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Title: Peggy Parsons at Prep School
Author: Sharp, Annabel
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Peggy Parsons at Prep School" ***

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                             PEGGY PARSONS
                             AT PREP SCHOOL

                                   BY
                             ANNABEL SHARP



                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                           CHICAGO — NEW YORK
                            Made in U. S. A.



Contents


  · CHAPTER I—THE SERENADE

  · CHAPTER II—BEING A BELLE

  · CHAPTER III—A BACON BAT

  · CHAPTER IV—THE INSIDE OF GLOOMY HOUSE

  · CHAPTER V—MANAGING MRS. FOREST

  · CHAPTER VI—THE BEAN AUCTION

  · CHAPTER VII—MR. HUNTINGTON’S STORY

  · CHAPTER VIII—CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS

  · CHAPTER IX—THE FORTUNE TELLER

  · CHAPTER X—MISS ROBINSON CRUSOE

  · CHAPTER XI—THE INITIAL H

  · CHAPTER XII—THE MEETING

  · CHAPTER XIII—SPRING AND ANNAPOLIS

  · CHAPTER XIV—WATER-SPRITES

  · CHAPTER XV—PARSONS COURT



                      PEGGY PARSONS AT PREP SCHOOL



CHAPTER I—THE SERENADE


Peggy Parsons wove her curly hair into a golden braid, and stretching
her slim arms above her head yawned sleepily.

“Oh, you mustn’t do that,” sniggered her room-mate out of the
semi-darkness of the one-candle-power illumination. “They don’t allow it
here.”

“Don’t allow what?” said Peggy, beginning to prance before the mirror to
admire the fluttering folds of her new blue silk kimono, which had been
given her by a cousin the week before school opened, with the delightful
label, “For Midnight Fudge Parties.”

“Don’t allow what?” she repeated curiously, bobbing up and down before
her reflection, “can’t I even _yawn_ if I want to?”

“No,” her room-mate unsympathetically insisted, “they teach us manners
along with our French and mathematics, and yawning isn’t one,—a manner,
I mean. Yawning is enough to keep you from getting high marks. This is a
finishing school we’ve come to, please remember.”

“It will finish me,” sighed Peggy, with a final whirl of blue draperies,
“if I can’t do as I like. Why, I _always_ have.”

“I’m glad I’ve got you for a room-mate, then,” said the other girl
heartily. “It will be such fun to see what happens.”

Peggy blew out the candle and crept across the room, in the darkness,
nearly colliding with a little rose tree that had been given to the
girls to brighten their room against their possible homesickness.

“What’s going to happen now is that I’m going to sleep,” she laughed.
“And I’m glad I’ve got _you_ for a room-mate, Katherine Foster,
just—anyway.”

And both girls smiled into the darkness, for their first day at Andrews
had given them a sense of pleasant anticipation for the rest of the
year.

Just as their vivid memories of the preceding twelve hours began to mix
themselves up confusingly with dreams, the sound of singing bursting
into triumphant volume under their windows caused both sleepy pairs of
eyes to pop open.

“Katherine—?” breathed Peggy excitedly.

“Peggy—?” whispered Katherine, “oh, do you suppose it _is_?”

“Andrews opened late, and the other schools were already well into their
football and basketball stage: that afternoon the Amherst team had been
in town to play the local college football eleven, and there had been
rumors that the glee club had been among those who cheered on the
Amherst side.”

The song came up now, sweet and strong, with its sure tenor soaring
almost to their window, it seemed.

Swiftly and silently the two were out of bed and had pattered across to
peep down. There they were! There they really _were_, in the moonlight,
the glee club, singing up to the open dormitory windows.

    “Cheer for Old Amherst,
    Amherst must win.
    Fight to the fin-ish,
    _Never_ give in.
    All do your best, boys,
    We’ll do the rest, boys,
    For this is old Amherst’s da—ay.
    Rah, rah, rah....”

Peggy felt her arm being pinched black and blue, but she was beyond
caring.

“O—oh, it’s heavenly,” she sighed.

“Peggy, it’s a serenade,” breathed Katherine happily.

“Of course it is,” assented Peggy, as if she were used to this kind of
thing, “and it’s a very nice one.”

“Peggy, oughtn’t you to—to throw down flowers when you’re serenaded?”
Katherine demanded suddenly.

“Oh, yes, you _have_ to,” Peggy agreed, so that she might not show how
ignorant she was of the requirements of so delightful a situation.

“We haven’t any.” Katherine’s tone was forlorn and heartbroken.

“Wait,” cried Peggy, scrambling down from the window seat where she had
perched, “the roses,—off the rose tree.”

And she ran to their treasured plant and seized it, jardiniere and all,
and ran back to the window so that she might not miss any of the singing
while she was despoiling their little tree of its blossoms. From every
window in the wing a dim figure might be discerned behind the shaking
lace curtains. With the plant tucked firmly under one arm Peggy leaned
out dreamily.

“It’s all a lovely thing to have happen,” she said, “now I’m going to
begin and throw the roses down. Ouch! Goodness,—oh, dear!”

She pricked herself on a thorn and in jerking away her hand she forgot
that she was holding anything.

The rose tree toppled an instant on the window-sill and then went down,
flower pot, jardinière and all, into those singing, upturned faces, two
stories below. There followed a frightful crashing sound, and then a
stupefied silence.

Peggy, covering her face with her hands, turned and ran from the window,
jumped into bed and pulled the sheet over her head.

“Oh, they’re dead, they’re dead, and I’ve killed them,” she thought
miserably to herself.

She never wanted to hear a glee-club again, she never wanted to look
into the face of a living soul. This was a fine ending of a wonderful
day, this was, that she should have killed, goodness knew how many fine
young men, and talented ones, too. Just when they were singing up so
trustingly, for her to have hurled this calamity down upon them! She
shook with sobs. Oh, she had only meant to do a kind deed, a _courteous_
deed—and she had killed them. She buried her poor little crying face
deeper into the pillow.

After a few moments she felt her room-mate shaking her, and when she
reluctantly uncovered her tear-stained face she was astonished to hear
laughter.

“It’s all right, come back to the window quickly,” Katherine was
chortling, “it’s—just great.”

Oh, the glorious shaft of light that shot across Peggy’s mental horizon!
Then they weren’t dead. No one—not even a heartless room-mate could
laugh at her if she had really killed them. She dashed her hand across
her eyes and went back to peer cautiously down in the moonlight.

Each of the singers brandished some tiny thing in the shining white
light of the moon, could it be a—flower—a—_rose_?

    “Little Rose Girl!
    Little Rose Girl!
    We’ll sing and shout your praises o’er and o’er,
    To you ever, we’ll be loyal,
    Till the sun shall climb the heavens no more!”

Peggy caught her breath. They were all singing straight at _her_
window,—and oh, moonlit clouds! and wonder of stars!—to _her_.

“Oh—oh, thank you,” she said softly, over and over, “thank you, thank
you. I’m so glad you’re alive,—and I’m glad I am, too.”

Fastening the tiny flowers in their buttonholes, the glee-club began to
move off. Peggy sat still in the window seat, her hands clasped tightly
in her lap.

The cool moonlight drifted in around her, and she breathed it in slowly.
Katherine came and curled up beside her.

“I don’t feel a bit sleepy now, do you,” she said, “and I’m glad we
showed we liked the serenade.”

Peggy smiled and then she gave one of the forbidden yawns.

“Oh, it’s nice to be alive, and to be young, and to be away at school,”
she murmured, disregarding Katherine’s observation. “And, just think,
to-morrow we have a perfectly good new day to wake up into.”



CHAPTER II—BEING A BELLE


“To think that one of my young ladies—one of MY young ladies,” the
principal repeated impressively, “should have been guilty of such a
misdemeanor—”

“What’s a misdemeanor?” Peggy whispered in her room-mate’s ear as they
sat in chapel and listened to an address that was evidently going to be
serious for somebody.

“Sh,” said Katherine. “She means us.”

“Means _us_?” demanded Peggy incredulously. “Why, I never did any
misdemeanors in my life.”

“As to throw—or hurl—or drop a flower-pot down to the pavement from a
window in my school,” the cold voice continued.

“O—oh,” murmured Peggy, “I thought maybe she’d seen me yawn.”

“Now I am going to put my young ladies upon their honor to tell me which
one of you showed so little regard for me and for the school as to
conduct herself in this manner.” The principal lifted her chin in a
deliberate way she had, “and as you pass out from chapel I request the
young lady who has this particular thing on her conscience to come
forward and tell me that it was she who did it.”

The lines of marching girls swung down the aisles, and Peggy rose with
them. “I haven’t it on my conscience,” she told Katherine, “but I
suppose I ought to tell her.”

“I will go with you,” offered Katherine generously. “It was just as much
my fault, and I’d have done it if you hadn’t.”

But Peggy shook her head and threaded her way up the aisle to the
principal’s desk.

There she paused, waiting.

“Good-morning, Miss Parsons,” the principal said pleasantly, for she had
taken an especial fancy to Peggy the day before when she had been left
at the school by her aunt. And looking down into that gleeful little
face this morning, shining as it was with all the joy of living, and the
irresponsible happiness that comes only with a free conscience, how
could she dream of connecting Peggy’s approach with the confession she
had requested from the girl who had dropped the rose tree.

“Good-morning,” said Peggy, her face crumpling into its funny little
smile, “I didn’t mean to.”

“What? Didn’t mean to—child, are you telling me—?”

There was certainly nothing of the hangdog about Peggy.

She nodded.

“I was just as sorry as you are for a time,” she continued, “but you see
it made them sing to me and I _can’t_ be sorry about that, can I? Nobody
could. It was so beautiful.”

She explained simply.

“I’m very sorry such a thing should have happened,” the principal said
solemnly when the recital was over. “The other young ladies are going to
see a performance of the ‘Blue Bird’ this afternoon, and this prevents
your going. I cannot permit you to go, of course, after this, much as I
regret it.”

Peggy turned away, a little twinge of disappointment in her heart. She
had heard the girls discussing the matinée party for to-day, and she had
never dreamed of not going with them. As she left the chapel Miss
Carrol, the youngest teacher, timidly approached the principal.

“I am going to chaperone the girls to-day, am I not?” she asked.

“Yes, Miss Carrol.”

“I thought I’d venture to suggest that Peggy Parsons be forgiven this
once—I don’t think she did anything so very terrible—and that she be
allowed to come with us to the first party. Don’t you remember when
_you_ were away at school—how heartbreaking it was if you were shut out
of anything, and how easily a fit of homesickness came on to blot out
all the sunlight of the world? Don’t you remember—Mrs. Forest?”

Mrs. Forest didn’t remember at all. It wasn’t just because all such
experiences for her had been very long ago—many women remember all the
more tenderly as they grow older,—but she had set out to be a good
disciplinarian, and the girls she graduated from her school must be as
nearly alike as possible, she wanted them all run in the same mold of
training. But Miss Carrol’s pleading voice and her eager eyes did what
Mrs. Forest’s own reminiscences could not do for her—they softened her
attitude toward Peggy and finally she gave her consent for Peggy to go.

Peggy, flying back to her room, her heart full of disappointment,
unaware of the change in her immediate fortunes brought about by Miss
Carrol, heard her name mentioned by a group at the foot of the big
staircase.

“This is really a very clever paper little Miss Parsons has written for
my English class,” one teacher was saying, tapping the folded sheet
Peggy had labored over as the first of her work for Andrews.

“Yes?” politely inquired another. “That’s rather unusual for Andrews. We
have so many beautiful girls, but so few brilliant ones. Peggy Parsons
may be popular—and she may develop into a genius, but she’ll never be a
belle, will she? Not like some of our girls.”

Peggy’s feet grew heavy on the stairs. She went miserably on to her room
and there carefully locked the door, and went and stood before the
mirror. She had never been conscious of just how she did look before.
She had never thought of being beautiful, but much less had she thought
of being NOT beautiful. That was too tragic. She saw a little sober
face, with clear brown eyes, and goldy flyaway hair above them.

“Oh, people will only like me when I laugh,” she cried, and her face
crinkled into its familiar expression of merriment, and she watched the
fine dark eyebrows curve upward, and the dimples dance crookedly into
the flushed cheeks.

“Ye—es,” she said slowly. “It isn’t so bad then. But I _will_—be a
belle, anyway. You see if I’m not, I will be one and surprise them all.
Maybe I’ve never tried to make myself look pretty before. I will try
awfully hard now. And I’ll turn out the most wonderful belle of them
all, I shouldn’t wonder. So there, now.”

She danced back from the mirror, her hair-brush in her hand.

“I’ll begin at the top,” she said, “and I’ll see what I can do.”

Just then Miss Carrol knocked at the door.

“Come in,” sang Peggy blithely, her spirits more or less restored by the
prospect of the task she had set herself.

The door rattled.

“I can’t,” announced Miss Carrol’s voice.

“Oh, I forgot,” cried Peggy, and she ran to the door and turned the key.
Flinging it open, she laughed up into Miss Carrol’s face. “Come in,” she
invited a second time, “I’m _very_ glad to see somebody even if you’ve
only come to scold me. _Have_ you come to scold me?”

Miss Carrol shook her head, and explained that Mrs. Forest had relented,
and she was to be of the matinée party, after all.

Peggy hugged her gratefully.

“Excuse me,” she said, “for mussing up your dress, but I just had to.
People have been hurting my feelings all the morning and now you come
and are—kind. And it means that I can be one right now. I’ll be one for
this!”

“One what?” asked the youngest teacher, puzzled. “You girls have the
oddest things in your minds half the time. What is it you’re going to be
now?”

Peggy hesitated, and then she came over and whispered.

“A belle,” she said with her lips near Miss Carrol’s ear. “One of the
teachers said I couldn’t be one.”

To her hurt surprise, her companion threw back her head and laughed.
“Oh, is that all?” she said. “Well, that’s nothing dangerous. I must run
along now, Peggy, child, but all the girls are to meet in the parlor at
half-past one for the matinée. We must leave promptly at that time.”

Katherine’s trunk had not arrived yet, so she planned to go right to the
parlor after luncheon and wait there for the party to assemble, as she
had no other dress to wear than the blue serge she had on. But Peggy
left the table in a flurry of excitement and began to lay out all her
prettiest things. A dainty little brown velvet suit, with a chiffon
waist, and an adorable hat that came dark against her light curls
promised well. She manicured her nails, humming all the while, then she
steamed her face and dashed cold water on it till it was all glowing.
She did her hair twice and it didn’t suit, so she took it all down and
experimented with it again. Her hair curled irregularly, and did not lie
sleek and smooth and flatly rippled like the hair of the girls who had
theirs marcelled. So she borrowed Katherine’s electric iron and with a
few swift touches sought to make her own natural, pretty hair look
artificially waved.

She used powder for the first time. After rubbing her cheeks with a
rough towel to keep the glow, she spread on the powder as thickly as she
dared. Her nose was alluringly chalk white when she had finished. It was
only talcum powder but enough of it had its effect. The girls of Andrews
were not allowed to wear jewelry, except in the evening, unless it were
a simple band bracelet or a tiny, inconspicuous gold chain and pendant.

So Peggy closed her jewel case with a snap against the temptation of a
long gold snake bracelet with emerald eyes that would have made her feel
very much more dressed up.

In the early stages of her dressing she thought she heard someone
calling up the stairs, she thought there was an unusual stir of girls
clattering down into the hall, but she was too engrossed in the process
of becoming beautiful really to sense what might be going on. Once she
even thought she heard her name, but she was just applying a precious
drop of concentrated violet to the lace at her throat, and though she
called out mechanically, “What,” she received no answer, and decided she
had been mistaken.

At length, complete, she surveyed herself happily. “I guess I look
almost as pretty as the actresses, now,” she approved. “I’ll go down to
the parlor—it must be nearly half-past one.”

She went down the stairs, with a curious sense of the silence of the
house. Why weren’t there more girls trooping down with her? She felt a
chill of misgiving when she reached the parlor door. No laughter drifted
out, no sound of chattering came from within. With a quick fear she
opened the door and paused wonderingly on the threshold as a perfectly
empty room met her gaze.

She was too late to start with them—perhaps she could catch up yet. She
would hurry to the theater and perhaps they had waited for her in the
lobby. Panting, she tore across the lawn and boarded the first
street-car. It seemed to go so slowly—as if they’d _never_ get there.
She found herself tearing the little lacey handkerchief she had taken
from her bag.

There was the theater. She pressed the bell, and, getting off before the
car had come fully to a stop, breathless, she entered the building. No
group of girls, no Miss Carrol. She looked up wildly at the clock above
the ticket seller’s window. Four o’clock, it said! Almost time for the
show to be over! Oh, how awful, how awful, where had the time gone? What
had happened to her? Fighting back the tears at the futility of
everything, she approached the ticket window.

“Are—the—Andrews girls in there?” she faltered.

That was a silly question and she knew it. Because, of course, they were
in there, this was where they had been coming—and she had, too, for that
matter if she could only have gotten here on time. But at the minute she
could think of nothing else to say and she was conscious of a vague hope
that the ticket-seller would help her, would suggest something. She
would gladly buy her own ticket and get in if only she could get to
their box afterward. But she didn’t know which one it was, and she
didn’t know how to manage it, anyway.

“I don’t know if they are,” the ticket-seller was replying, casually.
“How should I know?”

Peggy turned dejectedly away from the window. This was more than she
could stand. Never in her life had she felt so little and so helpless
and so—yes, so homesick. She couldn’t go back to the school and have to
face possible questions. She would stay downtown somewhere until it was
time for the matinée to be over and then she would return about the same
time the others did.

She drifted out into the waning sunlight of the street, and looked
hopelessly about her. Next the theater was the public library. This
looked like a refuge and she went in and walked despondently over to the
librarian’s desk.

“Please find me something to read—about—about girls having a party,” she
choked.

                                  ————

When she was back at school, in her own room, clad once more in the
loved blue silk kimono, the ordeal of dinner and curious questions over,
Katherine, her room-mate, looked up from her algebra book and said
suddenly,

“Oh, Peggy, we missed you so.”

“Did you?” cried Peggy wistfully. “Well, I’ve decided something. I don’t
care a bit about being a belle. I’d rather get to places on time, and
feel like myself,—and be just Peggy Parsons, after all.”



CHAPTER III—A BACON BAT


An eventful day for Peggy came after two weeks of school. In it began a
curious series of happenings that added flavor to her whole school life,
and gave her, finally, the power to be, as her room-mate laughingly
said, “sort of magic.”

And all this came about through so prosaic a thing as bacon. The
domestic science class, well under way with an excellent teacher,
decided to have a “bacon bat,” after the custom of the Smith College
girls, all by themselves on some bit of rock that jutted into the river.

Peggy had helped Katherine do the shopping for the treat,—Katherine had
been at Andrews for two years now, and knew just how it was done. Then
the seven girls of the class started off, each with a paper bag in her
hand, for the method of conveying the supplies to the picnic grounds was
always very informal for a bacon bat. There were no little woven picnic
baskets to hang picturesquely over their arms, there were no daintily
packed little shoe-boxes of sandwiches. There was just the jar of bacon
strips in a paper bag, the bottle of olives in another paper bag, and
the two dozen rolls, a generous supply, in the biggest paper bag of all.
These were the simple requisites for a bacon bat, and even the olives
were not necessary, Katherine termed them useless frills. There was a
tiny box of matches, too, that Peggy slipped into the pocket of her red
jacket. It has happened that a merry group of girls has gone on a bacon
bat with everything but the matches, and then unless they were Camp Fire
girls and knew how to coax fire out of two dry sticks they met a
terrible disappointment, when, their appetites all worked up for the
occasion, they found they couldn’t cook the party after all.

If you were on good terms with the grocer, he kept a box of matches—the
old fashioned kind—under the counter and offered you a dozen or so,
loose, when you bought your bacon. But Peggy had wanted to buy a little
box, insisting that if she had to start the fire a dozen might not be
enough.

“Where are we going to have it?” Peggy thought to ask as they strolled,
laughing, along the road away from the school.

“On the River Bank near Gloomy House,” cried three girls at once,
“that’s the ideal spot.”

“Near—what?” asked Peggy in concern. It didn’t sound very picnicky to
her.

“Right there, ahead,” said Katherine, pointing, “right through those
grounds, and down to the water—because, of course, we can hardly have
our fire except on some sort of little stone island—with water enough to
put it out if it got rambunctious.”

The girls were turning now over the long, dank grass, and making their
way in the direction of a great empty-looking ramshackle old house with
sagging porches and dull windows.

“Nobody lives there, do they?” Peggy asked.

“Oh,—sh—yes!”

The girls tiptoed over the grass, skirting the lawn in order to keep as
far away from Gloomy House as possible. Peggy was not yet familiar with
the traditions of the town in which Andrews was situated. It seemed
strange to her that after the girls had chosen this place with such
unanimous enthusiasm they should assume such an air of discomfort and
mystery now that they had come. She studied the old house, dignified
even in its decay, with its trailing, rasping vines blowing against the
pillars of the porch, and its sunken, uneven steps, and then quite
unaccountably she shivered and hurried past it as fast as the other
girls.

“I don’t want to come here for a picnic,” she panted, “if it’s all so
queer. Why didn’t we choose some nice sunny place with a little stream
to drink out of, and one big tree for shade? It’s so dark and overgrown,
as we get through here, that it seems more like an exploring expedition
than a regular picnic to me.”

“Oh,” cried Florence Thomas, the best cook in the domestic science
class, “we can fry bacon down on those rocks in the river, and there is
a grape-vine swing on the bank that goes sailing way out over the water
with you. Why, there just isn’t any other place so nice for a
picnic—here you always feel as if you might have adventures.”

“Adventures, at a picnic, usually mean cows or snakes,” sighed Peggy, “I
hope we don’t have any.”

The girls clambered down the steep slope to the water, and Florence and
Dorothy Trowbridge began at once to gather twigs and branches.

“How are we going to cook this bacon?” asked Peggy suddenly, “when we
get our fire? Nobody brought a frying pan.”

“Frying pan!” echoed Florence over an armful of nice dry chips and
twigs. “We get sticks.”

Peggy saw that each girl was breaking a branch from a near-by tree,
testing it to see that it was not “too floppy,” as Katherine put it, and
would be green enough not to catch fire easily. Peggy found a delightful
little branch, and began stripping the end, as she saw the others do.
The fire was by this time crackling and it was a temptation to begin
right away, for the walk had made them hungry—or, perhaps, they hadn’t
needed the walk: healthy girls like healthy boys are always hungry. But
Florence reminded them that their bacon would simply be burned to a
crisp if they thrust it in the flames now, so they waited a few minutes,
reluctantly enough, until the red and blue sparks sputtered down to a
steady glow, hotter and hotter at the heart of the fire. Then the girls
each pierced a piece of bacon with their pointed stick and held it
gloatingly into the red glow. Peggy enthusiastically opened rolls, so
that the crisp hot slices might go sizzling into place as soon as they
were taken from the fire, and the roll might be clapped together upon
them.

“Isn’t this comfy?” asked Florence, munching her first fiery sandwich.
“If the rain and wind had never come, I suppose you could find the
ashes, on this flat rock, left by every class that ever went to Andrews.
Ouch!—Mercy!—Peggy, what did you let me bite that for, when the end was
still burning?”

Peggy laughingly dipped up a cupful of water from the river and passed
it to poor Florence, who was trying to wink back the tears from her
eyes.

“If you drink that now you’ll smoke,” she warned delightedly. “Girls,
girls,—fire!”

“I—don’t—care—” gulped Florence, waving the rest of her roll and bacon
through the air to cool it. “Hot as that was, I guess old Mr. Huntington
of Gloomy House, up there, would be glad to have it. If he can smell the
smoke of this little feast—with that lovely amber coffee Dorothy is
making—I guess he wishes he was a girl and could come down and get some.
Just think,” she turned to Peggy, “in twenty years he’s never had any
hot coffee—or more than enough to keep a bird alive.”

Peggy sat down on a stone and poised an olive half-way to her mouth.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“He’s very poor, you know,” said Florence.

“Too poor to buy coffee?—I should think somebody in the town—”

“Oh, my dear,” interrupted one of the other girls, “scared to death!
Nobody’d think of offering to do anything for him. He’s the proudest man
in the world. He used to own most of this town, but everything has
drifted away from him. He never goes anywhere—nobody ever sees him. He
wouldn’t want to see anyone. He telephones to the grocery for just a few
things once in a while, and that’s how he gets along. Why, Peggy, you
look so funny.”

“While we’re sitting here, having a party, do you mean to tell me the
man that lives in Gloomy House is starving?” asked Peggy in a hushed
voice.

“Well, sort of hungry, but don’t you worry about it, we can’t do
anything about it, Peggy.” Florence handed Peggy a fresh roll with a
crisp slice of bacon temptingly projecting from the ends. “He couldn’t
have been starving for twenty years, you know—but it would be nearer
that than I’d like to experience for myself.”

Peggy’s head drooped thoughtfully. The sunlight, glinting down here and
there through the dense green of the trees, shone in a little patch of
light on her brown-gold hair. She was a vivid little person, with
laughing black eyes and cheeks that flared red through their tan. Her
brown arms were clasped over her knees now, as she studied the moist,
pebbly sand at her feet.

“_I’d_ have made him some coffee,” she said at last, her crooked dimple
flickering into view for just an instant.

“No, you wouldn’t,” denied Florence Thomas, “nobody has been in that
house to do anything as daring as that for years. There’s a mystery
about it, I tell you—and, in spite of story books, nobody likes to probe
too deeply into mysteries. Some people even say that a relative of Mr.
Huntington’s stole all his money from him and that’s why he has to live
so poorly. Yes, there are lots of stories—”

Peggy brushed the crumbs out of her lap serenely.

“How silly,” she said, “as if anybody’s stealing from the poor old man
were reason enough why all the rest of the townspeople should stay away
from him and leave him poor,” she said. “What has that to do with my
making him some coffee? Even if he’d been the one who stole—still I
don’t see the application to this particular question,” she concluded.

“Well, there are other tales,” insisted the crestfallen Florence, and,
their coffee cups in their hands, the girls gathered around to tell
Peggy many harrowing incidents connected with the great house back from
the river, and she heard them quietly, piercing slices of bacon with her
stick the while.

“Let’s go up and cook him a dinner,” she cried, springing to her feet
when they had done. “We are a cooking class, aren’t we, and that’s the
best thing we do, isn’t it? And here we go on just preparing all the
good things back at school for us to eat ourselves—it seems, well,
piggish. Wouldn’t it be lovely to demonstrate our next lesson by
bringing all the materials up to Gloomy House and cooking up a big,
wonderful dinner, and having it with Mr. Huntington? We can’t give him a
million dollars or anything like that, but we can make one day a lot
brighter—and, besides, I can’t stand it to think of anyone hungry—_will_
you, girls? What do you say?”

She stood before them, lifting her slim hand for the vote, her eyes
shining with eagerness to put her plan at once into execution.

The other girls gasped. Peggy, although she had been with them so short
a time, had won a large place in their admiration.

“He wouldn’t let us,” reminded Florence, puckering her forehead
thoughtfully. “Didn’t I tell you he’d bite anybody, fairly, that dreamed
of trying to offer him charity? Peggy, I believe you’re partly right,
though, maybe we could do something, but it would never work that way.”

“Well,” said Peggy promptly, sitting down to think it out, “how can it
be done?”

For to Peggy life presented no unsolvable problems. She never thought of
cluttering her joyous way with impossibilities. Once a plan seemed good
to her it was only a question of How, and not of Whether.

“We might invite a lot of people to the school,” timidly suggested one
of the young cooks.

“He’d never come,” Florence shook her head.

“Well, then,” cried Peggy, “here we are! Let’s give a series of
dinners—at the houses of the trustees, and the different girls in the
class, just to show what we can do, and we’ll have the accounts put in
the town paper, so he’ll see what we’re doing, and _then_—” her eyes
shone and she could hardly talk fast enough to let the girls see the
glory of her new idea, “then we’ll go to his house and ask permission to
give _him_ one, and it won’t be charity or anything, and it will be fun
for everybody—oh, girls, isn’t that gorgeous?”

“OOoo—oo,” shivered Florence at the thought of really committing herself
to such a daring decision. “Ye-es, I think we might do that. But we’d
never have the courage to go and invite him.”

“Peggy would,” championed the timid one. “Let’s appoint her a committee
of one.”

“Unanimously appointed a committee of one,” shouted the other girls
gleefully. “Peggy, how soon will all this be?”

Peggy laughingly flung aside her toasting stick, sprang erect, and tried
vainly to smooth back her flying gold-toned hair. “Right—NOW!” she
declared triumphantly, “we won’t wait to give it to the trustees first.”

“Good-by, Peggy,” murmured Florence demurely, and the others drew closer
together as Peggy actually turned her back on them and went up the slope
to Gloomy House.

Surprised at her daring, overwhelmed by the boldness of the thing she
had undertaken, they watched Peggy disappear over the top of the river
bank.



CHAPTER IV—THE INSIDE OF GLOOMY HOUSE


Up the long walk to Gloomy House, her feet sinking in the wet leaves
that had fallen from the branches overhead, Peggy went slowly, her heart
pounding.

She was doing what no one else in town would have dared to do, and as
she neared the old house, with its tumbled-down step, she began to
wonder if perhaps she was afraid.

“Walk on, walk on,” she whispered to herself, for she knew that if she
hesitated for an instant she would run. And how could she go back and
face the cooking class if, after all her planning, she was a coward now?

So mechanically she walked on, and at last she found herself really
ascending the creaking steps. When she stood on the porch with its
leafless and ragged vines flapping in the wind a kind of chill unreality
seemed to shut her in. She hurried to ring the bell so that
someone—anyone—would come and she would not be alone. The bell was an
old fashioned one, and as she rang she heard it jangling emptily through
the house. It was certainly a very dismal way for callers to have to
announce themselves.

When the unpleasant sound had ceased the house and everything about it
settled back to silence again. This lasted and lasted. Peggy clutched
nervously at her little red jacket. What if nobody would come at all?
There was no one TO come, except Mr. Huntington himself—and now he
evidently wasn’t going to. She might have known. She was overwhelmed
with a sense of failure. Those lovely hot muffins she had dreamed of
preparing for him, that wonderful steak, smothered in onions, that
delicious— Down the uncarpeted stairs inside she could hear the
reluctant thud, thud of footsteps!

Oh, he _was_ coming.

Gratingly, the door swung open and a man’s head looked cautiously out.

Peggy reflected that Mr. Huntington looked a great deal more scared than
she was, and the thought helped a little.

“How do you do?” she asked faintly.

Mr. Huntington looked down at the vivid little figure in the red coat,
and his eyes widened.

“A—how do you do?” he said mildly.

Well, he wasn’t going to eat her, anyway, so she needn’t be so
frightened, Peggy decided with a breath of relief.

“Oh, Mr. Huntington,” she said with a surprising increase of confidence,
“I came—I came—I—came—” but the confidence had evaporated before she
could find words to explain.

“I see you did,” replied the old man, still mildly—and could she believe
that twinkle in his eyes was a smile? Perhaps he didn’t often have much
to smile about, so that this was the best he could do.

“Won’t you come in?” he invited, as an afterthought.

And Peggy followed him into Gloomy House.

The hall was stately, with its wide folding doors opening into the
library on one side and a dining-room on the other. In it were an old
tall clock and a black walnut hat-rack.

“It’s a little chilly in here for you, I’m afraid,” said her host
politely.

The day had been cool even out in the sunshine and they had been glad
when their crackling fire was made on the river bank. But in this damp,
big room there was a biting quality out of all proportion to the
temperature outside.

“It’s not—at—all—cold,” stammered Peggy, through chattering teeth,
trying to make her tone of everyday courtesy like that Mr. Huntington
had used.

“I just wanted to invite you to something,” she plunged bravely into her
mission. “It’s a special treat to be given by our cooking class of
Andrews school.”

“To invite—?” Mr. Huntington looked vaguely puzzled and alarmed. “My
dear young lady,” he protested, “I haven’t been invited to anything in
twenty years.” Then an understanding look came over his face. “Oh, I
see,” he murmured. “How much are the tickets?”

“Oh,” cried Peggy, hurt and chagrined, “oh, there are no tickets—oh,
_no_, that’s not the way it is at all. You see the cooking class
is—awfully proud of itself and we can stand burned hands and horrid
blackened dishes that we couldn’t at first. And we can get awfully good
dinners, too. So we thought that instead of just getting them up at
school and eating them ourselves, we’d give a series of parties around
at the homes of the girls and the trustees of the school and I—I thought
we’d come and give one at your house, too,” she wound up breathlessly.

The old man looked as surprised as she could have hoped.

“But there is no young girl here who goes to the school,” he said
finally, “and I am not a trustee.”

And all of a sudden the explanation that Peggy had thought so complete
showed itself up at its true value, nothing at all.

“N—no,” she admitted, crestfallen, “that’s so.”

The misery in her face made Mr. Huntington want to do something for her.

“If the girls of the school simply want a place to give a party—is that
it?—somewhere away from the school itself, where they can be more
free,—I should be distinctly terrified at the presence of so many young
ladies after so long a time of solitude, but still I think I might go
through with it—why not let me give them a party, if they will be so
kind as to cook the things I furnish?”

Peggy’s round eyes studied Mr. Huntington’s face thoughtfully. How
people hated to admit they were poor! Here he was offering to buy enough
food for a dozen hungry girls when he himself had barely enough to eke
out a scanty meal from one week’s end to another, according to the
girls’ stories.

“Oh,—please,” she hastened to put in. “That’s part of our course,
knowing what to buy and all that, and we do so want to have a few real
chances to use all the knowledge that is being pounded into us. If I can
go back and tell those girls—” her breath caught in her throat for an
instant at the prospect of such a triumphant moment, “if I can go back
and tell those girls,” she repeated, “that we can give a party in Gloo—I
mean here, why that will be the best time I’ve had this term!”

The old man was looking at her quizzically.

“For some reason you apparently want to very much,” he mused. “Well, you
are the first person who has come to me in a number of years with the
idea of giving something rather than taking. If only for that reason I
should encourage you to have your way. For the last twenty years people
have been coming to me now and then—whenever a certain rumor starts up
afresh—wanting this, that and the other: subscriptions to charities,
money to put their children through school: capital to start them in
business. But I always tell them,” he chuckled softly, “I always let
them know that I am very poor.”

Oh, then, he didn’t mind having folks know, after all. Peggy winced at
the open way he spoke of it now, after all her efforts to conceal the
fact that she knew his poverty.

“Oh,” she said uncomfortably, “you’re not _very_ poor. I’m poor, too. My
aunt sends me to school, but when I am graduated I’m going to earn my
own living!” She shot it out at him, all breathless to see the effect of
so astounding a piece of news. Something at once so tragic and so
thrilling.

“You are?” queried the old man absently. “Well, I sometimes think those
are the happiest days of a person’s life—the days of piling up their
fortune—”

“Of—of—my goodness!” gasped Peggy. “_I’m_ not dreaming of piling up a
fortune. What could I do that would be worth very much? I’m going to—I’m
going—to—”

“Yes?” asked the old man.

“I might teach something—they say I’m good in English, or I might—why I
might _cook_. Wait until you’ve tried this dinner I want to get up for
you and then maybe you can recommend me for a position as cook
sometime—oh, now you see you _must_ let us have the dinner.”

“I see it now, of course,” smiled Mr. Huntington. And then a look of
real eagerness came over his lonely face. “What day had you—thought of
for the festivities?” he asked.

“Oh,” began Peggy thoughtfully, “there are lots of good days for it—any
Sunday or—”

Mr. Huntington murmured something, she wasn’t quite sure what. She
paused inquiringly. She mustn’t let him know she suggested Sunday,
because of its being a proverbially lonely day for people without family
or friends, and if he had a different choice—

“Thanksgiving,” he was saying slowly to himself, so low that Peggy could
hardly hear him. “Thanksgiving always is a—hard day to get through.”

“Hard! Why, it’s gorgeous! Oh, if we only can get our ice-box principal
to let us, I’m sure the girls would _love_ to give the dinner on
Thanksgiving. It will give us an opportunity to learn how to fix turkey
and cranberry and all those things. We will settle that, then, because
I’ll tease my head off when I’m talking to Mrs. Forest—I’ll even kiss
her if I have to, and in the end she’ll say ‘Bless you, my children, go
and give your party.’”

“And I shall say bless you, too, I shouldn’t wonder,” murmured the old
man, with a hint of a smile in his eyes. “It’s been eighteen years since
Thanksgiving meant anything in this house. My daughter was here then,
with her husband and baby son. But—”

Peggy looked around the dark, gloom-filled interior of the Huntington
house and wondered where they were now, the rest of this family, that
had cherished Thanksgiving day. But she did not want to ask and hurt Mr.
Huntington’s feelings.

“Well,” she assured him eagerly, “we’ll just have a perfectly wonderful
party. And I’ll bring my new chafing-dish and Katherine’s percolator and
we’ll make the fudge and the coffee ourselves.”

“Fudge is a necessary part of the affair?” the old man smiled
questioningly.

“Of course,” assented Peggy in surprise. “That was about the first thing
I learned to do at Andrews,—make the most wonderful nut fudge and plain
fudge and sea-foam.”

“And yet some people still cling to the idea that too much education for
girls is dangerous,” murmured Mr. Huntington. “Now _I_ shall be heartily
in favor of it from this time forth.”

“I guess I’ll go back and tell the girls everything,” Peggy sighed
contentedly, “they’ll want to begin planning the grinds right away. You
won’t mind being ground, too, will you?”

“Aren’t you mistaking me for the coffee, young woman?” laughed her new
friend. “That would be rather a mean trick to play on an old man, seems
to me.”

Peggy’s face was scarlet. She did not know whether he was entirely in
fun or not. The language of the school world was equipped with a strange
vocabulary to outside ears, and she felt very guilty for letting Mr.
Huntington fall into such a humiliating mistake.

“Grinds are just—gists,” she explained hastily, and went out of the door
as Mr. Huntington held it open for her, with a sense of having made
everything clear.



CHAPTER V—MANAGING MRS. FOREST


As Peggy started running back to the place she had left the girls, she
became aware that someone in a blue Peter Thompson had come up the hill
to wait for her, and was at the moment gazing intently toward Gloomy
House, while the wind flapped her skirts and fluttered her hair free of
its ribbon.

“Katherine, Katherine,” shouted Peggy, and the figure started to life at
once and came tearing toward Peggy until they were like a couple of
young express trains about to collide at full speed.

“I’ll save you, I’ll save you,” Katherine was crying breathlessly. “I’ll
be there in a minute,—I’ll save you, dear.”

And then the collision happened.

“Oh, oh, oh,” gasped Peggy as she and Katherine rolled over each other,
a whirling mélange of blue dress and red coat, down the steep slope of
the river bank right into the midst of the waiting group of bacon
batters.

Around them as they sat up, still seeing stars, and aching from the
bumps newly raised on their foreheads to their scratched knees and
ankles, arose a hubbub of questionings, consolations and reproaches.

“Oh, my—land!” moaned Peggy, winking the dust and bits of dried leaves
out of her eyes. “I hope you don’t feel as badly as I do, Katherine.
What made you say—” she spoke now in a puzzled tone, for full
consciousness was coming back, “whatever made you say that you
would—_save_ me? Instead you nearly killed me, you know.”

“Why, I—ouch! my poor arm—I was going to save you from the ghosts and
things at Gloomy House, of course,” answered Katherine indignantly. “You
were gone so long and we were all so worried, that I climbed the top of
the hill to see if I couldn’t make out what had become of you—and then
there you were flying away from that awful place like mad, scared to
pieces at something. Naturally, I hollered that I’d save you. What kind
of a room-mate would I have been if I hadn’t?”

The tears suddenly started to Peggy’s eyes. She felt just at the moment,
in spite of her bruises, all the beautiful thrill that is inspired by
the discovery of absolute loyalty and affection in a room-mate. The
autumn sunlight glinting down on Katherine’s yellow hair suddenly seemed
to Peggy like a halo, and impulsively she reached toward her.

“It was fine of you, Katherine,” she said, “but I didn’t need saving—I
was running because I was in a hurry to tell you people that the dinner
is on. And Mr. Huntington doesn’t mind the grounds—I mean the grinds,
but I’m so wounded I can’t talk straight,—and we’re to have it on
Thanksgiving if Friend Forest will let us. Girls, he’s perfectly
wonderful—”

“_Oh_, dear,” sighed Katherine, “and all that worry on my part for
nothing.”

“And all your injuries for nothing, too,” sniggered Florence Thomas
heartlessly. “You infants with your terribly impromptu manner of
returning to our midst will be the death of me yet. Peggy, please draw a
long, calm breath and then let us in on what really happened in Gloomy
House.”

To an eager audience, then, Peggy told the whole outcome of her
adventure, interrupting herself now and then to suggest, with some
irrelevance certain dishes that would be particularly desirable as part
of the dinner.

“Do you suppose Mrs. Forest will ever let us do such a novel sort of
thing?” asked Katherine as the girls, after stamping out the remains of
their little fire on the river rocks, gathered up their coats and
sweaters to go back to the school.

“Not—for—a—minute.” Florence Thomas dashed their hopes with tones as
firm as Mrs. Forest’s own might have been in speaking of the matter.

Peggy was rubbing her black and blue forehead thoughtfully.

“Peggy!” cried Katherine, “Florence doesn’t think Mrs. Forest will have
it.”

Peggy smiled, a long, slow smile, and her black eyes narrowed to mere
laughing slits. “She’ll be crazy about it,” she insisted.

It wasn’t until dinner time that the girls, in their dainty evening
frocks, already seated at the various little tables, with the candles
gleaming onto their flushed cheeks and powdered necks and arms through
the pink candle shades, learned what Peggy intended to do to Mrs. Forest
to make her prophecy come true. Some of the girls had declared she meant
to try hypnotism, others poison, and some said she was planning to have
the President of the United States wire that Mrs. Forest should yield to
her will.

Peggy, herself, came in to dinner late. This in itself was an awful
offense. Every head, blonde, dark and red-gold had long since been
raised from the grace, and were bowed again, more enthusiastically, over
the soup. Oh, the tiny little chiffon “swish” that rustled out from
Peggy’s lovely blue frock, and the gentle, ladylike tap, tap of her
pretty little blue slippers as she moved across the glazed floor of the
dining-room and bent for an instant at Mrs. Forest’s place to whisper,
“Pardon me,” rather as if she were conferring a favor by her notice than
apologizing for a heinous sin. Then she slipped into her chair, which
happened to be at Mrs. Forest’s very table, and sat, sweet and erect,
with the soft candle light over her gold-glinting hair, in her radiant
black eyes, and deepening the wonderful, sweeping color of her face. Her
slender neck was delicate and proud as a princess’. The other girls’
fingers rested motionlessly on their soup spoons for an instant, during
which they looked at their Peggy, spellbound. There was an air of
graciousness, of regal beauty about her. There was no trace of the poor
little Peggy who had once tried so hard to be a belle and had failed so
miserably. This Peggy was lovely in some wonderful, heart-stopping
fashion that made them all marvel.

Mrs. Forest’s eyes traveled over that graceful figure and the sternness
gave way to something else. The little Miss Parsons was developing into
the very type of girl to make Andrews most proud, she reflected.

Each year when June came she took the girls who had perfect records for
behavior to Annapolis for one of the hops. When Peggy had come in late
she was deciding Peggy should never hear the marine band under her
auspices or dance with any lads in uniform. But as she considered what
other girl in the school would do her so much honor as this wonderful,
angelic appearing little creature, or whose program would be more
eagerly filled by the good-looking young midshipmen who always crowded
with enthusiasm around the Andrews girls?

“Mrs. Forest,” began Peggy in a worldly, conversational tone, after a
few minutes, “isn’t the old Huntington place beautiful? And did you ever
notice that large portrait in the hall—the Sargent?”

Mrs. Forest gasped. “In the hall?” she asked sharply, “_IN_ the hall?”

Peggy nodded.

“Mr. Huntington belongs to one of our old aristocratic families, here,
Miss Parsons,” the principal began pompously. “He is a very proud and
very retiring sort of person. Since he lost the vast fortune of the
Huntingtons he has never cared for society and no one is welcome in his
house. Although I am acquainted with the members of all the first
families here, I have not had occasion to meet Mr. Huntington—though we
all know him by sight. And I should prefer that my young ladies did not
demean themselves and me by _peering in at the hall windows_ and
ferreting out the Sargents on the wall.”

“O-oh,” breathed Peggy, with the tiniest little society sigh. “Mr.
Huntington is a very good friend of mine and as I stopped in to talk a
moment with him to-day—”

One of the girls choked and ignominiously thrust her napkin almost into
her month to keep back the strange chortlings and chucklings that were
trying to break forth.

Mrs. Forest’s eyes grew round, but her face had that set expression
maintained by a person who wants to show no surprise whatever, even in
the face of one of the greatest shocks of her life.

“He is a friend of yours?—I didn’t know,” she murmured, all honey.

“Yes, and he so approves of my being in this school,” continued Peggy,
with a graceful little rushing eagerness. “He says he thinks we learn
just the right things. I told him about the cand—I mean I told him the
things we learn and he said he approved of higher education for girls.
He would like to meet you, Mrs. Forest.”

“So?” said Mrs. Forest in rather pleased surprise. “Well, I never
thought he cared about meeting anybody—did he say anything like that,
really?”

“Say?—why, he wants us to go there for Thanksgiving dinner!” cried Peggy
rapturously. “You and me and the whole school!”

The utter strangeness of any such desire on Mr. Huntington’s part,—its
incredible suddenness—was already beginning to fade out in Mrs. Forest’s
practical mind before the economic advantages such an invitation
offered. Times were hard that year, and while she liked the girls to be
wonderfully well satisfied with the holiday dinners at the school,
nevertheless turkey, cranberries, pies, almonds ran expenses up greatly.
In one stupendous jumble the necessary preparations had been oppressing
her mind now for several days, and all the scratch pads on her desk were
covered with scrawling figures indicating the amount of money it would
take to put so elaborate a dinner through.

If anybody in the town was so markedly peculiar as to invite a whole
school to Thanksgiving dinner, she felt an immediate inclination to take
advantage of it.

Around the table as Peggy had finished speaking, and while Mrs. Forest
toyed with her salad, went a barely audible chorus of groans from the
girls. How could Peggy do such a short-sighted thing as to include their
principal in the plan? She knew as well as anyone that her presence
would spoil everything. In their hearts they had known that some one of
the teachers would have to go along with them even if the impossible
came true and they were allowed to give the party. But they had hoped it
would be Miss Carrol, and that Mrs. Forest would be safely shaken off
with her blightingly rigid ideas of discipline for at least that one
day. Now Peggy had hopelessly gotten them into having her if they went
at all. Peggy pretended not to notice their unhappy glances in her
direction.

“That’s very kind of your friend,” Mrs. Forest was saying in a sugary
voice. “I’m sure the school ought to feel honored at an invitation to
Huntington House—”

“_Gloomy_ house,” whispered Florence Thomas, who was sitting on the
other side of Peggy.

Mrs. Forest frowned slightly. “To Huntington House,” she repeated
mouthingly. “It used to be the center of all the social activities in
the town a long time ago. But after the fortune went—and the daughter
and her family went away—”

“Yes, wasn’t that too bad,” murmured Peggy. “His grandson is older than
I am, now.”

“You know him, too?” asked Mrs. Forest quickly.

“No,” admitted Peggy. “I haven’t met him—yet.”

“You think Mr. Huntington was perfectly—serious in his invitation? It
was a definite one?” Mrs. Forest asked thoughtfully.

“Yes, very,” Peggy assured her. “And we girls are going to cook the
dinner,—to show what clever people you are training up in this school,
you know.”

For Peggy had decided within herself that Mrs. Forest need not know that
the girls were going to purchase the supplies for the dinner, also. If
Mr. Huntington made a good impression on the principal just as things
were, then let well enough alone, was her idea.

A curious, weighing look had crept into Mrs. Forest’s eyes. Peggy
thought she was trying to decide whether or not to permit the girls to
accept, and to go herself. But the principal’s next remark showed that
she had already come way beyond that phase of the question and was
actively considering even the remote advantages that might accrue as a
result of their joint appearance at Huntington House on Thanksgiving
day.

“Perhaps,” she said softly, “perhaps—Mr. Huntington’s affairs are
turning out a bit better nowadays and he might be willing to donate
fifty dollars to the new gymnasium we need so badly.”

Peggy put her hand over her mouth to stop the sudden exclamation of
dismay that she must otherwise have uttered. The school did need a
decent gymnasium, everybody knew that. And Mrs. Forest besought every
rich girl who came to the school to interest her parents to the extent
of getting them to give contributions. For five thousand dollars they
could build a very nice one, large enough for their comparatively small
school, and well enough equipped to start. Once in a while a girl in the
spirit of generous affection for Andrews gave ten dollars or so out of
her allowance, but the fund was not coming along very fast.

The idea of going to a party at Mr. Huntington’s house and then dunning
that poor old man for a portion of the expense of building something in
which he could really have not the least particle of interest was
particularly repugnant to Peggy.

“Graft, Mrs. Forest,” she said daringly, shaking her finger and laughing
a little. “Regular graft, and no fair.”

As Mrs. Forest flushed and tried to smile Peggy recalled the curious
remark Mr. Huntington had made about people coming to him for money
every time “certain rumors” came up afresh. She pondered over this.

“I will write a little note of acceptance,” Mrs. Forest mused.

And, after dinner, to the anguish of all the girls, she did.

“That was the only way she’d let us go,” Peggy told them all in
self-defense, and then in the delight of definite plans their joy in the
prospect returned.



CHAPTER VI—THE BEAN AUCTION


You wouldn’t have recognized Gloomy House if you had seen it before the
Andrews girls’ ministrations and then walked into it in company with
those gay young people on Thanksgiving noon. All spick and span and as
gloomless as a house should be on that wonderful day, it was made cheery
by leaping flames in the big fireplaces, and by gorgeous, flaunting
chrysanthemums in tall vases. Mr. Huntington was all dressed up for the
occasion and came forward to greet the guests, now in their best
clothes, just as if he had not said good-by to most of them an hour
earlier when they ran out the back door toward their school, clad in
checked aprons and equipped with scrubbing brushes and brooms and mops.

Mrs. Forest, of course, had not been one of the broom brigade, nor of
the more aristocratically occupationed cooking contingent, either. She
swept magnificently into the room and gave Mr. Huntington a high
handshake that was meant to impress him very much, but didn’t.

“I think the dinner is nearly ready,” called a gay little voice from the
kitchen, and Peggy’s head was thrust through the doorway, all bright
with its crooked dimples much in evidence. Her fair hair was curling
moistly around her forehead and her face was all pink and hot from being
so near the stove for so long a time.

“It’s been a terrible ordeal if you want to know it,” complained
Florence Thomas, her assistant, laughing as they brought the dinner to
the table. “I feel all sizzled up and roasted, and both my hands are cut
and burned beyond recognition. But if _anyone ever_ saw such a wonderful
dinner before, I envy them the experience, that’s all.”

The long-unused table at Huntington House was one of the most gorgeous
sights that the hungry eyes of school-girls ever beheld. Mr. Huntington
himself looked as if he could hardly believe he was awake when he saw
its lavish magnificence.

The girls in their enthusiasm had given the dinner many touches that
more experienced housewives would never have happened to think of. The
color scheme was golden orange and brown. The center-piece was a
triumphant pumpkin hollowed out and scalloped and laden with oranges,
grapes, and very red apples. The turkey smoked in the middle of the
table with the vegetable dishes clustered around it. And in most
beautiful script, worked out in nuts and stem raisins arranged on the
tablecloth, was the word “Thanksgiving.”

At each place was the “grind” with the person’s name on it, and such
shrieks of laughter as filled the room while the girls, the principal
and the old man trouped around the table reading the funny legends,
examining the ridiculous souvenirs appended, all in a hurried and eager
endeavor to find their own places! Not nearly all of the girls could sit
at the table—there were sixty in the school,—but the grinds were
arranged near together and then each girl took her plate with a
plentiful helping of everything and sat down in one of the chairs by the
fireplace or against the wall of the great dining-room.

Mr. Huntington was not “ground” so very badly, after all. He found at
his place a quaint little box painted to represent a house, with tiny
doors and windows marked on it. It bore the legend “Gloomy House,” and
falling from the door were weird little pasteboard roly-poly objects
labeled “Glooms.” These were flat but stood erect by virtue of wee
standards at the back pasted to the paper yard of the house. They were
in all attitudes of scurrying away with ridiculous faces expressing
grief. A slip of paper invited: “Lift the roof of Gloomy House and see
why the Glooms flee.”

Mr. Huntington laughed with the rest, but his hand slightly trembled as
he slowly lifted the roof of the little pasteboard house. Inside were
sixty fudge hearts and a further assurance, “Sixty hearts of sixty
girls.”

Could it be possible that there were tears in his eyes to make them
glisten suddenly like that? Peggy looked down at her grind to hide the
sudden swift seriousness that passed over her own face, when her eyes
met something so incredible that she burst into shrieks of laughter. She
had prepared most of the grinds with the others, but of course hers had
been kept a secret and she had not seen it until this minute. Hers and
Katherine’s were in one, being nothing more nor less than two smashed
dolls somewhat jumbled up in appearance, one wearing a blue Peter
Thompson and the other a red coat. There were black and blue bumps
painted on their dented foreheads. Around the waist of the red-coated
doll went a ribbon on which was lettered frantically,

    “S.O.S., S.O.S.”

And around the blue-dressed one a ribbon declared,

    “I’ll save you! I’ll save you.”

The verse that accompanied it went as follows:

    “Humpty and Dumpty met on a hill.
    Humpty and Dumpty had a great spill.
    All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
    Couldn’t put Humpty or Dumpty together again.”

When full duty had been done to the main dinner the beautiful pumpkin
and mince pies that were Katherine Foster’s own effort were brought in
with wild cheers to greet them, that not even the pokes and taps and
frowns of Mrs. Forest could do anything to check.

“Miss Parsons—” began Mr. Huntington, rising in his place.

“Peggy,” she corrected from the other end of the room.

“Peggy,” he began again, “asked me to let her go through with this
experiment in order that some day I might conscientiously recommend her
for a cook. And I want to say—” he raised his voice, “that after the
spread I’ve had to-day I’m willing and anxious to recommend any one of
you sixty girls, domestic science class or otherwise, to anything in the
United States that you may want.”

The girls interrupted with joyous laughter.

“And if there _is_ anything any of you can think of now that she’d
especially like to have, I’ll do my best to get it for her,” he
continued.

The girls, of course, took it all as merely a polite speech and liked it
very much, but Mrs. Forest felt that here was an Opportunity, spelled
with a capital. She carefully brushed the crumbs from her lap and rose,
while to their horror the girls heard her say, “If your kind offer
includes all of us, Mr. Huntington, there is one thing we all want very
much and perhaps you would be willing to help us a little toward—”

Peggy coughed at this minute so violently that she completely distracted
the attention of everyone from Mrs. Forest, and it was some three
minutes before the spasm was entirely over and other sounds could be
heard again. Peggy was exhausted from the wracking efforts of that cough
and she sat limply back hoping for the best. But Mrs. Forest was suavely
beginning again.

“To go back to what I started to ask, Mr. Huntington, there is one thing
that Andrews has wanted for a long time and a little contribution—”

Here, oddly enough, Katherine was seized with a fit of coughing that
rivaled Peggy’s in violence and duration.

“Somebody else will have to think up something better next time,” she
whispered out of the corner of her mouth a few minutes later as her
gaspings ceased. “It isn’t _natural_ to have any more of us affected
that way.”

“Poor girls,” murmured Mrs. Forest, “they must have gotten overheated
getting the dinner and this room is cooler. Well, as I was about to
say—”

At this point Florence Thomas quietly fainted dead away and toppled into
a little chiffon heap on the hearth rug.

A slight titter of delight rippled through the room, incongruously
enough, and Mrs. Forest glared at the offenders.

“Why, how heartless of you,” she said, bending with difficulty and
lifting her pupil’s limp head and patting her perfectly normally rosy
face. “Have you some whisky, Mr. Huntington? In an emergency of this
kind I think it is perhaps permissible to give it—”

But before Mr. Huntington returned, Florence was beginning to sigh her
way back to consciousness and her eyes fluttered open and she shook her
head when the spoon with the whisky was offered.

“Why—why—where am I—did I—faint or something?” she murmured innocently,
and dangerous as they knew their mirth to be, this was too much for the
girls and they shouted out their appreciation in laughter that was
beyond their efforts to control.

Of course Mrs. Forest must have understood, but someway they didn’t
care. She would have to be “sport enough to stand for it,” in their own
way of putting it. And she seemed to be, for she did not pursue the
subject of the contribution further in their hearing, and how could they
know that she tagged Mr. Huntington into the library while they were all
clearing off the dishes and put the whole proposition to him there in
what Peggy would have called her graftiest way?

When the girls themselves came into the library for the great game of
bean auction which was always one of the merriest features of an Andrews
spread, Mrs. Forest was looking quite unconscious of any rude intentions
and Mr. Huntington’s expression was one of whole-hearted joy and
happiness, so they could not even guess what had transpired.

On the library table was piled a fascinating collection of little
packages, wrapped in varicolored paper, some daintily tied with ribbon,
others knotted about by the coarsest twine. These were of all shapes and
some looked soft and others hard. “Nothing over ten beans,” was the
inscription placarded above them.

Each girl had brought one package which was to be auctioned off for
beans distributed in equal numbers among the bidders.

“Only ten beans for each person,” warned Peggy as she doled the smooth
little white objects into outstretched hands, “so don’t bid recklessly.”

By careful hoarding it was sometimes possible to buy in several articles
for one’s ten beans—in which case, of course, some bidder who waited too
long went without anything.

Just as Katherine Foster took her place as auctioneer, Mr. Huntington
went out of the room and came back in a few minutes with a curious,
awkward looking bundle, very small and done up in brown wrapping paper,
which he laid among the other flaunting offerings. Few of the girls
noticed his action in the confusion of finding good floor space to sit
on, but Peggy saw his hand drop the queer little package and she
determined then and there to bid on it, so that he would think the girls
wanted his article as well as those they had brought for each other.

Rows and rows of eager figures seated on the floor in spite of crisp
taffeta and pretty satin gowns, raised flushed faces toward the
auctioneer as she lifted the first package with maddening deliberation
and read its advertisement,

    “Whatever young girl looks at me
    Something bright and fair will see.”

The wrapping was the gayest of red tissue paper and the spangled ribbon
that went around it made it seem the most desirable affair the girls had
ever looked at.

“Two beans—” shouted Florence Thomas joyously.

“Ladies and—and gentleman in the singular—” cried the auctioneer, “I am
insulted by the offer of two beans—_two—insignificant—white—beans_—for
this gorgeous and inspiring package, with goodness knows what all
inside. Now come, friends, hasn’t some young lady the wish to—” she
consulted the advertisement attached to the bundle again, “to see
something bright and fair?”

“Five beans!” offered Daphne Damon from the back row of bidders.

“Going—going—” began the auctioneer, when Mrs. Forest, who had chosen a
big armchair, from which to view the proceedings, rather than the floor,
woke up to sudden interest in disposing of her beans, and ignoring the
specification of the first part of the package’s announcement, called
out condescendingly, “Ten beans!”

Of course nobody could bid any higher than that and the prize was
knocked down to “that lady over there, with the black silk dress and the
diamond earrings.”

Amid a breathless silence Mrs. Forest unwrapped her purchase and
disclosed an attractive little vanity mirror,—but, oh, for the faith
that you can put in advertisements,—when she held it before her face and
looked at it she didn’t see anything bright and fair at all!

The auctioneer’s voice was already announcing the next article. This was
an alluring thing in green tissue.

“Somebody’s heart and soul was in this,” Katherine read out impressively
from its advertisement.

Florence Thomas bid it in for seven beans and opened it to find the sole
of a worn out slipper and a heart-shaped candy box.

The pile steadily dwindled but Katherine did not pick up Mr.
Huntington’s package until near the end. It certainly did not look
inviting. Peggy’s heart gave a bound as it was lifted high in the air
and the auctioneer began to praise it. She felt so sorry for Mr.
Huntington that he did not know how to make his offering as attractive
as theirs. She was sure nobody would bid their last few beans on that
when there were still several delectable looking bundles on the table.
And, to make it worse, the inscription that was supposed to extol its
virtues merely said, “This isn’t worth as much as people think.” Why,
mercy, no one in his right senses could think it worth _anything_ done
up so roughly as that! In a swift generous impulse Peggy bid “Ten
beans!” in a loud voice, and with a glance of surprise and pity,
Auctioneer Katherine handed her the prize in silence.

Peggy rather hesitated to open the poor little thing there before them
all, but, glancing up, she saw Mr. Huntington’s eyes upon her with a
curiously bright gaze. Something about the anticipation in his look
reassured her and she tore off the wrapping hastily at last. There was a
red cigarette box inside and she blushed furiously.

“I guess this was meant for the one man of our party,” Florence said,
peering over her shoulder and tapping it humorously.

But Peggy was beginning to be certain that the box had only been used
because it was the right size and that there was something—possibly even
something interesting—inside. Gingerly she lifted the cover and drew out
two slips of paper folded, then unwrinkling them on her knee she looked
down and gasped, while a wave of brighter crimson swept over her face.

The first was a check for five thousand dollars! It was made out to
Andrews, with a ticket attached saying, “For the new gymnasium.” The
other was a check for one hundred dollars made out to bearer, with a
note to explain, “for use in giving other people kind little parties as
you all have to-day given me!”

What did it mean? Peggy stared across at her friend, and found him
smiling delightedly that she had been the one to bid it in. _Poor_ Mr.
Huntington! Never again could they call him that—why, why—Mr. Huntington
was _rich_, fabulously and wonderfully and _generously_ rich, and they
had never known. Through her mind flitted the memory of his remark about
the recurring rumors that caused people to come to him in search of
donations to various things. Again she thought of that odd phrase of
his, “When one is piling up one’s fortune—”

“Oh,” she gasped, the deliciousness of their “charity” party sweeping
over her. “Oh, how strange everything is all of a sudden! I think,
perhaps, I’m asleep or something, this is just the crazy, impossible way
things go in dreams. Florence, please pinch me.”

But when Florence did, she yelled “Ouch” in a voice that was wide awake
enough, so she knew those uncanny checks in her hands were real.

“The gymnasium is to be named Parson’s Hall,” smiled Mr. Huntington,
“that’s the condition, and it’s really to be Peggy’s gift to the school.
The school would never have had it—that is from me—on any other score.
The small check is Peggy’s own—and I waited until I saw your eyes
watching me, child, before I laid the package on the table, for I hoped
you’d be the one to bid for it out of the kindness of your heart.”

Mrs. Forest had turned pale at the mention “gymnasium” and now she
jumped from her chair and made her way to Peggy’s side with an almost
youthful alacrity.

“How—wonderful, how delightful, how kind, how thoughtful, how perfectly
splendid,” she cried, reading the check with dazzled eyes. “Mr.
Huntington, I thank—”

“Thank Peggy,” he said, somewhat shortly and walked over to the
fireplace.

Peggy’s heart was full of happiness. To be able to give something to
Andrews that would last always and would bear her name!

How beautiful that was! This school that had already meant so much to
her in friendships and worth while knowledge not all out of books,—how
very glad she would be to come back to it some day and see the neat
little gymnasium, with her name on the building, full of romping girls
that loved each other as she and Katherine did, and had the same
glorious, care-free outlook on life that she had now!

“I wish I could say—half of what I’m thinking,” she murmured, looking
gratefully up at Mr. Huntington with moist eyes.

He merely smiled. “Or I wish that _I_ myself could, after a day like
to-day,” he answered after a time.

A kind of quiet settled down on the girls and they talked in low pitched
voices, laughing only in a comfortable undertone while the sense of
homelikeness and good feeling grew and grew and struck deeply into each
heart, bringing those inner visions that belong to Thanksgiving day, but
need just the right atmosphere to make them perfect.

Sixty separate groups of dear home people were being vividly pictured in
that one great room, sixty different houses were suddenly mentally
erected within that house. Ever and ever so many beloved voices were
imagined right in among the murmuring _real_ voices of the friends about
them.

And, contradictory as it may seem, keeping pace with their happy
contentment in the moment went a big, aching, sweeping longing in each
girl’s mind for just one minute in mother’s arms, one instant of her
dear, real, understanding presence. And from under sixty pairs of lashes
bright tear drops were fought back, while each girl, wrapped up in her
own heart-ache, believed that she alone was experiencing anything like
this and that the others were all as free from such homeward thoughts as
they had been when screaming with laughter a few hours ago over the
grinds in the dining-room.

Thus all our experiences we go through much more in common with the rest
of mankind than we suppose. But this is especially so in school and
college, where a great number of young people of the same age and of
more or less the same station in life are placed in exactly similar
environment. The same tears, the same laughter, the same desires and the
same satisfactions all girls who have gone away to school have felt in
varying degree. And now here sat this roomful of girls, each suffering
in the same new and unexpected way at the same time and each believing
her mental situation to be strangely different from anything ever
experienced in the world before.

The spell had even affected Mrs. Forest, too, for when she rose to
gather up her flock she gave a great sigh and spoke with a curious
gentleness that the girls had never associated with her pompous tones.

“I think, young ladies, it is time we went back to our school, now. And
I’m sure we’ll join in thanking Mr. Huntington for the best time we have
had this season. And we are very grateful for his most kind gift to
Andrews. If he would care to come to our school musicales and
entertainments nobody would be a more welcome guest than he. Get your
wraps, young ladies, and we will take our departure.”

The girls scrambled up from the floor and went reluctantly to the hall,
where they slipped into great fur coats, and fastened rubbers on their
daintily shod feet.

“Good-by, good-by,” they called from the door, and troops and troops of
them went down the whitened walk, laughing back expressions of
appreciation.

Peggy had whispered in Mrs. Forest’s ear just as she was about to leave,
and Mrs. Forest had nodded her head graciously. So Peggy went to
Katherine and drew her back from the crowds of those preparing to go
home, and when the rest had gone the two girls went back to the fire and
sat down in great arm-chairs on either side of it, while Mr. Huntington
mused into the blue flames and began to see there a picture of something
that had happened long ago.

“So you want to hear why I have to be alone on Thanksgiving day unless
outsiders take pity on me, do you?” he asked, for Peggy had begged him
at the door to tell her about his daughter and the grandson that would
be older than she. It was daring, but she felt very strongly that
someway Mr. Huntington wanted to talk, wanted to tell someone, and she
believed she and Katherine and he were good enough friends now to make
it possible for him to tell his story to them.

“Well,” hesitated the old man— The girls settled themselves more
comfortably in the great chairs and leaned forward, their chins in their
hands, while the whimsical light of the fire played over them now in
rose-colored flickers of light, now in lavender brilliance.

“I suppose I’d better begin at the beginning,” said Mr. Huntington, and
in a quiet, halting, reminiscent voice began his strange story.



CHAPTER VII—MR. HUNTINGTON’S STORY


“Our family has always been rich,—I cannot remember when the Huntingtons
were not supposed to have everything they wanted. I myself have not let
the great estates of my ancestors slip through my fingers as the people
about here imagine. Instead,—it may surprise you—I am richer far than
any Huntington has ever been before.”

Peggy gave a delighted little gasp.

“Yes, because the values of my holdings have gone right on increasing
and I have used practically nothing for myself, you see. People outside
think that no man would appear to be poor as I do, with none of the
luxuries of life, and really be rich, for the common rule is the other
way, isn’t it? Even at the cost of mortgaging house and home most people
buy the outward shows of wealth in order to seem to be rich even though
they are poor.

“My daughter was the most beautiful girl in the state when she was
young. Her mother died when she was eighteen and so just as she began to
want parties and entertainments I was obliged to do all the planning and
looking after her myself. Lovely as she was, and rich beyond the dreams
of neighborhood avarice, I naturally thought she would marry some kingly
young fellow with a position equal to her own. But she didn’t—she
married—”

He looked for a long time into the fire, and Peggy ventured to break the
silence, “but that wasn’t a very democratic way of looking at things,
was it? Don’t you believe a rich girl might like a very poor man, and
the other way round, too?”

“She married, with my reluctant consent, a young fellow who immediately
tried to get me to sell off great portions of my property and turn the
money over to him for investment in some crazy oil well he had out west.
He tried in every way to get control of this or that piece, using
fraudulent means, it seemed to me. Finally he—borrowed a vast sum of
money from a man down state—it was easy for anyone so safely connected
with the Huntington family to borrow whatever he wanted—and this he sank
in the well, which never amounted to anything and gave him no means of
paying even the interest on his debt. With the interest greatly overdue,
and no prospects, howsoever dim, of getting back his money, the rash
investor from down state came to me and demanded that I reimburse him
for my son-in-law’s rascality—though perhaps that is too strong a word
to use.”

“And you did—_didn’t_ you?” begged Peggy, anxiously.

“Of course,” agreed her friend. “He knew I would, though he never
mentioned the transaction to me himself, but left the news for his
creditor to break.

“They lived with me here five years and when my little grandson was two
years old, I planned how I could do the most for him, arranging his
education and travels in my mind so that all the bright future I had
hoped for my daughter might be realized in him. But when incidents like
the one I just told you of began to happen frequently and any
considerable sum of money I gave my daughter went also into the stupid
oil proposition that never yielded any profits or, indeed, paid back a
cent of the money that it ate, I determined to go on with the thing no
longer and talked to my daughter and my son-in-law so plainly that they
agreed to go away and not involve me in such transactions again.”

Katherine timidly interrupted, “I suppose they—didn’t write much after
they’d gone?” She was still puzzling to account for the complete
loneliness the old man had endured for so many years—even the conduct of
his disappointing son-in-law did not, to her mind, wholly explain why a
man would be content to forego all manner of acquaintance and friendship
ever afterward.

The fire crackled loudly and protestingly, as if it, too, shared her
thought and would like an explanation. Peggy never stirred nor moved her
eyes from the thoughtful and sympathetic contemplation of Mr.
Huntington’s face.

“No,” the old man hesitatingly answered Katherine. “No—You see—, well, I
am afraid I spoke very harshly to the man and my daughter heard. He made
no kind of defense whatever and—even then I—I was ashamed, but I knew
right to be on my side and I felt very long-suffering as it was. My
daughter caught up my grandson and faced me. I shall never forget the
proud expression in her poor, hurt eyes.”

“‘You shall be paid back every penny, father,’ she said, ‘if you have to
wait until this baby grows up and earns enough to cancel his father’s
debts. It is not likely we could meet so great an obligation by our own
unaided efforts—and Jo is not a moneymaker, but my son shall be trained
to think of nothing but making money until the whole amount is ready to
return to you. We shan’t send you little dribbles,—not one cent until
the entire amount is gotten together—oh, I know how much it is, I have
kept track. We shall scrimp and save and earn and plan until you are
paid. Nor will you ever hear of us again if I can help it until my son
stands some day in your doorway with his check in his hand to pay you
back.’ And with that they went away—”

“And they haven’t ever paid you back? And that is why you were poor for
so long?” questioned Katherine, believing that at last she had the
solution.

Mr. Huntington smiled at the absurdity of this.

“They haven’t paid me back, but the sum they owe me scarcely leaves a
perceptible hole in my fortune. No, but the year after they left I
happened to read the notice in a New York paper of my son-in-law’s
death. No address was given, nothing but just the notice and that was
all. Knowing my daughter as I did, I was sure that, at whatever cost,
she would persevere in her determination to pay me back and would keep
to the letter of her declaration even to the point of going out into the
world and earning her own living. The thought of that beautiful,
carefully brought-up girl, with so harrowing a responsibility on her
shoulders was more than I could bear and I employed detective agents in
a vain endeavor to find her and her boy. I myself searched everywhere in
the east, but, will you believe me—never from the day she left my house
to this—have I found one trace of her or been encouraged, in any way to
hope that I should ever see her face again. Now do you begin to
understand? Now can you think it natural, perhaps, that I should want to
live as poorly as possible, and deny myself as I knew that poor girl was
doing? Could I continue in luxury when she was in want? Only by making
myself suffer under the most rigid economy, with the idea that every
penny I could save and add to my fortune I would bequeath to her boy, in
case he could ever be found, has made my life possible to endure. I have
felt bitterly toward almost everyone—I don’t know why. And I never
expected to have in my life again the sunshine that you and the rest of
my sixty little friends, have brought to me to-day.”

Peggy drew a long breath. “Well, it’s been a real Thanksgiving, then,
hasn’t it? And I’m so glad, Mr. Huntington, I’m so glad you liked the
party—and I—I—I’m sorry about—”

“Do you know,” Katherine broke in, “I think it’s all coming out right. I
never had such a funny feeling. But someway I seem to be sure that Mr.
Huntington will find his grandson right soon—I don’t know why I should
feel this way, but I do.”

“Cassandra,” murmured Peggy. “We’re just having the Fall of Troy in
Greek class now, Mr. Huntington, and Katherine is carried away by the
idea of being a prophetess. It _would_ be nice if we could see the
future,” she added wistfully, “but I always feel as if I had more
happiness in the present than I could really take care of,—and if I was
always looking ahead to more—”

“You,” said Mr. Huntington, “yes, _you_ would feel that way. Most people
would say that the gift of prophecy was withheld from us in order that
we might not see so much grief and hardship ahead of us that we would
lose the incentive to go on.”

But Peggy was so far out of sympathy with that point of view that she
laughed.

The early darkness of the winter afternoon began to deepen in the room
and blur all the shadows together. The dancing firelight did its best to
fight off the dusk, leaping up with spurting little flames and glowing
fiercely red at its heart. But the purple and gray twilight deepened
steadily into black everywhere except in the one bright corner of the
room where the flames still kept guard.

“Well,” said Peggy, sighing, and untangling herself from the comfortable
chair in which she had been curled, “time for us to go home, I
suppose—oo—oo—out into all that cold after all this warmth! My hundred
dollars, Mr. Huntington—I don’t know what I’ll do with it—” she puckered
her brow thoughtfully, “I don’t know anyone else to give a party to so—”

“Buy a big fur coat with it, like some of the other girls wore,” advised
the old man, “then you’ll never think about going out into the cold as
anything but a pleasure.”

“Oh,—a fur coat!” cried Peggy, “why, mine—mine has just the mangiest bit
of a fur collar, and I’ve been proud enough of that—wait, just _wait_
till I get a wonderful young caracal!”

With their hands linked closely together in Peggy’s muff the two girls
made their way down the walk, and at the street they turned back and
waved cheerily to the silhouetted figure that still watched them against
the glowing doorway of what had once been Gloomy House.



CHAPTER VIII—CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS


The days and weeks seemed to fly by after that, each one full of
interest to Peggy, who liked Andrews better and better and was
increasingly glad each hour that she had come. Through Mr. Huntington’s
help she was able to do a great many delightful things for other people,
and she took happy advantage of his warm interest in her projects.

December rushed along toward Christmas and Peggy began to feel just a
trifle sad because her aunt had written nothing about her coming home
for the holidays, while almost all the other girls were going. She
rather hated to think of the empty halls of Andrews in vacation time
with no company other than that of Mrs. Forest. But one day Katherine
had looked beamingly up from a letter and had then jumped up and thrown
her arms around Peggy’s neck with the explanation that Peggy was invited
home with her by all of Katherine’s folks.

Oh, what an enthusiastic preparation began then, what long discussions
as to whether to take the blue crêpe de chine or the golden satin, what
oodles of postcards were dispatched to friends with the good news and
new temporary address on them!

To be part of the great business of going away for vacation! Peggy’s
heart thrilled every time an expressman tramped through the halls
bearing some girl’s trunk on his broad shoulders. Any afternoon now they
might come for her trunk, hers and Katherine’s, packed delightfully in
one, after many friendly quarrels as to which one should have the left
hand tray and which the right and who could lay her shoes in the lower
compartment and which should take her manicure set, since one would do
for both girls, and trunk room was precious.

When, seated at last, breathless and full of anticipation, in a taxi
with their trunk up on top, the two girls waved through the window to
those who had not yet gone, Peggy was too happy to speak, and two bright
red spots burned in her dimpling cheeks and her eyes were as blue with
excitement as electric sparks.

She had never ridden on a train—a Pullman—before with just girls as
company. Her aunt had always taken her the few places she had been. Yet
now she was actually buying her ticket herself and checking her trunk,
and then boarding a great, wonderful, cross-country de luxe train,—she
and Katherine, all by themselves, with as grown-up _sang-froid_ as if
they had “all the while been conductors or brakemen,” Katherine
expressed it joyously.

The porter put their suit-cases under their berths, and Peggy’s little
gloved hand dropped a quarter nonchalantly into his palm while she tried
to twist her eager, excited mouth into a traveled expression.

“Well,” murmured Katherine, settling back comfortably on the plush seat,
“we’re really on our way. Oh, Peggy, I’m so glad you’re going with
me—oh, won’t it be fun to introduce you to father and mother and brother
Jack and the canary bird!”

They had taken an early afternoon train, and it was a long while to wait
for dinner. The wonder and glory of the dinner Peggy was already
picturing.

“I’m hungry just thinking about it,” she said, when the train was well
under way.

“Let’s have the porter get us something,” suggested Katherine, “what
would you like—a lemonade?”

“OO-ooo,” breathed Peggy, rapturously, “can he get it for us?”

“Why, you can order _anything_ on these good trains,” declared Katherine
grandly. “A little later we’ll get some cards and look up two girls to
play bridge—the train’s full of our girls and people from the colleges.
Then we’ll go back to the observation car and—”

Peggy shivered blissfully. “My,” she said, “isn’t life full of
experiences, though?”

                                  ————

“Shall we wear our hats into the diner, Peggy?” asked Katherine,
importantly, when the windows of the train were squares of blackness
speckled by flying snow whirling past and the waiter had gone through
calling out, “Dinner is served in the dining car in the rear ...
first-call.”

“Is that the thing to do?” hesitated Peggy—“and must we wear our coats,
too? I’d rather put our hats into these paper hat bags the porter
brought a while ago, and leave our coats here, and—and just go back in a
real homelike appearance.”

“All right,” said Katherine, smoothing back her pretty hair before the
tiny oblong mirror in their section, “and, oh, Peggy, how hungry I am!”

With the excitement of a brand new experience shining in their eyes,
their youthful heads held erect as they walked, and their little serge
skirts swishing over their silk petticoats, the two girls went down the
aisle in growing and pleasant consciousness of being observed by many,
through car after car of the long train in their hungry search for the
diner.

Each of the vestibules was snow-powdered and slippery and cold—oh, so
cold, and it seemed that always just as they came to one the train
lurched and shook so as to nearly knock them off their feet.

And then, all of a sudden, there they were in the diner itself—but what
was this mob—this perfect horde of other people doing there standing
patiently lined up against the long narrow wall before they came to the
table part of the car?

“Katherine!” cried Peggy in consternation, “they’re waiting to get in.
We’ll _starve_ before our turn comes!”

And all the long patient row of people laughed, for nowhere else in
traveling is there a more open and friendly spirit than among those poor
patient and hungry sufferers lined up to wait their turn to be served at
dinner. Groups returning began to push by them after a while, their
faces as satisfied in expression as the others were anxious.

“You see,” Katherine thought it out, “we came at the first call, but our
car was so far away that by the time we could get back here, all the
people from the nearer cars had gotten ahead of us.”

But once seated facing each other at a little table, with the electric
candle shedding its radiant light on the white cloth before them, and
with the pale snow outside fluttering against the windows, and all so
warm and comfortable inside, the tedium of waiting was forgotten and all
things beyond the scope of the immediate attractive present were blotted
out from their contented spirits.

They leaned their elbows on the table and looked across at each other
with blissful satisfaction.

“Peggy,” said Katherine, and “Katherine,” began Peggy eagerly, and then
both in the same breath they demanded of each other the answer to the
momentous problem of the moment, “What are we going to eat?”

Never had a menu seemed as full of wonderful possibilities as that one,
never had “Milk-fed chicken with Virginia ham” tasted finer when it was
brought, and never, _never_ had two more healthy young appetites been
brought into play than Katherine and Peggy manifested while the train
rocked along with them at breakneck speed taking them faster and faster
and faster right into the heart of Christmas vacation.

After the edge of their hunger had been worn off and they had turned
their attention more delicately to ice cream and _demi-tasse_, their
thoughts drifted backward to events at Andrews, which seemed already
very much in the dim and distant past.

“Katherine, when you said you felt as if Mr. Huntington would soon find
his grandson, did you have any reason for saying that, or was it just to
comfort him?” Peggy inquired reminiscently.

“No, honestly, Peggy,” insisted Katherine, “I could feel it in my mind
just like anything that it will happen. Did you notice I didn’t say
anything about his daughter? That was because I had no such feeling
about her—so you see it wasn’t just to make him feel better at all. It’s
strange, isn’t it, how thoughts about the future come to you sometimes?”

“Never do to me,” laughed Peggy with a shake of her head. “Just think,
Katherine, I didn’t ever even have an idea until I actually saw you that
I was going to room with anyone like you at Andrews. When I used to
wonder what my room-mate would be like, I always thought of
some—entirely different kind of a person—and I was afraid maybe she’d
want the window shut when I wanted it open, or she’d be a grind and I’d
bother her,—and when I saw you—”

“Were you satisfied?” teased Katherine across the table.

“Oh—” sighed Peggy in mock rapture, and then she smiled her sweet,
frank, confident, dark-eyed smile straight into her room-mate’s eyes. “I
was just about as glad as they make ’em,” she declared.

Katherine was thinking.

After a while she spoke.

“I know what let’s do,” she said radiantly, “let’s go to Madame Blakey
when we get to my house and ask her about the Huntington boy.”

“Who’s Madame Blakey?”

“Oh, I forgot you wouldn’t know. She’s a clairvoyant and reads the
future out of a little glass of water. Yes, and you needn’t smile.
Sometimes it comes out just as she says. I’ve never been, but some of
the business men in our town believe in every word she says.”

“I—I’d be afraid,” Peggy demurred.

“She doesn’t tell you the horrid things—just the ones worth while
knowing—don’t you think it would be thrilling to go?” Katherine poised
her ice-cream spoon half way to her mouth while she waited for Peggy’s
wild delight in the scheme which she felt sure must come.

“I—I—don’t know—” Peggy disappointingly murmured. “Does she have
curtains painted with red and gold Turkish half-moons and all that? And
does she fade off into a—” she shuddered, “a—trance? Because I don’t
want to see anything like that, honest, I don’t. Of course, I know the
trances are just make-believe, but I don’t like them.”

“No,” Katherine hastened to reassure her, “sometimes I think it would be
fun to go to one who did those things, but this one doesn’t make much of
a show of it, I’ve heard, and if the folks would only let us go—”

“Perhaps we owe it to Mr. Huntington,” Peggy decided at last, “to find
out where his grandson is for him, even by clairvoyant means like that.
Perhaps we ought not to let an opportunity or possible chance slip by—”

By this Katherine realized she had won her wish and that her little
friend was beginning to be as eager for the adventure as she was and was
merely trying to translate it into a favor to somebody else before
plunging into it heart and soul.

By this time the girls had finished their delightful dinner and they
left a quarter on the waiter’s little tray with all the dignity in the
world. My, how independent, how experienced, how completely adult it
made them feel to be deciding the amount of tips and then handing them
out with such sweet grandeur of manner. The waiter smiled and bowed as
he pulled out their chairs, but they themselves were so exactly the type
of traveler that any waiter would prefer to wait on, with their grave
consultation with him as to the choicest dishes and their evident
enjoyment of life in general, that perhaps he would have been nearly as
polite had they given him only ten cents—but, of course, it’s impossible
to say for sure. Waiters are but waiters, and they have certain
expectations and have grown accustomed to seeing them realized.

Back on the perilous journey through snow-coated vestibules the girls
took their swaying way, laughing light-heartedly at each swerve of the
train and trying to work out some Sherlock Holmes system by which they
might be sure of finding their own car.

“I knew a girl once,” said Katherine, “whose car was taken off at
Buffalo and hitched to another train while she was promenading on the
platform outside, and all the baggage she had in the world went off to
school, leaving her behind. It was a horrible experience—”

“Must have been,” sniggered Peggy, “but if you’re trying to scare me
into thinking perhaps we won’t find our car at all you’ll have a hard
time of it, because we’re in it now!”

And so they were. There were the familiar fur coats over the arms of the
Pullman seats at last, there were the copies of the gayly covered
magazines that they had left behind them, and, indeed, there it all
was—home. Home as only a Pullman car can be home to young people who
adore traveling and have plenty of interesting experiences and company
to while away the journey.

“Ah,” they cried, sinking back into their seats, “this is nice, isn’t
it, after all that walk? How smoothly the train runs when you’re sitting
still, but how jogglety it goes when you walk through the cars.”

“Oh, well,” said Peggy, with a mighty yawn and stretching her little
locked hands before her lazily, “I’m perfectly happy, and I feel so
contented I’m almost—sleepy.”

“Almost—” indignantly laughed Katherine, “I feel free to say that you’re
the most perfect imitation of a sleepy head that I ever saw—imitation, I
said, Peggy, imitation—” she cried, ducking, for Peggy had reached for
her hair to pull it.

“Let’s imitate sleeping heads instead of only sleepy ones then,”
suggested Peggy when all her attempts to wreak vengeance upon her
room-mate had proved unsuccessful.

“Porter, will you make up our section next?” asked Katherine as that
white-coated individual went by. And Peggy stored it away in her mind
that when you wanted to address him you called him “Porter.” It was
difficult to explain exactly why, but this impressed her as just the
highest mark of knowing the proper thing that she had seen yet. Now if
_she_ had been forced to ask him the same question she had a feeling
that she would have begun with “Say.”

“How shall we sleep—you in the upper, or me, or both of us in the lower
so that the upper needn’t be let down at all and then we can have plenty
of room to dress in our berths in the morning without bumping our
heads.”

Peggy agreed to this last plan as the best, and a few minutes later the
two snuggled down into the cold sheets to be lulled almost instantly to
sleep by the rhythmic motion of the train and the even sound of its
metal click, click on the rails.

“Good-night,” murmured Peggy sleepily just before drifting off into the
great shining world of dreams with their marvelous adventures that do
not tire but rest and equip the dreamer afresh for the series of real
events crowding in with the new day.

“Goo—ood—night—” answered Katherine in an even drawlier tone, but her
room-mate was already asleep and did not notice it.



CHAPTER IX—THE FORTUNE TELLER


Oh, the glory of waking up in the morning and then before you have time
to wonder where you are, seeing the telegraph poles flying by! On a
train, on a train, on a train, Peggy’s joyous thought kept time to the
sound of the wheels on the rails. After looking interestedly out for a
few minutes on a barren sort of white crusted country, level as a
prairie and without house or building of any kind, Peggy turned and
shook Katherine heartily by the shoulder.

“Poor child,” she shouted into the other’s reluctant ears, “I hate to
waken you, but open your eyes and tell me if you think we’re nearly
there?”

“Where?” murmured Katherine and sank back into the peace of slumber.

“Why, there, THERE, at your home—will—you—wake—up?” Each of the last
words was accompanied by more vigorous shaking, “as—I—said—” shake,
shake, “I—hate—to—waken—you—”

“Yes, you do,” reproached Katherine in perfectly normal tones, turning
staring mockingly at her room-mate. “Yes, you hate it—I thought you were
a wreck, you shook me so hard.”

“I am a wreck after all that difficulty to make you wake up,” declared
Peggy serenely. “Now, let’s hurry and go to breakfast.”

“Do you know what your new name is going to be as soon as we get back to
school?” threatened Katherine.

“No,” indifferently.

“Pig Peggy.”

“Oh,” said Peggy, “well, I’ll look you up one in the dictionary,—maybe
in the _Latin_ dictionary, and then you’ll never know what it means and
can’t pay me back for it.”

It is surprising how quickly two girls can be ready for breakfast when
they hear the waiter crying out “Last—call for breakfast—” through a
rocking train.

Grape-fruit, coffee, and toast was what they ordered, and then they
laughed to find that every other girl in the diner was eating exactly
the same thing. For grape-fruit, coffee, and toast is the college and
school girl train-breakfast the country over.

“I feel as if I’d been away a hundred years,” said Katherine excitedly
as the train at last pulled into the station. “Oh, they’ll all be down
at the train, I wired them to. And how proud I’ll be to show them you,
Peggy, and tell them that you are the one they’ve heard so much about in
all my letters since the very first, which was full of your rose-tree
episode.”

The porter had already gone ahead with their bags, and they, peering
eagerly out of the windows as they made their way to the platform,
sought to catch a glimpse of Katherine’s family.

As they stepped off it seemed to Peggy that a veritable whirlpool
engulfed them. On every side were enthusiastic people kissing her and
Katherine indiscriminately. And she in her gladness to get there and her
happiness in meeting with such friendly acceptance kissed them back with
impartial enthusiasm, Katherine’s mother and father, her younger sister,
an aunt, and three “kid brothers”—these were the reception committee
that were now hustling the girls to the big waiting automobile that
belonged to Katherine’s father and overwhelming them with expressions of
pleasure and welcome.

The house, when they came to it, was a great homey affair, with many
rich rugs and pictures that did not, however, dazzle by their
magnificence but seemed to fit into the general atmosphere of comfort.
Peggy, who had never visited in so wonderful a place before, danced from
attic to cellar, as light as thistledown, and sent the whole family into
roars of appreciative laughter at her naïve and hearty approval of it
all.

“You’re home, now, Peggy,” Katherine said.

And Peggy nodded happily. “Why, of course,” was her comment. “It
certainly feels like it, and I _love_ every darling member of your
perfectly grand family, Katherine Foster.”

Two days after their arrival the Fosters had a Christmas party for them,
and for the first time in her life Peggy helped to trim a Christmas
tree, and wrap up such an enormous number of tiny tissue-covered bundles
that her fingers ached from tying string.

There was the grand march around the tree, the gorgeous Christmas
supper, and afterward dancing and dancing and dancing until Peggy’s head
whirled and her very heart beat time to music.

On Christmas day there came for each of the girls a fascinating little
package bearing the Huntington address on the outside. Katherine’s was a
woven gold chain with a delicate and beautiful pearl pendant attached,
and Peggy’s was a watch with a good sized diamond sparkling in its
handwrought gold.

“Oh—how _lovely_,” breathed she in ecstatic surprise, and then suddenly
her face clouded. “We forgot to send him a thing,” she reminded
contritely.

“Never mind,” comforted Katherine, “we’ll go to the clairvoyant and help
get his grandson back for him and I guess that will mean more to him
than any little set of cuff links or knitted tie we might have given
him.”

“So we will,” mused Peggy, “do you think we could go to-morrow?”

Not the morrow, but the day before New Year’s finally saw Katherine’s
family persuaded to let the two girls go to Madame Blakey, who had
really a considerable reputation in the town for correctly reading
futures in her glass of water. Not that Katherine’s father and mother
believed in that sort of thing, but they actually knew people who seemed
to, and they could see no harm in permitting the girls to go. But when
the two daring experimenters with things yet to come had been conveyed
by James, the chauffeur, in their big touring car to the residence of
Madame, they found all the blinds closed and no sign of life about the
place anywhere. A woman from next door told them that Madame Blakey had
gone away on her vacation to visit relatives.

“Well,” sighed Katherine in miserable disappointment, “I suppose other
people have to have vacations too. But it does seem heartbreaking that
all our plans should be spoiled and poor Mr. Huntington should never
find his grandson, after all.”

“Yes,” agreed Peggy, brushing away the baffled tears, “isn’t there
somebody else in town who—who sees things ahead?”

“Oh,” objected Katherine, “not that mother would let us go to—but
listen, we might go first and then explain all about it and she’d
understand our motive. Let’s look in the personals of the newspaper.
Sometimes there is one advertised there.”

So they sent James for a paper and eagerly scanned its columns until
they found in inviting, bold type, “Madame La Mar, palmist and
clairvoyant. I read the future: I tell your past: consult me about your
business or your heart affairs.”

“Ah,” cried Katherine, and she read the address to James, while she
squeezed Peggy’s hand under the heavy robe.

A few minutes later the machine had drawn up before a frowsy little
apartment building, very different from and far less prepossessing than
the neat, newly painted little house of Madame Blakey’s.

In spite of James’ expression of mild surprise, the two girls got out
and entered the building, searching as they did so for some card or call
board by which they might locate Madame La Mar’s rooms. There was no
lock system on the doors and no cards of residents. They went on into
the main hall and saw a row of uninviting doors, each with some name
scrawled on it in pencil. On one door alone was a soiled visiting card
bearing the proud name of Madame La Mar.

“Do you dare knock?” asked Katherine.

“Maybe I will in a—in a minute,” hesitated Peggy. “Don’t you think
perhaps we’d better have James in?”

“No,” said Katherine, “he’s right out there, anyway, and could hear us
if we wanted him for anything, and this apartment must face the street,
so we could lean out and call him if it gets too trancified for us in
there.”

But they did not have to work up their courage to the point of forcing
themselves to knock on the door, for the great Madame La Mar herself,
hearing their whispering voices, now threw it open and stood before them
in all the magnificence of tight fitting black velvet embroidered with
occasional sequins that glittered here and there.

She was a big woman with vivid black eyes and black hair turning in
places to gray. Her cheeks bloomed with an unnatural radiance, and her
eyebrows were the longest and the most arched and the most charcoal
dusky that Peggy had ever seen off the stage.

“Ah,” crooned a honeyed voice, “did you want to see me?”

Katherine, speechless, nodded.

“Was it about—did you want a reading?” There was a very professional
business-like quality now creeping into the voice in addition to its
first honeyed accents.

“Yes,” Peggy answered up.

“Did you have an appointment or have you ever come to me before?”
temporized the woman.

“No,” said Peggy, “but we thought—we thought you might be willing to see
us anyway.”

“Yes, yes, indeed, come in,” said the woman vaguely. “Come in and we
will have a little music.”

The girls were seated, full of bewilderment, in a sunny, rather vacant
room, while the seeress swished across the floor like an animated
mountain and, going over to a piano on which the dust shone, sat down
and began to play a simple exercise like those Peggy had practiced when
she was a child and had her fingers rapped if she made a mistake.

In increasing wonderment the two watched the self-confident figure
picking out its little exercise and apparently completely oblivious of
their presence and as thrilled by the feeble tinkle, tinkle it was
accomplishing, as if the sound were a whole orchestra of beautiful
music.

After a time she stopped, and turned to the girls with a small smile. “I
like music,” she said. “Oh, so fond of music. I’m taking lessons.”

“She needs ’em,” whispered Katherine.

“Did you enjoy my little roundelay?” she inquired anxiously.

“It was—it was very nice,” Peggy tried to say politely. “But we thought
you were Madame La Mar, the fortune teller.”

“I _am_ Madame La Mar,” responded the woman, as pleased as peaches.
“Yes, indeed, who else could be her, you know?”

“Her grammar!” groaned Katherine in a tiny voice.

“Now if you will come into the studio,” the woman urged, “I will read
for you from the past, present or future or all three of them. Just
state your desires.”

“There was something special,” Peggy told her, “we thought you might be
able to read ahead for us.”

“Of course,” agreed the generous creature, “anything. But my charge is a
dollar a person.”

“That’s all right.”

“Then come in. Now the young lady in the caracal coat sit on my left,
please, and you other on my right. I shall want you to keep very still
and not disturb the workings of the supernatural. Which would you rather
have me do, tell you by cards or by your palm or by the crystal?”

“Will—will one be just as effective as the other?” asked Peggy
doubtfully.

“Be as what?”

“Be as effective, as good, you know, Madame La Mar.”

“Oh, yes,” explained the seeress condescendingly. “I can tell it one way
as well as another and I never make a mistake. I’m not like some of
these people in this town—limited, you know, to a single style. You can
choose any sort whatever and it goes with me. I’m a woman of my word, I
am,” her voice was rising, “and I challenge any other clarvoy’nt in this
town to tell as much for the money as I do, why—”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure,” pacified Peggy. “And now suppose you tell us
something. It’s what we came for.”

“With the crystal,” Katherine put in, “and maybe our palms too.”

“No, not our palms,” cried Peggy in consternation, looking at the rather
dirty red hands of the husky fortune teller. “I think the crystal alone
is best.”

“Well, then.” The red hands caught up a little crystal globe that was
lying on the table. “All look into this with me, just as hard as you
can,” she urged, “and think with all your might about the question you
want me to solve for you, and pretty soon I’ll see things come in here
and that will be the future.”

The room settled down to a curious, stifling, nerve-racking silence
while the prophetess gazed into her gleaming crystal.

She was breathing hard, and after a time it seemed to the two girls that
a faint film or cloud went across the glassy brightness of the little
globe, and this filminess took vague shape and disappeared.

Each girl thought as hard as she could. “How can we find Mr.
Huntington’s grandson for him? Where is he now?”

Finally, in a sepulchral voice, startlingly different from her own, the
woman began to speak: “I see a girl,” she murmured.

This beginning was so far from promising and so utterly different from
what they had someway expected that Katherine burst out into hysterical
laughter. “She could see two of ’em if she looked very hard,” she
chortled too audibly in her friend’s ear.

“There, you’ve broken the spell,” complained the woman peevishly. “How
can you expect me to find the future for a pack of laughing hyenas that
don’t believe what I’m telling them, anyway?”

“Oh, please,” said Peggy, much ashamed of Katherine’s rude outburst, “we
want to hear it, and we will perhaps believe it when we have heard
something. Indeed, Katherine wasn’t doubting what you _did_ say, you
know—she only—”

“Quiet,” hissed the woman.

Was it true that a cloud, filmy and light and vapory went drifting
across the clear crystal surface again? The girls felt no impulse to
laugh now.

“I see a girl—I see snow—”

Katherine thought that she couldn’t help it if she looked out of the
window, but this time refrained from comment and held her breath while
she watched the mysterious smoky appearance of the crystal.

“I see a loss of a long time ago—many years—relative torn from
relative—”

Peggy and Katherine clutched at each other’s knees.

“Walking, walking, so tired,” mumbled the woman, “a long white field. I
see an initial—let’s see what the initial is. Is it A? no, it is not A.
Is it B—no, no, now I have it, it is H.”

Peggy gave a tiny scream and the voice continued:

“Cold, very cold, far east of here and a little north. A college room, a
mandolin, a young man plays on the mandolin. Also I see—” the voice rose
excitedly, “a school lawn, a moon, this time it is warm, I do not
understand it, and a group of young men are picking up little—little
roses from the ground, and a girl leans from a window—”

“Peggy,” screamed Katherine, “she means the time the rose tree fell
out.”

Here the prophetess burst into tears and shoving the crystal away from
her declared that she would not read another thing for two such ill
mannered young ladies who dragged her in and out of her trances just as
if these were not the worst kind of nervous strain. She was through with
them, she was. Just as she was beginning to see something of interest
they shouted at her and spoiled it all. What kind of spirits would
remain in a room with two girls that acted like that? They could pay her
their dollar apiece, they could, and go, and she would go back to her
music and think herself well rid of them, she was sure. Thank them, and
_good-by_, and please don’t ever come and bother her again with their
hoydenish ways. Could they find their way to the street? She, for her
part, was too unnerved to take them.

With their heads still whirling from the queerness of it all the two
girls groped their way out through the dark hall and drew in great
breaths when they were once more safe in the sunlight of the street.
They stumbled forward toward the car, where the imperturbable James was
awaiting them. As they were about to clamber in Peggy clutched at her
room-mate’s sleeve.

“Look back, she’s watching us,” warned Peggy, and there sure enough in
the window of the room they had just quitted were the outlines of the
great figure of the black velvet prophetess, a curious brilliant
fixedness in her dark eyes.

“I think she got her initial from the door of your car, Katherine—look.”

Katherine’s father’s initials were H. B. F., Howard Baker Foster, and of
course the seeress could have seen them, looking down into the street as
she was now.

“Maybe,” demurred Katherine, “but, Peggy, someway I don’t believe she
did. I think that H stood for Huntington just as all the rest of her
story seemed to have some truth in it, and if only my feelings hadn’t
gotten away with me we’d be there yet, hearing all the things that are
ever going to happen to us, I’m perfectly convinced.”

“Well, evidently, Young Grandson is in college somewhere,” interposed
Peggy flippantly. “You remember about the college room and the mandolin?
I’m glad that his poverty didn’t prevent his getting a fine education,
anyway. Now we’ve got a clue, all we have to do to find him, friend
Watson, is to go to all the men’s colleges and walk through all the
dorms until we come to a room from which the gentle tinkle of a mandolin
steals forth—and then, and then—we knock on the door. Young Grandson
answers it, and—there we are. We take him back to Mr. Huntington and all
goes well. And listen, Watson, my dear detective companion, I think our
search through those colleges is just going to be one of the jolliest
things that ever happened to two nice-looking girls.”

“You forget that we won’t know Young Grandson when we see him.”

“Clues, my dear Watson, clues. No detective ever went far without
finding clues. First, we shall run across his picture in one of the
college annuals. And we shall say, ‘Why, here, what a strong resemblance
this picture bears to Mr. Huntington, of Huntington House.’ And that’s
the first thing. We read under the picture and find that his name is
John James Smith, and then we go to the registrar—”

By this time the car was rounding the Foster drive, and the two girls
alighted, in haste to tell all of Katherine’s interested and somewhat
disapproving family about their adventures with the soothsayer.

Each of the small brothers agreed with Katherine that it must be all
true, but that was the only support she found at home for her belief.

                                  ————

When it came time for the girls to start back to Andrews, they were torn
with conflicting emotions. They were glad they were going back, and yet
they could hardly bear to tear themselves away from the home that seemed
now to belong to Peggy, too. So when they and their suit-cases were at
last regretfully taken to the train by the entire family, the girls were
dissolved in a flood of tears as they settled themselves for the
journey, and the train had been under way some two hours before they
managed to say a single word to each other.



CHAPTER X—MISS ROBINSON CRUSOE


It was the snowiest part of the season that Katherine and Peggy rode
back into when they returned from their Christmas vacation in the Middle
West.

The school grounds shone and blazed under a triumphant sun, and out
around them as far as they could see was a great white world. One of the
most important gifts of the Foster family to the two girls had been two
pairs of snow-shoes: not the poorly constructed, make-believe affairs
that are sometimes on sale in cities where there is never enough snow to
use them, but real Indian-made shoes for which Mrs. Foster had sent to
Canada.

Naturally, they wanted more than anything else to try them. So the first
day that Mrs. Forest gave them permission they went out on the porch of
the Andrews dormitory, comfortably dressed in white sweaters and white
tam-o’-shanters, with moccasins on their feet and their beloved
snow-shoes ready to strap on in their hands. After some grunting and
much tugging the shoes were adjusted, and then the two expected to
fairly sail over the white world, away, away, like ice-boats, as fast as
the wind. But, oh, for the things that look so easy! There was a good
crust over the snow, but at the first step—well, Katherine seemed to be
trying to walk on her head instead of her feet, that was all. In trying
to pick her up Peggy herself fell headlong, and there they lay,
ignominiously waving their snow-shoes in the air, shrieking with
laughter and so limp from their merriment that they could not get up
again.

It was only after many attempts that they stood erect once more,
powdered over and caked with snow where they had plunged through the
crust, and very red in the face and still shaking with laughter.

“I put my toe down first,” gasped Katherine between spasms, “just as I
would if I was walking ordinarily. I forgot that father said the foot
must come down flat. I’ve seen people snow-shoe, but I never—t-tried
it—oh, dear me, I’m almost exhausted to start out with.”

Then once again, with the utmost gravity, the two made the attempt, and
Peggy almost at once got the wonderful swinging motion of the far
northerners that makes snow-shoeing one of the most delightful and
exhilarating sports in the world. To be warm in the midst of cold, to
glow from forehead to feet with life and heat and happiness, all this
glorious new experience she was feeling for the first time. But
Katherine could not put her foot down correctly and failed to get into
the rhythm of the thing at all. And as sure as they came to a hillock
over she went helplessly, and remained deep in the snow until Peggy
pulled her out, with scant sympathy, but with much merry appreciation of
her snow-powdered face and its look of wondering appeal.

Nevertheless, in spite of difficulties and delays, they had covered two
meadows and a large open field without more stress of adventure than
they found pleasant. All of a sudden Peggy pointed ahead. There,
gleaming on before them, straight ahead and over the crest of a bit of
rising ground, were the glistening snow-shoe marks of another explorer
who had recently gone that way before them. The sun shone into the
criss-cross pattern of the steps, which seemed to the girls to be both
invitation and challenge.

Katherine adapted the quotation, laughing. “If I could leave behind me
any such even tracks as that it might be worth while going on, but when
you can’t get the swing of it, Peggy, you can’t keep warm, and while I
want to learn, sometime, I think it wasn’t born in me as it was in you,
and it will need several practice attempts before I can be in your class
at all. So I’m going back—for now—do you want to come, or are you going
on—?”

Peggy looked back toward the familiar roofs of Andrews, and then she
looked away out over the barren fields in their whiteness, new and
untouched save for the gleaming snow-shoe tracks that called and called
to her to be as adventurous as they.

“I guess I’ll go on,” she said, a hint of abandon in her voice.

“Well, good-by, hon,” said Katherine, meekly taking her leave. “I will
get about as much more of this as I want going back, but I hope you have
a nice time—and—and end up at tea somewhere just as we were going to.”

“Tea by myself would be horrid,” Peggy called after her. “I won’t be
long, but I just must have some more, I love it so.”

Then she turned her face to the snow-shoe tracks, and with a little gay
song on her lips took up their trail.

“I’m Robinson Crusoe,” she told herself blithely, “and these tracks are
the good man Friday’s. And we are the only two people that there are at
all, and both of us have been finding it so lonely by ourselves.”

Several of the Andrews girls had snow-shoes and Peggy wondered which one
the maker of these tracks might be.

“I’ll try to walk right in her steps,” Peggy decided, “and then I’ll get
just the right method—but, oh, my goodness, what a tall girl she must
be! These footprints are so far apart I can’t possibly take such long
steps. She must be a wonderful snow-shoeist—maybe she won’t want to walk
with me even when I do catch up to her, since she’s apparently so much
more expert.”

With ludicrous attempts to fit her steps into those of Friday, she
pursued her way until at last she had climbed the hill where the tracks
had at first been lost, and there they were continuing, forever, it
seemed.

Without hesitation Peggy followed. Lost to all but the exhilaration of a
brand new exercise, and the stimulus of the cold wind that yet never
chilled her glowing face, she kept on until Andrews was a thing of the
past, and she could not have found her way back except for the tracks
she was making now. And then all of a sudden she noticed something was
different. The footprints no longer gleamed in her eyes, and the
beautiful dazzle of the snow was blotted out. In an instant more a
whirling mass of moist snow flakes was falling about her, obscuring
everything but their own fantastic, falling selves.

“Well,” decided she promptly, “I guess I’ll be getting back.”

But when she turned back the wind came rushing in her face and took her
breath and nearly blew her down.

“Well,” she changed her mind. “I guess I won’t. Friday, where are
you—you must be somewhere out in this sudden storm, too. And if I could
only find you I wouldn’t feel as lost and shaky as I do now. Misery
loves company—not that I’m miserable—but something”—she choked back a
sob, “something seems to be gloomy in my heart.”

Since she could not go back, and since the thought of coming up with
Friday was a very comforting one, she plodded on, winking the snow out
of her eyes and shaking it off of her cap and out of her hair.

She could scarcely see the tracks ahead of her now, as the new snow was
fast obliterating them, and her own steps were made with increasing
difficulty. Anyone who has ever tried to snow-shoe over soft, new-fallen
snow knows the hardship of Peggy’s predicament.

All at once she discovered that she could not lift her left foot at all.
Try as she would, it would not rise and swing forward to its next
step.—Paralyzed! The horror of her situation, there all alone in the
cold and snow, out of sight of everybody, slowly being paralyzed with no
one to know or care, filled her with momentary hopelessness.

“Oh, Friday,” she thought, “I don’t see how you could have snow-shoed so
far ahead of me as not to have been caught up with by now. Dear, dear,
if I could only find that girl, maybe she would try to drag me to some
farm house, or something. If she’s one of the Andrews girls she wouldn’t
want me to freeze to death out here all by myself. Maybe if I called
very loud she’d hear and come back—”

“Hello!” she shouted forth into the snow-filled world. But there was no
answer and the sound of her own voice, so hollow and lonely, did
anything but cheer her up, so she did not try again.

With one last great effort of will she tried to move the stubborn left
foot. It was useless,—stuck in the snow and helpless it remained.

“Oh,” she murmured, the tears beginning to run down her cheeks to mingle
with the wet snow flakes melting there.

All of a sudden a dark form loomed up out of the blinding snow
immediately ahead. There was the jar of a collision. Peggy clutched her
hands together, not knowing whether to be glad or terrified.

And then she saw that the figure was that of a very red-faced young man,
who was also wearing snow-shoes.

“Friday!” Peggy cried out, realizing in one illuminating instant that
this was the track-maker she had been following as Crusoe.

“No, it’s Saturday,” replied the young man, somewhat puzzled, “but I
don’t see what that has to do with it. I’m awfully afraid I hurt you,
bumping into you like that, but I never dreamed there was anyone about
in a storm like this. Have you seen anything of a little dog? I lost him
a while back.”

“No,” shivered Peggy. “I’m afraid there isn’t much use looking for him
if he’s very little. Here am I a perfectly strong girl and yet even I
can’t go any farther. I—can’t—go—another—step—” Sobs fought with her
words, and the young good-looking face grew redder than ever.

“Tired?” he asked, “so tired that you can’t walk? Well, then, I’m mighty
glad I came. Wait just a minute till I get a deep breath and I’ll carry
you. The extra weight will make us sink in a lot in this soft snow, but
if you don’t mind the joggly walking I can easily manage—”

Peggy shook her head. “No, you’d better go on by yourself,” she
insisted. “I think a person would be awfully hard to carry in
snow-shoes, they’d hang down and flop about so. And I’m sorry about your
poor little dog, but I think it isn’t any use your waiting for him.
You’d much better save yourself,” she advised.

“Now,—come,” said the other.

“Listen, I’m paralyzed,” Peggy confessed. “My left foot just won’t—won’t
work, you know, I can’t get it to snow-shoe another step. It just stays
still. It’s paralyzed—”

What was that—could she believe her eyes? The young man had glanced down
sympathetically enough toward the paralyzed foot but was it any subject
for such wild fits of mirth as he immediately went into? Was it right
that he should laugh and laugh and point, speechless, and then clap his
hand over his mouth and go off again?

“You are very cruel and perfectly horrid,” cried Peggy sharply, “and I
hate, I _hate_ you!”

“O—oh, pardon me, little Hot-Temper, but look back at your snow-shoe,
_please_,” and the laugh distorted his face once more.

Painfully and indignantly Peggy screwed her cold face over her left
shoulder and looked down.

“Why—why,” she gasped all out of breath, with astonishment, “how did it
get there?”

For there, comfortably ensconced on the back of her snow-shoe, waiting
for a free ride, sat, as perky as you please a plump puppy, his head
cocked interestedly on one side, and his wide mouth open in an inquiring
fashion as if he would like to know what she was going to do about it
now that she had found him out.

“The—the—smart little thing!” Peggy couldn’t help exclaiming. “There he
was, being a parasite, while I was supposed to do the walking.—Only it’s
a good joke on him, as I couldn’t.”

“As soon as the soft snow fell, I suppose the little fellow sank in
pretty deep every step,” the young man grinned, stooping and sweeping
the quivering, frisking body into his arms. “And the rascal was going to
take it easy as soon as he saw your snow-shoes coming along. Lucky I
missed him when I did,—and you’re not paralyzed now, are you?”

“No,” laughed Peggy, “it seems I’m not. Oh, wasn’t that funny? There I
was dying all by myself a minute ago of something that I didn’t have at
all.”

“I say, what we ought to do, though—there is a tea house somewhere near
here where we can get something hot and then you’ll feel a lot better
and I don’t mind saying that I will too. Come on, I know the way, and
I’ll walk on the windy side of you like this and—why, it’s going fine,
we’ll be there in no time.”

With courage and interest and even happiness surging back into her heart
now that this big handsome boy was striding along by her side and
cheering her with laughing remarks that ignored the wild storm about
them, Peggy found snow-shoeing exhilarating once more, and they made
good time, and were soon stamping in to the little tea house.

In the neighborhood of Andrews were a number of tea rooms and dainty
restaurants, for it was a rich school, and a good share of the girls’
pocket-money went for good things to eat. Peggy was familiar with many
of them, but she had never happened to come here before. So she knew
that they must be a greater distance from the school than she had
supposed. Also, most of the people seated around the adorable little
tables were boys instead of girls, and they all looked up with interest
at the entrance of the snowy pair.

“Why, hello, Jim,” one of the boys called out to Peggy’s companion.
“Playing Santa Claus?”

Jim merely smiled and bowed, and guided Peggy to a table by a roaring
open fire. Then he took her sweater and cap and flung them across a
chair to dry.

“Where do all these boys come from?” inquired Peggy. “It looks like a
perfect wilderness around here.”

“We are near Anderwood, the boys’ prep school,” explained her companion.
“I used to go there—just last year, in fact—and I was over visiting some
of my friends to-day. Most of the fellows are having exams right now,
you know, and there were two hours this afternoon when every fellow I
knew was booked for something, so I borrowed a pair of snow-shoes and a
dog and—took a stroll.”

“And you strolled right over to a girls’ school,” laughed Peggy.

“As fast as I could go,” the young man answered without embarrassment.
“I’ll tell you just what I was going to do, too. I don’t know a soul at
Andrews—or didn’t until I almost ran over you in the storm. But I was
just going to look at a certain window. Now, I bet you’d hate to tell me
what you think of me.”

“A certain window,” mused Peggy. “Are you a carpenter and did you want
to see how it was made?”

Her mischievous taunt brought an explanation.

“I’m an Amherst man,” he began, and Peggy leaned her elbows on the
table, forgetful of the steaming soup that had just been set before her.
“And I had finished my exams, so I took a vacation to this part of the
country, where I used to go to school. The last time I was around here I
came up for the game, early in the fall. And—well, you know how it is
with glee club fellows, they sing their heads off when their team has
won, and I guess we serenaded every corner of the Andrews dorms until
midnight. Do you remember—did you happen to be awake and hear us?”

“Oh, yes,” breathed Peggy ecstatically, and then a furious flush went
over her face. Was her awful adventure of that evening to be recalled
now—would he guess that she—_she_, whom he had saved from the storm was
the very one who had toppled the terrible rose-tree in its heavy
jardinière down onto his head as if she were firing on him from a
Zeppelin? So he was one of the young men she had nearly killed! What a
mercy that he had not died, after all. With a crushing wave of memory,
the whole moonlit scene flashed back to her, and once more the ache of
uncertainty and remorse were poignant in her heart. She recalled
Katherine’s joyous shout that they were unharmed, and then—and then her
own rush back to the window and the song they had sung just for her!

“You heard?” he was asking in pleasant interest. “Which house are you
in?”

“Oh,” cried Peggy in consternation. “The other one.”

And then she realized by his puzzled expression and his mouth twitching
into a laugh that her reply didn’t make sense. “I mean I didn’t hear
it,” she rushed headlong into the fib in her distress. “I didn’t and my
rose-tree is still all safe in its jardinière in my room, and—and—anyway
you must realize that it was an accident!” she finished desperately.

The boy’s hand went swiftly into an inner pocket and drew out of a small
envelope a tiny withered rose bud, quite browned and crumply. He held it
silently over to her across the table, his eyes shining with delight.

She looked at it with an attempt at impersonal curiosity, and then the
corners of her mouth crinkled up, and that flickering dimple came into
play and she met his eyes with enjoyment as keen as his own.

“And you all sang to me,” she reminded, “and I never was so excited
before.”

“Every one of us kept one of the flowers,” he told her. “We didn’t know
who dropped them to us, we could only see just the fluff of your light
hair—but we carry them just for luck. They are sort of insignia of
adventure—”

“I was so afraid I’d killed you,” Peggy confessed, “and I thought the
only thing I could do to atone would be to go and be a Red Cross nurse,
and help those that other people tried to kill.”

The young man threw back his head and laughed until the boys at the
other tables looked over and grinned in sympathy.

Peggy hastily turned her attention to her soup and ate in silence.

When they had finished their hot chocolate, too, she glanced out at the
uninviting storm and sighed.

“It must be miles back to Andrews,” she said. “I suppose we’d better
start. The storm makes it awfully dark, doesn’t it?”

The lights had been turned on in the little tea house and in contrast to
their radiant cheer and that of the dancing flames in the fireplace, the
outside world with its deep gray swirl of snow flakes looked very black
and chill.

“It’s not so much the storm—or not that only,—it must be five o’clock,
anyway, you know.”

Peggy jumped. “Oh, no, how _could_ it be? We won’t get home in time,
then.”

“In time?”

“Yes, every girl has to be in her room at five-thirty so as to have
plenty of time to dress for dinner at six. And the rule is partly to
make it certain that we’ll be in before it’s very dark, too, I suppose.”

“Well, we’ll make a dive for it,” he said. He drew out his watch, and
then his face grew red with that same brilliant over-color that it had
worn when she first saw him out there in the whipping winds. This time
it was not the wind that had sent that flame over his forehead, chin and
cheeks,—it was shame that his sense of responsibility should not have
warned him of the passing time.

“It’s—half-past five _now_,” he was obliged to tell her.

Peggy looked into his poor, miserable face, full of self-accusation, and
with an effort of will she drew her own lips into their best smile.

“Oh, well,” she said, “we’ve had a gorgeous time, and a few short hours
ago I didn’t expect ever to see another half-past five in all this
world. I guess having one’s life saved will be sufficient cause for
delay to appease Mrs. Forest. I imagine even _she_ can get the
importance of that.”

But in her heart she knew just about how easy it was to explain things
to Mrs. Forest—about as easy as moving a mountain. Once the principal
decided in favor of punishment, not all the king’s horses or all the
king’s men could change her mind. And, oddly enough, it was the small
faults that she scored most heavily. Peggy sometimes felt that a girl
might steal something and yet not arouse Mrs. Forest’s wrath as
thoroughly as one who was late to dinner.

“You are to be trained in _manners_ in my school,” she often said, and
it was true that with her these seemed to come before everything else.
She was not so strict in regard to chaperonage and all that as the New
York finishing schools; she had no need to be. The school was situated
in a small and desirable town, and among her pupils were none of the
vapid little Miss Foolishnesses sometimes sent away to school because
their parents or guardians can’t manage them at home. All her students
were bright, eager, typical American girls like Peggy and Katherine and
Florence, most of whom had a definite idea and plan for their lives
after graduation, the majority trending collegeward. So, although Peggy
was the youngest girl who would receive a diploma next June, it would
not be on the score of lack of chaperonage in going to tea with a young
Amherst friend that she would meet with Mrs. Forest’s objection, but
merely on the technical ground of not returning at the exactly appointed
time.

Hastily he shook out her sweater and held it for her, then flung into
his own, and jammed his cap on his head, and catching up the puppy that
all this while had been lying comfortably before the fire he held the
door open for her. The storm blew in to meet them as they stood there,
and with a shiver of determination they strapped on their snow-shoes and
struck out. “We’ll just go over to the next corner, where we can get a
street car—we’re only a little way from Andrews by car line,” the boy
told her.

They were fortunate enough to catch a car at once, and all unconscious
of the friendly stares of the passengers they congratulated each other
on having left the tea room at exactly the right moment.

The car stopped directly in front of the Andrews gate. Their cheeks were
aglow and their minds full of the afternoon’s adventures rather than
with their consequences. On the wide porch Peggy turned to her friend
and said, “You must go, now, and be introduced to Mrs. Forest at some
other time. They’re at dinner now, and she’d kill me with her own hands
if I call her away. So I’ll let you go and just say, ‘Thank you, and
I’ve had a nice time’—”

She smiled up at him bravely, for presentiments of her meeting with the
Forest were already beginning to creep into her heart.

“Good-by,” he said, and in a moment more he was swinging down the walk
and Peggy softly opened the door and scurried upstairs to her room. As
always happens at a time like that, the gay roar of voices in the
dining-room died down as she came in, and to everyone and certainly to
Mrs. Forest the slight sound of her moccasined feet on the stairs was
plainly audible.

When she came down a few minutes later, glowing in a pink evening dress,
Mrs. Forest’s stare was like a cluster of icicles.

“No supper for Miss Parsons,” she sent word by the maid, and after
Peggy, mighty glad that she had just had plenty of hot soup and
chocolate, had gone back to her room amid the sympathetic glances of the
dining-room full of girls, the principal called that dread and clammily
unpleasant thing known to boarding schools as a “house-meeting.”

She herself presided, and the meeting was seldom called for any good,
you may believe. Its object was rather the punishment of someone with
all the sickening stages of a public investigation into her conduct
first. Mrs. Forest had a way of making the girls cry in a homesick
fashion at these affairs and perhaps it is hardly doing her an injustice
to say that she enjoyed it. At least the girls were all perfectly
convinced that it was her sport in life, and they resented particularly
that their idol, Peggy, should be the subject of this one.

A deputation of girls went clattering up after the victim and brought
her down, showing no further marks of perturbation than a tiny little
line of uncertainty in her forehead.

“Sit here, Miss Parsons,” commanded Mrs. Forest as soon as all the girls
had gathered.

Peggy sank gracefully into a chair and thrust out her pink satin
slippers daintily. Mrs. Forest could not know how those tired little
feet ached inside those bright slippers.

“Young ladies, I have called this meeting in order that I may have it
understood that in my school the rules are to be obeyed. Now I want to
ask each one of you what you think the rules are for? Do you think they
were made with the idea of having them obeyed? Miss Thomas, will you
answer first?”

Florence felt like the most complete traitor to Peggy that she should
even be questioned on such a subject when she knew the whole proceeding
was aimed at her friend.

“I—don’t—know—” she said miserably.

“Don’t know,” Mrs. Forest smiled disagreeably, “I will ask Miss Parsons
what she thinks.”

Peggy looked up from her contemplation of the carpet and gave a little
gasp.

“Oh, I’m not in a frame of mind to think they’re very important one way
or another,” she replied, with an entirely maddening smile of
deprecation. Her dimple flashed in and out of her cheek and she met Mrs.
Forest’s gaze with an unperturbed calm.

“Your penalty for feeling that way—and acting as you feel is that you
shall not be taken to Annapolis in the spring when all the other girls
are going!” Mrs. Forest exclaimed with heat. “Does that make a
difference in your attitude?”

“No,” said Peggy, “for most of this afternoon I never expected to go to
Annapolis anyway—or anywhere else in the world again.”

The girls caught the under note of earnestness in her voice and leaned
forward interestedly, excitement beginning to shine in their questioning
eyes.

“I was paralyzed back there in the snow when the storm came up,” she
went on, a bit of the weariness that was in every limb showing forth in
her voice, “I gave up expecting to come back. And then a man saved me.
Never mind about Annapolis. I’m more than satisfied just as it is.”

“Were you in danger from the storm, Peggy?” asked Katherine. “I was
scared to pieces when I saw it coming up, but I didn’t want to start a
search party—and someway I thought you couldn’t really get lost—we know
all the places around here so well.”

“But I couldn’t see them,” said Peggy, “and I got blown away every time
I tried to turn in a new direction. A man saved me and—got me some hot
chocolate, and—and I’ve been late to dinner before and all this fuss
wasn’t made over it.”

“That’s just the point,” snapped Mrs. Forest, “you have been treated
with too great lenience. If you had thought more of getting home on time
you wouldn’t have stopped for the hot chocolate. At least that part
wasn’t necessary.”

“Oh, but it rather was,” Peggy began, but looking at Mrs. Forest she
wondered how she could be expected to understand. Could she ever have
been a girl on snow-shoes, and have known the cold that gleamed in the
frosty air and the hunger that comes after great exertion? No, what was
the use of looking for understanding there? Peggy lightly tapped the
floor with her foot.

“You may go,” Mrs. Forest graciously permitted at this point, “I’m
sorry, Miss Parsons,” she so far unbent as to say at parting, “that you
thought you were lost and had a fright, but discipline above all
things—discipline, my dear. Perhaps after this we shan’t have to combat
your continual tardiness.”

In their own room a while later Peggy threw her arms around her
room-mate’s neck and danced her this way and that, in a manner quite out
of keeping with the tiredness that she felt.

“The greatest adventures, Katherinekins,” she shouted. “Oh, listen,
listen, I can hardly wait to tell you.”

On releasing her friend, she proceeded to prepare for bed, saying she
was too exhausted to sit up another minute. But she talked as she
slipped on her kimono and folded back the couch cover from the cot bed
on her side of the room.

“And, Katherine,” she came to the wonderful part at last, “who do you
suppose he was? One of the people we tried to kill with our
rose-tree—yes, he had our rose—”

“Rose-tree?” cried Katherine, and then her face, growing whiter and
whiter in its excitement, she clasped her hands together and screamed
out: “The fortune teller, the fortune teller! She spoke of that—quick,
Peggy, hurry, what’s his name—is one of his initials H? Peggy, don’t
keep me in suspense a minute longer—what is his name?”

Peggy was sitting up in bed with a queer expression in her face. As
Katherine finished she looked across at her with a blank expression.

“Why, I don’t know his name!” she cried.



CHAPTER XI—THE INITIAL H


“Why, do you suppose I dreamed all night of mandolins?” questioned
Peggy, sitting up in bed with a blanket hugged around her shoulders next
morning.

“Why, because,” said Katharine, “the clairvoyant woman said that she saw
a young man in a college room playing a mandolin,—you remember? And he
answers all the rest of her requirements, the walking in the cold, the
meeting the girl—you, and the rose-tree incident. Now, Peg, did you
think to ask him if he played the mandolin?”

“No,” said Peggy contritely, gingerly testing the cold floor with her
bare feet, “no,—and how are we going to find out now?”

“You’re a fine Sherlock,” cried Katherine, “but, then, it’s always the
Watsons of this world that do the real work while the Sherlocks get the
credit.”

“I have just one clue,” sighed Peggy humbly.

“Well?”

“The boys at the tea house called him Jim.”

“_Jim!_” repeated Katherine in keen disappointment and disgust. “Not an
H in it!”

“No,” Peggy agreed, “and there are so many Jims.”

“M.—Jim, Amherst—fine lot of information,” murmured Katherine.

There really didn’t seem to be much that could be done, so the girls
went to recitations as on other days. But they could not help the
feeling that they had really stumbled upon the very person they had made
it the business of their year to find, and so their answers to the
professors’ questions were often somewhat vague and wandering, and once
when the mathematics teacher asked Peggy to draw a right angle triangle,
she said she hadn’t studied her mandolins to-day, and sat blushing
furiously throughout the rest of the lesson.

It was late in the afternoon when one of the maids called Peggy to the
telephone. She ran down the stairs with a wild and unaccountable hope in
her heart—if she should only have the opportunity to find out everything
so that Katherine wouldn’t have so much cause to be ashamed of her—if
she could only ask him if he _did_ have a mandolin—

“Hello,” she was saying breathlessly into the mouth-piece. “Hello—?”

“Miss Parsons—” a laughing voice came over the wire and Peggy instantly
framed her lips to her question. It should not get away from her this
time—all this news that she must have.

“I called up Mrs. Forest and asked if the young lady I rescued from the
storm was all right after her chill. I told her I was the one who had
been fortunate enough to be there, and she said, quite politely, that
Miss Parsons wasn’t hurt in the least by the experience. That’s how I
got your name.”

But all this while Peggy was interpolating wildly: “Do you play the
mandolin? Do you play the mandolin?”

And now that the voice was pausing for her answer, her words came clear
and distinct, “Do you play the mandolin?”

“Do I _what_?” in astonishment.

“Do you play the mandolin?” monotonously.

“Why, why—how funny your first remarks always are. Yesterday in the
storm when I nearly ran you down you cried out ‘Friday’—it didn’t seem
to have a bit of sense to it,—and now right while I’m trying to tell you
something you ask me in a parlor conversational tone if I—if I——”

“Well, _do_ you?” she insisted desperately.

“Yes, but—”

“Oh, goody, goody, then you’re the one!” “What one?” mightily
puzzled—and a trifle impatient.

“I can’t tell you yet—I don’t even know your name.”

“Why, of course, I want you to know my name, that was partly why I
called up,” in an injured voice. “It’s Jim Smith.”

“Only that?” her disappointment was keen.

“James H. Smith, if you must have it all,” somewhat surlily.

“O—oh,” there went singing across the wires the breath of Peggy’s
rapture. “Isn’t that lovely.”

“No one ever thought it was particularly so before,” the young man
answered. “I’m glad you like it. Now, what is all of your name?”

“Peggy is the part you don’t already know,” she confessed, “and I like
it better than the last part.”

“I do, too,” he chimed in heartily, “I won’t need to say the last part
at all any more, will I?”

“N-no,” Peggy laughed. “Considering who you are. Only of course you
don’t know yet, do you?”

“Don’t know who I am? Well, now, I always had a faint suspicion every
time I looked in the glass that I was myself.”

“I’ve said everything wrong,” apologized Peggy sadly. “But you’ll
understand after I’ve seen you sometime again and told you about
everything.”

“Anything you say is all right with me, anyway,” the voice answered
quickly. “I wouldn’t have you think for a minute that it wasn’t. After
the game way you almost went through death by paralysis—”

Here they both laughed, until the wires sang again and again.

“May I come over to-morrow afternoon and—meet the ogre and get her
approval of me, and all that?” the man’s voice asked at length.

“Yes, and you can meet somebody nicer than the ogre, too,” generously
promised Peggy, “my dearest-in-the-world room-mate, Katherine Foster.
Oh, she is the splendidest girl! And the prettiest! And the smartest,
too.”

“To-morrow afternoon, then? Awfully glad that you’re all recovered from
yesterday—good-by.”

Peggy murmured her good-by and flew back upstairs to tell the wonderful
news to Katherine—that he was, that he _was_, that he WAS!

“I can hardly wait to tell Mr. Huntington,” cried Katherine, “can you?”

“Oh,” said Peggy doubtfully, “I don’t think we have quite enough to go
on yet to tell him about it, do you? _We_ think it is true but, after
all, we have only the word of that crazy black velvet fortune teller.
His middle name begins with H, but that doesn’t tell us what it is, it
might not be—be—_that_, you know, after all.”

“Huntington,” smiled Katherine. “You are afraid to say Huntington.”

“I’m not. Huntington, Huntington, Huntington!”

And then as if it had been the magic signal for calling up the real Mr.
Huntington on the spot, one of the maids brought up his card at the
moment and said that he was awaiting the young ladies in the
drawing-room.

“It will be hard not to tell him,” sighed Peggy longingly. “I’d like to
have him know that there was just a gleam of hope, anyway, you know, of
finding—”

“Let’s be careful, because there’d just be somebody else disappointed
besides us if it didn’t come out right. Peggy, sure as I am that we’re
on the right—what do you call it—scent—nevertheless, we must remember
that almost every man in college plays a mandolin—at least half do,—and
H. stands for so many names: Hill, and Hough, and Hail, and, oh, dozens
and hundreds and for all I know thousands. No, it isn’t a clear case
yet, so don’t raise that poor old man’s hopes.”

Down the stairs they went sedately, arm in arm. Mr. Huntington had
visited them at the school several times since their return from
Katherine’s home. Sometimes he called upon as many of the entire sixty
girls as were about, but more often he asked simply for Peggy and
Katherine.

“I’m awfully glad to see you, Mr. Huntington,” Peggy cried, running
impulsively forward, “especially to-day.”

“Peggy,” warned Katherine.

“I mean after yesterday, you goosey,” she frowned at her room-mate, and
then in a very audible aside, “did you think I would give it all away
like that?” She turned to their guest. “You see I was nearly lost in the
snow yesterday, and from thinking I’d never see any of my friends again
to—to seeing them, you know, is a very pleasant jump.”

“Well, I heard about it from one of the girls who was passing my house
and stopped in to tell me about your adventure and I hurried over to see
if you’re surely feeling all right and how you’d like a little dinner
party at the Holland Hotel in celebration of your escape?—you and seven
or eight classmates?”

“Oh, wouldn’t we?” cried Peggy. “I was wondering how I was going to
stand dinner in this place to-night. You know they wouldn’t let me have
any last night and if your gr—I mean if the young man that rescued me
hadn’t given me some soup before that I’d have starved.”

Katherine’s foot reached for Peggy’s to administer rebuke for what she
had so nearly said. “It will be lovely for us to have the dinner party,
Mr. Huntington,” she put in hastily to cover the mistake her room-mate
had made. “Sometimes, just eating here, we do get awfully hungry.”

“I never saw you girls when you _weren’t_ hungry,” laughed their friend.
“It was your continually thinking about something to eat that first led
to our acquaintance, wasn’t it?”

The dinner party that evening was a great success. The girls loved
nothing better than to dress up in state and go in a crowd to the hotel
for dinner, but it was an event that came seldom in their lives. They
talked so much about the wonderful lobster and the crisp French fried
potatoes and all the bewildering array of little extras that the great
subject in the minds of the two principal guests was forgotten for the
time, and whether H. stood for Holt or Hamilton became a matter of no
great moment.

When, however, the card of Mr. James H. Smith was brought to the girls
the following afternoon interest quickly revived and they went
downstairs with their best detective manners.

“This is the man whose dog I saved in the storm and who, to show his
appreciation, saved me,” laughed Peggy by way of introduction. “And
this,”—presenting her room-mate, “is the nicest girl in the world—whom I
chance to room with.”

“My only claim to distinction is rooming with Peggy,” smiled Katherine,
offering her hand. “We’re glad to see you over here, Mr. Smith—and are
you going to show me the withered rose, too? Because the rose-tree was
mine as much as Peggy’s—”

Peggy left Katherine laughing over the brown petals with Jim, while she
went to ask Mrs. Forest to come in and meet their friend. “I think he’s
a relative of Mr. Huntington’s,” Peggy whispered just as Mrs. Forest
rose to accompany her, in order to assure her friend of a hearty
welcome, “but I’m not sure.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Forest. “I shall be very glad indeed to make the
acquaintance of any relative of Mr. Huntington’s—and you didn’t tell me
that before, Peggy—”

“I didn’t think of it before,” admitted truthful Peggy.

Mrs. Forest sailed into the room, very impressive and rustling in her
afternoon silks, and greeted the young student with unusual cordiality.

“I don’t see anything so clammy about her,” he thought to himself; she
almost seemed to retain his hand in extra friendliness, as if he were
some favorite nephew.

“Well, well,” she was saying, “there is a resemblance, too, now I look
at you. Yes, I think I should have known you anywhere. You have a
relative to be proud of in Mr. Huntington,” she continued, “you are a
relative of his, I believe?”

Peggy clapped her hand over her mouth to choke back the exclamation of
dismay that rose from her heart, and two slow tears of mortification
gathered in Katherine’s gentle eyes and rolled brightly down her cheeks
at the awful precipitation of events Mrs. Forest had caused.

But the boy was answering and the girls could hardly believe their ears
as they heard him say “Huntington? Why, no, I am afraid you have
confused me with someone else. I am not sure that I have ever heard the
name. I am not related to any one owning it, in any case.”

Oh, tumbling air castles! oh, crashing dreams of happy endings! oh, sick
and weak and trembling disappointment, and blank, meaningless future!

Peggy clasped her hands in her lap and leaned forward and stared at the
boy with saddest reproach. He had certainly led them to believe he was
the missing Huntington heir; he had been on their campus when the
rose-tree fell, he had admitted playing the mandolin, he had an initial
H., all just as the fortune teller had said, and yet he was no more Mr.
Huntington’s grandson than she was!

The tears were falling so rapidly now on Katharine’s cheeks that she
could no longer keep from being generally observed. She sprang up, and
with her handkerchief to her eyes groped her way from the room, and they
heard her a moment later stumbling up the stairs.

Jim looked in bewilderment to the door through which she had gone and
then back to the stricken Peggy with an expression of “What have I
done?” for he thought surely the girls must have given some impression
of him to their principal for a reason of their own and now he had
ruthlessly destroyed the fabric of their tale.

Mrs. Forest herself looked vague and uncomfortable, and after a few
banal remarks, excused herself on the ground that some of the teachers
were expected for tea and she must be in her room to receive them. After
she had swished out Peggy drew a long breath.

“Then you aren’t—?” she questioned heartbrokenly, “then you aren’t, at
all?”

“Let me into the secret,” pleaded the miserable boy. “I always knew
girls were mysterious persons, and that they lived in all sorts of
unreal adventures. Am I scheduled to pass for an incognito villain of
some sort—or—or prince—or anything? Because I tell you frankly, I ought
to have been coached for my part beforehand if that’s the case. I can’t
be expected to know all these things by intuition. Now I’ve made that
pretty Katherine cry, and I angered you, and disgusted Mrs. Forest and
yet, cross my heart, and as I live, I’ve been behaving just as nicely as
I know how. Please, Peggy, clear up the mystery. I’ve been working so
hard at trig just before exams that I’m in no state to go on solving
problems.”

“You see,” said Peggy, her mouth going into a smile, and the absurdity
of it all beginning to send a sparkle of fun to her eyes, “it isn’t your
fault. We thought you were the missing grandson of our friend Mr.
Huntington, and we’ve been Sherlocking since last Thanksgiving day to
find him. So when you tallied up with what the fortune teller told us—”

“Fortune teller—Oh, I see!” laughed the young man.

“And then, when your middle initial proved to be H.—why, of _course_, we
thought that stood for Huntington, and I’m disappointed to death that it
doesn’t. By the way, what _does_ it stand for?” she asked curiously,
pausing abruptly in her explanation.

She could not have been prepared for the curious expression that came
into Jim’s face at this point. His head drooped and three distinct
series of flushes and palings swept his good-looking countenance.

“I don’t—know,” he said after a time, in a low voice.

“Don’t—know?” screamed Peggy with a rising inflection and returning
hope. “Why don’t you know? Please forgive my awful rudeness, but if you
only should prove to be the right one, after all, you know, think what
it would mean to Mr. Huntington.”

“My mother died a long time ago,” the young man said. “I was just a
small boy. I was to be brought up and educated for one purpose—that of
making a great deal of money to—to—well, I might as well tell you,
Peggy, I can trust your understanding,—to pay back a debt to my mother’s
father—”

He noticed that Peggy’s look of reproach and pain and anxiety had all
faded away and in its place was beaming unmitigated delight. It was an
expression which seemed to him strangely out of accord with the story he
was telling, but, nevertheless, if he could give pleasure to this odd
little flyaway creature by the recital of his life’s tragedies, he was
willing to do so.

“When I should have amassed a great fortune I was to be told to whom to
take it, but until an amount she specified had been gotten together in
toto, I wasn’t to know my grandfather’s address for fear I’d want to
send him the money we owed bit by bit. And, indeed, I should have wanted
that, but for some reason she was unwilling to have anything but the
entire huge sum of the debt turned over to him. No part payments in her
plan. My father had borrowed the money for some oil ventures out west,
and after a good many years those lands have turned out as good as
father’s wildest dreams, and I have the money to return to my
grandfather—every cent of it—but, listen, Peggy, even you sitting there
laughing, with your eyes shining, can understand the tragedy and irony
of this—my mother died without ever telling me my grandfather’s name!”

“O—oh,” said Peggy, the smile leaving her face as if it had been
suddenly washed away. “That must have bothered you many times.”

Then she looked straight ahead of her thoughtfully for a minute. “It’s
strange that the oil wells turned out all right, after all,” she
murmured absently. “I’m sure Mr. Huntington never dreamed they would.”

But the boy, swept back into the past by his own story, was raptly
gazing into the fireplace and paid no attention to her remark whatever.

“I don’t think it as romantic, your turning out to be rich,” Peggy
continued, “as if you had turned out to be poor, the way I thought you
would, and then Mr. Huntington would have taken you right in and said
the debt was nothing, and he would see that you had everything you
wanted. Yes, that would have been the ideal way.”

The boy glanced up at her and smiled whimsically.

“Always that Mr. Huntington,” he said, “who is he?”

“Why, your gr—I mean a friend of mine and Katherine’s,” finished she
lamely.

“And some oil wells figured in his history, too?” the boy wanted to
know. “You seem to be in everybody’s confidence, Peggy, though I must
say I don’t myself see what there is about you to make people suppose
you’d sympathize with them—when you sit there and beam as happily
through their tragedies as if they were telling you about a picnic.”

“I’m sorry—” breathed Peggy, and a real hurt crept into her voice.

Just at this minute Katherine came into the room again, her tears dried
and the lines of unhappiness smoothed out of her forehead. She sat down
gracefully and tried to appear at ease, as if nothing had happened. Both
Peggy and Jim wondered at the self-control she displayed in making a
reappearance after her grief-stricken exit, but they could not know that
Mrs. Forest had tiptoed up to her room and compelled the poor child to
come down again, saying that it was a terrible and foolish breach of
manners for her to have left in any such silly way, and that the only
way she could atone for it was to go down and think how much better it
would have been if she had behaved sensibly in the first place.

So Katherine made a few polite remarks, all the time wondering what
Peggy’s happy air meant, and thinking her very shallow indeed to be able
to recover so quickly from so bitter a disappointment as they had just
been through.

“I wonder?” she heard Peggy say, to her increasing astonishment, “would
you think it very queer if I asked you to come right over to Mr.
Huntington’s with us for a few minutes? Your story and his are certainly
an awfully unusual coincidence, if they aren’t something more. By that I
mean, if they aren’t one and the same story. And since you said your
middle initial didn’t stand for anything that you were aware of,
mightn’t it stand for Huntington?”

“My mother gave my name in at school as James H. Smith, that’s all I
know about that part. I usually sign it Holliday, because I like that
name. It might be Huntington. Of course I’ll go and see this old man
with you, if that’s the way you’d rather spend the afternoon.”



CHAPTER XII—THE MEETING


They could see Mr. Huntington sitting in the library, reading, as they
came up the snowy walk. The room looked warm and peaceful and there was
a contented expression on his face as his white head bowed over the
book.

The wind was howling around them and it slapped the tattered remnants of
vines against the porch as it had done on that first day Peggy worked
her daring heart into a state courageous enough to carry her to the very
door of Gloomy House. Inside, in contrast to the bluster without, the
library looked as cozy and homelike as a room could well be when only
one person lives in it.

“Peggy,” said Katherine, “we may be going to disturb his peace for
nothing.”

“Pshaw,” said Peggy, the light of high adventure shining in her eyes,
“I’d rather have all sorts of surprises and disappointments and hurts
and aches and shocks in my life than just have it all a kind of dull
monotony, and I always give other people credit for feeling the same
way. I guess Mr. Huntington would rather have a _chance_ of everything’s
coming out right than never know about it at all.”

“I agree with Peggy, whatever her wise little meaning is,” laughed Jim.
“I think he would, too.”

They were on the porch by this time, and Peggy saw Mr. Huntington’s head
lifted inquiringly as the sound of their footsteps reached his ears.
Then as the old bell jangled through the house he rose hastily and
laying his book face downward on the table came slowly to the door.

For some seconds he fumbled with the lock and then threw back the door,
while a sudden look of glad surprise went across his face at the sight
of Peggy and Katherine. At first he did not notice their companion. The
three entered the hall and then Peggy said, “Mr. Huntington, this is Mr.
Smith, and I wanted you to meet him for a very special reason.”

“Yes?” the old man said, shaking the other’s hand, “I’m very glad, I’m
sure. Come into the library, all of you, and tell me all about it. Now,
what can I do for the young man?”

For Mr. Huntington had no thought in his head but that here was some
young football player who needed funds, or the representative of some
charitable organization that wanted a contribution. And, since Peggy
brought him, he should have it.

“Oh,” said Peggy, with a little pout. “You’re always thinking that. And
I don’t blame you, for I suppose lots of people do want things and come
and ask you for them. But Jim is awfully rich, and—and—” she broke off
helplessly and glanced beseechingly at Katherine for help as to how to
go on.

For the last few minutes Mr. Huntington had been studying Jim with a
curious intentness, and a startled expression had even begun to creep
into his face. With a vague gesture, as of one who is trying to recall
some long gone memory, he drew his hand back and forth across his
forehead. There had been ghosts of a kind in Huntington House right up
to the time when Peggy and her fifty-nine little friends had driven them
out forever. But there had never been a visible one before, never more
than a haunting and accusing thought, not a red-cheeked, fresh-faced
young man that somehow did not make Mr. Huntington think of a young man
at all, as he sat watching him, but rather made him recall a woman, who
had defied him in a moment of pride and gone away from him and out of
his life, leaving no trace.

There was something about the finely drawn young mouth. Something about
the blueness of the eyes—Mr. Huntington started and addressed the boy in
a sharp voice.

“You remind me very much of—of a relative of mine,” he said abruptly,
“you said your name was Smith?—or Peggy said so—Of course, there are a
thousand Smiths about here, but Peggy said she had brought you here for
a very special reason. I must beg you to tell me what it is at once.
This relative of mine married a man named Smith. I don’t think I
mentioned his name to you, Peggy?”

“No,” said Peggy, shaking her golden head. “If you had I’d have found
him lots sooner!”

The old man looked quickly from one to another of the little group, and
in a breathless rush of words Peggy told him all the similarities
between his history and that of the young man.

“And if it doesn’t all _match_,” she cried, “then I’ll eat my Greek
books!”

Mr. Huntington walked over to his desk,—a big, ancient affair with a
dozen little curious drawers that pulled out by means of bright glass
knobs. From the smallest of these he drew forth tremblingly all that it
contained, a single photograph, and approaching the boy, held it out to
him.

“Have you ever seen that face?” he asked tensely.

With a troubled air the young man took it and gazed straight into its
pictured eyes, his face tightening as he did so.

“It’s—my mother,” he said simply, after a pause. “And I have a picture
just like this one. Is it true, then, sir, all this romance these girls
have given me a part in—and are you indeed my grandfather?”

There was a note of awe in his voice as he rose before the old man,
holding out his hand.

The realization that a life-old dream, long since given up and buried in
his mind with the things that were not to be, was actually coming true,
that the very picture the library fire had conjured up for him evening
after evening as he sat alone and lonely, gazing into its depths,—this,
with its sudden rush of emotion, brought a kind of illumination to the
figure of the old man as he stood there, and seemed to shed for a moment
the passing glory of youth once more over his face.

Swiftly and silently Peggy went to Katherine and took her hand and, with
their fingers on their lips, the two stole to the library door and
thence, unnoticed, from the room. A few minutes later they were running
down the frosty walk, their eyes happy and their cheeks aglow, and their
hearts kept time to their running feet.

“If our mathematics only solved as nicely as that,” Peggy murmured
longingly. And Katherine pressed her hand, and they danced along on the
sidewalk until the people passing turned wistfully to gaze after them,
wondering how it would seem to have such an overflow of spirits that one
must run and skip and laugh out loud to express them.

“Let’s have all the girls we can pack into the room in for a midnight
celebration,” suggested Katherine as soon as they had flung off their
coats in their own room.

“Good girl,” chirruped Peggy. “About ten people—our most special own
crowd. Hurry up and be ready for dinner—and is there any butter out on
the window ledge?”

Katherine craned her eager head out of the window into the cold. “Not a
bit,” she said. “We have a can of condensed milk left, though.”

“Fine,” cried Peggy, counting off on her fingers the butter, the sugar,
and the alcohol, the butter, the sugar, and the alcohol—“for I don’t
suppose there is any alcohol, is there, friend infant?”

“’Fraid not,” sighed Katherine.

From this an outsider might suppose that the girls were planning to
concoct some sort of intoxicating beverage for their innocent little
midnight party. But it was only the preliminary preparation for the
inevitable fudge. And the alcohol was to _run_ the chafing-dish, and not
to go _into_ it.

Just before dinner, Peggy, asparkle in her golden satin, so nearly the
color of her lovely hair, went shouting through the corridor, “Alcohol!
Al—co—hol!”

And behind the closed doors every girl knew that somewhere there was to
be a party and, recognizing the voice, ten of them guessed that they
would be invited. It was not until her second trip, however, that her
call brought results in the form of an opening door and a nice, full
bottle of denatured alcohol generously thrust into her hand by one of
the hopeful ten.

“You know me, Peggy,” hinted the owner of the contribution. “I’m fudge
hungry, too. What time is the happiness?”

“When you’re invited you’ll find out,” retorted Peggy, hurrying off with
the alcohol and humming a little tune.

When the girls went in to dinner a mysterious whisper went round. It was
“Save your butter, and ask for two helps.”

The butter balls remained untouched on each of ten plates as a result,
and were finally gathered together very surreptitiously onto one plate
just before the dishes were cleared for dessert. Under the auspices of
Peggy this one dish was covered with a saucer and sneaked down into the
folds of her napkin.

When the sauce that they invariably had for dinner on this night of the
week was set before them with a general dish of granulated sugar to make
it sweet enough, she pointed toward the sugar bowl and several of the
girls looked miserable, because sugar is an awfully hard thing to take
away unobserved.

But tea was served, and three of the girls asked for just cups and
saucers because they liked to fix theirs up themselves, they would put
in the sugar and cream and would then pass them for the tea to be poured
in. But the empty cups safe in their possession, they each asked
earnestly for the sugar, and slowly and painstakingly, talking all the
time so as to divert attention, they shoveled in spoonful after spoonful
until the cup was full. Then with a sigh of relief at a difficult duty
well done, they sank limply back in their chairs, only being sure to
remember to be passing something when any of the waitresses approached,
so that their hands would cover the too-sweet tea-cups with nothing in
but sugar.

“Won’t you have some wafers?” Florence Thomas would ask Helen Remington
in a worried voice every now and then, lifting the plate and offering it
to her solicitously. Of course, the girls weren’t sitting at Mrs.
Forest’s table this week, or it never could have been managed and they
would not have thought of trying. But just by themselves it wasn’t
impossible. When dinner was over and their principal and the teachers
had moved toward the drawing room, they, with wild sidelong looks and
terrified glances this way and that, sniggering conversation that didn’t
mean anything, gathered up their trophies, hugging them as close as
might be, and covering them with folds of satin gown and little nervous
hands. Then, following, wherever possible, some girl who was going
uprightly forth with nothing that she shouldn’t have, the little guilty
procession filed out and rushed for the stairs, stumbling and laughing
in their haste and leaving, all unnoticed by them, a tiny tell-tale
trail of sugar up the broad varnished stairs.

All these savings were taken to the room where Peggy and Katherine
lived, and then the girls went their separate ways serenely, some to
study and some to bed, each knowing that she would be summoned at the
proper time to partake of the fruit of her spoils.

“What shall we do, are we sleepy or do we want to sit up a while and
talk?” Peggy and Katherine, the hostesses-to-be, consulted each other.
It was characteristic that they used the plural, for it always happened
that they were either both sleepy or both wide awake.

“Well,” Katherine suggested, after a few moments of deliberation, “I say
that we tuck all up with nice soft quilts and talk. We can talk about
the Huntingtons and how mean Mrs. Forest is sometimes, and—and
everything, until it’s time to start the chafing-dish and call the
girls.” “Midnight” didn’t mean the stroke of twelve to them at all. It
was any time in the late, late hours, along about half-past ten or
eleven, say.

In their pink and blue quilts they talked and talked in the darkness,
for, of course, Mrs. Forest and the teachers mustn’t see any light
gleaming under their doors after ten o’clock. Soon their eyes grew heavy
and the thoughts of fudge began to mix themselves up curiously with
dreams.

They were two little tumbled over figures, fast asleep, Peggy on her
couch and Katherine on hers, when the indignant guests, wondering why
they had not been summoned to the party and deciding to come without
waiting for the formal bidding, strode in upon them, with much flutter
of silk and crepe kimono, and patter, patter of slippered feet.

“Well, did you ever!” cried Florence Thomas. “Light the candles
somebody; Doris start the chafing-dish, and Helen measure out that
butter,—”

“Is—it—time—to—get—up?” came in muffled accents from Katherine’s couch,
and a moment later a candle gleam flickered into her drowsy eyes. “Oh,
my stars, girls!” she cried, sitting up at once and staring around
wildly, “do you think this is a nice way to come to a party?”

Peggy was breathing evenly, and she turned fretfully to the wall when
Florence shook her. “Oh, very well, Miss Fudge Party,” Florence
murmured, “we’ll see if you won’t wake up,—” and she went over to the
wash pitcher behind the screen and dipped a wash-cloth in its cold
contents.

“Ha ha,” she laughed, in imitation of a stage villain. Wringing out her
weapon she approached the couch of the unconscious sleeper, full of
delighted anticipation.

Just as the terrible and efficient awakener was about to slap down on
its victim’s placid face the victim opened her eyes and looked up at the
plotter reproachfully.

“Oh, I heard your fiendish plot—I heard the water sousing around,” she
said, “but I thought there was no use waking up till the last minute,—I
was in the middle of such a delicious dream.”

“Well,” sighed Florence, much wounded, because, of course, you can’t put
a wet wash-cloth on a waking person’s face. “All that energy wasted.
Girls, do hurry up the fudge, so that I can comfort myself for having
been ‘foiled again.’”

The room, with the little whispering group of girls in it, some on the
couches and some on the floor, garbed in all the delicate shades of
boudoir attire, pale blue, pink, and rose, saffron yellow, lavender and
dainty green; with the tiny spurts of golden candle flame dotted here
and there on table and mantlepiece; with the hot, chocolate-smelling
fudge bubbling away in the chafing-dish, looked like some fairy meeting
place, with all the adorable fairies assembled.

When the fudge was done they put the pan out of the window and hoped
that it wouldn’t fall down and all be lost. It didn’t, and, before it
had fairly cooled, they cut it and lifted the squares in their eager
fingers,—great, rich, soft, wonderful squares of delight,—and ate them
with greedy pleasure, down to the last, last crumb.



CHAPTER XIII—SPRING AND ANNAPOLIS


In the days that followed after the winter snow’s melting it seemed to
Peggy that she was seeing the world by sunlight for the first time. The
wonderful new lights that fell on everything, making even a roof or a
clay bank a beautiful thing to behold, the subtle perfume that came
drifting out on the breeze over orchard and woodland, the pink blossoms
on the apple trees, all these things sent her about with her head in the
clouds and a happiness at her heart that was just the joy of living.

The girls sauntered now on their way to classes, instead of hurrying and
scurrying to escape the cold. They sang on their way to chapel, they
lingered on the porch steps after luncheon, every Saturday they planned
some kind of tramp or picnic that was different, very, from the gay,
romping affairs of the fall. These parties, or “bats,” as they always
called them, not knowing at all that that word was considered of rather
vulgar significance out in the world, were long, lazy, enjoyable
affairs, where groups went together with arms twined about each other’s
shoulders, always singing, singing. They sang Yale songs and Harvard
songs and Princeton songs, then each group of girls sang the songs of
the college they themselves hoped to attend, and wound up with the
Andrews favorites.

“People along here would think us German soldiers, the way we sing as we
go,” said Peggy. “Oh, isn’t it all heavenly, heavenly. Music with us
that we make ourselves, and apple blossom petals as sweet as roses
dropping down on us from the trees wherever we go, and all the
world—ours—”

To her own surprise a sob choked her, and the other girls did not laugh,
but looked away with the tolerant dreaminess the spring had given them.

The great topic of every spring at Andrews was Annapolis, and, as soon
as they had thoroughly exhausted the subject, Annapolis all over again.
Which girls were to go and which must stay at home?

“Oh, girls, the marine band!” one group would remind another as they met
going to and from classes.

“And, oh, that gymnasium floor—” the other group would sing out.

Peggy dreamed of nothing but picturesque white buildings and uniformed
young middies drilling, and wonderful girls in wonderful gowns dancing,
dancing with wonderful representatives of the navy.

Not for her—oh, not for her, this one desirable thing of all the world
that the others were to have! Of course, she had wickedly been saved
from a storm—but it seemed to her now very unjust that this should stand
in her way, now especially when the snow was all gone and there was
nothing left to remind her of how grateful she ought to be for that past
favor of fortune. Was getting saved and being served to hot chocolate
such a crime, then? Hadn’t any other girl ever had the same experience?
Well, if she hadn’t, Peggy pitied her rather than envied her, she knew
that. Oh, Mrs. Forest, what a narrow-minded woman she was. Just as if
she had been born a hundred years old as she was now and had never known
any girlhood, Peggy mused. Oh, Annapolis, Annapolis! Oh, dear, oh, dear,
oh, dear!

Nothing would ever make up—nothing ever or _ever_! If she could only go
and look on, even, she would be satisfied. Must she see the others
fluffing up their ruffles and pinning on their sashes and starting off
with bobbing rose-buds at their waists while she remained behind, her
nose pressed flat to the window, to see them off and the tears coursing
sadly down her face? It was a heartbreaking picture and Peggy threw
herself on the bed and cried over it until the thought came to her that
if she kept this up she would go through the grief of it all many times
before it actually came to her to bear it, and perhaps for the occasion
itself there would be no tears left.

She wiped her eyes and saw that they were not, after all, so very red,
and no permanent wrinkles had been made in her face from screwing it up
so hard. She decided that she’d just pretend she was going instead of
continually dwelling on the fact that she wasn’t. She got out her lovely
little frock her aunt had recently sent her to be her best through the
spring term. It was a deep, sweet pink—Peggy called it her candy
dress—and tenderly she smoothed the dainty chiffon tunic over the crisp
taffeta slip. There is a balm just in the touch of pretty clothes to dry
the tears of any girl or woman unless her grief is very deep. Peggy felt
the color stealing back into her cheeks, and her eyes were a-shine with
admiration. The very way the dress fell, all fairy-like and light, from
her fingers when she lifted away her hand, the glow that the silk gave
back, the cool feeling of the silver bead fringe that went around the
sleeves,—Peggy would have had to be far less susceptible to the lure of
feminine finery than she was if she had not caught her breath with pure
joy in the possession of such a gown.

There are pinks and pinks, some beautiful shades and others not so
lovely. But silk stockings will often take the loveliest pink of all,
and Peggy’s were delicately tinted and gleamy and did justice to the
dress with which they were to be worn. Her little slippers had high
heels, and how she reveled in them! After the flat heels they were
obliged to wear every day at Andrews the dignified height and the
curving grace of these were a rest and a delight to the eye. They were
all of pink satin, just a shade deeper than the stockings, and were
decorated with tiny handwrought gold buckles that glinted and flashed in
the light like a cluster of yellow diamonds.

“Oh, tra, la,” sang Peggy, handling them, “oh, tra, la.”

And her pleasure in living rushed back full force, for, after all, these
things were hers and even if there was to be no Annapolis, she would
have the satisfaction of knowing how she _might_ have looked if she
could have gone.

That night, when the girls discussed every detail of the trip, even to
the train they were to take and what they were to wear as traveling
suits, Peggy found that she was able to join in without tears and
without bitterness and help them make their plans perfect. The girls
were overwhelmed by the generosity of her attitude, and marveled at her
cheerful spirit.

“There’s one thing, Peggy,” said Helen Remington across the table, “if
you were going there wouldn’t be a chance for the rest of us. There’d
just be a general stampede in your direction and _we’d_ look on alone
and unnoticed.”

The other girls nodded. Peggy thought of the dear pink dress and those
wondrous slippers, and in the egotism of her youth she thought it might
be so, after all.

It was one day off, at last. Even Mrs. Forest was practicing a
peaches-and-cream, prunes-and-prisms, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her-mouth
manner for the occasion. She was very kind to all the girls, and was
careful not to hurt the feelings of the few culprits who had to stay at
home, by references in their presence to the good times the others
expected.

“If I _were_ going, I’d wear this brown taffeta suit down there on the
train,” mused Peggy, “and these bronze shoes. My, I think it would be
fine going down there on the train—oh, dear, oh dear, I’m afraid I’m
going to cry again over it, and it isn’t time yet. Time enough when I
hear the taxis whirring off with them inside. How can Katherine be so
happy in going when I have to stay behind? I’d never go a step if she
were in my place. Never in the whole world! Oh,—de—ar!”

If Katherine had been taking pleasure in the contemplation of a good
time that did not include Peggy it would have been very unlike her
indeed. But, while Peggy had been sentimentally weeping before the pink
gown in their room at Andrews, she had been as busy as might be with
plans to make everything come out all right. And it was perfectly true
that if she had been unable to bring about the desired result, she would
not have gone herself, but would have developed a headache at the last
minute that would have compelled her to remain at home with her injured
room-mate.

Several times she had run in lonely haste up the walk of Huntington
House to hold conference with the owner and his grandson. For, as she
put it, nobody could hope to do anything with Forest unless they had a
“pull,” and Mr. Huntington was the only person she knew who had one and
might be expected to exercise it in a case like this.

“Threaten her with the gymnasium,” begged Katherine. “Tell her Peggy has
changed her mind about giving up the money for a gymnasium for such a
mean horrid school as she is making of our dear old Andrews. Tell her
that you’ll write to the boys at Annapolis and tell them that Forest
keeps her prettiest girls at home and thinks just the ordinary ones are
good enough for them. And then let her see how quickly the yearly
invitation to bring down some of the girls will be renewed. Why, they’ll
never consent to hear Andrews mentioned in their presence again.” She
was becoming vindictive in the extreme, and Mr. Huntington sat back and
laughed at her.

But, laughing or not, he promised to try his hand at appeasing Mrs.
Forest, and this was just what Katherine had wanted, so she forgave him
his mirth at her expense.

Mr. Huntington was seen to come up on the porch at Andrews a few hours
later, and the girls wondered how many of them he would ask for. Imagine
their surprise, therefore, when he did not even send up word to
Katherine and Peggy, but remained in solitary consultation with their
principal, and finally walked off without a backward and upward glance
at the window full of friendly figures waiting to wave at him.

He left Mrs. Forest in a sad state of mind. But there was only one way
out of it—and that was to trudge up the broad staircase and fill Peggy’s
heart with wild delight by the remission of her sentence.

This she did with what grace she could muster, and it must be admitted
there was a guilty feeling of not deserving it when Peggy, impelled by
the sudden rise in her emotional temperature, flung herself upon her
quondam enemy and kissed her on the lips.

“There, there, child,” murmured the much-softened principal. “I’m sure
you’ll be a credit to the school, and now I want you to forget
everything but the good time. What dress shall you wear, dear? What,
that? Oh, it is beautiful. Your aunt is a very charming woman, my dear,
and possesses excellent taste. I hope it will be very becoming to you.”

“Hope!” cried Peggy to Katherine as soon as she had gone, “she hopes.
Why, Katherine, any living person with eyes in their head could see that
it _will_ be!”

So it happened that when the rest of the girls were packing their
suit-cases with joyous exclamations over everything they put in, Peggy,
too, was packing hers. And when the happy party stepped into its several
cabs, she was at, last triumphantly wearing the very brown taffeta that
she thought ideal for the train, and her face was as beaming as the
spring morning. What chattering went on inside those jolting cabs, what
hopes, what surmises, what anticipations filled those youthful hearts!

When they stepped out at the station, a breathless boy from the
florist’s ran up to the group panting out, “Miss Parsons, where is Miss
Parsons, please? I ran over to the school but I got there just too
late.”

And when Peggy, her face flushing with surprise and pleasure, admitted
that she was the one sought, he eagerly handed her, not one box, but
two, and amid the excitement of the crowding girls, Peggy unwrapped them
then and there. One was fragrant with the most generous bunch of violets
she had ever seen, tied with the daintiest lavender ribbon and thrust
through with a violet pin so that she might transfer the glowing beauty
of them from the box and tissue wrappings to her coat at once. The other
box was white with lilies of the valley, and Peggy buried her bright
face in their sweetness ecstatically. Then she bethought her to look for
cards.

“Because, of course, magical as it seems, getting here like this just as
I am about to start, and not knowing a single person I’d dream would
send me any flowers, still, I suppose somebody _did_ like me enough to
do it. So I’ll—just—see—”

Her inquiring fingers slid inside the envelope that came with the lilies
of the valley.

“Mr. Huntington,” she read. Then with increasing excitement she opened
the other little envelope and her eyes danced as she read that card.

“James Huntington Smith.”

“Oh, how lovely of them, how lovely,” she cried. And then and there with
hasty fingers, she mingled the lilies of the valley in with the violets,
and gleefully pinned on the whole gorgeous if somewhat too conspicuous
bunch. In stories, the girls who receive flowers divide them up among
their friends. But in life, how seldom, how seldom! With a finer
appreciation of the intentions of those who sent them, they are quite
delightedly selfish with them, and almost any real live girl would have
combined two bunches, if they were flowers that went well together, as
Peggy did, and would have worn them that way, and been proud to do it,
too.

There is something about the wearing of flowers sent by a really
interesting person that just tips the whole day with a kind of satisfied
glory. Peggy’s manner instantly took on a lovely graciousness and
sweetness, for she was wearing the evidence that two people liked her
and wanted her to have a good time, and it behooved her to live up to
the added beauty the flowers lent her.

It was a very long ride down to their destination, and Peggy had time to
conjure up in her mind all the pictures she had ever seen of men in the
navy, and battleships, and cannons, and such warlike objects. She
thrilled to the thought of such a life, with its roving over the whole
world after school was done, in those great gray floating forts of
cruisers with their long sinister guns always ready for whatever might
deserve their cruel attention. Even when women vote, she thought, there
would be no such glory of open sea for them. There would still be
heights on which men would dwell where women could never expect to
climb. Well, came the comforting thought, but the women could go and
dance with these wonders that were afraid of nothing! They could be
waited on by them, too, and served to ices! My, my! Well, it wasn’t so
bad after all. Peggy began to feel that everything in the world was
pretty well balanced after all. And she was glad that she lived in so
fine a place, and that she was young and nice looking, and that she had
a pink dress in her suit-case.

When they came to Annapolis at last and the party descended, all
excitement, Peggy could hardly wait to appear at the scene of the coming
festivities. But they were taken first to their rooms at the inn and
there they left their baggage and powdered their noses, and fluffed
their hair and then sallied forth once more, this time to go through the
archway right into the Annapolis grounds, with the white buildings just
as Peggy had dreamed, and the midshipmen and girls strolling and
laughing together along the walks. They went to the reception room while
Mrs. Forest sent up their cards. It had been arranged that certain of
the young men were to come down and take charge of the party for the
afternoon and evening. And while they were waiting Peggy looked at the
other occupants of the reception room. Did the hearts of any go bounding
along as much as those of the Andrews girls? Peggy, seeing no one but
several middle-aged women, thought it was not likely. But perhaps she
was wrong, for these were mothers, and they had not seen their sons
since the beginning of the term. Would they be changed? Would they be
glad to see them there for the games, and pilot them around as loyally
as if they had been slight, laughing, dimpled young girls like that
charming group yonder? Perhaps there was even more excitement in it for
them than for the Andrews girls, but Peggy couldn’t know.

When at last the group arrived who were to pilot the girls about for the
afternoon, Peggy was conscious of being introduced to one pleasant-faced
young man after another, each in uniform, and each with a certain
indescribable quality of self-possession and the ability to do just the
right thing that characterizes the boys who are trained in our naval
Academy. Would the girls rather go out on the water and see the boat
races, or would they go over to the baseball game? It was a sort of a
three-ringed circus day at the Academy.

Some girls wanted to go out in the launches, others thought the glare of
sun on the baseball field would not burn their noses so badly. Peggy
just couldn’t make up her mind to give up either of them.

“Oh, couldn’t I, _couldn’t_ I see a little bit of both?” she cried
pleadingly to the boy who had consulted her. “It’s just one day out of
the whole world you know, and I want to get everything I can in it!”

Whatever slight restraint there might have been in first meeting fell
away at her frank eagerness, and the boy’s expression assumed at once an
alert interest in giving her as good a time as could be crammed into the
hours before them. Out in the little rocking boat they went dancing over
the water with the full blazing glare of the afternoon sun across it and
in their eyes. She saw the race and cheered with the rest, though,
unless she had been told every little while, she would not have known
which boat was which. Every few minutes she turned to laugh her supreme
delight into the equally radiant face of her companion, and the two were
as good friends at once as if they had known each other for years.

Long before the sport on the water was over, however, Harold Wilbering,
her new friend, insisted that they must leave if they really wanted to
see anything of the game. She said reluctantly that she still wanted to,
so they went bounding and leaping back over the waves and hurriedly made
their laughing way toward the ball grounds. As they passed one of the
buildings, Peggy heard a strange tick-ticking sound that was someway
very interesting and compelling. She felt that it meant something, and
was vaguely troubled by its persistence.

“What is that sound?” she found courage to ask at last.

“Oh, the wireless,” her companion answered indifferently.

The wireless! Right down that curious looking instrument, the thing
sputtered and ticked! Oh, how queer it was to be where all the mysteries
of the great sea were everyday commonplaces, as the wireless evidently
was to the midshipmen. Perhaps some great ship was calling its distress,
or signaling. Perhaps those very little sputters were the messages of a
British war ship on its way to battle with the German cruisers! It did
not take long for Peggy to picture herself as listening at the moment to
one of the most stirring sea-messages of history—more important than the
famous, “We have met the enemy and they are ours,” that she had once
learned about in school, back in her grammar days. She forgot to talk to
her young companion for fully five minutes under the stimulus of this
beautiful idea!

When they came to the ball grounds and climbed into the bleacher seats,
which were the only kind there were, the sun pouring generously down on
them all the while, Peggy thought more of the crowd than of the game.
She looked along the rows of backs ahead of them, and envied some of the
girls for their very self-possessed, experienced appearance, and was
glad she was not others with their too fancy clothes and their excess of
furbelows, of tulle bows, and earrings and coat chains.

Some of the Andrews girls, with Mrs. Forest and Miss Carrol, were
sitting near, and Peggy noticed that they all leaned forward to look at
her with a strangely intent expression in spite of their interest in the
game. Something was wrong? Or was it that she looked so nice? Peggy
hoped devoutly that this was the cause of their unanimous attention.

So she went right ahead and had as good a time here watching the game as
she had just enjoyed on the water. Her face was in the sunlight most of
the time, for her hat did not shade it as most of the girls’ hats did
theirs. But Peggy had never minded sunlight and she didn’t see why she
should begin now, so she leaned out confidently while the hot blaze came
full on cheek and nose. The dazzle from the water had already had the
best of it, however, and her face was really beyond a much deeper dye of
red than it had already assumed.

She discovered this later, when the girls, after a light supper, were
all in their rooms at the Inn, excitedly pulling out their pretty
dresses for the evening and wiping their faces with all manner of soft
creams and lotions after they had scrubbed them to a healthy glow. Poor
Peggy gave one look in the glass and sank helplessly down on the bed and
buried her small burned face in the pillow.

“It’s no use, it’s no use,” she sighed. “Katherine and Florence, did you
ever hear of such a tragedy? And my dress is pink! Oh, dear, oh, me, oh,
my!”

But the drifting pictures of the afternoon’s happiness were going
through her mind, and she was sure nobody would like her when there were
so many girls who had remembered that they would need their complexions
for the evening! Still, here she was, and she had wanted to come at any
cost, and it was probably going to be one of the spectacles of her young
life. She would go and have as good a time as she could, and not mind
too much that she was a different kind of spectacle all by herself, a
sort of little geranium-face in the midst of lilies.

She bathed her face and applied a bit of every kind of lotion, for each
of her friends generously thrust theirs upon her in a well-meaning
endeavor to discount the too marked effect of the sun.

“I’ll be just sticky when I’m through,” she sighed, complying humbly
with all their well-meant suggestions. Her face shone a triumphant
crimson through the results of all their ministrations, however, and she
realized that not even powder would do much to mitigate a color as
flamboyant as that. To make it worse, it was beginning to peel in funny
little rough wrinkles, as a sensitive skin will after such an exposure
to sun as she had given hers. So the powder just looked crumbly when it
was applied and she turned her eyes away from the mirror with a cowardly
determination not to glance that way again. But how can one do one’s
hair in a brand new style and twine a tiny wreath therein without
looking, not once, but many times at one’s reflection? But each time the
sight that met her disillusioned eyes was a reproach.

She was doing her beautiful gold-tinted hair into a twist instead of
leaving it as she usually wore it in curls. Most of the Andrews girls
had done their hair after this new fashion throughout the winter and
early spring, but Peggy was younger than most of them and she had worn
hers down her back until to-night.

“Of course,” she mused aloud, “there isn’t so very much use my taking
any pains with it at all, since I’m to imitate a scarecrow throughout
the evening. But then, I had decided to do my hair this way before I
knew the awful destiny that was in store for me, and I have already paid
two good dollars for the little wreath to go in it, so I guess I’d
better fight it out on this line if it takes all summer. Florence, will
you please stick a hair pin in here for me? I seem to need three hands
right now and I have only two clumsy ones. Do you think I’ll do? Oh, I
know my face isn’t possible, but otherwise I’m all right, am I?”

And she burst out laughing at the idea of a girl who was all right but
her face thinking of going to a party at all and having a good time.

“But I must remember,” she told herself, “that I had a good time getting
that sunburn, and it isn’t as if I hadn’t already been paid by happiness
for its awfulness.”

The pink dress didn’t look as pretty as it had when she had tried it on
before her mirror at Andrews, because pink never did go so very well
with that odd shade of flaming red that Peggy’s face showed. There was a
bright and distinct line, too, around her neck, all red above the line
and all white below, where her collar had protected the skin. She tied a
strip of black velvet around this tell-tale mark, humming the while, for
it seemed that she might as well be cheerful over this, one of the worst
disasters that had ever happened to her.

“They’ll see this black ribbon and just think I’ve tied it too tight,”
she explained to her friends hopefully, “and that it’s choking me,
making my face so red.”

Katherine and Florence failed to see the advantage of having them think
this, but they kind-heartedly refrained from saying so, and let Peggy
take what comfort she could out of so plausible a belief.

In her heart of hearts, perhaps, Peggy was remembering the occasion when
she had dressed so carefully for the matinée that she didn’t get to the
matinée at all, and was deciding that being on hand was really more
important than making a good appearance.

She went to the hop, her spirits as light as her dancing feet, and when
Harold Wilbering came eagerly over to her, she and he laughed at what
had happened to her face, but he discovered what Peggy had not the least
idea of for herself, that the sunburn effect was really rather becoming.
It made her so vivid and so alive. It looked merely as if she were
blushing all the time, and Harold liked it. And who could help enjoying
himself in talking to Peggy that evening, as she became more and more
forgetful of her tragedy, and more and more able to give her whole
attention to just having a good time? It was rare that so appreciative a
young lady came to one of their early hops. The boys were quite
accustomed to girls who had been to a great many more dances than they
had, and who sometimes made them feel just a little young. But Peggy so
doted on it all, was so carried away by the Marine band, so ready to
laugh at their simplest and most time-worn jokes, so wonderingly
surprised and naïvely gratified at their own open admiration of her,
that she took like wildfire, and half the academy was talking about that
little Parsons girl for a week thereafter.

Peggy went back with the girls to their rooms, her laughter just
bubbling at her lips and her sense of satisfaction perfect.

She took down her hair chattering all the time, and when at last the
three turned out the light and crept into bed,—for Katherine and she and
Florence shared one room, Florence sleeping on the couch and Peggy and
Katherine in the big bed, she whispered blissfully into the darkness,
“Oh, hasn’t this been a most _dazzling_ day! I don’t know when I’ve had
such a lovely, lovely time. I don’t someway think it’s just little Peggy
Parsons with a red face that went through all that beautifulness, but
instead I feel as if I’d been a fairy princess—the change that
Cinderella experienced and all that—and, oh, how I do hate to wake up in
the morning and realize that my coach and four has turned into pumpkin!”

“You looked nice in spite of your face, Peggy,” said Florence. “And,
someway, everybody did seem to take an awful shine to you.”

And then Florence’s talk drifted off to the partners she had had, and
what each one had looked like and what they said. And whenever she
paused for breath Katherine interrupted with the story of her adventures
and in the midst of their dialogue the fairy princess and Cinderella and
little tired red-faced Peggy Parsons, all rolled into one, went off to
sleep and dreamed the enchanted dreams of youth.



CHAPTER XIV—WATER-SPRITES


There is something about the first days of spring that stirs that most
primitive instinct in every human being—the desire to move on, the
nomadic impulse, the explorer sense.

Even the girls at Andrews, with heads full of friendships, coming
examinations and summer plans, felt this world-old impulse. School was
too small. The roads and fields that they knew so well, sweet with apple
blossoms as they were, were all too tame and familiar to satisfy this
longing that had made itself apparent by the time the engrossing subject
of Annapolis was out of the way.

The girls yawned rudely in classes, no matter what sharp words were
spoken to correct them. They even stretched their young arms out
side-ways and rested them on the next chairs. They turned wistful eyes
away from their books out toward the sunlight-sprinkled world and
wondered what was in it beyond those immediate roofs and trees that they
could see.

Finally Peggy could stand it no longer. “Well, girls,” she announced one
bright Saturday afternoon when there was no more school work to consider
for the day, “we’re all going hunting for the source of something—we’re
going exploring. Anybody know a nice, twisty river that we can take for
the work? One without too many crabs in it, because, of course, we may
want to wade.”

The girls were full of enthusiasm at once. Their first thought, as
usual, was what they were to take to eat. Several voted for fudge, but
Peggy scornfully reminded them that this was an unheard of diet for
explorers, and besides she expected to be ravenous by the time they’d
walked a few miles. So a more comprehensive luncheon was planned,
without the bacon this time, for they did not want to build fires, and a
small, bright, quickly-running stream was decided upon for the object of
their exploration. To reach this it was necessary that they take a
suburban car and ride quite a distance into unfamiliar country, which
was just what they had wished. Not those same old roads that they had
walked to powder, not those same old rivers on the side of which every
class had made its fires since the opening of the school, but a brand
new part of the country where foot of Andrews girl had never trod
before, to their knowledge,—this was ideal, and it added considerably to
their delight that Mrs. Forest had given permission for their class to
go without taking a teacher along.

They all wore white shirtwaists, white skirts, white shoes, and white
linen tennis hats. They looked rather like a party of sunny angels as
they boarded their car. They realized that they made a good appearance,
but they were not prepared for the effect they had upon a certain
motherly-looking woman who watched them file in and take their seats.
She gazed at them very hard and her mouth curved into the most wistful
smile the girls had ever seen, and tears came suddenly to her eyes as
she glanced hastily away. The other people in the car breathed deep in
sympathy. But the girls could no more have understood the vivid
impression of youth and loveliness they had given than they could have
deciphered the Rosetta stone. In their hearts were only the most prosaic
thoughts of dainty little sandwiches and stuffed olives, with an
undernote of healthy happiness and rampageous good spirits.

“What can be more beautiful than a group of young girls?” a woman was
saying to her neighbor. “Aren’t they just ideal, all in white that
way—those pretty girlish dresses and those white shoes and stockings—”

If she had known the girls’ most eager thought in connection with those
white shoes and stockings was to throw them as far away as possible onto
a rock in the river they had set out to explore, and in regard to those
white dresses, their dearest wish was to fasten them up about their
knees while, with all manner of joyous shouts and yells they should go
wading below a waterfall.

As they approached the suburban stop where they had been advised to get
off, as being near the river they were going to, they gathered up their
boxes of luncheon and crowded to the door of the car, humming very
softly one of their favorite school songs.

And when the car stopped and let them off in a beautiful strip of
country woodland, their voices came out louder and they went swinging
along in the direction of the stream whose cool rippling music they were
so eager to hear. They had to climb several fences, but they had been
told that these woods were always open to school and college girls, for
there was a larger college nearer than Andrews, and the girls haunted
the place. There was nobody in sight to-day, however, and they scrambled
to the top of gateways and then jumped down into each other’s arms,
knocking each other down and laughing and shouting until the woods
echoed with their noise.

The stream was broad and rather shallow and was rushing along over its
little shining stones at a great rate. Now and then there was the silver
flash of minnows or the sluggish shadow of swimming tadpoles. But, look
as they would, they could not see the dreaded green-brown menace of a
crab, so their happiness was complete.

There were smooth gleaming rocks rising high out of the water
everywhere. Once this stream had been a powerful river and it had
perhaps tumbled these rocks here and then worn them down to the
delightful shininess they showed now. Fascinatingly enough they could
walk out on them, stepping with care from one to another until they were
in the middle of the stream, and then they could pursue their way
upstream in the same exciting way for quite a distance. The girls were
in all attitudes, wildly trying to keep their balance and make this
fascinating journey at the same time, when there was a splash, a shout,
and then a dripping figure emerged between two large rocks and held up
its wet hands pitifully for help.

Under her wet hair and through the water streaming down her face, the
girls recognized Peggy, much more slimpsy in her white dress than she
had been a minute ago.

“First one in!” they greeted her catastrophe uproariously, and in
delighted unanimity they sat down on the rocks wherever they happened to
be and pulled off their shoes and stockings and turned up their skirts,
and then sliding gracefully down, wriggled their contented toes in the
water and shrieked as it encroached coldly on their ankles.

In a minute more they were all in, splashing and stamping, the stones
smooth under their eager feet as they took each step.

They went on together up the stream farther and farther, following its
twisted way until they came to a place they could not hope to
climb—where the stream made a sheer leap downwards for a distance that
was much greater than their height, and came plashing down toward them
in a thousand rainbow lights by means of a spreading waterfall.

“I might as well stand under that,” chortled Peggy, “I am as shipwrecked
as I can be already. I fell flat when I tumbled off the rock back
there.”

“OH—O-OH,” she cried as she sidled up to the water and finally made her
plunge into it. Pounding down and stinging like a hundred little sharp
needles of cold, she had never felt such breathlessness nor such
elation. Over her, and shrouding her in a gleaming mist, the water came,
and the girls stood speechless watching her as she stood there like some
Indian princess observing the rites of the waterfall.

This was the tableau she made when there came another group of shouts
and laughing voices from over the bank of the river, and there all of a
sudden looking down were a crowd of older girls, carrying luncheon boxes
too, and at the moment opening their mouths and eyes wide in
astonishment. At first the rest of the Andrews girls were so far back
toward the bank that the newcomers did not see them, and all their gaze
focused on Peggy and from their faces it was apparent that they scarcely
thought her real. Her arms were upstretched toward the descending water
and her face, mist-covered, was lifted. Her slim bare feet shone in the
sunlight and sparkled through the water like the feet of some very young
Diana, resting from the hunt.

Her dress had lost its starchy lines long since and now resembled a
Greek costume as much as anything—at least it would be hard to decide
that it wasn’t.

“I _never_ in my life—” murmured one of the girls, and her voice broke
the spell and the others began to descend the steep bank, becoming aware
of the rest of Peggy’s party as they did so. Peggy herself was still
oblivious. The noise of the waterfall obscured all else, and her efforts
to breathe in spite of the water that filled her eyes and nostrils and
mouth took all her attention.

“That’s the dandiest looking girl I ever saw,” said the tallest of the
newcomers, heartily. “I wonder if she could be at Hampton and I not have
seen her. If she’s not there she ought to be, and I’m going to try to
get her to change her college and come to us.”

“Are you Hampton girls?” Katherine came forward and asked, with the
frank and friendly directness that is permissible between girls all of
an age and all in school. “Because I’m going to Hampton next year. We
are Andrews girls now.”

She thought she noticed a stir among the Hampton people as she said
this, and their gaze traveled eagerly over the entire group from the
prep school. For these girls would be among the most important entering
Hampton next fall—the Andrews girls always coming in for a large share
of the freshman honors, carrying off the class offices and writing the
class songs and shining in all the more pleasant and social branches of
college life. Then the tall girl looked back toward Peggy. Peggy at the
same minute saw her audience and came forth, shame-facedly, like a
little drowned rat, Katherine said, while she smoothed the pasty wet
folds of her skirt and tried to shake some of the water from her curly
hair.

“Is _she_ going?” the tall girl demanded with interest, pointing to this
dripping apparition.

“I—don’t—think she’s planning to go to college at all,” said Katherine
hesitatingly. “I never heard her say that she was going. I’m her
room-mate, and she’s the nicest girl in all the world, and Hampton will
never know what it loses by not getting her.”

“She’s just the kind we want,” sighed the tall girl. “Well, glad we met
you—” Her party started off downstream, but she turned and called back
over her shoulder, “When you come up next fall come over and see me,—I’m
Ditto Armandale—in Macefield House.”

“Thanks, I’m Katharine Foster,” Peggy’s room-mate called after her.
“Good-bye—and I’m really coming.”

With a friendly wave the college girls disappeared around the first bend
in the little river, and Katherine turned to the perturbed Peggy,
expecting her to make some remark about the ridiculous way the others
had found her.

But her eyes had a faraway expression in spite of their slightly worried
look, and the remark Peggy made was, “Oh, Katherine, Katherine, I wish I
were going to Hampton.”

Katherine started to speak, but could not, and turned her head hastily
away because the thought of four years without Peggy, even four years
among hundreds of attractive girls like Ditto Armandale, seemed to her
at the minute but a bleak expanse unlit by a single gleam of comfort.

“Peggy, won’t you write to your aunt and tell her you _must_ come?” she
begged suddenly. “Don’t you think she’d let you if she knew that
Florence and I and most of the girls are going?”

Peggy rubbed her moist forehead thoughtfully. “Don’t think so,” she
said, “but I might write and—_hint_ that I want to go.”

Their momentary depression passed, though, when they sat down to eat the
good things they had brought in their boxes. Peggy kept in the sun as
much as possible, hoping to dry off before it was time to go home. This
phase came to her more poignantly later, however, when the other girls
had put on their shoes and stockings again and were making ready to go
home.

“But mine are all wet and they won’t go on,” mourned Peggy, “and my
dress is a disgrace and my hair isn’t very dry yet either, and when I
put my hat on little rivulets run down my face like so many horrid young
Niagaras. Oh, there _that_ shoe is on, but I can’t say there’s any
special advantage in it. Just hear the water sloshing about when I walk!
It’s a wonder I won’t take cold out of this, but I won’t—I never do when
I’ve had a good time. Girls, keep close to me because I’m the most awful
object that ever got on a street car and I’d much rather walk only I
wouldn’t get home for two or three days, I guess, and these wet shoes
would have dissolved like paper long before that.”

They climbed the fences with less agility than they had displayed in
getting over them in the first place, and they were a tired lot of girls
when they reached the car track and threw themselves on the grass beside
it.

“I hear a singing on the rails,” sighed Peggy, “but I’m too stiff to get
up. Somebody wave to the car. Mercy, here it is already coming around
the corner. There, keep close to me, somebody on each side,—oh, what
will the people on there think of Andrews?”

When they clambered into the car and the whole bedraggled crowd of
recent water-sprites sank into their seats, a motherly woman from across
the aisle looked up and stared at them in a kind of fascinated horror.
Her appraising glance missed nothing from their mud bordered skirts and
soppy shoes to their flying, tangled hair.

She turned in some disgust to a woman who sat beside her. “Isn’t it
terrible how hoydenish some girls are?” she asked audibly. “Now those
poor little spectacles across the aisle—somebody ought to keep watch of
them. I wish you might have seen the lovely group of girls that rode on
my car a few hours ago when I was coming out this way. Quite different
from this messy little party. They were all in white, as sweet as dolls
and so adorably radiant and clean and spiritual looking. They made me
think of angels. Dear, dear, I shall never forget the picture they made!
You would not know that those little tomboys opposite belonged to the
same species even!”

And the motherly looking woman wondered why the tomboys all burst into a
fit of uncontrollable giggling.



CHAPTER XV—PARSONS COURT


“Peggy, hurry up and come to bed, the light just shines in my eyes, and
_shines_ in my eyes,” complained Katherine that night from her side of
the room, “and it’s so unlike you to study so late—or aren’t you
studying?”

“Nope,” answered Peggy laconically, and the hint of tears in her voice
brought Katherine to a sitting posture, a wealth of surprised sympathy
in her face. “What’s the matter, honey?” she asked coaxingly, “have I
unknowingly used one of your themes for scrap paper? Or has Forest been
mean again?”

Peggy looked across at her and folded a sheet of paper as she did so.
“It isn’t anything,” she insisted.

But Katherine guessed. “You are writing to your aunt!” she exclaimed.

Slowly Peggy nodded. “I want everything,” she said. “Oh, Katherine, I
don’t know how it is that when a person has so much, they can just go on
wanting and wanting and not be content without it _all_. I know I’ve had
this lovely year with all of you and ever so many girls can’t go away to
school at all, but, Katherine, I’m—I’m such a pig—I—I—want college,
too!”

And then the tears that would not be restrained any longer coursed down
her cheeks and fell unheeded on her blue kimono, while she clasped her
hands and rocked them in self-accusation and despair.

“I wish you were going—I don’t know what it will be worth without you,”
moaned Katherine, in sympathy. “But, listen, Peggy, dear, there are lots
of girls who have good times staying at home or traveling or—even doing
something that’s lots of fun to earn money. Peggy, you aren’t a girl who
can be unhappy long, by nature. Honestly, after you’ve once gotten over
this you—you won’t care—”

But Katherine’s voice failed her along with her attempts at comfort.

“I can’t seem to—face it,” wept Peggy. “I don’t know what’s the matter
with me that all of a sudden I want, want, _want_ this and nothing else
in the world has any effect to comfort me. Oh, Katherine, Katherine,
since I was a little girl I’ve kind of thought way back in my mind that
I’d get to go to college. And all this wonderful year has drifted away
just like perfume, or something nice like that,—I don’t mean to be
poetical—and here it’s gone and I haven’t any plans. It’s terrible to
grow up, Katherine, and to have to work out something definite for
yourself to do. I don’t want to be grown up, Katherine, I want to be a
girl for four years more. I know I’m a pig, honey, and if there were
bigger things left to want I suppose I’d want them, too. And even when I
graduated from college, if I did go, I guess I’d not be content, but I’d
want to be an actress and star in something, so as to seem to be having
it all. I wish you’d been asleep instead of questioning me, because I’ll
feel awfully in the morning to think I’ve told you all this. I—I feel
badly enough right now.”

And the goldy head went down on the folded paper and the writing on it
was soon blotted and blurred with tears. Katherine slipped out of bed
and, running over to her room-mate, threw her arms around her neck.

“It isn’t anything unusual to want everything that way, honey,” she
said, “I won’t have you think that it is. Everybody in the whole world
wants it all, dear. Only _all_ to some people means different things
from what it does to us. You aren’t piggish, either, I’ve known you a
whole year and you and I have never quarreled over anything in all that
time, and that’s a record for room-mates even at Andrews. And my folks
never flattered me by thinking me unselfish, so it isn’t my fault things
ran so smoothly—it was your generous, happy spirit, ready to share
everything, wanting to help everybody, eager for good times, and able to
take all the other girls into them with you. Oh, Peggy, dear, it’s the
most natural thing in the world to want things—and I think there’s a cog
loose somewhere in the way things are run if you don’t get your wish,
that’s all. You are the very one that ought to have college. Please
don’t cry. You look so different from my Peggy when you cry. I’m so much
more used to you laughing.”

Putting aside the friendly arms of her room-mate, Peggy wiped her eyes
and snapped out the light. With a final little gasp of a sob she crept
into bed and covered her forlorn young face with the bed clothes. She
expected that she would be awake all night, thinking heartbrokenly of
her troubles, but instead she had no more than gotten snuggled down into
the couch’s warmth than she was sound asleep and not in any of her
dreams did any trouble whatsoever make its appearance.

Katherine, on the other hand, lay awake nearly ten minutes and told
Peggy in the morning, believing it was true, of course, that she had not
slept one wink.

In due time a letter came to Peggy from her aunt in answer to the one
she had written with so many tears that night.

    “Dear Peggy, Your letter made me think matters over very
    carefully, little girl, and I have gone over our resources with
    the disheartening result that I must tell you I do not see how I
    am to let you go to college this year. Now, Peggy, you are young
    and even after several years outside of school, it will not be
    too late for you to go to college if financial affairs turn out
    better. But just at this time, when everything is so uncertain,
    and prices are so high and so few stocks are paying dividends, I
    do not see how I can possibly spare enough for you to go to
    Hampton. There are a great many nice girls here, Peggy, about
    your age, who are not going to school any more, and never even
    thought of such a thing. I’m sure you can make quite a little
    social set with them, and I shall take you around to call on all
    of my friends, and finally give you a small coming out party,
    for every well-bred girl ought to care for society and desire to
    please by what she has already learned. I think that after a
    year of what quiet but agreeable society life you can have here
    at home, you will not want to go to college. And to tell the
    truth, Peggy, I have never thought much of college for girls. It
    seems to me woman’s place is in the home and in her own little
    social sphere. I know this letter will be a disappointment to
    you, but you are a sweet, brave girl, if a bit inclined to be
    rompish, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me in time when you’ve
    had a chance to think things over. Regretting that I cannot let
    you have your wish, though, whether I approve or not, I am,

    Very lovingly yours,

                                                ———— _Aunt Mattie_.“

Peggy’s mouth twitched into her characteristic smile, dimple and all,
and she gazed somewhat ruefully back over the closely written sheet.

“Fancy me a society lady,” she said to herself. “Oh, I never imagined
even in my wildest dreams that I should get to be that—nor ever wanted
it, either, if I tell the truth. I love parties and I adore people and
hope always to have lots of them around me, men and women and children
and everybody. But just to make a sort of career out of visiting and
dancing—oh, I want college.”

All the indefinite longing that the spring brings with it took the shape
in Peggy’s mind of this one paramount desire. If she could go to college
she would be happy. If she could not, she must be miserable. Ashamed of
herself for her attitude she might be, but crush the wish she could not.
Katherine had had her application in at Hampton for three years now and
had so been assigned a room on campus with another girl named Gloria
Hazeltine. Peggy felt that already she was dropping out of her
room-mate’s life. The other girls were all planning their next year, at
table, outside the class-rooms, on their way to Vespers on Sundays. But
she had nothing to plan. And the idea began to form in her mind that if
she had some definite idea it would be better—even if the idea involved
something hard and unheard of like earning her own living. At least
there would be excitement in the contemplation of actually doing it.

So one day when all the rest were talking Hampton, Hampton, and nothing
but Hampton, and when Daphne Damon turned abruptly to Peggy and said:
“Peg, infant, what are you going to do next year?” she answered quickly,
“Clerk in a store, I think.” And their expressions were mingled
astonishment and—yes, she caught it, envy.

“My goodness, Peggy, wouldn’t that be lovely,” gasped Florence Thomas.
“Who would ever think of anything so daring but you? You’ll certainly
have more to write about in your letters than we will, but will you
promise to keep up a correspondence with us, nevertheless, so we can
hear how the famous experiment is going?”

Peggy only laughed.

A while later, in their room, Katherine excitedly handed Peggy a letter
she had just been reading.

“From your substitute, Peggy,” she said, “or, in other words, my
room-mate-to-be. The registrar gave her my address, just as she had
given me hers, and she was sweet enough to write me a
let’s-get-acquainted letter. I never thought of doing it. She has a nice
name, hasn’t she—Gloria Hazeltine.”

Mechanically Peggy took the note and read it slowly:

“My dear Miss Foster Who is to be My Room-mate”: it began, “Or hadn’t I
better begin right away by saying Katherine, and then we won’t feel so
strange when we talk to each other really for the first time—”

Peggy looked wistfully up from the letter to her room-mate’s glowing
face.

“I won’t tell you any of my faults,” she read on, “because you’ll have a
year to find those out, and I think for those things, a year is long
enough. The main purpose of this letter is to so mislead you that you
will think I haven’t any faults and then, when you finally see me, it
will take such a long time for readjustment that, before you’ve really
found me out, I shall have made you like me a little for good and keeps.
I’ve never had a room-mate myself, and I hope you haven’t, so that it
will be equally new to both of us to have to consider someone else’s
taste and wishes at every turn. What color do you like best? I am
beginning to plan my things, and we might as well get together on a
color scheme so that our couch covers won’t be too jarringly different,
and my flamboyant cushions won’t be shamed by some mouse-like ones of
yours, and vice-versa.

“I am looking forward to rooming with you because I have you all planned
out in my mind. I sit and think slowly ‘Katherine Foster’ just like
that, and then _you_ rise before me. Only perhaps it isn’t you at all.
But I promise not to be disappointed in you whatever you are like, and
won’t you write back and make me the same promise?

“Good-bye, from your much excited Next-Year’s Room-mate,

“_Gloria Hazeltine_.”

Peggy dropped the letter back on the desk and sat down on her couch, her
hands clasped over her knees disconsolately, and her eyes unhappily
looking into the future. Finally she rose with a mighty sigh and,
turning her back on her room-mate, she began to dress for the afternoon
with infinite care.

“Where are you going, Peggy?” Katherine asked, “and may I come along?”

“You could,” said Peggy after a reluctant pause, “if you wanted to and
if I didn’t have a date all arranged with somebody who told me to come
just by myself.”

She realized that her reply sounded ungracious, but the letter from
Katherine’s next year’s room-mate was vivid in her mind, and she felt
that after all she wasn’t going to be missed. It meant so much to her
not to go to college and yet nothing to anyone else. It is human nature
to want to be missed, and Peggy couldn’t help her twinge of
disappointment in the fact that her absence was going to mean so little.

Mr. Huntington had asked her to spend the afternoon in a walk with him,
as he had said he wanted to get her opinion on something he was
planning, and as he often did nice things for the townspeople now, Peggy
felt sure this was another such venture and that he merely wanted the
shining-eyed approval she was always certain to give.

He had said, “Nobody but you, this time, Peggy,” and yet, when she went
down to the gate to meet him, there stood his grandson also, smiling as
broadly as the old man, and both of them seemed to be in some delightful
secret that she didn’t know about at all. Mr. Huntington directed their
walk toward a new part of town that was just being built up.

“It’s not generally known that I own all this,” he told Peggy, “but I
do, and it’s I who am building it up. Now look down this tiny
street—look hard and tell me what you think of it!”

“Oh!” cried Peggy, staring down the dear little new street with great
interest,—great enough to make her forget the thing she couldn’t have,
for the moment—for there was a double row of adorable little bungalows,
just newly painted, as neat and trim and attractive as any houses ever
were in the world, and the street itself seemed to be just a miniature
affair, with only six houses on each side and then ending in a vine
covered wall. “Oh, it’s darling!” cried the irrepressible Peggy, “I just
love it! Who could have imagined any such dear, doll-like little street,
with twelve such lovely bungalows on it! This street ought to have a
wonderful name, Mr. Huntington—don’t you think so, Jim? Please, please,
Mr. Huntington, if it’s not already named, let Jim and me pick out what
to call it. I just know that we could find a name that would satisfy
everybody who ever took one of those cute houses to live in as long as
they stand.”

She looked up into the old man’s face, the sunlight streaming down into
hers, and she clasped her hands in her eagerness, and it was hard to see
how he could have had the heart to refuse her. But he did.

“The name is chosen already,” he said with a kind of chuckle. And Jim
only grinned at the sight of Peggy’s helplessly falling hands, and her
evident disappointment.

“We—ell,” she sighed, “so many things to stand to-day—what is it? I know
it isn’t as nice as I had in mind, is it, Jim?”

“Nicer,” said that traitor Jim.

“Well, what, then?”

“Parsons Court,” said the old man, smiling down on her curiously, and
then laughing toward his grandson who laughed back appreciatively.

“Parsons—?” her breath came in a little astonished gasp.

“That’s it,” Mr. Huntington repeated, “and do you know why?”

But Peggy must have been a daring young guesser indeed had she been able
to guess correctly why, as the old man’s next remark showed.

“It’s _yours!_” he told her, pressing a legal looking paper into her
hand, “the whole street was built and planned and named for you, and you
shall have the rent of these little houses, or you can sell them when
you wish. I thought if you just rented them, while you are in college,
they’d bring you in a larger income than most of the girls know how to
spend.”

Peggy threw herself right down on the ground and began sobbing. It was
too wonderful—it was simply the wildest magic! Oh, how beautiful it was
to have somebody like her so well and want her to be happy! Then as
abruptly as she had cast herself down, she sprang up, and laughing and
crying at once, she seized Mr. Huntington’s hand, and pumped it up and
down, and clung to it and tried to talk and could not.

Jim turned his head away before her great joy and smiled quietly all by
himself. She was such a flyaway sort of Peggy, tears one minute and
laughter the next, and all the past and all the future were as nothing
beside the present moment.

He was recalling all that he himself and the old man beside him owed to
this same warm-hearted girl, and he felt that the debt was not nearly
canceled by Parsons Court.

“Oh, Jim,” she was turning to him now, “a few minutes ago I was wicked
enough to be almost sorry you saved me from that storm so long ago. But
now, oh, Jim, I thank you now all over again for having saved me, so
that I can be here now and have this lovely, lovely thing happen to me.
How good people are to me! Oh, I must remember to be a regular _angel_
to everybody I meet just to pay up for everybody’s always being so
wonderful to me. Mr. Huntington, I _love_ Parsons Court, and every house
in it, and I’m so stingy I hate to rent any of them, but just want to
come and live in them all myself, one after the other. But renting them
means college, so please, Mr. Huntington, get me some tenants just as
fast as you can,—and I never was so happy in my life, or didn’t ever
expect to be!”

The old man’s face glowed with pleasure, and it was easy to see that he
was as happy as Peggy.

If anyone ever walked on clouds that person was Peggy as she and her two
friends made their way back toward Andrews. How brightly the sun shone!
She knew it had never looked like that before. How beautiful everybody
was—how everybody’s face was beaming as she passed, school children, old
women, the men on the delivery wagons—all, all lit for her by a subtle
glory that was spreading and spreading over the whole world. Her friends
just laughed at her raptures, but it was an understanding laugh, and
Peggy liked them for it. Was there anything at this minute, or anybody,
that she _didn’t_ like? Her heart was so full of happiness that she
wished she might share it and _share_ it until it was a little less
full, so that it wouldn’t bubble over so uncontrollably.

She was only able to look up into Mr. Huntington’s face and smile for
good-bye when they reached the Andrews gateway, and her glance then
swept on to Jim, while the sunlight just poured itself down over the
little group as they stood there together.

Then she turned and ran into the house as fast as she could go, running
up the stairs to Katherine in the unladylike fashion of two at a time,
and if it were possible to slide up banisters as well as down them Peggy
would have slid up in order to get there quicker.

“Katherine! Katherine!” she cried, bursting in at the door, “I’m going,
I’m going—it’s all magic, but it’s true and I’m going to Hampton!”

Katherine threw aside her schoolbooks and plunged across the room into
her room-mate’s arms. “Oh, I’m so glad—Peggy!” she exclaimed joyfully.

And the two girls sat down and planned for another year together as
happy as this one at Andrews had been, and all the time through Peggy’s
mind went rhythmically the refrain of “College, College, College.”

Peggy’s first year at Hampton will be told about in “Peggy Parsons, a
Hampton Freshman.”


                                  END


                                  ————


                            BOY SCOUT SERIES



                                   By
                           G. HARVEY RALPHSON



Just the type of books that delight and fascinate the wide awake boys of
to-day. Clean, wholesome and interesting; full of mystery and adventure.
Each title is complete and unabridged. Printed on a good quality of
paper from large, clear type and bound in cloth. Each book is wrapped in
a special multi-colored jacket.

    1. Boy Scouts in Mexico; or, On Guard with Uncle Sam
    2. Boy Scouts in the Canal Zone; or, the Plot against Uncle Sam
    3. Boy Scouts in the Philippines; or, the Key to the Treaty Box
    4. Boy Scouts in the Northwest; or, Fighting Forest Fires
    5. Boy Scouts in a Motor Boat; or Adventures on Columbia River
    6. Boy Scouts in an Airship; or, the Warning from the Sky
    7. Boy Scouts in a Submarine; or, Searching an Ocean Floor
    8. Boy Scouts on Motorcycles; or, With the Flying Squadron
    9. Boy Scouts beyond the Arctic Circle; or, the Lost Expedition
    10. Boy Scout Camera Club; or, the Confessions of a Photograph
    11. Boy Scout Electricians; or, the Hidden Dynamo
    12. Boy Scouts in California; or, the Flag on the Cliff
    13. Boy Scouts on Hudson Bay; or, the Disappearing Fleet
    14. Boy Scouts in Death Valley; or, the City in the Sky
    15. Boy Scouts on Open Plains; or, the Roundup not Ordered
    16. Boy Scouts in Southern Waters; or the Spanish Treasure Chest
    17. Boy Scouts in Belgium; or, Imperiled in a Trap
    18. Boy Scouts in the North Sea; or, the Mystery of a Sub
    19. Boy Scouts Mysterious Signal or Perils of the Black Bear
    Patrol
    20. Boy Scouts with the Cossacks; or, a Guilty Secret


_For Sale by all Book-sellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of 60 cents_



                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                 701-733 S. DEARBORN STREET :: CHICAGO



                                  ————


                          GIRLS PRIZE LIBRARY


A desirable assortment of girls books. Printed on a good quality of
paper from large, clear type. Beautifully bound in cloth. Each book is
wrapped in a multi-colored jacket.

    1. Daddy’s Girl — _Meade_
    2. Ethel Hollister’s First Summer as a Campfire Girl — _Benson_
    3. Ethel Hollister’s Second Summer as a Campfire Girl — _Benson_
    4. Faith Gartney’s Girlhood — _Whitney_
    5. Four Little Mischiefs — _Mulholland_
    6. Girls and I — _Molesworth_
    7. Girls of Silver Spur Ranch — _Cooke-McQueen_
    8. Modern Cinderella — _Douglas_
    9. Peggy Parsons Hampton Freshman — _Sharp_
    10. Peggy Parsons at Prep School — _Sharp_
    11. Polly — _Meade_
    12. World of Girls — _Meade_


_For sale by all book-sellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of 40 cents._



                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                 701-733 S. DEARBORN STREET :: CHICAGO



                                  ————


                Your Fortune Told Under Your Lucky Star



                    A GREAT BOOK—WORTH MONEY TO YOU



                      _Beautifully bound in Cloth_


Explaining characteristics, tendencies, possibilities, choice of
partners and employees, suggestions on marriage and government of
children, by Charlotte Abell Walker, the world’s greatest horoscopist.
You might pay a seer twenty-five to one hundred dollars and not benefit
yourself as much as you could by owning this book. Your money back if
you are not more than satisfied. Sent to any address upon receipt of
$1.50.


                    Ten Thousand Dreams Interpreted;
                        or, “What’s in a Dream”



                       A WONDERFUL BOOK YOU NEED


Six hundred and seventeen pages of alphabetically arranged dreams,
showing their significance and meaning. “Most complete and most easily
understood.”—_Brooklyn Daily Eagle._ “The choicest and most complete
work on this subject for public use.”—_Philadelphia Item._ Money back if
you are not more than satisfied with this book, sent to your address
upon receipt of $1.50.


                        M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
                 701-733 S. DEARBORN STREET :: CHICAGO





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