby said she would make new collars for my waists and change the
sleeves." With this promise in mind, she selected the thin white waists
which were showing signs of wear. Miss Richards and Miss Debby, with a
few deft touches, would make these look almost as well as new.

In her rummaging, Hester had the same experience that Helen had had
three weeks before. She went over the boxes for some article she needed.
She discovered the little box hidden away in the corner. She opened it
and exclaimed just as Helen had done.

"My pin! I had forgotten all about that. I think I shall wear it. It
looks rather pretty against a white dress." Holding it up against her
waist, she looked down upon it with satisfaction. It surely did look
pretty, against the white! The little bit of cut glass scintillated
like a bit of fire. Fastening it to her waist, she continued her work.

The next morning, she went down to breakfast wearing the pin. Mellie was
at the table, and gave a look of surprise when Hester came in. After a
time she turned to her and said: "Where did Helen find her pin? I am
glad she has recovered it, for it was valuable in addition to being an
heirloom."

"I did not know she had found it," said Hester. "She did not mention the
matter to me."

"I thought--." Mellie hesitated and did not finish the sentence. Several
times, Hester found her looking closely at her.

Hester was wearing a soft shirt-waist with a tie. The ends of the tie
knotted in butterfly fashion had been caught together by the pin which
was partly hidden by them.

Hester secured permission to visit her Aunt Debby. She was to go down on
the ten o'clock car and return Monday morning in time for chapel. On her
way to the car, she met Mellie, Berenice and several girls from the west
dormitory.

"We'll walk with you to the triangle," said Berenice. "I do not know how
we will put in our time to-day. It is certainly dull with the girls
gone. I wonder how the game went last evening?"

"Didn't you hear?" asked one of the others. "They telephoned Miss Watson
last evening. She's our hall-teacher and she told us at once. It was
twenty to thirty in favor of Exeter."

"Exeter won!" cried Berenice. "It is poor management on someone's part.
They never won a game from us before--not on such a score. Last year
neither scored, and the year before Exeter was one goal ahead, and they
would not have made that if the referee had not been partial."

"I am sorry. I was sure they would win," said Hester. They had come to
the triangle, the place where the sloping walks meet at an angle.

"They would have won, too, if you had been there. You should have been.
I, for one, was ready to revolt Wednesday morning, and the other girls
would have stood by me. We would have done so if you would have shown
any spirit; but you sat there as though the game were nothing to you."

Hester smiled but made no attempt to reply. She was learning to know
Berenice and the danger of expressing one's opinion in her presence.
Life at Dickinson was teaching her more than what lay between the covers
of books. She was learning to meet people, to know them as they were,
and to hold her tongue under provocation as she was doing now.

Berenice was not easily put aside. "Why, did you not show some spirit
about it, Hester?"

"Spirit? Why should I? If Miss Watson and Helen thought Emma put up a
better game than I, why should I complain?"

Berenice shrugged her shoulders. She was about to say more when Erma
came down the dormitory steps and crossed the campus toward them. Her
fair hair was piled high on her head in puffs and rolls. She was wrapped
in a long garnet sweater. She looked like a crimson rose as she moved
across the snow.

"Drop the subject," cried Berenice. "Here comes Erma. She takes
exception to everything I say. One cannot express an opinion or offer a
criticism in her presence unless one is taken to task."

"Perhaps it is just as well to let it drop," said Mellie gently. "It is
only a game of basket-ball and not worth a heated discussion."

"Well, peaches," cried Erma cheerily accosting Hester. "Are you really
going home? Won't your Aunt Debby be glad to see you. Tell her I send
her a thousand hugs and a million kisses. How I wish I were going home
to see that dear old daddy of mine. Girls, when you want to see the
grandest man in the world, come home with me and I'll show you my
daddy."

Berenice looked down over her nose.

"It is well to be satisfied," she said.

"It certainly is," replied Erma. "I am glad I am. There's not a father
or mother better than mine and my friends are the best in the world. I
wouldn't exchange them for millions."

She had come close to Hester, and encircling her with her arm, asked,
"When are you coming back, peaches?"

"Monday morning. There comes my car now." She stooped to lift her
suit-case which Marshall had brought down from her room and deposited at
her feet. As she did so, the butterfly end of her tie fluttered,
displaying her quaint pin whose setting gleamed like a spark of fire.

Its scintillation caught Erma's eye. She was about to remark concerning
it, but stopped herself in time. But Berenice, who never let anything
escape her, also caught the sparkle of the stone. More than that, she
saw the expression which passed quickly over Erma's face, and she read
it aright. She made no remark until Hester had boarded the car, had
waved her good-byes and the car had disappeared down the bend of the
road. Then turning, she slipped her arm into Erma's and Mellie's, and so
walking between them, moved toward the building.

"Did you notice the pin Hester had on?" she asked suddenly.

Mellie was wise and did not answer. Erma, who was as transparent as a
ray of light, grew confused and tried to cover it up by asking, "A pin?
Did she have a pin on? I suppose she did. Girls generally wear pins of
some sort."

Berenice shrugged her shoulders. "Yes; she had a pin on, Erma Thomas,
and you observed it as well as I did. You know as well as I do whose pin
it is."

"You are very much mistaken. I know nothing at all about it. I have
nothing to do with other people's jewelry."

"You have with this. At least you spent hours in helping to look for it.
It is that odd one which Helen Loraine wore and which so mysteriously
disappeared."

"Any disappearance is a mystery. If I lose a collar button, it is a
mystery to me. If it was not, I would know where it was. The things we
don't know are always mysterious. If we know, then they are as plain as
day."

"It seems strange it should disappear for three months and then Hester
Alden have it on, especially when Helen Loraine is away."

"That is the very time you should wear other people's jewelry and
clothes. When I am home I always wear my mother's best silk stockings
and rustling petticoats when I know she's down in the city shopping. Of
course I always ask her--when she comes back--and she never refuses me
permission. She always says the same thing: 'Well, since you have them
on--'"

Erma's attempts to lead the conversation away from Hester and the pin
was without results. Berenice clung to the subject with a tenacity which
would have been admirable had the thing been worth while.

"I understand you, Erma. You think just as I do, but you are afraid to
say so. I suspected from the first where the pin went; but of course I
did not say so."

"Do you not think it a wise course to follow now--to say nothing?"

"It is very different now. Before, I was merely suspicious. One may not
make statements in mere suspicion. Now I have proofs."

"Proofs? Because Hester Alden has the pin on and Helen is away?"

"Let us walk along the edge of the river," said Mellie. She, too, meant
to change the conversation. "I love the river when it is icebound. I
should like to cross if I thought it were safe. But I fancy we had
better not. We have had several days of thaw and that always rots the
ice, and rotten ice is far more dangerous than thin ice."

"I intend to speak my mind," said Berenice. "Mellie and you are very
much afraid you will express yourselves. You think as I do about the
matter, but you will not say so. I cannot see the difference between
thinking a thing and saying it outright."

"The best thing to do is not to think it," said Erma. She laughed long
and loud and merrily. "That is quite an idea. After this, I shall not
think things. Perhaps my brain will never wear out. Doesn't the
physiology say that every thought wears away some of the gray cellular
tissue? Thank goodness, no one can blame me for destroying mine. I am
sure I never thought any of mine away." As she spoke a new thought came
to her. "No doubt, Helen found her pin weeks ago and you are having your
tempest in a tea-pot all for nothing."

Berenice had not thought of that possibility. This was an argument, she
was not equal to and was the means of causing her to say no more on the
subject.

She knew from experience that she could not talk with some of the girls.
They had a sense of loyalty and honor which restrained them from
discussing anyone who came under the name of friend.

Berenice was unfortunate in her disposition. She was not by nature
honest or sincere, and she could not conceive of another's being so.
When Erma and Mellie had refused to listen to her suspicions, she
attributed not to their high sense of honor, but rather that they were
deceiving her and would discuss the question between themselves.

Every girl in the hall understood Berenice. They were careful of their
words while in her presence and they never repeated a tale that she
carried to them. Many a time had they taken her to task, but she never
profited by the lessons. When the girls spoke to her plainly, she put
the fault on them instead of upon herself. Gradually the girls let her
go her own way, gave no credence to her words and kept a bridle on
their tongues, when Berenice was within hearing.

Yet, a word dropped here and there, will spring up and bear seed even
though every one about knows it to be but a poisonous weed. Berenice
dropped these seeds in plenty. A word fell here and there, although the
hearers repudiated it, it yet made an impression, before any one was
conscious that it was so. No one could trace the source from which it
sprung, but the impression was strong throughout the hall that Hester
Alden had taken Helen's valuable pin and had hidden it away for months,
then at the first opportunity when Helen was at Exeter, Hester had worn
it home.

Hester, wholly unconscious that her action might be misjudged or that it
should be judged at all, had left the pin at the cottage with Aunt
Debby. She had put it away in her own tiny bedroom. A feeling of pride
had restrained her from wearing it at school. The other girls wore pins
which were not make-believes and Hester did not like the idea of the odd
metal and cut glass.

"Aunt Debby told me it was just a cheap little pin," she said to herself
as she placed it away. "I shall always keep it because it was my
mother's, but I shall not wear it. I do not feel just right wearing
something which pretends to be something else."

When Hester returned to school Monday morning, more than one pair of
eyes looked eagerly for her coming. Erma and Mellie were hoping that she
would come in with the pin boldly in evidence, and thus put to rout the
rumors which had crept into the hall. Berenice, too, watched for
Hester's coming with a wholly different motive.

"If Hester Alden comes in to class and wears the pin when Helen is
present, then of course nothing can be said. I shall believe it then
that Helen found the pin and allowed Hester to wear it. But if Hester
comes back without it, I shall draw my own conclusions, and I shall feel
justified in doing so."

She did not dare to say this to Mellie, Erma, or the older girls. It was
to Emma she spoke, and Emma being youngest of all, and new to school
life, listened and believed.

Hester was expected on the eight o'clock car. It was not by chance that
some of the girls lingered in the main hall at the time of her coming.

Marshall from the office window, saw the car coming in the distance and
went down to the triangle to carry up Hester's baggage. The group of
girls saw him and moved nearer to the door.

"The car is coming. Hester will be on it," said Berenice. Erma was in
the little group. At the tone in Berenice's voice, Erma flushed. Like a
flash there came to her a conception of the part she was playing in
this. If she were Hester Alden's friend, she had no right to question
her action and no right to wait at the door to find proof of her perfidy
or her honesty. Erma raised her head proudly, "I think I shall not wait
here. I shall see Hester later. The dear old honeysuckle that she is! I
shall be glad to have her back. I missed her dreadfully these two days."
She turned her back on the group and was about to walk away when Mellie
moved forward and slipped her hand in Erma's arm. "I shall go with you,"
she said. Others, grasping the situation more clearly than they had
before, followed the example of Erma. So it was, that only Berenice and
two of the younger girls waited at the doorway.

But a few moments they stood there, when the door opened and Marshall
ushered Hester into the hall.

"I shall take this case directly to your room, Miss Alden," said
Marshall.

"Thank you, Marshall," cried Hester. She was her gay, bright self after
her visit with Aunt Debby. Her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks
bright. She turned to the girls who stood waiting for her. Ignorant of
the motive which had brought them here to meet her, she greeted them
affectionately.

"It was lovely of you girls to come down here to meet me. I had a lovely
time with Aunt Debby. Yet I am glad to get back to school."

While she had been speaking, she had drawn off her gloves and had thrown
back her coat. The girls had given no response to her greeting, but
stood with their eyes fixed upon her. The exclamation which Berenice
gave sounded much like one of exultation; for Hester Alden was not
wearing a pin.

Hester felt conditions about her. She gave the three girls a quick
hurried glance as though to grasp the intangible something which she
felt. Then she continued her way down the corridor. Berenice was not
easily offended. Catching step with Hester, she walked with her.

"Did you lose your pin, Hester?" she asked. "You had such a pretty pin
on when you left school Saturday morning. I noticed at once that you
didn't have it on now. Do you suppose you lost it?"

"No, I did not. I left it home purposely."

"Indeed. If I had such a pin I am sure I would wear it. There are only
one or two girls in school who have diamonds. If I had a pin with a
diamond in it, I am sure I'd be only too anxious to wear it."

"But that did not happen to be a diamond. It is a very cheap little pin
which belonged to Aunt Debby--that is, it belonged to me, and I'd rather
keep it than wear it."

Berenice gave her shoulders a shrug, lowered her eyelids until her eyes
looked like little beads. She would prove to the girls that what she had
said was true. Every one of Hester's friends had heard the report but
had refused to discuss it. Erma laughed in derision at the mention of
it. "Oh, you silly thing," she cried, "to come to me with such a story.
Don't I know Hester better than that."

And Mellie, Mame, Renee, and Sara stopped the tale-bearers in their
story. Yet while they tried to be true, in the heart of each one was a
doubt. Had they not seen the pin many times? Had it not disappeared
weeks and weeks ago; and had they not seen Hester wear it home, and that
when Helen was absent? Proof was brought before them and they tried to
ignore it. They tried to strengthen themselves in their position by
believing that Helen had found the pin and had neglected to tell them.

Hester's friends would have let the matter pass, giving her the benefit
of a doubt, but there was in school a different set who were easily
influenced and stood ready to believe anything that was told them. This
set with Berenice as instigator, took it upon themselves to ostracize
Hester.

It was the custom of the students to loiter in the parlor after dinner,
gathering about in groups. Someone talked; others drew about the piano;
while others arm in arm walked up and down in confidential talk. One
evening as Hester joined one of these groups, the talk ceased. There was
an attempt to resume it, but it was fruitless. The group scattered,
leaving Hester alone. This occurred several times. Hester was not
supersensitive; neither was she dull. She knew that something had gone
amiss, and that she had purposely been snubbed. But not by so much as a
glance did she show that she was conscious of the treatment. She
lingered a few moments longer, made a pretense of playing a piece and
then went to her room and took up her books.

"They will not treat me so a second time," she said to herself. "They'll
never have the satisfaction of knowing that I observed them."

It was all very well to speak bravely, but the sting was deep. She had
determination and pluck enough not to bewail. She took up her lessons
and vented her energy in getting them out.

She was not alone in observing the conduct of the younger set. The girls
of her own hall had also seen what had taken place.

Not in this alone, did the younger girls express themselves. At
recreation hour, which followed the evening study period, they were
accustomed to gather in little groups in one of the rooms. At these
times, the chafing-dish was brought into use, and the air was heavy with
the odor of chocolate. By contriving, the younger set managed that
Hester no longer made one of the party.

One evening, Erma and Mame took the girls to task on this matter. Emma
and Louise expressed themselves strongly. Hester had been guilty of the
greatest dishonesty and they meant to cut her dead.

"Are you taking it upon yourself to mete out judgment?" asked Mellie
gently. "I should scarcely feel myself equal to such a great work. You
are not sure that Hester is guilty. You are surmising. Who knows but
Helen found the pin."

"I know," exclaimed Berenice. "I took it upon myself to ask her."

"You must have had--" Erma began with some show of feeling, but stopped
herself suddenly and laughed instead. What was the use in turning the
matter into a tragedy. "Well, if you begin to cut people, you little
freshmen, bear in mind that other girls can do the same. Hester is my
friend and will continue to be. If she is not treated as I am treated,
then I am treated badly."

"It's a case of love me, love my dog, is it?" asked Berenice.

"It's a case of treat my friends as you treat me. If Hester is not at
the next fudge party, then you may expect me to leave and furthermore,
you need expect no invitation to any spreads that I have anything to do
with."

She went her way. The younger girls shrugged their shoulders. It was
considered very fine to be entertained by the seniors and to be accepted
by them as friends. The freshmen who had been so favored did not wish to
forgo these joys. On the other hand, they did not like the idea of
giving up their independence and running at the beck and call of any
senior.

Berenice's words about asking Helen in regard to finding the pin, had
put Erma's convictions to rout. She tried to comfort herself in the
thought that Berenice was not always reliable in her statements. It was
sorry comfort at the best. A heroic course then presented itself to
Erma. The thought no sooner presented itself to her than she determined
to put it into play.

"This evening after study hour, I intend making some hot chocolate.
Marshall shall buy me some nice fresh wafers when he goes down the
street."

"Thank you, I shall be there," said Mame.

"No, you shall not. That is what I wish to speak to you about. The
moment the half-hour bell rings, I wish you to go down to Hester Alden's
room and I wish you to keep her there until I call to you and her to
come. But not for worlds must you let her know that there has been
anything premeditated about the affairs."

"Oh, not for the worlds," said Mame. "I do not quite grasp your idea,
but I'll do as I am told though I die for it."

"You'll not die, Mamie. The good die young, so I see a long, long life
for you. You will be rewarded for your goodness. I shall save the
biggest cup for you and I'll fill it twice without so much as your
hinting."

"I am your servant from henceforth. Two cups of cocoa to be had not for
the asking, and big cups at that."

Promptly at the recreation hour, Mame hurried off to see Hester. There
was something she wished done for the paper and Hester wrote so
beautifully. Helen went away and left them. The sound of voices came up
to them from Fifty-four.

"Erma asked me to come down for some hot chocolate," suggested Hester.
But Mame refused to take the hint.

"Yes, she asked me too. She'll call us when it's ready. She knows that I
am up here. Now, about this editorial. I'd rather write a novel than an
editorial any time. In novels, something may be done; but in editorials,
one must just think. Would you say this, Hester?"

She began her reading on an abstract subject which was a theme worthy of
a logician and Hester was compelled to listen.

Meanwhile, down in Fifty-four, a number of girls had gathered. Erma was
making good use of the chafing-dish while Renee was passing salt wafers
and blanched almonds. Erma was laughing merrily, as she poured the
cocoa. In the midst of her activities her brooch fell from her collar on
to the table.

"Good thing, I heard it," she exclaimed, drawing the attention of the
entire room to it. "If I had dropped it in the hall or on the campus, I
might never have found it, just as you did, Helen. You never found your
pin did you?"

"No," said Helen. Her reply was given curtly as though her mind were on
other matters.

"I told you so," cried Berenice with a show of exultation, looking from
one girl to another. They had become suddenly quiet at Helen's reply.

"I told you so," she repeated. Then turning to Helen, she continued. "I
can tell you where it is. I saw it and so did several of the others. But
they are afraid to tell."

"Not afraid," said Mellie gently. "Fear was not what kept us silent."

"Hester Alden knows where it is," continued Berenice. "While you were at
Exeter, Hester went home. I met her in the hall and walked with her to
the triangle. I saw the pin on her tie. It was partly hidden by the ends
of her tie. When she came back, she did not have it with her. I was not
the only girl who saw it. They all feel as I do about it. Hester Alden
took your pin."

She looked about the room with an air of malicious triumph. What could
the girls do or say now? The gauntlet had been thrown down and they
could not fling it back. It must lie there, for Hester could not be
defended. Gentle, soft-spoken Mellie arose to the occasion. "I hope you
are happy now, Berenice," she said. "But I do not see how you can be
after such an act. You have deliberately done what you could to ruin
Hester's reputation and what have you gained by it? Nothing at all,
except those who have heard, care just a little less for you."

During these remarks, Helen had sat silent on a heap of cushions piled
high on the floor. At Berenice's first words, she had grown pale but she
listened without a word. What could she say or do? While Mellie spoke,
she decided the course she would take. If the girls misunderstood her
meaning, well and good. She loved Hester. It was a queer worthless sort
of love which would make no show of sacrifice for its object. She
reasoned thus while Mellie was speaking. Then she looked from one girl
to the other.

"What startling things you say, Berenice. What pin have you reference
to?"

"Your heirloom with the diamond in it?"

"Oh, that," with an air of assumed indifference. "Is that the one that
you have in mind? Yes, I found that three weeks ago. Where do you think
I found it?" She looked about at the girls, but gave them no opportunity
to answer. "I found it in a little box along with some other trinkets.
The box had been put on the closet floor and got pushed back in the
corner. I was hunting about for some hooks and eyes and came across it
quite by accident."

A sigh of relief was felt. The girls had been sitting with every muscle
rigid. Now, they relaxed and a buzz of laughter and talk began. Berenice
was far more discerning than the other girls there. Something in Helen's
manner was beyond her comprehension.

"Did you really know then that Hester Alden had your pin and was wearing
it?"

Helen nodded brightly as she replied. No one noticed that she ignored
the second question that Berenice had put to her.

"Why, certainly, I knew that Hester had it. You take up very strange
ideas, Berenice. I'd put Hester and the pin from your mind from this
minute. I give you my word of honor that I knew that Hester had the
pin."

Erma laughed delightfully. Her voice ran the scale and came back with an
echo of triumph in it. Her plan had succeeded beyond her most sanguine
expectations.

"I have forgotten the girls," she said, "and the cocoa almost gone."
Going to the hall, she called to Sixty-two. "Hester Alden, are you and
Mame going to stay there all night? The bell will ring in a few moments,
and you will have no chocolate."



CHAPTER XIII


From this time on, the younger set of girls made a point of being kind
to Hester. Feeling that they had misjudged her they tried to repay by an
excess of kindness. Hester was a responsive creature. She had no
ugliness in her heart. Spite was a quality that had not entered into the
composition of her character. So when the girls showered her with
kindness, she responded heartily and put from her heart, the bitter
thoughts which had been there.

Helen, after the brave stand she had taken in regard to Hester, was
troubled. She felt that she had been placed by Hester's shortcomings in
an unpleasant position. She had deceived her girl friends. To be sure,
she had not told them a word which was not strictly true, but they had
misunderstood her and she knew it. To make matters worse, she had
deliberately constructed her sentences that they might be deceived and
yet she was telling the truth. Taking it all in all, it was a paradox.
She hated deception, and Hester had placed her in such a position that
she had been compelled to put a double meaning to her words.

So the little plan which Erma had worked out had the effect of widening
the breach between the occupants of Sixty-two.

Hester had been grieved by the treatment she had received from Helen;
but after the choice of substitutes, sorrow gave place to anger at the
injustice accorded her. When the anger had gone, a steadiness of purpose
came to Hester. She resolved to treat Helen with courtesy, nothing more;
to be untouched by her in any way. Hester set her lips firmly and raised
her head proudly. She had caught little mannerisms from Debby Alden,
just as she had caught the principle which had actuated her conduct: not
to cry out and let every one know when one is hurt.

When she came back from the two-days' visit with Aunt Debby and Miss
Richards, she had mastered her feelings to a great extent. She never
failed to greet Helen upon rising; she bade her a courteous good-night
when bed-time came. They spoke together of little school affairs, but
the long confidential talks had gone. They were well-bred strangers
together for a time. They were spoiling the best part of the school year
by what they pleased to think was their heroism. It would have been far
easier and more fruitful of good results had they taken each other
sharply to task, and blurted out what they had against each other. It
would have been an easy matter, for each would have discovered that
there existed no cause for an estrangement between them.

Down in the city, Debby Alden was spending the best year of her life.
She had continued her music until her playing had passed the apprentice
stage. She read the classics with Miss Richards. The townspeople had
found her charming in her gracious thought for others. She was practical
and thoroughgoing, and they filled her hands with church and charity
work. Debby had not an idle, lonely moment. To do her justice, she gave
no thought to what people might be thinking of her. She had too many
thoughts outside herself to give Debby Alden much thought.

She had proved the statement that it is a woman's own fault if she is
not beautiful by the time she has forty years to her credit. Debby's
beauty was of form and feature, and beyond this, the beauty which
radiates from holding high ideals and living up to them. People did not
merely like or admire this elder Miss Alden. Those words were weak to
express the sentiment they held for her. They loved her, perhaps because
Debby had in her heart an interest and love for every human creature
that she met. Hester wisely had not mentioned to her aunt the little
disturbance at school. This was partly due to unselfishness, and partly
that there had been nothing tangible to tell. It would be very foolish
to run and cry, "I have had my feelings wounded, but I do not know why."
Pride, too, was one of the important factors of her silence. She could
tell no one--not even her dear aunt--that the girls had, for some
reason, held her in disfavor.

But Debby Alden had not lived with Hester sixteen years without
understanding her. The girl had barely entered the cottage and removed
her wraps before Debby knew that something had gone wrong. Debby asked
no questions, according to Hester the same privileges she demanded for
herself--to have hurts and wounds without being questioned concerning
them.

At the sight of Hester's troubled face, Debby Alden's old fears came
back to her. Had someone at the school brought up the subject of the
girl's parentage? Had someone told her that she had been thrown upon the
world a waif, and none of her people had cared to look for her?

Saturday evening, the three of the household gathered about the grate
fire. Miss Richards had her embroidery and Debby had taken up a book;
but neither was in the mood for work. Hester was filled to the brim with
school. She was fairly bubbling over with stories of what the girls had
done; who had been campused, and who had been called into the office.

Debby Alden listened to the chatter as though it were the profoundest
wisdom.

"And, Aunt Debby, what do you think? I missed Mrs. Vail again last week.
She came to take Helen for a ride and intended asking me to go with
them, but Sara and I had gone around the campus and so I missed my ride
and did not meet Mrs. Vail. Does it not seem strange, Aunt Debby, that I
should always miss her? I fell in love with her picture, you know, and I
was very anxious to know her. Don't you think it's very funny?"

"I do not know that it is funny," replied Debby. "It has just happened
so. Does the young man come with his mother?"

"Rob? Sometimes he does. He comes very often alone. Several times, Miss
Burkham permitted me to go down to the reception hall with Helen and
talk with him. Last week, when we had a reception, he was there, and he
talked to me a long, long time. I think he is the nicest boy I ever
knew. I think he is nicer than Ralph Orr. Don't you think so, Aunt
Debby?"

"You must remember that I met him but once, Hester. I liked him very
much. He had such a nice boyish manner."

"Boyish. Do you know how old he is?"

"I am sure he is under seventy," said Debby with a smile.

"Surely," said Miss Richards in her droll, quiet way, "he must be
younger than I am. I am only sixty-three."

Hester laughed. "You are making fun of me. He really isn't a boy. He is
twenty-one and a senior in a Medical School. My, but he has strong
nerves! I asked him if it didn't make him tremble to see the surgeons
cut the flesh from one. He said it never phased him. That was his
expression--never 'phased' him. I rather like the expression. It sounds
just like what you might expect from a college boy. Don't you think so?"

"I never knew college boys," began Debby Alden, but stopped suddenly.
She remembered in time that James Baker had been a college boy. "--I
never knew many, not enough to know what language to expect of them."

Hester had not caught the hesitancy in Miss Alden's speech. Miss
Richards had and looked up in time to see another Debby Alden than the
Debby she had always known. This Debby had the flush of sixteen years in
her cheeks and the tender light of day-dreams in her eyes.

Just a moment, Debby Alden sat thus. Then the woman came back where the
girl had been. "What more?" she asked Hester. "Of what else does this
wonderful lad talk?"

"Everything, Aunt Debby. I really do not believe there is a subject that
he cannot talk upon."

The women could not restrain a smile at this girlish exhibition of the
confidence of youth.

"He's traveled and he's been in school, and he is an athlete. He told me
a great deal about school life. That was while we talked together at the
reception. Helen was surprised that he talked so long to me. She says
that he generally speaks to everyone for a few minutes and then goes. He
must have talked to me a half an hour."

"And then he went home?" suggested Debby. Hester blushed. "No, Miss
Burkham came up and said that I must remember there were other guests
who demanded some of my time, and I had to excuse myself."

Debby Alden in her thoughts gave thanks to Miss Burkham.

Hester continued her chatter. She needed no encouragement for when she
was once on a subject she generally threshed it so thoroughly that
nothing but chaff remained.

"But Robert told me that he generally said but a few words to each lady
present and then went home. But somehow from the very first, he said I
did not seem a stranger to him. He felt that he had always known me.
That was why he sat so long and talked with me and I wish that Miss
Burkham would have attended to something else then, and let me alone."

This was said in the most childlike, guileless manner. Debby Alden
almost gasped for breath. She was about to remonstrate at the expression
of such opinions when a glance from Miss Richards restrained her. That
lady was not at all alarmed, only amused at Hester's talk.

"But Eva does not know all I know," said Debby to herself. "If she did,
she would find it no laughing matter."

When Hester had gone to bed, leaving Debby and Miss Richards yet at the
fireside, the latter took up the conversation.

"You are needlessly alarmed, Debby. There is not a bit of danger about
Hester's having her head turned. She looks upon Robert just as she did
upon Ralph. He is a good companion. That is all. Perhaps, she is a
little flattered by having a college boy notice her at all. I remember
when I went to school, I did the same thing. If a cadet spoke with us,
we held our heads high and if he asked us to dance, our heads were
turned. We really cared not at all for the cadets, but the uniforms were
very handsome. That was fifty years ago, Debby Alden, and girls have not
changed one whit."

She smiled as she thought of the old school days. She was far enough
away from them now to know what was mere childish pleasure which had
left its pleasant fragrance clinging to all the years between.

"Nevertheless, no one knows what may result from these conversations. I
shall speak to Hester."

"My dear Debby, I beg that you consider and do nothing of the sort.
Hester is a child with no thought of being anything else. Why should you
put other thoughts into her head? You will do just such a thing if you
discuss the subject further with her. Let her talk with the young man at
the reception if she wishes to and Miss Burkham does not object."

"She appeared so much interested. I am afraid--"

"Nonsense. You would hedge Hester about with your fears. It is just a
wholesome girlish interest which is right and proper for one normal
young person to show in another. Had it been otherwise, Hester would not
have talked so freely."

Yet, Debby was not satisfied. "You know that very serious love affairs
are started in just such a boy-and-girl fashion."

"Surely. I know it. I know also that I do not think it altogether a bad
fashion. Robert Vail, if I read him right, is an excellent young man.
The Vails are people who are above reproach. So what cause would you
have to complain, Debby Alden, if these half-hour talks should be taken
seriously?"

"In the abstract, your ideas are worth while," said Debby. She could not
laugh at the matter as Miss Richards was doing. "But in the concrete,
they are wrong from beginning to end, and cannot be applied to Hester's
case. Hester must never marry. Knowing that, I intend to keep her from
falling in love, for I would not have her be unhappy."

There was tragedy in her voice which Miss Richards saw fit to ignore.

"At the same time, keep the rain from falling and the days from growing
shorter. One is as easily done as the other. You will pardon my
frankness, Debby, but I think you are about to make a mistake with
Hester. You may restrain and educate her to a certain extent, but you
cannot control her thoughts or her emotions. No one can do that for
another. Guide Hester as far as your power lies; advise and admonish
her, but she must live her own life; make her own mistakes and shed her
own tears over them. You and your love must not shield her from that.
She is herself to make of herself what she will.

"I cannot understand why you should wish her not to marry. In my mind,
it is a fitting state for men and women, else the Lord would not have
sanctioned it."

Debby could make no answer to this. Miss Richards bent over her
needlework. She and Debby in all their years of intimacy, had but once
before discussed the question. It had been Hester and Hester's future
which had brought it up. The two women sat in silence for some minutes,
when Debby said, "You cannot understand in what way life must be
different for my girl. You do not understand and I cannot explain."

"Very well. But bear this in mind, Debby. You must not take the
responsibility too heavily upon yourself. You are able to do a limited
amount. There is a greater power in Hester Alden's life, than you. It is
omnipotent and has a greater conception of life than your feeble mind
can grasp."

"I know," said Debby humbly. "I am able to do so little. I cannot save
my little girl all the bruises and hard places. She must bear them
herself."

"And you should not if you could. Do not worry about Hester's being able
to bear them. She has a courageous spirit and indomitable will."

Silence came again. Miss Richards worked on the center-piece she was
embroidering. Debby leaned back in her chair. Her eyes rested upon the
dying coals of the grate. Hester's childlike chatter had started her
thinking on matters she tried to keep back in her memory. She blushed at
her foolishness. Her practical business-like mind looked with scorn upon
day-dreams--such day-dreams as came to her then, as she sat with her
eyes on the grate. She could not smile at Hester's talk of Rob Vail's
wonderful attainments. It touched too deeply. She had thought the same
of Jim Baker that winter he took her to the spelling-bees. He had been a
rosy-cheeked, blue-eyed boy who had ambitions. She had listened to his
stories of the work he meant to do and she looked upon him as the most
wonderful person in the world. But that had happened over twenty years
ago, and she was very foolish to think of it at all.

Miss Richards worked in silence. At last when Debby Alden brought
herself back from her day-dreams, her companion addressed her.

"When Miss Loraine was here, Debby, did you observe the resemblance
between her and Hester?"

"Did I? I most assuredly did. The likeness was so strong that I almost
exclaimed aloud when Helen stepped from the car. She was my Hester, with
just a little difference."

"You passed the subject over so lightly that I thought you had not
observed what I had."

"I passed over it lightly because I did not wish to disturb Hester. She
knows she does not belong to my people; I would not have her know more,
nor would I have her disturbed by commenting on the likeness.

"The likeness between her and Helen did not startle me as much as a
little mannerism which I noticed in her cousin. Did you observe Robert's
way of looking at one while that one was talking? He had the appearance
of being absorbed with interest, and so impatient to hear all that was
to be said that he might be tempted to pull the words from one's mouth."

Debby laughed softly at her words. "That is rather a peculiar way of
expressing myself, but that is the impression he gave me. I have seen
Hester sit so, listening. Time and time again, I have smiled at her
intenseness, and I have chided her for it. I have no doubt that Robert
Vail is an excellent young man. He looks it. If I read him right, he's
inclined to be 'set' in his way. I do not doubt that if he thought a
course of action was right and decided to follow it, he would be flayed
before he could be compelled to give up. I have noticed that same
tendency in Hester. She is what I call 'set' and always has been."

"Debby, do you think for a moment that Hester had to go far from home to
find her example? Your dearest enemies could never accuse you of
vacillating. You are what your people were before you. You're 'set'
Debby--quite set.

"It is not a lack of virtue in one. On the contrary, I admire it. I have
little sympathy for the one who moves with every passing influence. In
my friendships, I find myself leaning toward folk who are 'set.'"

The gentle kindliness in the speaker's voice and smile made every word
she said seem like a caress.

"I should be very glad, Debby," continued Miss Richards, "that Hester
has that virtue. Wax melts under any influence; but if iron is molded
right you have something stable. You have given Hester high ideals, and
I have no fear that she will be influenced from them."

"I had no thoughts of criticising," cried Debby quickly. "I am glad that
my Hester is as she is. I would not have her different. I was remarking
about the resemblance in manner and disposition between her and Robert
Vail. She looks like Helen, but she is like Robert."

"Do you think there might be relationship, Debby? If there be one,
Hester would not blush to claim such kin. The Vails and Loraines are
fine folk--fine in the highest sense that I can use the word.

"You told me several years ago, that you knew more of Hester's family
than you had given out. You told me no more than that, and I do not ask
to know more now. But it came to me that they might be bound to Hester
by ties of blood. Surely such a resemblance cannot come by mere chance."

"There are no blood ties there," cried Debby Alden. "I am sure of that.
No, do not misunderstand me. I would not be jealous of them were they
her kin. I should rejoice to know she was of such a family and the
anxiety which I have borne in secret would leave me. No, Hester is not
of the Loraine or Vail blood."

Arising from her place at the grate, she moved away to the end of the
room and stood looking out on the white earth. After a few minutes'
struggle with herself, she came back to where Miss Richards sat, "Eva,
cannot your imagination fill out what I cannot tell? You know there are
conditions of blood and family which bear a stain which generations
cannot eradicate. Poor Hester, innocent and brilliant as she is, bears
that mark. You know why I wish to make her independent and
self-sustaining. Those from which she sprung are beneath her; and she
dare not bring the affliction of her people upon those higher. You see
why I must guard her. She must do as you and I have done--though not for
the same reason. She must be alone all her life. I want you to help me
in this."

"As I have always done, and always will," said her friend. "My
heartstrings cling about Hester, too. I love her almost as much as you
do, Debby Alden."

While the conversation was being carried on, Hester Alden lay in the
room above not wholly unconscious that her aunt and friend were
discussing her. Now and then a word came to her; but she closed her ears
tight to shut out the slightest sound.

"Aunt Debby is talking about my people and I must not hear. She said
once that what she told me was all she cared to have me know, so I must
not hear this."

She shut the sound of voices from her ears. If Aunt Debby did not wish
her to know, that ended it as far as Hester's desire to know was
concerned.

Debby Alden was troubled in her thoughts about Hester all that winter
term; for she knew that something lay heavy on Hester's heart. The girl
continued her studies, took her part in the social life of the seminary,
and played basket-ball with all her energy; yet her heart was sore
because the breach between Helen and her had not been bridged. The
seminary life was fine--but Helen had been the biggest part of it to
Hester.

The river had been frozen over since the first of the year. The students
who could skate, used the ice for an outside gymnasium under the
chaperonage of the little German teacher. Helen did not skate and
preferred the routine of the regular physical culture course. Hester, on
the contrary, could have lived on skates, as far as her desire and lack
of muscular weariness was concerned.

The difference in choice of exercise separated the girls yet further.
The skating was like a tonic to Hester. She could not be dull,
depressed, or anxious after an hour on the ice. She missed Helen's
companionship less than before. While Helen was brought to realize that
it was not a passing fancy she had held toward Hester, but genuine
affection and she missed her companionship more and more.

The winter held on until late. The week preceding Easter Sunday, the
spring thaw set in and the river came up and over the ice.

"We'll have an ice-jam and a good one," laughed Erma. "Last spring the
cakes piled as high as the old apple tree. The ice broke just at
tea-time and the river was floating with it until morning. Doctor Weldon
allowed us to watch until bed-time. It was simply gorgeous. Great white
blocks would rise high in the air and then crumble into powder. I think
we'll have a bad jam this spring." Erma danced away, overjoyed at the
prospect of something to break the routine.

The following Saturday, the rain fell all day. The building was gray and
cheerless. It was the time of year when homesickness is prevalent at
school. The girls were dull and sat about silent in the parlor or idly
turning over magazines in the library.

In the chapel a chorus of girls were being drilled. "What are they
preparing for?" asked Hester of Sara.

"You are new, so I cannot tell you. Wait and find out," was the reply.

At tea-time the same heaviness of spirits hung over the dining-hall.
Suddenly, a creaking sound was heard and a crush as though of breaking
timber.

"The ice!" cried Erma. Her voice was distinctly heard throughout the
large dining-hall.

Fortunately, they were at the dessert and Doctor Weldon excused them
immediately. They were warned to fortify themselves with wraps against
the weather. In a few moments, they had hurried to their rooms and were
back again in raincoats, overshoes, and Tam-o-Shanters.

The Fraulein loved the storm. She and Miss Laird were the only two of
the faculty who could be induced to leave the building. The rain was
falling softly. The Fraulein led the way across the campus to the edge
of the river. The water had risen six feet since morning, and had
encroached upon the campus, and gurgled about the trunk of the old
orchard trees. The ice jammed back on the shore, forcing the girls to
retreat. Great cakes arose as a perpendicular, balanced for an instant
and fell to pieces, or crushed against the trees until they groaned and
bent under the strain. All the while the growling and seething and
gurgling of the water was heard above all. It was glorious. Little
wonder that Erma had anticipated this with delight.

The lights about the building were the only ones on the campus. The
shadows were heavy where the girls stood along shore. Hester, to whom
this scene was never old, although she had seen it every year of her
life, stood entranced. Her umbrella had been tilted back and the rain
beat down on her face, but she knew it not. She was unconscious of the
chatter about her. She could not have talked. The river and noise and
jamming ice held her spellbound.

Helen observed her as she stood so and believed that she was sad. Going
up to where Hester was, Helen stood beside her, but no attention
whatever was paid to her. Then she laid her hand lightly on Hester's
arm. The result was the same. Hester stood with her eyes fixed upon the
river, and made no response to the overture of friendship. Then Helen
turned away, feeling that she had been repulsed.

When the heaviest flow had passed, the Fraulein took the girls back to
the building. Helen went directly to her room to look over the evening
mail; but Hester lingered with the Fraulein who was vainly trying to
describe the flood which she had witnessed in her own little German
village.

When Hester at length entered Sixty-two, Helen had read her letters and
was standing by the study-table in deep thought. She looked at Hester a
little wistfully.

"I had a letter from our pastor at home," she said, turning to Hester.
"You have heard me speak of Dr. James Baker?"

"Yes, I have," replied Hester and took up her work. One could not begin
a conversation on so little encouragement. Helen took up the letter from
her pastor and read it a second time. He wrote to her as he did to all
the absent young people whose church home was his church. He brought to
their attention, the coming Sabbath, and reminded them that it should
mean much to them. He suggested that they too, lay aside the old life
with its troubles and its shortcomings and arise with new ideals and a
new spirit. He had expressed himself finely. Helen, who was sympathetic,
was touched by his words. She would put aside the old life. She would
begin that instant to forget all that had passed and begin anew even her
friendship with Hester.

Hester, fortified by her pride and the resolution she had made some
weeks before, sat at her table writing. For weeks she had given Helen no
opportunity for more than a passing word.

"This letter from Doctor Baker is beautiful," began Helen. "He is as
good as he writes. He has been our pastor for fifteen years--more
perhaps. Will you read it, Hester? It may do you good. It has me."

"Perhaps I do not need it," was the curt reply. "And perhaps Doctor
Baker might object to a third party reading his letters."

"Nonsense. He would be delighted. Will you read it?"

"No, I thank you," said Hester, proudly. Then she added. "I may be
beyond being reached, you know."

Her tone was sharp. It caused Helen to cease from further importunity.

"Very well, Hester. If you do not wish to, I shall not insist." She
laid the letter aside.

"It will be the very last time, I shall try to make up with Hester," she
said to herself. "She never really cared for me, or she would see that I
wish to be friends. But she does not care."

When the half-hour bell rang, the girls began their preparation for bed
without a word to each other. Since the first days of their
misunderstanding, their politeness toward each other was so marked as to
be burdensome.

They excused and begged pardon each time their paths crossed. The same
formality was continued now. There was no conversation, although both
were talkers and their heads were buzzing with the things they would
like to have said.

When the retiring bell sounded, there was a short "Good-night, Hester,"
and as short a response, "Good-night, Helen."

There were to be sunrise services in the chapel at which every student
was required to be present. But before that time, Hester was awakened by
voices far in the distance. She sat up in bed to listen. The gray of the
Easter morning was stealing through the window. The voices came nearer
and nearer. At last she could distinguish the words.

    "Christ is Risen. Christ is Risen. He hath burst His bounds in twain.
    Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen! Alleluia, swell the strain."

It was the chorus of girls. This had long been the custom of the school,
to wake the pupils by song on Easter morning.

The voices drew nearer. The singers paused at the landing of the stair.
Hester could distinguish Erma's loud, clear notes which soared upward
like a bird and floated over all.

    "Alleluia, Alleluia, swell the strain."

The spirit of the Easter morn came to Hester.

There was peace and joy. She wished for that. She really had not had it
for weeks. While the song rose and fell, her heart softened toward
Helen. She would make up with her. She would ask to be forgiven and be
friends again. She crept out of bed and went to Helen's bed, but Helen
had gone to make one of the Easter Wakening Chorus.



CHAPTER XIV


Proserpina had returned to earth again. The evidence of her visit was
everywhere. The campus had turned into green velvet; the pussy willows
were soft as chinchillas; the apple trees were in leaf, and just about
to blossom. These were the signs of spring everywhere. In addition to
these, the seminary had a sign which appealed to it alone. The man with
the ice-cream cart had appeared. For several days, his cart had been
backed against the curb of the campus and the sound of his bell was like
the music of the hand-organ to the girls. It was a bluebird and a
robin--the harbingers of spring to them.

May came and was quickly passing. The girls were talking caps and gowns
and diplomas. The seniors went about with a superior air; the juniors
were little better for they had a classday at least. The freshmen and
sophomores, in the plans for commencement week, were but the fifth
wheel to a wagon. They were ignored. If they offered suggestions they
were snubbed, and informed, not too gently, that they could not be
expected to know anything about such matters--being new to the ways of
commencement.

Though they had neither commencement, class day, nor play, the freshmen
and sophomores did not lose spirit. What was not theirs by rights, they
meant to make theirs by foul means and strategy.

It had long been the custom of the seniors to follow the commencement
proper with a banquet. This included only members of the senior class.
The Alumnæ banquet took place later and was in the hands of old students
who had long since left the seminary. Among these were the wives of
judges, physicians, bankers--people with whom the freshmen and
sophomores dare not interfere, though it would have been an easy matter
to have taken this Alumnæ Banquet, for there was no one on hand to guard
it. The menu and serving were wholly in the hands of a caterer from the
city.

Knowing that the affairs of the Alumnæ must not be tampered with, the
freshmen turned all their energies toward the seniors and juniors.

The juniors were to give a play. The costumes were to be rented for the
occasion. The play itself was zealously guarded lest it be stolen. Erma,
whose talent lay in a histrionic direction, had charge of the copies of
the drama. Erma had talent but no forethought. She put the pamphlets in
the place most suited to them. Hester, who had been sent out by her
class as a scout to find what she could of the plans of the juniors,
discovered the books the first day; and not only the books but the names
of the juniors and the parts which each was to take. Hester reported
immediately the results of her investigation. The following day, while
Erma was engaged elsewhere the play disappeared, was hurriedly copied by
the freshmen and replaced. Not a member of the junior class, so the
freshmen believed, was aware of what took place and was not the wiser
that the freshmen had begun the preparation of the same play.

"We can outdo them," said Louise at the class-meeting. "The play is
booked for Tuesday evening. Monday evening is the band concert and
promenade from seven o'clock until eight-thirty. After that, the
freshmen class will have the floor and we'll give the play before the
juniors. Their efforts will fall flat on Tuesday evening."

"But the costumes!" exclaimed Hester. "What will we do for them?"

"Borrow them from the juniors when they are from their rooms. We will
need them but one evening. We'll return them as fresh as ever the
following morning."

"Will they lend them?" It was a little first term girl who asked the
question.

"No, you dear little freshie, they will not lend them if they can help
themselves. We will ask them Tuesday morning and use them Monday. It is
the safest way," said Emma, who was exceedingly enthusiastic over this
part of school life. While at home, she had read volumes on the subject
of life at a boarding school. From the impression left by those books,
life at school was one succession of receptions, public meetings, and
practical jokes. Discipline and lessons were in the undercurrent of
life. Life at Dickinson had been wholly different from what Emma had
anticipated. This stealing of the junior play and presenting it before
the juniors had the opportunity, appealed to Emma. This was more in the
order of the books she had read.

Louise sat up on the rostrum, appointing the students to their parts.
She looked at Emma quizzingly, "About your part, Emma," she began.

"I know what I want to be. Let me be queen. I'd dearly love to put my
hair up and wear a train."

"You! The queen!" the girls laughed in scorn. "You never would have
dignity enough for that. What you should be is a Dutch doll that moves
with a spring."

"I could do the queen part--," she began.

"Hush, hush. You are talking too loud. Some one is coming."

Footsteps were heard along the stair. The door opened and Renee put her
head in.

"Are you there, Louise?" she asked. "Do you object to my taking your
umbrella? My roommate has gone off leaving mine locked in the closet,
and I've permission to go down town."

"Yes, yes, take it," cried Louise. Renee closed the door and
disappeared.

"I'm suspicious of that umbrella," said Edna. "I think Renee was sent up
here to see what we were about."

"No, I'd be suspicious of any one but Renee. She wished the umbrella. I
am sure of that."

"But why should she need it this afternoon. There is not the slightest
suggestion of rain and the sun is not bright."

"Because, she couldn't go without borrowing something," said Louise. "It
wouldn't be Renee if she could. I suppose she looked about and an
umbrella was the only thing she did not have at hand, so that was the
only thing she could borrow."

Eventually the parts were given out and partly learned. The girls had
planned for a rehearsal the first week in June. The fact that everything
had to be done under cover from the juniors, made the practice drag.
They could assemble only at such hours when the juniors were in class,
and the chapel vacant.

The sophomores, confident that the freshmen alone would be able to
manage the juniors, turned their attention to the seniors. Their plan
was to divert the banquet from the dining-hall to one of the society
halls, and feast upon it while the seniors went wailing in search of it.

Their plans were developing nicely when the weather saw fit to
interfere. The last day of May, which fell on Tuesday, set in with a
soft, fine rain. This was nothing alarming in itself, had it performed
its work and gone its way. But it lingered all day, all night and when
Wednesday morning broke dull and gray, the volume of water had
increased, and was coming steadily down. Thursday was but a repetition
of Wednesday. The rain did not cease for an instant. The sun never
showed his face.

The river had crept up gradually until the water was licking the trunks
of the apple trees; but this was not alarming. The ice flood had been
higher; and further back on the campus were the marks of the flood of
'48, the highest flood ever known along the river. Even then the water
had not touched the building. There was nothing at all to be alarmed by
the river's rising.

After the afternoon's recitations, the girls went down to the river's
edge, although the rain poured down upon them. They were learning the
tricks of the old river men. They stuck sticks in the edge of the water
to mark the rise or fall.

"It's risen over a foot since lunch time," cried Erma. "See, there is my
marker. You can just see it. Think of it--a foot. What will become of
us?"

"It will rise twenty feet before we need give it a thought," said
Hester. She had been reared along the river and had no fear of it. She
loved it in any form it could assume--tranquil and quiet--frozen and
white--rolling and bleak and sullen. In every form, she recognized only
the beautiful and knew no reason to fear.

"But if it should rise twenty-five?" cried Erma. She was running about
excitedly like a water-sprite. Her red sweater gleamed in the sullen
gray light. The rain was trickling from her Tam-o-Shanter; but she was
oblivious of all, save the far remote danger.

"Oh, what if it should come up twenty-five feet!" she continued asking
as she ran along the shore.

"Oh, what if the world should come to an end!" retorted the girls in
derision.

The gong in the main hall sounded.

"I knew it," cried Emma. "I knew Doctor Weldon would not allow us to be
out long. She's dreadfully careful of us. Now, what harm can a little
bit of water do to anyone?" Emma shook her bushy, curly locks.

"Nothing, when one's hair curls naturally. But it can do a lot when
one's hair is straight. Look at mine." Mame sighed dismally. "Did you
ever see such locks? Every one as straight as a poker. I wish, just for
once, I could look like other girls."

Josephine was standing in the hall, waiting when the little group of
girls entered.

"Have you been in all the time?" asked Hester. "How could you? The river
is fine and getting higher and higher each moment. You shouldn't miss
such a sight as this."

"I have not missed it," was the reply, given while the speaker's eyes
took a soulful upward glance. "I cannot enjoy nature with people
laughing and talking about me. I must be alone and commune with it. I
have stood here watching from the window. What a beautiful and yet a
terrible scene it is. I feel uplifted."

"I wish I felt the same way--uplifted to the extent of two flights of
stairs," said Hester. She had not meant to be funny, but the girls
laughed. Josephine turned upon her a hurt, aggrieved look. But just for
a moment, then she smiled and said gently, "Hester, you little
water-sprite! How can you jest when nature is at war?"

Edna Bucher was another student who would not brave the elements. She
stood at the hall window where the stairway makes a turn. She was
dressed in very somber clothes, guiltless of curves or graces. She did
not look with favor upon girls' trudging out in the storm. It had in it
the element of tom-boyism upon which Miss Bucher looked with alarm.

"No, I did not go," she said meekly and apologetically. "I was brought
up to think it wasn't ladylike to go out in all kinds of weather;
ladies don't do it. It is just what you would expect of a man."

The hearers replied not a word. They did not so much as shrug their
shoulders or glance at each other. But each girl resolved at that
minute, if being hearty and hale and fearless were unladylike, from that
moment they would be that very thing.

The weather soon had its effect upon the spirits of the girls. Gayety in
the dormitories and parlors was reduced to the minimum. Pupils stood
silent at windows, gazing out at the steady downpour. Where they did
gather in groups of three or four, there was no laughing or bright talk.
Just a word now and then, and a low reply. At intervals, someone grew
intolerant and expressed herself. "Will this rain never stop?" "I was
hoping it would clear so that we might go into town."

Their hopes were doomed to disappointment. The rain never ceased for one
instant during the night and all day Friday.

At lunch time Friday, the girls ran out on the campus to see what had
become of their markers of the evening before. They were gone. The
water had come over them and moved up in the campus until it touched the
cannae-beds.

"The flowers will be ruined!" cried the girls. As though to prove the
truth of the statement, a tongue of water curled itself softly about the
plants, sucked deep into the roots, and when it went its way, the
cannaes went with it, and only a hollow was left in the great bed, and
this was quickly filled with water.

"It has risen three feet since last evening," said Hester, who had been
standing silent, estimating the distance. There were exclamations of
wonder, surprise, and fear. To many, three feet of a rise in water meant
no more than a Greek syllable. They had not been reared near a river,
and knew nothing of what might be expected in the way of floods.

"Three feet is nothing," said Hester with the air of one who knew all
there was to know of such matters. "Why, a June flood is generally seven
feet at home. We do not think much about it. And September floods--we do
not always have them, but we wouldn't think of calling it a flood
unless the river rose at least five feet. Three feet since yesterday!
That is really nothing at all. I hope it will go five feet higher before
night."

It was all braggadocio on her part; but it had the desired effect. Erma
screamed in terror; Emma's eyes grew big; Mame scolded her soundly for
expressing such a wish. For a while she had a hornet's nest about her
ears.

Early Friday afternoon, a change came. Before, the rain had come down
steady and constant. Now it came in a stream, as though the floors from
a great reservoir had given way and the water had fallen in one great
body.

There was no going out in this. An umbrella was no protection whatever,
for the rain came through as water through a sieve. After dinner, the
girls stood in the windows which overlooked the river and watched the
water as it crept up, so slowly the eye could not recognize its advance.

The trunks of the apple trees were hidden from view. The water was muddy
and foaming. The current had increased until the velocity was ten times
that of normal. There was a sullen roar, and tearing as though the
banks were giving way. Some logs were running, but not many. The breast
of the water was covered with drift. At intervals, large branches of
trees went down. Once a great oak, roots, trunk and all, sailed close to
the apple tree and almost tore it from the earth. A walk, a piece of
fence, a chicken coop, or a dog-kennel went bobbing along their watery
way. Some distance below, yet in sight of the school, was the county
bridge. It had been built in the early history of the country. It was a
big, clumsy-looking affair of wood with a shingled roof and board sides.
Now, entrances were cut off by a wide stream. It stood alone, like an
isolated being; its weather-beaten sides, looking gray against the brown
of the muddy water.

The sight of the river was growing awful, yet it attracted and held the
girls. The study bell rang unheeded. Miss Burkham came from her room to
call their attention to the study hours.

As the girls from the east wing crossed the main hall in order to reach
their rooms, they saw Doctor Weldon in earnest conversation with
Marshall, the office boy; Belva, the man-of-all work, and Herman who
acted as night-watchman.

"I do not anticipate a bit of trouble," she was saying. "But telegrams
came into the city from Reno, thirty miles above, that there was a
twenty-foot flood there and still rising. They've sent warning all down
the river.

"I have heard that alarm sounded ever since I have been at the seminary.
It is always a twenty-foot flood and the word always comes from Reno.
Either those people have no idea of a foot measure or their imaginations
have been over stimulated." She spoke slowly yet with conviction, as one
who has been accustomed to having their slightest word obeyed. The three
men had been at the seminary and in her service for ten years. They
adored her and accepted her word as final.

"However, Herman, you keep a close watch. Do not let the water reach the
drive without warning us. We will not run any risks. If you wish to have
Belva and Marshall with you, well and good. I shall ask the matron to
have a lunch prepared for you."

There was little possibility of danger. Should the water creep up from
the river, even to the west side of the dormitory, a great wing extended
to the east and avenues of escape would remain open.

The girls overheard Doctor Weldon's words. They were not alarmed. They
understood the conditions perfectly. Should the water come near the west
wing, a thing which had never yet occurred even in the famous flood of
'48, there could be no immediate danger. They were excited with the
prospect of the unusual happening. Since it had rained for five days
against their express wishes, they would feel themselves aggrieved if no
compensation, in the form of an unusual experience, was offered them.

The fact that it was Friday night, and that the week had been one which
had been void of relaxation or amusement in any way, moved the
preceptress to shorten the study hour and lengthen the time for
recreation.

But the students would not get away from the weather and the flood.
Little groups of four and six came together and discussed floods, from
the Noachean down to the one of '48. The girls had no personal knowledge
of any high water, but they handed down the folk-lore as it had come to
them.

Some were particularly fine in giving detail, and making weird, strange
scenes so real that their hearers were deeply affected. Erma had this
power in a great measure, and Hester, to some extent. By the time they
had related several stories, the girls in Sixty-two were shivering with
nervous fear.

"Oh, you silly little geese!" cried Erma. "Why, you are actually
shivering over something which happened in my great-grandfather's time!"

"But you make it so real! You and Hester talk as if it happened but
yesterday," said Mellie.

"Certainly, that is what we try to do," Erma laughed, and seizing Mellie
by the hand, drew her up from the floor where she had been sitting.
"That is what will make us famous. I shall be a great actress and Hester
a great writer."

Hester heard and blushed. She wondered how Erma knew of her day-dreams
for she had mentioned them to no one.

"Come, peaches," cried Erma. "I'll take you back to your rooms. If I do
not, you all will have nervous prostration, sitting here listening to
such stories."

"I do not know when Erma is complimenting me," said Mellie as she
followed. "Sometimes I am 'silly goose' and sometimes I am 'peaches.'
Now when am I which, and why?"

Erma laughed again. "Oh, you silly goose, don't you know you're peaches
all the time with me?"

The girls departed. It was yet early, yet Helen and Hester prepared for
bed. Each was deliberately slow. Their paths crossed and recrossed as
they moved from one part of the room to the other, yet not a word was
said until Hester reached to turn off the light. Then came the customary
good-night.



CHAPTER XV


There was no danger of the river rising to such an extent that the
building would be surrounded and communication cut off. Such a thing
would be impossible! But Doctor Weldon had forgotten to reckon with the
creek which flowed on the opposite side of town and joined the river at
the east end. It had risen as rapidly as the river and had come over the
banks and was creeping in upon them.

Hester awakened suddenly. It was early morning for the gray lights were
shining in at the windows. The rain had ceased. The first thought which
came to her was that of thankfulness. Now they could have a clear
Saturday and be out of doors without being drenched to the skin.

It was not raining but there was a peculiar gurgling sound of water.
Helen also heard it and sat up in bed.

"Do you hear that, Hester? What is it?"

"It is something outside, I'll see." As she spoke she had left her bed
and hurried to the window. Her exclamation brought Helen to her. There
was no need to ask for explanation. Beech Creek had backed in from a
mile beyond, and was lapping against the stone foundation. The water was
moving over the campus. Nowhere was it more than an inch deep; but on
each side lay the greater depths of the river and the creek.

"Let us get dressed at once!" cried Hester.

"Yes, let us go downstairs," replied Helen. She was not so excited as
Hester, yet she was more afraid. Hester knew the river and loved it. Now
her excitement did not spring from fear, but from a kind of enjoyment.

They slipped into their clothes and made themselves as presentable as
possible and hurried downstairs. At the front entrance was a group of
girls. Some were standing on the lower step, which was a single piece of
granite. The water was lapping but a few inches below. While they talked
and laughed, some hysterically, the water crept up and lapped upon the
lower step. The girls moved higher. Five steps led to the entrance,
which was on the level of the first floor. Then the breakfast bell
sounded and the girls reluctantly went into the dining-room.

While they were standing with their hands on the back of their
respective chairs, awaiting the signal from the principal, she addressed
them.

"Young ladies, you will be served with plain fare this morning. Perhaps,
you do not know that the butcher, the baker, the milkman, and butter-man
drive in each morning from Flemington. The road was flooded this morning
and they could not reach us. The supplies which the steward keeps on
hand, are in the basement, which was flooded last night. You may be
seated."

There was no complaint at the bit of bacon and stale bread with which
each plate had been served. There were excitement and hilarious
good-humor, as though the flood had come for their especial benefit to
give them an experience new and unusual. A bit of bacon and stale bread!
One could get along very well for a few hours on that. But it seemed
destined that the students were not to have even so little.

Marshall came in and hurried to Doctor Weldon. She appeared cool and
collected; but one could never tell from her manner whether she were
anxious or not. The few seniors who remembered when the building had
been afire, remembered Doctor Weldon had acted just so. Waiting until
Marshall left the dining-hall, she rang the bell. The buzz of voices
ceased.

"Take your plates and go up to the parlor on the second floor. You may
be dismissed in order. Miss Burkham's table first."

Miss Burkham arose and led the way. She was quite as collected as Doctor
Weldon, although, she, too, had seen the water marks which were
appearing on the floor from the water in the basement below.

"It is like a picnic. Think of eating bacon and stale bread in a parlor,
done up in pale-green and silver. I know it will taste better." It was
Erma who was talking. Her voice rang over all like a silver bell, as
with merry laugh and light spirits she lead the way to the floor above.

The door leading from the main hall on to the porch was closed, but a
little stream had forced itself in and was trickling over the floor.
The men-servants were rolling up the rug, preparatory to carrying it to
the floor above and the women-servants were pinning up window draperies
and hangings to save them from possible contact with the water.

Doctor Weldon, calm and serene, as though a flood were an everyday
occurrence and not at all alarming, went about the building instructing
the servants and teachers in regard to saving what they could of the
property on the ground floor.

Hester, Helen, Erma, and their friends stood on the landing of the
stairway and watched the men work. The girls had forgotten that they
were hungry. Their plates were poised in the air and the bits of bacon
and stale bread were untouched.

Renee came to the head of the stairway and leaning over the balustrade,
looked down on the outstretched plates. "Haven't you girls touched a
bite?" she asked. "I am glad I found you. I wish you'd lend me your
piece of bacon."

The girls, thus addressed, saw nothing humorous in the request. Erma
was about to hand over her portion when a laugh from the hall above
caused her to pause. Emma, Edna, and Louise were laughing and ridiculing
Renee, who turned about and went off in bad humor, explaining as she did
so that she wanted a piece for Mame Cross who had been complaining that
she had not been treated as other girls when it came to the distribution
of bacon.

The men tossed the rugs upon the first landing of the stairway and went
to the assistance of Marshall, who came in with tables and chairs from
the kitchen. By much straining and lifting, the pianos were raised upon
these.

"That is all we can do," said the night-watchman. "We cannot possibly
take them to the second floor. They are three feet higher now. The water
can't possibly rise that much more."

Doctor Weldon had taken refuge on the steps for the hall was flooded.
The girls moved up to the second floor.

"Let us go to the Philo Hall on the third floor," cried Erma. "We can
see over town from there."

"I do not wish to see," said several.

"I do," said Hester and Helen together. The three made their way to the
hall whose windows opened to the north and east. The current from the
river was sweeping about the corner of the building with a tremendous
force. Logs and square timbers, uprooted trees and driftwood were being
borne down in great quantities.

On the side of the driveway, where the current was strongest, stood an
iron lamp-post deeply imbedded in a foundation of stone. It had been
placed there in the early history of the school, when electricity and
gas were unknown. It had never been removed for the trustees were
graduates of the school and refused to remove the landmarks of their
school-days. So there it stood above the muddy, dirty water.

The girls at the open window above could look down upon it.

"See that great timber coming!" cried Helen.

"It is right in the current and making straight for the building. If it
should strike the corner!"

The building was old and not able to stand the force of a heavy timber,
propelled by such a tremendous force. The girls at the window knew what
that meant. They held their breath. The timber rushed on, but it turned
broadside in the current and came up against the iron post. There it
remained as nicely as though weighed and measured and fixed in place.
Back of it came logs and drift which piled upon the timber and lamp-post
until a bulwark was formed which turned the current away from the corner
and the danger with it.

"It's luck. Did you ever see such luck?" cried Erma. "If that lamp-post
had not been there, the whole corner of the building would have been
broken in. It was luck--pure luck."

"It was Providence," said Helen simply. "I think it was meant that the
lamp-post should be just where it is."

There were few words said. The scene was so awful that the desire to
talk was taken away. From the parlors below, the excitement and laughter
died. A quiet fell over the building. There was nothing to do but to
watch and wait--for what or how long, no one could tell.

[Illustration: THEY HELD THEIR BREATH.--_Page 290._]

The sun shone out on the water. Below, lay the city. The portion which
stood low was flooded to the second floor. Hester thought of Aunt Debby
as her eyes rested on the distant town.

"There is no fear there," said Helen following the glance of her
roommate's eyes. "Fairview Street is the highest in town. You remember
there is a terrace with steps where it joins Market. The tops of the
buildings on Fourth Street will be covered before it comes to the doors
of Fairview."

Hester knew that this was true. No immediate danger threatened the
little cottage. The seminary with its old walls and the current from
both river and creek beating upon it was where fear lay.

"Look!" cried Helen, pointing her finger to midstream. There bobbing
along like a cork on the current was a stable one side of which had been
torn away. The mow was filled with hay, and in the stalls beneath was a
horse feeding from the manger. It bobbed along serenely, as though
midriver in a high flood were the legitimate place for a stable. Then it
struck the sides of the bridge. There was the sound of crushing and the
barn was sucked down under the bridge and disappeared from sight.

The morning passed and the girls sat in the window seats, fascinated by
the sea before them.

The water continued rising until twelve o'clock. It filled the lower
halls and crept almost to the second floor. The water-pipes burst and a
famine of drink as well as food came. Fortunately, the experiences of
the day had taken away the appetite.

"I have been watching that old tree," said Hester. "When the clock
struck twelve, the water had just reached the notch at the branches. It
is one o'clock now and it has not gone higher."

The waters were at a standstill. The worst was over. At three o'clock,
Hester cried out with delight. "It is falling--falling! See the trunk of
the tree shows above the water."

It was slowly receding. The danger-mark had passed, although the signs
of havoc it had caused, were yet passing on the breast of the river. A
part of a kitchen went sailing by. The watchers saw the upper window of
a half-submerged house. There was a bed, a cradle, and a sewing-machine
open and ready for use. There were pathos and tragedy sufficient for a
lifetime. There was a touch of humor too, for on a long plank, at either
end, sat a rat and a great black cat. They watched each other
instinctively, and were unconscious of the danger which threatened them
both.

Five o'clock came, and the girls had not moved from their positions.
During the day, but a few sentences had passed between them.

At last hunger came to them. But there was no use going in search of
food; for the larder was bare. There was not even a cup of water for
them.

For more than an hour Helen had not moved. Fear of the water had passed.
A finer feeling than dread inspired her now. Someone from below called
Erma, and she left the Philo Hall. She neither laughed nor danced. Even
her effervescent spirits had been under the spell of the waters.

Her departure aroused Helen from her reverie. Arising, she came to where
Hester sat. Her voice was low. To the old tenderness was added a new
sweetness and strength, "Little roommate," she said, "listen to me for a
few minutes. Weeks ago, I believed you guilty of an act I could not
countenance. I treasured resentment against you, though even while I was
doing it, I loved you. I did wrong in not going directly to you and
making known my complaint. May I tell it to you now, or shall we let it
be as though it never happened, and let all our ugly feeling and
bitterness go down with the flood?"

"Let it go with the flood, Helen. I do not know how I erred, but I do
know that I missed your friendship. Let us forget it from this minute."

"And let me give what I denied long ago," said Helen, as she stooped to
press her lips to Hester's forehead.



CHAPTER XVI


Little by little, the water receded. So slowly did it fall that the eye
could not mark it. Over the mud-colored waters, the sun shone brightly
and made of the spray a million sparkling diamonds.

By evening, the students began to experience the pangs of hunger and
thirst. There was nothing to satisfy them, for although there was water,
water, everywhere, there was not a drop to drink. At twilight, the lower
floors were above the flood, although at intervals, a sudden splash from
without sent little streams back through the door.

The pupils were yet under the spell of the flood. Unusual quiet reigned
in the dormitories, when suddenly a cry of delight came from Erma. Her
voice echoed from one end of the hall to the other, and reached even to
Miss Burkham's ears; but that lady did not appear to reprimand her. The
preceptress realized that the girls had been under a nervous strain all
day and she did not have it in mind to restrain them, even though they
exceeded the bounds laid down by Seminary law.

"What has happened to Erma?" exclaimed Hester, starting up when the cry
reached her ears.

"Don't be alarmed. It is nothing serious. I can tell from her voice.
That shriek is Erma's cry of delight."

In an instant, Erma herself tripped down the hall to explain and to
share. Knocking hastily, she did not wait to be admitted, but flung open
the door.

"What do you think I found?" she cried. "A half-dozen lemons. I forgot
that I had them. I bought them last week. Here, we're dividing."

She thrust one out at them. It had already been opened and part of its
contents extracted.

"There wasn't enough for one a piece. Just take a good long suck from
it."

The girls did. There was nothing humorous in this passing a lemon about
among many. Not a drop of liquid had passed their lips since the night
before. The few drops of juice which they were able to extract, were
refreshing.

"Doesn't it taste good?" cried Erma. "I never knew before how perfectly
delicious a cup of cold water is. Wait until I have the opportunity. I
mean to drink a gallon without stopping. I must go on. The girls in
Sixty haven't had any yet."

She was gone before Hester and Helen had expressed their thanks. Before
she reached Sixty, the door opened and Renee came out. "I was looking
for you, Erma. Someone said you had found some lemons. Can't you lend me
one?"

"What's left of one. Take it and drain it dry." It was almost that now,
but Renee received it thankfully.

"I thought I could not stand it another minute. How long will it be
before we get anything to eat or drink?"

"In a week or so," cried Erma as she passed on.

Sunday morning broke clear and bright. There were no rising or breakfast
bells, for there was nothing to serve the hungry people.

Doctor Weldon and Miss Burkham had conferred together and decided that
as long as the girls were sleeping, they would be neither hungry nor
thirsty, so they allowed them to sleep until they awakened of
themselves.

The perversity of human nature showed itself in every girl's being awake
unusually early. At the usual breakfast hour, the upper halls were
filled. It was the Sabbath, but on the lower floor the servants were at
hard work. The women were wearing top-boots and short skirts, which
reached just below the knees. They were dragging out the mud with hoes.
In the middle of the floors, the sand and mud were fully a foot deep
while in corners, which had been free from the force of the current, the
deposit was three times that depth.

In the middle of the main floor, a saw-log lay. A great hole in the
plaster showed where it had spent its force, and the shattered glass of
the front door was evidence of its place of entrance. The curtains of
real lace which had added to the beauty of the reception hall, were
nothing but dirty rags, discolored, torn, and hung with bits of drift.

The sun beat down upon the water-soaked places, and the steam which
arose, was foul-smelling. The men who were endeavoring to do the heavier
portion of clearing, were knee-deep in the drift. The flood had receded,
but the basement was yet full of water. The conditions were bad and
would remain so for some time, regardless of the fact that everyone was
doing his utmost to better them.

There was nothing to be hoped from the city, for it had its own burden.
The store-houses had been flooded and the food supply cut off.

Miss Burkham went to Doctor Weldon. "What do you think of my taking the
girls from the building?" she asked. "The hygienic conditions here are
dreadful. Outside we can find the sunshine, at least. I can take them
through the city streets--wherever the streets are open. I think we can
keep them better satisfied if we keep their attention on something else
than themselves."

"Perhaps, it would be better. I have been concerned about them. They
have been most thoughtful and considerate so far. You may take the
Fraulein with you--and the school purse, too, Miss Burkham. You may be
able to buy something for them."

"While you are gone, I'll try to get into communication with our people
at Flemington. The telephone and telegraphs are useless. Marshall and
Herman might be able to walk out and carry something back. It will be
hours before a delivery wagon can get through to bring us anything."

Following Miss Burkham's instructions, the girls dressed in their
shortest and shabbiest skirts and put on heavy shoes. It was a dismal,
hungry-looking party which set forth.

For a square down Main Street, the way was clear. They were often forced
to leave the sidewalk and make a detour to escape the piles of drift
which lay in heaps. The mud was over the tops of the rubber shoes, and
the greater number had discarded overshoes before they had gone far. At
the corner of Main and Clinton Avenue, they stopped. Their way was cut
off by a great pile of logs, timbers, and uprooted trees which reached
above the second story of the houses. Here and there, caught between the
branches of the trees or the conjunction of timbers, were bits of
household articles, parts of chairs, window frames or broken beds and
soggy mattresses.

"We can climb over," suggested Hester. "That will not be much of a
climb."

Miss Burkham had been hesitating. She feared to go on and yet to go back
meant dissatisfied, hungry girls shut up in a wet, foul-smelling
building.

"We'll climb," she said. "But be careful to move slowly, and not bring
this down upon you."

The feat was not a difficult one. They succeeded in crossing and entered
the business street. There was not a whole plate-glass window in this
section. They had been shattered into bits so small that no trace of
them could be found.

The girls entered what had been the largest and finest grocery store of
the city. The mud was several feet deep; the show-cases had been
battered to pieces; canned goods were piled in heaps in the corners and
covered with refuse. But the combination most surprising, was where a
large cheese had tumbled down upon a dead cow which had been washed in
from some dairy farm far up the river.

Men were already clearing the streets, and shoveling the refuse from the
stores.

From the business thoroughfare, Miss Burkham led her charges to the
residence street. Here conditions were the same. The elegant houses bore
the marks of the flood. Trees were uprooted. Lawns which but a few days
before were things of beauty, were now but heaps of refuse, or hollows
filled with water.

Doors and windows stood open wide. Delicate, cultivated women had
arrayed themselves in overalls and were scraping the mud from their
homes.

As they made their way eastward, Robert Vail hurried down a side-street
to meet them.

"I started for school the instant I could," he explained to Miss
Burkham. "I did not know how bad conditions were, but I expected they
could not be good.

"I have a tally-ho and horses, but we could not get beyond Fairview
Street. South Street is a mere chasm. The horses could not have crossed
there. I did reach Miss Alden and Miss Richards. My man took them back
home while I came in."

Hester grasped his arm. "Auntie--is Auntie all right?"

"Fine as silk. She was concerned about you until we satisfied her that
seminary girls could not be gotten rid of so easily. It takes more than
a flood--" He spoke lightly to the girls and then turned to Miss
Burkham. "Our housekeeper said I should fill up the tally-ho and bring
the girls there. The buildings at school will not be fit to live in for
some days. We'll take care of eighteen or twenty until you arrange
matters."

A feeling of relief came to the preceptress. "You have taken a great
responsibility from Doctor Weldon and me," she said. "We shall never be
able to thank you. As to the girls, Hester and Helen, of course must go;
also the Fraulein, for I must not allow the girls to go alone."

She turned to the group about her, and selected the number which would
fill the tally-ho.

"You girls will go with the Fraulein and Mr. Vail, and remain until we
send you word to return. Berenice, Violet, Edith and I will return to
school."

"I declare, this is too bad," cried Robert. "I cannot allow you to walk
back, and without anything to eat."

"You cannot help it. The circumstances are unusual. The elements have
our fortunes in hand," she replied.

"The instant I get the young ladies home, my man and I will come back
with all the good things we can carry. Tell Doctor Weldon that we shall
have a dinner--perhaps a late one--for her."

"She has sent messengers to Flemington. They will bring us something for
one meal at least. Come, girls." She led her little flock toward home.
There was no hope of finding a bite to eat anywhere in the city. Men and
women had worked all night and were yet working without a particle of
food or drop to drink. The preceptress was worn and weak. Her
responsibility for the last two days had been great; but she did not
dare give up. She trudged bravely toward school, encouraging the girls
and drawing their attention to any phase of the situation which was not
burdened with pathos.

Robert Vail led his party down the residence street and then turned down
an alley. "These narrow passages have less drift," he explained. "My man
and I discovered this this morning."

By devious ways, he brought them out on High Street which stood above
the ravages of the flood. Here a tally-ho with four horses stood
waiting.

Robert assisted the Fraulein and girls to their places and bade the
coachman drive on. Hester and Helen sat side by side.

"Now, I am really to meet your Aunt Harriet," said Hester. "It is very
strange. Think of my rooming with you for ten months and never meeting
her."

"Never met mother?" exclaimed Robert Vail. "Be prepared to meet the
finest mother in the world."

"There may be some exception," said Helen, "at least Hester may think
so. She may be vain enough to think that she had the finest mother in
the world."

"Oh, no," began Hester hastily and then she paused. She was not dull.
She had been keen enough to know that there was something not just right
about a mother and child traveling alone through a strange country and
no one ever searching for them. But she could not allow any one else to
know her thoughts. Her face flushed as she continued, "I have never
known a mother. Aunt Debby is all I ever had. I am sure that no one can
be finer than she."

"We will make an exception in favor of Miss Alden," continued Robert.
"With the exception of Miss Debby Alden, you will find my mother the
finest woman in the world. You'll fall in love with her the instant that
you meet her."

"I know. I have caught several glimpses of her but I never met her. But,
perhaps she will not care for me. I should not be pleased if I should
like your mother very much and she would not like me at all."

Vain little Hester Alden. She knew what speech Robert Vail would make.
She had heard him express himself on the subject twice before. Because
his words had pleased her, she called them forth again.

"There'll be no danger of her not liking you. I'll vouch for that.
Mother and I always like the same people and things. She has the best
taste in the world."

Helen laughed teasingly. "You like to impress people with the fact that
you are fond of your mother; but have you ever noticed, Cousin Robert,
that there is always one compliment for her, and two for you?

"Robert Vail and his mother like the same things. That is the first
premise. The second is, his mother has excellent taste;
conclusion--Robert Vail has excellent taste. I have not studied logic
for nothing, Cousin Robert."

Robert shrugged his shoulders. "That is a girl's idea of reason," he
said. "They always go about in a circle, like a lost duck and they never
lose the personal element in anything."

"Your remarks are not original," said Helen. "I have heard Doctor Baker
say that same thing."

"I have heard you mention Doctor Baker before. Is he your physician at
home?" asked Hester. She had forgotten Helen's Easter letter.

"He's our pastor and perfectly lovely, Hester. He has been with us a
long, long time. I told you once about him, but you were vexed with me
then and my words fell on deaf ears. Sometime you must come and spend a
month with me in my home and you shall meet Doctor Baker."

"I never would go and leave Aunt Debby for an entire month. It was bad
enough to go to school and not be with her," was Hester's reply.

"But Aunt Debby can come along. My father would like her, and she and
Aunt Harriet would be friends from the moment they met. Maybe we can
arrange it for this summer. Sometimes Doctor Baker comes to visit us,
too. He gets very lonely. I should think any one living alone would be
lonely."

"Isn't he married?" asked Hester. "I thought ministers were always
married. Why doesn't he get married?"

"You think a marriage certificate goes with the manse," said Robert.
"His case is a paradox. He is always marrying, and yet never is married.
Quite a riddle isn't it?"

Helen's face lighted up. She was like Hester in that both delighted to
hear romantic stories.

"He had a love affair, a long time ago," she said softly as though the
subject were one too sacred for full tones to play upon. "But he went to
college, and when he came back his sweetheart did not care for him. But
he has never forgotten her."

Hester gave a sigh of contentment. She would remember and tell her Aunt
Debby about this. While her Aunt Debby had chided her about repeating
these little romantic tales which came to her ears, Hester had a feeling
that the elder Miss Alden was not wholly unsympathetic.

Josephine, who was sitting in the front of the tally-ho, caught the last
of Helen's speech. She sighed, and leaning forward that all might catch
her words, said: "How lovely! Such persons appeal to me. There is
nothing in the world which is so beautiful to me as faithfulness. How
perfectly lovely! I always--"

"Hester, lend me a pin, please. I see you have one in the front of your
coat and I need one to fasten the ends of my tie," it was Renee who
broke in upon Josephine's flow of sentiment.

"We shall soon be there now," said Robert. "The house stands back of
those trees." He pointed to a small elevation which was about a mile
distant. The girls exclaimed with delight except Mame Cross who looked
down upon her short skirt and mud-stained shoes with a mortified
expression.

"Really, Mr. Vail, I simply cannot enter your home, looking like this.
Your mother would refuse to receive me."

"I do not understand why," he replied.

"Mame, do please forget about it," laughed Erma. "My shoes are muddy; my
skirt is shabby; I am hungry--so hungry that I'll fairly snatch at
anything to eat. I look like a fright, I know I do. But what's the use
of thinking about it. It can't be helped. So why not pretend that we do
not notice it?"

"We must make up for our looks by being so nice that Mrs. Vail will not
notice that we are not immaculate." It was Mellie who offered this
suggestion.

"That is all very well for you girls to speak so," said Mame. "But you
do not look as I do. You girls look nice, considering what you have gone
through; but me--I always look the worst. I never look like other
girls."

"Then give up trying, Mame. You never will look like other girls, you
know. So make the best of matters which cannot be helped, and be
cheerful and gay." Erma's words were supposed to be ironical; but her
happy little laugh and dainty little touch upon Mame's hand, robbed them
of their sting.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Robert Vail, as the horses turned from the main
road into a private drive. Hester opened her eyes in astonishment. She
had seen the beautiful homes near Lockport, but this surpassed any. The
house was in the midst of a great park; there were lawn, forest, and
flowers. The house was large, but not imposing. It had rather the look
of a home than of a mansion. Never before had Hester seen such beauty of
surroundings. Nature and cultivation had worked together to make the
best of this.

As the girls stepped from the tally-ho, Hester grasped Helen by the arm,
"I am afraid--afraid," she whispered.

"To meet Aunt Harriet? Why, little roommate, she is not a bit
formidable. You will love her."

"I think it is not just that--" she began again. She could not finish.
Aunt Debby and Miss Richards had come to meet them. Back of these two,
stood a large, wiry woman in a dark dress and an extensive white apron.

"My little girl," cried Debby, clasping Hester in her arms. "I have been
very anxious about you."

"I was safe, Aunt Debby. Perfectly safe, but so hungry."

Robert Vail escorted his guests to the door.

"This is Mrs. Perkins, young ladies," he said, indicating to the big
woman. "She will see that you have something to eat at once."

"I have been waiting dinner. If the ladies wish to come at once--" She
led the way. The guests were weak from hunger. The odor of the food
aroused their appetites afresh.

"Did you ever think bread and butter was so gloriously fine?" said Emma
after her first mouthful. "Do you realize that we have had nothing since
Friday evening."

"I do; but I do not intend talking about it--now," said Hester. "I have
greater things to do."

Indeed, they all had that. They had kept up bravely under strenuous
conditions. There had been no word of complaint. Erma especially, had
been cheerful and gay as long as those two qualities were needed to
sustain herself and her friends. Now, she was the first to give way.
After a few morsels had been eaten, she realized that she was tired--so
tired that she believed that ever being rested again would be an
impossibility. She made an effort to keep up. She tried to laugh, but
ended with a nervous giggle. Then to the amazement of all, she began to
cry and sob.

"I am so tired. I am too tired to live. I never could go through with
this again."

"And you will not need to--never again," said Miss Debby, going to the
girl's aid.

"Let her cry. It will do her good," she continued as the others were
about to leave their dinner. "Let her cry, it will do her good."

At this Renee began to giggle. Mame looked at her and straightway did as
Renee. Mellie and Josephine made a brave effort to control themselves,
but after a few minutes they were following Erma's example and were
sobbing as though their hearts would break.

Miss Richards and Miss Debby took matters into their hands. There was no
help to be expected from the Fraulein, for she was as wearied as the
girls.

The housekeeper made ready the rooms and the girls were forced to go to
bed.

"Each young lady ate a little something, I observed," said Mrs. Perkins.
"Let them rest a while, then I shall take some refreshments to them."

"It was so beautiful what they behaved yet to this time," cried the
Fraulein. "Never no word, no fuss, all smiles, all funs, no cross or
nothing until now." She was much disturbed lest the women would
discredit her for the girls' behavior.

"We understand," said Debby Alden. "It is not your fault, Fraulein. You
are going to rest now, too. We intend treating you like a little girl;
send you to bed and send your bread and jelly to you."

"Ach," the little German teacher tried to look self-reliant and
sufficient to take care of herself. But there was something in Debby
Alden's manner which touched her. The Fraulein was a stranger in a
strange land. Many and many were the times when she longed for the
tenderness of those who were bound to her by the ties of love and blood.
She was but a little homesick girl, herself and wished to be mothered
like other girls. But she was brave enough with all her longing. She
shrugged her shoulders; but Debby laid her hand affectionately on the
girl's shoulder. That settled it. In an instant, the German teacher
rested her head against Debby; her eyes filled; she touched Debby's
cheeks tenderly; "I vill go. The Fraulein is so kind. The Fraulein has
a heart in her breast." Without a word of demur, the little German
teacher followed the girls and rested while the housekeeper and Debby
Alden waited upon them with the most kindly attention.

Robert Vail and his man had returned at once to the city taking with
them a supply of necessities. The housekeeper came to Miss Debby with
the explanation and apology. Thought of others had caused Robert to
neglect his duty as host. Here Mrs. Perkins looked mournful and as
though she might say much if she chose, and added that Mrs. Vail had
left early that morning, having driven over the hills to an adjoining
town where railroad communications had not been cut off. She had
received news which had caused her some anxiety and she had set forth at
once.

The housekeeper was in the mood to speak freely; but Debby Alden was not
one who discussed with the maid the affairs of the mistress. She
accepted the explanation and went her way. So many incidents of life
turn as a straw in the wind. This was a time and place propitious for
much clearing-up of uncertain matters; but Debby Alden had not been in
the mood to listen; and the mistress of the house was traveling over the
country after a will-of-the-wisp which had led her many a long,
unfruitful journey.

Robert Vail, greatly fatigued with his day's work, came back to
Valehurst just at dusk. By this time, the nervous tension had been
greatly relieved. The girls had had a nap and a substantial evening
meal, and were prepared to look at the experiences of the last few days
in a more cheerful light.

Robert brought with him the good news that the hucksters from Flemington
had driven in over the hill and had brought food with them to the
seminary. The teachers and pupils were preparing to return with them to
the farmhouses which stood high enough to be out of the way of the river
and creek.

Marshall and Belva with a set of workmen were remaining at school to put
the place in order; to build fires that the building might be dried
rapidly and to protect the grounds and buildings from vandalism. Doctor
Weldon had sent word that the young ladies who were with the Fraulein
at Valehurst were to remain there until she recalled them.

Miss Debby and Miss Richards, with the little group of girls, had
gathered about Robert on the lawn, anxious and eager to hear about their
friends. When the message had been received and the good news told, the
crowd separated into little groups. Helen and Hester, in company with
Robert, moved toward the house.

"I had no opportunity of asking you about Aunt Harriet," said Helen,
"and I do not like to put such questions to Mrs. Perkins. You said that
Auntie would be here, Robert." She looked up at him and waited as though
expecting an explanation.

"So I thought. We made ready before daylight this morning to go for you
girls. Mother came down to see us off. In fact it was she who prepared
the lunches to give to any one in distress. But Perkins tells me that
quite early someone called her up on the 'phone. She talked a long time.
Then she called Ryder and told him to get out the grays and the light
carriage. Then she went off. She didn't even leave word where she went.
I called up father's office. He knew nothing about it."

"And don't you know?" There was anxiety in Helen's voice. Her eyes had a
pained, distressed look.

"She telephoned to Perkins that she had gone to Minnequa, a little
factory town where an old colored woman had the care of a young white
girl. The message came from those people who had found such a 'sure
thing,' before and then failed to make good when the time came."

"You don't mean that horrid man and his son? What was their
name--Stroat--Strout?"

"Stout, if I remember right. Before it was a mere scheme to extort
money, and I do not doubt that it will be the same now. Poor mother, she
will be worn out with the journey and have nothing but disappointment
for it all. I mean to talk with her on the wires to-night. If she does
not intend coming home at once, I shall go to Minnequa and be with her.
I may start early and shall not see you in the morning. Will you
explain to Miss Debby and the girls? I am not running away, but I must
not let my mother stay there alone."

"Yes, you must go. Do not give a thought about us. We shall be very well
taken care of here. Poor Aunt Harriet! How I wish I might fill that
empty place in her heart!"

Hester had been walking a few steps in advance; but had heard the
conversation. Why should Helen always speak of her aunt as though she
were to be pitied? Mrs. Vail had everything that a woman could desire--a
beautiful home with trained service, a husband and son who considered no
one but her. It was strange. Hester could not understand why Helen
should always speak of Mrs. Vail as "poor Aunt Harriet."



CHAPTER XVII


How fine it would be if one could foresee the result of every action!
Hester Alden's slight prevarication to Robert Vail, when she told him
that her father had been Miss Debby's brother, carried with it a long
series of misunderstandings. Had Robert Vail known the facts--but he did
not.

Hester, bearing within her heart the consciousness of her own fault,
spent not a few unhappy moments with herself. To it, she attributed the
former entanglement, between herself and Helen. She reached this
conclusion because she knew of nothing else on account of which Helen
might have misjudged her. Several times, she decided to speak of the
matter to Helen and confess that she had misrepresented matters when she
had declared that she belonged to the Alden family; but each time, her
courage failed her, and her pride prevented. It is not an easy matter
for one to confess that she has, in her statements, deviated from the
truth.

The morning following the coming of the girls to Valehurst, Robert Vail
left home early and by a hard drive over the mountains at length reached
the junction where railroad communication had not been cut off.

Mrs. Perkins expected him to return with his mother the following day;
but they were detained by business. So Valehurst was left without a host
or hostess. Mrs. Perkins exerted herself to make the guests comfortable
and the servants, with which the home was well provided, vied with each
other in their attendance upon the young ladies. The girls were
thoroughly enjoying their experience, Hester, perhaps most of all, for
such a household was new to her. She liked to play lady of the manor.

"Don't you wish you and I could live this way?" she said to Debby Alden,
during the second day of the enforced visit. Debby Alden looked at the
questioner and then asked, "Are you not satisfied, Hester, with your own
little home?"

"Yes, I am!" cried the girl impulsively. "A little house with Aunt Debby
is better than a mansion without her. I am really satisfied. Yet it does
seem nice to be here. I feel quite at home."

"I presume a lady feels at home in any cultivated environment," was the
rejoinder. Debby paused a moment. She was not one to repeat the tales
which came to her ears; but when, as in this instance, her sympathies
were touched and she felt that her story might bear with it a moral, it
might be really worth her while to repeat it to Hester.

"Valehurst is very beautiful, Hester. We recognize that; but it cannot
bring happiness to those who dwell in it. Mrs. Vail has a great sorrow.
What it is, I do not know. I did not care to inquire. Robert told me
that his mother, years ago, had a bereavement from which she has never
recovered, and to which she has never become reconciled. The servants
speak as though she were a woman saddened by some dreadful experience."

"But Helen says she is very cheerful and can never do enough to make
others happy."

"Outwardly, perhaps. From what I have learned, she is one who has
strength of character enough to keep her sorrows to herself and not
burden others. Of course, she would try to make Helen and every one else
happy, even though she were most miserable herself. I would not have
spoken of the matter, had I not thought you were estimating one's
happiness by the amount of material wealth one possessed.

"Poor Mrs. Vail! I am a happier woman than she. I have just my little
home and my girl, but I am very content."

"So am I, Aunt Debby." She pressed Debby Alden's arm closer within her
hand. Then she added, "Wasn't it a good thing that I was left to you.
Wouldn't it have been dreadful if I had been taken somewhere else and
you would have been left alone. Just think how lonely we would have
been."

"Yes, it would have been hard; but it didn't happen that way. It was
intended that you should be my girl."

"You mustn't think that I was discontented because I wished that you and
I lived in a mansion. I am not one bit discontented. I was just
wishing."

"Learn to be contented. Folks are miserable otherwise. The Aldens,
taking them as a family, were not complainers or grumblers--except Ezra,
and how he ever came by it, I do not know. He was never contented. He
wouldn't go to school, and he wouldn't farm, and he wouldn't be
satisfied anywhere or with anything."

"Ezra? Who was he, Aunt Debby? I never heard you mention his name
before."

"He was my oldest brother. He would be a man of sixty if he were living
now. I never mentioned him, because he is more of a memory than anything
else. He was only sixteen when he ran off west. He wrote a few times.
The letters were two or three years apart, and always from different
sections. At one time he was on a ranch, another time in the gold
fields. He could not be contented long anywhere."

"Where is he now, Aunt Debby?"

"Dead, Hester. Dead long ago. At least we think so. For years, no
letters have come from him. When father died, we sent word everywhere,
but he never replied. We said then that he was dead."

"If he had lived, I'd have had an uncle. I should like an uncle. From
what I've read, they are very jolly."

"You can not always believe what you read," was the sententious
rejoinder.

The guests remained at Valehurst three days, during which time neither
Mrs. Vail nor Robert appeared, although the latter sent many messages to
the girls, through the medium of his cousin or the housekeeper.

Thursday morning, word came from Doctor Weldon that the students must
return to school and make ready their belongings to go home.
Commencement was not to be considered. The graduates would receive their
diplomas, but there could be no festivities.

The students had been taken care of in the country houses which stood on
the hills back of Flemington. These were the only places for miles about
which had not been flooded. As soon as communication with other places
had been made, Doctor Weldon was kept busy sending and receiving
telegrams. Each father and mother was distracted when news of the
flooding of Lockport came.

By Thursday evening, the students had returned. The drift and dirt had
been removed from the Seminary building, and the campus had been freed
from logs and driftwood. But some things could never be replaced. The
old apple trees had been uprooted; the grassy slope which had lain close
to the river front had been washed out to gravel bottom. The gray bricks
of the building showed the water mark and at the corner a few misplaced
ones told the story of how the old lamp post had saved the building.

The once beautiful halls were water-stained; hard-wood floors were
warped until they stood in little hollows and hills; and the polished
wood of the doors and balustrades had lost all semblance of beauty.

The girls rushed into one another's arms. They could talk now of the
flood for the danger had passed from them. The dormitories were a babel
of voices. A score of girls talked at once and not one listened to
another.

Miss Burkham from the hall below heard the confusion and retired to her
own apartments. She had no thought of interfering with the chatter. She
explained her lack of discipline to Doctor Weldon later. "This will
never happen again in all their lives. As long as they were talking,
they were forgetful that the opportunity for the banquet, the play, and
commencement had been taken from them. I thought it wise to put up with
the noise, rather than have them feel depressed."

The girls were discussing the play and banquet even then. There were
confessions on all sides.

"We intended feasting on the senior banquet," cried Erma. "We had bribed
Belva. He was to lead the caterers up to our third floor. You seniors
would have sat waiting in the Philo Hall below."

"No, indeed. You reckoned without considering that the senior class were
not all dullards. We had heard of your plans. Doctor Weldon gave us
permission to hold the banquet at a hotel in the city. Miss Burkham and
the Fraulein were to go with us. So while you girls would have been
sitting in the attic waiting for the banquet, we would have been
whirling away in cabs to the city." Helen had a smile of triumph as she
told the story. If the seniors had been robbed of their opportunity to
outwit the juniors, they at least would not miss the chance of boasting
of it.

Erma looked at her quizzingly. "Was that really true?" she asked. "Well,
I have this much to say. If the seniors had outwitted us, we in turn
outwitted the freshmen. They were gloating over the fact that they had a
copy of our play."

"We did," cried Hester. "And we had the parts almost learned."

"Yes, I was to be the queen," said Emma. "I knew my part. I was to--."

"You the queen!" said Edna Bucher, with a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
"I could not possibly conceive of you taking such a part."

"Well, you never did have much imagination. You should cultivate it,"
was Emma's quick rejoinder.

"Please do not quarrel," said Josephine as she raised her soulful eyes
and let them rest upon each girl in turn. "This may be our last time
together. It would be so sweet to carry with us pleasant memories. Let
us have sweet--."

"Not too much, though," said Emma. "You always were a great girl for
caramels and fudge, Jo; but you must remember some of the rest of us
liked olives and pickles."

"Emma's speech in plain English, means that she prefers some wit to too
much sentiment," said Hester.

"I most assuredly do," was the rejoinder, as Emma sat down on top of the
trunk which had been brought in ready for packing.

The group of girls had gathered in Sixty-two. During the winter and
spring terms, this room had been the general gathering place; for Hester
and Helen were popular with the other students.

"I wish I might finish about the play," cried Erma. "Those miserable
little freshmen thought they had our play. Yes, I know you took a copy
from my study-table drawer. It was one I put in there for you to take.
While you were busy learning that, we had another. So while you girls
were gloating over the 'East Indian Queen,' we went on in peace and
practised 'A Roumanian Princess.'"

"Really? Erma Thomas, do you mean it?"

"Do I mean it? I surely do. Oh, wasn't it fun to hear you practise and
see you slip about with your mysterious airs!"

The door opened and Renee came in. She was robed in a full-length
kimona.

"You girls sitting here doing nothing! I am packing. I do not intend
letting it go until morning and then hurrying. My trunk is locked and I
cannot find the keys. Will you lend me yours, Helen?"

Helen arose to get them from a drawer. Emma sighed as she looked at
Renee.

"When I go to heaven," she said, "and meet Renee there, I know what she
will say to me the very first thing."

The girls looked their queries and Emma concluded, "'Emma, please lend
me your crown. I've mislaid mine.'"

"And Emma will be finding fault with everything. She'll feel dreadful
because she is forced to be in heaven all the time," said Sara slowly.
This was a hit direct at the little Dutch doll, for all through the
year she had been complaining at the restrictions of school, and could
not understand why Doctor Weldon did not allow the girls to go down to
the city when they pleased.

During this conversation, Mame Cross had been sitting apart. Now
Josephine turned to her, and assuming an attitude and expression of
great solicitation and interest said, "Mame is the only one who feels
what this evening means to us. Perhaps never again shall we talk
together. No one knows what the summer will bring. Mame is overcome by
the thought--."

"I am not. I was not thinking of that at all," Mame replied. "It came to
me while the girls were talking of the banquet and play and commencement
that I was almost glad that we were not having any of them."

"Mame Cross, what heresy! The flood has made her mad," cried the girls.

"I have reasons for thinking so. I simply could not have gone to one
thing. What could I have worn if I had gone? I made up my mind when we
had our last reception that I would never go to another unless I had
something decent to wear."

"When I meet Mame in heaven," said Emma, trying to look serious, "the
very first thing she will say is, 'My robe doesn't hang as well as
yours, and my harp isn't so bright.'"

"Are you not getting a little irreverent?" said Helen gently. "There are
so many common things to jest about. Is it not better to use them as the
butt of our wit, instead of matters beyond our comprehension?"

"Yes, I suppose so, Helen," said Emma. "But, you know I never consider.
I blurt out just what I wish to say."

The half-hour bell sounded and the girls went to their rooms to make
ready to appear at the dining-table. The lower halls were yet damp
although they had been open to the air and sun since the previous
Sabbath. Doctor Weldon, not wishing to risk the health of the pupils,
had converted a class-room on the second floor into a dining-hall. Here
dinner was served informally; the students attending to their own wants,
for the servants were kept busy carrying the trays from the floor
below.

At the bringing-in of the last course, Doctor Weldon arose to make the
announcements. She asked the young ladies to attend to their packing at
once. Belva and Marshall had already brought down trunks and boxes from
the store-room. Immediately after breakfast, the following morning, each
young lady should call at the office when arrangements would be made for
her going home.

There was too much to be done after dinner to permit of any visiting.
The girls went to their rooms and began to dismantle them. Hester and
Helen had much to do, but they contrived to carry on a steady flow of
talk while they worked.

"Perhaps, we'll never be together again," said Hester, from the depths
of the closet whither she had gone in search of shoes. "You will not be
here next year. We may never meet again."

"I think we shall," said Helen. "The world is not a very large place.
You are to visit me, you know. I shall ask your Aunt Debby when I see
her."

"And you'll come to visit me. Couldn't you come this summer? You'd like
Jane Orr and Ralph. He is the nicest boy I ever knew, except Robert
Vail."

"Rob _is_ nice. Yes, I think I can come. We could have a fine time."

Hester grew eloquent about the walks, picnics and drives they could
have. Helen was accustomed to life in a mansion with a retinue of
servants. Hester knew this. She knew also that at her home, Aunt Debby
and she would perform all the household work and that Aunt Debby would
set out her own flowers and plant a garden of radishes and lettuce with
their kindred small garden truck. Helen would have no servants to wait
upon her. Hester gave no thought to the difference in the household. To
her, friendship was above all material conditions. As she felt
concerning such matters, she took it for granted that all right-minded
people must feel. She could not conceive the thought that Helen, as her
friend, could be critical of the plain old-fashioned home where she and
Aunt Debby were the home-makers. It was not training alone which gave
Hester such impressions. She had within her the instinct of true
nobility. She gave the best of what was hers without apology or
explanation. She took it for granted that her offerings would be
received in the same spirit. They were, for Helen Loraine valued a
friend higher than the friend's possessions.

"I am very glad I asked you to forgive me, last Saturday," continued
Helen. She was bending over the drawer of the chiffonier while she
robbed it of its contents. "I could not have been happy had I gone home
and not have made friends with you. It was my fault, Hester, that you
did not play as a substitute on the first team. I thought something, and
I told Miss Watson that I did not care to have you play. You do not know
how sorry I have been since."

"Yes, I do. There, I think I have all my shoes ready to pack. Those old
gym shoes I might as well throw out as rubbish. Yes, I do know, Helen. I
felt dreadfully about it myself; but I thought you had a good reason. I
myself despise a girl who prevaricates even a little."

Helen raised her head from her work to look at Hester. She could not
fully grasp this last remark.

Hester, catching the peculiar expression of her friend's face continued,
"You did not tell me why you were hurt with me. Of course I knew. It was
what I said about my father being Aunt Debby's brother. That was it, was
it not?"

"What an idea, you silly little Hester! Why should I be angry with you
for saying that? What was it to me whether he was Miss Alden's brother
or not?"

"I thought you knew and despised me for telling what was not true. I am
not one bit an Alden. I do not belong to Aunt Debby except through love.
My mother died at the Alden home. Somehow, I never could quite grasp all
the story, for no one will tell me all. Somehow, Aunt Debby felt herself
responsible and she took me and gave me her mother's name. Don't you
think that very sweet of her? To Aunt Debby, Hester Palmer Alden was the
name she loved the most and she gave it to me."

"Yes, she must have loved you, too, or she would never have given you
that name. It was not what you said that caused me to be displeased with
you. Shall I tell you?"

Hester shook her head slowly. She was yet sitting on the floor near the
door of the closet. All about her, were odds and ends of her
possessions.

"No, do not tell me. I know I did not do anything else to make you
despise me. So please don't tell me what it was. Whatever it was, I did
not do it and I might feel hurt if I knew that you suspected me of
anything very bad."

"Very well, little roommate. We'll never talk about the matter. We'll
clean off our slates and make them clean for the next lesson," said
Helen. "That is what Miss Mary used to tell us when we went to primary
grade."

"I always liked to hear you say 'little roommate.' Next year, Helen, you
will not be here to say it. I wonder who will call me that." The tears
were near Hester's eyes, but she forced them back and smiled.

"Perhaps, someone nicer than I and someone you will love better."

"That will never be. It couldn't be. But you'll come back to visit?"

"I do not think it will be possible. Father says I may go to an eastern
college. That will take me far from here. I do not wish to go four
years. I intend taking special work; for I mean to be a settlement
worker."

Hester nodded. Just then she could not have said a word if her life had
depended upon it. She thought that Helen's giving up a life of ease and
luxury to work among the people of the slums, was a glorious thing;
although she herself could not have done such a thing and had no desires
in that direction.

"It will be lovely, Helen," she said at last. "Perhaps when you are
working somewhere I shall come to visit you."

"Perhaps you may be working with me. Who knows?"

"I know I shall never be that kind of a worker. I intend to be a
novelist. Perhaps, I shall find a great deal of material when I come
down to visit you. I think being a great novelist would be glorious."

"Yes, if one could be great and could write life as it is and make
people better by the writing."

"That is the kind I intend being," said Hester with conviction, and yet
not conceit. "I shall be a great one or none at all. I never should like
mere commonplace writing. I should like to imagine; to look at people
and describe them as they were, and to see even their thoughts."

Helen laughed. Hester had already won a reputation in
character-description. She had the faculty of describing her friends in
a few pertinent words which meant as much as an entire paragraph from
some people.

"I think your character-drawing will be excellent," said Helen. "You
have a way with you, you know."

"Do you really think so? Aunt Debby says I am critical, but I do not
mean to be that. People just naturally make me think of different
things. I see a likeness. I cannot help it that it is there. Aunt Debby
was once quite indignant when I was telling her about the different
girls at school. I said Josephine made me think of soft-A sugar. Aunt
Debby did not like it. But that is what she made me think of. I
couldn't help it."

Hester was quite serious. Although the remark concerning Josephine was
her own, she did not fully appreciate her own wit in the application.

Hester arose slowly. "That closet is cleared, thank goodness. I'll see
to the trifles on the dressing-table. I'd rather pack big things than
such trifles as hairpins, handkerchiefs, and stockings."

"I am ready to put mine in the trunk," said Helen. As she spoke, she
drew the trunk from against the wall and lifted out the tray. She gave
an exclamation as her eyes fell on a quantity of lawn and lace.

"I've hunted everywhere for those waists," she said. "I went to the
laundry several times to ask Mrs. Pellesee if they had been mislaid. I
was confident that they had not come back from the laundry."

She made a dive into the depths of the trunk and brought forth the
shirtwaists.

"I remember now when I put them there. When I got my new one-piece suit
to wear to dinner, I put these away. It was the night I lost my pin."

"Yes," said Hester without turning her head. Her mind was upon putting
the contents of her dressing-table in order. She scarcely heard what
Helen was saying.

Helen gave a second exclamation as her hands seized the fluff of lace
about one waist; for the pin which she had missed months before was
fastened to the lace.

"I found my pin!" she exclaimed. "I am glad--so glad! Look, Hester!"

Hester gave a quick indifferent glance toward Helen's upraised hand in
which this stone glittered like a star.

"I'm glad," she said. "I thought it was very strange what became of it.
I couldn't understand how it would disappear from the room. I have a pin
something like that--but mine is just a cheap imitation. Aunt Debby says
it is the kind one buys at a five-and-ten-cent store."

For a moment, Helen stood silent. She was abashed and ashamed of the
suspicion which she had long held in her mind. She had done wrong; but
on the other hand, she had done what she could to make matters right. It
pleased her even now to know that she had asked Hester's forgiveness and
had believed in her, before the proofs of her innocence came to hand. It
is a worthless sort of faith and a poor friendship which needs evidence
at hand. Faith is faith only when it believes without proof, or against
proof. These thoughts came to Helen while she stood with the pin in her
hand. Then she crossed to where Hester stood and laying her hand on
Hester's shoulder, said, "Little roommate, to-night will be our last
night together in school. Will you try to think with kindness of the
roommate who was unjust to you? You have taught me one great big lesson,
Hester, and that is that one cannot even believe her eyes. Will you
forget all the unpleasant part of the year, and remember only that I
really loved you with it all?"

"That will be easy. It will be but thinking kindly of myself. For every
one says that you are my counterpart."

"A poor imitation, I am afraid. If I predict rightly the years will
prove me but the reflection of a great and a brighter body. You'll be
the sun, Hester. The best I'll ever be is a pale little moon." She bent
to kiss Hester's lips. With that caress all the suspicion and doubt
vanished and Hester Alden's year at school had closed.


THE END



DOROTHY BROWN

By NINA RHOADES

Illustrated by Elizabeth Withington Large 12mo Cloth $1.50

[Illustration]

This is considerably longer than the other books by this favorite
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     "There will be no better book than this to put into the
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MARION'S VACATION

By NINA RHOADES

Illustrated by Bertha G. Davidson 12mo Cloth $1.25

[Illustration]

This book is for the older girls, Marion being thirteen. She has for ten
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_For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by
the publishers_

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., Boston



BRAVE HEART SERIES

By Adele E. Thompson


_Betty Seldon, Patriot_

Illustrated 12mo Cloth $1.25

A book that is at the same time fascinating and noble. Historical events
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Illustrated 12 mo Cloth $1.25

It is a story of the making of the Ohio frontier, much of it taken from
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[Illustration]


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Illustrated by J. W. Kennedy 12mo Cloth $1.25

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_Polly of the Pines_

[Illustration]

Illustrated by Henry Roth Cloth 12 mo $1.25

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_For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by
the publishers_

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON





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