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Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School - or The Parting of the Ways
by Jessie Graham Flower
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They made a pretty picture as they sat at the round table, the delicate finery of the girls gaining in effect from the sombre evening coats of the boys. Mrs. Gibson, gowned in white silk with an overdress of black chiffon, sat at the head of the table and did the honors of the occasion.

"I feel frightfully out of place in this company of chivalry and beauty," Anne remarked, looking fondly about her at the friends whose presence told more plainly than words could have done the place she occupied in their hearts.

"Think how we shall fade into insignificance to-night when you hold forth with the great Southard," retorted Nora. "I shall consider myself honored by even a mere bow from you, after you have taken curtain calls before a New York audience."

"When I was with Edwin Booth," began Hippy reminiscently, "he often said to me, 'Hippy, my boy, my acting is nothing compared to yours. You are—'"

"A first cousin to Ananias and Sapphira," finished David derisively.

"Never heard of them," replied Hippy unabashed. "Not branches of our family tree. As I was saying—"

"Never mind what you were saying," said Nora in cutting tones. "Listen to me. It is seven o'clock. Anne must go, and in a taxicab, at that."

"Where shall we see you after the performance, dear?" asked Grace.

"Mr. Southard has obtained special permission for all of you to go behind the scenes after the play."

"How lovely!" cried the girls.

"My curiosity will at last be satisfied. I have always wanted to go behind the scenes of a New York theatre," remarked Mrs. Gibson.

"I have the dearest dressing room," said Anne, with enthusiasm. "Mr. and Miss Southard are going to carry you off to their house after the performance to-night. I almost forgot to tell you. So don't make any other plans."

"We are in the hands of our friends," said Hippy, with an exaggerated bow.

"You'll be in the hands of the law if you don't mend your ways," prophesied Reddy. "If we get you safely into the theatre without official assistance it will surprise me very much."

"Reddy, you amaze me," responded Hippy reproachfully. "I may make mistakes, but I am far from lawless. Neither do I flaunt the flame colored signal of anarchy every time I remove my hat."

There was a burst of good-natured laughter at Reddy's expense. His red hair was as common a subject of joke as was Hippy's behavior.

"That was a fair exchange of compliments," said Tom Gray. "Now forget it, both of you."

"Good-bye, every one, until eleven o'clock," cried Anne, who, knowing that she would be obliged to hurry away, had brought her wraps to the dining room with her.

David accompanied Anne to the entrance of the hotel, put her in a taxicab and walked into the hotel, hardly knowing whether he were glad or sorry that Anne had had greatness thrust upon her.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE THEATRE PARTY

It was a very merry party that took possession of the box that Mr. Southard had placed at their disposal and waited with ill-concealed impatience for the rise of the curtain.

Anne's friends had thought her the ideal "Rosalind" in the High School production of the piece, but her powers as an actress under the constant instruction of Everett Southard had increased tenfold. His own marvelous work was a source of inspiration to Anne, and from the instant that she set foot upon the stage until the final fall of the curtain she became and was "Rosalind."

Thrilling with pride as she eagerly watched Anne's triumph, Grace was in a maze of delight, and every round of applause that Anne received was as music to her ears. David, too, was more deeply moved than he liked to admit even to himself. In his own heart he had a distinct fear that in spite of her assertions to the contrary, Anne might after all yield to the call of her talent and seek a stage career. During the evening he became so unusually grave and silent that Grace, having an inkling of what was passing in his mind, leaned over and said:

"Don't worry, David, she won't. I am sure of it. Her mind is fixed upon college."

David drew a long breath of almost relief. "I believe it if you say so, Grace; it has worried me a lot, however. She is such a wonderful little actress."

"Nevertheless, take my word for it, she won't," was the assuring answer.

After the play was over, the visit behind the scenes being next on the programme, Mrs. Gibson and her charges were conducted through a long passage to the back of the house. The boys were taken to Mr. Southard's dressing room, and Mrs. Gibson and the five girls to Anne's.

There were many exclamations over the cosy dressing room which Anne occupied. As is the case in most of the recently built theatres, the star's dressing room had been comfortably furnished and was in direct comparison to the cheerless, barn-like rooms that make life on the road a terror to professional people.

"You see, I have had you right with me," smiled Anne, who was seated at a dressing table taking off her make-up with cold cream. She pointed to a photograph that the Phi Sigma Tau had had taken the previous summer.

"Only one face missing to-night," said Grace in low tones as she drew her chair close to Anne's.

"Have you found out anything else?" asked Anne in the same guarded tones.

"Nothing very important," replied Grace. "Marian and Henry Hammond have had some sort of quarrel. Nora saw them pass the other day without speaking."

"That's a step in the right direction", said Anne. "Once she has dropped him for good and all, she'll begin to see her own folly. Then she'll come back and be her old self again."

"I hope so," sighed Grace.

Then the conversation became general and the two girls had no further opportunity for discussion of the subject.

Just as Anne had completed her dressing, a knock sounded on the door, and Mr. Southard's deep voice called out:

"All aboard for the actors' retreat."

"Come in, Mr. Southard," said Anne, and the door opened to admit the eminent actor, who looked bigger and handsomer than ever in his long coat and soft black hat.

Then Anne presented him to Mrs. Gibson, and a general handshaking ensued.

For the third time that night they were handed into the "uncomplaining but over-worked taxicab," according to Nora's version, and set out for the Southard home.

The entire party promptly fell in love with Miss Southard, who was the counterpart of her brother, except that she was considerably older, and she apparently returned their liking from the moment of meeting.

"I know every one of you," she said. "Anne talks of no one else to me. Your fame has already preceded you."

The Southards proved to be hospitable entertainers, and exerted every effort in behalf of their young guests. The time slipped by on wings, and it was well after one o'clock before any one thought of returning to the hotel.

"I am not a very reliable chaperon," laughed Mrs. Gibson, "to allow my charges to keep such late hours as this."

"It's only once in a life time," remarked Nora.

"How very cruel," said Mr. Southard solemnly. "I had hoped that you would all honor us again with your society."

"I didn't mean that," she cried, laughing a little. "I only meant that this was a red-letter night for us. We are basking in the light of greatness."

"Very pretty, indeed," was the actor's reply, and he gave Nora one of his rare, beautiful smiles that caused her to afterwards aver that he was truly the handsomest man in the whole world.

With many expressions of pleasure for the delightful hours they had passed, the revelers bade the Southards good night and good-bye.

"I am going to give a special party to the Phi Sigma Tau and these young men, when my season closes," announced the actor as they stood in the wide hall for a moment before leaving. "I trust that you may be able to again assume the role of chaperon," he added to Mrs. Gibson.

"I shall need no second invitation," replied Mrs. Gibson. "But may I not hope to see your sister and yourself at Hawks' Nest, in the near future?"

"You are indeed kind," responded Mr. Southard. "It would be a distinct pleasure and perhaps I may be able to arrange it. My season is to be a short one."

"Get your things and come with us, Anne," teased Grace. "We've loads of things to talk of, and you can breakfast with us, and go to the train, too. Please don't say no, because you won't see us again for three whole weeks."

"I give you my official permission to carry her off, this one time, Grace," laughed Mr. Southard.

"Better wear your long coat, dear. It is very cold," called Miss Southard as Anne ran upstairs after her wraps.

Then the final good-byes were said and the party were driven back to their hotel.

Mrs. Gibson invited Miriam to share her apartment, thus Grace and Anne were left to themselves, and indulged in one of their old heart-to-heart talks.

Breakfast the next morning was a late affair. After breakfast, the entire party went for a drive, and after a one-o'clock luncheon repaired to the station.

Mrs. Gibson, James Gardiner and the Phi Sigma Tau were to take the 2.30 train for Oakdale. The boys would leave at five o'clock. Tom and Arnold were to travel part of the journey with David, Hippy and Reddy. Then their ways diverged.

The girls kissed and embraced Anne tenderly, then there was a rush for the ferry. They stood on the deck waving to her until they could scarcely see the flutter of her handkerchief. After agreeing to meet the boys at the ferry, David escorted Anne back to the Southard's and spent a brief half hour with her.

"Promise me, Anne," said David earnestly, as he was leaving, "that you won't accept any engagement that you may receive an offer of."

"Of course not, you foolish David," replied Anne. "Notwithstanding the fact that you won't believe me, I solemnly promise to run from prospective managers, as I would from small-pox, and there's my hand upon it."

"I am satisfied," answered David, grasping her out-stretched hand. "I know you will keep your word."



CHAPTER XIX

GRACE MEETS WITH A REBUFF

During the journey to Oakdale, Anne and the Southards formed the chief topic of conversation. It was jointly agreed that Anne had been fortunate indeed in winning the friendship of the great actor and his charming sister.

"They treat her as though she were their own sister," remarked Eva Allen. "They will miss her sadly when she leaves them."

"Every one misses Anne," said Miriam Nesbit. "She is so sweet and lovable that she simply draws one's affection to her. I am frightfully jealous of Grace."

"Yes, Grace is Anne's favorite," said Jessica. "Anne would give her life for Grace if it were necessary."

"And Mabel Allison feels the same way toward you, Jessica," interposed Grace.

"How I wish Mabel had been with us," sighed Jessica.

"I received a letter from Mrs. Allison, just before leaving Oakdale," said Mrs. Gibson. "She expects to come east in June. Mabel has set her heart upon being here for commencement week. I shall invite the Southards, too, and perhaps your people will lend you to me for the week following graduation."

"We should love to go," said Grace, and her friends echoed her answer.

Before their journey ended night closed in around them. They had dinner in the dining car, and after dinner the girls began to feel a trifle tired and sleepy.

James Gardiner had discovered a boy friend on the train and had been graciously granted permission by the Phi Sigma Tau to go over and cultivate his society.

"You have been an angel, James," said Nora, "and have proved yourself worthy of a little recreation. Don't forget to be on hand when the train stops, however. I never saw your equal as a luggage carrier."

One by one the five girls leaned against the comfortable backs of their seats and closed their eyes. Mrs. Gibson became absorbed in the pages of a new book.

Grace dozed for a brief space and then opening her eyes gazed idly about her. The seat on which she sat had been reversed in order that she and Nora might face Mrs. Gibson and Miriam. Their seats being near to the middle of the car, she could obtain a good view of a number of the other passengers. She noticed that the car was very full, every seat being occupied.

Her eye rested for a second upon a portly, well-dressed old gentleman in the last seat of the car, who was leaning back with closed eyes, then traveled on to the man who shared the seat.

"What a remarkable face that man has," she thought. "He looks like a combination of a snake and a fox. I never before saw such tricky eyes. He is rather good looking, but there is something about him that frightens one."

Grace found herself watching, with a kind of fascination, every move that the stranger made. Once her eyes met his and she shuddered slightly, there was a world of refined cruelty in their depths. She looked out of the window as the train rushed on through the darkness, then almost against her will turned her eyes again in the direction of the repellent stranger.

But what she saw this time caused her to stare in amazement. The stranger under cover of a newspaper was bent on extracting the handsome watch and chain that the elderly gentleman's open coat displayed. Although the paper hid the movement of his hands, Grace divined by the expression of the man's face what was taking place behind the paper screen.

Like a flash she was out of her seat and down the aisle. But quick as had been her movement, the thief was quicker. He straightened up, coolly turned to his paper, looking up at her with an air of bored inquiry as she paused before him.

Ignoring him completely, she touched the old man on the shoulder and said in a low tone, "Please pardon me, but if you value your watch you had better look to it. I just saw this man attempting to steal it."

The old gentleman bounded up like a rubber ball, saying excitedly, "What do you mean, young woman?"

"Just what I say," replied Grace.

The thief gave Grace a contemptuous look, then without stirring, said lazily, "The young lady is entirely mistaken. She must have been dreaming."

"I repeat my accusation," said Grace firmly. "I have been watching you for some time, and I saw you attempt it."

The old gentleman put his hand to his vest and drew out a particularly fine old-fashioned gold watch.

"My watch is safe enough," he growled testily, "and so is my chain. Any one who steals from me will have to be pretty smart. I guess if this man had laid hands on my watch I'd have known it. Can't fool me."

"Certainly not," responded the tricky stranger. "If I were a thief you would be the last person I should attempt to practice upon."

"I should say so," grumbled the old gentleman. "Young woman, you have let your imagination run away with you. Be careful in the future or you may get yourself into serious trouble. This gentleman has taken your nonsense very good-naturedly."

As the two men were occupying the seat nearest the door, save for the old gentleman's first bounce, the little scene had been so quietly enacted that the other passengers were paying little attention to the trio.

"You had better go back to your friends," said the man whom Grace had accused, looking at her with cold hatred in his eyes. "That is, unless you wish to make yourself ridiculous."

Grace turned away without speaking. There were tears of mortification in her eyes. She had attempted to render a service and had been rudely rebuffed. She slipped into her place beside Nora, who was dozing, and had not missed her. Mrs. Gibson, too, had not marked her absence.

"Where were you, Grace?" said Miriam curiously. "I opened my eyes and you were gone. What's the matter? You look ready to cry."

"I am," replied Grace. "I could cry with sheer vexation." Then she briefly recounted what had occurred.

"What a crusty old man," sympathized Miriam. "It would serve him right if he did lose his old watch. Where are they sitting?"

"Down the aisle on the other side at the end," directed Grace.

Miriam turned around in her seat. "He looks capable of most anything," she remarked after a prolonged stare at the stranger, who was apparently absorbed in his paper. "Are you sure, however, that you were not mistaken, Grace? You can't always judge a man by his looks."

"You can this man," asserted Grace. "He is a polite villain of the deepest dye, and I know it."

It was after eleven o'clock when the train pulled into Oakdale. Mrs. Gibson's chauffeur awaited them with the big touring car, in which there was ample room for all of them.

"Keep a sharp lookout for that man," whispered Grace to Miriam. "I want to see if Oakdale is his destination."

The two girls lagged behind the others, eagerly scanning the platform.

"I think he must have gone on," said Miriam. "I don't see him. Don't worry any more about him, Grace."

Then she walked on ahead.

But Grace lingered. "That looks like him now," she thought. "He is just leaving the train. He seems to be waiting for some one."

She stood in the shadow of the station watching the man. Then she saw another man rapidly approaching. The newcomer walked straight up to the stranger and shook hands with him. Then the two men turned and she obtained a full-face view of them both.

Grace gave a little gasp of surprise, for the newcomer who had shaken the hand of the crook was Henry Hammond.



CHAPTER XX

MARIAN'S CONFESSION

Grace reached home that night with her head in a whirl. She could think of nothing save the fact that she had seen Henry Hammond warmly welcome a man whom she knew in her heart to be a professional crook. It formed the first link in the chain of evidence she hoped to forge against him. She had become so strongly imbued with the idea that Hammond was an impostor that the incident at the station only served to confirm her belief.

The Phi Sigma Tau were besieged with questions the next day, and at recess the five members held forth separately to groups of eager and admiring girls on the glories of the visit.

"Where is Marian Barber?" asked Grace of Ruth Deane, as they were leaving the senior locker-room at the close of the noon recess.

"She hasn't been in school to-day," replied Ruth. "I suppose what happened Friday was too much for her."

"What happened Friday?" repeated Grace. "Well, what did happen?"

"Oh, Eleanor Savelli and Marian had a quarrel in the locker-room. I was the only one who heard it, and I shouldn't have stayed but I know Eleanor of old, and I made up my mind that I had better stay and see that Marian had fair play. But I might as well have stayed away, for I wasn't of any use to either side. In fact, I doubt if either one realized I was there, they were so absorbed in their own troubles."

"It's a wonder that I wasn't around," remarked Grace. "I am really glad, however, that I wasn't. The Phi Sigma Tau were all in Miss Tebbs' classroom at recess last Friday. Miss Tebbs is a dear friend of the Southards, you know. She was invited to go with us, but had made a previous engagement that she could not break. We were talking things over with her. After school we all went straight home and I saw neither Eleanor nor Marian. Have you any idea what it was about?"

"I don't know," returned Ruth bluntly. "Marian and Eleanor came into the locker-room together. I heard Marian say something about telling Eleanor what she had in confidence. Then Eleanor just laughed scornfully and told Marian that she had told her secrets to the wrong person. Marian grew very angry, and called Eleanor treacherous and revengeful, and Eleanor said that Marian's opinion was a matter of indifference to her.

"Then she told Marian that she intended to call a class meeting for Thursday of this week and entertain them with the very interesting little story that Marian had told her the previous week.

"Marian wilted at that and cried like a baby, but Eleanor kept on laughing at her, and said that she would know better another time, and perhaps would think twice before she spoke once. She said that no one could trample upon her with impunity."

"Oh, pshaw," exclaimed Grace impatiently. "She always says that when she is angry. She said that last year."

"Well, Marian cried some more," continued Ruth, "and Eleanor made a number of other spiteful remarks and walked out with a perfectly hateful look of triumph on her face."

"And what about Marian?" asked Grace.

"She didn't go back to the study hall. She told Miss Thompson that she was ill and went home."

"Poor Marian," said Grace. "She certainly has been very foolish to leave her real friends and put her faith in people like Eleanor and that Henry Hammond. I have been afraid all along that she would be bitterly disillusioned. I think I'd better go to see her to-night."

"Why, I thought she wasn't on speaking terms with the Phi Sigma Tau!" exclaimed Ruth.

"Speaking terms or not, I'm going to find out what the trouble is and straighten it out if I can. Please don't tell that to any one, Ruth. I don't imagine it's anything serious. Eleanor always goes to extremes."

"Trust me, Grace, not to say a word," was the response.

"I wish Anne were here," mused Grace, as she took her seat and drew out her text-book on second year French. Then for the time being she dismissed Marian from her mind, and turned her attention to the lesson on hand.

By the time school closed that afternoon Grace had made up her mind to go to see Marian before going home. Leaving Nora and Jessica at the usual corner, she walked on for a block, then turned into the street where the Barbers lived.

Grace pulled the bell rather strenuously by way of expressing her feelings, and waited.

"Is Marian in?" she inquired of Alice, the old servant.

"Yes, Miss Grace," answered the woman, "She's in the sittin' room, walk right in there. It's a long time since I seen you here, Miss Grace."

"Yes, it is, Alice," replied Grace with a smile, then walked on into the room.

Over in one corner, huddled up on the wide leather couch, was Marian. Her eyes were swollen and red, and she looked ill and miserable.

"Marian," began Grace, "Ruth Deane told me you were ill, and so I came to see you."

"Go away," muttered Marian. "I don't wish to see you."

"I am not so sure of that," answered Grace. "I understand you have been having some trouble with Eleanor, and that she has threatened revenge."

"Who told you?" cried Marian, sitting up and looking angrily at Grace. "I can manage my own affairs, without any of your help."

"Very well," replied Grace quietly. "Then I had better go. I thought when I came that I might be able to help you. You look both ill and unhappy. I see I have been mistaken."

"You can't help me," replied Marian, her chin beginning to quiver. "Nobody can help me. I'm the most miserable girl—" her voice ended in a wail, and she rocked to and fro upon the couch, sobbing wildly.

"Listen to me, Marian," commanded Grace firmly. "You must stop crying and tell me every single thing about this trouble of yours. I have crossed swords with Eleanor before this, and I think I can bring her to reason."

"How can I tell you?" sobbed Marian. "Grace, I am a thief and may have to go to prison."

"A thief!" echoed Grace. "Nonsense, Marian. I don't believe you would steal a penny."

"But I am," persisted Marian tearfully. "I stole the class money, and it's all gone."

She began to sob again.

Grace let Marian finish her cry before interrogating her further. She wanted time to think. Her mind hastily reviewed the two conversations she had overheard between Marian and Henry Hammond. This, then, was the meaning of it all. The brief suspicion that had flashed into her mind and Anne's on the night that Marian and Henry Hammond had passed them, had been only too well founded. Marian had drawn the money from the bank and given it to him.

"Marian," asked Grace, "did you give the money the judge sent us to Henry Hammond?"

Marian nodded, too overcome as yet to speak.

"Can't you tell me about it?" continued Grace patiently.

Marian struggled for self-control, then began in a shaking voice.

"I have been a perfect idiot over that miserable Henry Hammond, and I deserve everything. I was not satisfied with being a school-girl, but thought it very smart to put up my hair and make a general goose of myself.

"It all began the night of the bazaar. I had no business to pay any attention to that man. He is really very clever, for before I realized what I had said I had told him all about our sorority and about being class treasurer, and a lot of things that were none of his business.

"After the bazaar I saw him often and told him about the judge's check.

"One day he asked me if I had any friends who had money that they would like to double. I had fifty dollars of my own that I had been saving for ever so long, and told him about it. He said that he manipulated stocks a little (whatever that is) in connection with his real estate business. He asked me to give him the money and let him prove to me how easily he could double it. I did, and he brought me back one hundred dollars.

"Of course, I was delighted. Then mother sent me fifty dollars for Christmas, and I bought all those presents. It took every cent I had, and I was awfully silly, for no one cared as much for them as if they'd been pretty little gifts that I made myself. That was my first folly.

"The next was those three gowns. They haven't been paid for yet. I haven't dared give father the bills, and I can never face mother. She would never have allowed me to order anything like them. Well, you know how badly I behaved at the house party, and how nice you all were to me, even when I was so hateful.

"On New Year's Night, when we were coming from Nesbits, Henry Hammond asked me for the class money. He said he had a chance to treble it, and that it was too good an opportunity to be lost.

"I refused point blank at first, and then he talked and talked in that smooth way of his until I began to think what a fine thing it would be to walk into the class and say, 'Girls, here are fifteen hundred dollars instead of five hundred.' I was feeling awfully cross at you girls just then, because he made me believe that you were slighting me and leaving me out of things. Besides, all of you had warned me against him, and I wanted to show you that I knew more than you did.

"I didn't promise to give it to him that night, but the more I thought of it the more I inclined toward his views, and the upshot of the matter was that I drew it out of the bank and let him have it."

Marian paused and looked piteously at Grace. Then she said brokenly:

"He lost it, Grace, every cent of it. The week after I gave it to him he told me that luck had been against him, and that it was all gone. When I asked him what he intended to do about it he promised that he would sell some real estate of his and turn the money over to me to give back to the class. He said it was his fault for persuading me to do it, and that I shouldn't suffer for it. But he never kept his word.

"Last week I asked him for the last time if he would refund the money, and he laughed at me and said that I had risked it and ought to accept my losses with good grace. I threatened to expose him, and he said if I did I should only succeed in making more trouble for myself than for him. He had only speculated with what I had given him. Where I obtained the money was none of his business, and as long as I had appropriated it I would have to abide by the consequences.

"Of course, I was desperate and didn't know what to do. I had no money of my own, and I didn't dare ask my father for it. I had to tell some one, so I told Eleanor."

"Eleanor!" exclaimed Grace aghast. "Oh, Marian, why did you tell her of all people."

"I thought she was my friend," declared Marian, "but I soon found out that she wasn't. As soon as I had told her, she changed entirely. She told me last Friday that she had been watching for a long time in the hope of revenging herself upon the Phi Sigma Tau for their insults, and that at last she had the means to do so.

"Her friendship for me was merely a pretense. She said that when I separated from my sorority she knew I was sure to do something foolish, so she decided to make advances to me and see what she could find out.

"She is going to call a class meeting for next Thursday after school, and she is going to expose me. She says that it is right that the class should know just what sort of material the Phi Sigma Tau is made up of, and that one of its members is a sneak and a thief."

"This is serious, and no mistake," replied Grace soberly. "Don't you remember, Marian, that back in our junior year, when Eleanor tried to get Anne's part in the play, I cautioned the girls to never put themselves in a position where Eleanor might injure them."

"Yes, I remember, now," Marian faltered, "but it is too late."

"I might try to checkmate her at her own game by threatening to tell the story of the missing costumes," reflected Grace aloud. "I'll try it at any rate. But even if we do succeed in silencing Eleanor, where are we to get the money to pay back the class fund? We can't arrest that miserable Henry Hammond without making the affair public, and this simply must remain a private matter. It is the hardest problem that I have ever been called upon to contend with.

"You must brace up, Marian, and go back to school to-morrow," directed Grace. "If you keep on this way it will serve to create suspicion. You have done a very foolish and really criminal act, but your own remorse has punished you severely enough. None of us are infallible. The thing to do now, is to find a way to make up this money."

Marian wiped her eyes, and, leaving the lounge, walked over to Grace, and, putting her arms about Grace's neck, said, with agonized earnestness:

"Grace, can you and the girls ever forgive me for being so hateful?"

"Why, of course, we can. There is nothing to forgive. We have never stopped thinking of you as a member of our sorority. We wouldn't ask any one else to take your place."

An expression of intense relief shone in Marian's face.

"I am so glad," she said. "I can't help being happy, even with this cloud hanging over me."

"Cheer up, Marian," said Grace hopefully. "I have an idea that I shall straighten out this tangle yet. I must go now. Keep up your courage and whatever you do, don't tell any one else what you have told me. There are too many in the secret now."



CHAPTER XXI

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE HAUNTED HOUSE

The moment that Grace left Marian, she set her active brain at work for some solution of the problem she had taken upon her own shoulders. She had no money, and the members of her sorority had none. Besides, Grace inwardly resolved not to tell the other girls were it possible to avoid doing so.

Mrs. Gray would be home before long, and Grace knew that the gentle old lady would gladly advance the money rather than see Marian disgraced. But Eleanor had planned to denounce Marian on Thursday, and it was now Monday.

There was but one course to pursue, and that was to go to Eleanor and beg her to renounce her scheme of vengeance. Grace felt very dubious as to the outcome of such an interview. Eleanor had in the past proved anything but tractable.

"I'll go to-night," decided Grace. "I'm not afraid of the dark. If mother objects, I'll take Bridget along for protection, although she's the greatest coward in the world."

Grace giggled a little as she thought of Bridget in the role of protector.

That night she hurried through her supper, and, barely tasting her dessert, said abruptly:

"Mother, may I go to Eleanor Savelli's this evening?"

"Away out to 'Heartsease,' Grace? Who is going with you?"

"No one," replied Grace truthfully. "Mother, please don't say no. I simply must see Eleanor at once."

"But I thought that you were not friendly with Eleanor," persisted Mrs. Harlowe.

"That is true," Grace answered, "but just now that is the very thing I want to be. It's this way, mother. Eleanor is going to try to make some trouble for Marian Barber in the class, and I must act at once if it is to be prevented."

"More school-girl difficulties," commented Mrs. Harlowe, with a smile. "But how does it happen that you always seem to be in the thick of the fight, Grace?"

"I don't know, mother," sighed Grace. "No one dislikes quarrels more than I do. May I go?"

"Yes," assented her mother, "but you must take Bridget with you. I'll see her at once and tell her to get ready."

It had been a raw, disagreeable day, and towards evening a cold rain had set in that was practically half snow. It was anything but an enviable night for a walk, and Bridget grumbled roundly under her breath as she wrapped herself in the voluminous folds of a water-proof cape and took down a huge, dark-green cotton umbrella from its accustomed nail behind the kitchen door.

"Miss Grace do be crazy to be goin' out this night. It's rheumatics I shall have to-morrow in all me bones," she growled.

She plodded along at Grace's side with such an injured expression that Grace felt like laughing outright at the picture of offended dignity that she presented.

Grace chatted gayly as they proceeded and Bridget answered her sallies with grunts and monosyllables. When they reached the turn of the road Grace said:

"Bridget, let's take the short cut. The walking is good and we'll save ten minutes' time by doing it."

"Phast that haunted house?" gasped Bridget. "Niver! May the saints presarve us from hants."

"Nonsense," laughed Grace. "There are no such things as ghosts, and you know it. If you're afraid you can go back and wait at your cousin's for me. She lives near here, doesn't she?"

"I will that," replied Bridget fervently, "but don't ye be too long gone, Miss Grace."

"I won't stay long," promised Grace, and hurried down the road, leaving Bridget to proceed with much grumbling to her cousin's house.

The house that Bridget had so flatly refused to pass was a two-story affair of brick that set well back from the highway. There were rumors afloat that a murder had once been committed there, and that the apparition of the victim, an old man, walked about at night moaning in true ghost fashion.

To be sure no one had as yet been found who had really seen the spectre old man, nevertheless the place kept its ghost reputation and was generally avoided.

Grace, who was nothing if not daring, never lost an opportunity to pass the old house, and jeered openly when any one talked seriously of the "ghost."

Now, she smiled to herself as she rapidly neared the house, at Bridget's evident fear of the supernatural.

"What a goose Bridget is," she murmured. "Just as though there were——" She stopped abruptly and stared in wonder at the old house. On the side away from the road was a small wing, and through one of the windows of this wing gleamed a tiny point of light.

"A light," she said aloud in surprise. "How strange. The ghost must be at home. Perhaps I was mistaken. No, there it is again. Ghost or no ghost, I'm going to see what it is."

Suiting the action to the words, Grace stole softly up the deserted walk and crouched under the window from whence the light had come. Clinging to the window ledge, she cautiously raised herself until her head was on a level with the glass. What she saw caused her to hold her breath with astonishment. Was she awake or did she dream? At one side of the room stood a small table, and on the table, in full view of her incredulous eyes, stood the strong box which had held the bazaar money that had been spirited away on Thanksgiving night. Bending over it, the light from his dark lantern shining full on the lock, was the man whom she had accused on the train.



Thrilled for the moment by her discovery, Grace forgot everything except what was going on inside the room. The man was making vain efforts to hit upon the combination. How long he had been there Grace had no idea. She could not take her eyes from the box which contained their hard-earned money.

Minutes went by, but still she watched in a fever of apprehension for fear he might accidentally discover the combination. Unsuccessful in his attempts, he finally straightened up with an exclamation of anger and disgust. Going over to a small cupboard built in the wall, he opened it, and, stooping, pressed his finger against some hidden spring. Then the wall opened and the light from the lantern disclosed an inside recess. Lifting the box, he carried it over and deposited it in the opening, and at his touch the panel slid back into place. Quickly locking the cupboard, he placed the key in his pocket, and, extinguishing the lantern, strode towards the door.

Once outside, he passed so close to Grace that by stretching out her hand she might easily have touched him, as she lay flat on the rain-soaked ground, scarcely daring to breathe.

The stranger paused to lock the door, and Grace heard him mutter: "Nice night to send a pal out in, and on a still hunt, too. Nothing short of soup'll open up that claim. If the rest of the jobs he's goin' to pull off are like this hand out, me to shake this rube joint."

The echo of his footsteps died away and Grace ventured to raise herself from her uncomfortable position. She peered into the blackness of the night, but could see nothing. Rising to her feet, she stealthily circled the house and set off at her best speed for "Heartsease."

"There'll be plenty of work for Eleanor and me to do this night," she thought. "If only she will help me now, and she must. She can't refuse. It's for the honor of the senior class."

Giving the old-fashioned knocker a vigorous pull, Grace waited impatiently for admittance.

"Is Miss Savelli at home?" asked Grace eagerly, the moment the maid opened the door.

"No, ma'am," answered the girl. "She and her aunt are in Oakdale to-night. We expect them any minute now."

Grace groaned inwardly.

"What shall I do?" she asked herself. "I must get that money away from there to-night. To-morrow may be too late, and besides I feel sure that that dreadful man won't return to-night. This is our opportunity and we mustn't neglect it."

The maid eyed her curiously. "You are Miss Harlowe, aren't you?" she asked.

"Yes," said Grace. "May I wait here for Miss Savelli?"

"Certainly, miss. Let me take your rain coat and cap. It's a terrible night, isn't it?"

Before Grace had time to answer the click of a latchkey was heard, and the maid said, "There they are."

Eleanor stepped part way into the hall before she became aware of Grace's presence. A look of surprise, followed by one of extreme dislike crossed her face. Drawing herself up, she was about to speak, when Grace exclaimed: "Don't say a word, Eleanor, until you hear what I have to say. I came here to-night to discuss a very personal matter with you, but something so strange has happened that I must defer what I had to say until another time and ask you if you will help me to-night."

"I don't understand," said Eleanor coldly. "Please explain yourself."

"Eleanor," Miss Nevin interposed, "Miss Harlowe is evidently very much agitated over something, therefore do not waste time over useless formality. I knew you, my dear, from the picture I saw of you at Mrs. Gray's," she added, turning to Grace, with a winning smile, that caused the young girl to love her immediately.

"Eleanor," said Grace quickly, "I have found the bazaar money that was stolen Thanksgiving night."

"Found it!" exclaimed Eleanor incredulously. "Where?"

"At the old haunted house," replied Grace.

Then she rapidly narrated the story of her walk, her curiosity as to the light, and the sight that it had revealed to her.

Eleanor and her aunt listened without interrupting.

"When I saw him put the money away and leave the house, I felt that he wouldn't try it again until daylight, so I came straight here," Grace continued. "If you will take your run-about down to the road where it runs near to the house, you and I can easily get the box and carry it to the machine. It will take two of us, because it's very heavy. I know I can find the secret of the panel, but we shall have to break open the door of the cupboard. I am not afraid, and, somehow, Eleanor, I felt that you would have plenty of the right brand of courage."

"I am not afraid," responded Eleanor, flushing at Grace's words, "but I know I should never have displayed the courage that you have. I should never have dared dashing up to a haunted house to investigate uncanny lights."

"My dear child," exclaimed Miss Nevin, "do you suppose that I would allow you two slips of girls to prowl around that old house alone, on a night like this?"

"Miss Nevin," Grace's voice rose in its earnestness, "we must get that money to-night, even if I have to go back there alone. It belongs to us, and we simply can't let it slip through our fingers."

"And so you shall get it," was the answer, "but with John, the coachman, for a bodyguard."

"May we go this minute?" chorused both girls.

"Yes," nodded Miss Nevin. "I'll send word to John to get out the run-about and take you at once."

Ten minutes later John, the coachman, and the two girls had squeezed into the run-about and were making as good time to the haunted house as the darkness would permit. The heavy outside door was found to be securely padlocked, and the windows were locked. With two blows of the small axe that he had brought with him, John shattered the glass of the very window through which Grace had peered, and, climbing in, helped the two girls in after him.

By the light of the two lanterns they had brought, the cupboard was easily located and opened and a diligent search was made for the hidden spring.

"Shall I smash in the paneling, miss?" asked the coachman.

"Perhaps you'd better," assented Grace. "I don't seem to be able to find the key to the riddle." She endeavored to step out of John's way, and as she did so, struck her foot smartly against the back wall of the cupboard near to the floor. There was a curious grating sound and the panel slid back, revealing the welcome sight of the strong box reposing in the recess.

Unwittingly Grace had touched the secret spring. Both girls cried out in triumph. Then, hurrying to the window, they climbed out, ready to receive the box. John set it on the window-sill, and, though very heavy, Grace and Eleanor combined forces and lowered it to the ground. Leaping over the sill, the coachman picked it up, and the three set off at full speed down the path.

The ride back to "Heartsease" was a memorable one to at least two of the occupants of the machine. But few remarks were exchanged. Each girl was busy with her own thoughts. The circumstances that had brought them together seemed too remarkable for mere words.

"'To the victors belong the spoils,'" called Grace as she hopped out of the run-about before John could assist her, with Eleanor at her heels, while the coachman followed more slowly, bearing the box.

The rain was still falling, but it was doubtful whether either girl was sensible to the fact that her hair was heavy with dampness and her clothing and shoes were wet.

"My dear, you had better allow Eleanor to provide you with dry clothing and remain with her to-night," suggested Miss Nevin as they entered the hall. Then ringing for the maid, she ordered hot chocolate.

"I wish you would stay with me, Grace," said Eleanor rather shyly. "I have a great deal to say to you."

"And I to you, Eleanor," Grace responded.

For a moment they stood facing one another. What they saw seemed to satisfy them. Their hands reached out simultaneously and met in a firm clasp.

"Will you kiss me, Grace?" was what Eleanor said.

"With all my heart," was the answer. And with that kiss all resentment and hard feeling died out forever.

"You are surely going to stay with me to-night," coaxed Eleanor. "We will send word to your mother."

But with Eleanor's remark the remembrance of her promise to her mother came back with a rush.

"Good gracious, Eleanor! I promised mother that I'd be home at nine o'clock. What time is it now?"

"It's half past ten," replied Eleanor, consulting her watch.

"Poor Bridget," mourned Grace. "She will be sure to think that the ghosts have spirited me away. I must go this minute, before search parties are sent out for me. But I'll see you to-morrow Eleanor, for I need your help."

Just then Miss Nevin, who had left the room, returned with a tray on which were tiny sandwiches and a pot of chocolate.

"You must have some refreshment, Grace," she said. "Eleanor, do the honors."

Grace was made to eat and drink, then, placing herself under John's protection, she returned to Oakdale in Eleanor's run-about, stopping on her way home at the house of Bridget's cousin, where she found the faithful though irate Bridget awaiting her in a state of anxiety bordering upon frenzy.

"Don't fuss, Bridget," consoled Grace. "The banshees didn't get me, and you're going to ride home in an automobile. That ought to make you feel better."

The prospect of the ride completely mollified Bridget, and by the time they reached home she fairly radiated good nature.

"Your ideas of time are somewhat peculiar, Grace," remarked her mother as Grace entered the living room, where her mother and father sat reading. "If Bridget had not been with you I should have been most uneasy."

But Grace was too full of her news to make other answer than cry out:

"Oh, mother, we found it! We did, truly!"

"What is the child talking about?" asked her father. And then Grace launched forth with an account of her night's doings.

"Well, I never!" was all Mr. Harlowe could find words for when his daughter had finished.

"What shall I do with you, Grace?" said her mother in despair. "You will be injured or killed yet, in some of your mad excursions."

"Trust to me to land right side up with care," answered Grace cheerfully.

"I'll call at the police station early to-morrow morning and have the chief send some one up to that old house," said Mr. Harlowe. "From what you heard the thief say, he must have a confederate. Perhaps the chief's men will get both of them."

"Perhaps so," replied Grace, but she had a shrewd idea as to who the confederate might be, and felt that if her suppositions were correct there was not much chance of his incriminating himself.



CHAPTER XXII

GRACE AND ELEANOR MAKE A FORMAL CALL

Before recess the next day the news that Grace Harlowe and Eleanor Savelli had been seen in earnest conversation together traveled like wild fire around the study hall. The members of the Phi Sigma Tau could scarcely believe their eyes, and when at recess they sought for enlightenment, Grace would give them no satisfaction save that she and Eleanor had really become friendly again.

"I love you all dearly, but I can't tell you about it yet, so please don't ask me. When I do tell you, you'll understand and be as glad as I am," she informed them affectionately, and with this they were obliged to content themselves.

At one o'clock that afternoon Grace was summoned from the study hall, and her friends' curiosity went up to the highest pitch and did not in the least abate when Eleanor Savelli was also excused and hurriedly followed Grace out.

"This must mean that they have caught him," said Eleanor, as she and Grace turned their steps in the direction of the police station.

Grace nodded silently. Her mind was busy with Marian's problem. She must get back the money that Henry Hammond had wheedled Marian into giving him. If the stranger had been apprehended and if Hammond were really his confederate, then the stranger might, under cross-examination, betray Hammond, who would at once be arrested.

Now that Eleanor had become her friend, Grace knew that she would never expose Marian in class meeting, but even with this menace removed, still nothing could disguise the fact that the judge's gift could not be honestly accounted for.

Grace believed that Henry Hammond had appropriated the money for his own use. She did not place any dependence in his story of having lost it through speculation. She therefore resolved that he should return it if she could devise any means of making him do so, without subjecting him to public exposure.

For Marian's sake, she would refrain from carrying the matter into court, and she reluctantly decided to say nothing about the meeting between Hammond and the prisoner that she had witnessed at the station on the night of her return from New York.

Eleanor's surmise proved to be correct. At the door of the station house, Grace's father awaited them, and they were conducted into the court room, where the first thing that caught Grace's attention was the eyes of the prisoner, that glared ferociously at her.

"So you're the fresh kid that got me jugged, are you!" he snarled with a menacing gesture. "I'd like to get my hands on you for a couple of minutes."

"Silence!" roared Chief Burroughs.

Then the examination began. The strong box had been turned over to the police that morning by Miss Nevin, to be held as proof against the thief.

Grace identified the man as the one she had seen tampering with the lock the previous night, repeating what she had heard him say as he left the old house. She then told her story of the removal of the box, which was corroborated by Eleanor and John, the coachman.

"This is not the first time this man and I have met," declared Grace at the conclusion of her testimony. Then she related the incident of the train to the chief, while the prisoner glowered at her as though he would enjoy tearing her in pieces.

When examined, he gave his name as Jones, denied ever having seen Grace before, but under rigid cross-examination finally admitted the truth of her story, and that he had been in Oakdale on the previous Thanksgiving and had assisted in the theft of the strong box. He had left for New York the following morning, supposing that his confederate would have no trouble in unlocking the box.

"Why did you leave Oakdale?" questioned Chief Burroughs.

"Robbing kids was too small business for me," growled the man. "We heard this was a rich town, but when we got here I sized it up, and it didn't look good to me. So I beat it for New York the next day."

But no amount of grilling could induce him to reveal the identity of his partner.

"He's too good a pal to squeal on. Nothing doing in that line," was the unvarying answer.

When questioned as to his second visit to Oakdale, he said that his partner had been unable to open the strong box, and after looking about for some safe hiding place, had accidentally discovered the secret recess in the cupboard, while prowling about the haunted house.

This had seemed an ideal place of concealment, and he had secretly conveyed the box there until the prisoner, who was an expert cracksman, should be on hand to open it.

"And was that your sole object in coming to Oakdale?" was the chief's sharp query.

"Of course," replied the prisoner.

But the chief shook his head. "There is a good deal more back of this. You have not answered truthfully. Your real motive for coming here was robbery."

Grace and Eleanor were not detained throughout the entire examination. After giving their testimony, they were allowed to go. Once they were fairly outside the police station, Grace took Eleanor by the arm and said:

"Eleanor, I have a call to make, and I wish you to go with me. We haven't a moment to spare, for the First National Bank closes at three, and it's a quarter after two now."

"I am very glad to hear that useful and interesting fact about the First National Bank. Are you going to deposit money there!" asked Eleanor, laughing.

"No," answered Grace mysteriously. "I am going to draw money from there after I have called upon a certain person."

"But what have I to do with it!" questioned Eleanor.

"Come with me and see," Grace replied. "After we have succeeded in our undertaking, I'll answer any questions you may ask. I warn you, however, that the call I am about to make is not a friendly one. Are you willing to stand by me through what may be a rather disagreeable scene?"

"I certainly am," replied Eleanor emphatically. "You ought to know from past experiences that disagreeable scenes are my forte."

"I know that I'd rather have you with me on this expedition than any one else I know," responded Grace. "You are not easily intimidated."

The two girls by this time had left Main Street and turned into Putnam Square.

"Grace," said Eleanor suddenly. "I believe I can guess the place you are headed for. You are going to Henry Hammond's office, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Grace, surprised at the accuracy of Eleanor's guess, "I am."

"And you are going there about the money that he stole from Marian. Am I right!"

"You are," answered Grace truthfully. "But how did you know?"

"Because," said Eleanor quietly, "I intended going there myself."

"Then you think that——" began Grace.

"I think that Henry Hammond is a thief and an impostor," finished Eleanor. "He tried to interest Aunt Margaret in some real estate, and called at 'Heartsease' on two different occasions. She is a very shrewd business woman and he couldn't fool her in the least. Both times he called he kept looking about him all the time, as though he were trying to see whether we had any valuables. He raved over the house, and hinted to be shown through it, but we weren't so foolish.

"When Chief Burroughs was questioning the prisoner to-day about his confederate, it suddenly flashed across me that it might be this man Hammond. He appeared here for the first time on the night of the bazaar and—"

"Eleanor," exclaimed Grace, "you've missed your vocation. You should have been a detective. I believe what you say to be the truth and have thought so for some time. We can hardly denounce Henry Hammond upon suspicion, but we can scare him and make him give back the class money. Perhaps we are defeating the ends of justice by not telling what we suspect, but if we have him arrested on suspicion, then the only way we can get back our money is to publicly charge him with extorting it from Marian. Think what a disgrace that would be for her in her graduating year, too," Grace added. "She would feel too ashamed to ever again face her best friends."

"I have thought of all that, too, and now that we are both of the same mind, let's on to victory," said Eleanor.

The two girls paused and shook hands as they entered the building in which Henry Hammond had his office, then mounted the stairs with the full determination of winning in their cause.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Hammond," called Eleanor, as she opened the door and walked serenely in, followed by Grace.

Henry Hammond started nervously up from his desk at the sound of her voice. The bland smile with which he greeted her changed to a frown as his eyes rested upon Grace, and he saluted her coldly.

"I am, indeed, honored, this afternoon," he said with sarcasm. "Miss Harlowe has never before visited my office."

"We had a few minutes to spare and thought we'd run in and tell you the news," replied Grace sweetly. "We have just come from the police station."

"Rather a peculiar place for two High School girls to visit, isn't it!" asked the man with a suspicion of a sneer.

"Yes, but we were the heroines in an adventure last night," replied Grace evenly. "We found the bazaar money that was stolen last Thanksgiving."

"What!" exploded Hammond. Then trying to conceal his agitation, he said with affected carelessness, "I believe I do remember something about that robbery."

"I was sure that you would," returned Grace, looking squarely at him. "That was the night of the day you came to Oakdale, was it not?"

"I really can't recollect the exact date," murmured Hammond.

"One of the thieves was caught to-day, at the old haunted house, where he had hidden the box," volunteered Eleanor.

A grayish pallor overspread Hammond's face. With a desperate effort at self-control, he said:

"Ah, there was more than one, then!"

"Oh, yes," declared Grace cheerfully. "There were two in it. The other will probably be apprehended soon. The prisoner hasn't revealed his identity, as yet. The funny thing is that I had seen the prisoner before. On the train that we took from New York, after seeing Anne Pierson in the play, I saw this same man try to steal a watch and chain from an old gentleman, who would not believe me when I warned him of his danger."

"When we finally reached Oakdale," continued Grace, "I watched to see if he got off the train, and he did. We saw a man meet him at the station, who—"

Henry Hammond sprang up and seizing his hat, said harshly, "I hope you young ladies will excuse me, what you have told me is so interesting that I believe I shall go over to the station house and get all the details. Will you remain until I return?" He fumbled in a drawer of his desk, and both girls saw him take out a bankbook.

"Thank you," said Grace politely. "We can't stay, but before we go we should like to have you write us a check for the five hundred dollars that Marian Barber foolishly loaned you. You see she had no right to do so. Besides, she is still a minor. If you do it at once we can cash it to-day. It is now fifteen minutes of three. I'll call the bank and tell them that I am coming. But first I must send a message to my father."

With these words, Grace walked to the telephone without giving Hammond time to answer. "Give me Main 268a, please," she said. With a bound he sprang to the door, but it closed in his face, and he heard the turn of the key in the lock, just as Grace calmly called, "Hello, is this Chief Burroughs? Is my father there?" Then she answered, "You say he is there? Well, this is his daughter, Grace. Please tell him that Miss Savelli and I are just about to leave Mr. Hammond's office, and wish him to meet us outside."

Hammond sprang toward Grace, but instantly realizing that it would be folly to molest her, drew back, scowling savagely.

Grace hung up the receiver and rang again. This time she called the bank, asking for the president. "Is this Mr. Furlow?" she said. "This is Grace Harlowe. I am at the office of Mr. Henry Hammond, who is about to write my father a check for five hundred dollars, which he wishes to cash before the bank closes. It is now ten minutes of three. He will be there inside of seven minutes. Thank you. Good-bye."

"Now," she commanded, turning to Hammond, the expression of whose face was a combination of baffled rage, disappointment and fear, "write the check."

With a muttered imprecation he went to his desk, jerked out a checkbook and wrote the desired check.

"To whom shall I make it payable?" he muttered.

"To Thomas G. Harlowe," replied Grace composedly.

Inserting her father's name, he fairly flung the check in her face, and strode to the door.

"Open this door," he commanded.

There was no response.

"You may open the door, Eleanor," called Grace. "Mr. Hammond is ready to go now."

The key turned in the lock. With a savage jerk, Henry Hammond flung open the door, and brushing Eleanor aside, bolted for the stairway.

Five seconds later the two girls reached the sidewalk and found Mr. Harlowe waiting for them.

"Father, dear," exclaimed Grace. "Here is a check for five hundred dollars, made payable to you by Mr. Henry Hammond. You have five minutes in which to cash it, before the bank closes. I'll tell you the story of it later. I haven't time now."

The First National Bank was just around the corner, and three minutes later Mr. Harlowe walked in, accompanied by Grace and Eleanor, and cashed the check without any trouble.

"Tom Harlowe must have made money on some deal with Hammond," thought the cashier, as he closed the window. "He is about the only one who has that I know of."

"And now, daughter, whose money is this, and what is it all about?" asked her father gravely, as they left the bank.

"I can have no better confidant than my father," declared Grace, and she thereupon told him the whole story.

Mr. Harlowe heard her story with mingled emotions of pride and disapproval.

"Never take such a risk again, Grace," he said sternly. "Suppose this man had carried a revolver. He might easily have turned the tables."

"I never stopped to think what he might do, father," said Grace ruefully. "The honor of the senior class was at stake, and I knew that I had to get that money somehow. Besides, I had notified Chief Burroughs as to my whereabouts, and sent word for you to wait for me, so he was really cornered, that's why Eleanor locked the door."

"Grace, you are incorrigible," sighed her father, "but if ever again you find yourself in a snarl over the rashness of your friends, then remember that I am the wisest person to consult. It may save you considerable worry, and will be at least a safer method."

Nevertheless, he could not refrain from smiling a little as he added, "What do you propose to do with this money?"

"Deposit it in Upton Bank, to-morrow," was Grace's prompt reply.

"And in whose name?" asked her father.

"In Marian Barber's father," said Grace steadily. "This time it will be safe, for she has learned her lesson."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE MESSAGE OF THE VIOLIN

The news of the finding of the lost money in the haunted house came out in the evening paper, and set the whole town of Oakdale agog with excitement.

The sensational robbery at the close of the Thanksgiving bazaar was too bold to have been forgotten, and the news of the recovery of the hard-earned money was a matter of delight to the public-spirited citizens of the little northern city.

The haunted house soon lost its ghost reputation, and was ransacked by small boys on the hunt for sliding panels and hidden treasure until the owner of the place, who had been absent from Oakdale, took a hand in things and threatened severe penalties for trespassing, which greatly cooled the ardor of the youthful treasure-seekers.

As for Grace Harlowe and Eleanor Savelli, they were the bright and shining lights of the town and the darlings of the senior class.

The two girls had become firm friends. After the excitement of the finding of the money had worn off, they had had a long talk and had cleared up all misunderstandings. Eleanor had confessed to Grace that long before they had been brought together she had secretly tired of the old grudge and had longed for peace.

"After Edna Wright and I quarreled, I began to see things in a different light," Eleanor had confided to Grace, "and the longing for the companionship of your kind of girls took hold of me so strongly it made me miserable at times.

"How I did envy you when you all went to the house party at Christmas, and I was wild to go to New York and see Anne, although I suppose I am the last person she would care to see.

"It wasn't just the good times, either, that I coveted, it was that sense of comradeship that existed among you girls that I didn't at all understand last year."

"But, Eleanor," Grace had said, "if you felt that way, why were you so determined to expose poor Marian Barber!"

"When Marian told me what she had done I felt the utmost contempt for her," Eleanor had replied. "My old idea of vengeance came to the front, and I thought of how completely I could humiliate you all through her. The day I quarreled with her in school I fully intended to expose her, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked the idea of it. I don't really believe that I could ever have stood up before those girls and betrayed her."

While Grace had listened to Eleanor, she had realized that the old whimsical, temperamental Eleanor was passing, and an entirely different girl was endeavoring to take her place. Grace exulted in her heart and dreamed great things for the Phi Sigma Tau when it should be restored to its original number of members.

Eleanor had announced herself ready and eager to take her old place in the sorority, while Marian Barber had, with tears in her eyes, humbly petitioned Grace for her old place in the Phi Sigma Tau.

"Silly girl," was Grace's answer. "You can't go back to what you never left, can you?"

No one save Grace, Eleanor and Mr. Harlowe knew of how near Marian had come to being discredited in the eyes of her class and friends, and they could be trusted with the secret.

Henry Hammond had left Oakdale the morning after he had been interviewed by Grace and Eleanor, and it was afterwards discovered that the land in which he had persuaded certain guileless citizens to invest money had proved worthless. The swindled ones joined forces and put the matter in the hands of a detective, but to no purpose, for no clue was found to his whereabouts.

The strong box was turned over to the girls and the money, which amounted to five hundred and ten dollars, was deposited in Upton Bank with the five hundred that had caused Marian Barber such anxiety and sorrow.

The thief whom Grace had assisted in capturing was found to be a noted crook, known to the police as "Larry the Locksmith," on account of his ability to pick locks. He was tried and sentenced to a number of years in the penitentiary, and departed from Oakdale stolidly refusing to furnish the police with the identity of his "pal."

Easter was drawing near, and Grace was radiantly happy. Anne, whose engagement had stretched into the eighth week, would be home the following day. Mrs. Gray was looked for hourly and the boys were coming from college on Monday.

"We certainly will have a reunion," Nora O'Malley exclaimed joyously, as she banged her books on the window sill of the senior locker-room to emphasize her remark.

"It seems good to have Grace with us once in a while," declared Jessica. "Her police court duties have kept her so busy that she has deserted her little playmates. Have you been asked to join the force yet, Grace!" she asked, trying to look innocent.

"That isn't fair, Jessica," retorted Grace, laughing. "I appeal to you girls," turning to the other members of the Phi Sigma Tau, who had one by one dropped into the locker-room. "Can you imagine me in the garb of an Oakdale policeman?"

"Not in our wildest nightmares," Miriam Nesbit gravely assured her.

"Anne will be home to-morrow," cried Eva Allen. "I'm so glad it's Saturday. We can celebrate. Will you come to my house?"

"We will," was the united answer.

"We'll all go to the train to meet Anne," planned Grace. "Then we'll give her about one hour to get acquainted with her family. After that we'll rush her off to Eva's, back to my house for supper (mother expects all of you), and then up to Mrs. Gray's."

"Poor Anne," said Marian Barber, "I can see her being carried home on a stretcher."

"We will meet at the station," directed Grace, as she left them. "Be there at 8.15. Don't one of you fail to be there."

As Anne Pierson stepped off the 8.15 train the next morning after an all-night ride, she was surrounded by seven laughing girls and marched in triumph to David Nesbit's big car, which Miriam used at her own pleasure during her brother's absence.

The eight girls managed to squeeze into it, and drove to the Pierson cottage with all speed. Here Anne was set down, told to make the most of her hour with her family and to be prepared upon their return to say good-bye to home for the rest of the day.

The programme outlined by Grace was carried out to the letter. The joy of Mrs. Gray at again seeing her adopted children was well worth witnessing.

"I don't know how I ever managed to stay away from you so long!" she exclaimed, as she looked fondly about her at the smiling, girlish faces. "How I wish you might all have been with me. I should have returned sooner, but dreaded the winter here. I do not thrive here—during these long, cold Oakdale winters. It is because I—"

Grace placed a soft hand upon Mrs. Gray's lips. "I can't allow you to finish that sentence," she laughed. "You are sixty-two years young, and you must always remember it."

The old lady laughed happily at Grace's remark, then under cover of general conversation said to her, "I am greatly surprised to see Eleanor here. How did it all come about? You never mentioned it in your letters."

"I know it," replied Grace, "I wanted to save it until you came home. I have been out to 'Heartsease' several times, too, and am quite in love with Miss Nevin. May Anne and I come to-morrow and have a good long gossip? You must hear all about Anne's triumphs in New York."

"Come and have dinner with me," replied Mrs. Gray.

"That will be fine," returned Grace. "We two are the only ones in the crowd who don't happen to have previous engagements, so the girls won't feel hurt at not being included."

"We are so glad that you came home in time for the concert," said Miriam Nesbit. "It is the last entertainment the senior class will have a chance to give. We hope to make a nice sum of money to add to the thousand we already have."

"I have not added my mite to your fund yet," said Mrs. Gray. "But now that I'm home I shall busy myself immediately with my High School girls. When and where is the concert to be held?"

"A week from next Monday, in Assembly Hall," replied Miriam. "We wish to give it before the boys go back to school. They have only ten days at home, you know."

"How anxious I am to see the boys," cried Mrs. Gray. "I found a letter from Tom waiting for me. He expects to arrive on Monday or Tuesday, and will bring Arnold with him."

"I received a letter from Tom, too," said Grace. "We have also heard from the boys. David is bringing home a friend of his, Donald Earle, who, he writes, is the most popular man in the freshman class."

The evening seemed all too short to Mrs. Gray and the Phi Sigma Tau.

"Why, we've only begun to talk," said Jessica, "and here it is after eleven o'clock."

"To be continued in our next," said Nora with a grin. "Introducing new features and startling revelations."

Sunday afternoon found Anne and Grace strolling up Chapel Hill toward Mrs. Gray's. Rather to their surprise they found Miss Nevin with Mrs. Gray in the library. The two women were in earnest conversation, and as Grace and Anne were ushered in, Grace's quick intuition told her that Miss Nevin was strongly agitated over something.

"How are my own children to-day," asked Mrs. Gray, coming forward and kissing both of them warmly. Anne was then presented to Miss Nevin, who took occasion to congratulate her upon her recent success. "Your fame has preceded you," she said with a sweet smile.

"You must tell us all about your stay in New York, Anne," said Mrs. Gray. "You are very young to have been chosen for so responsible an engagement, and I feel great pride in your success."

"Anne had two offers of engagements while in New York," interposed Grace. "One from Farman, the big manager, and one from Rupert Manton, the Shakespearian actor."

"But I am still in Oakdale," replied Anne smiling, "and have come to-day to beg for my secretaryship again."

"You delightful child," cried Mrs. Gray. "I knew you would never desert me."

"Margaret," she said, turning to Miss Nevin, "would you care to tell my girls what you were telling me when they came in? I have already told them something of Eleanor's parentage. They know that Guido Savelli is her father. Perhaps they might be of assistance in helping you decide what is to be done. Grace is a famous suggester."

Miss Nevin flushed and looked hesitatingly at Anne and Grace, as though a trifle reluctant to speak.

"We shall consider anything you may choose to tell us strictly confidential, Miss Nevin," said Anne quietly.

"I am sure that you will," replied Miss Nevin. "What I have told Mrs. Gray is that I have received through my lawyers a letter from Eleanor's father. They inclosed his letter in one from them asking whether I were desirous of acquainting him with my whereabouts.

"He has written rather a sad letter. He seems to have awakened to a late remorse for having neglected my sister as he did. He asks for his child, and if he may see her. He has just finished a concert tour of America, and is at present in New York.

"Personally, I shall never forgive him, but have I the right to keep Eleanor from her father? He is both rich and famous, and she would adore him, for his music, if for nothing else. I have always said that when she became twenty-one years of age I should tell her of him, leaving to her the choice of claiming or ignoring him.

"But I never supposed for one instant that he would ever come forward and interest himself in her. A year ago I should not have considered her fit to choose, but she is greatly changed. The two years in which she has associated with girls of her own age have benefited her greatly. I feel as though I could not bear to give her up now. Moreover, this idea of claiming his child may be merely a whim on the part of her father. He is liable to forget her inside of six weeks."

Grace listened to Miss Nevin in breathless silence. It was all like a story-book romance.

Anne sat gazing off into space, thinking dreamily of the great virtuoso who had found after years of selfish pleasure and devotion to himself that blood was thicker than water. She fancied she could picture his pride when he beheld Eleanor and realized that she was his own child, and Eleanor's rapture when she knew that her father was master of the violin she worshipped.

Suddenly an idea popped into Anne's head that was a positive inspiration.

"Why not ask him to come down for our concert?" she said, amazed at her own audacity in suggesting such a thing. "Eleanor need not know about him at all. She is to play at the concert, you know. If he hears her play he will realize more fully that she is really his own flesh and blood, and if he has any real fatherly feeling for her it will come to the surface. That will be the psychological moment in which to bring them together."

"Anne, you're a genius!" cried Grace. "You ought to be appointed Chief Arbiter of Destiny."

"Margaret," exclaimed Mrs. Gray, "I believe that Anne's idea is logical. Shall you try it!"

"I shall write to Guido at once," said Miss Nevin, rising. "Knowing his disposition as I do, it seems that I could find no better way of rousing his interest in Eleanor. Her love of the violin is a direct inheritance from him, and she may reach his heart through her music. At any rate, it is worth trying."

After Miss Nevin's departure Anne and Grace entertained Mrs. Gray with the promised gossip, and it was well toward ten o'clock before they turned their steps toward home.

The following week was a busy one. Every spare moment outside school the senior class zealously devoted to the concert. The High School Glee Club was to sing, and the mandolin and guitar club was to give two numbers. Nora O'Malley was to sing two songs from a late musical success, and Jessica and Miriam were to play a duet. James Gardiner, who was extremely proficient on the violincello, was down for a solo, while Eleanor was to play twice. The crowning feature of the concert, however, was to be contributed by Anne and Eleanor. Anne was to recite Tennyson's "Enoch Arden," and Eleanor was to accompany her on the piano with the music that she had arranged for it.

The two girls had worked incessantly upon it, rehearsing almost every day. Grace was the only one who had been permitted to hear a rehearsal of it, and she was enraptured with what she heard.

The boys had all arrived, and the Phi Sigma Tau divided their time equally between concert rehearsals and social gatherings. David's friend, Donald Earle, was ably living up to his college reputation, and proved himself a source of unmitigated pleasure to the young people among whom he was thrown. It was soon discovered, however, that he was oftenest found in Eleanor's wake, and his eyes showed honest admiration for the beautiful girl every time he looked at her.

Hippy, who had established a reputation as a singer of humorous songs, was asked for his services.

"I have a number of new and choice ditties that I will render with pleasure, providing I am afterwards fed," he shrewdly declared, when interviewed on the subject.

"It will all depend upon how well you sing," stipulated Nora.

"Then I shan't warble at all," announced Hippy. "I am a man of few words, but when I say I must have food for my services as a soloist, I mean it. There must be no uncertainty. Do I feed or do I not?"

"You feed," laughed Nora.

The concert was to be held in Assembly Hall, and three days before every ticket issued had been sold. People who could not attend bought tickets and handed them back to be sold over again. The senior class, by reason of the popularity of the Phi Sigma Tau, was considered the class of classes.

"We'll have to put out a 'Standing Room Only' sign," declared Anne Pierson, as she viewed the packed house through a hole in the curtain.

The fateful night had arrived, and Anne, Eleanor and Grace stood in a group on the stage, while Anne industriously took note of the audience.

"Let me look for a minute, Anne," said Grace. "I don't believe there'll be standing room," she remarked, as she stepped aside to give Eleanor a chance to peer out.

"Come on, girls," called Nora O'Malley, as a burst of applause sounded from the other side of the curtain. "It's half past eight, and the curtain will go up in about two minutes."

The three girls scurried off the stage, the Glee Club filed on and arranged themselves, and the curtain rose.

Each number was applauded to the echo and in every instance the audience clamored for an encore.

As the time for Eleanor's first solo drew near, Anne and Grace felt their hearts beat a little faster. Nora was giving an encore to her first song. Eleanor was to follow her. As she stood in the wing her violin under her arm, Grace thought she had never appeared more beautiful.

Her gown was of some soft, white material and rather simply made. "I never like to wear fussy things when I play," she had confided to the girls.

Jessica stood directly behind her. She was to act as accompanist.

Nora O'Malley sang the concluding line of her song, favored the audience with a saucy little nod and made her exit.

"Come on, Eleanor," said Jessica. "It's our turn."

Well toward the back of the hall sat Miss Nevin, wearing a look of mingled anxiety and pain. Beside her sat a dark, distinguished man in the prime of life, who never took his eyes off the stage.

As one of the senior girls who had charge of the programme stepped forward and announced, "Solo, Miss Eleanor Savelli," he drew a deep breath, and such a look of longing crept into his eyes that Miss Nevin understood for the first time something of the loneliness of which he had written.

He covered his eyes with his hand as though reluctant to look. Then the full, soft notes of the violin were carried to his ears, and with a smothered cry of exultation he raised his eyes and saw for the first time his own child in her gown of white with the instrument he loved at her throat, while her slender hand drew the bow with the true skill of the artist.

Before Miss Nevin could stop him, he had risen in his seat, saying excitedly: "It is mia bella Edith. She has come again."

Then realizing what he had done, he sat down, and, burying his face in his hands, sobbed openly.

Persons around him, startled by his sudden cry, glared at him angrily for creating a commotion during Eleanor's exquisite number, then again turned their attention to the soloist.

"I must see her. I must see her," he muttered over and over again. "She is my child; mine."

"So you shall," whispered Miss Nevin soothingly, "but not until the concert is over. If we tell her now, Guido, it will upset her so that she can't appear again this evening, and she has two more numbers."

Unabashed by the emotion he had displayed, the virtuoso wiped his eyes, and sat waiting like one in a trance for his child to appear again.

Anne and Grace were alive with curiosity as to the outcome of Anne's suggestion. They had eagerly scanned the house before the concert began, but had failed to locate Miss Nevin and Eleanor's father.

"I'm going out in the audience and see if I can find them," Grace had whispered to Anne during Nora's song, as they stood in the wing on the opposite side from Jessica and Eleanor.

Anne had nodded silently, her attention focused upon Nora, whose singing always delighted her, and Grace, slipping quietly down to the door that led into the hall, made her way toward the back rows of seats just in time to witness Guido Savelli's emotion at first sight of his daughter.

Back to Anne she sped with her news, and the two friends held a quiet little jubilee of their own over the success of their plot.

There was a round of applause when "Enoch Arden" was announced. Eleanor took her place at the piano while Anne stepped forward and began the pathetic tale to the subdued strains of the music that Eleanor had fitted to it.

Anne's beautiful voice rose and fell with wonderful expression, while the music served to accentuate every word that she uttered. Her audience sat practically spell bound, and when she uttered poor Enoch's death cry, "A sail! A sail! I am saved!" there were many wet eyes throughout the assemblage. She paused for a second before delivering the three concluding lines, and Eleanor ended on the piano with a throbbing minor chord.

There was absolute silence as the performers made their exit. Then a perfect storm of enthusiasm burst forth. Anne and Eleanor returned to bow again and again, but the audience refused to be satisfied, until Anne, in her clear, musical voice, made a little speech of appreciation, which was received with acclamation.

The concert drew to a triumphant close. After Eleanor's second solo, she repaired to the dressing room, where she was immediately surrounded by a group of admiring girls and kept so busy answering questions as to how long she had studied the violin and where, that she did not see Grace Harlowe enter the right wing with Miss Nevin and a tall, dark-haired stranger who glanced quickly about as though in search of some one. "Where is she?" he said. "Find her at once. But, no, wait a moment. She shall hear me play! I will win the heart of my child through the music she loves, I may add one little solo to your programme?" he turned questioningly to Grace.

"Well, I should rather think so," gasped Grace. "It is an honor of which we never dreamed. This concert will be recorded in Oakdale history."

"It is well," said the virtuoso. "Bring me the violin of my child. I will speak to her through it."

Grace flew to the dressing room, where Eleanor's violin lay in its open case upon a table near the door. Hastily securing both violin and bow, she flitted out of the room—without having been noticed by the girls at the further end.

"Here it is," she breathed, as she handed it to Eleanor's father. "I will arrange for you to play after the Glee Club, who are just going on now."

"I thank you," replied the great man. "I pray you do not announce me. I shall need no one to accompany me."

"It shall be as you wish," promised Grace.

There was a moment's wait after the Glee Club had filed off the stage, then Guido Savelli appeared, violin in hand.

A faint ripple of surprise stirred the audience. Who was this distinguished stranger! They could not identify him as belonging among Oakdale musicians.

The virtuoso made a comprehensive survey of the house, then placing the violin almost caressingly to his throat, began to play.

His hearers listened in growing astonishment to the exquisite sounds that he drew from the instrument. There was a plaintive, insistent appeal in his music that was like the pleading of a human voice. It was a pathetic cry wrung from a hungry heart.

The dressing-room door stood partly open, and as the full, sweet notes of the violin were carried to her ears, Eleanor gave a cry of rapture.

"Who is playing?" she cried. "I must see at once." She ran out of the room and into the wing, where she could command a full view of the stage, and looked upon her father for the first time.

She stood, statue like, until the last note died away. Her eyes were full of tears, which she made no attempt to hide. Then she turned to Anne, who had slipped quietly up and now stood beside her:

"Anne," she said almost reverently, "he is a master. His music overwhelms me. I felt when he played as though—he were trying to give me some message, as though he were speaking to me alone. I suppose every one in the audience felt the same. It is because he is a genius. Who is he, Anne, and where did he come from?"

"Eleanor," replied Anne, her voice trembling a little, "you must prepare yourself for the greatest surprise of your life. He was speaking to you when he played, and it was solely on your account that he played. He came here with your aunt to-night."

Eleanor paled a little.

"Anne, what does all this mean?" she said. "You and Grace have acted queerly all evening. What has this violinist to do with me!"

"That I cannot answer now," replied Anne, "but you will know within the next hour. Your aunt wishes you to get your wraps and meet her at once. She is outside in the carriage and he is with her."

"Are you and Grace coming with us?" questioned Eleanor.

"Not to-night," answered Anne, with a little smile. "You don't need either of us. Here's Grace," she added, as the latter hurried toward them.

"Eleanor," said Grace, "here is your cloak and your violin. Now, kiss both of us good night and trot along, for there's a big surprise waiting for you just around the corner, and it is the earnest wish of both Anne and I that it may prove a happy one."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS

With the passing of the Easter holidays unbroken quiet settled down over Oakdale High School.

The boys went back to college and the girls to High School to finish the little that remained to them of their senior year.

The proceeds of the concert had amounted to four hundred and seventy dollars, and with a contribution of five hundred dollars more from Mrs. Gray, the members of the senior class were the proud possessors of a fund of nineteen hundred and eighty dollars, which was to be presented to Miss Thompson on graduation night as their contribution toward the gymnasium.

The three lower classes had also raised considerable money, but collectively it had not reached the amount earned by the seniors.

The playing of the great Savelli at the concert was still a matter of comment in Oakdale. There were several persons in the audience who had previously heard him play, and had at once recognized him. More remarkable still was the fact of his being the father of Eleanor Savelli, and all sorts of rumors sprang up regarding his advent in Oakdale, and his affairs in general. As for Eleanor, it was some time before she could accustom herself to the idea of having a living father, and a famous one at that. She had gone down to the carriage on the night of the concert wondering what was in store for her, and had scarcely stepped inside before she had been clasped in the arms of the virtuoso, and addressed as his child. Shaking herself free from his clasp, she had demanded an explanation from her aunt, who had told her the truth, which to her at the time had seemed unbelievable.

Her first feeling toward her father had been entirely one of pride. Her aunt had been all in all to her since babyhood, therefore she experienced little of the feeling of affection toward him that he manifested for her. The fact that her father was a great artist was a source of infinite satisfaction to her, but gradually as she grew better acquainted with him she began to experience a degree of affection for him that in time became positive worship.

He was to remain at "Heartsease" until after her graduation, then, accompanied by Miss Nevin, Eleanor was to sail for Italy with him, there to remain until he should begin a European concert tour in the fall. Then she would go to Leipsig and enter the very conservatory where her mother and father had met. She had resumed the final "i" so long dropped from her name, and now proudly signed herself Savelli.

The Phi Sigma Tau, particularly Anne and Grace, became prime favorites with the great violinist and were frequently invited to "Heartsease" to hear him play, an honor which was accorded to no one else in Oakdale.

The days hurried by altogether too swiftly to suit Grace and her three closest friends, who looked forward to commencement week with mingled emotions of joy and regret. Graduation was the goal they had been striving for four years to reach, but graduation meant also the parting of the ways, and as the four chums looked back over their High School life it seemed to them that they could never again have quite the good times that they had enjoyed in one another's society.

"'We who are about to die salute you'" quoted Nora O'Malley, as the four girls strolled home from school on the Friday preceding commencement.

"What a cheerful remark," laughed Grace Harlowe.

"Well, that's the way I feel, at any rate," declared Nora. "I can't bear to think that next year we'll all be scattered to the four winds, or, rather, the two winds, because Jessica and I will be together, and so will you and Anne."

"Go to college with us, then," slyly tempted Grace.

"No," answered Nora decidedly. "I've set my heart on studying vocal music. I have always said that I should go to a conservatory, and since Eleanor's father has given me so much encouragement, I've made up my mind to become a concert singer if possible. I'll stay a year in the conservatory at least, and at the end of that time I'll know whether I am justified in going on studying."

"It's fortunate that I am going to study on the piano and that we can be at the same conservatory," said Jessica.

"And that Anne and I will be at the same college," added Grace, "if we ever make up our minds what college we wish to enter."

"There is still plenty of time for that," said Anne. "I am glad that scholarship doesn't stipulate as to what particular college—that is, if I win it."

"You won't know that until a week from to-night," said Jessica. "What a night that will be. This year there will be an extra feature, the presentation of the gym. money."

"I am so proud of our class," exclaimed Grace, "but I do wish we had an even two thousand dollars to give. We lack only twenty dollars. I wonder if the class would care to make it up."

"Why couldn't the Phi Sigma Tau make it up as a parting gift to Oakdale High School!" asked Nora. "That would be two dollars and a half apiece. I am willing to do with that much less fuss on my graduating gown, if the rest of you are."

"I am," said Grace.

"So am I," replied Jessica and Anne together.

"I am sure the other four girls will be of the same mind," said Grace. "I'll see them to-morrow."

The four other members of the Phi Sigma Tau were duly interviewed and by Monday of commencement week the twenty dollars had been added to the fund deposited in Upton Bank.

The prophecy made by Jessica on class day at the end of their sophomore year was about to be fulfilled to the letter, for the four chums had been appointed to the very honors to which she had jestingly assigned them two years before. Anne was chosen as class poet, and Jessica had composed both the words and music of the class song. Grace was to prophesy the futures of her various classmates, while Nora had been detailed to write the class grinds.

"To-day is the day of days," exclaimed Grace to her mother on Tuesday, as she smoothed out a tiny wrinkle in her class-day gown, which she lovingly inspected for the fifth time before putting it on. It was a pale blue marquisette embroidered in tiny daisies, and Grace declared it to be far prettier than her graduating gown of white organdie trimmed with fine lace.

"Nora has the dearest little pale green marquisette, mother," cried Grace with enthusiasm, "and Jessica's gown is pink silk, while Anne has a white silk muslin with violets scattered all over it. I've seen them all, but I must say that I think mine is the nicest and you're a perfect dear, mother, for having embroidered it for me," and, giving her mother a tempestuous hug, Grace gathered her class-day finery in her arms and rushed upstairs to dress for the afternoon that the senior class looked forward to more than to graduation night itself.

The Phi Sigma Tau met in the senior locker-room for the last time and proceeded to Assembly Hall in a body.

"How strange it seems to be going to Assembly Hall instead of the gym. for class day," remarked Miriam Nesbit to Grace.

"Yes, doesn't it?" returned Grace. "But when we come lack here next year as post-graduates, we'll have the satisfaction of knowing that we helped a whole lot in getting the good old gym. ready for the next class, even if we couldn't hold forth in it."

The regular class day programme was carried out with tremendous enthusiasm. The girl chums were applauded to the echo for their capable handling of the honors assigned them. Nora in particular rose to heights of fame, her clever grinds provoking wholesale mirth.

"She must have made notes all year," whispered Anne to Jessica under cover of a laugh which was occasioned by the story of one absentminded senior who pushed her glasses up over her forehead, searched diligently for them through the halls and locker-room, and, convinced that she had lost them on the street, inserted an advertisement in one of the Oakdale newspapers before going home that night.

"She did," replied Jessica. "She has always said that she wanted the job of writing the grinds."

At the close of the exercises Grace delivered a spirited senior charge which was ably answered by the junior president. The class song composed by Jessica was sung, then graduates and audience joined in singing "Auld Lang Syne." Then the air was rent with class yells, while the graduates received the congratulations of their friends and then repaired to their banquet.

Wednesday brought Hippy, Reddy and David and also Donald Earle to Oakdale, while Tom Gray and Arnold Evans appeared on Thursday afternoon, to the relief of their young friends.

"Better late than never," called Tom Gray as he and Arnold hurried off the train to where David and his three friends stood eagerly scanning the train for them.

"We thought it would be never," retorted Hippy. "We were about to postpone commencement until some time next week, and order the flags at half mast, but now things can proceed as usual."

"Hustle up, fellows," commanded David. "We're not the only ones who were anxious. The girls are all over at our house. There'll be a foregathering and a dinner there, and an after-gathering at your aunt's, Tom. So pile into my car and I'll take you up Chapel Hill on the double quick."

Inside of an hour the two young men were crossing the Nesbit's lawn and making for the broad veranda where a bevy of pretty girls stood ready to greet them.

"We are so glad you got here at last," cried Grace. "If you hadn't come on that train you wouldn't have seen us graduate. The next train from your part of the world doesn't get in until ten o'clock."

"We missed the early train and had to wait two hours," replied Tom, "but now that we are here, you'll find that you can't drive us away with a club."

"We shan't try to," said Nora. "Now, if you were Hippy—"

"Nothing could drive me from your presence," interrupted Hippy hastily, "so don't try it. Let's change the subject. That word club has an ugly sound. It makes me nervous."

"Never mind, Hippy," said Miriam. "Nora shall not tease you. I'll protect you."

"Nora, go away, I am protected!" exclaimed Hippy, and, getting behind Miriam, he peered forth at Nora with such a ludicrous expression that she laughed, and immediately declared a truce by allowing him to sit on the rustic seat beside her.

It was a memorable dinner. The girls in their dainty white graduating gowns, their eyes alight with the joy of youth, and the young men with their clean-cut, boyish faces made a picture that Mrs. Nesbit viewed with a feeling of pleasure that was akin to pain.

The start for Assembly Hall was made at a little after seven, as the girls were to join the senior class there, and proceed to the stage, where the class was to sit in a body. Nearly every member of the class carried flowers of some description that had been given to them by their families and friends.

Grace and her chums were supremely happy in that their little social world had turned out to do them honor. Mrs. Gray and Miss Nevin, accompanied by Eleanor's father, were seated near the front with Mrs. Gibson and the Southards, who had arrived at Hawk's Nest on the previous day. Grace's father and mother, Judge Putnam and his sister, Mrs. Nesbit, Nora's brothers and sister and Jessica's father were scattered about through the house.

When the graduates took their places upon the stage, there was tumultuous applause. To the citizens of Oakdale who had known the young women from babyhood, the present class seemed the finest Oakdale High School had yet turned out.

"Bless the dears," said Miss Thompson to Miss Tebbs, as the girls filed past them and on to the stage. "They are without exception the most brilliant lot of girls I have ever had charge of. But of them all there is no one of them quite equal to Grace. She is the ideal type of all that a High School girl should be, and when I say that I have paid her the highest compliment in my power."

The slight difficulty that had arisen between Grace and the principal during Grace's junior year had long since been adjusted by Eleanor, who had gone to Miss Thompson with a frank confession of her transgressions during her junior year. Miss Thompson had freely forgiven her and had fully appreciated the sense of honor that had prompted the deed.

As the class was large, fifteen girls from the entire number had been chosen to deliver essays and addresses. Among these were Anne, Eleanor, Grace, Miriam and Nora.

"I'm just as well satisfied that I was not chosen," Jessica whispered to Eva Allen, as Grace stepped forward to deliver the salutatory address.

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