As Grace was returning to the study hall from geometry recitation that morning, she encountered Julia Crosby. Julia glanced at her with an expression half fearful, half cunning, as though she wondered if Grace knew the truth about her fall.
Grace returned the look with one of such quiet contempt and scorn that Julia dropped her eyes and hurried along the corridor.
"How could she have been so contemptible?" thought Grace.
"I wonder if she'll tell," thought Julia. "She evidently knows I was responsible for her tumble. My, what a look she gave me. I wonder if that snippy little Anne Pierson knows about it, too. Very likely she does, for Grace Harlowe tells her all her business. If they do say anything I'll take good care no one believes it."
She was so absorbed in her own ruminations that she crashed into the dignified president of the senior class with considerable force, much to the glee of Nora, who happened to be near enough to catch the icy expression on the senior's face as Julia mumbled an apology.
At recess Grace notified the members of the basketball team and their substitutes that she had called a meeting to take place that afternoon at three o'clock in the sophomore locker room. "Only the basketball people are requested to be present," she concluded, "so don't bring any of the rest of the class."
At three o'clock precisely the last member had arrived. Every girl took particular pains to be there, for most of them had been at the Harlowe's on the day that Grace had silenced Miriam.
The meeting promised to be one of interest, for had not Grace Harlowe said that she would tell them something about the betrayed signals?
"Girls," Grace began, "you all know that although it is against the rules to allow any outsider to witness our practice, we have always made an exception in favor of Jessica. You all have perfect confidence in Jessica, I am sure. Since practice began this fall we have allowed Anne to come to it, too. You remember I asked permission for her to see the practice game, because I knew her to be absolutely trustworthy."
Here Nora nodded emphatically, Miriam tossed her head and smiled mockingly, while the rest of the girls looked a trifle mystified.
"Anne," continued Grace, "did not understand many of our plays, so I wrote out a list of signals for her, to study and learn by heart, telling her to destroy them as soon as she was sure she knew them. Unfortunately, she lost them, and at once told me about it. She felt very unhappy over it; but I told her not to worry, because I never supposed their loss would make any difference.
"When the game was well under way and the juniors began to block our plays, it flashed across me that in some way they had found that list. Anne, who has a mania for labeling everything, had written 'Sophomore basketball signals' across the paper; so, of course, any one who found it would know exactly what the list meant.
"We were warned that the juniors held a meeting at the Omnibus House a day or so before the game, and that they meant mischief. I never thought, however, they would be quite so dishonorable.
"I would have told you this before the game, but was afraid it would confuse and worry you. I am sure that you will agree with me, and absolve Anne from all blame."
"I don't agree with you at all," flashed Miriam, "and I am glad to have a chance to speak my mind. I told you before the game that I objected to Miss Pierson watching our practice, that it was against the rules, but no attention was paid to what I said. If you had taken my advice the result would have been far different. I have no doubt Grace believes that Miss Pierson lost the list, but I am not so easily deceived. I believe she deliberately handed it over to the juniors, and every loyal member of the team should cut her acquaintance."
"Miriam Nesbit," cried Nora. "You haven't the least right to accuse Anne Pierson of any such thing. She is too honorable to think of it, and she has no love for the junior class either. She isn't even friendly with them. If any one is to be accused of treachery, I should say that there are members of the team far more friendly with the juniors than poor little Anne."
This was a direct slap at Miriam, who winced a little at Nora's words.
"Well," said Marian Barber quickly, "it stands to reason that no member of the team would be foolish enough to help the enemy. I don't know anything about Miss Pierson, but I do know that I overheard Julia Crosby telling some girl in her class that the sophomores could thank one of their own class for their defeat."
"When did you hear her say that?" queried Miriam sharply.
"Yesterday morning. I was walking behind her, and she was so busy talking she didn't notice me."
"You girls can draw your own conclusions," said Miriam triumphantly. "That simply proves what I have said."
"That simply proves nothing at all," exclaimed Grace Harlowe, who had been too angry to trust herself to speak. "You are making a very serious charge against Anne without one bit of ground on which to base your suspicions. You have always disliked her because she won the freshman prize, and you know nothing whatever against her."
"No," said Miriam scornfully, "nor anything to her credit either. Who is she, anyway? The daughter of a strolling third-rate actor, who goes barnstorming about the country, and she has been on the stage, too. She has a very good opinion of herself since Mrs. Gray and certain Oakdale girls took her up, but I wouldn't trust her as far as I could see her. Why should girls of good Oakdale families be forced to associate with such people? I suppose she wanted to be on good terms with the juniors, too, and took that method of gaining her point."
"That is pure nonsense," exclaimed Nora. "Don't you think so, girls?"
But the other girls made no reply. They were thinking hard. Suspicion seemed to point in Anne's direction. What a pity Grace had been so rash about taking Anne up if her father were a common actor. Miriam was right about not caring to associate with Anne. After all, they knew very little about her. Grace Harlowe was always picking queer people and trying to help them.
"I think we ought to be very careful about taking outsiders into our confidence," firmly said Eva Allen, one of the team. "I didn't know Miss Pierson had ever been an actress." There was a note of horror in her voice as she pronounced the last word.
"I have always heard that they were very unreliable people," said another miss of sixteen.
Grace was in despair. She felt that she had lost. By dragging up Anne's unfortunate family history, Miriam had produced a bad impression that she was powerless to efface.
"Girls," she said, "you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You know perfectly well that Anne is innocent. If you wish to be my friend you must be Anne's also. Please say that you believe her."
"Count on me," said Nora.
But the other sophomores had nothing to say.
Grace looked about her appealingly, only to meet cold looks and averted faces. Miriam was smiling openly.
"The meeting is adjourned," said Grace shortly, and without another word she went to her locker and began taking out her wraps. Nora followed her, but the majority of the girls walked over to the other end of the room and began to talk in low tones with Miriam.
Grace realized that her team had deserted her for Miriam. It was almost unbelievable. She set her lips and winked hard to keep back the tears which rose to her eyes. Then, followed by her one faithful friend, she walked out of the locker room, leaving her fickle classmates with their chosen leader.
AN UNSUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW
There were two subjects of interest under discussion in the sophomore class. One was the coming ball, the other the story of the lost signals, which had gone the round of the class. The general opinion seemed to be that Anne had betrayed the team, and with the unthinking cruelty of youth, the girls had resolved to teach her a lesson. Miriam's accusation had been repeated from one girl to another, with unconscious additions, until Anne loomed up in the light of a traitor, and was treated accordingly.
Grace had told Anne the next day the details of the meeting, and in some measure prepared her for what would undoubtedly follow. Anne had laughed a little at the account of Miriam's remarks regarding her father, and the girls' evident disapproval of the theatrical profession.
"How silly they are," she said to Grace, who felt secretly relieved to know that Anne was not mortally hurt over Miriam's attack. "They don't know anything about professional people. Of course, there are plenty of worthless actors, but some of them are really very fine men and women. Miriam may abuse my family all she chooses, but I do feel unhappy to think that those girls believe me dishonorable and under-handed."
"They wouldn't if they had any sense," responded Grace hotly, "I never believed that those girls could be so snobbish. I always thought them above such petty meanness. Don't pay any attention to them, Anne. They aren't worth it. I am going to interview Julia Crosby and make her acknowledge that she wasn't referring to you the other day. There is something queer about it all. I believe that there is some kind of secret understanding between Miriam and Julia; that this is a deliberate plot on their part to injure you and humiliate me, and I shall find out the truth before I am through."
"But what has Julia Crosby against me?" queried Anne, "I hardly know her."
"She hasn't forgotten the way David defended you at Mrs. Gray's Christmas ball last year," answered Grace, "Besides, you're a sophomore. Isn't that a good enough reason?"
"I suppose it is," said Anne wearily.
Grace kept her word and hailed Julia Crosby on the following afternoon as she was leaving the High School. It seemed a favorable opportunity for Julia was alone.
"Miss Crosby," said Grace coldly. "I should like to speak to you about a very important matter."
"There's nothing to hinder you, Miss Harlowe," replied Julia brusquely. "I'm here. Are you sure that it really is important?"
She stopped and eyed Grace insolently.
"I am very sure that it is important, Miss Crosby," said Grace. "Not long ago a certain sophomore overheard you telling a member of your class that we sophomores could thank a girl in our class for our basketball defeat. A certain girl had already been unjustly accused of betraying our signals. When your remark was repeated to the team, they immediately decided that you meant her. Since then her classmates have taken the matter up and are determined to cut her acquaintance."
"Well what has all this childish prattle to do with me?" demanded Julia rudely.
"It has this to do with you, that you can set the matter right by saying it was not Anne. You know perfectly well she had nothing to do with it. I don't know how you got those signals, but I do know that Anne never gave them to you."
"Did I say that she did?" asked Julia.
"No," said Grace, "neither did you say that she didn't."
"Very true," replied Julia in a disagreeable tone, "and I don't intend to say so either. She may or she may not have given them to me. I'll never tell. She's a snippy, conceited, little prig, and a little punishment for her sins will do her good."
"You are a cruel, heartless girl," cried Grace angrily. "Knowing Anne to be innocent, you refuse to clear her name of the suspicion resting upon it. Let me tell you one thing. I know who tripped me the day of the game, and so does Anne. If you don't clear Anne instantly, I shall go straight to Miss Thompson with it."
Grace's threat went home. Julia stood in actual dread of the principal. It looked as though the tables had been turned at last. If Grace went to Miss Thompson what a commotion there would be!
In a moment, however, Julia recovered herself. What was it Miss Thompson had said about rough play? Ah, Julia remembered now, and with the recollection of the principal's words came the means of worsting Grace Harlowe in her efforts to vindicate Anne.
"You may go to Miss Thompson if you think it wise," she said with a malicious smile, "but I wouldn't advise it—that is, unless you have gotten over caring for basketball."
"What do you mean?" asked Grace. Then like a flash she understood. If she should tell Miss Thompson the truth, the principal would believe her. Julia would receive her just deserts but, oh, bitter thought, there would be no more basketball that season.
Grace felt that she had no right to sacrifice the pleasure of so many others, even for Anne's sake. It would only increase the feeling against both Anne and herself, and after all, Julia might still hold out in her insinuations against Anne.
"How can you be so contemptible?" she said to her smiling enemy. "You never win anything honestly. I see it is useless for me to appeal to you for something which you cannot give, and that is fair play!" With a slight bow, Grace walked quickly away, leaving Julia a little astonished at her sudden departure and not at all pleased at Grace's frankly expressed opinion.
Grace lost no time in relating to Anne her fruitless interview with the junior captain.
"I am so humiliated to think I failed. I expected that threatening to tell Miss Thompson would bring her to her senses, but she is too cunning for me," sighed Grace.
The two girls were walking home from school.
"Shall you tell Nora and Jessica?" asked Anne.
"No," said Grace. "Let us keep the sprained ankle part of the story a secret. They are loyal to you, at any rate, and Nora would be so angry. I am afraid I couldn't keep her from going straight to Miss Thompson and making a general mess of things. I am so sorry, Anne, dear, but I guess we shall have to weather the gale together. It will die out after a while, just as all those things do. Hush! Don't say anything now. Here come Nora and Jessica."
"What do you think!" cried Nora. "Edna Wright is giving a party next Saturday, and she isn't going to invite either you or Anne."
"How shocking!" said Grace. "We shall both die of grief at having been slighted."
She spoke lightly, and no one but Anne guessed how much the news hurt her.
"We are not going," declared Nora, "and we told her so."
"What did she say?" asked Grace.
"We didn't give her time to answer," said Nora, "but rushed off to find you. The whole thing is perfectly ridiculous! The idea of a lot of silly little school girls thinking they own the earth. It's all Miriam's fault. She has tried to be leader of her class ever since it was organized but mark what I say, she'll never accomplish it. Pride will get a fall, one of these days, and I hope I'll be around when it happens."
"Never mind, Nora," said Grace soothingly. "Anne and I don't care. We'll give a party at the same time, to our own crowd. I'll tell you what we'll do. We will have a surprise party for Mrs. Gray. I'll write to Tom Gray and ask him to come down for next Saturday. That will be a double surprise to dear Mrs. Gray."
"Fine!" cried Jessica. "We'll have Hippy and Reddy and David. Then our circle will be complete. The other crowd will be furious. Those boys are all popular, and I know that Edna intends to invite them."
"Let's tell them at once, then," said Nora, "before the other girls get a chance."
The boys were promptly invited. Grace sent a note to Tom Gray, who found it possible to get away for the week end.
Reddy, Hippy and David received invitations to the other party, but politely declined. Miriam endeavored to point out to her brother the folly of his conduct, but David simply stared at her and said nothing. He knew to what lengths her jealousy had carried her during the freshman year, and although Nora had entirely omitted his sister's name from the conversation when telling him of the recent trouble that had arisen, still David felt that Miriam was at the bottom of it.
Failing to elicit any response from her brother, she flew into a rage and did not speak to him for a week, while David went serenely on his way, and let her get over it as best she might.
The surprise party proved a success. Mrs. Gray's delight at seeing her "Christmas children" and having her beloved nephew with her was worth seeing. The young people did all the "stunts" they knew for her entertainment, and the boys repeated their Shakespearian performance for the old lady, who laughed until she could laugh no more.
It was their turn to be surprised, however, when the old butler suddenly appeared and announced that supper was served. Mrs. Gray had held a word of conversation with him directly after their arrival, which resulted in an array of good things calculated to tempt the appetite of any healthy boy or girl.
After supper they had an old-fashioned "sing," with Jessica at the piano, ending with "Home, Sweet Home" and the inevitable "Good Night, Ladies."
"I'm sure we had a better time than the other crowd," said Nora as they all walked down the street.
"Of course," said Grace, but a little feeling of sadness swept over her as she realized for the first time in her short life she had been slighted by any of her school friends.
THE SOPHOMORE BALL
It was the night of the sophomore ball. For a week past the class had been making preparations. The gymnasium had been transformed into a veritable bower of beauty. Every palm in Oakdale that could be begged, borrowed or rented was used for the occasion. Drawing rooms had been robbed of their prettiest sofa cushions and hangings, to make attractive cosy corners in the big room.
The walls were decorated with evergreens and class banners, while the class colors, red and gold, were everywhere in evidence. The sophomores had been recklessly extravagant in the matter of cut flowers, and bowls of red roses and carnations ornamented the various tables, loaned by fond mothers for the gratification of sophomore vanity.
The girls had worked hard to outdo previous sophomore affairs, and when all was finished the various teachers who were invited to view the general effect were unanimous in their admiration.
Once a year each of the four High School classes gave some sort of entertainment. Readers of "GRACE HARLOWE'S PLEBE YEAR" will remember the masquerade ball given by the sophomores, now juniors, and the active part taken by Grace and her chums in that festivity.
The present sophomores had decided to make their ball a larger affair than usual, and had sent out invitations to favored members of the other classes. An equal number of boys had been invited from the boys' High School, and the party promised to be one of the social events of Oakdale.
Mrs. Gray and a number of other prominent women of Oakdale, were to act as patronesses. Mrs. Harlowe, usually a favorite chaperon with Grace's crowd, had been ignored for the first time, and Grace was cut to the quick over it. As for Grace herself, she had not been appointed to a single committee. Prominent heretofore in every school enterprise, it was galling to the high-spirited girl to be deliberately left out of the preparations. Nora had been asked to help receive and Jessica had been appointed to the refreshment committee, but on finding that Grace was being snubbed, both had coldly declined to serve in either capacity.
The four chums held more than one anxious discussion as to the advisability of even attending the ball.
"I think we ought to go, just to show those girls that we are impervious to their petty insults," declared Grace. "We have as much right there as any one else, and I am sure the boys we know will dance with us whether the rest of the girls like it or not. Besides, Mrs. Gray will be there, and she will expect to see us. She doesn't know anything about this trouble, and I don't want her to know. It would only grieve her. She is so fond of Anne. By all means we must go to the ball. Wear your prettiest gowns and act as though nothing had happened."
That night, the four young girls, in their party finery, sat waiting in the Harlowe's drawing room for their escorts—David, Hippy and Reddy. Anne wore the pink crepe de chine which had done duty at Mrs. Gray's house party the previous winter. Grace wore an exquisite gown of pale blue silk made in a simple, girlish fashion that set her off to perfection. Nora was gowned in lavender and wore a corsage bouquet of violets that had mysteriously arrived that afternoon, and that everyone present suspected Hippy of sending. Jessica's gown was of white organdie, trimmed with tiny butterfly medallions and valenciennes lace.
In spite of the possibility that she and Anne might be the subject of unpleasant comment, Grace made up her mind to enjoy herself. She was fond of dancing, and knew that she would have plenty of invitations to do so. David would look after Anne, who was not yet proficient enough in dancing to venture to try it in public.
"If only Miriam and Julia Crosby behave themselves!" she thought, "for, of course, Julia will be there. Miriam will see that she gets an invitation."
Grace thrilled with pride as she entered the gymnasium. How beautifully it had been decorated and how well everything looked. She was so sorry that the girls had seen fit to leave her out of it all. Then she remembered her resolution to forget all differences and just have a good time.
Miriam, gowned in apricot messaline trimmed with silver, was in the receiving line with half a dozen other sophomores. Grace and her party would be obliged to exchange civilities with the enemy. She wondered what Miriam would do. David solved this problem for her by taking charge of the situation. Walking straight up to Miriam, he said a few words to her in a low tone. She flushed slightly, looked a trifle defiant then greeted the girls coldly, but with civility. The other sophomores followed her example, but Grace breathed a sigh of relief as they walked over to where Mrs. Gray, in a wonderful black satin gown, sat among the patronesses.
"My dear children, I am so glad to see all of you!" exclaimed the sprightly old lady. "How fine all my girls look. You are like a bouquet of flowers. Grace is a bluebell, Anne is a dear little clove pink, Nora is a whole bunch of violets and Jessica looks like a white narcissus."
"Where do we come in?" asked David, smiling at Mrs. Gray's pretty comparison.
"Allow me to answer that question," said Hippy. "You are like the tall and graceful burdock. Reddy resembles the common, but much-admired sheep sorrel, while I am like that tender little flower, the forget-me-not. Having once seen me, is it possible to forget me!" He struck an attitude and looked languishingly at Nora.
"I'll forget you forever if you look at me like that," threatened Nora.
"Never again," said Hippy hastily. "Bear witness, all of you, that my expression has changed."
Just then the first notes of the waltz "Amoreuse" rang out, and the gymnasium floor was soon filled with High School boys and girls dressed in their best party attire. The dances followed each other in rapid succession until supper was announced. This was served at small tables by the town caterer.
Mrs. Gray and her adopted children occupied two tables near together and had a merry time. Many curious glances were cast in their direction by the other members of the sophomore class.
Some of the girls wondered whether it was a good thing to cut Anne Pierson's acquaintance. She was certainly a friend of Mrs. Gray, and Mrs. Gray was one of the most influential women in Oakdale. Frances Fuller, a worldly-minded sophomore, dared to intimate as much to Miriam Nesbit, who replied loftily:
"If Mrs. Gray knew as much about Miss Pierson as we do, she would probably not care for her any longer."
"It's a pity some one doesn't tell her," said Julia Crosby, ever ready for mischief.
"Oh, some one will have the courage yet," answered Miriam, "and when she does, that will end everything as far as Miss Pierson is concerned. Mrs. Gray can't endure anything dishonorable."
Just then a young man claimed Miriam for the two-step about to begin, and Julia wandered off, leaving Frances to digest what had been said. The more the latter thought about it, the more she felt that Mrs. Gray ought to be warned against Anne. She decided that she had the courage; that it was her duty to do so.
Without hesitating, she blundered over to where Mrs. Gray sat for the moment.
"Mrs. Gray," Frances began, "I want to tell you something which I think you ought to know."
"And what is that, my dear?" asked the old lady courteously, trying vainly to remember the girl's face.
"Why, about Miss Pierson's true character," replied the girl.
"Miss Pierson's true character?" repeated Mrs. Gray. "I don't understand what you mean."
"That she is dishonorable and treacherous. She betrayed the sophomore basketball signals to the juniors, and then denied it, when her class had positive proof against her. Besides, her father is a disreputable actor, and she was an actress before she came here. We thought if you knew the truth you wouldn't uphold any such person." Frances paused. She thought she had made an impression upon her listener.
Mrs. Gray sat silent. She was too deeply incensed to trust herself to speak. Frances looked complacent. She evidently hoped to be commended for her plain speaking. Then Mrs. Gray found her voice.
"Young woman," she said, "you ought to be ashamed of yourself. What can you hope to gain by saying unkind things about a nice, gentle, little girl who is in every respect worthy of all the love and regard that can be given her? I do not know what you can be thinking of to speak so slightingly of one of your classmates, and I am sorry to be obliged to remind you that it is the height of ill breeding to abuse a person to his or her friends."
With these words, Mrs. Gray turned her back squarely upon the dazed girl, who slowly arose, and without looking at Mrs. Gray, walked dejectedly across the room. But Miriam Nesbit lost one supporter from that minute on.
"Hateful things," said the mortified Frances, looking towards Julia and Miriam. "I believe they are more to blame than Miss Pierson ever thought of being."
When Grace paused at Mrs. Gray's side after the two-step, she saw plainly that the old lady was much agitated.
"Grace," she said quickly, "what is all this nonsense about Anne?"
"O Mrs. Gray," cried Grace. "Who could have been so unkind as to tell you? We didn't want you to know. It is all so foolish."
"But I want to know," said the old lady positively. "Anne is so very dear to me, and I can't allow these hare-brained girls to make damaging statements about her. Tell me at once, Grace."
Grace reluctantly gave a brief account of her recent disagreement with her class and the unpleasantness to which Anne had been subjected.
"What does ail Miriam Nesbit? She used to be such a nice child!" exclaimed Mrs. Gray. "Really, Grace, I feel that I ought to go straight to Miss Thompson with this."
Grace's heart sank. That was just what she did not want Mrs. Gray to do.
"Dear Mrs. Gray," she said, patting the old lady's hand, "it is better for us to fight it out by ourselves. If Miss Thompson knew all that had happened, she would forbid basketball for the rest of the season. She is awfully opposed to anything of that kind, and would champion Anne's cause to the end, but Anne would rather let matters stand the way they are, than lose us our basketball privilege. You see, the juniors have won the first game, and if basketball were stopped now we would have no chance to make up our lost ground. I firmly believe that all will come right in the end, and I think the girls will get tired of their grudge and gradually drop it. Of course it hurts to be snubbed, but I guess we can stand it. We have some friends who are loyal, at any rate."
"I suppose you are right, my dear," responded the old lady. "It is better for old folks to keep their fingers out of young folk's pies. But what did that pert miss mean about Anne's father being an actor? I had an idea he was dead."
So Grace told Mrs. Gray the story of Anne's father, beginning from where he had intercepted Anne on her way from the aeroplane exhibition during her freshman year, up to the time of the arrival of his letter begging for money.
"Anne used her freshman prize money last year to help him out of trouble. He forged a friend's name for one hundred dollars, and would have had to go to prison had she not made good the money he took, I always wanted you to know about it, Mrs. Gray, but Anne felt so badly over it, she begged me never to tell any one."
"Your story explains a great many things I never before understood," said Mrs. Gray. "That doll that was sent to the Christmas party last year, for instance. But how did Miriam find out about it?"
"We don't know," said Grace. "Her doings are dark and mysterious. Find out she did; and she has told the story with considerable effect among the girls."
"It is too bad," mused Mrs. Gray. "I should like to right matters were it possible, but as long as you don't wish it, my dear, I suppose I must let you fight it out by yourselves. But one thing I am sure of, Anne shall never want for a friend as long as I live. Now run along and have a good time. I've kept you here when you might have been dancing."
"I have loved being with you," said Grace. "I shall not tell Anne about what was said," she added in a lower tone.
"That is right, Grace," responded Mrs. Gray. "No need of hurting the child's feelings."
During the balance of the evening nothing occurred to discomfit either Grace or Anne. To be sure there was a marked coolness exhibited by most of their classmates, but David took charge of Anne and saw to it that nothing disturbed her. Grace, who was a general favorite with the High School boys of Oakdale, could have filled her programme three times over. She was the embodiment of life and danced with such apparent unconcern that the mind of more than one sophomore was divided as to whether to cleave to Miriam or renew their former allegiance to Grace.
It was well after one o'clock when the "Home, Sweet Home" waltz sounded. The floor was well filled with dancers, for the majority of the guests had remained until the end of the ball. As the last strains of the music died away the sophomores sent their class yell echoing through the gymnasium. It was answered by the various yells of the other classes, given with true High School fervor. Each class trying to outdo the other in the making of noise.
Sleepy chaperons began gathering up their charges. The sophomore ball was a thing of the past.
"These late hours and indigestible suppers are bound to break down my delicate constitution yet," Hippy confided to Nora.
"In that case I shall make it a point to see that you don't receive any more invitations to our parties," Nora answered cruelly. "Then you can stay at home and build up that precious health of yours."
"Don't mention it," replied Hippy hastily. "I would rather become an emaciated wreck than deprive myself of your society."
"It was simply glorious," said Anne to Grace as they stood waiting for their carriage, "and was there ever such a nice boy as David!"
Grace pressed Anne's hand by way of answer. She knew that David had understood the situation and had taken care to steer Anne clear of shoals, and Grace determined that no matter what Miriam might say or do in future, for David's sake it should be overlooked.
A LION AT LAST
It was a week before the last borrowed decoration reposed in its original place, and fully that long before the echoes of the sophomore ball died out. It was pronounced the most successful class function given in Oakdale for a number of years, and the sophomores felt justly proud of themselves. Miriam Nesbit took particular pains to point out that the success of the affair was in no way due to Grace Harlowe, and many of the girls who had hitherto believed that Grace was a necessary factor in High School fun, decided that they had perhaps overrated her ability.
Grace was fully cognizant of their change of heart, and spent more than one unhappy hour over it, but outwardly she carried herself as though unaware of the many little ill-natured stabs directed toward her. Anne, who was completely ignored, took it philosophically, her only regret being the fact that Grace had been dragged into difficulties on her account.
Thanksgiving had come and gone. The High School boys had played their usual game of football with a neighboring school and whipped them to a standstill, David had played on the team and covered himself with glory by making a sensational touchdown. The girl chums had worn his colors and shrieked themselves hoarse with joy over the prowess of their friend.
Miriam, secretly proud of her brother, resolved to make a like record for herself during the next basketball game, which was to take place during the following week. She believed that it was the last touch needed to make her the avowed leader of her class. She even dreamed that the basketball captaincy might one day be hers. To be sure Grace had Nora on her side, and Nora was one of the regular players, but the other two players were Miriam's faithful allies. That made three against two, and the second team had practically declared in her favor. Grace would have to do differently if she expected to keep the captaincy.
Meanwhile Grace was finding the captaincy of a team divided against itself anything but satisfactory. The girls, with the exception of Nora, obeyed her orders indifferently and as though under protest. It was almost impossible to get every member to come to practice. Some one of them invariably stayed away. On one occasion she spoke rather sharply to the team about it, but her earnest words were received with sullen resentment.
"What is the use of working ourselves to death simply to have our game handed over to the enemy?" one girl had muttered.
Grace colored at this thrust, but closed her lips tightly and made no reply. But the attitude of her team worked upon her mind, and she lost confidence in herself. She realized that a new and injurious influence was at work, and she was powerless to stem the tide of dissension that had arisen.
The practice game was played on the afternoon before the contest, and not even Jessica was there to witness it, although she had formerly been taken as a matter of course. When invited to attend practice she had scornfully refused it.
"No, thank you," she said. "If anything should go wrong to-morrow I'd be accused of treachery. No one's reputation is safe in this class." At which remark several sophomores had the grace to blush.
The day dawned bright and clear. Grace arrived at the gymnasium long before the others. She was worried and anxious over the behavior of her team. She was half afraid that some one of them would absent herself, in which case one of the substitutes would have to be called, and Grace doubted whether they could be relied upon.
Two months before, she had been certain that there were no players like those of the sophomore organization. Now she had no confidence in them or herself. She had a faint hope that when the game opened, her players would forget their grievances and work for the honor of the sophomores. She would do her best at all events, and Nora could be depended upon, too. All this passed rapidly through Grace's mind as she waited for the team to appear.
The spectators were arriving in numbers. The gallery was almost full, and it still lacked fifteen minutes of the time before the game would be called. The proverbial little bird had been extremely busy, and all sorts of rumors regarding the two teams were afloat. The juniors were, as usual, seated in a body and making a great deal of unnecessary noise. The members of the sophomore class were scattered here and there. Anne and Jessica sat with three or four of the girls who had refused to pay any attention to the talk about Anne. A dozen or more of Miriam's flock sat together watching for the appearance of their favorite. Occasionally they glanced over toward Anne, whispered to each other, and then giggled in a way that made Anne wince and Jessica feel like ordering them out of the gallery.
Grace and Nora stood talking together at one end of the gymnasium. Grace kept an anxious eye on the clock. It was five minutes of two and Miriam had not arrived. "Would she dare to stay away?" Grace wondered. At two minutes of two there was a burst of applause from the section of the gallery where Miriam's admirers were seated. Grace glanced quickly around to see what had caused it, and beheld Miriam serenely approaching, a satisfied smile on her face. She had waited until the last minute in the hope of making a sensation, and had not been disappointed. Then the game began.
Julia Crosby and Grace Harlowe once more faced each other on the field of action. This time Grace won the toss and sent the ball whizzing to the goal thrower, who tried for goal and caged the ball without effort. This aroused the sophomores, and Grace could have danced for joy as she saw that they were really going to work in earnest. The juniors were on the alert, too. If they won to-day that meant the season's championship. If they won the third game, that meant a complete whitewash for the sophomores.
So the juniors hotly contested every inch of the ground, and the sophomores found that they had their hands full. The first half of the game closed with the score 8 to 6 in favor of the juniors.
During the intermission of twenty minutes between halves, the sophomores retired to the little room off the gymnasium to rest. The outlook was indeed gloomy. It was doubtful whether they could make up their loss during the last half. Marian Barber, Eva Allen and Miriam whispered together in one corner. Grace sat with her chin in her hand, deep in thought, while Nora stood staring out the window trying to keep back the tears. Two or three of the substitutes strolled in and joined Miriam's group. The whispering grew to be a subdued murmur. The girls were evidently talking about Grace, hence their lowered voices. Their long-suffering captain looked at them once or twice, made a move as if to join them, then sat down again. Nora's blood was up at the girls' rudeness. She marched over to the group and was about to deliver her opinion of them in scathing terms, when the whistle sounded. There was a general scramble for places. Then the ball was put in play and the second half began.
The sophomores managed to tie the score during the early part of the last half, and from that on held their own. They fought strenuously to keep the juniors from scoring. When the juniors did score, the plucky sophomores managed to do the same soon after. There were two more minutes of the game, and the score stood 10 to 10. It looked as though it might end in a tie. One of the juniors had the ball. With unerring aim she threw it to goal. It never reached there, for Miriam Nesbit made a dash, sprang straight into the air and caught the ball before it reached its destination. Quick as a flash she threw it to Nora, who threw it to Marian Barber. The latter being near the basket threw it to goal without any trouble.
Before the juniors could get anywhere near the ball the whistle blew and the game closed. Score 12 to 10. The sophomores had won.
The noise in the gallery was deafening. Miriam's sensational playing had taken every one by storm. A crowd of sophomores rushed down to the gymnasium and began dancing around her singing their class song. Her cheeks were scarlet and her eyes blazed with triumph. She was a lion at last, and now the rest would follow. She felt sure that she would be asked to take the place of Grace as captain. She had shown them what she could do. Grace had done nothing but cause trouble. The team would be better off without her.
Anne and Jessica were waiting in the corridor for Grace and Nora. The two players rapidly changed their clothes and soon the chums were walking down the quiet street.
"Well," said Jessica, "Miriam has done it at last."
"She has, indeed," responded Grace, "and no one begrudges her her glory. She made a star play and saved the day for us. She is loyal to the team even if she doesn't like their captain."
"I don't know about that," said Nora, "I think she might have exerted herself during the first game if she wanted so much to show her loyalty. She was anything but a star player, then. I have no faith in her, whatever. She cares for no one but herself, and that star play was for her own benefit, not because of any allegiance to her team. She's up to something, you may depend upon that."
"Oh, Nora, don't be too hard on her. She deserves great credit for her work. Don't you think so, girls?" Grace turned appealingly to Anne and Jessica.
"It was a remarkable play," said Anne.
Jessica made no answer. She would not praise Grace's enemy, even to please Grace.
"You may say what you please," said Nora obstinately, "I shall stick to my own convictions. The way those girls stood in the corner and whispered during intermission was simply disgraceful. Mark my words, something will come of it."
"Oh, here comes David on his motorcycle," called Anne delightedly.
David slowed up when he saw the girls, alighted and greeted them warmly. He at once congratulated them on their victory.
"I congratulate you on having a star player for a sister," said Grace. "It must run in the family." She referred to his late football triumphs.
David flushed with pleasure, more at the compliment paid to his sister than the one meant for him.
"Sis can come up to the mark when she wants to," he said earnestly. "I hope she repeats the performance." Then he abruptly changed the subject. That one little speech revealed to his friends the fact that he understood the situation and longed with all his heart for a change of tactics on the part of his sister.
THE WAYS OF SCHOOLGIRLS
The clang of the gong announced the end of school for the day, but some of the sophomores lingered in their locker-room.
They had a very disagreeable communication to make that afternoon, to one of their class, and now that the time had come were inclined to shrink from the ordeal.
"I think Miriam should break the news herself," observed Marian Barber, "as long as she is to succeed Grace."
"Miriam isn't here," said Eva Allen, "she went home early. She told me she could not bear to see anyone unhappy. She is so sensitive you know?" Eva Allen was devoted to Miriam's cause.
"Oh, I don't know about that," said practical Marian. "She'll make a good captain, however, because she has showed more loyalty to the team than Grace has."
Marian firmly believed what she said. She had never been an ardent admirer of Miriam, and had at first stubbornly refused to repudiate Grace. But Miriam had little by little instilled into her the idea of Grace's incompetency, until Marian, who thought only of the good of the team, became convinced that a change of captains was advisable. Miriam's brilliant playing in the recent game was the final touch needed, and now Marian was prepared to do what she considered was her absolute duty.
"Suppose we write Grace a letter," suggested one of the substitutes, "as long as no one seems anxious to tell her."
"Hush," exclaimed Eva Allen, holding up her finger. "Here come Nora and Jessica. I know they are going to make a lot of fuss when they hear the news. Suppose we go back to the classroom and write the letter. We can all sign our names to it, and then we'll be equally to blame."
The conspirators accordingly trooped into the corridor, just as Nora and Jessica were about to enter the locker-room.
"What in the world is the matter now?" called Jessica. "You girls looks as guilty as though you'd stolen a gold mine."
"Wait and see," said Eva with a rather embarrassed laugh, as she hurried after the others up the stairs.
"Do you know, Jessica, I believe they're up to some hateful mischief. What did I tell you the other day? Those girls have given Grace the cold shoulder more than ever, since the game. They have been following Miriam about like a lot of sheep. Grace notices it, too, and it makes her unhappy, only she's too proud to say so."
"Never mind," said Jessica soothingly. "They'll be sorry some day. Miriam's influence won't last. Grace did perfectly right in standing by Anne, and you and I must always stand by Grace. Grace is a fine captain, and——"
"What are you saying about me?" demanded Grace herself, walking into the locker-room with Anne.
Jessica blushed and was silent, but Nora said glibly, "Oh, Jessica just now said that you made a fine captain." Then she went on hurriedly, "I think our chances for winning the championship are better than ever, don't you?"
"The juniors have been practising like mad since their defeat," mused Grace. "They will make a hard fight next time. Miss Thompson told me yesterday that she never saw better work in basketball than ours last Saturday. I am so proud of my team, even though they haven't been very nice to me lately. My whole desire is for them to win the final game. I suppose a captain has about the same feeling toward her players that a mother has toward her daughters. She is willing to make any sacrifice in order to make fine girls of them."
"And you are a fine captain," cried Anne. "I felt so proud of you the other day. You handled your team so well. Knowing how hateful they have been, it was wonderful to see you give your orders as though nothing had happened. No other girl could have done it."
"That is a nice compliment, Anne, dear," said Grace pleased with the words of praise from her friend, for the bitterness of her recent unpopularity had made her heart heavy.
At that moment the sophomores whom Jessica and Nora had encountered filed into the room.
Each girl wore a self-conscious expression. Eva Allen carried an envelope in her hand. She was confused and nervous.
Once inside the door the girls paused and began a whispered conversation. Then Eva Allen tried to push the envelope into another girl's hand; but the girl put her hands behind her back and obstinately refused to take it. There was another whispered conference with many side glances in Grace's direction.
Nora stood scowling savagely at the group. She noticed that it consisted of the basketball team and its substitutes. They were all there except Miriam.
"If you have any secrets, girls," remarked Grace in a hurt tone, "please postpone the telling of them for a few minutes. I am going, directly."
She opened her locker and drew out her coat and hat, trying to hide the tears that filled her eyes.
Then Marian Barber impatiently took the envelope from Eva and stepped forward. She had made up her mind to get the whole thing over as rapidly as she could.
"Er—Grace," she said, clearing her throat, "er—the team has——"
"Well, what is it?" exclaimed Nora, irritated beyond her power of endurance. "Why don't you speak out, instead of stuttering in that fashion? I always did detest stuttering."
"Marian has a note for you, Grace," interposed one of the substitutes growing bolder.
Marian placed the note in Grace's hand and turned slowly away. Up to that minute she had believed that what they were about to do was for the best; but all at once the feeling swept over her that she had done a contemptible thing. She turned as though about to take the envelope from Grace, but the latter had already opened it, and unfolding the paper began reading the contents aloud.
"Dear Grace," she read, "after a meeting to-day of the members of the regular and substitute sophomore basketball teams, it was decided that your resignation as captain of the same be requested.
"We are sorry to do this, but we believe it is for the good of the team. We feel that you cannot be loyal to its interests as long as you persist in being a friend of one of its enemies."
The names of the players, with the exception of Nora's and Miriam's, were signed to this communication.
After she had finished reading Grace stood perfectly still, looking searchingly into the faces of her classmates. She was trying to gain her self-control before speaking to them.
She could hardly realize that her own team had dealt this cruel blow. For the first time in her life she had received a real shock. She took a long deep breath and clenched her hands. She did not wish to break down before she had spoken what was in her mind.
Nora was muttering angrily to herself. Jessica looked ready to cry, while Anne, pale and resolute, came over and stood by Grace. She felt that she had been the primary cause of the whole trouble. She had borne the girls' unjust treatment of herself in silence, but, now, they had visited their displeasure upon Grace, and that was not to be borne.
"How dared you do such a despicable thing?" she cried. "You are cruel, unfeeling, and oh, so unjust. You accused me of something I would scorn to do, and not satisfied with that, visited your petty spite upon a girl who is the soul of truth and honor. You may say what you choose about me, but you shall not hurt Grace, and if you don't immediately retract what you have written I will take measures which may prove most unpleasant to all of you."
Just what Anne intended to do she did not know, but her outburst had its effect on the conspirators, and they squirmed uneasily under the lash of her words. Perhaps, they had misjudged this slender, dark-eyed girl after all.
Before Anne could say more, Grace spoke quietly.
"Sit down, all of you," she said at last, with a sweetness and dignity that was remarkable in so young a girl. "I have something to say to you. It is curious," she went on, "that I was just talking about our basketball team when you came into the room. I had said to Nora, Jessica and Anne that I wanted more than anything else in the world to beat the junior team. Miss Thompson had been praising the team to me, and I said to the girls that I thought I loved it just as a mother loves her daughters. There is no sacrifice I wouldn't make to keep up the team's good work, and that is the reason why I am going to make a sacrifice, now, and decline to resign. If I had been a poor captain, you would have had a right to ask for my resignation But I haven't. I have been a good, hard-working, conscientious captain, and I have made a success of the team. None of you can deny it. If you took a new captain at this stage it might ruin everything, and I tell you I have thought too much about it; I have set my heart on it so firmly that it would just break if we lost the deciding game."
Her voice broke a little. Nora was sobbing openly. It was hard work for Grace to control her own tears.
"Of course," she went on, clearing her throat and raising her voice to steady it, "it will be a sacrifice for me to keep on being your captain when you don't want me. It's no fun, I can assure you. Perhaps none of you has ever felt the hurt that comes of being turned out by people who were once fond of you. I hope you never will. I am still fond of all of you, and some day, perhaps, you will see that you have made a mistake. At any rate, I decline to resign my place. It was given to me for the year, and I won't give it up."
Grace turned her back and walked to the window. She had come at last to the end of her strength. She leaned against the window jamb and wept bitterly.
But the address of Mark Anthony over the dead body of Caesar was not more effective than this simple schoolgirl's speech. Every girl there melted into tears of remorse and sympathy.
"Oh, Grace," cried Marian Barber, "won't you forgive us? We never dreamed it would hurt you so. Now that I look back upon it, I can't see how we could have asked you to do it. We did believe that Miss Pierson betrayed us; but after all, that had nothing to do with your being captain of the team. I think you have been a great deal more loyal than we have. I want to say right here, girls, that I apologize to Grace and scratch my name off the list."
She took a pencil, dashing it through her signature, which was the first one on the letter.
One by one each of the other girls put a pencil stroke through her name.
Then they pinned on their hats, slipped into their coats and left the room as quickly as possible. They were all desperately ashamed; each in her secret heart wished she had never entered into the conspiracy.
They had given the captaincy to Grace, and after all, they had no right to take away what they had freely given, and for no better reason than that Grace was loyal to a friend whom they distrusted.
It was a cruel thing that they had done. They admitted it to each other now, and wished they had never listened to Miriam Nesbit.
Speaking of Miriam, who was to tell her that she had not supplanted Grace after all, as captain of the team.
"You are all cowards," exclaimed Marian Barber still buoyed up by her recent emotions, "I am not afraid of Miriam, or anyone else, and I'll undertake to tell her."
But at the last moment she determined to break the news by letter.
In the meantime, Miss Thompson had quietly entered the locker-room, where Grace and her three chums were still standing.
"Grace," said the principal, "I was passing by and I could not help overhearing what has been said, and while I don't care to enter into the little private quarrels of my girls, I want to tell you that you made a noble defense of your position. I am very proud of you, my child." Miss Thompson put her arms around the weeping girl and kissed her. "I wish every girl in my school would make such a stand for her principles. You were right not to have resigned. Always do what your judgment tells you is right, no matter what the result is, and don't give up the captaincy!"
A SKATING PARTY
The holidays had come and gone, and the pupils of Oakdale High School had resigned themselves to a period of hard study. The dreaded mid-year examinations stared them in the face, and for the time being basketball ardor had cooled and a surprising devotion to study had ensued.
Since the day that Grace had refused to give up her captaincy there had been considerable change in the girls' attitude toward her. She had not regained her old-time popularity, but it was evident that her schoolmates respected her for her brave decision and treated her with courtesy. They still retained a feeling of suspicion toward Anne, however, although they did not openly manifest it.
Miriam Nesbit had been inwardly furious over the outcome of her plan to gain the captaincy, but she was wise enough to assume an air of indifference over her defeat. Grace's speech had made considerable impression on the minds of even Miriam's most devoted supporters and she knew that the slightest slip on her part would turn the tide of opinion against her.
Grace was in a more cheerful frame of mind than formerly. She felt that all would come right some day. "Truth crushed to earth shall rise again," she told herself, and the familiar saying proved very comforting to her.
Winter had settled down on Oakdale as only a northern winter can do. There had been snow on the ground since Thanksgiving, and sleigh rides and skating parties were in order.
Grace awoke one Saturday morning in high good humor.
"To-day's the day," she said to herself. "Hurrah for skating!"
She hurried through her breakfast and was donning her fur cap and sweater, when Anne, Jessica and Nora, accompanied by David, Hippy, Reddy and, to her surprise and delight, Tom Gray, turned in at her gate.
"'Oh, be joyful, oh, be gay, For there's skating on the bay,'"
"Meaning pond, I suppose," laughed Grace, as she opened her front door.
"Meaning pond?" answered Hippy, "only pond doesn't rhyme with gay."
"You might say,
"'Oh, be joyful, oh, be fond, For there's skating on the pond,'"
"Fond of what?" demanded Hippy.
"Of the person you've asked to skate with you," replied David, looking toward Anne, who stood with a small pair of new skates tucked under her arm.
"I shall be initiated into all the mysteries of the world soon," she observed, smiling happily. "Last year it was coasting and football and now it's dancing and skating. When I once get these things on, David, I'll be like a bird trying its wings, I'll flop about just as helplessly."
"I'm awfully glad to see you, Tom," said Grace, "I did not expect to see you until Easter."
"Oh, I couldn't keep away," laughed Tom. "This is the jolliest place I know."
"Good reason," said Reddy, "we are the real people."
"Stop praising yourself and listen to me," said Hippy. "Our pond has frozen over in the most obliging manner. It's as smooth as glass. Let's go there to skate. There's a crowd of boys and girls on it already."
The pond on the Wingate estate was really a small lake, a mile or more in circumference. While it froze over every winter, the ice was apt to be rough, and there were often dangerous places in it, air-holes and thin spots where several serious accidents had occurred.
Therefore, Wingate's Pond was not used as much as the river for skating; but this winter the ice was as smooth and solid as if it had been frozen artificially, so the High School boys and girls could not resist the temptation to skim over its surface.
"Isn't it a fine sight?" asked Grace, as they came in view of the skaters who were circling and gliding over the pond, some by twos and threes, others in long rows, laughing and shouting.
A big fire burned on the bank, rows of new-comers sat near it, fitting on their skates.
"Away with dull care!" cried Hippy, as he circled gracefully over the ice; for, with all his weight, Hippy was considered one of the best skaters in Oakdale.
"Away with everything but fun," finished Grace who could think of nothing save the joy of skating. "Come along, Anne. Don't be afraid. David and I will keep you up until you learn to use those tiny little feet of yours."
Anne's small feet went almost higher than her head while Grace was speaking, and she sat flat down on the ice.
"No harm done," she laughed, "only I didn't know it could possibly be so slippery."
They pulled her up, David and Grace, and put her between them with Tom Gray on the other side of Grace as additional support, and off they flew, while Anne, keeping her feet together and holding on tightly, sailed along like a small ice boat.
"This will give you confidence," explained David, "and later on you can learn how to use your feet."
But Anne hardly heard him, so thrilled was she by the glorious sensation. As they flew by, followed by Hippy and Nora, with Reddy and Jessica, she caught glimpses of many people looking strangely unfamiliar on skates. Miriam passed, gliding gracefully over the ice with a troop of sophomores at her heels. There were many High School boys "cracking the whip" in long rows of eight or more, while there were some older people comfortably seated in sleigh chairs which were pushed from behind, generally by some poor boys in Oakdale, who stood on the bank waiting to be hired.
"Now, we'll have a lesson," exclaimed David when they had reached the starting point again, while the others lost themselves in the crowd. Anne was a good pupil, but she was soon tired and sat down on a bench near the bank.
"Do go and have a good skate yourself, David," she insisted. "I'll rest for awhile and look on."
But it was far too cold to sit still.
"I'll give myself a lesson," she said. "This is a quiet spot. All the others seem to have skated up to the other end."
As she was carefully taking the strokes David had taught her, with an occasional struggle to keep her balance, she heard a great shouting behind her. The next instant, some one had seized her by the hand.
"Keep your feet together!" was shouted in her ear, and she found herself going like the wind at the end of a long line of girls. They were juniors, she saw at once, and it was Julia Crosby at the whip end who had seized her by the hand.
Anne closed her eyes. They were going at a tremendous rate of speed, it seemed to her, like a comet shooting through the air. Then, suddenly, the head of the comet stood still and the tail swung around it, and Anne, who represented the very tip of the tail and who hardly reached to Julia Crosby's shoulder, felt herself carried along with such velocity that the breath left her body, her knees gave way and she fell down in a limp little bundle. Julia Crosby instantly let go her hand and the impetus of the rush shot her like a catapult far over the ice into the midst of a crowd of skaters.
But the juniors never stopped to see what damage had been done. They quickly joined hands again, and were off on another expedition almost before Anne had been picked up by David and Hippy.
"It's that Julia Crosby again," cried David. "I wish she would move to Europe. I'd gladly buy her a ticket. The town of Oakdale isn't big enough to hold her and other people. She's always trying to knock somebody off the side of the earth."
Anne went home, tired and bruised. She had had enough of skating for one morning David returned to join the others; for this was not the last of the day's adventures and Julia Crosby, before sunset, was to repent of her cruelty to Anne.
In the meantime Grace and Tom had skated up to the far end of the pond.
"Well, Grace," said Tom, "how has the world been using you? I suppose you have been adding to your laurels as a basketball captain."
"Far from it," said Grace a trifle sadly. "Miriam Nesbit is star player at present."
They skated on for some time in silence. Tom felt there was something wrong, so he tactfully changed the subject.
"Who is the girl doing the fancy strokes?" he asked, pointing to Julia Crosby, who, some distance ahead of them, was giving an exhibition of her powers as a maker of figure eights and cross-cuts.
"That's the junior captain," answered Grace. "I hope she won't fall, because she's heavy enough to go right through the ice if she should have a hard tumble."
"Suppose we stop watching her," suggested Tom. "I don't want to see her take a header, and people who show off on skates always do so, sooner or later."
They changed their course toward the middle of the pond, while Julia, who was turning and circling nearer the shore, watched them from one corner of her eye.
Suddenly Grace stopped.
"Julia! Julia!" she cried. "Miss Crosby!"
"What's the matter?" demanded Tom.
"Don't you see the danger flag over there? She will skate into a hole if she keeps on. The ice houses are near here, and I suppose it is where they have been cutting ice."
"Hello-o!" cried Tom, straining his lungs to reach the skater, who looked back, gave her usual tantalizing laugh and skated on.
"You are getting onto thin ice," screamed Grace in despair, beckoning wildly. "Stop! Stop!"
Julia Crosby was skating backwards now, facing the others.
"Catch me if you can," she called, and the wind carried her words to them as they flew after her.
Then Grace, who had been anxiously watching the skater and not the ice, stumbled on a piece of frozen wood and fell headlong. She lay still for an instant, half stunned by the blow, but even in that distressful moment she could hear the other girl's derisive laughter.
Tom called again:
"You'll be drowned, if you don't look where you are going."
"Why don't you learn to skate?" was Julia's answer.
"O Tom," exclaimed Grace. "Leave me. I'll soon get my breath. Do go and stop that girl. The pond's awfully deep there."
"Miss Crosby," Tom Gray called, "won't you wait a minute? I have something to tell you."
"Catch me first!" she cried.
She turned and began skating for dear life, bending from the waist and going like the wind.
"I think I'll try and catch her from the front," he said to himself. "I don't propose to tumble in, too, and leave poor Grace to fish, us both out."
With arms swinging freely, he made for the center of the pond. As he whizzed past the girl, he turned with a wide sweep and came toward her, pointing at the same time to the white flag. But it was too late. In her effort to outstrip him, Julia slid heavily into the danger zone.
There was a crash and a splash, then down she went into the icy water, followed by Tom, who had seized her arm in a fruitless effort to save her.
For an instant Tom was paralyzed with the coldness of the water. Still, keeping a firm grip on the arm of the girl who had been responsible for his ice bath, he managed to clutch the ledge of ice made by their fall with his free hand.
"Take hold of the ice and try to help yourself a little," commanded Tom.
Julia made a half-hearted attempt, and managed to grasp the ledge, but her hold was so feeble that Tom dared not withdraw his support He was powerless to act, and they would both drown unless help came quickly.
A BRAVE RESCUE
Grace was still where she had fallen, cooling a large, red lump on her forehead by applying her handkerchief first to the ice and then to the swollen place, when she suddenly felt herself to be entirely alone in the world.
"Everybody has gone home to dinner!" she exclaimed, as she glanced over her shoulder at the other end of the pond, now denuded of skaters.
Then she shifted her position, looking for Tom and Julia. She had never dreamed, when she saw her friend go whizzing across the ice, that he had not caught the reckless girl in time to warn her of her danger.
In a flash she saw the empty expanse of ice before her. She leaped to her feet, balancing herself with difficulty, for her head was still dizzy from the blow.
"Tom! Tom Gray!" she called. "Where are you?"
"Run for help!" came the answer. In another moment she saw them clinging to a broken ledge of ice, Tom supporting Julia Crosby.
As for the junior captain, she was weeping bitterly, and making no attempt to help herself.
Grace anxiously scanned the expanse of the ice. It was nearly a mile to the other end of the pond, and the last group of skaters had disappeared over the brow of the hill.
"You must think quickly," she said to herself.
Her eyes took in the other shore. Not a soul was there, not a dwelling of any sort; nothing but the great ice house that stood like a lonely sentinel on the bank. Yet something seemed to tell her that help lay in that direction.
Once before, in a moment of danger, Grace had obeyed this same impulse and had never regretted it. Once again she was following the instinct that might have seemed to another person anything but wise.
Skating as she had never skated before, Grace Harlowe reached the shore in a moment. Here, dropping to the bank, she quickly removed her skates, then ran toward the ice house, feeling strangely unaccustomed to walking on the ground after her long morning on skates.
"What if I am off on a wild-goose chase?" she said to herself. "Suppose there is no one there?" She paused for an instant and then ran on faster than before.
"I shall find help over there, I know I shall," she thought as she hurried over the frozen ground and made straight for the ice house. There was no time to be lost. Tom and Julia were liable to be sucked under and drowned while she was looking for help.
Grace pushed resolutely on. In the meantime hardly four minutes had really elapsed since the skaters had tumbled into the water.
On the other side of the ice house she came abruptly upon a man engaged in loading a child's wagon with chips of wood.
"Help!" cried Grace. "Help! Some people have broken through the ice. Have you a rope?"
The man made no answer whatever. He did not even look up until Grace shook him by the shoulder.
"There is no time to lose," she cried. "They may drown at any moment. Come! Come quickly, and help me save them."
The man looked at her with a strange, far-away expression in his eyes.
"Don't you hear me?" cried Grace in an agony of impatience. "Are you deaf?"
He shook his head stupidly, touching his ears and mouth.
"Deaf and dumb!" she exclaimed in despair.
Holding up two fingers, Grace pointed toward the water. Then she made a swimming motion. Perhaps he had understood. She could not tell, but her quick eye had caught sight of a long, thin plank on the shore.
Pulling off one of her mittens, she showed him a little pearl and turquoise ring her mother had given her for a birthday present, indicating that she would give it to him if he would help her. Then she seized one end of the plank and made a sign for him to take the other; but the stubborn creature began to unload the chips from the wagon.
Grace ran blindly ahead, dragging the plank alone.
"He's feeble-minded," she quivered. "I suppose I shall have to work this thing by myself."
When she had reached the bank, Grace heard him trotting behind her with his little wagon. In another moment there was a tug at the board. She turned and shook her fist angrily at him; but, without regarding her in the least, he lifted the plank and rested it on the wagon. Then motioning her to hold up the back end, he started on a run down the bank.
"The poor soul thinks he's a horse, I suppose," she said to herself, "but what difference does it make, if we can only get the plank to Tom and Julia?"
Grace soon saw, however, that the idea was not entirely idiotic. Later she was to offer up a prayer of thanks for that same child's wagon. The deaf and dumb man was wearing heavy Arctic rubbers, which kept him from slipping; while Grace, whose soles were as smooth as glass, kept her balance admirably by means of the other end of the plank.
Tom and Julia Crosby had now been nearly ten minutes in the water. Twice the ice had broken under Tom's grasp, while Julia, who seemed unable to help herself, had thrown all her weight on the poor boy, while she called wildly for help and heaped Grace with reproaches for running away.
"If it were not for the fact that it would be the act of a coward," exclaimed Tom at last, his teeth chattering with cold, "I would let go of your arm and give up the job of supporting you in this ice water for talking about Grace like that. Of course she has gone for help. Haven't you found out long ago that she is the right sort?"
"Well, why did she go in the wrong direction?" sobbed Julia. "Everybody is over on the other bank. There is nothing but an ice house over here."
"You may trust to her to have had some good, sensible reason," retorted Tom loyally.
"I don't think I can keep up much longer," exclaimed Julia, beginning to cry again.
"Keep on crying," replied Tom exasperated. "It will warm you—and remember that I am doing the keeping up. I don't see that you are making any special effort in that direction."
Once Tom had endeavored to lift Julia out of the hole, and he believed, and always insisted, in telling the story afterwards, that if she had been willing to help herself it could have been accomplished. But Julia Crosby, triumphant leader of her class, and Julia Crosby cold and wet as a result of her own recklessness, were two different beings altogether.
"Grace Harlowe has left us to drown," she sobbed. "I am so wretched. She is a selfish girl."
"No such thing," replied Tom vigorously. "Here she comes now, bringing help as I expected I should think you'd be ashamed of yourself." He gave a sigh of relief when he saw Grace and the strange man approaching at a quick trot, the wagon and plank between them. His confidence in Grace had not been misplaced. He felt that they would soon be released from their perilous predicament.
"All right," called Grace cheerfully as she approached. "Keep up a little while longer. We'll have you both out in a jiffy."
Both rescuers slid the plank on the ice until one end projected over the hole.
Then the man and Grace both lay flat down on the other end and Grace called "ready."
Julia Crosby seized the board and pulled herself out of the water, safe, now, from the breaking of thin ice at the edge.
"Now, Tom," cried Grace.
But Julia's considerable weight had already weakened the wood. When Tom attempted to draw himself up, crack! went the board, and a jagged piece broke off. This would not have been so serious if the ice had not given way. Then, into the water, with many strange, guttural cries, slipped the deaf and dumb man. Grace herself was wet through by the rush of water over the ice, and just saved herself by slipping backward.
There was still a small portion of the plank left, and, with Julia Crosby's help, Grace thought they might manage to pull the two men out.
But Julia looked hardly able to help herself. She sat shivering on the bank trying to remove her skates.
"Julia," called Grace desperately. "You must help me now or these two men will drown. Help me hold down this plank."
Aroused by Grace's appeal, Julia meekly obeyed, and, still shivering violently, knelt beside Grace on the plank. But it was too short; when Tom Gray seized one end of it he nearly upset both the girls into the water.
"Oh, what shall we do?" cried Grace in despair when suddenly there came the thought of the little wagon.
Quickly untwisting a long muffler of red silk from about her neck, Grace tied it securely in the middle, around the cross piece of the tongue of the stout little vehicle. Then she pushed it gently until it stood on the edge of the hole. Giving one end of the muffler to Julia, Grace took the other herself.
"Catch hold of the tail piece, Tom," she cried.
Fortunately the ice was very rough where the girls were standing, or they would certainly have slipped and fallen. They pulled and tugged until gradually the ice in front of them, with Tom's additional weight on it, instead of breaking began to sink. But Tom Gray was out of the hole now; helped by the wagon he slipped easily along the half-submerged ice, then finally rolled over with a cry of relief upon the firm surface.
In the same way they pulled out the deaf and dumb man, who had certainly been brave and patient during the ordeal, although he had uttered the most fearful sounds.
As soon as his feet touched the solid ice, he seized his wagon and made for the bank. Grace, remembering she had promised him her ring, hurried after him, but she was chilled to the bone and could not run. By the time she reached the bank he had rounded the corner of the ice house and was out of sight.
"He evidently doesn't care to be thanked," said Tom Gray as Grace returned to where he and Julia stood waiting.
"We had better get home as soon as possible or we'll all be laid up with colds."
The three half-frozen young people made their way home as best they could. Their clothes had frozen stiff, making it impossible for them to hurry. Julia Crosby said not a word during the walk, but when she left them at the corner where she turned into her own street, she said huskily: "Thank you both for what you did for me to-day, I owe my life to you."
"That was a whole lot for her to say," said Grace.
"She ought to be grateful," growled Tom. "She was the cause of all this mess," pointing to his wet clothes.
"I believe she will be," said Grace softly, "After all, 'It's an ill wind that blows no one good.'"
Grace's mother was justly horrified when Grace, in her bedraggled condition, walked into the living room. She insisted on putting her to bed, wrapping her in blankets and giving her hot drinks. Grace fell into a sound sleep from which she did not awaken until evening. Then she rose, dressed and appeared at the supper table apparently none the worse for her wetting.
Meanwhile Tom Gray had gone to his aunt's, given himself a brisk rubbing down and changed his wet clothing for another suit he fortunately happened to have with him. Thanks to his strong constitution and vigorous health, he felt no bad effects.
He then went down to the kitchen, asked the cook for a cup of hot coffee, and, after hastily swallowing it, rushed off to find David, Hippy and Reddy and tell them the news. He was filled with admiration for Grace.
"She is the finest, most resolute girl I ever knew!" he exclaimed as he finished his story.
"Hurrah for Grace Harlowe!" shouted Reddy.
"Let's go down to-night and see if she's all right?" suggested David.
Before seven o'clock the four boys were on their way to the Harlowe's. They crept quietly up to the living-room window. Grace sat by the fire reading. Very softly they began a popular song that was a favorite of hers. Grace's quick ears caught the sound of the music. She was out of the house like a flash, and five minutes later the four boys were seated around the fire going over the day's adventure.
"The deaf and dumb man who helped you out is quite a character," said Hippy. "I know him well. He used to work for my father. He isn't half so foolish as he looks, either. As for that wagon you used as a life preserver, I am proud to say that it was once mine."
"It must have been made especially strong," observed Reddy.
"It was. Hickory and iron were the materials used, I believe. I played with it when but a toddling che-ild," continued Hippy, "and also smashed three before my father had this one made to order. ''Twas ever thus from childhood's earliest hour,'" he added mournfully. "I always had to have things made to order."
There was a shout of laughter at Hippy's last remark. From infancy Hippy had been the prize fat boy of Oakdale.
"It's only seven o'clock," said David. I move that we hunt up the girls and have a party. That is, if Grace is willing."
"That will be fine," cried Grace.
Hippy and Reddy were despatched to find Nora and Jessica. While David took upon himself the pleasant task of going for Anne. Tom remained with Grace. He had a boyish admiration for this straightforward, gray-eyed girl and made no secret of his preference for her.
Inside of an hour the sound of girls' voices outside proclaimed the fact that the boys' mission had not been in vain. The girls had been informed by their escorts of the afternoon's happenings, but Grace and Tom were obliged to tell the story all over again.
"I hope Julia Crosby's ice bath will have a subduing effect upon her," said Nora. "I am glad, of course, that she didn't lose her life, but I'm not sorry she got a good ducking. She deserved something for the way she dragged Anne into that game of crack the whip."
"Let's talk about something pleasant," proposed Reddy.
"Me, for instance," said Hippy, with a Cheshire cat grin. "I am a thing of beauty, and, consequently, a joy forever."
"Smother him with a sofa pillow!" commanded Tom. "He is too conceited to live."
Reddy seized the unfortunate Hippy by the back of the neck, while David covered the fat youth with pillows until only his feet were visible and the smothering process was carried on with great glee until Nora mercifully came to his rescue.
A BELATED REPENTANCE
The following Monday as Grace Harlowe was about to leave the schoolroom, Julia Crosby's younger sister, one of the freshman class, handed her a note. It was from Julia, and read as follows:
"Will you come and see me this afternoon when school is over? I have a severe cold, and am unable to be out of bed. I have something I must say to you that cannot wait until I get back to school.
"Your sincere friend,
"Oh, dear!" thought Grace. "I don't want to go up there. Her mother will fall upon my neck and weep, and tell me I saved Julia's life. I know her of old. She's one of the weeping kind. I suppose it's my duty to go, however."
Grace's prognostication was fulfilled to the letter. Mrs. Crosby clasped her in a tumultuous embrace the moment she entered the hall. Grace finally escaped from her, and was shown up to Julia's room.
She looked about her with some curiosity. It was a light airy room, daintily furnished. Julia was lying on the pretty brass bed in one corner of the room. She wore a dressing gown of pale blue eiderdown, and Grace thought she had never seen her old enemy look better.
"How do you do, Julia?" she said, walking over to the bed and holding out her hand to the invalid.
"Not very well," responded Julia hoarsely. "I have a bad cold and am too weak to be up."
"I'm sorry," said Grace, "the wetting didn't hurt me in the least. But, of course, I wasn't in the water like you were. It didn't hurt Tom, either."
"I'm glad you are both all right," said Julia.
She looked solemnly at Grace, and then said hesitatingly, "Grace, I didn't deserve to be rescued the other day. I've been awfully mean to you." She buried her face in the bed clothing and sobbed convulsively.
"Julia, Julia, please don't cry," said Grace, her quick sympathy aroused by the distress of another. "Did you think we would leave you to drown? You would have done the same for me. Don't you know that people never think of petty differences when real trouble arises?"
She laid her hand upon the head of the weeping girl. After a little the sobs ceased and Julia sat up and wiped her eyes.
"Bring that chair over and sit down beside me, Grace. I want to tell you everything," she said. "Last year I was perfectly horrid to you and that little Pierson girl, for no earthly reason either, I thought it was smart to annoy you and torment you. After we had the quarrel that day in the gymnasium, I was really angry with you, and determined to pay you back.
"You know, of course, that I purposely tripped you the day of the basketball game. I was awfully shocked when I found you had sprained your ankle, but I was too cowardly to confess that I did it. Miss Thompson would have suspended me from school. I didn't know whether you knew that I had done it until I met you that day in the corridor, and the way you looked at me made me feel miserable. Then we got hold of your signals."
Grace leaned forward in her chair in an agony of suspense.
"Julia," she said, "I don't care what you did to me; but won't you please say that Anne didn't give you those signals?"
"Miss Pierson did not give them to me," was the quick reply.
"I'm so glad to hear you say it," Grace answered. "I knew she was innocent, but the girls have distrusted her all year. She lost the list accidentally, you know, but they wouldn't believe that she did."
"Yes, I heard that she did," said Julia. "The list was given to me, but I am not at liberty to tell who gave it. It was not your Anne, although I was too mean to say so, even when I knew that she had been accused. I'll write you a statement to that effect if you want me to do so. That will clear her."
"Oh, Julia, will you truly? I want it more than anything else in the whole world. A statement from you will carry more weight with the girls than anything I could possibly tell them. It will convince the doubters, you know. There are sure to be some who will insist on being skeptical."
Acting under Julia's direction, Grace brought a little writing case from a nearby table, Julia opened it, selected a sheet of paper and wrote in a firm, clear hand:
"To the members of the sophomore class, and to all those whom it may concern:
"The accusation made against Anne Pierson last fall regarding the betrayal of the basketball signals to the junior team is false. Our knowledge of these signals came from an entirely different source.
"JULIA CROSBY, Capt. Junior Team."
"And now," concluded Julia, "I have done something toward straightening out the mischief I made. Will you forgive me, Grace, and try to think of me as your friend?"
"With all my heart," replied Grace, kissing her warmly. "And I am so happy to-day. Just think, the junior and sophomore classes will be at peace at last."
The two girls looked into each other's eyes, and both began to laugh.
"After two years' war the hatchet will be buried," said Julia a little tremulously.
"Oh, Julia!" exclaimed Grace, hopping about, "I've a perfectly splendid idea!"
"What is it?" asked Julia breathlessly.
"Let's have a grand blow out and bury the hatchet with pomp and ceremony. We'll have speeches from both classes, and a perfectly gorgeous feed afterwards. You break the news to your class and I'll endeavor to get my naughty children under control once more. I believe some of them love me a little yet," she smiled.
"Of course, they do," said Julia stoutly. "I must say I don't see why they were so hateful to you, even if Anne Pierson were under suspicion. I know I am to blame for helping the grudge along," she added remorsefully, "but I am, not the only one."
"I know," said Grace quickly. "There are lots of things I'd like to say, but for certain reasons of my own I shall not say them. You understand, I think."
Julia nodded. She did, indeed, understand, and the full beauty of Grace Harlowe's nobility of spirit was revealed to her.
"You are the finest, squarest girl I ever knew, Grace," she said admiringly.
"Nonsense," laughed Grace, flushing a little at the tribute paid her by the once arrogant junior captain. "You don't know me at all. I have just as many faults as other girls, with a few extra ones thrown in. I have no claim to a pedestal. I hope we shall be friends for the rest of our schooldays and forever after. You will be a senior next year, and I shall be a junior. It's time we put by childish quarrels, and assumed the high and mighty attitude of the upper classes. It is our duty to become a living example to erring freshmen."
Both girls laughed merrily; then Grace rose to go. She kissed Julia good-bye and walked out of the house as though on air. Her cup of happiness was full to the brim. She carefully tucked the precious paper away in her bag and sped down the street on winged feet.
The incredible had come to pass. Her old-time enemy had become her friend. She wondered if it could have ever come about by any other means. She doubted it. She had always heard that "Desperate cases require desperate remedies." The happenings of the past week seemed conclusive proof of the truth of the saying. Furthermore, she believed in the sincerity of Julia Crosby's repentance. It was more than skin deep. She felt that henceforward Julia would be different. Best of all, she had the reward of her own conscience. In being true to Anne she had been true to herself.
AN OUNCE OF LOYALTY
When the girls of the sophomore class entered their locker-room the next day they found a notice posted to the effect that a class meeting would be held after school in the locker-room at which all members were earnestly requested to be present.
There was considerable speculation as to the object of the meeting, and no one knew who had posted the notice. Grace kept her own counsel. She wished to take the class by surprise, and thus make Anne's restoration to favor complete.
At recess Nora and Jessica brought up the subject, but found that Grace apparently wished to avoid talking about it.
"You'll attend, won't you, Grace?" asked Anne.
"Of course," said Grace hastily. "Will you excuse me, girls? I have a theorem to study."
She felt that if she stayed a minute longer she would tell her friends the good news and spoil her surprise.
"What makes Grace act so queerly to-day?" said Jessica. "I believe she knows something and won't tell us."
"I'll make her tell it," said Nora, and ran after Grace. But just then the gong sounded and recess was over.
As soon as school was dismissed for the day, the entire sophomore class crowded into the locker-room. They were curious to know what was in the wind. Every member was present, and Grace felt a secret satisfaction when Miriam Nesbit, looking rather bored, sauntered in.
There was a confused murmur of voices. The girls chattered gayly to each other, as they waited for some one to call the meeting to order. When Grace left the corner where she had been standing with her three friends, and stood facing her classmates, the talking instantly ceased.
"Girls," she said, "I suppose you wonder who called this meeting, and why it was called? I wrote the notice you all read this morning. I have something to tell you which I hope you will be glad to hear."
"At the beginning of the school year, some things happened that caused unpleasant suspicions to rest upon a member of our class. You all know who I mean. It has caused her and her friends a great deal of unhappiness, and I am glad to be able at last to bring you the proof that she has been misjudged."
Grace paused and looked about her. She noted that Miriam had turned very pale.
"Just as I suspected," thought Grace, "she really did have a hand in that signal affair."
Then she continued.
"A few days ago I had occasion to call upon the junior captain, Miss Crosby. While there, she assured me that the juniors did receive our signals, but that Miss Pierson had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. I was not sure that you would care to take my word, alone, for this"—Grace couldn't resist this one tiny thrust—"so she very kindly gave me the assurance in writing, signed by herself."
Grace then unfolded the paper and in a clear voice read Julia's statement.
There was not a sound in the room. Grace stood waiting. She had done her part, the rest lay with her classmates.
Nora and Jessica had their arms around Anne, who had begun to cry quietly. The relief was so great that it had unnerved her. Then Marian Barber sprang to Grace's side and seized her by the hand.
"Listen, girls," she cried, "I want to acknowledge for the second time that I am heartily ashamed of myself. We have all been nasty and suspicious toward Anne. We never gave her a chance to defend herself, we just went ahead and behaved like a lot of silly children. I am sorry for anything I have ever said about her, and I want to tell you right here that I consider Grace Harlowe the ideal type of High School girl. I only wish I were half as noble and courageous. I suppose you all wonder why Grace went to see Julia Crosby. Well I'll tell you. I found out about it from Julia's sister this morning."
"Oh Marian, please don't," begged Grace, rosy with confusion.
But the girls cried in chorus, "Tell us, Marian! Don't mind Grace!"
When Marian had finished many of the girls were in tears. They crowded around Anne and Grace vying with each other in trying to show their good will. Then Eva Allen proposed three cheers for Grace and Anne.
They were given with a will. The noise of the ovation bringing one of the teachers to the door with the severe injunction, "Young ladies please contain yourselves. There is too much noise here."
The girls dispersed by twos and threes, until Marian Barber and the chums were the only ones left.
"I have a motto," said Marian, "that I shall bring here to-morrow and hang in the locker-room. If I had paid more attention to it it would have been better for me."
"What is it, Marian?" asked Jessica.
"Wait and see," replied Marian. "Oh, it's a good one, and appropriate, too."
After saying good-bye to Marian the four chums walked on together.
"Are you happy, Anne, dear?" said Grace, slipping her hand into Anne's.
Anne looked up at Grace with a smile so full of love and gratitude that Grace felt well repaid for all she had endured for friendship's sake.
"Everything has turned out just like the last chapter in a book," sighed Nora with satisfaction "The sinner—that's Julia Crosby—has repented, and the truly good people—Anne and Grace—have triumphed and will live happy forever after."
The girls laughed at Nora's remark.
"Now I can go on planning for our big game without being afraid that the girls will stay away from practice and do things to annoy and make it hard for me," said Grace happily. "I know that we shall win. I feel so full of enthusiasm I don't know what to do. Oh, girls, I forgot to tell you that Julia Crosby and I have a perfectly splendid plan. But I promised not to say anything to anyone about it until she comes back to school."
"How funny it sounds to hear you talk about having plans with Julia Crosby," said Jessica laughing. "You will make Miriam Nesbit jealous if you take Julia away from her."
"By the way, girls!" exclaimed Nora, "what became of Miriam? I saw her enter the locker-room, but she wasn't there when Marian Barber began her speech. I know she did not remain, because I looked for her and couldn't find her."
"I saw her go," said Grace quietly, "That is the only part of this story that doesn't end well. She doesn't like Anne or me any better than before and never will, I'm afraid. She influenced the girls against us, after the first game, and you remember what she said at the basketball meeting, don't you, Nora?"
"Yes," responded Nora, "I do, and if she hadn't been David's sister I would have told her a few plain truths, then and there."
"I said at the beginning of the year that I believed Miriam had a better self," said Grace thoughtfully. "I still believe it, and I am not going to give her up yet."
"I don't envy you the task of finding it," said Jessica.
"I wonder what Marian Barber's motto is?" mused Anne. "She said it would be a good one."
"I have no doubt of that. Marian Barber doesn't usually do things by halves when once she starts," said Jessica. "I am surprised that she ever allowed herself to be drawn into Miriam's net. She seems awfully sorry for it now."