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Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College
by Jessie Graham Flower
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"This is a wonder!" she exclaimed at sight of Grace. "It is worth having. Neither Miriam nor I can put it together."

"I have a harder one for you to tackle," smiled Grace. Then she recounted her conversation with Mabel Ashe.

"You have altogether too much faith in my powers of persuasion," grumbled Elfreda, secretly pleased, nevertheless.

"But that is much better than if we had no faith at all," reminded Grace.



CHAPTER VIII

THE INVITATION

The next morning Grace made a startling discovery. It was directly after breakfast that she made it. Having fifteen minutes to spare before going to her first recitation, she decided to reread her theme. What one wrote always read differently after one had slept over it. What seemed clever at night might be very commonplace when read in the cold light of the morning. Grace reached for the book in which she had placed her theme. It was not there. Going down on her knees, she looked first under the table, then under the chiffonier, then turned over the books on the table, then, darting to the closet, searched the pockets of her long coat.

"Where can it be?" she cried despairingly. "I am sure I had it when I came into the hall last night. I couldn't have lost it on my way across the campus. I'll run down and ask Anne. Perhaps she picked it up and put it away for me."

Grace hurried downstairs as fast as her feet would carry her. To her low inquiry in Anne's ear she received a disappointing answer. Anne, who was just finishing her breakfast, replied that she had not even seen the theme. She rose at once to accompany Grace upstairs. The two girls searched in every nook and corner of the room. "I wanted to hand it in this morning," lamented Grace. "Now I'll have to write it all over again. I don't believe I can remember much of it, either. I'll have to explain to Miss Duncan, too, and ask her to give me until to-morrow to write it."

"Perhaps it will be found yet," comforted Anne.

"No danger of it, unless I lost it in the street. Then there's only one chance in a thousand of its turning up," declared Grace gloomily. "I don't see how I happened to be so careless."

"When must it be handed in?" questioned Anne.

"This morning," answered Grace dolefully. "I'll have to rewrite it to-night and from memory, too."

"Why don't you choose another subject?" was Anne's advice.

"No." Grace shook her head positively. "I can do better with the old one. I'm not going to bother about asking if any one has found it. My name was on it. If I made a fuss over it some one might say it was only an excuse, that I hadn't really lost it, but just wished to gain time. I hope Miss Duncan won't think that."

"No one in this house would say so," contradicted Anne loyally.

"But suppose Alberta Wicks or Mary Hampton heard of it? They might circulate that rumor. I hate to seem so suspicious, but an ounce of prevention, you know. I will write it over and say nothing further about it." Having made up her mind on the subject Grace promptly dismissed it from her thoughts.

Miss Duncan did look rather suspiciously at Grace as she related her misfortune. Grace's gray eyes met hers so fairly and truthfully, however, that she was forced to believe the young woman's statement. She gave the desired respite rather ungraciously and Grace took her place in class, relieved to think she had got off so easily. That night she rewrote the theme. It did not give her as much trouble as she had anticipated. She laid down her fountain pen with alacrity when it was finished and carefully blotted the last sheet. "Now I can begin to think about the reception," she announced. "What are you going to wear, Anne?"

"My new pink gown," said Anne promptly. "As long as I was extravagant enough to indulge in a new evening dress I might as well wear it. The sophomore reception is really the most important affair of the year, to us, at least."

"I'm delighted to have an opportunity to show off my pale blue chiffon frock," laughed Grace. "I've been in ecstasies over it ever since it was made. Have you seen that white gown of Elfreda's? It's perfectly stunning. I stopped in her room for a minute last night. She was trying it on. It's the prettiest gown she's had since she came here. Ask her to show it to you."

"I'm going over there now," said Anne. "I'll be back in a minute." It was precisely four minutes later when Anne poked her head in Grace's door. "Come on into Miriam's room, Grace," she called. "She has just made chocolate. She has some lovely little cakes and sandwiches, too. And Elfreda has something to tell us."

Grace rose from her chair, lay down the notebook she had been running through, and hastily followed Anne.

"Have a cushion," laughed Miriam hospitably, throwing a fat sofa pillow at Grace, who caught it dextrously, patted it into shape and, placing it on the floor, sat down on it Turk fashion. Elfreda poured another cup of chocolate, then seated herself on the floor beside Grace. "Pass Grace the sandwiches, Anne," she ordered. "We made these ourselves. We bought the stuff at that new delicatessen place on High Street."

"They are delicious," commented Grace, between bites. "I'm hungry to-night. I didn't like the dinner very well."

"Neither did we," responded Miriam. "After dinner we went out for a walk to see what we could find, and we brought back what you see spread before you."

"I shall pay a visit to the delicatessen shop," announced Grace. "To-morrow night you must come to my room for a spread."

"I'll come to your room with pleasure," retorted Elfreda, "but not to eat. One spread a week is my limit. Now for my news. The Anarchist has accepted my invitation to the reception."

"Really!" exclaimed Grace. "Do tell us about it, Elfreda."

"I delivered my invitation after dinner to-night," began Elfreda. "I waited and waited, thinking some one else might invite her. I am not yearning for the honor, you know. I went to her door and knocked. Her roommate, Miss Taylor, opened it. The Anarchist sat over in one corner of the room, studying like mad. By the way, I understand she is a dig and stands high in her classes."

"Is she?" asked Anne, opening her eyes. "Then that is one thing she has in her favor. Perhaps we shall discover other good qualities in her that we've overlooked."

"Perhaps," echoed Miriam dryly.

"Mustn't interrupt me," drawled Elfreda. "I may become peevish and refuse to talk."

"All right," smiled Grace. "We accept the warning. Continue, my dear Miss Briggs."

Elfreda grinned cheerfully. "I inquired with deferential politeness if Miss Atkins were busy. Then the Anarchist looked up from her book, glared like a lion, straightened her eyebrows and said in that awful voice she owns, 'Did you wish to speak to me?'"

Elfreda unconsciously imitated the belligerent freshman. Her audience giggled appreciatively.

"I replied in my most impressive English that I did wish to do that very thing," continued Elfreda. "Then I inquired tactfully if I was too late with my invitation to the sophomore dance. Without giving her time to answer I put in my application for the position of escort. Then"—Elfreda paused, a slight flush rose to her round face, "then she looked me in the eye and told me a deliberate untruth. She said she had refused one invitation because she had not been interested in the reception, but that she had changed her mind. She thanked me and said she would be pleased to go. I bowed myself out without further ado, but Miss Taylor gave me the queerest look as I went. Her face was as red as fire. It was she who told me that the Anarchist had not been invited. She was afraid I might think she hadn't told the truth, but I knew better. Now, don't ever tell any one what I have said."

"I'm sorry she didn't tell the truth," said Grace disapprovingly. "Why couldn't she say that she had not been invited?"

"False pride," commented Miriam. "She evidently isn't so indifferent to the opinion of others as she would have us believe."

"She is a strange girl," mused Anne. "Perhaps she is not altogether to blame for her odd ways."

"'Odd' is a good name for them," jeered Elfreda. "I wouldn't call it 'odd,' I'd use a stronger word than that. It's contemptible. I'm sorry I asked her to go to the reception."

"Then recall your invitation and tell her your reason for doing so," advised Miriam Nesbit bluntly. "Don't take her to the reception in that spirit. You will make yourself and her equally unhappy."

"Hear the sage lay down the law," retorted Elfreda impudently. "She's right, though, only I won't withdraw my invitation at this late date. I'll try to give the Anarchist the most exciting time of her young life, but if she balks please don't blame me. You can lead an Anarchist to a reception, you know, but you can't make her dance unless she happens to feel like dancing. Still, I am going to do my best, and no sophomore can do more."

"That sounds like the Elfreda Briggs I heard talking last night," said Grace, smiling her approval of the stout girl's words.

"So it does," agreed Elfreda. "Hereafter I'll try to be more consistent. As for the Anarchist, she shall reap the benefit of my vow. I hope she knows how to dance. If she doesn't I shall have to constitute myself a committee of one to furnish amusement for her. If on the fatal night you see me, my arm firmly linked in that of her majesty, parading solemnly about the gymnasium with a fixed smile, and an air of gayety that I am a long way from feeling, don't you dare to laugh at me."

"We won't laugh at you, then, even though we can't help laughing at you now," said Grace. "We shall be only too glad to do anything we can to help you entertain her."

"I know that. Maybe you can help and maybe you can't. But if she doesn't enjoy herself it won't be my fault."



CHAPTER IX

ANTICIPATIONS

The day of the sophomore reception was a busy one for the members of the sophomore class. To them, it was the event of the year, and the desire to make this dance outshine all its predecessors was paramount in almost every sophomore breast. Of course, there were the digs, who never thought of festivities, but spent all their time in study. No one counted on their help. The greater part of the class, however, was properly enthusiastic over the music, decorations, gowns and dance cards. Grace and Miriam, who were on the decorating committee, had spent the greater part of their day in the gymnasium. Under the skilful direction of the committee the big room blossomed out in strange and gorgeous array. There were the masses of evergreen so convenient for hiding unsightly gymnasium apparatus, which made the gymnasium a veritable forest green. Strings of Japanese lanterns added to the effect, while the freshmen and sophomore colors impartially wound the gallery railing and were draped and festooned wherever there was the slightest chance for display.

The sophomores had put forth their best efforts in behalf of their freshman sisters. When it came to sofa cushions and draperies they had surrendered their most highly treasured possessions for the good of the cause.

"I think we may congratulate ourselves," commented Gertrude Wells as she stood beside Miriam Nesbit, surveying their almost completed task. "Look at my hands! I have scratched and bruised them handling those evergreens. My dress is a sight, too," she added, pointing first to the green stains that decorated her white linen gown, then significantly to a three-cornered tear near the bottom of the skirt. "I don't care. It will be out of style by next summer, at any rate."

"I'm not much better off," declared Miriam. "You can't be a working woman and keep up a bandbox appearance, you know."

"I should say not," laughed Arline Thayer, who had come up in time to hear Miriam's last remark.

"Does any one know the time?" asked Grace, standing back a little to view the effect of the bunting she had been winding about a post. "I can't see the gym. clock from here. It is so swathed in green boughs and decorations that its poor round face is almost hidden, and I'm really too tired to go close enough to find out."

"It's five minutes past four o'clock," informed Gertrude, glancing at the tiny watch pinned to her waist.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Arline Thayer, "I can't stay here another minute. I have a hundred things to do before to-night."

"Where's Ruth?" asked Grace. "I haven't seen either of you lately except at an aggravating distance."

Arline's baby face hardened. "I haven't seen Ruth for over two weeks," she said stiffly.

"You haven't!" exclaimed Grace, who, stooping to tie her shoe, had not noticed Arline's changed expression. As she straightened up her surprised gray eyes met Arline's defiant blue ones. Like a flash she remembered. "Then you don't know who she has invited to the reception?"

"No," responded Arline shortly. "I don't know anything about it."

Grace was about to say something further when, overtaken by sudden thought, she turned her face away to hide the smile that hovered about her lips. Meanwhile, Gertrude Wells had engaged Arline in conversation, and Ruth's name was not mentioned again.

"This is positively my last appearance this afternoon as a decorator," declared Emma Dean. "I'm going home to beautify myself for the great moment when I shall stand in line with my sophomore sisters to greet the infant freshmen."

"I'm going home, too, but without bursting into language," drawled J. Elfreda Briggs. "I pounded my thumb with a hammer, scratched my nose on an obstinate hemlock bough, and lost a bran span new pair of scissors. I think it is high time to leave this place. I'm not on the reception committee, 'tis true, but I have weighty matters to consider and am on the verge of a perilous undertaking." She uttered the last words in an all too familiar undertone, shooting a mischievous glance at her friends which caused Grace, Anne and Miriam to laugh outright.

"What are you girls laughing at?" demanded Gertrude Wells.

"Elfreda is so funny," explained Grace enigmatically. Then, fearing to offend Gertrude, she said hastily, "What she said was extremely laughable to us, because she was imitating some one we know."

The knot of girls separated soon after, going their separate ways. Anne, Grace, Miriam, Elfreda and Emma Dean turned their faces toward Wayne Hall.

"I wonder if Ruth is going?" remarked Grace, who walked behind Anne. "I thought we'd see her this afternoon."

"I noticed how sharply Arline answered you," said Anne significantly.

"Poor Ruth, I haven't a minute to spare or I'd run down there. We must go to-morrow afternoon, Anne. We'll take Ruth to Vinton's for dinner and, oh, Anne! let's invite Arline and make them be friends!"

"Splendid!" admired Anne. "I'll take charge of Ruth and you can look out for Arline."

"If you don't hurry, you'll be ready for the reception some time to-morrow," called Elfreda derisively. The two quickened their steps. The three girls ahead looked back, then mischievously began running toward Wayne Hall.

"We can catch them, Anne," exulted Grace.

"You mean you can," laughed Anne. "Run ahead and surprise them."

Grace was off like the wind. Although the three girls ran well they were no match for the lithe, slender young woman who ran like a hunted deer. She soon passed her friends and running on to the hall sat down on the steps with no apparent traces of exhaustion to wait for them.

"Let me see, what track team did you say you belonged to?" quizzed Elfreda, with open admiration. "If I could run like that I'd be happy. Where did you learn to run?"

"Back in Oakdale, where I was the prize tomboy of the school," laughed Grace. "Have you seen to your flowers for your freshman? I ordered pink roses for Miss Evans. Anne chose violets for Miss Taylor, didn't you, Anne?"

"I ordered violets for Miss Wilton, too," said Miriam.

"I tried to get snap dragons," giggled Elfreda, "but it's rather late in the season for them. Instead, the Anarchist will flourish a nosegay of blood-red roses. I can't imagine her parading around the gym. bedecked with violets."

"Elfreda, you are anything but a chivalrous escort," commented Anne.

"I am at least sincere," returned Elfreda, with an affected simper. "I hope those flowers haven't loitered along the way. I must call on my fair lady and see if she has received hers. I'm beginning to feel excited. I'm going to eat my dinner post haste. I want to get dressed and practice my bow before the mirror ere I enter the sacred precincts of her majesty's boudoir. Then I shall sweep into her domicile, arrayed in all my glory. She will be so overcome at sight of me and my splendor that she will follow me down to the carriage like a lamb. I ask you, ladies, after seeing me in that new white silk gown of mine, what Anarchist could resist me?"

"Of whom did Elfreda remind you just then, Grace?" asked Miriam.

"Hippy," laughed Grace. "She looked exactly like him."

"Never saw him," stated Elfreda laconically.

"But you gave a fine imitation of him just the same!" exclaimed Grace.



CHAPTER X

AN OFFENDED FRESHMAN

At dinner that night excitement reigned. Every girl in the house was going to the reception. To dispose of one's dinner and hurry to one's room to begin the all important task of dressing was the order of procedure, and Mrs. Elwood's flock rose from the table almost in a body and made a concerted rush for the stairs.

"She got them," Elfreda informed the others as they stopped for a moment in the hall. "I went to the door to ask her. She even thanked me for them."

"Wonderful," smiled Miriam. "Come on now. Remember, time flies and that your new white frock is a dream."

An hour later Elfreda stood before the mirror viewing herself with great satisfaction. "It certainly is some class," she declared. "There I go again. I haven't used slang for a week. But circumstances alter cases, you know. Just pretend you didn't hear it, will you? I think I'll wear my violets at my girdle. I don't look very stout in this rig, do I? You look like a princess, Miriam. You're a regular howling beauty in that corn-colored frock. Where are my gloves and my cloak? Oh, here they are, just where I put them. Now, I must go for her highness. Br—r—" Elfreda shivered, giggled, then gathering up her cloak and gloves switched out the door.

Miriam smiled to herself as she went about gathering up her own effects, then fastening the cluster of yellow rosebuds to the waist of her gown she hurried out into the hall in time to encounter Grace and Anne.

"We are fortunate in that our ladies live under the same roof with us," laughed Anne.

"It certainly saves carriage hire," returned Grace. "Here comes Elfreda and Miss Atkins. What on earth is she wearing?"

"I think I'll go for my freshman," said Miriam, her voice quivering suspiciously.

By the time Elfreda and the Anarchist had reached the head of the stairs, the three girls had fled precipitately, unable to control their mirth. Elfreda's face was set in a solemn expression that defied laughter. As for the Anarchist herself, she might easily have posed as a statue of vengeance. Her eyebrows were drawn into a ferocious scowl. She walked down the stairs with the air of an Indian chief about to tomahawk a victim. Her white silk gown, which was well cut and in keeping with the occasion, contrasted oddly with her threatening demeanor, which was enhanced by a feather hair ornament that stood up belligerently at one side of her head.

"If she wouldn't wear that feather thing she'd be all right," muttered Grace in Anne's ear. "She looks like Hiawatha. She has made up her mind to be nice with Elfreda. She's wearing her flowers. I wonder if I'd better ask her to dance to-night. Shall you ask her, Anne?"

"I think so," reflected Anne. "I can't lead very well, but perhaps she can."

"I don't believe I'll ask her," said Grace slowly. "Humiliating one's self needlessly is just as bad as having too much pride."

"Hurry," called Miriam, who was already on the stairs. "The carriages are here."

It was a ridiculously short drive to the gymnasium, but, a fine rain having set in, carriages for one's freshmen guests were a matter of necessity. Elfreda and her charge occupied seats in the same carriage with Anne and Mildred Taylor, who, in a gown of pink chiffon over pink silk, looked, according to Elfreda, "too sweet to live."

"How are you getting along with Miss Atkins?" asked Grace an hour later, running up and waylaying Elfreda, who was slowly making her way across the gymnasium toward the corner of the room where the big punch bowl of lemonade stood.

"Don't ask me!" returned Elfreda savagely. "I managed to fill her dance card and supposed everything was lovely. She dances fairly well. If she'd only keep quiet, smile and dance calmly along. But, no, she must talk!" Elfreda's round face settled into lines of disgust. "She says such outrageously personal things to her partners. I know of three different girls she has offended so far. What will become of her before the evening is over?" she inquired gloomily. "She told me I was too stout to dance well, but I didn't mind that. Stout or not, she will be lucky to have even me to dance with at the rate she's going. Let's drown our mortification in lemonade."

"Poor Elfreda," sympathized Grace. "I wish I could help you, but, honestly, I feel as though it would be hardly fair to myself to make further advances in that direction."

"Don't do it," advised Elfreda, quickly, handing Grace a cup of fruit lemonade. "I'll manage to steer her through this dance. But next time some one else may do the inviting. The two classes make a good showing, don't they?"

"Beautiful," commented Grace. "The gymnasium looks prettier than it did last year. That sounds conceited, doesn't it?"

"It's true, though," averred Elfreda stoutly. "Doesn't Miriam look stunning to-night? I think she is the handsomest dark girl I ever saw, don't you?"

"With one exception," smiled Grace.

"Show me the exception, then," challenged Elfreda.

"I will some fine day," promised Grace. "She's in Italy now."

"You mean the girl you speak of as Eleanor?" asked Elfreda curiously.

Grace nodded. "She is one of my dearest friends and belongs to our sorority at home. At one time she was my bitterest enemy," she continued reminiscently. "She was so self-willed and domineering that none of us could endure her. She entered the junior class in high school when Miriam, Anne and I did. For a year and a half she made life miserable for all of us, then something happened and she turned out gloriously. I'll tell you all about it some other time."

"Was she worse than the Anarchist?" asked Elfreda sceptically.

"There is no comparison," replied Grace promptly. "Still, the Anarchist may have possibilities of which we know nothing."

"I wish she would give a demonstration of them to-night then," muttered Elfreda. "I suppose I'll have to get busy and look her up. It is dangerous to leave her to her own devices. She may have offended half the company by this time." Elfreda strolled off in search of her troublesome charge. Grace crossed the gymnasium, her keen eyes darting from the floor, where groups of daintily gowned girls stood exchanging gay badinage, and resting after the last waltz, to the chairs and divans placed at intervals against the walls that were for the most part unoccupied.

Everyone seemed to be dancing. Grace remembered with a start that she had seen nothing of Ruth Denton. She had waved to Arline across the room on entering the gymnasium, and had not caught a glimpse of her since. "I must find Ruth," she reflected, "and tell her about to-morrow. Perhaps Anne has told her. She promised she would." Espying Mildred Taylor, Grace remembered with sudden contrition that she had not asked the little freshman to dance. "I suppose she hasn't a single dance left," murmured Grace regretfully. "At any rate, I'll ask her now." Approaching Mildred she said in her frank, straightforward fashion, "I'm so sorry I overlooked you, Miss Taylor. I intended asking you to dance first of all."

The "cute" little freshman turned her head away from Grace's apologetic gray eyes. "It doesn't matter," she answered in a queer, strained voice. "My card was full long ago."

"I hope you are not hurt or offended at my seeming neglect," insisted Grace anxiously.

"Not in the least," was the almost curt rejoinder. "I do not think I shall stay much longer. I have a headache."

"I'm so sorry," said Grace sympathetically. "Can I do anything for you?"

Mildred Taylor did not answer. Her lip quivered and her eyes filled with tears. She brushed them angrily away, saying with a petulance entirely foreign to her, "Please don't trouble yourself about me."

"Very well," replied Grace, in proud surprise. "Shall I tell Miss Pierson that you are ill?"

"No," muttered Mildred.

Grace walked away, puzzled and self-accusing. "I hurt her feelings by not asking her to dance," was the thought that sprang instantly to her mind. Then she suddenly recollected that she had not yet found Ruth. A little later she discovered her in earnest conversation with Gertrude Wells at the extreme end of the room.

"Dance this with me, Ruth," called Grace, as she neared her friend. Ruth glanced at her card. "I have this one free," she said. A moment later they were gliding over the smooth floor to the inspiriting strains of a popular two step. Long before the end of the dance they stopped to rest and talk. "I suppose we ought to devote ourselves strictly to the freshmen," said Grace. "They all appear to be dancing, though. Where have you been keeping yourself, Ruth?"

"I've been busy," replied Ruth evasively.

"Will you be too busy to have dinner with us at Vinton's to-morrow night?" persisted Grace.

"No-o-o," said Ruth slowly. "At what time?"

"Half-past six," returned Grace. "We'll meet you there. I must leave you now to look after Miss Evans. I brought her here to-night."

It was late when the notes of the last waltz sounded, and still later when the gay participants left the gymnasium in twos, threes and little crowds trooping down the broad stone steps to where they were to take their carriages. The rain was now falling heavily, and to walk even across the campus was out of the question. Every public automobile and carriage in Overton had been pressed into service, and many who had braved the fine rain early in the evening and walked were obliged to negotiate with the drivers for a return of their vehicles. The carriages to Wayne Hall carried six girls instead of four, and the merry conversation that was kept up during the short drive showed plainly that the evening had been a success. Even the Anarchist indulged in an occasional stiff remark with a view toward being gracious. When Elfreda humorously bowed her to her door and wished her an elaborate good night, an actual gleam of fun appeared in her stormy eyes, and forgetting her dignity she replied almost cordially that she had enjoyed her evening.

"I am surprised to think she did after the way she made remarks about people," commented Elfreda to Miriam, who was busily engaged in unhooking the stout girl's gown and listening in amusement to Elfreda's recital. "She has as much tact as a guinea hen. You know how tactful they are?"

In the meantime Anne and Grace were discussing the night's festivity in their own room. Grace had slipped into a kimono and stood brushing her long hair before the mirror. Suddenly she paused, her brush suspended in the air. "Anne," she said so abruptly that Anne looked at her in surprise, "did you notice anything peculiar about Miss Taylor? You were her escort, you know."

"No," responded Anne, knitting her brows in an effort to remember. "I can't say that I noticed anything."

"Then I am right," decided Grace. "She is angry with me because in some way I missed asking her to dance."

"She said nothing to me," was Anne's quick reply.

"She is offended, I know she is," said Grace. "I'm sorry, of course. I didn't pass her by intentionally. I didn't know she was so sensitive. I think I'll ask her to go to Vinton's for luncheon on Saturday."

But when Grace delivered her invitation at the breakfast table the next morning it was curtly refused. Mildred Taylor's attitude, if anything, was a shade more hostile than it had been the night before. From her manner, it was evident that the little freshman, whom Grace had hastened to befriend on that first doleful morning when she found her roomless and in tears on the big oak seat in the hall, had quite forgotten all she owed to the girl she now appeared to be trying to avoid.

Finding her efforts at friendliness repulsed, Grace proudly resolved to make no more overtures toward the sulking freshman. She had done everything in her power to make amends for what had been an unintentional oversight on her part, and her self respect demanded that she should allow the matter to drop. She decided that if, later on, Mildred showed a disposition to be friendly, she would meet her half way, but, until that time came, she would take no notice of her or seek further to ascertain the cause of her grievance.



CHAPTER XI

THE FINGER OF SUSPICION

That very morning as Grace was about to leave Miss Duncan's class room she heard her name called in severe tones. Turning quickly, she met the teacher's blue eyes fixed suspiciously upon her.

"Did you wish to speak to me, Miss Duncan?" Grace asked.

"Yes," answered Miss Duncan shortly. She continued to look steadily at Grace without speaking.

Grace waited courteously for the teacher's next words. She wondered a little why Miss Duncan had detained her.

"Miss Harlowe," began the teacher impressively, "I have always entertained a high opinion of you as an honor girl. Your record during your freshman year seemed to indicate plainly that you had a very clear conception of what constitutes an Overton girl's standard of honor. Within the past week, however, something has happened that forces me to admit that I am deeply disappointed in you." Miss Duncan paused.

Grace's expressive face paled a trifle. A look of wonder mingled with hurt pride leaped into her gray eyes. "I don't understand you, Miss Duncan," she said quietly. "What have I done to disappoint you?"

Miss Duncan picked up a number of closely written sheets of folded paper and handed them to Grace, who unfolded them, staring almost stupidly at the sheet that lay on top. A wave of crimson flooded her recently pale cheeks. "Why—what—where did you get this?" she stammered. "It is my theme."



"You mean it is the original from which you copied yours," put in Miss Duncan dryly. "Is that your hand-writing?"

"No," replied Grace, in a puzzled tone.

"Is this your writing?" questioned Miss Duncan, suddenly producing another theme from the drawer of her desk.

"Yes," was Grace's prompt answer. "I handed it in to you instead of putting it in the collection box. You remember I told you I had lost the first one I wrote and asked for more time."

"I remember perfectly," was the significant answer. "Is this theme," pointing to the one Grace still held, "the one you say you lost?"

"The one I say I lost," repeated Grace, a glint of resentment darkening her eyes. "What do you mean, Miss Duncan?"

Her bold question caused the instructor's lips to tighten. "You have not answered my question, Miss Harlowe," she said icily.

"No, this is not my theme," answered Grace; "that is, it is not in my hand-writing. I do not recognize the writing." Grace ceased speaking and stared at the theme in sudden consternation. "Some one found my theme and copied it." Her voice sank almost to a whisper. A flush of shame for the unknown culprit dyed her cheeks anew.

"It would be better, perhaps," interrupted the teacher sarcastically, "if you admitted the truth of the affair at once, Miss Harlowe."

"There is nothing to admit," responded Grace steadily, "except that I lost my theme on the evening I wrote it. When I found it was gone I came to you at once and asked for another day's time. That same night I rewrote it as well as I could from memory and handed it to you the following day."

An ominous silence ensued. Then Miss Duncan said stiffly: "Miss Harlowe, the young woman who wrote the theme you have in your hand dropped it into the collection box of another section during the very evening you would have me believe you were writing it. It was brought to me early the next morning."

"How do you know that it was dropped into the box the evening before?" flung back Grace, forgetting for an instant to whom she was speaking.

"Your question is hardly respectful, Miss Harlowe," returned Miss Duncan, coldly reproving. "I will answer it, however, by saying that I sent for the young woman and questioned her regarding the time she placed her theme in the box, without letting her know my motive in doing so. Her frank answer completely assured me that she was speaking the truth. At the same time she explained that she had been late with her theme on account of mislaying it. She had written it two days before and placed it in her desk. Then it had mysteriously vanished and suddenly reappeared in the same pigeonhole in her desk in which she had placed it. She assured me that directly she found it she took it to the box. Your theme is so suspiciously similar to hers that it is hardly possible to believe it to be merely a coincidence. In the face of the circumstances it looks as though you were the real offender."

Grace regarded Miss Duncan with mute reproach. She could not at once trust herself to speak.

"Have you anything to say to me, Miss Harlowe?" was the stern question.

"Only, that what I have previously said to you is the truth," answered Grace, fighting down her desire to cry. Then, seized with a sudden idea, she said in a tone of subdued excitement, "Will you allow me to look at that theme again, Miss Duncan?"

Miss Duncan picked up the theme from the desk where Grace had laid it and handed it to her. A strip of paper had been pasted over the name in the upper left hand corner. Grace scanned each closely written page attentively. "This is my theme," she declared finally, "and I have thought of a way to prove that I wrote it. I did not steal it from another girl. I would not be so contemptible."

"I shall be very glad to have conclusive proof that you did not," commented Miss Duncan rather sarcastically. "Appearances are not in your favor, Miss Harlowe."

"I am sorry that you doubt my word, Miss Duncan," said Grace with gentle dignity, "because I am going to prove to you how utterly wrong you have been in suspecting me of such contemptible conduct. I wrote this theme in the room of a member of the senior class. She read it after I had written it. I feel sure that she can identify this as mine because when I rewrote it I could not remember a word of the original ending which she had particularly commended. I did the best I could with it, but it wasn't in the least like the other," Grace ended earnestly.

"Will you tell me the name of the young woman in whose room you wrote your theme?" asked Miss Duncan, her stern face relaxing a little.

"It was Miss Ashe," returned Grace frankly.

Miss Duncan raised her eyebrows in surprise. "I should say you had strong evidence in your favor, Miss Harlowe."

"Will you ask Miss Ashe to come to your room after your last class to-day, Miss Duncan?" she asked eagerly. "I should like to show her the theme without explaining anything to her at first. I give you my word of honor I will say nothing about it to her in the meantime." Then, realizing that her word of honor was at present being seriously questioned, Grace blushed painfully.

Miss Duncan, understanding the blush, said less severely, "Very well, Miss Harlowe." She scrutinized Grace's fine, sensitive face for a moment, then added, "You may come at the same time if you wish."

Grace brightened, then shook her head positively. "Please let me come to see you to-morrow morning instead." She wished to give Miss Duncan perfect freedom to ask Mabel any questions she might find necessary to ask.

"To-morrow morning, then," acquiesced Miss Duncan graciously.

Grace turned to leave the room. At the door she hesitated, then walking back to the desk she said almost imploringly: "Please don't punish the other girl now, Miss Duncan. I do not know who she is, but I am sure she must have found my theme and copied it on the spur of the moment. I can't believe that she did it deliberately. If she did, then being found out by you will be lesson enough for her."

"I have not as yet exonerated you from this charge, Miss Harlowe," declared Miss Duncan stiffly, her brief graciousness vanishing like magic. "If the other girl is to blame, then she must suffer for her fault. Until I have seen Miss Ashe I shall say nothing. After that I can not promise."

Grace bowed and left the class room, her feeling toward the unknown plagiarist entirely one of pity. She had vindicated herself at the expense of exposing some one else without intent to do more than assert her own innocence, and she now wondered sadly if there were not some way in which she might persuade Miss Duncan to change her mind.

On her way from Miss Duncan's class room that morning Grace found herself walking directly behind Emma Dean. She was sauntering across the campus, her near-sighted eyes fixed on a small, hurrying figure just ahead of her.

"Hello, Grace," was Emma's affable salutation as she turned at the touch of Grace's hand on her shoulder. "I was watching Miss Taylor. What a disappointment that girl is. The first week or two after her arrival at Wayne Hall I thought her delightful, but she has turned out to be anything but agreeable. She barely nodded to me this morning. I believe she is developing snobbish tendencies, which is a great mistake. Deliver me from snobs! We have very few of them at Overton, thank goodness."

But Grace could not help thinking that somewhere in the college community lived a girl who possessed a fault far greater than that of being a snob.



CHAPTER XII

THE SUMMONS

The prospective dinner at Vinton's at which Ruth Denton and Arline Thayer were to be guests of honor drove the unpleasant incident of the morning from Grace's mind for the time being. She had determined to keep her interview with Miss Duncan a secret from her friends. If it had involved only herself, she might possibly have told Anne of it, but since it concerned some one else, Grace's fine sense of honor forbade her making even Anne her confidant in the matter. She could not help speculating a little concerning the identity of the other girl. She had not the remotest idea as to who she might be. Whoever she was, she could not have realized what a dishonorable thing she had done, was Grace's charitable reflection. She wondered what Mabel would think when Miss Duncan asked her to identify the theme as the one Grace had written during that evening in Holland House.

"I'm going to stop thinking of it for the rest of the day," declared Grace half aloud, as she dressed for dinner late that afternoon. She started guiltily, glancing quickly to where Anne sat mending a tiny tear in her white silk blouse. Anne, who was fully occupied with her mending, made no comment. She was so used to Grace's habit of thinking aloud that she had no idle curiosity regarding her friend's thoughts. Whatever Grace wished her to know she would hear in due season.

"Miriam and Elfreda are not going with us, you know," said Grace as they were about to leave their room.

"I didn't know it," commented Anne. "Why did they change their minds?"

"Miriam thinks you and I can do more toward restoring peace without her and Elfreda. She suspects that Ruth will satisfy Arline's curiosity and at the same time appease her wrath by telling what she refused to tell that other night, provided there are not too many listeners."

"What a wise girl Miriam is!" exclaimed Anne admiringly. "I never thought of that."

"Nor I," admitted Grace, "until she mentioned it. Then I saw the wisdom of it."

"Where are we to meet Ruth and Arline?" asked Anne. "Suppose both of them arrive at Vinton's before we do?"

"I thought of that, too," chuckled Grace, "so Arline is to come here, and Ruth is to wait for us at Vinton's. They can't possibly meet until we are there to manage matters. Arline ought to be here by this time. Shall we go downstairs and wait for her?"

"There's the door bell now," said Anne. "That must be Arline."

Her supposition proved correct. Just as they reached the foot of the stairs the maid admitted the fluffy-haired little girl.

"Hello!" she called merrily. "I'm strictly on time, you see."

"So are we," smiled Anne. "Shall we start at once?"

"Yes, indeed," emphasized Arline. "I'm starved. I wasn't prepared in Greek to-day, and rushed through my luncheon in order to snatch a few minutes' study before class. I had my trouble for my pains, too. The bell rang before it was my turn to recite. Wasn't that fortunate?"

"I should say so," agreed Grace. "If it had been I, Professor Martin would have called on me first. You were born lucky, Daffydowndilly."

"I don't think so," replied Arline gloomily. "I have all kinds of miserable, unpleasant things to bother me."

Anne and Grace exchanged significant glances behind the little girl's back. There was a chance for the success of their scheme. Arline was evidently unhappy over her cavalier treatment of Ruth.

During the short walk to Vinton's all mention of Ruth's name was tacitly avoided. Arline chattered volubly about the reception. She had not enjoyed herself particularly. She had taken a freshman by the name of Violet Darby, who lived on the top floor of Morton House. She was considered the freshman beauty.

"Oh, I remember her!" exclaimed Grace. "Gertrude Wells introduced me to her. I asked for a dance, but her card was full to overflowing. She is beautiful. She has such wonderful golden hair, and her brown eyes are in such striking contrast to her hair and fair complexion. She is awfully popular, I suppose."

"Yes, the Morton House girls are all rushing her. I was surprised to think she accepted my invitation," returned Arline.

"I don't think that was so very surprising," declared Grace bluntly. "Arline Thayer is also a Morton House favorite."

"Violet is the reigning favorite just at present," rejoined Arline. "It's her fatal beauty. She is a very nice girl, though. Not a bit snobbish or conceited. Everyone in the house likes her. You must become better acquainted with her."

"Here we are at Vinton's," announced Grace. "I ordered one of the alcove tables reserved for us."

As they made their way to the alcove a girl rose from her seat in the shadow to greet them. It was Ruth, and as Arline caught sight of her her baby face grew dark. "How dared you?" she asked accusingly, turning toward Grace. "You know we are not friends. I don't wish to see her. I'm going straight home. I suppose she planned all this. She has tried to make up with me, but I shall never again be friends with her."

"Please listen to me, Arline," began Grace, taking the angry little girl by the arm and pulling her gently toward the alcove. Ruth had risen from the table, a look of mingled pain and bewilderment on her face.

"I didn't know Arline was to be here," she said tremulously. "Please tell her I didn't know it." She turned appealing eyes toward Grace.

"Suppose we sit down at our table and talk over this matter," suggested Grace, in her most casual manner. Her calm gray eyes rested first on Ruth, then traveled to Arline, who hesitated briefly, then with an angry shrug of her shoulders seated herself in the nearest chair. Grace motioned Anne and Ruth to their chairs, then seating herself she said gently: "Now, children, suppose we clear up some of these doubts and misunderstanding by holding court? I am going to be the prosecuting attorney. Anne can be the counsel for the defense. Arline can borrow her first, then Ruth can have her. When all the evidence is in I shall appoint myself as judge and jury. It means a great deal of work for me, but the law must take its course. I, therefore, summon you both into court."



CHAPTER XIII

GRACE HOLDS COURT

In spite of her displeasure, Arline giggled faintly at Grace's impromptu session of court. Ruth's sad little face brightened, while Anne listened to her friend with open admiration. She could have conceived of no surer way to settle the difference that had made them so unhappy.

"You must remember," Grace said solemnly, "that there can be no dinner until the court has disposed of its first case. This is a murder trial, therefore the chief object of the court is to find the murderer of one friendship, done to death in cruel fashion. I wish I had Emma Dean's glasses to make me look more imposing. I wonder what kind of voice a prosecuting attorney would have. Dearly beloved," went on Grace impressively, "they don't say that in court, I know, but then I'm going to be different from most prosecuting attorneys."

"There isn't the least doubt of that," interposed Anne slyly.

"Silence," commanded Grace severely. "I shall have you arrested for contempt of court. Then there won't be any counsel for the defense. The first witness, that's you, Arline, will please take the stand. You needn't really move, you know. We will take a few things for granted. Sit up straight and be as dignified as possible. Fold your hands on the table. That's right. Now, state where and when you first met the defendant. Ruth can be the defendant until I question her. Then you'll have to play the part."

"Over a year ago, at Morton House," stated Arline obediently.

"What was your opinion of the defendant?"

"I liked her better than any other girl I had ever met," confessed Arline.

"Defendant number two, what did you think of Arline Thayer?" quizzed Grace, eyeing Ruth expectantly.

"I liked her as much as she liked me," replied Ruth promptly.

"When did your first disagreement occur?" probed Grace, turning from Ruth to Arline.

"Here, at this very table," returned Arline in a low tone.

"Whose fault was it?" inquired Grace wickedly.

"Mine!" exclaimed Ruth and Arline simultaneously.

"Thank you," returned Grace soberly. "Such spontaneity on the part of the defendants is very refreshing. It also simplifies the case and saves the court considerable trouble. There is hope that the court will be dismissed in time for dinner. As prosecuting attorney I will now deliver my charge. I shall have to deliver it sitting down or attract too much attention to the case. Gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the evidence. You think, no doubt, that murder has been done. This is not so. The friendship between Defendant Number One," Grace bowed to Arline, "and Defendant Number Two," she made a second bow to Ruth, "received a blow on the head which rendered it unconscious for some time. It had no intention of dying, but both prisoners treated it with extreme cruelty, not allowing it to hold up its poor crippled head. I ask you, Gentlemen of the jury, to consider well what shall be the penalty for assaulting and battering friendship with intent to kill. Gentlemen of the jury, are you ready for the question?"

"We are," Grace answered for the jury in a deep voice that elicited little shrieks of laughter from her companions.

"What shall be the fate of these malefactors?" demanded Grace in her prosecuting attorney voice, after the jury had rendered a verdict of guilty. "Be deliberate in your decision, but don't be all night about it."

"They shall be made to shake hands across the table or suffer the full penalty of the law," stated the judge.

"What is the full penalty of the law?"

"No dinner," was the prompt answer.

"Counsel for the defense, have you anything to say? I should have asked you before sentence was pronounced, but it doesn't matter. The prosecuting attorney always tries to fix things to suit himself, no matter what any one else thinks."

"The counsel for the defense is a mere blot on the landscape in this trial," jeered Anne.

"How did you guess it?" beamed the prosecuting attorney. "Prisoners, the sentence will be executed at once. Shake hands."

Ruth's hand was stretched across the table to meet Arline's.

"I'm awfully sorry, Ruth," said Arline, her voice trembling slightly. "I should never have asked you to tell what you wished to keep secret."

"And I shouldn't have been so silly as to refuse to tell," declared Ruth bravely. "I'm going to tell you now, and you mustn't stop me. I was brought up in an orphan asylum. That's why I didn't care to tell you about myself that evening."

"You poor, precious dear!" exclaimed Arline. "How can I ever forgive myself for being so horrid? Won't you forgive me, Ruth? I never supposed it was anything like that. I was angry because you called me your best friend, but wouldn't trust me. I'm so sorry. I'll never speak of it again to you." Arline looked appealingly at Ruth, her blue eyes misty.

"But I want you to think of it. I had made up my mind to tell you. Then you passed me on the campus without speaking, and somehow I didn't dare come near you after that."

"I've been perfectly horrid, I know," admitted Arline contritely. "I've been so used to having my own way that I try to bend everyone I know to it."

"I don't mind telling you girls about myself now. At first I was ashamed of my poverty," confessed Ruth. "After I went to Arline's beautiful home I hated to say anything about it to any one. Then Arline grew angry with me. I realized afterward that I had been foolish not to tell her my story. There isn't much to tell. I was picked up in a railroad wreck on a westbound train when I was four years old. I can just remember getting into the train with my mother. She was burned to death in the wreck, but by some miracle I was saved. I knew my name, Ruth Irving Denton, my age, and around my neck mother had tied a little packet containing some money, a letter and a gold watch. A woman who lived near where the wreck occurred took charge of me, and as no one came for me, in time I was sent to a home. I lived there until I was fourteen. The matron was good to us, and considering we were all homeless waifs we fared very well."

"And the letter?" asked Grace.

"It was from my father to my mother, giving all the directions for our journey west. With it had been enclosed a money order for four hundred dollars, which my mother had evidently cashed. I still have the letter.

"Then a man and his wife took me. They were good to me and sent me to school. I studied hard and finished high school when I was seventeen. Then I won a scholarship of one hundred dollars a year. I was determined to go to college, but the people with whom I lived thought differently. So I left them a year ago last fall and came to Overton, resolving to make my own way. They were so angry with me for leaving them they would have nothing further to do with me. So you see I had not a friend in the world until I met you girls."

"But you have me now," comforted Arline, patting Ruth's hand. "I'll never be so silly again. Poor little girl!"

"And you have Anne and me," added Grace. "Don't forget Miriam and Elfreda, either."

"I am rich in friends now," said Ruth softly.

"Perhaps your father isn't really dead, Ruth!" exclaimed Grace.

"He must be," said Ruth sadly. "I have only one thing that belonged to him, a heavy gold watch with his full name, 'Arthur Northrup Denton,' engraved on the inside of the back case. It is a valuable watch, but I have always declared I would starve rather than part with it."

"Perhaps it may help you to find him some day," suggested Grace thoughtfully.

"Don't you know the name of the town in Nevada where he first lived?" asked Anne.

"He went to Humboldt, and from there into the mountains," replied Ruth. "Since that time all trace of him has been lost. I never knew my own story until on the day I became fourteen years of age. Then the matron told me. It was at the time that I was getting ready to go to live with the man and his wife of whom I have spoken. After that it seemed as though the whole world changed for me. I didn't mind being poor, nor having to work, for I had the glorious thought that perhaps my father was still alive and that some time I should see him again. I wrote several letters to him, sending them to Humboldt, but they always came back to me.

"After a while I gave up all hope and stopped writing. I couldn't bear to think of having more letters come back unclaimed. I tried to forget that I had even dreamed of seeing my father again, and began to put my whole mind on going to college. Now I am so thankful that I persevered and won the scholarship. There were times when I was very unhappy over leaving the only home I had ever known, outside the orphanage. Still I could not rid myself of the conviction that I had taken a step in the right direction. Later, when I met you girls, I was sure of it. Even though I didn't find my father, I found true and loyal friends who have crowded more pleasure and happiness into one short year than I ever had in all my life before."

"I'll lend you half of my father, Ruth," offered Arline generously. "He is almost as fond of you as he is of me. You remember he said so."

"Weren't you green with jealousy when he admitted it?" teased Anne.

"Not a bit of it," protested Arline stoutly. "I only wish Ruth were my sister."

"I'd like to be the one to find Ruth's father," mused Grace.

Anne smiled. "Even college can't uproot Grace's sleuthing tendencies. She has an absolute genius for ferreting out mysteries."

"No, I haven't," contradicted Grace. "If I had—" she stopped. She had been on the point of remarking that she would have known who had stolen and used her theme.

"If you had what?" asked Arline curiously.

"If I had the genius of which Arline prattles, I'd be at the head of the New York Detective Bureau," finished Grace. And Anne alone knew that Grace had purposely substituted this flippant answer to conceal her real thought.



CHAPTER XIV

GRACE MAKES A RESOLUTION

"What do you think has happened?" demanded J. Elfreda Briggs, bursting into the room where Anne and Grace were busily making up for lost time. They had lingered at Vinton's until after eight o'clock. Then the thought of to-morrow with its eternal round of classes had driven them home, reluctantly enough, to where their books awaited them. It was almost nine o'clock before they had actually settled themselves, and Elfreda's sudden, tempestuous entrance caused Anne to lay down her Horace with an air of patient resignation. "We might as well begin saying 'unprepared' now, and grow accustomed to the sound of our own voices," she announced.

"I think so, too," agreed Grace. "Well, Elfreda, why this thusness? What has happened? Have you been elected to the Pi Beta Gamma, or did you get an unusually large check from home?"

"Catch the P. B. Gammas troubling themselves about me," scoffed Elfreda. "As for a check, I've written for it, but so far I've seen no signs of it. When I do lay hands on it we'll celebrate the event with feasting and merrymaking."

"Then I can't guess," sighed Grace. "You'd better tell us."

"Well," began Elfreda, her eyes twinkling, "I have a dinner invitation for to-morrow night at Martell's."

"That is nothing startling," scoffed Anne. "We've just come from Vinton's."

"But the rest of my news is remarkable," persisted the stout girl. "I am invited to dine"—Elfreda paused, then finished impressively—"with the Anarchist."

"You don't mean it!" Grace looked her surprise.

"Of course I mean it," retorted Elfreda. "I wouldn't say so if I didn't. She delivered her invitation on the way over to chapel this morning. I'd give you an imitation of the way she did it if I hadn't accepted."

Grace shot a quick, approving glance toward Elfreda which the latter saw and interpreted correctly. "I wouldn't have thought about that last year, would I, Grace?" she asked shyly.

Grace laughed rather confusedly. "How did you guess so much? The way you stumble upon things is positively uncanny."

"Observation, my dear, observation," returned Elfreda patronizingly. "One can learn almost everything about everybody if one keeps one's eyes open."

"You seem to carry out your own theory," admitted Grace smilingly. "Have you finished your work for to-night?"

"Years ago," declared Elfreda extravagantly. "Miriam hasn't, at least she was still studying when I left the room. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make some fudge. Mrs. Elwood will let me have some milk and we have the rest of the stuff in our room. I'll send Miriam in here. Then I can have the whole room to myself. When it's done, I'll call you."

With a joyful skip that fairly jarred the furniture in the room Elfreda bounded through the doorway and vanished. Two minutes later Miriam appeared, an amused look on her dark face, several books tucked under one arm. "Driven from home," she declaimed, posing on the threshold, her free hand appealingly extended. "Will no one help me?"

"I will." Grace reached forth her hand, dragging Miriam into the room. "Hurry through your lessons and we'll have a spread. I'm sorry you weren't with us to-night, but Anne and I weren't sure as to just how successfully our plan would work. Everything went smoothly, though." Grace related briefly what had taken place at the dinner.

"I am glad Ruth and Arline settled their differences," commented Miriam. "We all knew that Arline was at fault. She is such a dear little thing, one hesitates to say so."

"She was very sweet to-night," interposed Anne. "She asked Ruth's forgiveness and took the blame for their little coolness on her own shoulders."

"I don't wish to cause dissension in this happy band, but we really must stop talking and study," warned Grace. "I haven't made a satisfactory recitation this week, and I vote for reform."

"All right, my dear Miss Harlowe," flung back Miriam. "'Work, for the Night is Coming.'"

"You mean going," giggled Anne.

After this interchange of flippant remarks silence reigned, broken only by the sound of turning leaves or an occasional sigh over the appalling length of a lesson. The three girls were fully absorbed in their work when Elfreda poked her head in the room to announce that the fudge was made. "I've a bottle of cunning little pickles, and a box of cheese wafers. I made some tea, too. Hurry, or it will be half-past ten before we have time to eat a single thing."

"I can't possibly finish studying my Latin to-night," sighed Miriam. "Every day the lessons seem to get longer. Miss Arthur hasn't a spark of compassion."

"Don't stop to grumble," commanded Elfreda. "Come along."

The half-past ten o'clock bell rang before the fudge was half gone. In fact, it was after eleven before the quartette prepared for sleep. During the evening all thought of the troublesome theme had left Grace's mind. It was not until after she had turned out the light and gone to bed that it came back to her with such disagreeable force that for the time being all idea of sleep fled. For the first time since her entrance into Overton College she had incurred the displeasure of one in authority over her, and through no fault of her own.

As Grace lay staring into the darkness the recollection of that bitter time during her junior year at high school, when Miss Thompson had accused her of shielding the girl who had destroyed the principal's personal papers, came back, vivid and complete. Eleanor Savelli, now numbered among her dearest friends and a member of the Phi Sigma Tau, had been the transgressor, and Grace had refused to voice her suspicions. It had all come right in the end, although Miss Thompson's displeasure had been hard to bear.

Perhaps this affair would end happily, too. Suppose the other girl had chosen the same subject? Grace gave vent to a soft exclamation of impatience at her own supposition. She wished she dared believe that it were so, but common sense told her that she could not hope to deceive herself by any such delusion.

"Who could the girl be?" Grace asked herself over and over. Surely, no one of her intimate friends. Nor any girl at Wayne Hall, either. Whoever was guilty would be severely punished, perhaps sent home. Overton prided itself on its honor. Its children must be above reproach at all times. Mabel's evidence would clear her. But what of the other girl?

"Whoever she is," speculated Grace, "by this time she is probably sorry for what she did. I suppose she is frightened, too. I'm going to make Miss Duncan let her off this once, and if I can find out who she is, I'm going to stand by her so faithfully that she'll never again care to do a dishonest thing as long as she lives."

It was a long time before Grace fell asleep that night. Her perturbed state of mind over the stolen theme had served to make her wakeful, and her thoughts flitted from one subject to another, as she lay waiting for the sleep that refused to come, always returning, however, to that of the unlucky theme.

When, at last, it came, it brought disturbing dreams, in which she figured as the transgressor. The theme did not belong to her, but to J. Elfreda Briggs. She had stolen it from the pocket of Elfreda's brown serge coat, and Miss Duncan had seen her take it. During the morning exercises in the chapel, Miss Duncan had mounted the steps of the platform, and, standing beside Dr. Morton, had shouted forth her guilt to the whole college, while she had endeavored to creep out of the chapel unnoticed.



CHAPTER XV

THE QUALITY OF MERCY

The next morning Grace felt singularly dispirited as she went down to breakfast. It had been raining, and the dreary outlook caused the gloomy lines, "The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year," to run through her head with maddening persistency.

"What's the matter, Grace?" inquired Emma Dean. "That chief-mourner expression of yours is doubly depressing on a day like this. Did you eat too much fudge last night, or have you been conditioned in math?"

"You are a wild guesser, Emma," returned Grace, smiling faintly. "My troubles are of an entirely different nature. But how did you know we made fudge last night, and why didn't you come in and have some?"

"I never go where I am not invited," was the significant retort.

"Nonsense!" declared Grace. "You are always welcome, and you know it. The spread was in Miriam's room, but you know who your friends are, don't you?"

"Don't worry, I'm not offended," Emma assured Grace good-humoredly. "I came in just before the ten-thirty bell last night and heard sounds of revelry as I passed by."

"There's plenty of fudge on our table," put in Miriam Nesbit. "Help yourself to it whenever the spirit moves you."

"Where is Mildred Taylor this morning?" asked Irene Evans, glancing toward Mildred's vacant place.

"Miss Taylor is ill this morning," answered a prim voice from the end of the table.

With one accord all eyes were turned in the direction of the voice. The Anarchist had actually spoken at the table! It was unbelievable. What followed was even more surprising. The Anarchist swept the table with a defiant look, then said, with startling distinctness, "If she has not fully recovered by to-night I shall send for a physician. In the meantime I shall remain with her to care for her."

"That is very kind in you, I am sure," ventured Emma Dean. Surprise had tied the tongues of the others.

"Not in the least," contradicted the Anarchist coldly. "As her roommate, common humanity demands that I assume a certain amount of responsibility for her welfare."

"Oh, yes, of course," agreed Emma hastily. "Please let us know when we may run in to see her. Excuse me, everybody. I must run upstairs and study a little before going to chapel."

Several freshmen followed her lead and filed decorously out the door with preternaturally solemn faces that broke into smiles the moment the door closed behind them.

The Anarchist, however, went on eating her breakfast, quite unaware that she had created the slightest ripple of amusement. When Elfreda rose to leave the dining room the strange young woman rose, too, and walked sedately out of the room in the stout girl's wake.

"Elfreda has evidently made a conquest," remarked Miriam to Grace. "See how tamely the haughty Anarchist follows at her heels."

"It's astonishing, but splendid, I think," said Grace decidedly. "Isn't it strange how much influence for good one girl can have over another? For some reason or other Elfreda knows just how to bring the best in Miss Atkins to the surface. Shall we run up and see Miss Taylor for a moment?"

"You go this morning, Grace," urged Miriam. "I'll stop and see her at noon. I haven't the time just now."

"I'll go with you," volunteered Anne.

Grace knocked gently on the slightly opened door, then, receiving no answer, opened it softly. She paused irresolutely on the threshold, Anne peering over her shoulder. Laura Atkins had left the room, but Mildred Taylor, fully dressed, sat at the window looking listlessly out. If she heard Grace's light knock she paid no attention to it. It was not until Grace said rather diffidently, "We heard you were ill and thought we'd come in to see you," that the girl at the window turned toward Grace. Her piquant little face was drawn and pale, and her eyes looked suspiciously red. She eyed Grace almost sulkily, then said slowly, "It was kind of you to come, but I shall be all right to-morrow." Under Grace's serious glance her eyes fell, then, to her visitors' amazement, she burst into tears. Grace crossed the room. Her arm slid across the sobbing freshman's shoulders in silent sympathy. "Can't you tell me what troubles you?" she asked softly.

Mildred shook off the comforting arm with a muttered: "Let me alone. I can't tell you, of all persons. Go away."

"Why can't you tell me?" persisted Grace gently.

"Because I can't. Won't you please go. I don't wish to talk to any one," wailed Mildred.

Grace walked toward the door, her eyes on the weeping girl. Anne, who had kept strictly in the background during the little scene, stepped out into the hall, Grace following.

"That was hardly my idea of a cordial reception," was Anne's dry comment as they entered their own room.

"That young woman has something on her mind," declared Grace. "Her illness is not physical. It is mental. Either some one has torn her feelings to shreds or else she has done something she is ashamed of and remorse has overtaken her."

"Unless she has had bad news from home or has been conditioned," suggested Anne.

"I don't believe it's either," said Grace, shaking her head. "I believe this is something different. Of late she has been acting strangely. Ever since the reception she has avoided me. Anne Pierson, do you see the time? We'll be late for chapel!" gasped Grace in consternation.

With one accord the two friends gathered up their wraps, putting them on as they ran.

After chapel Grace left Anne at the door of Science Hall and went on to Overton Hall. She wished to see Miss Duncan before her first class recited, and learn the latest developments of her case. Until chapel exercises were over, Grace had refused to allow her mind to dwell on her trouble, but now, as she climbed slowly up the broad stairway to Miss Duncan's class room, the whole unhappy affair rose before her.

Miss Duncan was sitting at her desk as Grace entered. She looked at her watch, smiled frankly at Grace and said in her usual businesslike way, "I can give you only ten minutes, Miss Harlowe."

The teacher's friendly tone made Grace's heart leap. She recognized the fact that Miss Duncan no longer looked upon her with suspicion.

"Your innocence was clearly proven by Miss Ashe," said Miss Duncan in her blunt fashion, coming at once to the point. "I recognize your claim to the authorship of the theme. The other young woman was the real plagiarist. It was a contemptible trick and not in keeping with Overton standards."

"What will happen to this other girl, Miss Duncan?" asked Grace apprehensively, her eyes fixed on Miss Duncan.

"What do you think she deserves?" inquired Miss Duncan quizzically.

"A chance to redeem herself," was the prompt reply. "No one except you knows who she is. I don't wish to know her identity, and I am sure Miss Ashe doesn't. Couldn't you send for the girl and tell her that it would be a secret between just you two. That you were willing to forget it had happened if she were willing to start all over again and build her college foundation fairly and squarely. It wouldn't be of any benefit to her to place her fault before the dean. No doubt she would be dismissed, and that dismissal might spoil her whole life."

"You are an eloquent pleader, Miss Harlowe," returned Miss Duncan. "As this is strictly an affair of one of my classes, I consider that I am at liberty to do as I think best about placing this matter before the dean. If I did see fit to do so I hardly think it would mean dismissal, particularly if I took you with me to plead the cause of the offender. Come to me this afternoon after my last class and I will give you my answer."

Grace left the class room far more cheerfully than she had entered. Her own vindication had not impressed her half so deeply as Miss Duncan's apparently lenient attitude toward the girl who had been false to herself and to Overton.



CHAPTER XVI

A DISGRUNTLED REFORMER

Grace was not disappointed. Miss Duncan graciously agreed to let the culprit off with a severe reprimand. Grace ran joyfully down the campus to Holland House. She wished to tell Mabel Ashe the good news.

"Horrid little copy-cat! She doesn't deserve it," was Mabel's unsympathetic comment as Grace related what had passed between Miss Duncan and herself. "You know who she is, don't you, Grace?"

Grace shook her head. "I haven't the slightest idea," she said soberly. "I can't believe it was any one at Wayne Hall. You don't suspect any one, do you?"

"No," returned Mabel. "I haven't become very well acquainted with the freshmen this year, so far. I suppose you did right in not exposing this girl. I don't know whether I should be quite as charitable as you. If you hadn't had a witness who saw you write the theme, you would now be under a cloud. What I can't forget is the fact that she went so far as to try to make Miss Duncan believe that you really copied it. Miss Duncan said she insisted that the theme had disappeared from her room. Think how foolish she must have felt when Miss Duncan confronted her with the truth yesterday afternoon and made her confess!"

"Oh, Mabel!" Grace's distressed tone caused the pretty senior to rise and stand in front of Grace's chair.

"What's the matter, Gracie," she said, taking Grace's hands in hers.

Grace raised her gray eyes to meet the inquiring brown ones bent on her. "I'm so sorry," she said sadly, "but the girl who took my theme does live in Wayne Hall."

"How do you know?" asked Mabel quickly.

"From what you said," returned Grace. "If she accused me of taking her theme from her room, isn't it highly probable that her room is in Wayne Hall? I wouldn't be likely to go into one of the campus houses to steal a theme, would I? I must have dropped it in the hall or on the stairs that night, and she must have come into the house directly after I did and picked it up. I don't like to believe that one of our girls did it," Grace concluded sorrowfully, "but I am afraid it's true."

"Some day you'll stumble upon the guilty girl when you least expect to find her," prophesied Mabel. "Now forget her, and tell me what you and your chums are going to do over Thanksgiving. I am going to a dance on Thanksgiving night with a Willston man. His fraternity is giving it."

"I don't know any college men in this part of the world," sighed Grace regretfully, "therefore I never have any invitations to man dances."

"Wait until my cousin comes up here. He is a Columbia man and you will like him immensely. I know a number of the Willston men, too. Why don't you go with me to the football game Thanksgiving Day? You are not going away, are you? It is only a four days' vacation, you know."

"No, we haven't any particular place to go. Last year we spent our Thanksgiving vacation with the Southards in New York. You knew about that."

"You lucky things," laughed Mabel. "I envy you your friendship with Everett Southard and his sister."

"Some day you must meet them," planned Grace. "They are delightful people. Mr. Southard is appearing in Shakespearian roles in the large cities this season, and Miss Southard is in Florida visiting friends. If they were in New York they would insist on our going to them for the holidays. I must run away now. It is almost dinner time and I promised to hook up Elfreda's new gown. Miriam went over to Morton House with Gertrude Wells, and won't return until late, and Elfreda is going to dine with the Anarchist."

"Really!" exclaimed Mabel. "Elfreda seems to be coming to the front this year, doesn't she!"

"She is turning out splendidly," said Grace warmly. "She stands high in every one of her classes, and she is so ridiculously funny that we would feel lost without her. She says things in the same droll way that a young man we know in Oakdale does. But I mustn't stay another minute. Good-bye, Mabel, I'll see you in a day or two."

Grace darted across the campus and ran rapidly in the direction of Wayne Hall. She loved to run and her fleetness of foot had served her well on more than one occasion. Only that day she had complained to Miriam that it had been years since she had indulged in a good run. Miriam had laughingly accused her of still being a tomboy, and had proposed that they take a long tramp on Saturday. "You can run up and down the road to your heart's content when we get far enough away from Overton so that no one will see you and think you have suddenly gone crazy," Miriam had declared good-naturedly.

Bounding up the steps two at a time, Grace reached the front door of Wayne Hall without drawing a laboring breath. "I'm certainly in good condition," she laughed to herself, inhaling deeply and inflating her chest. "I hope I'll be chosen to play on the team this year." She rang a third time before the door was opened by Emma Dean, who grumbled at her repeated ringing and then announced that she had rung six times that afternoon before any one had condescended to let her in. "Have you seen Elfreda?" flung back Grace on her way upstairs.

"You'd better hurry," called Emma after her. "I heard her growling to herself as I passed her door."

"I began to think you were never coming," greeted Elfreda, as Grace burst into the room, her eyes bright and her cheeks becomingly flushed from her recent run across the campus.

"Why didn't you ask some one else to hook you up?" retorted Grace mischievously, throwing down her gloves and beginning on the top hook.

"Because I wanted you to see how nice I looked in this new frock," replied the stout girl. "If I had not stipulated that you were to perform this extremely important service for me, you would have in all probability absented yourself from my immediate vicinity, unmindful of the rare exhibition of youth and beauty that was being prepared for you in my room."

"If I had closed my eyes I could have sworn it was Miss Atkins," laughed Grace. "Even she herself couldn't fail to recognize that impersonation. It's ridiculously funny, Elfreda, but I wish you wouldn't do it." As Grace and Elfreda were standing with their backs directly away from the door neither girl saw the tense little figure that stood rigid, one hand on the door casing, listening with eyebrows drawn fiercely together. An instant later it had vanished. Grace, after triumphantly placing the last hook in its eye, began helping Elfreda find her handkerchief and gloves. "Now you have everything you need," she declared, holding up the stout girl's coat. "Do you wait here for your dinner partner or does she call for you?"

"She is coming in here for me," answered Elfreda. "I wish she would hurry along. I haven't had even a cracker to eat since luncheon and I'm famished."

"I think I'll go if you don't mind. I'm hungry, too. I must see if Anne has come in yet. Miss Atkins will be here in a moment. Good-bye. I hope you will have a nice time. I am so glad she invited you."

Grace crossed the hall to her own room. Anne was rearranging her hair preparatory to going down to dinner.

"I think I'll do my hair over again," decided Grace. "That run across the campus shook most of my hairpins loose. It will be at least ten minutes before the bell rings, so I shall have plenty of time." But her hair proved refractory and the clang of the dinner bell found her tucking in a last unruly lock. "I'm going on downstairs, Grace," called Anne from the doorway.

"All right," answered Grace. As she passed Elfreda's room she heard her name uttered in a sibilant whisper. Wheeling at the sound, Grace stepped to the stout girl's door. Elfreda drew her in and, closing the door, said nervously: "What do you suppose has happened? I waited and waited for the An—Miss Atkins and she didn't appear, so I went down to her room and found the door closed. I knocked at least a dozen times, until my knuckles ached, but not a sound came from within. Then I came back to my room and waited. She hasn't materialized yet. I went down to her door just now and knocked again, but, nothing doing." In her agitation Elfreda dropped into slang.

"That is strange," agreed Grace. "Do you suppose she has been taken suddenly ill?"

"Search me," declared Elfreda wearily. "She ought to be called the Riddle. She is past solution, isn't she? I'm hungry, and if she doesn't appear within the next five minutes I'm going to put on my old brown serge dress and go down to dinner. I'm not used to being invited out to dine and then deserted before I've even had a chance to look at the bill of fare."

"Never mind," comforted Grace. "I'll ask you to dinner at Martell's next week and won't desert you either. Wait a minute. I will go down to the dining room and see if by any chance she could be there. Then I'll come upstairs and let you know. If she isn't there you had better change your gown and go downstairs with me."

"She isn't there," reported Grace, five minutes later. "Miss Taylor is, but her roommate is missing."

"'Parted at the altar,'" quoted Elfreda dramatically. "Will you please unhook me?"

For the second time that night Grace busied herself with the troublesome hooks and eyes. Elfreda jerked off the new gown. Her temper was rising. "This is what comes of cultivating freaks," she muttered, lapsing into her old rudeness. "I might have known she'd do something. Catch me on any more reform committees!"

"The way of the reformer is hard," soothed Grace, as she picked up the gown Elfreda had thrown in a heap on the floor, and folding it, laid it across the foot of the stout girl's couch.

Elfreda, who was reaching into the closet for her brown serge dress, wheeled about, regarding Grace solemnly. "Too hard for me," she declared. "Hereafter, the Anarchist can attend to her own reformation. The Briggs Helping Hand Society has disbanded."



CHAPTER XVII

MAKING OTHER GIRLS HAPPY

The Thanksgiving holiday was welcomed with acclamation by the students of Overton College, who, with a few exceptions, ate their Thanksgiving dinners at their various campus houses and boarding places. During the four days tables at Martell's and Vinton's were in demand and a continuous succession of dinners and luncheons made serious inroads in the monthly allowances of the hospitable entertainers.

The month of December dragged discouragingly, however, and when the time really did arrive to pack and be off for the Christmas holidays the latent energy that suddenly developed for packing trunks and making calls caused the faculty to sigh with regret that it had not been used in the pursuit of knowledge.

Nothing of any event had happened at Wayne Hall. Since the evening when Elfreda had waited in vain for Laura Atkins, whose invitation to dinner she had accepted, this peculiar young woman had offered neither apology nor explanation for her inexplicable behavior. In fact, the next morning she had completely ignored Elfreda, who, feeling herself to be the aggrieved one, had made no attempt to discover what had prompted this glaring disregard of etiquette on the part of the eccentric freshman.

For a week afterward Elfreda discussed and rediscussed the mystery with Grace, Anne and Miriam. Then she gave up in disgust and turned her attention to basketball. She had lost considerable weight and was now a member of the scrub team. Her greatest ambition was to make the real team in her junior year, and with that intent she sturdily refused to eat sweet things, took long walks and daily haunted the gymnasium, going through the various forms of exercises she had elected to take with commendable persistency.

Grace had never sought to discover the identity of the freshman who had stolen her theme. She felt reasonably certain that the same roof covered them both, but she never allowed herself to reach the point of laying the finger of suspicion on any one in particular. That she had been vindicated of the charge was quite enough for her, but she could not resist wondering occasionally what had prompted the deed, and whether the other girl had turned over a new leaf.

One other thing troubled Grace not a little. Mildred Taylor had become extremely intimate with Mary Hampton and Alberta Wicks. Both young women were frequent guests for dinner at Wayne Hall, and Mildred spent her spare time almost entirely in their society. As the two juniors were extremely unpopular with the Wayne Hall girls a peculiar constraint invariably fell upon the table when either young woman was Mildred's guest for the evening. "One has to weigh one's words before speaking when Alberta Wicks or Mary Hampton are here," Emma Dean had declared significantly to Irene Evans, and this seemed to be the prevalent opinion among the students who lived at Wayne Hall.

Mildred's attitude toward Grace had not changed. In manner she was more distant than ever, and except for a slight bow when chance brought her face to face with Grace, she gave no other evidence of having been more than the merest acquaintance. Her dislike for her roommate had to all appearances disappeared, and Laura Atkins was now seen occasionally in company with Mildred and her two mischievous junior friends.

Such was the situation when the longed-for Christmas vacation arrived. Grace Harlowe's thoughts were not on her own perplexities as she walked toward Wayne Hall after finishing her last round of calls. A new problem had arisen, and as she swung along through the crisp winter air she was deep in thought. It was peculiar Christmas weather. A light snow had fallen, but through the patches of white lying softly on the campus the grass still showed spots of green. It had been an unusually long, warm fall, and to Grace, whose winters had been spent much farther north, the mildness of December had seemed marvelous.

"There!" she exclaimed, stopping in the middle of the walk to consult a small leather book, and drawing a pencil through the last item, "I can go home in peace. I have every single thing done, even to notifying the expressman to come for my trunk."

A sudden trill sounded down the street behind her. Turning her head, Grace saw Arline Thayer bearing down upon her. "I thought I'd never make you hear me," panted the little girl. "Ruth is going home with me after all."

"I thought she would," laughed Grace. "She assured me last night that she wouldn't think of imposing upon you, but I know your powers of persuasion. You have given Ruth a great deal of happiness, Arline, and I am sure she appreciates it, too."

Arline shook her curly head. "I don't deserve any credit. I am nice with her because I like her. I am consulting my own selfish pleasure, you see, and that doesn't count. If I didn't care for Ruth I am afraid I wouldn't bother my head about helping her to have good times."

"You are frank, at least," smiled Grace.

"Seriously speaking, I am really very selfish," admitted Arline. "I never think of doing good for unselfish reasons. I don't find any particular interest in being nice with girls who do not appeal to me. That sounds terribly cold-blooded, doesn't it? They say an only child is always selfish, you know. Oh, forgive me, Grace; I forgot you were an 'only child.' Goodness knows you are not selfish."

"Yes, I am," contradicted Grace. "This is my second year at Overton and in all the time I've been here I have thought about nothing but myself and my friends and my good times. This afternoon when I started out to make calls I met Miss Barlow, a little freshman who lives in a boarding house down on Beech Street. We were going in the same direction and I thoughtlessly asked if she were going home for Christmas. A second afterward I was sorry. Her face fell, then she brightened a little and said, 'No.' She and seven other girls who lived in the same house were going to have a Christmas tree. For three days they had been busy decorating it. They had just finished. She asked, almost timidly, if I would like to see it. Of course I said 'Yes,' and we started for her boarding house. It is away down at the other end of Overton, and the most cheerless looking old barn of a house. The inside of the house is almost as cheerless as the outside, too. They had set up their tree in the parlor, and it was the only bright spot in the room.

"The tree was trimmed with popcorn and tinsel. There were funny little ornaments of colored paper, too, that they had made themselves. The presents were underneath the tree, a few forlorn looking little packages that made me feel like crying. I couldn't truthfully say that the tree was lovely, but I did tell Miss Barlow that I thought they had done splendidly and that I was sorry I hadn't known her better before, because I should have liked to help them with their tree.

"Then she said she had always wanted to know me, but I had so many friends among the influential girls at Overton she had thought I wouldn't care to know her. You can imagine how conscience stricken I felt. At home I was the friend of every girl in high school, and to think that I have been developing snobbish traits without realizing it!"

"Couldn't we do something nice for them before we go?" asked Arline generously. "It is only three o 'clock. Why not start a movement among the girls we know and send them a box? We can make the girls contribute, but we won't tell a soul who it's for. We will ask for money or presents—whatever they care to give," she went on eagerly. "What do you think of it? Do you suppose they would be offended?"

"I think it is the greatest thing out!" exclaimed Grace enthusiastically. "How can they be offended if we send the things anonymously?"

"They can't," chuckled Arline gleefully. "Now we had better separate. I'll do Morton House, Livingstone Hall and Wellington House. You can do Wayne Hall, Holland House and those two boarding houses on the corner below you. A lot of freshmen and sophomores live there. I'll come over to your house with my loot to-night, directly after dinner. Good-bye until then."

At seven o'clock that night Arline set down a heavy suit case and rang the bell at Wayne Hall. Grace, who had been watching for her from one of the living-room windows, hastened to open the door. "Thank goodness," sighed the little fluffy-haired girl. "I thought I would never be able to drag this suit case across the campus. It is crammed with things. I've been busier than all the busy bees that ever buzzed," she continued happily, following Grace into the living room. "You can't begin to think how nice every one has been. About half of this stuff in the suit case is candy. One girl at Morton House had ten boxes given her. Of course, she couldn't eat it all, so she put in five." Arline did not volunteer the further information that she was the "girl" and that the candy was mostly from Willston men, with whom she was extremely popular.

"Another girl gave me two pairs of gloves. She had half a dozen pairs sent from home. She's going to New York for Christmas, so her home presents were sent to her here. Ever so many girls who had bought presents to take home gave me something from their store. I caught them just as they were finishing their packing. But, best of all," added Arline triumphantly, sinking into a chair and opening her brown suede handbag, "I have money—fifty dollars! That will help some, won't it?" She gave a little, gleeful chuckle.

"I should say so," gasped Grace. "I didn't do quite as well, although I have a whole table full of presents. Come on up and see them. None of us have put in our money contribution yet."

"How much have you?" asked Arline curiously.

"So far only twenty-five dollars," replied Grace. "The girls in the boarding houses are not overburdened with money. I collected half of it from the Holland House girls. Miriam has promised me five dollars and I will put in five. That makes thirty-five dollars. I haven't asked Elfreda yet. She went out on a last shopping tour early this afternoon and hasn't come home yet. I suppose she went to Vinton's for dinner. Anne hasn't given me her money yet."

"Did you ask Miss Atkins?" was Arline's sudden inquiry. She was seized with a recollection of what transpired earlier in the fall.

Grace shook her head. "I couldn't. She hasn't spoken to me since the beginning of the term."

"Shall I run up and ask her?" proposed Arline. "She is quite cordial to me in that queer, stiff way of hers."

"It is only fair to give her a chance to contribute if she wishes," said Grace slowly. "I should say you might better ask her than leave her out."

"I'll go now, while I feel in the humor," declared Arline.

"You might ask Miss Taylor, too. She is Miss Atkins's roommate. She has been rather distant with me, so I haven't approached her on the subject."

Arline danced off on her errand with joyful little skips of anticipation. It was not long before she returned, a pleased smile on her baby face. "What do you think!" she whispered, gleefully. "She gave me ten dollars! She was lovely, too, and didn't scowl at all. I wished her a Merry Christmas, and she asked me to take luncheon or dinner with her some time after Christmas. Miss Taylor wasn't there."

Grace was on the point of replying humorously that she hoped Arline would not share Elfreda's fate when the hour to dine came round. She checked herself in time, however. She had no right to betray Elfreda's confidence even to Arline. "That was generous in her," she said warmly. "Would you like to come upstairs with me now, Arline, while I collect my share of the contributions? Miriam and Elfreda will soon be here and I will ask Anne for her money."

Arline obediently followed Grace upstairs to her room. Grace lighted the gas. As she did so she espied an envelope lying on the rug near the door. Crossing to where it lay, Grace picked it up. It bore no superscription. She turned it over, then finding it unsealed pulled back the flap and peered into it. With an exclamation of wonder she drew forth a crisp ten dollar bill. "Who do you suppose left it there?" she gasped in amazement. "I thought Anne was here. She must have gone out."

"Look in the envelope. Perhaps there is a card, too," suggested Arline hopefully.

Grace peered into it a second time. Close to the inner surface of the envelope lay a tiny strip of paper. She held it up triumphantly for Arline's inspection.

"Is there any writing on it?" demanded Arline.

Grace scanned the strip of paper earnestly, turned it over and found the faint lead-pencil inscription: "From a friend."

"Who can it be?" pondered Arline. "Do you recognize the hand-writing?"

"No." Grace looked puzzled. "It is a welcome gift. Just think, Arline, we have one hundred dollars. Your fifty, and Miss Atkins's ten makes sixty, and this makes seventy. The twenty-five dollars I have and twenty dollars more from the four of us makes one hundred and fifteen dollars. That will mean a great deal to those girls. I only wish it were more."

"If I had known sooner I would not have been so extravagant in buying my Christmas presents," declared Arline regretfully. "There isn't time to write Father for money. I don't like to telegraph. I've been positively reckless with money this month. When I go home I'm going to have a talk with Father. Oh, Grace Harlowe, I've a perfectly lovely idea," she continued, joyfully clasping her two small hands about Grace's arm, "but I am not going to say a word until I come back to Overton."

"Then I won't ask questions," smiled Grace. "Come, now, help me with these packages. It is eight o'clock and we haven't made a start yet. We had better wrap the presents in two large packages. I will ask Mrs. Elwood for some wrapping paper, and we'll bring the suit case up here."

It was almost nine o'clock when Grace and Arline descended the steps of Wayne Hall with mystery written on their faces. Each girl carried an unwieldy bundle. In the center of Grace's bundle, securely wrapped in fold after fold of tissue paper, was a little box. It contained one hundred and fifteen dollars in bills. Wrapped about the bills was the following note addressed to Esther Barlow, the freshman Grace had encountered that afternoon: "Merry Christmas to yourself and your seven freshmen friends. Santa Claus."



"How can we manage to deliver this stuff without being seen?" demanded Arline. "My arms ache already, and we haven't walked a block."

Grace set down her bundle on a convenient horse block and paused to consider. Arline dropped hers beside it with a sigh of relief. "I know what we can do," said Grace reflectively. "We can get Mr. Symes to go with us. He is that old man who does errands and takes messages for ever so many of the girls. We will go with him as far as the corner, then he can carry the things to the door and give them to the woman who owns the boarding house. He lives just around the corner from here. You stay here and watch the bundles and I will see if I can find him."

Grace found Mr. Symes at home and quite willing to carry out the final detail of the Christmas plan. The old man was duly sworn to secrecy and entered into the spirit of his errand almost as heartily as did Arline and Grace. At the chosen corner the girls halted, repeated their final instructions, and drawing back into the shadow, left him to deliver the two bulky packages, his wrinkled face wreathed in smiles.

He smiled even more broadly on his return to the watchers, as Grace slipped a crisp green note into his hand and wished him a Merry Christmas.

"Now we ought to do a little celebrating on our own account," she proposed. "Suppose we pay a visit to Vinton's. It isn't too cold for ices."

"That is just what I was thinking," agreed Arline.

An hour later Arline and Grace said good-bye on the corner below Wayne Hall. "I won't see you in the morning at the station, Grace," said Arline regretfully. "My train leaves a whole hour later than yours. I hope you will have a perfectly lovely Christmas. I hope eight other girls will, too. Don't you?"

"You're a dear little Daffydowndilly," smiled Grace as she kissed Arline's upturned face. "I am sure they will, and they have you to thank for their pleasure, though they will never know it."



CHAPTER XVIII

MRS. GRAY'S CHRISTMAS CHILDREN

"If this isn't like old times, then nothing ever will be!" exclaimed David Nesbit, beaming on Anne Pierson, who was busy pouring tea for the "Eight Originals" in Mrs. Gray's comfortable library.

"Old times!" exclaimed Hippy Wingate, accepting his teacup with a flourish that threatened to send its contents into the lap of Nora O'Malley, who sat beside him on the big leather davenport. "It takes me back to the days when I had only to lift my hand and say, 'Table, prepare thyself,' and some one of these fair damsels immediately invited me to a banquet. Gone are the days when I waxed fat and prosperous. Now I am thin and pale, a victim of adversity."

"I think you look stouter than ever," declared Nora cruelly. "You say you have lost ten pounds, but—" she shrugged her shoulders significantly.

"Cruel, cruel," moaned Hippy. "It is sad to see such calloused inhumanity in one so young. Pass me the cakes, Anne, the chocolate covered ones. They, at least, will afford me sweet consolation."

"I object," interposed Reddy Brooks. "Don't give him that plate. Hand him one or two, Anne. I like the looks of those cakes, too."

"Man, do you mean to insinuate that I am not what I seem?" demanded Hippy, glaring belligerently at Reddy.

"No, I am stating plainly that you are exactly what you seem. That's why I am looking out for my share of the cakes."

"Always prompted by selfish motives," deplored Hippy. "How thankful I am that the sweet blossom of unselfishness blooms freely in my heart. It is true that I would eat all the cakes on that plate, but from a purely unselfish motive."

"Let's hear the motive," jeered Tom Gray.

"I would eat them all," replied Hippy gently, favoring the company with one of his famously wide smiles, "to save you, my beloved friends, from indigestion. It is better that I should bear your suffering."

"Thank you," retorted David Nesbit dryly, helping himself to the coveted cakes and passing the plate over Hippy's head to Mrs. Gray, "I prefer to do my own suffering."

"Oh, as you like," returned Hippy airily. "I have always been fonder of Mrs. Gray than I can say." He sidled ingratiatingly toward where Mrs. Gray sat, her cheeks pink with the excitement of having her Christmas children with her.

From the time Grace, Miriam and Anne stepped off the train into the waiting arms of their dear ones, their vacation had been a season of continued rejoicing. Mrs. Gray, who, Tom gravely declared, would celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday next April, was tireless in her efforts to make their brief stay in Oakdale a happy one. On Christmas night she had gathered them in and given them a dinner and a tree. She had also given a luncheon in honor of Anne and a large party on New Year's night. It was now the evening after New Year's and the morning train would take the boys back to college. Grace, Miriam and Anne would leave a day later for Overton. Nora and Jessica were to remain in Oakdale until the following week. It seemed only natural that they should spend their last evening together at the home of their old friend. Outside the "Eight Originals," Miriam had been the only one invited to this last intimate gathering.

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