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Title: Dorothy Dale's Great Secret
Author: Penrose, Margaret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             DOROTHY DALE’S
                              GREAT SECRET


                                   BY
                            MARGARET PENROSE

      AUTHOR OF “DOROTHY DALE: A GIRL OF TO-DAY,” “DOROTHY DALE AT
                         GLENWOOD SCHOOL,” ETC.


                              ILLUSTRATED


                                NEW YORK
                         CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY



                        THE DOROTHY DALE SERIES
                          By Margaret Penrose

                          Cloth. Illustrated.

                     DOROTHY DALE: A GIRL OF TO-DAY
                    DOROTHY DALE AT GLENWOOD SCHOOL
                      DOROTHY DALE’S GREAT SECRET

                     (Other Volumes in preparation)


                   CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY    NEW YORK


                          Copyright, 1909, by
                         Cupples & Leon Company

                      Dorothy Dale’s Great Secret



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. An Automobile Ride                                                1
  II. Tavia Has Plans                                                 17
  III. A Cup of Tea                                                   28
  IV. The Apparition                                                  39
  V. An Untimely Letter                                               47
  VI. On the Lawn                                                     55
  VII. At Sunset Lake                                                 63
  VIII. A Lively Afternoon                                            72
  IX. Dorothy and Tavia                                               79
  X. Leaving Glenwood                                                 88
  XI. A Jolly Home-Coming                                             96
  XII. Dorothy is Worried                                            109
  XIII. Little Urania                                                118
  XIV. The Runaway                                                   129
  XV. A Spell of the "Glumps"                                        139
  XVI. Dorothy in Buffalo                                            147
  XVII. At the Play                                                  161
  XVIII. Behind the Scenes                                           172
  XIX. The Clue                                                      183
  XX. Dorothy and the Manager                                        195
  XXI. Adrift in a Strange City                                      205
  XXII. In Dire Distress                                             211
  XXIII. The Secret—Conclusion                                       231



                      DOROTHY DALE’S GREAT SECRET



                               CHAPTER I
                           AN AUTOMOBILE RIDE


“There is one thing perfectly delightful about boarding schools,”
declared Tavia, “when the term closes we can go away, and leave it in
another world. Now, at Dalton, we would have to see the old schoolhouse
every time we went to Daly’s for a pound of butter, a loaf of bread—and
oh, yes! I almost forgot! Mom said we could get some bologna. Whew! Don’t
your mouth water, Dorothy? We always did get good bologna at Daly’s!”

“Bologna!” echoed Dorothy. “As if the young ladies of Glenwood School
would disgrace their appetites with such vulgar fare!”

At this she snatched up an empty cracker box, almost devouring its
parifine paper, in hopes of finding a few more crumbs, although Tavia had
poured the last morsels of the wafers down her own throat the night
before this conversation took place. Yes, Tavia had even made a funnel of
the paper and “took” the powdered biscuits as doctors administer headache
remedies.

“All the same,” went on Tavia, “I distinctly remember that you had a
longing for the skin of my sausage, along with the end piece, which you
always claimed for your own share.”

“Oh, please stop!” besought Dorothy, “or I shall have to purloin my hash
from the table to-night and stuff it into—”

“The armlet of your new, brown kid gloves,” finished Tavia. “They’re the
very color of a nice, big, red-brown bologna, and I believe the
inspiration is a direct message. ‘The Evolution of a Bologna Sausage,’
modern edition, bound in full kid. Mine for the other glove. Watch all
the hash within sight to-night, and we’ll ask the girls to our
clam-bake.”

“Dear old Dalton,” went on Dorothy with a sigh. “After all there is no
place like home,” and she dropped her blond head on her arms, in the
familiar pose Tavia described as “thinky.”

“But home was never like this,” declared the other, following up
Dorothy’s sentiment with her usual interjection of slang. At the same
moment she made a dart for a tiny bottle of Dorothy’s perfume, which was
almost emptied down the front of Tavia’s blue dress, before the owner of
the treasure had time to interfere.

“Oh, that’s mean!” exclaimed Dorothy. “Aunt Winnie sent me that by mail.
It was a special kind—”

“And you know my weakness for specials—real bargains! There!” and Tavia
caught Dorothy up in her arms. “I’ll rub it all on your head. Tresses of
sunshine, perfumed with incense!”

“Please stop!” begged Dorothy. “My hair is all fixed!”

“Well, it’s ‘fixest’ now. The superlative you know. I do hate your hair
prim. Never knew a girl with heavenly hair who did not want to make a
mattress of it. I have wonderfully enhanced the beauty of your coiffure,
mam’selle, for which I ask to be permitted one kiss!” and at this the two
girls became so entangled in each other’s embrace that it would have been
hard to tell whom the blond head belonged to, or who might be the owner
of the bronze ringlets.

But Dorothy Dale was the blond, and Octavia Travers, “sported” the dark
tresses. “Sported” we say advisedly, for Tavia loved sport better than
she cared for her dinner, while Dorothy, an entirely different type of
girl, admired the things of this world that were good and beautiful, true
and reliable; but at the same time she was no prude, and so enjoyed her
friend’s sports, whenever the mischief involved no serious consequences.

That “Doro” as her chums called Dorothy, and Tavia could be so unlike,
and yet be such friends, was a matter of surprise to all their
acquaintances. But those who have read of the young ladies in the
previous stories of the series, “Dorothy Dale;—A Girl of To-Day,” and
“Dorothy Dale at Glenwood School,” have had sufficient introduction to
these interesting characters to understand how natural it was for a lily
(our friend Dorothy) to love and encourage a frolicsome wild flower
(Tavia) to cling to the cultured stalk, to keep close to the saving
influence of the lily’s heart—so close that no gardener would dare to
tear away that wild flower from the lily’s clasp, without running the
risk of cruelly injuring the more tender plant.

So it was with these two girls. No one could have destroyed their love
and friendship for each other without so displacing their personalities
as to make the matter one of serious consequences.

Many other girls had coveted Dorothy’s love; some had even tried to
obtain it by false stories, or greatly exaggerated accounts of Tavia’s
frolics. But Dorothy loved Tavia, and believed in her, so all attempts to
destroy her faith were futile. And it was this faith, when the time came,
that inspired Dorothy Dale to keep the Great Secret.

Glenwood School was situated amid the mountains of New England, and the
two girls had completed one term there. On the afternoon when this story
opens they were lounging in their own particular room, nineteen by
number, waiting for the recreation bell to send its muffled chimes down
the corridor.

They were waiting with unusual impatience, for the “hour of freedom” to
come, for they expected visitors in an automobile.

“Like as not,” Tavia broke in suddenly, without offering a single excuse
for the surprising interjection, “the Fire Bird will break down, and we
won’t get our ride after all.”

“Cheerful speculation,” interposed Dorothy, “but not exactly probable.
The Fire Bird is an auto that never breaks down.”

“What, never?” persisted Tavia, laughing.

“No, never,” declared Dorothy. “Of course all automobiles are subject to
turns, but to really break down—Aunt Winnie would never allow her boys to
run a machine not entirely reliable.”

“O-o-o-oh!” drawled Tavia, in mock surprise. Then the girls settled down
to wait.

The Fire Bird, was a touring car in which the girls had enjoyed some
noted rides about their home town of Dalton. Dorothy’s aunt, Mrs.
Winthrop White, of North Birchland, owned the car, and her two sons,
Edward and Nathaniel (or Ned and Nat, to give them the titles they always
went by) good looking young fellows, were usually in charge of it when
their favorite cousin Dorothy, and her friend Tavia, were the other
passengers.

It may as well be stated at this time that Nat and Tavia were excellent
friends, and even on a ride that had been termed notorious (on account of
the strange experiences that befell the party while making a tour), Tavia
and Nat had managed to have a good time, and made the best of their
strange adventures.

It was not surprising then that on this afternoon, while Dorothy and
Tavia waited for another ride in the Fire Bird, their brains should be
busy with speculative thoughts. Tavia was sure Nat would think she had
grown to be a real young lady, and Dorothy was so anxious to see both her
cousins, that she fell to thinking they might have outgrown the jolly,
big-boy relationship, and would come to her stiff and stylish young men.

The peal of the recreation bell in the outer hall suddenly aroused the
girls, and, at the same moment the “honk-honk” of the Fire Bird’s horn
announced the arrival of the long expected boys.

“There they are!” exclaimed Tavia, quite unnecessarily, for Dorothy was
already making her pearl-tinted veil secure over her yellow head; and
while Tavia was wasting her time, looking out of the window at the auto,
which was surrounded by boys and girls who stood on the path, plainly
admiring the two cousins and the stylish car, Dorothy was quite ready for
the ride.

“Do come, Tavia!” she called. “The afternoon is short enough!”

“Com—ing!” shouted her irrepressible companion in high glee, making a
lunge for her own veil, and tossing it over her head as she dashed down
the corridor.

Dorothy stopped at the office on her way out to tell the principal, Mrs.
Pangborn, that the expected visitors had arrived, and that she and Tavia
were starting for the ride, permission to go having been granted in
advance.

Outside, just beyond the arch in the broad driveway, the Fire Bird panted
and puffed, as if anxious to take flight again. Ned was at the steering
wheel and as for Nat, he was helping Tavia into the machine “with both
hands” some jealous onlookers declared afterward. However Dorothy’s
friend Rose-Mary Markin (known to her chums as Cologne because of her
euphonious first names) insisted differently in the argument that
followed the puffing away of the car.

It was no small wonder that the coming of the Fire Bird should excite
such comment among the girls at Glenwood school. An automobile ride was
no common happening there, for while many of the parents of the young
ladies owned such machines, Glenwood was far away from home and so were
the autos.

Edna Black, called Ned Ebony, and regarded as Tavia’s most intimate
friend, insisted that Tavia looked like a little brown sparrow, as she
flew off, with the streamers of her brown veil flying like wings. Molly
Richards, nick-named Dick, and always “agin’ th’ government” like the
foreigner in politics, declared that the girls “were not in it” with the
boys, for, as she expressed it, “girls always do look like animated
rag-bags in an automobile.”

“Boys just put themselves on the seat and stay put,” she announced, “but
girls—they seem to float above the car, and they give me the shivers!”

“All the same,” interrupted Cologne, “the damsels manage to hang on.”

“And Dorothy was a picture,” ventured Nita Brant, the girl given to
“excessive expletive ejaculations,” according to the records of the Nick
Association, the official club of the Juniors.

So the Fire Bird, with its gay little party, flew over the hills of
Glenwood. Dorothy was agreeably surprised to find her cousins just as
good natured and just as boy-like as they had been when she had last seen
them, and they, in turn, complimented her on her improved appearance.

“You look younger though you talk older,” Ned assured Dorothy, with a
nice regard for the feminine feeling relative to age.

“And Tavia looks—looks—how?” stammered Nat, with a significant look at
his elder brother.

“Search me!” replied the other evasively, determined not to be trapped by
Nat into any “expert opinion.”

“Beyond words!” finished Nat, with a glance of unstinted admiration at
his companion.

“Bad as that?” mocked Tavia. “The girls do call me ‘red head’ and
‘brick-top.’ Yes, even ‘carroty’ is thrown at me when I do anything to
make Ned mad. You know that’s the girl,” she hurried to add, “the
girl—Edna Black—Ned Ebony for short, you know. She’s the jolliest crowd—”

“How many of her?” asked Ned, pretending to be ignorant of Tavia’s school
vernacular.

“Legion,” was the enthusiastic answer, which elastic comment settled the
question of Edna Black, for the time being, at least.

The roads through Glenwood wound up and down like thread on a spool.
Scarcely did the Fire Bird find itself on the top of a hill before it
went scooting down to the bottom. Then another would loom up and it had
to be done all over again.

This succession of steep grades, first tilting up and then down, kept Ned
busy throwing the clutches in and out, taking the hills on the low gear,
then slipping into full speed ahead as a little level place was reached,
and again throwing off the power and drifting down while the brakes
screeched and hummed as if in protest at being made to work so hard. The
two girls, meanwhile, were busy speculating on what would happen if an
“something” should give way, or if the powerful car should suddenly
refuse to obey the various levers, handles, pedals and the maze of things
of which Ned seemed to have perfect command.

“This reminds me of the Switch-back Railway,” remarked Nat, as the
machine suddenly lurched first up, and then down a rocky “bump.”

“Y-y-y-es!” agreed Ned, shouting to be heard above the pounding of the
muffler. “It’s quite like a trip on the Scenic Railway—pretty pictures
and all.”

“I hope it isn’t dangerous,” ventured Dorothy, who had too vivid a
remembrance of the narrow escape on a previous ride, to enjoy the
possibility of a second adventure.

“No danger at all,” Ned hastened to assure her.

“A long hill at last!” exclaimed Nat, as the big strip of brown earth
uncoiled before them, like so many miles of ribbon dropped from the sky,
with a knot somewhere in the clouds. “A long hill for sure. None of your
dinky little two-for-a-cent kinds this time!”

“Oh!” gasped Dorothy, involuntarily catching at Ned’s arm. “Be careful,
Ned!”

Ned took a firmer grip on the steering wheel, as he finished throwing out
the gear and shutting off the power, while the spark lever sent out a
shrill sound as he swung it in a segment over the rachet.

The hill was not only remarkably steep, but consisted of a series of
turns and twists. Down the grade the car plunged in spite of the brakes
that Ned jammed on, with all his force, to prevent a runaway. He was a
little pale, but calm, and with his steady hands on the wheel, clinging
firmly to it in spite of the way it jerked about, as if trying to get
free, he guided the Fire Bird down, the big machine swerving from right
to left, but ever following where the lad directed it.

As they swung around a turn in the descending road a clump of trees
obstructed the view for a moment. Then the car glided beyond them,
gathering speed every moment, in spite of the brakes.

“The creek!” yelled Tavia in sudden terror, pointing to where a small,
but deep stream flowed under the road. “There’s the creek and the bridge
is broken!”

The water was spanned by a frail structure, generally out of order and in
a state of uncertain repair. It needed but a glance to show that it was
now in course of being mended, for there was a pile of material near it.
Work, however, had been temporarily suspended.

Then, there flashed into view a warning signboard announcing that the old
planking of the bridge had been taken up to allow the putting down of
new, and that the bridge was impassable. The four horror-stricken
occupants of the car saw this at a glance.

“Stop the car!” cried Tavia.

“Can’t!” answered Ned hoarsely. “I’ve got the emergency brake on, but it
doesn’t seem to hold.”

“It’s all right,” called Nat. “I saw a wagon go over the bridge when we
were on our way to the school this afternoon.”

“But it crossed on some loose, narrow planks!” Tavia gasped. “I saw them
put the boards there yesterday when we were out for our walk! I forgot
all about them! Oh! Stop the car! We can’t cross on the planks! We’ll all
be killed!”

Ned leaned forward, pulling with all his strength on the brake handle, as
if to force it a few more notches back and make the steel band grip
tighter the whirring wheels that were screeching out a shrill protest at
the friction.

“I—I can’t do it!” he exclaimed almost in a whisper.

The Fire Bird was dashing along the steep incline. Ned clung firmly to
the steering wheel, for though there was terrible danger ahead, it was
also close at hand should the auto swerve from the path. His face was
white, and Nat’s forced breathing sounded loud in the ears of the
terror-stricken girls.

The bridge was but a few hundred feet away. The auto skidded along as if
under power, though the gasolene was shut off.

“There’s a plank across the entrance! Maybe that will stop us!” cried
Nat.

“Never in this world!” replied Ned, in despairing tones.

Dorothy was sending up wordless prayers, but she did not stir from her
seat, sitting bravely still, and not giving way to useless terror. Nor
did Tavia, once the first shock was over, for she saw how quiet Dorothy
was, and she too, sank back among the cushions, waiting for the crash she
felt would soon come.

“If some boards are only down!” murmured Ned. “Maybe I can steer—”

The next instant the Fire Bird had crashed through the obstruction plank.
It splintered it as if it were a clothes pole, and, a moment later,
rumbled out upon the frail, loose planking, laid length-wise across the
floorless bridge, as a path for the repair teams.

“Oh! Oh!” shrieked the two girls in one breath.

Nat jumped up from his seat, and, leaning forward, grasped his brother by
the shoulders.

Then what followed was always a mystery to the four who had an
involuntary part in it. The front wheels took the narrow planks, and
clung there as Ned held the steering circle steady. There was a little
bump as the rear wheels took the same small boards. There was a crashing,
splintering sound and then, before any of those in the car had a chance
to realize it, the Fire Bird had whizzed across the bridge and was
brought to a quick stop on the other side.

“Whew!” gasped Ned, as he tried to open the paralyzed hands that seemed
grown fast to the steering wheel.

“Look at that!” cried Nat, as he leaped from the car and pointed back
toward the bridge. “We broke two planks in the very middle, and only the
fast rate we clipped over them saved us from going down!”

“What an escape!” cried Tavia as she jumped from her seat.

“Is the car damaged?” asked Dorothy, as she too alighted to stand beside
her chum.

“Something happened to the radiator when we hit the rail and broke it,”
said Ned, as he saw water escaping from the honey-comb reservoir. “But I
guess it won’t amount to much. It isn’t leaking badly. The idea of the
county having a picture bridge over a river! Why there’s a swift current
here, and it’s mighty deep. Just look at that black whirlpool near the
eddy. If we’d gone down there what the machine left of us would have been
nicely cooled off at any rate!”

The two boys were soon busy examining the car, while Dorothy and Tavia
stood in the road.

“Wasn’t it dreadful!” exclaimed Dorothy. “I do believe we ought not to go
auto riding—something happens every time we go out.”

“And to think that I knew about the bridge!” whispered Tavia. “Only
yesterday I saw it and noticed how unsafe it was. Then I forgot all about
it. Oh, Dorothy! If anything had happened it would have been my fault!”



                               CHAPTER II
                            TAVIA HAS PLANS


Dorothy threw her arms about Tavia, and, for a few moments the two girls
were locked in each other’s embrace. The reaction, following their lucky
escape from almost certain death, had unnerved them. Nor were the two
boys altogether free from a shaky feeling, as they carefully looked over
the car to see if it had suffered any further damage than the leaky
radiator.

“Think she’ll do?” asked Nat.

“Guess so,” replied his brother. “My, but that was as close a call as I
have ever had.”

“Me too. I guess we’d better take a breathing spell before we go on.”

The boys sat down on a grassy bank, and the girls followed their example.
They looked back over the bridge, and at the two broken planks that had
nearly proved their undoing. Through the spaces, where the flooring was
torn up, the black, swirling waters could be seen.

While the auto party are resting until they have somewhat gotten over the
fright caused by their narrow escape, let me tell something of Dorothy
and her friends. As set forth in the first book of this series, “Dorothy
Dale; A Girl of To-Day,” the girl was the daughter of Major Frank Dale, a
veteran of the Civil War. He ran a weekly newspaper, called _The Bugle_
in Dalton, a small town in New York state. Dorothy’s mother had died some
years previous. The girl had two brothers, younger than herself, named
Joe and Roger.

Dorothy took part in a temperance crusade in Dalton and had much to do in
unraveling the mystery of an unfortunate man given to drink. He left a
small fortune to his daughter, whose whereabouts were unknown, and
Dorothy succeeded in finding her. In her work the girl was much hampered
by a man named Anderson, who sought to do her bodily harm, and who was at
the bottom of the mystery concerning the daughter of the unfortunate man.

Dorothy proved herself a brave girl, and, with the help of Tavia, who
became her especial chum, did much to aid several persons in Dalton.

In the second volume, “Dorothy Dale at Glenwood School” there I related
how Dorothy and her father came upon better days. Major Dale fell heir to
quite a sum of money, and could give up the newspaper.

Dorothy was sent to Glenwood School, where Tavia accompanied her. The two
girls had many exciting times there, and Dorothy was suspected of
something for which she was not to blame, suffering much in consequence
of her desire to shield another girl. There was much fun at the school,
in spite of this, however including a queer walking match and a strange
initiation.

Dorothy and her father moved to North Birchland, the home of Mrs.
Winthrop White, Mr. Dale’s sister. Anderson, the man who had caused
Dorothy so much trouble turned up again, but was eventually sent to jail.

After the holidays Dorothy and Tavia returned to school, where we find
them at the opening of this story. They had become friends of nearly all
the students, though, as is natural, had made some enemies, as what girl
does not?

Now the party on the roadside prepared to start off again.

“I can’t forgive myself for not remembering about the dangerous state of
the bridge,” went on Tavia, when Ned and Nat had announced that the auto
was fit to continue its journey.

“Of course it wasn’t your fault,” said Dorothy.

“Yes it was,” insisted Tavia. “You wouldn’t have forgotten it, Doro,
dear!”

And, to give Dorothy credit, she would not have been so thoughtless. But
she was a different type of girl from Tavia. It was the way she had been
brought up, as much as her own character, that caused this difference.
Good breeding is not a virtue, it is a blessing: hence in considering
such a gift we admire the fortunate possessor, just as we esteem the
beauty of the cultured rose, and, naturally compare it favorably when
placed next to some coarse untrained wild flower.

So it was with our two friends, Dorothy and Tavia. Dorothy was well bred,
and could always be relied upon, for the good breeding was nicely coupled
with a kindness of heart that composed a charming character. Though
Dorothy had no mother her aunt, Mrs. Winthrop White almost filled that
place in the girl’s heart.

The White family, with whom Dorothy, her father and two brothers had gone
to live, since the advent of the legacy, consisted of Mrs. White and her
two sons, Nat and Ned. Mr. White had died some years ago, while engaged
in a scientific expedition.

Not having a daughter of her own Dorothy’s Aunt Winnie was especially
fond of her pretty niece, and, as the girl could barely remember her own
mother, she lavished her affection on her father’s sister.

Dorothy’s affection, love and devotion to her father was of a different
type from that given to any other living creature, not excepting her own
darling brothers, Joe and Roger, and Roger had almost grown up in his
sister’s arms, for he had been a tiny baby when his mother was called
away.

It was in Dalton that Dorothy had met and learned to love Tavia. The
Travers family, of whom Tavia was the most interesting member, lived not
far from the Dale homestead. Tavia had grown up with Dorothy, as her most
intimate friend and companion, and it was Dorothy’s love for Tavia that
had wrought miracles for the girl who lacked proper home training, for
her parents were of that class generally designated as improvident.

Tavia always ignored the saving rules of correct society, and, being
naturally bright, and strangely pretty was, now that she was in her
fifteenth year, in a fair way to be spoiled by those who delighted to
hear her witty nonsense, and who looked upon her frolics as entertaining
in an otherwise stupid old world.

“Well, shall we go along now?” asked Ned, as he again took his place at
the steering wheel.

“Yes, but go slow,” begged Tavia. “We can go home by a different road. We
have lots of time, before we have to be back to Glenwood School for tea.”

“Slow it is,” replied Ned, not at all sorry that he could take it easy
after the strenuous time. Dorothy had many questions to ask her
cousins—all about her father’s rheumatism—whether the electric treatment
was doing him as much good as the doctors had promised—how her brothers
were getting on at school—how strange it seemed to have Roger at
school!—and scores of other things. But she always came back to her
father or the boys—to Roger—she could scarcely imagine her baby brother
running home to Aunt Winnie with his book under his arm.

While Ned and Dorothy were thus busy with family affairs, Nat and Tavia,
seated on the rear seat, were discussing purely personal matters. Nat
told of the tour he and his brother had made from North Birchland, the
trip being undertaken with other members of a club, which was holding a
meet not far from Glenwood School. Tavia found plenty of small
interesting talk to “give and take” with Nat.

“Dorothy,” she asked suddenly, “do you think we could get off all day
to-morrow and take a run out to where the auto meet is being held? It
would be all sorts of fun and—”

“To-morrow?” echoed Dorothy. “Why you know we have our English exams. and
our geometry to make up. Besides, Mrs. Pangborn would never allow us to
go to a boys’ camp.”

“Allow us! Just as if we were in the kindergarten! Let’s make up some
excuse and go! Now, Doro, don’t look so shocked! Surely you have the
right to go out with your own cousins?”

“Tavia, don’t talk such nonsense!” exclaimed Dorothy severely. “You know
perfectly well we are under the school rules, and that we are in honor
bound not to violate them. As if any sensible girl would risk her good
standing for such an escapade!”

“What’s the ‘standing’ at Glenwood compared to the ‘sitting’ in the Fire
Bird?” asked Tavia flippantly. “Besides, just think of all the jolly
fellows we would meet; wouldn’t we, Nat?”

“There’s a great collection of wild ducks out there at the auto camp,”
Nat answered rather reluctantly, for he plainly saw that Tavia’s
surprising proposition had caused Dorothy serious annoyance.

“Well, I’ve a mind to go myself. Will you come for me, boys? I could
disappear at class hour, when all the ‘tattle-tales’ will be sure to be
busy, scheming out of their work. Then I could get back in time to have
my head tied up at lunch hour—head-ache all the morning, you know.
Simplest thing in the world.”

Even the boys scarcely smiled as Tavia unfolded a possible plan to
deceive her teachers, and to dishonor her own name. Her friends were well
accustomed to her pranks and prattle, and usually regarded her nonsense
as mere babble. But, somehow, Tavia, was “growing up,” lately, and it
seemed quite time for her to take life more seriously.

“Tavia,” spoke up Dorothy finally, “you came to Glenwood upon my aunt’s
recommendation, and under my—”

“Wing!” broke in Tavia, throwing her arms out toward the slender form of
the girl seated ahead of her in the auto.

“At any rate,” finished Dorothy, “I’m perfectly sure that my cousins will
never take part in any such nonsense.”

“Oh, Mr. Flea, you’ve bitten me, and you must die!” sang Tavia, making a
series of melo-dramatic gestures, that caused the boys to laugh and even
made Dorothy smile in forgiveness.

“Thus are my social ambitions nipped in the bud—extinguished in their
first, faint gleaming,” went on Tavia, assuming a tone of tragedy. “Well,
my fairy-godmother, Dorothy Dale Glenwood, when that day comes that I am
forced to spurn the lines of the Social Swim, and you find me beyond the
ropes, clinging helplessly to the tail-end of my former prestige, carried
out with the great, surging tide of struggling humanity, then you will
remember that I had attempted a correct debut, and it ended in a splash
of Dale indignation!”

Somehow Tavia’s nonsense had a ring of reality to-day. Perhaps it was the
narrow escape at the bridge that had tinted her pictures with such a
serious tone—she seemed preoccupied, and gave her chatter in words
contradicted by her voice and manner. It was some minutes before any one
spoke. All appeared to be enjoying the “valedictory,” and presently
Tavia, promising to “turn over a new leaf,” made a grab for a branch of a
tree the auto just then passed under, and swished the foliage she
captured until every leaf showed its silvery under-side against the deep
blue sky. She laughed at her joke.

“Of course you know,” said Ned, as he swung the car into a cross-road
that led to Glenwood, “mother expects you to come to North Birchland,
with Dorothy, this summer, Tavia. We’ll try to make you comfortable—ahem!
Nat has a brand new tandem, besides white duck duds to burn—”

“Nixy! To wear,” corrected his brother. “Mother says white ducks are
economical for man—and beast.”

“Of course you’ll come with me, Tavia,” said Dorothy, noting instantly
that her chum had not responded to the kind invitation that Nat had
delivered for his mother.

“Perhaps,” replied Tavia, vaguely.

“Are you going to spend all your time at Dalton?” continued Dorothy, much
puzzled at Tavia’s manner.

“Oh, no indeed,” answered Tavia, promptly this time, showing plainly,
that she had other plans than those connected with her home town.

“I hope you’ll come,” said Nat aside, in pardonable earnestness, for his
good times, with the “little bronze beauty” of Dalton, were cherished
among his very best memories. Tavia was certainly a jolly girl, and Nat
liked her—why should he not—like her?

“Oh, I’ll be sure to see you,” Tavia answered Nat.

Sure to see him? Yes, but she little dreamed then how very glad she would
be to see him—and what serious happenings were to take place before that
meeting.



                              CHAPTER III
                              A CUP OF TEA


“Dorothy,” began Tavia that evening, as the two girls sat alone in their
room, enjoying their usual good-night conference, “why couldn’t you take
that spin out to the auto meet. It would be no end of good fun.”

“Fun!” echoed Dorothy, surprised that Tavia should again venture to
propose such a thing. “Why, Tavia! Really you shock me!” Then she went to
the little dresser, under pretext of looking for something, but in
reality to gain time—she scarcely knew what to say to her chum, whose
sudden whim was so startling.

Tavia sat on the box divan, her hands in her lap, and her brown head bent
over, a strange and serious attitude for the girl who was never known to
sit still, even in church; and who had the reputation of being the
jolliest girl at Glenwood. For some moments she appeared to be
unconscious of Dorothy’s presence, so absorbed was she in her own
thoughts. Dorothy was now regarding her curiously. What could have turned
Tavia’s head? For turned from its usually bright and happy line of
thought it plainly was.

“What is it, Tavia?” she asked finally, stealing up to the crouched
figure, and placing her arm gently about her chum’s neck.

“Why?” inquired the other, with a sudden start, as if afraid Dorothy
would divine her thoughts.

“You are worried about something—come tell me what it is!”

“Worried!” Tavia jumped up, shaking off Dorothy’s arm. “Worried! Dorothy
Dale, I believe you’re not well! You act morbid—creepy!”

Dorothy turned away. She was hurt—crushed—that Tavia should spurn her
affection and refuse her confidence.

“We always told each other everything,” and Dorothy almost sighed, as her
words came slowly, and with strange coldness. “I never imagined you would
keep any important secret from me.”

“You silly!” exclaimed Tavia, throwing her arms around Dorothy this time.
“Who said I had a secret? What in the world has put that wild notion into
your yellow head?—bless it!”

This last expression brought a kiss to the golden ringlets, and, as the
two girls sat there, Dorothy with a far-away look in her eyes that were
clouded with unbidden tears, Tavia with her cheek pressed lovingly
against the blond head, and her own eyes looking into some unknown
future, their pose was like a stage picture—the kind usually presented
when one sister is about to leave a country home, and the other bids her
stay.

“Aren’t we a couple of jays!” broke in Tavia, as soon as she appeared to
realize the melo-dramatic effect. “I declare we ought to travel as ‘The
Glum Sisters—Mag and Liz.’ There! Wouldn’t we make a hit for teary ones?
Weeps are in great demand they say. Smiles are being overworked in the
profresh!” and she strode up to the mirror with a most self-satisfied
glance at her pretty face.

“Tavia, you are getting awfully big for slang—it seems more like sneering
than joking,” exclaimed Dorothy. “And I’ve been wanting to say that to
you—some of the other girls have noticed it. They say you act more like a
chorus girl than a Glenwood pupil. Of course I don’t want to hurt your
feelings, but I thought it would be better for me to tell you than for
you to hear it from some one else.”

“Chorus girl! Thanks! No need to apologize, I assure you. That’s from
silly, little Nita Brandt, I suppose? Well, better to act like a chorus
girl than—a fool!” blurted out Tavia with a show of temper. “And any
silly girl, who can not keep things to herself—well, I always thought
Nita was a featherhead and now I know it!”

“Oh, indeed it was not Nita!” Dorothy hastened to assure her. “It was at
the lawn tea the other day. You were ‘acting’; don’t you remember? Doing
that funny toe dance you are always trying lately.”

“O-o-o-o-h!” and Tavia made a queer little pout, and a very funny face.
“So they appreciated my maiden effort, eh? I am indeed flattered! Tell
the girls I’m much obliged and I’ll see that they get passes for the
initial performance. Tell them, also, to have the bouquets tagged—it’s so
annoying to have a great stack of ‘Please accepts’ to answer, with the
superscriptions ‘cut out’ so to speak. I know all the girls will send
pansies—they are so sweet, and would make such wicked faces for the girls
who could not conveniently present their own adorable ‘phizes’!”

“What in the world are you talking about?” asked Dorothy, who had been
listening to the outburst with a queer idea that all this stage business
was not mere idle chatter—that there might be a reason for Tavia’s
cynicism.

“Talking about auto rides,” quietly answered Tavia, recovering herself
with an effort. “Wasn’t that a dandy this afternoon? And to think we
might have missed that ‘Horatius at the bridge’ business if I had been
silly enough to mention that the planking was gone!”

“Don’t talk of it!” exclaimed Dorothy, shuddering. “I cannot bear to
think of what might have happened. And, Tavia, you must not think I have
adopted the lecture platform for good, but I must say, it was careless of
you not to mention about the bridge—especially as you knew what a hill
led down to it, and how the Fire Bird can cover hills.”

“Of course you know I entirely forgot it, Doro,” and now Tavia showed
some remorse at the reprimand.

“My! There’s the bell!” exclaimed Dorothy as a clang sounded down the
corridor. “I had no idea it was so late,” and she jumped up to disrobe.
“Quick, or Miss Higley will see our light.”

“Let her,” answered Tavia indifferently. “I don’t feel very well, and
would just love something warm—say a nice little cup of tea—”

A tap at the door interrupted her remarks. Dorothy jumped into a large
closet and Tavia calmly opened the portal.

It was Miss Higley, the second assistant teacher, with rather a
forbidding expression on her wrinkled face, and who, among the girls,
bore a reputation characterized as “sour.”

“Why is this?” she demanded, stepping in and brushing Tavia aside.

“I was just thinking of calling you,” answered Tavia, clapping her hand
to her waist line. “I have such a dreadful—Oh, dear!” and she sat down
without further explanation.

“Do you need anything?” asked Miss Higley, her tone more kindly.

“Oh, no; certainly not,” sighed Tavia. “I would not trouble you. But if I
might have a sip of tea—that tea you brought Dorothy did her so much good
the other night.”

She paused to allow a proper expression of agony to spread over her face,
and gently rubbed her hand over the region covered by her belt.

“I suppose you made that tea yourself, didn’t you? It was so good,
Dorothy told me.”

That settled it. For any one to praise Miss Higley’s brew! So few persons
really do appreciate a good cup of tea. As usual Tavia had “won out.”

“Why of course I’ll get you a cup. I have just made a small pot—I felt
rather—rather tired myself. I don’t, as a rule, drink tea at night, but I
was not altogether well. Where is Dorothy?”

“Just slipping on a robe,” with a glance at the closet where her chum was
concealed. “I’m afraid I disturbed her,” went on Tavia glibly.

“Well, I’ll get the tea,” Miss Higley remarked, as she started to leave
the room. “I’ll bring the pot here and we can take it together.”

“Quick!” called Tavia to Dorothy as the door closed. “Slip on your robe.
Tea with Higley! Of all the doin’s!” and she promptly turned a somersault
on the hitherto unrumpled bed. “Won’t the girls howl! I do hope she
brings biscuits. There, get down your box, you precious miser! Just think
of ‘crackering’ Higley!”

Dorothy appeared dumfounded. It had all been arranged so quickly—and
there was Miss Higley back again. She carried a tray with a small china
teapot and three blue cups to match.

“I thought Dorothy might like a cup,” she remarked in a sort of
apologetic way. “There now,” as Tavia and Dorothy relieved her of the
tray, “it will be pleasant to have a sip together. Of course we would not
do it but for Octavia’s illness.” (Tavia looked to be in dreadful pain at
that moment.) “But since we have to give her a cup of tea, we may as well
make a virtue of necessity.”

“It is very kind of you, Miss Higley,” Dorothy said, rather hesitatingly.
“I’m sure that we—that is I—I mean Tavia—should not have put you to all
this trouble—but of course one can’t help being ill,” she hastened to
add, for she felt she was rather giving Tavia’s secret away.

“It really is too bad to make all this fuss,” the supposed sufferer
interjected. “You went to a lot of trouble for me, Miss Higley, and I
appreciate it very much,” and Tavia winked the eye next to Dorothy, but
concealed the sign from the sight of the instructress. Tavia was trying
hard not to laugh, and her repressed emotion shook the tray to the no
small danger of upsetting the teapot, cups and all.

“I never consider my duty any trouble,” answered Miss Higley, seeming to
feel the obligation of being dignified. In fact, it did not occur to her
just then that she was doing a most unprecedented thing—taking tea with
two school girls, and after hours at that! However, she had committed
herself, and now there was no way out. Dorothy presented her package of
chocolate crackers, and Miss Higley took some, while Tavia arranged the
tea tray on the little table.

Surely the scene was mirth-provoking. Dorothy in her pretty blue robe,
Tavia with her hair loose, collar off and shoes unlaced, and Miss Higley,
prim as ever, in her brown mohair, with the long black cord on her
glasses. There the three sat, sipping tea and “making eyes,”—“too full
for utterance,” as Tavia would say.

“Such lovely tea,” Dorothy managed to gulp out at the risk of allowing
her mouth to get loose in a titter, once the tight line of silence was
broken.

Then, all at once they stopped drinking—some one was coming down the
hall. Miss Higley arose instantly. The gentle tap on the door was
answered by Tavia.

Mrs. Pangborn!

“Oh,” she apologized, “I did not mean to disturb a little social tea. Do
sit down, Honorah,” to Miss Higley. “I’m very glad to see you enjoying
yourself,” and Mrs. Pangborn meant what she said.

“Oh, indeed, I merely came to administer to a sick girl. Octavia was
suddenly taken with cramps.”

Mrs. Pangborn glanced at Tavia.

“But that cup of tea has made me feel so much better,” declared Dorothy’s
room-mate, with that kind of truth that mere words make—the kind that
challenges falsehood.

“I am always glad to see you looking after the girls, Honorah,” went on
the principal, “but I am equally glad to see you consider yourself. I’m
sure you have a perfect right to take a cup of tea here. My dear,” to
Dorothy, “perhaps you have a sip left?”

Dorothy found there was another cup of the beverage, still warm in the
little teapot, and this she poured into her own pink and white china cup
for Mrs. Pangborn.

Miss Higley remained standing, seemingly too abashed to move.

“Do finish yours,” said Tavia, pushing the empty chair toward the
embarrassed teacher.

But Tavia’s mirth showed through her alleged illness, and Miss Higley
began to feel that she had been imposed upon.

“If you—if you will excuse me,” she stammered.

“Oh, do finish your tea,” begged Mrs. Pangborn, and so the severe little
teacher was obliged to sit down again.

An hour later Tavia was still trying to “untwist her kinks,” as she
described her attacks of muffled laughter.

“Oh, wasn’t it gloriotious!” she exclaimed. “To think I couldn’t get a
single twinge in my entire system! If I only could put that sort of a
cramp in alcohol, wouldn’t it be an heirloom to Glenwood!”

“Please do stop,” pleaded Dorothy, from under her quilt. “The next time
they may bring a doctor and a stomach pump, and if you don’t let me go to
sleep I do believe I will call her.”

“You dare to and I’ll get something dreadfully contagious, so you will
have to be disinfected and isolated. But Higley the terrible! The abused
little squinty-eyed tattle-tale! Oh, when Mrs. Pangborn said she was glad
to see her enjoying herself! That persecuted saint enjoying herself!
Didn’t she look the part?”

But even such mirth must succumb to slumber when the victim is young and
impressionable, so, with yawns and titters, Tavia finally quieted down to
sleep.



                               CHAPTER IV
                             THE APPARITION


It seemed to Dorothy that she had scarcely closed her eyes when she was
startled by someone moving about the room. She sat up straight to make
sure she was not dreaming, and then she saw a white object standing
before the mirror!

A beam of moonlight glimmered directly across the glass, and Dorothy
could now see that the figure was Tavia.

Surmising that her companion had merely arisen to get a throat lozenge,
for she had been taking them lately, Dorothy did not speak, expecting
Tavia to return to her bed directly.

But the girl stood there—so long and so still that Dorothy soon called to
her.

“What is the matter, Tavia?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing,” returned the other, without looking around.

“But what are you doing?”

“Making up,” and Dorothy could see her daubing cold cream over her face.

Still convinced that Tavia was busy with some ordinary toilet operation,
as she had, of late, become very particular about such matters, Dorothy
turned over and closed her eyes. But she could not sleep. Something
uncanny seemed to disturb her every time she appeared to be dropping off
into a doze.

Finally she sat up again. There was Tavia still before the mirror,
daubing something over her face.

“Tavia!” called Dorothy sharply. “What in the world are you doing?”

“Making up,” replied Tavia a second time, and without moving from her
original position.

Making up! Surely she was spreading cold cream and red crayon dust all
over her face! Had she lost her mind?

For an instant Dorothy stood watching her. But Tavia neither spoke nor
turned her head.

“Tavia!” she called, taking hold of the hand that held the red chalk.
Dorothy noticed that Tavia’s palm and fingers were cold and clammy! And
Tavia’s eyes were open, though they seemed sightless. Dorothy was
thoroughly frightened now. Should she call someone? Miss Higley had
charge of that wing of the school, and perhaps would know what to do. But
Dorothy hesitated to make a scene. Tavia was never ill, and if this was
only some queer spell it would not be pleasant to have others know about
it.

Then, feeling intuitively, that this “making up” should not be made a
public affair, Dorothy determined to get Tavia back into her own bed.

“Are you ill?” she asked, rubbing her own hand over her companion’s
greasy forehead.

“Ill? No, indeed,” Tavia replied, as mechanically as she had spoken
before. Still she smeared on the cold cream and red crayon.

“Come!” commanded Dorothy, and, to her amazement, the girl immediately
laid down the box of cream and the stick of chalk while Dorothy led her
to the bed and helped her to make herself comfortable on the pillows.

Then Dorothy quietly went to the dresser and lighted a tiny candle,
carrying it over to Tavia’s bedside.

Peering anxiously into her face she found her room-mate sleeping and
breathing naturally. There was no evidence of illness, and then, for the
first time, it occurred to Dorothy that Tavia had been walking in her
sleep! And making-up in her sleep!

What could it mean?

How ghastly that hideous color and the streaks made Tavia’s face appear!

And, as Dorothy sat beside the bed, gazing into that besmeared face,
while the flicker of the little candle played like a tiny lime-light over
the girl’s cruelly changed features, a strange fear came into Dorothy’s
heart!

After all, was Tavia going to disappoint her? Would she fail just when
she seemed to have turned the most dangerous corner in her short
career—that of stepping from the freedom of girlhood into the more
dignified realm of young-ladyship? And would she always be just ordinary
Tavia Travers? Always of contradictory impulses, was she never to be
relied upon—never to become a well-bred girl?

Tavia turned slightly and rubbed her hand across her face. She seemed to
breathe heavily, Dorothy thought, and, as she touched Tavia’s painted
cheek she was certain it was feverish. With that promptness of action
that had always characterized Dorothy’s work in real emergencies, she
snatched the cold cream from the dresser where Tavia had left it, and,
with deft fingers, quickly rubbed a generous supply over the face on the
pillows.

Although Tavia was waking now Dorothy was determined, if possible, to
remove all traces of the red paint before Tavia herself should know that
it had been on her cheeks. Briskly, but with a hand gentle and calm,
Dorothy rubbed the cream off on her own linen handkerchief, taking the
red mixture with it. Nothing was now left on Tavia’s face but a thin
coating of the cold cream. That could tell no tales.

Tavia turned to Dorothy and opened her eyes.

“What—what is the matter?” she asked, like one waking from a strange
dream.

“Nothing, dear,” answered Dorothy. “But I guess you had some night
vision,” and she placed the candle, still lighted, on the dresser.

“Did I call? Did I have the nightmare? Why are you not in bed?”

“I got up to see if you were all right,” answered Dorothy truthfully. “Do
you want anything? Shall I get you a nice cool drink from the ice tank?”

Tavia was rubbing her face.

“What’s this on my cheeks?” she asked, bringing down her hand, smeared
with cold cream.

“I thought you were feverish,” said Dorothy, “and I put a little cream on
your face—cold cream might be better than nothing, I thought, as we had
no alcohol.”

Tavia did not seem her natural self, and Dorothy, not slow to note the
change in her, was only waiting to see her companion more fully awake,
and so out of danger of being shocked suddenly, before calling for help,
or, at least, for some medicine.

“My head aches awfully,” said the girl on the bed. “I would like a drink
of water—if—if it is not too much trouble.”

A call bell was just at the door and Dorothy touched the gong as she went
out into the hall to get the water.

She had scarcely returned with the drink when Miss Higley, in gown and
slippers, entered the room. The light had been turned on by this time,
and Tavia could see that the teacher was present, but, whether too sick
or too sleepy to notice, she seemed to take the situation as a matter of
course, and simply drank the water that Dorothy held to her lips, then
sank wearily back on her pillow.

Miss Higley, without saying a word, picked up the hand that lay on the
coverlet and felt the pulse. Dorothy stood looking anxiously on.

Tavia really seemed sick, and the tinge of scarlet crayon, that remained
after Dorothy’s cold cream wash, added a higher tint to the feverish
flush that now suffused the girl’s cheeks.

“Yes, she has a fever,” whispered Miss Higley. “But it is not a very high
one. I will go and get my thermometer. Meanwhile pick up your garments,
Dorothy, so you can take my room, while I stay here the rest of the
night.”

Before Dorothy could answer Miss Higley had tiptoed noiselessly from the
apartment. Dorothy did not like to leave Tavia—surely it was not anything
that might be contagious. But when the teacher returned she insisted on
Dorothy going directly to the room at the end of the hall, while she took
up her post at the bedside of Tavia.

It seemed so hard to Dorothy to leave her friend there alone with a
comparative stranger. As she reluctantly closed the door on Tavia and
Miss Higley, Dorothy’s eyes were filled with tears. What could be the
matter? All the joking had turned into reality in that short time!

But Tavia was surely not suffering any pain, thought Dorothy, as she
seemed so sleepy and did not even murmur when Miss Higley gave her the
fever medicine. It flashed across Dorothy’s mind that it might have been
better to have acquainted Miss Higley with the way Tavia’s attack came
on—to tell her of the scene before the mirror—but somehow, Dorothy felt
that she should not be told—that it would be easier for Tavia if her
strange actions were not mentioned to any one—even to Tavia herself.
Dorothy felt the matter would not be a pleasant one to discuss.

And as no one knew it but Dorothy, she would keep it to herself, unless
some development in Tavia’s illness would make it necessary to give the
entire history of the case.

With a head almost bursting, it seemed, from the stress of the
complication of worry and anxiety, Dorothy finally settled down on Miss
Higley’s cretonne couch, while the teacher tried to make herself
comfortable in Dorothy’s place, and Tavia Travers lay still and heavy
with a fever, all unconscious of the changes that were going on about
her.



                               CHAPTER V
                           AN UNTIMELY LETTER


For three days after that eventful night Tavia was obliged to keep to her
room. She had a fever—from a cold the doctor thought—nothing contagious
he was positive—but, as a precautionary measure Dorothy was given another
room, until the fever should be entirely broken.

But the two friends were not to be separated much longer, for Tavia had
quite recovered now, and was up and about her room, receiving notes and
flowers from the girls, and recuperating generally.

“The first good rest I’ve had in months,” Tavia told Dorothy, as they sat
together again on the little window seat, looking out on the tennis
court.

“I do really believe you look better than you did before you were taken
ill,” agreed Dorothy, giving her friend a look of unmistakable
admiration.

“That’s lucky for me,” Tavia replied with something that sounded like a
sigh.

“Why?” asked Dorothy in some surprise.

“Oh, nothing,” was the answer, given rather evasively. “But a girl can’t
afford to get scrawny. Fancy yourself slinking down like a cornstalk in
the fall! Why, even the unapproachable Dorothy Dale could not well stand
the slinking process, to say nothing of an ordinary gawk like me going
through it,” and Tavia slyly looked into the mirror. She evidently had
some particular reason for being so anxious about her good looks.

Dorothy had been noticing this peculiarity of Tavia’s for some time—she
had been so extreme about her toilet articles—using cold cream to massage
her face daily, then brushing her hair ardently every night, to say
nothing of the steam baths she had been giving her face twice a week.

All this seemed very strange to Dorothy, but when she laughed at Tavia’s
new-found pastimes the latter declared she was going to look nice for the
summer; and that any girl who did not take care of herself externally was
quite as blamable as she who neglected the hidden beauty of heart or
brain.

And there was no denying that the “grooming” added much to the charms of
Tavia’s personality. Her hair was now wonderfully glossy, her cheeks
delicately pink, her arms round and her hands so shapely! All this,
applied to a girl who formerly protested against giving so much as half
an hour daily to her manicure needs!

Dorothy was anxious to have a serious talk with Tavia, but considered it
too soon after her illness to bring about that conversation, so she only
smiled now as Tavia set all her creams and stuffs in a row, then
stretched herself out “perfectly flat to relax,” as the book directions
called for. Fancy Tavia doing a thing like that!

“When I dare—that is as soon as that old Rip Van Winkle of a doctor lets
me off,” said Tavia suddenly, “I’m going to get a set of exercisers for
myself. I don’t believe we have half enough muscle work.”

“Why, my dear, one would imagine you were training for the circus ring,”
said Dorothy laughing.

“Hardly,” replied the other. “I never was keen on bouncing, and circus
turns all end with a bounce in the net. Those nets make me creepy—a
mattress for mine when on the rebound. Have you been to the post-office?”

“No, but I’m going. Want any stamps?”

“No. But if—if you get a letter for me I wish you wouldn’t put it into
Mrs. Pangborn’s box—I expect a little note from a girl, and I’m sure it
need not be censored, as the rest of the letters are.”

“But the rule,” Dorothy reminded her gently.

“I believe the United States postal laws are of more importance than the
silly, baby rules of Glenwood school,” snapped Tavia with unexpected
hauteur, “and it’s against the law for one person to open the letters of
another.”

“But Mrs. Pangborn takes the place of our mothers—she is really our
guardian when we enter her school. We agree to the rules before we are
taken in.”

“No, we were ‘taken in’ when we agreed to the rules,” persisted the
other. “Now, as it’s your turn to do the post office this week, I think
you might do me a little favor—I assure you the letter I expect is not
from some boy. Other girls can smuggle boys’ letters in, and yet I can’t
contrive to get a perfectly personal note from a perfectly sensible girl,
without the missive being—passed upon by—google-eyed Higley!”

“Oh, Tavia! And she was so kind to you when you were sick.”

“Was she? Then she ought to keep it up, and leave my letters alone!”

“Well,” sighed Dorothy rising, “I must go for the mail at any rate.”

“And you won’t save my one little letter?”

“How could I?” Dorothy pleaded.

“Then if you do get it—see it among the others—couldn’t you leave it
there? I will be able to walk down to the post office myself tomorrow.”

“But you couldn’t get the mail.”

“Oh, yes I could,” and Tavia tossed her head about defiantly.

Dorothy was certainly in a dilemma. But she was almost due at the
post-office, and could not stay longer to argue, so, clapping on her hat,
she bade Tavia good-bye for a short time.

“It palls on me,” Tavia told herself, as she again approached the glass
and took up the cold cream jar. “Who would ever believe that I would
stoop so low! To deceive my own darling Dorothy! And to make a fool of
myself with this ‘mugging’ as Nat would say.”

She dropped heavily into a chair. The thought of Dorothy and Nat had a
strange power over the girl—she seemed ashamed to look at her own face
when the memory of her dearest friends brought her back again to the old
time Tavia—the girl free from vanity and true as steel to Dorothy Dale.

“But the letter,” thought Tavia, recovering herself. “If that letter gets
into Mrs. Pangborn’s hands!”

Again she buried her face in her arms. Something seemed to sway her,
first one way, then the other. What had caused her to change so in those
last few short months? Why were her words so hollow now? Her own
“copyrighted” slang no longer considered funny, even by those girls most
devoted to her originality? And why, above all else, had she fallen ill
after that queer dream about making-up with the cold cream and the red
crayon?

“I’m afraid my mind was not built for secrets,” she concluded, “and if I
keep on moping this way I can’t say what will happen next.”

Meanwhile Dorothy was making her way back from the village with the
letters including one addressed to Octavia Travers. She had determined
not to make any attempt at giving the note to Tavia without the school
principal’s knowledge, for, somehow she feared Tavia’s honesty in such
matters, and, although Dorothy felt certain that Tavia would do nothing
she really believed to be wrong, she was afraid her chum might be misled
by some outside influence.

With a heavy heart Dorothy laid the mail down on Mrs. Pangborn’s desk.
That lady was just coming into the office as Dorothy was about to leave.

“Wait, dear,” said Mrs. Pangborn, “until I see if there is any mail for
the girls in your corridor. How is Octavia to-day? I hope she will be
able to go out by Sunday. Here, I guess this is a letter for her.”
Dorothy almost turned pale as the principal took up the small blue
envelope. “Just take it to her—perhaps it will cheer her up,” and she
handed Dorothy the missive without attempting to open it or question the
postmark. “There, I guess that is all I can give you,” and she put the
others in her desk. “Tell Tavia I am anxious to see her out of doors
again, and I hope her letter will have good news for her.”

Dorothy turned away with a smile of thanks, not venturing to say a word.
She held the blue envelope in her hand, as if it was some tainted thing,
for she well knew that the missive was not from home, the postmark
“Rochester” standing out plainly on the stamped corner.

Tavia saw her coming, and quickly caught sight of the envelope in her
hand.

“There, you old darling!” she exclaimed, giving Dorothy a vigorous hug.
“I knew you would bring it to me. How you did ever manage it?”

“Mrs. Pangborn sent it with kind wishes that it might contain good news,”
stammered Dorothy. “I made no attempt to get it to you without her
knowledge.”

“She had it? And gave it back to you? Why, Dorothy, if she had—but of
course it would not really have mattered,” and Tavia slipped the letter
into her blouse. “I’m awfully obliged. Did you hear from home?”

“No,” answered Dorothy simply, a flush covering her fair face as she saw
Tavia hide the letter. “I’m going out for a few minutes—so you may read
that very important note, Tavia.”



                               CHAPTER VI
                              ON THE LAWN


“When I was a very small girl,” exclaimed Mollie Richards, otherwise
known as Dick, “I used to hope I would die young so I could escape the
tooth-filling process, but here I am, doing these dreadful exams, and I
haven’t died yet.”

“Never despair,” quoted Rose-Mary. “The worst is yet to come.”

“Cheer up, fellows,” lisped little Nita Brandt, “We’ve been promised a
clam-bake when it’s all over.”

“Yes, I fancy it will be all over with me when that clam-bake arrives,”
sighed Edna Black. “Since Tavia has ‘turned turtle’ I don’t even have the
fun of sneezing for exercise.”

“It’s an ill wind—and so on,” ventured Dick. “That was a most abominable
habit of yours—sneezing when you were too lazy to open your mouth to
laugh.”

“But I never would have believed that Tavia would get so—so—”

“Batty,” finished Amy Brooks. “It’s slang, but I know of no English word
into which the explicit ‘batty’ may be translated.”

“And Tavia of all girls,” added Ned, ponderingly.

“But it seems to agree with her,” declared Cologne. “Haven’t you noticed
her petal complexion?”

“Too much like the drug store variety,” objected Nita. “I like something
more substantial.”

“Sour grapes,” fired back Ned, who could always be depended on to take
Tavia’s part. “Yours is so perfect—”

“Oh, I know—freckles,” admitted the confused Nita with a pout. “Fair
skins always freckle.”

“Then why don’t you close the ‘fair’ and raffle off,” suggested Dick.
“Much easier than sleeping in lemon juice every night.”

“Molly Richards, you’re too smart!” snapped the abused one.

“Not altogether so,” replied Dick. “At least this abominable French can’t
prove it. I have always believed that the only way to acquire a good
French accent would be to get acute tonsilitis. Then one might choke out
the gutterals beautifully.”

The girls of Glenwood school were supposed to be busy preparing for
examinations. They had congregated in little knots, out of doors,
scattering under the leafing oaks, and the temptation to gossip was
evidently more than mere girls could withstand amid such surroundings.

“There’s Dorothy now,” announced Cologne, as the latter turned into the
path.

“Yes, and there’s Tavia,” followed Ned, showing keen pleasure as the late
absent one made her appearance on the lawn.

“Now we will have a chance to study her complex—” lisped Nita with rather
a malicious tone.

“Suit you better to study your complex—verbs,” snapped Ned, while Tavia
and Dorothy came up at that moment.

Profuse greetings were showered upon Tavia, for the girls were well
pleased to have her back with them, and it must be admitted that every
eye which turned toward her came back in an unanimous vote “beautiful.”
Even Nita did not dare cast a dissenting glance—she could not, for indeed
Tavia had improved wonderfully, as we have seen, under the “grooming.”

Her hazel eyes shown brighter than ever in her clear peach-blow skin, her
hair was not now “too near red” as Nita had been in the habit of
declaring, but a true chestnut brown, and as “glossy as her new tan
shoes,” whispered Ned to Cologne.

Tavia wore her brown gingham dress, and much to the surprise of her
companions, had “her neck turned in.”

“What happened to your collar?” asked Dick, with a merry twinkle in her
eyes.

“I happened to it,” answered Tavia promptly. “No sense in having one’s
neck all marked up from collars—going about advertising capital
punishment.”

“Behold the new woman! We will make her president of our peace
conference. But of course we would not expect her to settle her own
‘squabs’ with Nita. We will have a committee of subs, for that department
of the work,” said Cologne as she made room for Dorothy at her side,
being anxious to get a private word with her. Tavia found a place between
Ned and Dick, and soon the others were at least pretending to be at their
books, realizing that too much time had already been wasted on outside
matters.

The morning typified one of those rare days in June, and the girls on the
lawn were like human spring blossoms—indeed what is more beautiful than a
wholesome, happy young girl?

She need not be especially beautiful in feature, for health and happiness
make her irresistible to the real student of beauty, and the wonderful
charm of human life seems nowhere to be so perfectly depicted as in the
personality of a young girl.

“At last,” announced Lena Berg, rolling over as the bell for recreation
sounded, ending the period of open-air study usually allowed at this
season.

Instantly the others were on their feet, and, as quickly had paired off
for their favorite pastime. Ned and Tavia were together, Dorothy was with
Cologne, and the others had selected their companions to suit their
particular fancy.

“Say, Parson,” began Cologne, using the name made for Dorothy from her
initials “D. D.,” and placing her arm about Dorothy’s waist, “we’ve got a
great scheme on. We’re going swimming!”

“Swimming!” Dorothy almost screamed.

“Exactly that,” insisted Cologne. “Mrs. Pangborn has given the permission
and we are to go to Squinty Lake to-morrow afternoon.”

“Squinty Lake?” echoed Dorothy in surprise.

“Well, they call it Sunset, you know, but Ned declares it is ‘Squinty’ as
no one can look out of the front of her eyes on the shores of it. But
isn’t it too giddy—to go swimming so early. And to think that Higley is
the best swimmer of the respected faculty. Now if our dear little Camille
Crane were here—Feathers, you know. But I don’t suppose she will be back
to the bench this season. Wasn’t it too bad she should break down?”
rattled on Cologne. “But for the swimming! Aren’t you perfectly
delighted? You haven’t said a single word.”

“Why I haven’t had a chance,” replied Dorothy laughing. “Of course it is
lovely to think you can go.”

“I can go! Aren’t you going?”

“I don’t believe so. Tavia is so fond of swimming, and I am sure she
would not dare go in the water so soon after her fever. So I guess I’ll
stay home to keep her company.”

“Oh, you silly!” exclaimed Cologne. “Why should you stay out on her
account?” and, possibly there was a note of jealousy in the girl’s tone,
and a hint of it in her manner. “I’m very sure she wouldn’t do as much
for you.”

“Indeed she would, Cologne,” Dorothy hurried to say. “You have no idea
how kind Tavia can be and has been to me. Why, when I was sick home in
Dalton, she stayed with me night and day.”

“Well, I can’t see why you shouldn’t go in bathing when you get a chance.
Precious seldom the chance comes at Glenwood.”

“I suppose Mrs. Pangborn has hired the beach,” ventured Dorothy.

“Yes, worse luck. Afraid any one would see our orphan asylum bathing
suits.”

“Indeed, I think those brown suits very pretty,” objected Dorothy. “I
thought so when I saw them taken out this spring. Of course I have never
worn one.”

“Of course you haven’t,” agreed Cologne. “That’s why you like ’em, but
you should try to swim dog fashion in one of those knickerbockers. The
skirts are built for hoops, but they seemed to run short of goods on the
bloomers.”

“But it is awfully good of Mrs. Pangborn to provide for bathing when we
will soon be at our own summer quarters for it.”

“Yes, I admitted that much at the start, if you will remember. But,
really, Doro, you had better make up your mind to go in. It’s all
nonsense to stay out to keep Tavia company. I’m sure she would rather see
you in the swim.”

“I’ll see,” answered Dorothy, as they turned back into the path that led
to the Hall.



                              CHAPTER VII
                             AT SUNSET LAKE


The day following proved to be one of those exceptionally warm days that
occasionally come at the end of June, with the express purpose, it would
seem, of making life unbearable for those engaged in finishing up a term
at school. All the morning the Glenwood pupils lived on the thoughts of
the promised swim, to come that afternoon. When dismissal hour did
finally drag around little attention was paid to luncheon, all minds and
hearts being set on the jaunt to Sunset Lake. This was a summer resort
not far from the school, and there was a good sandy stretch for bathing.
The season had hardly opened yet, and Mrs. Pangborn was thus able to hire
for that afternoon the exclusive right of the sandy shore for her pupils.

Dorothy and Tavia were to go, although neither expected to take the lake
bath, for Dorothy was firm in her resolve to stay with Tavia, and so
forego one of her favorite pastimes, for Dorothy Dale was counted an
excellent swimmer.

In high glee the party started off, under the chaperonage of Miss Higley,
and even those pupils who insisted that she was “a bear” were forced to
admit that, on this occasion, she was “as meek as a lamb.” The fact was
that Miss Higley loved swimming, and knew she was expert at the exercise.
So the promised sport was especially welcome to her.

Along the shady road to the lake Dorothy laughed and chatted as merrily
as did the others, but Tavia was inclined to pout. She had begged to be
allowed to go into the water, declaring that she was entirely recovered
and that the swim would do her good. But Mrs. Pangborn would not consent,
so Tavia was to take what enjoyment she could derive from watching the
others.

When the Glenwood girls reached Sunset Beach the entrance gate to the
bathing grounds was locked against all outsiders. A row of bathing houses
was placed at the disposal of the young ladies, and there was a matron in
attendance. In fact, the pleasure grounds were turned over entirely to
Mrs. Pangborn’s pupils and the presence of the white-aproned attendant
gave the place a look of the utmost propriety. On this occasion,
likewise, the life guard was banished, and, as Dick expressed it, “there
never was a man in sight when the girls in brown took their annual.”

While the others were “making themselves frog-like” in the aforementioned
suits, Dorothy and Tavia established themselves in an old boat on the
shore of the lake.

It was their first visit to the resort as it was their first summer term
at Glenwood, and the two girls were charmed with the pretty, picturesque
surroundings.

“Not much like our pond in Dalton,” Tavia observed, viewing the placid
lake with its great open expanse of sunlit waters.

“No, but that was a splendid little pond for swimming,” Dorothy reminded
her companion, never relishing any aspersions thrown in the direction of
“dear old Dalton.”

Soon some of the girls appeared on the little boardwalk bordering the
lake, and, in unheard of politeness, waited for Miss Higley to come out
and take the first plunge. That formality being over there was a wild
rush for the water, each one of the girls expecting to have a better time
than any of the others.

Nita Brandt and Adele Thomas had not yet learned to swim, so these two
were provided with a pair of water-wings to support them, and they
“floundered around like a couple of ferry boats,” Tavia declared, as they
made all sorts of vain attempts to strike out like the others.

Dick and Cologne were soon engaged in a race, from one float to the
other, doing the overhand stroke, and making a fine showing for the first
of the season efforts.

“You’re exceeding the speed limit!” shouted Tavia from the boat, as she
stood up in the stern and viewed the race with unconcealed interest.

“Get out of the way!” called a dozen voices as the twain with their
water-wings anchored directly in Dick’s course.

But the girls floating on the wings could not get upon their feet for
they were in water about up to their heads. Every effort they made to
touch bottom seemed to send their faces down, while simultaneously two
pair of stockings would shoot up above the surface of the lake.

Miss Higley instantly realized that Nita and Adele were out too far—that
they were beyond their depth and therefore in danger should the wings
(which were muslin bags blown up) burst or slip from under their arms.
She did not wait to see the result of the race, but struck out for the
now thoroughly frightened girls, who were calling in vain for some one to
help them to shore.

As Miss Higley reached them, Dick and Cologne, who had not grasped the
situation, came gliding up to the same spot, almost side by side, working
earnestly, each to outdistance the other in reaching the float which was
the goal.

“Here!” shouted Miss Higley to them. “Stop! Never mind the race! Help get
these two girls in. They’re exhausted!”

The two swimmers veered around to Nita and Adele. Yes, Nita was gasping!
She had evidently swallowed considerable water. And Adele could not
attempt another stroke—her limbs seemed paralyzed.

Without speaking, thinking to save her breath for the struggle, Cologne
took a position between the badly frightened girls, while Miss Higley and
Dick swung around so that each could grasp an arm, one of Nita and the
other of Adele. In this manner the three swimmers towed to shore those
who had ventured too far on the water-wings.

For a few minutes there was plenty of excitement at Sunset Beach,
everyone gathering around the rescued ones, suggesting both restoratives
and punishments to close the incident.

Miss Higley quietly waited for the girls to recover their breaths and
other faculties that had been temporarily suspended during the mishap,
and then asked why they had ventured out so far.

“We didn’t,” gulped Nita. “We just stayed perfectly still and we kept
going along.”

“Well,” finished Miss Higley, “you must not again get on those wings
without some one at hand to help you, or until you can manage them
better. I’m thankful nothing worse happened.”

So Nita and Adele, much chagrined and more disappointed, were obliged to
spend the remainder of their swimming time with Dorothy and Tavia on the
beach, as wading did not suit them after their attempt at swimming,
unsuccessful as it had proven.

As the afternoon waned the interest in the water exercise grew keener,
and those who could trust themselves were indulging in all sorts of
“stunts,” sliding down an inclined wooden chute, and diving from a spring
board. Miss Higley posted herself near the danger line, realizing that
she must act as guard and look out for the safety of the swimmers.

Presently some one suggested an endurance trial, and this attracted
almost all the girls away from the chute over toward the stretch of deep
water.

But Edna Black did not join the racers. She had never before tried
“shooting the chutes” and was infatuated with the sport. Time after time
she climbed the little ladder and as quickly slid down the curved,
inclined plank into the water again. Dorothy and Tavia were watching her
from the shore, calling to her in merry nonsense and joking about her
sliding propensities.

“Going down!” called Tavia as Edna took one more slide.

They waited—but she did not come up!

Miss Higley, too, was watching for the young diver’s re-appearance.

Ten—twenty—she counted, but Edna did not come up. Then, from the very top
of the slide, where she had taken her position some time before to better
watch all the girls, Miss Higley dove into the water after Edna, cleaving
the fifteen feet of distance from the surface like a flash.

Dorothy and Tavia stood breathless—watching for either Miss Higley or
Edna to come to the top.

It seemed ages—yes, it was too long to stay under water. What had
happened to Miss Higley? Where was Edna?

An instant later, Dorothy and Tavia—without exchanging a word—kicked off
their slippers and were in the water! There was no time to call to the
girls farther out. Not a swimmer was near enough to offer help!

Their light summer clothing seemed to make little difference to these two
country girls, who had learned to swim in Dalton pond, and, in a few
seconds, both had reached the spot where Edna and the teacher had
disappeared.

Tavia was the first to dive, and, in a few seconds she came up with Edna,
white and unconscious, in her arms.

“Hold her—while I try—for Miss Higley!” cried Dorothy, as Tavia,
supporting her burden on one arm and grasped the cross bar of the chute
with her other and yelled for help.

Dorothy was now under water, groping for the other lost one. But she had
to come up for air without bringing Miss Higley.

Down she went again, taking a long breath and determining to remain under
until she could get a grip on the clothing of the teacher. Now the others
were close at hand to assist Tavia in caring for Edna. Down and down
Dorothy went, the water gurgling in her ears—down and down into the
depths.

It seemed as if she could not stand the strain and pressure. A trail of
bubbles and a swirl of the surface of the lake marked where she had
disappeared.

Rose-Mary and Dick were the first to reach Tavia, and they at once took
charge of the unconscious one, floating her to shore between them. Then
others came up to the chute, white, frightened and trembling at the news
Tavia gasped out to them. So alarmed were they that none of them dared
venture to help Dorothy down there in the blackness and silence, at her
grewsome task.

Tavia, as soon as she had recovered her breath, had started off to assist
Dick and Rose-Mary in bringing Edna to shore, as the task was no light
one for the three swimmers. Then, as she got into shallow water Tavia
turned, suddenly remembering something, and shouted to the girls about
the chute:

“Go for Dorothy! She is under there, looking for Miss Higley!”

But, as one or two of the braver girls, feeling the need of action,
prepared to dive, they saw the pale face of Dorothy Dale come to the
surface, and they saw that, in her arms, she held clasped the form of
Miss Higley. But the hand that Dorothy stretched out to grasp the bottom
of the chute, that she might support herself and the inert burden, just
failed to catch hold of the wooden brace, and, amid a swirl of waters
Dorothy went down again, out of sight, with the unconscious teacher.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                           A LIVELY AFTERNOON


There followed an eternity of suspense for those watching for the
reappearance of Dorothy. The missing of the hold she expected to get on
the board and the effort to keep Miss Higley up, together with the
struggle she had gone through, caused the girl to lose all control of
herself. She had sunk instantly without having any opportunity of using
her free arm to keep herself above water.

Seeing this Rose-Mary and Molly, who had climbed out on the base of the
chute, jumped into the lake again, making for the spot where they saw
Dorothy go down the second time.

But before they could reach it they saw Dorothy’s head above the surface.
She had come up under the chute, in an open square of water, formed by
the four supporting posts of the affair. Cautiously she reached out and
caught hold of a beam. Then another arm was seen to grasp a projecting
plank! Miss Higley was struggling!

She was not dead! Not unconscious!

“Dorothy!” screamed Tavia from shore, as she saw the form of her chum
come to the surface the second time. But Tavia did not see Dorothy wave a
reassuring hand at her as she climbed up on the chute, and helped Miss
Higley support herself across one of the base planks. For Tavia had
fallen unconscious beside Edna, who was only just beginning to show signs
of life under the prompt administrations of Rose-Mary and Dick.

In all this confusion the white-aproned matron forgot to use her
telephone. But, as she now assisted the other girls in working over Edna,
she directed some of the swimmers, who had come to shore, to look after
Tavia.

Lena Berg, the quietest girl of Glenwood, rushed into the bathing office
and telephoned to Central to “send doctors.” Almost before those working
over Edna and Tavia had realized it, and, almost as soon as the throng of
young ladies had started to assist Miss Higley and Dorothy to shore, an
automobile with two doctors in it stopped at the gate. The physicians
were soon working over Tavia and Edna.

A few seconds later Rose-Mary and Molly pulled up to shore in an old boat
they had found anchored near the chute, and in the craft, which they
rowed with a broken canoe paddle, were Dorothy and Miss Higley!

As so often happens that one small accident is responsible for any number
of mishaps, especially where girls or women become panic-stricken, it
seemed now that the rescue of Miss Higley and Dorothy acted like magic to
restore all four victims of the water to their senses, at least, if not
to actual vigor. Tavia and Edna both jumped up as the boat grounded on
the beach, and Miss Higley and Dorothy staggered ashore.

“Be careful,” cautioned one of the physicians, as the teacher was seen to
totter, and almost fall. She was plainly very weak, and, while the
younger doctor looked after Dorothy the other, who was his father, took
Miss Higley into the bathing pavilion office to administer to her there.

Tavia had only fainted. Indeed she had been scarcely able to swim out to
help Edna, not being entirely recovered from her recent nervous fever.
Edna had swallowed considerable water, but it was fresh, and when she had
been relieved of it, and the usual restoratives applied, she, too, was
herself again.

Dorothy insisted there was absolutely nothing the matter with her, but it
was plain that such physical efforts as she had been obliged to make in
her rescue of Miss Higley, must at least exhaust a girl of her frail
physique. So young Dr. Morton insisted on her being assisted in a
“thorough rub.” Then she was given a warm, stimulating drink, and, soon
after that, Dorothy was able to tell what had happened.

An hour later all the brown bathing suits had been discarded, Tavia and
Dorothy had been supplied with dry clothing, and all the Glenwood girls
who had come to Sunset Lake sat on the rocky shore back of the sand,
waiting for the hour to arrive when they must start back to the school.
There was no lack of talk to make the time pass quickly.

Miss Higley seemed the least perturbed of any—she had a way of always
being beyond a mere personal feeling. She never “allowed herself” to
encourage pains or aches; in fact she was one of those strong-minded
women who believe that all the troubles of this life are hatched in the
human brain, and, therefore the proper cure for all ills is the
eradication of the germ producer—sick-thoughts. So, as soon as she felt
her lungs in working order again she “took the defensive” as Tavia
expressed it, and sat up as “straight as a whip,” with her glasses at
exactly the proper pitch and the black cord at precisely the accustomed
dangle.

“Mar-vel-ous!” gasped Dick, aside, giving the long word an inimitable
roll, and, at the same time, bestowing a wondering look on the recently
resuscitated teacher.

“But do tell us,” begged Rose-Mary, “what happened first—of all those
exciting things?”

“I did,” answered Edna Black. “I was shooting the chute to my heart’s
content, when, all of a sudden, I stuck somewhere. Then, after trying
everything I knew how to do to get loose, I said my prayers.”

“Next,” called Rose-Mary, indicating Tavia.

“Well, of course,” began Tavia, “Dorothy and I were not to go near the
water, but when we saw Edna turn up missing we just kicked off our
slippers and, in the language of the poets, ‘got busy.’ I found Ned here,
first shot, stuck in between the two corner boards of the chute posts.
She didn’t need any coaxing to come up, once I untangled her skirt from a
nail which held it fast, and I brought her up without any unnecessary
explanations.”

“And, in the meantime Miss Higley had gone down,” interjected Dorothy.
“That is she went down after Edna first.”

“And came up last,” added the teacher, with a significant nod to Dorothy.

“How did you find Miss Higley, Parson?” Rose-Mary continued to question,
with a view to getting the entire story.

“I found her in a mud hole, held fast, but able to help herself somewhat.
Then I—I got her up—somehow—.”

“Indeed I was almost unconscious until you dragged my head up to the
air,” Miss Higley hastened to say, anxious to give Dorothy her due, for
certainly the rescue was a matter of heroic effort, and Miss Higley,
being heavy, and, at the same time, unable to help herself, gave Dorothy
the most difficult of all the surprising tasks of that eventful
afternoon.

“But when she sank that time—like a stone,” suggested Dick to Dorothy.

“Oh, I merely missed catching hold of a plank and I had to go down—I
couldn’t keep up.”

“Certainly; why not?” put in Nita Brandt, glad to be able to say
something “safe.”

“And you, Lispy,” said Lena to Nita. “You and Adele started the epidemic
with your water wings. Next time make it life preservers.”

The girlish spirits, “bottled up” during the period of worry came out
with a resounding “pop” now, and the walk home proved even pleasanter
than the one to the beach.

“For now,” declared Ned, between her jokes, “we are like the man who
laughed at the ugly cow from inside the fence—he found it much funnier to
laugh at the cow from outside the fence.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                           DOROTHY AND TAVIA


For more than a week after the happenings at Sunset Lake the pupils of
Glenwood School had little time for anything outside of the regular
program of the institution. It was a matter of sleep, eat, exercise, then
study and recite, and then the same schedule was begun all over again the
following day. But this was the end of the term and so much remained to
be done that it was necessary to “keep going” as the girls expressed it,
so that the “last day” would find the records of the year’s work up to
the usual high standard.

“This mental house-cleaning is perfectly terriblocious!” declared Tavia
one morning, showing her aptitude at coining alleged new words, this one
being a “contraction” of terrible and ferocious.

“But how nice it will be when we are all done,” Dorothy reminded her,
taking up her books and papers, to attend the last exercise in
mathematics.

“Perhaps,” sighed Tavia.

The conversation was ended abruptly by the sound of the bell summoning
the girls to class, and they went back to the “house-cleaning,” each
doing her best to finish honorably, in spite of the difference of their
respective motives.

That evening Dorothy and Tavia went to their room early. Tavia seemed
tired, and Dorothy did not wish to disturb her by coming in later.

Neither appeared inclined to talk, and, as Tavia went through her
elaborate toilet preparations (the facial massage and all the
accompaniments) Dorothy watched her in silence.

Strange as it was to believe Tavia so vain, Dorothy had become accustomed
to this nightly process, and now accepted it without comment. Neither had
she ever told Tavia of that night when, in her sleep, she had gone
through the making-up process.

But school would soon be over—and then—

For some time Dorothy had been putting off a talk she desired to have
with Tavia—a talk about their vacation plans. Somehow she dreaded to
undertake the topic that Tavia had been so obviously avoiding. But
to-night Dorothy felt that she must have an understanding—she must know
where her room-mate intended to spend her vacation.

Dorothy was just about to broach the subject when Tavia suddenly turned
to her with this surprising question:

“Dorothy, do you think I’m pretty?”

“Why, of course you are,” stammered Dorothy. “You know I have always
thought you—pretty.”

“But I do not mean what you always thought, Doro. I am awfully serious
now. Am I really pretty?”

“I don’t know,” replied her chum. “I could not tell what others might
think—but I have always thought you the prettiest kind of a girl—you know
that.”

“But do you think that in—in a crowd I might be considered—attractive?
Are my features good? Do I look—look interesting?”

This was said with such apparent simplicity that Dorothy almost laughed.
There stood a pretty girl—without question a remarkably pretty girl—of a
most unusual type—and she was begging for a compliment—no, for an opinion
of her personality!

Dorothy did not answer. She could not possibly say that at that moment
Tavia was a perfect vision, as she stood in her white robe, with her
freshly-brushed hair framing the outline of her sweet, young face. But
the girl before the mirror wanted to know.

“Dorothy, do tell me,” she begged. “What do you think? Am I pretty, or
not?”

“Tavia,” exclaimed Dorothy suddenly, “tell _me_, why do you want to
know?”

“Why,” and Tavia laughed a little to gain time, “I think any girl ought
to know just—what she is like.”

“But all this—this fussing. Why do you do it?”

“To experiment,” and Tavia laughed lightly. “They say one can do wonders
with a little care. I am tired of reading that in the magazines so I
thought I would just try it.” She had finished with the glycerine and
rose water now, so the “stuffs” were put away and Tavia sank down with a
“glad-of-it” sigh.

“Of course,” began Dorothy, breaking into the topic of summer vacation,
“you will go home first, before you come to North Birchland. You will
want to see everybody in Dalton—I wish I could go along with you. But I
have no home in Dalton now.”

“Come with me,” suggested Tavia. “We have plenty of room.”

“Oh, I was only romancing. Of course I should like to see everybody in
dear old Dalton, but I have to go to daddy and the boys. Isn’t it
splendid to have a vacation? It makes school worth while.”

“Yes,” replied Tavia, vaguely, preparing to turn out the light.

“When do you think you will come to North Birchland?” asked Dorothy
directly.

“I can’t tell. I expect to visit Grace Barnum in Buffalo. Her folks are
old friends of mother’s. I had a letter from her yesterday, especially
inviting me.”

“Oh, did you?” and Dorothy looked surprised. “I did not hear you speak of
going to Buffalo. I thought you intended to come to Birchland as soon as
you had seen your folks. You know Aunt Winnie expects you. And so do the
boys.”

“Oh, I’ll get to the Birches some time during the summer I guess,” Tavia
hurried to say, as she noted Dorothy’s disappointment. “You can depend
upon it I expect to have some of the fine times—you are not to have a
monopoly of the good things.”

“Then you are going to Dalton first, then to Buffalo, and what time do
you count on getting to Birchland?” persisted Dorothy, determined to
know, if possible, just what Tavia’s plans really were.

“Oh, my dear,” and Tavia indulged in a discordant yawn, “do let’s go to
sleep. I’m almost dead.”

“But, Tavia, you always make some excuse when I ask you about vacation,”
and Dorothy’s tone was in no way drowsy—she certainly was not sleepy.

“And you always ask such unreasonable questions,” retorted Tavia. “Just
as if I can tell what may happen between now and—midsummer.”

“Tavia!” exclaimed Dorothy with a sob. “I feel just as if something
dreadful was going to happen. I don’t know why but you—you have—changed
so,” and the girl buried her head in her pillow and cried as if something
“dreadful” had really happened.

“Doro, dear,” and Tavia clasped the weeping girl in her arms, “what can
be the matter? What have I done? You know I love you better than anyone
in the whole world, and now you accuse me of changing!”

“But you have changed,” insisted Dorothy, sobbing bitterly. “Everybody is
talking about it. And if you knew what a time I have had trying—trying to
stand up for you!”

“To stand up for me!” repeated Tavia. “What have I done that need provoke
comment? Surely it is my own business if I do not choose to be the school
monkey any longer. Let some of the others turn in and serve on the
giggling committee. I think I have done my share!”

“Oh, it isn’t that,” and Dorothy jabbed her handkerchief into her eyes,
“but you are so—so different. You always seem to be thinking of something
else.”

“Something else!” and Tavia tried to laugh. “Surely it is no crime to
be—thoughtful?”

“Well, I think it is perfectly dreadful for a girl to go and grow
straight up—without any warning.”

“What an old lady I must be,” and Tavia looked very severe and dignified.
“But, Doro dear, you need not worry. You surely believe I would never do
anything I really thought wrong.”

“That’s just it. You would not think it wrong, but suppose you did
something that turned out to be wrong?”

Tavia made no answer but the “old lady” look came back into her face—that
serious expression so new to her. She seemed to be looking far ahead—far
away—at some uncertain, remote possibility.

For several minutes neither girl spoke. They could hear the “miscreants”
who had been out after hours creeping past their door. Every one in
Glenwood should be asleep. The last hall light had just been turned
out—but the girls from Dalton were still thinking.

Dorothy, usually the one to mend matters, to-night seemed sullen and
resolute. Plainly Tavia was hiding something from her, and while Dorothy
could bear with any amount of mistakes or impulsive little wrongdoings,
she could not put up with a deliberate slight—a premeditated act of
deception.

Tavia saw that she was bound to hold out—to insist upon a “clearing up,”
and, as this did not suit her, for reasons best known to herself, she
attempted to pet Dorothy back to her usual forgiving mood.

But the storm that had been so long brewing was in no hurry to blow over,
and Dorothy went to bed with swollen eyes and an aching head, while Tavia
only pretended to sleep—she had an important letter to write—an answer to
the one that had come in on the evening mail, and required to be replied
to by return of post. This meant that the missive must be penned that
night and dropped in the post-office the very first thing in the morning.

“Dear little Dorothy,” Tavia murmured as she looked down on the fair
face, to make sure that the eyes were resting in sleep, “I will never do
anything to disgrace _you_. Only have a little patience and you will
understand it all. But I must—must—” and then she broke off with a long,
long sigh.



                               CHAPTER X
                            LEAVING GLENWOOD


But one more day remained of the school term at Glenwood. All the tests
had been concluded, and, as there were to be no formal exercises the
“last day” was given over entirely to packing up, and making ready for
the departure from the institution.

Dorothy and Tavia were busy with the others. To Dorothy the prospect of
seeing her dear ones so soon, filled every thought of this day’s work.
Tavia, too, seemed more like her old self and “jollied the girls” as she
flung things into her trunk with her usual disregard for order.

“They’ll all have to come out again,” she replied to Dorothy’s
remonstrance, “so what’s the use of being particular how they go in?”

“But your pretty Christmas bag,” begged Dorothy. “Do be careful not to
crush that.”

“Oh, indeed there’s nothing to crush. I took the ribbons out of it for
the neck and sleeves of my white lawn, and when I extracted them from the
flowered stuff there was nothing left but a perfectly flat piece of
cretonne, with a row of little brass rings on one side. I just ran a bit
of faded ribbon through the rings—and just wait until I show you.”

At this Tavia plunged her hands down into the depths of her trunk and
presently brought up the article in question.

“There!” she exclaimed, clapping the bag on her head. “Isn’t that a
pretty sunbonnet?”

Dorothy beheld it in amazement.

“It certainly does look sweet on you,” she said, “but what in the world
will you want a fancy sunbonnet for? Surely you will not use it in
Dalton—and in Buffalo—”

“I think it would make a tremendous hit in Buffalo,” declared Tavia,
wheeling around to show off the effect of her thick brown hair beneath
the little row of brass rings that held the ribbon which bound the bit of
flowered stuff to her neck. At the front her face seemed to fit exactly,
and surely nothing could be more becoming than that Christmas bag.

“Oh, I think it’s a shame,” faltered Dorothy, “to spoil that beautiful
bag to make a plaything.”

“But we all have to have ‘playthings,’” said Tavia, with a strong accent
on the word “play.” Then, with one more swing around, like a figure in a
show case, Tavia took off the sunbonnet and went on with her packing.

“It seems so queer,” Dorothy remarked, sliding her tennis racquet down
the side of her trunk, “that we should be going in different directions.
We have always been able to help each other in the packing before.”

“Well, I’d just like to leave half my old truck behind,” replied Tavia,
“and I don’t know but what I will have to if this trunk won’t stretch a
little. It’s chock full now, and just look at the commotion on the
floor.”

“I told you,” insisted Dorothy, “that you would have to put the things in
differently. Now you will have to take them all out again and roll them
up tight. You can get twice as much in that way.”

“Take them all out!” Tavia almost shrieked. “Never!” And, following this
exclamation the girl jumped into the trunk and proceeded to dance the
“trunk traveler’s jig” on the unfortunate collection of baggage.

“Tavia! Don’t!” begged Dorothy. “I’m sure I heard something break.”

“Oh, that was my last summer’s hat breaking up its plans for this year. I
put it in the bottom in hopes that it would meet an untimely end, but I
really did not intend to murder it,” she joked, stepping out of the
trunk.

“But at any rate,” she went on, as she flung part of the “commotion” off
the floor into the hollow she had succeeded in making for the various
articles, “the poor old thing will take up less room dead than alive, and
there will be no possible danger of my having to wear it for a turn or
two when I get home. Nothing like getting in one’s supplies while you’re
fresh—before the folks have a chance to get too friendly with you. I’ve
found that out.”

“But it was a real pretty hat.”

“Well, even pretty hats are not immune from accidents, and you saw
yourself that it was an accident—pure and simple.”

A half hour later all the trunks had been packed, and the two Dalton
girls sat in their little room exchanging confidences and making all
sorts of school-girl promises of writing often, and sending pretty cards,
besides having photographs taken of which to make especially affectionate
remembrances.

“I’ll send you one just as soon as I get to Buffalo,” Tavia declared,
holding Dorothy very close, for the latter seemed much inclined to cry as
the hour of parting drew near.

“But it will be so lonely in North Birchland without you,” persisted
Dorothy, with a sob. “I do wish you would give up that trip to Buffalo.”

Tavia assured her chum that it would be impossible as she had promised
Grace Barnum to go to her home to visit her.

Dorothy finally jumped up and made an effort to pull herself together.
She went over to the dresser and picked up a book.

“Is this yours?” she began, and then stopped suddenly. It was a gust of
wind that had blown up the thin strip of muslin covering the top of the
dresser and revealed the little red book. It had been concealed there
and, as Dorothy took it up she saw on the cover:

                               HOW TO ACT
                        _The Beginner’s Guide._

Tavia was at the other end of the room and did not at once see the book
in Dorothy’s hand.

“Did you—do you—want—this?” Dorothy stammered, again holding the volume
out toward Tavia.

A deep flush instantly came over Tavia’s face. Dorothy was watching her
with a look—a look at once pleading and full of sadness.

Tavia put out her hand for the book.

“Oh, that funny little leaflet,” she tried to say as if it were a joke.
“I suppose I might just as well take it, but it’s full of the worst sort
of nonsense. Let me show you—”

“Oh, no; don’t bother,” replied Dorothy, rather stiffly. “But that seems
a queer sort of a book to take home from boarding school. Hadn’t you
better destroy it, as you say it is all nonsense?”

The red covers of the pamphlet fluttered in Tavia’s hand. The flush on
her cheeks threatened to match the hue of the book and told its own
guilty story.

“Oh, I might as well take it with me,” and Tavia’s words sounded rather a
lame excuse. “It will be amusing to read on the train.”

“Oh, Tavia!” Dorothy burst into tears. “Won’t you give up—those stage
notions? Do, please!” and she clasped her arms about her chum, weeping
bitterly.

“Oh, don’t! Dorothy don’t cry so!” begged Tavia, stroking the yellow
head. “I will give it up—all up! Yes, Dorothy, dear, listen! Look here!”
and at that Dorothy raised her head.

With her hands free Tavia tore the little red book into shreds and tossed
them into the waste basket.

“There!” she exclaimed. “I’m through with—through with all of it! I don’t
want to know how to act! I’ll never try! Dorothy! Dorothy!” and the
miserable girl threw herself upon the bed in a frenzy of grief and
excitement. “Just forgive me for it all—for trying to deceive you. I have
been wretched all through it—and I only want you—and all the others—just
as you used to be. I don’t believe in ambition!” She stood upright. “I’ll
go home to dear, old Dalton, and stay there until—until I come to you at
North Birchland.”

When the other girls tapped on the door of room nineteen late that
afternoon, to say good-bye, they found two very happy young maidens
waiting for the particular carriage that was to take them to the depot.
Dorothy and Tavia could not be separated. They clung to each other in
spite of all the invitations to “do the rounds” and join in the last and
noisiest fun of the season. Together, very demurely, they called at the
office to say good-bye to the teachers.

When, at last, the carriage did come for them, Dorothy and Tavia rode off
together—one bound for the train to North Birchland, and the other going
home—home to Dalton, to try to be happy in the little country town where
she and Dorothy Dale had spent such a happy childhood, and where Tavia
would find plenty of time to dream of things scattered far out in another
world, that seemed like the golden fingers of ambition beckoning her on.
To leave Dalton and the common school life—to enter the walks of city
uncertainties—to become part of the great, grinding machine of human
hardships—that machine which is always willing to stop its terrific speed
long enough to gather into its cogs and meshes the life of an innocent
young girl.



                               CHAPTER XI
                          A JOLLY HOME-COMING


“My! What great big boys! You can’t possibly be my little baby brother
Roger. And Joe! Why he is like a real young gentleman in his tennis
suit!” And Dorothy kissed her brothers over and over again, as they rode
from the depot in the pony cart to the home of Aunt Winnie, “The Cedars,”
at North Birchland.

“Oh, I don’t know,” drawled Joe, in his good-natured way. “You can’t
complain. You’ve been doing some growing on your own account.”

“And you have got awfully pretty,” lisped Roger, as he “snuggled” up
closer to his sister.

“I think you are just as perfectly handsome as any big lady.”

“My, you little flatterbox!” and Dorothy gave him an oldtime squeeze.
“You have learned more than your A, B, Cs. at kindergarten. I received
all your letters but could not answer the last two as we had such an
awful lot of writing to do at the close when examinations came.”

“Did you pass?” asked the younger brother, by way of showing his
understanding of the scholastic season.

“Oh, yes. I guess Tavia and I did about as well as the others.”

“Why didn’t Tavia come?” went on Roger.

“She is coming, later. You know she had to go home to Dalton first. Oh,
how lovely The Cedars look! And there is daddy on the porch!”

Dorothy could scarcely remain in the cart as it rumbled along the shady
drive that led to the broad veranda of Mrs. White’s handsome summer
residence. Major Dale was waiting to greet his daughter, and Aunt Winnie
came down the steps as the cart drove up.

“Isn’t she big!” exclaimed Roger, as the major folded Dorothy close in
his arms in a most affectionate manner.

“My dear,” whispered Mrs. White, pressing upon Dorothy’s cheek a kiss of
welcome. “You _have_ grown!” and the glance that accompanied this simple
remark spoke in more than words Mrs. White’s admiration for her pretty
niece, and told Dorothy at once, that her Aunt Winnie was entirely
satisfied with the particular lines that “her growth” had taken on.

“You all look so well, and I am so glad to be home again at last,” said
Dorothy as soon as she had a chance to express her opinion. “It is
perfectly fine here.”

“Here come the boys!” called Joe, who was just turning around on the long
drive, preparatory to taking the cart to the stables, and presently Nat
and Ned came bouncing up the steps.

Before Dorothy had a chance to protest both cousins were kissing her at
once—Nat declaring he hadn’t kissed a girl since he left Dorothy after
the automobile ride at Glenwood, and the while Ned was insisting that his
“little brother” should await his turn and allow the head of the house
the rights of his lawful inheritance.

Such jolly big boys as were Ned and Nat always have a way of making
things both lively and interesting, especially when a pretty girl cousin
is “up for entertaining” and, for the remainder of the afternoon, they
entirely monopolized Dorothy, while Joe and Roger looked on, satisfied to
hear their sister’s voice again. As for the major, he sat there perfectly
content to see all his children about him once more, although it was a
trifle odd to find Dorothy so grown up—almost a young lady. And it was so
short a time ago that she would “climb all over him” when a little
homecoming occurred. How she would fuss with his hair, and complain that
no one had attended to his brushes or kept his neck-ties pressed during
her absence.

“But children must grow up,” said the major with a sigh, “and Dorothy is
a fine girl—a Dale—every inch of her!”

That Dorothy was indeed growing to be very handsome was a matter that
Mrs. White contemplated with pardonable pride. Dorothy was now her
especial charge; she would enter society under her safe chaperonage. Of
course she would first finish her education; and the aunt hoped that her
niece would not decide to take the higher branches, inasmuch as this
would keep her longer separated from her relatives. There is plenty of
time Mrs. White decided to learn in our own little world without spending
precious time buried in colleges, forming ideas that are sure to conflict
with the regular home life, and perhaps, depriving one’s family of the
most precious years of a girl’s career—the time between morning and noon
in the life of mortals.

That evening, while Dorothy was dressing for dinner, her aunt mentioned
the matter to her.

“Of course, Dorothy dear,” she said as she watched the girl arrange her
beautiful hair, “it is all very well to take a college course if you
think you would not be satisfied to live in the home-world always. But
your brothers are growing up, and a sister’s influence is of so much
account to growing lads. I hope you will be satisfied to stay home with
us, after you have finished at Glenwood.”

“I’m sure I’m very lonely away from you all,” answered Dorothy, “and, as
you say, it is not likely I will ever want to take up a profession.
Therefore I can best finish my education along the lines I will be
required to be most proficient in.”

“That’s my own Dorothy,” said her aunt.

It was a merry party that sat down to the bountifully supplied table.
Major Dale was, of course, at the head, and Mrs. White occupied the seat
of honor at the other end, while Dorothy and Ned, then Nat and Joe, with
Roger next his father, made up the family party.

Roger insisted on knowing just what Dorothy usually had for dinner at
Glenwood, and upon learning how extremely simple the school menu was he
decided at once he would never go to boarding school.

“When’s Tavia coming?” asked Nat, endeavoring to hide his particular
interest in that question by trying, prematurely to swallow an unusually
large mouthful of food.

“She promised to come in a few weeks,” answered Dorothy. “She expects to
visit Buffalo first.”

“Buffalo?” repeated Nat, vaguely.

“Any objections?” asked Ned pointedly, to tease his younger brother.

“Well,” replied Nat, lamely, “Buffalo is a big city and Tavia
is—is—merely a little girl.”

This remark only made matters worse for Nat, as the others joined in the
“jollying” and he was obliged to admit that he did miss Tavia, and was
very sorry she had decided not to visit Birchland first.

“I don’t blame you, little brother,” declared Ned. “Tavia certainly is a
winner, and when it comes to an all-round jolly,
good-natured—er—ah—um—help me out, Dorothy! Any new adjectives at
Glenwood?”

“Try ‘dandy,’” suggested Joe.

“Oh, great!” put in little Roger, to whom ‘dandy’ always meant something
great.

“Thanks! Thanks!” acknowledged Ned. “I think if Lady Tavia stands for all
of that she surely will be well done.”

“Oh, she can stand for more than that,” insisted her champion. “She once
confided to me that she ‘stood’ for a colored baby. It was christened in
the Dalton canal I believe, and no one, in the crowd of spectators, had
the nerve to stand for the little one but Tavia.”

“And did she give him his name?” asked Roger, all at once interested in
the black baby in the canal.

“She did for a fact,” Nat replied. “Yes, Tavia called that coon Moses,
and, if you don’t believe it she still has an active interest in the
modern human frog; let me tell you she sent him a goat cart on his last
birthday.”

“Oh, ho!” exclaimed Ned significantly. “So that was the goat cart you
bought down at Tim’s, eh? Now, I call that real romantic! Mother, you
must include Mosey when next you invite folks from Dalton.”

“Oh, yes, Aunty, please do,” begged Roger, clapping his hands. “I just
love little colored boys. They talk so funny and warble their eyes so.”

“‘Warble,’” repeated Nat. “Why not ‘scramble’? Scrambled eyes would look
real pretty, I think.”

“Well,” retorted Roger, “I watched a coon boy look that way one day and
the—yolk of his eye stuck away up behind the—the cover. Yes it
did—really,” for the others were laughing at him. “And I told him it was
a good thing that the looker didn’t rub off.”

Everyone agreed with Roger that it was a very good thing that “lookers”
didn’t rub off, and so the small talk drifted from “Mose” to more
substantial topics.

Directly after dinner Dorothy went to the library to sing and play for
the major. She had, of course, improved considerably in her music, and
when the usual favorites were given, including some war songs, besides
“Two Little Boys in Blue” for Roger’s special benefit, the boys kept her
busy the remainder of the evening playing college songs, one after the
other, for, as fast as they discovered they did not know one they would
“make a try” at the next.

“Now they miss Tavia,” whispered Mrs. White in an aside to the major.
“She is a genius at funny songs. What she doesn’t know she has a faculty
for guessing at with splendid results.”

“Yes indeed. It’s a pity she didn’t come along with Dorothy. They have
always been inseparable, and I rather miss the little imp myself
tonight,” admitted the major.

But when the singers came to the old classics, “Seeing Nellie Home” Ned
cut “Nellie” out and substituted Tavia’s name whereat Nat insisted that
he could not stand any more of the “obsequies,” and so broke up the
performance with a heart-rending and ear-splitting discordant yell.

“Well, you’ll feel better after that, old boy,” remarked Ned. “It must be
something awful to have a thing like that in your system.”

But Nat was not altogether joking. In fact he had more reason than was
apparent for wishing Tavia was with the little party. Tavia had written
one or two letters to Nat—just friendly notes of course—but the tone of
them caused the youth to think that Tavia Travers when with Dorothy Dale
was one girl, and Tavia Travers with others—the Buffalo people for
example—might be quite a different person.

“She’s like an hour glass,” thought Nat, as he stood on the side porch
and tried to laugh at himself for being “spoony.” Then he went on: “She’s
full of ‘sand’ all right, but too easily influenced. Now with Dorothy—”

But at that Nat turned suddenly and went to join the others in the
library. It was nonsense for him to worry about a girl—probably she would
not thank him for his trouble, could she know that he had the audacity to
question her conduct.

But, in spite of this, thoughts of Tavia persisted in thrusting
themselves upon him. After all, sincerity of purpose is a power that,
once aroused, is not easily cast aside. It is, without question, one of
the greatest factors for good in all this big and complicated system of
endeavor—in reality the tie that binds.

So that Nat had taken Tavia’s affairs “to heart” as he admitted to
himself, when thinking the entire matter over very late that night, and,
from that time on, whether he willed or not, it seemed to him that these
affairs of Tavia’s had a queer way of “following him up,” although he
little realized that this was the price he would be called upon to pay
for his sincerity of purpose—the live factor that exists in spite of all
obstacles of indifference.



                              CHAPTER XII
                           DOROTHY IS WORRIED


Dorothy had been at the Cedars one short, delightful week when again the
question of Tavia and her plans came up for serious consideration. Mrs.
White and her niece sat out on the veranda, with the early summer flowers
perfuming the soft zephyrs that came through the vine-covered lattice,
and they were talking of the absent one—wondering why she did not come to
Birchland and instead went to the city in the summer—to Buffalo when
everybody in the place (except the tourists on the way to Niagara to the
Falls), were leaving for more quiet and recreative surroundings.

“I’m afraid,” said Mrs. White finally, “that Tavia is ‘stage-struck.’”

These words came to Dorothy like a blow—something long dreaded but
materialized at last—in spite of hopes and promises.

“Oh, Aunt Winnie!” exclaimed Dorothy with a sigh, “you don’t really think
Tavia would do anything wrong?”

“No, that I do not, my dear,” promptly answered Mrs. White. “A thing is
not wrong unless we intend to make it so. But Tavia has a queer idea of
right and wrong. You know she has had no home discipline—no training in
character building. She has grown to be as good as she is through the
commonest law of nature—she was born good. But she has not gone beyond
that same law in growing better than she started out to be—that is moral
development, and requires careful culture and prudent discipline.”

“But the stage,” whispered Dorothy, as if afraid the very word would
breathe contamination. “Do you think—Tavia would—would ever try to—to go
on a public stage?”

“On that point I could not now express an opinion,” answered the aunt
kindly, noticing how seriously Dorothy had taken her words. “Of course if
she happened to get in with persons interested in that line of work—she
might be tempted to try it.”

“But what could she do? There are no plays now—it is summer time!”

“The very time, my dear, when small companies try to get a hearing. There
are no good plays to attract persons, and the stay-at-homes need some
amusement.”

This had not occurred to Dorothy before. Her dread of Tavia going on the
stage had been kept within bounds by the thought that there were no plays
given in any of the theatres, for Dorothy knew little about such things,
and had never given a thought to those small companies—the
“barnstormers.”

“Well,” she announced with a sigh, “I believe I will have to write to
her. I can not rest and not know just where she is. Somehow I feel as if
my own sister had deserted me—as if she were out among strangers. Oh,
Aunt Winnie, you can not realize how much Tavia has always been to me!”
and Dorothy dropped her head in her hands to hide the expression of
sincere grief that marked her face.

“Well, child, there is absolutely no need to worry. No doubt Tavia is
snugly home at this moment, with her own, little, old-fashioned mother—or
even out in Buffalo enjoying the visit to her mother’s friends. To sit
down and imagine all sorts of horrible things—why, Dorothy, it is very
unlike you!”

“Perhaps I am silly,” Dorothy agreed, smiling brightly as she looked up,
“but you know Tavia has been so odd lately. And then she was sick, you
know.”

Dorothy looked off across the lawn, but she seemed to see nothing.
Perhaps she had a day-vision of her friend far away, but whatever Dorothy
imagined was far from what Tavia was actually engaged in at that moment.

“Well, come, my dear,” said her aunt at length. “The boys are waiting
with the auto. See what a spin through the country will do for tired
nerves. I tell you this winding up of school is always trying—more so
than you can imagine. You are, after all, pretty well tired out, in spite
of your pretty pink cheeks,” and she tilted Dorothy’s chin up to reach
her own lips, just as Nat swung himself up on the porch and demanded the
immediate presence of his aunt, and cousin, in the Fire Bird that panted
at the door.

But, somehow, the afternoon was all lost on Dorothy. Those words
“stage-struck” echoed in her ears and she longed to get back to her room
and write to Tavia and then to receive the answer that she might show it
to Aunt Winnie, to prove that Tavia was as reliable as ever—that she
would soon be with them all at North Birchland.

When, after a spin, that on any other occasion would have been
delightful, Ned alighted at the little village post-office, Dorothy asked
him to bring her out two special delivery stamps. Her cousin inquired
what the rush of mail was for, but she only smiled and tried to hide the
fact that she really had occasion to provide for sending a letter in a
hurry, and receiving its reply as fast as Uncle Sam could bring it.

They started off again, and a long, exhilarating spin brought them out
upon the direct road to the Cedars. Then, after helping their mother and
Dorothy out, the boys “shooed” the Fire Bird back to its “nest,” and made
a dash to witness the last inning of a ball game that had been in
progress all the afternoon on the grounds, just across the broad meadow,
that stretched in front of their home.

This left Dorothy to herself, for the major had finally listened to
Roger’s earnest appeal to take him to the ball game. Joe went with the
boys who carried the bats—as the latter was always sure to be on time.
Then, as Mrs. White would be busy for some time, giving orders for
dinner, Dorothy hurried to her room, and sat down, to think it all out,
before she undertook to put into written words what she wanted to say to
Tavia.

As Dorothy had said to her aunt the loss of Tavia’s companionship was
like missing that of a dear sister, for the two girls had been
inseparable since early childhood. They had always been together, or they
knew they would be apart but for a few days at most.

But now it was different. Heretofore each time that Dorothy thought she
would have to be obliged to leave Tavia, either to attend school, or take
some new step in life, it so happened that Tavia went along, so that the
chain of companionship that began at Dalton had not yet been broken.

And, of course, Dorothy’s worries might all be unfounded. As Mrs. White
had said, Tavia might be safe at home with her mother.

So it was to Dalton that Dorothy addressed her letter. She needed to be
particular in wording it, so that no misunderstanding would arise, should
the letter fall into other hands than Tavia’s. Dorothy enclosed a special
delivery stamp for a hurried answer, which she begged Tavia to send, and
she put another of the stamps on the envelope of her own missive.

“There,” she said with a sigh of relief as she slipped the little
cream-colored square into her blouse. “I shall just have time to run to
the office with it before dinner. Somehow I feel better already. It
almost seems as if I had been talking to Tavia. I will surely have an
answer by to-morrow night. I do wonder—Oh, I wonder where Tavia is—and
what she is doing just now!”

It was a pleasant walk to the country post-office, and Dorothy hurried
along in a happier frame of mind than she had enjoyed during all that
day. The small worry that had been smouldering in her heart for some
weeks (ever since the night of Tavia’s queer actions in her sleep when
she painted her face with the red crayon) did not need much encouragement
to burst forth into a live flame.

And that was precisely what happened when Nat also expressed the opinion
that Tavia should have come to North Birchland and that Buffalo was “a
big place for such a small girl.” Then, that Dorothy’s aunt should state
plainly her fear regarding Tavia’s love for the stage,—surely all this
was enough to throw Dorothy into a very fever of anxiety.

That Dorothy knew of Tavia’s strange actions on that one occasion, and
that she alone, was aware of this, added to the anxiety. The book “How to
Act” had betrayed Tavia’s secret in clearer terms than even Dorothy would
admit to herself. But if Tavia should run away! And if Dorothy had not
warned the Travers folks in time!

That evening, after mailing her letter, Dorothy made an excuse to leave
the rest of the family and so remained in her own room. She wanted to be
alone—to think. In fact, she had been so accustomed to those little
solitary thinking spells in Glenwood that the time at the Cedars seemed
to be a trifle too exacting. The boys wanted to be with their sister, and
Mrs. White had so much to talk over (it was so delightful to have a “big
daughter” to converse with), then the major needed Dorothy’s counsel in
many small, but important matters, so that, altogether, the girl from
Glenwood found herself busy—just a little too busy, considering the
problem she was trying to solve, which was how to get immediately into
communication with Tavia.

That night she dreamed of it all, and for three days following the
mailing of her letter she could scarcely think of anything other then why
the expected answer did not arrive.

Finally, Dorothy felt that she must take some one into her confidence.
All the nervous energy of her young nature had, for days, been so set
upon that one point—to hear from Tavia—that the whole circumstance had
assumed great importance. She could think of nothing else. Every hour
added to her anxiety. She imagined all sorts of dreadful things. Yes, she
must tell somebody of it and thus relieve her mind or she felt she would
be ill. This seemed to her the greatest trouble she had ever encountered.

It was a delightful summer evening when Dorothy, dressed in her sea-foam
mulle gown, with its dainty silver white trimmings stepped out on the
porch, and had the good fortune to find Nat there alone. It was to her
young cousin that she had made up her mind to confide her worries, and
here he was, as if he was just waiting to help her in this matter of her
own heart and Tavia’s.

“Great Scott! But you startled me!” exclaimed Nat, jumping up from the
hammock. “I do believe, Doro, that I had clean forgotten that you were
with us—no offense—but you see I was sort of dreaming and when you glided
through that window—well—I say, Doro, I thought my dream had come true!”

“Nat, could you come for a little walk?” asked Dorothy. “You should not
dream so early, and besides, you should not, at any time, dream of young
girls. You admitted as much, you know. But Nat, I just want a quiet
talk—come out along the road as far as the bridge. I want to make sure we
are entirely alone.”

“Now you don’t expect me to move the bridge, do you, Doro? We may be all
alone with the exception of the old stone walls and the planks.”

Tucking Dorothy’s arm under his own, Nat led the way down the path, then
out upon the open road, which was now streaked with faint beams of
moonlight, that filtered down through the trees. Nat seemed to feel that
Dorothy wanted to talk of Tavia, for he had not been slow to notice the
growing look of anxiety that had come upon his cousin’s face in the last
few days.

“Heard from Tavia?” he asked in a matter-of-fact way, thinking to help
Dorothy on with her story.

“No, Nat,” she answered, “and that is just what I want to talk about. I
am almost worried to death about her. Whatever do you think it means?”

“Think what what means? That Tavia has not answered a letter? Why that
doesn’t mean anything—at least it didn’t last winter, when she would
write me for something she wanted me to get for her, and forget to write
again saying she had received it. I suppose all girls think they should
take their time writing to a fellow, but Tavia was about the limit. So
you have no reason to fret, as she will probably write to you the day she
packs her trunk to come to the Cedars. Then she won’t have time to mail
the letter, so, when she gets here, and steams off the uncancelled stamp,
she will calmly hand over the note. Now that’s Tavia and her way of being
prompt.”

“But this is different,” said Dorothy. “I did not know Tavia wrote to you
last winter.”

“Now don’t go to romancing. I believe I did get two letters from Miss
Travers in answer to five I had written to her. It was about that little
colored boy you heard me joking about—some imp Tavia had taken a fancy
to, and she wanted to get him a small express wagon. So she wrote to me,
being aware of my unusual ability in the line of selecting suitable
express wagons for little colored boys.”

“But listen, Nat,” exclaimed Dorothy, eagerly, “I wrote to Dalton a week
ago to-day, sent a special delivery stamp for a quick reply, and I
haven’t heard a word since.”

“Oh, that’s it. You sent a special stamp. That was where you made a big
mistake. Miss Tavia wanted to write to that girl in Buffalo—had been
putting it off as usual—and when she saw your blue stamp it brought her
the inspiration. She wrote to ‘Dolly,’ if Dolly is her name, used your
stamp, and ‘Dolly’ answered ‘come.’ Tavia went. There you are. Now what
do you think of me as a wireless sleuth?”

“Do you really think Tavia is in Buffalo?” asked Dorothy, endeavoring to
bring her cousin down to a common-sense viewpoint.

“Sure of it. But, say, Doro. I’ll tell you what! I’ll just take a fly in
the Fire Bird to-morrow morning, and find out for you for sure. That will
be better than the special delivery boy on his bicycle that never moves.
I’ll be back by lunch time.”

“Oh, that will be splendid!” cried Dorothy, giving her cousin’s arm a
tight squeeze. “You see I could not trust another letter, and I’m so
anxious to know. Oh, Nat, you are the very best cousin—”

“Not so bad,” interrupted Nat, “when it comes to special messengers. But,
little cousin, you can depend on me. I won’t let any one hold up the
automobile mail coach.”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                             LITTLE URANIA


The soft moonlight was now peeping through the screen of maple leaves
that arched the old stone bridge, as the shifting shadows of early
evening settled down to quiet nightfall. Dorothy and her cousin did not
at once turn their steps toward the Cedars; instead they sat there on the
bridge, enjoying the tranquil summer eve, and talking of what might
happen when all their schooldays would be over and the long “vacation” of
the grown-up world would be theirs to plan for, and theirs to shape into
the rolling ball of destiny.

Nat declared he would be a physician, as that particular profession had
ever been to him the greatest and noblest—to relieve human suffering.
Dorothy talked of staying home with her brothers and father. They would
need her, she said, and it would not be fair to let Aunt Winnie do so
much for them.

“But I say, Dorothy,” broke in Nat. “This moonlight is all right, isn’t
it?”

Dorothy laughed at his attempt at sentimentality. “It is delightful,” she
replied, “if that is what you mean.”

“Yes, that’s it—delightful. For real, home-made sentiment apply to Nat
White. By the pound or barrel. Accept no substitute. Good thing I did not
decide to be a writer, eh? The elements represent to me so many kinds of
chemical bodies, put where they belong and each one expected to do its
little part in keeping things going. Now, I know fellows who write about
the moon’s face and the sun’s effulgence, just as if the poor old sun or
moon had anything to do with the lighting-up process. I never speculate
on things beyond my reach. That sort of thing is too hazy for mine.”

“Now, Nat, you know very well you are just as sentimental as any one
else. Didn’t you write some verses—once?”

“Verses? Oh, yes. But I didn’t get mixed with the stars. You will
remember it was Ned who said:

  “‘The stars were shining clear and bright
  When it rained like time, that fearful night!’

“I was the only one who stood by Ned when he penned that stanza. It could
rain like time and be a fearful night while the stars were shining—in
China. Oh, yes, that was a great composition, but I didn’t happen to win
out.”

The school test of versification, to which both had reference, brought
back pleasant memories, and Dorothy and Nat enjoyed the retrospection.

“What is that?” asked Dorothy suddenly, as something stirred at the side
of the bridge on the slope that led to the water.

“Muskrat or a snake,” suggested Nat indifferently.

“No, listen! That sounded like someone falling down the path.”

“A nice soft fall to them then,” remarked Nat, without showing signs of
intending to make an investigation.

“Ask if anyone is there,” timidly suggested Dorothy.

At this Nat jumped up and looked over the culvert.

“There sure is some one sliding down,” he said. “Hi there! Want any
help?”

“A stone slipped under my foot,” came back the answer, and the voice was
unmistakably that of a young girl or a child.

“Wait a minute,” called Nat. “I’ll get down there and give you a hand.”

The path to the brook led directly around the bridge, and it took but a
moment for the boy to make his way to the spot whence the voice came.
Dorothy could scarcely distinguish the two figures that kept so close to
the bridge as to be in danger of sliding under the stone arch.

“There,” called Nat. “Get hold of my hand. I have a good grip on a strong
limb, and can pull you up.”

But it required a sturdy arm to hold on to the tree branch and pull the
girl up. Several times Nat lost his footing and slid some distance, but
the street level was finally gained, and the strange girl brought to the
road in safety.

The moonlight fell across her slim figure, and revealed the outlines of a
very queer little creature indeed. She was dark, with all the
characteristics of the Gypsy marked in her face.

Dorothy and Nat surveyed her critically. Whatever could a child of her
age be doing all alone there, in that deserted place after nightfall?

“Thanks,” said the girl to Nat, as she rubbed her bare feet on the damp
grass. “I almost fell.”

“Almost?” repeated Nat, “I thought you did fall—you must have hit that
big rock there. I know it for I used to fish from the same place, and
it’s not exactly a divan covered with sofa cushions.”

“Yes, I did hit my side on it,” admitted the girl, “but it doesn’t hurt
much.”

“What is your name?” asked Dorothy, stepping closer to the stranger.

“Urania. But I’m going to change it. I don’t believe in Urania any more.”

“Then you are a Gypsy girl,” spoke Nat. “I thought I’d seen you before.”

“Yes, they say I’m a Gypsy girl, but I’m tired of the business and I’m
going away.”

“Where?” asked Dorothy.

“Any place as long as it’s not back to camp. I left it to-night and I’m
never going back to it again—never! never!” and the girl shook her
disheveled head in very positive emphasis.

“Why?” asked Dorothy. “You’re too young to be out alone and at night. You
must be frightened; aren’t you?”

“Frightened?” and the girl laughed derisively. “What is there to be
afraid of? I know all the snakes and toads, besides the birds.”

“Aren’t there tramps?” inquired Nat.

“Perhaps. But it would take a slick tramp to catch me. Gypsy girls know
how to run, if they can’t read and write.”

It seemed to Dorothy that this remark was tinged with bitterness; as if
the girl evidently felt the loss of education.

“But you had better run back to the camp like a good girl,” pleaded Nat.
“Come, we’ll walk part of the way with you.”

“Back to the camp! You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve started
out in the world for myself, and could not go back now if I wanted to.
That woman would beat me.”

“What woman?” Nat asked.

“The one my father married. They call her Melea. She has her own little
girl and doesn’t care for Urania.”

“But where will you stay to-night?” inquired Dorothy, now anxious that
the little Gypsy would change her mind, and run back to the camp at the
foot of the hill before it would be too late—before she might be missed
from her usual place.

“I was going to sleep under the bridge,” replied Urania calmly, “but when
I heard you talking I came out. I love to hear pretty words.”

“Poor child,” thought Dorothy, “like a little human fawn. And she wants
to start out in the world for herself!”

“I heard what you said about going to Dalton,” Urania said to Nat, as she
tried to hide her embarrassment by fingering her tattered dress, “and I
was wondering if you could let me ride in the back of your automobile. I
want to go to the big city and it’s—it’s a far walk—isn’t it?”

“It would be a long walk to Dalton,” replied Nat in surprise, “but Dalton
isn’t a big city. Besides, I could never help you to run away,” he
finished.

“Some boys do,” Urania remarked with a pout. “I know people who run away.
They come to Melea to have their fortunes told.”

Nat and Dorothy laughed at this. It seemed queer that persons who would
run away would stop long enough to have their fortunes told by a Gypsy.

“And couldn’t I ride in the back of your automobile?” persisted the girl,
not willing to let so good a chance slip past her too easily.

“I’m afraid not,” declared Nat. “I wouldn’t help you to run away in the
first place, and, in the second, I never take any girls out riding,
except my cousin and her friend.”

“Oh, you don’t eh?” sneered Urania. “What about the one with the red
hair? Didn’t I see you out with her one day when we were camping in the
mountains—near that high-toned school, Glendale or Glenwood or something
like that. And didn’t she come to our camp next day to have her fortune
told? Oh, she wanted to start out in the world for herself. You would
help her, of course, but poor Urania—she must die,” and the girl threw
herself down upon the grass and buried her head in the long wet spears.

Dorothy and Nat were too surprised to answer. Surely the girl must refer
to Tavia, but Tavia had never ridden out alone with Nat, not even while
he was at the automobile assembly near Glenwood. And Tavia could scarcely
have gone to the fortune teller’s camp.

“I say I have never taken out any girl without my mother or my cousin
being along,” Nat said, sharply, recovering himself.

“Then it was your girl with another fellow,” declared the wily Gypsy, not
willing to be caught in an untruth. She arose from the grass and, seeing
the telling expression on the faces of her listeners, like all of her
cult, she knew she had hit upon a fact of some kind.

“My girl?” repeated Nat laughingly.

“Yes,” was the quick answer. “She had bright, pretty colored hair, brown
eyes and her initials are O. T. I heard her tell Melea so.”

The initials, O. T., must surely be those of Octavia Travers thought
Dorothy and Nat. But Nat knew better than to press the subject further.
This cunning girl, in spite of her youth, he was sure, would make answers
to suit the questions, and such freedom on the subject of Tavia
(especially, now, when there were enough rumors to investigate), would
simply be inviting trouble.

But Dorothy was not so wise in her eagerness to hear more. She wanted to
know if her chum had really gone to the Gypsy camp from Glenwood, but she
would not deign to ask if Tavia really went auto riding with some boys
who attended the meet. That would be too mean even to think about! And
besides, thought Dorothy suddenly, Tavia was sick during all the time of
the automobile assembly.

“I can tell you more if you’ll give me money,” boldly spoke Urania. “I
know all her fortune. I heard Melea tell her. I was outside the tent and
I heard every word.”

“I thought that was against the practice of the Gypsies,” said Nat
severely.

“Practice!” sneered the girl. “When a pretty girl comes to our camp I
always listen. I like to find out what that kind think about! To see if
they are different from Urania!”

“Come,” said Dorothy to Nat. “We must go. It is getting late.”

“And you don’t want to hear about the girl that is going to run away to a
circus?” called the Gypsy as Dorothy and Nat turned away.

“No, thank you, not to-night,” replied Nat. “You’d better run home before
the constable comes along. They put girls in jail for running away from
home.”

“Oh, do they? Then your red-headed friend must be there now,” called back
the Gypsy with unconcealed malice.

“What can she mean?” asked Dorothy, clinging to her cousin’s arm as they
hurried along.

“Oh, don’t mind that imp. She is just like all her kind, trying to play
on your sympathies first and then using threats. She was listening to us
talking and picked up all she told us. She got the initials at
Glenwood—likely followed Tavia and asked some other girl what her name
was. I remember now, there was a Gypsy settlement there. That part’s true
enough.”

“Perhaps,” admitted Dorothy with a sigh. “I know Mrs. Pangborn positively
forbade all the girls to go near the Gypsy camps, but some of the pupils
might have met Urania on the road.”

“That’s about it,” decided Nat. “But she ought to stick to the game.
She’d make a good player. The idea of waylaying us and pretending to have
fallen down.”

“It’s hard to understand that class,” admitted Dorothy. “But I hope
she’ll not stay out all night. I should be worried if I awoke, and heard
her walking about under the trees near my window.”

“No danger,” declared Nat. “I must go and see that the garage is locked.
She might take a notion to turn the Fire Bird into a Pullman sleeper.”

Then, leaving Dorothy on the veranda with his mother, Nat went around to
the little auto shed, fastened the door securely and put the key into his
pocket.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                              THE RUNAWAY


Dorothy was not sure whether she dreamed it, or really heard sounds
stirring under the trees. She had been thinking of the Gypsy girl, and
Tavia, as she fell asleep, and when she suddenly awoke in the middle of
the night, there seemed to be some one moving about just under the window
of her room. It was so quiet that even faint sounds could be heard, and
Dorothy lay there listening for some time, after being aroused. Presently
something banged—like a blind being slammed back. There was no breath of
wind—surely someone must have opened the shutter!

The moonlight came in through the casement and illuminated the room
enough for her to see to get up and reach her door. It was but a step to
the boys’ apartment. She would call them, she decided, but was most
anxious not to disturb her father or aunt.

Strange to say when Dorothy had slipped on her dressing gown and slippers
and knocked at the door of the boys’ room, she found them both awake, for
they had answered her light tap at once. A moment later they were in the
corridor, attired in their big bath robes.

“I’m sure I heard a footstep at the side porch,” whispered Dorothy.

“So did I,” answered Ned. “I’ve been awake for a long time, listening.”

“Perhaps you had better go down,” suggested Dorothy nervously. “It might
be a tramp.”

“Tramp nothing,” declared Nat boldly, as he made his way softly to the
front door. “I’ll bet it’s our friend Urania. I was sure she would call
this evening.”

Without the slightest fear the brothers opened the door, and searched
about for a possible intruder. They even looked under the lilac bush at
Dorothy’s window, but no midnight prowlers were discovered.

Dorothy bravely stood at the front door, waiting to call for more help in
case the boys should need assistance, but they finally returned from
their hunt more disgusted than alarmed. Dorothy was entirely satisfied
now that no one was about the place.

“I call that mean,” grumbled Nat. “I was all primed for an adventure.”

“You should be careful what sort of acquaintances you pick up after
dark,” cautioned Ned. “Your little Urania may turn out troublesome if you
cross her. Gypsies have a way of making people ‘pony up’ with the money,
you know.”

“Don’t wake the folks,” cautioned Dorothy, leading the way back to the
sleeping rooms. “I’m not a bit afraid now.”

“Well, if she comes back again, ask her in,” spoke Nat in a hoarse
whisper. “I think Urania needs a talking to.”

Dorothy fell asleep again, after listening for some time, and was not
disturbed any further that night, until the bright sun shining into her
windows, called her to get up to begin another day.

As they had planned, Nat was to start early for Dalton. He could easily
make some excuse for his solitary trip—say that he wanted to see some
friends who were off camping, or that he wanted to go fishing. He
mentioned these two objects vaguely as he started off.

Dorothy warned him not to let an inkling of her fears concerning Tavia
reach the ears of any one in Dalton, but there was no need for this, as
Nat was as anxious as was his cousin to keep the matter secret between
them.

“It’s an easy thing to start gossip in a place like Dalton,” he whispered
to Dorothy as he threw in the clutch to send the auto on its way, “and
you can depend upon me to give them another ‘think’ if they’re looking
for news.”

As the Fire Bird swung out along the path Nat turned to wave a reassuring
good-bye to Dorothy who stood on the porch watching him spin away.

The morning which had begun so bright and pleasant now took on a gloomy
aspect for Dorothy. How could she wait for Nat’s return? And what would
he find out concerning Tavia and her plans? Suppose she should really be
in Buffalo? That would not necessarily mean that she had gone away—she
might be visiting her friend, Grace Barnum.

It seemed impossible for Dorothy to become interested in anything save
Nat and his mission. She tried to sew, but soon laid aside the dainty
little work basket Aunt Winnie had provided for the summer hours on the
porch. Then Ned invited her to go bicycling, and she had to make some
excuse for refusing the invitation. Even writing some letters for the
major did not distract her, and she could think of nothing but Nat and
his trip to Dalton.

But, somehow, the morning wore on, and it was almost time for Nat to
return, as Dorothy knew in his swift car he could make the journey in
record time over the good roads.

“But I’m sure something will delay him,” said Dorothy to herself. “I feel
as if something will surely happen!”

And a well-grounded fear it was for, meanwhile, something was happening
to Nat—something quite unexpected.

Having reached, in due time, Dalton and the little cottage where the
Travers family dwelt, Nat steered the machine up in front of the door.
Then he remembered he had to tighten the bolt of the clutch pedal, and
decided to do it before making his inquiries, as it was important that
the pedal be tight. He turned back to the machine, from which he had
jumped, to get his wrench from the tool box under the rear seat. He
unbuttoned the leather curtain that reached down to the floor of the
tonneau, and was feeling about for the wrench when he started back in
surprise.

There, under the seat, stretched out so as to be concealed while the
curtain was down, was Urania, the Gypsy girl! The confined space made her
hump up like an angry cat, and her dark face peered sharply into Nat’s
from under the leather flap.

For a moment Nat could not find words to speak to the girl, who remained
in her hiding place, grinning out at him with a mocking look on her elfin
face.

“Hello!” she exclaimed presently. “I had a lovely ride.”

“Get out of there instantly,” exclaimed Nat, in angry tones. “How in the
world did you ever get in there?”

“Oh, easy enough. You locked the door, but you left the shed window open
last night, and I crawled in. I was almost a goner, though, when you and
your brother came out on the porch looking for spooks. I was just trying
your hammock then. That’s a softer cradle than this stuffy place.”

“I guess I’d better hand you over to a constable,” went on Nat, realizing
what it might mean to try to drag the girl from her hiding place just
then.

“Oh, don’t trouble yourself,” was the cool answer. “I believe I’ve had
enough of riding, and I’d like to stretch out a bit.”

By this time the Travers family had become aware of the presence of the
Fire Bird at their door, and Mrs. Travers, impressed with the
distinction, had stepped back quickly to her room to tidy herself up a
bit. This gave Nat a few moments longer to think of what he had best do
with the Gypsy girl.

“Here,” he said to her, rather fiercely, “you just stay under that seat
until I’m ready to take you to a place of safety. Now, if you dare to
move while I’m in this house I’ll—I’ll have you arrested,” and with that
Nat fastened down the curtain securely, with a catch that snapped on the
outside and was incapable, as he supposed, of being opened from the
inside.

He walked up the path to the front door and, after a few seconds, his
knock was answered by Mrs. Travers. With unlimited protestations of
welcome she showed Nat in, and offered him a seat in the far corner of
the room, some distance from the front windows. He felt that he had
better keep his eye on the machine, because of his concealed passenger,
so, after a moment’s hesitation, he took a chair near the front of the
apartment, remarking, as he did so, what a pretty view there was from the
window.

“What brings you to Dalton?” asked Mrs. Travers.

“I was—er—just passing through, and I thought I’d stop to inquire—about
the family. Dorothy would like to know,” said Nat.

“Oh, we’re about as well as usual,” said Tavia’s mother.

“How’s Tavia? Is she home?” asked Nat quickly, feeling that this was as
good an opening as he could desire.

“No, and I’m very sorry, for she’d be delighted to see you. She went to
Buffalo just after coming from school. We scarcely had a good look at
her. I wanted her to stay home for a week, but she was so set on going
that she started off bag and baggage, and I’m sure I can’t say when she
will be home. Of course she’s with friends,” the mother hastened to add,
seeing the look of surprise that flashed over Ned’s face in spite of his
effort at self-control.

“My cousin, Dorothy, wrote to her,” Nat hastened to say, to cover his
confusion, “and, not receiving an answer, thought it likely that she
might be ill, or away.”

“Tavia’s father forwarded the letter to her,” said Mrs. Travers. “She
should have answered it by this time. We have only had one souvenir card
from her since she went away, but it was a real pretty one; I’d like to
show it to you, but I guess I’ve mislaid it. I can’t think where I put
it.”

“Never mind. I suppose it takes some time for a letter to travel when
it’s been forwarded from one place to another. I dare say Dorothy will
soon hear from her. I’m glad all the family are well. Major Dale is
always glad to hear news of the Dalton folks.”

“And indeed we all miss the major,” spoke Mrs. Travers with a show of
feeling. “Not to say we don’t miss the entire family, for the boys were
fine little fellows, and, as for Dorothy—”

The intended tribute to Dorothy ended with a little catch in Mrs.
Travers’s voice, for she was very fond of her daughter’s companion, and
sometimes showed her feelings with a touch of sentimentality.

Then, as Nat was really in a hurry (for he could not stop thinking of
Urania under the seat) he made his excuses as quickly and as politely as
the circumstances would allow, and was soon out of the house. He lost no
time in cranking up and, in a few minutes, was chug-chugging at top speed
down the country road.

He had made up his mind to take the Gypsy girl back to North Birchland,
and was vaguely wondering, as he dashed along, why she did not knock on
the seat and demand to be let out of her uncomfortable quarters.

“I think I’ll stop and just take a look at her. She may be crying,” the
lad remarked to himself, and, bringing the machine to a halt alongside
the road, he stepped out.

He assumed a determined look before unfastening the curtain, for he was
bound not to let his sympathies run away with him in dealing with the
unruly girl. He shoved back the catch and raised the leather flap.

Urania was gone!

“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” cried Nat aloud, so great was his astonishment
at the second surprise the Gypsy had given him. “If she isn’t a dandy!
How in the world did she slip out without me seeing her?”

But Nat had forgotten the few moments when he sat on the sofa at the rear
side of Mrs. Travers’s parlor, some distance from the front windows, and
it was in those few moments that Urania had managed to undo the catch, in
spite of its supposed security, and slip out of the Fire Bird. Swiftly,
as no girl but a Gypsy can run, she had fled down the street, across the
Dalton bridge, and into the deep woods beyond, where she would have time
to plan out the remainder of her day’s travels.

“Well, she’s gone—good riddance,” thought Nat, as he started up the
machine once more, and turned, at a swift speed, into the turnpike
leading to North Birchland.



                               CHAPTER XV
                        A SPELL OF THE “GLUMPS”


Whizzing along the road Nat tried to decide how it would be best to break
the disappointing news to Dorothy. Of his escapade with Urania he had
fully determined not to say a word. Dorothy had enough girls to worry
about, he argued, and if she heard of this one she would form a searching
expedition, and set out at once to hunt the Gypsy who, Nat thought, was
like a human squirrel and able to take care of herself.

The return trip seemed shorter than that which took Nat out to Dalton,
and as the Fire Bird swung into the Cedars’ entrance somewhat later than
the youth expected to get back, Dorothy was at the gate awaiting to hear
news of Tavia.

“Buffalo,” announced Nat sententiously, as Dorothy came up beside the car
which jerked to a stop amid a screeching of the brake. “She went there
some time ago. She’s at Grace Barnum’s. Wait. I have the address.”

Without delaying to put the machine up, Nat produced a slip of paper upon
which he had written, at Mrs. Travers’s direction, the street and number
of Miss Barnum’s residence. He handed it to Dorothy.

“Do you think it’s all right?” asked Dorothy, looking at the directions.

“’Course it is. Everybody in Dalton is as chipper as possible. You’re the
only one who’s worrying. Now, if I were you, I’d just let up, Doro.
You’ll be down sick if you don’t.”

“Perhaps I am foolish. And I have given you a lot of trouble,” spoke up
the girl a little sadly.

“Trouble? Nothing!” exclaimed Nat. “I just like the lark. When you want
any more sleuthing done apply at headquarters. I’m the gum-shoe man for
this section,” and at that he turned his attention to the Fire Bird,
while Dorothy walked thoughtfully back to the house.

Poor Dorothy! An instinctive foreboding of danger had taken possession of
her now, and, try as she did to dispel it, an unmistakable voice seemed
to call out to her:

“Find Tavia! She needs you, Dorothy Dale!”

“Perhaps,” thought Dorothy, “she has run away and is really with some
circus troupe, as the Gypsy girl said. Or perhaps she is at some watering
place, taking part in a play—”

This last possibility was the one that Dorothy dreaded most to dwell
upon. Tavia must have loved the stage, else why did she constantly do the
things she did at school, so like a little actress, and so like a girl
“stage-struck,” as Aunt Winnie called it?

These and similar fancies floated through Dorothy’s brain hour after
hour, in spite of whatever diversion presented itself for her amusement.

The afternoon, following Nat’s trip to Dalton, Dorothy, with her
brothers, Roger and Joe, went to gather pond lilies near the waterfall.
It was a delightful day, and the sun glistened on the quiet sheet of the
mill pond, making liquid diamonds. The lilies, of which there was an
abundance, looked like carved wax that had frozen the sun’s gold in each
heart. But, somehow, Dorothy, could not work up her usual enthusiasm in
gathering the blossoms.

It was delightful to dip her hands into the cool stream and surely to
hear little Roger prattle was an inspiration, but all the while Dorothy
was thinking of crowded Buffalo, and wondering what a certain girl might
be doing there on that summer afternoon.

In the evening Major Dale and Mrs. White, taking Dorothy with them, went
for a drive along the broad boulevard that was the pride of that
exclusive summer place—North Birchland. Dorothy tried bravely to rouse
herself from her gloomy reveries but, in spite of her efforts, Mrs. White
complained that her niece was not like her usual self—“Perhaps not
feeling well,” she ventured.

“I’m ‘glumpy’ ever since I left Glenwood,” admitted Dorothy. “Not because
I want to be, nor that I am not having a most delightful time, but I
simply have the ‘glumps.’ At Glenwood they prescribe extra work for an
attack like this,” and the girl laughed at her own diagnosis.

“You certainly should dispel the ‘glumps,’” said Mrs. White. “I can’t
imagine what could produce an attack here at the Cedars, with all your
own folks around you, Dorothy, dear. I do believe you are lonely for
those impossible girls. What do you say to paying some of them a little
visit, just to break in on your holiday?”

“Really, aunty,” protested Dorothy, “I am perfectly content. What sort of
girl would I be to want to run away and leave you all after being away so
long at school? No, indeed, I’ll stay right here at the beautiful Cedars,
and I’ll try to be a better girl—to get rid at once of my spell of the
‘glumps’ as we used to call them at Glenwood.”

“But girls are girls,” insisted her aunt, “and you have no control, my
dear, over such sentiment as I imagine you are afflicted with at present.
Just plan out a little trip somewhere and, I’ll vouch for it, the visit
to some giggling Dolly Varden of a girl will do you no end of good. And
then, too, you may invite her back here with you.”

Mrs. White divined too well the reason for Dorothy’s “blue spell.” She
could see perfectly how much her niece missed the light-hearted Tavia,
and in advising her to take a little trip Mrs. White was sure Dorothy
would choose to go where her chum might be.

In this she was right, but concerning what Dorothy might do to reach
Tavia Mrs. White had no idea. She merely suggested a “little trip
somewhere,” believing Dorothy would find Tavia, either in Dalton, or
visiting some girl friend, as Dorothy had told her Tavia intended doing.
But circumstances conspired to give Dorothy the very opportunity she
longed for—she would go somewhere—anywhere—to look for her
“sister-friend”—the girl who had been to her more than friend and almost
a sister.

Ned and Nat had planned a trip to Buffalo at the beginning of their
vacation. They were to meet a number of their chums there, and do some
exploring in the neighborhood of Niagara Falls. They were to make the
journey in the Fire Bird, and when Mrs. White suggested a trip for
Dorothy it was the run to Buffalo, in the automobile, that immediately
came into the girl’s mind.

“If I only could go with the boys,” she pondered. “But what excuse would
I have?”

All the next day she turned the subject over in her mind. Then something
very remarkable happened. Persons who believe in thought controlling
matter would not call the incident out of the ordinary perhaps, but, be
that as it may, when Dorothy strolled down to the post-office, having a
slender hope of a letter from Tavia, she did find a letter in the box—a
letter from Rose-Mary Markin, stating that she, and her mother, were
going to Buffalo and Niagara Falls for a few days, and, as Buffalo was
only about a day’s trip from North Birchland, perhaps Dorothy could take
a “run” to Buffalo, and spend a few days with them.

Dorothy’s head thumped when she read the letter. The very thing of all
others she would have wished for, had she been as wise as the unknown
fate that worked it out for her, without any action on her own part!

She felt light enough now to “fly” over the road back to the Cedars, to
show the invitation to Mrs. White. The boys were to leave for Buffalo the
next day, so there was little time to be lost, should Major Dale and Mrs.
White think it best for Dorothy to make the trip. How the girl trembled
while waiting for the decision. What if she should be disappointed? It
was a long ride in the auto—but with her cousins—

Mrs. White read Rose-Mary’s little note a second time while Dorothy stood
there waiting. The aunt noticed how delicately Rose-Mary indicated her
own mother’s anxiety to meet Dorothy, and then with what a nicety the
whole matter was referred to Major Dale and Dorothy’s aunt. This
carefully written note, neither stilted nor indifferent in its tone,
convinced Mrs. White at once that the writer was exactly the girl Dorothy
had described her to be—her very best friend at Glenwood—excepting only
Tavia.

“Well, I don’t see why you can’t go with the boys,” spoke her aunt
finally. “They are always careful, and if you leave here, as they intend
to do, at sunrise (that will be an experience for you) you should get
into Buffalo in time for the evening dinner. I’ll just sound the major,”
giving Dorothy a loving embrace. “Not that a mere man, even be he Major
Dale, can hold out against two such Sampson-like wills as ours.”

From that moment, until the time of her stepping into the Fire Bird next
morning, and waving a good-bye to the little party that stood on the
porch to see them off, it all seemed like the strangest, subtlest dream
to Dorothy. She was going to find Tavia—going herself to look for her,
and find out for herself all the questions that, for weeks, had been
eating away her happiness with dreaded uncertainties.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                           DOROTHY IN BUFFALO


“And now,” remarked Ned after they had skimmed along for awhile, “I
suppose, Dorothy, you can’t deny me the long-looked for opportunity of
meeting the sweetest girl in Glenwood (according to you)
Cologne—Rose-Mary Markin, to be exact.”

“Oh, I know you will like her, Ned. She certainly is a very sweet girl,”
replied Dorothy.

“The very thing for me. I have been looking for that brand for some time.
And now, O Edward, prepare thyself!”

“Mind your wheel!” cried Nat, for Ned had raised his right hand in the
air to give emphasis to his dramatic utterance and came close to a large
stone. “Save that for later.”

Dorothy was as bright and animated as possible during the trip and
chatted with the boys about the Glenwood girls, giving a full share of
praise to Cologne. After all, Dorothy reflected, Ned was a young man,
handsome, and, in many ways, desirable, and it would be nice if he were
to take the two girls around Buffalo. But this thought was overshadowed
by another—If Tavia were only with them. What good times they might have!
Tavia and Nat always got along so well together. Each seemed to be an
inspiration of mirth to the other.

But Tavia!

Nat seemed quiet, and even serious as they speeded along the lonely
country roads. His brother was not slow to notice the unusual look of
concern and attempted to “jolly” it away.

“Cheer up, Nat,” he said. “The worst is yet to come,” and he made a wry
face. “You know we expect to find your little friend somewhere out this
way. I really wouldn’t want a corner on happiness. I do feel, somehow,
that Cologne will be my fate, but that is no reason why you and Doro
shouldn’t hitch on to the band wagon. Let me see, Doro, you say she has
brown eyes and blue hair—”

“Ned! You must not make fun of Cologne—”

“Fun of her! As soon bite my own tongue. I said it sideways by mistake.
It should have read blue eyes and brown hair. Wasn’t that it?”

“Yes, that’s more like it,” admitted Dorothy. “And she has the most
adorable little mouth—”

“Oh, here, Nat! Get hold of this wheel. I really must have a chance to
think that over. Say it again, Dorothy, please,” and the lad went through
a series of queer antics, that seem so very funny when the right boy
attempts to be funny, but so very flat when one tries to either describe
them or imitate the original.

“And isn’t there a brother in this visit to Buffalo?” asked Nat drolly.

In spite of herself the color flew to Dorothy’s cheeks. Of course
Rose-Mary had a brother, two years older than herself. But Dorothy had
never met him, although Rose-Mary talked so much at school of Jack, that
Dorothy almost felt acquainted with the youth. But now she would
certainly meet the family for they were all together at the Buffalo
hotel.

“Oh, yes,” chimed in Ned. “Isn’t there a brother?”

“Yes,” answered Dorothy. “I believe there is.”

“Now I call that real jolly,” went on Ned. “Just one apiece—if Nat finds
Tavia, of course.”

A few hours later the Fire Bird swung up to the portico of a leading
Buffalo hotel, and, scarcely had the puffing machine come to a stop than
a girl in lavender, with blue eyes and brown hair, had Dorothy in her
arms.

“Oh, you dear, old sweetheart!” exclaimed Rose-Mary, as she embraced
Dorothy with that effusion of delight peculiar to schoolgirls and babies,
as Nat remarked in a whisper to Ned.

“And you were so good to think of me,” Dorothy tried to say, from the
midst of the embrace.

“Think of you! As if I ever forgot you for one single moment!” Then
Rose-Mary turned to the two boys in the auto and paused.

“These are my cousins,” began Dorothy. “This is Mr. Edward White and the
other one,”—with a little laugh,—“is his brother Nathaniel.”

The boys bowed and made what were probably intended for complimentary
acknowledgments of the introduction, but which were mere murmurs.
Rose-Mary, however with the usual advantage of girls over boys in such
matters, showed no embarrassment.

“There is one real nice thing about Dorothy,” spoke Nat when he had, in a
measure recovered his composure. “She always makes Ned my brother. That
counts.”

The girls laughed merrily and then a tall young man, the “very image of
Rose-Mary only taller,” according to Dorothy, stepped down to the curb.

“Jack!” called Rose-Mary. “Come here instanter and get acquainted with
Dorothy.”

Jack looked at the group. His eyes plainly said “only with Dorothy?”

“Oh, help yourself! Help yourself!” cried Ned, laughing at the confusion
Cologne’s speech had caused. “We will be ‘among those present’ if you
like.”

“Now you know very well what I mean!” and Rose-Mary shot a challenging
look at Ned. “I want you all to be the very best of friends—”

“Thanks, thanks!” exclaimed Nat, as he and his brother bowed in mock
deference. “We promise, I assure. We’ll do our best.”

“Oh, boys are all just alike,” stammered Dorothy’s host. “A pack of
teases! Come along Dorothy. Mother is waiting to welcome you. Jack,
perhaps you will tell Dorothy’s cousins what to do with their machine. I
guess you know how to get acquainted with them without any more
introductions.”

This last was said with a defiant look at Ned, who returned it with just
the suspicion of a smile. In effect his look said:

“Miss Lavender, you have met a boy who may be like other boys, but he is
particularly himself—Ned White—and he just loves to tease girls—like
you!”

Rose-Mary was leading Dorothy up the broad steps to the hotel entrance.
She turned to see what the boys were doing.

“Well I declare!” she exclaimed. “There they’ve all gone for a ride! I’m
sure they’ll have a jolly time. What nice boys your cousins are. Oh, I’m
so glad you could come!”

The hotel veranda was thronged with persons enjoying the approach of
twilight, for the auto party had not made a hurried trip, having stopped
for lunch on the way. It seemed to Dorothy that the chairs were mostly
filled with stout ladies with blond hair. She had never before seen so
many blonds in one group.

Rose-Mary led the way into the parlor and escorted Dorothy up to a
smiling, pretty woman, with such beautiful white hair—the kind that goes
with brown eyes and seems to add to their sparkle.

“Mother, dear, this is Dorothy,” said Rose-Mary. “She must be tired after
her long, dusty ride. Shall we go upstairs?”

“I’m so glad to meet you, my dear,” declared Mrs. Markin, warmly.
“Daughter talks so much about you. Yes, Rosie, do take Dorothy upstairs
and let her refresh herself. It must be a very long ride from North
Birchland.”

“But I’m not the least tired,” protested the visitor. “So don’t go
upstairs, if you were enjoying the air.”

“Air indeed!” echoed Rose-Mary, slipping her arm through Dorothy’s.
“Mother, will you come?”

“No, dear,” replied Mrs. Markin. “I’ll let you have Dorothy all to
yourself for awhile. I just know how many things you will want to talk
about. Later, after dinner, I’ll claim you both. But I’m going to improve
this time to write a few belated letters. The desk is clear so I can do
them down here.”

Rose-Mary left Dorothy while she made a place for her mother at the
little private desk in the ladies’ sitting room, then the two girls took
the elevator, in the broad hall, and soon Dorothy found herself in a cozy
room, with a dainty white bed, and pretty flouncings—Rose-Mary’s
apartment of course, which she had surrendered to her guest for the
visit, while Cologne would share her mother’s room.

“Now make yourself comfortable,” began Rose-Mary, assisting Dorothy to
lay aside her auto wraps. “Perhaps you want to wash. Here are the
things,” and she pulled open a little door, disclosing a bathroom.

“Isn’t it charming here,” Dorothy said as she at once began to make
herself presentable for dinner. “I have a blue dress in my bag,”
indicating one the porter had brought up.

“Drag it out,” commanded her companion. “You must wear blue. I have told
Jack how heavenly you look in blue.”

“And I have whispered to Ned how angelic you look in—lavender,”
interrupted Dorothy, not to be outdone in bestowing compliments. “Isn’t
Ned a lovely—boy!”

“Very saucy, I should say,” and Cologne laughed mischievously. “But I’ll
try to be nice to him on your account.”

“And I hope I’ll not say anything to hurt Jack’s feelings,” spoke
Dorothy, still keeping in with her friend’s humor.

“Couldn’t! He hasn’t any,” declared Rose-Mary. “He drives me frantic when
I really want to make him mad.”

“But you do look lovely in that lavender gown,” insisted Dorothy, with
unmistakable admiration. “I believe you have grown prettier—”

“Comparative degrees, eh?” and she made a queer little face. “Now, Doro
dear, you must say I’ve grown positively handsome. I will never be
content with the little, insignificant comparative degree in a suite of
rooms like these. Aren’t they really scrumptious? You know dad couldn’t
come, and he was so anxious that we would be comfortable, that the dear
old darling just wired for good rooms, and that’s how we got these.
They’re good, aren’t they?”

Dorothy looked out of the broad window, down at the big city stretched
before her view. She could not help thinking of Tavia, although she
thought it best not to speak of her to Rose-Mary—just yet at least.
Cologne was busy hanging up the things she had pulled out of Dorothy’s
bag.

“How long can you stay?” she asked, shaking out Dorothy’s light blue
linen frock.

“Well, it was the queerest thing! Aunt Winnie got it into her head that I
needed some of the girls, and she proposed a little trip for me, just as
your letter came. It seemed providential.”

“Providential? That’s what I call dead lucky, girlie. You can’t expect a
real proper providence to get mixed up in all our little scrapes. And, to
be honest, I’m just dying for a real genuine scrape. The kind Tavia used
to ‘hand out’ to us at Glenwood.”

Dorothy smiled but did not reply. Somehow the idea of Tavia still being
kept busy “handing out scrapes” struck her as somewhat significant.

Presently the boys returned, which fact was made known by a shrill
whistle over the private telephone in the apartment, and Jack’s voice
following with a command for “Rosie” to come down.

The girls found the three boys and Mrs. Markin waiting for them, Ned and
Nat having declined Jack’s invitation to take dinner with him at the
hotel. They said they had to be off to meet the youths with whom they had
arranged to stop while in Buffalo.

Dorothy wanted so much to ask Nat to take her to look for Tavia. She felt
she would not sleep until she found the house of Tavia’s friend, Grace
Barnum, but she was too uncertain of Tavia’s whereabouts to say openly
that she wanted to go to the address that Nat had brought her from Mrs.
Travers.

The Fire Bird had been left in quarters provided by the boys of the “Get
There” club, members of which were to be Ned’s and Nat’s guests, and the
two Birchland youths were thus free to walk about the big city that
evening. Perhaps Dorothy might also go for a walk, with Rose-Mary and
Jack.

But, Dorothy, as she reflected on this possibility, realized that it
would not afford her an opportunity of getting to Grace Barnum’s. It
would not do for the entire party to go there, Dorothy felt, as she could
never allow any one to suspect her anxiety concerning Tavia. Only Nat was
in the secret so far, and even he was not made fully aware of all it
involved and of its depth—he did not know why Dorothy was so anxious—or
that she had any other than a foolish schoolgirl whim urging her on.

So, in spite of all the surroundings and excitement, incident to life in
a big hotel with its many strange phases, Dorothy kept turning the
question over and over in her mind. How should she go about her search
for Tavia? Just as she expected the party planned to go out that first
evening of her visit to “look over the town.” All were going except Mrs.
Markin, and she consented to let the young folks enjoy themselves without
her chaperonage, on account of the circumstances and the number who were
going.

Ned and Nat both essayed to look after Rose-Mary, and this added to the
merry-making, since, when one lad would attempt some courtesy the other
would immediately undertake to outdo him. Dorothy found Jack Markin
splendid company, and this, she told herself, could not be otherwise,
since he was brother to Cologne.

At a pretty palm-festooned ice-cream parlor they met a friend of the
Markin family, Alma Mason, who was also a visitor in Buffalo. She was
bright and interesting, chatting pleasantly on many subjects, until, to
Dorothy’s surprise, she asked abruptly:

“Do you happen to know a Grace Barnum?”

“No,” Dorothy answered, as she felt her face burning with excitement. “I
do not know her personally, but she is a friend of a chum of mine.”

“The pretty girl, with the golden-brown hair? Oh, I have met her,” Alma
went on, taking Dorothy’s look to signify the correctness of the guess
that the “pretty girl with the brown hair” was Dorothy’s friend. “Isn’t
she splendid? Grace was just wild over her—she was so jolly and funny.”

That Miss Mason used the past tense Dorothy instantly noticed. Nat was
also listening with interest, and he observed the same thing.

“Is she not with Miss Barnum now?” Dorothy found courage to inquire
finally.

“No, I think not. I think Grace said she had gone to Rochester. She has,
I believe, a friend in that city.”

Dorothy was startled at the news that Tavia had left Buffalo. Her heart
sank, but she tried to conceal her feelings. Tavia in Rochester! The girl
in Rochester was she who had once written Tavia concerning the stage and
its attractions. And Tavia possibly was with her, after she had promised
to have no further correspondence with that press agent!

The remainder of the evening was like a blank page to Dorothy. She heard
and saw what was going on around her, but her heart and her attention was
not with the merry little party from the hotel. Jack Markin would have
accused her of being dull had he not determined to meet more than half
way his sister’s estimate of Dorothy Dale. Then too, he reasoned as an
excuse for her obvious low spirits, she must be tired after the long,
dusty auto run.

The evening passed quickly (to all but Dorothy) amid a variety of
entertainments, and when the boys from North Birchland said good-night in
the hotel office and Rose-Mary had taken Dorothy to her room, it was
quite late.

It was a relief, however, Dorothy had to admit to herself at least, and
in her heart she was grateful to Mrs. Markin when that lady cautioned the
two girls against further talking, and urged Dorothy to go to bed. For
Dorothy wanted to be alone and think. She wanted to plan. How should she
proceed now? If Tavia was not with Grace Barnum—

But of this she must first make certain, and to do so she would ask Nat
to take her to Miss Barnum’s house the first thing next morning.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                              AT THE PLAY


But little light was thrown on the disappearance of Tavia through any
information Dorothy could obtain from Grace Barnum. In fact that young
lady was quite as puzzled as was Dorothy, and when told that Tavia was
not to be found at home a few days previous (this being within the time
when Tavia had left Buffalo ostensibly for her residence in Dalton), Miss
Barnum wanted to communicate immediately with the missing girl’s parents.

Nat, with kind consideration, had declined to step inside when Dorothy
called at the Barnum home. He thought he might better give the two young
ladies a chance to discuss the situation alone, and so, under pretense of
strolling through the little park opposite the house, left Grace and
Dorothy together.

It took the girls but a moment to arrive at the same point of interest.
Grace showed keenest anxiety when Dorothy inquired for Tavia, for she had
fears of her own—since her friend’s visit.

“I must write at once,” she insisted. “What would Mrs. Travers think of
me if anything happened to Tavia?”

“But I have already begun a letter,” stated Dorothy, truthfully enough,
“so perhaps I had better make the inquiry. You know how excitable Mrs.
Travers is. Perhaps I could write without causing her any alarm, whereas
she would surely expect you to know whether or not Tavia was home. I
haven’t the slightest doubt but that she is home—now,” Dorothy hastened
to add. “I am expecting her at North Birchland any day.”

This had the effect of putting Grace at her ease. Of course, she
reflected, Tavia might even be at the Cedars now, as her mother had given
her permission to go about almost as she wished, and she had expected to
pay a number of visits to friends, no special time being set for them.
This Grace knew for she had seen a letter to that effect from Mrs.
Travers to Tavia.

“You see,” said Dorothy, rising to go, “they have always given Tavia so
much her own way. She has been—well, sort of superior to the others at
home. That, I think, is a real mistake, for a girl is expected to know
more of the world and its ways than is consistent with her actual
experience.”

“Exactly,” admitted Grace. “That is what I thought once when Tavia acted
so—well so self-reliant. I do hope she is safe at home. You will let me
know, won’t you Dorothy? I may call you that, mayn’t I? I feel as if I
had known you for a long time, as Tavia has talked so much about you.”

So the two girls parted, and Dorothy’s heart seemed to grow heavier at
each new turn in her quest for the missing one.

“Why should Tavia act so?” she asked herself over and over again, as she
walked along with Nat who tried to cheer her up.

“If you don’t stop worrying, Doro,” he counseled as he noted the look of
anxiety on her face, “you’ll be a sick girl ’way out here in Buffalo.”

“I’m going to be excused from the party to-night,” she answered. “I
really have a headache, and I must have time to write some letters.”

“Great headache cure—letter writing. But I suppose you’ll not rest until
you sift this matter to the very bottom. And, to be honest, Doro, I can’t
say I blame you. I’d give a whole lot, right now, to know where the wily
Tavia tarries.”

As discreetly as she could, Dorothy wrote the letter to Mrs. Travers to
ask the mooted question. She did not say she had been to Grace Barnum’s,
but simply inquired for Tavia’s address. On an early mail the next day (a
remarkable thing for Mrs. Travers to answer a letter so promptly) came
the reply that Tavia was at the Barnums! There was some other news of
Dalton in the epistle, but that concerning Tavia, which her mother had
apparently set down as a matter of fact, stood out prominently from all
the rest.

In spite of her fears, when the letter presented the actual fact that
Tavia was not at home, and, as Dorothy knew she was not at Grace’s, it
came like a shock to the girl already in a highly nervous state because
of what she had gone through. Hoping against hope she had clung to the
slim possibility that some explanation might come from Dalton, but now
even this was shattered.

One thing Dorothy quickly decided upon. She must have another talk with
Alma Mason, and she must be careful not to excite suspicion as to the
real purpose of the conversation.

Realizing at once that she must now move cautiously in the matter, for
the slightest intimation that Tavia was away from home and friends,
without either the latter or relatives having a clue to her whereabouts,
would be sure to ruin Tavia’s reputation, Dorothy now determined that
even Nat should not know of her plans for continuing the search.

How hopeless Dorothy felt all alone in such a work! But find Tavia she
must, and to find her very soon she felt was imperative, for, even in
Buffalo, with her friends, Dorothy could see the dangers of a large city
to an unprotected and unsuspecting young girl.

But the boys were going back to North Birchland the next day! How could
Dorothy act in time to get to Rochester? For to Rochester she felt that
she now must go. Everything pointed to the fact that Tavia was either
there, or that there a clue to her whereabouts could be obtained.

On taking her morning walk alone, for Rose-Mary was a little indisposed,
after the party of the evening previous, Dorothy met Miss Mason. It was
not difficult to renew the conversation concerning Tavia. Bit by bit Alma
told of Tavia’s infatuation for the stage, until Dorothy became more than
ever convinced that it was in theatrical surroundings that the missing
girl would be found.

Mrs. Markin had planned a little theatre party for Rose-Mary and some of
her Buffalo friends that afternoon. The play was one especially
interesting to young girls—a drama built on lines, showing how one
ambitious girl succeeded in the world with nothing but a kind heart and a
worthy purpose to start with. It abounded in scenes of rural home life,
wholesome and picturesque, and one of the features, most conspicuous in
the advertising on the billboards was that of the character Katherine,
the heroine, holding a neighborhood meeting in a cornfield, among the
laborers during the noon hour. The girl appeared in the posters perched
upon a water barrel and from that pulpit in the open she, as the daughter
of a blind chair caner, won hearts to happiness with the gospel of
brotherly love—the new religion of the poor and the oppressed.

While Rose-Mary and Alma enthused over the prospect of a particularly
pleasant afternoon, Dorothy seemed nervous, and it was with some
misgivings that she finally agreed to attend the party that was really
arranged for her special entertainment. The boys, Ned, Nat and Jack were
going, of course, and to make the affair complete Rose-Mary had also
invited Grace Barnum.

Grace was a particularly bright girl, the sort that cares more for books
than pretty clothes, and who had the temerity to wear her hair parted
directly in the middle in the very wildest of pompadour days. Not that
Grace lacked beauty, for she was of the classic type that seems to defy
nationality to such an extent, that it might be a matter of most
uncertain guess to say to what country her ancestors had belonged.

This “neutrality” was a source of constant delight to Grace, for each new
friend would undertake to assign her to a different country, and so she
felt quite like the “real thing in Cosmopolitan types” as she expressed
it. The fact, however, might have been accounted for by the incident of
Grace having been born under missionary skies in China. Her mother was an
American blond, her father a dark foreigner of French and Spanish
ancestry and, with all this there was in the Barnum family a distinct
strain, of Puritan stock, from which the name Barnum came. Grace, being
distinctly different from other girls, no doubt attracted Tavia to her,
and now, when received among Tavia’s friends she was welcomed with marked
attention that at once established a bond of friendship between her and
the other girls.

The boys, naturally, were not slow to “discover her” so that, altogether,
the little matinee party, when it had reached the theatre, was a very
merry throng of young people. Mrs. Markin acted as chaperone and, five
minutes before the time set for the play to begin Dorothy and her friends
sat staring at the green fire-proof curtain from a roomy box. Dorothy was
like one in a dream.

All about her the others were eagerly waiting, looking the while at the
programmes, but Dorothy sat there with the pink leaflet lying unheeded in
her lap.

“How much that picture of Katherine resembles Tavia,” was the thought
that disturbed her. “The same hair—the same eyes—what if it should be
she?”

The curtain was swaying to and fro as those behind it brushed past in
their preparations for the presentation of “Katherine, the Chair Caner’s
Daughter.”

Dorothy’s heart beat wildly when she fancied Tavia amid such scenes—Tavia
the open-hearted girl, the little Dalton “wild flower” as Dorothy liked
to call her. Surely no stage heroine could be more heroic than she had
always been in her role of shedding happiness on all who came within her
sphere of life.

Suddenly Rose-Mary turned to Nat and remarked:

“How Tavia would enjoy this.” She looked around on the gay scene as the
theatre was filling up. “What a pity we could not bring her with us for
the good time.”

Dorothy felt her face flush as Nat made some irrelevant reply. Jack
turned directly to Dorothy and, noting her inattention to the programme
opened his to point out some of the items of interest.

But still Dorothy stared nervously at the big asbestos curtain and made
feeble efforts to answer her companion’s questions. Even Mrs. Markin
observed Dorothy’s rather queer manner, and she, too, showed concern that
her daughter’s guest should be ill at ease.

“Aren’t you well, dear?” she asked quietly.

Dorothy fumbled with a lace flounce on her sleeve.

“Yes,” she answered, “but there is so much to see and think about.” She
felt as if she were apologizing. “I am not accustomed to city theatres,”
she added.

Then the orchestra broke into the opening number, and presently a flash
of light across the curtain told that the players were ready to begin.

The introductory scenes were rather of an amateur order—a poor country
home—the blind chair caner at work, and his more or less amusing
customers. One flashily-dressed woman wanted him to put a rush bottom in
a chair that had belonged to her grandmother, but absolutely refused to
pay even the very low price the caner asked for the work. She wanted it
as cheaply as though rush bottoms could be made by machinery. He was poor
and needed work but he could not accept her terms.

The woman in a red silk gown, with a bewildering shower of veils floating
about her, did not gain any applause for her part in the play. Dorothy
noted that even on the stage undesirable persons do not please, and that
the assumed character is taken into account as well as their acting.

It was when the blind man sat alone at his door step, with his sightless
eyes raised pitifully to the inviting sunset, that the pretty Katherine
came skipping into view across the footlights.

Instinctively Nat reached out and, without being observed grasped
Dorothy’s hand. “How like Tavia!” he mused, while Dorothy actually seemed
to stop breathing. From that moment to the very end of the play Nat and
Dorothy shared the same thought—it might be Tavia. The others had each
remarked the resemblance, but, being more interested in the drama than in
the whereabouts of Dorothy’s chum (whom they had no occasion to worry
about for they did not know the circumstances,) they merely dwelt on it
as a passing thought—they were interested in what happened to the chair
caner’s daughter.

At last every member of the company found some excuse to get on the
stage, and then the end was reached, and the curtain went down while the
throng hurried out, seemingly indifferent to the desire of the actors to
show themselves again as the curtain shot up for a final display of the
last scene.

The Markin party was to go to a restaurant for ice-cream, and so hurried
from the box. Dorothy drifted along with them for a few moments, and then
again that one thought came to her, overwhelming her.

“What if that should really be Tavia?”

She had but a moment to act, then, when the crowd pressed closer and
there was difficulty in walking because of the blockade, Dorothy slipped
back, stepped out of her place, and was at once swallowed up in a sea of
persons.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                           BEHIND THE SCENES


For a moment Dorothy felt as if she must make her way back after her
friends—it was so terrifying to find herself in such a press—but a glance
at the wavering canvas that now hid from the public the company of
players and helpers, inspired her with new courage. She would go behind
the scenes and see if that girl was Tavia!

In a short time the theatre was emptied, save for the ushers and the boys
who dashed in and out among the rows of seats, picking up the scattered
programmes, and making the place ready for the evening performance. One
of the ushers, seeing Dorothy, walked over to her.

“Waiting for anybody?” he asked mechanically, without glancing up at her,
but indicating that he was ready to turn up the seat before which she was
standing.

“Yes,” replied Dorothy.

“In the company?” he inquired next.

“Yes. The young lady who played Katherine.”

“This way,” the young man exclaimed snappily, but in no unpleasant tone.
He led the way along the row of seats, down an isle and through a very
narrow door that seemed to be made of black oil cloth.

Dorothy had no time to think of what was going to happen. It had all come
about so quickly—she hardly knew how to proceed now—what name to ask
for—or whether or not to give her own in case it was demanded. She
wondered what the actress would think of her if Katherine did not turn
out to be Tavia.

“You mean Miss Riceman,” the usher went on as he closed the narrow door.
“This way, please,” and, the next moment, Dorothy found herself behind
the scenes in a big city theatre.

The place was a maze of doors and passageways. Wires and ropes were in a
seeming tangle overhead and all about were big wooden frames covered with
painted canvas—scenes and flies that slid in and out at the two sides of
a stage, and make up a very important part of a theatrical company’s
outfit.

These immense canvases seemed to be all over, and every time Dorothy
tried to walk toward a door indicated by her guide, who had suddenly
disappeared, she found she was in front of or behind some depiction of a
building, or the side of a house or a street. Mechanics were busy all
about her.

Suddenly a girl thrust her head from one of the many doors and shouted to
an unseen person:

“Nellie! Nellie, dear! I’m ready for that ice-cream soda. Get into your
street togs quick or you’ll be having soup instead—”

“Nellie! Nellie!” came in a chorus from all sides, though the owners of
the voices remained hidden, and then there rang out through the big space
a spontaneous burst of a line from the chorus of the old song:

  “I was seeing Nellie home. I was seeing Nellie home.
  It was from Aunt Dinah’s quilting party, I was seeing Nellie home.”

“Ha! Ha! How’s that, Nellie?” inquired a deep bass voice.

Dorothy stood for a moment, not knowing what to do. This was better than
the play, she thought, as she vaguely wondered what sort of life must be
led behind the scenes. Then the thought of her position sent a chill over
her. She must seek out the performer who went by the name of Miss
Riceman, and then—

By this time a number of the characters appeared from their dressing
rooms, and Dorothy stepped up to a girl with an enormous hat on her head,
and a pair of very small shoes in her hand. As the girl sank gracefully
down on an upturned box to adjust her ties, and, incidentally, to get a
breath of air after the atmosphere of the stuffy dressing room, Dorothy
asked timidly:

“Can you tell me where Miss Riceman’s dressing room is?”

“That first door to the left,” answered the girl, tilting her big hat
back far enough to allow a glimpse of her questioner.

Dorothy stepped up to the door. Surely Tavia could not be there!
Dorothy’s heart beat furiously. She was trembling so she could hardly
knock, but managed to give a faint tap.

“Who?” called a girlish voice.

“Miss Dale,” answered Dorothy mechanically, feeling as if she would
almost be willing to give up her search for Tavia if she could be well
out of the place. There was a moment’s wait and then the door swung open.

“Come in,” invited the girl from within the little room. “Oh, you’re
Miss—let me see—I’m afraid I’ve forgotten your name—you’re from the
_Leader_, aren’t you?”

“No,” replied Dorothy, breathing easier, now that she found herself alone
with a girl—a simple human being just like any other girl. “I am looking
for—for a friend,” she went on, stammeringly, “and I thought perhaps you
could tell me—”

“You poor child,” interrupted Miss Riceman whose toilet was so
unceremoniously interrupted “just come in and sit down on this trunk.
Then let me get you something. You actually look ill.”

“I’m just—just a little fri—frightened,” Dorothy gasped, for indeed she
was now feeling queer and dizzy, and it was all getting black before her
eyes.

“Nettie!” called the actress, “get me some cold water and call to the
girls in the ‘Lair’ and see if they have made coffee. Hurry now,” to the
woman who helped the actresses dress. Then she offered Dorothy a bottle
of smelling salts. “Take a whiff of that,” she said kindly. “The woman
will be back soon with some ice water. I’m sorry you’re not well. Was it
the smell from the gas lights? I don’t see why they make us poor
actresses put up with them, when they have electric light in front. It’s
abominable! And the smoke from the powder they use to make the lightning!
It fairly chokes me,” and she blew aside a curling wreath of vapor that
sifted in through the door. A moment later the woman handed in a pitcher
of water and a glass. “No coffee?” in answer to some message. “Well, all
right.”

The actress flew over to a box that served as a dresser and poured out a
glass of water for Dorothy. As she did so Dorothy had a chance to look at
Katherine, whom she imagined might be Tavia. There was not the slightest
resemblance now that the actress had her “make-up” off. How could a
little paint, powder and the glare from the footlights perform such a
miracle, thought Dorothy. This girl was as different from Tavia as
Dorothy was herself. And yet she did look so like her—

“Here’s a nice drink of water,” spoke Miss Riceman.

“Now please don’t let me bother you so,” pleaded Dorothy, sitting up
determinedly and trying to look as if nothing was the matter. But she
sipped the water gladly. “I’m quite well now, thank you, Miss Riceman,
and I’ll not detain you a moment longer from your dressing.”

“Nonsense, child, sit still. You won’t bother me the least bit. I’ll go
right on. Now tell me who it is you’re looking for?”

Dorothy watched the actress toss aside a mass of brown hair that was so
like Tavia’s. Then she saw a string pulled and—the wig came off. The
real, naturally blond hair of Miss Riceman fell in a shower over her
shoulders.

Turning to Dorothy the performer instantly realized that the scene was
new to her visitor and, with that strange, subtle instinct which seems to
characterize the artistic professional woman, she at once relieved the
situation by remarking:

“Do you know we never feel like removing our ‘make-up’ before the
reporters. Even women representatives of the press (and of course we
never admit any others to our dressing rooms) have such a funny way of
describing things that I should be mortally afraid of taking off my wig
before one. I thought you were Miss—Oh, what’s her name—I never can think
of it—from the _Leader_. I expected her to call. But, do you know that
women reporters are just the dearest set of rascals in the world? They
simply can’t help being funny when it’s a joke on you. Now, whom did you
say you were looking for? I do rattle on so!”

All this, of course, was giving Dorothy time—and she needed it badly, for
her story was by no means ready for a “dress rehearsal.”

But there was something so self-assuring about the actress—she was not in
the least coarse or loud-spoken—she was, on the contrary, the very
embodiment of politeness. Dorothy felt she could talk freely with her
about Tavia.

“I am looking for a young girl named Octavia Travers,” began Dorothy
bravely, “and I thought possibly she might be with this company.”

“Was she with this company previously? I don’t seem to recall the name.”

“Oh, I don’t know that she is with any company,” Dorothy hastened to add,
feeling how foolish it must seem to be looking for a girl in a theatrical
troupe when one had no more assurance that she might be with such a
company than that she might be working in a department store.

“Haven’t you her address?” asked Miss Riceman, as she stood before the
glass, daubing on some cold cream to remove the last of the “make-up”
from her face.

“No,” answered Dorothy miserably enough. “I only wish I had.”

The actress with the cream jar turned around in time to see the tears
coming into Dorothy’s eyes. Miss Riceman dropped the jar down on her
improvised dresser and came over to where her visitor sat on the trunk.

“Tell me all about it,” she said kindly, sitting down beside Dorothy.
“Perhaps I can help you. She is not your sister, is she?”

“No,” was the answer, and then began a confidence of which Dorothy had
scarcely believed herself capable. She told how Tavia was as much to her
as a sister could be, and how she feared her chum had taken to the stage
on account of her peculiarities while at school. Then Dorothy described
Tavia’s appearance—how pretty she was—what beautiful hair she had.

“And her eyes,” Dorothy almost cried, “I have never seen eyes like
Tavia’s. They are as soft a brown as the inside of a chestnut burr.”

“Exactly!” chimed in Miss Riceman. “I would not be surprised but that I
saw that very girl the other day. It was in the manager’s office. She
came alone and she looked—well—I knew at once that she was a total
stranger to the business. And when the manager asked how old she was (for
they have to be particular about age you know) I think she said
seventeen, but I knew she was not quite as old as that.”

Dorothy clasped her hands in a strained gesture. How she wanted to find
Tavia, yet how she feared to discover her in this way!

“That might be her,” she faltered thoughtfully.

“If it was, she is with a company playing on the same circuit we do,”
went on Miss Riceman. “Let me see,” and she consulted a slip of paper
pinned to the wall. “Yes, they follow us in some towns. It was the ‘Lady
Rossmore’s Secret’ company that the girl I am speaking about applied to,
and I’m sure she was engaged, for I was interested in her appearance, and
later I asked some one about her. Now the thing for you to do is to come
to the manager’s office here to-morrow afternoon, between five and six.
He has control of several companies, including the one I’m with and the
L. R. S. as we call it for short, the ‘Lady Rossmore’s Secret’ I mean.
Just ask him for your friend’s address—or, better still, just ask where
the company is playing and she’ll be sure to be with it. He might not pay
much attention to you if he thought you were looking for some one in
particular and hadn’t any clue to her whereabouts.”

“I’ll do it,” said Dorothy determinedly, as she arose to go.

“Now don’t leave here until you are positive you feel all right,”
cautioned Miss Riceman. “I’m sure I’m very glad to have met you and I
hope I have been able to help you. I’m sorry I can’t tell you where the
Rossmore company is, but I haven’t made a memoranda of the complete
booking as I sometimes do. I thought I had it on a slip of paper but I
find I haven’t.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ve helped me a lot,” exclaimed Dorothy, hardly able to
put her gratitude into words, but the busy little actress looked entirely
satisfied with her visitor’s thanks as she showed Dorothy the way out of
the stage door. She smiled cheerily at her as she waved her hand in
good-bye and then she went back behind the scenes again, to her dressing
room to resume the removal of the “make-up” from her face.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                                THE CLUE


Outside the door Dorothy again felt that girlish inclination to collapse.
What excuse could she make to her friends for her delay? How would she
get back to them? Perhaps they were looking all over the city for her and
they might have even notified the police of her absence.

All the novelty of the theatre that had, for the past half hour, put a
world between Dorothy and those outside of the stage dressing rooms, was
now dispelled. What would she say or do when she met Rose-Mary? How could
she now conceal her worry and anxiety? How was she to continue her search
for Tavia?

The stage door opened into a dismal, narrow alley. Here Dorothy found
herself in the midst of a scurrying crowd of working people, for several
large factories had just shut down. The girl stood for a moment and
looked helplessly about her. Presently she felt an arm on her shoulder
and started in alarm.

“Dorothy!” exclaimed a voice, and she turned to see Nat standing beside
her.

“Oh, Nat! I’m so glad!”

“So am I. Just step along this way. I knew you hadn’t come out the front
way so I came here.”

Dorothy pressed her shoulder against her cousin in a helpless, imploring
sort of way. He seemed to know what the action meant for instantly he had
ready to recite, a most plausible explanation of her disappearance.

“You got left behind and were frightened,” he asked and answered in same
breath. “I knew it—I told ’em all so. Then some of the ushers took you
back and let you out of the stage door. Silly, to get alarmed over a
little thing like that. But I couldn’t talk to Mrs. Markin—she was almost
in hysterics. We’d better hurry back to relieve her suspense.”

“I should not have delayed talking, but really I was so—so frightened,”
ventured Dorothy.

“Cert you were. Well, you just let me tell the story. It will save lots
of trouble, but of course the girls will have to know all about the
people you met—behind the scenes.”

Was ever there such a blessed boy as Nat? Here he had nicely explained
all Dorothy’s troubles and in the simplest manner possible. How splendid
boy cousins are, thought Dorothy. They have such a power of sympathy for
girls—better than brothers—if girls would only allow them to exercise
it—in a cousinly way.

Or did Nat know of Dorothy’s deliberate visit to the little actress who
had played Katherine? Perhaps some one had told him his cousin was in the
dressing room and he had just waited for her to appear at the stage door.
Dorothy was sure Nat would save her from making any troublesome
explanations, and when he asked her, in the most matter-of-fact way if
she happened to meet the girl with the brown hair who looked so much like
Tavia, she had no hesitation in telling him that she was Miss Riceman,
and that she was a most charming young lady.

“She doesn’t look a bit like Tavia—close by,” added Dorothy, remembering
the scene in the dressing room. “She is as refined and polite as
possible. She showed me the way out.”

After telling that much of her adventure to Nat, Dorothy was well
prepared to repeat the story to the others, without fear of disclosing
the real object of her visit behind the scenes.

When Mrs. Markin was finally assured of Dorothy’s safety, and had
actually listened with interest to her recital of the trip into
stageland, and her encounters there, the matter was regarded as an
incident fraught with untold curious bits of “real live adventure.” Girls
do delight in investigating and exploring the unusual quite as much as
boys do, although the latter are prone to attribute that faculty to
themselves as something patented.

So it happens that when a girl does actually have an experience she and
her companions know how to appreciate the novelty. That was how it turned
out with Dorothy and her friends. Rose-Mary and Alma couldn’t hear enough
of “behind the scenes” and Alma ventured to ask Dorothy to take them in
through the stage door to make a second call on Miss Riceman, when she
might introduce her friends to a real actress.

But Dorothy tried to appease their curiosity as best she could, telling
over and over again how she got lost in the crowd, how the usher accosted
her, and led her to the stage, and then how she got confused in her
effort to find the “right door” (which was all true enough) and how it
was then that Miss Riceman came out and invited Dorothy in. Then she
related how she became faint and told of the water being brought, and so
on, until the very closing of the stage door after her when she found
herself in the alley with Nat at her side.

But now Dorothy was about to enter upon a delicate and what might prove
to be a difficult adventure. She had to go to the manager’s office the
next afternoon, but beyond that point, she dared not trust herself to
think or plan. When night came, and all seemed to be asleep Dorothy, in
her room in the big hotel, had a chance to look the situation squarely in
the face.

“One thought I must keep before me,” she told herself. “I am bound to
find Tavia and save her. To do this I will have to take great risks, and
perhaps be very much misunderstood, but I must do it. Her risk is even
greater than mine and if I appear to deceive people—even dear, good,
thoughtful Nat,—I must do so to continue my search.”

Then the girl, with aching head, planned how she could get away to see
the theatrical manager the next day. She would not pretend to have any
plans made for going out, and then, just before the hour Miss Riceman had
told her the manager’s office would be open, she would announce that she
wanted to get some souvenirs of Buffalo to take home with her. This, she
decided, would give her an opportunity to hurry away alone.

But, oh, how she dreaded to face that manager! If it were only a woman
who was in charge of the office, but a man! And she had heard vague
stories of how dreadfully rude some managers were to persons who bothered
them. There were so many questions she would have to ask—enough to put
any manager into bad humor she thought—and perhaps there would be young
girls there like Tavia looking for engagements—they would overhear what
she had to say. Oh, it was dreadful, the more she thought of it!

Dorothy buried her head deeper into the pillow and tried to sleep. She
felt that she must get some rest or she would not be able to carry on the
work that demanded so much of her strength, her brains and her courage.
She needed them all now to follow up the clue of Tavia’s whereabouts
given by Miss Riceman.

It was almost morning when Dorothy fell into an unquiet sleep, and it was
glaring daylight, with the sun streaming into her window, when she awoke.
Rose-Mary was moving about the room on tip-toe after some things, feeling
the necessity of allowing Dorothy all possible rest, as she had appeared
so exhausted after her experience of the previous day.

“I’m so sorry you are going away to-morrow,” spoke Rose-Mary, seeing that
Dorothy was awake. “This is the last day we will have together for some
time. I have enjoyed your visit so much.”

“I’m afraid I’ve been rather stupid,” apologized Dorothy, feeling as if
she must make some excuse for her seeming indifference to Rose-Mary’s
entertainment. “But, Cologne dear, I can never tell you how grateful I am
for this chance to see Buffalo. It seems as if I had really entered a new
world since I came into this big city.”

“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed everything, dear,” said Rose-Mary. “But you
must rest to-day and not go sight-seeing any more. You will need to be
fresh for your auto trip to-morrow morning.”

“Oh, yes, I’ll rest to-day,” replied Dorothy, as she slipped into her
dressing-gown and approached the dresser. There she found a dainty array
of remembrances Cologne had selected for her to take home. This was a
surprise and it told Dorothy more plainly than words could, that
Rose-Mary loved her, and so loved to make her happy.

There were some exquisite bits of undecorated china for Dorothy to add to
her collection of hand-painted pieces, there was a “darling” little
traveling mirror from Mrs. Markin, and Jack, who would not be left out in
spite of his sister’s protestations that a strange young man could not
give a young lady a present even if it was a sort of souvenir of Buffalo,
had made Rose-Mary place on the table with the other tokens a cute little
pocket camera. He secretly hoped his sister would just hint to Dorothy
that he had selected it.

Such an array quite overpowered Dorothy and she threw her arms about
Rose-Mary’s neck and cried as if her heart would break.

She calmed down after a while, but even when she and Rose-Mary were
dressed the two had little spells of weeping at the thought of parting.
Jack peeped in at the door, but when he saw his sister and Dorothy in an
embrace, with tears in their eyes, he hurried away, muttering something
about “fool girls crying when they’re happy,” and he “guessed he wouldn’t
hang around to spoil their fun, if that was what they called a merry
time.”

So the two girls were left to themselves to exchange confidences and talk
over their fall meeting at Glenwood when school should begin again.

Time managed to slip around quickly that day, and, when afternoon came,
Dorothy began to get nervous about her prospective visit to the manager’s
office. It would surely seem rude to leave Rose-Mary alone, but nothing
must deter her from carrying out her plan—no, not even the displeasure of
her friends, and this was no small matter to Dorothy when she faced
it—she who made such firm friendships when she did make them, and who was
always an example of good breeding and politeness.

When her valise had been packed, so that the entire evening might be left
for pleasure, and Nat and Ned had appeared from their quarters to make
final arrangements about coming for Dorothy directly after breakfast, she
glanced at her watch and found it lacked just half an hour of five
o’clock! The boys were engaged in an argument with Rose-Mary, as to the
relative beauty of Boston and New York, Ned holding that a Battery and a
Bowery made New York the winner.

Suddenly Dorothy jumped up from the porch chair where she had been
sitting.

“I believe I’ll just run down town to get some more souvenir postal
cards,” she said bravely, as she started to leave the veranda. She had
her purse in her hand, and there was no need to wear a hat.

“Why?” asked Cologne in natural surprise. “I thought you had plenty.”

Nat saw the flush of color that came into Dorothy’s cheeks.

“And I’m with you!” he declared, getting up from his place and assisting
his cousin down the steps. “So long,” he called back. “Do the best you
can, Ned. I’ll be back directly. Just want to make sure that Doro doesn’t
fall by the wayside again,” and at that the two cousins bolted off
laughing, Dorothy having recovered her composure when she saw how quickly
Nat came to her relief. Ned and Rose-Mary were taken so by surprise at
the sudden move that they seemed dazed, and the look on their faces at
the bolt of the two only made the departing ones more merry.

“Nat,” said Dorothy as they turned the corner, “I really wanted to go to
some place—”

“Go ahead then,” he answered, “only, Doro, you know Ned and I are
responsible for you and you had best tell me about it. You know I won’t
interfere—only to be sure it’s all right.”

“Nat, you are such a good cousin,” began Dorothy.

“Good?” echoed Nat. “Why, you don’t say so? Make a note of that and tell
the others—they would never believe me. There, did you see that streak of
sunshine stick to my brow? It was a halo, sure thing. But, I say, what
are you going to do, anyhow?”

“To look for Tavia,” replied Dorothy miserably.

“Thought so. But where is the looking to be done this time?”

“I thought I would inquire at the office of the theatre. They might
happen to know something.”

“All right, come along. I’ll wait outside. Theatre people, especially
managers and those in the office, are usually very busy and won’t keep
you long.”

This was said with all possible kindness, but, somehow, it gave Dorothy a
cold chill. She was so afraid of facing the manager. Oh, if she only
could let Nat go in with her! But that would not be fair to Tavia, whose
secret, if she ever discovered it, she determined to keep inviolate. She
must do it alone, and do it secretly to save Tavia from the possible
consequences of her folly, should it turn out that she really was with a
company “on the road.”

One more block and Nat and Dorothy were in front of the theatre where
they had attended the play the day before. They stood before the great
open lobby, empty now save for a few workmen who were busy with mops
scrubbing the tiled marble floor. Nat took Dorothy’s arm.

“There’s the office of the manager, right over there,” he said,
indicating a small door that bore no mark to distinguish it from many
others that opened from the foyer. “I’ll wait here for you. Now, don’t be
afraid to push yourself up front if there’s a crowd waiting for him. We
haven’t any too much time.”

With all the courage that Dorothy could summon to her aid she walked up
to the little door, opened it and stepped inside a little ante-room. She
was in the manager’s office, and the presence of several other persons,
who turned to stare at her did not serve to put her at her ease.



                               CHAPTER XX
                        DOROTHY AND THE MANAGER


Dorothy sank into a chair near the door. Two or three important-looking
women were moving about restlessly, awaiting their turn to pass beyond
the portal guarded by a stout youth, and face the manager in his private
rooms. Others, younger and more timid, sat quite still in their chairs,
as did Dorothy, and the girl could imagine that they were silently
praying for success in the prospective interview with one who might
decide their fate. Dorothy seemed beyond thinking consistently about her
own circumstances; she just sat there and waited. The youth at the door
of the private office looked at her sharply. Doubtless he was wondering
whether she had an appointment, or whether she was one to be allowed to
enter out of her turn because of some “pull.”

It seemed to Dorothy that the very place rang with an appeal for place,
for position—for opportunity, although not a word was spoken. But the
look on the faces of those waiting spoke louder than words.

Finally a girl in a red hat went in and came out so quickly that the
others looked at her curiously. She murmured something that showed she
had been treated with scant ceremony. Then a very stout woman, wearing an
enormous veil brushed past Dorothy. She was not escorted in by the boy,
but dashed past him as the girl in red came out. Then, when the woman
with the excess of avoirdupois came out, the boy stepped up to Dorothy.

“Your turn,” he said kindly. Then it occurred to Dorothy that every one
so far had been kind to her. Were these people, that others had spoken of
so slightingly, not all respectful and polite to any one who seemed to
merit such consideration? She felt that they were not half as black as
they had been painted.

The next moment the anxious girl was in the private office of the
manager. It was a small room, but not gloomy in spite of the fact that it
was in the midst of a darkened theatre. A fine rug was on the floor and
there were a few well-chosen pictures on the walls, the electric lights
showing them off to advantage.

While the manager, who sat in a big revolving chair, looked over some
papers on his desk before turning to Dorothy, she had an opportunity to
see that there hung before him what were evidently family photographs.
One was of a little girl and another of a youth. Surely, she thought, a
man who had time to look at his children’s pictures during business hours
could not be so very harsh because his time was taken up by a girl.

“Well?” asked the manager suddenly as he wheeled around in his chair,
wiping his glasses carefully but not seeming to look at Dorothy.

She caught her breath with a gasp. The moment had come. Her heart was
beating painfully.

“I—I came to—to ask if you—if you have on your books the name of a young
lady—Miss Octavia Travers?” she managed to stammer out. “A young lady
with the ‘Lady Rossmore’s Secret’ company, I believe.”

“Travers,” repeated the manager thoughtfully, “Travers? Seems to me I
have. Is she your sister?”

“Not exactly, but I have always regarded her as such—we have been very
close friends all our lives.”

“Not a very long time at that,” remarked the manager with a smile. “But
what is it you want to know about her?”

“To get her address.”

“Let me see, I’ll look it up—but if she is such a close friend of yours
why didn’t she send you her address? She knew where she was going to be,”
and he spoke pointedly.

Tears welled into Dorothy’s eyes, and she felt that she could not trust
herself to speak. The manager looked critically at her. Then he laid
aside the book he had picked up to consult.

“Run away?” he asked.

Dorothy nodded.

“Well, don’t feel so badly about it, my girl. We’ll see if we can’t find
her for you. But first you had better tell me the story. It will help
greatly. You see when we engage a girl and she happens to prove
satisfactory we have no excuse for dismissing her unless she might be
under age—and then her parents—of course—”

“But I must keep the entire matter from her parents,” interrupted
Dorothy. “I must find Tavia myself and I know when I do she will listen
to me and it will be all right again.”

Dorothy was visibly trembling. The manager folded his arms and looked at
her thoughtfully.

“You’re quite a young girl to undertake this,” he said finally. “But I
like your spirit, and I’m going to help you. I tell you, my child, the
stage is no place for a young person who has had no experience with the
ways of the world. I never encourage a young girl to go on the stage.
There are plenty of older characters whom we can get and then there is
less danger. But this girl you are looking for—was she about your
height?”

“Yes, with very brown hair,” replied Dorothy. “And such lovely light
brown eyes.”

“Let me see,” and he consulted the book again. Dorothy waited anxiously,
as he turned page after page. Then he stopped. “Yes, here it is,” he
said. “Christina Travers. That must be the girl. They rarely give the
name just right.”

“Yes, she might say Christina,” admitted Dorothy. “The girls at school
called her ‘Chris’ for short.”

“Well, she is with the ‘L. R. S.’ company—I beg your pardon, I mean the
‘Lady Rossmore’s Secret’ company. We get in the habit of abbreviating it.
It’s a light thing we put on for a filler. I’m afraid it isn’t doing any
too well, which, however, may make it easier for you to induce your
friend to give it up.”

“Oh, I hope I can!” and Dorothy left her seat and came to stand beside
the manager’s desk. She had lost nearly all her fear and nervousness now.

“They play in Rochester to-night,” went on the manager consulting his
list. “Then they go to Rockdale—”

“Only one night in Rochester?” asked Dorothy, showing some surprise and
disappointment.

“Well, one night of that I fancy will be enough for any place,” was the
manager’s laughing reply. “However, they may stay over to-morrow. But
Rockdale is only a few miles from there. You could easily catch them at
Rockdale. Is there anything more I can do for you?”

“No, thank you,” and Dorothy turned away.

“If I can now, or later, just let me know,” went on the manager. Then he
wished her good-bye and turned back to his desk.

Dorothy’s cheeks were flushed when she stepped up to Nat in the lobby
where he was watching the men putting in place the photographs of the
next week’s performers. He seemed to have forgotten all about his cousin.

“Oh, is that you?” he asked, and he looked like some one suddenly
awakened from a dream. “I do believe if I stood here much longer I’d be
put into a frame by mistake. How did you make out?”

“You mustn’t ask,” answered Dorothy pleasantly. “You see I can’t quite
report on it yet.”

“Oh, very well. I was only wondering—”

“But you mustn’t wonder. You agreed to act as my escort and so you must
be content with that. I can only tell you that I am perfectly satisfied
with the interview I had.”

“Which means that our little friend Tavia is not with any company. Well,
I’m glad of it. I always did give her credit for having better sense. But
you see, Doro, you are such a romancer that you sometimes make stories
out of dreams. But I must say you do look ten years younger. That manager
must have been a nice fellow.”

“He was,” answered Dorothy, glad that Nat, as usual, had jumped to a
conclusion and decided the matter of the interview for himself, leaving
her free to go on without contradicting or making any explanations. It
was so much better under the circumstances, she thought, that not even
Nat should know the truth.

But just how she was going to carry out the remainder of her task
secretly she could not quite determine. However, she had now become
accustomed to doing each part as it presented itself, without planning
further into the future, and, in that manner, she hoped to be able to
proceed until the last link in the chain of her search had been
completed.

“We must get the souvenir cards,” Nat reminded her, as they came to a
store with the pretty-pictured varieties in the window. “I’ll just buy a
pack of mixed ones—it will save time.”

But Dorothy was not thinking of souvenir cards. Thoughts came to her of
the play at Rochester, with Tavia as one of the characters—Tavia who must
be timid amid her new and unaccustomed surroundings in spite of her
apparent recklessness—yes, Tavia would be much frightened at what she had
done, Dorothy was sure of it, when the girl, so far away from home and
friends found herself before a critical audience in a theatre.

“If I could only reach her before another night,” Dorothy thought, “but
how can it be managed?”

The boys would start for home to-morrow, and of course Dorothy would have
to go with them. Something would surely happen—_must_ surely happen
before then to help her, Dorothy thought, with a confidence which great
emergencies sometimes inspire.

“Now I suppose,” remarked Nat, as he made his way out of the post-card
store, “if you were to send one of these particularly bright red ones to
Tavia at Dalton she would send one back on the next mail, wishing you a
merry Christmas, for all your trouble. What do you suppose she would say
if she knew of the merry chase that had been going on after her, and all
the places you have been looking for her? And all the while she was as
safe as little Bo-peep.”

“But I don’t intend to send her any cards until she writes me first,”
answered Dorothy. “She owes me an apology for not writing to me.”

“Same here,” said Nat. “I’ll treat her the same way. The saucy little
thing,” he added facetiously, “not to answer our nice long letters. She
ought to be slapped.”

Dorothy laughed at her cousin’s good humor. It was better that he should
take this view of the case than that he should suspect the real facts.
Dorothy glanced at some of the cards as they hurried along back to the
hotel.

“Now there’s one,” pointed out Nat, “that would just suit the
circumstances. A girl doing a song and a smile—that’s the ‘turn’ Tavia
has been doing to you, Doro. We must save that one for her.”

“Yes,” answered Dorothy abstractedly, taking the card in her hand. It was
the picture of a girl in chorus costume, and was enscribed with an
appropriate verse.

“Don’t you see,” explained Nat, “they’ve got everything down to a
post-card basis now. That one is intended to be used in place of making a
party call when a gentleman has blown a girl to a theatrical good time.
She just sends this card back and that suffices for formal thanks.

“Of course it might not just suit our set,” he conceded, “but for those
in the post-card clientele it’s a cinch, as the poet says. I tell you
after a while we will be able to carry on all our business correspondence
with picture postals and not be under the necessity of writing a word.
Great scheme, Nat (patting himself on the left shoulder with his right
hand), get a patent on your new post-card.”

They had now reached the hotel. The veranda was deserted as the hour for
dinner was almost at hand and the guests were dressing. Nat left Dorothy
at the elevator, with a warning to be ready early in the morning. Then he
hurried to where he and Ned were staying.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                        ADRIFT IN A STRANGE CITY


In spite of Dorothy’s courage, and her efforts to keep each of her
troubles apart, that she might meet and cope with them singly, the time
had now come when she found herself sorely puzzled.

How would she be able to reach Rochester—to leave her cousins and proceed
alone in her search for Tavia?

The morning of departure dawned bright and clear, conditions most
necessary for a pleasant automobile trip, and when the Markin family
waved an affectionate adieu, the Fire Bird puffed away from in front of
the hotel, Rose-Mary throwing innumerable kisses to Dorothy. Suddenly, as
they swung into the street, Dorothy turned to Ned and asked:

“Ned, could you let me go part of the way home, by train? I did not want
to mention it at the hotel as Mrs. Markin would be sure to worry, but I
would so like to return by rail. You could just leave me at the depot and
then—you might stop for me at—did you say you were going through
Rochester on your way back?”

Ned and Nat gazed at their cousin in surprise. What could she mean to ask
to leave them and go to North Birchland alone?

“I know you think it strange,” she hastened to add, “but really you know,
I am able to travel alone that short distance. You know I came from
Glenwood alone.”

“Oh, yes, I know,” replied Nat, “but this time mother put you in our
charge and these are big cities around here.”

“But if the auto makes you feel ill,” put in Nat, “of course no one could
object to you going by train.”

“I would so much rather,” declared Dorothy, taking advantage of Nat’s
ready excuse for her. “I have found that there is a train at
eight-thirty. Then, if you pass through Rochester, you could meet me
there. I can go to some young women’s club and wait if I do not meet you
exactly on time at the station.”

This was a brave stroke, and Dorothy felt that she would not be equal to
further argument should the boys offer much more opposition.

“You mean for us to leave you here at the Buffalo depot?” asked Ned in a
dazed sort of way.

“Yes, I have plenty of money with me, and I know perfectly well how to
travel alone.”

“But you may have to change cars, and suppose you were to be left alone
in Rochester in case we had a breakdown and couldn’t pick you up?”

“It wouldn’t be any worse staying in Rochester than it would in some
place near where you happened to have the accident. I hope you don’t have
any. But I have told you what I would do in case you didn’t call for me.
I’d stay at some girls’ club. There are plenty of them in Rochester I’ve
read.”

“Well,” admitted Ned. “I suppose you ought to know what you want to do.”

“There’s the station,” exclaimed Nat. “What time did you say the train
left?”

“Eight-thirty,” replied Dorothy. “We have plenty of time.”

But when she realized that she was to be left alone, to go in a train to
that strange, big city, she felt as if she must cry out against the
circumstances that forced her to all this trouble. Why should she deceive
her two kind cousins, and desert them to take that risky journey alone?
And she did believe her prospective trip dangerous in spite of her
assertions to the contrary. It was very different to making the journey
to Glenwood when she had had Tavia with her.

Besides, going into the New England mountains was along a quiet way,
while this trip—she dared not trust herself to think further. She must
decide at once, and she must go—alone to look for Tavia.

“I’ll get you a Pullman ticket,” Ned said rather gloomily, as the auto
dashed up to the station, “but I do wish, Doro, that you would come on
with us. Of course, in the parlor car you will be quite safe, and can
rest better than in the Fire Bird. I’ll see the porter and have him look
after you.”

“Thank you, Ned,” Dorothy managed to reply, and, but for his haste to
make arrangements for her comfort, the youth would have seen tears in his
cousin’s eyes, and noticed that her hands trembled as Nat helped her out
of the machine to the station platform.

“I think, after all, it will be better for you to go straight on to North
Birchland,” she said, trying to make her voice sound easy and natural,
but conscious that her tones were rather unsteady. She was now putting
into operation the second part of her plan. “It might be risky to attempt
to pick me up in Rochester. I might miss you or you might miss me,
whereas if we both follow out our route separately we will be sure to get
to the Cedars in safety and without any delay.”

“Well, since you have decided to desert us, and travel by train, leaving
the poor old Fire Bird to struggle along as best it can without a lady
passenger, perhaps it will be best,” Nat agreed, in a dazed sort of way.
He seemed for a time quite unlike Nat White—quite different from the
youth who was always ready to take up the weak end of an argument and
carry it to the strongest point of conclusion. Here he was letting his
favorite cousin start away alone on a train to a strange big city, when
she had been entrusted to his care.

“Here you are, Doro,” called Ned, coming from the depot where he had
hurried as soon as the auto stopped. “Take this,” and he thrust some
bills into her hands, as well as her tickets. “And do, above everything
else, be careful. I’ve seen the porter, and tipped him so he will look
after you. Now, you’d better get in and we’ll leave you, as we want to
make good time. Good-bye,” and he stooped to kiss the pale-faced girl who
was now too overcome with emotion to trust her own voice.

Nat put his arm affectionately around her and he, too, gave her a
farewell kiss. They walked with her to the waiting train, and then the
porter, in his blue uniform, adorned with numerous brass buttons, helped
her aboard the car “Seneca.”



                              CHAPTER XXII
                            IN DIRE DISTRESS


Dorothy had traveled in parlor cars before but had never ridden in a
sleeper, which was the style of coach she now found herself in. The train
was a through one from the west and, as the regular parlor cars were full
Ned had to get a ticket in the sleeper which, by day, is much the same as
a parlor car.

As the porter set her valise down and arranged a seat for her near the
ladies’ retiring room Dorothy’s heart beat fast, and, though the
surroundings were new and novel to her she took no interest in them. But
as the train whistled off, and the other passengers began moving about,
Dorothy lifted her head and glanced around.

For a moment she felt that some mistake had been made. Surely this was no
train for ladies, for not a woman was in sight, instead the entire car
seemed filled with men in various stages of incomplete toilets. Some were
adjusting their neckties as they walked through the aisle, others were
fastening shoe laces, and a few buckling their belts or slipping on their
coats.

Then she noticed, for the first time, that the car was a sleeper, for the
interior was so dark because of the train shed when she entered that she
could not tell what it was. She saw the berths on both sides, with heavy
curtains lining the aisle. Only one or two beds had been shut up and
turned into seats like the one she was occupying.

Dorothy was annoyed. Was she to make her lonely trip in company with a
car full of men? She had expected, when she planned her journey, that
there would be other girls and ladies in the coach in which she was to
travel, and that she might appeal to them in case of need. But a whole
car full of men!

She looked about for the little electric call button, and, finding it in
the casement at the side of the window, pressed it vigorously. It was
some time before the porter responded as, all along his route, the
omnipresent men claimed his attention for various services. But finally
he reached the end of the car where the girl in the blue sailor suit sat
up very prim and stiff, waiting for him.

“Is this—er—a ladies’ car?” she asked timidly.

“A ladies’ car? Oh, yes, miss. This is all right. This is the car for
Rochester.”

“But I—never was in a car like—like this before,” Dorothy objected,
glancing about at the men who were still struggling in the aisles with
various refractory articles of clothing.

For a moment the porter seemed puzzled. Then, all at once, he understood
Dorothy’s objection.

“Oh, them’s only the gentlemen gettin’ ready to leave, miss. They’ll all
be out soon, and you’ll have more room. Anything I can do for you, miss?”

“No,” and Dorothy just checked herself from adding “thank you,” which she
felt would not be quite proper, and would show that she was unused to the
attention of a porter. Then the colored attendant made his way down the
aisle, while the only girl in the car held her face close against the
window pane and fell to thinking of the task that lay before her.

She was not now troubled about the car and the occupants. If it was all
right, and she would be brought safely to Rochester in it, that was all
she had to consider. Of course it would have been less lonely to have had
the usual day coach passengers with her, but she thought Ned must have
selected this car and she felt he knew best. Then, too, the porter had
said the men were rapidly leaving their berths and as soon as they did so
the colored man made the folding beds into broad velvet seats, similar to
the one occupied by Dorothy.

When these seats had replaced the hanging curtains, and the comfortable
places were occupied by the men who had been so lately sleeping, even
though there were no women among them, Dorothy recovered from her first
shock of embarrassment. The passengers all appeared to be gentlemen and
not one of them seemed to even glance in her direction, though they must
have realized how strange it was for a pretty girl to be the lone female
passenger.

When the spasm of brushing clothes into which the porter threw himself,
was finally over, which operation Dorothy could not help watching for it
was done with such dispatch, and when the men had gone to the dining car
for breakfast or become engrossed in their newspapers, she tried to map
out her day’s programme.

“I will get off at Rochester,” she told herself, “and then I’ll inquire
for the Criterion Theatre.” She looked at the slip of paper which she
carried so carefully in the little brown leather wrist bag. “Then,” she
went on, “if the company has left Rochester I will go to Rockdale. But if
it should get dark!” she cried in a low wail of terror. “If it should get
dark and I should be all alone in a strange city!”

Then came the thought of the folks at home and how they would worry if
night came on and she did not reach them. Was ever a girl so situated?

All sorts of dangers flashed before her mind, and now, though too late,
she realized sharply how unfit a young girl is to cope with a big,
strange world, how little the world cares for a girl’s tender feelings,
and how cold and heartless it is when she tries to make her way through
the city streets alone, yet crowded on every side by a throng of other
human beings.

“But Tavia had to go through it,” concluded Dorothy, “and I must not be
less brave than was she.”

The train was somewhat delayed on the run from Buffalo to Rochester, so
it was almost noon when Dorothy reached the latter city.

On a slip of paper she had the directions of the theatre she wished to
visit, and at the ticket station learned where the building was located.
Then off she started, with never a look at the shop windows filled with
wonderful displays of all kinds. She soon found the amusement resort, and
stepping into the lobby, approached the ticket window and asked timidly:

“Can you tell me where the ‘Lady Rossmore’s Secret’ company is playing
to-night?”

The man looked at her sharply. Then he smiled so ironically that
Dorothy’s heart gave a painful thump, and a great lump came into her
throat.

“‘Lady Rossmore’s Secret’ company,” he repeated, with the most prolonged
and distracting drawl. “I guess there isn’t any. It’s down and out.
Didn’t play to a house here last night big enough to pay the gas bills.”

“But the members of the company?” asked Dorothy with a choke in her
voice.

“Hum! How should I know?” he asked with a sneer. “In jail, maybe, for not
paying their board bills.”

For a moment Dorothy felt that she must cry out and tell him that the
matter was very vital to her—that she must find a young and friendless
girl who was a member of the company; but she realized what sort of a man
he was and her better judgment asserted itself.

“But are there any members of the company in this city?” she persisted
bravely, trying to keep up her courage, so as to get a clue as to the
whereabouts of Tavia.

“In this city?” he repeated with the same distracting drawl. “Well, no.
They managed to get out of here before the sheriff could attach their
baggage and the scenery, which he was ready to do. They certainly were as
poor a company as we ever had in this theatre. It was awful. Oh, no, they
didn’t dare stay here.”

“Then where did they go?”

“Rockdale was their next booked place, but maybe they didn’t dare go
there, for fear some word had been sent on ahead,” the ticket seller
sneered.

“How can I get to Rockdale?” asked the girl, trying to keep back her
tears.

“Get there on a train, of course,” and the man turned back to the paper
he had been reading when Dorothy came in. Perhaps he was angry because
she had not purchased a ticket to the current attraction.

“If you would be—be kind enough to direct me,” pleaded Dorothy. “I am a
stranger here, and I must find a—a young girl who is with that company.”

Something in her voice and manner seemed to touch the rather indifferent
man, for he straightened up in his tall chair and looked squarely and
more kindly at Dorothy.

“Oh, that’s it, is it? I didn’t know. I have a lot of silly girls always
asking about traveling companies after they’ve left here, and I thought
you might be one of them. Now you’re talking. Yes, of course, certainly.
If you’ve got to find anybody connected with that company you’d better be
quick about it, for I should think there wouldn’t be much left of ’em by
this time. I heard they had quite a time of it getting their trunks away
from here. Held up for board, you know. But of course they’re used to
that sort of thing.”

Dorothy took hold of the brass rail in front of her as she turned away
from the window. She felt as if she could hardly stand any more of the
man’s veiled insinuations. But it might not be true—surely it could not
be true—it was only his cruel, teasing way. Tavia could not be in such
distress.

“How can I get there?” Dorothy repeated.

“If you want to get to Rockdale,” the ticket seller answered after a
pause, “you can take the train at twelve forty-five.”

“Thank you,” murmured Dorothy, turning dizzily toward the street to make
her way to the station she had so recently left. How she managed to reach
the place she never knew. The great buildings along the way seemed about
to topple over on her head. Her temples were throbbing and her eyes shot
out streaks of flashing light. Her knees trembled under her. If only she
had time to get something to eat! But she must not miss that train. It
might be the last one that day.

Through the crowd of waiting persons she made her way to the ticket
office and purchased the slip of cardboard that entitled her to a ride.
She learned that the train was late and that she would have to wait ten
minutes. Grateful for that respite Dorothy turned to the little lunch
counter to get a sandwich, and some coffee. But, before she had reached
the end of the big depot where refreshments were sold, she suddenly
stopped—some one had grabbed her skirt.

Turning quickly Dorothy beheld a crouching, cringing figure, almost
crawling so as to hide herself in the crowd.

“Girl!” cried Dorothy, trying to shake off the grasp on her skirt. “Let
me go! What do you want?”

“Don’t you know me?” whispered the miserable creature. “Look again—don’t
you know—Urania, the Gypsy girl?”

Then beneath the rags and the appearance of age that seemed, in so short
a time to have hidden the identity of this young girl, Dorothy did
recognize Urania. How wretched—how forlorn she was; and even in danger of
arrest if she was seen begging in the depot.

“Don’t turn away from me, Miss!” pleaded the unfortunate Gypsy girl.
“Please help me!”

She stretched out to Dorothy a dirty, trembling hand. The gate to the
Rockdale train had been thrown open, and Dorothy felt that the time was
almost up.

“You should go home,” she said, dropping a coin into the outstretched
palm.

“Yes, yes, I want to go home,” cried the girl, and Dorothy was afraid her
voice would attract attention in the crowd. But the passengers were too
busy rushing for their trains to heed anything else. “I want to go home,”
pleaded Urania. “You should take me home,—it was your fine cousin—the boy
with the taffy-colored hair—that brought me here!”

“What!” cried Dorothy. “How dare you say such a thing?”

“Ask him, then, if it isn’t so. And ask him if he wasn’t in this very
station an hour ago, looking for some one—that red-headed girl, likely.”

“Do you mean to say you saw my cousin here to-day?” gasped Dorothy.
“Come; tell me the truth and you shall go home—I’ll take you home
myself—only tell me the truth.”

“Yes, I’ll do it,” answered the girl. “Well, him and his brother came in
here an hour ago. They asked the man at the window if he had seen a young
girl with a brown hand bag. I stood near to listen, but kept out of
sight. Then they dashed off again before I could ask them for a penny, or
throw it up to that dandy that it was the ride he gave me in the auto
that brought me to this.”

“Don’t talk so!” exclaimed Dorothy, much shocked. “Do you want to go back
to the camp where your people are?” She was too dumfounded at the news to
argue with the wild creature.

“Yes, oh, yes, back to the camp!” and Urania’s eyes flashed. “They’ll
take me back. Even Melea would not turn me out now for I am sick and
sorrowful.”

It needed but a glance to see that in this, at least, the girl spoke
truthfully.

“Come,” ordered Dorothy, “I’ll take care of you. But first I must get
something to eat. We have a few minutes.”

Without heeding the attention she attracted by almost dragging the beggar
girl up to the lunch counter, Dorothy made her way there and ordered
coffee and sandwiches for both. She hurriedly disposed of her own share,
being only a little behind Urania, who ate as though famished. Then,
hastily procuring another ticket, she bolted through the door, followed
by the Gypsy, who seemed to take it all as a matter of course.

The ride was, for the most part, a silent one. Dorothy was busy with her
thoughts, and the Gypsy girl was almost afraid to speak.

“But you will see me to my home—to the camp?” she pleaded once.

“Yes,” answered Dorothy. “But you must have patience—I have something
more important to attend to first.”

“I can wait,” answered the little Gypsy.

The Rockdale station was a brick structure, with a modest waiting-room
for women passengers at the far end. It was there that Dorothy took
Urania as they left the train which steamed away into the distance. The
room was without a single occupant, a matter of rejoicing to Dorothy, as
she had already experienced considerable difficulty in passing with
Urania through the ordinary marts of travel.

“Now you stay here,” she told the Gypsy girl, “and I’ll go out and get
you something. You must be sure to stay in this corner, and eat carefully
so as not to make crumbs. If the station agent should speak to you while
I’m gone, just tell him you are waiting for—for a lady, who told you not
to leave this room until she returned.”

Willingly enough Urania sank down on a corner of the bench, and tried to
smile her thanks at Dorothy. But Dorothy was too excited to notice the
feeble effort. She hurried to a little store opposite the station, bought
some crackers and cakes, and after putting the package into the Gypsy’s
hands, with another word of caution, was off again, this time to find the
Lyceum Theatre.

It seemed to Dorothy that any place must be easy to find in a small town,
and when she was directed to the theatre by a man on the street, she was
not surprised to find that it was but a few blocks from the depot.

Hurrying along, she reached a big hall, for the Lyceum, in spite of its
name, was nothing but a big country hall, with the additional attraction
of iron fire escapes. She knocked at the big broad wooden door, but soon
discovered that the place was locked up and, evidently, deserted. She
made a number of inquiries of boys she saw nearby, but all the
information she could elicit from the urchins amounted to nothing more
than laughter and “guying” to the effect that the company had come to
grief in its attempt to give Rockdale folks a hint as to what Lady
Rossmore’s “Secret” was. It appeared that the company had arrived in
town, but had at once gotten into legal difficulties because of some
trouble back in Rochester.

“But where are the members of the company?” Dorothy asked of one boy who
was larger than his companions, and who had not been so ready to make fun
of the unfortunates.

“Some’s gone back home I guess, that is if they has homes—some’s hanging
’round the hotel, where their trunks was attached as soon as the baggage
man brought ’em in—some’s sitting around on the benches in the green.
Guess none of ’em had any dinner to-day, for them hotel people is as mean
as dirt.”

“Where is the hotel?”

“That’s the hotel, over there,” answered the boy, pointing to a building
on the opposite corner. “Mansion House, they call it, though I never
could see much of a mansion about that old barn.”

The afternoon was wearing away and Dorothy felt that she must make all
possible haste if she was to get back to North Birchland that night, as
she knew she must for her own sake. So, thanking the boy she hurried over
to the hotel, and, after making some inquiries of a number of loungers on
the broad, low veranda, was directed to the office.

She asked some questions regarding the whereabouts of members of the
theatrical company, but the man at the dingy old desk was inclined to
make inquiries himself, rather than answer Dorothy’s. He wanted to know
if she had called to settle up for any of the “guys” and if not he
demanded to know if she took him for a bureau of information or a public
phonograph, and he grinned delightfully at his feeble wit.

“I don’t keep tabs on every barn-storming theatrical company,” he growled
out. “Much as I kin do to look after their baggage and see they don’t
skin me—that’s my game in a case like this.”

Dorothy pleaded with him to give her any information he might have as to
the whereabouts of any girl or woman member of the company, but he was
ugly, evidently because of the loss of some money or patronage in
connection with the theatrical fiasco, and would not give so much as an
encouraging word.

Dorothy looked about but could see no one who seemed to be an actor or
actress. She had learned in a measure to know the type. Fairly sick and
disheartened she turned away. How could she give up now, when she felt
that Tavia must be almost within hearing of her voice? How loudly her
heart cried out! Surely some kind fate would bear that cry to Tavia’s ear
and bring her to her friend Dorothy—for now Dorothy felt that she could
hardly go many steps farther in her weary search.

She heard a train steam into the station and go on without making a stop.

“Oh,” thought Dorothy, “if we could only get a train back again soon! But
I can not give her up! I must—must find her wherever she is!”

Exhausted and discouraged, she sank down by the roadside at a grassy spot
where the street turned into a country park. She felt that she must
cry—she would feel better when she had cried—out there alone—away from
the cruel persons—away from the seemingly cruel fate that was so
relentlessly urging her on beyond her strength—beyond the actual power of
human endurance. Was there ever so wretched a girl as was Dorothy Dale at
that moment? Yes, she would indulge in a good cry—she knew it would
relieve her nerves—and then she could go on.

The rough boys, playing nearby saw the girl sitting beside the road and,
whether out of kindness or curiosity they hastened over to the place and
stood looking down at Dorothy in respectful silence.

“Did they do anyt’ing to youse?” asked a little fellow with a ring of
vengeance in his small, shrill voice. “Dem hotel guys is too fresh, an’
me fader is goin’—he’s goin’ t’ do somet’ing to dem if dey don’t look
out.”

“Dat’s right,” spoke up another. “His fader is de sheriff an’ he’s goin’
t’ ’rest ’em, if dey don’t pay der own bills, fer all der talk of holdin’
de show trunks.”

Dorothy raised her head. Surely these boys were trying to comfort her in
their own rough but earnest way. Perhaps they could help her look for
Tavia.

“Do any of you know where the girls of this company are now?” she asked
of the boys collectively. “I am searching for a girl with brown hair—”

She stopped abruptly, realizing how useless it would be to give these
boys a description of Tavia.

“I sawr a girl wit a big kind of a hat and a little satchel, an’ I know
she was wit de show,” volunteered a red-haired urchin. “I was right
alongside of her when she bought five cents’ wort’ of cakes at Rooney’s,
an’ after dat I seen her sittin’ on a bench in de green.”

“Honest?” asked an older boy severely, turning to the one who had given
the information. “No kiddin’ now, Signal, or we’ll blow out your red
light,” this reference being to the boy’s brilliant hair. “We want t’
help dis gurl t’ find de young lady, don’t we fellers?”

“Sure,” came in a ready chorus.

“I did see her,” protested Signal, rubbing his hand over his fiery locks
and rumpling them up until they looked like a brush heap ablaze. “I sawr
her less ’n hour ago.”

“Where?” asked Dorothy, eagerly.

“On a bench in de green.” And the lad pointed out the direction to
Dorothy.

She followed the road to the end and there, stretching out before her was
an open common, or the green, as the boys called it. In the centre was a
little park, where a pretty fountain sent a spray of sparkling water high
into the air. Arranged about it were benches, under shady bowers formed
by overhanging bushes, and there were clumps of shrubbery that separated
the seats, and concealed them.

Dorothy walked straight to the fountain. She sank down on a bench where
she could watch the spurting water and listen to the cool tinkle as it
fell into the basin. The sun shone through the spray, making a small
rainbow.

It looked like a sign of hope, but she was too discouraged and dispirited
to place much faith in it. She wanted to see Tavia; yet where was she?
Here was the park the boys had spoken of, but there was no sign of the
missing girl.

Dorothy felt she could not stay there long. After a few minutes’ rest she
arose to make a circuit of the little park, hoping she might have
overlooked some spot where Tavia might be. As she crossed back of a clump
of shrubbery she saw the skirt of a girl’s dress showing on the border of
a little side path. It riveted her attention. She turned down the path.

There sat a girl—a most forlorn looking girl—her head buried in her arms
that rested on the back of a bench. Dorothy could see her shoulders
heaving under the stress of heavy sobs.

She started! She held her breath! It looked like—yet could it be her—was
it—she feared to ask herself the question.

The girl on the bench raised her tear-stained face. She looked full at
Dorothy.

“Tavia!” screamed Dorothy, springing forward.

“Dorothy!” echoed Tavia.

There was a rush, and the next instant Dorothy Dale held Tavia clasped
close in her arms, while she murmured, over and over again:

“Tavia! Dear Tavia! I have found you at last! Oh, I am so glad!”

Tavia could only sob.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                         THE SECRET—CONCLUSION


It was some moments before either girl was able to speak after that first
burst of emotion and surprise. But Dorothy was too happy to remain long
in tears—even tears of joy that for the moment had overcome her.

Tavia was pale, and her eyes were red from much weeping. Her unhappy
plight was apparent at a glance, and this was incentive enough to cause
Dorothy to again clasp her in her arms and hug her tighter than ever. She
had forgotten her own physical weakness now that she had found Tavia, and
she felt that she must hasten to get her dear friend into a state of mind
that might help her to forget the sad experiences she had passed through.

“Tavia! Tavia, dear,” whispered Dorothy, as the girl fell again to
weeping, “do look up and forget it all—for my sake, do. I have searched
so long for you, but now I have found you. Come with me and we’ll be just
the same as we always were.”

“Oh, how can I?” cried the miserable girl. “Who will look at me now? How
can I ever face the folks again? Oh, Dorothy, let me go away forever! I
can not bear the disgrace!” and she moaned pitifully in her bitter
anguish.

“But, Tavia, you really meant nothing wrong,” said Dorothy taking the
trembling hands in her own which were scarcely less agitated.

“No, I never meant to do wrong,” spoke Tavia, lifting her head with her
old, proud bearing. “I broke my promise to you—I listened to that girl in
Rochester—she gave me a letter to a theatrical manager in Buffalo. I only
wanted to make a name for myself—to gratify my ambition—I wanted to earn
money to get back to school—you know we had no more—”

“You poor darling!” whispered Dorothy. “Was that it? Don’t worry so. No
one will ever know. I have not told even Nat, and we will keep it a
secret between us forever. Do come with me, dear,” as Tavia appeared to
look brighter. “I must get to North Birchland to-night—Oh, if you ever
knew the time I had getting away from the boys!” And she went on
hurriedly for several minutes.

“And did you come all the way alone, Dorothy Dale? You have saved me in
spite of myself!” declared Tavia, almost tragically. “Yes, I will go
back. I can look them all in the face, for I only tried to work and I did
not mean to deceive any one longer than would be necessary for me to get
a start. But now, Dorothy, I have had enough of it. Where do you want me
to go?”

“So it wasn’t as nice as you thought it would be?” asked Dorothy, anxious
to hear some of Tavia’s experiences.

“Nice?” There was no concealing the disgust in Tavia’s voice. “It was
awful, Dorothy! It was a regular barn-storming company! Playing one-night
stands! We never had good houses. They said it was because it was the
summer season, but I guess it was because the play was so poor. We did
not get all our salaries and half the time didn’t have enough to eat.
Then the show ‘busted’!”

“Did you have a good—part I believe they call it?”

“A good part? Say, Doro,” and Tavia actually seemed her old self again.
“I had an idea I was to be Lady Rossmore, or at least one of the family.”

“Weren’t you?”

“I should say not! I was Lucy, the parlor maid, and the only time I was
on the stage was when I was dusting the make-believe furniture. And as
for my lines—well, I had a very heavy and strong thinking part.”

“Oh, Tavia!”

“That’s my theatrical experience,” answered Tavia. “Oh, Doro, I’m very
miserable,” she wailed again.

“Never mind, dear. Dry your eyes now, you’re all right. I’m—Oh, I’m so
happy that I have found you again. Come back to the station with me. I
have some one else to bring home, too. Urania, the Gypsy girl—you
remember her at Glenwood, I guess—she has been trying to see the world
and she caught too big a glimpse of it. Poor girl, she is quite sick and
miserable.”

Then, as they hurried from the park, Dorothy told Tavia of the trouble
she had to get Urania on the train. A happy thought came to Tavia, and,
with a bright smile she said:

“I have it! In this little hand bag—all the baggage I have left by the
way—I have a very quiet suit. I used it in the play, for sometimes I had
to take two or three parts if one of the other girls was ill, but they
never amounted to much—the parts I mean. We can put this suit on Urania.”

Being thus able to help some one else worse off than herself seemed to do
Tavia good for her kind heart always prompted her to acts of this sort.
It was a step back into the old life.

At the station they found Urania all excitement.

“The young men were here!” she exclaimed to Dorothy, “and they have gone
off to look for you. I didn’t dare speak to them, but I peeked out and I
heard the station man tell them where he had seen you go to, and they
flew off again in their dust-wagon like mad. Oh, Miss, I wish they had
found you, and they looked so tired and hardly spoke like I’ve always
heard ’em, so polite and nice.”

“Ned and Nat here in Rockdale!” exclaimed Dorothy, overjoyed at the news.
“Here, Urania, you go in that little room and put these things on you’ll
find in this bag,” and she handed the Gypsy Tavia’s little valise.

“I’ll help her,” volunteered Tavia, glad to be of service to Dorothy.

“Now remember, Tavia,” said Dorothy in a low tone, “whoever we meet now
I’m to do all the talking. This is my big secret and you must let me take
care of it. Have you any baggage—Oh, I forgot, all the baggage of the
company is held for debts, I believe.”

“Not mine,” replied Tavia promptly. “All I have is in my valise. It was
so small they let me keep it. They only wanted trunks and I didn’t have
any. I travel light.”

“Well, hurry now and get Urania ready,” said Dorothy. She walked over
toward the door of the ladies’ waiting room. Suddenly she fancied she
heard—yes—sure enough that was the toot of the Fire Bird’s horn!

“Oh, Tavia!” she called. “Here they come! Hurry! Hurry Urania! Tavia! We
must all be out there together when they come up.”

At that the automobile swept up to the station in a cloud of dust. Out on
the platform hurried Dorothy, Tavia and Urania, the latter smiling
broadly in her new outfit.

“Well, I give up!” exclaimed Nat, the first to alight from the panting
car. “If you haven’t given us a merry chase, Dorothy! We got worried
after you left us and we traced you from place to place. Thought sure
we’d lost you here. Oh, it was a merry chase.”

“Glad it was merry,” exclaimed Tavia, forgetting that Dorothy was to do
all the talking.

“Yes, I should say it was,” put in Ned, “and she skipped off to meet you
without giving us a hint—”

“Now, Ned, don’t be cross,” said Dorothy sweetly. “See what a large party
you have to take home. And you must not scold the girls, for we have as
much right as you boys have to take little trips together.”

The boys were too well pleased to argue or be angry. In fact, they had
had a very miserable time of it since Dorothy “escaped,” as they called
it. Now, they wanted nothing better than to get into the machine with the
girls and make all speed for home.

“Have you room for Urania?” asked Dorothy. “Can she stand up between the
seats?”

“Why, of course,” assented Ned. “Plenty of room. Get aboard everybody.”

“Let me get under the seat,” protested the Gypsy girl. “That was the way
I came out.”

“So it was!” said Nat. “I’d almost forgotten about you, young lady. She’s
the girl,” he went on, turning to the others, “who stole a ride with me
the day I went into Dalton, Dorothy. She actually rode under the back
seat where she’d hidden in the night. She made the noise we thought was a
burglar, you know. She gave me the slip, though, when I went to take her
back, so now she must ride in the open, where I can keep my eye on her.”

“Oh, Urania! You said—” began Dorothy, thinking of what the Gypsy girl
had said about Nat taking her away.

“Oh, please don’t be hard on me,” pleaded Urania. “I was so miserable I
didn’t know what I was saying. It’s true, just as he says, and it’s all
my fault. I ran away. He didn’t take me.”

Dorothy climbed in beside Ned. Tavia was in her usual seat with Nat. Then
Urania squatted down, in true Gypsy fashion, on the floor of the car at
their feet.

“I guess we’ll just about make it after all,” commented Ned, as he turned
on the power more fully and threw in the clutch. “We’re due home about
seven, but we’ll have to speed it up a bit to do it. Lucky it’s nearly
level all the way.”

“And when we do get home,” put in Nat, “you girls will just have to own
up and tell the whole story. No serial for ours. We want it complete in
one number.”

“Indeed, we’ll do nothing of the sort!” exclaimed Dorothy. “We’re not
going to tell you a single word. We’ll get home about on time, according
to agreement, and you have no reason to find a single bit of fault. Tavia
will come to North Birchland just as she promised to early in the season.
She’s been too busy to come before,” and Dorothy smiled. “And if we do
have our own affairs to talk about you must not expect to know
everything. Girls have to have secrets, or they wouldn’t be girls, and we
have now got ours.”

“Yes,” agreed Tavia in a low voice with a loving look at her chum, “It’s
Dorothy’s great secret and I guess I’ll help her keep it.”

And here, as they are speeding toward North Birchland, we will take leave
of Dorothy, Tavia and the boys for a while. Dorothy kept the secret, as
did Tavia, and no one ever knew the real meaning of Tavia’s absence, nor
why Dorothy was so anxious to find her. The theatrical venture was never
disclosed, thanks to Dorothy’s tact and abilities, for she showed that
she could manage some things even better than could her cousins.

“Well, it was a glorious trip to Buffalo after all,” was Nat’s comment,
as they neared North Birchland.

“So it was,” agreed Dorothy. Then she fell to wondering if she would ever
again have so many adventures. Little did she dream of what the future
held in store, as will be related in another story, which I shall call,
“Dorothy Dale and Her Chums.”

“Running some, aren’t we?” said Ned, as the Fire Bird whizzed over the
country road.

“I—I don’t mind it,” faltered Tavia. Then she turned to whisper to
Dorothy. “I am so thankful to leave the—that behind!”

Dorothy only smiled, but that smile showed that she understood perfectly.


                                THE END.



                        The Dorothy Dale Series


                          By MARGARET PENROSE
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Dorothy Dale is the daughter of an old Civil War veteran who is running a
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              CUPPLES & LEON CO., Publishers,    NEW YORK



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             CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers    New York



                         THE KHAKI BOYS SERIES


                         By CAPT. GORDON BATES

           _12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in full color._

                _Price per volume, 50 cents, postpaid._

_All who love the experiences and adventures of our American boys,
fighting for the freedom of democracy in the world, will be delighted
with these vivid and true-to-life stories of the camp and field in the
great war._


                    THE KHAKI BOYS AT CAMP STERLING
               _or Training for the Big Fight in France_

Two zealous young patriots volunteer and begin their military training.
On the train going to camp they meet two rookies with whom they become
chums. Together they get into a baffling camp mystery that develops into
an extraordinary spy-plot. They defeat the enemies of their country and
incidentally help one another to promotion both in friendship and
service.


                       THE KHAKI BOYS ON THE WAY
                  _or Doing Their Bit on Sea and Land_

Our soldier boys having completed their training at Camp Sterling are
transferred to a Southern cantonment from which they are finally sent
aboard a troop-ship for France. On the trip their ship is sunk by a
U-boat and their adventures are realistic descriptions of the tragedies
of the sea.


                      THE KHAKI BOYS AT THE FRONT
               _or Shoulder to Shoulder in the Trenches_

The Khaki Boys reach France, and, after some intensive training in sound
of the battle front, are sent into the trenches. In the raids across
No-Man’s land, they have numerous tragic adventures that show what great
work is being performed by our soldiers. It shows what makes heroes.


               _Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue._


             CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers    New York



                         THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES


                           By CLARENCE YOUNG

         _12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 75c, postpaid._


  The Motor Boys
    _or Chums Through Thick and Thin_
  The Motor Boys Overland
    _or A Long Trip for Fun and Fortune_
  The Motor Boys In Mexico
    _or The Secret of The Buried City_
  The Motor Boys Across the Plains
    _or The Hermit of Lost Lake_
  The Motor Boys Afloat
    _or The Cruise of the Dartaway_
  The Motor Boys on the Atlantic
    _or The Mystery of the Lighthouse_
  The Motor Boys In Strange Waters
    _or Lost in a Floating Forest_
  The Motor Boys on the Pacific
    _or The Young Derelict Hunters_
  The Motor Boys In the Clouds
    _or A Trip for Fame and Fortune_
  The Motor Boys Over the Rockies
    _or A Mystery of the Air_
  The Motor Boys Over the Ocean
    _or A Marvelous Rescue in Mid-Air_
  The Motor Boys on the Wing
    _or Seeking the Airship Treasure_
  The Motor Boys After a Fortune
    _or The Hut on Snake Island_
  The Motor Boys on the Border
    _or Sixty Nuggets of Gold_
  The Motor Boys Under the Sea
    _or From Airship to Submarine_
  The Motor Boys on Road and River
    _or Racing to Save a Life_



                      THE MOTOR BOYS SECOND SERIES


                           By CLARENCE YOUNG


  Ned, Bob and Jerry at Boxwood Hall
    _or The Motor Boys as Freshmen_
  Ned, Bob and Jerry on a Ranch
    _or The Motor Boys Among the Cowboys_
  Ned, Bob and Jerry at College (_New_)
    _or The Motor Boys and Their Rivals_


             CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers    New York



                        THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES


                           By LESTER CHADWICK

       _12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, 75 cents, postpaid._


  BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS
    _or The Rivals of Riverside_


Joe is an everyday country boy who loves to play baseball and
particularly to pitch.


  BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE
    _or Pitching for the Blue Banner_


Joe’s great ambition was to go to boarding school and play on the school
team.


  BASEBALL JOE AT YALE
    _or Pitching for the College Championship_


Joe goes to Yale University. In his second year he becomes a varsity
pitcher and pitches in several big games.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE
    _or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher_


In this volume the scene of action is shifted from Yale college to a
baseball league of our central states.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE
    _or A Young Pitcher’s Hardest Struggles_


From the Central League Joe is drafted into the St. Louis Nationals. A
corking baseball story all fans will enjoy.


  BASEBALL JOE ON THE GIANTS
    _or Making Good as a Twirler in the Metropolis_


How Joe was traded to the Giants and became their mainstay in the box
makes an interesting baseball story.


  BASEBALL JOE IN THE WORLD SERIES
    _or Pitching for the Championship_


The rivalry was of course of the keenest, and what Joe did to win the
series is told in a manner to thrill the most jaded reader.


  BASEBALL JOE AROUND THE WORLD (_New_)
    _or Pitching on a Grand Tour_


The Giants and the All-Americans tour the world, playing in many foreign
countries.


               _Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_.


              CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers New York



                        THE BOYS’ OUTING LIBRARY


            _12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in full color.
                Price, per volume, 50 cents, postpaid._


                         THE SADDLE BOYS SERIES
                         By CAPT. JAMES CARSON


  The Saddle Boys of the Rockies
  The Saddle Boys in the Grand Canyon
  The Saddle Boys on the Plains
  The Saddle Boys at Circle Ranch
  The Saddle Boys on Mexican Trails


                        THE DAVE DASHAWAY SERIES
                            By ROY ROCKWOOD


  Dave Dashaway the Young Aviator
  Dave Dashaway and His Hydroplane
  Dave Dashaway and His Giant Airship
  Dave Dashaway Around the World
  Dave Dashaway: Air Champion


                       THE SPEEDWELL BOYS SERIES
                            By ROY ROCKWOOD


  The Speedwell Boys on Motorcycles
  The Speedwell Boys and Their Racing Auto
  The Speedwell Boys and Their Power Launch
  The Speedwell Boys in a Submarine
  The Speedwell Boys and Their Ice Racer


                        THE TOM FAIRFIELD SERIES
                            By ALLEN CHAPMAN


  Tom Fairfield’s School Days
  Tom Fairfield at Sea
  Tom Fairfield in Camp
  Tom Fairfield’s Pluck and Luck
  Tom Fairfield’s Hunting Trip


                    THE FRED FENTON ATHLETIC SERIES
                            By ALLEN CHAPMAN


  Fred Fenton the Pitcher
  Fred Fenton in the Line
  Fred Fenton on the Crew
  Fred Fenton on the Track
  Fred Fenton: Marathon Runner


               _Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_.


             CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers    New York



                          THE CURLYTOPS SERIES


                           By HOWARD R. GARIS
             Author of the famous “Bedtime Animal Stories”

      _12mo. Cloth. Beautifully Illustrated. Jacket in full color.
                    Price per volume, 50 cents, net_

Splendid stories for the little girls and boys, told by one who is a past
master in the art of entertaining young people.


  THE CURLYTOPS AT CHERRY FARM
    _or Vacation Days in the Country_


A tale of happy vacation days on a farm. The Curlytops have many exciting
adventures.


  THE CURLYTOPS ON STAR ISLAND
    _or Camping out with Grandpa_


The Curlytops were delighted when grandpa took them to camp on Star
Island. There they had great fun and also helped to solve a real mystery.


  THE CURLYTOPS SNOWED IN
    _or Grand Fun with Skates and Sleds_


Winter was a jolly time for the Curlytops, with their skates and sleds,
but when later they were snowed in they found many new ways to enjoy
themselves.


  THE CURLYTOPS AT UNCLE FRANK’S RANCH
    _or Little Folks on Pony Back_


Out West on their uncle’s ranch they have a wonderful time among the
cowboys and on pony back.


               _Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue._


             CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers    New York



                                  THE
                          HARRY HARDING SERIES


                           By ALFRED RAYMOND

        _12mo. Cloth. Handsomely Illustrated. Beautiful jackets
           printed in colors. 75 Cents Per Volume, Postpaid._

The trials and triumphs of Harry Harding and Teddy Burke, two wide-awake
boys who make a humble beginning on the messenger force of a great
department store, with the firm resolve to become successful business
men, form a series of narratives calculated to please the alert,
progressive boys of today.


                     HARRY HARDING—_Messenger “45”_

When Harry Harding bravely decided to leave school in order to help his
mother in the fight against poverty, he took his first long step towards
successful manhood. How Harry chanced to meet mischievous, red-haired
Teddy Burke who preferred work to school, how Teddy and Harry became
messengers in Martin Brothers’ Department store and what happened to them
there, is a story that never flags in interest.


                    HARRY HARDING’S YEAR OF PROMISE

After a blissful two weeks’ vacation, spent together, Harry Harding and
Teddy Burke again take up their work in Martin Brothers’ store. Their
“year of promise” brings them many new experiences, pleasant and
unpleasant, but more determined than ever to reach the goal they have set
for themselves, they pass courageously and hopefully over the rough
places, meeting with many surprises and exciting incidents which advance
them far on the road to success.


               _Send for Our Free Illustrated Catalogue_


              CUPPLES & LEON CO.    Publishers   New York



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Silently corrected a few typos (but left dialect and nonstandard
  spelling as is).

--Rearranged front matter (and moved illustrations) to a more-logical
  streaming order.





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