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A Sweet Girl Graduate
by Mrs. L.T. Meade
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Aunt Raby uttered a very weary yawn and turned her face from the light. Priscilla stepped into the hall, put on her waterproof and oldest hat and went out. She knew her way well to the little vicarage, built of gray stone and lying something like a small, daring fly against the brow of the hill. The little house looked as if any storm must detach it from its resting-place, but to-night there was no wind, only clinging mist and damp and thick fog.

Priscilla mounted the rough road which led to the vicarage, opened the white gate, walked up the gravel path and entered the little porch. Her knock was answered by the vicar himself. He drew her into the house with an affectionate word of welcome, and soon she was sitting by his study fire, with hat and jacket removed.

In the vicar's eyes Priscilla was not at all a plain girl. He liked the rugged power which her face displayed; he admired the sensible lines of her mouth, and he prophesied great things from that brow, so calm, so broad, so full. Mr. Hayes had but a small respect for the roses and lilies of mere beauty. Mind was always more to him than matter. Some of the girls at St. Benet's, who thought very little of poor Priscilla, would have felt no small surprise had they known the high regard and even admiration this good man felt for her.

"I am glad you have called, Prissie," he said. "I was disappointed in not seeing you to-day. Well, my dear, do as well in the coming term as you did in the past. You have my best wishes."

"Thank you," said Prissie.

"You are happy in your new life, are you not, my dear child?"

"I am interested," said Priscilla in a low voice. Her eyes rested on her shabby dress as she spoke. She laid one hand over the other. She seemed to be weighing her words. "I am interested; sometimes I am absorbed. My new life fills my heart; it crowds into all my thoughts. I have no room for Aunt Raby— no room for my little sisters. Everything is new to me— everything fresh and broad. There are some trials, of course, and some unpleasantness; but, oh, the difference between here and there! Here it is so narrow, there one cannot help getting enlightenment, daily and hourly."

"Yes," said Mr. Hayes when Priscilla paused, "I expected you to say something of this kind. I knew you could not but feel the immense, the immeasurable change. But why do you speak in that complaining voice, Priscilla?"

Prissies' eyes were raised to his.

"Because Aunt Raby is ill, and it is wicked of me to forget her. It is mean and cowardly. I hate myself for it."

Mr. Hayes looked puzzled for a moment. Then his face cleared.

"My dear Prissie," he said, "I always knew there were depths of morbidness in you, but I did not suppose that you would sound them so quickly. If you are to grow up to be a wise and useful and helpful woman by and by, you must check this intense self-examination. Your feelings are the natural feelings of a girl who has entered upon a very charming life. You are meant to lead that life for the present; you are meant to do your duty in it. Don't worry, my dear. Go back to St. Benet's, and study well, and learn much, and gather plenty of experience for the future. If you fret about what cannot be helped, you will weaken your intellect and tire your heart. After all, Prissie, though you give much thought to St. Benet's, and though its ways are delightful to you, your love is still with the old friends, is it not?"

"Even there I have failed," said Priscilla sadly. "There is a girl at St. Benet's who has a strange power over me. I love her. I have a very great love for her. She is not a happy girl, she is not a perfect girl, but I would do anything— anything in the wide world for her."

"And you would do anything for us, too?"

"Oh, yes, yes."

"And, though you don't think it, your love for us is stronger than your love for her. There is a freshness about the new love which fascinates you, but the old is the stronger. Keep both loves, my dear: both are of value. Now I must go out to visit poor Peters, who is ill, so I can see you home. Is there anything more you want to say to me?"

"Oh, yes, Mr. Hayes, Aunt Raby is very ill."

"She is, Prissie."

"Does she know it?"

"Yes."

"Ought I to be away from her now— is it right"

"My dear, do you want to break her heart? She worked so hard to get this time at college for you. No, Prissie, don't get that idea into your head. Aunt Raby is most anxious that you should have every advantage. She knows— she and I both know— that she cannot live more than a year or two longer, and her greatest hope is that you may be able to support your little sisters when she is gone. No, Prissie, whatever happens, you must on no account give up your life at St. Benet's."

"Then please let me say something else. I must not go on with my classics."

"My dear child, you are managing to crush me with all kinds of queer, disappointing sayings to-night."

"Am I? But I mean what I say now. I love Greek better than anything almost in the world. But I know enough of it already for the mere purposes of rudimentary teaching. My German is faulty— my French not what it might he."

"Come, come, my dear; Peters is waiting to settle for the night. Can we not talk on our way down to the cottage?"

Aunt Raby was fast asleep when Priscilla re-entered the little sitting-room. The girl knelt down by the slight, old figure, and, stooping, pressed a light kiss on the forehead. Light as it was it awoke the sleeper.

"You are there still, child?" said Aunt Raby. "I dreamt you were away."

"Would you like me to stay with you, auntie?"

"No, my dear; you help me upstairs and I'll get into bed. You ought to be in your own bed, too, Prissie. Young creatures ought never to sit up late, and you have a journey before you to-morrow."

"Yes, but would you like me not to take the journey? I am strong, and could do all the work, and you might rest not only at night, but in the day. You might rest always, if I stayed here."

Aunt Raby was wide awake now, and her eyes were very bright.

"Do you mean what you say, Priscilla?" she asked.

"Yes, I do. You have the first right to me. If you want me, I'll stay."

"You'll give up that outlandish Greek, and all that babel of foreign tongues, and your fine friends, and your grand college, and you hopes of being a famous woman by and by? Do you mean this, Prissie, seriously?"

"Yes, if you want me."

"And you say I have the first claim on you?"

"I do."

"Then you're wrong; I haven't the first claim on you." Aunt Raby tumbled off the sofa and managed to stand on her trembling old legs.

"Give me your arm, child," she said; "and— and give me a kiss, Prissie. You're a good girl and worthy of your poor father. He was a bookworm, and you are another. But he was an excellent man, and you resemble him. I'm glad I took you home and did my best for you. I'll tell him about you when I get to heaven. He'll be right pleased, I know. My sakes, child! I don't want the little bit of earth's rest. I'm going to have a better sort than that. And you think I've the first claim on you? A poor old body like me. There, help me up to bed, my dear."

Aunt Raby did not say any more as the two scrambled up the narrow stairs in silence. When they got into the little bedroom, however, she put her arms round Priscilla's neck and gave her quite a hug.

"Thank you for offering yourself to me, my love," she said, "but I wouldn't have you on any terms whatever. Go and learn all you can at your fine college, Prissie. It's the fashion of the day for the young folk to learn a lot, and there's no going against the times. In my young life sewing was the great thing. Now it's Latin and Greek. Don't you forget that I taught you to sew, Prissie, and always put a back stitch when you're running a seam; it keeps the stuff together wonderfully. Now go to bed."

CHAPTER XXIV

TWO EXTREMES

"HAVE you heard the news?" said Rosalind Merton. She skipped into Miss Day's room as she spoke.

"No; what?" asked that untidy person, turning round and dropping a lot of ribbon which she was converting into bows. "What's your news, Rose? Out with it. I expect it's a case of 'great cry and little wool.' However, if you want a plain opinion from me——"

"I don't ask for your opinion, Annie. I'm quite accustomed to the scornful way in which you have received all my words lately. I need not tell you what I have heard at all, unless you wish to hear it."

"But, of course, I wish to hear it, Rosie; you know that as well as I do. Now sit down and make yourself at home; there's a dear."

Rose allowed herself to be mollified.

"Well," she said, sinking back into Miss Day's most comfortable chair, "the feud between a certain small person and a certain great person grows apace."

Miss Day's small eyes began to dance.

"You know I am interested in that subject," she said. She flopped down on the floor by Rosalind Merton's side. "Go on, my love," she murmured; "describe the development of the enmity."

"Little things show the way the wind is blowing," pursued Rose. "I was coming along the corridor just now, and I met the angelic and unworldly Priscilla. Her eyelids were red as if she had been crying. She passed me without a word."

"Well?"

"That's all."

"Rose, you really are too provoking. I thought you had something very fine to tell."

"The feud grows," pursued Rose. "I know it by many signs. Prissie is not half so often with Maggie as she used to be. Maggie means to get out of this friendship, but she is too proud not to do it gradually. There is not a more jealous girl in this college than Maggie, but neither is there a prouder. Do you suppose that anything under the sun would allow her to show her feelings because that little upstart dared to raise her eyes to Maggie's adorable beau, Mr. Hammond? But oh, she feels it; she feels it down in her secret soul. She hates Prissie; she hates this beautiful, handsome lover of hers for being civil to so commonplace a person. She is only waiting for a decent pretext to drop Prissie altogether. I wish with all my heart I could give her one."

As she spoke Rosalind shaded her eyes with her hand; her face looked full of sweet and thoughtful contemplation.

"Get your charming Prissie to flirt a little bit more," said Miss Day with her harsh laugh.

"I don't know that I can. I must not carry that brilliant idea to extremities, or I shall be found out."

"Well, what are you going to do?"

"I don't know. Bide my time."

Miss Day gave a listless sort of yawn.

"Let's talk of something else," she said impatiently. "What are you going to wear at the Elliot-Smith's party next week, Rose?"

"I have got a new white dress," said Rose in that voice of strong animation and interest which the mere mention of dress always arouses in certain people.

"Have you? What a lot of dresses you get!"

"Indeed, you are mistaken, Annie. I have the greatest difficulty in managing my wardrobe at all."

"Why is that? I thought your people not only belonged to the county, but were as rich as Jews."

"We are county people, of course," said Rose in her most affected manner, "but county people need not invariably be rich. The fact is my father has had some losses lately, and mother says she must be careful. I wanted a great many things, and she said she simply could not give them. Oh, if only that spiteful Miss Oliphant had not prevented my getting the sealskin jacket, and if she had not raised the price of Polly's pink coral!"

"Don't begin that old story again, Rose. When all is said and done, you have got the lovely coral. By the way, it will come in beautifully for the Elliot-Smith's party. You'll wear it, of course?"

"Oh, I don't know."

"What do you mean? Of course you'll wear it."

"I don't know. The fact is I have not paid the whole price for it yet."

"Haven't you really? You said you'd bring the money when you returned this term."

"Of course I thought I could, but I was absolutely afraid to tell mother what a lot the coral cost; and as she was so woefully short of funds, I had just to come away without the money. I never for a moment supposed I should have such ill luck."

"It is awkward. What are you going to say to Polly Singleton?'

"I don't know. I suppose you could not help me, Annie?"

"I certainly couldn't. I never have a penny to bless myself with. I don't know how I scrape along."

Rosalind sighed. Her pretty face looked absolutely careworn.

"Don't fret, Rose," said Miss Day after a pause; "whether you have paid for the coral or not, you can wear it at the Elliot-Smith's."

"No, alas! that's just what I can't do. The fact is Polly is turning out awfully mean. She has come back this time with apparently an unlimited supply of pocket money, and she has been doing her best to induce me to sell her the coral back again."

"Well, why don't you? I'm sure I would, rather than be worried about it."

Miss Merton's face flushed angrily.

"Nothing will induce me to give up the coral," she said. "I bought my new white dress to wear with it. I have looked forward all during the holidays to showing it to Meta Elliot-Smith. It's the sort of thing to subdue Meta, and I want to subdue her. No, nothing will induce me to part with my lovely coral now."

"Well, my dear, keep it, of course, and pay for it how you can. It's your own affair. You have not yet explained to me, however, why, when it is in your possession, you can't wear it with your new dress at the Elliot-Smiths' next week."

"Because that wretched Polly has been invited also; and she is quite mean enough and underbred enough to walk up to me before every one and ask me to give her back her property."

"What fun if she did!" laughed Miss Day.

"Annie, you are unkind!"

"My dear, of course I don't mean what I say, but I can't help seeing the whole picture: you, so fine and so self-conscious and so— so perfect in all your appointments— and looking— for all you are a little thing, Rose— a good inch above every one else— and then our poor, good-natured, downright Polly catching sight of her unpaid-for ornaments round your sweet baby throat— all the John Bull in her instantly coming to the fore, and she demanding her rights in no measured terms. Oh, your face, Rosie! your face! and Meta Elliot-Smith's enjoyment— oh, how delicious the picture is! Dear Rosalind, do wear the coral, and please— please get me an invitation to the Elliot-Smiths'. I'll love you all my life if you give me leave to witness so lovely a spectacle!"

Miss Merton's face changed color several times while Annie Day was speaking. She clenched her small hands and tried hard to keep back such a torrent of angry words as would have severed this so-called friendship once and for all, but Rose's sense of prudence was greater even now than her angry passions. Miss Day was a useful ally— a dangerous foe.

With a forced laugh, which concealed none of her real feelings, she stood up and prepared to leave the room.

"You are very witty at my expense, Annie," she said. Her lips trembled. She found herself the next moment alone in the brightly lighted corridor.

It was over a week now since the beginning of the term. Lectures were once more in full swing, and all the inmates of St. Benet's were trying, each after her kind, for the several prizes which the life they were leading held out to them. Girls of all kinds were living under these roofs— the idle as well as the busy. Both the clever and the stupid were here, both the good and the bad. Rosalind Merton was a fairly clever girl. She had that smart sort of cleverness which often passes for wide knowledge. She was liked by many of her girl friends; she had the character of being rather good-natured; her pretty face and innocent manner, too, helped to win her golden opinions among the lecturers and dons.

Those who knew her well soon detected her want of sincerity, but then it was Rose's endeavor to prevent many people becoming intimately acquainted with her. She had all the caution which accompanies a deceitful character and had little doubt that she could pursue those pettinesses in which her soul delighted and yet retain a position as a good, innocent and fairly clever girl before the heads of the college.

Rose generally kept her angry passions in check, but, although she had managed not to betray herself while in Miss Day's room, now as she stood alone in the brilliantly lighted corridor, she simply danced with rage. Her small hands were clenched until the nails pierced the flesh and her delicately colored face became livid with passion.

At that moment she hated Annie Day— she hated Polly Singleton— she hated, perhaps, most of all Maggie Oliphant.

She walked down the corridor, her heart beating fast. Her own room was on another floor; to reach it she had to pass Miss Peel's and Miss Oliphant's rooms. As Rose was walking slowly down the corridor she saw a girl come out of Miss Oliphant's room, turn quickly in the opposite direction to the one from which she was coming, and, quickening her pace to a run, disappear from view. Rose recognized this girl: she was Priscilla Peel. Rose hastened her own steps and peeped into Maggie's room. To her surprise, it was empty; the door had swung wide open and the excited, perturbed girl could see into every corner. Scarcely knowing why she did it, she entered the room. Maggie's room was acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful in the college, and Rose said to herself that she was glad to have an opportunity to examine it unobserved.

She went and stood on the hearthrug and gazed around her; then she walked over to the bureau. Some Greek books were lying open here— also a pile of manuscript, several note-books, a few envelopes and sheets of letter-paper. Still, scarcely knowing why, Rose lifted the note-paper and looked under it. The heap of paper concealed a purse.

A sealskin purse with gold clasps. Rose snatched her hands away, flung down the note-paper as if she had been stung and walked back again to the hearthrug. Once more the color rushed into her cheeks, once more it retreated, leaving her small, young, pretty face white as marble.

She was assailed by a frightful temptation and she was scarcely the girl to resist it long. In cold blood she might have shrunk from the siren voice which bade her release herself from all her present troubles by theft, but at this moment she was excited, worried, scarcely capable of calm thought. Here was her unexpected opportunity. It lay in her power now to revenge herself on Miss Oliphant, on Prissie, on Polly Singleton and also to get out of her own difficulties.

How tempting was Maggie's purse! how rich its contents were likely to prove! Maggie was so rich and so careless that it was quite possible she might never miss the small sum which Rose meant to take. If she did, it would be absolutely impossible for her to trace the theft to innocent baby Rose Merton. No; if Maggie missed her money and suspected any one, she would be almost forced to lay the crime to the door of the girl she no longer, in her heart, cared about— Priscilla Peel.

A very rich flood of crimson covered Rose's cheeks as this consequence of her sin flashed before her vision. Less even than before was she capable of seeing right from wrong. The opportunity was far too good to lose; by one small act she would not only free herself, but accomplish the object on which she had set her mean little heart: she would effectually destroy the friendship of Maggie and Priscilla.

Stealthily, with her cheeks burning and her eyes bright with agitation, she once more approached the bureau, took from under the pile of papers the little sealskin purse, opened it, removed a five-pound note, clasped the purse again and restored it to its hiding-place, then flew on the wings of the wind from the room.

A moment or two later Priscilla came back, sat calmly down in one of Maggie's comfortable chairs, and, taking up her Greek edition of Euripides, began to read and translate with eagerness.

As Prissie read she made notes with a pencil in a small book which lay in her lap. The splendid thoughts appealed to her powerfully; her face glowed with pleasure. She lived in the noble past; she was a Greek with the old Greeks; she forgot the nineteenth century, with its smallness, its money worries— above all, she forgot her own cares.

At last in her reading she came to a difficult sentence, which, try as she would, she could not render into English to her own satisfaction. She was a very careful student and always disliked shirking difficulties; the pleasure of her reading would be lost if she did not do full justice to the lines which puzzled her. She resolved to read no further until Maggie appeared. Maggie Oliphant, with her superior information, would soon cut the knot for her. She closed the copy of Euripides with reluctance, and, putting her hand into her pocket, took out a note she had just received, to mark the place.

A moment or two later Maggie came in.

"Still here, Prissie!" she exclaimed in her somewhat indifferent but good-natured voice. "What a bookworm you are turning into!"

"I have been waiting for you to help me, if you will, Maggie," said Priscilla. "I have lost the right clew to the full sense of this passage— see! Can you give it to me?"

Maggie sat down at once, took up the book, glanced her eyes over the difficult words and translated them with ease.

"How lovely!" said Prissie, clasping her hands and giving herself up to a feeling of enjoyment. "Don't stop, Maggie, please; do read some more!"

Miss Oliphant smiled.

"Enthusiast!" she murmured.

She translated with brilliancy to the end of the page; then, throwing the book on her knee, repeated the whole passage aloud in Greek.

The note that Prissie put in as a mark fell on the floor. She was so lost in delighted listening that she did not notice it, but, when Maggie at last stopped for want of breath, Priscilla saw the little note, stooped forward to pick it up, glanced at the handwriting, and a shadow swept over her expressive face.

"Oh! thank you, Maggie, thank you," she exclaimed; "it is beautiful, entrancing! It made me forget everything for a short time, but I must not listen to any more; it is, indeed, most beautiful, but not for me."

"What do you mean, you little goose? You will soon read Euripides as well as I do. What is more, you will surpass me, Priscilla; your talent is greater than mine."

"Don't say that, Maggie; I can scarcely bear it when you do."

"Why do you say you can scarcely bear it? Do you love me so well that you hate to excel me? Silly child, as if I cared!"

"Maggie, I know you are really too great to be possessed by petty weaknesses. If I ever did excel you, which is most unlikely, I know you would be glad both for me and for yourself. No, it is not that; I am unhappy because of no fancy."

"What worries you then?"

"Maggie, do you see this note?"

"Yes; it is from Miss Heath, is it not?"

"It is. I am to see her to-night."

"Well, Prissie, you must be quick with your revelation, for I have some notes to look over."

"I won't keep you a moment. I am to see Miss Heath to tell her—— Prissie paused. Her face grew deadly white. "I am to see Miss Heath to tell her— to tell her— that I— oh, Maggie! I must give up my classics. I must; it's all settled. Don't say anything. Don't tempt me to reconsider the question. It can't be reconsidered, and my mind is made up. That's it; it's a trouble, but I must go through with it. Good night, Maggie."

Prissie held out her long, unformed hand; Miss Oliphant clasped it between both her own.

"You are trembling," she said, standing up and drawing the girl toward her. "I don't want to argue the point if you so firmly forbid me. I think you quite mad, of course. It is absolutely impossible for me to sympathize with such wild folly. Still, if your mind is made up, I won't interfere. But, seeing that at one time we were very firm friends, you might give me your reasons, Priscilla."

Priscilla slowly and stiffly withdrew her hands; her lips moved. She was repeating Miss Oliphant's words under her breath:

"At one time we were friends."

"Won't you speak?" said Maggie impatiently.

"Oh, yes, I'll speak, I'll tell you the reason. You won't understand, but you had better know—" Prissie paused again; she seemed to swallow something; her next words came out slowly with great difficulty: "When I went home for the Christmas recess I found Aunt Raby worse. You don't know what my home is like, Miss Oliphant; it is small and poor. At home we are often cold and often hungry. I have three little sisters, and they want clothes and education; they want training, they want love, they want care. Aunt Raby is too weak to do much for them now; she is very, very ill. You have not an idea— not an idea— Miss Oliphant, in your wealth and your luxury, what the poverty of Penywern Cottage is like. What does such poverty mean? How shall I describe it to you? We are sometimes glad of a piece of bread; butter is a luxury; meat we scarcely taste." Prissie again broke off to think and consider her next words. Maggie, whose sympathies were always keenly aroused by any real emotion, tried once again to take her hands; Prissie put them behind her. "Aunt Raby is a good woman," continued Priscilla; "she is brave, she is a heroine. Although she is just a commonplace old woman, no one has ever led a grander life in its way. She wears poor clothes— oh, the poorest; she has an uncouth appearance, worse even than I have, but I am quite sure that God— God respects her— God thinks her worthy. When my father and mother died (I was fourteen when my dear mother died) Aunt Raby came and took me home and my three little sisters. She gave us bread to eat. Oh, yes, we never quite wanted food, but before we came Aunt Raby had enough money to feed herself and no more. She took us all in and supported us, because she worked so very, very hard. Ever since I was fourteen— I am eighteen now— Aunt Raby has done this. Well," continued Priscilla, slow tears coming to her eyes and making themselves felt in her voice, "this hard work is killing her; Aunt Raby is dying because she has worked so hard for us. Before my three years have come to an end here, she will be far, far away: she will be at rest forever— God will be making up to her for all she has done here. Her hard life which God will have thought beautiful will be having its reward. Afterward I have to support and educate the three little girls. I spoke to Mr. Hayes— my dear clergyman, about whom I have told you, and who taught me all I know— and he agrees with me that I know enough of Greek and Latin now for rudimentary teaching, and that I shall be better qualified to take a good paying situation if I devote the whole of my time while at St. Benet's to learning and perfecting myself in modern languages. It's the end of a lovely dream, of course, but there is no doubt— no doubt whatever— what is right for me to do."

Prissie stopped speaking. Maggie went up again and tried to take her hand; she drew back a step or two, pretending not to see.

"It has been very kind of you to listen," she said; "I am very grateful to you, for now, whatever we may be to each other in future, you will understand that I don't give up what I love lightly. Thank you, you have helped me much. Now I must go and tell Miss Heath what I have said to you. I have had a happy reading of Euripides and have enjoyed listening to you. I meant to give myself that one last treat— now it is over. Good night."

Priscilla left the room— she did not even kiss Maggie as she generally did at parting for the night.

CHAPTER XXV

A MYSTERIOUS EPISODE

WHEN she was alone, Maggie Oliphant sat down in her favorite chair and covered her face with her hands. "It is horrible to listen to stories like that," she murmured under her breath. "Such stories get on the nerves. I shall not sleep to-night. Fancy any people calling themselves ladies wanting meat, wanting clothes, wanting warmth. Oh, my God! this is horrible. Poor Prissie! Poor, brave Prissie!" Maggie started from her chair and paced the length of her room once or twice. "I must help these people," she said; "I must help this Aunt Raby and those three little sisters. Penywern Cottage shall no longer be without coal, and food, and warmth. How shall I do this? One thing is quite evident— Prissie must not know. Prissie is as proud as I am. How shall I manage this?" She clasped her hands, her brow was contracted with the fulness of her thought. After a long while she left her room, and, going to the other end of the long corridor, knocked at Nancy Banister's door. Nancy was within. It did not take Maggie long to tell the tale which she had just heard from Priscilla's lips. Prissie had told her simple story with force, but it lost nothing in Maggie's hands. She had a fine command of language, and she drew a picture of such pathos that Nancy's honest blue eyes filled with tears.

"That dear little Prissie!" she exclaimed.

"I don't know that she is dear," said Maggie. "I don't profess quite to understand her; however, that is not the point. The poverty at Penywern Cottage is an undoubted fact. It is also a fact that Prissie is forced to give up her classical education. She shall not! she has a genius for the old tongues. Now, Nancy, help me; use your common sense on my behalf. How am I to send money to Penywern Cottage?"

Nancy thought for several minutes.

"I have an idea," she exclaimed at last.

"What is that?"

"I believe Mr. Hammond could help us."

Maggie colored.

"How?" she asked. "Why should Geoffrey Hammond be dragged into Priscilla's affairs? What can he possibly know about Penywern Cottage and the people who live in it?"

"Only this," said Nancy: "I remember his once talking about that part of Devonshire where Prissie's home is and saying that his uncle has a parish there. Mr. Hammond's uncle is the man to help us."

Miss Oliphant was silent for a moment.

"Very well," she said; "will you write to Mr. Hammond and ask him for his uncle's address?"

"Why should I do this, Maggie? Geoffrey Hammond is your friend; he would think it strange for me to write."

Maggie's tone grew as cold as her expressive face had suddenly become. "I can write if you think it best," she said; "but you are mistaken in supposing that Mr. Hammond is any longer a person of special interest to me."

"Oh, Maggie, Maggie, if you only would—"

"Good night, Nancy," interrupted Maggie. She kissed her friend and went back to her room. There she sat down before her bureau and prepared to write a letter. "I must not lose any time," she said to herself; "I must help these people substantially; I must do something to rescue poor Prissie from a life of drudgery. Fancy Prissie, with her genius, living the life of an ordinary underpaid teacher: it is not to be thought of for a moment! Something must be done to put the whole family on a different footing, but that, of course, is for the future. From Priscilla's account they want immediate aid. I have two five-pound notes in my purse: Geoffrey shall have them and enclose them to the clergyman who is his relation and who lives near Priscilla's home."

Maggie wrote her letter rapidly. She thought it cold; she meant it to be a purely business note; she did not intend Hammond to see even the glimpse of her warm heart under the carefully studied words. "I am sick of money," she said to him, "but to some people it is as the bread of life. Ask your friend to provide food and warmth without a moment's delay for these poor people out of the trifle I enclose. Ask him also to write directly to me, for the ten pounds I now send is only the beginning of what I mean really to do to help them."

When her letter was finished, Maggie put her hand in her pocket to take out her purse. It was not there. She searched on the table, looked under piles of books and papers and presently found it. She unclasped the purse and opened an inner pocket for the purpose of taking out two five-pound notes which she had placed there this morning. To her astonishment and perplexity, this portion of the purse now contained only one of the notes. Maggie felt her face turning crimson. Quick as a flash of lightning a horrible thought assailed her— Priscilla had been alone in her room for nearly an hour— Priscilla's people were starving: had Priscilla taken the note?

"Oh, hateful!" said Maggie to herself; "what am I coming to, to suspect the brave, the noble— I won't, I can't. Oh, how shall I look her in the face and feel that I ever, even for a second, thought of her so dreadfully." Maggie searched through her purse again. "Perhaps I dreamt that I put two notes here this morning," she said to herself. "But no, it is no dream; I put two notes into this division of my purse, I put four sovereigns here; the sovereigns are safe— one of the notes is gone."

She thought deeply for a few moments longer, then added a postscript to her letter:

"I am very sorry, but I can only send you one note for five pounds to-night. Even this, however, is better than nothing. I will give further help as soon as I hear from your friend." Maggie then folded her letter, addressed, stamped it and took it downstairs.

Miss Oliphant was an heiress; she was also an orphan; her father and mother were mere memories to her; she had neither brothers nor sisters; she did not particularly like her guardian, who was old and worldly wise, as different as possible from the bright, enthusiastic, impulsive girl. Mr. Oliphant thought money the aim and object of life: when he spoke to Maggie about it, she professed to hate it. In reality she was indifferent to it; money was valueless to her because she had never felt its want.

She lay awake for a long time that night, thinking of Penywern Cottage, of tired Aunt Raby, of the little girls who wanted food, and education, and care, and love. After a time she fell asleep. In her sleep she ceased to think of Priscilla's relations: all her thoughts were with Priscilla herself. She dreamt that she saw Priscilla move stealthily in her room, take up her purse with wary fingers, open it, remove a note for five pounds and hide the purse once more under books and papers.

When Maggie awoke she professed not to believe in her dream; but, nevertheless, she had a headache, and her heart was heavy within her.

At breakfast that morning Miss Oliphant made a rather startling announcement. "I wish to say something," she remarked in her full, rich voice. "A strange thing happened to me last night. I am not accounting for it; I am casting no aspersions on any one; I don't even intend to investigate the matter; still, I wish publicly to state a fact— a five-pound note has been taken out of my purse!"

There were no dons or lecturers present when Miss Oliphant made this startling announcement, but Nancy Banister, Rosalind Merton, Priscilla Peel, Miss Day, Miss Marsh and several other girls were all in the room; they, each of them, looked at the speaker with startled and anxious inquiry.

Maggie herself did not return the glances; she was lazily helping herself to some marmalade.

"How perfectly shameful!" burst at last from the lips of Miss Day. "You have lost five pounds, Miss Oliphant; you are positively certain that five pounds have been taken out of your purse. Where was your purse?" Maggie was spreading the marmalade on her bread and butter; her eyes were still fixed on her plate. "I don't wish a fuss made," she said.

"Oh, that's all very fine!" continued Miss Day, "but if five pounds are lost out of your purse, some one has taken them! Some one, therefore, whether servant or student, is a thief. I am not narrow-minded or prudish, but I confess I draw the line at thieves."

"So do I," said Maggie in an icy tone; "still, I don't mean to make a fuss."

"But where was your purse, Maggie, dear?" asked Nancy Banister; "was it in your pocket?"

"No. I found it last night in my bureau, under some books and papers." Maggie rose from the table as she spoke. With a swift flash her brown eyes sought Priscilla's face; she had not meant to look at her, she did not want to; but a fascination she could not control obliged her to dart this one glance of inquiry.

Prissie's eyes met hers. Their expression was anxious, puzzled, but there was not a trace of guilt or confusion in them. "I don't know how that money could have been taken, Maggie," she said, "for I was in your room. studying my Greek." Prissie sighed when she mentioned her Greek. "I was in your room studying Greek all the evening; no one could have come to take the money."

"It is gone, however," said Maggie. She spoke with new cheerfulness. The look on Prissie's face, the tone in her voice made Maggie blush at ever having suspected her. "It is gone," she said in quite a light and cheerful way, "but I am really sorry I mentioned it. As I said just now, I don't intend to investigate the matter. I may have fallen asleep and taken the five-pound note out in a dream and torn it up or put it on the fire. Anyhow, it has vanished, and that is all I have to say. Come, Prissie, I want to hear what Miss Heath said to you last night."

"No," suddenly exclaimed Annie Day, "Miss Peel, you must not leave the room just now. You have made a statement, Miss Oliphant, which I for one do not intend to pass over without at least asking a few questions. You did not tear up that note in a dream. If it is lost, some one took it. We are St. Benet's girls, and we don't choose to have this kind of thing said to us. The thief must confess and the note must be returned."

"All right," said Maggie, "I sha'n't object to recovering my property. Priscilla, I shall be walking in the grounds; you can come to me when your council of war is over."

The moment Maggie left the room Rosalind Merton made a remark. "Miss Peel is the only person who can explain the mystery," she said.

"What do you mean?" asked Priscilla.

"Why, you confess yourself that you were in Miss Oliphant's room the greater part of the evening."

"I confess it?" remarked Priscilla; "that is a curious phrase to apply to a statement. I confess nothing. I was in Maggie's room, but what of that? When people confess things," she added with a naivete which touched one or two of the girls, "they generally have done something wrong. Now, what was there wrong in my sitting in my friend's room?"

"Oh, Miss Oliphant is your friend'?" said Rosalind.

"Of course, of course." But here a memory came over Priscilla; she remembered Maggie's words the night before— "You were my friend." For the first time her voice faltered and the crimson flush of distress covered her face. Rosalind's cruel eyes were fixed on her.

"Let me speak now," interrupted Miss Day. She gave Rosalind a piercing glance which caused her, in her turn, to color violently. "It is just this, Miss Peel," said Annie Day: "you will excuse my speaking bluntly, but you are placed in a very unpleasant position."

"I? How?" asked Prissie.

"Oh, you great baby!" burst from Rosalind again.

"Please don't speak to me in that tone, Miss Merton," said Priscilla with a new dignity which became her well. "Now, Miss Day, what have you to say?"

To Prissie's surprise, at this juncture, Nancy Banister suddenly left her seat and came and stood at the back of her chair.

"I am on your side whatever happens," she remarked.

"Thank you," said Prissie.

"Now, please, Miss Day."

"You must know who took the note," said Annie Day.

"I assure you I don't; I can't imagine how it has disappeared. Not a soul came into the room while I was there. I did go away once for about three minutes to fetch my Lexicon; but I don't suppose any one came into Miss Oliphant's room during those few minutes— there was no one about to come."

"Oh, you left the room for about three minutes?"

"Perhaps three— perhaps not so many. I had left my Lexicon in the library; I went to fetch it."

"Oh," said Rosalind, suddenly taking the words out of Miss Day's mouth, "when did you invent this little fiction?"

Prissie's eyes seemed suddenly to blaze fire. For the first time she perceived the drift of the cruel suspicion which her fellow-students were seeking to cast upon her. "How wicked you are!" she said to Rosalind. "Why do you look at me like that? Miss Day, why do you smile? Why do you all smile? Oh, Nancy," added poor Prissie, springing to her feet and looking full into Nancy's troubled eyes, "what is the matter?— am I in a dream?"

"It is all very fine to be theatrical," said Miss Day, "but the fact is, Miss Peel, you are not at all popular enough at St. Benet's to induce any of us to consent to live under a ban for your sake. Miss Oliphant has lost her money. You say that you spent some time in her room; the purse was on her bureau. Miss Oliphant is rich, she is also generous; she says openly that she does not intend to investigate the matter. No doubt, if you confess your weakness and return the money, she will forgive you and not report this disgraceful proceeding to the college authorities."

While Miss Day was speaking some heavy panting breaths came two or three times from Priscilla's lips. Her face had turned cold and white, but her eyes blazed like living coals.

"Now I understand," she said slowly, "you think— you think that I— I stole a five-pound note from my friend; you think that I went into her room and opened her purse and took away her money; you think that of me— you! I scorn you all, I defy you, I dare you to prove your dreadful words! I am going to Miss Heath this moment; she shall protect me from this dishonor."

CHAPTER XXVI

IN THE ANTE-CHAPEL OF ST. HILDA'S

PRISCILLA ran blindly down the corridor which opened into the wide entrance-hall. Groups of girls were standing about. They stared as the wild-looking apparition rushed past them: Prissie was blind to their puzzled and curious glances. She wanted to see Miss Heath. She had a queer kind of instinct, rather than any distinct impression, that in Miss Heath's presence she would be protected, that Miss Heath would know what to say, would know how to dispel the cloud of disgrace which had suddenly been cast over her like a cloak.

"Is there anything wrong, Miss Peel?" said gentle little Ada Hardy, coming up and speaking to her affectionately. Miss Hardy stood right in Prissie's path, barring her way for a moment and causing her, in spite of herself, to stop her headlong rush to the vice-principal's room. Priscilla put up her hand to her brow. She looked in a dazed sort of way at the kindhearted girl.

"What is the matter— can I help you?" repeated Ada Hardy.

"You can't help me," said Prissie. "I want to see Miss Heath; let me pass." She ran forward again, and some other girls, coming out of the dining-hall, now came up to Ada and distracted her attention.

Miss Heath's private sitting-room was on the ground floor. This lovely room has been described before. It was open now, and Prissie went in without knocking; she thought she would see Miss Heath sitting as she usually was at this hour, either reading or answering letters. She was not in the room. Priscilla felt too wild and impetuous to consider any action carefully just then. She ran up at once to the electric bell and pressed the button for quite a quarter of a minute. A maid servant came quickly to answer the summons. She thought Miss Heath had sent for her and stared at the excited girl.

"I want to see Miss Heath," said Priscilla. "Please ask her to come to me here. Say Miss Peel wants to see her— Priscilla Peel wants to see her, very, very badly, in her own sitting-room at once. Ask her to come to me at once."

The presence of real tragedy always inspires respect. There was no question with regard to the genuineness of Priscilla's sorrow just then.

"I will try and find Miss Heath, miss, and ask her to come to you without delay," answered the maid. She softly withdrew, closing the door after her. Priscilla went and stood on the hearthrug. Raising her eyes for a moment, they rested on a large and beautiful platinotype of G. F. Watts' picture of "Hope." The last time she had visited Miss Heath in that room Prissie had been taken by the kind vice-principal to look at the picture, and some of its symbolism was explained to her. "That globe on which the figure of Hope sits," Miss Heath had said, "is meant to represent the world. Hope is blindfolded in order more effectually to shut out the sights which might distract her. See the harp in her hand, observe her rapt attitude— she is listening to melody— she hears, she rejoices, and yet the harp out of which she makes music only possesses one string— all the rest are broken." Miss Heath said nothing further, and Prissie scarcely took in the full meaning of the picture that evening. Now she looked again, and a passionate agony swept over her. "Hope has one string still left to her harp with which she can play music," murmured the young girl; "but oh! there are times when all the strings of the harp are broken. Then Hope dies."

The room door was opened and the servant reappeared.

"I am very sorry, miss," she said, "but Miss Heath has gone out for the morning. Would you like to see any one else?"

Priscilla gazed at the messenger in a dull sort of way. "I can't see Miss Heath?" she murmured.

"No, miss, she is out."

"Very well."

"Can I do anything for you, miss?"

"No, thank you."

The servant went away with a puzzled expression on her face.

"That plain young lady, who is so awful poor— Miss Peel, I mean— seems in a sad taking," she said by and by to her fellow-servants.

Priscilla, left alone in Miss Heath's sitting-room, stood still for a moment, then running usptairs to her room, she put on her hat and jacket and went out. She was expected to attend two lectures that morning and the hour for the first had almost arrived. Maggie Oliphant was coming into the house when Prissie ran past her.

"My dear!" she exclaimed, shocked at the look on Priscilla's face, "come here; I want to speak to you."

"I can't— don't stop me."

"But where are you going? Mr. Kenyon has just arrived. I am on my way to the lecture-hall now."

"It doesn't matter."

"Aren't you coming?"

"No."

This last word reached Miss Oliphant from a distance. Prissie had already almost reached the gates.

Maggie stood still for a moment, half inclined to follow the excited, frantic-looking girl, but that queer inertia, which was part of her complex character, came over her. She shrugged her shoulders, the interest died out of her face; she walked slowly through the entrance-hall and down one of the side corridors to the lecture-room.

When the Greek lecture had come to an end Nancy Banister came up and slipped her hand through Maggie's arm.

"What is the matter, Maggie?" she asked, "you look very white and tired."

"I have a headache," answered Maggie. "If it does not get better, I shall send for a carriage and take a drive."

"May I come with you?"

"No, dear Nancy, when I have these bad headaches it is almost necessary to me to be alone."

"Would it not be better for you to go and lie down in your room?"

"I to lie down in my room with a headache like this? No, thank you." Maggie shuddered as she spoke. Nancy felt her friend's arm shiver as she leaned on it.

"You are really ill, darling!" she said in a tone of sympathy and fondness.

"I have not felt right for a week and am worse today, but I dare say a drive in this nice frosty air will set me up."

"I am going to Kingsdene. Shall I order a carriage for you?"

"I wish you would."

"Maggie, did you notice that Priscilla was not at her lecture?"

"She was not. I met her rushing away, I think, to Kingsdene; she seemed put out about something."

"Poor little thing. No wonder— those horrid girls!"

"Oh, Nancy, if there's anything unpleasant, don't tell me just now; my head aches so dreadfully, I could scarcely hear bad news."

"You are working too hard, Maggie."

"I am not; it is the only thing left to me."

"Do you know that we are to have a rehearsal of The Princess to-night? If you are as ill as you look now, you can't be present."

"I will be present. Do you think I can't force myself to do what is necessary?"

"Oh, I am well acquainted with the owner of your will," answered Nancy with a laugh. "Well, good-by, dear, I am off. You may expect the carriage to arrive in half an hour."

Meanwhile Priscilla, still blind, deaf and dumb with misery, ran, rather than walked, along the road which leads to Kingsdene. The day was lovely, with little faint wafts of spring in the air; the sky was pale blue and cloudless; there was a slight hoar frost on the grass. Priscilla chose to walk on it, rather than on the dusty road; it felt crisp under her tread.

She had not the least idea why she was going to Kingsdene. Her wish was to walk, and walk, and walk until sheer fatigue, caused by long-continued motion, brought to her temporary ease and forgetfulness.

Prissie was a very strong girl, and she knew she must walk for a long time; her feet must traverse many miles before she effected her object. Just as she was passing St. Hilda's College she came face to face with Hammond. He was in his college cap and gown and was on his way to morning prayers in the chapel. Hammond had received Maggie's letter that morning, and this fact caused him to look at Priscilla with new interest. On another occasion he would have passed her with a hurried bow. Now he stopped to speak. The moment he caught sight of her face, he forgot everything else in his distress at the expression of misery which it wore.

"Where are you going, Miss Peel?" he asked; "you appear to be flying from something, or, perhaps, it is to something. Must you run? See, you have almost knocked me down." He chose light words on purpose, hoping to make Prissie smile.

"I am going for a walk," she said. "Please let me pass."

"I am afraid you are in trouble," he replied then, seeing that Priscilla's mood must be taken seriously.

His sympathy gave the poor girl a momentary thrill of comfort. She raised her eyes to his face and spoke huskily.

"A dreadful thing has happened to me," she said.

The chapel bell stopped as she spoke. Groups of men, all in their caps and gowns, hurried by. Several of them looked from Hammond to Priscilla and smiled.

"I must go to chapel now," he said; "but I should like to speak to you. Can I not see you after morning prayers? Would you not come to the service. You might sit in the ante-chapel, if you did not want to come into the chapel itself. You had much better do that. Whatever your trouble is, the service at St. Hilda's ought to sustain you. Please wait for me in the ante-chapel. I shall look for you there after prayers."

He ran off just in time to take his own place in the chapel before the doors were shut and curtains drawn.

Without a moment's hesitation, Priscilla followed him. She entered the ante-chapel, sat down on a bench not far from the entrance door, and when the service began she dropped on her knees and covered her face with her hands.

The music came to her in soft waves of far-off harmony. The doors which divided the inner chapel from the outer gave it a faint sound, as if it were miles away; each note, however, was distinct; no sound was lost. The boys' voices rose high in the air; they were angelic in their sweetness. Prissie was incapable, at that moment, of taking in the meaning of the words she heard, but the lovely sounds comforted her. The dreadful weight was lifted, or, at least, partially lifted, from her brain; she felt as if a hand had been laid on her hot, angry heart; as if a gentle, a very gentle, touch was soothing the sorrow there.

"I am ready now," said Hammond when the service was over. "Will you come?"

She rose without a word and went out with him into the quadrangle. They walked down the High Street.

"Are you going back to St. Benet's?" he asked.

"Oh, no— oh, no!"

"'Yes,' you mean. I will walk with you as far as the gates."

"I am not going back."

"Pardon me," said Hammond, "you must go back. So young a girl cannot take long walks alone. If one of your fellow-students were with you, it would be different."

"I would not walk with one of them now for the world."

"Not with Miss Oliphant?"

"With her least of all."

"That is a pity," said Hammond gravely, "for no one can feel more kindly toward you."

Prissie made no response.

They walked to the end of the High Street.

"This is your way," said Hammond, "down this quiet lane. We shall get to St. Benet's in ten minutes."

"I am not going there. Good-by, Mr. Hammond."

"Miss Peel, you must forgive my appearing to interfere with you, but it is absolutely wrong for a young girl, such as you are, to wander about alone in the vicinity of a large university town. Let me treat you as my sister for once and insist on accompanying you to the gates of the college."

Prissie looked up at him. "It is very good of you to take any notice of me," she said after a pause. "You won't ever again after— after you know what I have been accused of. If you wish me to go back to St. Benet's, I will; after all, it does not matter, for I can go out by and by somewhere else."

Hammond smiled to himself at Prissie's very qualified submission. Just then a carriage came up and drove slowly past them. Miss Oliphant, in her velvet and sables, was seated in it. Hammond sprang forward with heightened color and an eager exclamation on his lips. She did not motion to the coachman to stop, however, but gave the young man a careless, cold bow. She did not notice Priscilla at all. The carriage quickly drove out of sight, and Hammond, after a pause, said gravely;

"You must tell me your troubles, Miss Peel."

"I will," said Prissie. "Some one has stolen a five pound note out of Maggie Oliphant's purse. She missed it late at night and spoke about it at breakfast this morning. I said that I did not know how it could have been taken, for I had been studying my Greek in her room during the whole afternoon. Maggie spoke about her loss in the dining-hall, and after she left the room Miss Day and Miss Merton accused me of having stolen the money." Priscilla stopped speaking abruptly; she turned her head away; a dull red suffused her face and neck.

"Well?" said Hammond.

"That is all. The girls at St. Benet's think I am a thief. They think I took my kindest friend's money. I have nothing more to say: nothing possibly could be more dreadful to me. I shall speak to Miss Heath and ask leave to go away from the college at once."

"You certainly ought not to do that."

"What do you mean?"

"If you went from St. Benet's now, people might be induced to think that you really were guilty."

"But they think that now."

"I am quite certain that those students whose friendship is worth retaining think nothing of the sort."

"Why are you certain?" asked Prissie, turning swiftly round and a sudden ray of sunshine illuminating her whole face. "Do you think that I am not a thief?"

"I am as certain of that fact as I am of my own identity."

"Oh!" said the girl with a gasp. She made a sudden dart forward, and seizing Hammond's hand, squeezed it passionately between both her own.

"And Miss Oliphant does not think of you as a thief," continued Hammond.

"I don't know— I can't say."

"You have no right to be so unjust to her," he replied with fervor.

"I don't care so much for the opinion of the others now," said Prissie; "you believe in me." She walked erect again; her footsteps were light as if she trod on air. "You are a very good man," she said. "I would do anything for you— anything."

Hammond smiled. Her innocence, her enthusiasm, her childishness were too apparent for him to take her words for more than they were worth.

"Do you know," he said after a pause, "that I am in a certain measure entitled to help you? In the first place, Miss Oliphant takes a great interest in you."

"You are mistaken, she does not— not now."

"I am not mistaken; she takes a great interest in you. Priscilla, you must have guessed— you have guessed— what Maggie Oliphant is to me; I should like, therefore, to help her friend. That is one tie between us, but there is another— Mr. Hayes, your parish clergyman——"

"Oh!" said Prissie, "do you know Mr. Hayes?"

"I not only know him," replied Hammond, smiling, "but he is my uncle. I am going to see him this evening."

"Oh!"

"Of course, I shall tell him nothing of this, but I shall probably talk of you. Have you a message for him?"

"I can send him no message to-day."

They had now reached the college gates. Hammond took Priscilla's hand. "Good-by," he said; "I believe in you and so does Miss Oliphant. If her money was stolen, the thief was certainly not the most upright, the most sincere girl in the college. My advice to you, Miss Peel, is to hold your head up bravely, to confront this charge by that sense of absolute innocence which you possess. In the meanwhile I have not the least doubt that the real thief will be found. Don't make a fuss; don't go about in wild despair— have faith in God." He pressed her hand and turned away.

Priscilla took her usual place that day at the luncheon table. The girls who had witnessed her wild behavior in the morning watched her in perplexity and astonishment. She ate her food with appetite; her face looked serene— all the passion and agony had left it.

Rosalind Merton ventured on a sly allusion to the scene of the morning. Priscilla did not make the smallest comment. Her face remained pale, her eyes untroubled. There was a new dignity about her.

"What's up now?" said Rosalind to her friend, Miss Day. "Is the little Puritan going to defy us all?"

"Oh, don't worry any more about her," said Annie, who, for some reason, was in a particularly bad humor. "I only wish, for my part, Miss Peel had never come to St. Benet's; I don't like anything about her, Her heroics are as unpleasant to me as her stoicisms. But I may as well say frankly, Rosalind, before I drop this detestable subject, that I am quite sure she never stole that five-pound note: she was as little likely to do it as you, so there!"

There came a knock at the door. Rosalind flew to open it. By so doing she hoped that Miss Day would not notice the sudden color which filled her cheeks.

CHAPTER XXVII

BEAUTIFUL ANNABEL LEE

CIRCUMSTANCES seem to combine to spoil some people. Maggie Oliphant was one of the victims of fortune, which, while appearing to favor her, gave her in reality the worst training which was possible for a nature such as hers. She was impulsive, generous, affectionate, but she was also perverse, and, so to speak, uncertain. She was a creature of moods and she was almost absolutely without self-control; and yet nature had been kind to Maggie, giving her great beauty of form and face and a character which a right training would have rendered noble.

Up to the present, however, this training had scarcely come to Miss Oliphant. She was almost without relations and she was possessed of more money than she knew what to do with. She had great abilities and loved learning for the sake of learning, but till she came to St. Benet's, her education had been as desultory as her life. She had never been to school; her governess only taught her what she chose to learn. As a child she was very fickle in this respect, working hard from morning till night one day but idling the whole of the next. When she was fifteen her guardian took her to Rome. The next two years were spent in traveling, and Maggie, who knew nothing properly, picked up that kind of superficial miscellaneous knowledge which made her conversation brilliant and added to her many charms.

"You shall be brought out early," her guardian had said to her. "You are not educated in the stereotyped fashion, but you know enough. After you are seventeen I will get you a suitable chaperon and you shall live in London."

This scheme, however, was not carried out. For, shortly after her seventeenth birthday, Maggie Oliphant met a girl whose beauty and brilliance were equal to her own, whose nature was stronger and who had been carefully trained in heart and mind while Maggie had been neglected. Miss Lee was going through a course of training at St. Benet's College for Women at Kingsdene. She was an uncommon girl in every sense of the word. The expression of her lovely face was as piquant as its features were beautiful; her eyes were dark as night; they also possessed the depth of the tenderest, sweetest summer night, subjugating all those who came in contact with her. Annabel Lee won Maggie's warmest affections at once; she determined to join her friend at St. Benet's. She spoke with ineffable scorn of her London season and resolved, with that enthusiasm which was the strongest part of her nature, to become a student in reality. Under Annabel's guidance she took up the course of study which was necessary to enable her to pass her entrance examination. She acquitted herself well, for her abilities were of the highest order, and entered the college with eclat. Miss Lee was a student in Heath Hall, and Maggie thought herself supremely happy when she was given a room next to her friend.

Those were brilliant days at the hall. Some girls resided there at this time whose names were destined to be known in the world by and by. The workers were earnest; the tone which pervaded the life at Heath Hall was distinctly high. Shallow girls there must always be where any number are to be found together, but, during Maggie Oliphant's first year, these girls had little chance of coming to the front. Maggie, who was as easily influenced as a wave is tossed by the wind, rose quickly to the heights with her companions. Her splendid intellect developed each day. She was merry with the merry, glad with the glad, studious with the studious. She was also generous, kind and unselfish in company with those girls who observed the precepts of the higher life. Next to Miss Lee, Maggie was one of the most popular girls in the college. Annabel Lee had the kindest of hearts, as well as the most fascinating of ways. She was an extraordinary girl; there was a great deal of the exotic about her; in many ways she was old for her years. No one ever thought or spoke of her as a prig, but all her influence was brought to bear in the right direction. The girl who could do or think meanly avoided the expression of Annabel's beautiful eyes. It was impossible for her to think badly of her fellow-creatures, but meanness and sin made her sorrowful. There was not a girl in Heath Hall who would willingly give Annabel Lee sorrow.

In the days that followed people knew that she was one of those rare and brilliant creatures who, like a lovely but too ethereal flower, must quickly bloom into perfection and then pass away. Annabel was destined to a short life, and after her death the high tone of Heath Hall deteriorated considerably.

This girl was a born leader. When she died no other girl in the college could take her place, and for many a long day those who had loved her were conscious of a sense which meant a loss of headship. In short, they were without their leader.

If Annabel in her gaiety and brightness could influence girls who were scarcely more than acquaintances, the effect of her strong personality on Maggie was supreme. Maggie often said that she never knew what love meant until she met Annabel. The two girls were inseparable; their love for each other was compared to that of Jonathan and David of Bible story and of Orestes and Pylades of Greek legend. The society of each gave the other the warmest pleasure.

Annabel and Maggie were both so beautiful in appearance, so far above the average girl in their pose, their walk, their manner that people noticed these friends wherever they went. A young and rising artist, who saw them once at St. Hilda's, begged permission to make a picture of the pair. It was done during the summer recess before Annabel died and made a sensation in the next year's Academy. Many of the visitors who went there stopped and looked at the two faces, both in the perfection of their youthful bloom and beauty. Few guessed that one even now had gone to the Home best fitted for so ardent and high a spirit.

Annabel Lee died a year before Priscilla came to the college. Whatever Maggie inwardly felt, she had got over her first grief; her smile was again as brilliant as when Annabel Lee was by her side, her laugh was as merry; but the very few who could look a little way into Maggie's perverse and passionate heart knew well that something had died in her which could never live again, that her laugh was often hollow and her brilliant smile had only a foundation in bitterness.

Maggie did not only grieve for her friend when she mourned for Annabel. She had loved her most deeply, and love alone would have caused her agony in such a loss; but Maggie's keenest and most terrible feelings were caused by an unavailing regret.

This regret was connected with Geoffrey Hammond.

He had known Annabel from her childhood. He was an old friend of some of her friends, and during those last, long summer holidays, which the two girls spent together under the roof of Maggie's guardian, Hammond, who was staying with relations not far away, came to see them almost daily. He was the kind of man who could win both respect and admiration; he was grave in his nature and his aspirations, aims and ambitions were high. In their conversations during this lovely summer weather these young people dreamt happy dreams together and planned a future which meant good to all mankind. Maggie, to all appearance, was heart and soul with Annabel and Geoffrey in what they thought and said.

Nothing could have been simpler or more unconventional than the intercourse between these young people. Miss Lee had known Hammond all her life; Maggie always spoke and thought of herself as second to Annabel in Geoffrey Hammond's regard. One brilliant autumn day, however, he surprised Maggie by asking her to take a long walk alone with him. No words were said during this ramble to open Maggie Oliphant's eyes to the true state of Hammond's feelings for her, but when she returned from her walk she could not help noticing Annabel Lee's unaccountable depression. It was not until later, however, that Maggie attributed a certain pathetic, almost heart-broken, look in her friend's lovely eyes to its true cause.

Hammond was a graduate of St. Hilda's College at Kingsdene, and the three friends often talked of the happy meetings they would have during the coming winter. He was a man of large property, and the favorite amusement of these young people was in talking over the brilliant life which lay before Hammond when he took possession of his estates. He would be the ideal landlord of his age; the people who lived on his property would, when he attained his majority, enter into a millennium of bliss.

Maggie returned to St. Benet's, imagining herself quite heart-whole, but happiness shone out of her eyes, and there was a new, tender ring in her voice for which she could not account to herself and which added a new fascination to her beauty.

Shortly after the commencement of the term Hammond met Miss Oliphant by accident just outside Kingsdene.

"I was going to post a letter to you," he said. His face was unusually pale, his eyes full of joy and yet of solicitude.

"You can tell me what you have written," replied Maggie in her gayest voice.

"No, I would rather you read my letter."

He thrust it into her hand and immediately, to her astonishment, left her.

As she walked home through the frosty air she opened Hammond's letter and read its contents. It contained an earnest appeal for her love and an assurance that all the happiness of the writer's future life depended on her consenting to marry him. Would she be his wife when her three years' term at St. Benet's came to an end?

No letter could be more manly, more simple. Its contents went straight to the depths of a heart easily swayed and full of strong affection.

"Yes, I love him," whispered the girl; "I did not know it until I read this letter, but I am sure of myself now. Yes, I love him better than any one else in the world."

A joyous light filled Maggie's brown eyes; her heart was gay. She rushed to Annabel's room to tell her news and to claim the sympathy which had never hitherto been denied her and which was essential to the completion of her happiness.

When Maggie entered her friend's room she saw, to her surprise, that Annabel was lying on her bed with flushed cheeks. Two hours before she had been, to all appearance, in brilliant health; now her face burned with fever and her beautiful dark eyes were glazed with pain.

Maggie rushed up and kissed her. "What is it; darling," she asked; "what is wrong? You look ill; your eyes have a strange expression."

Annabel's reply was scarcely audible. The pain and torpor of her last short illness were already overmastering her. Maggie was alarmed at the burning touch of her hand, but she had no experience to guide her and her own great joy to make her selfish.

"Annabel, look at me for a moment. I have wonderful news to give you."

Annabel's eyes were closed, She opened them wide at this appeal for sympathy, stretched out her hand and pushed back a tangle of bright hair from Maggie's brow.

"I love you, Maggie," she said in that voice which had always power to thrill its listeners.

Maggie kissed her friend's hand and pressed it to her own beating heart. "I met Geoffrey Hammond today," she said. "He gave me a letter; I have read it. Oh, Annabel, Annabel! I can be good now. No more bad half-hours, no more struggles with myself. I can be very good now."

With some slight difficulty Annabel Lee drew her hot hand away from Maggie's fervent clasp; her eyes, slightly distended, were fixed on her friend's face; the flush of fever left her cheeks; a hot flood of emotion seemed to press against her beating heart; she looked at Maggie with passionate longing.

"What is it?" she asked in a husky whisper. "Why are you so glad, Maggie? Why can you be good now?"

"Because I love Geoffrey Hammond," answered Maggie; "I love him with all my heart, all my life, all my strength, and he loves me. He has asked me to be his wife."

Maggie paused. She expected to feel Annabel's arms round her neck; she waited impatiently for this last crowning moment of bliss. Her own happiness caused her to lower her eyes; her joy was so dazzling that for a moment she felt she must shade their brilliance even from Annabel's gaze.

Instead of the pressure of loving arms, however, and the warm kiss of sympathy, there came a low cry from the lips of the sick girl. She made an effort to say something, but words failed her: the next moment she was unconscious. Maggie rushed to the bell and gave an alarm, which brought Miss Heath and one or two servants to the room.

A doctor was speedily sent for, and Maggie Oliphant was banished from the room. She never saw Annabel Lee again. That night the sick girl was removed to the hospital, which was in a building apart from the halls, and two days afterward she was dead.

Typhus fever was raging at Kingsdene at this time, and Annabel Lee had taken it in its most virulent form. The doctors (and two or three were summoned) gave up all hope of saving her life from the first. Maggie also gave up hope. She accused herself of having caused her friend's death. She believed that the shock of her tidings had killed Annabel, who, already suffering from fever, had not strength to bear the agony of knowing that Hammond's love was given to Maggie.

On the night of Annabel's death Maggie wrote to Hammond refusing his offer of marriage, but giving no reason for doing so. After posting her letter she lay down on her own sick bed and nearly died of the fever which had taken Annabel away.

All these things happened a year ago. The agitation caused by the death of one so young, beautiful and beloved had subsided. People could talk calmly of Annabel, and although for a long time her room had remained vacant, it was now occupied by a girl in all respects her opposite.

Nothing would induce Maggie to enter this room, and no words would persuade her to speak of Annabel. She was merry and bright once more, and few gave her credit for secret hours of misery, which were seriously undermining her health and ruining what was best of her character.

On this particular day, as she lay back in her carriage, wrapped in costly furs, a great wave of misery and bitterness was sweeping over her heart. In the first agony caused by Annabel's death Maggie had vowed a vow to her own heart never, under any circumstances, to consent to be Hammond's wife. In the first misery of regret and compunction it had been easy to Maggie Oliphant to make such a vow; but she knew well, as the days and months went by, that its weight was crushing her life, was destroying her chance of ever becoming a really strong and good woman. If she had loved Hammond a year ago her sufferings made her love him fifty times better now. With all her outward coldness and apparent indifference, his presence gave her the keenest pain. Her heart beat fast when she caught sight of his face; if he spoke to another, she was conscious of being overcome by a spirit of jealousy. The thought of him mingled with her waking and sleeping hours; but the sacrifice she owed to the memory of her dead friend must be made at all hazards. Maggie consulted no one on this subject. Annabel's unhappy story lay buried with her in her early grave; Maggie would have died rather than reveal it. Now, as she lay back in her carriage, the tears filled her eyes.

"I am too weak for this to go on any longer," she said to herself. "I shall leave St. Benet's at the end of the present term. What is the winning of a tripos to me? What do I want with honors and distinctions? Everything is barren to me. My life has no flavor in it. I loved Annabel, and she is gone. Without meaning it, I broke Annabel's heart. Without meaning it, I caused my darling's death, and now my own heart is broken, for I love Geoffrey— I love him, and I can never, under any circumstances, be his wife. He misunderstands me— he thinks me cold, wicked, heartless— and I can never, never set myself right with him. Soon he will grow tired of me and give his heart to some one else, and perhaps marry some one else. When he does, I too shall die. Yes, whatever happens, I must go away from St. Benet's."

Maggie's tears always came slowly; she put up her handkerchief to wipe them away. It was little wonder that when she returned from her drive her head was no better.

"We must put off the rehearsal," said Nancy Banister, She came into Maggie's room and spoke vehemently. "I saw you at lunch, Maggie: you ate nothing— you spoke with an effort. I know your head is worse. You must lie down, and, unless you are better soon, I will ask Miss Heath to send for a doctor."

"No doctor will cure me," said Maggie. "Give me a kiss, Nance; let me rest my head against yours for a moment. Oh, how earnestly I wish I was like you."

"Why so? What have I got? I have no beauty; I am not clever; I am neither romantically poor, like Prissie, nor romantically rich, like you. In short, the fairies were not invited to my christening."

"One of two fairies came, however," replied Maggie, "and they gave you an honest soul, and a warm heart, and— and happiness, Nancy. My dear, I need only look into your eyes to know that you are happy."

Nancy's blue eyes glowed with pleasure. "Yes," she said, "I don't know anything about dumps and low spirits."

"And you are unselfish, Nancy; you are never seeking your own pleasure."

"I am not obliged to: I have all I want. And now to turn to a more important subject. I will see the members of our Dramatic Society and put off the rehearsal."

"You must not; the excitement will do me good."

"For the time, perhaps," replied Nancy, shaking her wise head, "but you will be worse afterward."

"No. Now, Nancy, don't let us argue the point. If you are truly my friend, you will sit by me for an hour and read aloud the dullest book you can find, then perhaps I shall go to sleep."

CHAPTER XXVIII

"COME AND KILL THE BOGIE"

NOTWITHSTANDING Nancy's dismal prognostications, Maggie Oliphant played her part brilliantly that night. Her low spirits were succeeded by gay ones; the Princess had never looked more truly regal, nor had the Prince ever more passionately wooed her. Girls who did not belong to the society always flocked into the theater to see the rehearsals. Maggie's mood scarcely puzzled them. She was so erratic that no one expected anything from her but the unexpected: if she looked like a drooping flower one moment, her head was erect the next, her eyes sparkling, her voice gay. The flower no longer drooped, but blossomed with renewed vigor. After reading for an hour Nancy had left her friend asleep. She went downstairs, and, in reply to several anxious inquiries, pronounced it as her opinion that Maggie, with all the good will in the world, could scarcely take part in the rehearsals that night.

"I know Maggie is going to be ill," said Nancy with tears in her eyes. Miss Banister was so sensible and so little given to undue alarms that her words had effect, and a little rumor spread in the college that Miss Oliphant could not take her part in the important rehearsals which were to take place that evening. Her appearance, therefore, in more than her usual beauty, with more vigor in her voice, more energy and brightness in her eyes, gave at once a pleasing sense of satisfaction. She was cheered when she entered the little theater, but, if there was a brief surprise, it was quickly succeeded by the comment which generally followed all her doings: "This is just like Maggie; no one can depend on how she will act for a moment."

At that rehearsal, however, people were taken by surprise. If the Princess did well, the young Prince did better. Priscilla had completely dropped her role of the awkward and gauche girl. From the first there had been vigor and promise in her acting. To-night there was not only vigor, but tenderness— there was a passion in her voice which arose now and then to power. She was so completely in sympathy with her part that she ceased to be Priscilla: she was the Prince who must win this wayward Princess or die.

Maggie came up to her when the rehearsals were over.

"I congratulate you," she said. "Prissie, you might do well on the stage."

Priscilla smiled. "No," she said, "for I need inspiration to forget myself."

"Well, genius would supply that."

"No, Maggie, no. The motive that seems to turn me into the Prince himself cannot come again. Oh, Maggie, if I succeed! If I succeed!"

"What do you mean, you strange child?"

"I cannot tell you with my voice: don't you guess?"

"I cannot say. You move me strangely; you remind me of— I quite forget that you are Priscilla Peel."

Priscilla laughed joyously.

"How gay you look to-night, Prissie, and yet I am told you were miserable this morning. Have you forgotten your woes?"

"Completely."

"Why is this?"

"I suppose because I am happy and hopeful."

"Nancy tells me that you were quite in despair to-day. She said that some of those cruel girls insulted you."

"Yes, I was very silly; I got a shock."

"And you have got over it?"

"Yes; I know you don't believe badly of me. You know that I am honest and— and true."

"Yes, my dear," said Maggie with fervor, "I believe in you as I believe in myself. Now, have you quite disrobed? Shall we go into the library for a little?"

The moment they entered this cheerful room, which was bright with two blazing fires and numerous electric lights, Miss Day and Miss Marsh came up eagerly to Maggie.

"Well," they said, "have you made up your mind?"

"About what?" she asked, raising her eyes in a puzzled way.

"You will come with us to the Elliot-Smiths'? You know how anxious Meta is to have you."

"Thank you, but am I anxious to go to Meta?"

"Oh! you are, you must be; you cannot be so cruel as to refuse."

After the emotion she had gone through in the morning, Maggie's heart was in that softened, half-tired state when it could be most easily influenced. She was in no mood for arguing or for defiance of any sort. "Peace at all hazards" was her motto just now. She was also in so reckless a mood as to be indifferent to what any one thought of her. The Elliot-Smiths were not in her "set." She disliked them and their ways, but she had met Meta at a friend's house a week ago. Meta had been introduced to Miss Oliphant and had pressed her invitation vigorously. It would be a triumph of triumphs to Meta Elliot-Smith to introduce the beautiful heiress to her own set. Maggie's refusal was not listened to. She was begged to reconsider the question; implored to be merciful, to be kind; assured of undying gratitude if she would consent to come even for one short hour.

Miss Day and Miss Marsh were commissioned by Meta to secure Maggie at all costs.

"You will come?" said Miss Day; "you must come." Then coming up close to Maggie, she whispered in an eager voice: "Would not you like to find out who has taken your five-pound note? Miss Peel is your friend. Would it not gratify you to clear her?"

"Why should I clear one who can never possibly be suspected?" replied Miss Oliphant in a voice of anger. Her words were spoken aloud and so vehemently that Annie Day drew back a step or two in alarm.

"Well, but you would like to know who really took your money?" she reiterated, again speaking in a whisper.

Maggie was standing by one of the bookcases; she stretched up her hand to take down a volume. As she did so her eyes rested for a moment on Priscilla.

"I would as soon suspect myself as her," she thought, "and yet last night, for a moment, even I was guilty of an unworthy thought of you, Prissie, and if I could doubt, why should I blame others? If going to the Elliot-Smiths' will establish your innocence, I will go."

"Well," said Miss Day, who was watching her face, "I am to see Meta to-morrow morning; am I to tell her to expect you?"

"Yes," replied Maggie, "but I wish to say at once, with regard to that five-pound note, that I am not interested in it. I am so careless about my money matters, that it is quite possible l may have been mistaken when I thought I put it into my purse."

"Oh! oh! but you spoke so confidently this morning."

"One of my impulses. I wish I had not done it."

"Having done it, however," retorted Miss Day, "it is your duty to take any steps which may be necessary to clear the college of so unpleasant and disgraceful a charge."

"You think I can do this by going to the Elliot-Smiths'?"

"Hush! you will spoil all by speaking so loud. Yes, I fully believe we shall make a discovery on Friday night."

"You don't suppose I would go to act the spy?"

"No, no, nothing of the sort; only come— only come!"

Maggie opened her book and glanced at some of its contents before replying.

"Only come," repeated Annie in an imploring voice.

"I said I would come," answered Maggie. "Must I reiterate my assurance? Tell Miss Elliot-Smith to expect me."

Maggie read for a little in the library; then, feeling tired, she rose from her seat and crossed the large room, intending to go up at once to her own chamber. In the hall, however, she was attracted by seeing Miss Heath's door slightly open. Her heart was full of compunction for having, even for a moment, suspected Priscilla of theft. She thought she would go and speak to Miss Heath about her.

She knocked at the vice-principal's door.

"Come in," answered the kind voice, and Maggie found herself a moment later seated by the fire: the door of Miss Heath's room shut, and Miss Heath herself standing over her, using words of commiseration.

"My dear," she said, "you look very ill."

Maggie raised her eyes. Miss Heath had seen many moods on that charming face; now the expression in the wide-open, brown eyes caused her own to fill with sudden tears.

"I would do anything to help you, my love," she said tenderly, and, stooping down, she kissed Maggie on her forehead.

"Perhaps, another time," answered Miss Oliphant.

"You are all that is good, Miss Heath, and I may as well own frankly that I am neither well nor happy, but I have not come to speak of myself just now. I want to say something about Priscilla Peel."

"Yes, what about her?"

"She came to you last night. I know what she came about."

"She told me she had confided in you," answered the vice-principal gravely.

"Yes. Well, I have come to say that she must not be allowed to give up her Greek and Latin."

"Why not?"

"Miss Heath, how can you say, why not'? Prissie is a genius; her inclination lies in that direction. It is in her power to become one of the most brilliant classical scholars of her day."

Miss Heath smiled. "Well, Maggie," she said slowly, "even suppose that is the case— and you must own that, clever as Priscilla is, you make an extreme statement when you say such words— she may do well, very well, and yet turn her attention to other subjects for the present."

"It is cruel!" said Maggie, rising and stamping her foot impatiently. "Priscilla has it in her to shed honor on our college. She will take a first-class when she goes for her tripos, if her present studies are not interfered with."

Miss Heath smiled at Maggie in a pitying sort of way. "I admit," she said, "that first-class honors would be a very graceful crown of bay to encircle that young head; and yet, Maggie, yet— surely Priscilla can do better?"

"What do you mean? How can she possibly do better?"

"She can wear a nobler crown. You know, Maggie, there are crowns to be worn which cannot fade."

"Oh!" Maggie's lips trembled. She looked down.

After a pause, she said, "Priscilla told me something of her home and her family. I suppose she has also confided in you, Miss Heath?"

"Yes, my dear."

"Well, I have come to-night to say that it is in my power to use some of that money which I detest in helping Prissie— in helping her family. I mean to help them; I mean to put them all in such a position that Priscilla shall not need to spend her youth in uncongenial drudgery. I have come to say this to you, Miss Heath, and I beg of you— yes, I beg of you— to induce my dear Prissie to go on with her classical studies. It will now be in your power to assure her that the necessity which made her obliged to give them up no longer exists."

"In short," said Miss Heath, "you will give Miss Peel of your charity and take her independence away?"

"What do you mean?"

"Put yourself in her place, Maggie. Would you take money for yourself and those dear to you from a comparative stranger?"

Maggie's face grew very red. "I think I would oblige my friend, my dear friend," she said.

"Is Prissie really your dear friend?"

"Why do you doubt me? I love her very much. Since— since Annabel died, no one has come so close to me."

"I am glad of that," replied Miss Heath. She went up to Maggie and kissed her.

"You will do what I wish?" asked the girl eagerly.

"No, my dear: that matter lies in your hands alone. It is a case in which it is absolutely impossible for me to interfere. If you can induce Priscilla to accept money from you, I shall not say a word; and, for the sake of our college, I shall, perhaps, be glad, for there is not the least doubt that Prissie has it in her to win distinction for St. Benet's. But, on the other hand, if she comes to me for advice, it will be impossible for me not to say to her: 'My dear, character ranks higher than intellect. You may win the greatest prizes and yet keep a poor and servile soul. You may never get this great earthly distinction, and yet you may be crowned with honor— the honor which comes of uprightness, of independence, of integrity.' Prissie may never consult me, of course, Maggie; but, if she does, I must say words something like these. To tell the truth, my dear, I never admired Priscilla more than I did last night. I encouraged her to give up her classics for the present and to devote herself to modern languages and to those accomplishments which are considered more essentially feminine. As I did so I had a picture before me, in which I saw Priscilla crowned with love, the support and blessing of her three little sisters. The picture was a very bright one, Maggie, and your crown of bay looks quite tawdry beside the other crown which I hope to see on Prissie's brow."

Maggie rose from her chair. "Good night," she said.

"I am sorry to disappoint you, my love."

"I have no doubt you are right," said Maggie, "but," she added, "I have not made up my mind, and I still long for Priscilla to wear the crown of bay."

"You will win that crown yourself, my dear."

"Oh, no, it is not for me."

"I am very anxious about you, Maggie. Why do you speak in that reckless tone? Your position and Prissie's are not the least alike: it is your duty to do your very utmost with those talents which have been bestowed upon you."

"Perhaps," answered Maggie, shrugging her shoulders, "but I am tired of stretching out my hand like a baby to catch soap-bubbles. I cannot speak of myself at all to-night, Miss Heath. Thank you for what you have said, and again good night."

Maggie had scarcely left the room before Priscilla appeared.

"Are you too tired to see me to-night, Miss Heath?"

"No, my love; come in and sit down. I was sorry to miss you this morning."

"But I am glad as it turned out," replied Priscilla.

"You were in great trouble, Prissie. The servant told me how terribly upset you were."

"I was. I felt nearly mad."

"But you look very happy now."

"I am; my trouble has all vanished away. It was a great bogie. As soon as I came boldly up to it, it vanished into smoke."

"Am I to hear the name of the bogie?"

"I think I would rather not tell you— at least not now. If Maggie thinks it right, she will speak to you about it; but, as far as I am concerned, it cannot touch me again."

"Why have you come to see me then to-night, Priscilla?"

"I want to speak about Maggie."

"What about her? She has just been here to speak of you."

"Has she?"

"It is possible that she may make you a proposition which will affect your whole future, but I am not at liberty to say any more. Have you a proposition to make about her?"

"I have, and it will affect all Maggie's life. It will make her so good— so very, very happy. Oh, Miss Heath! you ought to do it: you ought to make her marry Mr. Hammond at once."

"My dear Priscilla!" Miss Heath's face turned crimson. "Are you alluding to Geoffrey Hammond? I know great friends of his; he is one of the cleverest men at St. Hilda's."

"Yes, and one of the best," pursued Prissie, clasping her hands and speaking in that excited way which she always did when quite carried out of herself. "You don't know how good he is, Miss Heath. I think he is one of the best of men. I would do anything in the world for him— anything."

"Where have you met him, Priscilla?"

"At the Marshalls', and once at the Elliot-Smiths', and to-day, when I was so miserable, when the bogie ran after me, you know, at St. Hilda's, just outside the chapel. Mr. Hammond asked me to come to the service, and I went, and afterward he chased the bogie away. Oh, he is good, he is kind and he loves Maggie with all his heart. He has loved her for a long time, I am sure, but she is never nice to him."

"Then, of course," said Miss Heath, "if Miss Oliphant does not care for Mr. Hammond, there is an end of the matter. You are a very innocent and very young girl, Priscilla; but this is a subject in which you have no right to interfere. Far from me to say that I disapprove of marriage for our students, but, while at St. Benet's, it is certainly best for them to give their attention to other matters."

"For most of us," replied Prissie, "but not for Maggie. No one in the college thinks Maggie happy."

"That is true," replied Miss Heath thoughtfully.

"And every one knows," pursued Prissie, "that Mr. Hammond loves her."

"Do they? I was not aware that such reports had got abroad."

"Oh, yes: all Maggie's friends know that, but they are so dreadfully stupid they cannot guess the other thing."

"What other thing?"

"That dear Maggie is breaking her heart on account of Mr. Hammond."

"Then you think she loves him?"

"I do— I know it. Oh, won't you do something to get them to marry each other?"

"My dear child, these are subjects in which neither you nor I can interefere."

"Oh!" Prissie's eyes filled with sudden tears. "If you won't do anything, I must."

"I don't see what you can do, Priscilla; I don't know what you have a right to do. We do not care that our students should think of love and courtship while here, but we have never limited their freedom in the matter. If Miss Oliphant cares for Mr. Hammond, and he cares for her, they know perfectly that they can become engaged. Miss Oliphant will be leaving St. Benet's at the end of the summer term. She is completely, in every sense of the word, her own mistress."

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