BETTY WALES SENIOR
BETTY WALES, FRESHMAN BETTY WALES, SOPHOMORE BETTY WALES, JUNIOR BETTY WALES, B.A. BETTY WALES & CO. BETTY WALES ON THE CAMPUS BETTY WALES DECIDES
ILLUSTRATED BY EVA M. NAGEL
THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA 1919
COPYRIGHT 1907 BY THE PENN PUBLISHING COMPANY
Betty Wales, Senior
For the information of those readers who have not followed Betty Wales through the first three years of her college career, as described in "Betty Wales, Freshman," "Betty Wales, Sophomore," and "Betty Wales, Junior," it should be explained that most of Betty's little circle began to be friends in their freshman year, when they lived off the campus at Mrs. Chapin's, and Mary Brooks, the only sophomore in the house, ruled them with an autocratic hand. Betty found Helen Adams a comical and sometimes a trying roommate. Rachel Morrison and Katherine Kittredge were also at Mrs. Chapin's, and Roberta Lewis, who adored Mary Brooks and was desperately afraid of every one else in the house, though Betty Wales guessed that shyness was at the bottom of Roberta's haughty manner. Eleanor Watson was the most prominent member of the group that year and part of the next. Betty admired her greatly but found her a very difficult person to win as a friend, though in the end she proved worthy of all the trouble she had cost.
At the beginning of sophomore year the Chapin House girls moved to the campus, and "the B's" and Madeline Ayres, who explained that she lived in "Bohemia, New York," joined the circle. In their junior year Betty and her friends organized the "Merry Hearts" society, and Georgia Ames, a freshman friend of Madeline's, amused and mystified the whole college until she was finally discovered to be merely one of Madeline's many delightful inventions. But the joke was on the "Merry Hearts" when a real Georgia Ames entered college. It was when they were juniors, too, that the "Merry Hearts" took a vacation trip to the Bahamas and incidentally manoeuvred a romance for two of their faculty friends—which caused Mary Brooks to rename their society the Merry Match-makers.
And now if any one wishes to know what Betty Wales and her friends did after they left college, well—there's something about it in "Betty Wales, B.A.," "Betty Wales & Co.," "Betty Wales on the Campus," and "Betty Wales Decides."
I "BACK TO COLLEGE AGAIN" 9 II A SENIOR CLASS-MEETING 25 III THE BELDEN HOUSE "INITIATION PARTY" 49 IV AN ADVENTUROUS MOUNTAIN DAY 69 V THE RETURN OF MARY BROOKS 86 VI HELEN ADAMS'S MISSION 106 VII ROBERTA "ARRIVES" 126 VIII THE GREATEST TOY-SHOP ON EARTH 143 IX A WEDDING AND A VISIT TO BOHEMIA 169 X TRYING FOR PARTS 189 XI A DARK HORSE DEFINED 211 XII CALLING ON ANNE CARTER 230 XIII GEORGIA'S AMETHYST PENDANT 250 XIV THE MOONSHINERS' BACON-ROAST 269 XV PLANS FOR A COOPERATIVE COMMENCEMENT 291 XVI A Hoop-Rolling and a Tragedy 308 XVII BITS OF COMMENCEMENT 325 XVIII THE GOING OUT OF 19— 350 XIX "GOOD-BYE!" 366
The Stream of Girls Descended Frontispiece
"Here Are Some Perfectly Elegant Mushrooms" 76
"Oh, I Beg Your Pardon," 132
"I Do Care About Having Friends Like You," She Said 171
"Well, We've Found Our Shylock," He Said 224
The Girls Watched Her in Bewilderment 318
"Ladies, Behold the Preceptress of the Kankakee Academy" 373
BETTY WALES, SENIOR
"BACK TO THE COLLEGE AGAIN"
"Oh, Rachel Morrison, am I too late for the four-ten train?"
Betty Wales, pink-cheeked and breathless, her yellow curls flying under her dainty lingerie hat, and her crisp white skirts held high to escape the dust of the station platform, sank down beside Rachel on a steamer trunk that the Harding baggage-men had been too busy or too accommodating to move away, and began to fan herself vigorously with a very small and filmy handkerchief.
"No, you're not late, dearie," laughed Rachel, pulling Betty's hat straight, "or rather the train is late, too. Where have you been?"
Betty smiled reminiscently. "Everywhere, pretty nearly. You know that cunning little freshman that had lost her trunks——"
"All those that I've interviewed have lost their trunks," interpolated Rachel.
Betty waved a deprecating hand toward the mountain of baggage that was piled up further down the platform.
"Oh, of course, in that lovely mess. Who wouldn't? But this girl lost hers before she got here—in Chicago or Albany, or maybe it was Omaha. She lives in Los Angeles, so she might have lost them almost anywhere, you see."
"And of course she expected Prexy or the registrar to go back and look for them," added Rachel.
Betty laughed. "Not she. Besides she doesn't seem to care a bit. She seems to think it's a splendid chance to go to New York next week and buy new clothes. But what she wanted of me was to tell her where she could get some shirt waists—just enough to last until she's perfectly sure that the trunks are gone for good. I didn't want to stick around here from three to four, so I said I'd go and show her Evans's and that little new shirt waist place. Of course I pointed out all the objects of interest along the way, and when I mentioned Cuyler's, she insisted upon going in to have ices."
"And how many does that make for you to-day?" demanded Rachel severely.
"Well," Betty defended herself, "I treated you once, and you treated me once, and then we met Christy Mason, and as you couldn't go back with her I had to. But I only had lemonade that time. And this child was so comical, and it was such a good idea."
"What was such a good idea?" inquired Rachel.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? Why, after we'd finished at Cuyler's, she asked me if there weren't any other places something like it, and she said she thought if we tried them all in a row we could tell which was best. But we couldn't," sighed Betty regretfully, "because of course things taste better when you're hungriest. But anyhow she wanted to keep on, because now she can give pointers to other freshmen, and make them think she is a sophomore."
"How about the shirt waists?"
"Oh, she had just got to that when I had to leave her." Betty rose, sighing, as a train whistled somewhere down the track. "Do you suppose Georgia Ames will be on this one?"
"Who can tell?" said Rachel. "There'll be somebody that we know anyway. Wasn't that first day queer and creepy?"
"Yes," agreed Betty, "when nobody got off but freshmen frightened to pieces about their exams. And that was only two days ago! It seems two weeks. I've always rather envied the Students' Aid Society seniors, because they have such a good chance to pick out the interesting freshmen, but I shan't any more."
"Not even after to-day?"
Betty frowned reflectively. "Well, of course to-day has been pretty grand—with all those ices, and Christy, and the freshmen all so cheerful and amusing. And then there's the eight-fifteen. Won't it be fun—to see the Clan get off that? Yes, I think I do envy myself. Can a person envy herself, Rachel?" She gave Rachel's arm a sudden squeeze. "Rachel," she went on very solemnly, "do you realize that we can't ever again in all our lives be Students' Aid Seniors, meeting poor little Harding freshmen?"
Rachel hugged Betty sympathetically. "Yes, I do," she said. "Why at this time next year I shall be earning my own living 'out in the wide, wide world,' as the song says, miles from any of the Clan."
Betty looked across the net-work of tracks, to the hills that make a circle about Harding. "And miles from this dear old town," she added. "But we can write to each other, and make visits, and we can come back to class reunions. But that won't be the same."
Rachel looked at the pretty, yellow-haired child, and wondered if she realized how different her "wide, wide world" was likely to be from Katherine's or Helen Chase Adams's—or Rachel Morrison's. To some of the Clan Harding meant everything they had ever known in the way of culture and scholarly refinement, of happy leisure and congenial friendship. It was comforting somehow to find that girls like Betty and the B's, who had everything else, were just as fond of Harding and were going to be just as sorry to leave it. Rachel never envied anybody, but she liked to think that this life that was so precious to her meant much to all her friends. It made one feel surer that pretty clothes and plenty of spending-money and delightful summers at the seashore or in the mountains did not matter much, so long as the one big, beautiful fact of being a Harding girl was assured. All this flashed through Rachel's mind much more quickly than it can be written down. Aloud she said cheerfully, "Well, we have one whole year more of it."
"I should rather think so," declared Betty emphatically, "and we mustn't waste a single minute of it. I wish it was evening. It seems as if I couldn't wait to see the other girls."
"Well, there's plenty to do just now," said Rachel briskly, as the four-ten halted, and the streams of girls, laden with traveling bags, suit-cases, golf-clubs, tennis-rackets, and queer-shaped bulky parcels that had obviously refused to go into any trunk, began to descend from it.
Rachel hurried forward at once, eager to find someone who needed help or directions or a friendly word of welcome. But Betty stood where she was, just out of the crowd, watching the old girls' excited meetings and the new girls' timid progresses, which were sure to be intercepted before long by some white-gowned, competent senior, anxious to miss no possible opportunity for helpfulness.
Betty had done her part all day, and in addition had taken Rachel's place earlier in the afternoon, to give her a free hour for tutoring. She was tired now and hot, and she had undoubtedly eaten too many ices; but she was also trying an experiment. Where she stood she could watch both platforms from which the girls were descending. Her quick glance shot from one to the other, scanning each figure as it emerged from the shadowy car and stopped for an instant, hesitating, on the platform. The train was nearly emptied of its Harding contingent when all at once Betty gave a little cry and darted forward to meet a girl who was making an unusually careful and prolonged inspection of the crowd below her. She was a slender, pretty girl, with yellow hair, which curled around her face. She carried a trim little hand-bag and a well-filled bag of golf-clubs.
"Can I help you in any way?" asked Betty, holding out a hand for the golf-bag.
The pretty freshman turned a puzzled face toward her, and surrendered the bag. "I don't know," she said doubtfully. "I'm to be a freshman at Harding. Father telegraphed the registrar to meet me. Could you point her out, please?"
"I knew it," laughed Betty, gleefully. Then she turned to the girl. "The registrar is up at the college answering fifty questions a minute, and I'm here to meet you. Give me your checks, and we'll find an expressman. Oh, yes, and where do you board?"
The pretty freshman answered her questions with an air of pleased bewilderment, and later, on the way up the hill, asked questions of her own, laughed shamefacedly over her misunderstanding about the registrar, was comforted when Betty had explained that it was not an original mistake, and invited her new friend to come and see her with that particular sort of eager shyness that is the greatest compliment one girl can pay to another.
"Dear old Dorothy," thought Betty, when she had deposited the freshman, considerably enlightened about college etiquette, at one of the pleasantest of the off-campus houses, and was speeding to the Belden for tea. "What a little goose she must have thought me! And what a dear she was! I wonder if this freshman will ever really care about me that way. I do mean to try to make her. Oh, what a lot of things seniors have to think about!"
But the only thing to think about that evening was the arrival of the eight-fifteen train, which would bring Eleanor, the B's, Nita Reese, Katherine Kittredge, Roberta Lewis, and Madeline Ayres, together with two-thirds of the rest of the senior class back to Harding. It was such fun to saunter down to the station in the warm twilight, to wait, relieved of all responsibilities concerning cabs, expressmen, and belated trunks, while the crowded train pulled in, and then to dash frantically about from one dear friend to another, stopping to shake hands with a sophomore here, and there to greet a junior, but being gladdest, of course, to welcome back the members of "the finest class." Betty and Rachel had arranged not to serve on the reception committee for freshmen that evening, and it was not long before the reunited "Merry Hearts" escaped from the pandemonium at the station to reassemble on the Belden House piazza for what Katherine called a "high old talk."
How the tongues wagged! Eleanor Watson had come straight from her father's luxurious camp in the Colorado mountains, where she and Jim had been having a house-party for some of their Denver friends.
"You girls must all come out next summer," she declared enthusiastically. "Father sent a special invitation to you, Betty, and he and—and—mother"—Eleanor struggled with the new name for the judge's young wife—"are coming on to commencement, and then of course you'll all meet them. Mother is so jolly—she knows just what girls like, and she enters into all the fun, just like one of us. Of course she is absurdly young," laughed Eleanor, as if the stepmother's youth had never been her most intolerable failing in her daughter's eyes.
Babbie had been abroad, on an automobile trip through France. She looked more elegant than ever in a chic little suit from Paris, with a toque to match, and heavy gloves that she had bought in London.
"I've got a pair for each of you in my trunk," she announced, "and here's hoping I didn't mix up the sizes."
"Sixes for me," cried Bob.
"Five and a-half," shrieked Babe.
"Six and a-half," announced Katherine, "and you ought to have brought me two pairs, because I wear mine out more than twice as fast as anybody else."
"What kind of a summer have you had, K?" asked Babe, who never wrote letters, and therefore seldom received any.
"Same old kind," answered Katherine cheerfully. "Mended twenty dozen stockings, got breakfast for seven hungry mouths every morning, played tennis with the boys and Polly, tutored all I could, sent out father's bills,—oh, being the oldest of eight is no snap, I can tell you, but," Katherine added with a chuckle, "it's lots of fun. Boys do like you so if you're rather decent to them."
"I just hate being an only child," declared Bob hotly. "What's the use of a place in the country unless there are children to wade in the brook, and chase the chickens and ride the horses? Next summer I'm going to have fresh-air children up there all summer, and you two"—indicating the other B's—"have got to come and help save them from early deaths."
"All right," said Babe easily, "only I shall wade too."
"And you've got to wash them up before I can touch them," stipulated the fastidious Babbie. "Where have you been all summer, Rachel?"
"Right at home, helping in an office during the day and tutoring evenings. And I've saved enough so that I shan't have to worry one single bit about money this year," announced Rachel triumphantly.
"Good for old Rachel!" cried Madeline Ayres, who had spent the summer nursing her mother through a severe illness and looked worn and thin in consequence. "Then you're as glad to get back to the grind as I am. Betty here, with her summer on an island in Lake Michigan, and Eleanor, and these lucky B's with their childless farms, and their Parisian raiment, don't know what it's like to be back in the arms of one's friends."
"Don't we!" cried a protesting chorus.
"Don't you what?" called a voice out of the darkness, and the real Georgia Ames, cheerful and sunburned and self-possessed shook hands all around, and found a seat behind Madeline on the piazza railing.
"You were all so busy talking that you didn't see me at the train," she explained coolly. "A tall girl with glasses asked if there was anything she could do for me, and I said oh, no, that I'd been here before. Then she asked me my name, and when I said Georgia Ames, I thought she was going to faint."
"She took you for a ghost, my dear," said Madeline, patting her double's shoulder affectionately. "You must get used to being treated that way, you know. You're billed to make a sensation in spite of yourself."
"But we're going to make it up to you all we can," chirped Babbie.
"And you bet we can," added Bob decisively.
"Let's begin by escorting her home," suggested Babe. "There's just about time before ten."
"I saw Miss Stuart yesterday about her coming into the Belden," explained Betty, after they had left Georgia at her temporary off-campus boarding place. "She was awfully nice and amused about it all, and she thinks she can get her in right away, in Natalie Smith's place. Natalie's father has been elected senator, you know, and she's going to come out this winter in Washington."
"Fancy that now!" said Madeline resignedly. "There's certainly no accounting for tastes."
"I should think not," declared Katherine hotly. "If my father was elected President, I'd stay on and graduate with 19— just the same."
"Of course you would," agreed Babbie. "You can come out in Washington any time—or if you can't, it doesn't matter much. But there's only one 19—."
"And yet when we go we shan't be missed," said Katherine sadly. "The college will go on just the same."
"Oh, and I've found out the reason why," cried Betty eagerly. "It's because all college girls are alike. Miss Ferris said so once. She said if you waited long enough each girl you had known and liked would come back in the person of some younger one. But I never really believed it until to-day." And Betty related the story of her successful hunt for the freshman who was like herself.
"But then," asserted Babbie loyally, "she's not so nice as you, Betty. She couldn't be. And I don't believe there are freshmen like all of us."
"Not in this one class," said Rachel. "But it's a nice idea, isn't it? When our little sisters or our daughters come to Harding they can have friends just as dear and jolly as the ones we have had."
"And they will be just as likely to be locked out if they linger on their own or their friends' door-steps after ten," added Madeline pompously, whereat Eleanor, Katherine, Rachel and the B's rushed for their respective abiding places, and the Belden House contingent marched up-stairs singing
"Back to the college again,"
a parody of one of Kipling's "Barrack-Room Ballads" which Madeline Ayres had written one morning during a philosophy lecture that bored her, and which the whole college was singing a week later.
A SENIOR CLASS-MEETING
It was great fun exercising all the new senior privileges. One of the first and most exciting was occupying the front seats at morning chapel.
"Although," complained Betty Wales sadly, "you don't get much good out of that, if your name begins with a W. Of course I am glad there are so many of 19—, but they do take up a lot of room. Nobody could tell that Eleanor and I were seniors, unless they knew it beforehand."
"And then they wouldn't believe it about you," retorted Madeline, the tease.
Madeline, being an A, was one of the favored front row, who were near enough "to catch Prexy's littlest smiles," as Helen Adams put it, and who were the observed of all observers as they marched, two and two, down the middle aisle, just behind the faculty. Madeline, being tall and graceful and always perfectly self-possessed, looked very impressive, but little Helen Adams was dreadfully frightened and blushed to the roots of her smooth brown hair every morning.
"And yet I wouldn't give it up for anything," she confided to Betty. "I mean—I'll exchange with you any time, but I do just love to sit there, although I dread walking out so. It's just the same when I am talking to Miss Raymond or Miss Mills. I wish I weren't such a goose."
"You're a very dear little goose," Betty reassured her, wondering why in the world the clever Helen Adams was afraid of people, while she, who was only little Betty Wales, without much brains and with no big talent, felt perfectly at home with Dr. Hinsdale, Miss Raymond, and even the great "Prexy" himself.
"I suppose that is my talent," she decided at last,—"not being afraid, and just plunging right in. Well, I suppose I ought to be glad that I have anything."
Another senior privilege is the holding of the first class-meeting. Fresh indeed is the freshman class which neglects this order of precedence, and in deference to their childish impatience the seniors always hold their meeting as early in the term as possible. Of course 19—'s came on a lovely afternoon,—the first after an unusually long and violent "freshman rain."
"Coming, Madeline?" asked Betty, passing Madeline's single on her way out.
"Where?" inquired Madeline lazily from the depths of her Morris chair.
"To the class-meeting of course," explained Betty. "Now don't pretend you've forgotten and made another engagement. I just heard Georgia Ames telling you that she couldn't go walking because of an unexpected written lesson."
Madeline wriggled uneasily. "What's the use?" she objected. "It's too nice a day to waste indoors. There'll be nothing doing for us. We elected Rachel last year, and none of the rest of the crowd will do for class officers."
"What an idea!" said Betty loftily. "I'm thinking of nominating Babe for treasurer. Besides Rachel is going to wear a cap and gown—it's a new idea that the council thought of, for the senior president to wear one—and Christy and Alice Waite are going to make speeches about the candidates. And I think they're going to vote about our ten thousand dollars."
Madeline rose despondently. "All right then, for this once. By the way, whom are they going to have for toastmistress at class-supper? They elect her to-day, don't they?"
"I suppose so. I know the last year's class chose Laurie at their first meeting. But I haven't heard any one mentioned."
"Then I'm going to nominate Eleanor Watson," declared Madeline. "She's never had a thing from the class, and she's by far the best speaker we have except Emily Davis."
"And Emily will be class-day orator of course," added Betty. "Oh, Madeline, I'm so glad you thought of Eleanor. Won't it be splendid to have a 'Merry Heart' for toastmistress?"
Madeline nodded carelessly. She was thinking more about a letter from home, with news that her father and mother were to sail at once for Italy, than about matters of class policy. She loved the Italian sea and the warm southern sunshine; and the dear old "out-at-elbows" villa on the heights above Sorrento was the nearest thing she had known to a home. Father had told her to come along if she liked—ever since she could remember she had been allowed to make her own decisions. But then, as Babbie had said, there was only one 19—, and with plenty of "passed up" courses to her credit she could work as little as she pleased this year and never go to a class-meeting after to-day.
"Let's stop for the B's," she suggested, as they went out into the September sunshine. "Bob hates meetings as much as I do. I'm not going to be the only one to be disciplined."
Before they had reached the Westcott, the B's shouted to them from their hammocks in the apple-orchard, which they reluctantly abandoned to go to the meeting. Bob had just had an exciting runaway—her annual spills were a source of great amusement to her friends and of greater terror to her doting parents—and she was so eager to recount her adventures and display her bruises, that nothing more was said about Madeline's plan for Eleanor.
The class-meeting was large and exciting. The election of a senior president is as thrilling an event at Harding as the coronation of a Czar of all the Russias to the world at large. It was a foregone conclusion that Marie Howard would be the unanimous choice of the class, but until the act was fairly consummated—and indeed until Marie had been dined at Cuyler's and overwhelmed with violets to the satisfaction of her many friends—the excitement would not abate. There was a pleasant uncertainty about the other class officers. Six avowed candidates for the treasurership quarreled good naturedly over their respective qualifications for the position, each one in her secret soul intending to withdraw in favor of her dearest friend among the other five. In another corner of the room an agitated group discussed the best disposition of the ten thousand dollar fund.
"I don't think we ought to dispose of it hastily," Christy Mason was saying. "It's a lot of money and we ought to consider very carefully before we decide."
"Besides," added Emily Davis flippantly, "as long as we delay our decision, we shall continue to be persons of importance in the eyes of the faculty. It's comical to see how deferential they all are. I took dinner at the Burton Sunday, and afterward Miss Raymond invited a few of us into her room for coffee. She didn't mention the money,—she's too clever for that,—but she talked a lot about the constant need for new books in her department. 'You can't run an English department properly unless you can give your pupils access to the newest books'—that was the burden of her refrain. Marion Lustig was quite impressed. I think she means to propose endowing an English department library fund."
"Dr. Hinsdale wants books for his department, and a lot of psychological journals—all about ghosts and mediums—that college professors look up about, you know," Nita Reese ended somewhat vaguely.
"And Miss Kent is hoping we'll give the whole sum to her to spend for another telescope," added Babe, whose specialty, if one might dignify her unscholarly enthusiasms by that name, was astronomy.
"Every one of the faculty wants it for something," said Christy.
"Naturally. They're all human, aren't they?" laughed Emily Davis, just as Rachel appeared in the doorway, looking very dignified and impressive in a cap and gown.
"Is the tassel right?" she whispered anxiously, as she passed a group of girls seated near the platform steps.
"No, put it the other side—unless you're a Ph. D.," returned Roberta Lewis in a sepulchral whisper. "Father has one. He lectures at Johns Hopkins," she added, in answer to nudges from her neighbors and awestruck inquiries as to "how she knew."
Then Rachel called the meeting to order. She thanked the class for the honor they had done her, and hoped she had not disappointed them.
"I've tried not to consider any clique or crowd," she said—"not to think anything about the small groups in our class, but to find out what the whole big, glorious class of 19— wanted"—Rachel's voice rang out proudly—"and then to carry out its wishes. I believe in public sentiment—in the big generous feeling that makes you willing to give up your own little plans because they are not big and fine enough to suit the whole class. I hope the elections to-day may be conducted in that spirit. We each want what we all want, I am sure. We know one another pretty well by this time, but perhaps it will help us in choosing the right persons for senior officers if some of the candidates' friends make brief nominating speeches. It is now in order to nominate some one for the office of senior president."
Christy was on her feet in an instant, nominating Marie Howard, in a graceful little speech that mentioned her tact and energy and class spirit, recalled some of the things she had done to make the class of 19— proud of her, and called attention to the fact that she had never had an important office before.
"And she wouldn't be having one now if we hadn't succeeded in throwing off the rule of a certain person named Eastman and her friends," muttered Bob sotto voce.
Alice Waite seconded the nomination.
"I can't make a real speech like Christy's," she stammered, blushing prettily, "but I want to call attention to Marie's—I mean to Miss Howard's sparkling sense of humor and strong personal magnetism. And—and—I am sure she'll do splendidly," ended little Alice, forgetting her set phrases and sitting down amidst a burst of amused applause.
Rachel called for other nominations but there were none, so Marie was elected unanimously, and with tremendous enthusiasm.
After she had assumed the cap and gown, taken the chair, and thanked her classmates, Barbara Gordon, one of Christy's best friends, was made vice-president. Babe, to her infinite annoyance, found herself the victor in the treasurer's contest, and Nita Reese was ensconced beside Marie in the secretary's chair.
"And you said none of 'The Merry Hearts' would do for officers," Betty whispered reproachfully to Madeline.
"Well, will they think we are office-grabbers, if I put up Eleanor?" asked Madeline.
"Oh, no," declared Betty eagerly. "You see Babe's such a general favorite—she's counted into half a dozen crowds; and Nita is really a Hill girl, only she never would go to class-meetings when she was a freshman and so she was never identified with that set. You will propose Eleanor, won't you?"
"Honor bright," promised Madeline, and returned once more to the pages of a new magazine which she had insisted upon bringing, "in case things are too deadly slow."
"The next business," said Marie, consulting the notes that Rachel had handed her with the cap and gown, "the next business is to dispose of our ten thousand dollars."
Instantly a dozen girls were on their feet, clamoring for recognition. Marion Lustig urged the need of books for the English department. Clara Madison, who after two years of amazement at Harding College in general and hatred of the bed-making it involved in particular, had suddenly awakened to a tremendous enthusiasm for microscopic botany, made a funny little drawling speech about the needs of her pet department. Two or three of Miss Ferris's admirers declared that zooelogy was the most important subject in the college curriculum, and urged that the money should be used as a nest egg for endowing the chair occupied by that popular lady. The Spanish and Italian departments, being newly established, were suggested as particularly suitable objects for benevolence. Dr. Hinsdale's department, the history and the Greek departments were exploited. 19— was a versatile class; there was somebody to plead for every subject in the curriculum, and at least half a dozen prominent members of the faculty were declared by their special admirers to stand first in 19—'s affections.
"Though that has really nothing to do with it," said Jean Eastman testily, conscious that her plea for the modern language departments had fallen on deaf ears. "We're not giving presents to the faculty, but to the college. I like Miss Raymond as well as any one——"
"Oh, no, you don't," muttered Bob, who had caught Jean in the act of reading an English condition at the end of Junior year.
Jean heard, understood, and flashed back an acrimonious retort about Miss Ferris's partiality for Bob's work.
The newly elected president, whose tact had been extolled by Emily Davis, found it speedily put to the test. "Don't you think," she began, "that we ought to hear from the girl who had most to do with our getting this money? Before we act upon the motion to refer the matter to a committee who shall interview the president and the faculty and find out how the rest of the money is to be spent and where ours seems to be most needed, I want to ask Miss Betty Wales for an expression of her opinion."
Betty gave a little gasp. Parliamentary law was Hebrew to her, and speech-making a fearful and wonderful art, which she never essayed except in an emergency. But she recognized Marie's distress, and rose hesitatingly, to pour oil on the troubled waters if possible.
"I certainly think there ought to be a committee," she began slowly. "And I'm sure I know less than any one who has spoken about the needs of the different courses. I'm—well, I'm not a star in anything, you see. I agree with Jean that we ought not to make this a personal matter, and yet I am sure that the head of whatever department we give the money to will be pleased, and I don't see why we shouldn't consider that and choose somebody who has done a lot for 19—. But there are so many who have done a lot for us." Betty frowned a perplexed little frown. "I wish too," she went on very earnestly, "that we could do something that is like us. You know what I mean. We stand for fair play and a good time for everybody—that was why we had the dresses simple, you know." The frown vanished suddenly and Betty's fascinating little smile came into view instead. "I wonder—of course Prexy is always saying the college is poor, and the faculty are always talking about not having books enough, but I haven't noticed but that they find enough to keep us busy looking up references." ("Hear, hear!" chanted the B's.) "It seems to me that Harding College is good enough as it is," went on Betty, looking reproachfully at the disturbers. "The thing is to let as many girls as possible come here and enjoy it. Do you suppose the man who gave the money would be willing that we should use our share of it for scholarships? Four one hundred dollar scholarships would help four girls along splendidly. Of course that isn't a department exactly,—and perhaps it's a silly suggestion." Betty slipped into her seat beside Madeline, blushing furiously, and looking blankly amazed when her speech brought forth a round of vigorous applause, and, as soon as parliamentary order would permit, a motion that 19— should, with the consent of the unknown benefactor of the college, establish four annual scholarships.
"I name Miss Wales as chairman of the committee to interview the president," said Marie, beaming delightedly on her once more harmonious constituents. "The other two members of the committee I will appoint later. The next and last business of this meeting is to elect a toastmistress for our class-supper. She is always chosen early, you know, so that she can be thinking of toasts and getting material for them out of all the events of the year. Nominations are now in order."
"I nominate Eleanor Watson," said Madeline promptly, reluctantly closing her magazine and getting to her feet. "I needn't tell any of you how clever she is nor how well she speaks. Next to one or two persons whose duties at commencement time are obvious and likely to be arduous"—Madeline grinned at Emily Davis, who was sure to be class-orator, and Babe leaned forward to pat Marion Lustig, who was equally sure to be class-poet, on the shoulder—"next to these one or two geniuses, Eleanor is our wittiest member. Of course our class-supper will be the finest ever,—it can't help being—but with Eleanor Watson at the head of the table, it will eclipse itself. To quote the great Dr. Hinsdale, do you get my point?"
Kate Denise seconded the nomination with a heartiness that made Eleanor flush with pleasure. Betty watched her happily, half afraid she would refuse the nomination, as she had refused the Dramatic Club's election; but she only sat quite still, her great eyes shining like stars. She was thinking, though Betty could not know that, of little Helen Adams and her "one big day" when she was elected to the "Argus" board.
"I know just how she felt," Eleanor considered swiftly. "It's after you've been left out and snubbed and not wanted that things like this really count. Oh, I'm so glad they want me now."
"Are there any other nominations?" asked Marie. There was a little silence, broken by a voice saying: "Let's make it unanimous. Ballots take so long, and everybody wants her."
Then a girl got up from the back row,—a girl to whom Katherine Kittredge had once given the title of "Harding's champion blunderbuss." She could no more help doing the wrong thing than she could help breathing. She had begun her freshman year by opening the door into Dr. Hinsdale's recitation-room, while a popular senior course was in session. "I beg your pardon, but are you Miss Stuart?" she had asked, looking full at the amazed professor, and upon receiving a gasping denial she had withdrawn, famous, to reappear now and then during her course always in similar roles. It happened that she had never heard of Eleanor Watson's stolen story until a week before the class-meeting, when some one had told her the unvarnished facts, with no palliation and no reference to Eleanor's subsequent change of heart or renunciation of one honor after another. Virtuous indignation and pained surprise struggled for expression upon her pasty, immobile face.
"Madam president," she began, and waited formally for recognition.
"Oh, I say, it's awfully late," said somebody. "I've got five recitations to-morrow."
This speech and the laugh that followed it put new vigor into the Champion's purpose. "I hope I am not trespassing on any one's time unduly," she said, "by stating that—I dislike to say it here, but it has been forced upon me. I don't think Miss Watson is the girl to hold 19—'s offices. Miss Wales said that we stood for fair play." The Champion took her seat ponderously.
The room was very still. Marie sat, nonplused, staring at the Champion's defiant figure. Madeline's hands were clenched angrily. "I'd like to knock her down, the coward," she muttered to Betty, who was looking straight ahead and did not seem to hear.
Hardly a minute had gone by, but more slowly than a minute ever went before, when Eleanor was on her feet. She had grown suddenly white, and her eyes had a hunted, strained look. "I quite agree with Miss Harrison," she said in clear, ringing tones, her head held high. "I am not worthy of this honor. I withdraw my name, and I ask Miss Ayres, as a personal favor, to substitute some one's else."
Eleanor sat down, and Marie wet her lips nervously and looked at Madeline. "Please, Miss Ayres," she begged.
"As a personal favor," returned Madeline slowly, "because Eleanor Watson asks me, I substitute"—she paused—"Christy Mason's name. I am sure that Miss Mason will allow it to be used, as a personal favor to every one concerned."
"Indeed I——" began Christy impetuously. Then she met Eleanor's beseeching eyes. "Very well," she said, "but every one here except Miss Harrison knows that Miss Watson would be far better."
It took only a minute to elect Christy and adjourn the ill-fated meeting.
"I thought she'd feel like hurrying home," said Katherine sardonically, as the Champion, very red and militant, rushed past her toward the door.
Betty looked wistfully after the retreating figure. "I would rather have left college than had her say that. It doesn't seem fair—after everything."
"Serves me right, anyhow," broke in Madeline despondently. "I was dreaming about castles in Italy instead of tackling the business in hand. If I had thought more I should have known that some freak would seize the opportunity to rake up old scores. Don't feel so bad, Betty. It was my fault, and I'll make it up to her somehow. Come and help me tell Christy that she's a trump, and that I truly wanted her, next to Eleanor."
When they had pushed their way through to Christy's side, Eleanor, still white but smiling bravely, was shaking hands. "It was awfully good of you not to mind the little awkwardness," she was saying. "The girls always want you—you know that." She turned to find Betty standing beside her, looking as if her heart was broken.
"Why, Betty Wales," she laughed, "cheer up. You've made the speech of the day, and three of your best friends are waiting to be congratulated. Tell Christy how pleased you are that she's toastmistress and then come down town with me."
Once out of the crowded room Eleanor grew silent, and Betty, too hurt and angry to know what to offer in the way of comfort, left her to her own thoughts. They had crossed the campus and were half way down the hill when Eleanor spoke.
"Betty," she said, "please don't care so. If you are going to feel this way, I don't think I can bear it."
Betty stared at her in astonishment. "Why Eleanor, it's you that I care about. I can't bear to have you treated so."
Eleanor smiled sadly. "And can't you see—no, of course you can't, for you never did a mean or dishonorable thing in your life. If you had, you would know that the worst part of the disgrace, is that you have to share it with your friends. I don't mind for myself, because what Miss Harrison said is true."
"No, it's not," cried Betty hotly. "Not another girl in the whole class feels so."
"That," Eleanor went on, "is only because they are kind enough to be willing to forget. But to drag you in, and dear old Madeline, and all 'The Merry Hearts'! You'll be sorry you ever took me in."
"Nonsense!" cried Betty positively. "Everybody knows that you've changed—everybody, that is, except that hateful Miss Harrison, and some day perhaps she'll see it."
That evening Betty explained to Helen, who had never heard a word of the "Argus" matter, why Eleanor had not been made an editor.
"Do you think there were any others to-day who didn't want her?" she asked anxiously.
Helen hesitated. "Ye-es," she admitted finally. "I think that Miss Harrison has some friends who feel as she does. I heard them whispering together. And one girl spoke to me. But I am sure they were about the only ones. Most of the girls feel dreadfully about it."
"Of course no one who didn't would say anything to me," sighed Betty. "Oh, Helen, I am so disappointed."
"Well," returned Helen judicially, "it can't be helped now, and in a way it may be a good thing. Eleanor will feel now that everybody who counts for much in the class understands, and perhaps there will be something else to elect her for, before the year is out."
Betty shook her head. "No, it's the last chance. She wouldn't take anything after this, and anyway no one would dare to propose her, and risk having her insulted again."
"I guess we shan't any of us be tempted to do anything dishonest," said Helen primly. "Doesn't it seem to you as if the girls were getting more particular lately about saying whether they got their ideas from books and giving their authorities at the end of their papers?"
"Yes," said Betty, "it does, and I think it's a splendid thing. I went to a literary club meeting with Nan last Christmas and one of the papers was copied straight out of a book I'd just been reading, almost word for word. I told Nan and she laughed and said it was a very common way of doing. I think Harding girls will do a good deal if they help put a stop to that kind of thing. But that won't be much comfort to Eleanor."
When Helen had gone, Betty curled up on her couch to consider the day. "Mixed," she told the little green lizard, "part very nice and part perfectly horrid, like most days in this world, I suppose, even in your best beloved senior year. I wonder if Prexy will like the scholarship idea. I straightened out one snarl, and then I helped make a worse one. And I shall be in another if I don't set to work this very minute," ended Betty, reaching for her Stout's Psychology.
THE BELDEN HOUSE "INITIATION PARTY"
Lucile Merrifield, Betty's stately sophomore cousin, and Polly Eastman, Lucile's roommate and dearest friend, sat on Madeline Ayres's bed and munched Madeline's sweet chocolate complacently.
"Wish I had cousins in Paris that would send me 'eats' as good as this," sighed Polly.
"Isn't it just too delicious!" agreed Lucile. "I say, Madeline, I'm on the sophomore reception committee and there aren't half enough sophomores to go round among the freshmen. Won't you take somebody?"
"I? Hardly." Madeline shrugged her shoulders disdainfully. "Don't you know, child, that I detest girl-dances—any dances for that matter. Ask me to do something amusing."
"You ought to want to do something useful," said Polly reproachfully. "Think of all those poor little friendless freshmen!"
"What kind of a class is it this year?" inquired Madeline, lazily, breaking up more chocolate. "Any fun?"
"The chief thing I've noticed about them," said Lucile, "is that they're so horribly numerous."
"Fresh?" asked Madeline.
"Yes, indeed," declared Polly emphatically, "dreadfully fresh. But somehow,—I'm on the grind committee, you know,—and they don't do anything funny. They just do quantities and quantities of stupid, commonplace things, like mistaking the young faculty for freshmen and expecting Miss Raymond to help them look up their English references. I just wish they'd think of something original," ended Polly dolefully.
"Why don't you make up something?" asked Madeline.
Polly stared. "Oh, I don't think that would do at all. The grinds are supposed to be true, aren't they? They'd be sure to find out and then they'd always dislike us." Polly smiled luminously. "I've got a good many freshmen friends," she explained.
"Which means violet-bestowing crushes, I suppose," said Madeline severely. "You shouldn't encourage that sort of thing, Polly. You're too young."
"I'm not a bit younger than Lucile," Polly defended herself, "and they all worship her." Polly giggled. "Only instead of violets, they send her Gibson girls, with touching notes about her looking like one."
"Come now," said Lucile calmly. "That's quite enough. Let Madeline tell us how to get some good grinds."
Madeline considered, frowning. "Why if you won't make up," she said at last, "the only thing to do is to lay traps for them. Or no—I'll tell you what—let's give an initiation party."
"A what?" chorused her guests.
"Oh, you know—hazing, the men would call it; only of course we'll have nice little amusing stunts that couldn't frighten a fly. Is anything doing to-night?"
"In the house, you mean?" asked Lucile. "Not a thing. But if you want our room——"
"Of course we do," interposed Madeline calmly. "It's the only decent-sized one in the house. Go and straighten it up, and let this be a lesson to you to keep it in order hereafter. Polly, you invite the freshmen for nine o'clock. I'll get some more sophomores and seniors, and some costumes. Come back here to dress in half an hour."
"Goodness," said the stately Lucile, slipping out of her nest of pillows. "How you do rush things through, Madeline."
Madeline smiled reminiscently. "I suppose I do," she admitted. "Ever since I can remember, I've looked upon life as a big impromptu stunt. I got ready for a year abroad once in half an hour, and I gave the American ambassador to Italy what he said was the nicest party he'd ever been to on three hours' notice, one night when mother was ill and father went off sketching and forgot to come in until it was time to dress. Oh, it's just practice," said Madeline easily,—"practice and being of a naturally hopeful disposition. Run along now."
"I thought I'd better not tell them," Madeline confided to the genius of her room, when the sophomores were safely out of earshot, "that I haven't the faintest notion what to do with those freshmen after we get them there. Being experienced, I know that something will turn up; but they, being only sophomores, might worry. Now what the mischief"—Madeline pulled out drawer after drawer of her chiffonier—"can I have done with those masks?"
The masks turned up, after the Belden House "Merry Hearts" had searched wildly through all their possessions for them, over at the Westcott in Babbie Hildreth's chafing dish, where she had piled them neatly for safe-keeping the June before.
"Madeline said for you each to bring a sheet," explained Helen Adams, who had been deputed to summon the B's and Katherine. "They're to dress up in, I guess. She said we couldn't lend you the other ones of ours, because they might get dirty trailing around the floors, and we must have at least one apiece left for our beds."
The B's joined rapturously in the preparations for Madeline's mysterious party. Katherine could not be found, and Rachel and Eleanor were both engaged for the evening; but that was no matter, Madeline said. It ought to be mostly a Belden House affair, but a few outsiders would help mystify the freshmen.
Promptly at quarter to nine Polly, Lucile, and the rest of the Belden House contingent arrived, each bringing her sheet with her, and presently Madeline's room swarmed with hooded, ghostly figures.
"Is that you, Polly?" whispered Lucile to somebody standing near her.
"No, it's not," squeaked the figure, from behind its little black mask.
"Why, we shan't even know each other, after we get mixed up a little," giggled somebody else, as the procession lined up for a hasty dash through the halls.
"Now, don't forget that you've all got to help think up things for them to do," warned Madeline, "especially you sophomores."
"And don't forget to remember the things for grinds," added Polly Eastman lucidly. "That's what the party is for."
"If the freshmen find out that you had to get us to help you, you'll never hear the last of it," jeered Babe.
"Now Babe, we're their natural allies," protested Babbie. "Of course we always help them."
"Sh!" called a scout, sticking her head into the room. "Coast's clear. Make a rush for it."
The last ghost had just gotten safely into the room, when two freshmen, timid but much flattered by Polly's cordial invitation, knocked on the door.
"Come in," called Polly in her natural voice, and once unsuspectingly inside, they were pounced upon by the army of ghosts, and escorted to seats as far as possible from the door. The other guests luckily arrived in a body headed by Georgia Ames, who, having come into the house only the day before, was already an important personage in the eyes of her classmates. What girl wouldn't be who called Betty Wales by her first name, and wasn't one bit afraid to "talk back" to the clever Miss Ayres?
Georgia's attitude of amused tolerance therefore set the tone for the freshmen's behavior. "Don't you see that it's some sophomore joke?" she demanded. "Might as well let the poor creatures get as much fun out of us as they can, and then perhaps they'll give us something good to eat by and by."
"We'll give you something right away," squeaked a ghost. "Georgia Ames and Miss Ashton, stand forth. Now kneel down, shut your eyes and open your mouths."
"Don't do it. It will be some horrid, peppery mess," advised a sour-tempered freshman named Butts.
But Georgia and her companion stood bravely forth, to be rewarded by two delicious mouthfuls of Madeline's French chocolate. After this pleasant surprise, the freshmen, all but Miss Butts and one or two more, grew more cheerful and began to enter into the spirit of the occasion.
"Josephine Boyd, you are elected to scramble like an egg," announced a tall ghost.
Josephine's performance was so realistic that it evoked peals of laughter from ghosts and freshmen alike.
"We'll recommend you for a part in the next menagerie that the house or the college has," said the tall ghost, who seemed to be mistress of ceremonies. "The Dutton twins are now commanded to push matches across the floor with their noses. You'll find the matches on the table by the window. Somebody tie their hands behind them. Now start at the door and go straight across to Georgia Ames's chair. The one that wins the race must send Polly some flowers," added the tall ghost maliciously as the twins, blushing violently at this barefaced reference to their rivalry for Polly's affections, took their matches, and at Georgia's signaled "One, two, three, go!" began their race.
Pushing a match across a slippery floor with one's nose looked so easy and proved so difficult that both ghosts and freshmen, as they cheered on the eager contestants, longed to take part in the enticing sport. The fluffy-haired twin kept well ahead of her straight-haired sister, until, when her match was barely a foot from Georgia's chair it caught in a crack and broke in two.
"Oh, dear!" sighed the fluffy-haired twin forlornly, trying to single out her divinity from among the sheeted ghosts.
Her despair was too much for soft-hearted Polly. "Never mind," she said kindly "The race is hereby called off."
"And we can both send you flowers, can't we?" demanded the straight-haired twin, jumping up, flushed and panting from her exertions.
Every one waited eagerly to hear what the next stunt would be.
"This is for you, Miss Butts," announced the tall ghost, after a whispered colloquy with her companions, "and as you don't seem very happy to-night we've made it easy. Tell the name of your most particular crush. Now don't pretend you haven't any."
"I won't tell," muttered Miss Butts sullenly.
"Then you'll have to make up Lucile Merrifield's bed for two weeks as a penalty for disobeying our decrees. Now all the rest of you may tell your crushes' names. I will explain, as some of you look a little dazed about it, that your crush is the person you most deeply adore."
Some of the freshmen meekly accepted the penalty rather than divulge their secret affections, one declared that she hadn't a crush, one, remembering the legend of Georgia Ames, made up a sophomore's name and after she had been safely "passed" exulted over the simplicity of her victims. A few, including Georgia, calmly confessed their divinities' names and gloated over the effect their announcements had upon some of the ghosts.
When this entertainment was exhausted, the ghosts held another conference. "Carline Dodge, get under the bed and develop like a film," decreed the leader finally.
"Oh, not under mine," cried a tall, impressive-looking ghost plaintively. "My botany and zooelogy specimens are under it. She'd be sure to upset the jars."
"There!" said Georgia Ames complacently. "That makes six of you that we know. Polly Eastman and now Lucile have given themselves away. Babbie Hildreth crumpled all up when Carline Dodge called out her crush's name. If she's here, the other two that they call the B's are, and Madeline Ayres is directing the job. It's easy enough to guess who the rest of you are, so why not take off those hot things and be sociable?"
"Go on, Carline Dodge," ordered the tall ghost imperturbably.
"But I don't get the idea of the action," objected the serious-faced freshman, and looked amazed that everybody should laugh so uproariously.
"That's so funny that we'll let you off," said Madeline, when the mirth had subsided. "I foresee that you've invented a very useful phrase."
And sure enough Carline's reply was speedily incorporated into Harding's special vocabulary, and its author found herself unwittingly famous.
"Now," said Madeline cheerfully, "you may all chase smiles around the room for a while, and when I say 'wipe,' you are to wipe them off on a crack in the floor. Then we'll have a speech from one of you and you will be dismissed."
Most of the freshmen entered gaily into the "action" of chasing smiles, and caught a great many on their own and each other's faces. That frolic ended, Madeline called upon a quiet little girl who had hardly been seen to open her mouth since she reached Harding, to make a speech. To every one's surprise she rose demurely, without a word of objection or the least appearance of embarrassment, and delivered an original monologue supposed to be spoken by a freshman newly arrived and airing her impressions of the college. It hit everybody with its absurd humor, which no one enjoyed better, apparently, than the quiet little freshman herself.
"Encore! Encore! Give us another!" shouted the freshmen when she had finished; but their quiet little classmate only shook her head, and assuming once more the mincing, confidential tone she had been using in the monologue, remarked: "Do you know, there are some girls in our class that will forget their heads before long. Why, when they're being hazed, they forget it and think they're at a real party."
Everybody laughed again, and the tall ghost made the little freshman blush violently by saying, "You'll get a part in the house play, my child, and if you can write that monologue down I'll send an 'Argus' editor around after it."
The little freshman, whose name was Ruth Howard, pinched herself softly, when no one was looking, to make sure that she was awake. Like Mother Hubbard she felt a little doubtful of her identity, as she noticed the admiring glances cast upon her by even the haughtiest of the freshmen. She had been rather lonely during these first weeks, and it was very pleasant now to find that the things she could do were going to make a place for her in this big, busy college world.
"A hazing party isn't a half-bad idea, is it?" said Georgia Ames, reflectively. "It's got us all acquainted a lot faster than anything else would, I guess,—even if there wasn't any food."
"Considering that we've done everything else, you children might find the food——" began one of the ghosts, but a bell in the corridor interrupted her.
"Is that the twenty-minutes-to or the ten o'clock?" asked another ghost anxiously.
"Ten," said a freshman. "The other rang while we were chasing smiles."
"Then we're locked out," cried a small ghost tragically, and three sheeted figures rushed down the hall, tripping over their flowing robes and struggling with their masks as they ran.
"My light is on. Will they report it?" asked little Ruth Howard shyly of Georgia Ames.
"Mine will be reported all right before I've done with it," declared a ghost gloomily. "I've got to study for a physics review. I oughtn't to have come near this festive function."
"Come on, Carline. Don't you know the action of going home?"
"Jolly fun though, wasn't it?"
The initiation party dissolved noisily down the dusky corridors.
Next day the college rang with the report that hazing was now practiced at Harding. Strange accounts of the Belden House party were passed from group to group of excited freshmen who declared that they were "just scared to death" of the sophomores and wouldn't for the world be out alone after dark, and of amused upper-classmen who allowed for exaggerations and considered the whole episode in the light of a good joke. But a particularly susceptible Burton House freshman, who sat at Miss Stuart's table and burned to make a favorable impression upon that august lady, repeated the story to her at luncheon. Miss Stuart received it in silence, wondered what the truth of it was, and asked some of her friends about it that afternoon at a faculty meeting. Of course some of the wrong people heard about it and took it up officially, as a matter calculated to ruin the spirit of the college. The result was that Miss Ferris and Dr. Hinsdale were furnished with the names of some of the offenders and requested to interview them on the subject of their misdemeanors. Miss Ferris unerringly selected Madeline Ayres as the ring-leader of the affair and Betty Wales as the best person to make an appeal to, if any appeal was needed, and set an hour for them to come and see her.
Madeline, who never looked at bulletin-boards, did not get her note of summons, and Betty, who had taken hers as a friendly invitation to have tea with her friend, went over to the Hilton House alone and in the highest spirits. But Miss Ferris was not serving tea, and Dr. Hinsdale showed no intention of leaving them in peace to indulge in one of those long and delightful talks that Betty had so anticipated. Indeed it was he, with his coldest expression and his dryest tone, who introduced the subject of the initiation party and demanded to know why Madeline Ayres had neglected Miss Ferris's summons. Betty had no trouble in explaining that to everybody's satisfaction, but she longed desperately for Madeline's support, as she listened to Dr. Hinsdale's stern arraignment of the innocent little gathering.
"It's not lady-like," he asserted. "It's aping the men. Hazing is a discredited practice anyhow. All decent colleges are dropping it. We certainly don't want it here, where the aim of the faculty has always been to encourage the friendliest relations between classes. The members of the entering class always find the college life difficult at first. It's quite unnecessary to add to their troubles."
Betty listened with growing horror. What dreadful thing had she unwittingly been a party to? And yet, after all, could it have been so very dreadful? If Dr. Hinsdale had been there, would he have felt this way about it? A smile wavered on Betty's lips at this thought. She looked at Miss Ferris, who smiled back at her.
"Say it, Betty," encouraged Miss Ferris, and Betty began, explaining how Madeline had happened to think of the hazing, relating the absurdities that she and the rest had devised, dwelling on Ruth Howard's clever impersonation and Josephine Boyd's effective egg-scrambling. Gradually Dr. Hinsdale's expression softened, and when she repeated Carline Dodge's absurd retort, he laughed like a boy.
"Do you think it was so very dreadful?" Betty inquired anxiously, whereupon her judges exchanged glances and laughed again.
"There's another thing," Betty began timidly after a moment. "I don't know as I should ever have thought of it myself, but it did certainly work that way." And Betty explained Georgia Ames's idea of the hazing-party as a promoter of good-fellowship. "It's awfully hard to get acquainted with freshmen, you see," she went on. "We have our own friends and we are all busy with our own affairs. But since that night we've been just as friendly. That one evening took the place of lots of calls and formal parties. We know now what the different ones can do. Of course," Betty admitted truthfully, "it didn't help Miss Butts any, unless it showed her that at Harding you've got to do your part, if you want a good time. She's certainly been a little more agreeable since. But Ruth Howard now—why it would have been ages—oh, I mean months," amended Betty blushingly, "before we should have known about her, unless Madeline had called for that speech."
Again the judges exchanged amused glances, and Dr. Hinsdale cleared his throat. "Well, Miss Wales," he said, "you've made your point, I think. You've found the legitimate purpose for a legitimate and distinctly feminine kind of hazing. And now, if Miss Ferris will excuse me, I have an engagement at my rooms."
So Betty had her talk and her tea, after all, and went away loving Miss Ferris harder than ever. For Miss Ferris, by the mysterious process that brought all college news to her ken, had heard about Eleanor Watson and the Champion Blunderbuss, and she was looking out for Eleanor, who, she was sure from a number of little things she had noticed and pieced together, was now quite capable of looking out for herself. This confirmation of her own theory encouraged Betty vastly, and she was able to feel a little more charitable toward the Champion, who, as Miss Ferris had pointed out, was really the one most to be pitied.
AN ADVENTUROUS MOUNTAIN DAY
"The 19— scholarships, providing aid to the approximate sum of one hundred dollars for each of four students, preferably members of an upper class"—thus the announcement was to appear formally in the college catalogue. The president and the donor had both heartily approved of Betty's scheme, and the scholarships were an accomplished fact. It had been the donor's pleasant suggestion that 19— should keep in perpetual touch with its gift to the college by appointing a committee to act with one from the faculty in disposing of the scholarships. Betty Wales was chairman, of course. 19— did not intend that she should forget her connection with those scholarships. Betty took her duties very seriously. She watched the girls at chapel, in the recitation halls, on the campus, noted those with shabby clothes and worried faces, found out their names and their boarding-places, and set tactful investigations on foot about their needs. The enormous number of her "speaking acquaintances" became a college joke.
"Bow, Betty," Katherine would whisper, whenever on their long country walks, they met a group of girls who looked as if they might belong to the college. And then, "Is it possible I've found somebody you don't know? Better look them up right away."
"It's splendid training for your memory," Betty declared, and it was, and splendid training besides in helpfulness and social service, though Betty did not put it so grandly. To her it was just trying to take Dorothy King's place, and not succeeding very well either.
In looking up strangers, Betty did not forget her friends. Nobody could be more deserving of help than Rachel Morrison. Her hard summer's work had worn on her and made the busy round of tutoring and study seem particularly irksome. But Rachel, while she was pleased to think that she had been the joint committee's first choice, refused the money.
"I could only take it as a loan," she said, "and I don't want to have a debt hanging over my head next year. I'm not so tired now as I was when I first got back, and I can rest all next summer. Did I tell you that Babbie Hildreth's uncle has offered me a position in his school for next fall?"
Emily Davis, on the other hand, was very glad to accept a scholarship,—"As a loan of course," she stipulated. She had practically supported herself for the whole four years at Harding, and the strain and worry had begun to tell on her. A little easier time this year would mean better fitness for the necessarily hard year of teaching that was to follow, without the interval of rest that Rachel counted upon. Emily's mother was dead now, and her father made no effort to help his ambitious daughter. She might have had a place in the woolen mills, where he worked years before, he argued; since she had not taken it, she must look out for herself.
But with the serious side of life was mixed, for Betty and the rest, plenty of gaiety. 19— might not be greatly missed after they had gone out into the wide, wide world, but while they stayed at Harding everybody seemed bent on treating them royally.
"You know this is the last fall you'll have here," Polly Eastman would say, pleading with Betty to come for a drive. "There's no such beautiful autumn foliage near Cleveland."
Or, "You must come to our house dance," Babbie Hildreth would declare. "Just think how few Harding dances there are left for us to go to!"
Even the most commonplace events, such as reading aloud in the parlors after dinner, going down to Cuyler's for an ice, or canoeing in Paradise at sunset took on a new interest. Seniors who had felt themselves superior to the material joys of fudge-parties and scorned the crudities of amateur plays and "girl-dances," eagerly accepted invitations to either sort of festivity.
"And the moral of that, as our dear departed Mary Brooks would say," declared Katherine, "is: Blessings brighten as diplomas come on apace. Between trying not to miss any fun and doing my best to distinguish myself in the scholarly pursuits that my soul loves, I am well nigh distraught. Don't mind my Shakespearean English, please. I'm on the senior play committee, and I recite Shakespeare in my sleep."
Dearest of all festivities to the Harding girl is Mountain Day, and there were all sorts of schemes afoot among 19—'s members for making their last Mountain Day the best of the four they had enjoyed so much. Horseback riding was the prevailing fad at Harding that fall, and every girl who could sit in a saddle was making frantic efforts to get a horse for an all-day ride among the hills. Betty was a beginner, but she had been persuaded to join a large party that included Eleanor, Christy, Madeline, Nita, and the B's. They were going to take a man to look after the horses, and they had planned their ride so that the less experienced equestrians could have a long rest after luncheon, and taking a cross-cut through the woods, could join the others, who would leave the picnic-place earlier and make a long detour, so as to have their gallop out in peace.
It was a sunny, sultry Indian summer day,—a perfect day to ride, drive or walk, or just to sit outdoors in the sunshine, as Roberta Lewis announced her intention of doing. She helped the horseback riders to adjust their little packages of luncheon, and looked longingly after them, as they went cantering down the street, waving noisy farewells to their friends.
"I wish I weren't such a coward," she confided to Helen Adams, who was starting to join Rachel and Katherine for a long walk. "I love horses, but I should die of fright if I tried to ride one."
"Oh, they have a man with them," said Helen easily, "and it's a perfect day for a ride."
Roberta, who almost lived outdoors, and was weatherwise in consequence, looked critically at the western horizon. "I shouldn't be a bit surprised if it rained before night," she said. "You'd better decide to laze around in Paradise with me."
But Helen only laughed at Roberta's caution and went on, whereat Roberta Lewis was very nearly the only Harding girl who was not drenched to the skin before Mountain Day was over.
The riding-party galloped through the town and stopped at the edge of the meadows for consultation.
"Let's go by the bridge and come back by the ferry," suggested Madeline. "Then we shall have the prettiest part of the ride saved for sunset."
"And you'll have a better road both ways, miss," put in the groom practically.
So the party crossed the long toll-bridge, the horses stepping hesitatingly and curveting a little at the swish of the noisy water, climbed the sunny hills beyond, and dipped down to a level stretch of wood, in the heart of which they chose a picnic-ground by the side of a merry little brook.
"We must have a fire," announced Bob, who had fallen behind the procession, and now came up at the trot, just as the others were dismounting.
"But we haven't anything to cook," objected Eleanor.
"Coffee," grinned Bob jubilantly. "I've got folding cups stuffed around under my sweater, and I stopped at that farmhouse back by the fork in the road to get a pail."
"And there are marshmallows to toast," added Babe. "That's what I've got in my sweater."
"I thought you two young ladies had grown awful stout on a sudden," chuckled the groom, beginning to pile up twigs under an overhanging ledge of rock.
"And here are some perfectly elegant mushrooms," declared Madeline, who had been poking about among the fallen leaves. "We can use the pail for those first, and have the coffee with dessert."
All the girls had brought sandwiches, stuffed eggs, cakes, and fruit, so that, with the extras, the picnic was "truly elegant," as Babe put it. They sang songs while they waited for the coffee to boil, and toasted Babe's marshmallows, two at a time, on forked sticks, voting Babe a trump to have thought of them.
Then they lay on the green turf by the brook, talking softly to the babbling accompaniment of its music.
Finally Eleanor shivered and sat up. "Where is the sun?" she asked. "Oughtn't we to be starting?"
The sky was not dark or threatening, only a bit gray and dull. The groom was to stay with the novices—Christy, Babe and Betty—who, as soon as the rest had mounted, raced down the road to get warm and also to return the pail that Bob had borrowed, to its owner. By the time they got back, after making a short call on the farmer's wife, the sun was struggling out again, but the next minute big drops began to patter down through the leaves.
The groom considered the situation. "I guess you'll jest have to wait and git wet. Miss Hildreth's horse is skittish on ferries. I wouldn't wanter go on with you an' leave her to cross alone."
So they waited, keeping as dry as possible under a pine tree, until the time appointed for starting to the rendezvous. It was raining steadily now. Babe's horse objected to getting wet, and pulled on the reins sullenly. The sky was fairly black. Altogether it was an uncomfortable situation.
The road to the river was damp and slippery, and most of it was a steep down-grade. There was nothing to do but walk the horses, Babe's dancing sidewise in a fashion most upsetting to Betty's nerves. By the time they had reached the ferry, darkness seemed to have settled, and there were low growlings of thunder. Babe's horse reared, and she dismounted and stood at his head while they waited for the ferry to cross to them.
"I guess there's goin' to be a bad shower," volunteered the groom. "I guess we'd better wait over in that barn till it's over. Animals don't like lightning."
The ferry seemed to crawl across the river, but it arrived at last, and each girl led her horse on board. They were all frightened, but nobody showed the "white feather." Babe's cheeks were pale, though, as she patted her restive mount, and laughed bravely at Madeline's futile efforts to feed sugar to her tall "Black Beauty," who jerked his nose impatiently out of her reach each time she tried.
"Beauty must be awfully upset if he doesn't want sugar," said Babbie, who was standing next the groom. "He's the greed——" The next minute Betty found herself holding her own and the groom's horse, while he plunged after Babbie's, who was snorting and kicking right into the midst of everything. It had lightened, and between the lightning and the water Babbie's high-spirited mare was frantic, and was fast communicating her excitement to the others.
A minute later there was a tremendous jolt which set all the horses to jumping.
"I swan," said the apathetic ferryman who had paid no attention to the previous confusion. "We're aground."
The girls looked at one another through the gathering shadows.
"How are we going to get off?" asked the groom desperately.
The ferryman considered. "I dunno."
Babbie's horse plunged again.
"Can we wade to shore?" asked the groom, when something like order was restored.
"Easy. You see I knew the river was awful low, but I s'posed——"
"The only thing that I can think of," interrupted the groom, "is for us to leave you girls with the horses, while we get to shore. Then you send 'em off one by one, and we'll catch 'em. Miss Hildreth, you send yours first. No, Miss Wales, you send mine first, then Miss Hildreth's may follow better. I'm awfully sorry to make you young ladies so much trouble."
"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Babbie bravely, shaking the water out of her eyes. "Only—do hurry, please."
The "easy wading" proved to be through water up to a man's shoulders, and it lightened twice, with the usual consequences to Babbie's horse, before the groom signaled. His horse went off easily enough, but Babbie's balked and then reared, and Betty's lay down first and then kicked viciously, when she and Babbie between them had succeeded in getting him to stand up. Finally Madeline broke her crop in getting him over the side, and when Black Beauty had also been sent ashore the ferry lurched a little and floated.
"Do you suppose we shall ever get dry again?" asked Eleanor lightly, while they waited for the ferryman to come back to them.
Babbie touched her black coat gingerly. "Am I wet?" she whispered to Betty. "Of course I am, but I'd forgotten it." The reins had cut one of her hands through her heavy glove, but she had forgotten that too, as she shivered and clung to the railing that Black Beauty had splintered when he went over. All she could think of was the horror of riding that plunging, foam-flecked horse home.
The ferryman took them to his house, which was the nearest one to the landing; and while he and the groom rubbed down the horses, his wife and little daughter made more coffee for the girls and helped them wring out their dripping clothes.
Babe pretended to find vast enjoyment in watching the water trickle off her skirts and gaiters. Christy, who rode bare-headed, declared that she had gotten a beautiful shampoo free of charge. Even Babbie smiled faintly and called attention to the "mountain tarn" splashing about in the brim of her tri-corn hat.
"I tell ye, them girls air game," declared the ferryman watching them ride off as soon as the storm was over. "That little slim one on the bay mare is a corker. Her horse cut up somethin' awful. They all offered to change with her, but she said she guessed she could manage. Look at the way she sets an' pulls. She's got grit all right. I guess I'll have to make out to have you go to college, Annie."
Whereupon little Annie spent a rapturous evening dreaming of the time when she should be a Harding girl, and be able to say bright, funny things like Miss Ayres. She resolved to wear her hair like Miss Watson and to have a pleasant manner like Miss Wales, and above all to be "gritty" like Miss Hildreth. For the present evening the fiercest steed she could find to subdue was an arithmetic lesson. Annie hated arithmetic, but in the guise of a plunging bay mare, that it took grit to ride, she rather enjoyed forcing the difficult problems to come out right.
Meanwhile the riding party had reached the campus, a little later and a little wetter than most of their friends, and they were provided with hot baths and hot drinks, and put to bed, where they lay in sleepy comfort enjoying the feeling of being heroines.
Very soon after dinner Betty got tired of being a heroine, and when Georgia Ames appeared and announced that a lot of freshmen were making fudge in her room and wished Betty would come and have some and tell them all about her experiences, she looked anxiously at Helen Adams, who was the only person in the room just then.
"It's awfully good fudge—got marshmallows in it, and nuts," urged Georgia. "They want Miss Adams too."
"Can I come in a kimono?" asked Betty. "I'm too tired to dress."
"Of course. Only——" Georgia hesitated.
"There's a man in the parlor, calling on Polly Eastman. And the folding doors are stuck open. I wish my room wasn't down on that floor. You have to be so careful of your appearance."
Betty frowned. "I want awfully to come. Can't you two think of a way?"
"Why of course," cried Georgia gleefully, after a moment's consideration. "We'll hold a screen around you. The man will know that something queer is inside it, but he can't see what."
So the procession started, Helen and Georgia carrying the screen. At the top of the last flight, they adjusted it around Betty, and began slowly to make the descent. At the curve Georgia looked down into the hall and stopped, in consternation.
"They've moved out into the hall," she whispered. "No—this is Lucile Merrifield and another man. We've got to go right past them."
"Let's go back," whispered Betty.
"But they've seen us," objected Helen, "and you'd miss the fudge."
A moment later, three girls and a Japanese screen fell through Georgia's door into the midst of an amazed freshmen fudge party.
"Goodness," said Georgia, when she had recovered her breath. "Did you hear that horrid Lucile? 'A regular freshman trick'—that's what she said to her man. They blame everything on us."
"Well if this fudge is regular freshman fudge, it's the best I ever tasted," said little Helen Adams tactfully.
Later in the evening Betty trailed her red kimono into Helen's room. "Helen," she began, "did I have on my pearl pin when we started down-stairs to-night? I can't find it anywhere."
"I don't think you did," said Helen, thoughtfully, "but I'll go and see. You might have dropped it off when we all landed in a heap on the floor."
But the freshmen had not found the pin and diligent search of Georgia's room, as well as of the halls and stairways, failed to reveal it.
"Oh, well, I suppose it will turn up," said Betty easily. "I lost it once last year, and ages afterward I found it in my desk. I shan't worry yet awhile. I didn't have it on this morning, did I?"
This time Helen remembered positively. "No, you had on your lucky pin—the silver four-leaved clover that I like so much. I noticed particularly."
"All right then," said Betty. "I saw it last night, so it must be about somewhere. Some day when I'm not so lame from riding and so sleepy, I'll have a grand hunt for it."
THE RETURN OF MARY BROOKS
All through the fall Mary Brooks's "little friends" had been hoping for a visit from her, and begging her to come soon, before the fine weather was over. Now she was really and truly coming. Roberta had had the letter of course, by virtue of being Mary's most faithful satellite; but it was meant for them all.
"The conquering heroine is coming," Mary wrote. "She will arrive at four on Monday, and you'd better, some of you, meet the train, because there's going to be a spread along, and the turkey weighs a ton. Don't plan any doings for me. I've been to a dance or a dinner every night for two weeks and I'm already sick of being a busy bud, though I've only been one for a month—not to mention having had the gayest kind of a time all summer. So you see I'm coming to Harding to rest and recuperate, and to watch you children play at being seniors. I know how busy you are, and what a bore it is to have company, but I shall just take care of myself. Only get me a room at Rachel's little house around the corner, and I won't be a bit of trouble to anybody."
"Consider the touching modesty of that now!" exclaimed Katherine. "As if we weren't all pining for a sight of her. And can't you just taste the spread she'll bring?"
"We must make her have it the very night she gets here," said Betty practically. "There's a lot going on next week, and as soon as people find out that she's here they'll just pounce on her for all sorts of things."
"I hereby pounce upon her for our house dance," announced Babbie Hildreth hastily. "Isn't it jolly that it comes this week? I had a presentiment that I'd better save one of my invitations."
"You needn't have bothered," said Babe enviously. "I guess there'll always be room for Mary Brooks at a Westcott House dance—as long as 19— stays anyway."
"Don't quarrel, children," Madeline intervened. "Your dance is on Wednesday. Is there anything for Tuesday?"
"A psychology lecture," returned Helen Adams promptly.
"Cut it out," laughed Katherine. "Mary isn't coming up here to go to psychology lectures."
"But she does want to go to it," declared Roberta, suddenly waking up to the subject in hand. "I thought it was queer myself, but she speaks about it particularly in her letter. Let me see—oh, here it is, in the postscript. It's by a friend of Dr. Hinsdale, she says; and somebody must have written her about it and offered her a ticket, because she says she's already invited and so for us not to bother. Did you write her, Helen?"
"No," said Helen, "I didn't. The lecture wasn't announced until yesterday. There was a special meeting of the Philosophical Club to arrange about it."
"It's queer," mused Katherine. "Mary was always rather keen on psychology——"
"On the psychology of Dr. Hinsdale you mean," amended Madeline flippantly. "But that doesn't explain her inside information about this lecture. We'll ask her how she knew—that's the quickest way to find out. Now let's go on with our schedule. What's Thursday?"
"The French Club play," explained Roberta. "I think she'd like that, don't you?"
Madeline nodded. "Easily. It's going to be awfully clever this time. Then that leaves only Friday. Let's drive out to Smuggler's Notch in the afternoon and have supper at Mrs. Noble's."
"Oh, yes," agreed Betty. "That will make such a perfectly lovely end-up to the week. And of course we shall all want to take her to Cuyler's and Holmes's. May I have her for Tuesday breakfast? I haven't any class until eleven, so we can eat in peace."
"Then I'll take lunch on Tuesday," put in Katherine hastily, "because I am as poor as poverty at present, and a one o'clock luncheon preceded by a breakfast ending at eleven appeals to my lean pocketbook."
"I should like to take her driving that afternoon," put in Babbie.
"You may, if you'll take me to sit in the middle and do the driving," said Bob, "and let's all have dinner at Cuyler's that night—a grand affair, you know, ordered before hand, at a private table with a screen around it, and a big bunch of roses for a centre piece. Old girls like that sort of thing. It makes them feel important."
"With or without food?" demanded Madeline sarcastically, but no one paid any attention to her, in the excitement of bidding for the remaining divisions of Mary's week.
All the Chapin House girls and the three B's met her at the station and "ohed" and "ahed" in a fashion that would have been disconcerting to anybody who was unfamiliar with the easy manners of Harding girls, at the elegance of her new blue velvet suit and the long plumes that curled above her stylishly dressed hair, and at the general air of "worldly and bud-like wisdom," as Katherine called it, that pervaded her small person.
They had not finished admiring her when her trunk appeared.
"Will you look at that, girls!" cried Katherine, feigning to be quite overpowered by its huge size. "Mary Brooks, whatever do you expect to do with a trousseau like that in this simple little academic village?"
Mary only smiled placidly. "Don't be silly, K. Some of the spread is in there. Besides, I want to be comfortable while I'm here, and this autumn weather is so uncertain. Who's going to have first go at carrying the turkey?"
"I've got a runabout waiting," explained Babbie. "I'm going to drive him up. There'll be room for you too, Mary, and for some of the others."
The seat of a runabout can be made to hold four, on a pinch, and there is still standing-room for several other adaptable persons. The rest of the party walked, and the little house around the corner was soon the scene of a boisterous reunion.
Mary's conversation was as abundant and amusing as ever, and she did not show any signs of the weariness that her letter had made so much of.
"That's because I have acquired a society manner," she announced proudly. "I conceal my real emotions under a mask of sparkling gaiety."
"You can't conceal things from us that way," declared Katherine. "How under the sun did you hear about that psychology lecture?"
"Why, a man I know told me," explained Mary innocently. "He's also a friend of the lecturer. We were at dinner together one night last week, and he knew I was a Harding-ite, and happened to mention it. Any objections?"
"And you really want to go?" demanded Madeline.
"Of course," retorted Mary severely. "I always welcome every opportunity to improve my mind."
But to the elaborate plans that had been made for her entertainment Mary offered a vigorous protest. "My dears," she declared, "I should be worn to a frazzle if I did all that. Didn't I tell you that I'd come up to rest? I'll have breakfast with anybody who can wait till I'm ready to get up, and we'll have one dinner all together. But it's really too cold to drive back from Smuggler's Notch after dark, and besides you know I never cared much for long drives. But we'll have the spread to-night, anyway, just as you planned, because it's going to be such a full week, and I wouldn't for the world have any of you miss anything on my account."
"And you don't care about the French play?" asked Roberta, who had moved heaven and earth to get her a good seat.
"No, dear," answered Mary sweetly. "My French is hopelessly rusty."
"Then I should think you'd go in for improving it," suggested Babe.
"There's not enough of it to improve," Mary retorted calmly.
"Well, you will go to our house-dance, won't you?" begged Babbie.
"Oh, you must," seconded Bob. "I've told piles of people you were coming."
"We shall die of disappointment if you don't," added Babe feelingly.
Mary laughed good-naturedly. "All right," she conceded, "I'll come. Only be sure to get me lots of dances with freshmen. Then I can amuse myself by making them think I'm one, also, and I shan't be bored."
On the way back to the campus the girls discussed Mary's amazing attitude toward the pleasures of college life.
"She must be awfully used up," said Roberta, solemnly. "Why, she used to be crazy about plays and dances and 'eats.'"
"No use in coming up at all," grumbled Katherine, "if she's only going to lie around and sleep."
"She doesn't look one bit tired," declared Betty, "and she seems glad to be back, only she doesn't want to do anything. It's certainly queer."
"She must be either sick or in love," said Madeline. "Nothing else will account for it."
"Then I think she's in love," declared little Helen Adams sedately. "She has a happy look in her eyes."
"Bosh!" jeered Bob. "Mary isn't the sentimental kind. I'll bet she feels different after the spread."
But though the spread was quite the grandest that had ever been seen at Harding, and though Mary seemed to enjoy it quite as heartily as her guests, who had conscientiously starved on campus fare for the week before it, it failed to arouse in her the proper enthusiasm for college functions.
On Tuesday "after partaking of a light but elegant noontide repast on me," as Katherine put it, Mary declared her intention of taking a nap, and went to her room. But half an hour later, when Babbie tiptoed up to ask if she really meant to waste a glorious afternoon sleeping, and to put the runabout at her service, the room was empty, and Mary turned up again barely in time for the grand dinner at Cuyler's.
"We were scared to death for fear you'd forgotten us," said Madeline, helping her off with her wraps. "Where have you been all this time?"
"Why, dressing," explained Mary, wearing her most innocent expression. "It takes ages to get into this gown, but it's my best, and I wanted to do honor to your very grand function."
"That dress was lying on your bed when I stopped for you exactly fifteen minutes ago," declared Bob triumphantly. "So you'll have to think of another likely tale."
Mary smiled her "beamish" smile.
"Well, I came just after you'd gone and isn't fourteen minutes to waste on dressing an age? If you mean where was I before that, why my nap wasn't a success, so I went walking, and it was so lovely that I couldn't bear to come in. These hills are perfectly fascinating after the city."
"You little fraud," cried Madeline. "You hate walking, and you can't see scenery——"
"As witness the nestle," put in Katherine.
"So please tell us who he is," finished Madeline calmly.
"The very idea of coming back to see us and then going off fussing with Winsted men!" Babe's tone was solemnly reproachful.
But Mary was equal to the situation. "I haven't seen a Winsted man since I came," she declared. "I was going to tell you who was with me this afternoon, but I shan't now, because you've all been so excessively mean and suspicious." A waitress appeared, and Mary's expression grew suddenly ecstatic. "Do I see creamed chicken?" she cried. "Girls, I dreamed about Cuyler's creamed chicken every night last week. I was so afraid you wouldn't have it!"
Her appreciation of the dinner was so delightfully whole-hearted that even Roberta forgave her everything, down to her absurd enthusiasm over a ponderous psychology lecture and the very dull reception that followed it. At the latter, to be sure, Mary acted exactly like her old self, for she sat in a corner and monopolized Dr. Hinsdale for half an hour by the clock, while her little friends, to quote Katherine Kittredge, "champed their bits" in their impatience to capture her and escape to more congenial regions.
The next night at the Westcott House dance Mary was again her gay and sportive self. If she was bored, she concealed it admirably, and that in spite of the fact that her little scheme of playing freshman seemed doomed to failure. Mary had walked out of chapel that morning with the front row, and, even without the enormous bunch of violets which none of her senior friends would confess to having sent her, she was not a figure to pass unnoticed. So most of the freshmen on her card recognized her at once, and the few who did not stoutly refused to be taken in by her innocent references to "our class."
She had the last dance but one with the sour-faced Miss Butts, who never recognized any one; but Mary did not know that, and being rather tired she swiftly waltzed her around the hall a few times and then suggested that they watch the dance out from the gallery.
"What class are you?" asked Miss Butts, when they were established there. "My card doesn't say."
"Doesn't it?" said Mary idly, watching the kaleidoscope of gay colors moving dizzily about beneath her. "Then suppose you guess."
Miss Butts considered ponderously. "You aren't a freshman," she said finally, "nor a sophomore."
"How are you so sure of that?" asked Mary. "I was just going to say——"
"You're a junior," announced Miss Butts, calmly disregarding the interruption.
Mary shook her head.
Mary shook her head again.
"I didn't think you looked old enough for that," said Miss Butts. "Then I was mistaken and you're a sophomore."
"No," said Mary firmly.
Miss Butts stared. "Freshman?"
"No," said Mary, who considered the befooling of Miss Butts beneath her. "I graduated last year."
"Oh, I don't believe that: I believe you're a freshman after all," declared Miss Butts. "You started to say you were a few minutes ago."
"No, I graduated last June," repeated Mary, a trifle sharply. "Here's Miss Hildreth coming for my next dance. You can ask her. I'm her guest this evening. Didn't I graduate last year, Babbie?"
Babbie stared uncomprehendingly for a moment. Then she remembered Mary's plan.
"Why, you naughty little freshman!" she cried reprovingly. "Have you been telling her that?"
Miss Butts looked dazedly from the amused and reproachful Babbie to Mary, whose expression was properly cowed and repentant.