GRACE HARLOWE'S FIRST YEAR AT OVERTON COLLEGE
JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A. M.
Author of The Grace Harlowe High School Girls Series, Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College.
Philadelphia Henry Altemus Company Copyright, 1914, by Howard E. Altemus
I. Off To College 7
II. J. Elfreda Introduces Herself 15
III. First Impressions 29
IV. Miriam's Unwelcome Surprise 44
V. An Interrupted Study Hour 55
VI. A Disturbing Note 62
VII. Grace Takes Matters Into Her Own Hands 72
VIII. The Sophomore Reception 84
IX. Disagreeable News 95
X. The Making of The Team 102
XI. Anne Wins a Victory 109
XII. Ups and Downs 118
XIII. Grace Turns Electioneer 125
XIV. An Invitation and a Misunderstanding 132
XV. Greeting Old Friends 142
XVI. Thanksgiving with the Southards 150
XVII. Christmas Plans 161
XVIII. Basketball Rumors 171
XIX. A Game Worth Seeing 181
XX. Grace Overhears Something Interesting 190
XXI. An Unheeded Warning 206
XXII. Turning the Tables 214
XXIII. Virginia Changes Her Mind 227
XXIV. Good-bye to their Freshman Year 239
Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College
OFF TO COLLEGE
"Do you remember what you said one October day last year, Grace, when we stood on this platform and said good-bye to the boys?" asked Anne Pierson.
"No, what did I say?" asked Grace Harlowe, turning to her friend Anne.
"You said," returned Anne, "that when it came your turn to go to college you were going to slip away quietly without saying good-bye to any one but your mother, and here you are with almost half Oakdale at the train to see you off to college."
"Now, Anne, you know perfectly well that people are down here to see you and Miriam, too," laughed Grace. "I'm not half as much of a celebrity as you are."
Grace Harlowe, Miriam Nesbit and Anne Pierson stood on the station platform completely surrounded by their many friends, who, regardless of the fact that it was half-past seven o'clock in the morning, had made it a point to be at the station to wish them godspeed.
"This is the second public gathering this week," remarked Miriam Nesbit, who, despite the chatter that was going on around her, had heard Grace's laughing remark.
"I know it," agreed Grace. "There was just as large a crowd here when Nora and Jessica went away last Monday. Doesn't it seem dreadful that we are obliged to be separated? How I hated to see the girls go. And we won't be together again until Christmas."
"Oh, here come the boys!" announced Eva Allen, who, with Marian Barber, had been standing a little to one side of the three girls.
At this juncture four smiling young men hurried through the crowd of young people and straight to the circle surrounding the three girls, where they were received with cries of: "We were afraid you'd be too late!" and, "Why didn't you get here earlier?"
"We're awfully sorry!" exclaimed David Nesbit. "We had to wait for Hippy. He overslept as usual. We threw as much as a shovelful of gravel against his window, but he never stirred. Finally we had to waken his family and it took all of them to waken him."
"Don't you believe what David Nesbit says," retorted Hippy. "Do you suppose I slept a wink last night knowing that the friends of my youth were about to leave me?" Hippy sniffed dolefully and buried his face in his handkerchief.
"Now, now, Hippy," protested Miriam. "If you insist on shedding crocodile tears, although I don't believe you could be sad long enough to shed even that kind, we shall feel that you are glad to get rid of us."
"Never!" ejaculated Hippy fervently. "Oh, if I only had Irish Nora here to stand up for me! She wouldn't allow any one, except herself, to speak harsh and cruel words to me."
"We shan't be able to speak many more words of any kind to you," said Miriam, consulting her watch. "The train is due in ten minutes."
When Grace Harlowe and her three dear friends, Nora O'Malley, Jessica Bright and Anne Pierson, began to make history for themselves in their freshman year at Oakdale High School, none of them could possibly imagine just how dear they were to become to the hearts of the hundreds of girls who made their acquaintance in "Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School." The story of their freshman year was one of manifold trials and triumphs. It was at the beginning of that year that Grace Harlowe had championed the cause of Anne Pierson, a newcomer in Oakdale. Then and there a friendship sprang up between the two girls that was destined to be life long. The repeated efforts of several malicious girls to discredit Anne in the eyes of her teachers, and her final triumph in winning the freshman prize offered to the class by Mrs. Gray, a wealthy resident of Oakdale, made the narrative one of interest and aroused a desire on the part of the reader to know more of Grace Harlowe and her friends.
In "Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School" the girl chums appeared as basketball enthusiasts. In this volume was related the efforts of Julia Crosby, a disagreeable junior, and Miriam Nesbit, a disgruntled sophomore, to disgrace Anne and wrest the basketball captaincy from Grace. Through the magnanimity of Grace Harlowe, Miriam and Julia were brought to a realization of their own faults, and in time became the faithful friends of both Anne and Grace.
During "Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School" the famous sorority, the Phi Sigma Tau, was organized by the four chums for the purpose of looking after high school girls who stood in need of assistance. In that volume Eleanor Savelli, the self-willed daughter of an Italian violin virtuoso, made her appearance. The difficulties Grace and her chums encountered in trying to befriend Eleanor and her final contemptuous repudiation of their friendship made absorbing reading for those interested in following the fortunes of the Oakdale High School girls.
Their senior year was perhaps the most eventful of all. At the very beginning of the fall term the high school gymnasium was destroyed by fire. Failing to secure an appropriation from either the town or state, the four classes of the girls' high school pledged themselves to raise the amount of money required to rebuild the gymnasium. In "Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School" the story of the senior class bazaar, the daring theft of their hard-earned money before the bazaar had closed, and Grace Harlowe's final recovery of the stolen money under the strangest of circumstances, furnished material for a narrative of particular interest. After graduation the four chums, accompanied by their nearest and dearest friends, had spent a long and delightful summer in Europe. On returning to Oakdale the real parting of the ways had come, for Nora and Jessica had already departed for an eastern city to enter a well known conservatory of music. Marian Barber and Eva Allen were to enter Smith College the following week, Eleanor Savelli had long since sailed for Italy, and now the morning train was to bear Miriam Nesbit, Grace Harlowe and Anne Pierson to Overton, an eastern college finally decided upon by the three girls.
"Last year we left you on the station platform gazing mournfully after the train that bore me away from Oakdale," remarked Hippy reminiscently. "How embarrassed I felt at so much attention, and yet how sweet it was to know that you had gathered here, not to see David Nesbit, Reddy Brooks, Tom Gray or any such insignificant persons off to school, but that I, Theophilus Hippopotamus Wingate, was the object of your tender solicitations."
"I expected it," groaned David. "I don't see why we ever woke him up and dragged him along."
"As I was about to say when rudely interrupted," continued Hippy calmly, "I shall miss you, of course, but not half so much as you will miss me. I hope you will think of me, and you may write to me occasionally if it will be a satisfaction to you. I know you will not forget me. Who, having once met me, could forget?"
Hippy folded his arms across his chest and looked languishingly at the three girls.
A chorus of giggles from those grouped around the girls and derisive groans from the boys greeted Hippy's sentimental speech.
Suddenly a long, shrill whistle was heard.
"That's your train, girls," said Mr. Harlowe, who with Mrs. Harlowe, Mrs. Nesbit and Mary Pierson had drawn a little to one side while their dear ones said their last farewells to their four boy friends. The circle about the three girls closed in. The air resounded with good-byes. The last kisses and handshakes were exchanged. Reckless promises to send letters and postcards were made. Then, still surrounded, Grace, Miriam and Anne made their way to the car steps and into the train. Grace clung first to her mother then to her father. "How can I do without you?" she said over and over again. Tears stood in her gray eyes. She winked them back bravely. "I'm going to show both of you just how much I appreciate going to college by doing my very best," she whispered. Her father patted her reassuringly on the shoulder while her mother gave her a last loving kiss.
"I know you will, dear child," she said affectionately. "Remember, Grace," added her father, a suspicious mist in his own eyes, "you are not to rush headlong into things. You are to do a great deal of looking before you even make up your mind to leap."
"I'll remember, Father. Truly I will," responded Grace, her face sobering.
"All aboard! All aboard!" shouted the conductor. Those who had entered the train to say farewell left it hurriedly.
"Good-bye! Good-bye!" cried Grace, leaning out the car window.
From the platform as the train moved off, clear on the air, rose the Oakdale High School yell.
"It's in honor of us," said Grace softly. "Dear old Oakdale. I wonder if we can ever like college as well as we have high school."
J. ELFREDA INTRODUCES HERSELF.
For the first half hour the three girls were silent. Each sat wrapped in her own thoughts, and those thoughts centered upon the dear ones left behind. Anne, whose venture into the theatrical world had necessitated her frequent absence from home, felt the wrench less than did Grace or Miriam. Aside from their summer vacations they had never been away from their mothers for any length of time. To Grace, as she watched the landscape flit by, the thought of the ever widening distance between her and her mother was intolerable. She experienced a strong desire to bury her face in her hands and sob disconsolately, but bravely conquering the sense of loneliness that swept over her, she threw back her shoulders and sitting very straight in her seat glanced almost defiantly about her.
"Well, Grace, have you made up your mind to be resigned?" asked Miriam Nesbit. "That sudden world-defying glance that you just favored us with looks as though the victory was won."
"Miriam, you are almost a mind reader," laughed Grace. "I've been on the verge of a breakdown ever since we left Oakdale, and in this very instant I made up my mind to be brave and not cry a single tear. Look at Anne. She is as calm and unemotional as a statue."
"That's because I'm more used to being away from home," replied Anne. "Troupers are not supposed to have feelings. With them, it is here to-day and gone to-morrow."
"Yes, but you were transplanted to Oakdale soil for four years," reminded Grace.
"I know it," returned Anne reflectively. "I do feel dreadfully sad at leaving my mother and sister, too. Still, when I think that I'm actually on the way to college at last, I can't help feeling happy, too."
"Dear little Anne," smiled Grace. "College means everything to you, doesn't it? That's because you've earned every cent of your college money."
"And I'll have to earn a great deal more to see me through to graduation," added Anne soberly. "My vacations hereafter must be spent in work instead of play."
"What are you going to do to earn money during vacations, Anne?" asked Miriam rather curiously.
"I might as well confess to you girls that I'm going to do the work I can do most successfully," said Anne in a low voice. "I'm going to try to get an engagement in a stock theatrical company every summer until I graduate. I can earn far more money at that than doing clerical work. I received a long letter from Mr. Southard last week and also one from his sister. They wish me to come to New York as soon as my freshman year at college is over. Mr. Southard writes that he can get an engagement for me in a stock company. I'll have to work frightfully hard, for there will be a matinee every day as well as a regular performance every night, and I'll have a new part to study each week. But the salary will more than compensate me for my work. You know that Mary did dress-making and worked night and day to send me to high school. Of course, my five dollars a week from Mrs. Gray helped a great deal, but up to the time Mr. Southard sent for me to go to New York City to play Rosalind I didn't really think of college as at all certain. Before I left New York for Oakdale, Mr. and Miss Southard and I had a long talk. They made me see that it was right to use the talent God had given me by appearing in worthy plays. Mr. Southard pointed out the fact that I could earn enough money by playing in stock companies in the summer to put me through college and at the same time contribute liberally to my mother's support.
"The home problem was really the greatest to be solved. I felt that it wouldn't be right for me to even work my way through college and leave Mary to struggle on alone, after she had worked so hard to help me get a high school education. So the stage seemed to be my one way out after all. And when once I had definitely decided to do as Mr. Southard recommended me to do I was happier than I had been for ages."
"Anne Pierson, you quiet little mouse!" exclaimed Grace. "Why didn't you tell us all this before? You are the most provoking Anne under the sun. Here I've been worrying about you having to wait on table or do tutoring and odds and ends of work to put yourself through college, while all the time you were planning something different. We all know you're too proud to let any of your friends help you, but since you are determined to make your own way I'm glad that you have chosen the stage, after all."
"I think you are wise, Anne," agreed Miriam. "With two such people as Mr. Southard and his sister to look after you, there can be no objection to your following your profession."
"I am glad to know that you girls look at the matter in that light," replied Anne.
"Suppose we had offered any objections?" asked Grace.
"I'll answer that question," said Miriam. "Anne would have followed the path she had marked out for herself regardless of our objections. Am I right, Anne?"
"I don't know," said Anne, flushing deeply. "You have all been so good to me. I couldn't bear to displease my dearest friends, but it would be hard to give up something I knew could result in nothing save good for me." Anne paused and looked at Grace and Miriam with pleading eyes.
"Never mind, dear," comforted Grace. "We approve of you and all your works. We are not shocked because you are a genius. We are sworn advocates of the stage and only too glad to know that it has opened the way to college for you."
"Shall you let the fact that you have appeared professionally be known at Overton?" asked Miriam.
"I shall make no secret of it," returned Anne quietly, "but I won't volunteer any information concerning it."
"I wonder what our freshman year at Overton will bring us," mused Grace. "I have read so many stories about college life, and yet so far Overton seems like an unknown land that we are about to explore. From all I have heard and read, exploring freshmen find their first term at college anything but a bed of roses. They are sometimes hazed unmercifully by the upper classes, and their only salvation lies in silently standing the test. Julia Crosby says that she had all sorts of tricks played on her during her first term at Smith. Now she's a sophomore and can make life miserable for the freshmen. I am going to try to cultivate the true college spirit," concluded Grace earnestly. "College is going to mean even more to me than high school. I don't imagine it's all going to be plain sailing. I suppose, more than once, I'll wish myself back in Oakdale, but I'm going to make up my mind to take the bitter with the sweet and set everything down under the head of experience."
"To tell you the truth," Miriam said slowly, "I am not enthusiastic over college. I value it as a means of continuing my education, and I'll try to live up to college ideals, but I'm not going to let anyone walk over me or ridicule me. I'm willing 'to live and let live,' but, as Eleanor Savelli used to say when in a towering rage, 'no one can trample upon me with impunity.'"
"I wonder when we shall see Eleanor again," said Anne, smiling a little at the recollection called up by Miriam's quotation.
"That reminds me," exclaimed Grace. "I have a letter from Eleanor that I haven't opened. It came this morning just before I left the house." Fumbling in her bag, Grace drew forth a bulky looking letter, bearing a foreign postmark, and tearing open the end, drew out several closely folded sheets of thin paper covered with Eleanor's characteristic handwriting.
"Shall I read it aloud?" asked Grace.
"By all means," said Miriam with emphasis.
Grace began to read. Anne, who sat beside her, looked over her shoulder, while Miriam, who sat opposite Grace, leaned forward in order to catch every word. They were so completely occupied with their own affairs, none of them noticed that the train had stopped. Suddenly a voice shrilled out impatiently, "Is this seat engaged?" With one accord the three girls glanced up. Before them stood a tall, rather stout young woman with a full, red face, whose frowning expression was anything but reassuring.
"Yes—no, I mean," replied Grace hastily.
"I thought not," remarked the stranger complacently as she stolidly seated herself beside Miriam and deposited a traveling bag partly on the floor and partly on Grace's feet.
"These seats are ridiculously small," grumbled the stranger, bending over to jam her traveling bag more firmly into the space from which Grace had hastily withdrawn her feet. Then straightening up suddenly, her heavily plumed hat collided with the hand in which Grace held Eleanor's letter, scattering the sheets in every direction. With a little cry of concern Grace sprang to her feet and, stepping out in the aisle, began to pick them up. Having recovered the last one she turned to her seat only to find it occupied by their unwelcome fellow traveler.
"I changed seats," commented the stout girl stolidly. "I never could stand it to ride backwards."
Grace looked first at the stranger then from Miriam to Anne. Miriam looked ready for battle, while even mild little Anne glared resentfully at the rude newcomer. Grace hesitated, opened her mouth as though about to speak, then without saying a word sat down in the vacant place and began to rearrange the sheets of her letter.
"I'll finish this some other time, girls," she said briefly.
"Oh, you needn't mind me," calmly remarked the stranger. "I don't mind listening to letters. That is if they've got anything in them besides 'I write these few lines to tell you that I am well and hope you are the same.' That sort of stuff makes me sick. Goodness knows, I suppose that's the kind I'll have handed to me all year. Neither Ma nor Pa can write a letter that sounds like anything."
By this time Miriam's frown had begun to disappear, while Anne's eyes were dancing.
Grace looked at the stout girl rather curiously, an expression of new interest dawning in her eyes. "Are you going to college?" she asked.
"Well, I rather guess I am," was the quick reply. "I'll bet you girls are in the same boat with me, too. What college do you get off at?"
"Overton," answered Grace.
"Then you haven't seen the last of me," assured the stranger, "for I'm going there myself and I'd just about as soon go to darkest Africa or any other heathen place."
"Why don't you wish to go to Overton?" asked Anne.
"Because I don't want to go to college at all," was the blunt answer. "I want to go to Europe with Ma and Pa and have a good time. We have loads of money, but what good does that do me if I can't get a chance to spend it? I'd fail in all my exams if I dared, but Pa knows I'm not a wooden head, and I'd just have to try it again somewhere else. So I'll have to let well enough alone or get in deeper than I am now."
The stout girl leaned back in her seat and surveyed the trio of girls through half-closed eyes. "Where did you girls come from and what are your names?" she asked abruptly. "Partners in misery might as well get acquainted, you know."
Grace introduced her friends in turn, then said: "My name is Grace Harlowe, and we three girls live in the city of Oakdale."
"Never heard of it," yawned the girl. "It must be like Fairview, our town, not down on the map. We live there, because Ma was born there and thinks it the only place on earth, but we manage to go to New York occasionally, thank goodness. Ever been there?" she queried.
"Once or twice," smiled Miriam Nesbit.
"Great old town, isn't it?" remarked their new acquaintance. "My name is J. Elfreda Briggs. The J. stands for Josephine, but I hate it. Ma and Pa call me Fred, and that sounds pretty good to me. Say, aren't you girls about starved? I'm going to hunt the dining car and buy food. I haven't had anything to eat since eight o'clock this morning."
J. Elfreda rose hurriedly, and stumbling over her bag and Grace's feet, landed in the aisle with more speed than elegance. "You'd better come along," she advised. "They serve good meals on this train. Besides, I don't want to eat alone." With that she stalked down the aisle and into the car ahead.
"It looks as though we were to have plenty of entertainment for the rest of our journey," remarked Anne.
"I prefer not to be entertained," averred Miriam dryly. "Personally, I am far from impressed with J. Elfreda. She strikes me as being entirely too fond of her own comfort. Now that she has vacated your seat, you had better take it, Grace, before she comes back."
Grace shook her head. "I don't dislike riding backward," she said, "if you don't mind having her sit beside you. Perhaps some one will leave the train by the time she comes back; then she will leave us."
"No such good fortune," retorted Miriam. "She prefers our society to none at all. I think her advice about luncheon isn't so bad, though. Suppose we follow it?"
Five minutes later the three girls repaired to the dining car and seated themselves at a table directly across the aisle from their new acquaintance. J. Elfreda sat toying with her knife and fork, an impatient frown on her smug face. "These people are the limit," she grumbled. "It takes forever to get anything to eat. If I'd ordered it yesterday, I'd have some hopes of getting it to-day." Then, apparently forgetting the existence of the three girls, she sat with eyes fixed hungrily on the door through which her waiter was momentarily expected to pass. By the time that the chums had given their order to another waiter, J. Elfreda's luncheon was served and she devoted herself assiduously to it. When Grace and her friends had finished luncheon, however, the stout girl still sat with elbows on the table waiting for a second order of dessert.
"Good gracious!" remarked Miriam as they made their way back to their seats. "No wonder J. Elfreda is stout! I suppose I shouldn't refer to her, even behind her back, in such familiar terms, but nothing else suits her. I'm not charitable like you, Grace. I haven't the patience to look for the good in tiresome people like her. I think she's greedy and selfish and ill-bred and I wouldn't care to live in the same house with her."
"You're a very disagreeable person, Miriam, in your own estimation," laughed Grace, "but fortunately we don't take you at your own valuation, do we, Anne?"
"Miriam's a dear," said Anne promptly. "She always pretends she's a dragon and then behaves like a lamb."
"What time is our train due at Overton?" asked Miriam, ignoring Anne's assertion.
"We are scheduled to arrive at Overton at five o'clock," answered Grace. "I wish it were five now. I'm anxious to see Overton College in broad daylight."
At this juncture J. Elfreda made her appearance and sinking into the seat declared with a yawn that she was too sleepy for any use. "I'm going to sleep," she announced. "You girls can talk if you don't make too much noise. Loud talking always keeps me awake. You may call me when we get to Overton." With these words she bent over her bag, opened it, and drew out a small down cushion. She rose in her seat, removed her hat, and, poking it into the rack above her head, sat down. Arranging her pillow to her complete satisfaction, she rested her head against it, closed her eyes and within five minutes was oblivious to the world.
The three travelers obligingly lowered their voices, conversing in low tones, as the train whirled them toward their destination. Their hearts were with those they had left, and as the afternoon began to wane, one by one they fell silent and became wrapped in their own thoughts. Grace was already beginning to experience a dreadful feeling of depression, which she knew to be homesickness. It was just the time in the afternoon when she and her mother usually sat on their wide, shady porch, talking or reading as they waited for her father to come home to dinner, and a lump rose in her throat as she thought sadly of how long it would be before she saw her dear ones again.
Far from being homesick, self-reliant Miriam was calmly speculating as to what college would bring her, while Anne, who had quite forgotten her own problems, sat eyeing Grace affectionately and wondering how soon her friend would make her personality felt in the little world which she was about to enter. And J. Elfreda Briggs, of Fairview, slept peacefully on.
"Overton! Overton!" was the call that echoed through the car. After handing down the hats of her friends, Grace reached to the rack above her head for her broad brimmed panama hat. Obeying a sudden kindly impulse, she carefully deposited J. Elfreda's hat in the sleeping girl's lap, touched her on the shoulder and said, "Wake up, Miss Briggs. We are nearing Overton."
J. Elfreda sleepily opened her eyes at the gentle touch, saying drowsily, "Let me know when the train stops." Then closed her eyes again.
Miriam shrugged her shoulders with a gesture that signified, "Let her alone. Don't bother with her."
At that moment the train stopped with a jolt that caused the sleeper to awake in earnest. She looked stupidly about, yawned repeatedly, then catching a glimpse of a number of girls on the station platform, clad in white and light colored gowns, she became galvanized into action, and pinning on her hat began quickly to gather up her luggage. "Good-bye," she said indifferently. "I'll probably see you later." Then, rapidly elbowing her way down the aisle she disappeared through the open door, leaving the chums to make their way more slowly out of the car. As they stepped from the car to the station platform Grace caught sight of her at the far end of the station in conversation with a tall auburn-haired girl and a short dark one. A moment later she saw the three walk off together.
"J. Elfreda found friends quickly," remarked Anne, who had also noticed the stout girl's warm reception by the two girls. "I wonder what we had better do first. What is the name of the hotel where we are to stop?"
"The Tourraine," replied Miriam.
The newcomers looked eagerly about them at the groups of daintily gowned girls who were joyously greeting their friends as they stepped from the train.
"I had no idea there were so many Overton girls on the train," remarked Grace in surprise. "The majority of them seem to have friends here, too. I wonder which way we'd better go."
"By the nods and becks and wreathed smiles with which those girls over there are favoring us, I imagine that we have been discovered," announced Miriam, rather sarcastically.
Grace and Anne glanced quickly toward the girls indicated by Miriam. A tall, thin, fair-haired girl with cold gray-blue eyes and a generally supercilious air occupied the center of the group. She was talking rapidly and her remarks were eliciting considerable laughter. Amused glances, half friendly, half critical, were being leveled at the Oakdale trio of chums.
Grace flushed in half angry embarrassment, Anne merely smiled to herself, while Miriam's most forbidding scowl wrinkled her smooth forehead.
"I think we had better inquire the way to our hotel and leave here as soon as possible," Grace said slowly. A sudden feeling of disappointment had suddenly taken possession of her. She had always supposed that in every college new girls were met and welcomed by the upper classes of students. Yet now that they had actually arrived no one had come forward to exchange even a friendly greeting with them.
"Well, if this is an exhibition of the true college spirit, deliver me from college," grumbled Miriam. "I must say——"
Miriam's denunciation against college was never finished, for at that juncture a soft voice said, "Welcome to Overton." Turning simultaneously the three girls saw standing before them a young woman of medium height. Her hand was extended, and she was smiling in a sweet, friendly fashion that warmed the hearts of the disappointed freshmen. She wore a tailored frock of white linen, white buckskin walking shoes that revealed a glimpse of silken ankles, and carried a white linen parasol that matched her gown. She was bareheaded, and in the late afternoon her wavy brown hair seemed touched with gold.
"I am so glad to meet you!" exclaimed the pretty girl. "You are freshmen, of course. If you will tell me your names I'll introduce you to some of the girls. Then we will see about escorting you safely to your boarding place. Have you taken your examinations yet?"
"No," replied Miriam. "We have that ordeal before us." Her face relaxed under the friendly courtesy accorded to them by this attractive stranger. She then introduced Grace and Anne. Their new acquaintance shook hands with the two girls, then said gayly, "Now tell me your name."
Miriam complied with the request, then stated that through a friend of her mother's they had engaged a suite of rooms at the Tourraine, an apartment hotel in Overton, until their fate should be decided.
"The Tourraine is the nicest hotel in Overton," stated Mabel. "I am always in the seventh heaven of delight whenever I am fortunate enough to be invited to dine there."
"Then come and dine with us to-night," invited Miriam.
Mabel Ashe shook her head. "It's very nice in you," she said gravely, "but not to-night. Really, I am awfully stupid. I haven't told you my name. It is Mabel Ashe. I am a junior and pledged to pilot bewildered freshmen to havens of rest and safety."
"Do you consider freshmen impossible creatures?" asked Anne Pierson, her eyes twinkling.
The young woman laughed merrily. "Oh, no," she replied. "You must remember that they are the raw material that makes good upper classmen. It takes a whole year to mould them into shape—that is, some of them. Now, come with me and I'll see that you meet some of the upper class girls."
As they were about to accompany their new acquaintance down the platform, a tall, fair-haired girl walked toward them followed by the others upon whom Miriam had commented. "Wait a minute, Mabel," she called. "I've been trying to get hold of you all afternoon."
"You're just in time, Beatrice," returned Mabel Ashe. "I wish you to meet Miss Harlowe, Miss Nesbit, and Miss Pierson, all of Oakdale. Girls, this is Miss Alden, also of the junior class."
Beatrice Alden smiled condescendingly, and shook hands in a somewhat bored fashion with the three girls. "Pleased to meet you," she drawled. "Hope you'll be good little freshmen this year and make no trouble for your elders."
"We shall try to mind our own affairs, and trust to other people to do the same," flashed Miriam, eyeing the other girl steadily.
Grace looked at her friend in surprise. What had caused Miriam to answer in such fashion? There was an almost imperceptible lull in the conversation, then Mabel Ashe introduced the other girls. "Now we will see about your trunks, and then perhaps you would like to walk up to the college," she said briskly. "It isn't far from here. Some of the girls prefer to ride in the bus, but I always walk. I can show you some of the places of interest as we go."
"Come over here, Mabel, dear," commanded Beatrice Alden, who had moved a little to one side of the group. Mabel excused herself to her charges, and looking a little annoyed, obeyed the summons. Beatrice talked rapidly for a moment in coaxing tones, but Mabel shook her head. Grace, who stood nearest to them, heard her say, "I'd love to go, Bee, and its awfully nice in you to think of me. I'll go to-morrow, but I can't leave these poor stranded freshmen to their own homesick thoughts to-day. You know just how we felt when we landed high and dry in this town without any one to care whether we survived or perished."
"If you won't go to-day, then don't trouble about it at all," snapped Beatrice. "I know plenty of girls who will be only too glad to accept my invitation, but I asked you first, and I think you ought to remember it. You know I like you better than any other girl in college."
"You know I appreciate your friendship, Bee," returned Mabel, "but truly I wish you cared more for other girls, too. There are plenty of girls here who need friends like you."
"Yes, but I don't like them," snapped Beatrice. "I'm not going to make a martyr of myself to please any one. My mother is very particular about my associates at Overton, and I don't intend to waste my time trying to make things pleasant for the stupid, uninteresting girls of this college. I did not come to Overton to take a course in doing settlement work. I came here to have a good time, and incidentally to study a little."
"Now, now, Bee, don't try to make me believe you haven't just as much college spirit as the rest of us," admonished Mabel in a low tone. "Don't be cross because I can't go to-day. Come with me, instead, and help look after these verdant freshmen. There was a positive army of them who got off the train."
Without replying Beatrice turned and walked sulkily away toward the other end of the platform. Mabel looked after her with a half frown.
"I am afraid we are causing you considerable inconvenience," demurred Grace. "Please do not deprive yourself of any pleasure on our account."
"Nonsense," smiled Mabel. "I am not depriving myself of any pleasure. Oh, there goes one of my best friends!" Putting her hands to her mouth she called, "Frances!" A tall slender girl, with serious brown eyes and dark hair, who was leisurely crossing the station platform, stopped short, glanced in the direction of the sound, then espying Mabel hurried toward her.
"Good old Frances," beamed Mabel. "You heard me calling and came on the run, didn't you? This is the noblest junior of them all, my dear freshmen. Her name is Frances Veronica Marlton. Doesn't that sound like the heroine's name in one of the six best sellers?" Mabel introduced the three girls in turn. "Now let us be on our way," she commanded, looking up and down the station platform at the fast dissolving groups of girls. "I don't see any more stray lambs. I think the committee appointed to meet the freshmen has fulfilled its mission. And now for your hotel. It is past dinner time and I know you are hungry and anxious to rest."
Picking up Grace's bag she led the way through the station followed by Grace and Miriam. Anne walked behind them with Frances Marlton. The little company set off down the main street of the college town at a swinging pace. It was a wide, beautiful street, shaded by tall maples. The houses that lined it were for the most part old-fashioned and the wayfarers caught alluring glimpses of green lawns dotted with flower beds as they walked along.
"It makes me think of High School Street in Oakdale!" Grace exclaimed. "If ever I feel that I'm going to be homesick, I'll just walk down this street and make believe that I'm at home! That will be the surest cure for the blues, if I get them."
Mabel Ashe, who was now walking between Grace and Miriam, looked at Grace rather speculatively. "You won't get them," she predicted. "You'll have so many other things to think of, you won't think of yourself at all. Here we are at the college campus. Over there is Overton Hall."
The eyes of the newcomers were at once focussed on the stately gray stone building that stood in the center of a wide stretch of green campus, shaded by great trees. At various points of the campus were situated smaller buildings which Mabel Ashe pointed out as Science Hall, the gymnasium, laboratory, library and chapel. In Overton Hall, Mabel explained, were situated certain recitation rooms, the offices of the president, the dean and other officials of the college. Around the campus were the various houses in which the more fortunate of the hundreds of students lived. It was very desirable to secure a room in one of these houses, but somewhat expensive and not always easy to do. Rooms were sometimes spoken for a whole year in advance.
"Do you room on the campus?" asked Grace.
"Yes," replied Mabel. "I live at Holland House. I was fortunate enough to have a friend graduate from here and will me her room. I entered Overton the autumn following her graduation."
"One of our Oakdale girls is a junior here," remarked Grace. "Her name is Constance Fuller. She graduated from high school when we were sophomores. We do not know her very well, and had quite forgotten she was here. This afternoon on the train, Anne, who never forgets either faces or names, suddenly announced the fact. I wonder if she has arrived yet. We came early, I believe, but that is because we are obliged to take the entrance examinations."
"Now I know why the name, Oakdale, seemed so familiar!" exclaimed Mabel Ashe. "I have heard Constance mention it. She is one of my best friends. Does she know that you are to be here?"
"No," replied Grace. "We haven't seen her this summer. We were away from Oakdale." Grace did not wish to mention their trip to Europe, fearing their companion might think her unduly anxious to boast. One of the things against which Julia Crosby, her old time Oakdale friend, and a senior in Smith College, had cautioned her, was boasting. "Avoid all appearance of being your own press agent," Julia had humorously advised. "If you don't you'll be a marked girl for the whole four years of your college career. The meek and modest violet is a glowing example for erring freshmen."
"I'll remember, Julia," Grace had promised, and she now resolved that she would think twice before speaking once, whatever the occasion might be.
"Constance has not arrived yet," said Mabel. "I heard her roommate say this morning that she expected her to-morrow. She rooms at Holland House, too. I shall tell her about you the moment I see her. This is the Tourraine," she announced, pausing before a handsome sandstone building and leading the way up the steps that led to the broad veranda, gay with porch boxes of flowers and shaded by awnings.
"Won't you come up to our rooms?" asked Miriam.
"Not to-night, thank you," replied Mabel. "Frances and I will be over bright and early to-morrow morning to pilot you to the college. Then you can find out about the examinations. Good-night and pleasant dreams." Extending their hands in turn to the three girls and nodding a last smiling adieu, the two courteous juniors left them on the hotel veranda.
"I must admit that I have been agreeably disappointed," said Miriam Nesbit as the three girls stood for a moment before entering the hotel to watch the retreating backs of their new acquaintances.
"I, too," replied Grace. "I can't begin to tell you how dejected I felt while we stood there on the station platform and no one came near us or appeared to be aware of our existence."
"It was enough to discourage the most optimistic freshman," averred Anne.
"I wonder who J. Elfreda Briggs's friends were," commented Miriam. "She never said a word about knowing any one at Overton. I imagine she is a thoroughly selfish girl, and the less I see of her in college the better pleased I shall be."
As their suite of rooms had been engaged in advance it needed but a word to the clerk on Grace's part, then each girl in turn registered and they were conducted to their suite.
"This suite seems to be supplied with all the comforts of home," observed Miriam, looking about her with satisfaction. "I am thankful to have reached a haven of rest where I can bathe my grimy face and hands."
"So am I," echoed Grace, setting down her suit case and sinking into an easy chair with a tired sigh. "I am starved, too. Let us lose no time in getting ready for dinner. After dinner we can rest."
For the next half hour the travelers were busily engaged in removing the dust of their journey and attiring themselves in the dainty summer frocks which they had taken thought to pack in their suit cases.
"I'm ready," announced Grace at last, as she poked a rebellious lock of hair into place, and viewed herself in the mirror.
"So am I," echoed Anne.
"And I," from Miriam. "Why not walk down stairs? We are on the second floor, and I never ride in an elevator when I can avoid doing so."
The trio descended the stairs and made their way to the dining room, where they were conducted to a table near an open window which looked out on a shady side porch.
"So far I haven't been imbued with what one might call college atmosphere," remarked Miriam, after the dinner had been ordered and the waiter had hurried off to attend to their wants.
"I felt a certain amount of enthusiasm while those upper class girls were with us, but it has vanished," said Anne. "I am just a professional staying at a hotel."
"I imagine we won't begin to regard ourselves as being a part of Overton College until after we have tried our examinations and found an abiding place in some one of the college houses. I hope we shall be able to get into a campus house. I have always understood that it is ever so much nicer to be on the campus. We really should have made arrangements before-hand, and if we hadn't waited until the last moment to decide to what college we wished to go we might be cosily settled now."
"Perhaps we are only fulfilling our destiny," smiled Miriam Nesbit.
"Perhaps," agreed Grace in a doubtful tone. "Once we are in our hall or boarding house I dare say we will shake off this feeling of constraint and become genuine Overtonites."
"Had we better study to-night?" inquired Grace as they made their way from the hotel dining room.
"I think it would be a wise proceeding," agreed Miriam. "I want to go over my French verbs."
"So do I," echoed Grace. "Let's study until ten, and then go straight to bed."
Ten o'clock stretched well toward eleven before Grace put down her text book with a tired little sigh and declared herself too sleepy for further study.
It had been arranged that Miriam should occupy the one room of the suite while Grace and Anne were to share the other, which had two beds. The long journey by rail had tired the travelers far more than they would admit. For a few moments, after retiring, conversation flourished between the two rooms, then died away in indistinct murmurs, and the prospective Overton freshmen slept peacefully as though safe in their Oakdale homes.
MIRIAM'S UNWELCOME SURPRISE
The two days that followed were busy ones for Grace, Anne and Miriam. The morning after their arrival Mabel Ashe and Frances Marlton appeared at half-past eight o'clock to conduct them to Overton Hall. There they registered and were then sent to the room where the examination in French was to be held. Examinations in the other required subjects followed in rapid succession and it was Friday before they had settled themselves in Wayne Hall, the house in which they were to live as students of Overton College.
Wayne Hall was a substantial four-story brick house, just a block from the campus. It was looked upon as a strictly freshman house, but occasionally sophomores lived there, as the rooms were well-furnished and the matron, Mrs. Elwood, had a reputation for looking out for the welfare of her girls.
To their delight Grace and Anne had been allowed to room together, while Miriam had by lucky chance secured a room to herself across the hall.
"If that poor little yellow-haired freshman hadn't failed in all her examinations I shouldn't be rooming alone," said Miriam rather soberly as she dived into the depths of the now almost emptied trunk.
"Did you meet her?" asked Grace, who, seated on the bed beside Anne, watched Miriam's unpacking with interested eyes.
"No," replied Miriam. "One of the freshmen at the table told me about her. She said that the poor girl cried all day yesterday and last night. She didn't dare write her father, who, it seems, is very severe, that she had failed. He won't know she's coming until she reaches home."
"What a pity," said Anne sympathetically. "It must be dreadful to fail and know that one must face not only the humility of the failure, but the displeasure of one's family too."
"If I had failed in my examinations neither Father nor Mother would have said one reproachful word," said Grace.
"Of course I'm sorry for her," said Miriam, "but considering the fact that I am now going to room alone, I shall write to Mother and ask her to send me the money to furnish this room as I please. I'd like to have a davenport bed, and I want a chiffonier and a dressing table to match. There's room here for a piano, too. I'll have it over in this corner and then I'll——"
Rap, rap, rap! sounded on the door.
"Come in," called Miriam frowning at the interruption.
The door opened to admit Mrs. Elwood, and following in her wake, laden with a bag and two suit cases, her hat pushed over her eyes, a half-suspicious, half-belligerent expression on her face, was J. Elfreda Briggs.
"Well I never!" she gasped in astonishment, dropping her belongings in a heap on the floor and making a dive for the nearest chair. "You're the last people I ever expected to see. Where have you been, anyway? I supposed you'd all flunked in your exams, given up the job, and gone back to Glendale, Hilldale—what's the name of that dale you hail from?"
"Oakdale," supplemented Anne slyly.
"Yes, that's it. Oakdale. Foolish name for a town, isn't it?"
During this outburst Mrs. Elwood had stood silent, looking at J. Elfreda with doubtful eyes. Now she said apologetically, "I'm very sorry, Miss Nesbit, but could you—that is—would you mind having a roommate after all? My sister, Mrs. Arnold, who manages Ralston House just down the street from here, took Miss Briggs because she thought one of her girls wasn't coming back. Now the girl is here and she has no place for Miss Briggs. Of course, if you insist on not having a roommate, my sister and I will see that Miss Briggs secures a room in one of the other college houses." Mrs. Elwood paused and looked questioningly at Miriam, who stood silent, an inscrutable expression on her face. Grace and Anne, remembering Miriam's dislike for the stout girl, wondered what her answer would be.
The settling of the question was not left to Miriam, for during the brief silence that followed Mrs. Elwood's deprecatory speech J. Elfreda had been making a comprehensive survey of her surroundings. "It's all right, Mrs. Elwood," she drawled. "Don't worry about me. I like this room and I guess I can get along with Miss Nesbit. You may telephone the expressman to have my trunk sent here. I'm not going back to Ralston House with you. I'm too tired. I'm going to stay here."
Mrs. Elwood looked appealingly at Miriam, as though mutely trying to apologize for J. Elfreda's disregard for the rights of others.
Miriam's straight black brows drew together. She stared at their unwelcome guest with a look that caused a slow flush to rise to the stout girl's face. Suddenly her face relaxed into a smile of intense amusement, and extending her hand to J. Elfreda, she said, "You are welcome to half this room, if you care to stay."
"Well, I never!" exclaimed the other girl for the second time, as she shook the proffered hand. "Honestly, I thought you were going to give me a regular freeze out. You looked like a thunder cloud for a minute. I expect it won't be all sunshine around here, this year, for I'm used to having things go my way, and I guess you are, too."
"Then perhaps learning to defer to each other will be good practice for both of us," suggested Miriam.
"Perhaps it will, but I doubt if we ever practise it," was the discouraging retort.
"I'll notify my sister that you are to be here, Miss Briggs," broke in Mrs. Elwood. "Then I'll see that this room is made ready for two. Thank you, Miss Nesbit." She turned gratefully to Miriam.
"All right," answered J. Elfreda indifferently. "You can fix it up if you want to, but I warn you that I'll probably buy my own furniture and throw out all this." She waved a comprehensive hand at the despised furniture.
"You are at liberty to make whatever changes you wish," Mrs. Elwood responded rather stiffly, and without further remark left the room.
"She didn't like my remark about her furniture," commented the stout girl, "but I'm not worrying about it. It's funny that I should run into you girls, though. What kind of a time have you been having here, and did you pass all your exams?"
The girls replied in the affirmative, then Grace asked the same question of Elfreda.
"Of course," was the laconic answer. "I had a tutor all summer, besides I told you on the train that I wasn't a wooden head."
"Where did you stay until you went to Ralston House?" asked Anne. "We saw you go away from the station with two girls when you left the train, and we've seen you twice at a distance during examinations, but this is the first chance we've had to talk with you."
J. Elfreda stared at Anne, her eyes narrowing.
"Do you want to know just what happened to me?" she asked slowly. "Well, I'll tell you three girls about it, because I've got to tell some one and I don't believe you'll spread the story."
"We won't tell anyone," promised Grace.
"How about you two?" asked the stout girl.
"I'll answer for both of us," smiled Anne.
"All right then, I'll tell you. Now remember, you've promised."
The girls nodded.
"Well, it was this way," began Elfreda. "When I left the train I hadn't gone six steps until two girls walked up to me and asked if I were a freshman. They said they were on the committee to meet and look after the girls who were entering college for the first time. I said that was very kind of them and asked them to show me the way to Ralston House. They picked up my suit cases and we started out. They asked me my name and all sorts of questions and I told them a little about myself," continued the stout girl pompously. "They seemed quite impressed, too. Then one of them said she thought I had better see the registrar before going to Ralston House, for the registrar would be anxious to meet me. They both said I was quite different from the rest of the new girls, and made such a lot of fuss over me that I invited them into that little shop across from the station to have ice cream."
"And then?" asked Miriam.
"Then," said J. Elfreda impressively, "after they had had two sundaes apiece, at my expense, they played a mean trick on me. They took me into a big building a little further down the street, down a long hall, and left me sitting on a seat outside what I supposed was the registrar's office. They said I must wait there and the registrar's clerk would come out and conduct me to the registrar. They said that it was against the rules to walk into the office and that it was the business of the clerk to come out every half hour and conduct any one who was waiting into the registrar's private office.
"Well, I sat there and sat there. It made me think of when I was a kiddie and used to watch the cuckoo clock to see the bird come out. But there wasn't even a bird came out of that door," continued Elfreda gloomily. "People passed up and down the hall, and every once in a while a man would walk right into the place without knocking, or seeing the clerk, or anything else.
"After I had sat there for at least two hours, I made up my mind to go in even if I were ordered out the next minute. I marched up to the door and opened it and walked into the office. There was no one in sight but a young woman who was putting on her hat. 'Where's the registrar?' I asked. 'He hasn't been here to-day,' she said. 'I thought the registrar was a woman,' I said. She seemed surprised at that and asked what made me think so. I said that two of the students had told me so. Then she looked at me in the queerest way and began to smile. 'Do you want to see the registrar of Overton College?' she asked. 'Of course I do,' I said, for I began to suspect that something was wrong. Then she stopped smiling and said it was too bad, but whoever had sent me there had played a trick on me and brought me to the office of the Register of Deeds. Instead of Overton Hall I was in the county court house. Now can you beat it?" finished Elfreda slangily.
"I should say not," cried Grace indignantly. "I think it was contemptible in them to accept your hospitality and then treat you in that fashion. No really nice girl would do any such thing, even in fun."
"I should say not," sympathized Miriam, forgetting that she did not yearn for J. Elfreda as a roommate. "What did you do after you discovered your mistake?"
"I left the Register's office, his deeds, and all the rest of that building in pretty short order," continued Elfreda. "When I reached the street I went straight back to the station and hired a carriage to take me to Ralston House. Mrs. Arnold gave me my supper even though it was late, and the next day I saw the registrar in earnest. I told her the whole story and described the girls. I didn't know their names, but she said she thought she knew who they were from the description. So I suppose she'll send for me before long to identify them."
"But you're not going to?" questioned Grace in astonishment.
"Why not?" returned the stout girl calmly. "Do you think I'll let slip a chance to get even with them? I guess not."
"But this will be carried to the dean and they will be severely reprimanded and the whole college will know it," expostulated Grace.
"Well, the whole college should know it," stoutly contended Elfreda. "I'll show those two smart young women that I'm not as green as I appear to be."
Grace was on the verge of saying that J. Elfreda would have shown more wisdom by keeping silent, but suddenly checked herself. She had no right to criticize J. Elfreda's motives. To her the bare idea of telling tales was abhorrent, while this girl gloried in the fact that she had exposed those who annoyed her.
"I'm sorry you told the registrar," she said slowly. "Perhaps in the rush of business she'll forget about it."
"She'd better not," threatened Elfreda, "or she'll hear it from me. When it comes to getting even, I never relent. I'm just like Pa in that respect. However, let's change the subject. Now that I'm here, show me where I can put my clothes," she added, addressing Miriam. "Do you keep your things in order? I never do. The morning I left home Ma said she felt sorry for my future roommate."
Elfreda kept up a brisk monologue as she opened one of her suit cases and began hauling out its contents. Miriam made a gesture of hopeless resignation behind the stout girl's back.
"I must go to my room and get ready for dinner," said Grace, her eyes dancing. "Coming, Anne?"
Anne nodded and the two girls beat a hasty retreat. Elfreda's calm manner of appropriating things and Miriam's resigned air were too much for them. Once inside their room they gave way to uncontrolled merriment.
"I knew I'd laugh if I stayed there another second," confessed Anne. "Poor Miriam. I heartily agree with Ma, don't you?"
"Yes," smiled Grace. Then, her face sobering, she added, "I am afraid she is laying up trouble for herself. I wish she hadn't told."
AN INTERRUPTED STUDY HOUR
The first two weeks at Overton glided by with amazing swiftness. There was so much to be done in the way of arranging one's recitations, buying or renting one's books and accustoming one's self to the routine of college life that Grace and her friends could scarcely spare the time to write their home letters. There were twenty-four girls at Wayne Hall. With the exception of four sophomores the house was given up to freshmen. Grace thought them all delightful, and in her whole-souled, generous fashion made capital of their virtues and remained blind to their shortcomings. There had been a number of jolly gatherings in Mrs. Elwood's living room, at which quantities of fudge and penuchi were made and eaten and mere acquaintances became fast friends.
The week following their arrival a dance had been given in the gymnasium in honor of the freshmen. The whole college had turned out at this strictly informal affair, and the upper class girls had taken particular pains to see that the freshmen were provided with partners and had a good time generally. At this dance the three Oakdale friends had felt more at home than at any other time since entering Overton. In the first place, Mabel Ashe, Frances Marlton and Constance King had come over to Wayne Hall in a body on the evening before the dance and offered themselves as escorts. Furthermore, the scores of happy, laughing girls gliding over the gymnasium floor to the music of a three-piece orchestra reminded Grace of the school dances in her own home town. J. Elfreda had also been escorted to the hop by Virginia Gaines, one of the sophomores at Wayne Hall, who had a great respect for the stout girl's money, and it was a secret relief to Grace that she had not been left out.
Now the dance was a thing of the past, and nothing was in sight in the way of entertainment except the reception and dance given by the sophomores to the freshmen. This was a yearly event, and meant more to the freshmen than almost any other class celebration, for the sophomores, having thrown off freshman shackles, took a lively hand in the affairs of the members of the entering class. It was sophomores who under pretense of sympathetic interest wormed out of unsuspecting freshmen their inmost secrets and gleefully spread them abroad among the upper classes. It was also the sophomores who were the most active in enforcing the standard that erring freshmen were supposed to live up to. The junior and senior classes as a rule allowed their sophomore sisters to regulate the conduct of the newcomers at Overton, only stepping in to interfere in extreme cases.
Grace and her friends had met nearly all the members of the sophomore class at the freshman dance, but in reality they had very few acquaintances among them that bade fair to become their friends.
"I don't suppose we'll have the honor of being escorted to the reception by sophomores," remarked Grace several evenings before the event, as she and Miriam strolled out of the dining room. "We'll have to go in a crowd by ourselves and look as though we enjoyed it."
"Why not stay at home?" yawned Miriam. "I'm not as over-awed at the idea of this affair as I might be."
"No," replied Grace, shaking her head. "It wouldn't do. We ought to go. The dance is to be given in honor of the freshmen, and it's their duty to turn out and make it a success. Are you going to study your Livy to-night, Miriam?"
"If I can," replied Miriam grimly. "It depends on what my talkative roommate does. If she elects to give me another instalment of the story of her life before she came here, Livy won't stand much chance. We have progressed as far as her twelfth year, and I was just on the point of learning how she survived scarlet fever when the doctor didn't expect her to live, last night, when she happened to remember that she hadn't looked at her history lesson and I was mercifully spared further torture."
"Poor Miriam," laughed Grace. "But you could have said you didn't want her the day Mrs. Elwood brought her here. What made you decide to let her stay? I saw by your face something interesting was going on in your mind."
Miriam looked reflectively at Grace. "I don't know I'm sure just why I let her stay. It wasn't because I wished to please Mrs. Elwood, though she is so nice with all of us. I had a curious feeling that I ought to take J. Elfreda in hand. If it had been you whose room she invaded you wouldn't have hesitated even for a second. Ever since you and I settled our differences back in our high school days I've always held you up to myself as an example. Now, honestly, Grace, you would have taken her in without a murmur, wouldn't you?"
"Ye-e-s," said Grace slowly, her face flushing. "I would have said she might stay, I think. But, Miriam, you mustn't hold me up as an example. I couldn't be more generous and loyal and broadminded than you."
"In the words of J. Elfreda, 'let's change the subject,'" said Miriam hastily. "Where's Anne?"
"Anne is out visiting the humblest freshman of them all," replied Grace. "Her name is Ruth Denton. Anne singled her out in English the other day, scraped acquaintance with her, and found that she has a room in an old house in the suburbs of the town. She takes care of her own room, boards herself and does any kind of mending she can get to do from the girls to help her pay her way through college. Anne only found her last week, but I have promised to go to see her, too, and I want you to go with me."
They had paused at the door of Miriam's room. Her hand on the door, she said earnestly, "I'd love to go, Grace. I might know that you and Anne couldn't rest without championing some one's cause."
"What about you and J. Elfreda?" questioned Grace slyly.
"Oh, that's different," retorted Miriam. Opening the door she glanced about the room. Her own side was in perfect order, but J. Elfreda's half looked as though it had been visited by a cyclone. The cover of her couch bed was pulled askew and the sofa pillows ornamented the floor. Shoes and stockings were scattered about in wild disorder. Her dressing table looked as though the contents had been stirred up and deposited in a heap in the center. From the top drawer of the chiffonier protruded a hand-embroidered collar, and a long black silk tie hung down the middle of the piece of furniture, giving it the effect of being draped in mourning.
Catching sight of this Grace pointed to it, laughing. "It looks as though she were in mourning, doesn't it?"
"For her sins, yes," replied Miriam grimly. "Isn't this room a mess, though? I've picked up her things ever so many times, but I'm tired of it. Come in here to-night, Grace. I want to see how it seems to have my dearest friend in my room, all to myself."
"All right," laughed Grace. "I'll get my books."
Five minutes later she reappeared and, cosily establishing herself in the Morris chair that Miriam insisted she should occupy, the girls began their work. For the time being silence reigned, broken only by the sound of turning leaves or an occasional question on the part of one or the other of the two. Finally Miriam closed her book triumphantly. "That's done," she exulted. "Now for my English."
"I wish I was through with this," sighed Grace, eyeing her Livy with disfavor. "I never do learn my lessons quickly. I have to study ever so much harder than you and Anne. Now, if it were basketball, then everything would be lovely. Still, you're a champion player, too, Miriam, so you've more than your share of accomplishments. Anne, too, excites my envy and admiration. She can act and stand first in her classes, too, while I have to work like mad to keep up in my classes and am not a star in anything. Perhaps during this year I shall develop some new talent of which no one suspects me. It won't be for study, that's sure."
Miriam smiled to herself, but said nothing. She knew that Grace already possessed a talent for making friends and an ability to see not only her own way clearly, but to smooth the pathway of those weaker than herself that was little short of marvelous. She knew, too, that before the end of the school year Grace's remarkable personality was sure to make itself felt among her fellow students.
"What are you smiling to yourself about, Miriam?" demanded Grace.
But at this juncture the door was burst violently open and J. Elfreda Briggs dashed into the room, threw herself face downward on her disordered bed and gave way to a long, anguished wail.
A DISTURBING NOTE
Miriam and Grace sprang to their feet, regarding the sobbing, moaning girl in blank amazement.
"What on earth is the matter, Elfreda," said Miriam.
The answer was another long wail that made the girls glance apprehensively toward the door.
"She'll have to be more quiet," said Grace, "or else every girl in the house will hear her and come in to inquire what has happened." Going over to the couch, she knelt beside Elfreda and said almost sharply, "Elfreda, stop crying at once. Do you want all the girls in the house to hear you?"
"I don't care," was the discouraging answer, but in a lower tone, nevertheless; but she continued to sob heart-brokenly.
"Tell me about it, Elfreda," said Grace more gently, taking one of the girl's limp hands in hers. "Something dreadful must have happened. Have you had bad news from home?"
"No-o-o," gasped the stout girl. "It's the sophomores. I can't go to the reception. They won't let me." Her sobs burst forth afresh.
Grace rose from her knees, casting a puzzled glance toward Miriam. "I wonder what she means." Then placing her hands on Elfreda's shoulders she raised her to a sitting position on the couch and dropping down beside her put one arm over her shoulder. Miriam promptly sat down on the other side, and being thus supported and bolstered by their sympathetic arms, Elfreda gulped, gurgled, sighed and then said with quivering lips, "I wish I had taken your advice, Grace."
"About what?" asked Grace. Then, the same idea occurring to them simultaneously, Miriam and Grace exchanged dismayed glances. Elfreda had come to grief through reporting the two mischievous sophomores to the registrar.
"About telling the registrar," faltered Elfreda, unrolling her handkerchief from the ball into which she had rolled it and wiping her eyes.
"I'm so sorry," Grace said with quick sympathy.
"You're not half so sorry as I am," was the tearful retort. "I'll write to Pa and Ma that I want to go home next week. They'll make a fuss, but they'll send for me."
"Are your father and mother very anxious that you should stay here?" asked Miriam.
"A good deal more anxious than I am," responded Elfreda. "Ma picked out Overton for me long before I left high school. She thinks it the only college going and so does Pa."
"Then, of course, they will be disappointed if you go home without even trying to like college."
"I can't help that," whined Elfreda. "I can't stay here and have the whole college down on me, and that's what will happen. You girls don't know how serious it is."
"I think you had better begin at the beginning and tell us everything," suggested Miriam, a trifle impatiently.
"It was the night of the freshman hop that they began to be so mean," burst forth Elfreda. "I went to the dance with Virginia Gaines, that sophomore who sits next to me at the table."
"Who do you mean by 'they'?" asked Grace.
"Alberta Wicks, the tall red-haired girl, and Mary Hampton, the short dark one. They took me over to the court house," was the prompt answer. "The registrar reported them to the dean. She sent for them the very day of the dance and gave them an awful talking to and they were perfectly furious with me for telling. They found out that Virginia had invited me to the dance, and told her the whole story. She was horrid to me, and hardly spoke to me all the way to the gymnasium or coming home. They must have told every girl I know, for not one of them would come near me. I had to sit around all evening, for I didn't know half a dozen girls, and you three were too busy to look at me. You can imagine I had a slow old time, and I was glad to get home. Maybe you noticed I wasn't very talkative that night after we got back to the house, Miriam?"
"After that, Virginia and I didn't speak. I didn't care much anyhow, for she made me tired," continued Elfreda. "But when the talk about the sophomore reception began I saw that they were going to hand me a whole block of ice. It was bad enough to have them cut me in classes and on the street, but I had set my heart on the reception and wrote to Ma to send me a new dress. It came yesterday. It's pale blue with pearl trimmings and it's a dream. But what good does it do me now?" She stared gloomily ahead of her for an instant, then went on:
"Of course, I knew no one would invite me, but I made up my mind to ask if I could go along with you folks, and I was going to ask you to-night, when just before dinner a boy came here with this note." From the inside of her white silk blouse she drew forth an envelope addressed to "Miss J. Elfreda Briggs." Handing it to Grace she said briefly: "Read it."
Grace drew a sheet of paper from the envelope, unfolded it and read:
"In reporting to the registrar two members of the sophomore class you have offended not merely those members, but the class as well. You have shown yourself so entirely incapable of understanding the first principles of honor, that Overton would be much better off without you. Do not attempt to attend the sophomore reception. If you are wise you will leave Overton and enter some other college.
"The Sophomore Class."
Grace handed the note to Miriam.
"What do you think of it?" asked Miriam, looking up from the last line.
"I don't know what to think," rejoined Grace. "It doesn't seem as though a whole class would rise up to settle what is really a personal affair. Even though the sophomores are angry, they have no right to threaten Elfreda and advise her to leave Overton. If the dean knew of this affair I am afraid there would be war indeed."
"Shall I tell her?" asked Elfreda eagerly. "I think I'd better; then they won't dare to make me leave college."
"Listen to me, Elfreda," said Grace firmly. "No one can make you leave college unless you fail in your studies or do something really reprehensible, but there is one thing you must make up your mind to do if you wish to stay here, and have the girls like you."
"What is it?" inquired Elfreda suspiciously.
"You mustn't tell tales," was Grace's frank answer. "No matter what the girls do or say to you, don't carry it to the officials of the college."
"Do you mean that I'm to submit to all kinds of insults and not take my own part?" demanded Elfreda, forgetting her grief and assuming a belligerent air.
"You are not fighting your own battles when you carry your grievances to the dean, the registrar, or any other member of the faculty," said Grace gravely. "You are merely giving them unpleasant information to which they dislike to listen."
"Humph!" was the contemptuous ejaculation. "The dean made it hot for the girls just the same. I guess she didn't object much to hearing about it."
"You are not looking at things in their true light, Elfreda," put in Miriam. "I'll venture to say that when the members of the faculty were students they were just as careful not to tell tales as are the girls here to-day. Of course, if students are reported to them, they are obliged to take action in the matter, but I'm sure that they'd rather not hear about the girls' petty difficulties."
"'Petty difficulties!'" almost screamed Elfreda. "Well, I like your impudence." Jerking herself from the girls' embrace she stood up and walked to the other side of the room. Stumbling over one of her shoes she kicked it viciously aside, then, leaning her head against the door, her sobs broke forth afresh.
In a twinkling Miriam was beside her. "Poor Elfreda," she soothed. "You are tired and worn out. Take off your hat and coat and bathe your face. You'll feel ever so much better after you've done that. You mustn't be cross with Grace and me. We are only trying to help you. While you are bathing your face, I'll make some chocolate and we'll have a cozy little time. Won't that be nice?"
Elfreda nodded, winked back her tears, and slowly drawing the pins from her hat, flung it on the foot of her bed. Her coat followed, and seizing her towel from the rack she stalked out of the room and down the hall to the bath room.
"Miriam, you're a darling and a diplomat!" exclaimed Grace, closing the door, which the stout girl had left wide open. "Chocolate is the one thing calculated to reduce J. Elfreda to reason. We will feed her, then renew our lectures on tale-bearing. Never call me a reformer. I am certain that before the year is over J. Elfreda won't know herself."
"Nonsense," scoffed Miriam. "She is an interesting specimen, and furnishes variety, of a certain kind," she added with an impish grin, glancing comprehensively at the disordered room. "As long as I have taken her unto myself as a roommate I might as well do what I can for her. What seems so strange to me is that with all her money she is so crude and slangy. She doesn't seem to have any ideals or much principle either. Yet there is something sturdy and frankly independent about her, too, that makes one think she's worth bothering with after all."
"How did her father make his money?" asked Grace.
"Lumber," replied Miriam. "They own tracts of timber land in Michigan. Elfreda can have anything she asks for."
Grace sat down on Miriam's bed, her chin in her hands. She was thinking of the note she had just read and wondering what had better be done. Miriam, despite her avowal that she was tired of picking up her roommate's scattered clothing, busied herself with reducing Elfreda's half of the room to some semblance of order. Going to the closet, she took down an elaborate Japanese silk kimono and laid it across the foot of Elfreda's bed.
"What had we better do about this note?" Grace asked, picking it up from the table and re-reading it.
"What do you think?" questioned Miriam.
"I think we had better ask the advice of some upper class girl," said Grace. "I'm going to see Mabel Ashe to-morrow morning. I'll tell her about it. Elfreda mustn't be cheated out of her right to go to the reception."
"But if the whole sophomore class objects to her, what then?"
"I don't believe the whole sophomore class does object to her," returned Grace. "I have a curious conviction that not many of them know her even by sight. I think that this note was written for spite."
"Do you think Miss Wicks and Miss Hampton wrote it?" queried Miriam.
"I don't want to accuse any one of writing it, but they are the only students who would have an object in doing so," declared Grace. "I hear Elfreda coming down the hall. Don't say anything more about it just now," she added in a lower tone.
"My goodness, I forgot all about the chocolate!" exclaimed Miriam, scurrying to a little oak cabinet in one corner of the room and taking out the necessary ingredients. "Here, Grace, open this can of evaporated cream with the scissors. You can use that paperweight for a hammer."
Fifteen minutes later, wrapped in the folds of her kimono, J. Elfreda sat drinking chocolate and devouring cakes as though her very existence depended upon it.
"You girls are ever so much nicer than I thought you'd be," she said reflectively, between cakes. "I must say that I'm agreeably disappointed in you, Miriam. I was pretty sure you were a regular snob, but you're nothing like one. I couldn't help thinking about what you said, Grace, while I was bathing my face," she continued. "It made me mad for a minute, but I've come to the conclusion that you were talking sense, and from now on the faculty will have to go some to get any information from me."
GRACE TAKES MATTERS INTO HER OWN HANDS
"We have had, what might be considered by some people, a momentous evening," remarked Grace as Anne Pierson walked into their room shortly before ten o'clock. Having left the now almost cheerful Elfreda to the good-natured ministrations of Miriam, Grace had said good night and returned to her own room for a few more minutes of silent devotion to Livy.
"What happened?" asked Anne as she hung up her wraps, took down her kimono, and prepared to be comfortable.
"What might be expected," returned Grace, and briefly recounted what had transpired in Miriam's room.
"Wasn't it nice of Miriam to make a fuss over her, though?" said Anne warmly.
"Yes, of course, but it isn't Miriam's amiability that I'm thinking about at present. It's what we'd better do to straighten out this trouble for Elfreda," said Grace anxiously. "I felt glad when I came to Overton that I did not have to worry about any one but myself, and now I'm confronted with Elfreda's troubles."
"I think it would be best to see Miss Ashe first," agreed Anne, after a brief silence.
"That settles it, then, I'll go. Tell me about your new freshman friend, Anne."
"She's a very nice girl," Anne replied, "and has lots of the right kind of courage. She lives in a big, bare room in the top of an old house, clear down at the other end of the town, and the way she has made that room over to suit her needs is really wonderful. She has one corner of it curtained off for her kitchen and has a cupboard for her dishes, what there are of them. She cooks her meals over a little two-burner gas stove, and does her own washing and ironing. Every spare moment she has she devotes to doing mending. She does it beautifully, too. Ever so many girls have given her their silk stockings and lingerie waists to darn."
"Poor little thing," mused Grace. "I suppose she never has a minute to play. I don't see how she manages to do all that work and study, too. I wish we could do something to help her."
"I don't know what we could do," returned Anne thoughtfully. "I imagine she wouldn't accept help. She strikes me as being one of the kind who would rather die than allow her friends to pay her way."
"There must be some way," Grace said speculatively, "and some day we'll find it out."
"Sometimes I feel as though I had earned my college money too easily," confessed Anne. "The work I did on the stage wasn't work at all, it was pure pleasure. Ruth Denton's work is the hardest kind of drudgery."
"But think how hard you worked to win the scholarship," reminded Grace.
"That was work I loved, too," replied Anne, shaking her head deprecatingly over her own good fortune.
"Never mind," laughed Grace. "Just think of how hard you might have had to work if you hadn't been a genius, and that will comfort you a little."
"Grace, you are too ridiculous," protested Anne, flushing deeply.
"Anne, you are entirely too modest," retorted Grace. "Come on, little Miss Nonentity, let's go to bed or I won't get up early enough to-morrow morning to see Mabel Ashe before my first recitation."
"All right," yawned Anne. "To-morrow night I must stay in the house and write letters. I've owed David a letter for a week. I wonder why Nora and Jessica don't write."
"They promised to write first, you know," said Grace.
"If we don't hear from them by Saturday we'd better send them a postcard to hurry them up. Let's go down to that little stationer's shop to-morrow and see what they have. I must find one that will suit Hippy's peculiar style of beauty."
Laughing and chatting of things that had happened at home, a subject of which they never tired, Grace and Anne prepared for bed.
The next morning Anne awoke first. Glancing at the little clock on the chiffonier she exclaimed in dismay. They had overslept, and there was barely time to dress and eat breakfast before chapel.
"Oh, dear," lamented Grace as she slipped into her one-piece gown of pink linen, "now I can't go to see Mabel until after luncheon. How provoking!"
But it was still more provoking to find, when she called at Holland House, late that afternoon, that Mabel Ashe had made a dinner engagement with several seniors and had just left the house. "What had I better do about it?" Grace asked herself. "Shall I put it off until to-morrow or shall I take matters into my own hands? It's only four days now until the reception, and those girls may do a great deal of talking during that time." She paused on the steps of Holland House and looked across the campus toward Stuart Hall. "I'm sure I heard some one say that both Miss Wicks and Miss Hampton live there," Grace reflected. "I don't like to do it, but it's the only thing I can think of to do." Squaring her shoulders Grace crossed the campus, a look of determination on her fine face. Mounting the steps of Stuart Hall she deliberately rang the bell.
Miss Wicks and Miss Hampton were both in, the maid stated, ushering Grace into the big, attractively furnished living room. A moment later there was a scurry of footsteps on the stairs and Alberta Wicks, followed by Mary Hampton, entered the room.
Grace rose from her chair to greet them. "Good afternoon," she said pleasantly. "I shall have to introduce myself. I am Grace Harlowe of the freshman class. I saw you at the dance the other night but did not meet you."
"How do you do?" returned Alberta Wicks in a bored tone, while the other girl nodded indifferently. "I remember your face, I think. I'm not sure. There was an army of freshmen at the dance. The largest entering class for a number of years, I understand."
"Freshmen are perhaps not important enough to be remembered," returned Grace, smiling faintly. Then deciding that there was nothing to be gained by beating about the bush she said earnestly, "I hope you will not think me meddlesome or presuming, but I came here this afternoon to talk with you about something that concerns a member of the freshman class. I refer to Miss Briggs, whom I am quite certain you know."
"Miss Briggs," repeated Alberta Wicks, meditatively. "Let me see, I think we met her——"
"The day she came to college," supplemented Grace.
"How did you know that?" was the sharp question.
"I saw you and Miss Hampton when you approached her, and also when you walked away from the station with her," Grace said quietly. "Miss Briggs rode part of the way on the train with us to Overton."
A deep flush rose to the faces of both young women at Grace's indisputable statement. There was an uncomfortable silence.
"I know also," continued Grace, "that you conducted her to the county court house instead of the registrar's office and left her to find out the truth as best she might."
"Really," sneered Alberta, "you seem to be extremely well informed as to what took place. It is quite evident that Miss Briggs published the news broadcast."
"She did nothing of the sort," retorted Grace coldly. "She did tell my roommate and me, and I regret to say that she also told the registrar, but she now realizes her mistake in doing so."
"Her realization comes entirely too late," was the sarcastic reply. "She should have thought things over before going to the registrar with anything so silly."
"Ah!" ejaculated Grace. "I am glad to hear you admit that the trick you played was silly. To my mind it was both senseless and unkind. However, I did not come here to-day to discuss the ethics of the affair. Miss Briggs has received a note forbidding her attendance at the sophomore reception and advising her to leave Overton. It is signed 'Sophomore Class.' It states her betrayal of two sophomores to the registrar as the cause of its origin. What I wish to ask you is whether the sophomores have really taken action in this matter, or whether you wrote this note in order to frighten Miss Briggs into leaving college?"
"I do not admit your right to interfere, and I shall certainly not answer your question, Miss Harlowe. You are decidedly impertinent, to say the least," replied Alberta in a tone of suppressed anger. "I cannot understand why you should take such an unprecedented interest in Miss Briggs's affairs and I shall tell you nothing."
"Very well," said Grace composedly. "I see that I shall have to go to each member of the sophomore class in turn in order to find out the truth. I cannot believe that these girls are so lacking in college spirit as to ostracize a newcomer, even though she did act unwisely."
"You would not dare to do it!" exclaimed Mary Hampton excitedly. She had hitherto taken no part in the conversation.
"Why not?" asked Grace. "I am determined to go to the root of this matter. I don't intend Miss Briggs shall leave college, or be sent to coventry either. She has acted hastily, but she will live it down, that is, unless word of it has traveled too far. Even so, I hardly think she will leave college. I am sorry that we have failed to come to an understanding."
Grace walked proudly toward the door. Inwardly she was deeply disappointed at having failed, but she gave no sign of feeling her defeat.