Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College
By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A. M.
PHILADELPHIA HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY Copyright, 1914
I. Overton Claims Her Own
II. The Unforseen
III. Mrs. Elwood to the Rescue
IV. The Belated Freshman
V. The Anarchist Chooses Her Roommate
VI. Elfreda Makes a Rash Promise
VII. Girls and Their Ideals
VIII. The Invitation
X. An Offended Freshman
XI. The Finger of Suspicion
XII. The Summons
XIII. Grace Holds Court
XIV. Grace Makes a Resolution
XV. The Quality of Mercy
XVI. A Disgruntled Reformer
XVII. Making Other Girls Happy
XVIII. Mrs. Gray's Christmas Children
XIX. Arline's Plan
XX. A Welcome Guest
XXI. A Gift to Semper Fidelis
XXII. Campus Confidences
XXIII. A Fault Confessed
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The Door Was Cautiously Opened to Mrs. Elwood.
"It Is My Theme."
Each Girl Carried an Unwieldy Bundle.
The Two Boxes Contained Elfreda's New Suit and Hat.
Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College
OVERTON CLAIMS HER OWN
"Oh, there goes Grace Harlowe! Grace! Grace! Wait a minute!" A curly-haired little girl hastily deposited her suit case, golf bag, two magazines and a box of candy on the nearest bench and ran toward a quartette of girls who had just left the train that stood puffing noisily in front of the station at Overton.
The tall, gray-eyed young woman in blue turned at the call, and, running back, met the other half way. "Why, Arline!" she exclaimed. "I didn't see you when I got off the train." The two girls exchanged affectionate greetings; then Arline was passed on to Miriam Nesbit, Anne Pierson and J. Elfreda Briggs, who, with Grace Harlowe, had come back to Overton College to begin their second year's course of study.
Those who have followed the fortunes of Grace Harlowe and her friends through their four years of high school life are familiar with what happened during "Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School," the story of her freshman year. "Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School" gave a faithful account of the doings of Grace and her three friends, Nora O'Malley, Anne Pierson and Jessica Bright, during their sophomore days. "Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School" and "Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School" told of her third and fourth years in Oakdale High School and of how completely Grace lived up to the high standard of honor she had set for herself.
After their graduation from high school the four devoted chums spent a summer in Europe; then came the inevitable separation. Nora and Jessica had elected to go to an eastern conservatory of music, while Anne and Grace had chosen Overton College. Miriam Nesbit, a member of the Phi Sigma Tau, had also decided for Overton, and what befell the three friends as Overton College freshmen has been narrated in "Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College."
Now September had rolled around again and the station platform of the town of Overton was dotted with groups of students laden with suit cases, golf bags and the paraphernalia belonging peculiarly to the college girl. Overton College was about to claim its own. The joyous greetings called out by happy voices testified to the fact that the next best thing to leaving college to go home was leaving home to come back to college.
"Where is Ruth?" was Grace's first question as she surveyed Arline with smiling, affectionate eyes.
"She'll be here directly," answered Arline. "She is looking after the trunks. She is the most indefatigable little laborer I ever saw. From the time we began to get ready to come back to Overton she refused positively to allow me to lift my finger. She is always hunting something to do. She says she has acquired the work habit so strongly that she can't break herself of it, and I believe her," finished Arline with a sigh of resignation. "Here she comes now."
An instant later the demure young woman seen approaching was surrounded by laughing girls.
"Stop working and speak to your little friends," laughed Miriam Nesbit. "We've just heard bad reports of you."
"I know what you've heard!" exclaimed Ruth, her plain little face alight with happiness. "Arline has been grumbling. You haven't any idea what a fault-finding person she is. She lectures me all the time."
"For working," added Arline. "Ruth will have work enough and to spare this year. Can you blame me for trying to make her take life easy for a few days?"
"Blame you?" repeated Elfreda. "I would have lectured her night and day, and tied her up to keep her from work, if necessary."
"Now you see just how much sympathy these worthy sophomores have for you," declared Arline.
"Do you know whether 19— is all here yet?" asked Anne.
"I don't know a single thing more about it than do you girls," returned Arline. "Suppose we go directly to our houses, and then meet at Vinton's for dinner to-night. I don't yearn for a Morton House dinner. The meals there won't be strictly up to the mark for another week yet. When the house is full again, the standard of Morton House cooking will rise in a day, but until then—let us thank our stars for Vinton's. Are you going to take the automobile bus? We shall save time."
"We might as well ride," replied Grace, looking inquiringly at her friends. "My luggage is heavy and the sooner I arrive at Wayne Hall the better pleased I shall be."
"Are you to have the same rooms as last year?" asked Ruth Denton.
"I suppose so, unless something unforeseen has happened."
"Will there be any vacancies at your house this year?" inquired Arline.
"Four, I believe," replied Anne Pierson. "Were you thinking of changing? We'd be glad to have you with us."
"I'd love to come, but Morton House is like home to me. Mrs. Kane calls me the Morton House Mascot, and declares her house would go to rack and ruin without me. She only says that in fun, of course."
"I think you'd make an ideal mascot for the sophomore basketball team this year," laughed Grace. "Will you accept the honor?"
"With both hands," declared Arline. "Now, we had better start, or we'll never get back to Vinton's. Ruth, you have my permission to walk with Anne as far as your corner. It's five o'clock now. Shall we agree to meet at Vinton's at half-past six? That will give us an hour and a half to get the soot off our faces, and if the expressman should experience a change of heart and deliver our trunks we might possibly appear in fresh gowns. The possibility is very remote, however. I know, because I had to wait four days for mine last year. It was sent to the wrong house, and traveled gaily about the campus, stopping for a brief season at three different houses before it landed on Morton House steps. I hung out of the window for a whole morning watching for it. Then, when it did come, I fairly had to fly downstairs and out on the front porch to claim it, or they would have hustled it off again."
"That's why I appointed myself chief trunk tender," said Ruth slyly. "That trunk story is not new to me. This time your trunk will be waiting on the front porch for you, Arline."
"If it is, then I'll forgive you your other sins," retorted Arline. "That is, if you promise to come and room with me. Isn't she provoking, girls? I have a whole room to myself and she won't come. Father wishes her to be with me, too."
"I'd love to be with Arline," returned Ruth bravely, "but I can't afford it, and I can't accept help from any one. I must work out my own problem in my own way. You understand, don't you?" She looked appealingly from one to the other of her friends, who nodded sympathetically.
"She's a courageous Ruth, isn't she?" smiled Arline, patting Ruth on the shoulder.
At Ruth's corner they said good-bye to her. Then hailing a bus the five girls climbed into it.
"So far we haven't seen any of our old friends," remarked Grace as they drove along Maple Avenue. "I suppose they haven't arrived yet. We are here early this year."
"I'd rather be early than late," rejoined Miriam. "Last year we were late. Don't you remember? There were dozens of girls at the station when we arrived. Arline and Ruth are the first real friends we have seen so far. Where are Mabel Ashe and Frances Marlton, Emma Dean and Gertrude Wells, not to mention Virginia Gaines?"
"If I'm not mistaken," said Elfreda slowly, her brows drawing together in an ominous frown, "there are two people just ahead of us whom we have reason to remember."
Almost at the moment of her declaration the girls had espied two young women loitering along the walk ahead of them whose very backs were too familiar to be mistaken.
"It's Miss Wicks and Miss Hampton, isn't it?" asked Anne.
Grace nodded. They were now too close to the young women for further speech. A moment more and the bus containing the five girls had passed the loitering pair. Neither side had made the slightest sign of recognition. A sudden silence fell upon the little company in the bus.
"It is too bad to begin one's sophomore year by cutting two Overton girls, isn't it?" said Grace, in a rueful tone.
"Overton girls!" sniffed Elfreda. "I consider neither Miss Wicks nor Miss Hampton real Overton girls."
"They should be by this time," reminded Miriam Nesbit mischievously. "They have been here a year longer than we have."
"Years don't count," retorted Elfreda. "It's having the true Overton spirit that counts. You girls understand what I mean, even if Miriam tries to pretend she doesn't."
"Of course we understand, Elfreda," soothed Anne. "Miriam was merely trying to tease you."
"Don't you suppose I know that?" returned Elfreda. "I know, too, that you don't wish me to say anything against those two girls. All right, I won't, but I warn you, I'll keep on thinking uncomplimentary things about them. Last June, after that ghost party, I promised Grace I would never try to get even with Alberta Wicks and Mary Hampton, but I didn't promise to like them, and if they attempt to interfere with me this year, they'll be sorry."
"Oh, there's the campus!" exclaimed Arline as, turning into College Street, the long green slope, broken at intervals by magnificent old trees, burst upon their view. "Hello, Overton Hall!" she cried, waving her hand to that stately building. "Doesn't the campus look like green plush, though! I love every inch of it, don't you?" She looked at her companions and, seeing the light from her face reflected on theirs, needed no verbal answer to her question. A moment later she signaled to the driver to stop the bus. "I shall have to leave you here," she said. "I'll see you at Vinton's at six-thirty."
Grace handed out her luggage to her, saying: "You have so much to carry, Arline. Shall I help you?"
"Mercy, no," laughed Arline. "'Every woman her own porter,' is my motto." Opening her suit case she stuffed the candy and magazines into it, snapping it shut with a triumphant click. Then with it in one hand, her golf bag in the other, she set off across the campus at a swinging pace.
"She's little, but she has plenty of independence and energy," laughed Miriam. "Hurrah, girls, there's Wayne Hall just ahead of us."
It was only a short ride from the spot where Arline had left them to Wayne Hall. Grace sprang from the bus almost before it stopped, and ran up the stone walk, her three friends following. Before she had time to ring the door bell, however, the door opened and Emma Dean rushed out to greet them. "Welcome to old Wayne," she cried, shaking hands all around. "I heard Mrs. Elwood say this morning you would be here late this afternoon. I've been over to Morton House, consoling a homesick cousin who is sure she is going to hate college. I've been out since before luncheon. Had it at Martell's with my dolorous, misanthropic relative. I tried to get her in here, but everything was taken. We are to have four freshmen, you know."
"I knew there were four places last June, but am rather surprised that no sophomores applied for rooms. Have you seen the new girls?"
Emma shook her head. "They hadn't arrived when I left this morning. I don't know whether they are here now or not. I'm to have one of them. Virginia Gaines has gone to Livingstone Hall. She has a friend there. Two of the new girls will have her room. Florence Ransom will have to take the fourth."
"Where's Mrs. Elwood?" asked Miriam.
"She went over to see her sister this afternoon. She's likely to return at any minute," answered Emma.
"Do you think we ought to wait for her?" Grace asked anxiously.
"Hardly," said Anne, picking up her bag, which she had deposited on the floor.
"Come on, I'll lead the way," volunteered Elfreda, starting up the stairs.
"Won't Mrs. Elwood be surprised when she comes home? She'll find us not only here, but settled," laughed Grace.
But it was Grace rather than Mrs. Elwood who was destined to receive the surprise.
Following Elfreda, the girls ran upstairs as fast as their weight of bags and suit cases would permit. Miriam pushed open her door, which stood slightly ajar, with the end of her suit case. "Any one at home?" she inquired saucily as she stepped inside.
"Looks like the same old room," remarked Elfreda. "No, it isn't, either. We have a new chair. We needed it, too. You may sit in it occasionally, if you're good, Miriam."
"Thank you," replied Miriam. "For that gracious permission you shall have one piece of candy out of a five-pound box I have in my trunk."
"Not even that," declared Elfreda positively. "I said good-bye to candy last July. I've lost ten pounds since I went home from school, and I'm going to haunt the gymnasium every spare moment that I have. I hope I shall lose ten more; then I'll be down to one hundred and forty pounds and—" Elfreda stopped.
"And what?" queried Miriam.
"I can make the basketball team," finished Elfreda. "What is going on in the hall, I wonder?" Stepping to the door she called, "What's the matter, Grace? Can't you get into your room?"
"Evidently not," laughed Grace. "It is locked. I suppose Mrs. Elwood locked it to prevent the new girls from straying in and taking possession."
"H-m-m!" ejaculated Elfreda, walking over to the door and examining the keyhole. "Your supposition is all wrong, Grace. The door is locked from the inside. The key is in it."
"Then what—" began Grace.
"Yes, what?" quizzed Elfreda dryly.
"'There was a door to which I had no key,'" quoted Miriam, as she joined the group.
"Don't tease, Miriam," returned Grace, "even through the medium of Omar Khayyam. The key is a reality, but there is some one on the other side of that door who doesn't belong there. Whether she is not aware that she is a trespasser I do not know. However, we shall soon learn." Grace rapped determinedly on one of the upper panels of the door.
"I'll help you," volunteered Elfreda.
"And I," agreed Anne.
"My services are needed, too," said Miriam Nesbit.
Four fists pounded energetically on the door. There was an exclamation, the sound of hasty steps, the turning of a key in the lock, and the door was flung open. Facing them stood a young woman no taller than Anne, whose heavy eyebrows met in a straight line, and who looked ready for battle at the first word.
"Will you kindly explain the reason for this tumult?" she asked in a freezing voice.
"We were rather noisy," admitted Grace, "but we did not understand why the door should be locked from the inside."
"Is it necessary that you should know?" asked the black-browed girl severely.
Grace's clear-cut face flushed. "I think we are talking at cross purposes," she said quietly. "The room you are using belongs to my friend Anne Pierson and to me. During our freshman year it was ours, and when we left here last June it was with the understanding that we should have it again on our return to Overton."
"I know nothing of any such arrangement," returned the other girl crossly. "The room pleases me, consequently I shall retain it. Kindly refrain from disturbing me further." With this significant remark the door was slammed in the faces of the astonished girls. A second later the click of the key in the lock told them that force alone could effect an entrance to the room.
"Open that door at once," stormed Elfreda, beating an angry tattoo on the panel with her clenched fist.
From the other side of the door came no sound.
"Never mind, Elfreda," said Grace, fighting down her anger. "Mrs. Elwood will be here soon. There is some misunderstanding about the rooms. I am sure of it."
"See here, Grace Harlowe, you are not going to give up your room to that beetle-browed anarchist, are you?" demanded Elfreda wrathfully.
A peal of laughter went up from three young throats.
"You are the funniest girl I ever knew, J. Elfreda Briggs," remarked Miriam Nesbit between laughs. "That new girl looks exactly like an anarchist—that is, like pictures of them I've seen in the newspapers."
"That's why I thought of it, too," grinned Elfreda. "I once saw a picture of an anarchist who blew up a public building and he might have been this young person's brother. She looks exactly like him."
"Stop talking about anarchists and talk about rooms," said Anne. "I must find some place to put my luggage. Besides, time is flying. Remember, we are to be at Vinton's at half-past six."
"I should say time was flying!" exclaimed Grace, casting a hurried glance at her watch. "It's ten minutes to six now. It will take us fifteen minutes to walk to Vinton's. That leaves twenty-five minutes in which to get ready."
"There is no hope that the trunks will arrive in time for us to dress," said Miriam positively. "Come into our room and we'll wash the dust from our hands and faces and do our hair over again."
"All right," agreed Grace, casting a longing glance at the closed door. "We'll have to put our bags in your room, too. I don't wish to leave them in the hall for unwary students to stumble over."
"Bring them along," returned Miriam. "No one shall accuse us of inhospitality."
"I wish Mrs. Elwood were here." Grace looked worried. "We mustn't stay at Vinton's later than half-past seven o'clock. There are so many little things to be attended to, as well as the important question of our room."
Arriving at Vinton's at exactly half-past six o'clock, they found Arline Thayer and Ruth Denton waiting for them at a table on which were covers laid for six.
"We've been waiting for ages!" exclaimed Arline.
"But you said half-past six, and it is only one minute past that now," reminded Grace, showing Arline her watch.
"Of course, you are on time," laughed the little girl. "I should have explained that I'm hungry. That is why I speak in ages instead of minutes."
"Your explanation is accepted," proclaimed Elfreda, screwing her face into a startling resemblance to a fussy instructor in freshman trigonometry and using his exact words.
The ready laughter proclaimed instant recognition of the unfortunate professor.
"You can look like any one you choose, can't you, Elfreda?" said Arline admiringly. "I think your imitations of people are wonderful."
"Nothing very startling about them," remarked the stout girl lightly. "I'd give all my ability to make faces to be able to sing even 'America' through once and keep on the key. I can't sing and never could. When I was a little girl in school the teachers never would let me sing with the rest of the children, because I led them all off the key. It was very nice at the beginning of the term, and I sang with the other children anywhere from once to half a dozen times, never longer than that. I had the strongest voice in the room and whatever note I sang the rest of the children sang. It was dreadful," finished Elfreda reminiscently.
"It must have been," agreed Miriam Nesbit. "Can you remember how you looked when you were little, Elfreda?"
"I don't have to tax my brain to remember," answered Elfreda. "Ma has photographs of me at every age from six months up to date. To satisfy your curiosity, however," her face hardened until it took on the stony expression of the new student who had locked Grace out of her room, "I will state that—"
"The Anarchist! the Anarchist!" exclaimed Ruth and Miriam together.
"What are you two talking about?" asked Ruth Denton.
"About the Anarchist," teased Miriam. "Wait until you see her."
"You have seen her," laughed Grace. "Elfreda just imitated her to perfection." Thereupon Grace related their recent unpleasant experience to Arline and Ruth.
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Arline.
"We will see Mrs. Elwood as soon as we return to Wayne Hall, and ask her to gently, but firmly, request the Anarchist to move elsewhere."
"Why do you call her the Anarchist?" asked Arline.
"Elfreda, please repeat your imitation," requested Miriam, her black eyes sparkling with fun.
Elfreda complied obediently.
"You understand now, don't you?" laughed Grace.
"I should be very stupid if I didn't," declared Arline.
"Of course she's dark, with eyebrows an inch wide. You can't expect me to give an imitation of anything like that," apologized Elfreda.
"I think I should recognize her on sight," smiled Ruth Denton.
"We are miles off our original subject," remarked Grace. "Elfreda hasn't told us how she looked as a child."
"All right. I'll tell you now," volunteered J. Elfreda graciously. "I had round, staring blue eyes and a fat face. I wore my hair down my back in curls—that is, when it was done up on curlers the night before—and it was almost tow color. I had red cheeks and was ashamed of them, and my stocky, square-shouldered figure was anything but sylphlike. I was not beautiful, but I was very well satisfied with myself, and to call me 'Fatty' was to offer me deadly insult. That is about as much as I can remember," finished the stout girl.
"Really, Elfreda, while you were describing yourself I could fairly see you," smiled Arline.
"Now it's your turn," reminded Elfreda. "I imagine you were a cunning little girl."
Arline flushed at the implied compliment. "Father used to call me 'Daffydowndilly,'" she began. "My hair was much lighter than it is now, but it has always been curly. I am afraid I used to be very vain, for I loved to stand and smile at myself in the mirror simply because I liked my yellow curls and was fascinated with my own smile. No one told me I was vain, for Mother died when I was a baby, and even my governess laughed to see me worship my own reflection. When I was twelve years old, Father engaged a governess who was different from the others. She was a widow and had to support herself. She was highly educated and one of the sweetest women I have ever known. When she took charge of me I was a vain, stupid little tyrant, but she soon made me over. She remained with me until I entered a prep school, then an uncle whom she had never seen died and left her some money. She's coming to Overton to see me some day. Overton is her Alma Mater, too."
"You are next, Grace," nodded Ruth.
"There isn't much to tell about me," began Grace. "I was the tomboy of Oakdale. I loved to climb trees and play baseball and marbles. I was thin as a lath and like live wire. My face was rather thin, too, and I remember I cried a whole afternoon because a little girl at school called me 'saucer-eyes.' There wasn't a suspicion of curl in my hair, and I wore it in two braids. I never thought much about myself, because I was always too busy. I was forever falling in with suspicious looking characters and bringing them home to be fed. Mother used to throw up her hands in despair at the acquaintances I made. Then, too, I had a propensity for bestowing my personal possessions on those who, in my opinion, needed them. Mother and I were not always of the same opinion. I wore my everyday coat to church for a whole winter as a punishment for having given away my best one without consulting her. With me it was a case of act first and think afterward. I don't believe I was particularly mischievous, but I had a habit of diving into things that kept Mother in a state of constant apprehension. Father used to laugh at my pranks and tell Mother not to worry about me. He used to declare that no matter into what I plunged I would land right side up with care. I was never at the head of my classes in school, but I was never at the foot of them. I was what one might call a happy medium. My little-girl life was a very happy one, and full to the brim with all sorts of pleasant happenings."
"I never heard you say so much about yourself before, Grace," observed Elfreda.
"I'm usually too much interested in other people's affairs to think of my own," laughed Grace. "I have never heard Anne say much about her childhood, either. She must have had all sorts of interesting experiences."
"Mine was more exciting than pleasant," returned Anne. "Practically speaking, I was brought up in the theatre and knew a great deal more about things theatrical than I did about dolls and childish games. I was a solemn looking little thing and wore my hair bobbed and tied up with a ribbon. I never cried about the things that most children cry over, but I would stand in the wings and weep by the hour over the pathetic parts of the different plays we put on. Father was a character man in a stock company. We lived in New York City and I used to frequently go to the theatre with him. My father wished me to become a professional, but my mother was opposed to it. When I was sixteen I played in a company for a short time. Then mother and sister and I went to Oakdale to live, and the nicest part of my life began. There I met Grace and Miriam and two other girls who are among my dearest friends. Nothing very exciting has ever happened to me, and even though I have appeared before the public I haven't as much to tell as the rest of you have."
"But countless things must have happened to you in the theatre," persisted Arline, looking curiously at Anne.
"Not so many as you might imagine," replied Anne. Then she said quickly, "Miriam must have been an interesting little girl."
"I was a very haughty young person," answered Miriam. "In the Oakdale Grammar School I was known as the Princess. Do you remember that, Grace?"
Grace nodded. "Miriam used to order the girls in her room about as though they were her subjects," she declared. "She had two long black braids of hair and her cheeks were always pink. She was the tallest girl in her room and the teachers used to say she was the prettiest."
"I was a regular tyrant," went on Miriam. "I had a frightful temper. I was a snob, too, and looked upon girls whose parents were poor with the utmost contempt."
"Miriam Nesbit, you can't be describing yourself!" exclaimed Arline incredulously.
"Ask Grace if I am not giving an accurate description of the Miriam Nesbit of those days," challenged Miriam.
"It isn't fair to ask me," fenced Grace. "You always invited me to your parties."
"There, you can draw your own conclusions," retorted Miriam triumphantly. "I don't object to telling about my past shortcomings as I have at last outgrown a few of my disagreeable traits."
"Were you and Grace friends then?" asked Arline.
"We played together and went to each other's houses, but we were never very chummy," explained Grace. "We were both too headstrong and too fond of our own way to be close friends. It was after we entered high school that we began to find out that we liked each other, wasn't it, Miriam?"
"Yes," returned Miriam, looking affectionately at her friend. In two sentences Grace had effectually bridged a yawning gap in Miriam's early high school days of which the latter was heartily ashamed.
"Every one has told a tale but Ruth," declared Elfreda. "Now, Ruth, what have you to say for yourself?"
"Not much," said Ruth, shaking her head. "So far, my life has been too gray to warrant recording. That is, up to the time I came to Overton," she added, smiling gratefully on the little circle. "My freshman year was a very happy one, thanks to you girls."
"But when you were a child you must have had a few good times that stand out in your memory," persisted Elfreda.
Ruth's face took on a hunted expression. Her mouth set in hard lines. "No," she said shortly. "There was nothing worth remembering. Perhaps I'll tell you some day, but not now. Please don't think me hateful and disobliging, but I don't wish to talk of myself."
Arline Thayer eyed Ruth with displeasure. "I don't see why you should say that, Ruth. We have all talked of ourselves," she said coldly.
Ruth flushed deeply. She felt the note of censure in Arline's voice.
"I think we had better go," announced Grace, consulting her watch. "It is now half-past seven. We ought to be at Wayne Hall by eight o'clock. You know the Herculean labor I have before me."
"Herculean labor is a good name for our coming task," chuckled Anne. "The Anarchist will make Wayne Hall resound with her vengeful cries when she is thrust out of the room with all her possessions."
Jesting light-heartedly over the coming encounter, the diners strolled out of Vinton's and down College Street in the direction of the campus. Arline was the first to leave them. Her good night to the four girls from Wayne Hall was cordial in the extreme, but to Ruth she was almost distant. A little later on they said good night to Ruth, who looked ready to cry.
"Cheer up," comforted Grace, who was walking with Ruth. "Arline will be all right to-morrow."
"I hope so," responded Ruth mournfully. "I did not mean to make her angry, only there are some things of which I cannot speak to any one."
"I understand," rejoined Grace, wondering what Ruth's secret cross was. "Good night, Ruth."
Elfreda, Miriam and Anne bade Ruth goodnight in turn.
"Now, for the tug of war," declared Elfreda as they hurried up the steps of Wayne Hall. "On to the battlefield and down with the Anarchist!"
MRS. ELWOOD TO THE RESCUE
As Grace approached the curtained archway that divided the living-room from the hall she could not help wishing that she might have settled the affair without Mrs. Elwood's assistance. She was not afraid to approach Mrs. Elwood, who was the soul of good nature, but Grace disliked the idea of the scene that she felt sure would follow. The young woman now occupying the room that she and Anne had re-engaged for their sophomore year would contest their right to occupy it. Mrs. Elwood would be obliged to set her foot down firmly. It would all be extremely disagreeable. Grace reflected. Then the memory of the Anarchist's glaring incivility returned, and without further hesitation Grace walked into the living-room, followed by her companions.
Mrs. Elwood, who was sitting in her favorite chair reading a magazine, looked up absently, then, staring incredulously at the newcomers, trotted across the room, both hands outstretched in welcome. "Why, Miss Harlowe and Miss Nesbit, I had given you up for to-night. Here are Miss Pierson and Miss Briggs, too. I'm so glad to see you. When did you arrive? I thought there was no train from the north before nine o'clock."
"Didn't Miss Dean tell you we had arrived?" asked Grace, as Mrs. Elwood shook hands in turn with each girl.
"I haven't seen Miss Dean. She went out before I came home," replied Mrs. Elwood.
"Wait until we catch the faithless Emma," threatened Anne. "She promised to be our herald. We arrived here at a little after five o'clock. We did not stay here long, for Miss Thayer, of Morton House, invited us to dinner at Vinton's."
"How do you like the way I fixed your room this year?" asked Mrs. Elwood.
"We haven't been in it yet," answered Grace. "That is, we went only as far as the door."
"Oh, then you must see it at once," said Mrs. Elwood briskly. "I have had it repapered. There is a new rug on the floor, too, and I have put a new Morris chair in and taken out one of the cane-seated chairs."
"No wonder the Anarchist refuses to vacate," muttered Elfreda.
"What did you say, my dear?" remarked Mrs. Elwood amiably.
"Oh, I was just talking nonsense," averred Elfreda solemnly.
"I won't keep you girls out of your rooms any longer. I know you must be tired from your long journey. Come upstairs at once."
Mrs. Elwood had already crossed the room and was out in the hall, her foot on the first step of the stairs. The girls exchanged glances. There was a half smothered chuckle from Elfreda, then Grace hurried after their good-natured landlady. "Wait a minute, Mrs. Elwood," began Grace, "I have something to tell you before you go upstairs. This afternoon, when we arrived, we went directly to our rooms. The door of our room was locked, however. We knocked repeatedly, and it was at last opened by a young woman who said the room was hers and refused to allow us to enter it."
During this brief recital Mrs. Elwood looked first amazed, then incredulous. Her final expression was one of lively displeasure, and with the exclamation, "I might have known it!" she marched upstairs with the air of a grenadier, the girls filing in her wake. Pausing before the door she listened intently. The sound of some one moving within could be heard distinctly. Mrs. Elwood rapped sharply on the door. The footsteps halted; after a few seconds the sound began again.
"She thinks we have come back," whispered Elfreda.
"So we have," smiled Grace, "with reinforcements."
Her smile was reflected on the faces of her friends. Mrs. Elwood, however, did not smile. Two red spots burned high on her cheeks, her little blue eyes snapped. Again she knocked, this time accompanying the action with: "Open this door, instantly. Mrs. Elwood wishes to speak with you."
"Do not imagine that you can gain entrance to this room through any such pretense," announced a contemptuous voice from the other side of the door. "I believe I stated that I did not wish to be disturbed."
"And I state that you must open the door," commanded Mrs. Elwood. "You are not addressing one of the students. This is Mrs. Elwood."
A grating of the key in the lock followed, then the door was cautiously opened far enough to allow a scowling head to be thrust out. The instant the Anarchist's narrowed eyes rested on Mrs. Elwood her belligerent manner changed. She swung the door wide, remarking in cold apology; "Pray, pardon me, Mrs. Elwood. I believed that a number of rude, ill-bred young women whom I had the misfortune to encounter earlier in the day were renewing their attempts to annoy me."
"There are no such young women at Wayne Hall," retorted Mrs. Elwood, who was thoroughly angry. "The majority of the young women here were with me last year, and not one of them answers your description. Really, Miss Atkins, you must know that you are trespassing. This room belongs to Miss Harlowe and Miss Pierson. It was theirs last year and they arranged with me last June to occupy it again during their sophomore year. How you happened to be here is more than I can say. I believe I gave you the room at the end of the hall."
"The room to which you assigned me did not meet with my approval," was the calm reply. "I prefer this room."
"You can't have it," returned Mrs. Elwood decisively.
"But I insist upon remaining where I am," persisted the intruder. "If necessary, I will allow Miss Harlowe or her roommate to occupy the other half of the room."
"I have told you that you can not have the room," exclaimed Mrs. Elwood, eyeing her obstinate antagonist with growing disfavor. "If you do not wish to take the room at the end of the hall, then I have nothing else in the house to offer you. No doubt you can find board to suit you in some other house."
"I wish to stay here," returned the Anarchist stubbornly. "Let Miss Harlowe have the room at the end of the hall."
Sheer exasperation held Mrs. Elwood silent for a moment. The Anarchist peered defiantly at her from under her bushy eyebrows. She made no move toward vacating the room of which she had so coolly taken possession.
"We'll go for our bags and suit cases, Mrs. Elwood," suggested Grace wickedly. "We left them in Miriam's room."
"Very well," returned the intrepid landlady. "Your room will be ready for you when you return."
"That is what I call a stroke of genius on your part, Grace," remarked Miriam, as they entered her room. "Mrs. Elwood can deal with the Anarchist more summarily without an audience."
"It must be very humiliating for that Miss Atkins," mused Anne, "but it's her own fault."
"Of course it's her own fault," emphasized Elfreda. "She doesn't appear to know when the pleasure of her company is requested elsewhere."
"Shall we go now?" asked Anne, lifting her heavy suit case preparatory to moving.
"Not yet," counseled Grace. "We must give her time enough to get out of sight before we appear."
Elfreda boldly took up her station at the door and reported faithfully the enemy's movements. After a twenty minutes' wait, the stout girl closed the door with a bang, exclaiming triumphantly: "She's gone! She just paraded down the hall carrying her goods and chattels. Mrs. Elwood stalked behind carrying a hat box. She looked like an avenging angel. Hurry up, now, and move in before the Anarchist changes her mind and comes back to take possession all over again."
Grace and Anne lost no time in taking Elfreda's advice. Five minutes later they were back in their old room. "Stay here a while, girls," invited Grace. Miriam and Elfreda had assisted their friends with their luggage.
"How nice your room looks," praised Miriam. "I like that wall paper. It is so dainty. Your favorite blue, too, Grace. I wonder if Mrs. Elwood knew that blue was your color?"
"I suppose so," returned Grace. "Two-thirds of my clothes are blue, you know. I must run downstairs and thank her for championing our cause. I won't be gone five minutes."
"We must go," declared Miriam. "We are going to begin unpacking to-night."
Running lightly down the stairs, Grace thrust her head between the portieres that separated the living-room from the hall. Mrs. Elwood sat reading her magazine as placidly as though nothing had happened within the last hour to disturb her equanimity.
"Thank you ever so much, Mrs. Elwood," said Grace gratefully, walking up to the dignified matron and shyly offering her hand.
"Nonsense, child!" was the reply. "You have nothing for which to thank me. You don't suppose I would allow a new boarder to infringe upon the rights of my old girls, do you?"
"No," admitted Grace. "I'm sorry that things had to happen that way," she added regretfully.
"Don't you worry about it any more, Miss Harlowe," comforted the older woman. "It's nothing you are to blame for. You had the first right to the room. I gave this girl Miss Gaines's old room. Her roommate is to be a freshman, too. She hasn't arrived yet. Miss Atkins decided to pick out her own room, I imagine. Evidently she took a fancy to yours. As soon as you girls had gone, she gave me one awful look, gathered up her belongings, and went to the other room without another word. I picked up two or three things she dropped and carried them down for her. I wouldn't be sorry if she went to some other house to board. She looks like a trouble maker."
Grace was of the same opinion, but did not say so. Always eager to excuse other people's shortcomings, she found it hard to account for the feeling of strong dislike that had risen within her during her first encounter with the young woman Elfreda had laughingly named the Anarchist. She had hoped that the four freshmen at Wayne Hall would be girls whom it would be a pleasure to know. She had looked forward to meeting these newcomers and to assisting them in whatever way she could best give help. Now at least one of her castles in the air had been built in vain.
"Perhaps we may like Miss Atkins after we know her better," she said, trying hard to keep the doubt she felt out of her voice.
Mrs. Elwood shook her head. "I hope she will improve on acquaintance, but I doubt it. It isn't my principle, my dear, to speak slightingly of any student in my house, but I am certain that this is not the last time I shall have to lay down the law of Wayne Hall to Miss Atkins."
At this plain speaking Grace flushed but said nothing. She understood that Mrs. Elwood's words had been spoken in confidence.
"I'm so glad to see you again, Mrs. Elwood," she smiled, bent on changing the subject.
"And I to see you, my dear," was the hearty response. "I have missed my Oakdale girls this summer."
After a few moments' conversation Grace said good night and went slowly upstairs. In spite of her satisfaction at being back at Overton she could not repress a sigh of regret over the recent unpleasantness.
"The unforeseen always happens," she reflected, pausing for a moment on the top step. "I hope the Anarchist will 'stay put' this time." She laughed softly at the idea of the Anarchist standing stiff and stationary in her new room. Then the ridiculous side of the encounter dawning on her, she sat down on the stairs and gave way to sudden silent laughter.
"What did Mrs. Elwood say?" asked Anne as Grace entered the room.
"I am afraid Mrs. Elwood is not, and never will be, an admirer of the Anarchist," said Grace. "Seriously speaking, she is half inclined to ask her to leave Wayne Hall. She believes she will have further trouble with her. Perhaps we should have waited. We might have tried, later, to gain possession of our room," added Grace doubtfully.
Anne shook her head. "We would be waiting still, if we had attempted to settle matters without Mrs. Elwood."
"But it seems too bad to begin one's sophomore year so unpleasantly. All summer I had been planning how helpful I would try to be to entering freshmen, and this is the way my splendid visions have materialized." Grace eyed Anne rather dejectedly.
"Never mind," soothed Anne. "By to-morrow this little unpleasantness will have completely blown over. Perhaps the Anarchist," Anne smiled over the title Elfreda had bestowed upon the disturbing freshman, "will discover that she can make friends more quickly by being pleasant. She may reform over night. Stranger things have happened."
"But nothing of that sort will happen in her case," declared Grace. "You said just a moment ago if it hadn't been for Mrs. Elwood we would still be out in the hall clamoring for a room, didn't you!"
"I did," smiled Anne.
"That was equivalent to accusing the Anarchist of stubbornness, wasn't it?"
"Very well. If she is half as stubborn as I believe her to be, she won't be different to-night, to-morrow or for a long time afterward."
THE BELATED FRESHMAN
"The first thing I shall do this morning after breakfast is to unpack," announced Grace Harlowe with decision, as she gave her hair a last pat preparatory to going downstairs to breakfast. "Last year I was so excited over what studies I intended to take and meeting new girls that I unpacked by fits and starts. It was weeks before I knew where to find things. But I've reformed, now. I'm going to put every last article in place before I set foot outside Wayne Hall. Do you wish the chiffonier or the bureau this year, Anne, for your things?"
"The chiffonier, I think," replied Anne, after due reflection. "I haven't as much to stow away as you have. It will do nicely for me."
"There goes the breakfast bell!" exclaimed Grace. "Come along, Anne, I'm hungry. Besides, I'd like the same seat at the table that I had last year."
Outside their door they were joined by Miriam and Elfreda, and the four friends stopped to talk before going downstairs.
"Were you haunted by nightmares in which glowering Anarchists pranced about?" asked Miriam, her eyes twinkling.
"No," replied Grace. "I slept too soundly even to dream."
"I dreamed that I went into the registrar's office to get my chapel card," began Elfreda impressively. "When she handed it to me it was three times larger than the others. On it in big red letters was printed, 'The Anarchist, Her Card.' I thought I handed it back to her and tried to explain that I wasn't an anarchist because I had neither bushy eyebrows nor a scowl. She just sat and glared at me, saying over and over, 'Look in your mirror, look in your mirror,' until I grew so angry I threw the card at her. It hit her and she fell backward. That frightened me, although it seemed so strange that a little, light piece of pasteboard could strike with such force. I tried to lift her, but she grew heavier and heavier. Then—"
"Yes, 'then,'" interposed Miriam, "I awoke in time to save myself from landing on the floor with a thump. Elfreda mistook me for the registrar. She was walking in her sleep."
"Of course I didn't mean to," apologized Elfreda, "You know that, don't you, Miriam? I can't help walking in my sleep. I've done it ever since I was a little girl."
"I forgive you, but you must promise not to dream," laughed Miriam. "Otherwise I am likely to find myself out the window or being dropped gently downstairs while you dream gaily on, regardless of what happens to your long-suffering roommate."
As they entered the dining room several girls already seated at the table welcomed them with joyful salutations. It was at least ten minutes before any one settled down to breakfast. Grace observed with secret relief that Miss Atkins was not at the table. The three freshmen who were to fill the last available places in Wayne Hall had not yet arrived. During breakfast a ceaseless stream of merry chatter flowed on. Everyone wished to tell her neighbor about her vacation, of what she intended to take during the fall term, or of how impossible it was to get hold of her trunk. Then there was the usual amount of wondering as to why the four freshmen hadn't appeared.
"One of them is here—that is, she's in the house," remarked Elfreda laconically.
"She is!" exclaimed Emma Dean, opening her eyes. "I didn't see her yesterday."
"You were consoling your homesick cousin, so how could you know what went on here?" reminded Grace. It had been decided that nothing should be said regarding the events of the previous day.
"So I was," said Emma. "She made me think of Longfellow's 'Rainy Day.' She looked so 'dark and dreary.'"
"What a unique comparison," chirped a wide-awake sophomore. "That will be so appropriate for the freshman grind book."
"It is our turn this year," exulted Elfreda. "I shall be on the lookout for good material, too. I know one freshman who will be a candidate for honors."
"Who?" inquired Emma Dean curiously.
Grace looked appealingly at the stout girl. A slight shake of the head reassured her. Elfreda abandoned her intention of mentioning names, and parried Emma's question so cleverly that the latter became interested in something else and forgot that she had asked it.
The instant she had finished her breakfast, Grace reannounced her intention of unpacking her trunk and rose to leave the table. Anne followed her, a curious smile on her face. The majority of the girls rose from the table at the same time, or immediately after, and went their various ways.
"Now," declared Grace energetically, "I am going to begin my labor."
"What did you say you were going to do?" asked Anne innocently.
"Unpack my trunk. I—why—I—haven't any trunk to unpack!" exclaimed Grace in bewilderment. Then catching sight of Anne's mirthful face, she sprang forward, caught Anne by the shoulders and shook her playfully. "Anne Pierson, you bad child, you heard me make all my plans for unpacking, yet you wouldn't remind me that my trunk was still at the station."
"I couldn't resist keeping still and allowing you to plan," confessed Anne. "What a joke that would be for the grind book!"
"Yes, wouldn't it though?" agreed Grace sarcastically. "However, we are not freshmen, and as my roommate I strictly forbid you to publish my stupidity broadcast. Having the unpacking fever in my veins, I shall console myself with unpacking my bag and suit case. I'll keep on wishing for my trunk and perhaps it will come." Grace walked to the window. She leaned out, peering anxiously down the road. Then, with a cry of delight, she exclaimed: "Come here, Anne."
Anne walked obediently to the window.
"'Tell me, Sister Anne, do you see anything?'" quoted Grace.
"You are saved, Fatima," returned Anne dramatically. "It is an express wagon."
Grace darted out of her door and down the stairs, meeting the expressman on the veranda, her trunk on his shoulder. Anne, having notified Elfreda and Miriam that the trunks had arrived, went downstairs to look after hers.
"Now I can carry out my plan, after all," declared Grace, with great satisfaction. "'He who laughs last, laughs best,' you know," she added slyly.
"Before unpacking, first find your trunk," retorted Anne.
"Thank goodness, we don't have to think about entrance examinations this year," said Grace, as she knelt before her trunk, fitting the key to the lock.
"Yes, it does make considerable difference," returned Anne. "We shall have more time to ourselves. Besides, we won't have to worry our heads off the first week about whether we survived or perished."
The sound of an automobile horn caused Grace to run to the window. "It's the bus!" she cried. "Three strange girls are getting out of it. Evidently our freshmen have arrived. That tall girl looks interesting. One of them is as stout as Elfreda. The little girl is cunning. I think I like her the best of the three. Oh dear!" she exclaimed ruefully, hastily drawing back from the window, "she looked straight up and saw me standing here. What will she think of me?"
"You shouldn't be so curious," teased Anne.
"I know it," admitted Grace. "I'm not over curious as a rule. I hope the tall girl is to room with the Anarchist. She looks capable of keeping her in order."
"That task will, no doubt, be handed over to you," said Anne, who had been making rapid progress in unpacking, while Grace had been occupied in looking over the newcomers. "You'd better get your unpacking done, so that you'll be ready for it—the task, I mean."
Grace sat down before her trunk with a little impatient sigh. For the space of an hour the two girls worked rapidly, almost in silence. Both trunks had been emptied and the greater part of their contents stored away when the sound of an angry, protesting voice outside the door caused them to look at each other wonderingly.
"What can have happened?" asked Anne.
Even as Anne spoke a never-to-be-forgotten voice said impressively, "What you prefer is immaterial to me, I prefer to room alone." The emphatic closing of a door followed. There was a sound of hurrying footsteps on the stairs, then all was still.
THE ANARCHIST CHOOSES HER ROOMMATE
"It's the Anarchist, of course," said Anne, turning to Grace.
"I wonder who she left roomless in the hall this time," speculated Grace. "Shall we go and see?"
"Do you think we had better?" hesitated Anne.
"Yes," returned Grace boldly. "To a certain extent we are responsible for the welfare of the freshmen." Opening the door, she looked up and down the hall. Then, with a sudden air of resolution, she walked downstairs. On the oak seat in the hall, looking disconsolately about her, sat the "cunning" freshman that Grace had admired. At sight of Grace she sprang toward the sophomore with an eager, "Won't you please tell me where I can find Mrs. Elwood?"
"I believe she has gone to market," replied Grace. "She usually goes at this time every morning. Can I help you in any way?"
"No-o," replied the other girl doubtfully. "I wished to see Mrs. Elwood, because—" Her lip quivered. A big tear rolled down her cheek. "Oh, I hate college," she muttered in a choking voice. "I wish I hadn't come here. I'd go back to the station and take the next train west, if I hadn't promised my brother that I'd stay. I hate the east and everything in it. I know I'm going to be unhappy here."
With the smile that few people could resist, Grace sat down on the seat beside the tearful little stranger. "I think I know what is troubling you," she said gently. "I could not help overhearing Miss Atkins a few moments ago. I also heard you running downstairs, so I came down, too, to ask you if there was anything I could do for you."
"You are very kind," faltered the stranger. "I must wait to see Mrs. Elwood, but will you tell me your name, please?"
"Oh, I beg your pardon for not introducing myself," responded Grace contritely. "I am Grace Harlowe of the sophomore class."
"My name is Mildred Taylor," responded the newcomer. "I came from the station in the bus a few minutes ago. There were two other freshmen with me. They seem to be more fortunate than I. The maid showed us to our rooms. I supposed, of course, that I would have to room with another girl, but I didn't think—" she paused.
"I know," sympathized Grace. "I heard what was said to you; at least a part of it. Won't you come upstairs to our room and meet my roommate, Miss Pierson?"
"It is very thoughtful in you to take so much trouble for me," replied the freshman gratefully.
"That is part of our plan here at Overton," laughed Grace. "When I was a lonely, bewildered freshman, several of the upper class girls made it their business to look out for my comfort. Now it is my turn to pass that kindness along."
"What a nice way to look at things!" exclaimed Mildred Taylor. "If I thought the rest of the girls in the college were going to be like you, I'd be ready to love Overton."
"Oh, you will love Overton," was Grace's quick reply. "You can't help yourself."
Anne received the forlorn newcomer with a sweet courtesy that quite charmed her. "We are in the midst of our unpacking," she explained. "Our trunks came only a little while ago. Won't you take off your hat and coat?"
"Anne, I will leave Miss Taylor in your care," declared Grace. "Please excuse me, I'll be back directly," she nodded encouragingly to their guest.
At the door of Miriam's room Grace knocked softly, then in answer to the impatient, "Come in," entered to find Elfreda standing in the midst of an extended circle formed by her possessions.
"Isn't this enough to discourage the most valiant heart?" she declared, with a comprehensive sweep of her arm over the scattered contents of her trunk. "But I am going to clear everything away. I promised Miriam that my half of the room should be kept 'decently and in order' all year. It is one of my sophomore obligations."
Grace listened in amusement to the stout girl's earnest assertion. "I haven't finished unpacking either," she said. "I came for advice. The freshman who was to occupy the other half of Miss Atkins's room has arrived, and Miss Atkins won't let her into the room. I just brought her upstairs to my room.
"Last night I talked with Mrs. Elwood. She isn't particularly anxious to have Miss Atkins in the house. When Miss Taylor, that is the name of the freshman who just came, tells her about what happened she will ask Miss Atkins to leave Wayne Hall. This girl has brought with her to Overton the worst possible spirit in which to begin her freshman year. Of course, we don't know whether she is rich or poor, or whether her success or failure in college means anything to any one besides herself. We can not know under what circumstances she has been brought up. Perhaps she has some one at home who is straining every nerve to send her to college. Perhaps there is a father, mother, sister or brother who has made untold sacrifices to give her a college education. Perhaps there has been no lack of money, only a desire on the part of parents or a guardian to get rid of her by sending her off to school. I believe we ought to try to help this girl in spite of her rudeness to us. Will you go with me to her room? I want to talk to her. We may find her in a better humor than she was in last night. While Anne entertains Miss Taylor you and I will venture into the domain of the Anarchist."
"I'll go," agreed Elfreda, secretly flattered because Grace had chosen her.
Grace led the way down the hall to the end room. A sulky voice responded to her knock, and throwing open the door the two girls stepped inside. The belligerent freshman sat bolt upright in a Morris chair, forbidding and implacable.
"How do you do?" said Grace politely. "I hope we are not intruding."
The young woman merely scowled by way of answer.
"I wonder how I'd better begin," pondered Grace, looking squarely into the hostile eyes.
Elfreda stood calmly surveying the scowling girl. "You might ask us to sit down," she observed impertinently.
The young woman glanced at the stout girl with an expression of angry amazement. Elfreda's rudeness was equal to her own.
"I beg your pardon," she said satirically. "Won't you be seated?"
"Oh, no, I just wanted to hear you say it," flung back Elfreda.
Ignoring this retort, Miss Atkins turned to Grace. "What do you wish?" she asked with cold precision.
"I am sorry to be obliged to tell you that if you do not allow Miss Taylor to occupy her half of the room, you are likely to be asked to leave Wayne Hall," said Grace gravely. "Mrs. Elwood was displeased over what happened last night, and I know that when she learns of what has happened to-day she will not overlook it. We do not wish to see you leave Wayne Hall, and besides, the various college houses are filling fast. You might have difficulty in securing a desirable room elsewhere."
"Is there any reason why I should not occupy this room alone?"
"None whatever, if you arranged for a single beforehand," interposed Elfreda shrewdly. "If you did, I can't see why Mrs. Elwood consented to take Miss Taylor."
"I did not arrange for a single room," was the stiff response.
"Then you haven't any case, have you?" queried Elfreda cheerfully. "Now, see here. I am going to tell you a few things. You are beginning all wrong. It is just what I did last year, and I had a pretty disagreeable time, you may rest assured. The best thing you can do is to tell Miss Taylor to come and claim her half of the room before anything happens to you. If you leave Wayne Hall, sooner or later the whole college will hear of it and it won't help you to be popular, either. It is easy enough to do as you please regardless of whether or not it pleases others, but you are bound to pay for the privilege. If you don't believe me, just wait and see."
A flush mounted to the defiant stranger's cheeks.
"Public opinion is usually a matter of small importance to me," she said, but her tone of lofty indifference was not convincing. "There is, however, a certain amount of wisdom in what you have just said. I should not care to appear ridiculous in the eyes of the really important students at Overton. You may inform Miss Taylor that I have altered my decision. I shall raise no further objections to her as a roommate."
With a pompous gesture of dismissal this self-centered young woman rose and walked majestically to the window. Turning her back squarely upon Grace and Elfreda, she appeared to be deeply absorbed in watching what went on in the street, and, divided between vexation and laughter, the two girls left the room. Elfreda hurried back to her unpacking and Grace to her own room.
"It is all right, Miss Taylor. Your roommate is prepared to receive you," Grace announced.
"I shall be glad to have some place I can call all my own," sighed the little girl, "but I know I shall never like her," she added resentfully.
"On the contrary, you may learn to like her very much," returned Grace. "Now I'll help you with your things." Picking up Miss Taylor's heavy suit case, Grace escorted her to the door of the end room.
"How did it happen?" greeted Anne, when five minutes later Grace returned alone, smiling and triumphant.
"Don't ask me," laughed Grace. "Ask Elfreda. She wrought the miracle."
"What did she do?" asked Anne.
"She won the day, or rather the half of the room, by plain speaking." Grace recounted to Anne what had taken place in the belligerent young woman's room. "She made more impression on the Anarchist in five minutes than I could have made in a week," finished Grace.
"Elfreda has a remarkable personality," was Anne's thoughtful answer. "Her very frankness makes an impression where diplomacy counts for little. However, I am not surprised that history repeated itself so soon. I hope this is the last time we shall be obliged to thwart the Anarchist and administer justice to the oppressed.
"I don't envy Miss Taylor," said Anne. "I wish every girl in college had as nice a roommate as I have."
"Beware of flatterers," laughed Grace.
"And also of Anarchists," added Anne.
"But of the two," smiled Grace, "I prefer flatterers, especially if they happen to occupy the other half of my room."
ELFREDA MAKES A RASH PROMISE
"How does it feel to be a senior, Mabel?" questioned Miriam Nesbit, glancing smilingly over where Mabel Ashe, gowned smartly in white, her brown eyes dancing with interest in what went on about her, sat eating her dessert, and obligingly trying to answer half a dozen questions at once.
The seven other girls at the table looked expectantly at the pretty senior, who was their hostess at a dinner given by her at Martell's that Saturday evening.
"Oh, just the same as it did last year," she replied lightly. "I feel vastly older and a shade more responsible. To tell you the truth, I hate to think about it. I don't know how I am ever going to get along without Overton. I think I shall have to disguise myself and come back next year as a freshman; then I could do the whole four years over again."
"The question is, What are we going to do next year without you?" remarked Grace mournfully.
"Let us forget all about it," advised Mabel. "I refuse to have any weeps at my dinner. You may shed your tears in private, but not here."
"What are you going to do when you finish college?" asked Miriam Nesbit.
"You girls will laugh when I tell you," replied Mabel solemnly, "but really and truly there is only one thing I care to do. I have warned Father that I intend to be self-supporting, but I haven't dared to tell him how I propose to earn my living."
"What are you going to do? Tell us, Mabel. We won't tell."
"Frances knows already. She thinks it would be fine, don't you, Frances?"
Frances nodded emphatically.
"I hope to become a newspaper woman," solemnly announced Mabel.
"A newspaper woman!" cried Constance Fuller. "Why, I think that would be dreadful!"
"I don't," stoutly averred Mabel. "I'd love to be a reporter and go poking into all sorts of places. After a while I'd be sent out to write up murder trials and political happenings and, oh, lots of big stories." Mabel beamed on her amazed audience.
"I never would have believed it of you, but I'm sure you could do it," predicted Leona Rowe confidently.
"Good for you!" cried Mabel, leaning across the table to shake hands with Leona. "I have one loyal supporter at least."
Mabel's declaration having brought to the minds of the little company the fact that sooner or later the choice of an after-college occupation would be necessary, a brisk discussion began as to what each girl intended to do. Aside from Anne, who had fully determined to stick to her profession, and Constance, who was specializing in English, with the intention of one day returning to Overton as an instructor, no one at the table had a very definite idea of her future usefulness.
"We seem to be a rather purposeless lot," remarked Miriam Nesbit. "The trouble with most of us is that we are not obliged to think about earning our own living after we leave college. We look forward to being ornaments in our own particular social set, but nothing more. I'm not sure, yet, what I am going to do with my education. I intend to put it to some practical use, though."
"So am I," agreed Grace. "We'll just have to keep on doing our best and find ourselves."
"I suppose that is the real purpose of going to college," said Anne thoughtfully.
"I think we are all growing too serious," laughed Mabel. "By the way, Grace," she went on, "who is that curious looking little freshman with the perpetual scowl that lives at Wayne Hall!"
The four Wayne Hall girls exchanged significant glances.
"Stop exchanging eye messages and tell me," ordered Mabel.
"Her name is Atkins," returned Grace briefly. Then a peculiar look in her eyes caused Mabel to say hastily, "I just wondered who she was," and changed the subject.
As they left Martell's, walking two by two, Mabel fell into step with Grace. Slipping her arm through that of the Oakdale girl, she said in a low tone, "Come over to see me to-morrow evening. I have something to say to you. I almost said it before the girls; then I caught your warning look in time. Come to dinner to-morrow night and stay all evening. I promise faithfully to make you study."
"I have a theme to do," replied Grace dubiously. "Do you think there would be any prospect of my getting it done?"
"Oceans of it," assured Mabel glibly. "I'll be as still as a mouse while you do it. If you need a subject perhaps I can furnish the inspiration. As long as I intend to become a newspaper woman I might as well begin to sprout a few ideas."
"All right, I'll come," laughed Grace. "Did I tell you I was taking chemistry this year? I find it very absorbing."
"I liked it, too," agreed Mabel. "I am more interested in psychology, though I like my essay and short story work best of all. I'm going in for interpretative reading, too. All that sort of thing will help me in my work when I leave here."
"I wish I knew what I wanted to do," sighed Grace. "I'd love to begin to plan about it now."
"It will dawn upon you suddenly some day," prophesied Mabel, "and you will wonder why you never thought of it before."
The diners strolled along together as far as the campus. There, Constance Fuller, Mabel, Frances and Helen Burton left the quartette from Wayne Hall.
"It's early yet," said Elfreda, consulting her watch.
"What time is it, Elfreda?" asked Grace.
"Half-past eight," answered the stout girl. "We have plenty of time to study. I, for one, need it. My subjects are all frightfully hard. I tried to pick out easy ones, but did you ever notice that the schedule is so arranged that you can't possibly pick out two easy subjects and recite them both in the same term? One always conflicts with the other."
"Long experience, crafty faculty," laughed Miriam. "They know our weaknesses and how to deal with them."
"The last time we were out to dinner in a body we talked about the past. This time it was the future," remarked Elfreda. "That reminds me, what has become of Arline and Ruth? I haven't seen either of them this week except at a distance."
"Arline and Ruth haven't been on friendly terms since the night of Arline's dinner at Vinton's," Grace remarked soberly. "It isn't Ruth's fault. She is heartbroken over the estrangement. This is the first difference she and Arline have ever had."
"Such a ridiculous thing to quarrel over," sniffed Elfreda. "I could see that night that Arline was cross because Ruth didn't want to talk about herself."
"I hope they will be friends again before the reception," said Grace. "It would be awkward for all of us if they are not."
"Oh, dear," sighed Anne, sitting down on the top step of the veranda. "I'm too lazy to look at my books to-night." The four girls had reached Wayne Hall and the beauty of the autumn night made them reluctant to go into the house, where an evening of hard study awaited them. "I'd like to stay out here for hours and look at the stars."
"And have stiff neck and a cold of the fond, clinging type, to-morrow," jeered Elfreda.
"How disgustingly practical you are, Elfreda!" exclaimed Miriam.
"I'm only warning her," persisted Elfreda.
"It doesn't seem as though we'd been back at Overton for three weeks, does it?" asked Grace.
"It seems longer than that to me," said Miriam Nesbit. "The freshman dance happened ages ago, according to my reckoning, and nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened since."
"Never mind, it won't be long until the sophomore reception," comforted Grace. "I never suspected that you had such a rabid craving for excitement, Miriam."
"The freshman dance was a tame affair," averred Miriam. "I think our class was more interesting in its infancy than is this year's class."
"I think so, too," agreed Grace. "Still, we don't know what genius lies hidden in the bosoms of 19—'s freshmen."
"This year we shall be the hostesses," exulted Elfreda. "Who are you girls going to invite?"
"I'll ask Miss Taylor," volunteered Anne.
"I'll ask Miss Wilton," said Miriam.
"That's two from Wayne Hall," counted Anne. "There are two freshmen left."
"One of us could invite that nice tall girl, Miss Evans," planned Grace. "That leaves only one girl uninvited." She hesitated. Her three friends read the meaning of the hesitation. Elfreda sprang loyally into the breach.
"I'll ask Miss Atkins," she declared stoutly. "You notice, don't you, that I am not addressing her by her pet name? I'll conduct her to the reception and back, if she'll accept my manly arm, and buy her flowers into the bargain. So go ahead and invite Miss Evans, Grace."
"J. Elfreda Briggs, you can never manage that Miss Atkins," protested Miriam. "In the first place, she won't accept you as an escort, and if she should happen to do so, it will be a sorry evening for you."
"I'll take the risk," replied Elfreda confidently. "I managed her once before, didn't I? You girls go ahead and invite the others. Leave Miss Atkins to me. I'll escort her in triumph to the reception, or perish gallantly in the attempt."
"Do you really believe she will accept your invitation, Elfreda?" asked Grace doubtfully.
"I can tell you better after I have asked her," was Elfreda's flippant retort. "I have an idea that she will feel dreadfully hurt if no one asks her to go."
"Hurt!" exclaimed three voices in unison.
"Yes, hurt," repeated Elfreda. "The Anarchist isn't half so savage as she pretends to be. That blood-thirsty manner of hers isn't real. She puts it on to hide something else."
"But what is it she wishes to hide?" asked Miriam. "Your deductions are quite beyond us."
"If I knew I'd tell you. I don't pretend to understand her, but I can see that she isn't as fierce as she seems. Time and I will solve the riddle, and when we do you'll be the first to hear of it."
GIRLS AND THEIR IDEALS
Directly after her last class the next day, Grace hurried to her room to change her gown. She looked forward with eager pleasure to her evening with Mabel Ashe. She was deeply attached to the pretty senior, who was the best-liked girl in college, and Grace could not help feeling a trifle proud of Mabel's frank enjoyment of her society. Anne, knowing Grace was to be away, had accepted an invitation to go down to Ruth Denton's little room, help her cook supper, and spend the evening with her.
"Oh, dear," sighed Grace, as she tried vainly to reach the two hooks of her dark blue charmeuse gown that seemed only a sixteenth of an inch out of reach, "I wish Anne were here. I can touch these two hooks with the ends of my fingers but I can't fasten them. I'll have to ask Mabel to hook me up when I get to Holland House." Giving up in disgust, Grace slipped into her long, blue serge coat, carefully adjusted her new fall hat that she had just received from home, and catching up her gloves ran downstairs.
Mabel Ashe's graceful, welcoming figure leaning over the baluster waiting for her was the first thing that attracted her attention as she stepped inside the hall at Holland House.
"Come right up," invited Mabel. "We'll have a little while together before dinner. Did you bring your notebook?"
"Yes," replied Grace. "Remember, you are to help me choose a subject for my theme. You volunteered, you know."
"Not until after dinner, though, if you don't mind. Sit down here and be comfy. This is my pet chair, but I insist on letting you have it because you are company." She gently pushed Grace into a roomy leather-covered armchair. Seating herself opposite Grace, Mabel fixed her brown eyes almost gravely on her. "Now, Grace," she said earnestly, "please tell me about this Miss Atkins of Wayne Hall."
"There isn't much to tell," replied Grace. "Did you ever see her?"
"We had a little trouble with her our very first day back," continued Grace. "She took possession of our room and refused to give it up. Then when Mrs. Elwood came to our rescue, she went to the room that had been assigned to her like a lamb. She felt anything but lamblike toward me, you may believe, and when later Mrs. Elwood brought up her new roommate, she refused to allow her to enter."
"Refused to allow her to enter," repeated Mabel wonderingly. "What sort of girl is she, Grace?"
"I don't know," answered Grace doubtfully. "She is an enigma. She speaks the most precise English, with absolutely no trace of slang. But she looks as though the whole world were her natural enemy. Elfreda named her the Anarchist. I am rather ashamed to say we call her that behind her back."
Mabel smiled slightly, then asked, "What did the girl do—the one she wouldn't room with, I mean?"
"She went downstairs to wait for Mrs. Elwood. The reason I know all about it is because I happened to hear her tell Miss Taylor, that's the freshman's name, that she would have to go elsewhere. I knew Mrs. Elwood was out, so I went down to see if there were anything I could do for her, and she told me all about it. I knew Mrs. Elwood would be out of patience with Miss Atkins and ask her to leave Wayne Hall." Grace paused.
"What happened next?" asked Mabel interestedly.
"I told Miss Taylor I would try to fix things for her. I went upstairs and plotted with Elfreda. Then she and I bearded the dragon in her den. After I had finished telling her that it would be better to take little Miss Taylor without further bickering, Elfreda rose to the occasion and gave her a much-needed lecture. She is very shrewd, I think. She evidently realized she had gone too far. She objected to Miss Taylor because it is her nature to object to everything. When she saw that we had taken up the cudgels in Miss Taylor's behalf, and that she was likely to get into hot water, she decided to accept her as a roommate without further opposition. That's the whole story."
"She must be eccentric and very disagreeable," commented Mabel. "What made you go to such pains to save her from the wrath of Mrs. Elwood?"
"I suppose I felt sorry for her," confessed Grace. "She is beginning her freshman year in the worst possible spirit. But as I said to the girls not long ago, we do not know what lies back of her disagreeable manner. Why are you so interested in hearing about her, Mabel?"
"She is making herself the subject of considerable censure among the juniors and seniors by snubbing the girls of her own class and calmly announcing that she wishes to make only powerful and influential friends in college," returned Mabel. "You know, of course, the attitude of the old students toward freshmen. This Miss Atkins is either laboring under the impression that she is an exception to tradition, or else she has no sense of the fitness of things. At first, I am sorry to say, a few of the seniors looked upon her as a joke, but the reaction has set in, and, like Humpty Dumpty, she is going to take a great fall. When she does, all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be of any assistance to her in getting her back from where she tumbled. I don't believe she realizes that she is making herself ridiculous.
"I was at Vinton's last Saturday afternoon. Jessie Meredith invited another senior and me to luncheon there. Imagine our surprise when a prim, precise little figure marched up to our table and seated herself as calmly as though she were the president of the senior class. There is room for four at those tables, you know, and we had not reserved ours. Still, there were plenty of other tables at which she might have seated herself. It was rather embarrassing for all of us, but it was worse when she tried to break into the conversation. She insisted on expounding her views on whatever we discussed. We were compelled to cut short our luncheon and flee to Martell's for our dessert. We escaped at the moment the waitress was serving her luncheon, so she couldn't very well rise and pursue us. If I had been alone, I might have stayed, but Jessie was disgusted, and I was Jessie's guest."
Grace had listened to Mabel's recital with troubled eyes. "I never before knew a girl quite like Miss Atkins," she said slowly. "What is it you wish me to do for her, Mabel?"
"Wise young sophomore," laughed Mabel. "How did you guess it?"
"You are not given to footless gossip," replied Grace quietly. "Besides, I live at Wayne Hall."
"Cleverer and cleverer," commented the senior, in mock admiration. "This is my idea. I had hoped that, being in the same house with her, you might be able to guide her gently along the beaten trail made by girls like you. However, after what you have told me, I am afraid you are not the one to do it."
"I haven't a particle of influence with her," said Grace soberly. "You must know that from what I have already told you."
"Yes, I do know it," answered Mabel. "Is there any one at Wayne Hall who would be likely to have the right kind of influence?"
"No-o-o." Grace shook her head doubtfully. Then she suddenly brightened. "There is one person who might help her. Elfreda is going to invite her to the sophomore reception. She doesn't wish to do it, I know, although she hasn't said so. Please don't think me conceited, but Elfreda would do anything for me. She fancies herself under obligation to me on account of what happened last year," Grace added in an embarrassed tone.
"Grace Harlowe!" exclaimed Mabel delightedly, "I believe we have solved our problem. J. Elfreda is the very one to make Miss Atkins wake up to what is expected from her at Overton. Will you talk with her about it, and ask her if she is willing to try?"
"I'll tell her to-night," promised Grace. "I'm sure she'll try. She is not afraid to tackle Miss Atkins, either, or she wouldn't have invited her to the reception."
"Then that's settled for the time being at least," declared Mabel jubilantly. "Just in time for dinner, too. There goes the bell."
After dinner more conversation followed. It was eight o'clock before Grace remembered her theme. "What shall I write about?" she demanded. "You promised to supply the inspiration."
"So I will," returned Mabel cheerfully. "Why don't you write about—" She paused, frowning slightly. "After all my vaunted promises I'm not able to suggest anything on the spur of the moment," she confessed laughingly. "Why don't you take some incident in your own life or that of your friends and write a story about it?" she proposed after a moment's silence.
"I don't believe I could ever write a story," confessed Grace. "I think I'll write a little discussion about girls and their ideals."
"That sounds interesting," commended Mabel. "Go ahead with it. You may sit at this table, if you like."
Grace seated herself, nibbled at the end of her fountain pen reflectively, then began to write. Mabel busied herself with her own work. At last Grace shoved aside the closely written sheets of paper. "It's done," she cried, in a triumphant voice. "Now we can talk."
"May I read it?" asked Mabel.
"Of course, if you wish to," laughed Grace. "It isn't worth the trouble, though."
Mabel picked up the theme and began to read. Grace rose, and strolling over to the bookcase fell to examining the various bindings. Her friend's flattering comment, "It's splendid, Grace. I had no idea you could write so well," caused her to look up in surprise from the book she held in her hand.
"I don't think it is very remarkable," she contradicted. "It hasn't a shred of literary style."
"It's convincing," argued Mabel.
"That is because I felt strongly on my subject. When it comes to anything that lies near my heart I am always convincing. Father says I put up the most convincing argument of any one he knows," smiled Grace. "He always declares he is wax in my hands. I hope you will make me a visit and meet my father and mother, Mabel," she added.
"I surely will," promised Mabel. "We must correspond after I leave college. I wish you could go home with me for one of the holiday vacations. Can't you manage it?"
"I am afraid not this year," returned Grace doubtfully. "Father and Mother wouldn't object, but they miss me so during the year that I feel as though my holidays belonged to them. I am an only child, you know."
"So am I," returned Mabel. "I am also extremely popular with my father. If I can tear myself away from him to make you a visit, surely you ought to be equally public spirited."
"I'll think it over," laughed Grace. "Oh, dear!" she exclaimed a moment later, glancing at the little French clock on the chiffonier, "I must go. It is twenty minutes to ten. How the time has slipped away."
"Thank you," bowed Mabel. "Such appreciation of my society is gratifying in the extreme. I'll invite you again."
"See that you do," retorted Grace. "Have you any engagement for Saturday afternoon? If you haven't, then suppose we have luncheon at Vinton's; then go for a long walk. We can stay out all afternoon, stop at the tea shop for supper and come home on the street car, or walk in, if we choose. We might ask Frances and Anne to join us. Miriam and Elfreda are going out for a ride. Miriam has a horse here this year. She had her choice between a horse and a runabout and she took the horse. The moment Elfreda found out she had one, she wrote home about it. Now she has a riding horse, too."
"I had my own pet mount, Elixir, here during my freshman and sophomore years. The latter part of my second year I didn't take him out enough to exercise him. So I ordered him sent home. He is a beauty. Jet black with a three-cornered white spot in the middle of his forehead. He's an Arabian, and Father paid an extravagant price for him. He shakes hands and does ever so many tricks that I taught him. When you go home with me, you shall see him."
"I'd love to have a riding horse," confessed Grace, "but Father can't afford it. I've never asked him, but I know he can't. We have no car either."
"Make me a visit and you can ride Elixir every day," bribed Mabel.
"I'd love that!" exclaimed Grace fervently as she slipped into her coat and settled her hat firmly on her fluffy hair. "Good night, Mabel. Come and see me soon. Don't forget our Saturday walk."
"I'll go to the door with you," announced Mabel. "No, I won't forget our walk. I'll tell Frances about it to-morrow, before she has a chance to make any other plans. She is a popular young person, and elusive in the matter of dates."
"There are others," retorted Grace, with a significant glance at her friend.
"So there are," agreed Mabel innocently.
On the way home Grace wondered if there were any way in which she might help Laura Atkins. True to her promise, she went at once to interview Elfreda on the subject of the eccentric freshman. She found Miriam and the stout girl busily engaged in trying to put together a puzzle that Elfreda had unearthed in the toy department of one of the Overton stores that afternoon. Puzzles were the delight of Elfreda's heart. But, once put together, they immediately ceased to be of interest.