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Title: Ann Crosses a Secret Trail - Ann Sterling Series #4
Author: Grove, Harriet Pyne
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ann Crosses a Secret Trail - Ann Sterling Series #4" ***

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[Illustration: It was cool enough for a wrap on deck.

  (_Page 212_)      (“_Ann Crosses a Secret Trail_”)]



ANN CROSSES A SECRET TRAIL

By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

  AUTHOR OF
  “Ann Sterling,” “The Courage of Ann,” “Ann and the
  Jolly Six,” “The Greycliff Girls Series,” etc.

  [Illustration]

  A. L. BURT COMPANY

  Publishers      New York

Printed in U. S. A.



ANN STERLING SERIES

  A SERIES FOR GIRLS 12 TO 18 YEARS OF AGE
  By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

  ANN STERLING
  THE COURAGE OF ANN
  ANN AND THE JOLLY SIX
  ANN CROSSES A SECRET TRAIL

Copyright, 1926

By A. L. BURT COMPANY

ANN CROSSES A SECRET TRAIL

Made in “U. S. A.”



Ann Crosses A Secret Trail

CHAPTER I

ON THE SURFACE


After the members of the Jolly Six had departed from Sterling Ranch
for their respective homes, Ann Sterling suffered the usual reaction.
It had been “such a wonderful house party,” she told her mother. The
presence of her aunt at the ranch depressed Ann, though after talking
matters over with her father, she decided once more not to worry.
Little things, however, irritated her, and she had to force herself to
be polite and kind and not to let it seem that she avoided her aunt.
This was the easier to manage because Suzanne was there. She and her
cousin enjoyed a few quiet visits with Marjorie and Clifford Hart and
rode out somewhere every morning, for the good of themselves and their
horses. Kendall Gordon, Clifford’s college friend, had gone and the
other boys were making up for lost time on the summer’s work, though
Herman Olson once brought his sister Hilda, who had been away all
summer and had not seen Ann at all.

The beautiful little lodge among the peaks, Ann’s “very own,” was
visited once more before Suzanne went East with her mother. Mr.
Sterling risked his new car, to take Madam LeRoy and Mrs. Tyson there,
with Ann, Suzanne and Mrs. Sterling. They drove very slowly, reaching
the lodge without accident; but Madam LeRoy insisted that the slow
pace was for the sake of the car, not for her, “though I can enjoy the
scenery twice as well because of it,” she said. “I do not wonder, Ann,”
she added, “that you love your mountains.”

Mrs. Tyson frequently asked her mother if the altitude affected her,
though the elevation was not particularly great at “Sterling Heights.”
But they heard no more from her about “Mother’s mind failing,” and as
Madam LeRoy openly expressed her irritation at being warned about her
heart, Aunt Sue desisted. On the surface, everything was pleasant and
happy.

Ann’s grandmother walked about with Ann and Suzanne, admiring the
falls, the rushing river, the emerald lake, the peaks with their snow,
and the floating clouds. “I am glad that I decided to come up,” she
said. “I would not have missed this beautiful picture, to take back
East with me. Then, girls, if you are here some time without me, as you
will be, of course, I shall know how to imagine what you are doing.”

“And it will be much more delightful, Grandmother, since you have been
here,” promptly spoke Ann. “We shall have you to associate with all
this. By the way, Grandmother, we want your picture, too.”

On the porch, with the background of the logs; on the lake shore, with
a background of peaks and clouds; in various nooks among the trees, the
girls snapped not only Madam LeRoy, but the rest of the family, alone
or in groups. “These are for my family album,” laughed Ann. “I’m going
to have a special album for Sterling Heights Lodge.”

“Is that what you are going to call it?” inquired Mr. Sterling.

“I think so, though I may change my mind again. I wish that I could put
the beauty of the place into a name that would be appropriate.”

Madam LeRoy thought of several more improvements that she asked the
privilege of helping to make another season, talking with Mrs. Ault,
who promised to take care of the rugs and furniture, making things snug
for the winter before she and Mr. Ault left the place. The Sterling
party stayed over one night only.

Then, “at last,” Nancy said to Ann privately, as Mrs. Tyson, Suzanne,
Felice and the chauffeur rolled away in the Tyson car, intending to
pick up Maurice Tyson further East, when he should leave the young men
with whom he was camping.

Everybody, including Grandmother, drew a sigh of relief. There would
be no more living on the surface, trying not to express what they felt.
There would be no more listening to little poisoned barbs of speech
implying criticism, expressing a feigned anxiety about Madam LeRoy, in
the guise of virtue and devotion.

Rita came right out one day soon after the departure and asked Ann what
she thought of her aunt. “Nothing here suited her,” said Rita. “You
could feel how superior she felt to us all. You would have thought that
your mother had kidnaped your grandmother by the way she shook her
head to me once and said that they ran a terrible risk by bringing her
mother away from the sanitarium where she put her.

“I spoke right up and said, ‘From what I hear there are others that
have taken worse risks than that in regard to their mother.’ Of course
I meant her, and I went right out of the room with my dust cloth, for
fear I might say something else. Nancy told me a lot, you see, and I
thought I’d better ask you if it was true.”

“What Nancy told you is probably true in the main, though I suppose
that there is a lot of gossip among Grandmother’s servants that may not
be true.”

“She,--I mean Mrs. Tyson--was not going to let you folks have her
mother and her mother’s money, I suppose. That is what Nancy said. But
it was a queer performance, in my opinion, to come right here, after
what Nancy says she has done to your mother. It put you in a funny
position, too. You couldn’t turn her out, though I think, myself, that
that’s what ought to have been done!”

“We couldn’t do that, Rita,” laughed Ann. “People can’t act like
‘fish-wives’ in a fight. Can you imagine Mother’s doing anything of the
sort?”

“Indeed I could not! And to be taken advantage of that way! If anything
happens, we know what we know out here about the Sterling family!”

“I hope that it’s good, Rita.”

“It most certainly is!”

“Nothing is going to ‘happen,’ Rita. Grandmother knows us by this time.
But you see, Rita, Aunt Sue is Grandmother’s daughter and Mother’s own
sister. So it would make Mother feel bad to have any gossip about it
out here.”

“You are right, Ann, and you need not warn me. I’ll not say a word
outside of the family. And yet, Ann, Mrs. Tyson can’t say and do the
things she does and have it all kept a secret!”

“I suppose not,” thoughtfully said Ann.

“We all liked that boy of hers, though, who stopped here on his way to
your place in the mountains. My, but he is a handsome chap, and with
such pleasant ways! Suzanne, too, is a pretty girl and pleasant for the
way she’s been spoiled.”

Ann supposed that the spoiling of Suzanne had also been revealed by
Nancy, from whom Rita had had so much information about the LeRoy
establishment in the East.

It was characteristic of Mrs. Sterling’s reserve that she had not told
Ann what took place when her sister first made her appearance at the
ranch. “What did you say to her, Daddy?” Ann had asked her father,
but her father passed the matter over lightly. “Very politely, Ann,”
he replied, “I said to her frankly what your mother could not say, in
regard to the openness of future relations and our regret that things
had been misrepresented in the past, with the hope that such methods
would not be used again. Then I made her welcome at the ranch and got
out as quickly as I could!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Time was all too short for all that had to be done before Ann started
in on her sophomore year at school. Mrs. Sterling was tired with the
strain which she had been under while her sister was there. “Never
mind, Ann,” she said. “Leave all the traps that need mending behind.
Perhaps we’ll have more time another summer. Your frocks are in pretty
good condition and we shall have time to buy what is necessary in the
East before school begins.”

“Am I going with you to Grandmother’s before school begins?” Ann
joyously asked.

“Indeed you are. I would not appear there without you for anything,”
her mother replied with a whimsical smile. “I need your courage to
sustain me, little daughter, since your father is not going East with
us. Just think, Ann, how many years it has been!” Mrs. Sterling looked
away toward the distant mountains with a sad expression.

“See here, Mother, you are to be happy, not sad, to think about going
back. Suppose Aunt Sue is there to spoil it a little. She hasn’t a bit
more right there than you. I’m afraid that you have what Katherine
says her father calls an ‘inferiority complex,’ when you think of your
older sister. Don’t let her browbeat you, little mudder! She thinks
that she is always right, or pretends to think it, and wants to run the
universe. I believe that you _do_ need your little old Ann to keep up
your spirits!”

“Indeed I do, ‘Gentle Hands,’ but I am not without some spirit, my
little daughter. Nobody there shall know what I feel.”

“Good. And don’t feel that you are ‘company’ there, Mother. Since Aunt
Sue runs it all, I have always felt that way, but now it seems as if
things ought to be different, don’t you think so?”

“We shall be Mother’s guests, of course. Yet, Ann, things cannot be
changed all in a minute,--even if my mother were a younger woman, you
know, able to take charge of a big establishment like that. I shall
most certainly not place myself in opposition to my sister in regard
to household affairs. They are not of enough importance. Mother is
thinking matters over. Unless your Aunt Sue persists in making trouble,
and I think that she has had a lesson in that respect, there will
be little change, unless it is as regards financial affairs. Mother
intends to look into that, she says. If they are not straight, it may
make a difference.”

“I see,” said Ann. “Whatever happens, Mother, you can count on me
not to embarrass you by making any trouble. I’ll be peaceful unless
attacked!” Ann was laughing now.

“No aggressive warfare?”

“Exactly, Mother, and yet I am ready to defend you and Grandmother to
the last gasp!”

“My Montana heroine!” laughed her mother, falling into Ann’s
melodramatic mood. “Very good. I told you that I would not go without
you, you see.”



CHAPTER II

WHISK!--NEW ENGLAND AGAIN


How differently Ann felt this time as she approached the now dear home
of her Grandmother on her trip from the West, no one but Ann herself
could have told. Then, the mystery of her Grandmother’s attitude toward
her mother was to be solved; now, her mother and grandmother were with
her, peacefully talking of their plan to go South after Christmas, her
mother showing nothing of any strong feeling which may have at times
possessed her when she thought of it all. Then, Ann was wondering who
would meet her, how her aunt’s family would regard her; now, she was
returning and would count upon a warm welcome from Roy and Madge,
Maurice, Suzanne, and perhaps her Uncle Tyson, though she was not sure
but he might consider her responsible for any new attitude of her
grandmother in respect to finances. Uncle Tyson was next to the throne,
thought Ann, the throne as expressed in Aunt Sue.

Ann was eager to have her mother once inside of the old home and
watched her lovingly from time to time.

“No,” her grandmother was saying, “I was not interested in Sue’s plan
to go abroad. I do not want to go myself, and I did not feel like
sacrificing myself this time, probably financing the whole thing. It
will be much better to have a Christmas reunion here, if William can
come on from Montana, as we hope; then we can spend the rest of the
season in Florida. I have not been there for years.”

Ann wondered who would go, the older folks, of course, with, perhaps,
Madge and Roy.

“What do you think of the place?” asked Madam LeRoy, as the chauffeur
drove them into the drive.

“Beautiful,” said Mrs. Sterling, a smile on her face, as she looked
at the familiar grounds, changed a little, to be sure, but the same,
with the great trees, the old lilac and syringa bushes, the flower
beds in much the same places. “There is more shrubbery and some of the
young trees have grown into large ones,” Mrs. Sterling continued. “But
there is the old arbor,--oh, it is good to see it again, Mother!” Mrs.
Sterling’s eyes filled as she looked, and without apology she drew out
her dainty handkerchief to wipe them.

Madam LeRoy looked at her daughter with some tenderness. “All this
absence and misunderstanding was needless. I hope that I may remember
that, to keep me strong enough in dealing with Sue.” This she said in a
low tone, not to be overheard by the chauffeur.

Mrs. Tyson had had the good taste not to go to the station to meet
them, nor was she outside, nor in the hall. A beaming Munson was at
the door with a man and a maid or two to take the luggage and orders
from the travelers. “Mrs. Tyson was called to the village, Madam,” said
Munson, “on a matter of business. She left her apologies and said that
she would be back before dinner.”

“Thank you. You may send Rose to me, please. I left Nancy at her
friend’s in the village. Attend to her baggage, also, and did you see
to engaging a maid for Mrs. Sterling?”

So Grandmother was going to have a maid for Mother, too! Would wonders
never cease! Ann looked on with interest, while the butler indicated
one of the maids at hand as the one recently engaged for Mrs. Sterling.
If Mrs. Sterling were as surprised as Ann, she did not show it, and
after all, it is not so difficult to fall into ways to which you have
once been accustomed.

Everything was done in a matter of fact way, quiet, rather formal, yet
Ann was conscious of a new feeling and atmosphere, of approval in the
glances directed toward her pretty mother, so sweet, so dear, as Ann
thought. Then there came an interruption. Roy, unabashed, slid straight
down the stairs upon the “sacred bannister,” as Ann said afterward.

“Hello, Gramma! Awful glad to see you back. It’s been a terribly long
time,--and Ann, I howled and yelled when I found out that they had gone
and started for Montana without me! Old Maurice, too!”

Ann wondered if Roy were in for a rebuke from Madam LeRoy, but none was
forthcoming. She bent over the little boy to kiss him. “Glad to see
‘Gramma’ back, are you, dear? Well, that is good. Gramma is glad to see
you, too. And I have a real wild West suit for you in my trunk.”

“Oh, goody! You’re a good sport, Gramma,” he added, to the horror
of Munson. But Madam LeRoy only laughed. “As soon as the trunks are
brought up, Roy, come to my room. I have to rest and get ready for
dinner now.”

“All right. I’ll watch for the trunks.”

Rose, who had given Ann a welcoming smile, in remembrance of one trying
day when she had served Ann to a lunch, eaten in worried loneliness, so
far as the family was concerned, respectfully followed the travelers
upstairs and showed Mrs. Sterling, with her new maid, the room that was
to be hers. It was next to Ann’s, who was told that her mother’s maid
would also serve her. “I’ll not be much bother to you, Adeline,” said
Ann. “Take good care of Mother, for she is worn out.”

This was luxury. Her own room, her own bath, a maid when she needed
one,--and Mother next door! “I wonder,” thought Ann, “if it is the
room she used to have.” It was, as Ann found a little later.

Suzanne was away with Madeline for a week end visit in Boston, it
seemed. Maurice had driven his mother to the village. Madge, thinner
than ever, and much taller, waited for Ann, sitting outside her door,
as Ann found when she started out after dressing. “Why, Madge, dear
child! Why didn’t you knock?”

“I promised I wouldn’t. But I was going to be right here, just the
same!”

Ann embraced the child and accompanied her, down the stairs and out
to the lawn, where they wandered around the walks a little while,
Madge picking a few flowers for Ann. “You have grown so, Madge,” said
the surprised Ann. “I have not seen you, though, for almost a year. I
missed seeing you at the spring vacation.”

“Yes; why didn’t you stay, then, Ann? Miss White said that she saw you
when you were leaving. Was it because Grandmother wasn’t here? Don’t
you care for the rest of us? I asked Mother about your coming, and
she wouldn’t tell. ‘Run along, Madge, and be a good girl,’ she said.
And then they went out to your ranch and did not take us! But then,
we ought to be used to that, I suppose. Mother does not like to be
bothered with us.”

All Madge’s grievances came out at once. Ann’s quick sympathy went out
to the little girl who had so little real mothering.

“There was a good reason for my not staying, Madge, that time I came
for such a short stay. Yes, I care a great deal for Grandmother, and
there was a reason why I had to see her, Madge; but I do care very much
for you and Roy and I was sorry not to see you. Some day, Madge, I hope
that you may come with me out West and see our ranch and the lovely
place in the mountains that my father gave me. But after all, it is
not good for little girls to travel so much. I could not when I was as
young as you are.”

“Couldn’t you? But then I think that your mother stayed with you,
didn’t she?”

“Yes. Mother and Father taught me my lessons.”

Madge thought a little before she spoke. “Well, I’m rather glad that
Mother does not teach me. I suppose that she knows a lot, but we
couldn’t tease her the way we tease Miss White and our other teachers.”

“It doesn’t seem to me, Madge, that it is a very good thing to tease
your governess. She can not teach you so much.”

“Oh, it’s all so stupid anyhow. I learn more when I read in the library
the things I want to read.”

Ann said nothing to this, realizing that Madge’s teaching must be poor
indeed, or Madge unusually hard to interest, if such were the case.

As they walked along the hedge of shrubbery at the far side of the
lawn, Mrs. Tyson’s small car, Maurice driving, came in and up to the
manor. Maurice saw Ann, though she was at some distance from the drive,
and saluted as he swept by. Mrs. Tyson looked out and bowed, as Maurice
mentioned the fact that Ann was there. “So they came,” she said.

“As they telegraphed they would,” dryly remarked her son. He opened the
door for his mother, assisted her out of the car and carried several
packages up the steps, handing them to the butler. Then he rapidly left
the verandah, crossed the lawn, and made his way to where Ann and his
little sister were standing.

“I would have met you, Ann, if Mother had not insisted on my driving
her to the bank. This is fine--having you here again.” It was a
charming Maurice that met Ann without the familiarity that had
embarrassed her before, yet with a real warmth of feeling that Ann
enjoyed. He, at least, was glad to see her. Always clean and spotless
of attire, the fresh tints of youth were good to look upon in Maurice.
This was not the Maurice it seemed, that said goodbye with such daring
and impertinence upon the mountain heights!

“We were well taken care of, Maurice. Yes, I am glad to be here again.
I love this place, and it seems different now that Mother is here, too.”

“I am glad that she is,” soberly said Maurice. “I want to get
acquainted with my aunt Elizabeth. I see no reason why this should not
be a happy visit, do you, Ann?”

Ann hesitated a moment. “Suppose that we try our best to make it so,
Maurice?”

“It is a bargain. Madge, will you be good, too?” Maurice rumpled
Madge’s short locks with a brotherly hand.

“Depends upon what you mean by being good. I find that the different
members of the family have different notions about that. If you mean by
my being good that I’m to let you and Ann visit, and go away, then I’m
not going to do it!”

“Why Madge, do you think that your brother would be so impolite?”
mockingly said Maurice. But he let Madge put her two arms through his
and lean on him, as they strolled along, and Ann liked him for it.

“Do you remember that night when you and Ann and Roy and I played
Go-Bang and things?” inquired Madge.

“_Do_ I? How could I forget it? Do you remember it, Ann?”

“Yes, indeed,” laughingly said Ann. “There was a game of hide and seek
on.”

“Yes, and Maddy and Suzanne never found you either.”

“No,” said Maurice. “But it would be safer if you would forget that,
Madge.”

Madge looked at Maurice with understanding, when she replied, “I’ll not
mention it to the wrong people, Maury. But Suzanne is nicer than she
was. I don’t think that she is as crazy about Maddy, either.”

“Is that so? Pretty good thing, then, don’t you think so?”

“M-hm. Oh, bother,--there’s Miss White calling me!”

Madge waited as long as she dared, then ran toward the house to join
her governess.

“What have you been doing, Ann, since I saw you last?” asked Maurice.
They had reached the little arbor among the evergreens by that time
and Maurice flicked away some leaves and twigs from the seat with his
handkerchief. “Sit down a bit, sweet cousin,--‘Gentle Hands,’ is it?”

“So Never-Run called me; but you could hardly accuse that old Indian of
sentiment, could you?”

“It is not misplaced this time,” said Maurice, sitting down beside Ann
and leaning back against the lattice, hands over his head. “Is that a
new frock you have on?”

“Same old one. I’ve had no time this summer to think of frocks.”

“I don’t believe that you spend much time thinking of them anyhow.”

“I wonder how I ought to take that, Maurice. A girl that doesn’t think
of them at all is likely to be what the girls call ‘dowdy,’ and a girl
that thinks about them too much is usually frivolous.”

“You are neither dowdy nor frivolous, Ann, and have so many good looks
that you need never worry.”

“Thanks, kind cousin,” said Ann rather laconically, “this is so good of
you! But what have you been doing yourself?”

“You have not answered my question,” answered Maurice, “but I rather
got you off the subject by my remarks, so unresponsively received! Why,
I finished up the camping trip, joined Mother, came home and have hung
around more or less ever since. Oh, yes, I went down to New York with
Ron on his yacht, but we were not gone long.”

“That must have been fun. You mean Ronald Bentley?”

“Yes, none other.”

“I liked Ronald, as well as Jack Hudson; but ‘Beano’ Bates!”

Maurice laughed. “Oh, Beano is a pretty good scout. He hasn’t a lot of
brains, but he can spend his money.” Maurice looked teasingly at Ann.
He had not known Ann this long without learning how to provoke her.

“A noble thing to like him for!”

“Your ideals, my dear cousin, are a wonderful thing in this world of
get and grab, but they won’t work in every day life, I am afraid.”

“Mine have worked so far, Maury.”

“But you have never had to dig for the simoleons.”

“Have you, that you know so much?”

“I can’t say that I have, and frankly, sweet Ann, I don’t want to.”

Ann was a pretty picture as she sat looking at Maurice, thoughtfully
considering what he was saying.

“I can see, Maurice, that it must be terribly hard not to have what
makes one comfortable. And it would be awful to have somebody you
love working too hard, or not having the necessities, or even the
opportunities! But I just know, Maury, inside of me, that it doesn’t do
people any good to put so much stress on having a lot of money and--oh,
‘slashing around,’ as Rita says, and trying to live at the top notch,
better than anybody else.”

“That is a fine theory, but how about yourself? Don’t you like pretty
clothes and traveling and having fun with the girls at school?”

“Yes. And that is one trouble here, Maurice. I’m afraid that I’ll get
to liking to have a maid and not doing anything useful and wanting as
pretty things as Suzanne has and getting lazy about school work and
everything.”

“That last remark has no ‘pussonal’ application, has it, Ann?” Maurice
was looking at Ann with amusement.

“I wasn’t thinking of anybody but myself in making it, Maurice. But
you can’t believe how I hate to get to studying sometimes. Still, I’d
hate to fall behind the rest, so I guess pride will keep me going this
year, if nothing else does.”

“Some have one sort of pride and some have another, Ann. If I ‘get by’
at college, it’s enough for me. You haven’t any use for that kind of a
student, have you?”

“I might be very _fond_ of one,” laughed Ann, “but I couldn’t admire
the attitude!”

“Maybe I’ll turn over a new leaf this year, Ann, if I can, at this
late day. It _would_ be sort of a disgrace, wouldn’t it, if I found I
couldn’t get by?”

“I’d be sorry for your father if you missed graduating.”

“You wouldn’t care yourself, any?”

“Certainly I would,” but Ann felt guilty at the thought of how little
interest she had taken the previous year in what Maurice did. He was a
kind, agreeable cousin, in a family where she was having a hard time;
that was all.

“Ann, I have been wanting to apologize to you, ever since I came home,
for the way I embarrassed you in saying goodbye. We boys had been
kidding each other about different things and were in wild spirits,
more or less, and like an idiot I spoke impulsively, as usual, and
spoiled it all. What are you smiling at?”

“The ‘as usual.’ But Maurice, I think it good of you to explain. It
did annoy me, more than you can imagine; but I concluded that you did
not mean to hurt me, for you have been lovely to me always. I haven’t
been holding it against you.”

“I don’t believe that you would hold it against me, Ann, but I was
sorry,--not for what I said, but for the time and manner of it. And ‘as
usual’ did not refer to a habit of proposing to girls, which is what I
suppose you smiled at?”

“You are too much of a mind reader, Maury,” laughed Ann. “I told you
then that you were crazy, and I still think it a crazy idea, suggested
by your mother, perhaps, as you said,----”

“Mother did not suggest it, Ann,” Maurice quickly interrupted Ann. “It
was on the way out. I was expressing myself to Mother, in no uncertain
terms, on visiting your mother and father at the ranch. I told her that
I would have nothing to do with it, and that after certain things that
I knew about had happened, she would show a good deal of ‘nerve’ to
walk in on you there.

“Mother was icy and cool, and told me what she thought of my opinion,
and went on, as she does, about not deserting her dear mother, who
needed her and all that! I may as well tell you, Ann, because you have
seen it. Mother has her fine points, but when it comes to putting it
over us children, as she used to, it simply can’t be done any more!”

“Don’t, Maurice!” said Ann, her hand up to stop him, for well as she
knew what he said was true, she could not bear to have him say it. “She
is your mother, at least.”

“One thing that I like about you, Ann, is that you are so sincere. I
can’t imagine your deliberately trying to deceive me.”

“Thank you, Maury. I never will.”

“You might think that because we are her children we will try the same
sort of thing. But some times it works the other way. Our Dad isn’t
happy,--you can tell that. He has talked to me, Ann. I’m not much for
him to be proud of, but I’m square, Ann; and since I smashed that car I
have tried to be easier on Dad.”

Ann’s brows were knit as she listened. It was one thing to think what
she thought of Aunt Sue and matters among the Tysons, and another thing
to listen to Maurice tell about it. It jarred Ann’s feeling of fitness,
if nothing else. Maurice went on.

“Not that I’m trying to make myself out anything but an extravagant
fellow. I like to have a good time all right. But I started to tell
you where you came into the conversation with Mother. When she started
talking about Grandmother, I let her ‘rave on,’ and then I declared
what I thought where you were concerned, that you had just as much
right as the rest of us to have a share in Grandmother’s affections
and money. It isn’t only the money, Ann, with Mother. She’s jealous.
I don’t know what started it (Ann could have told him) but that is
a fact. Then I said a few things about you and added that if you
were not my cousin I’d like to marry you some day. Mother took it up
too quickly! She said that the relationship between us need make no
difference, and that she thought it an excellent idea. I wanted to
clear up your notion that it was Mother’s first thought. Nobody can
help loving you, Ann. Look at Clifford Hart and that Gordon man, and
you should have heard Jack go on about you. That is why I wanted to get
a word in.”

“Well, Maurice, if it is of any satisfaction to you to know it, I will
say,” laughed Ann, “that your amazing suggestion at the lodge was my
first proposal!”

“It will not be the last, and that is why I wanted your promise.”

“So you said. But Maury, look here. It is going to be ages before I get
out of school and finish what I am going to do. Why, Daddy and Mother
think that I am not anywhere near grown up yet. And I am going to be
one of the world’s greatest pianists and have to study and play six
hours a day, after a while, and go abroad and everything!”

“Go abroad with me after we are married. You can do the whole thing
just as well then. Let’s see. I finish this year. Then I’ll get my
father to give me some sort of an easy job. I’ll tell you; I’ll handle
the foreign end of it. That is the very thing!” Maurice slapped his
hand upon his right knee with emphasis. “You will be through school, if
you must finish it, in two years, though that is too long,--I mean in
two years after I am out of school. By that time, with a fat check from
Grandmother, we ought to get along.” Maurice looked at Ann with what
Madeline would have found an irresistible smile, as he leaned forward,
in his earnestness, to take Ann’s hand.

Ann patted her cousin’s hand with her free one, then withdrew both.
“You are looking too far ahead, Maurice. Neither of us knows a thing
about real love. It is going to worry me too much to think about this.
_Please_, Maury, don’t!”

Maurice straightened up and leaned back against the lattice again. “Now
isn’t she flattering? The prospect is so terrible that she begins to
beg for mercy!”

“Not that, Maury,--oh, what shall I say to you!”

Maurice saw that he was really distressing Ann and like the gentleman
that he was he hastened to reassure her. “Well, Ann, if this really
worries you, I will not talk about it. You understand what I think, at
any rate. Think it over, but do _not_ let it spoil your good time. I’ll
not remind you of it for some time,--unless some one of the boys gets
too deeply interested in you. I’m glad that you are going to a girls’
school, anyhow.”

“Meanwhile, you will find the _right_ girl, Maurice.”

Maurice smiled. “We’ll go back to the old cousinly relation, if you
like,” said he, “but I claim all the privileges of affection.” Rising,
he held out his hands to Ann, who put her own in them, letting him draw
her to her feet. Then he took her arm lightly and led her along the
walks again, approaching the house. They talked of other things, but
when Ann left Maurice at the foot of the stairs, he said. “Perhaps,
after all, I’m not too closely related.”

“The proverbial infant, changed in its cradle?” laughed Ann.

“Something like that, perhaps.”

Ann did not think that Maurice had any such idea, but still, when she
entered the drawing room and found no one but her mother present, she
asked, “Isn’t Maurice Aunt Sue’s son?”

“Certainly.”

“And isn’t Aunt Sue your own sister?”

“Of course; why?”

“I was just wondering.”

At this moment Madam LeRoy and her daughter, Mrs. Tyson, entered, and
with profuse apologies on the part of Aunt Sue, who had purposely
delayed, Mrs. Sterling was welcomed by her older sister. But the effect
had been the opposite to that which was intended. Elizabeth Sterling
was feeling very much at home in the familiar rooms of the old house.



CHAPTER III

MADAM LEROY “AT HOME”


If Mrs. Tyson did not offer a particularly warm welcome to her sister,
upon her return after so many years to the old home, Madam LeRoy spared
no pains to show her pleasure at the presence of her younger daughter.
Her attitude was reflected in the deference shown by the servants and
in the interest of a few callers, notified by Madam LeRoy of Mrs.
Sterling’s presence.

Perhaps Ann’s greatest interest, in spite of her claims at not being
“frivolous,” was in her mother’s pretty clothes, purchased, for the
most part, the previous spring, when she and Grandmother were away
together. But two or three gowns in the very latest style arrived for
Mrs. Sterling, who was both amused and pleased at Ann’s delight. “You
are the prettiest thing, Mother,” she said. “Why didn’t you give me
your eyes and hair and fairness? If Dad could only see you now.”

This was one evening when Ann was watching her mother’s being arrayed
for dinner. Two former school-mates of her mother’s, who had married
and lived in the neighborhood, were to be dinner guests. The husbands,
too, were coming and Mrs. Sterling had been expressing her regret that
her own husband was so far away. “Never mind, Ann; your father will be
here for our first real ‘family reunion’ since our marriage.”

“Yes, at Christmas time,” sighed Ann, “so far away!”

“It is a long time,” said her mother soberly. “If it were not for
Mother, nothing could induce me to be separated so long. But this year
I must try to do what Mother wants and be with her, here and in the
South.”

“Now, Mrs. Sterling, just a touch of rouge and you will be complete,”
said Adeline, giving a last pat to Mrs. Sterling’s hair, and looking
coaxingly down into Mrs. Sterling’s face.

“Not at this late day, Adeline,” smiled Mrs. Sterling. “I have gotten
along thus far without paint and I think that I can make my appearance
without it. The Indians wear it sometimes, out where I came from.”

“Just as you say, madam,” sighed Adeline, with regret. She saw nothing
amusing in being denied those final touches of “complexion,” as Ann
called it. But Mrs. Sterling’s face was so fine without it, that she
took some pride after all, in the results of her handiwork, and smiled
at the two, who went out into the hall and downstairs like two girls
together, arm in arm.

“Isn’t it funny,” said Ann, “that Ronald Bentley’s mother should turn
out to be one of your old chums?”

“Why ‘funny,’ Ann?”

“Oh, I don’t know, only that I should know him pretty well and not know
about how intimate you and she used to be.”

The Bentleys had arrived when Ann and her mother went into the long
and beautiful sun parlor, or glassed porch, which was a comparatively
recent addition to Madam LeRoy’s mansion. Prettily furnished, it was so
attractive that it was a favorite spot now for both family and guests.

“Elizabeth LeRoy!” exclaimed Mrs. Bentley, warmly embracing Ann’s
mother. “How glad I am to see you after all these years. I hope that I
was not the one to stop writing.”

“It was probably I, Grace,” said Mrs. Sterling, “for I was going about
and doing many things in those first years of my married life.”

Mrs. Bentley was a sprightly little woman of about Mrs. Sterling’s age,
too thin for beauty, but with an expressive, interesting face. From
her it was evident, Ronald inherited his heavy eyebrows and deep-set
grey eyes. Mr. Bentley was expansive and much at home with Mr. Tyson,
with whom he was associated in the business in which the larger part
of Madam LeRoy’s fortune consisted. Ronald had been included in the
invitation, for the sake of the young people, who betook themselves
to a corner of the porch where cozy seats and a small table looked
inviting. It was a warm, September evening and every one was pleased
when Munson the dignified, himself brought out iced lemonade and
delicate glasses.

This done, he hastened to the hall, for another car came rolling in to
bring the other guests, a Judge and Mrs. Hays. In them Ann was not so
much interested, though it may have been largely because they had no
young and fascinating son! Ann was not so much different from other
girls of her age, after all. She and Suzanne, Maurice and Ronald were
having a merry time of it, while the older folk renewed acquaintance.

“Say, Maury, if the girls go to Florida, as you suggested, we’ll take a
run down in the old boat, or the yacht, in the Christmas vacation.”

“Sure thing.”

“But Father is coming at Christmas time, Maury,” Ann objected. “I’d
love to go to Florida, but I haven’t the faintest notion that I can.”

“Ann,” said Suzanne, “if you and I don’t go with our respective parents
to the land of flowers, I’ll give you the biggest box of chocolates
that Maurice can find for me,----”

“And pay for,” added her brother, knowingly.

“Of course. What are brothers for?”

“Do you really think so?” dubiously queried Ann. “How could it be
managed, with school, and father’s coming, and all?”

“Oh, school!” exclaimed Suzanne. “That could be fixed, and as far as
your father is concerned, I overheard Grandmother say to Mother that
she thought Uncle Sterling would go too. Perhaps you’d better not say
anything about it, Ann. Maybe they mean to surprise you. I didn’t think
of that.”

“I’ll be surprised still,” said Ann, “but I hope that it is so.
Florida, land of alligators and cypress swamps,----”

“You will love it, Miss Ann,” Ronald declared, as Ann hesitated. “Think
of more agreeable things than alligators,--blue skies, for instance,
and bluer waters and sitting on the deck of my yacht as we sit here,
going down the inland waterway.”

“Is your yacht strong enough to go out into the real ocean?”

“Yes, but when it is rough or stormy, you know, it takes a large vessel
to keep the passengers from feeling the swell and waves too much.”

“I see. I have never been out on the ocean.”

“Why, Ann!” Suzanne exclaimed. “Then I was on your mountains before you
have been on my adorable ocean.”

Ann nodded and smiled. “Do you like the sea the way I like my
mountains?”

“Indeed I do! But you must have the ocean this winter. We’ll go in
bathing and have more fun!”

“Count us in on that,” Maurice added. “We can do a good deal in two or
three weeks’ vacation, can’t we, Ronald?”

“Yes. Dad and Mother will take the yacht down when they go, perhaps,
and we can get there more quickly by train, then take the girls
yachting after we get there. We’ll get up a party. There are always a
lot of our friends going, you know.”

Maurice assented, though the Tysons had not gone to Florida for a long
time. Maurice, however, had enjoyed a recent trip with Ronald on such a
vacation.

“Do you dare come back before spring after you once go down?” asked Ann.

“Yes; we do,” replied Ronald. “My father goes back and forth, two or
three times during the season. He is careful, you know. But don’t you
remember how suddenly the temperature changes, even up here, warm one
minute, and cold as Greenland the next!”

“True,” said Ann, “like the Chinooks that we have, warm winds that melt
the snow off in a jiffy. Then comes a blizzard!”

“I’ve never been in your country, Miss Ann. Why didn’t I go with you
fellows this summer, Maury?” asked Ronald, with some regret.

“Beano said that he coaxed you to go along,” said Maurice.

“You forget that Ron doesn’t like Beano,” Suzanne reminded her brother.

“It wasn’t that so much,” protested Ronald, “but the boys had fixed
the car for sleeping and I thought that three would be one too many.”

“It wasn’t when I was along,” said Maurice. “I refused to go, too,
at first, for the same reason, but they had a tent and all the
appurtenances thereto; so I concluded to join them.”

“But you were with them such a short time. It didn’t appeal to me for
all summer, not with Beano, I will confess.”

“I can’t blame you,” said Ann, and Ronald looked at her with some
approval in his deep eyes. “He was kind and pleasant, but did not make
what you would call a hit, Maury, with our Western boys and girls.”

“Conceit is Beano’s middle name,” said Maurice, laughing.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next affair at the LeRoy house for Mrs. Sterling’s benefit was a
reception, one of those “pink teas,” according to Maurice, who said
that he would carefully keep out of the way. It was a day-time “at
home,” so planned for the benefit of the older folks who might not
care to come to an evening gathering, and only the adult friends were
invited. Ann was in the room one morning when she heard her grandmother
and Mrs. Tyson discussing the list.

“You aren’t going to invite _her_, Mother, are you?” asked Mrs. Tyson,
pointing to a name. “She is the worst gossip in six towns!”

“That is the reason I am inviting her,” calmly said Grandmother, to
Ann’s great amusement. “She will talk anyhow, and is a great deal more
likely to be friendly if we invite her. She has a somewhat privileged
position, in spite of her terrible tongue.” Then Grandmother noticed
that Ann was listening, and turned smiling eyes upon her. “Let this
lady be a warning, Ann, not an example. And remember what the epistle
of James says about the tongue, ‘a restless evil’ and ‘full of deadly
poison!’”

“I can not see any necessity for inviting her, Mother,” repeated Mrs.
Tyson. “It only gives her a better opportunity to talk. She is no
friend of Elizabeth’s; why should we have her?”

“Why all this discussion, Sue? You well know that I have always
included her in any general gathering like this. She would be offended,
and then the vials of her wrath would descend indeed!”

“Do you want Suzanne and me to dress up and be around, or may we stay
away?”

“Do you not want to be with us, Ann?” asked Grandmother in surprise.

“Oh, yes, if we can do anything to help entertain.”

“You can. I want a pretty group of girls to serve the guests. Wear your
prettiest frock and do your mother honor.”

“I’ll do my best, Grandmother.”

Ann was being constantly surprised at her grandmother’s energy, not
knowing that it had been her natural way before the illness which had
made her withdraw for some time, both because of her own weakness at
first, and later because of her daughter’s insistence. It was so much
easier to yield to Sue than to oppose her. Sue always had insisted
on her own way, but it had never taken the form of interfering so
much with her mother’s plans and life, she thought; at least she
_had_ thought so until the revelation came of her engineering the
misunderstanding between Elizabeth and herself. Well, well,--that was
past.

The second week of Ann’s stay with her mother was closing when this
reception took place. Ann and Suzanne were full of their plans for
returning to school and the group of girls, including Madeline, had
much to discuss. The rooms were prettily decorated with flowers. Ann’s
mother looked distinguished in a filmy summer gown and shared the
entertaining with her mother and sister. A host of handsomely gowned
ladies came in shining limousines with attentive chauffeurs. There was
the usual buzz of conversation.

The girls did not make their appearance until time to serve, in the
beautiful room devoted to that purpose. There the table was a shining
center of costly linen, bright silver and cut glass, which glittered
under the artificial lights. A mass of crimson roses gave fragrance.

“Is this Madam LeRoy’s grand-daughter from the West?” impressively
inquired a large, rather strong-featured woman, expensively and
expansively gowned, whose hands flashed with diamonds, as she accepted
the plate of ice-cream which Ann offered. “No; no coffee, thank you.
Unfortunately, it keeps me awake, no matter when I drink it. Sit down,
won’t you, a minute, to get acquainted?”

There was no one on either side of this guest, for it was now late in
the afternoon and most of the guests had been served. A few ladies,
in twos and threes were scattered about the room. Mrs. Bentley, who
was pouring coffee, had little to do and was chatting with one of the
guests, who stood by the table to talk to her.

Glancing around to see if she were needed anywhere, Ann sank her silken
slimness upon the chair next to the friendly lady.

“Yes, Mrs. Lewis,” said Ann, who had caught the name from Madeline when
she had offered coffee. “I shall be glad to sit down a minute. Almost
every one is served, I think.”

“I could scarcely find time to come,” returned Mrs. Lewis. “There were
so many friends to visit; and I only now consented to come. I came with
my daughter, who has been served.”

“Aha,” thought Ann, gravely listening and clasping her hands loosely in
front of her. “She is not fond of food, but yet----.”

“They tell me that you are quite an expert in Western ways, riding,
hunting, racing, breaking broncos and all. Ever had any encounters with
the Indians?”

“Our Indians are all very peaceful, Mrs. Lewis. I ride a little, catch
a few trout occasionally and can hit a mark when I shoot, but I never
race and I would not know how to break horses or broncos.”

“Why I understood that your horse won a race at a fair.”

Now who had told her that? Ann felt decidedly annoyed. “He did,” she
calmly replied, “but he was entered and ridden without our knowledge by
a young man who worked for my father.”

“Of all things! How things can get twisted in the gossip one hears!
But I suppose that it is true about the large fortune left you by the
Indian whose life you saved?”

“Scarcely that, Mrs. Lewis, but I happened to be the one to tie up
a wounded Indian and he sent me a rather valuable gift. He is still
living. See, the stones in this little ring, and this odd bracelet,
that I scarcely ever wear.” Ann was wearing the snake bracelet, which
had been beautifully polished and worked over by a jeweler recently.

“Curious, indeed,” said Mrs. Lewis, bending over to examine the
bracelet. “It must have been young Bates who told me about the Indian’s
leaving you a fortune; but perhaps I misunderstood him. I thought that
it would make you quite independent; but I suppose that now you will
have a share in your grandmother’s estate.” Mrs. Lewis took no warning
from the surprised look with which Ann openly regarded her. What sort
of a woman was this? And how did she know about Grandmother’s affairs?

A volley of questions followed, all delivered in that easy, smooth,
glowing way of which Mrs. Lewis was capable. Ann replied as best she
could, poor, sincere Ann, who did not know how to get out of it.

“How does your mother like coming back to us after her long neglect
of her mother and friends?” So ran on this human radio, thinking with
her tongue, as Ann afterward told her mother. But frank Ann must have
inherited some of her mother’s and grandmother’s nature, for she
immediately froze, and after a second’s pause, turned lifted brows upon
the inquirer, repeating, “‘Neglect?’ That is scarcely the word, is it?”

“Your aunt certainly felt it; for she has remarked to more than one
friend how much she regretted that Elizabeth saw fit to break away
from the close family circle. But she is looking very lovely and your
grandmother seems delighted to have her back.”

Ann’s ire was mounting, but how could she say anything discourteous
to one so much older, and a guest, however she might be transgressing
the laws of courtesy. But Ann had little opportunity to say anything,
in fact, without interrupting, and an amusing thought came to Ann
which almost made her laugh out,--if she could only turn the dial or
press the button to shut off this disagreeable broadcasting of family
affairs! But the “loud speaker” kept on.

“Madeline is a pretty girl, though rather wild, they say. It seems that
she was engaged to Maurice before he went to college, but that she
broke off the engagement when she heard that he is not Mrs. Tyson’s
son.”

Ann had been thinking of an excuse to break away, but just as Mrs.
Lewis started this last remark, one of the girls brought her a plate
of ice-cream and heaped it with a variety of the cakes. They looked
good and Ann began to dip her shining spoon into the frozen ice, giving
attention to the words which Mrs. Lewis repeated for her benefit, as
soon as the young lady was out of hearing. She could scarcely refrain
from giving Mrs. Lewis another look of amazement, but kept her face
calm and broke off a piece of pink frosting. “You must be mistaken,
Mrs. Lewis,” she said. Ann knew that if Madeline had ever had the
opportunity to be engaged to Maurice it would scarcely be she who broke
it off, and what in the world was that last suggestion?

“I forgot that being a stranger here, you scarcely would have heard the
gossip about Maurice. I should probably not have mentioned it,--but
of course, if it is true, he would have no share in your grandmother’s
money, and I do not think that the facts should be concealed. Some
other girls may fall in love with him,----”

“For Grandmother’s money, do you mean?” Ann did manage to get in this
comment.

Mrs. Lewis laughed. “Well, you know how the girls are nowadays. It
takes plenty of money to keep them.”

“I see, but Mrs. Lewis,----” Ann had no chance!

“At the home of one of our Boston friends a lady was visiting who
had been in Paris at the time when Sue LeRoy married Mr. Tyson. She
said that there was a rumor after the marriage that Mr. Tyson was a
young widower with an infant son, and that your aunt was so angry when
she found it out, that rather than have it known,--yes, thank you,
Madeline, those are delicious little cakes.”

“Your mother wants you, Ann,--excuse her, please, Mrs. Lewis. Bring
along your cream, Ann; I’ll put it somewhere for you.” Suzanne, with an
expression of amused horror, which Ann had caught across the room, had
hastily come to the rescue.

Mrs. Lewis, who was just about to ask Ann if the gossip were known in
the family, saw her victim depart with real regret.

“I knew how you must have been suffering, Ann,” laughed Suzanne, as
the two girls walked away. “Come out in the back hall and finish your
cream. Your mother does want you, but there isn’t any hurry.”

“I--I never saw, I mean, heard, such a person! She must have been the
one that your mother didn’t want Grandmother to invite because she was
such a gossip.”

“Grandmother didn’t want to offend her, I guess.”

“That is what she said.”

“What did she get out of you, Ann?”

“Mercy, I don’t know. I felt like a mouse, being played with by the
cat.”

“Cat is what she is, Ann. What she doesn’t know, she makes up.”

“She certainly has imagination!”

Mrs. Lewis had succeeded in annoying Ann thoroughly. Values in the
neighborhood went down for Ann immediately. “I’m glad I don’t have
to live around here,” she thought, for at present, under the spell
of an insincere member of the community, she had no thought for the
true friends. The suggestion about Maurice was too absurd! Had not her
mother just told her to the contrary? However, she wished that since
Mrs. Lewis had told her that much, she had had opportunity to finish,
if for nothing more than for Ann to tell her that it was not so.

Several of the girls came out and stood around Ann, some of them, like
her, finishing their own little lunch. “I oughtn’t to have eaten a bit
of ice-cream,” said one of them, a pretty brunette of about Ann’s age.
“Your mother wants me to sing pretty soon and I never can sing so well
if I have eaten it.”

“Take a cup of hot coffee, Lou, to warm up your throat,” Suzanne
suggested.

“That would be the other extreme.”

“You are to play her accompaniment, Ann,” announced Suzanne. “That is
what your mother wanted you for.”

“I hope that it is an easy one,” said Ann, putting the last bit of soft
frosting in her mouth.

“It is,” Louise assured her.

When Ann went into the drawing room, she found her mother surrounded
by a group of old and new friends. There was a comparatively small
number of the company left, which fact consoled Ann, rather dreading
to play before them. But she loved her grandmother’s big grand piano
and touched it with affectionate fingers as she played the prelude to
the song. In spite of the ice-cream, Louise Stanton sang well, her
voice girlish, but fresh and sweet. Afterward, Mrs. Sterling proudly
introduced Ann to her friends, who looked with kindly eyes upon
Elizabeth LeRoy Sterling’s daughter. There were “lovely” people here,
after all, and Mrs. Lewis had not remained upon the scene.



CHAPTER IV

BACK TO THE JOLLY SIX


Ann did not think best to trouble her mother with any of the gossip
with which she had been afflicted through Mrs. Lewis. What was the use?
Through Suzanne, however, Grandmother heard that Ann had been engaged
in a long conversation with the lady, and she spoke of it the next
morning, as she was taking her outing among the flowers. Ann had joined
her and under her direction was picking some of her grandmother’s
favorites.

“Suzanne tells me that our friend Mrs. Lewis was entertaining you, or
demanding entertainment of you, yesterday.”

“Yes, Grandmother. Isn’t she an awful woman?”

“Did you wonder that I quoted what I did in description?”

“No. Her tongue is poisonous all right. But it was such a surprise. She
was so pleasant, indeed, all the way through, you would have thought
that she was telling pleasant things. Do you suppose that she meant to
be----.” Ann paused for a fitting word.

“Malicious?” Grandmother supplied.

“That is the word. Thank you.”

“I do not suppose so. I scarcely know. But her conversation always
consists in comments upon other people. She has no other subject, and
unfortunately she likes best the unhappy phases, something to make
people exclaim. But do not let anything she may have said trouble you,
Ann. Whatever of criticism or innuendo she may have given you,--let
it go. She ought to be a warning to us all,--to let the doings of our
neighbors alone.”

“That is so, Grandmother. We have enough to do, I guess, to look after
ourselves.”

“We surely have. How would you like, Ann, to go to Florida with us?”

“O Grandmother!” Ann stopped plucking a posy and straightened up to
look at Madam LeRoy with shining eyes. “Could I--without hurting
anything?”

Madam LeRoy laughed. “You mean school, I presume?”

“Yes, of course, Grandmother!”

“I think that it could be managed, not to have you fall behind in your
studies.”

“Study a little there, you mean?”

“Just that. Will you be thinking happy thoughts about it, Ann?”
Grandmother was looking at her with eyes that were half sad, half
amused. Such a combination is possible.

“_Won’t_ I?” asked Ann. “I’ll want to think about it so much that I
won’t want to study.”

“I’ll risk you on that,” said Grandmother. “Don’t forget that I have
never had reason to be anything but proud of you. Please keep up the
record, child.”

“I will try, Grandmother,” said Ann with earnestness. “You are so good
to me!”

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, it was not the freshman cottage, or hall, any more! When Ann,
Suzanne and Madeline, with several more girls whom they had met on
the train, arrived within the Forest Hill grounds, they saw many
improvements added during the summer. Greetings from youth to youth,
taxis full of jolly old girls and subdued new ones, trucks of trunks
and bags and boxes,--all the usual sights of a girls’ school in
the throes of opening were to be seen. Busy teachers, a small host
of assistants in different lines, janitors and assistant janitors,
truck-men, grocery wagons and express wagons, bringing supplies,
contributed to the general air of enterprise.

There was not a sign of any one among Ann’s particular friends of the
Jolly Six at the administration building, where Ann’s party went first.
The girls had left their names and application for admittance to the
new sophomore cottage, which was to add to the provisions for the
sophomore girls. The school was growing and Ann’s class was one of the
largest freshman classes they had had.

“Wouldn’t it be awful if there is any mistake and we don’t get our
rooms?” asked Madeline, suddenly taking a panic.

“Don’t worry, Maddy,” said Suzanne. “They won’t turn us out. For some
reason or other, I’m not so particular this year, though I would like
to get in the new cottage. The old girls had the first chance if they
wanted it; but some of them wanted to go in the old one anyhow, because
of ‘tradition’ they said.”

“Tradition doesn’t appeal to me,” Madeline announced, “though there
is something in those high and airy halls, and the rooms with high
ceilings. But they are hard to heat in the winter, Mother says. She
wants me to be in the new building.”

“Let me see, young ladies,” said the teacher who was helping assign
girls to their rooms. There was a crowd in the office, girls waiting
their turn, for different purposes. The list was consulted. “Miss Tyson
and Miss Birch go to the new cottage, suite number 29, with Miss Frost
and Miss Simpson, I think.” There seemed to be some difficulty in
making out the names right there. Something had been written in.

“Miss Sterling goes to the Castle, with Miss Ward, Miss Frost and Miss
Robson,--some mistake there, Miss Frost’s name in both places. Well,
I suppose that it does not matter. She came several days ago and has
doubtless found her place.”

“So you won’t even be in the building with us, Ann,” said Suzanne,
quite regretful this time. A year ago she would have been relieved and
delighted.

“I’d just as lief be in the other building but for that, Suzanne,” said
Ann. “But if we go to Florida at Christmas time, it will not make much
difference.”

“Oh, are you going to Florida, Suzanne?” cried Madeline. “Why haven’t I
heard a word about it?”

“I guess I didn’t think of it when I was with you, Maddy. Besides
they were only talking of it. Ann says that Grandmother spoke to her,
though, as if it were all settled.”

“I must ask Mother if I can’t go, too,” said Madeline, “but I know that
they have other plans.”

If Madeline hoped to be invited to go with the LeRoy-Tyson-Sterling
party, she was disappointed. Neither of the girls felt free to give the
invitation, for one thing, and Suzanne had been thinking for some time
that Madeline was very cool and exacting at times.

“It will be fine if your people can go,” said kind Ann. “Have you ever
been there?”

“Oh, yes,” said Madeline, with a toss of her head. “Mother used to go
to Palm Beach every winter.”

       *       *       *       *       *

As Ann rapidly rounded the administration building to reach the walk
which led to the “Castle,” she almost ran into Marta Ward, who greeted
her with enthusiasm. “Why it’s Ann!” she exclaimed. “When did you get
in?” The girls embraced and Ann explained that she had only just
arrived and had been directed to the Castle.

“Yes,” cried Marta, “are you disappointed that you did not get into the
new cottage? We were next on the list, I think, but the girls who have
been here longer got the first chance and then Madeline and Suzanne
were to be with Genevieve, and--say, Ann, whom do you think we have in
our suite, for they have put four of us together?”

“I could make a good guess, I think, Marta, from somebody’s name that
was down in two places. But I am astonished, just the same.”

“Yes, it’s Frostie herself,” laughed Marta. “Will wonders never cease!”

“Honestly? How did it happen?”

“I don’t know exactly, but Aline says that Eleanor and Genevieve had a
serious quarrel or misunderstanding or something, and besides, Eleanor
can’t endure Madeline. So it seems that when she found out how things
had been arranged, without consulting her, she claims, she went up in
the air and went to Miss Tudor; and finally, Miss Tudor arranged for us
to be together. She thinks a great deal of you and Aline, and I am a
necessary evil, I guess.”

“Not much. Eleanor need not get snippy, or I’ll do some going up in the
air,” Ann laughed.

“Really, Ann, Eleanor is just as nice as she can be about things. If I
had not known that bunch of girls last year, I would not suppose that
Eleanor belonged.”

“What in the world will Suzanne and Madeline think about it?” queried
Ann, a little worried. “They just went over there. I wonder who is in
Eleanor’s place.”

“I haven’t the least idea. You know that the Sig-Eps wanted to have a
cottage of their own and took steps about it, didn’t you?”

“No.”

“Well, they did; and they wanted this new cottage. But Miss Tudor
told them that if they wanted a cottage, perhaps they could get some
of their alumnae to help them build one. Otherwise, the school would
continue to be divided according to ‘age and status of scholarship or
rank!’ This new hall is too large for a sorority hall any way. The
girls said that afterwards, and also said that they would want a chapel
or small auditorium for their meetings and entertainments.”

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea for the ‘Bats,’ would it?”

“No; let’s start working for it. It would be a good way for the school
to get new dorms, and the girls would love their houses.”

“The only objection I can see is that it makes things still more
clannish, and they are too much so already. We’d better talk it over
with Miss Tudor before we do anything.”

“But she really suggested it.”

“That is so; but perhaps it was on an impulse. Even teachers are known
to do that occasionally, and change their minds afterwards.”

“I will go back with you,” said Marta, laughing over Ann’s last remark.
“Both the other girls are there, and the rest of the Jolly Six have
their suite there, too, a few doors away. We’ll have to take in Eleanor
and Aline and make it the Jolly Eight.”

“You don’t imagine that Eleanor would ever be intimate with our crowd,
do you?”

“Stranger things have happened. How can she resist us, tell me that?”

“Of course, I had not thought of how irresistible we are! Have a
chocolate, Marta. Maurice gave Suzanne and me each a box when we
started. Madeline was disappointed that she was not remembered, too,
but Maury did not come to the station. His train, in fact, left before
ours. How did you like Maurice, Marta?”

“He has the making of a fine man,--if he is not spoiled. His gay
temperament is very taking, but I imagine that it is a source of
danger, too.”

“You talk like an old lady, Marta,” laughed Ann, who had been guilty of
similar thoughts, however, in regard to her cousin.

“I thought about him,” said Marta simply. “He watched you so much and I
got to thinking.”

“It is not wise to think too much, fair room-mate; and by the way, I
may run off at Christmas time for quite a stay.”

“How is that?”

“Grandmother plans to have me and Suzanne--Suzanne and me, I mean,--go
to Florida with them. I don’t know how long I shall be gone, but I’ll
do some studying there, Mother thinks.”

“It will be fine for you, though I shall certainly miss you.”

“I hate to go, with you not along, but I couldn’t miss it.”

“I should think not!”

“When did you get in, Marta?”

“Only yesterday evening. I have been unpacking. I gave Aline and
Eleanor the choice of rooms; was that all right?”

“Certainly it was. You mean of the bedrooms, I suppose.”

“Yes. There wasn’t much choice, but I suggested that since both were
there, they select the one they preferred. Both the girls were very
pleasant about it and demurred a little, but selected their room and
went ahead. You will find us pretty well fixed up, Miss Sterling!”

“Good. Let’s stop first and see Katherine and Dots and the others. My
luggage hasn’t been sent up yet, has it?”

“No.”

Warm welcome waited at the Katherine-Dots-Ethel-Lucile headquarters.
“Oh, is it _Ann_!” exclaimed Dorothy. “Come right in and see our
studio,--latest effects in tapestry, water colors and oils.”

Ann saw nothing but new curtains and Lucile’s paints, but expressed her
admiration and returned the embraces of her chums. “Last time I saw you
girls we were in the ‘Western Wilds,’” she said.

“Yes, and what a grand time we had!” Katherine exclaimed. “Say, Ann, I
heard from Beano Bates,--what do you think of that!”

“And I have had a letter from your faithful Edgar. Quick, girls, get me
a fan,” Lucile added, as Ann pretended to be overcome.

“Little did I think,” said Ann, “when I urged you girls to come out to
Montana, what an effect you would have upon our men!”

“Seriously, Ann, Edgar wrote a bright, interesting letter. I’ll let
you read it.” Lucile laughed again at Ann’s lugubrious aspect, which
she threw off at once, however, forgetting the pose in the things that
the rest had to relate. Lucile Early and Ethel Johns had been at their
homes in New York, enjoying their native city and incidentally shopping
for school. Dorothy Horton, in Maine, had visited a girls’ camp for a
week, before her mother returned from her trip. Katherine Neville, in
Ohio, had spent the time, she said, in “domestic pursuits,” cooking for
the family and trying to reproduce some of Rita’s fine concoctions.
“Mother ran off for a little rest,” she said.

“You have a new family, or, rather are a new family in your suite, I
hear,” said Dots. “Are you surprised, Ann?”

“Very much so, but it is all right. Marta and I are used to being by
ourselves, but we can get along and it will be fun to have more in the
family. We used to envy you girls last year, didn’t we, Marta?”

“We can call our suite a studio, too,” Marta added, “a musical one, for
Eleanor sings, Aline plays the violin, and our accomplishments you well
know!”

“Sure enough,” laughed Katherine. “Well, let the musical studio join
ours tonight and have a good old fudge or something reunion. Ask
Eleanor and Aline, won’t you, for us? If they have any doings planned
with the Sig-Eps, all right.”

“Thanks,--we’ll come. You won’t have to make fudge. I’ll bring my
chocolates.” But at this the girls laughed, for the box, passed around
several times, was much depleted, and Ann waved it away, when Katherine
held it out to her. “Put it somewhere till the appointed hour, then.
I’ll not want it. Now to join the family.”

Ann gathered up her wraps and umbrella and took her departure, Marta
leading the way. Before opening the door, however, Marta turned and
gave Ann a whimsical look, as if to say,--“it’s a risk, but here we
are.”

No one was in the little sitting room, which looked cosy with bright
cushions, pennants and pictures already in place; but Eleanor looked
out from the other bedroom, as Ann went into hers. “Is that Ann?” she
asked. Ann placed her things in the inner room and went out to meet
Eleanor, and in a moment, Aline. “Glad to see you,” said Eleanor. “I
imagine that you are surprised to see us in your family. But it is a
fine old suite and I think it lucky for us to get it. It is larger than
most of them, and I like being on the second floor.”

Ann, still holding Eleanor’s hand, for Eleanor had taken hold of her
arm, looked around at the large windows, the comfortable couch, the
window seat with drawers below, to which Eleanor pointed, and expressed
her enthusiasm. “Sit down,” said Eleanor, still the hostess. “I suppose
Marta told you how this happened?”

“As much as I knew about it,” said Marta, stretching out on the couch.

“Yes. I couldn’t say much, could I?”

“Not if you were wise,” laughed Marta.

“Well, I had a good reason for not rooming with Genevieve anyhow, and
the whole arrangement was made before I knew much about it. I was to
blame a little; for it was suggested to me last spring and I didn’t say
nay exactly, too lazy to have the trouble of refusing. Then with my
accustomed habit of putting everything off, I did not even write about
it this summer; only Mother wrote, asking Miss Tudor to do as well
by me as she could, it seems, and did not ask for a new room-mate,
as I wanted her to. _She_ didn’t want to get into trouble either.
Then we both forgot about it. We had a lovely trip to Alaska this
summer,--neither of us had ever been there. So it went. My real trouble
with Genevieve was about another matter, and of course I’d rather not
speak of that.”

“Of course not,” said Ann, “and I’m sure you need not have explained
anyway. As you say, we are lucky to have this suite, and if we can get
through the rushing season without coming to blows over the Sig-Eps
and the Bats, I have no doubt but we can be the best of friends.” So,
laughingly said Ann; and Marta cried, “Hear, hear!”

“One thing that will be of great advantage to me,” smiled Eleanor,
“is having all my accompanists in the suite. You can’t get away from
me, girls. Promise me, both of you, that if one is sick the other
will play,--and poor Aline will have to do it all the time. I adore
violin accompaniments, and it will be good practice for her in public
appearances!”

“If I were only a contralto singer,” said Marta, “you would have a
world-renowned quartet. Too bad that you have two pianists!”

“Suits me,” laughed Eleanor. “I’ll never have to worry.”

“It will be easy to arrange practice hours, too,” said Ann. “Dear me,
no practice to speak of all summer, but oh, such a glorious time!”



CHAPTER V

THE DISTRESSED DAMSEL


Ann did not see Suzanne at dinner, and heard afterward that she,
Madeline and Genevieve had gone to town for their dinner, to “Polly’s.”
Ann’s trunk had been sent to the suite and Ann was busy unpacking, when
Marta came running up the stairs, not far from the open door. “You’re
wanted, Ann,” said she, out of breath. “Suzanne is downstairs and wants
to see you.”

“Why doesn’t she come up?”

Marta lifted her brows and nodded toward Eleanor’s door, through which
Eleanor, writing a letter, could be seen.

“Sakes!” softly said Ann. “I’m right in the middle of this! And it
is going to be a pretty state of things if Suzanne won’t come where
Eleanor is!” But Ann picked up her scarf and started out.

Suzanne was strolling up and down the lower hall while she waited for
Ann, rather avoiding the stairway, for she did not want to run into
Eleanor or Aline. “Hello, Ann,” said she, “come out for a little walk
with me. I want to see you.”

“I wish that you would come upstairs, Suzanne,” said Ann. “I’m just
in the midst of unpacking and the room is a sight. Still, Marta
won’t mind, and we’ll not go to bed for ages. I have to study like
everything.”

“I wouldn’t go to your suite tonight for a thousand dollars! The idea
of Eleanor’s doing that way! That is what I want to talk about.”

The girls walked out of the hall and out upon the campus to one of the
benches, under a beautiful elm. Girls were scattered everywhere over
the green lawns, but this seat was empty.

Ann felt from Suzanne’s manner that she was in for something
disagreeable, but calmly waited for the explosion, if explosion there
was to be.

Suzanne came to the point immediately, sitting down and leaning toward
Ann, her hands tightly clasped. “Did you know anything about this, Ann?”

“What do you mean? Did I know _beforehand_, you mean, about rooming
arrangements? Indeed I did not. Did you?” Ann asked this question as
keenly as Suzanne, though without the feeling behind it.

“Genevieve wrote Madeline a few days before we came that she had asked
for a suite for us all. She was counting on rooming with Eleanor, and
Eleanor has played her a mean trick! I did not say anything about it
to you, Ann, because it was uncertain about our getting the suite, and
I did not suppose that you would care; you were planning to room with
Marta, weren’t you?”

“Certainly. We did not even ask to be in a suite, though we had
expressed a preference for one, to Miss Tudor, one time. This was one
great surprise to me, Suzanne.”

“I suppose so, but I wanted to make sure. And I can’t tell you, Ann,
how I feel about Eleanor’s turning us down this way!” Suzanne’s eyes
filled with tears. She started to speak again and could not. Finally
she put her head down on Ann’s shoulder, shaking all over in the effort
to control herself and keep from breaking into a storm of tears.

Ann took her hands and squeezed them, without saying a word. With a sob
and a sigh, Suzanne presently raised her head. “Were any girls looking
at us?” she asked.

“No,--not a soul around. Never mind, Suzanne. It isn’t worth feeling so
bad about it.”

“Yes, it is, too, Ann. You don’t know what it means among our crowd
of girls to be in with Eleanor.” There it was again! Ann’s sympathy
received a jolt. It wasn’t that Suzanne cared so much for Eleanor,
after all!

“So I have been wondering if something can’t be done about it. Would
you and Marta care, if Eleanor and Aline should room with Maddy and
me?”

“Not a bit, but could you plan a thing like that, Suzanne? Where
would Genevieve come in? And wasn’t she the one who arranged for that
particular suite?”

“Yes, but it’s her fault that she is out with Eleanor. Couldn’t you ask
Eleanor about it?”

“Not I, Suzanne. You girls will have to fix it up among yourselves.”
Ann spoke very decidedly.

“But you could find out whether she dislikes me or not, couldn’t you?”

“Probably. I don’t believe that Eleanor has anything against you.
Marta said that it was Genevieve, and then, that Eleanor does not like
Madeline.”

“Then don’t you suppose that I could room with you?”

“And turn Marta out? Why, Suzanne!”

“Well, she might not care much. Besides, Grandmother would much rather
have me room with you. She did not like it a bit last year, Mother
said, when she found out that I was rooming with Madeline instead of
you. But Mother persuaded her, told her that Maddy and I had been
friends so long and that you did not care.”

“Grandmother never mentioned it to me. I had expected to room with you,
Suzanne; but I knew Marta as well as I knew you, of course, and we have
become fast friends. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt Marta for worlds!”

“It could be fixed up through our parents, you know.”

Ann wanted to tell Suzanne that she was a “selfish little pig” and the
words were on the tip of her tongue,--but she refrained. It would not
do. Here was a bit of scheming that would be worthy of Aunt Sue. What
Suzanne could not get in one way she would get in another!

“If you won’t do anything about it, I’m going to ask Marta myself,”
Suzanne continued.

“For pity’s sake, Suzanne! Don’t do anything of the kind!”

Suzanne set her lips together. How much her profile looked like Aunt
Sue.

“Would you and Marta care, then, if it were arranged for Maddy and me
to come with Eleanor and Aline? That would give Genevieve the old suite
in the new cottage, and she’d get over being mad about it!”

“So far as I am concerned, if you can arrange to room with Eleanor and
Aline, it is all right. I don’t think that Marta would care, though
it certainly would be a bother, after getting settled. But how about
Eleanor’s not liking Madeline?”

“Maybe I can get some other Sig-Ep girl that she _does_ like.”

“If you can fix it up, Suzanne, I’ll not stand in your way. This was a
surprise, and it really does not make any difference to me,--just till
the Christmas vacation. Do you think that it is important enough to
stir things up so?”

“Yes. If I could room with Eleanor this year, it would probably mean
for the junior and senior years, too. Maybe Eleanor is going South,
too, with her mother.”

“I see. All right, Suzanne; do anything you want to, but don’t expect
me to take a hand. You will have to see Eleanor yourself.”

“That is what I hate to do. I believe that I’ll talk to Miss Tudor
first, tell her that I am not satisfied. She’ll want to keep in with
Mother.”

“Perhaps,” dryly said Ann.

That ended the interview and the girls separated, Suzanne to join some
other girls, after being assured by Ann that all traces of tears were
removed, and Ann to resume her interrupted task of unpacking. She was
both annoyed and troubled. Marta noticed her abstraction but made no
comment. Both girls studied busily, chiefly in their bedroom this time,
for Eleanor and Aline were talking in their common study.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ann was too busy the next day to think of anything but lessons, though
she wondered if Suzanne would go to work “upsetting things.”

The worst arrangement suggested was the one whereby she and Suzanne
would room in the suite with Eleanor and Aline. Not that she did
not like them all, but she wanted Marta or some one of the Jolly
Six, her very own congenial friends, with much of the same interests
and purposes. But she told herself, as she had in wakeful hours of
the previous night, that they all would have to be consulted anyhow
about the matter and it would be handled by headquarters in final
arrangements. “No use to worry,” she thought. The best plan, if change
was to be made, was for Suzanne and some one of the “Sig-Eps” to move
in with Eleanor and Aline. That would be much better for Suzanne, Ann
thought, than continuing to room with Madeline. Perhaps she _ought_ to
do something about it! It _would_ be a shame for Suzanne to be with
both Genevieve and Madeline!

At dinner, for the girls were at present sitting where they pleased at
table, Suzanne joined Ann and afterward almost dissolved into tears
again telling Ann about matters at their suite. “Miss Tudor has put a
new girl in with us, temporarily, she said, and she is awful. Genevieve
is tearing her hair, figuratively speaking, and we are all upset. I am
to see Miss Tudor pretty soon.”

Poor Ann wondered what her duty was in the matter, and hoped that she
need have nothing to do with it. Ought she to give her consent to
taking Suzanne in place of Marta, if Miss Tudor suggested it? What
would Marta think? Perhaps she and Suzanne could take a room or a two
room suite together, and let Marta get a new room-mate, staying with
Eleanor and Aline. There! _That_ was what she would suggest, if she had
anything to say about it. That would fulfill her duty to her cousin and
not turn anybody out. Of course, that would not suit Suzanne. Ann felt
fairly dizzy with the different plans that suggested themselves. What a
bother!

No wandering about the campus that evening. “Bunny” had announced a
theme, the assignment in Math looked hard, and there were pages and
pages of new and more difficult French to prepare. Ann got out her
books and went to work at the table in the study, where Eleanor and
Aline found her later. Marta was still out with the girls.

“Got a wonderful song, Ann,” said Eleanor, waving some sheets of music.
“I borrowed it from the girl who owns it. It has an exquisite violin
obligato and I want you to do the accompanying, if you will. I’m
sending for copies. We were just trying it over in the parlor. Sara
played the piano part.”

Ann stopped work long enough to look at the music “I’d like to go right
down and try it over, but I can’t,--got to study.”

“I have to, too,” said Eleanor. “Aline and I have a miserable harmony
lesson to work out. Will it bother you if we do it together?”

“I’ll not even hear you,” laughed Ann.

The girls had scarcely started on the harmony lesson, when there came a
knock. One of the girls acknowledged Eleanor’s “Come in” by poking her
head inside the door and saying, “Miss Tudor wants to see you, Eleanor.”

Ann, busy with a problem, heard it as in a dream, but waked up
sufficiently to her surroundings to hear Aline say, as Eleanor hurried
out, “It’s about the suite, Eleanor!” And Eleanor answered, shortly,
“That’s all settled!”

Aline disappeared from the room a little later, and soon, who should
appear but Suzanne, in some excitement. “I saw that Eleanor went over
to the administration building, and that Aline was outside, so I ran up
a minute. I saw Miss Tudor and talked with her,--all about it. She did
not say much, but said that she would see me again after she had talked
to the other girls. So she is going to do something!”

Suzanne was feeling some confidence about the affair, Ann could see.
“You’d better not put on your kimono, Ann, for she may send for you. Do
your best for me, cousin,” said artful Suzanne.

“I will,” said Ann, “though I don’t know what is ‘best.’ I fancy that
Miss Tudor will do the settling of it, don’t you?”

“She can be _influenced_,” replied Suzanne.

Ann did not believe this, in the sense in which Suzanne meant it, and
thought that Suzanne exaggerated her own importance and that of her
family. “She thinks that the Huntington-LeRoys are the whole thing!”
thought Ann. “And to get her own way and be with Eleanor, for the sake
of I don’t know what, she’d do anything and turn anybody out!” Ann was
thoroughly disgusted. She laid aside her “math,” decided that she could
not think up a theme while her mind was so distracted, and picked up
the new French text, rather technical and difficult, but she could more
easily read along and look up the new words in her dictionary than do
anything else. She went into her bedroom, looked in the glass to see if
her hair were in condition to appear before the dean, and sat down by
the window with her book. If Eleanor came in and did not want to speak
to her about where she had been, it would be simpler for her to be out
of the way. She shut the bedroom door, as this occurred to her.

But it was not long before Aline and Eleanor came in, talking, as Ann
thought, in some excitement, though their voices were low. “Ann!”
called Eleanor, rapping sharply upon the bedroom door.

“Come in,” called Ann in reply.

Both girls came in and sat down on the bed, looking at Ann and each
other. “You tell her, Eleanor,” said Aline, clasping the head of the
bed with one arm, crossing her small slippered feet and cupping her
pointed, poetic chin with her free hand.

“Surely I will,” replied the efficient Eleanor, her eyes flashing.
“Are you satisfied with this arrangement, Ann, or would you like to get
out of it?” she asked directly.

“I should prefer to leave things as they are,” promptly replied Ann.

“From what I know of you,” said Eleanor, “I judge that you are telling
the truth.”

“I am,” said Ann.

“Did you see Suzanne and know that she was going to see Miss Tudor
about this rooming business?”

“Yes. Suzanne was very much upset, and hurt, because she thought that
perhaps you did not want to room with her. She says that she is just
sick over it. She wanted me to talk to you about it, but I told her
that I would not get into it.”

Eleanor looked thoughtful. “I like Suzanne,” she said, “but I can’t
bear Maddy, nor Genevieve, now. Of course you know that Miss Tudor
has been talking to me about it. She gave me a good lecture, too, on
not having consideration for other people, and upsetting plans and so
forth. I certainly am _mad_ about it!” Eleanor’s eyes flashed fire
again; then she looked at Ann, and they both laughed, Aline joining.

“I suppose you think, Ann, that it is a tempest in a tea-pot; but these
things make a lot of difference.”

“Yes, they do,” answered Ann, sobering again. “It _is_ important whom
you room with. I can’t say that I am very anxious to have Suzanne stay
with Genevieve and Madeline--both pretty reckless about some things.”

Eleanor nodded. “Say, Ann, I’ve always wanted to explain about that
time when you came on us and we had the cigarettes. I don’t do that
sort of thing, but we were in high spirits and Gen dared us. She and
Maddy think that it’s smart, and that is one of the reasons that I
don’t want to room with Genevieve,--but please don’t say anything about
it. I couldn’t tell Miss Tudor that.”

“What is Miss Tudor going to do?” asked Ann.

“Mercy, I don’t know! She’s talking to Genevieve and Madeline now.
Probably she will send for you next. That is why I wanted to talk with
you. Miss Tudor asked me if I would object to having Suzanne room here
with you,--of course, she gave me to understand that I hadn’t much to
say about it, but still, she wants a good arrangement for everybody. I
told her that it would be all right with me, but that I thought it mean
to turn Marta out. Then I didn’t know how you would like it, I said. I
was so mad because of the good scolding I had, that I talked right up
to her!”

Ann laughed. “Lots of good it will do, Eleanor.”

“Exactly. But it was some consolation to me.”

“I’d have a great time with three Sig-Eps in the suite with me,
wouldn’t I?” laughed Ann. She did not mind giving this hint.

“I thought of that, but it would only be two, at that. I can’t get
Aline into the Sigs. Her mother was a Bat.”

A direct look was exchanged between Ann and Eleanor. “Thanks,” said
Ann, storing away the knowledge, as Eleanor meant her to do. The Bats
would be after Aline now. They had thought it useless before, as she
and Eleanor were so intimate. But they had wondered why they did not
hear of her initiation as a Sig-Ep. Eleanor was a “pretty good scout”
after all.

“I don’t like it of Suzanne, if this is her scheme, to leave Maddy out
in the cold; but if she wants to room with you it would be much better
for her. I don’t see why she didn’t do it last year,--yes, I do, too.
She and Maddy are more congenial in many ways. That is nothing against
you, either.” Eleanor was surely frank, Ann thought. Probably Eleanor
had learned some things during her freshman year, as they all had.



CHAPTER VI

THE DEAN SENDS FOR ANN


“Miss Tudor blames me for the whole thing,” continued Eleanor, “but I
said that I’d leave school before I’d go back with the girls, Gen and
Maddy. ‘Now, now, Miss Frost,’ she said, ‘don’t say anything that you
would regret.’” Eleanor raised her finger warningly in imitation of
Miss Tudor’s manner. “And Miss Tudor _would_ let me go, too, rather
than have any of the girls tell _her_ what to do!”

“Do you blame her?” laughed Ann.

“Not a bit of it,” said the amusing Eleanor. She had come out of her
reserve with a vengeance. “Well, what are we going to do about it?”

“Take what comes,” said Ann.

“She may ask you to suggest.”

“I hope not. Is there any other Sig-Ep girl, or one that isn’t, that
you would like to be with Suzanne, in case Marta and I give up our
share in the suite and take a single room?”

Eleanor eyed Ann suspiciously. “I bet that is what you’d rather do!”

“No; as I told you, I’d rather let things alone. Yet it does worry me,
the more I think about Suzanne. And I could not bear to turn Marta
out, you see. Marta is the kind that would do it in a minute, and I
hope she doesn’t even hear about it! Let me tell you, girls, I’m not
going to suggest _any_ plan to Miss Tudor, but I’ll tell her what I
think if she asks me.”

As Ann spoke there came another rap, this time on their outer door.
“For me, I suppose,” said Ann, rising to admit the caller.

Ann did some rapid thinking as she crossed the campus. While it would
spoil Suzanne considerably to have her own way about rooming with
Eleanor, any arrangement which would take her out of Madeline’s close
intimacy would be good. But Ann felt rather disgusted by this time with
the whole affair and the fact that she had to be drawn into it.

She had been told that she was to go to Miss Tudor’s private rooms and
thither she directed her way, rapping gently. Some way, although she
knew that she was not to be corrected for any fault, the very idea of
being sent for by the dean made Ann nervous. She felt worried over the
affair, and when she was admitted, sitting down to wait for Miss Tudor,
she found that her hands were cold and felt her face grow flushed at
the thought of the coming interview.

“Good evening, Miss Sterling,” said Miss Tudor, entering from a door
behind Ann. Ann immediately rose, as she replied to the greeting, and
was waved back to her chair as Miss Tudor sat down. She came right to
the point.

“You know, I presume, the matter about which I want to talk to you?”

“Yes, Miss Tudor. Suzanne, Eleanor and Aline have told me.”

“Do you want to room with your cousin?”

Ann hesitated. “I want to do what is the square thing, Miss Tudor. It
does not seem fair to turn Marta out. I think a great deal of her,
besides. But it would be better for Suzanne not to room with Madeline
and Genevieve.”

Miss Tudor nodded. “If I could make suitable arrangements for the other
girls, would you and Marta together be willing to give up the suite
that you have now with Eleanor and Aline?”

“So far as I am concerned, yes, Miss Tudor. Marta and I were both
surprised at this arrangement, but we like the girls. Eleanor has been
real fair and we are very fond of Aline.”

“I am glad to hear you say so. That is all, then, Miss Sterling.”

What a relief to be outside the door. Had she said the right thing?
Was it mean to imply what she did about Genevieve and Madeline? Would
Miss Tudor think that she, Ann, was one of those “goody-goody” girls
that Suzanne talked about with such contempt? “I don’t care,” she told
herself. “I have to make good here, and I’ve something else to do
besides run around with them. Dear me! If Suzanne rooms with me, I’ll
have to do most of my studying in the library, I guess!”

Crossing the campus again, she met Marta hurrying in the direction from
which she had just come. “Say, Ann,” she cried, before she reached
Ann’s near neighborhood, “what’s all this? Miss Tudor sent for me, and
Eleanor says that you are,--have been there. What’s up?”

“Didn’t Eleanor tell you?”

“No; she wouldn’t, just laughed; and I thought that she seemed a bit
embarrassed.”

“I can’t imagine Eleanor’s losing her way of carrying things off! But
I’ll let Miss Tudor explain what is on hand,--largely because I want
you to remember what she does say. Will you?”

“I’ll try,” laughed Marta.

“And Marta! I don’t know what Miss Tudor is going to do about the
matter that has come up, but promise me that you will come to me right
afterwards and hear what I have to say about it.”

“I promise,” cried Marta, running on.

But Ann was troubled. “Let the old lessons go!” she thought. “I’m
going to be right there when Marta comes out. She might think that I
am in with the girls in wanting to room with Suzanne, or something!”
Whereupon, Ann retraced her steps and chose a quiet spot upon the
broad porch of the administration building. Ordinarily, she would be
supposed to be in her room, as study hours had long since commenced.
But she thought that she would be able to explain her presence if
questioned.

She had scarcely seated herself, behind one of the pillars, when Miss
Bunn, or “Bunny”, came out of the building and looked around before
descending the steps. Ann immediately felt like a transgressor.

Seeing some one behind the pillar, “Bunny” came around to see who it
was. “Why, Miss Sterling,” she said, “I am surprised! Do you not know
that study hours have begun?”

“Yes, Miss Bunn,” said Ann, rising, “but my room-mate is in Miss
Tudor’s room and I have just come from the same place. I thought that I
would wait a few minutes for Marta.”

Miss Bunn’s nose gave the familiar twist. “It is very irregular for you
to be here. It will be quite dark in a few minutes.”

“Yes, Miss Bunn,” replied Ann, having a bright thought. “Don’t you
think that it really would be better for me to wait for Marta, so we
can go across the campus together?”

“Perhaps it would,” said Miss Bunn, somewhat doubtfully. “But if Marta
should be detained some time, do not wait,--not more than a _very few
minutes_, Miss Sterling. Otherwise I shall have to report you as out of
your room in study hours.”

“Very well, Miss Bunn,” respectfully said Ann, for the first time
feeling like being impertinent to a teacher. She remained standing
while Miss Bunn, still with the attitude of disapproval, slowly walked
down the steps and around the walk.

“Fussy old thing,” thought impatient Ann. “She just wanted to show her
authority!” But Ann did not realize how Miss Tudor had impressed all
her staff with the importance of looking after these girls, many of
them accustomed to very little restraint at home, much less than would
have been good for them. The trouble with poor, conscientious Miss Bunn
was that her manner with the girls prejudiced them against her, with
the result that even the obedient ones resented her authority.

Time went slowly, especially since Ann felt out of place. She thought
that at least fifteen minutes must have gone by when she looked at her
watch, barely to be seen in the fading light, to find that only five
minutes had passed since she last consulted it. And here came Marta.

“Well!” exclaimed the surprised Marta, “that you, Ann? She didn’t keep
me long, did she?”

“It seemed ages. I was worried for fear she would say something that
you would not understand about what I thought, and then, with the girls
in the suite, perhaps there would not be a good chance to tell you
all about everything. Bunny came by and reminded me that it was study
hours; but this was too important, so I stayed.”

“Come on over to my practice room. It may not be my room, of course,
for our practice hours may be changed; but it will be a good place to
talk. Nobody will mind. I think that Bunny was ahead of time about
study hours. We’ll not be supposed to keep them tonight,--oh, of
course, to stay off the campus. But there go some girls now. There will
have to be a lot of going back and forth. Come on.”

The girls went to the building in which both had practiced on their
respective instruments the previous year. It was dark, and when they
tried the doors they were locked. “I might have known!” exclaimed
Marta, in disgust. “Idiot!--I am referring to myself, Miss Sterling!”

“Your explanation is accepted,” laughed Ann, “but I might have had a
brain or two about _me_! We’ll just sit down a few minutes on these
steps to unburden our souls.”

“I’ve precious little to unburden,” said Marta. “Miss Tudor began as if
it were a social call. She asked me about what sort of a summer I had
had, then seemed very much interested in my description of your home
and the lovely mountain cabin, lodge, I mean. She asked me how you and
I became acquainted, how we got along together, if we belonged to the
same sorority with Eleanor and Suzanne, and who my special friends in
the school were.”

“Foxy Miss Tudor!” Ann remarked.

“Yes; I began to smell a mouse when she began to inquire about my
friends. It was something about rooming, of course. Then she asked me
if I would be willing to make a change to some other suite or a room,
if the present arrangement did not seem best. She said, too, before
I answered, that you ‘expressed yourself as willing to give up the
suite.’”

“Aha!--angelic Miss Tudor!”

Marta peered through the gathering darkness to see if Ann were losing
her mind. “Why all this enthusiasm about our dean?” she inquired.

“I may tell you some time,” replied Ann.

“That was all. I told her that I did not care much, and if it were
easier all around for her to change us, I did not mind.”

“Marta, you are an old dear, and I shall not worry a mite about what
Miss Tudor is going to do. Let’s go home, look over our lessons and go
to bed. I think that it was a shame to post lessons and send us to our
teachers the opening day. They never did that before. They must have a
new system and are speeding up. We do lose a lot of time; and they had
all our books ready.”

“Just the same, I don’t believe that we shall recite, on account of the
new students in all the classes. But Ann, _why_ did you want me to come
right to you after seeing Miss Tudor? What has been going on?”

“If you don’t mind, Marta, I’ll wait, until whatever is to be done is
done, and then tell you.”

“All right. As you say, ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ and I’m sleepy.”

The girls talked of other things as they sped toward their new home.
There they found the suite empty, as Ann had hoped. She did wish that
no explanations would be necessary tonight. No telling what idea of
self-sacrifice Marta might get,--and spoil it all. Both girls were
sleepy after a full day. It was bath and bed, trusting to luck and
early rising for the lessons of the morrow.

Ann felt comfortable as she drifted off to sleep. She hoped that she
had not been hypocritical in what she had said to Eleanor. She really
would have preferred no change. But if there must be one, it was
pleasant to think that she and Marta were not to be separated.



CHAPTER VII

SETTLED AT LAST


“It was really too easy,” said Ann afterwards, “the way things were
fixed up. Nothing like having somebody who can decide for you. Catch me
trying to fuss myself with school arrangements! I’m certainly glad that
I did not take up Suzanne’s suggestion and go ahead to change things.”

The next morning there was a mad scramble to get ready in time, to get
lessons, which, it was warned, would be expected; to have breakfast, do
a thousand things, more or less, and reach classes on time. Not much
thought could be given to affairs in the rooms and suites. Eleanor and
Aline rushed over to the conservatory building; Marta had both matters
musical and matters literary to engage her attention; and Ann, last
but not least, reading Latin and French at an early hour, went over to
breakfast without a belt which covered some shirring on her dress, and
would have gone to class unmindful of her beltless condition, had not
Marta noticed that the dress looked “different” and discovered what was
lacking. “This is the life,” laughed Ann, hastily fastening her belt,
as she flew out of the room to make the early class.

“I like it,” said Marta, coming abreast of Ann and wishing that she
could slide down the bannisters. “Are we going to be late?”

“Hope not,” said Ann, who had spent too long a time in looking over
another lesson.

So the day went, with the usual fun and the usual worries, hoping that
one would be called on for the part best learned, or easiest to do
impromptu; but the teachers were merciful to the recent comers and the
mountains and impassable streams of learning became level plains to
young feet.

At dinner there were the customary special announcements. Then a list
of names was read, while every one listened intently for her own name.

“The following persons,” read Miss Montgomery for Miss Tudor, “will
see the dean about special matters relating to changes in rooming or
studies. This must receive immediate attention. The young ladies will
go to the library and will be sent for in the order desired.”

The names were then read, in alphabetical order; and they included, Ann
noted, the names of all in her own suite and those in the new cottage
suite occupied by her cousin and her friends.

A bevy of girls, some wondering for what reason they had been called,
all talking, laughing, or exchanging confidences in low tones, reached
the library after dinner. At the table Ann had caught a look from
Eleanor, who whispered to her, as they were on their way, “Do you know
what is to be done?”

“I do not,” said Ann, “though from something Marta said, I fancy
that she and I are not to be separated. Marta does not know all the
proceedings.”

Eleanor nodded, and just then Aline joined her. In the library,
Genevieve and Madeline were careful to keep at some distance from
Eleanor but Suzanne did not join them. She came in later, with two
other girls of her “set.”

One or two new girls were sent for first. Then Eleanor and Ann were
asked to come together. Miss Tudor looked worn with the efforts of the
first days, but was as energetic as ever, holding in her hand a paper,
evidently a list of what was to be done.

“I wanted you to come together, girls, for one reason, that the
pleasant relations between you might not be disturbed. Eleanor, Ann did
not ask for the arrangement that I am going to make. She only said that
she did not think it fair, if any change were made, for Marta to suffer
in the case.”

Miss Tudor paused a moment, and Eleanor said, “Yes, Miss Tudor. Ann
said the same thing to me when we talked about it.”

“Very well. I am making very few explanations about this and shall ask
you both to keep your own council. The girls in the other suite are
going to be offended. Genevieve, at least, deserves it, and I am not so
sure, Eleanor that I am doing right in making it so easy for you, when
you upset the whole thing.”

“Yes’m,” meekly said Eleanor.

“But it seems best to break up that arrangement. I am going to put
Suzanne, with Lora Collier, in the suite with you, in the place of
Marta and Ann. Both of them told me that they were willing to change,
if it seemed best to me; and Miss Sterling, (Miss Tudor regained her
formality), I think that you will not be displeased with the suite in
which I am placing you and Miss Ward. This is the slip, with number and
names.”

Miss Tudor handed each girl a slip and rose, dismissing them by that
simple act. But Eleanor hesitated. “Excuse me, Miss Tudor, but I
understood that Lora was not coming back.”

Miss Tudor smiled. “So did I, until last night, when we received a
wire, asking that I place her with some of her friends. Do you think
that you two singers can get along without jealousy?”

“I should think we can!” exclaimed Eleanor, “and Miss Tudor, I want
to apologize for the way in which I spoke to you the first time I was
here. You have certainly poured coals of fire on my unworthy head.”

Again Miss Tudor smiled. “I accept the apology, Eleanor. See that you
are a good girl!”

“The best I can be!” exclaimed Eleanor, as the two girls walked out of
the door.

“Ann, the very idea! I’m awfully sorry that you girls are not to be
with us, but since the change is to be,--Lora! Hurrah!”

“I say so too, Eleanor,” said Ann, taking Eleanor’s arm. “Lora will be
a good room-mate for Suzanne, and you will all be Sig-Eps but Aline. I
may as well warn you now that we’ll get her into the Bats, if she will
come.”

“I want you to. I’ve exhausted all my arguments on Aline. Her mother
died not so very long ago, and she was a Bat, so it is hopeless. Let’s
see your slip, Ann; who is with you?”

“There aren’t any other names. Isn’t it funny?”

“She is giving you a suite by yourselves till she has to put somebody
in it. There aren’t enough sophomores to fill the two halls; So I
shouldn’t be surprised but you’d have it all to yourselves.”

“Unless there are too many freshmen and they have to put a few over
here.”

“That is not likely. They enlarged the freshman hall two years ago.
See,--here is my slip, all four names on it. What is your number?
Second floor, isn’t it? I hope that it isn’t too far away. I’m coming
around once in a while if you have no objections.”

“Objections! What an idea. I have a lot of studying to do, for I have
to make good for my Dad. But I’m the most ‘gregarious’ being you ever
saw. So he says!”

“All right. Now let me tell you something, Ann. It’s another
confession, like the apology I just gave Miss Tudor. But one some way
just can’t imagine your taking a superior air and saying, ‘that’s just
what I thought of Eleanor Frost’.”

Ann was laughing at this, and wondered what was coming. “When I first
asked you to play for me, it was partly because I knew you could do it
and partly because I was mad at Suzanne for refusing. Then the girls
wanted me to be president of the sophs this year and I said I would,
so I started out to be a politician. I thought that you had a lot of
influence in your crowd,----”

Here Ann gasped, stopped in the middle of the walk and looked at
Eleanor, who laughed and continued.

“And if I got you to liking me you wouldn’t fight me perhaps. The funny
thing was that I got to liking you, on your own account, and I adore
your grandmother, to say nothing of your mother. And while I still will
not refuse the presidency, please punish me by putting up somebody else
and voting for her.”

“Of _all_ things!” exclaimed Ann. “What on earth makes you tell me
this?”

“I don’t know myself; only I thought that I’d feel better. I’d like to
be a _real_ friend of yours, and I am ashamed of the way it began.”

Ann held out her hand. “Shake hands on it, Eleanor. I’m glad to have
as strong a girl as you are for my friend. I’ll have to confess
that I was too much influenced by that ‘forest fire’ conflagration,
and haven’t known until lately how fine you are. I don’t wonder that
Suzanne felt ‘killed’ over your withdrawing from her suite.”

The girls clasped hands, Eleanor saying that it was too bad not to
be able to exchange sorority “grips”. They walked along after that,
talking of everything else but the recent revelation and the affair
of the suite. “I’ll remember the number, Ann,” said Eleanor, as she
reached their present location and went in, while Ann went on to find
her new quarters.

“You can help us move,” saucily said Ann, while Eleanor, like Suzanne,
accustomed to a maid at home, lifted her brows and remarked, “Mayhap I
will.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The suite, for whose number Ann was looking, was at the end of another
corridor, which ran at right angles to that on which The Jolly Six
had their quarters. The outside door was unlocked, the key in it, and
there were evidences of fresh dusting and cleaning. Ann ran first to
the window to see what the view might be and found that she looked
out toward the hillside, the little stream and the rustic bridge. “O
lovely, lovely!” she cried, and started back, intending to bring over
an armful of clothes at once. At the door she almost ran into Marta who
was on a similar errand, and remarked that at every turn she ran into
her room-mate.

“Look here, Marta, isn’t this prodigious?--and splendiferous?” Ann drew
Marta to the window to see the same picturesque hillside. “See that
baby cottontail,--right down under the window,--in those bushes!--now
he’s gone!”

Marta drew out her slip and pointed to the two names. “Are we really
going to be by ourselves for a bit?”

The girls exchanged glances and smiles. “It will be easier to study,
but it would have been fun to be in a suite with other girls.”

“That may happen yet;” said Marta. “Come on, let’s get moved as quickly
as possible. I’m going for an armful of books.”

“Noble girl! I was thinking of clothes.”

“What’s the difference? Both of ’em have to come.”

At Eleanor’s suite there was an excited and happy group of girls. “I
hired one of the chambermaids to pack my trunk and things,” Suzanne was
saying. “Madeline won’t speak to me and I hate to go over there. Ann,
won’t you go over and see that the things in the bureau drawers get in?”

“Why should I run into trouble, if you do not want to go yourself, my
dear?” asked Ann, delving into her closet and coming out with dresses
and coats.

“Isn’t she mean?” complained Suzanne, half in earnest.

“Gracious me, Suzanne,” said Eleanor. “Brace up and go over after your
jewelry and little things. If the girls won’t speak to you, go ahead
anyway. The sooner it’s over the better. _Look_ at Ann!”

Ann’s load was arranged for her departure on the first trip. One hat,
back to the front, was on her head. In each hand she carried several
shoes, precariously held together, and draped over shoulders and arms
were as many frocks and coats as she could manage.

“You’ll muss ’em, Ann,” Suzanne suggested.

“I would be grateful for assistance,” was Ann’s suggestion in return.
“No, not these,” she said, refusing to unload, as Eleanor and Aline ran
to her assistance. “There are others in the closet, friends!”

Laughingly the girls, even Suzanne, selected a load from those garments
of Marta and Ann which remained in the closet, and the parade down
two corridors began. Other girls, from suites on the way, heard the
laughter and came to look and join in the merriment, or to pick up a
shoe or two, dropped along the way.

“Oh, isn’t this a ducky suite?” said Suzanne. “See what a pretty rug
there is in the study. I’m glad, Ann, for I feel guilty, turning you
and Marta out in this fashion!”

“Yes,” said Aline, who had brought the hangers and was trying to help
Marta hang up the frocks. “This looks like the ‘ejections’ you read
about, where people are turned out with all their household furniture
and clothing. We haven’t gotten to the furniture yet!”

Once started, the girls were having such a good time over it that they
helped with more clothes and the books, until in a short time nearly
everything was carried over, leaving the little things of the “top
drawers” to be packed more leisurely in the suit-cases.

Ann, who repented of her careless reply to Suzanne, for she saw that
her cousin was really distressed over her own moving, offered to go
over with her, to help pack and oversee the maid, who would need
telling about what clothes to select. She was rewarded by Suzanne’s
gratitude. “O Ann, _will_ you?” she cried. “I shan’t mind so much if
you are with me! Anyhow, I think that Maddy thinks I’m going to room
with you.”

“It is just as well,” said Ann. “Did you set any time for the maid to
come over?”

“Yes.” Suzanne looked at her watch. “She could come in about half an
hour. Maybe Genevieve and Maddy are not in the suite yet. _Will_ you
come?”

They were in Ann’s suite now and Ann looked at the books to be
arranged, thinking, too, of the lessons to be learned. “It’s a mess to
leave you with, Marta,” she said.

“Go right along,” replied Marta. “I don’t blame Suzanne for not wanting
to go over alone.”

Fortunately for Suzanne, neither Genevieve nor Madeline were as yet
at home. “They are probably telling the whole school about it,” said
Suzanne resentfully.

“I can’t blame Madeline much, can you?” remarked Ann.

“N-no, maybe not,” Suzanne acknowledged. “Nobody knows a thing about
Lora’s coming, I guess.”

Rapidly the girls packed and placed everything out in plain sight which
was to go in the trunk. The maid arrived and was given directions while
the girls started away, with the smaller articles in Suzanne’s bag and
a suit-case which Ann carried. The trunk might not be sent over until
morning. But after Suzanne and Ann were half way across the intervening
distance, Ann bethought herself of a box which she had forgotten. “I’m
not sure where I left it, Suzanne, so I’d better go right back and get
it. It is the one with some of your treasures,--you remember--that you
packed and gave to me to put in the suit-case. I said I would, and laid
it down while I got something else.”

“Oh, yes! If you will get it, Ann,--it’s a shame, though.”

Ann ran back and by the “irony of fate,” as she told Marta afterwards,
had to meet Madeline at the door. “Excuse me, Madeline,” she said. “I
have been helping Suzanne pack up and forgot to get one box.”

Madeline stepped back, with exaggerated politeness. Ann, who procured
the box as rapidly as possible, thought at first that Madeline was
refusing to speak to her; but as she left the door, Madeline looked
after her and said, “I hope that you are satisfied at last, to get
Suzanne away from me!”

Ann stopped, surprised, yet knowing how Madeline must feel about it. It
made all the difference possible in the tone of her reply. “Suzanne is
not going to room with me, Madeline.”

Proceeding on her way down the stairs and out upon the campus, Ann
reproached herself, however for the statement. After all, she _had_
been glad to “get Suzanne away” from Madeline, though not for the
reason that Madeline supposed. Then she thought of Suzanne’s remark to
Marta about feeling guilty for turning Marta out. Was that sincere, or
for making an impression on Eleanor? Such had been her thought. “Look
here, young lady,” she said to herself, “it’s lots easier to judge
other people than to be perfectly sincere yourself!”



CHAPTER VIII

“RUSHING” ALINE FOR THE “BATS”


It was at rather a late hour that evening when Ann and Marta attacked
what Suzanne called “the everlasting lessons”. The Jolly Six had
gathered in to see the new headquarters, and even after study hours had
commenced, Suzanne or Eleanor would whisk around, to say something,
or to bring some little forgotten article. Lora Collier was arriving
late, and according to Suzanne, nobody in the suite could study for the
excitement. “The reputation of the family rests with you, as usual,”
teased Suzanne, a new Suzanne, it seemed, so happy, in spite of a few
twinges of conscience in regard to Madeline. Suzanne’s conscience was
waking up a little.

“Say, Ann, tell me honestly now,” said Marta, “wouldn’t you have
preferred to stay in the suite with Suzanne?”

“Who’s been talking to you, Marta Ward?” asked Ann in return.

“Suzanne and Eleanor made a few remarks that informed me of something
back of all this.”

“I may as well tell you the whole story now, then,” said Ann, “and
first of all, let me say that while I liked being with Eleanor and
Aline, as long as you were with me, and while I like Suzanne, I should
have been much troubled _about_ you, had Miss Tudor arranged it that
way, and homesick _for_ you, Marta Ward.”

With this introduction, Arm told Marta all that had happened, from
Suzanne’s first coming to her about Eleanor’s leaving the suite, to
the events of the evening. “And I believe that we are the best off of
all, Marta,” she concluded. “Isn’t this restful and fine? Why, we can
each have a bedroom if we want to,--and all this closet room! The girls
don’t think that we’ll have anybody put in with us at all, though you
will want some one after I go to Florida, as I suppose I shall. Perhaps
you could change then, and room with Lora in Suzanne’s place.”

“Time enough to think of that later. I’m glad that everybody is so
happy. It is too bad about Madeline, though.”

“She likes Genevieve. They are really more congenial, and you’ll see
her getting over this,--if for no other reason than that Suzanne is
sister to a very handsome brother.”

“Why, Ann!”

“That is rather terrible for me to say, isn’t it? But ‘mark my
words’,--and it will make Suzanne feel better. Trust Miss Tudor, too,
to do something to fix Genevieve and Madeline. For all Madeline said
what she did to me, she wasn’t the least bit cast down.”

“We are going to have a lot of company here, Ann.”

“Indeed we are. We’ll have to _plan_, to get all our lessons in,
because of the rushing, and we’ll begin with Aline!”

“_Aline?_ You haven’t suddenly taken leave of your senses, have you, my
dear room-mate?”

“Not yet, Marta. Aline’s mother was a Beta Alpha Tau. Her mother died
not so very long ago, it seems, and Aline won’t hear to going into
the Sig-Eps. Naturally, she hasn’t offered herself to the Bats, and I
wondered why in the world the Sig-Eps hadn’t initiated her long ago.
Eleanor herself told me!”

At that astonishing statement, Marta almost gasped. “It behooves us to
get right at it, then,” she said, “and we must find out about the other
new girls right away. There was a fine looking girl at dinner with
Genevieve. She was rather over-dressed, but looked like a girl of some
force, and Genevieve was being too nice to her for words.”

Ann nodded assent “I saw her,” she said. “But we’ll get in touch with
the senior girls tomorrow and ask what they know and what they want us
to do. I know that they will want Aline, as much as if we had had a
meeting.”

“By the way, did you hear Katherine tell me that a meeting is called
for tomorrow afternoon, right after lessons, after last hour, and that
meanwhile we are to find out all we can about the new girls. We can’t
take many in this year, you know, because our number is so nearly
filled.”

“But we must not miss any especially fine girls,” said Ann. “The others
will be just as anxious as we are, so we must arrange to meet them.”

“What do you think about our numbers?”

“It always seems to me, Marta, that a sorority that has a comparatively
large number of members in the chapter stands a chance of not being
so ‘exclusive’, which is the main criticism, Mother says, upon the
sororities. However, let the authorities concern themselves about it.
As long as they have ’em, and especially one as ‘chawming’ as the Bats,
and I belong to it, I’m not worrying. At the same time, I can’t think
it all there is of school life, like some of the girls, can you, Marta?”

“I should say not! But it is lots of fun. Hurrah for the Beta Alpha
Taus!”

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following afternoon, a group of merry girls were arranging
themselves upon the hillside for a meeting. Some had brought cushions.
Others found convenient stone or rock; and still others sat down upon
the green hill itself, with its grass, weeds and vines.

“Look out there, Kit,” warned Lucile Early. “There is some poison ivy
near that bush.”

“It never poisons me,” replied Katherine Neville, pulling aside some
sticks from the place she had chosen.

“Where is poison ivy?” asked Ethel Johns, jumping up. “It poisons me
all right. That summer I went to camp I spent two weeks in the little
hospital room from being poisoned by it.”

Lucile moved over to the other side of what was forming itself into a
circle and sat down by Dorothy Horton. The Jolly Six was out in force,
for here came the other two members, Ann Sterling and Marta Ward. “Ho
there, Dots,” laughed Ann, “may I sit down by you?”

“Come right along,” Dorothy invited, and Ann threw a cushion down,
then dropped upon it, leaning over to engage in a low conversation
with Dorothy. There were many secrets in the air now. Exchange of
experiences or of facts was going on around the circle. The senior
girls carried the greatest responsibility. The junior girls came next,
in dignities and consultation; then, the new sophomores, eager to help
with the important activities on hand. It was wonderful not to be a
freshman any longer. A whole year of experience made a Forest Hill girl
something more than a mere initiate. Her feet were founded upon the
rock of residence, familiarity and enthusiasm. It was her school home,
beloved, dearest of colleges!

Ann had no thought of any trouble in persuading the girls that Aline
would make a desirable member. The only contingency that might arise
was one of numbers, in case the older girls had those in the upper
classes whom they wanted to add to the sorority.

Sorority meetings and sorority affairs are shrouded in much secrecy.
One would scarcely dare describe one of the official meetings, so to
speak. And as for those prescribing the duties of faithful members
or the rites of initiation, what dire consequences might follow one
shudders to consider! But this meeting was an ordinary, informal
gathering, designed only to consider ways and means in the important
provision for handing the Beta Alpha Taus down to future ages.

There were several preliminary interruptions, due to the difficulty of
getting settled. “All ready, Alice?” asked the secretary, who had come
without any paper and had just secured an old envelope from the sweater
pocket of a friend. From another she borrowed a short pencil.

“You’re a great secretary, Jean,” remarked the one who surrendered the
pencil. “I suppose that I’ll never see that again, either.” This was
said laughingly, with no intent to wound.

“I hadn’t a minute to get ready. Alice called me and told me to come
right over, that we would be late. Yes, perhaps I _can_ remember to
hand back your precious pencil. You must have had it last year, I
think, and when was it sharpened last?”

“I found it, in the table drawer of my new suite,” laughed the lender.

“Ow,--girls!” A girl on the opposite side of the circle jumped up with
what Virgil would have termed a feminine shriek. “Look out! There he
goes!”

Half the girls were on their feet by this time, but Ann and Dots, who
had seen the dire monster glide in a different direction from their
position, sat laughing.

“What on earth!”

“What is it!”

“I nearly sat _down_ on it!”

“A garter snake, girls,” announced Alice, who was Alice Mann, the
present head of the “Bats”. “Hurry up, please, and get in order. We
haven’t much time before dinner. Come to order at once, please.” Alice
was clapping her hands; and several other girls, who were quietly
sitting and ready, softly seconded her clapping. In a moment all was
quiet, though several girls still nervously looked about them, to make
sure that none of the hated species was near.

“We shall come right to the point, and I want to hear from those who
have names to propose for our consideration. We shall not elect, I
suppose. Then I want to know how we shall arrange for our first
informal banquet and whom we shall invite. We’ll have to do what we are
going to do right away, if we get our bids in first with several, who
know nothing about our sororities and will go with the jolliest or most
attentive crowd.”

“Madam President.”

“Miss Price.”

“I propose that inasmuch as we took in a larger number of freshmen than
usual last year, we bring in a number of upper classmen, some juniors
and seniors that made good last year and did not enter a sorority, and
also look up a few juniors that have just come in. Then, of course,
we’d better add a few freshmen. We have enough in the present sophomore
class.”

Ann looked at Dorothy in dismay. “We’ll vote against that,” she
whispered. “What’s the _matter_ with her?”

“Have you a list of girls that you think eligible?” asked Alice Mann.

“Yes; shall I read it?”

“If you please.”

“That is all set up,” whispered Dorothy, “but I suppose they had to
have some idea.”

The girls listened while the list was read, and when it was finished
its reader sat down, several girls were on their feet at once. The
president recognized one of them.

“Madam President, is there a motion before the house?”

“Miss Price, did you offer that list or your suggestion as a motion?”

“Yes,--if you want one to start on.”

“Very well, Miss Price moves that we elect from the juniors, seniors
and freshmen,--is that right?”

“Madam President,----”

“In a moment. Is there a second to that motion?”

“I second it.”

“Very well. The motion has been moved and seconded that we elect from
the seniors, juniors and freshmen. Any remark? Now, girls a motion
is before the house and I suppose that you can talk about it all you
please.”

The girls who had first risen were still standing and were recognized
in turn.

“Madam President, I suppose that it is not necessary to talk about
the motion, is it? In Congress they talk about everything on earth
sometimes, so my father says.”

Alice laughed a little. “If you follow the example of Congress, I’m
afraid we’ll not get anywhere this afternoon. It is not necessary to be
too formal anyhow. Get to work!”

Katherine was standing now. “Madam President, as a sophomore, I do not
like to have my class discriminated against. Suppose that we fail to
pass that motion and substitute one that merely suggests the offering
of suitable names from any class. We can use our judgment afterwards in
selection.”

A little further discussion followed. Then the president put the
“crazy” motion--this was Dots’ term for it,--and it was lost. Katherine
was permitted to put a different motion. The list was read again. One
or two other girls presented additional names and then Ann was on her
feet.

“As one of the sophomore members I feel a little timid about presenting
names, particularly since it has been suggested that we have enough
sophomores. I acknowledge, too, that we have; but there is one fine
girl that I am sure none of you know, or knew last year, would be
eligible. The Sig-Eps have done their best to get her,--of that I was
told by a loyal Sig-Ep--but this girl’s mother was a Bat, which we did
not know, though I suppose it is in the records.”

The girls were listening intently. Who could it be that had been rushed
by the Sig-Eps and wouldn’t join?

Ann avoided telling the name a little longer. “It isn’t so very long
since her mother died and that makes her all the more ready to join
her mother’s society, I think. Now, Madam President, do you think that
you could consider her name if I should give it? Indeed I am ready to
propose her at once, for she is gifted in several different ways and a
lovely girl that everybody likes, so far as I know.”

“Who is it, Ann? Who is it?” came from several sources, sophomore as
well; for in the rush of events, Ann had not had time to talk privately
with any of the Jolly Six or her other friends.

“I am sure that we are all anxious, Miss Sterling, to know who the girl
is,” said Alice, again clapping her hands for order.

“I haven’t even had time to talk it over with anybody except my
room-mate since I found out. This girl, too, has made no effort, I
assure you, to let it be known that she favors the Bats. I understood
that her room-mate found it out accidentally. She is Aline Robson.”

“Aline!”

“Why, I supposed that she was already a Sig!”

“Let’s not miss Aline,--it will make a sensation all right!”

“Let’s have her in right away and give her a big initiation to impress
the natives!”

“What is your pleasure, ladies?” laughed Alice, who was as surprised as
any one. Aline, small, reserved, but gifted and industrious, had made
an impression upon her schoolmates in the one year that she had been
with them. “Miss Price,” Alice continued, recognizing that young woman,
one of the seniors.

“I want to withdraw what I said about our having enough sophomores.
Honestly, girls, I believe that it will make a stir and a good
impression for us if we get Aline in instanter. Madam President,
I move that we waive all rules and put it through now, sending Ann
Sterling to present Aline with our invitation and bid to the greatest
sorority in Forest Hill college!”

“Hear, hear!”

There was no objection and presently the deed was done. Ann was to see
Aline at the close of the meeting. But there were other interesting
matters. The girls began to talk about other desirable members.

“This girl, fellow Bats,” said one of the juniors, “comes from another
school, with all kinds of honors, for one thing; and while I do not
like to speak of such a mundane matter, she also has plenty of money,
which would help like everything in getting our new cottage that has
recently been suggested.”

“Fie, fie,” jokingly said Dots.

“Well, I know the Bats are not a ‘society’ crowd, but we are not blind
to the fact that if those who are fine girls anyhow are able to help us
out financially, it is no drawback. I’m one of the practical sort!”

“The ‘root of all evil’, Jane!”

“You have it wrong,--it’s the _love_ of money that’s the ‘root of all
evil’!”

So it went. One girl was good and interesting, but would not “fit in”
with the rest. Another pleased everybody. A committee was appointed to
find out more about these girls and others before a second meeting to
be held that evening after dinner. “It is too soon, girls,” said one
distressed member of the committee. “It’s nearly dinner time now!”

“Very well,” said the president of the meeting. “Come around to our
suite when the bell rings for the close of study hours,--and come ‘tout
de suite’, too.”

“Listen to Alice’s French, and punning, too!”

“Wait a minute, Ann,” called Alice, as Ann, happy in the thought of
Aline, was about to leave, with Katherine and Lucile, it happened.

Ann waited for Alice, who put her arm over Ann’s shoulder as they
walked toward the buildings. “You know, don’t you, Ann, that it is best
not to be too precipitate in a thing of this sort?”

Ann looked inquiringly at Alice. “You mean not to take it for granted
that Aline is ready to fall into our arms at once?”

“Yes. The girls, of course, will not do or say one thing till they get
the report from you.”

“I have been wondering how to manage it,” said Ann. “I know Aline
pretty well by this time, especially since we came very near to being
suite-mates. Still, the Bats haven’t paid her any particular attention
since the first of last year.”

“We did then, didn’t we? That makes it a little better.”

“Yes, but then we thought that it was not best to bid her,--she was so
surrounded with the Sig-Eps and so intimate with Eleanor, though they
didn’t room together. Of course I did not know about it then, but I
heard Katherine and Dots talk about it.”

Alice walked along without saying anything further for a few moments.
“How would it do, Ann, if after dinner we get hold of Aline, some of
our crowd, maybe go outdoors, or bring her around to our suite, as it
happens; and then when you go back to your building, I will stroll
along with you and perhaps say something about our having found out
that she had not joined the Sig-Eps, and being glad of it, or something
like that--you never can tell what is best to say until the times
comes.”

“That is one reason why you are at the head of the Betas, Alice,” said
Ann. “You always _do_ know just the nice thing to say!”

“Thanks, Ann. You are a loyal Beta Alpha Tau. I’m certainly glad that
we got you in! Well, now, after what I am going to say has been said,
and of course Aline will know anyhow, having been here a year, what we
Bats are after,--then the way will be paved for you to have a serious
little talk with her. Just tell her the facts, Ann, for they are
certainly complimentary, the interest the girls took and how they want
her. But I want a lot of our girls to meet her beforehand, anyhow, for
the ‘psychological effect’.”

“I’m so glad, Alice, that you thought of this, because while we do
want to hurry it up, it ought to be done in the right way. Goodbye.
I’ll tag on to Aline and tell her that I want to see her about
something, if I can’t get her away from her crowd in any other way.”

“Very well, Ann, goodbye till after dinner! The rushing season for
Aline will be short I hope.”

“Yes; and I’m so glad that you think we’ll have a special feast to
celebrate her coming in,--if she does, and I’m pretty sure of it, on
account of her mother you know.”

Ann ran happily over to her suite, to hug Marta in the excess of her
emotions, and to tell her about the plan of attack.



CHAPTER IX

AT “POLLY’S” ONCE MORE


How hard it was to study these first days, when so much of importance
to the Beta Alpha Taus and the other sororities was “hanging in the
balance”! Marta and Ann scored success in their work only by early
rising. It was fortunate for Ann that her heaviest work had been done
in her first year. She still had a few extra hours to make up, but they
were divided between the first and second semesters and were in studies
which were not particularly hard for Ann. She concentrated her powers
during regular study hours, rose an hour early, and spent the rest of
the time, those happy hours between lessons and meals, in the service
of the Beta Alpha Taus and the “Owls”, her literary society. It was
great fun to “cast dull care away”, as she told Marta, and have a good
time with the girls. Walks, rowing, canoeing, swimming, climbing the
hills, usually with some new girls in tow,--everything took on a new
pleasure and excitement. The “rushing season” was decidedly thrilling.

But alas for “best-laid plans” again! The desired hurrying of Aline
into the ranks of Beta Alpha Tau was not so easily accomplished. That
evening, after dinner, Aline responded pleasantly to the overture of
the Bats. It was natural enough that Ann should be with her, and some
of the other members of the Jolly Six; but she naturally noticed the
fact that attention was being paid her by the senior and junior girls
of the sorority. Not for nothing had Aline spent a year in a girls’
school.

When, noticing that all the girls, with the exception of two new girls,
were Betas, she was about to refuse an invitation to Alice’s suite and
slip away, Alice informed her that she was particularly desired. “You
do not know my especial brand of fudge,” she said, and Ann joined in,
with the remark that no one who ever tasted it was known to refuse a
second invitation. “Come on, Aline. We won’t stay but a minute if you
have anything important to do. I’ve got to get to work, too.”

Aline yielded, and had as fine a time as anybody. Alice’s fudge was
all that had been claimed for it, and the study bell rang before the
gay conversation ceased. The girls hastily brought their visiting to
a close and started out, Ann slipping her arm through Aline’s and not
hurrying. Alice followed and strolled a little beyond the door of the
senior cottage, where she and her suite-mates occupied a first floor
suite. Over the campus, girls were making their way to cottages or to
the music rooms.

“I must go back, girls,” said Alice, turning to Aline, and taking both
her hands. “We Betas, Aline, have only _just discovered_ that you did
not join the Sigs! ‘Animus meminisse horret’! I can hardly forgive the
Sigs for letting the impression get out that you were theirs,--Ann, you
tell her about it, and humbly recommend your Beta sisters!”

With this, Alice smilingly left the girls, turning back at the door for
a last glimpse.

“Well!” exclaimed Aline. “Alice is your president, or ‘chief,’ or head
executioner, or whatever you call it, isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“Her quotation from the pious Aeneas was cute. I am wondering what all
this means, of course; but I don’t know whether I want you to talk to
me about it or not, as she suggested.”

Ann was a little surprised. “I’ll not, if you do not want me to, Aline,
but I have some things that I would like to say to you. It is perfectly
true that we have just found out that you are not a Sig-Ep; and we know
that it is by no fault of _theirs_ that you are not. Are you pledged to
some other sorority, Aline?”

“No. I didn’t mean that, Ann, but I hate the ‘rushing’. It always seems
so insincere to me, and when I noticed the older girls in the crowd, I
felt embarrassed. I don’t mean, Ann,” Aline added, noticing that Ann
seemed a little subdued, “that I thought anything insincere tonight.
I enjoyed the fun. Isn’t Dots a case?--and that Jane Price!” Aline
laughed in recollection.

“Well, Aline, I don’t want to urge you to anything you do not want to
do. We’ll start out on that basis. You know most of the Beta Alpha Taus
and what sort of girls they are, so it is not necessary to recommend
them, even ‘humbly’, as Alice said. You are perfectly able to make
up your mind on that without assistance! What I want to tell you is
in regard to how bad we want you to join us and what happened this
afternoon. I’ll ask you to remember that you had a little rushing from
the Bats last year, till they thought it of no use. My! It makes me
sick to think of it,--but maybe you wouldn’t have joined us anyway.”

Aline made no reply to this.

“This was our first meeting this afternoon, Aline, to plan the
campaign. Various girls were brought up,--their names, I mean,--as
desirable to consider, but there was no thought of bidding any one
to-day, until your name was suggested and the fact was made known that
you were not a Sig. I wish you could have heard the girls! They surely
will feel bad if you turn us down, for I am authorized to invite you to
join the Betas and as soon as possible. It was unusual, Aline, just as
it is unusual for me to tell about one of our meetings.”

There was a pause. Then Aline replied, “Ann, I--but thank you and the
rest of the Betas very, very much, I don’t know. Last year, I suspect
I might have joined you. Mother was a member of your sorority. But now,
so many of my friends are Sigs,--”

“But you aren’t joining the sorority, are you? I happen to know that
they want you as much as ever.”

“No, on account of Mother; and, well, I don’t care for all of them, you
know, girls like Genevieve and Madeline.”

“Are there any of the Betas that you object to?”

“Oh, no!”

Ann did not know what else to say. They had stopped in the lower hall
of the Castle to finish their private conversation and were in constant
danger of being interrupted. “Well, Aline,” she finally said, “think
it over. I hope that you can tell me tomorrow. You will receive a more
formal notice and note from Alice, through the secretary, tomorrow
anyhow. But the girls wanted me to tell you tonight and they hope very
earnestly that you will see your way clear to join us.”

“You are a dear, Ann,” said Aline, “I will----”

But here came Eleanor from one of the downstairs suites. “Here you are,
Aline, I wondered what was keeping you. I’ve stayed over time. We’d
better get to work, if Bunny does not get us and give us a black mark.”

“I want to see you about something tomorrow, Eleanor,” said Ann. “Keep
a date for me, will you?”

Laughingly Eleanor said that she would and went up the stairs with
Aline, Ann behind them.

       *       *       *       *       *

No one had thought of the fact that the girls were not supposed to
leave their own halls after the bell for the close of study hours
had rung. The Betas would scarcely want to antagonize or deceive the
authorities for their meeting, Marta said, when she and Ann thought
about it, and this conclusion was confirmed when a rap on the door
came just before the bell rang. It was Alice, who stood just inside
the door, closing it, to tell them that the meeting was “off”, and to
ask what Aline had told Ann. Alice shook her head doubtfully when Ann
told her of the conversation. “I hope we get her, but I don’t know,”
said she. “We’ll have a short meeting tomorrow noon, before lunch,--at
the rustic bridge. If it rains, we’ll meet on the big porch of the
senior cottage, or in my suite, if there are too many around. Please
tell the other girls, Ann, and I’ll not take the time to go there.
Bunny challenged me, to give the countersign, in the hall; but I had
permission!”

“What is the countersign, Alice?” laughed Marta, but Alice only flung
up her hand in a salute and disappeared down the corridor.

“She’s an awfully nice girl,” said Marta. “I’ll be sorry to have the
senior group go out of Forest Hill this year.”

“Yes, won’t you?”

The next day was Ann’s busiest day. She had no opportunity to talk
with any of her friends if she had her lessons, except bits of chat on
the way to and from class; and then, indeed, Ann’s mind was full of the
coming lessons.

The noon meeting was what Marta called short and sweet. It was decided
to have a “spread” at Polly’s, whether Aline joined then or not. They
would make it a guest affair, inviting Aline and the few other girls,
whom they wanted to meet the Beta Alpha Taus _en masse_, in the hope of
interesting them.

“We’ll make it an afternoon tea, girls,” said Jane, “if you approve;
and we’ll have darling little invitations, hand painted, with parrots
in one corner. Who paints? You do, Lucile, and Alice,----” Jane looked
around for more artists, and several hands went up.

“Good. There won’t be many to do, of course, so it will take very
little time.”

“How about place cards?” Alice inquired. The group must have presented
an odd appearance, for they all stood close, arms about each other, or
peering over shoulders at Alice and Jane, who were in the center.

“Sure enough. Well, we’ll make them much like the invitations and do it
all at the same time. Put the motion, Alice, please.”

The gong rang for lunch as the “Bats” passed their resolution to have
the Saturday afternoon spread at Polly’s, if permitted. Alice was to
see about that.

In the evening after dinner, Eleanor joined Ann in the parlors, where
a group of girls were singing to Ann’s playing. Eleanor sang with
them, and, with Lora, made such attractive music that even Bunny, who,
the girls said, hated music and was fit for “treason, stratagem and
spoils”, put her head in at the hall door, and stepped in at last to
listen.

But the little group presently began to break up, for the outdoors
called them. Eleanor leaned over Ann and asked, “What did you want to
see me about, Ann? Was it Aline?”

“Yes. How did you guess?”

“Because you were with Aline, did not tell _her_ what you wanted to see
me about, and she had been off with a lot of you Bats.”

“Smart girl. Yes, that is it. You were good enough to let me know that
she would not join the Sigs, so I thought that I would ask your advice
on how to get her with us. She hesitates on your account, I think.
Wouldn’t the Sigs all understand that Aline would join us because it is
her mother’s sorority?”

“_I_ would,” replied Eleanor, “but I don’t know. You know how funny
some girls are.”

“Yes, but suppose it runs on and Aline does not join _any_ sorority.
I think that she will be sorry not to have had the fun of it and the
pleasant friendships. It isn’t as if we were all at swords’ points
with each other. Miss Tudor has certainly kept her word about having a
lot of them! We compete in the rushing season, of course, and sometimes
mean things are said; but after all, nobody takes it so very seriously.
Don’t you agree with me?”

“To a certain extent. Your sorority in a way does determine your more
intimate friendships. You are with that group of girls more, and some
of the girls are pretty snobbish about it.”

Now Ann had thought that Eleanor belonged to that type. It was
interesting to hear Eleanor herself mention snobbery and, in a sense,
disclaim it.

“I will talk with Aline,” continued Eleanor, “if I have a good
opportunity, at least to let her know that I will not stand in her way.
We can be just as good friends, though I _very much regret_ not having
her in the same sorority, and, Ann, I’ll ask her once more, finally, if
she will not come with us!”

“You have a perfect right to do that, Eleanor. If Aline joins us, I
want it to be because she wants to, as well as for the reason that her
mother was a member. That is, I don’t want her to feel forced to come
in,--well, you know what I mean.”

“Yes. I’ll talk to Aline tonight. After that, go ahead. Aline may come
to you herself. Perhaps she’d rather. I suppose that she was to answer
your proposition, if you made one?”

“I did; and she said that she would think it over. Say, Eleanor, you
will not talk this over with any of the other Sigs, will you? I did
not give the source of my information on Aline’s not having joined the
Sigs.”

“This is between Aline and me,” said Eleanor.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was on Friday night, the one before the Saturday tea at Polly’s,
when Aline came around to Ann’s suite and found her alone. Aline
carried in her hand the pretty card of invitation with its gay little
parrot. It bore the letters “R.S.V.P.” upon it and Aline had already
accepted, to Marta’s and Ann’s delight. But for a moment Ann felt
startled. Could it be, after all, that Aline would not come, that there
was not a bit of hope for the “Bats”? But she welcomed Aline and made
her sit in the best rocker, where the view was prettiest.

“‘The shades of night are falling fast,’ Aline, but you can see my
favorite hilltop and a few pink and lavender streaks from the sunset.
Going to society meeting?”

“Yes; aren’t you?”

“Oh, yes. I have too many lessons for next week to do it, but I have
tried staying home from the meeting and could not accomplish anything.”

“So have I. I work better, anyhow, when the pressure is on and I
haven’t time to get what I’m getting!”

“Me, too!”

“Well, Ann,--I suspect that you think I’ve taken my time about deciding
whether to join the Bats or not.”

Ann’s heart was in her mouth,--so she afterward declared. “Better be
slow than come to a wrong decision,” she said. “And you have to get
acquainted with our girls, too,--the ones in the upper classes, at
least. You accepted our invitation to the tea at Polly’s tomorrow,
didn’t you?”

“Yes,” replied Aline, “but,----”

Ann’s heart sank again.

“I felt some way, Ann, that,--well, I’d rather decide before I went to
your social gathering, and so I came around to tell you that I have
decided to be a Bat!”

“Oh, oh, oh,--how wonderful that is,--you dear old Aline! Why, I was
simply scared to death when you began that way! Did you realize how my
heart was going down into my toes? Aline! You _mean_ it and will _join_
us!”

“I certainly do; but why, what did I say that made you think I was
going to refuse?”

“Why, your hesitation. ‘Yes,’ you had accepted the invitation,
‘but,’--wait till I call Marta and the girls, _please_,” for Aline,
rather embarrassed, was rising to go.

“All right, I’ll stay, then.” Aline sat down, while Ann flew up the
corridor, knocked and opened the door with sad lack of propriety,
calling, “Kit, Dots,--everybody, come around to our suite and meet a
new Bat!”

Dorothy came hurrying toward Ann with extended arms. “Is it Aline?”

“Aline it is,” said Ann, rapturously returning Dorothy’s hug, and
turning to meet the happy looks of the other girls, who rushed up to
ask her how and wherefore. “I’ll answer all questions another time,”
said she. “Come around now to welcome her! Isn’t it fine?”

In a trice the entire Jolly Six surrounded Aline with affectionate and
sincere greetings. Aline herself was happy, now that the deed was done
and there was no retreat. It had been regrets in regard to Eleanor that
had been the chief obstacle. Those Eleanor’s generosity had removed,
for Aline’s sake. Ann felt like giving her the entire credit, but
it was a thing that could not be mentioned without spoiling it all.
Together they all went to the literary society meeting, as “Owls,”
happily anticipating the banquet of the morrow. It would, in spite of
the former uncertainty, celebrate Aline’s decision!

       *       *       *       *       *

“Polly’s” was decorated in attractive style, for the Beta Alpha Tau tea
was not the only one given upon that Saturday afternoon. “Polly” had
taken over other rooms, in the same building and on the same floor,
which were made to connect, but offered some privacy for separate
parties. Ann well remembered her first lunch in that popular place,
when she saw Suzanne, decked in all her glory, proudly accompanying the
Sigma Epsilons in a similar feast. For some reason the Sigs were not in
the number of guests at the Polly Inn that Saturday. There were rumors,
too, of a split in the ranks and trouble over the type of girls that
were to be “bid.” Genevieve and Madeline were said to lead one faction;
Eleanor, and girls who made her list of particular friends, another.

There was much going back and forth between suites, with many
consultations and queries as to what would be suitable to wear. A
junior girl, one who had been considered by the Bats as most desirable,
asked Ann what she should wear and begged her to come to the junior
cottage, to help her select. Ann was surprised to be regarded as
authority on clothes, but readily consented. “You are dressed in such
good taste, I notice,” said the junior, “and I want to wear what is
customary here. I’d know what to put on at home.”

In pretty afternoon dresses, with hats and gloves, the girls made the
’buses that took them to town look like moving rainbows, and they
fluttered into “Polly’s” with happy faces. Ann, as one of the old girls
now, had no more wonderings as to whether she should fit this or that
occasion. Her background was established. Ann’s distinctly interesting
personality, her independence of character, the high quality of her
work and the charm of her pleasant ways and sincerity had made her
known, not only in her own class but in the school. Her chief delight
at present was that Aline had accepted the Betas’ bid and that she was
present as not merely a guest but a prospective initiate.

“Now, if we can only get the other girls that we want,” she thought, as
she looked around the long table and noted with what care Alice and the
senior girls in charge had seated the guests, their place cards next
those girls who were good entertainers and especially attractive. “It’s
certainly no harm to put our best foot foremost,” she thought, and said
as much to Lucile, who happened to sit on the other side of her.

Lucile nodded and gave her a meaning look, or what was intended to be
one. “Do your best,” she whispered, with a glance at the junior who had
turned out to be in Ann’s charge, with a junior “Bat” on the other side
of her.

With so much information about the school to be given and received,
and with the natural excitement and pleasure incident to the beginning
of a new school year, subjects of conversation were not lacking. The
new girls could scarcely help enjoying the atmosphere of fun and good
humor which prevailed, the stories of funny events, school delights and
calamities, and the very presence of the prettily dressed, merry girls.
Last but not least, as more than one of the Bats said, Polly’s “eats”
were neither to be despised nor easily forgotten!



CHAPTER X

CONSIDERING VARIOUS THINGS


In the whirl of events it is not to be supposed that Ann forgot home
affairs. Sometimes, when lights were out and she composed herself for
the night, she had a sudden pang of homesickness. Once some noise
wakened her in the middle of the night and she blushed in the darkness
to think of how prudishly she had talked to Maurice on one occasion.
“What must he think of me!” she thought. Yet there was an impulsiveness
about Maurice that warranted caution. She did like him very, very much,
and had appreciated the real affection with which he had received
her into the family circle. As she lay awake, unable to fall asleep
again for some time, she fancied them all there at her grandmother’s
home. How was her mother enjoying it? It was not likely that she would
let Ann know details, if they were annoying. How were Grandmother’s
business affairs coming on? Would Aunt Sue and Uncle Tyson really take
advantage of her confidence? Grandmother was pretty wide awake about
things now.

Then she pictured her father in Montana,--so far, far away! It was
hard on him to have Mother gone. She wondered if she would ever hear
again from the old Indian, Never-Run, and her hand stole under her
pillow to a small silk bag which her mother had made her. In this,
unless she forgot it, she put the curious bracelet Never-Run had given
her, together with certain precious mementos, the pretty jewelry that
she had received from her grandmother at different times, and often
what cash she had on hand. It was convenient for burglars, but also
handy to swing on her arm during fire drill, which might or might not
be the real thing. Her little ruby and diamond ring she usually wore,
as well as her wrist watch. “It must be nearly morning,” she thought
at last, after tossing for what seemed hours; but she had forgotten
to put her flashlight under her pillow and was afraid to waken Marta
by getting up. Finally she began to doze, and after a wild dream in
which she and Maurice were dashing along a narrow mountain road, with
Clifford on “Clipper” after them and calling to them to stop, she fell
sound asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Beta Alpha Taus were pretty well satisfied with the results of
their “rushing” season. There were a few disappointments, to be sure,
for other sororities were after some of the same girls. But they added
a small number of desirable and attractive Forest Hill girls, including
the new junior that liked Ann. Alice said, with some satisfaction,
that they “had enough” and their share. The Owls, too, employed their
activities in securing new members. Ann said that they scarcely had
time to work at what they were supposed to come to school for, until
sorority and society matters were settled. Fortunately, that was always
done early; then the girls settled down to work with a better grace.

Ann and Marta congratulated themselves on their own good opportunity;
for while their suite was often full of girls and gradually was
becoming a central meeting place for Owls and Bats, according to
Eleanor, who was herself an Owl, their study hours were quiet. They
spread out their belongings all over the suite, till Marta said she
hardly knew how they would “condense,” in case Miss Tudor sent some one
to share it with them. But the weeks flew on to the middle of the term
and they had not been disturbed.

Meanwhile, Madeline and Suzanne had effected a truce, spoke to each
other and were able to meet in functions of the Sigma Epsilons without
indulging in any side flings of unpleasantness. Genevieve, also,
was able to acknowledge Eleanor’s presence by cool bows. This state
of things had been brought about through sister Sigs, who told both
Madeline and Genevieve that it would not do, and urged Suzanne and
Eleanor to apologize. This Ann learned through Aline and Eleanor. It
helped the situation marvelously, said Aline, that Miss Tudor had
removed the temporary suite-mate whom Genevieve and Madeline did not
like, and filled the suite by placing there two new girls, a “wee bit”
flashy in appearance, but more sensible than Genevieve or Madeline.
One of the girls was the daughter of a millionaire, by report, and
Genevieve, with superior airs, let it be understood that the personnel
of the suite was perfectly satisfactory and much superior to what it
would have been had Eleanor and Suzanne remained. This, of course, was
not put in so many words, merely implied. But it reached Eleanor, who
shrugged her shoulders and passed it on to Suzanne, always delighted
to have the least of confidences from Eleanor. The new girls with
Genevieve and Madeline were taken into the same sorority, though late
in the term.

In spite of Ann’s best efforts, she could not get in any extra practice
hours, as she had intended. The literary work, which she was too proud
to neglect, took up the greater part of her time. Outside of her
regular practice period, however, there were occasions on which she
accompanied the girls, either Eleanor or Lora, or found a few minutes
in between to practice on some solo for a society meeting. Her teacher
said that she was advancing, which was encouraging, but it did not
satisfy Ann’s ambition. She almost envied Marta, who was making the
music course her particular object; but she knew that her parents
would not hear to her dropping out of the regular course.

“The trouble with me, Marta,” she said, “is that I am too divided up. I
can’t pursue one thing, like you.”

“Don’t worry, Ann. You will have a fine foundation for ’most anything
later on and your fingers are gifted. I’ve got to get something as
quickly as possible, for I’m going to make most of my income when I get
out of college. So I propose to make it doing what I like best.”

Mr. Sterling wrote to his daughter occasionally, from Montana, where he
was, as usual, busily employed with ranch affairs and other matters.
But it was from her mother that Ann learned the most about her father’s
doings.

Maurice wrote one gay letter toward the beginning of the term, with
no reference to anything discussed between them. He signed himself,
however, “Yours, in spite of discouragements.”

Clifford Hart wrote several interesting letters, chiefly about school
matters, though he urged her to take good care of herself and not to
forget her Montana friends or the good old days. From Kendall Gordon,
who took such a fancy to Ann during the summer, she received more
than one carefully written message, more formal than those from Cliff
and Maurice, yet expressing considerable interest in Ann and her
surroundings. Ann was grown up, she thought sometimes. She heard from
Inga and Hilda, her two partly Swedish girl friends. Greta was too busy
to write, she supposed. Inga was going to school again. Poor Inga, so
gifted, so tied! Grandmother had expressed an interest in Inga. Ann
wondered if Grandmother could not have done something for Inga. But
home and duty came first, she supposed. Perhaps some day Inga would
have an opportunity to develop that wonderful voice.

One afternoon her thoughts had been turned upon home affairs, as she
lay resting upon their couch in the central study. Marta was away
practicing. Ann had just returned from her last class after a full day.
There was plenty of time to get ready for dinner and she was too lazy
to study before that. Stretched out, she almost dozed off, when Eleanor
tapped and came in.

“For once!” exclaimed Eleanor. “For once, I do not find you
studying--are you sick?”

Ann laughed and rubbed her eyes. “Not a bit of it! ‘Sick’ because I
was not studying? I didn’t know that I had such a terrible reputation
as that. But I have had to dig in a good deal between times of society
rushing, banquets, feasts, and one thing or another. How do you like
being president of the sophomore class?”

“It is not a very hard duty,--but I am surprised over it.”

“Reward of merit,” laughed Ann.

“I think that you had a hand in it, in spite of what I said to you.”

“Maybe I did; but, of course, if we could have elected a Bat,----” Ann
lifted her brows and left it there.

“I didn’t work for it, Ann.”

“I know you didn’t, but some of the rest of us did. We had had a Bat
the freshman year, and it was only fair, besides, we wanted a girl like
you, and so it happened. Honestly, Eleanor, I wouldn’t have believed
the first of last year that you and I would ever be friends like this;
would you?”

“No, Ann, but we are never going to stop being friends, I hope.”

“Not a bit of it. You’ll come out to Montana next summer, won’t you?”

“I will if I can. Couldn’t you and Suzanne come to our place this year
some time, say the spring vacation?”

“It would be lovely, Eleanor, but I suppose that our plans are too
indefinite to make any definite ones for me.”

“By the way, what I came in for was to bring you a letter from your
mother, I suppose. The mail was just being put in our boxes as I came
away and Marta gave me this for you. She said that she was going off
somewhere, I’ve forgotten where, with Ethel Johns, and would not be
back till just before dinner.” Eleanor opened one of two books which
she had been carrying and took out the letter, which she handed to Ann.

“Thanks, Eleanor,--but you are not going, are you? I’m in no hurry to
read the letter.”

“I can’t stay this time. Take another nap. I’m afraid I wakened you.”

After Eleanor left, Ann raised the curtain a little and stretched out
again, tearing open the end of the letter. It was a good fat one, such
as she loved to get from her mother.

“Dearest Daughter,” she read. “Forgive me for making you wait a little
longer than usual for your letter from me. There have been so many
things going on, and you know that Mother wants me with her a great
deal. We are making up for lost time. I think that Mother has rather
overdone the having company for me. She is tired and Sue gloats a
little over the fact, I think,--not that I would accuse her of wanting
Mother to be ill, but it proves, you see, that her pretended concern
about Mother’s health is right.”

Ann was surprised at her mother’s plain speaking, but since the
denouement in regard to many things at Grandmother’s, her mother had
broken over her long reserve with Ann. Rapidly Ann read on.

“We have about finished entertaining the ‘country-side,’ village and
town, I think, and I am glad. To be sure, we shall be entertained in
turn and have already received many invitations. But Mother need not
go unless she desires. Sue goes right along with me and so far as I can
see, has accepted the situation. She seems to have recovered from her
chagrin at the failure of her plans and matters move as usual. I told
you, I think, that Mother lets her continue to direct the household.

“There are some arguments between her and Mother, who is then tired,
indeed. Sue is disappointed at not being able to persuade Mother to the
trip abroad and is putting obstacles in the way of the Florida trip.
Why this should be so I can not see; for she would enjoy the trip.
Mother tells me privately that if there is much more of it, she will
simply arrange to go with your father and me, and let the rest do what
they please and entirely at their own expense. In that case, my dear,
you will not be too much disappointed, I hope, if you do not accompany
us, after our Christmas all together at your grandmother’s. Oh,
yes,--Sue wants to take the whole party, maids and all, to one of the
most expensive hotels at Palm Beach. Mother thinks that the business
this year scarcely warrants that expense and prefers a more quiet spot,
perhaps an apartment, though she is willing to take a house somewhere,
close this one except for one or two servants, and take the whole
outfit down. Privately, I think that this would entail as much expense
as the other. But I am out of the way of many things that once I would
have felt were natural enough.

“I tell you this that you may understand the situation. What Mother
decides I do not much care, just so she is not worn out with argument,
which is worse than entertaining. I see clearly why Mother let so much
slip into your Aunt Sue’s hands. It was easier than the continual
fretting. Your Uncle Tyson looks worried, except in the presence of
Mother. Maurice has made a flying trip home and back to school again.
I do not know what brought him, perhaps nothing special, but he had
several conversations with his father which were rather argumentative,
I thought, not being able to get beyond the sound of their voices as we
sat in the drawing room.

“Do not think from all this that I am leading a worried existence
myself. As was the case with you last year, I am trying to grasp the
situation the best I can, in the hope of being able to protect Mother
from any unhappiness. I have enjoyed meeting my old friends, and the
most of the time passes pleasantly. The Bentleys are over often, and
from Maurice I understand that he and Ronald are intimate, which is a
good thing for Maurice, I judge. Maurice is very much of a gentleman
with his ‘long-lost aunt,’ as he calls me. I like the boy very much and
hope that he will finish his senior year with some honors, though I
fear me that he is not much of a student.

“Madge and Roy talk of you a good deal. I see them every day for a
time. Mother, indeed, asked me to take a little interest there, if I
could without offending or interfering with Sue. The governess has
little control and is far from being a good person to be in charge.”

This was all of the letter which pertained to the LeRoy family. With a
little Montana news and private messages for Ann, the letter closed.

“Hum,” said Ann. “I wonder if I’d better tell Suzanne that Florida may
be only a bright dream for us. No,--I’d better not bring Suzanne’s
possible complaints into it.”



CHAPTER XI

A WELCOME GUEST AND MORE FAMILY HISTORY


The busy weeks sped on. Ann Sterling, well and happy, looked forward
to the Christmas reunion. Suzanne was planning a trip home at
Thanksgiving; but in order to have any visit at home, she also planned
to miss two or three days of school. “I’m starting a day early,” said
Suzanne, “and if I can persuade Mother to let me, or if she will only
forget about sending me back, you’ll not see me till the middle of the
next week!”

It was a temptation to Ann, for Suzanne suggested that Ann go, too,
and surprise her mother. But Ann well knew how hard it was to make up
work. It was much easier to keep right on, especially since Christmas
was not so far away. On the other hand, it had been such a long,
long time since the fall term opened! So it seemed, at least, in the
light of Suzanne’s going home. Many of the girls who lived within
easy traveling distance were going. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have
Thanksgiving dinner with her mother? So Ann was thinking the first of
Thanksgiving week. She could leave with Suzanne a day early without
much difficulty, but come back on time. Thursday to Monday with Mother!

Marta came running into the suite with great excitement on Tuesday.
“Say, Ann, would you mind if I abandoned you shamelessly and vamosed
with some of the girls?”

Ann, who was running ribbon through the top of a slip, raised big
dark eyes to give Marta a pretended glare. “What do you mean,
varlet,--slave? Desert me in this evil hour?”

“It is a shame, but it is only for a few days, Ann,” laughed Marta. “I
was hoping that the girls would invite you, too, and so they would, if
they did not know you were going home if anywhere.”

“Who is it, Marta?”

“Ethel and Lucile. I’m to be divided up, it seems, between them.”

“Horrible thought!”

“Silly Ann! I mean, of course, that I am to spend part of the time with
Ethel and part with Lucile. They are quarreling over which is to have
me for Thanksgiving dinner and which for Sunday dinner!” Marta was
pleased and happy over the prospect, Ann could see. How fine it was.
Marta had not had many breaks in the long school year. Ann had longed
to take her to her grandmother’s, but dared not, largely on account of
Suzanne.

“You will have a glorious time! Think of it! In New York at
Thanksgiving,--or any other time, for that matter! I’ll get along all
rightee. I’ll read up French and Latin ahead, read for my big semester
theme,--time will just fly! Besides, I may go to Grandmother’s yet.”

“I wish you would, Ann. It will be lonesome here.”

“With all the girls that have to stay?”

“Yes, it will. I know by sad experience.”

“I guess I could stand it for once, Marta. Don’t think of it. I _could_
go, so it is my own fault if I don’t. See? What clothes are you going
to take?” Ann thought that this was the best way to get Marta’s
thoughts off her regrets.

“Sure enough; what _would_ you take?”

Marta was immediately concerned about the usual question, what to wear.
She began to look out what she would take with her and Ann offered to
help mend, if necessary.

Wednesday came and the last recitations, from which Marta and Suzanne
were excused. Suzanne, indeed, had left the night before. Ann had one
“flighty moment,” as she said afterward, intending a pun, when she ran
to her closet and dragged out her suitcase. Should she pack and go or
shouldn’t she? Then she laughed at herself, thrust back the suitcase,
and hung up her coat, which she had thrown over her arm. “You are a
double-minded, unstable creature, Ann Sterling,” said she aloud. “I’ll
not let you be so silly!”

Recitations were over. Ann concluded that she would run over to the
administration building, to see if there was any mail, and put on her
wraps for the walk. There had been a fresh snow early that afternoon,
to make lovely the campus and the evergreens, which bent under the
weight of the soft, white masses that clung to them. The janitors, who
very likely did not appreciate the beauty of the scene as much as Ann,
were sweeping the walks and the steps of the different buildings.

Cars and ‘buses were coming and going. Ann felt lonely and decided
that she would hunt up some companions in “misery,” as soon as she
saw whether or not she had any letters. As she tripped up the steps,
in her sky-blue sweater and cap with white trimming, her dress a soft
white wool that she had donned with the thought of the approaching
dinner-time, somebody “nice” in one of the taxis thought that she was a
pretty part of the winter scene. “The Sophomore Hall, please,” said the
visitor.

“The new one or the ‘Castle?’” inquired the taxi man, who had brought
many and many a girl and visitor to the Forest Hill buildings.

“The Castle, please.”

Ann, unaware of any appraising eyes, went to look after her mail and
was disappointed in not hearing from her mother or father. There was
a fat letter from Marjorie, however, and Ann sat right down by a warm
radiator in the hall, where a cushioned bench looked inviting, and
read it through, with all its news of winter days in Montana. Marjorie
was spending the winter at home. “Your mountains are beautiful,
Ann, to-day,” wrote Marjorie. “There was a big snow last night and
everything is dazzling in the sun this morning. Your father was over
yesterday. He looks as well as can be and according to Rita, has his
grip packed for New England already!”

It was a good letter, Ann thought, and she looked out upon the wintry
New York landscape, imagining other scenes back in the Rockies. She had
half a mind to go to the library, since she was here, and read until
dinner time. No, she would not begin work so soon. Besides, she had
forgotten the pin which this frock needed to set it off, and where was
her “hanky?”

Slowly Ann strolled along the walks, looking off at the hills, with
their white slopes where there were no trees, or the forested portions
with their snow-laden trees and bushes. After all, she thought, it
would be pleasant to be here a few days, unhurried by lessons and
recitations.

At the top of the stairs in the Castle, Ann caught a glimpse of Aline,
who had almost reached her own door. “Hoo-hoo, Aline,” she called.
“Come on around, can’t you?”

“Not just this minute, Ann,” replied Aline, turning, with her hand on
the knob of the door. “You have a caller, though. We saw you coming
and she went on in.”

Unsuspectingly, Ann went on to the other corridor and hummed a little
tune as she opened the door, expecting to find one of the girls. There,
in the rocking chair, facing the door with a smile and loving eyes, sat
her mother!

“Mother! Mother!”

Ann rushed across the room and her mother rose, to meet Ann’s
enthusiastic greeting with a warm embrace. “Are you glad to see me,
then?”

“Glad! Suppose I had started with Suzanne, as I wanted to! Why, Mother,
I came the _nearest_ to passing you on the way! Better not risk
surprising me, Mums. Suppose I had missed you!”

“I never thought of it, for you wrote that you would not come. I, too,
thought that for such a short time it would scarcely pay you, and you
wanted to get ahead on your work, you said.”

“You never can tell about girls, though, Mother! But it has turned out
all right. Are you going to stay over Sunday and all?”

“Yes. We’ll have one good visit; and when you have to work on your
lessons, I will keep as still as a mouse.” Mrs. Sterling dropped her
voice to a stage whisper and opened wide eyes, as if awed at the vision
of Ann’s lessons.

Ann gave her mother another hug and laughingly reminded her that there
were many years of training by the same Mrs. Sterling, when Ann
studied many an hour in her mother’s presence. “There isn’t anything
so very important, anyhow, Mother, only my lessons for next week as
usual. I was planning more, because I could keep from being lonesome
that way. But I’d waste a lot of time with the other girls, you know,
‘gossiping’ or playing popular songs for them, or doing this or that.
How is Grandmother, by the way?”

“She is herself again, sorry not to see you this time, but she approved
of my coming and said that she would spare me this long, since it would
be an opportunity for us to have a quiet visit together.”

“It will be wonderful. We’ll have the suite all to ourselves, for Marta
has gone to New York with Ethel and Lucile. Why, we’ll be just like two
girls. You look like one yourself.”

“Scarcely,” said Mrs. Sterling. “But that reminds me. I must get
dressed for dinner. I did not like to start my toilet for fear that you
would come before I finished. I thought, by the way, that you would
never come. When I saw you strolling along toward this building, I
tried to concentrate and will you to hurry, but it did not work! You
were going up the steps of the administration building when my taxi
rolled in, too far away for me to call, and then I thought that it
would be fun to surprise you. You used to like surprises.”

“I do, and I have had a lot of nice ones, too. The last one at home
was my cabin in the mountains. But this is a fine one. It’s funny. I
took my time to things. You must have been waiting quite a while.”

“I have; but Aline Robson was with me. What were you doing?”

“I was lonesome and went over to see if there were a letter from you or
Father. I was disappointed, but had a long letter from Marj. I’ll let
you read it. She says that Dad looks fine.”

“That is good to hear. I shall enjoy the letter after I get ready.”

How good it was to have mother around! Ann helped her hang up her wraps
and extra garments, brought in one good-sized grip. She flew around to
straighten the room, patting up the pillows on the couch, putting the
books on the shelves and clearing the table, whisking the cover off
from the dresser and putting on a fresh one before her mother should be
ready to fix her hair, dusting the table and the rounds of the chairs,
neglected for several busy days.

“How do you think you can get along, Mrs. Sterling, without a maid?”
asked Ann, when her mother at last began to loosen her long thick hair
ready for its combing.

“Never having been without one,” replied Mrs. Sterling, “it _will_
be difficult! Perhaps I can’t quite equal the style of Adeline’s
coiffures, but I think that I can manage.”

“How does it seem, Mother? I didn’t dare ask you at Grandmother’s,
but does it seem natural there, or have you been away so long that it
is hard to fall into the ways again? You seemed perfectly at home, and
I would have thought that you had always had Adeline from your manner
with her.”

“It was strange at first, Ann, though one naturally knows what to do in
the home where she has lived so many years. And since your father and
you have been away, I could almost fancy that it had all been a dream.
That was one reason that I came. I wanted to see you so much. I don’t
want it a dream, you see!”

“I’m no dream, Mother, and I’m glad that you feel that way about
us,--though I must say that I have never been worried about losing your
affection.”

“That could not happen, my child, under any circumstances.”

“No matter what I did?”

“No matter what you do. But I hope that you will always choose to do
right!”

“I ought to, with the mother and father I have. But don’t expect me to
be perfect.”

“Take perfection for your ideal, Ann, though you will not find it in
either of your parents. When is your dinner hour, Ann? Will I be ready
in time?”

“Yes; take your time, Mother. Does Miss Tudor know that you are here?”

“No; I was not sure of coming. That was one reason that I did not
write. Then I knew that there was plenty of room in the suite, even if
Marta were here.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Proudly Ann guided her mother through the halls, over to the dining
room, and seated her in Marta’s place. Miss Tudor recognized Mrs.
Sterling’s presence by a bow and smile. There had not been time for Ann
to take her mother to Miss Tudor’s rooms before the gong rang. At the
table were Katherine, Dorothy and Aline, the only girls left beside Ann
out of the two suites. Permissions were freely given that evening for
changes to be made at table, and as they all stood behind chairs a few
minutes, while the girls gathered, the three girls had hurried over to
Ann and Mrs. Sterling, invited by a gesture from Ann.

“You are a lucky girl, Ann!” Katherine exclaimed, after grace. “If all
the mothers could only come!”

“I am lucky, but I’ll share mine a little. All of you come around to
our suite after dinner, that is, after we have seen Miss Tudor. There
won’t be any study hours, will there?”

“I think that the bell will ring and we’ll be supposed to stay in the
buildings, as usual,--that’s all,” said Dorothy. “But isn’t your mother
too tired?”

“No, indeed,” declared Mrs. Sterling. “I need a good dose of _girls_
more than anything else!”

“You have come to the right place for it, then, Mrs. Sterling,” said
Aline, looking rather wistfully at Ann and her mother. Aline missed her
mother more than she ever let any one know.

Ann had a faint idea of this and made sure that, after the meal was
over, Aline, who had happened to be the one to greet Mrs. Sterling
first, should accompany them from the table. They met Miss Tudor on
the way out of the dining-room; rather, she joined them, and cordially
welcomed Mrs. Sterling, who said that she would call to see her
“tomorrow.”

“Good, Mother!” said Ann, after Miss Tudor had gone on with one of the
teachers. “I was so afraid that we would have to waste to-night by
calling.”

“Miss Tudor would not feel flattered if she heard that remark,” said
Mrs. Sterling.

“I like Miss Tudor, but I can see her every day,” replied Ann. “Do you
blame me, Aline?”

“Not a bit.”

The evening would not have been properly begun without music, but the
girls passed by the parlors of the administration building and went
on to their own building, where Aline secured her violin; and in the
Castle’s drawing room, a dozen or more girls gathered around the piano,
to sing for Mrs. Sterling, surprised and pleased to have her join in
the Forest Hill songs and others. Then Aline, Katherine, Dorothy and
Ann escorted her to Ann’s suite for a good visit before bedtime. Mrs.
Sterling had not been a girl herself for nothing. In her bag was an
immense box of candy and she promised the girls to call them in when
another “Thanksgiving box” arrived. “I had to send it,” she said, “but
it should be here in the morning at the latest.”

“What is it, Mother?” asked Ann.

“Wait and see, little Ann,” laughed her mother. “It is another
surprise.”

“Do we have turkey tomorrow?” asked Ann.

“We always do,” said Katherine, “and I saw some fowls arrive,
dressed,--they looked to me too big for chickens.”

“Your mother must have loved you, Ann,” said Dorothy, “to forego the
kind of a Thanksgiving dinner that I imagine they will have at your
grandmother’s to-morrow.”

“Mother does love me better than turkey or anything, don’t you,
Mother?” Ann affected a childish tone which amused the girls, and the
smiling Mrs. Sterling nodded an affirmative.

“But goose, Ann, is considered a Christmas bird,” Dorothy suggested.

“Listen to that, now!” cried Ann. “Do you suppose that Dots means
anything personal, Katherine?”

“Have a bon-bon, Ann,” said Katherine in soothing tones.

That night, in spite of the bon-bons, Ann sank into a dreamless sleep.
Everything was always safe when Mother was around.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thanksgiving was a perfect day, cold, to be sure, but crisp, sunny,
an occasional icicle forming over the porch in the middle of the day.
The big turkey dinner was at two o’clock, breakfast at a late hour
beforehand. It was so “delicious,” Ann said, “not to have to get up for
lessons.” Her mother, too, was tired, and had many things, practical
and otherwise, to talk over with her daughter. They were invited to sit
at Miss Tudor’s table for dinner. This was an honor, but Ann would have
enjoyed it far better with the girls at her own table. However, she had
her mother and that was sufficient. The dinner was worthy of the day,
the girls in high spirits, for there were to be some winter sports and
a sled ride later in the day.

For the sports Ann did not care now. She would have plenty of that
sort of thing at Christmas time. These days with Mother were a
welcome rest Ann was well, but had not realized how tired she was
until the necessity for keeping on was over. She took a long nap in
the afternoon, while her mother, after a short one, investigated the
condition of Ann’s clothes and was sitting with her thimble on, sewing,
when Ann wakened.

“Isn’t that good, to see you with your thimble on ‘as of yore,’” Ann
said sleepily, as she still lay on the couch where she had fallen
asleep.

Mrs. Sterling looked up and smiled. “You were sleeping so soundly that
I did not think I would waken you by looking over things.”

“It is good of you. I neglect my clothes shamefully, I know.”

“I am well aware, daughter, that you have other important things to do.”

“Tell me some more about Grandmother and everybody,” Ann suggested.
“Did you say that Maury calls you his ‘long-lost’ aunt?”

“Yes. Maurice and I are great friends. By the way, he is not smoking
those miserable cigarettes now, says that he hears they are bad for
brains and he has to get his lessons this year.” Mrs. Sterling smiled
in amused remembrance. “He was out of sorts about something when he
came home, just before I left, but whatever it was seemed to be fixed
up with his father.”

“Do you like Maury better than Cliff, Mother?”

“Why the comparison, Ann?”

“Well, Cliff was always around out home, and here it is Maury.”

“I see. It is hard to compare the two boys. They are so different.
Clifford is the more reliable, I suppose, but still, Maurice has his
strong points. He has been pretty well spoiled in some ways, but seems
to be waking up a little. After all, there is good blood in him.”

“Not being proud of our family at all, you will admit that!” joked Ann.

“I think that Maurice is more sincere than Suzanne, though I am fond of
Suzanne.”

“Do you think that Maurice has been,--well, what people call ‘wild?’”

“He has been gay and has spent too much money. Your uncle was talking
to me one day about Maurice. Maurice was defending himself, it seems,
from charges his father made against him, and said to his father that
he might be thankful it was not worse,--that anyhow he ‘wasn’t into
anything to be a disgrace,’ like ‘Beano’ and some of them. That seemed
to comfort your uncle. Your Uncle Tyson is a very sensible man, Ann.
I can not believe that he is engaged in any plan to defraud your
grandmother.”

“You never can tell, Mother,” wisely commented Ann. “I’ve heard that
very good appearing men can carry through some dreadfully crooked
things.”

Ann’s worldly wisdom seemed to amuse Mrs. Sterling very much. “That is
very true, Ann,” said she, “but one must not be too suspicious.”

“What became of Grandmother’s bonds, then?” asked Ann.

“Perhaps he knew nothing about them.”

“Then you think that Aunt Sue,----”

“Sh-sh,--Ann, we do not know.”

“I know what Grandmother told me. But I’m glad to hear that you think
Uncle Tyson may be all right.”

“Your Aunt Sue, you know, always did think that everything at home
belonged to her.”

“Yes; isn’t it funny? I couldn’t be that way, even about our dear home.
How old is Maurice, Mother?”

“Let me see. You are in your eighteenth year, aren’t you?”

“Yes’m,--your daughter is getting on in years, madam.”

“Very old, indeed! I was thinking of the difference in your ages. I
have always understood that there were two years between Maurice and
Suzanne, and Suzanne is about six months older than you. Sue had two
babies when she came home from abroad. I judge that Maurice is about
twenty now, possibly twenty-one by the time he graduates.”

“You were married before Aunt Sue, weren’t you?”

“Yes, and that year Mother and Sue went abroad. Sue was married in
Paris and she remained there for some time. Then Mother came home,
and Sue went around the world with her husband. Maurice was born, I
believe, in some unheard of place,--I declare I have forgotten. Mother
wrote me about it after she had forgiven me for marrying your father.
Suzanne was born in France, I believe.”

“Did Nancy or any one ever tell you that Aunt Sue was in love with Dad?”

Mrs. Sterling looked up in surprise. “No. What an idea! Of course--your
father came out to see Sue in the first place, before he met me there,
but,----”

“Listen, Mother; this is what the old gardener told me; rather, he
referred to you as the daughter who married ‘the man that the other one
wanted.’ I told Dad about it one time, and I supposed that he might
tell you.”

“Your father is too modest a man for that. I am surprised; but it would
account for many things.” Mrs. Sterling looked off into space and let
her sewing drop into her lap.

Ann respected her mother’s thoughts and kept quiet.

“Poor Sue!” her mother said at last. “I wonder if she really were in
love with your father!”

“Now, Mother, don’t go to pitying Aunt Sue! Think how awful it would
have been for Father if she had married him. How lucky it was that he
did meet you before Aunt Sue’s wiles got him!”

Ann was half laughing as she spoke, but she meant what she was saying.

“I see. The inference is, I take it, that he did not do so badly in
getting me!”

“You have it, Mother mine. And Aunt Sue had a lot of beaus, I
understand. The chances are that she did not care at all for Father,
but just hated it that you were the one he fell in love with. Do you
really suppose that Aunt Sue has ever loved anybody but herself?”

“Take care, Ann. You are too hard on her.”

“And you, dear Mother, are so good and unselfish that you think
everybody else is, too. I have too vivid a memory of how you worried,
for _years_, ever to trust anybody’s happiness in the hands of Aunt
Sue!”

“It is best to forget it, if you can, Ann. You must not harbor bitter
feelings, Ann. It hurts you more than any one.”

“I know that, Mother, because I’ve felt it. All the same, while I am
going to be as respectful to Aunt Sue as I can possibly be, I think
that it would be foolish ever to give her a chance again to hurt you.
When people prove what they are,----”

“Don’t be so fierce, little one. Suppose that our heavenly Father would
treat us according to what He has found out we are.”

“Now, Mother,--you know I can’t argue with you about that!”

“When all is said, Ann, Sue is my sister. I’d rather not get worked up
over anything again.”

“That is so, Mother. Forgive me for stirring it all up. Say, Mums, was
there any of that candy left?”

Mrs. Sterling reached to the bureau for the big box and handed it to
Ann. “The girls were quite conservative, I should say,” she replied,
“but how you can eat anything after that dinner I can’t see.”

“That was hours ago, Mother! Besides we had no candy for dinner. I love
your selection. I will now eat a big fat chocolate with a nut on it,
and--yes,--that green bon-bon looks good,--and a yellow one. Please
have one with me, Mother.”

Mrs. Sterling shook her head. “No thank you, daughter. I’ll wait a
while.”

“It is never safe to wait about candy. But if this goes, we’ll make you
some fudge. There is always that possibility, you know.”

“How glad I am to know that. I shall be saved from starvation at least.”

“Now, Mother!”

Ann would not tell her mother, she thought, about the gossip which she
had heard at her grandmother’s. She had been half tempted to do so when
they were talking about Maurice, but this was not the time.



CHAPTER XII

THE SCRIBBLERS’ CLUB ORGANIZES


The box which Mrs. Sterling had sent to Ann was full of fruit, with
some other things which the girls could enjoy after Mrs. Sterling had
gone. The janitor of the Castle opened it for Ann and the fruit was
separated, to be put in one of the closets as the coolest place; for
the rooms were kept comfortably heated. But Ann did not investigate the
other packages while her mother remained, for there was much going on,
and Ann read her French to her mother, a pleasant way of studying it.
Mrs. Sterling made a fine French dictionary, Ann said, for all but some
technical terms which she had forgotten. At Mrs. Sterling’s bidding,
Ann also studied her other lessons on Friday evening, looking up once
in a while to “gloat” over her mother’s being there, and expressing her
feelings in that fashion.

“I shall never be able to complain about not being appreciated, Ann,”
said her mother.

“Indeed not, and wait till poor Dad arrives! He is just merely existing
till Christmas, I know.”

The girls, at Miss Tudor’s suggestion, hastily put together a little
entertainment for Saturday night. There were some other visitors for
the Thanksgiving week end, for whom the girls wanted to do something.
Among so many organizations it was not hard to find something to do.
One of the senior girls had written a clever one act play for her
English class. To be sure it must be committed by the actors in record
time, but what could not be remembered in the way of the speeches could
be what the girls called “faked,” by bright girls who knew the point of
their remarks. It had been done before and this was not Shakespeare,
whose lines must be just right!

Aline rushed in Saturday morning to call for Ann’s help. “Ann, _would_
your mother mind if you play for the orchestra? We’ve simply got to
have you. Our regular pianist, you know, is away, also the substitute,
and there isn’t a girl who can do it as you can!”

“Do not hesitate on my account, Ann,” promptly said Mrs. Sterling. “I
shall be glad to have you help.”

“All right, then, Aline,” Ann promised. “I am only too thankful not to
be called on to help with the play. Thank fortune there are plenty of
girls for that.”

“Don’t be too sure, Ann,” joked Aline. “I’ll remember you if they need
any one!”

“Just remember, too, please,” laughed Ann, “that I could scarcely be
in the orchestra and on the platform at the same time.”

“Will you mind, Mother?” Ann asked after Aline had gone.

“Not a bit. To tell the truth, Ann, I enjoy all this. We used to do all
sorts of things when I was in school. I remember the fun and excitement
of it all. It was different in those days, but this takes me back to
pleasant memories. Then, too, these girls are so attractive and do such
clever things that I expect to enjoy the whole thing thoroughly.”

“I think that it is Jane Price who has written the play, and if it is,
it will be too funny for words! Jane is a dear, though, and very smart!”

“Will you have anything but the play?”

“Yes; Dots showed me the program when I was around there. She is
the sophomore on the committee. First there will be an orchestral
number,--ahem! They will probably choose something hard for me to play.
Then the glee club will sing. Next comes the play, and we shall play an
‘overture.’ The girls want us to ‘jazz’ one of the real overtures to
light opera if we can, and we are to play appropriately during part of
the play it seems.”

“Soft suggestions in music,” inserted Mrs. Sterling.

“That is it,” said Ann. “We burst into melody between scenes, too, and
the Glee Club will sing again, and I think that Aline is to have a
violin solo. If we can get one of the senior girls to sing, she has a
lovely thing, with orchestral accompaniment, from one of the operas.
But she has a cold and we don’t know whether she will be equal to it
or not. There will be plenty to fill in with, I’m sure. And we’ll all
dress up in our spuzziest clothes. You will think that you are in the
Metropolitan, I know!”

“I expect to enjoy it as much,” laughed Mrs. Sterling.

“Now I wonder how she means that,” said Ann, looking off into space, a
twinkle in her eyes. “With all the practicing, I’m afraid that I shall
have to leave you a good deal to-day, Mother.”

“I will finish fixing up your clothes, child. Then I want to talk
with Miss Tudor about arranging for your studies, in case we do take
you with us to Florida. I feel sure that if your father goes, he will
refuse to go without you.”

“Good for Dad! But what a change from the stern mentor who says that
lessons must go on!”

“If you stay for any length of time, your lessons will go on. If you
are there only a short time, however, we are to let you get the benefit
of the Florida experience.”

“Well, that is pretty nice for me. I supposed that you and Father would
have our part of the affair thought out.”

“Yes,--as usual. What Aunt Sue’s family does remains to be seen. But we
have not been discussing that lately. I think that it will all turn
out for the best.”

“Bless your heart, Mother, you always say that!”

“And doesn’t it?”

“Certainly, but it takes some ‘turning,’ on our part.”

“Of course it does. ‘Even so faith apart from works is dead.’ What I
should have done, Ann, instead of worrying myself sick, during those
years, was to go to Mother and have everything explained. Instead, I
waited for my dear daughter to show me what could be accomplished in
the line of ‘works.’”

Surprised and pleased by her mother’s appreciation of her efforts and
success in uncovering the reasons for Grandmother’s misunderstanding,
Ann was rendered speechless for a moment. “Why, aren’t you nice,
Mother, to say this to me?” she finally said. “And aren’t we having a
good visit?”

“_I_ am. Come here and give me a good hug and then run off to your
practicing!”

       *       *       *       *       *

All too soon the Thanksgiving vacation ended. The absent girls came
back; the places at table were all full again; Ann’s mother went home;
Suzanne, who was unable to persuade her mother to a longer visit,
appeared with the rest of the girls, and, for a wonder, in the best
of spirits. In a few days lessons and school work had assumed their
proper place and everything was in full swing. Only the weather was
depressing. It had turned a little warmer, with rain, which melted the
snow into a miserable slush. This was immediately cleaned from the
walks, but not without an interval during which careless girls without
overshoes acquired wet feet and sore throats. Ann, sad to say, was
among these. She escaped tonsilitis and going to the little hospital
which was full for a few days; but she gargled and took medicine and
had her throat swabbed, to her great disgust. One week end she spent a
great part of her time in bed and had her meals sent over.

“You never are sorry enough for people that are sick, Marta,” she
philosophized one evening, when she was sitting in her bath robe by
their table studying. “Not until you are sick yourself. And then, as
soon as you are well, you forget it! I don’t think much of human nature
myself.”

“Neither do I,” Marta agreed.

“Still, you do find out how many friends you have, and how kind people
can be. Maybe human nature isn’t so bad after all.”

“I’m sure it isn’t,” said Marta.

“Marta Ward! You would agree with anything! I believe that you don’t
know what I’m talking about!”

Marta looked at her dreamily, raising her eyes from her book.
“Something about human nature, wasn’t it?”

Ann threw back her head and laughed. “Never mind. You wanted to be
polite, but your room-mate would persist in talking about her own
experiences while you were studying. Now you will never know the wise
philosophy you have missed. Go on back, Marta. Where were you?”

“In London,” said Marta, who was reading history.

“It’s almost time for the bell. Let’s investigate the packages in that
box when you get through with your history. I don’t know what I would
have done without those oranges while I was sick. They were all I
wanted.”

“Let me finish this chapter, Ann. Then we’ll drag out the box.”

Ann, who was through with lessons, or all that she felt equal to doing,
threw her tired head back against the rocking chair in which she
sat and closed her eyes. She knew now how girls felt when they were
not strong, and she wondered if she had ever really appreciated her
health. She was feeling well now, except for a little weakness and a
“scratchy” throat. She opened her eyes a little to look at Marta, who
was concentrating on that last chapter of her lesson. Her blue eyes
were glued to the page of the book, which she held in one of the strong
hands that could do so much with the piano keys.

Finally Marta closed the book with a bang and laid it on the table.
“There!” she exclaimed. “I guess that is in my cranium, long enough to
recite it at least. I never _could_ remember history!” She ran her
fingers through her already much ruffled brown locks. “Have an orange,
Ann?”

“Thanks, Marta; I can wait on myself now, though. If you are ever sick,
Marta, I’ll show my gratitude!”

“I shall not get sick for the benefit of your gratitude, Miss Sterling.”

“I hope not, Marta. I’ll have to show it in some other way.”

“Haven’t I eaten as many oranges as you, besides all the good desserts
that they sent and you couldn’t eat?”

“I don’t know about that, Marta.”

“But I do. Please ‘say no more’ about gratitude. But, Ann, there is too
much in this box to drag it out without spoiling the floor or the rug
or something.” Marta was in one of the closets now.

“All right,--we’ll investigate, then.”

Ann rose and joined her room-mate, who was ready to “stagger out,” as
she said, with an arm full of bundles. “I didn’t realize myself that
there was so much. Mother said that she put in some sugar for fudge and
some other things.”

The bell was ringing for the close of study hours as the girls piled
the bundles on the table and searched, through the papers and other
material with which the articles had been packed, for any other
packages. And still those “dulcet sounds” filled the air when a series
of knocks came at their door, beating a tattoo which stopped at Ann’s,
“Come right in.”

Their guests proved to be Eleanor and Aline, now as frequent visitors
as any of the Jolly Six. “What in the world?” inquired Eleanor, as she
viewed the table covered with packages.

“That is just what we are saying,” said Ann. “We took a notion to find
out what else was in the box that mother brought, or had sent, rather.
She said that there was some sugar for fudge, and if all that is sugar
we’ll have enough for the rest of the year, I take it.”

“Those big square packages are sugar, I suspect,” said Marta, “but that
is all. Why so much conjecture? Let’s open up. Sit down, ladies, and
make yourselves at home. I strongly suspect, from the feel thereof,
that _this_ big package contains nuts.”

Eleanor and Aline sat down in the chairs that Marta and Ann had vacated
and watched while the packages were opened.

“Nuts they are,” said Ann, untying the large paper sack. “Georgia paper
shell pecans! Yum-yum!”

A large paper box, opened, disclosed English walnuts, almonds, filberts
and Brazil nuts, and a flat package within contained a nut-cracker and
nut picks. These Ann immediately passed around and offered both box and
paper sack to the guests.

“Wait till I pass around the silver dishes, Ann,” warned Marta. “They
will have to hold the nuts in something, for the shells at least.”
Hastily Marta selected clean papers, from those which had been used in
packing, and handed them, as the “silver dishes,” to the guests. “We
have some plates in the closet somewhere,” she said, “but I am sure
that they are dusty from disuse.”

“We haven’t had a feast for some time, have we?” queried Eleanor,
cracking a huge pecan.

“Scarcely since you girls were all rushing for the sororities and the
Owls.” This was Aline, who remembered several delicious feasts at that
gay time.

“That makes me think of what I came to see you about, girls,” said
Eleanor. “Ann, how would you like to be a famous authoress?”

“I hadn’t thought about it, Eleanor,” said Ann, who was struggling
with a refractory cork in a bottle of olives, contents of another
interesting package. One more tug and it was out. Ann flew to the
lavatory to get rid of the liquid and was back to answer Eleanor’s
question.

“Have an olive, Eleanor. No, I confess I hadn’t thought of entering the
field of literature. But no telling what any of us may do under Bunny’s
training. I’ll try ’most anything, Eleanor, to become famous. What is
the immediate danger?”

“Joining the Scribblers’ Club. Ever heard of such a thing?”

“No; not at Forest Hill.”

“There isn’t any; but I thought that we might organize one. Honestly,
Ann, I’d like to have one. Scribbling is the only thing outside of
singing that I really like to do.”

“You do write fine themes, Eleanor. I was quite envious when Bunny had
you read the last one and praised it so before the class.”

“You never have any reason to be envious, Ann. That is one reason that
I thought you would be a good one to start it. Getting praised for
what I’ve written, though, is what started me to liking composition, I
guess. Nothing like a little encouragement once in a while, is there?”

“No,--yes--what is the right answer to that? And it’s precious little
encouragement that Bunny ever gives. She never praised anything of
mine.”

“She probably thought that I needed it.”

“No, Eleanor. That theme deserved it.”

“And I never wrote anything so quickly. I liked the subject and
happened to know something about it. I wrote it right off, just in the
order that came to me, and then, boiled it down and corrected it and
copied it. Well, what do you say, girls, do we have a scribblers’ club
or don’t we?”

“With the Owls and the Bats,” said Marta dubiously, “I don’t see that I
have much more time for outside things.”

“But you take English, don’t you?”

“Yes, Eleanor; I have several studies this year outside of my music.”

“Very well, then. If you’d like to belong, you can offer anything that
you have ever written for English. Those things go for the Owls, and
the Scribblers’ Club, too. I’ll tell you more about our plans when--and
if--we organize.”

Ann was doing some quick thinking. It would be an encouraging thing
for Eleanor, who was taking a new interest in her work, if this went
through. It would also be good for any one who took part. If the things
one had to write in class could be used, well and good.

“I’ll join, Eleanor,” said Ann, “if you will be content with my feeble
efforts in the literary line. Suppose we have the organization here
tomorrow some time. I’ll make some nut fudge to celebrate, or we can
have whatever else there is here.” Ann, who had stopped unwrapping to
eat nuts, now investigated a heavy rectangular package. “Hurrah! Boxes
of sardines! Imagine, _Mother_! But Mother is thinking of the days of
her youth!”

“I’ll bring the bread, Ann,” Eleanor offered, “and we’ll have
sandwiches.”

“Butter, also, is necessary,” Aline reminded Eleanor, who added that to
her charge.

“You have some baker’s chocolate there, Ann,” said Marta, pointing to
where torn paper revealed the edges of several cakes. “I will sacrifice
myself to the occasion and make chocolate for the crowd. What is the
hour, Eleanor?”

“I’m free after my practice hour, which ends at three.”

“I have a last hour class,” said Ann.

“Say four o’clock, then. We are always starved at that hour and never
can wait for dinner. Let me take the sardines, then, Ann, and I’ll have
the sandwiches made by the time you come from class. It won’t take long
to make the fudge and chocolate.”

“All right, Eleanor.” Ann handed over the boxes of sardines, while
Marta, who would be at the suite before Ann, said that she would have
the fudge made without waiting for her.

“Then we’ll all be here at four sharp, or as near to that as possible?”
queried Eleanor.

“Oh, yes, Eleanor,” called Marta, “how many shall we prepare for?”

“Six or eight, I think.”

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following afternoon, Ann was delighted when her teacher
dismissed the last class a little early. She hurried to the Castle and
her suite, where she found Marta busy, having the fudge done and the
materials for the chocolate ready. “I’ll go to make that while you are
talking over everything,” said Marta. “Eleanor has made a dandy lot of
sandwiches. She got some cold boiled ham, too, for some, and I made
a few peanut butter sandwiches out of that jar that we found in the
box. If you will crack a dish of nuts, I think that the feast will be
complete.”

“I wish that there were some of those grapes left.”

“They would not have kept, even if we had not eaten them.”

Scarcely had Marta said this when with a warning rap, Aline appeared
bearing a china dish heaped with white and red grapes. This she
deposited upon the table and sat down to help Ann with the nuts; for
there were both the nut-cracker and the little hammer that accompanied
the wooden nut bowl in which Ann was putting the nuts.

“The organization of the Scribblers’ Club,” said Aline, “will be quite
eclipsed by the celebration.”

“We shall be able to give our minds to it much better for not being
starved,” said Ann. “Don’t those grapes look delicious! Where did
Eleanor get them?”

“She ordered the things sent out, bread and butter and ham and grapes.”

“Let’s make her the president of it.”

“She ought to be. She has splendid ideas for it. I saw her a little
while at noon.”

“Here they come!” Ann rose, looked around to see that there were enough
chairs and that the cushions were properly beautiful upon the couch.
From the hall came sounds of talking and laughter from several girls
who were approaching the suite. Marta threw open the door as they
reached it, saying, “Welcome to the Sterling-Ward.”

“Sterling ward, indeed?” queried Jane Price, senior, who was in the
lead. “Is this where they welcome the insane followers of the pen?”

“No,” said Ann, “this is the convalescent ward, where they serve all
the delicacies of the season.”

There were several more girls than Ann had thought might come. It was
evident, then, that Eleanor had been able to interest the older girls.
Having borrowed chairs from the other Jolly Six suite, there were
places for all to sit, and they settled down with gay chat as usual.

“This looks more like a spread,” said Jane, “than the literary
atmosphere we were led to expect.”

“Our guests this afternoon, supply the literary atmosphere,” Ann
replied, bowing to Jane in mock dignity, her hand on her heart. Ann had
grown well acquainted with Jane in sorority affairs this year.

“I’m so glad to hear that,” laughed Jane, looking around the circle.

Katherine Neville was the only one of the other Jolly Six suite
present. Eleanor and Aline represented their suite, making five
sophomores in all. Jane Price and a bright “Sig-Ep,” called Betty
Howard, were seniors whom Eleanor had interested, and two juniors, Alys
Little and Natalie Perkins completed the number.

It is curious how little girls think of some of the enterprises which
they launch, and yet, of how much influence upon them they often prove
to exert, either as organizations, or because of the friendships formed
in them. This new Scribblers’ Club was to become quite an important
part of Ann Sterling’s school life, existing apart from any social ties
like those of the sororities, and based upon ability, in its functions.

“If you girls think that business matters can proceed just as well,”
said Ann, “I think that we are all quite ready for a little lunch to
tide us over that barren period between classes and dinner.” Ann stood
by the table and looked around inquiringly, to find out how the girls
felt about it.

“I am sure that I don’t know when anything has looked so good to me as
that table,” sighed Jane, clasping her hands and looking at the nuts
and fudge. Marta had disappeared at once upon the arrival of the girls
and Ann knew that the chocolate was in process of preparation.

“By your leave, then,” said Ann, “we will serve at once. Eleanor was
good enough to make us some sandwiches. Marta is making the chocolate;
so will you help me, Aline?”

Ann passed a little tray, from which each girl took a paper napkin, a
plate, a spoon and a nutpick. The sandwiches were passed next, and it
was not long before Marta came in with the chocolate.

Steaming hot, a cup of chocolate on each plate made the first course
complete and sandwiches were passed more than once. The weather had
suddenly changed to icy blasts, which made the walks a glare of ice and
started the Forest Hill girls to planning for skating, when the lake
should at last freeze over. It was pleasant to sip the hot chocolate
and look out upon the wintry landscape.

Not until the dessert, of nuts, grapes and fudge, was offered, did the
girls begin upon the main issue. Then it was put through quickly.

“Who shall be the chairman of this meeting?” asked Eleanor. “I nominate
Jane Price.”

Unanimously Jane was put into the chair. Without preface, she asked
Eleanor to present her proposition, the organization of a literary club
called the Scribblers’ Club. “Please tell how it is to differ from a
society like the Owls or the Addisons,” Jane requested.

“There are similar clubs in different schools,” said Eleanor, “and
it was because I heard about one of them that I wanted one for us.
The idea is that only people especially interested shall belong and
that each one shall present some good piece of writing, passed on by
a committee or the officers of the club, to make her eligible for
membership. It may be something written for class or not. Many of us
have little time to write outside of what we do for English, so I
thought that it would be fair to accept anything original that is
considered worthy. It should at least draw a B from Bunny!”

The girls laughed at that. “I’m not so sure,” said Jane. “I presented a
gem of literature to Bunny, in my sophomore year, that carries a C, and
I know that she begrudged that. Suppose that we leave acceptance to the
officers of the society, irrespective of what the teachers think?”

“That is what I say,” said Katherine, “verses, for instance. Any
verse handed in to Bunny would be graded according to the standard of
Tennyson or Browning,----”

“Oh, no, Kit,” said Aline. “Browning never would get by Bunny. She
could find flaws in any of ’em!”

This conclusion seemed to be unanimous, laughingly conceded by the
present or former pupils of Miss Bunn, the unpopular English teacher.

Eleanor went on to explain that it would be best, in all probability,
to have most of the officers from the two upper classes and that after
this, sophomores could only enter after the first semester, when it
would be supposed that they could produce something worthy of admitting
them. They were to be encouraged to apply.

After some discussion, following a motion to organize, Eleanor, with
the two seniors and the two juniors, were appointed as a committee to
draw up a constitution and select a list of officers to be presented
at the next meeting. When these girls asked for instructions, it
was generally agreed that a senior should be president and that the
committee to pass on members should be composed of juniors and seniors.
“And sorority or society matters are never to be considered!” added Ann.

“We can make that clear in the constitution,” said Eleanor, “that
nothing but merit and interest counts.”



CHAPTER XIII

A SONG IN THE AIR


The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is like no other. It may
bring its problems, as we keep the anniversary, but there is a certain
pleasure and anticipation in the very atmosphere, especially among the
young. “Do you realize it?” Marta would ask, “--only three weeks now
till Christmas?” Next it was only two weeks, then only one and time to
pack up.

Ann saw a great deal of Suzanne, for they consulted over gifts for
this one and that one at home. Suzanne was good in suggestion for her
family, which fact helped Ann not a little. The girls had so little
time to shop. But some things were passed over to Ann’s mother to do
for her, after the list of what she thought appropriate for each one
was made out. For their grandmother and mothers, Suzanne and Ann were
doing a little embroidery, that they might offer something of their own.

The music and services at school treated of Christmas and the girls
went around humming carols. “It came upon the midnight clear,” “O
little town of Bethlehem,” “While shepherds watched their flocks by
night,” “There’s a song in the air. There’s a star in the sky,” or
“Holy Night” were favorite hymns at Chapel. And when on that last
meeting of the society, Eleanor sang “Thou didst leave thy throne and
thy kingly crown, When thou camest to earth for me,” she sang with such
expression and feeling that Ann received a new impression of a sober
and earnest Eleanor, who cared about the higher things. Impressionable
Ann was thrilled at her rendering of the last stanza, and poor little
Aline, whose mother had so recently joined those heavenly choirs,
clutched Ann’s hand and bit her lip to keep back the tears. Aline was
going home with Eleanor for the Holidays. It was, however, the second
Christmas since the home had been broken up.

Marta was going back to New York with Ethel and Lucile, having added so
much to the good time of everybody at Thanksgiving that both families
wanted her. Ann was delighted, for she could not bear to leave Marta
again at Christmas time. It was with a very happy heart that Ann said
her goodbyes at school and rolled away in the ’bus to take the train.
This time she and Suzanne were traveling together, in the most amicable
way in the world. “O Ann, don’t you _hope_ that we go to Florida?” was
a frequent question, put in one form or another, as they drew nearer
home. It was home now to Ann, for her dearest and nearest were there
now. A jolly telegram from her father had informed her of his arrival.

It kept growing colder, the girls thought, and even in the train they
wore their coats, Suzanne’s a fur one. At the village station who
should be there but Maurice, handsome in a big fur coat and pulling off
gloves, to greet Ann and draw her furs up to her ears. “Got the big
sleigh that was Grand-Dad’s, Ann. Thought that I’d give you a real New
England welcome!”

Ann was delighted. “Is it really Grandfather’s sleigh, Maurice?” she
asked. “It looks perfectly new to me, so pretty, Maurice!”

“The real, sure enough article, Ann. Of course, it has been freshly
painted.”

“Give me a warm, closed car for mine,” said Suzanne, shivering.

“No good, Suzanne. Every car we own has something the matter with it;
besides, these roads are made for sleighing. It melted, then it froze,
slippery as could be,--then the snow; and it is pretty well packed by
now. How does it compare with Montana, Ann?”

“‘Comparisons are odious,’ Maurice. This is perfect and nothing can
exceed perfection, you know.”

Maurice had put Ann in the front seat, tucking Suzanne in behind with
robes galore. Climbing in beside Ann, he made sure that she had the
robes well up around her before he started his stamping team. “Look
here, Ann,” said he. “I found an old buffalo robe up in the attic, and
pleased Grandmother almost to death by bringing it down. It was all
done up in moth-balls and things,--what makes you laugh?”

“Its being ‘done up in’ moth-balls.”

“You are too recently in the thralls of some English class, Ann!”

“Bunny, you know!”

“Ah, yes; I’ve heard of her, I believe.”

Ann patted the robe, which was on top of the others. “Think what good
times Grandfather and Grandmother had riding around with this!”

“Yes, and I hope that we shall have just as good times.”

Maurice did not look at Ann as he said this, but he drew the robes
around her, with an unnecessary care, and gave rein to the pretty
blacks.

“I adore black horses,” said Ann. “That is the only drawback to Zep.
But Zep’s character makes up for his lacking the ‘coal-black’ color I
wanted. You can’t have everything at once.”

“Alas, how true,” remarked Maurice, holding a tight rein. “These
fellows want to run. They are feeling their oats to-day.”

“I never saw you drive anything but a car, Maury.”

“Didn’t you? When I was a kid I used to ride everything on the place,
with or without a saddle. A boy brought up in the country has a pretty
good chance for a fine time.”

“Some way I never thought of you as brought up in the country.”

“I would call ours a country place, wouldn’t you?”

“I suppose so; but you are so close to villages and towns. It isn’t
like our ranches.”

“No, that’s so; but I like it all the better. Suzanne, are your feet
warm with that little heater?”

“I’m all right, Maury; but my breath freezes when I talk! Please step
on the gas!”

Ann laughed at Suzanne’s comical tone. This was just what Ann liked,
though she felt of her nose occasionally, from habit, she told Maurice.

“I suppose that you do have it a good deal colder than this in Montana.”

“Yes; but it’s dry, you know.”

“So they always say. I’m going out there some time and see if it is
true.”

“Isn’t that nice of you to doubt my word!”

“I wouldn’t put it that way, Ann. I just make allowances for local
pride. The first winter that you spend out there I’m coming.” Maurice
gave Ann a swift look, then let the horses go a little faster. “How do
you like the tone of our sleigh-bells, Ann? They are the old ones, from
‘time immemorial,’ Grandmother says.”

“It’s just too Christmasy for words! Please take me out again while I’m
here.”

“As often as you want to go. Ron says that we are going to get up a
sled party some night, a regular old-fashioned jaunt, you know.”

“That will suit me, Maurice. But where is my wandering father? Why
didn’t he care enough for his daughter to come after her?”

“Say, Ann--that is hard on me. Not content with her gay cavalier, she
is crying for Papa! Suzanne, do you realize that the thermometer has
dropped at least ten degrees? Git-ap!”

“Honestly, Maurice? How do you know?” called Suzanne, above the
jangling bells.

“He is just joking me, Suzanne. Don’t pay any attention!”

“Well said, Ann. I won’t.”

“Your father, Miss Sterling, when I last saw him, was sitting before
a rousing fire in Grandmother’s biggest fire-place. I begged him to
accompany me, but saying that he was not accustomed to such severe
weather in Montana, he refused and continued to talk politics with Dad.”

“I’ll find out the truth yet, Maurice Tyson,” laughed Ann. “Oh, here we
are! How beautiful everything looks! I do love this place!”

“I’m glad that you have gotten that far, at least.”

The LeRoy place was worthy of Ann’s exclamation. She had last seen
it with its waving foliage on the tall old trees, and the flowers,
carefully tended, along the walks or in beds upon the lawn. Now the
trees, as on the campus at Forest Hill, were laden with snow, the
evergreens bending to the ground where the broad spruce branches spread
their beauty. The shrubbery along the curving drive bore also the white
wintry blossoms from the snow drifts. The walks had been cleared and
the entrance was free from snow.

Maurice fairly lifted Ann from the sleigh and turned to help Suzanne
out of her nest of blankets. But Ann had gone on to meet a big man,
who came out upon the veranda to find his little girl and take her in
a fatherly embrace. “You shouldn’t have come out without a hat, Daddy.
Maurice says that you are not used to cold, so couldn’t come to meet
me.”

“I’ll have to have it out with Maurice,” said Mr. Sterling. “But it was
comfortable before the fire this morning; and as I saw that Maurice
preferred to meet you himself, I let him do it. Does he make love to
you very seriously?” Mr. Sterling, Ann saw, was in joking mood.

“Not so very, Daddy. I’ll not have to call on you to send him away yet.”

And here was Mother, sweet and happy, all her precious family together
at last, under Grandmother’s roof. Ann had a glimpse of Aunt Sue and
Uncle Tyson, as she passed the door on her way to the stairs; but they
waited until the travelers should come downstairs to greet them. Aunt
Sue, Ann thought, would not care for embraces from cold arms. Adeline
was waiting for Ann, to take her wraps and make her comfortable, while
Felice performed a like service for Suzanne. The house was warm and
Adeline brought Ann a hot cup of chocolate with some wafers.

“You knew that I liked chocolate better than tea, didn’t you, Adeline?”
said Ann, as she sipped the hot drink.

“Your mother reminded me, Miss Ann.”

As soon as Ann’s toilet was properly made, according to Adeline’s
notion rather than to Ann’s, she hurried to her grandmother’s room and
rapped. Nancy, smiling broadly, opened the door, and beyond were the
open arms of Grandmother.

“Dear child, dear child! How glad I am to see you! Your Grandmother is
getting so she can scarcely spare you any more!”

“Good, Grandmother! It is fine to hear that. I hope that we can
be together except in school time, and we might even manage that
sometimes, if you would come oftener.”

“When you go to Paris to study, I’ll go with you,” laughed Grandmother.
She waved Ann to a seat near her and asked to hear the latest
school news. How glad Ann was that there were no more things to be
explained, no more uncertain strivings to find and destroy the cause of
misunderstanding. “Your father seems to be having a pleasant visit,”
said Madam LeRoy proudly.

“I never saw Dad look happier,” agreed Ann. “We are all happy,--I
hope.” Ann added that, for she wondered about Aunt Sue. “It will be a
wonderful Christmas time. Why, Maury brought us home in the ‘family
sleigh,’ so pretty, with its curves and fine fittings!”

“Did you like it? That old sleigh has quite a history. I will tell
you some of it this vacation, when there is an opportunity. But tell
me more about those girls,--the Jolly Six, is it, or have you more in
numbers, as you had in Montana last summer?”

“The Jolly Six still exists, but they are not all of my friends, by any
means. We have had a wonderful time, rushing girls for the ‘Bats’ and
‘Owls,’ and Suzanne is so much happier and better off in the new suite.”

“I never liked her friendship with Madeline Birch,” said Madam LeRoy,
“but I did not like to insist on her rooming with you last year, after
Sue explained the arrangement, though it was largely for your sake that
I let it alone. Although you and Suzanne are cousins, and Suzanne is
a dear child, it does not necessarily follow that relationship makes
people congenial. So it was that I did not interfere.”

“I was perfectly willing to room with Suzanne, this year; but after
the arrangements had been made, it scarcely seemed fair to Marta. Miss
Tudor arranged it very sensibly, I thought.”

“What did Madeline think of the new arrangement?”

“She would not speak to Suzanne; but what with the Sig-Eps saying that
it would not do to keep mad, and Miss Tudor’s putting just the right
girls with Madeline and Genevieve, it all blew over. Suzanne told me
that Madeline will be at her Christmas party!” Ann’s bright face looked
up into the amused face so like her own in expression, at times.

“We have a new club now, the ‘Scribblers’ Club.’ Eleanor asked me if I
did not want to be a famous authoress, so I am considering the matter!
I haven’t written the great composition as yet, the one that will
entitle me to membership, but I am hoping to get an inspiration this
vacation.”

“Write about your mountains, Ann, or something in Florida, when you get
there.”

“Am I really going, Grandmother?”

“Of course you are. I would not go without you. Your mother and father
would not have so good a time and we would all of us be saying, ‘How I
wish Ann were here.’”

Grandmother, with her head on one side, was looking at Ann with a
quizzical smile; but Ann knew that she meant what she was saying at
that.

“It is fine to be of so much importance,” returned Ann.

“My elder daughter and I have about come to an agreement in regard to
where and how we go, which is high time, since we start as soon after
Christmas day as possible.”

“I just can scarcely believe it, Grandmother. What is Florida like?”

“Like no place else in the United States and worth seeing, at least
once. I think that I will buy a place there this time, if we find what
we want. You can help me select it. How would you like that?”

“I’m afraid that I would not know enough about it. But if there are no
mountains in Florida, let’s get a place near the ocean. I’ve never even
seen it, you know.”

“Is that so, child? You will see it shortly, then, and the Gulf, too,
if you would like. It is likely that your father will want to take some
auto trips over the state. You can see it better in that way, if the
roads are good.”

“The Gulf of Mexico, I suppose you mean. Have you an atlas,
Grandmother? I don’t know a thing about Florida, except the outline of
it that I used to draw with the map of the United States. There is Lake
Okeechobee, I remember, and the Everglades are there.”

“There ought to be atlases enough for your purpose in the library, Ann.
It is not a bad idea to have some idea of the geography before you go.
But have you had a visit with your father yet, Ann? I heard the bells
that accompanied you not very long ago, it seems to me.”

“No,--I haven’t visited with any one yet; but I saw Daddy a few minutes
before I went upstairs. I came around here as soon as Adeline was
through with me.”

“That was good of you, my child. Come; I will go with you, and we will
join the family. Nancy has been fixing a dress for me. You do not need
me any more, do you, Nancy?”

“No ma’am. I know what you want done now.”

They met Mrs. Sterling on the stairs. She was going up to see what
detained her daughter, though she had surmised that Ann would see her
grandmother as soon as she dressed. Mr. Sterling made room for Ann
beside him on the davenport, in front of the fire, though not too
close. His strong arm went around her and Ann leaned against him, safe
with Daddy once more. Mrs. Tyson had met Ann cordially when she entered
the room and Uncle Tyson had welcomed her with his usual courtesy.
Suzanne had not yet come down, nor was Maurice present; but Ann had not
listened long to the conversation of her elders when he appeared and
drew Ann away from her father to talk to him.

Looking out of the window as they stood by a little table near it,
Maurice pointed to a red-coated little figure struggling through the
deep snow between walk and drive, and dragging a sled after him.
“Aren’t kids funny?” asked Maurice. “Roy would rather go through the
snow than go around by the walk. I used to think it fun myself. He’ll
come in all wet, and with ice-cold feet, and say that he has had a
great time!”

“Bless him!” murmured Ann. “I’ll go out and see him.” With Maurice, Ann
went through the devious passages of the old house to the kitchen and
the back porch, where Roy, as commanded of him, would make his first
appearance. Madge, who had been reading in the library and had not
even heard the bells which announced the arrival, came out into the
hall, just in time to meet Ann and welcome her with more enthusiasm
than Madge was ordinarily known to show. She made the third bound
kitchenward.

Roy, stamping off the snow on the back porch and boisterously entering,
was quite surprised to see members of the family waiting. “What’s the
matter?” he asked. “Oh, yes; hello Ann. When did you get in?”

“Do you mean to say that you did not see us coming in the sleigh,
literally ‘with bells on,’ as Maurice says?”

“I was slidin’ down hill over in the hollow. Never heard a thing. Yes,
you can kiss me, if you want to; I don’t usually let ’em any more. I’m
getting too big.”

This was a new phase in Roy. “I’ll do it for you, if you like,” offered
Maurice with a very sober expression.

“She might not like it,” as soberly replied Roy, offering his cold
cheek to Ann, who patted his shoulder as she bestowed her salute. “You
are my friend, Roy, aren’t you?” said she.

“I’m your cousin, and so is Maurice,” said Roy.

“Then I have some rights, haven’t I, Roy?” inquired Maurice.

“Better be careful. Girls are funny,” replied Roy.



CHAPTER XIV

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS


Ann did not mind Maurice’s joking ways. How serious he was she
had no means of knowing, but his manner was perfectly respectful
and courteous, nor did he presume on the relationship. She began,
nevertheless, to have more than one thought about the future. Kendall
Gordon’s letters came with great regularity, whether she wrote in reply
or had postponed it in the multiplicity of school duties. Clifford,
too, began to write oftener and to give Ann more of a glimpse of the
“real Cliff” than she had ever had. He wrote of school, the home people
and of his plans for the future. It would almost seem that Clifford was
trying to keep her in remembrance of her home and of what they had in
common. “Do you remember”--this or that?--he would write, or “When you
come home next summer, we can do”--this or that.

Suppose Maurice were not Aunt Sue’s son, what then? And if not, what
reason had there been for bringing him up not to know it? If Aunt Sue
had been “mad” or jealous of the first wife, the more natural thing
would have been to take it out on Maurice, instead of bringing him up
as her own. Ah, but Grandmother’s money! Maurice would not be entitled
to any if he were not Aunt Sue’s son! Could that be the reason? Did
Aunt Sue think of that so long ago? Well, it was a puzzle. But probably
there was nothing in what Mrs. Lewis had told her. Yet there would be
no counting on what Aunt Sue would do in any case. She was the funniest
woman! So Ann turned over matters in her young mind. She began to
notice Maurice and Aunt Sue, looking to see if Maurice looked like
her. He did not look much like his father. She had considered that
he was like Aunt Sue because in general he was fair. But was he? His
blond hair had grown a little darker since Ann first saw him. His eyes
were not like Aunt Sue’s, a dark grey, or blue-grey, she guessed, with
dark lashes, while Aunt Sue’s were blue, or had been. Maurice had a
distinguished profile. So had Aunt Sue and Grandmother, but Maurice’s
features were like those of neither. Well, well! “‘All of which goes to
prove that music is both elevating and refining,’ as Cliff likes to say
when something proves nothing!”

The next day Madeline came to call, happening to arrive at the same
time as Ronald Bentley and Jack Hudson, who came to plan the week’s
festivities. This meeting did not cause Madeline any pain, as Maurice
wickedly whispered to Ann when he had a good chance. But Madeline and
Suzanne rather absorbed the attention of Maurice and Jack, leaving Ann
to Ronald, who entertained Ann with pictures of Florida life and what
they would do when the Bentleys had their yacht ready for the “briny.”

“It does not look much like ocean travel here,” said Ann. “The wind
just howled last night and I can’t associate December with any balmy
days such as you describe.”

“It’s probably a little uncomfortable in the sun to-day in Miami,” said
Ronald. “I don’t expect you to believe me, though. But I’ll prove it to
you. We’re off the day after Christmas. When do you start?”

“Uncle Tyson said that we would spend New Year’s in Florida, so I
suppose they mean to start soon after Christmas.”

“We start when the Bentleys do,” said Maurice, who had overheard. “We
school folks would not have much time there, if we didn’t get off
early. Luckily there is some sort of an educational meeting, which
gives us an extra week of vacation. Come on, folks, let’s go into the
library and plan our campaign.”

There were other callers in the drawing room and that was the reason
for Maurice’s suggestion. The six young people immediately repaired to
the library, where Maurice drew up chairs to the table.

“This is a Pan-American or Pan-Something conference,” said Maurice,
opening a drawer for paper and taking out his fountain pen. “First,
what do we do next?”

“Take the girls bob-sledding down the hill beyond the mills, tonight,”
answered Ronald Bentley.

“Good,” said Maurice, writing it down, with the date. “Will you accept
the proposition, young ladies?”

“_Avec beaucoup de plaisir, messieurs_,” simpered Madeline, while the
other girls gave assent by smiles and nods to Maurice, as he looked at
each in turn.

“That will be fun,” declared Ann.

“What next?” Maurice balanced his pen on his finger and looked
inquiringly at the other boys for suggestions. The girls, as those to
be invited, had no suggestions to offer.

“Old-fashioned sled party, oysters at the hotel, wherever we happen to
go.” This was Ronald again.

“Still good, if the ladies approve.” As no dissenting voice was heard,
Maurice made a second note. “Next?”

“The next night is the reception at Ron’s, Maury,” said Jack.

“Sure enough; and the next night we have our own Christmas Eve doings.”

“We can go somewhere afternoons, can’t we?” inquired Jack.

“If we get home early enough,” said Suzanne.

“We’ll do that, if you say so. Either afternoon tea somewhere or
dinner, as you like. Two afternoon sleighing parties, then, Maury. Put
’em down! Now somebody will have to telephone the other folks. Make out
a list, girls, for the whole thing.”

“The evening receptions are already planned and invitations out,”
suggested Suzanne.

“Certainly. I meant our little private performances. Want anybody else
to-night?”

“Too much bother, Jack,” said Maurice, to the delight of Madeline, who
feared a change of escorts. “But we’ll get some of the other young
folks for the sled ride and the sleighing parties.”

“Not too many, Maury,” said Suzanne.

“The list is entirely in your hands, my dear sister.” Maurice thought
of one more possible amusement, but did not mention it because he
wanted Ann’s company, not Madeline’s. This was skating, for two or
three hours in the morning. He would tell Jack to ask Suzanne, if he
wanted to. How would he put it? Yes, he would be taking Ann to the
“pond,” wouldn’t Jack like to come along with somebody?

Suzanne and Madeline bent their heads together to consider whom to
ask. It did not take long to select several couples among their good
friends, and Suzanne handed the list to Maurice, who read it aloud.
“If there are no objections, I withdraw, with great regret, to the
telephone!”

“I’ll do it for you, Maury,” said Madeline, “if you will hold the list
and look up the numbers.”

“Self-sacrificing girl!” exclaimed Maurice. “I would be too fluttered
to look up the numbers, if any of you ladies were present.” Maurice,
with this, escaped.

“Ridiculous boy!” Suzanne exclaimed. “Let him alone. He will be through
the quicker, Madeline.” Suzanne had no particular desire to hurry,
but Maurice had given her foot a nudge with his own under the table,
and well she knew how he would suffer under Madeline’s flirtatious
management of the telephoning. Besides, he would most likely, when
Madeline was telephoning, summon her away from congenial society, to
assist Madeline, claiming some problem or other. Maurice had been
expert in escaping from Madeline even in the old days, when she and
Madeline were such friends.

       *       *       *       *       *

Jack was ready to make the fourth in the morning’s skating. There was
a pair of skates for Ann, left over from last year, when they had been
procured for her. The “pond,” as they called it, had been blown clear
of snow, and following the partial melting and the following hard
freeze, was as smooth as glass.

“Do I skate as well as Clifford Hart?” asked Maurice, while he and Ann
sped down the length of the small body of water, now frozen so hard.

Rosy-cheeked Ann looked up at her escort in surprise. “Of course you
do. Why?”

“No reason, except that I should prefer to do so. Cliff is such an
example, you know.”

“Now when did I ever tell you that?”

“Never. You would not be so impolite, sweet cousin. I merely gathered
it this summer, among the Montana wild flowers, as it were.”

“Please don’t make fun of Clifford. He does not pretend to be a saint,
and I don’t like to hear you speak in that way of him!”

“I admire Mr. Hart very much.”

“Maurice! I didn’t think that you were like ‘Beano!’”

“Gracious! How to please her!”

“Some way I didn’t like your tone when you spoke of Clifford. But I’m
wrong to take it up so. Please forgive me, Maurice. Maybe you can’t
help it if you don’t like Clifford.”

“I never said that I didn’t like him, sweet cousin; but he likes you
too well, and I fear me that you like him. See? Plain jealousy.”

“Nonsense. There are a lot of interesting young men. I’m not in love
with any one.”

“Some consolation, Ann. Ann, I heard a bit of gossip again yesterday.
It is something that I heard last summer from one of the boys and
worried over, then thought that I had traced it to a person who makes
up anything, I’m told, out of whole cloth. But it came from another
source this time, and I’m going to Father with it, how soon I haven’t
made up my mind.”

“Is it about yourself, Maurice?”

“Yes; have you heard it?”

“I heard something, but it came from an unreliable source. It seems so
unbelievable, too. It is nothing to your discredit, Maurice.”

Ann added the last statement, for she thought that Maurice might refer
to some other report, about some college escapade or affairs among the
young folks.

Maurice was silent and they glided along without a word for some
distance.

“Who told you and what was said?” he finally asked.

“It was Mrs. Lewis, that woman who, I am told, is such an indefatigable
gossip; but I’d rather not speak of the matter first.”

“She seizes on an unpleasant report and holds on to it like a dog to a
bone!” said Maurice. “I heard it first through her, when I came back
from the West this summer, not from her directly, though. It is going
to make considerable difference to me, Ann, whether it is true or not.”

“Yes, and yet----”

“It would explain some things that I remember, too. And Ann, we would
not be related, you know, though I think it would be all right for us
to marry anyhow.”

“Let’s not talk of that, Maury, _please_!”

“All right, but you will admit that I like to think of some
consolation!”

“I haven’t an idea that it is true, Maury. Why worry? When you think
best, report it to your father, as you said you would. That is my way.
I’d go to headquarters.”

“Do you suppose that I can believe headquarters?”

“Did your father ever deceive you?”

“No,--I can’t say that Dad ever did. Mother, though, can get around
anything.”

“I have found that out.”

“I want to get hold of Dad when Mother is not around. Perhaps this trip
would be a good time.”

“Perhaps it would. You want to get it off your mind, Maury. I’m awfully
sorry that you are worried.”

“I believe that you are, Ann. Because you are you, must be why I am
bothering you with my worries.”

“I don’t consider it ‘bothering.’ Please enjoy your vacation, Maurice.”

“I will, Ann. You are a good adviser. And I suppose that if I were glum
and worried it would spoil your good time, too.”

“It most certainly would! O Maurice, I’m having such a good time now,
and think of going to Florida in just a few days! I can’t believe it!”

“Let me see you enjoy it, then. That is all I ask.”

“Oh, we’ll all have a wonderful time together. Suzanne is almost as
crazy as I am about it. I wish that Jack were going. She likes him, I
think.”

“Do you?” laughed Maurice. “Then she will be happy, for Jack is going
with Ron. He told me this morning. We’ll all sing ‘Begone dull care’
and make a playtime of it. I’ll promise you not to worry. Of course, I
can’t help thinking of it sometimes.”

“I suppose not. When you do, come around and I’ll try to make you
laugh. But if it is going to be on your mind, you’d better see your
father right away.”

“I’ll see. It is rather a delicate matter to broach, Ann, and we have
not been in the habit of being as free with our parents as you are with
your father. Your relation with your parents seems ideal to me.”

“I take all my problems to Dad,” said Ann. “Mother is lovely, too, but
we try to spare her a little, he and I.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Sterling declared that the young people of the family would be such
wrecks after all the going of Christmas week that they would not be
able to go to Florida when the time came, but Ann told him that he did
not realize what constitutions they had. “We thrive on sleigh rides and
parties,” she asserted.

“Time will tell,” replied Mr. Sterling, shaking his head with what was
intended to be a mournful expression but rather failed of effect.

Rides, little talks, feasting and visiting, the exciting event at
the Bentleys, where Suzanne and Ann appeared in all the glory of new
frocks, and last, the grand finale at the LeRoy mansion, on Christmas
eve, made up the tale of the days before Christmas. Christmas day would
be quiet, a welcome rest, even with its excitement of gift giving and
receiving. But the older part of the family had arranged most of that.
Most of the packing for departure, too, had been done before the girls
and Maurice came home from college. Ann had selected her clothes, when
she came home, with a view to Florida, bringing what her mother had
directed.

The family slept late on Christmas morning, with the exception of Madge
and Roy, who had their own Christmas tree in the nursery. There was
usually a big tree for all; but when it was decided to have this last
Christmas Eve entertainment, the plan was changed. Other gifts, beside
those of the children, were to be found in various places, Ann’s on a
chair by her bedside, where she could examine them before she rose. It
was strange to her, though she enjoyed her gifts, for their beauty and
for their givers. But always before she had had some one with whom to
share the fun. Last year, to be sure, she was away from home, but there
was the tree. She would not disturb her mother and father, who were,
without doubt, sleeping the sleep of the just. How quiet the house
was! Later they would all go to church in the village, then have their
family dinner.

One present from Maurice pleased her, a handsomely bound book of
verse, an anthology, in which he had marked some poems, not for their
sentimental meaning, Ann discovered, with the exception of one. She
would take that book to read on the way. Ann had not known that Maurice
was at all inclined to verse, or, indeed, to any sort of literature.
While she lay among her soft pillows she thought of many things, among
them, how easy it was to misjudge people. On that lovely winter morning
with its message of good will, it was easy to think kind thoughts, even
toward Aunt Sue, who was, in truth, the head of a very successful and
comfortable home.

Ann decided to take one more nap, after she had finished looking
over her gifts; nor did she waken till Adeline rapped. “Here is your
breakfast, Miss Ann,” she said, “and your mother says that you will
just about have time to eat it and get ready for church.”



CHAPTER XV

ANN VISITS A NEW CLIME


It was a lesson to Ann with how little confusion the exodus was
accomplished. It came partly, she decided, from the excellent
self-control which Grandmother, her mother and her aunt always exerted,
with good plans and management. On the other hand, it was partly due
to the fact that there was plenty of help in every line, each servant
knowing the particular line of service he was expected to give. But
Aunt Sue made a good general, Ann admitted.

Part of the family were going straight through, to Palm Beach, where
Mrs. Tyson had finally persuaded her mother to engage suites at a
fashionable hotel. But Mr. Sterling wanted to see something of the
state in general. Accordingly, he and Mrs. Sterling, with Ann, Suzanne
and Maurice, were stopping at Jacksonville for a few days. From that
center they would visit the interior towns and the West Coast on a
motor trip that Ann anticipated with great delight, and would also
make a short stay at St. Augustine. Weather and whatever seemed the
best order of things would be determined after their arrival at
Jacksonville.

It was interesting to travel, Ann thought, with every comfort that
money could procure for them. Ann was sure that her father would be
bankrupt, keeping up with the Tyson and the LeRoy style of doing
things. But when she said as much to her father, he only laughed and
said that he had been getting ready for some years to be extravagant
when Ann should go to school, and that he had lately “struck oil” in
more ways than one.

Just what her father meant by that Ann did not know, except that her
mother had mentioned an oil investment as having turned out well,
a result which is quite likely not to occur. At any rate, Ann, who
remembered their more careful days and the simple way of living, felt
assured that financial matters were secure. The three young people
were in the highest spirits to start and Ann thought that Maurice must
have laid aside his worry. And if the truth were told, Maurice had
little trouble in doing it. With the sweetest girl in the world, on an
interesting trip,--surely anything else could wait. But purposes were
forming in Maurice which would make him a far stronger man than if
he had remained the careless boy which Ann first met. He had already
spoken to his father about a “job” in the mills, as soon as he should
receive his diploma, to Mr. Tyson’s surprise and pleasure. Plans for a
summer out West with Ann had gone glimmering.

Suzanne was more interested in a good story or two and the chocolates
with which Maurice had furnished the girls. But Ann, always alert for
new things along the way, listened to Maurice and looked with both her
eager eyes when the scenery began to grow a little tropical. “Those are
mostly palmettos,” Maurice told her, when she began to exclaim over
“palms”. “Wait till we get further south for the beautiful palms,” he
said.

“Just look at all the buzzards!” exclaimed Ann, as they passed a wood
where many turkey vultures were circling.

“You’ll see a lot of them in Florida,” said Maurice. “Watch for the
black vultures. They are different and show some white on their wings.”

“I thought that you said you knew nothing about birds!”

“I know a few,” said Maurice, “but last summer what did I know about
your Montana birds?”

“You are too modest.”

“That is the first time I ever was accused of that,” sighed Maurice.
“Tell me some more nice things.”

Ann, leaning back in the seat beside him and next to the window, looked
at Maurice keenly. “I’ve discovered that your gay ways cover a lot of
things, Maury. I imagine, for all you say, that your record at college,
for instance, is not so bad.”

“It might be worse,” laughed Maurice, “but all the same, Ann, I have
not covered the family with glory, or worked hard, as I should. I have
tried to redeem the record a little this year, that’s all. But school
was something that had to be put through; that was all it meant to me.
And it means about the same now, Ann, though I appreciate the culture
of the old profs, and I see that I have absorbed _something_ from them.”

“I am too much the other way, Maurice. I’m inclined to think that
school is everything; and when girls do not work at their lessons I put
too low an estimate on them. I did with Eleanor, for one.”

“You are more nearly right, Ann. I’ll admit it; because if you do not
do your best at whatever you work at, you lose out in habits of--what
shall I call it?”

“Industry,” suggested Ann.

“Right. Look, Ann. We’re passing these southern pines, you see, where
they are getting the turpentine. See the little receptacles fastened
on?”

“Yes. How curious. They look like little flower pots at this distance.”

“They have different sorts in different places. See them, Madge?”

Madge had edged on the arm of the seat and was looking curiously at the
pines, which appeared to fly past. Maurice made room for the slim child
between him and Ann, and talked to her about the changing scenes. “I
wish that I was going along with Aunt Elizabeth and Ann on your motor
trip,” regretfully said Madge.

“You will do it some day, Madge,” her brother assured her. “We’ll take
you around some when we get back. Your Uncle Sterling is going to buy a
car.”

“Honestly, Maurice?” inquired Ann. “I did not know that.”

“He is going to get one for this trip. I heard him tell Father that he
sold his car that he had last summer and would buy a new one here.”

“Of all things! Dear me,--that was such a good car!”

“But not a particle of use for it until next summer, Ann.”

“True enough. It is sensible, I will admit. He will enjoy getting
another. Men like such things.”

“How about women?”

“We like them, too, don’t we, Ann?” Madge queried.

“I guess we do, Madge.”

       *       *       *       *       *

At Jacksonville the separation of the parties occurred. The Sterling
party made headquarters at one of the hotels, while Mr. Sterling
enjoyed the thrills, or anxieties of selecting a new car. In this
Maurice, too, took an interest and accompanied him to give him the
benefit of his young judgment. Yet Maurice could not waste all the
time in even this interesting employment, but took the girls and Mrs.
Sterling to see the sights in taxis. “It would not do for you to miss
the alligator farm, Ann,” said he, “such a romantic spot!”

Ann found it far from romantic, but very interesting, with its
alligators of all sizes and ages. “Funny place to call a ‘farm’,” said
she.

“It is a place where they raise stock, Ann,” said Suzanne.

“If you call alligators stock,” Ann replied, looking at the big pen
where the larger ones were kept together. “Imagine any one’s wanting to
go in there! Look at that sign, Maurice!”

“What sign?” inquired Suzanne.

“There,” pointed her brother, “telling you that you enter at your own
risk.”

“Do you suppose that we shall really see any alligators in the wild?”

“We shall, indeed, though we may have to go to special places, Ann.”

       *       *       *       *       *

From Jacksonville they went on down the coast, staying several days at
St Augustine, where the girls were especially interested in the old
fort, Fort Marion. They began to feel that their vacation was flying
and hoped that they would get to Palm Beach early enough to give
Maurice some time with them, and Ronald’s fascinating yacht. But it was
not possible to hurry Mr. Sterling, nor would they let him know that
they were anxious to speed on their way. However, after they left St
Augustine, Mr. Sterling himself came to the conclusion that he had
planned too much to be accomplished in the limited time. He decided
to take them on down the East Coast to Palm Beach with no delay. From
that point he could make short excursions, with the girls and Maurice,
for their entertainment. The general trips over the state could wait
until the young folks had gone back to school. It was his judgment that
this should happen, so far as Ann was concerned. Ann, too, felt better
content, to know that her work would not have to be made up to so great
an extent. What Suzanne did was not for them to decide.

The rest of the family were much surprised to see the travelers so
soon, but approved the move. Ann was delighted with the beautiful
surroundings. “This is well named ‘Palm’ Beach,” she said. “I did not
know that we could have such wonderful palm trees in the United States!
Daddy, buy me one of these houses with a crimson bougainvillea vine!”

“Certainly, my daughter,” responded Mr. Sterling, who was driving Ann
and Maurice toward the causeway and down one of the palm lined avenues.
“Just pick out the one you want. I’ve no doubt that I shall be able to
induce the owner to part with it!”

“For a nice fat price,” murmured Maurice.

“Don’t think of such an unimportant detail as money, Maurice. Why,
Daddy, I want that one we passed, the one with just the right shade of
cream stucco, on the tan order, not yellow, smooth stucco, with no
horrible splotches of color. The crimson vine over the door just suited
it. I don’t know what I’m going to do about having a scarlet hibiscus.
I want one, but it will not harmonize with the crimson bougainvillea!”

“Put it in the rear of your villa, Ann,” suggested Maurice. “Have the
back a different color scheme.”

“Good idea. But I have discovered so many things that it will really be
quite a problem to work out!”

“I’ll take up landscape gardening and architecture, Ann, if you would
like to have me do it. No; for one villa and its grounds, it would be
cheaper to hire it done.”

“I have to decide where I want it. Oh, the beautiful ocean, Maury! No
wonder that Suzanne loves it! I thought that I should never get through
looking, this morning from the beach. I loved the bathing, too; but
isn’t it funny how the sand runs away from under your feet? It almost
made me dizzy at first.”

“Was that it?” asked Maurice. “I noticed that you hesitated a little.
But when you began to swim you were all right.”

“I loved the Indian River drive,” said Ann, “but the real ocean!”

Maurice “loved” Ann’s enthusiasm, never noisily expressed; but in
comparison with some of the girls he knew, Ann, with her honest
interest in life, was refreshing. Madeline would pretend a knowledge
that she did not possess. Suzanne was often bored, except about certain
things. Ann was glad of what she knew, but eager to learn more about
the world and everything in it that contained a bit of inspiration.

“What did I do with that list Suzanne gave me?” asked Maurice,
searching his pockets. “I honestly believe that she is going to start
some sort of embroidery or tatting!”

“Somebody at the hotel showed her a new pattern of crochet, that’s
all,” said Ann, laughing at the disgust in Maurice’s tone. “She wants
to take it off. Suzanne will not miss any of the outdoors, Maury.”

“I should hope not. But I’m afraid she will.”

They were bound for West Palm Beach, just over the causeway, where they
accomplished their shopping, took lunch at a good cafeteria, where it
was great fun to select guava jelly, avocado pear salad, grape fruit
in the land where it was grown, and such other Florida products as
offered. Then they drove back, to find that Ronald and Jade had arrived
from Daytona with the yacht.



CHAPTER XVI

A TASTE OF “THE SEASON”


The Bentleys were living on their yacht at present. Jack Hudson was
with them and they straightway invited Suzanne, Ann and Maurice to join
them. But as the Sterlings were driving to Miami for a short stay, it
was arranged to meet at Fort Lauderdale, twenty-five miles north of
Miami, where the Bentleys expected to “park” their yacht, as Jack said.
Mr. Sterling would have the young folks there, on the drive back to
Palm Beach. The youngsters, as Mr. Sterling called them, were to have
their chance first at all the trips, because of their limited stay.
Their elders, with the exception of Mr. Sterling, would remain until
May. Mr. Sterling, indeed, could prolong his stay as long as he chose,
or thought best.

It was fun to shop in Miami, full of tourists as it was. They drove to
the beaches, for they were obliged to try out the winter bathing, they
said, at every place, if only to prove that they could. Ann was deeply
interested in the variety of people that they saw, people of every
degree of culture, or its entire lack, occasionally. There were “lovely
people”, she told her father, and some with hard faces, who did not
seem to be happy in spite of the money which they evidently possessed.
Wherever he could, Mr. Sterling drove on the roads by the sea, where
they all filled eyes and hearts with the beauty of the southern waters
and sky.

“Don’t you hope that Grandmother will buy a home down here somewhere?”
said Suzanne, as they were on their way back to join the Bentleys.

“Oh, yes!” exclaimed Ann. “Do you really suppose that she will? What do
you think, Mother?”

“I should not be surprised,” answered Mrs. Sterling. “Mother begins to
feel the winters very much. She would enjoy escaping the worst part of
them, the long stretch from the first of January, say. Where would you
choose the place for her, children?”

“Either Palm Beach or Miami,” declared Suzanne at once.

“I would rather be a little farther away from so many people,” said
Ann. “I loved the looks of Fort Lauderdale as I went through. All those
yachts and launches on New River were so wonderful. I like some of the
other places that we passed through, too. In the northern places there
were those immense old live oaks; down here are the palms. I wouldn’t
know which to choose!”

“Probably you couldn’t get Mother to settle north of Palm Beach. You
haven’t said where you are going to put your vote, Maurice.”

“Me? Oh, I’m going to have a river front place on New River, so I can
dock my yacht at my own front yard.” Maurice gave a smiling look at Ann
as he said this. “Don’t you think, Ann, that my plan is good?”

“Very good, if you know where the yacht is coming from.” Ann said this
gaily, as usual, but wished that she had not, for Maurice’s face fell
and he looked sober for some time.

“Now he is worrying again,” she thought. “It seems that I can not have
any sense!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The new car sped along the Dixie highway from Miami in fine shape.
Maurice drove for Mr. Sterling and Ann sat by him, at his suggestion.
They drove into Wyldewood to look at the “two million dollar” banyan
tree and other things; but that did not take long. It seemed a short
ride, compared to those which they had been taking, when they crossed
the bridge at Fort Lauderdale and turned down the street by the river,
where they saw the pennants of the Bentley yacht.

Mrs. Bentley saw them and beckoned from the yacht. A young fellow in
sailor costume came to help them aboard. “Isn’t it great?” whispered
Suzanne to Ann. “I did not know that they had so fine a yacht, nor one
so big as this. It is a good thing the river is so deep, for these
large boats.”

The wood seemed to be mahogany, shining and clean, as everything
was, indeed. On the deck there were comfortable seats, mostly wicker
furniture. It was the first time that Ann had ever been on a yacht, an
occasion to be remembered.

“I am all alone,” said Mrs. Bentley, when her guests were seated on
deck. “My men all went deep sea fishing this morning. Ron promised to
bring me a whale and Jack said that he might catch a shark. Mr. Bentley
made no promises.”

Ann wondered if this were fun or earnest, probably fun, she thought.
Whaling, she knew, was an undertaking by itself. But she did not
pretend to know what they did catch in “deep sea fishing,” so kept
still and listened.

“They thought that you would not get here so early, though I really
expected them before this.”

“You are ready, are you, to undertake the addition to your family?” Mr.
Sterling asked.

“Indeed I am. We have all been anticipating the fun. I wish that you
and Mrs. Sterling might join us, too.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Bentley,” replied Mrs. Sterling, “we are sorry not to
see Mr. Bentley, but I promised Mother to reach Palm Beach early. We’d
better not wait.”

“Then you must see our yacht, at least,” said Mrs. Bentley, rising.
“After the young folks go back to school, perhaps we can persuade you
to a little cruise with us.”

“It would not take any persuading in our case, would it, Ann?” remarked
Suzanne, as they followed the rest on a tour of the yacht.

“I don’t know how good a sailor I’ll be,” said Ann, “but I wouldn’t
miss this for a good deal!”

Not long after the Sterlings’ departure, a small launch came past,
carrying the fishermen and their catch. They had gone out with friends
in the early morning.

A little further along the docks the launch found a place to dock. Here
came the boys, followed by Mr. Bentley and another of his small “crew”
that ran the boat for him. “We’re leaving our catch, Mother,” said Ron,
“to be attended to at the launch. I’m going to have the sail-fish I
caught mounted!”

“Ronald! Where will you put it?”

“Haven’t thought that far yet, Mom!”

The fishermen boarded the yacht and made many excuses for their
somewhat disreputable appearance. Jack looked rather pale. Deep
sea fishing had been a trifle strenuous for him, but he disclaimed
seasickness. With more excuses, they withdrew, to appear some time
later in the garb of civilization, as they said, though not evening
dress by any means. Mrs. Bentley had told the girls that it was not
necessary to change their costume, though they had brought suitable
frocks. “We shall be very informal tonight,” she said. “Indeed, I think
that we shall take our evening meal ashore at some pleasant place.”

It was like living in a house, Ann thought, so convenient to
everything. “I always did think that I would like to live in a
house-boat,” she confided to Suzanne, to receive a well-bred stare.
Suzanne had never thought house-boats had anything to do with her!

“You do say the funniest things sometimes, Ann,” she said.

As the boys had planned it, the young people went off to a moving
picture after their rather early dinner, Ronald calling for a young
friend on a neighboring yacht, which gave each lad a lass. This young
lady was one they had met several seasons at Daytona, where the
Bentleys often stayed. Quite accidentally the girls found that she
knew Eleanor Frost and lived not far from her home on the Hudson.
This was enough of a recommendation for Suzanne, who was friendly
at once. Ann liked the appearance of Ronald’s friend, Louise Duncan
by name, who had met Maurice before and remembered him. It was a
“happy-go-lucky” affair, not planned except for the movie, which was
rather disappointing. They left before it was over and drifted into an
ice-cream parlor, where they sat to visit as much as to eat the cool
refreshments. Ann could not get over its being winter. “Someway, I keep
thinking that I have the dates all wrong,” she said to Maurice, who
remained her special cavalier. “I started to put June on a letter I
began to Marta this morning.”

“You are not the only one who gets mixed in Florida. ‘It is always June
in Miami’ is a favorite saying down here, you know.”

“We’ll all go up on our deck,” announced Ronald, “and we’ll get out our
little banjos for some music.”

There was no dissenting voice. In a short time Ann was sitting with a
light wrap around her shoulders, as in summer time at home, listening
to the music of guitar, mandolin and banjo, the instruments that the
boys happened to play. Theirs was not the only yacht that boasted
music. Voices and instruments mingled their sounds over the river’s
reflections. Stars and moon were bright. An occasional boat passed.
Strains from a band concert in the park reached them occasionally, till
the boys said that there was too much competition and stopped. “Wait
till we get out upon the bounding billow, girls,” said Ronald.

“Then we shall show what we can do!” added Jack. “Tomorrow we are
going to take you up New River, though, and perhaps around ‘Alligator
Circle’.”

“What is ‘Alligator Circle’?” asked Ann. “Do you mean that we may
really see some alligators?”

“If it is a sunny day, I think that you may see quite a number on the
banks. We are going in Dick Bell’s launch, provided that you young
ladies will accept our plan.”

“We are in for any fun that you suggest,” declared Suzanne.

Ronald took Louise home to her floating mansion, which was conveniently
located on the same side of the river. Mrs. Bentley, who, if the truth
were told, had been yawning for some time, as she and her husband sat
forward and listened to the various harmonies, showed Suzanne and Ann
to their quarters. From the deck came the strains of “Good Night,
Ladies,” the college song immemorial.

The girls looked at each other with smiles as they listened, but had
no way of acknowledging the message. “Isn’t this a cutey cabin, Ann?”
asked Suzanne as she surveyed the little stateroom.

“Not only cutey, but ducky. I’m rather glad that my first experience is
on a stationary boat. With all the fun we’ve had, and the candy we ate,
I’m afraid that I’m due for dreams tonight.”

“May they be pleasant ones,” said her cousin. “I’ve had such a glorious
time that mine ought to be. Jack is such a dear! Do you know that he
and Maurice are both planning to get a position in the mills after they
graduate? Jack told me tonight. Father has said that he will start them
in, though they may not get what they want at first. I think that he
and Grandmother both want Maury to learn the business from the ground
up.”

“Maurice told me that he was planning to begin there, but you don’t
suppose that they will handle the machinery, do you?”

“No. They would not be of much help there, I suppose, though Maurice
likes that sort of thing. He was always taking everything to pieces
when he was little. And till he smashed his car he had a lot of fun
doing almost the same thing with that.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Morning brought sunshine and lovely clouds drifting over from the
ocean. Ann looked out upon islands of water hyacinth, floating past
the yacht on their way to the sound and the sea. The tide was going
out. Some of the yachts and launches were already moving, for the day,
perhaps, or to other shores. It was cool enough for a wrap on deck, but
Maurice told the girls that it would warm up as soon as the sun “got
into action.”

It was about nine o’clock when the party left the yacht to go along the
docks and across the bridge to where the little launch lazily rocked
and waited for them. Louise had joined them and told Suzanne that there
was a bit of pleasant news for her. “I’ll tell you when we get on the
launch,--if it is necessary,” she mysteriously added.

Several young people were standing on the dock near the launch as they
approached. “Why, there’s Eleanor!” Suzanne exclaimed. “Where in the
world did you come from, Eleanor?”

“Ann, this is our host, Dick Bell,” Maurice was saying. “This is the
cousin I told you about, Dick.”

For a few moments introductions were in order. Then Eleanor had time
to answer Suzanne’s question. “Mother and I are staying at Miami,” she
said. “I wrote to your address, Suzanne, to let you and Ann know that
we had suddenly decided to come. But you must have started before the
letter reached you. We ran across Dick yesterday, down town, and he
told me about this little trip. I came up on the ’bus a few minutes
ago. We decided to surprise you, though Dick told the boys, I guess.”

Besides Eleanor and Richard Bell, there were two other young friends,
Richard’s chum, Fred Hall, and his sister, Lois Bell. It bid fair to
prove a congenial party, but it would have been thrilling enough to Ann
even without the fun. It was all so different, she told Eleanor. There
were tall, feathery Australian pines and cocoanut palms along the river
bank. In the gardens of the homes near by, the vines and shrubs were of
those varieties with which she was just becoming familiar.

“Wait till we get up toward the Everglades,” said Eleanor. “Then you
will think it ‘different’.”

Ann had never heard of New River till she reached Florida. It was not
like her dashing mountain rivers, but had a beauty of its own. “How
dark the water is,” she said to Maurice, who sat beside her as they
moved up the river, under the two drawbridges, which stood open for
them and some taller boats.

“Yes. I don’t know why, unless there is something about the soil or
what grows along the banks. It is a sluggish river, but the tide comes
up every day to quite a distance.”

“There are some compensations for its not being rapid. I love the
reflections in the water. See how that palmetto is reflected, with
scarcely a ripple to show that it is water!”

The launch chugged along to the accompaniment of light laughter and
conversation. Rounding the curves, they advanced up stream, passing
some beautiful homes on the river front, then reaching the wilder
regions, where there were tangles of beautiful trees and shrubs in the
swamps. As it was yet early in the season, the water birds were not
wary. Herons of all sorts flew ahead of them. A fish hawk crossed the
stream overhead. An American bittern, all streaked with brown, flew
close enough to be distinguished without a glass.

“There!” called Dick. “There, folks, is your alligator! See him?”

But Ann, who had been following the bittern’s course, saw nothing but
the splash with which the alligator took the water and disappeared
from view. “What a shame!” she cried. “Do you suppose that we’ll see
another, Maury?” she asked.

“Certainly we shall. Watch the shores, especially any place where they
would be likely to lie out in the sun.”

“It’s like a circus with several rings, isn’t it? While you watch one
thing, you miss something else!”

But Ann saw the immense tarpon that leaped out of the water and back.
Smaller fishes also disported for their benefit. Finally Ann saw a
dark scaly body, curved around on a little hillock where the sun shone
between two masses of growth on the shore. “Is that an alligator
there?” she asked, pointing to the spot.

“’Tis the very reptile,” replied Ronald, and Dick made the launch move
more slowly, to let every one have a good look. Sleeping peacefully,
his long, hideous mouth in a “grim smile”, as Eleanor had it, the
immense alligator was not disturbed by the passing launch. The deed was
done. Ann had seen an “alligator in the wild”! But after that there
were perhaps a dozen more of various sizes that they saw, one swimming
in the river not far from the launch.

Up the canal at some distance, they stopped at a small place where the
larger boat that takes tourists on this ride always makes a stop. There
they visited an orange grove that Dick told them about, coming back to
the launch laden with the sweet, yellow fruit.

“How do you say we go back, boys?” asked Dick.

“Take the cut-off and go around by the sound and Lake Mabel,” said
Ronald.

“That will give the girls a chance to see more,” seconded Maurice.

“Around the canal we go,” said Dick. “The canal scenery is nothing
remarkable, girls, but when we get along further, there will be a view
worth seeing.”

On the dry slopes of the canal more alligators were sunning themselves.
But these were all shy of being seen. One scarcely saw them, Ann
thought, before they were in the river and out of sight entirely. “The
Indians hunt them, you know,” Dick explained. “But there are not so
many to get any more, they say. A man who has been coming here for
the last twenty-five years told me that there used to be thousands of
alligators where there are only a few now.”

“So far as I am concerned,” said Ann, “there are enough.” This remark
brought a laugh from the boys and similar sentiments from the girls.

“Don’t worry, Ann,” said Ronald. “There aren’t any around the towns.”

But just then, something was the matter with the engine, which finally
stopped, to the inward distress of at least the feminine portion of
the passengers. To their credit it may be said, however, that nobody
screamed.

“Steady, folks,” said Dick, working away. “I’ll get her to going in a
minute.”

The boat swung around, without direction, and Ann thought that they
were going to bump into the bank. Would they upset? So far as she knew,
everybody could swim. But how about the alligators?

“Take that pole, Ron,” called Dick, nodding toward where a long pole
was fastened. “If we swing around to the bank, hold her there, if you
can. I can’t find out what is the matter with this double-jointed and
twisted old engine!”

“I bet I can, Dick,” offered Maurice, who gave a look at Ann to see
if she were frightened and rising, made his way to the engine. How
handsome Maurice looked in his white flannels, Ann thought.

“Scared, Suzanne?” asked Eleanor, noticing that Suzanne looked pale.
Suzanne shook her head in the negative.

“Maury will fix it,” said Suzanne. “Still, I imagine that nobody feels
real comfortable. It was a mighty big alligator that splashed in last!”

“Sh-sh! Don’t mention it, Suzy. The boys would get us to shore with
that pole.”

“Chug! Chug-chug!”

“Good for you, Maurice, you’ve got it!”

But no; the chugging stopped. Both Dick and Maurice were working away
at the engine. “For pity’s sake, Lois,” said Dick Bell in a low tone
to his sister, “get ’em to doing something besides watching us. It’s
getting on my nerves!”

Maurice, whose white flannels were not quite so white by this time,
laughed as he worked and started up the old round, “Row, row, row your
boat, lightly down the stream.”

With some laughter, the rest joined in. “Better change it to ‘Pole your
boat,’ as the Seminoles do, if we don’t get this thing started pretty
soon,” growled Dick, who was nervous from his responsibility.

“Easy, Dicky,” said Maurice. “I think that I have found out what is the
matter. There! hand me that oil can, Dick.”

In a few minutes the engine was going merrily, while Ann declared that
its sound was the best music she had heard in some time.

“Fie, cousin,” said Maurice, climbing around to his seat by Ann again,
“better than those dulcet strains I started you all with a while ago?”

“Your voice was all right, Maury,” laughed Ann, “but starting the
engine was better yet. Did you find the trouble, or may we have a
repetition of the act?”

“I found it, and unless something else goes wrong we’ll be home as
usual!”

It was worth the trying time in “Alligator Circle” to see the exquisite
sky and water of sound, ocean and the little body of water known as
Lake Mabel. Then came the windings of the New River, past Tarpon Bend
and into the passage between the well-known shores where the Bentley
yacht was docked.

Owing to the long delay in the canal, they were late for lunch and
not even the juicy oranges had dulled the edges of their youthful
appetites. The boys took them to the best hotel this time, where
they were served at a table of their own, decorated with flowers
for the occasion, with special favors of hibiscus blossoms at each
plate, a hurried order, telephoned after their arrival, but eminently
satisfactory to all the girls.

They were just finishing when Mr. Tyson entered the dining-room and
came over to the table, whereupon all the young gentlemen rose at once.
“Sit down, boys,” said Mr. Tyson. “Don’t let me interrupt you. I just
want to tell Maurice that I want him to accompany me on a little trip
after lunch, if he can excuse himself. Have you any special plans,
Maurice, that will be upset?”

“None at all, Father. I think that there was some plan about going to
the beach this afternoon,--Las Olas Beach. I can be spared as well as
not.”

“I stopped at the yacht and Mrs. Bentley told me where you are. I have
had my lunch and will wait for you in the lobby. Mother wants me to
look up a little property for her.”

When Mr. Tyson walked away, as he did immediately, with a salute to
all, the boys sat down again to finish dessert. “It will be a good
chance, Ann,” said Maurice in a low tone to his cousin. He did not
explain what sort of chance he meant, but Ann understood.

“I think so, too, Maury. Good luck.”

Maurice thought that it was a very sweet look with which he was
favored, as Ann looked up at him to wish him good luck. They walked to
the lobby together, with the rest of the party; then Maurice joined his
father and they drove away at once.

“I wonder where the property is that Grandmother wants Dad to look up,”
said Suzanne.

“I don’t know,” replied Ann, much preoccupied.



CHAPTER XVII

MOONLIGHT ON THE SECRET TRAIL


It was a seven passenger car, but eight could and did ride in it that
afternoon, on the trip to Las Olas beach. Maurice was gone and Eleanor
had promised to go back to Miami early in the afternoon. That left Dick
and Lois Bell, Fred Hall, Louise Duncan, Ronald Bentley, Suzanne Tyson,
Ann Sterling and Jack Hudson. They drove first to the Seminole camp,
just west of town. Ronald had mentioned it and both Suzanne and Ann
felt anxious to see it. They had noticed the gayly dressed Indians on
the streets and Ann was delighted to see one poling his way across the
New River in one of the cypress trunk canoes.

Fred, who drove his father’s car, had a great time finding the road,
but finally got started in the right direction, a matter of a short
time to reach the camp once the right road was found. They were nearly
stuck in the sand once or twice, but they lightened the load by jumping
out and pulled out safely.

“What an Indian camp!” thought Ann. Here were no tepees, nor
moccasin-wearing Indians. Little that she had learned in the West
about Indians would apply here, so far as what she had expected to
see was concerned, with the exception of bad housekeeping! The camp
site was littered with a nondescript collection of tin cans, chicken
feathers, bones and old utensils.

As ever, Ann felt hesitant about disturbing the native dwellers; but
Ronald walked boldly up to several children who were standing about and
asked to take their pictures, offering a silver piece at the same time.
The children drew back, casting looks at their visitors, and behind
them at the queer thatched lodges which were their dwellings. On the
floor of one near by, a floor raised several feet from the ground so
that it looked more like a low shelf than a floor, there sat a stolid
old woman, who glanced at visitors and children with keen black eyes.
As Ann and Ronald came nearer, they saw that she was stringing beads of
bright colors.

By signs, pointing at the camera, they tried to indicate what they
wanted. At last the old woman, whose neck was wound with countless
strands of beads, descended to earth and spoke briefly to the children,
who then posed for a picture. Several cameras clicked, as the sun
shone more brightly for a time and the positions of the Indians were
favorable.

“They say,” said Dick, as the party went back to the car, leaving
pleasant reminders, in the form of loose change, in the hand of the
old woman, “that the more beads they wear, the higher their station
among the Indians,--social position, you know.”

“This woman is the mother of a chief,” said Ronald. “How about it,
folks? Is it ‘Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll’? Ready now
for a swim?”

“It is,” declared Suzanne. “We are. Don’t you think, Ann, that these
bright costumes are prettier than those of the Western Indians?”

“They are more picturesque in some ways,” said Ann, “those full, long
dresses of different colors, the stripes running around, are surely
startling; but it seems funny that the children wear them. They are all
barefooted, aren’t they? Don’t they need moccasins down here?”

“I should think that they would, with the snakes,” remarked Louise.

“Anyhow,” said Ann, “I think that our Indians wear more sensible
clothes.”

“You will be loyal at any cost, won’t you, Miss Ann?” queried Jack
Hudson. “But remember that down here the climate makes light clothing
necessary.”

The sea was just rough enough to be exciting. The bathers did not go
out far, but plunged and dived or floated to their hearts’ content.
Through all the afternoon’s pleasure, and Ann was interested in all of
it, she was thinking of Maurice, wondering if he had yet learned the
truth and what that truth was. She could scarcely wait to see him, her
gallant young cousin! What a way he had of carrying off a situation
with the best of humor, as in working with that engine!

Ronald paid Ann rather especial attention that afternoon. She was,
to be sure, his guest and his mother’s; but he made one remark which
indicated that Ann was not without interest to him. “I’m almost glad
that old Maury was called away for a while,” said he. “Some of the rest
of us can get within three feet of you now, and have you alone for five
minutes or so.”

Ann looked up laughing, somewhat surprised. “Maurice is not trying to
keep any one away from his cousin, I’m sure.”

“Oh, is that _so_?” queried Ronald in sarcasm.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearly seven o’clock when Maurice returned, having come in on
one of the ’buses, for his father had gone on back to Palm Beach from
Delray, where they were last. Maurice seemed to be in good spirits,
joking with the rest as usual, but he gave no special sign to Ann, and
seemed rather to avoid any betrayal of what had passed between his
father and himself. “Perhaps he could not come to the point, after
all,” thought Ann.

Maurice had had his dinner before he came to the yacht. The yacht party
was just finishing that meal, when Mr. Bentley suggested that they
take a moonlight ride out to the sound and beyond. “It was a little
rough early this afternoon,” said he, “but the wind has died down and I
think that we shall find it calm and delightful riding. Have you ever
been out on the ocean, Ann?”

“Not yet, Mr. Bentley.”

The boys carried the instruments of the “orchestra” to the deck, and
arranged enough seats for all the party; for they were taking Dick and
Lois Bell, as well as Louise Duncan, on this evening “cruise”.

What a full day it had been! Among the alligators in the morning, now
going out to the sharks tonight! It all depended on how you looked at
it, however, whether you saw sharks and alligators, or beautiful waters
and blue sky!

Music started early. Louise brought her guitar and Dick added his
ukulele to the orchestral supply. Ann enjoyed the singing and joined
her voice to those of the rest; but she sat near the railing, not to
miss seeing the waters and sky, and to know when first they reached the
real sea. Stars were out, shining and clear. An occasional cloud that
drifted across the moon only made its setting more beautiful.

“Come over here, Ann,” called Maurice after a little, when the singing
had stopped. They were a little tired, those active young people. A
whole day of going had made this soothing motion upon the waves the
most restful entertainment that Mr. Bentley could have provided.
Maurice stepped around one or two of his friends, to hold a hand to Ann
and lead her to the seat which, he said, he had “just reserved”. “You
have seen alligators and Indians, Ann, you tell me,--now come and show
me the constellations.”

“‘Constellations’,” repeated Jack to Suzanne. “Did it ever strike you
that Maurice is pretty well interested in his cousin?”

“Yes. He is crazy about her, and has been ever since she first came to
our house.”

“What do you think of it?”

“Mother seems to think it all right. First cousins do marry, you know.
Of course, Maury never said anything to me about it. But I can’t help
noticing lately, and Mother made a little remark that surprised me the
other day. One would have thought that she _hoped_ Maury would fall in
love with Ann.”

“Doesn’t she like Ann?”

Suzanne was not quite ready to tell Jack her mother’s attitude toward
Ann, so she managed an evasive reply to this question.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile Maurice and Ann occupied a wicker seat made for two. “I’m not
sure that I remember much about the winter sky,” Ann began.

“And I could not think of constellations to save my neck,” replied
Maurice. “That was just an excuse to get you here, Ann. It deceived no
one, either, if you are anxious to have me truthful. Jack gave me a
look that I understood. I want to tell you about my talk with Father.
It was certainly surprising.”

“Oh,” said Ann, “I have been so anxious all afternoon!”

“Have you, dear? Excuse me, Ann,--but whether you ever learn to care
for me or not, you are the dearest, sweetest, most wonderful girl that
ever gave her sympathy to a good-for-nothing college boy, who has
wasted half of his opportunities!”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Maury,” said Ann, as soon as she could
get breath to speak, after hearing the first part of Maurice’s remark.
“There is a good deal to that same college boy.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so, but I’m pretty well discouraged tonight.
It was hard to keep going with the fun, but I don’t want to appear
different.”

“It was,--it was true, then?”

“It was,--and more. I am simply dazed, Ann. The only happy thing about
it is that I am not your cousin at all. I am holding on to that. I
feel like throwing up the whole thing, college and all. How can I ever
finish the year?”

“O Maury, please! You will always regret it if you give up when you are
so nearly through. _Please_,--for me, if you like me a little!”

“A little! Hard luck, isn’t it?--to fall desperately in love just when
the very foundations slip from under your feet, like the sand on the
shore!”

“But surely it isn’t so bad as all that, Maury. Uncle Tyson cares
about you and will help you start out just the same, won’t he? I don’t
understand. You did not have any trouble, did you?”

“No, indeed. And I am asked not to talk about it openly in the family
yet. I can’t refuse, under the circumstances. But promise me, Ann, if
anything comes up, any reason why Grandmother ought to be told, you
will tell her from me. I don’t want her to go on thinking,--well, I’d
better tell you the whole story first. But let me tell you one thing,
Ann. There will never be any deceiving of any one to _my_ record, if I
keep my mind!”

Maurice then began with the history of the drive and related how, after
the business for Madam LeRoy had been explained, and they had driven
for some little time, Maurice introduced the subject by saying that
there was something which he wanted to talk over with his father. He
then referred to the gossip that he had heard and asked if Mr. Tyson
had any explanation. Whatever was the truth, Maurice wanted to know it
and felt that he had a right to ask, though he had no desire to trouble
his father.

Mr. Tyson seemed surprised. They drove along in silence for a few
minutes, Mr. Tyson very sober, Maurice more and more certain that there
was some story back of it. Then Mr. Tyson acknowledged that there was
truth in the gossip, though he could not see how it was started.

“So it began, Ann,” said Maurice. “Then Father exploded the bomb-shell!
You could never guess it. For a long time father thought that I was
his son, but he discovered a few years ago that I am not even that!
Curiously enough, my name is Huntington, like your grandmother’s, and
my parents were American, for which I am thankful!”

Ann drew a long breath. “_Your_ grandmother’s,” Maurice had said! Poor
Maury! No real share in the family relationships! No wonder he was
upset!

Maurice proceeded with the story which Mr. Tyson had given him. It
seemed that Mr. Tyson, traveling around the world with plenty of money,
had met two American girls, orphans, without any family connections
so far as he ever knew. One was about to marry a man named Maurice
Huntington, whom she had known in America, and with the other one, a
beautiful girl, Mr. Tyson had fallen desperately in love. They had met
in Japan, and from that time saw more or less of each other till they
arrived in Greece, where there was a double wedding. Both young men
were interested in archaeology and in art. Happy, and with plenty of
means, they decided to take a house in one of the Grecian cities, to
remain there as long as it pleased them. There a boy was born to each
of the sisters, Mrs. Tyson’s about three months the elder, and they
had the same English nurse to take care of both babies.

When the Tyson baby was about five months old, its mother died
suddenly, and Mr. Tyson, leaving the boy in charge of the nurse and his
sister-in-law, went to France to get away from his trouble. In Paris,
attracted at first by a fancied resemblance to his wife, Mr. Tyson fell
in love again and after a very short courtship married Ann’s aunt.

To Maurice, Mr. Tyson explained that he did not tell Mrs. Tyson of his
first marriage for two reasons: first, a remark that she made during
the courtship about second marriages; second, the short time which had
elapsed between the death of his first wife and the second marriage.
He thought that he could explain after their marriage, but found that
she was very unhappy about it. (Ann thought that she could imagine the
time Uncle Tyson had had over the matter, no excuses of having been so
desperately in love with Aunt Sue serving to placate her.)

It was her proposition that they ignore the matter so far as their
friends were concerned. Why explain? It would be several years very
likely, before they returned to America. They were going to explore
out-of-the-way places. They would be in Greece some time. Let the child
be considered hers. It was so young that it would be better for it to
regard her as its mother.

Mr. Tyson was only too glad to have the matter amicably settled and
left it in his wife’s hands to manage. No harm could be done, he
thought. It was no one’s affair, he reasoned.

When at last they returned to Greece, they found no one in the house
which the Huntington’s and the Tysons had taken but the English woman
and one of the babies. Several weeks before, she told them, the
Huntingtons and their baby had been drowned while they were on a little
excursion by themselves. She was thankful to see them, for funds were
lacking. She had written and did not understand why she did not hear.
Mr. Huntington had naturally handled the funds. She had only her own
savings to use. Mrs. Tyson was upset and wanted to leave the next day.
Accordingly she and the nurse, with the baby, packed and left at once,
leaving him to settle matters and sell the house. He did not think of
making any special inquiries into the story of the nurse, though one
of the friends whom he consulted in regard to the sale of the house
had remarked that he thought the baby had died before, and another
expressed himself as very sorry that he had lost the baby as well as
his wife. But Mr. Tyson was hurried and had made no intimate friends
there. He and Mr. Huntington had been concerned with their explorations
and study. Only one thing he remembered as seeming strange to him. The
baby had not been named when his wife died, and the nurse now told him
that the Huntingtons called it Maurice. That seemed strange, for he
had been under the impression that his sister-in-law had been about to
name her baby for its father. But his memory was hazy. The babies had
not seemed of much importance then.

But Mr. Tyson understood the whole matter when, several years before,
he had received a letter from the English nurse, who informed him that
the baby was the child of the Huntingtons and that she was sorry for
the deception. “I did not know what your wife would do about it, and I
wanted the Huntington baby to have a home. I will tell no one else.”

“So,” said Maurice, as he quoted the nurse’s words, “the Huntington
baby has had a home! I suppose that I should be very grateful! Indeed,
I am grateful. You should have seen poor old Dad when he was telling
me. He asked me to keep on calling him father and added that he
thought a great deal of his worthless son. I wondered that when he
was dealing with me for my extravagance at college he did not tell me
this. He didn’t have the heart, he said, and it was too late for him to
feel that I was not his own son. That was pretty nice of Dad! And he
wouldn’t give it away to Mother, either.

“I shall have to keep calling her that, of course. I haven’t so many
compunctions in regard to her. Yet she has been good to me. I have had
as much mothering as my kid brother. Say,--it’s going to be hard to
realize that he isn’t my brother!

“When it comes to Grandmother,--she must not leave me any money because
she thinks I am her grandson. I don’t know what to do about that. Dad
made me promise not to do anything right now. Promise me, Ann, that you
will tell her privately any time you think she ought to know.”

“I couldn’t do that, Maury. It will occur to you what should be done
about all this. In the whole story, Maurice, there isn’t one thing for
you to be ashamed of! It was just the peculiar set of circumstances.
And I’m sure I’m glad that English nurse did what she did. Well, I
suppose I ought not to say that, for doing what isn’t square is never
right. But she repented anyhow. And suppose that we’d never had you in
the family!”

Ann almost regretted her impulsive words when she saw the effect they
had. But was not it her duty to do what she could to cheer him up in
his whirl of discouragement?

“That is dear of you to say, little one,” said Maurice, taking Ann’s
hand in his cold one. It had cost Maurice something to go over this.
“I’ll never forget your sympathy, Ann, and when I make good, I’m going
to ask you to be another Ann Huntington.”

“Maury,” called Suzanne, “got enough of constellations yet? I want you
to come and start for the boys that crazy college song you sang last
night.”

Ann and Maurice walked the short distance to the central group, where
Maurice accepted the guitar that Louise handed him and led off. Ann,
watching him, came to the conclusion that however much he might be
upset, Maurice was now more or less relieved, knowing the truth, and
having told Ann.

When the song, a wild ditty in dialect, was over, the girls gave hearty
applause. “You’d think that Maurice was the real thing from the way he
reels off that foreign dialect,” said Dick Bell. “Say, Maury, where
were you born anyhow?”

Suzanne, laughing, answered for Maurice, “In Greece,” she said. “That’s
where he gets his Grecian nose!”

It was late when the young people separated. Long since the yacht had
left the sea and found its way to the dock in New River. Dick and his
sister accompanied Louise Duncan to her own yacht. The river was very
still, a cool wind blowing from the ocean, when Ann, creeping into her
berth, heard the boys on deck begin to serenade them again in the soft
old college tunes used by generations. Suzanne sat up in her berth to
listen. But sleepy Ann lay back on her pillow with a pleased smile.
“Maurice is showing me that he can ‘carry on’,” she thought, and her
mind began to go over what he had told her. “‘Ann Huntington’! Wouldn’t
it be odd if----?”


THE END.



_SAVE THE WRAPPER!_

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The Ann Sterling Series

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  By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

  Stories of Ranch and College Life
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  ANN STERLING

  The strange gift of Old Never-Run, an Indian whom she has
  befriended, brings exciting events into Ann’s life.

  THE COURAGE OF ANN

  Ann makes many new, worthwhile friends during her first year at
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  ANN AND THE JOLLY SIX

  At the close of their Freshman year Ann and the Jolly Six enjoy a
  house party at the Sterling’s mountain ranch.

  ANN CROSSES A SECRET TRAIL

  The Sterling family, with a group of friends, spend a thrilling
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  ANN’S SEARCH REWARDED

  In solving the disappearance of her father, Ann finds exciting
  adventures, Indians and bandits in the West.

  ANN’S AMBITIONS

  The end of her Senior year at Forest Hill brings a whirl of new
  events into the career of “Ann of the Singing Fingers.”

  ANN’S STERLING HEART

  Ann returns home, after completing a busy year of musical study
  abroad.

  A. L. BURT COMPANY, Publishers,
  114-120 EAST 23rd STREET      NEW YORK



Princess Polly Series

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  By AMY BROOKS

  Author of “Dorothy Dainty” series, Etc.
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  PRINCESS POLLY
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  By HILDEGARD G. FREY

  A Series of Outdoor Stories for Girls 12 to 16 Years.
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  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The Winnebagos go
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  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SCHOOL; or, The Wohelo Weavers.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT ONOWAY HOUSE; or, The Magic Garden.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS GO MOTORING; or, Along the Road That Leads
  the Way.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS’ LARKS AND PRANKS; or, The House of the Open
  Door.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON ELLEN’S ISLE; or, The Trail of the Seven
  Cedars.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON THE OPEN ROAD; or, Glorify Work.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS DO THEIR BIT; or, Over the Top with the
  Winnebagos.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SOLVE A MYSTERY; or, The Christmas Adventure
  at Carver House.

  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT CAMP KEEWAYDIN; or, Down Paddles.

  For sale by all booksellers, or sent on receipt of price by the
  Publishers
  A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 E. 23d St., NEW YORK



THE MERRY LYNN SERIES

  By HARRIET PYNE GROVE

  Cloth Bound. Jackets in Colors.

  The charm of school and camp life, out-door sports and European
  travel is found in these winning tales of Merilyn and her friends
  at boarding school and college. These realistic stories of the
  everyday life, the fun, frolic and special adventures of the
  Beechwood girls will be enjoyed by all girls of high school age.

  MERILYN ENTERS BEECHWOLD
  MERILYN AT CAMP MEENAHGA
  MERILYN TESTS LOYALTY
  MERILYN’S NEW ADVENTURE
  MERILYN FORRESTER, CO-ED.
  THE “MERRY LYNN” MINE

  A. L. BURT COMPANY, _Publishers_
  114-120 EAST 23rd STREET      NEW YORK



Books for Girls

[Illustration]

  By GRACE MAY NORTH

  Author of
  THE VIRGINIA DAVIS SERIES

  All Clothbound. Copyright Titles.

  _With Individual Jackets in Colors_

  MEG OF MYSTERY MOUNTAIN

  This story tells of the summer vacation some young people spent
  in the mountains and how they cleared up the mystery of the lost
  cabin at Crazy Creek Mine.

  RILLA OF THE LIGHTHOUSE

  “Rilla” had lived all her life with only her grandfather and
  “Uncle Barney” as companions, but finally, at High Cliff
  Seminary, her great test came and the lovable girl from Windy
  Island Lighthouse met it brilliantly.

  NAN OF THE GYPSIES

  In this tale of a wandering gypsy band, Nan, who has spent her
  childhood with the gypsies, is adopted by a woman of wealth, and
  by her love and loyalty to her, she proves her fine character and
  true worth.

  SISTERS

  The personal characteristics and incidents in the lives of
  two girls--one thoughtless and proud, the other devoted and
  self-sacrificing--are vividly described in this story, told as it
  is with sympathy and understanding for both.

  A. L. BURT COMPANY, Publishers,
  114-120 EAST 23rd STREET      NEW YORK



Transcriber’s Note:

  Page 5
    said to Ann privately, Mrs. Tyson _changed to_
    said to Ann privately, as Mrs. Tyson

  Page 6
    have taken worse risks that that _changed to_
    have taken worse risks than that

  Page 205
    they evidently possesssed _changed to_
    they evidently possessed

  Page 206
    loked sober for some time _changed to_
    looked sober for some time

  Page 215
    shone betwen two masses of growth _changed to_
    shone between two masses of growth

  Page 225
    to miss seing the waters and sky _changed to_
    to miss seeing the waters and sky

  Page 232
    Mr. Tyson undersood the whole matter _changed to_
    Mr. Tyson understood the whole matter





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