BETTY WALES, SOPHOMORE A STORY FOR GIRLS
BY MARGARET WARDE
Author of "Betty Wales, Freshman" "Betty Wales, Junior" "Betty Wales, Senior" "Betty Wales, B.A."
Illustrated by EVA M. NAGEL
CHAP INTRODUCTION I MOVING IN II ELEANOR'S FRESHMAN III PARADES AND PARTIES IV ELEANOR WATSON, AUTHORESS V POINTS OF VIEW VI ON AMBITION VII ON TO MIDYEARS VIII THE "FIRST FOUR" IX THE COMPLICATIONS OF LIFE X IN THE "ARGUS" SANCTUM XI A PROBLEM IN ETHICS XII A BRIEF FOR THE DEFENSE XIII VICTORY OR DEFEAT XIV A DISTINGUISHED GUEST XV DISAPPOINTMENTS XVI DORA CARLSON'S "SUGARING-OFF" XVII A MAY-DAY RESOLUTION XVIII TRIUMPHS AND TROUBLES XIX GOOD-BYES
THE "SHOW" WAS A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS
"DON'T PUT THAT GREEN VASE THERE"
"WELL," SAID MISS FERRIS, "THAT WON'T BE NEW WORK"
"LET US MAKE A FAIR START," HE SAID
THE GREEN LINE WAS SHOUTING ITSELF HOARSE
ELEANOR DID NOT ANSWER
"NEVER MIND THAT NOW," SAID BETTY
Readers who did not make the acquaintance of Betty Wales and her friends while they were freshmen may like to know that there were nine girls in all who spent their first year together at Mrs. Chapin's. Two of them, however, took very little part in the life of the house and left college at the end of the year. Katherine Kittredge, "of Kankakee," was the fly- away of the group, Rachel Morrison its steadiest, strongest member. Shy, sensitive Roberta Lewis found her complement in a volatile little sophomore, the only one in the house, named Mary Brooks. Mary had a talent for practical jokes and original methods of entertainment, and supplied much of the fun and frolic at the Chapin house. It was she who put Betty's picture into the sophomore "grind book," who let out the secret of the Mountain Day mishap, and who frightened not only the Chapin house freshmen but the whole class with an absurd "rumor" of her own invention. Helen Adams, Betty's roommate, was a forlorn, awkward little body, who came to college expecting to study all the time, and was amazed and disappointed at what she considered the frivolity of her companions. Betty Wales, in particular, with her fascinating, merry ways, her love of fun, and her easygoing fashion of getting through her work, was a revelation to Helen. She began by placing her roommate rather scornfully in the category of pretty girls, who, being pretty, can afford to be stupid, and ended by loving her dearly, and fully appreciating what Betty had done to make her more like other girls and so happier in her environment.
In spite of her beauty and cleverness, Eleanor Watson was not a favorite with the Chapin house girls. She was snobbish and overbearing, intent upon making herself prominent in class and college affairs, and utterly regardless of the happiness of other people, as well as of the rules and moral standards of Harding. Betty, who was unreasonably fond of Eleanor, though she recognized her faults, unconsciously exerted a great deal of influence over her. How she finally managed at the instigation of her upper-class friend, Dorothy King, and with the help of Miss Ferris, a very lovable member of the faculty, to extricate Eleanor Watson from an extremely unpleasant position, and finally to make her willing and even eager to finish her course at Harding, is told at length in "Betty Wales, Freshman." There are also recorded many of the good times that she and her house-mates and a few other friends had during the first of their four happy years at Harding College.
The story of what Betty did at Harding and elsewhere will be found continued in "Betty Wales, Junior," "Betty Wales, Senior," and "Betty Wales, B.A."
Betty Wales sat down on the one small bare spot on the floor of her new room at the Belden House, and looked about her with a sigh of mingled relief and weariness.
"Well," she remarked to the little green lizard, who was perched jauntily on a pile of pillows, "anyhow the things are all out of the trunks and boxes, and I suppose after a while they'll get into their right places."
She looked at her watch. Quarter to eight,—that left just about two hours before ten o'clock. Somebody rapped on the door.
"Come in," sang Betty.
It was Eleanor Watson. Betty leaped over a motley collection of cups and saucers, knocked down a Japanese screen—which fortunately landed against a bed, instead of on the cups and saucers—and caught Eleanor in her arms.
"Isn't it great to be back?" she said when she could speak, meanwhile setting up the screen again, and moving trunk-trays so they might sit down on the bed. "Are you settled, Eleanor?"
"A little," said Eleanor, surveying Betty's quarters with amusement. "Quite settled compared to this, I should say. Why do you take everything out at once, Betty?"
"Oh, then they're all right where I can get at them," returned Betty easily. "I hate to keep stopping to fish something out of the bottom of a box that I haven't unpacked."
"I see," laughed Eleanor. "Did you have a lovely summer?"
"Perfectly lovely. I can swim like a fish, Eleanor, and so can Emily Davis. You don't know her much, do you? But you must. She's lots of fun. Did you have a good time too?"
"Beautiful," said Eleanor, eagerly. "Father is coming east before long to see Jim and me, and he and Jim are coming on together from Cornell. You'll help me entertain them, won't you, Betty?"
"I should think I would," Betty was saying heartily, when there was another bang on the door and Rachel and Katherine appeared. Then there was more leaping over teacups, more ecstatic greetings, and more readjustment of Betty's belongings to make room for the newcomers.
"Where's Helen?" demanded Rachel, when everybody was seated.
"Coming the first thing to-morrow morning," explained Betty. "You see she lives so near that she can come down at the last minute."
"It's lucky she's not here now," laughed Katherine. "There's no room for her, to say nothing of her things."
"I should think not," agreed Betty, tragically. "Girls, these campus rooms are certainly the smallest places! This isn't half as big as ours at Mrs. Chapin's. And see the closet!" She picked her way across the room, and threw open a door, disclosing a five-by-three cupboard. "I ask you how we're going to get all our clothes into that."
"Helen hasn't many clothes," suggested Katherine, cheerfully.
"She has plenty to put on half those hooks," answered Betty, with finality, closing the door on the subject, and coming back to sit between Eleanor and Rachel.
"Isn't the Chapin house crowd scattered this year?" said Katherine. "Let me see. You and Helen and Mary Brooks are here. Has Mary come yet?"
Betty shook her head. "Her steamer isn't due till to-morrow morning. Didn't you know she'd been in Ireland all summer?"
"Won't it be fun to hear her tell about it?" put in Rachel.
"You three here," went on Katherine, intent on her census, "and you're at the Hilton, aren't you, Eleanor?"
"Yes," answered Eleanor with a grimace. "I wanted to be here, of course, but Miss Stuart wouldn't manage it. Which house are you in, Rachel?"
"I'm off the campus," answered Rachel, quietly, "at the little white house just outside the gate. It's a dear, quaint place, and delightfully quiet. Of course, I'd rather have been on the campus, but father couldn't afford it this year."
"Make way, make way for us!" sang a noisy chorus out in the hall. There were shouts and shrieks and bangs and more shrieks, and then the din died away suddenly into an ominous stillness that evidently heralded the approach of some dreaded power.
"It's lucky one of us lives in a quiet place, where the rest of us can take refuge occasionally," said Eleanor.
"Isn't it?" chimed in Katherine. "I'm at the Westcott myself, and I never heard anything like the racket there was, when the girls began to come in from the eight o'clock train."
"Our crowd seems to have been on hand early," said Rachel.
"You know Betty's father doesn't like her to travel alone," jeered Katherine, "especially after dark. Did he telegraph the registrar again this year, Betty?"
"Please don't," begged Betty, blushing prettily. "Weren't we green little freshmen though, at this time last fall?"
"And isn't it fun to be coming back as sophomores?" asked Rachel.
"We haven't quite finished with the residences of the Chapin house girls," said Eleanor. "How about Roberta?"
"She's going to stay on at Mrs. Chapin's, I think," answered Katherine. "She couldn't get in here at the Belden, and she and Mary want to be together."
"And the Riches aren't coming back, I believe," added Rachel. "And now I, for one, must go back and finish unpacking."
Katherine and Eleanor rose too, astonished to find how fast the evening had slipped away, and how little time there was left in which to get ready for the busy "first day" ahead of them. When they had all three gone, Betty lay back on the bed, her head pillowed on her arms, to rest for a moment longer. She was tired. The journey from Rockport had been hot and disagreeable, and some of her box covers had been nailed on with disheartening thoroughness. But besides being tired, she was also very happy—too happy to turn her attention again at once to the trying business of getting settled. In spite of the "perfectly lovely" summer at the seashore, she was glad to be back at Harding. She was passionately fond of the life there. There had been only one little blot to mar her perfect enjoyment of freshman year, and that was Eleanor's unexplainable defection. And now Eleanor had come back, fascinating as ever, but wonderfully softened and sweetened. The old hauteur had not left her face, but it was in the background, veiled, as it were, by a determination to be different,—to meet life in a more friendly spirit, and to make the most of it and of herself. Betty could have hugged her for her cordial greetings to Katherine and Rachel, and for the kindly little speech about Rachel's boarding-place. The other girls had been tactful too, ready to meet Eleanor half-way and to let bygones be bygones. It was all "just lovely."
Betty was picking herself up, intent upon clearing Helen's half of the room at least, before she went to bed, when another tap sounded on the door. "Come in," she called eagerly, expecting to see Roberta, or perhaps Alice Waite, or even Dorothy King. Instead, a tall, stately stranger opened the door, and entering, closed it again after her.
"May I come in and talk to you?" she asked. "I live next door—that is, my trunks aren't here, so I haven't begun living there to any great extent as yet. Don't stop working. I'll sit and watch; or I'll help, if I can. There seems to be plenty doing."
And she sat down calmly in the place that Betty had just vacated.
Betty was not easily embarrassed, but the strange girl's perfect composure and ease of manner disconcerted her. She did not know many upper classmen in the Belden House, and she could not remember ever having seen this one before. And yet she surely was not a freshman.
"Yes, I—I am busy," she stammered. "I mean, I ought to be. But I've had callers all the evening long. Oh, dear! I didn't mean that. I'm truly glad to have you come, and I will keep on working, if you don't mind."
The stranger's eyes twinkled. "Which class are you?" she asked.
"Sophomore," answered Betty promptly. "And you're an upper-class girl, aren't you?"
The stranger shook her head.
"No?" questioned Betty in bewilderment. "Why, I'm sure you're not a sophomore—I know all the girls in my class at least by sight,—and of course you're not a freshman."
"Why not?" demanded the new girl gaily.
Betty laughed. "I know," she said, "but I don't believe I can explain. You seem too much at home, and too sure of yourself somehow. Now, are you a freshman?"
The stranger laughed in her turn. "Technically, yes," she said, "really, no. This is my first year here, but I've passed up all the French and Spanish and Italian that the institution offers, and some of the German. I think myself that I ought to rank as a graduate student, but it seems there are some little preliminaries in the way of Math, and Latin and Logic that I have to take before I can have my sheepskin, and there's also some history and some English literature which the family demand that I take. So I don't know just how long I may hang on here."
"How—how funny!" gasped Betty. "Where do you live?"
"Bohemia, New York," answered the new girl promptly.
Betty looked puzzled.
"Why, you see," explained her mysterious friend, "it's no use saying one lives in New York. Everybody—all sorts and conditions of people—live in New York. So I always add Bohemia."
"Bohemia?" repeated Betty helplessly.
"Yes, Bohemia—the artistic New York. We have a studio and some other rooms up at the top of one of those queer old houses on Washington Square—you know it,—funny, ramshackle old place. Father has afternoons, and mother and I feed the lions and the lesser animals with tea and strawberry jam. It's very good fun, living in Bohemia."
"And how did you learn so many languages?"
"Oh, a little from tutors, but mostly from living abroad. We're not in Bohemia, New York, very much. We have a villa near Sorrento—awfully out- at-elbows, but still a villa; and we've been in Spain a good deal, and once father illustrated a book on Vienna—that was where I learned my German. Let me see—oh, it's French that I haven't accounted for. Well, we have some French relatives. They love to have us visit them at their funny old chateau, because mother mends their moth-eaten tapestries beautifully, and father paints the family portraits."
"And what do you do?" inquired Betty, much impressed.
"I? Oh, I teach the girls American slang. It doesn't amount to much, teaching French girls slang, because they never have any chance to get it off on the men. But they always like it."
"Don't you know any other languages?"
"No—why, yes I do, too. I know Bengali. When Mademoiselle asked me that very question this noon I forgot Bengali. I learned one winter in India. I guess I'll telephone her—or no—I'd rather see her august face when I remind her of my humble linguistic existence. My name is Madeline Ayres. Now it's your turn," ended the new girl suddenly.
"But I haven't anything to tell," objected Betty, "except that I'm Betty Wales, in the sophomore class, and live in Cleveland. Please go on. It sounds exactly like a fairy tale."
Madeline Ayres shook her head. "It may now," she said, "but when you come to think it over, you'll decide that I talk too much. Don't put that green vase there. It belongs on the bookcase. It just litters your desk and spoils the effect of that lovely water-color. Do you mind my telling you?"
It was ten o'clock when Miss Ayres took her departure. Between them, she and Betty had made astonishing progress toward bringing order out of the chaos that had reigned supreme an hour earlier.
"It's so pretty, too," declared Betty, alone once more with the little green lizard. "Whatever she touches goes right into place. I suppose that's because she's always lived with artists. Oh, dear, I wish I could do something interesting!"
There was a tap on the door, and Betty sprang for her light, for she had the new girl's terror of breaking the ten-o'clock rule, which is supposed by outsiders to be kept to the letter on the campus. However, it wasn't the matron, but only Nita Reese, who had a single room on the fourth floor and had come to say that the three B's were spending the night with her, and that they wished Betty to hurry right along and help eat up the food.
"Lights don't count on the first night, they say," explained Nita, who, like Betty, had spent her freshman year off the campus. "So we've got to make the most of it."
"But what are the B's doing over here?" demanded Betty in perplexity. "Have they moved away from the Westcott?"
Nita laughed. "No indeed, but the rest of their floor hadn't come, and they felt lonely and came over to see me. They say their matron won't miss them the first night, and I'm sure I hope ours won't find them here. They seem to think it's all right."
Betty pulled on her gray kimono, brushed the hair out of her eyes, and followed Nita through the hall and up-stairs to the fourth floor. There was a wilderness of trunks in the narrow passages. Every girl must have three at least, Betty thought. And their owners appeared to be in no haste about unpacking; the serious business of the hour was conversation. They stopped to talk with their neighbors to greet newcomers, to help or hinder other workers with questions and suggestions. Betty and Nita felt lost and rather friendless in the big house, and were strangely glad to see one familiar face down the corridor and to get a brisk little nod from a senior hurrying past them on the stairs. But on the fourth floor the B's pranced gaily out to meet them.
"Poor little lambs, just come on the campus," sang Babe.
"'Fraid to death of the matron," jeered Bob.
"We've come to cheer you up," ended Babbie.
"Girls," said Betty, when the five-pound box of chocolates that Bob's father had thoughtfully provided was nearly empty, "wouldn't it be dreadful if we didn't know each other or anybody? How did we ever manage last fall?"
"Oh, you can always do what you have to," returned Bob practically.
"One mattress is too narrow for four, though," announced Babbie, somewhat irrelevantly. "I'm going down to sleep with you, Betty. Come along."
Thus ended Betty's first evening on the campus.
It was early in the afternoon of the great day of the sophomore reception that Betty Wales ran up two flights of stairs at the Hilton House, and bursting into Eleanor's "extra-priced" corner single, flung herself, hot and breathless, into Eleanor's Morris chair.
"Oh, but I'm tired," she said, as soon as she could speak. "And dirty," she added, looking ruefully at the green stains on the front of her pink linen suit.
"You also seem to be in a hurry," observed Eleanor, who was always vastly entertained by Betty's impetuous, haphazard methods.
"I am," said Betty. "We're awfully behind with the decorating, and I ought to rush back to the gym. this very minute, but I—" she paused, then finished quickly. "I wanted to see you."
"That was nice of you," said Eleanor absently, sorting over the pages of a theme she had just finished copying. "I helped wind the balcony railings with yellow cheese-cloth all the morning, and I thought I'd better finish this before I went back. I'm bound not to get behind with my work this year."
"Good for you," returned Betty, cheerfully. "But I'm glad you're through now. I was hoping you would be."
"Did the chairman send you after me?" asked Eleanor, fastening her sheets together, and writing her name on the first one.
"Oh, no," said Betty, quickly. "She didn't at all. I wanted to see you myself."
Eleanor was too preoccupied to notice Betty's embarrassment. "Who is it that you're going to take to-night?" she asked. "You told me, but I've forgotten, and I want to put her name on my card."
"I asked Madeline Ayres—" began Betty.
"You lucky thing!" broke in Eleanor. "She's the most interesting girl in her class, I think, and she's going to be terribly popular. She's a class officer already, isn't she?"
"Yes, secretary. I'm glad you like her, because I came over to see if you wouldn't take her, in my place."
"I?" said Eleanor, in perplexity. "Why, I'm going to take Polly Eastman, —Jean's freshman cousin, you know. Do you mean you want me to take Miss Ayres too? Are you sick, Betty?"
"No," said Betty, hastily, "but Polly Eastman is. She's got the mumps or the measles or something. Jean told me about it, and an A.D.T. boy was just leaving a note for you—from Polly, I suppose—when I came up. She's gone to the infirmary."
"Poor child," said Eleanor. "She missed the freshman frolic, and she's been counting on to-night. I had such a lovely card for her, too. Pity it's got to go to waste. Well, she can have her violets all the same. I'll go down and telephone Clarke's to send them to the infirmary. But I don't see yet why you want me to take Miss Ayres, Betty."
"Because," said Betty, "we've just discovered a left-over freshman. She lives way down at the end of Market Street, and she entered late, and somehow her name wasn't put on the official list. But this morning she was talking to a girl in her Math. division, and when the other girl spoke about the reception this one—her name is Dora Carlson—hadn't heard of it. So the other freshmen very sensibly went in and told the registrar about it, and the registrar sent word to the gym. And then Jean said that her cousin was ill, so I came over to see if you'd take Madeline, and let me take Miss Carlson. Now please say 'yes' right off, so that I can go and change my dress and hurry down and ask the poor little thing."
Eleanor got up and came over to sit on the arm of the Morris chair. "Betty Wales," she said, with mock severity, but with an undertone of very real compunction in her voice, "do you think I'd do that? Have I ever been quite so mean as you make me out? Did you really think I'd take Miss Ayres and let you take Miss Carlson? You're absurd, Betty,—you are absurd sometimes, you know."
"Yes, I suppose I am," began Betty, "but—"
"It's perfectly simple," broke in Eleanor. "You go straight back to the gym. and work for the two of us, while I go and invite Miss Carlson to go with me to the reception. Where did you say she lives?"
"Number 50 Market Street. Oh, Eleanor, will you really take her? She's probably—oh, not a bit your kind, you know," ended Betty, doubtfully.
"Trust me to give her the time of her life all the same," said Eleanor, decidedly, putting on her hat.
"Oh, Eleanor, you are a gem," declared Betty, excitedly. "I'll go and get Helen to take your place at the gym. Good-bye." And she was off.
As Eleanor went down the steps of the Hilton House, she looked regretfully over at the gymnasium. They were dumping another load of evergreen boughs at the door. The horse was restless. It took three girls to hold him, and three more, with much shouting and laughter, to unload the boughs. Through one window she could see Rachel and Alice Waite stringing incandescent lights into Japanese lanterns. Katherine Kittredge was standing behind them in her gym suit. She had evidently been hanging lanterns along the rafters. It had been bad enough to stay at home and copy her theme. Now the decorating would be finished and the fun almost over, before she could get back. Eleanor shrugged her shoulders and turned resolutely away, trying to remember whether Market Street was just above or just below the station.
Before she had reached the campus gate, she heard some one calling her name. It was Jean Eastman.
"What's your hurry?" panted Jean. "Did you get Polly's note? And why aren't you at the gym.?"
"Yes, I got the note," answered Eleanor. "I'm more than sorry for Polly, and for myself, too. I shall get back to the gym. as soon as I can, but I have to ask another freshman to the reception first."
"Who?" demanded Jean.
"Miss Carlson," answered Eleanor simply.
"Oh, that! Don't you think, Eleanor, that you're getting a little quixotic in your old age?"
Her scornful tone was very exasperating, and Eleanor straightened haughtily. "I don't think either of us need worry about being too charitable just yet awhile," she began. Then she caught herself up sharply. "Don't let's get to bickering, Jean. You know I ought to ask her, and you know how much I want to. But I'm going to do it, and I expect every girl on my program to help make her have just as good a time as if she were one of us." And Eleanor was off down the hill, leaving Jean gazing amazedly after her.
Jean had no clue to the new Eleanor, whose strange toleration of the world in general annoyed the "Hill girls" (as those who had come from the Hill School were called) more than her high-handed attempts to run her own set, and her eventual wrecking of its influence, had done the year before. But the Hill girls appreciated Eleanor's ability, and they had resolved among themselves to wait a little and see what happened, before declaring open war.
Somebody came to call just before dinner, and Betty was consequently late in dressing for the reception. But in the midst of her frantic efforts to make her own toilette and help Helen with hers, she had time to wonder what Dora Carlson was like and how she and Eleanor would get on together. She knew that Eleanor was equal to any emergency, if she cared to exert herself, but the question was: would Dora Carlson in the concrete arouse the best—or the worst—of her nature? Betty loved Eleanor in spite of everything, but she had to admit to herself that a timid little freshman might infinitely prefer staying at home from the sophomore reception to going in Eleanor's company, if she happened to be in a bad mood. And furthermore, as Betty lost her temper over Helen's girdle, which would go up in front and down behind, completely spoiling the effect of an otherwise pretty evening dress, she was in a position to realize that trying to help is by no means the soul-inspiring thing that it sometimes seems in contemplation.
But she need not have worried about Dora Carlson, who, having lived alone with her father on a farm in the environs of a little village in Ohio, and kept house for him ever since she was twelve years old, was abundantly able to take care of herself. She was not at all timid, though she was not aggressive either, and she had a quaint way of expressing herself that would have interested almost any one. But it was the frank good-nature with which she accepted her eleventh hour invitation that appealed most to Eleanor, newly alive to the charm that lies in courageously making the best of a bad matter. For half an hour Eleanor devoted herself to finding out something about Miss Carlson and to making her feel at ease and happy in her company. Then she went off to order a carriage and twice as many violets as she had sent to Polly Eastman, and to find a maid who would press out her white mull dress,—this in spite of her decision, an hour earlier, that the white mull was much too pretty to waste on a promiscuous crush like the sophomore reception.
As a result of all these preparations, Dora Carlson arrived at the gymnasium in a state of mind that she herself aptly compared to Cinderella's on the night of her first ball. She had a keen appreciation of the beautiful, and she had never seen any one so absolutely lovely as Eleanor in evening dress. It was pleasure enough just to watch her, to hear her talk to other people, and to feel that she—Dora Carlson—had some part and lot in this fascinating being, who had suddenly appeared to her as from another world. But Eleanor had no intention of keeping her freshman in the background. All through the reception that preceded the dancing she took her from group to group, introducing her to sophomores whom she would dance with later and to prominent members of her own class. Eleanor Watson might be considered odd and freakish by the Hill girls, and very snobbish by the rest of the college; but nobody of either persuasion cared to ignore her, when she chose to make advances. And there was, besides, a good deal of curiosity about the short, dark little freshman, with the merry brown eyes, the big, humorous mouth, and the enormous bunch of Parma violets pinned to the front of her much-washed, tight-sleeved muslin. Why in the world had the "snob of snobs" chosen to bring her to the reception? Eleanor knew how to utilize this curiosity for Miss Carlson's advantage. She took pains, too, to turn the conversation to topics in which the child could join. She was determined that, as far as this one evening went, the plucky little freshman from Ohio should have her chance. Afterward her place in the college world would of course depend largely on herself.
"Do you dance?" asked Eleanor, when the music for the first waltz began. And when Miss Carlson answered with a delighted "yes," Eleanor, who always refused to lead, and detested both crowds and "girl dances," resolutely picked up her train and started off.
Betty Wales and Jean Eastman, who had taken their freshmen up into the gallery, where they could look down at the dancers, saw her and exchanged glances.
"More than she's ever done for me," said Jean, resignedly.
"Isn't it nice of her?" returned Betty, with enthusiasm.
And Jean, meditating on the matter later, decided shrewdly that Betty Wales was somehow at the bottom of Eleanor's unexplainable change of heart, and advised the Hill girls to make a determined effort to monopolize Eleanor's time and interest, before she had become hopelessly estranged from their counsels. But to all their attentions Eleanor paid as little heed as she did to the persistent appeals of Paul West, a friend at Winsted College, a few miles away, that she should give up "slaving over something you don't care about and come over to our next dance." To the Hill girls Eleanor gave courteous but firm denials, and she wrote Paul West that once in three weeks was as often as she had time for callers.
"And you really had a good time?" said Eleanor, riding down to Market Street to see Miss Carlson home.
"Splendid!" said Miss Carlson, heartily. "I'm sorry your first partner was sick, but I guess I enjoyed it fully as much as she would. Your friends were all so nice to me."
"I'm glad of that," said Eleanor, relieved to find that Dora had not apparently noticed Jean Eastman's insolent manner, nor the careless self- absorption of one or two of her other partners. "And now that you've met the girls," she added practically, "you mustn't let them forget you. Making friends is one of the nicest things about college."
"Yes, isn't it?" responded the little freshman, quickly. "I quite agree with you, but I don't expect to make any. I guess it's like other gifts. It doesn't come natural to some people. But," she added, brightening, "I came here to learn Greek and Latin, so that I can teach and support my father in his old age. And the good time I've had to-night is enough to last me for one while, I guess."
Eleanor put out a slim, white hand and caught Miss Carlson's hard, brown one impetuously in hers, "Don't," she said. "That isn't the way things are here. Good times don't have to last, because one always leads to another. Why, I know another that's coming to you very soon. I've had a good deal of company for dinner lately and I can't ask for a place again right away, but the first Sunday that I can arrange it, you're coming up to have dinner with me at the Hilton House. Will you?"
Jean Eastman had a great deal to say about Eleanor's freshman crush, as she called Dora Carlson. It was foolish, she said, and not in good taste, to send a bunch of violets as big as your head to a perfect stranger, whom you never expected to see again. Later, after Dora's appearance at the Hilton for Sunday dinner, Jean declared that it was a shame for Eleanor to invite her up there and make her think she really liked her, when it was only done for effect, and she would drop the poor child like a hot coal the minute she felt inclined to.
Even Betty Wales failed to understand Eleanor's interest in the quaint little freshman, and she and the other Chapin house girls rallied her heartily about Miss Carlson's open and unbounded adoration.
"Please don't encourage the poor thing so," laughed Katherine, one day not long after the reception. "Why, yesterday morning at chapel I looked up in the gallery and there she was in the front row, hanging over the railing as far as she dared, with her eyes glued to you. Some day she'll fall off, and then think how you'll feel, when the president talks about the terrible evils of the crush system, and stares straight at you."
Eleanor took their banter with perfect good-nature, and seemed rather pleased than otherwise at Miss Carlson's devotion.
"I like her," she said stoutly. "That's why I encourage her, as you call it. Now, Helen Adams doesn't interest me at all. She keeps herself to herself too much. But Dora Carlson is so absolutely frank and straightforward, and so competent and quick to see through things. She ought to have been a man. Then she could go west and make her fortune. As it is—" Eleanor shrugged her shoulders, in token that she had no feasible suggestion ready in regard to Dora Carlson's future.
To Betty, in private, she went much further. "You don't know what you did for me, Betty, when you made me ask that child to the reception. Nobody ever cared for me, or trusted me, as she does—or for the reasons that she does. I hope I can show her that I'm worth it, but it's going to be hard work. And it will be a bad thing for her, and a worse thing for me, if I fail."
PARADES AND PARTIES
It was surprising how well the girl from Bohemia fitted into the life at Harding. She had never experienced an examination or even a formal recitation until the beginning of her freshman term. She had seldom lived three months in any one place, and she had grown up absolutely without reference to the rules and regulations and conventions that meant so much to the majority of her fellow-students. But she did not find the recitations frightful, nor the simple routine of life irksome. She was willing to tell everybody who cared to listen what she had seen of French pensions, Italian beggars, or Spanish bullfights. It astonished her to find that her experiences were unique, because she had always accepted them as comparatively commonplace; but her pity for the girls who had never been east of Cape Cod nor west of Harding,—there were two of them at the Belden,—was quite untinged with self-congratulation.
She was very much amused and not a little pleased, by her election to the post of class secretary.
"They did it because I passed up four languages," she explained to Betty. "Somehow it got around—I'm sure I never meant to boast of it—and they seemed to think they ought to show their appreciation. Nice of them, wasn't it? But I fancy I shan't have a large international correspondence. It would have been more to the point if they'd found out whether I can write plainly." And the girl from Bohemia chuckled softly.
"What's the joke?" inquired Betty.
"Nothing," answered Madeline, "only I can't. Miss Felton made me spell off every word of my Spanish examination paper, because she couldn't read it, and I can't read my last theme myself," and she laughed again merrily.
"Let's see it," demanded Betty, reaching for the paper at the top of the pile on Madeline's desk.
"That's next week's," said Madeline. "I thought I'd do them both while I was at it. But this week's is funnier."
"This week's" proved to be an absurd incident founded upon the illegibility of Henry Ward Beecher's handwriting. It was cleverly told, but the cream of its humor lay in the fact that Madeline's writing, if not so bad as Mr. Beecher's, was certainly bad enough.
"Maybe Miss Raymond can make out what he really wrote, but I've forgotten now, and I can't," said Madeline, tossing the theme back on the pile. "And I didn't try to write badly either. It just happened."
Everything "just happened" with Madeline Ayres. Betty had said that things fell into place for her, and people seemed to have a good deal the same pleasant tendency. But if they did not, Madeline seldom exerted herself to make them do her bidding. She admired hard work, and did a good deal of it by fits and starts. But she detested wire-pulling, and took an instant dislike to Eleanor Watson because some injudicious person told her that Eleanor had said she was sure to be popular and prominent at Harding.
"What nonsense!" she said, with a flash of scorn in her slumberous hazel eyes. "How it spoils life to count up the chances like that! How it takes the fun out of everything! The right way is to go ahead and enjoy yourself, and work your prettiest, and take things when they come. They always come—if you give them a little time," she added with a return of her usual serenity.
So it was wholly a matter of chance that Madeline Ayres should have succeeded in turning Helen Chase Adams into an athlete. Helen had come to college with several very definite theories about life, most of which had been shattered at the start. She had promptly revised her idea of a college in conformity with what she found—and loved—at Harding. She had decided, with some reluctance, that she had been mistaken in supposing that all pretty girls were stupid. But she still believed that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains—laying no very stringent emphasis on the "infinite"; and she was determined to prove the truth of that bold, if somewhat elusive, assertion, at least to the extent of showing that she, Helen Chase Adams, could make a thoroughgoing success of her college course.
Success may mean anything. To Helen Adams it had meant, ever since the day of the sophomore-freshman basket-ball game, the ability to write something that would interest her classmates. It might be a song that they would care to sing, or a little verse or a story that Miss Raymond would read in her theme class, as she had Mary Brooks's version of the Chapin house freshmen's letters home, and that the girls would listen to and laugh over, and later discuss and compliment her upon. It was not that she wanted the compliments, but they would measure her success.
Helen admired the girl from Bohemia because she could write—Betty had told her about the Henry Ward Beecher theme,—also because she was quick and keen, seldom hurried or worried out of her habitual serenity, and finally because Betty admired her. Madeline Ayres, for her part, thought of Helen chiefly as Betty's roommate, noticed the awkward little forward tilt of her head just as she had noticed the inharmonious arrangement of Betty's green vase, and commented upon the one in exactly the same spirit that she had called attention to the other.
"You ought to go in for gym," she said one afternoon when she had strolled into Betty's room and found only Helen. "It would straighten you up, and make you look like a different person. I'm going in for it myself, hard. I'm hoping that it will cure my slouchy walk, and turn me out 'a marvel of grace and beauty,' as the physical culture advertisements always say. Let's be in the same class, so that we can practice things together at home."
"But I should take sophomore gym and you'd be with the freshmen," objected Helen.
"Why don't you take freshman gym too? You can't do the exercises any too well, can you?"
"No," admitted Helen, frankly. "I cut a lot last year, and I couldn't do them anyway."
"Don't you hate to struggle along when you're not ready to go?" asked the girl from Bohemia.
Helen agreed that she did, and a moment later they were comparing schedules and deciding upon a class which they could both join. It came directly in the middle of the afternoon, and Helen Adams had always considered gym at any hour a flagrant waste of time; but she did not say so. There had been something in Madeline's outspoken reference to her awkward carriage that, without hurting her, had struck home. Helen Chase Adams aspired to literary honors at Harding; to this desire was suddenly added a violent ambition to be what Madeline had termed "a marvel of grace."
Betty was amazed, when she came in a little later, to find Helen trying on her gym suit.
"What in the world are you doing?" she demanded. "Gym doesn't begin for two weeks yet."
"I know it," said Helen, "but the neck of my suit never was right. It's awfully unbecoming. How would you fix it?"
"You frivolous thing!" laughed Betty, squinting at the unbecoming neck for a moment. "It's too high behind, that's all. Rip off the collar and I'll cut it down. And I have an extra blue tie that you can have—it needs a tie. But I thought you'd manage to get an excuse from gym, when you hate it so."
"Perhaps I shan't hate it this year," ventured Helen, and neither then nor later did Betty exactly understand her roommate's sudden devotion to parallel bars, ropes, the running track, and breathing exercises. But in time she did thoroughly appreciate the results of this physical training. Helen Chase Adams was never exactly "a marvel of grace"; but she was erect and supple, with considerable poise and dignity of bearing, when she left Harding.
Another thing that Madeline Ayres "happened upon" was the Republican parade. Presidential elections had been celebrated in various ways at Harding. There had been banners spread to the breeze, songs and bells in the night-watches, mock caucuses and conventions, campaign speeches, and Australian balloting, before election time. But the parade was of Madeline's invention.
It was about eight o'clock on the evening after election day that she appeared in Mary Brooks's door—she had made friends with Mary almost as easily as Betty had.
"I say," she said, dropping off her rain-coat and displaying a suit of manly black beneath, to match the short brown wig above. "Let's have a Republican parade. Who'll be the defeated candidate, in chains?"
Then she smiled broadly, displaying rows of even white teeth, and Mary grasped the situation in a moment.
"I'm with you, Roosevelt," she said. "Nita Reese can be the defeated one. I'll go and get her."
"And you be leader of the band," said Madeline. "You get combs and I'll get tin pans."
"Let's take up a collection and have ice-cream later," proposed Mary.
"All right. I'll tell Betty to see to that. I've got to lead a strenuous life finding clothes for Fairbanks," and "President Roosevelt" disappeared down the hall.
Promptly at nine the parade assembled on the third floor corridor. The president elect was drawn in an express wagon, except down the stairs between floors. Out of consideration for the weight of his chains the defeated candidate was allowed to ride in a barouche, alias a rocking- chair. But he objected to riding backward, and the barouche would not move the other way round, so he accepted the arm of the leader of the band and walked, chains and all. The vice-president walked from the start. At intervals of five minutes one or both of the successful candidates made speeches. The defeated candidate wished to do likewise, but the other two drowned him out. Between times the band, composed of all the Belden House who could play on combs or who could find tin pans, discoursed sweet music. Those who could not do either formed what Mary Brooks called "a female delegation of the G.O.P. from Colorado," and closed in the rear of the procession in a most imposing manner.
The vice-president elect wanted to make a tour of the campus houses, but the twenty minutes to ten bell rang, and there was only time to eat the ice cream.
The fact that Roberta Lewis, who happened to be in Mary's room when the president made his first call, laughed herself into hysterics over the parade, proves that it was funny. The further fact that she had firmly decided to leave college at Christmas time, but changed her mind after she had seen the parade, shows that even "impromptu stunts" are not always as silly and futile as they seem.
But before the Republican parade came Hallowe'en, and Hallowe'en on the campus is not a thing to pass over lightly. Each house has some sort of party, generally in costume. There is a good deal of rivalry, and as every house wishes to see and judge of the achievements of its neighbors, the most interesting encounters are likely to take place midway between houses, on the journeys from one party to another.
In Betty's sophomore year the Belden had a masquerade ball, under the direction of Mary Brooks and the girl from Bohemia. The Hilton House indulged in an old-fashioned country Hallowe'en, with a spelling match, dancing to "Roger de Coverley" and "Money Musk," apple-bobbing and all the other traditional methods of finding out about your lover on All Saints' Eve. The Westcott gave a "spook" party, one of the other houses a play, still another a goblin dance, to which everybody carried jack-o'- lanterns, and the rest celebrated the holiday in other characteristic and amusing ways. The campus resembled a cross between the midway at a World's Fair and the grand finale of a comic opera; for ghosts consorted there with ballet dancers and Egyptian princesses, spooks and goblins linked arms with pirates in top-boots and rosy farmers' daughters in calico, and nuns and Puritan maidens chatted familiarly with villainous and fascinating gentlemen, who twirled black mustaches and threatened to kiss them.
By nine o'clock everybody had seen everybody else, and congratulations for successful costumes, clever acting, and thrilling ghost stories were nearly all distributed. Toward the end of the evening there were a good many small gatherings, met to talk over the fun in detail and enjoy the numerous "spreads" that had been sent on from home,—for the college girl's family becomes almost as expert in detecting a festival afar off as is the girl herself.
Nan never let the Wales household forget its duty in such matters, and a merry party was assembled in Betty's room to eat the salad, sandwiches, jelly, olives, cake, candy, nuts, and fruit that her mother had provided.
"How time flies," observed Mary Brooks sagely, helping herself to another sandwich. "I suppose you gay young sophomores don't realize it, but it's almost Christmas time."
"And after Christmas, midyears," wailed a freshman from her corner.
"And after midyears what?
"'To be or not to be, that is the question,'" quoted Katherine Kittredge loudly.
"But for sophomores who survive the midyears," went on Mary, "the next thing of importance is the society elections."
"That's so," said Betty eagerly. "We can get into your wonderful societies after midyears, if we're brainy enough. I'd forgotten all about them."
"Then I'll wager you're about the only sophomore who hasn't thought of them occasionally this fall," announced Mary. "And now I'm ready for some candy."
"Tell us how to go to work to get into those societies, can't you?" asked Bob from her place beside the salad bowl.
"Work hard and write themes," said Mary briefly, and the subject was dropped.
Betty thought no more about Mary's remark then, but when she and Helen were alone it came back to her.
"I suppose some girls do think about the societies a lot, and plan and hope to get in," she said.
"I suppose so," returned Helen. "I shan't have to. I am perfectly safe to stay out."
"Oh, so am I, as far as that goes," said Betty carelessly.
Helen, watching her closely, wondered how any popular girl could be as unconscious as Betty seemed. She had overheard a Belden House senior telling Mary Brooks that Betty Wales was sure to go into a society the minute she became eligible. Helen opened her mouth to convey this information to Betty, but stopped just in time.
"For she's not unhappy about it," thought Helen, "and it would be dreadful if they should be mistaken. But they can't be," concluded Helen loyally, watching Betty's face as she read a note that her mother had tucked in among the nuts. Most pretty girls might be stupid, but the best of everything was none too good for Betty Wales, so thought her roommate.
ELEANOR WATSON, AUTHORESS
Eleanor Watson leaned back in her Morris chair, her eyes fixed absently on the opposite wall, her forehead knit in deep thought. "Somehow there isn't enough of me to go round," she reflected. "I don't see why,—the other girls, no quicker or brighter than I, seem to get on all right. I wonder why I can't. I can't give up everything in the way of recreation."
It was easy enough for an outsider to analyze her difficulty. Never before had Eleanor tried to "go round," as she put it. She had always done what she pleased, and let alone the things that did not appeal to her. Now she had suddenly assumed responsibilities. She really wanted to do her college work, all of it, as it deserved to be done, and to do it honestly, without resort to any of the various methods of deception that she had employed almost unconsciously hitherto. She wanted to make life pleasanter for Dora Carlson. She wanted to write the long, newsy letters to Jim and to Judge Watson; letters that brought characteristic replies, confidential from Jim, genially humorous from her father, but both equally appreciative and as different as possible from their cold, formal notes of the year before. On the other hand, she wanted, both for selfish and unselfish reasons, to enter into the social life of the college. She had not lost her worldly ambitions in one summer; and she had not gained, at a bound, the concentration of mind that enabled other girls to get through an amazing amount of work and fun with perfect ease. She knew infinitely less of the value of time than Betty Wales; she had less sense of proportion than Helen Adams; and she was intensely eager to win all sorts of honors.
So it was natural that she should stare at the wall opposite for some little time before she came to the conclusion that sitting empty-handed, thinking about her troubles, while the morning took to itself wings, was not the best way to mend matters. And when she did finally come back to earth, it was only to give an angry little exclamation, pick up a magazine from the table at her elbow, and go to reading it. At the end of half an hour, however, she tossed it aside, and sitting resolutely down at her desk, wrote diligently until lunch time.
"Have you done your theme, Eleanor?" asked Alice Waite, overtaking her on the way down to the dining-room.
Eleanor nodded curtly. "Did it between twelve and one."
"Really?" Alice's brown eyes grew big with admiration. "Oh, dear, it takes me days to do mine, and when they're done they're nothing, and yours are just fine. I do think it's queer—"
"Nonsense," interrupted Eleanor crossly. "You don't know anything about my themes. You never saw one."
"Oh, but Betty Wales says—" began Alice eagerly.
"Now what does Betty Wales really know about it either?" inquired Eleanor a trifle more amiably.
"Why, I don't know," returned Alice helplessly, "but I'm sure she's right. Is your theme a story?"
"Oh, and is it about a man and a girl? Betty says your man-and-girl stories are great, specially the love parts. Now I could no more write love-making—"
"Well, there's no love-making in this one," interrupted Eleanor crossly, "and it's not great at all. It's so poor that I'm not even sure I shall hand it in. So please don't say any more about it."
All through luncheon Eleanor sat silent, wearing the absent, harassed expression which meant that she was deciding something—something about which her better and her worse selves disagreed.
Just as she was leaving the lunch-table, Christy Mason rushed up to her in great excitement.
"Now, Eleanor," she began, "don't say you can't come, for we simply won't let you off. It's a construction car ride. Meet at the Main Street corner at four—right after Lab., if you have it. It's positively the last ride of the season and an awfully jolly crowd's going,—Betty and Jean and Kate Denise and the three B's, and Katherine Kittredge and Nita Reese,— oh, the whole sophomore push, you know. Now, say you'll come, and give me twenty cents for the supper."
"Give me time to breathe," laughed Eleanor. "Now seriously, Christy, why should I go off on one of those dirty, hard, bumping flat-cars, on a freezing night in November—"
"It's moonlight," interrupted Christy, "and we must have your guitar to help with the singing."
"We shall nickname you dig, if you don't come," declared Bob, who had danced up in the midst of the colloquy. "Now, how will you like that—Dig Watson?"
Eleanor laughed good-naturedly. "Don't be ironical," she said. "I'll come. I hadn't any intention of not coming. I only wanted to know why you will persist in lugging those horrid flat-cars into all your fun."
"Stunty," explained Christy.
"Different," added Bob.
"But since you're coming, we can argue about it to-night," concluded Christy, decidedly. "What I want now is your twenty cents."
It was half past three when Eleanor started over to the main building to deposit her theme in one of the tin boxes which Miss Raymond and her assistants opened at specified hours on specified days,—not, as Mary Brooks explained, because they wanted what was in the boxes, but because they wished to discover what was not in them, in order that they might make life a burden for those whose themes were late.
Just ahead of Eleanor a little freshman walked up to the box and slipped in a stamped envelope.
"Pardon me, but this isn't a mail-box," explained Eleanor.
"Why, it says 'Collections made at 6 P.M. Tuesdays and Thursdays,'" gasped the little freshman. Then she glanced at the heading, "'Themes of Second Class, L to Z.' Oh, I thought of course that said United States Mail."
"Evidently you're fortunate enough not to have elected themes. When you do, remember that the collections are as prompt as the postman's," said Eleanor. "Come back at six, and you can get out your letter."
But the freshman, blushing as red as her scarlet cap, had vanished down the hall.
Then, instead of dropping in her theme and hurrying home, as she had intended, to get into an old skirt and a heavy shirt-waist before four o'clock, Eleanor sat down on the lowest step of the broad stairway, as if she had decided to wait there until six o'clock and rescue the freshman's letter herself. Five—ten—fifteen minutes, she sat there. Girl after girl came through the hall to deposit themes, or consult the bulletin boards. Among them were one or two of the "sophomore push," as Christy had called them.
"Aren't you a lady of leisure, though," called Christy, dashing through the hall at quarter to four. "I have to go ahead and see about the ice cream. Don't you be late, Eleanor."
Eleanor looked after her wistfully; Christy was one of the girls who always "went round." Then she shrugged her shoulders, got up, and dropped her theme into the box.
"What's the odds, anyhow?" she muttered, as it fell with a soft little swish on the top of the pile inside. "It's too late to write another now." And she hurried after Christy down the hill.
The construction car ride was a great success. The night was decidedly balmy for November, and the moon rode, full and glorious, in a cloudless sky. If the car bottom made a hard seat, the passengers' spirits were elastic enough to endure all the bumps and jolts with equanimity. Hatless, though bundled in ulsters and sweaters, they laughed and sang and shouted in the indefatigably light-hearted fashion that is characteristic only of babies and collegians off on a frolic.
Eleanor's story of the absent-minded freshman was the hit of the evening, and the tinkle of her guitar added the crowning touch to the festivity of the occasion. As they rounded the last corner on the homeward stretch, she turned to Betty Wales, her eyes shining softly and her hair blown into distracting waves under her fluffy white tam.
"It is fun, Betty," she said. "Flat-car and all,—though why it should be, I'm sure I don't see, and last year it wasn't—for me."
Then her face grew suddenly sombre, and she settled back in her corner, dropping into a moody silence that lasted until the car had dumped its merry load, and the "sophomore push" was making its way in noisy twos and threes up the hill to the campus.
"Come over for a minute, can't you, Eleanor?" asked Betty, when they reached the Belden House gate.
"Why, yes—no, I can't, either. I'm sorry," said Eleanor, and was starting across the grass toward home, when Jean Eastman overtook her.
"Come over to the Westcott and warm up with coffee," said Jean.
Eleanor repeated her refusal.
"Why not?" demanded Jean with her usual directness.
"Because I want to see Miss Raymond a minute," returned Eleanor, coolly.
"Well, you can't do that to-night," said Jean. "She's entertaining Professor Morris of New York. I don't suppose you care to break into that, do you? She's probably having a select party of faculty stars in for a chafing-dish supper."
"Oh, dear!" There was genuine distress in Eleanor's voice. "Then I'm going home, Jean. You're perfectly certain that she'll be engaged? You're sure this is the night he was coming?"
Having duly assured Eleanor that Professor Morris and Miss Raymond had taken lunch at the Westcott House and that Miss Mills had been invited out to dinner with them, Jean went home to inform her roommate that Eleanor Watson was in more trouble over her English work—that she was rushing around the campus at nine in the evening, trying to find Miss Raymond.
Eleanor, left to herself at last, turned and went slowly back to the Belden House.
Betty looked up in astonishment when she appeared in the door. "How'd you happen to change your mind?" she asked.
"Fate was against me," said Eleanor shortly. "I wanted to see Miss Raymond about a theme, but she's busy."
"Won't morning do?" asked Betty, sympathetically.
"Yes, I suppose so, only I wanted to have it off my hands."
"I don't wonder," agreed Betty. "She's none too agreeable about late themes."
"It's not a late theme. I want to get back the one I handed in to-day. It ought never to have gone in."
Betty stared at Eleanor for a moment in speechless amazement, then she danced across the room and pulling Eleanor after her, tumbled back among the couch cushions. "Oh, Eleanor, you are the funniest thing," she said. "Last year you didn't care about anything, and now I believe you're a worse fusser than Helen Chase Adams. The idea of worrying over a theme that is done and copied and in on time! Come and tell Madeline Ayres. She'll appreciate the joke, and she'll give us some of her lovely sweet chocolate that her cousins sent her from Paris."
But Eleanor hung back. "Please don't say anything about it to Miss Ayres. I'd really rather you didn't. It may be a joke to you, but it's a serious matter to me, Betty."
So more people than Eleanor were surprised the next afternoon to find that the clever story which Miss Raymond read with great gusto to her prize theme class, and commented upon as "extraordinary work for an undergraduate," should prove to be Eleanor Watson's.
As early in the morning as she dared Eleanor had gone over to get back her theme "that should never have gone in," and to ask permission to try again. But Miss Raymond had been up betimes, working over her new batch of papers, and she met Eleanor's apologies with amused approval of sophomores, who, contrary to the popular tradition about their cock- sureness, were inclined to underestimate their abilities, and imagine, like freshmen before midyears, that their work was below grade. So there was nothing for Eleanor to do but submit gracefully and leave the theme. It did not occur to her to caution Miss Raymond against reading it to her class.
In spite of hard struggles and little disappointments like Helen Adams's, it really takes very little to make a college reputation. One brilliant recitation may turn an unassuming student into a "prod."; and on the strength of one clever bit of writing another is given the title of "genius." This last distinction was at once bestowed on Eleanor. She was showered with congratulations and compliments. Her old school friends like Lilian Day and Jean Eastman hastened to declare that they had always known Eleanor Watson could write. Solid, dependable students like Dorothy King and Marion Lawrence regarded her with new respect; awed little freshmen pointed her out to one another as "that awfully pretty Miss Watson, who is a perfect star in themes, you know"; and her own class, who had cordially disliked her the year before, and not known what to think of her recent friendliness, immediately prepared to make a class heroine of her and lauded her performance to the skies.
But Eleanor would have none of all this "pleasant fuss," as Mary Brooks called it. Suddenly and most inexplicably she reverted to her sarcastic, ungracious manner of the year before. She either ignored the pretty speeches that people made to her, or received them with a stare and a haughty "I really don't know what you mean," which fairly frightened her admirers into silence.
"I hope," said Mary Brooks to Betty, after having received a particularly scathing retort, "that hereafter Miss Raymond can be induced not to approve of the lady Eleanor's themes. I've heard that prosperity turns people's heads, but I never knew it made them into bears. She's actually more unpleasant than she was before she reformed. And the moral of that is, don't reform," added Mary sententiously.
Betty Wales was completely mystified and bitterly disappointed by Eleanor's strange behavior.
"Eleanor dear," she ventured timidly, "don't be so queer and—and disagreeable about your theme. Why, you even hurt my feelings when I spoke to you about it, and the other girls think it's awfully funny that you shouldn't be pleased, and like to have them congratulate you. The theme must have been good, you see. Miss Raymond knows, and she liked it ever so much. She told the class about your rushing over to get it that morning, and she thought it was such a good joke. Do cheer up, Eleanor. Why, I should be so proud if I were you!"
Eleanor was silent for a moment, then she smiled suddenly, her flashing, radiant smile. "Well, I'll try to be pleasant, Betty, if you want me to," she said. "There's no use crying over spilt milk. I am queer—you know that—but I hadn't meant to hurt people's feelings. You're going to the library, aren't you? Well, Dora Carlson's up there. Tell her, please, that I was tired when she came in just now—that I didn't intend to be disagreeable, and that I love her just the same. Will you?"
So when, just after Betty had left, Dorothy King came in and plunged at once into the familiar "I want to congratulate you on that story, Miss Watson," Eleanor smiled pleasantly and murmured, "It's nothing,—just a stupid little tale," in conventional college fashion.
"And of course," went on Dorothy briskly, "we want it for the 'Argus.' I'm not a literary editor myself,—just business manager,—but Frances West is so busy that she asked me to stop in and see you on my way to a meeting of the Editorial board. Frances is the editor-in-chief, you know."
A dull red flush spread itself over Eleanor's pale face. "I'm sorry, Miss King, very sorry, but—but—I can't let the 'Argus' use my story."
Dorothy stared. "We can't have it? Why—well, of course it's very good. Were you going to try to sell it to a regular magazine?"
Eleanor shook her head. "No," she said with an odd little laugh. "No, I'm not going to try to sell it."
Dorothy looked puzzled. "Most people are very glad to get into the 'Argus.' We don't often have to ask twice for contributions. And we want this very, very much. Miss Raymond likes it so well and all. Can't I persuade you to change your mind?"
"No," said Eleanor curtly.
In spite of her poise and her apparently even temper, Dorothy King was a rather spoiled young person, used to having her own way and irritable when other people insisted, without reason, upon having theirs. She disliked Eleanor Watson, and now Eleanor's manner nettled her beyond endurance. She rose suddenly.
"Oh, very well, Miss Watson," she said. "But I really don't understand why you should raise such a tempest in a teapot over a theme. You make me quite curious to see it, I assure you. It must be a very strange piece of work."
Eleanor's face went white instantly. "I beg your pardon, Miss King. I didn't mean to be either rude or disobliging or even—queer. Here is the story, and if the 'Argus' can really use it, I shall be delighted, of course."
On the campus Dorothy met Betty Wales. "I've got it," she cried, waving the theme aloft in triumph. "She didn't want to give it to me at first, and I lost my temper—she is so trying—but later she was lovely, and I apologized, and now we're fast friends."
Betty was on her way to gym, but she stole five minutes in which to run up and see Eleanor.
"Hurrah for you!" she cried. "I saw Dorothy and she told me the great news. Eleanor, you'll be on the Argus board yourself, if you're not careful."
"Would you mind not staying now, Betty?" asked Eleanor, who was lying buried among her pillows. "I have a dreadful headache, and talking makes it worse."
POINTS OF VIEW
During the first part of their year at the Chapin house Betty and her friends had taken very little interest in the Harding Aid Society. It had been to them only a name, about which Mary Brooks, who was a member of the aid committee of her class, talked glibly, and in behalf of which she exacted onerous contributions, whenever the spirit moved her. But at the time of the valentine episode, when Emily Davis and her two friends suddenly appeared upon Betty's horizon, Betty and Katherine realized all at once what the Aid Society must mean to some of their classmates. During the rest of the year they seconded Mary's efforts warmly, and the whole house got interested and plied Mary with questions about the work of the society, until, in sheer desperation, she admitted that she knew very little about it, and set herself to get some definite information. The head of the committee, pleased with Mary's sudden enthusiasm, sent her to one of the faculty trustees, and for a few days Mary, who was entirely a creature of impulse, could talk of nothing but the splendid work of the Harding Aid Society in helping the poorer members of the college to meet their expenses.
It was perfectly marvelous how little some girls got along on. To many of them a loan of twenty-five dollars actually meant the difference between going home and staying in college a year longer.
"Now fancy that!" interpolated Mary. "It would mean just about the price of a new hat to me."
And each dollar helped an endless chain of girls; for the society made loans, not gifts; and the girls always paid up the moment they could get the money together.
"One girl paid back two hundred dollars out of a five hundred dollar salary that she got for teaching, the year after she graduated. Imagine that if you can!" said Mary.
The Aid Society managed the bulletin boards in the gymnasium basement. It ran an employment agency, a blue-print shop, and a second-hand book- store. It was astonishing, said Mary, with a mysterious shake of her head, how many splendid girls—the very finest at Harding—the society was helping. Confidentially, she whispered to the valentine coterie that Emily Davis and her two friends had just been placed on the list of beneficiaries. Her eloquence extorted a ten dollar contribution from Roberta, and smaller amounts from the rest of the girls. But then came spring term, and the Harding Aid Society was forgotten for golf, bicycling, the bird club, and the other absorbing joys of the season.
But it was only natural that Mary, casting about for a "Cause," in behalf of which to exercise her dramatic talent, should remember the Aid Society, and the effort it was making to complete its ten-thousand-dollar loan fund before Christmas. Mary was no longer on the aid committee, but that was no reason why she should not help complete the fund, for which everybody,—alumnae, friends of the college, and undergraduates,—were expected to work. Mary was a born entertainer, never so happy as when she was getting up what in college-girl parlance is called a "show." She had discovered how to utilize her talent at Harding, at the time of the Sherlock Holmes dramatization. It had lain dormant again until the Hallowe'en party brought it once more to light, and the election parade kindled it into fresh vigor.
In all her enterprises Mary found a kindred spirit in Madeline Ayres. Madeline had taken part in amateur theatricals ever since she could talk.
"And I've always been wild to do men's parts," she said. "I hope I can up here."
"Of course you can," returned Mary, promptly. "Do you know any actors or actresses?"
"Oh, two or three," answered Madeline, carelessly. "Or at least father does—he knows everybody that's interesting—and I've talked to them. And once I 'suped.' It was a week when I'd been to the theatre three times, and I didn't want to ask father for any more money. So I went to the manager and got a chance to be in the mob—that's the crowd that don't have speaking parts, you know. And the people who'd promised to take me home forgot and went off to supper without me, and the leading lady heard about it and took me home in her carriage. So mother asked her to tea, and she came, and was a dear, though she couldn't act at all. I forget her name. But the family wouldn't let me go on again. They said it wouldn't do, even in Bohemia."
"Goodness!" exclaimed Mary, excitedly. "Wasn't that a lark! Madeline, do let's get up a play."
"But how can we?" objected Madeline, lazily. "Hallowe'en is over, there aren't any more elections or holidays coming, and we're not either of us on the committee for house plays. We can't just walk in and offer our services, can we?"
Mary stared at her absently. "That's so," she said. "That's the bother of being on the campus, where they have committees for everything. Oh, dear! Isn't there something we can have a play for?" Then her face lighted suddenly. "The Harding Aid! The very thing!" she shrieked, and seizing the stately Madeline around the waist, she twirled her violently across the room.
"I haven't the ghost of an idea what you are talking about," said Madeline, gravely, when she had at last succeeded in disentangling herself from Mary's bearish embraces. "But I'm with you, anyway. What shall it be?"
"Why, a—a play."
"Don't you like vaudeville shows better?" inquired Madeline, "and circuses, and nice little stunts? Girls can do that sort of thing a lot better than they can act regular plays. And besides it brings in a bigger cast and takes fewer bothering old rehearsals."
This time Mary danced a jig all by herself.
"Come over to Marion Lawrence's," she commanded, breathlessly. "She's chairman of the big Loan Fund Committee. She'll make us two a special entertainment committee, and tell the rest to let us go ahead and do what we please."
But Madeline shook her head. "I loathe committees," she explained. "You go along and see Miss Lawrence and be on your committee, if you like. And when you want some help with the stunts or the costumes—I have a lot of drapery and jewelry and such stuff—why, come and tell me, and I'll do what I can."
And no amount of persuasion on the part of Mary, Marion Lawrence, or the Loan Fund Committee en masse, could induce Madeline to change her mind. "Why, I can't be on a committee," she said. "I get around to recitations and meals and class meetings, and that's all I can possibly manage. You don't realize that I'd never had to be on time for anything in all my life till I came here, except for trains sometimes,—and you can generally count on their being a little late. No, I can't and won't come to committee meetings and be bored. But all that I have is yours," and Madeline tossed a long and beautifully curled mustache at Mary, and a roll of Persian silk at Marion. "For the circus barker," she explained, "and the Indian juggler's turban. I'll make the turban, if the juggler doesn't know how. They're apt to come apart, if you don't get the right twist. And I'll see about that little show of my own, if you really think it's worth having."
So, though her name did not appear on the list of the committee or on the posters, it was largely due to Madeline Ayres that the Harding Aid "Show" was such a tremendous success.
"The way to get up a good thing," she declared, "is to let each person see to her own stunt. Then it's no trouble to any one else. And you'd better have the show next week, before we all get bored to death with the idea."
These theories were exactly in accordance with Harding sentiment, so next week the "Show" was,—in the gymnasium, for it rapidly outgrew the Belden House parlors, where Mary and Madeline had at first thought of holding it. It was amazing how much talent Madeline and the committee, between them, managed to unearth. The little dressing-rooms at the ends of the big hall had to be called into requisition, and the college doctor's office, and Miss Andrews' room, and even the swimming tank in the basement (it leaked and so the water had all been drained off), with an improvised roof made by pinning Bagdad couch-covers together. All along the sides of the gymnasium hall there were little curtained booths, while the four corners of the gallery were turned respectively into a gypsy tent, a witch's den, the grotesque abode of an Egyptian sorceress, and the businesslike offices of a dapper little French medium, just over from Paris.
You could have your fortune told in whichever corner you preferred,—or in all four if your money lasted. Then you could descend to the floor below, and eat and drink as many concoctions as your digestion could stand, sandwiching between your "rabbits," Japanese or Russian tea, fudges, chocolate, and creamed oysters, visits to the circus, the menagerie, the vaudeville, and the multitude of side-shows. "Side-show," so the posters announced, was the designation of "a bewildering variety of elegant one-act specialties." Mary Brooks was very proud of that phrasing.
Mary herself was in charge of the menagerie. "Not to be compared for a single instant with the animals of the biggest show on earth," she shouted through her megaphone, accompanying her remarks with impressive waves of her riding-whip.
Then the white baby elephant walked forth from its lair. It was composed of one piece of white cheese-cloth and two of Mary's most ardent freshman admirers. There was a certain wobbly buoyancy in its gait and a jauntiness about its waving white trunk,—which was locked at the end, as Mary explained, to guard against the ferocious assaults of this terrible man-eater,—which never failed to convulse the audience and put them in the proper humor for the rest of the performance. The snake-charmer exhibited her paper pets. The lion, made up on the principle of the one in "Midsummer Night's Dream" pawed and roared and assured timid ladies that she was not a lion at all, but only that far more awful creature, a Harding senior. And finally Mary opened the cage containing the Happy Family, and there filed out a quartette of strange beasts which no Harding girl in the audience failed to recognize as the four "class animals,"—the seniors' red lion, the juniors' purple cow, the green dragon beloved by the sophomores, and the freshmen's yellow chicken.
"They dance" announced Mary in beatific tones, and the three four-legged creatures stood on their hind legs and, joining paws and wings with the chicken, went through a solemn Alice-in-Wonderland-like dance. This was always terminated abruptly by some animal or another's being overcome by mirth or suffocation, and rushing unceremoniously back into the cage to recuperate. When the Happy Family was again reunited, Mary announced that they could also sing, and, each in a different key, the creatures burst forth with the "Animal Song," dear to the hearts of all Harding girls:
"I went to the Animal Fair; the great Red Lion was there. The Purple Cow was telling how She'd come to take the air. The Dragon he looked sick, and the little Yellow Chick, Looked awfully blue, and I think, don't you, He'd better clear out quick—quick!"
At the end of this ditty, the chick hopped solemnly forward, gave vent to a most realistic cluck, scratched vigorously for worms, and the Happy Family vanished amid an uproar of applause, while Mary piloted her audience into the circus proper, managed by Emily Davis.
Here Mlle. Zita, beautiful in pink tarleton,—only her skirt had been mislaid at the last moment and she had been compelled to substitute the Westcott House lamp shade,—Mlle. Zita balanced herself on a chair, and gave so vivid an imitation of wire-walking, on solid ground all the time, that the audience was actually fooled into holding its breath. Then Bob's pet collie did an act, and the juggler juggled, in his turban, and some gym "stars" did turns on bars and swings. And there was an abundance of peanuts and pink lemonade, and a clown and a band; and Emily's introductions were alone well worth the price of admission.
At the end of her performance Emily stated that this circus, being modern and up-to-date in all respects, had substituted for the conventional after-concert, "a side-splitting farce which would appeal to all intelligent and literary persons and make them laugh and cry with mirth." So everybody, wishing to appear intelligent and literary, went in to see the little play which Madeline Ayres had written. It was called "The Animal Fair," and three of the class animals appeared in it. But the mis- en-scene was an artist's studio, the great red lion was a red-faced English dramatist, the chick a modest young lady novelist attired in yellow chiffon, and the dragon a Scotch dialect writer. The repartee was clever, the action absurd, and there were local hits in plenty for those unliterary persons who did not catch the essential parody. Everybody was enthusiastic over it, and there were frequent calls for "Author!" But nobody responded.
"Who wrote it? Oh, some of the committee, I suppose," said the doorkeeper, carelessly. "Perhaps Marion Lustig helped—they didn't tell me. No, the actors don't know either. Did you give me fifty cents or a quarter? Please don't crowd so. You'll all get in in a minute."
Meanwhile Madeline, having seen through the first performance of her farce, in her capacity of stage manager, had left the actors to their own devices, and wandered off to explore the other attractions. Betty met her at the vaudeville.
"Come and get some fudge and see the sleight-of-hand stunts in the swimming tank," whispered Madeline. "These songs are all too much alike."
It was half-past nine. The sleight-of-hand performance was being given for the tenth and last time to an audience that packed the house. When it was over Betty, who had been a ticket-taker at the circus all the afternoon and evening, hurried Madeline back to see how much money Emily had made.
"Fifty dollars," said Emily, with shining eyes. "Think of it! I've helped to make fifty dollars for the Aid Society that's helping me through college."
"Splendid!" said Betty, too tired to be very enthusiastic over anything that night.
Madeline led her to a deserted corner of the gallery, and they sank down on a heap of pillows that had composed the gypsy queen's throne.
"I suppose I ought to care about the money," said Madeline, when they were seated, "but I don't much. I care because it's all been so funny and jolly and so little trouble. We can help to make money for good causes all our lives, but most of us will forget how to make such good times out of so little fuss and feathers when we leave here."
Betty looked at her wonderingly. Madeline's philosophy was a constant source of interest and amazement to all her friends. She had a way of saying the things that they had always thought, but never put into words.
"That's so," she agreed at last, "but I don't see how you knew it. You haven't been here a term yet. How do you find out so much about college?"
Madeline laughed merrily. "Oh, I came from Bohemia," she said, "and the reason I like it up here is because this place isn't so very different from Bohemia. Money doesn't matter here, and talent does, and brains; and fun is easy to come by, and trouble easy to get away from. But not for everybody," she ended quickly.
Eleanor Watson, still in her gypsy fortune-teller's costume, was hurrying up to the big pile of pillows, six devoted freshmen following close at her heels.
"Hop up, girls," she called gaily to Betty and Madeline. "My faithful slaves have come to empty the throne room."
"Aren't you tired, Eleanor?" asked Betty. "You've been at it since three o'clock, haven't you? I should think you'd be dead."
Eleanor shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, I'm a bit tired," she answered, indifferently, "But I couldn't stop. The girls simply wouldn't let me, though Blanche Norton was willing to take my place. I was a goose to tell them that I could read palms. Look out for that white satin pillow, Maudie. Yes, the yellow one is mine, but I can't carry it. I'm too done up to carry anything but myself."
"Now that," said Madeline, decidedly, as soon as Eleanor was out of hearing, "that is all wrong,—every bit of it. It's not the fun she wants. She doesn't even care about the money for the good cause. It's the honor and the chance to show off her own cleverness that she's after." Madeline waited a moment. "Is she so clever, Betty?"
"Oh, yes," cried Betty eagerly. "Don't you remember her theme?"
"To be sure." Madeline's eyes twinkled. "I'd forgotten her wonderful theme. Oh, well, then I suppose she is clever—but I'm sorry for her."
"Why?" asked Betty quickly. Surely Madeline could not know anything about Eleanor's stepmother, and nowadays her career at Harding was a series of delightful triumphs. More reason why Madeline should envy, than pity her, Betty thought.
"Oh, for lots of reasons," answered Madeline easily, "but chiefly because she's so anxious about getting things for herself that she can't enjoy them when she's got them; and secondly because something worries her. Watch her face when she isn't smiling, and when she thinks nobody is noticing her. It's so wonderfully sad and so perfectly beautiful that it makes me pity her in spite of myself," ended Madeline with a sudden rush of feeling. "But I can't love her, even for you, you funny child," she added playfully, pulling one of Betty's curls.
"I'm not a child," retorted Betty, with great dignity. "I'm a sophomore and you're only a little freshman, please remember, and you have no business pulling my hair."
"Lights out in two minutes, young ladies," called the night-watchman from below, and freshman and sophomore raced for the stairs.
"It was awfully good of you to come and take me out for a walk, little sister. My head ached and I knew I ought to get some fresh air, but I hadn't the resolution to start off alone."
Betty and Miss Hale, the "faculty" who was an intimate friend of Betty's older sister, had been for a long, brisk tramp through the woods. Now they were swinging home in the frosty December dusk, tired and wind blown, and yet refreshed by the keen air and the vigorous exercise.
Betty turned off the path to scuffle through a tempting bed of dry leaves. "I think it's you who are awfully good to let me come for you," she said, stopping to wait for Miss Hale at the end of her run. "I do get so tired sometimes of seeing nobody but girls, and such crowds of them. It's a great relief to have a walk and a talk with you. It seems almost like going home."
"But you still like college, don't you, Betty?"
"Oh, yes!" assented Betty eagerly. "I just love it." Then she laughed merrily. "You and Nan told me the summer before I came here that all nice girls liked college, so it's hardly polite of you to ask me now if I like it, Ethel."
Then Miss Hale laughed in her turn. "And who are your friends this year?" she pursued. "Has your last year's crowd broken up?"
"Oh, no! We're all too fond of one another for that. Of course we're in different houses now, some of us, and we've all made lots of new friends down on the campus. Do you know Madeline Ayres?"
Miss Hale nodded. "I'm glad you know her, Betty; she's a splendid girl. And how is your protege, Miss Watson, getting on nowadays?"
"Beautifully." Betty launched into an enthusiastic account of Eleanor's literary triumph, her softened manner, her sudden popularity, and her improved scholarship.
Miss Hale listened attentively. "That's very interesting," she said. "I had no idea that Miss Watson would ever make anything out of her college course. And do you see as much of her as ever, or has she dropped her old friends now that she has so many new ones?"
"Oh, dear!" said Betty sadly. "You don't like her one bit, do you, Ethel? I'm so sorry. Nan didn't like her either. Of course I know she has her faults, but I do love her so—"
"I'm glad of that," broke in Miss Hale heartily. "She would have left Harding in disgrace last June, if she hadn't had such a loyal friend in you. We can't help people unless we care for them, Betty,—and sometimes not then," added Ethel soberly. "The only way is to take all your opportunities, and then if you fail with one, as I did with Miss Watson, you may succeed with some one else. And it's the finest thing in college, Betty, or in life,—the feeling that you really mean something to somebody. I wish I'd learned to appreciate it sooner."
They walked on for a while in silence, Betty wondering if she did "really mean something" to Eleanor or to Helen Adams, Miss Hale harking back to her own college days and questioning whether she and her set had ever spared a thought for anything beyond their own fun and ambitions and successes. She blushed guiltily in the dark, as she remembered how they had snubbed Nan Wales, until Nan actually forced them to recognize her ability, and later to discover that they all wanted her for a friend.
"I wonder if Nan's forgotten," she thought. "I wonder if she's told Betty anything about it, and if that's why Betty is so different."
Thinking of Nan finally brought Miss Hale out of her reverie. "Little sister," she said, "I mustn't forget to ask you about Nan. Isn't that European trip of hers almost over? She wrote me that she should surely be back in time for Christmas."
"Yes," assented Betty, "she will. Her steamer is due on the eighth."
"The eighth—why that's to-day," said Miss Hale. "Isn't she going to stop here on her way west?"
"I'm afraid not," answered Betty, sadly. "Will is going to meet her in New York, and when I wrote home and wanted them to stop, he wrote back that he didn't propose to come up here to be the only man among a thousand girls. And I suppose Nan will be so tired of traveling around sight-seeing that she won't care about stopping, either."