GRACE HARLOWE'S SOPHOMORE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL
The Record of the Girl Chums in Work and Athletics
JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A.M.
Author of Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School, Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School, etc.
Philadelphia Henry Altemus Company
I. A DECLARATION OF WAR
II. THE WAY OF THE TRANSGRESSOR
III. A GENEROUS APPEAL
IV. AN UNFORTUNATE AVIATOR
V. ON THE EVE OF BATTLE
VI. THE DEEPEST POSSIBLE DISGRACE
VII. GATHERING CLOUDS
VIII. THE PRICE OF FRIENDSHIP
IX. AN UNSUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW
X. THE SOPHOMORE BALL
XI. A LION AT LAST
XII. THE WAYS OF SCHOOLGIRLS
XIII. A SKATING PARTY
XIV. A BRAVE RESCUE
XV. A BELATED REPENTANCE
XVI. AN OUNCE OF LOYALTY
XVII. BURYING THE HATCHET
XVIII. AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR
XIX. THE GREAT GAME
XX. A PIECE OF NEWS
XXI. ANNE AND GRACE COMPARE NOTES
XXII. A RESCUE AND A REFORM
XXIII. GRACE MEETS A DISTINGUISHED CHARACTER
A DECLARATION OF WAR
"Anne, you will never learn to do a side vault that way. Let me show you," exclaimed Grace Harlowe.
The gymnasium was full of High School girls, and a very busy and interesting picture they made, running, leaping, vaulting, passing the medicine ball and practising on the rings.
In one corner a class was in progress, the physical culture instructor calling out her orders like an officer on parade.
The four girl chums had grown somewhat taller than when last seen. A rich summer-vacation tan had browned their faces and Nora O'Malley's tip-tilted Irish nose was dotted with freckles. All four were dressed in gymnasium suits of dark blue and across the front of each blouse in letters of sky-blue were the initials "O.H.S.S." which stood for "Oakdale High School Sophomore." They were rather proud of these initials, perhaps because the lettering was still too recent to have lost its novelty.
"Never mind," replied Anne Pierson; "I don't believe I shall ever learn, it, but, thank goodness, vaulting isn't entirely necessary to human happiness."
"Thank goodness it isn't," observed Jessica, who never really enjoyed gymnasium work.
"It is to mine," protested Grace, glowing with exercise and enthusiasm. "If I couldn't do every one of these stunts I should certainly lie awake at night grieving over it."
She gave a joyous laugh as she vaulted over the wooden horse as easily and gracefully as an acrobat.
"I'd much rather dance," replied Anne. "Ever since Mrs. Gray's Christmas party I've wanted to learn."
"Why Anne," replied Grace, "I had forgotten that you don't dance. I'll give you a lesson at once. But you must first learn to waltz, then all other dancing will be easy."
"Just watch me while I show you the step," Grace continued.
"Now, you try it while I count for you."
"One, two, three. One, two, three. That's right. Just keep on practising, until you are sure of yourself; then if Jessica will play for us, I'll waltz with you."
"With pleasure," said Jessica, "Anne must learn to waltz. Her education in dancing mustn't be neglected another minute."
Anne patiently practised the step while Jessica played a very slow waltz on the piano and Grace counted for Anne. Then the two girls danced together, and under Grace's guidance Anne found waltzing wasn't half as hard as she had imagined it would be.
By this time the gymnasium was almost empty. The class in physical culture had been dismissed, and the girls belonging to it had withdrawn to the locker rooms to dress and go home. The four girl chums were practically alone.
"I do wish the rest of the basketball team would put in an appearance," said Grace, as she and Anne stopped to rest. "We need every minute we can get for practice. The opening game is so very near, and it's really difficult to get the gymnasium now, for the juniors seem to consider it their especial possession. One would think they had leased it for the season."
"They are awfully mean, I think," said Nora O'Malley. "They weren't at all nice to us last year when we were freshmen and they were sophomores. Even the dignity of being juniors doesn't seem to improve them any. They are just as hateful as ever."
"Most of the juniors are really nice girls, but it is due to Julia Crosby that they behave so badly," said Jessica Bright thoughtfully, "She leads them, into all kinds of mischief. She is a born trouble-maker."
"She is one of the rudest girls I have ever known," remarked Nora with emphasis. "How Miriam Nesbit can tolerate her is more than I can see."
"Well," said Grace, "it is hardly a case of toleration. Miriam seems really fond of her."
"Hush!" said Anne, who had been silently listening to the conversation. "Here comes the rest of the team, and Miriam is with them."
Readers of the preceding volume of this series, "GRACE HARLOWE'S PLEBE YEAR AT HIGH SCHOOL," need no introduction to Grace Harlowe and her girl chums. In that volume was narrated the race for the freshman prize, so generously offered each year by Mrs. Gray, sponsor of the freshman class, and the efforts of Miriam Nesbit aided by the disagreeable teacher of algebra, Miss Leece, to ruin the career of Anne Pierson, the brightest pupil of Oakdale High School. Through the loyalty and cleverness of Grace and her friends, the plot was brought to light and Anne was vindicated.
Many and varied were the experiences which fell to the lot of the High School girls. The encounter with an impostor, masquerading as Mrs. Gray's nephew, Tom Gray, the escape from wolves in Upton Woods, and Mrs. Gray's Christmas ball proved exciting additions to the routine of school work.
The contest between Grace and Miriam Nesbit for the basketball captaincy, resulting in Grace's subsequent election, was also one of the interesting features of the freshman year.
The beginning of the sophomore year found Miriam Nesbit in a most unpleasant frame of mind toward Grace and her friends. The loss of the basketball captaincy had been a severe blow to Miriam's pride, and she could not forgive Grace her popularity.
As she walked across the gymnasium followed by the other members of the team, her face wore a sullen expression which deepened as her eyes rested upon Grace, and she nodded very stiffly to the young captain. Grace, fully aware of the coldness of Miriam's salutation, returned it as courteously as though Miriam had been one of her particular friends. Long before this Grace had made up her mind to treat Miriam as though nothing disagreeable had ever happened. There was no use in holding a grudge.
"If Miriam once realizes that we are willing to overlook some things which happened last year," Grace had confided to Anne, "perhaps her better self will come to the surface. I am sure she has a better self, only she has never given it a chance to develop."
Anne did not feel quite so positive as to the existence of Miriam's better self, but agreed with Grace because she adored her.
The entire team having assembled, Grace lost no time in assigning the players to their various positions.
"Miriam will you play one of the forwards?" she asked.
"Who is going to play center?" queried Miriam ignoring Grace's question.
"Why the girls have asked me to play," replied Grace.
"If I cannot play center," announced Miriam shrugging her shoulders, "I shall play nothing."
A sudden silence fell upon the group of girls, who, amazed at Miriam's rudeness, awaited Grace's answer.
Stifling her desire to retort sharply, Grace said? "Why Miriam, I didn't know you felt that way about it. Certainly you may play center if you wish to. I am sure I don't wish to seem selfish."
This was too much for Nora O'Malley, who deeply resented Miriam's attitude toward Grace.
"We want our captain for center," she said. "Don't we, girls?"
"Yes," chorused the girls.
It was a humiliating moment for proud Miriam. Grace realized this and felt equally embarrassed at their outspoken preference.
Then Miriam said with a contemptuous laugh, "Really, Miss Harlowe, I congratulate you upon your loyal support. It is a good thing to have friends at court. However, it is immaterial to me what position I play, for I am not particularly enthusiastic over basketball. The juniors are sure to win at any rate."
A flush mounted to Grace's cheeks at Miriam's insulting words. Controlling her anger, she said quietly:
"Very well, I will play center." Then she rapidly named the other players.
This last formality having been disposed of, the team lined up for practice. Soon the game was at its height. Miriam in the excitement of the play, forgot her recently avowed indifference toward basketball and went to work with all the skill and activity she possessed.
The basketball team, during its infancy in the freshman class had given splendid promise of future fame. Grace felt proud of her players as she stopped for a moment to watch their agile movements and spirited work. Surely, the juniors would have to look out for their laurels this year. Her blood quickened at thought, of the coming contests which were to take place during the course of the winter between the two class teams. There were to be three games that season, and the sophomores had made up their minds to win all of them. What if the junior team were a famous one, and had won victory after victory the year before over all other class teams? The sophomores resolved to be famous, too.
In fact, all of Grace's hopes were centered on the coming season. Napoleon himself could not have been more eager for victory.
"We must just make up our minds to work, girls," she exhorted her friends. "I would rather beat those juniors than take a trip to Europe."
Nor was she alone in her desire. The other girls were just as eager to overthrow the victorious juniors. It was evident, so strong was the feeling in the class, that something more than a sense of sport had stirred them to this degree of rivalry.
The former freshman class had many scores against the present juniors. As sophomores, the winter before, they had never missed an opportunity to annoy and irritate the freshmen in a hundred disagreeable ways. "The Black Monks of Asia" still rankled in their memories. Moreover, was not Julia Crosby, the junior captain? She was the same mischievous sophomore who had created so much havoc at the Christmas ball. She was always playing unkind practical jokes on other people. It is true, she was an intimate and close friend of Miriam Nesbit, but they all were aware that Miriam was a law unto herself, and none of them had ever attempted to explain certain doings of hers in connection with Julia Crosby and her friends during the freshman year.
Grace's mind was busy with these thoughts when the door of the gymnasium opened noisily. There was a whoop followed by cries and calls and in rushed the junior players, most of them dressed in gymnasium suits.
Julia Crosby, at their head, had come with so much force, that she now slid halfway across the room, landing right in the midst of the sophomores.
"I beg your pardon," said Grace, who had been almost knocked down by the encounter, "I suppose you did not notice us. But you see, now, that we are in the midst of practising. The gym. is ours for the afternoon."
Julia Crosby looked at her insolently and laughed.
How irritating that laugh had always been to the rival class of younger girls. It had a dozen different shades of meaning in it—a nasty, condescending contemptuous laugh, Grace thought, and such qualities had no right to be put in a laugh at all, since laughing is meant to show pleasure and nothing else. But Julia Crosby always laughed at the wrong time; especially when there was nothing at which to laugh.
"Who said the gym. was yours for the afternoon?" she asked.
"Miss Thompson said so," answered Grace. "I asked her, this morning, and she gave us permission, as she did to you last Monday, when the boys were all out at the football grounds."
"Have you a written permission?" asked Julia Crosby, laughing again, so disagreeably that hot-headed Nora was obliged to turn away to keep from saying something unworthy of herself.
"No," answered Grace, endeavoring to be calm under these trying circumstances, but her voice trembling nevertheless with anger. "No, I have no written permission and you had none last Monday. You know as well as I do that the boys principal is willing to lend us the gym. as often as we like during football season, when it is not much in use; and that Miss Thompson tries to divide the time as evenly as possible among the girls."
"I don't know anything about that, Miss Harlowe," said Julia Crosby. "But I do know that you and your team will have to give up the gymnasium at once, because our team is in a hurry to begin practising."
Then a great chattering arose. Every sophomore there except Miriam Nesbit raised a protesting voice. Grace held up her hand for silence, then summoning all her dignity she turned to Julia Crosby.
"Miss Crosby," she said, "you have evidently made a mistake. We have had permission to use the gymnasium this afternoon, which I feel sure you have not had. It was neither polite nor kind to break in upon us as you did, and the least you can do is to go away quietly without interrupting us further."
"Really, Miss Harlowe," said Julia Crosby, and again her tantalizing laugh rang out, "you are entirely too hasty in your supposition. As it happens, I have the best right in the world to bring my team to the gym. this afternoon. So, little folks," looking from one sophomore to another in a way that was fairly maddening, "run away and play somewhere else."
"Miss Crosby," cried Grace, now thoroughly angry, "I insist on knowing from whom you received permission. It was not granted by Miss Thompson."
"Oh, I did not stop at Miss Thompson's. I went to a higher authority. Mr. Cole, the boys' principal, gave me a written permission. Here it is. Do you care to read it?" and Julia thrust the offending paper before Grace's eyes.
This was the last straw. Grace dashed the paper to the floor, and turned with flashing eyes to her tormentor.
"Miss Crosby," she said, "if Professor Cole had known that Miss Thompson had given me permission to use the gymnasium, he would never have given you this paper. You obtained it by a trick, which is your usual method of gaining your ends. But I want you to understand that the sophomore class will not tamely submit to such impositions. We evened our score with you as freshmen, and we shall do it again this year as sophomores. Furthermore, we mean to win every basketball game of the series, for we should consider being beaten by the juniors the deepest possible disgrace. I regret that we have agreed to play against an unworthy foe."
With her head held high, Grace walked from the gymnasium, followed by the other members of her team, who were too indignant to notice that Miriam had remained behind.
THE WAY OF THE TRANSGRESSOR
Once outside the gymnasium, Grace's dignity forsook her, and she felt a wild desire to kick and scream like a small child. The contemptible conduct of the junior team filled her with just rage. With a great effort at self-control she turned to the other girls, who were holding an indignation meeting in the corridor.
"Girls," she said, "I know just how you feel about this, and if we had been boys there would have been a hand-to-hand conflict in the gymnasium to-day."
"I wish we hadn't given in," said Nora, almost sobbing with anger.
"There was really nothing else to do," said Anne. "It is better to retire with dignity than to indulge in a free-for-all fight."
"Yes," responded Grace, "it is. But when that insufferable Julia Crosby poked Professor Cole's permit under my nose, I felt like taking her by the shoulders and shaking her. What those juniors need is a good, sound thrashing. That being utterly out of the question, the only thing to do is to whitewash them at basketball."
"Three cheers for the valiant sophomores!" cried Nora, "On to victory! Down with juniors!"
The cheers were given with a will, and by common consent the crowd of girls moved on down the corridor that led to the locker room.
The sophomore locker room was the particular rendezvous of that class in general. Here matters of state were discussed, class gossip retailed, and class friendships cemented. It was in reality a sort of clubroom, and dear to the heart of every girl in the class. To the girls in their present state of mind it seemed the only place to go. They seated themselves on the benches and Grace took the floor.
"Attention, fellow citizens and basketball artists," she called. "Do you solemnly promise to exert yourselves to the utmost to repay the juniors for this afternoon's work?"
"We do," was the answer.
"And will you pledge your sacred honor to whip the juniors, no matter what happens!"
"We will," responded the girls.
"Anne!" called Grace. "You and Jessica are not players, but you can pledge your loyalty to the team anyhow. I want you to be in this, too. Hold up your right hands."
"We will be loyal," said both girls, holding up their right hands, laughing meanwhile at Grace's serious expression.
"Now," said Grace, "I feel better. As long as we can't get the actual practice this afternoon let's lay out a course of action at any rate, and arrange our secret signals."
"Done," cried the girls, and soon they were deep in the mysteries of secret plays and signs.
Grace explained the game to Anne, who did not incline towards athletics, and had had little previous opportunity to enjoy them.
Anne, eager to learn for Grace's sake, became interested on her own account, and soon mastered the main points of the game.
"Here is a list of the secret signals, Anne," said Grace. "Study it carefully and learn it by heart, then you will understand every move our team makes during the coming games. I expect you to become an enthusiastic fan."
Anne thanked her, and put the paper in her purse, little dreaming how much unhappiness that same paper was to cause her.
The business of the afternoon having been disposed of, the girls donned street clothing and left the building, schoolgirl fashion, in groups of twos and threes.
On the way out they encountered several of the victorious juniors, who managed to make their presence felt.
"Oh," said Nora O'Malley, "those girls ought to be suppressed."
"Never mind," put in Anne. "You know 'the way of the transgressor is hard.' Perhaps those juniors will get what they deserve yet."
"Not much danger of it. They're too tricky," said Jessica contemptuously.
Anne's prophecy was to be fulfilled, however, in a most unexpected manner.
There had been one unnoticed spectator of the recent quarrel between the two classes. This was the teacher of physical culture, Miss Kane, who had returned to the gymnasium for a moment, arriving just in time to witness the whole scene. She, too, had had trouble at various times with the junior class, particularly Julia Crosby, who invariably tried her patience severely. She had been heard to pronounce them the most unruly class she had ever attempted to instruct. Therefore her sympathies were with the retreating sophomores, and with set lips and righteous indignation in her eye, she resolved to lay the matter before Miss Thompson, at the earliest opportunity.
Miss Thompson listened the next day with considerable surprise to Miss Kane's account of the affair. No one knew the mischievous tendencies of the juniors better than did the principal. Ordinary mischief she could forgive, but this was overstepping all bounds. She had given the sophomore class permission to use the gymnasium for the afternoon, and no other class had the least right to take the matter over her head. She knew that Professor Cole was entirely innocent of the deception practised upon him, so she resolved to say nothing to him, but deal with the junior team as she deemed best. One thing was certain, they should receive their just deserts.
Miss Thompson's face, usually calm and serene, wore an expression of great sternness as she faced the assembled classes in the study-hall the following morning. The girls looked apprehensively at each other, wondering what was about to happen. When their beloved principal looked like that, there was trouble brewing for some one. Miss Thompson, though a strict disciplinarian, was seldom angry. She was both patient and reasonable in her dealings with the pupils under her supervision, and had their utmost confidence and respect. To incur her displeasure one must commit a serious offense. Each girl searched her mind for possible delinquencies There was absolute silence in the great room. Then the principal spoke:
"I must ask the undivided attention of every girl in this room, as what I am about to say relates in a measure to all of you.
"There are four classes, representing four divisions of high school work, assembled here this morning. Each one must be passed through before the desired goal—graduation—is reached.
"The standard of each class from freshmen to seniors, should be honor. I have been very proud of my girls because I believed that they would be able to live up to that standard. However it seems that some of them have yet to learn the meaning of the word."
Miss Thompson paused. Nora cast a significant look toward Jessica, who sat directly opposite her, while Julia Crosby fidgeted nervously in her seat, and felt suddenly ill at ease.
"Good-natured rivalry between classes," continued Miss Thompson, "has always been encouraged, but ill-natured trickery is to be deplored. A matter has come to my ears which makes it necessary for me to put down with an iron hand anything resembling such an evil.
"You are all aware that I have been very willing to grant the use of the gymnasium to the various teams for basketball practice, and have tried to divide up the time as evenly as possible. Two days ago I gave the members of the sophomore team permission to use the gymnasium for practice. No other team had any right whatever to disturb them, yet I understand that another team did commit that breach of class etiquette, drove the rightful possessors from the room and occupied it for the remainder of the afternoon. The report brought to me says that the young women of the sophomore team conducted themselves with dignity during a most trying situation."
Miss Thompson turned suddenly toward the junior section.
"The members of the junior basketball team will please rise," she said sternly.
There was a subdued murmur throughout the section, then one after another, with the exception of Julia Crosby, the girls rose.
"Miss Crosby," said the principal in a tone that brooked no delay, "rise at once! I expect instant obedience from every pupil in this school."
Julia sulkily rose to her feet.
"Miss Crosby," continued Miss Thompson, "are you not the captain of the junior team?"
"Yes," answered Julia defiantly.
"Did you go to Professor Cole for permission to use the gymnasium last Thursday?"
"Why did you not come to me?"
Julia hung her head and made no reply.
"I will tell you the reason, Miss Crosby," said the principal. "You already knew that permission had been granted the sophomore team, did you not?"
"Yes," said Julia very faintly.
"Very well. You are guilty of two serious misdemeanors. You purposely misrepresented matters to Professor Cole and deliberately put aside my authority; not to mention the unwomanly way in which you behaved toward the sophomore team. Every girl who aided and abetted you in this is equally guilty. Therefore you will all learn and recite to me an extra page in history every day for two weeks. The use of the gymnasium will be prohibited you for the same length of time, and if such a thing ever again occurs, the culprits will be suspended without delay. You may be seated."
The dazed juniors sank limply into their seats. The tables had been turned upon them with a vengeance. A page of history a day was bad enough, but the loss of the gymnasium privilege was worse. The opening game was only two weeks off, and they needed practice.
Julia Crosby put her head down on her desk and wept tears of rage and mortification. The rest of the girls looked ready to cry, too.
The first bell for classes sounded and the girls picked up their books. At the second bell they filed out through the corridor to their various recitation rooms. As Grace, who had stopped to look for a lost pencil, hurried toward the geometry classroom, she passed Julia Crosby, who was moping along, wiping her eyes with her handkerchief. Julia cast an angry glance at Grace, and hissed, "tale-bearer."
Grace, inwardly smarting at the unjust accusation walked on without answering.
"What did I tell you about the way of the transgressor?" said Anne to Grace, as they walked home from school that day.
"It certainly is hard enough this time," said Grace. "But," she added, as she thought of Julia Crosby's recent accusation, "the way of the righteous isn't always easy."
A GENEROUS APPEAL
The juniors themselves hardly felt the weight of their punishment more than did Grace Harlowe. Her heart was set on winning every basketball game of the series. But she wished to win fairly and honestly. Now, that the juniors had been forbidden the use of the gymnasium, the sophomores might practise there to their heart's content. But was that fair? To be sure the juniors had deserved their punishment, but what kind of basketball could they play after having had no practice for two weeks? Besides, Julia Crosby blamed her for telling what had occurred in the gymnasium. She had gone to Julia, earnestly avowing innocence, but Julia had only laughed at her and refused to listen.
All this passed rapidly through Grace's mind as she walked toward the High School several mornings later. Something must be done, but what she hardly knew. The game could be postponed, but Grace felt that the other girls would not care to postpone it. They were heartily glad that the junior team had come to grief, and showed no sympathy for them.
"There's just one thing to be done," sighed Grace to herself. "And that's to go to Miss Thompson and ask her to restore the juniors their privilege. I hate to do it, she was so angry with them. But I'll do what I can, anyway. Here goes."
Miss Thompson was in her office when Grace entered rather timidly, seating herself on the oak settee until the principal should find time to talk to talk with her.
"Well, Grace, what can I do for you?" said Miss Thompson, looking up smilingly at the young girl. "You look as though you carried the cares of the world upon your shoulders this morning."
"Not quite all of them, but I have a few especial ones that are bothering me," replied Grace. Then after a moment's hesitation she said, "Miss Thompson, won't you, please, restore the juniors their gymnasium privilege?"
Miss Thompson regarded Grace searchingly. "What a peculiar request to make, Grace. Don't you consider the juniors' punishment a just one?"
"Yes," said Grace earnestly, "I do. But this is the whole trouble. The first basketball game between the juniors and the sophomores is scheduled to take place in less than two weeks. If the juniors do not practise they will play badly, and we shall beat them. We hope to win, at any rate, but we want to feel that they have had the same chances that we have had. If they do fail, they will say that it was because they had no opportunity for practice. That will take all the sweetness out of the victory for us."
"I think I see," said Miss Thompson, smiling a little. "It is a case of the innocent suffering with the guilty, isn't it? Personally, I hardly feel like restoring these bad children to favor, as they sadly needed a lesson; but since you take the matter so seriously to heart; I suppose I must say 'yes.'"
"Thank you so much, dear Miss Thompson," said Grace with shining eyes, "and now I want to ask one more favor. Julia Crosby believes that I reported her to you that day. Of course you know that I did not. Will you please tell her so? Her accusation has made me very unhappy."
Miss Thompson looked a trifle stern. "Yes, Grace," she said, "I will attend to that, too."
Grace turned to go, but Miss Thompson said. "Wait a moment, Grace, I will send for Miss Crosby."
Julia Crosby heard the summons with dismay. She wondered what Miss Thompson could have to say to her. The principal's reprimand had been so severe that even mischievous Julia felt obliged to go softly. Another performance like the last might cut short her High School career. So she let the sophomores severely alone. She was, therefore, surprised on entering the office to meet Grace Harlowe face to face.
"Miss Crosby," said Miss Thompson coldly, "Miss Harlowe has just asked me to restore the junior team their gymnasium privilege. Had any other girl asked this favor I should have refused her. But Miss Harlowe, in spite of the shabby way in which she has been treated, is generous enough to overlook the past, and begs that you be given another chance. It is only for her sake that I grant it.
"Also, Miss Crosby, I received no information from Miss Harlowe or any of her team regarding your recent rude conduct in the gymnasium. The report came from an entirely different source. You may go; but first you may apologize to Miss Harlowe, and thank her for what she has done."
With a very poor grace, Julia mumbled a few words of apology and thanks and hurried from the room. The principal looked after her and shook her head, then turning to Grace, she asked, "Well, Grace, are you satisfied?"
Grace thanked her again, and with a light heart sped towards the study hall. Once more she could look forward to the coming game with pleasant anticipations.
Julia Crosby had already informed the junior players of the rise in their fallen fortunes. When school was over they gathered about their leader to hear the story. Now, Julia, if possible felt more bitter toward Grace than formerly. It galled her to be compelled to accept anything from Grace's hands, and she did not intend to let any more of the truth be known than she could help. This was too good an opportunity to gain popularity to let slip through her fingers So she put on a mysterious expression and said:
"Now, see here, girls, I got you into all that trouble, and I made up my mind to get you out again. Just go ahead and practise for all your worth, and don't worry about how it all happened."
"Well," said Alice Waite, "it was awfully brave of you to go to Miss Thompson, even if you are too modest to tell of it. Wasn't it, girls?"
"Yes," chorused the team. "Three cheers for our brave captain."
Julia, fairly dazzled at her own popularity, smiled a smile of intense satisfaction. She had produced exactly the impression that she wished.
"What on earth are those juniors making such a fuss about?" inquired Nora O'Malley, as the four chums strolled across the campus toward the gate. The junior team, headed by Julia, was coming down the walk talking at the top of their voices.
"Nothing of any importance, you may be sure," said Jessica Bright. "'Shallow brooks babble loudest,' you know."
"They seem to be 'babbling' over Julia Crosby just now," said Anne, who had been curiously watching the jubilant juniors.
"No doubt she has just unfolded some new scheme," said Nora sarcastically, "that will be practised on the sophomores at the first opportunity."
"Doesn't it seem strange," said Grace, who had hitherto offered no comments, "that we must always be at sixes and sevens with the juniors? Such a spirit never existed between classes before. I wonder how it will all end?"
"Don't worry your dear head over those girls, Grace," said Anne, patting Grace's hand. "They aren't worth it."
"Oh, look girls!" exclaimed Nora suddenly. "There is David Nesbit, and he is coming this way. I haven't seen him for an age."
"Good afternoon, girls," said David, lifting his cap. "It is indeed a pleasure to see you."
"Why, David," said Grace, "you are quite a stranger. Where have you been keeping yourself?"
Anne also looked her pleasure at seeing her old friend.
"I have been very, very busy with some important business of my own," said David in a mock-pompous tone. Then he announced: "I am going to give a party and I am going to invite all of you. Will you come?"
"We will!" cried Nora. "Dressed in our costliest raiment, at that."
"Never mind about the fine clothes," said David, laughing. "This is to be a plain, every-day affair."
"Who else is invited, David?" asked Jessica.
"Only one other girl beside yourselves has had the honor of receiving an invitation."
"Miriam?" queried Grace, unable to conceal a shade of disappointment in her tone.
"No, no; not Miriam," answered Miriam's brother.
Grace looked relieved. If Miriam joined the party, something unpleasant was sure to happen. Miriam treasured a spite against Anne for winning the freshman prize, and never treated her with civility when they chanced to meet. Grace knew, too, that Miriam's attitude toward her was equally hostile. She wondered if David knew all these things about his sister.
Whatever he did know of Miriam and her deep-laid plans and schemes, he divulged to no one. None of the girls had ever heard him say a word against his sister; although they felt that he deeply disapproved of her jealousy and false pride.
"You haven't guessed her name yet," smiled David. "She is one of my best friends, girls. She has been my sweetheart ever since I was a young man of five. She's one of the prettiest girls in Oakdale, she's sixty years young, and her name is——"
"Dear Mrs. Gray, of course!" exclaimed Grace delightedly.
"And has she accepted your invitation?" asked Anne.
"She has," replied David, "and will come in her coach and four, or rather her carriage and two. You ordinary mortals will be obliged to walk, I fear."
"But why does she use her 'coach and four,' When she lives in the palace just next door?" rhymed Nora.
"Very good, my child," commented David. "However, what I was about to say was this: My party is not to be in a house. It is an open-air party. We are to meet at the Omnibus House, to-morrow afternoon at four o'clock. Two very distinguished gentlemen have also been invited—Mr. Reddy Brooks and Mr. Hippy Wingate."
A shout of laughter went up from the girls
"Distinguished, indeed," cried Nora. "It will be a delightful party I am sure."
"Shall we bring food for Hippy!"
"No," laughed David. "Let him eat the apples he finds on the ground. If we feed him on every festive occasion he will soon be too fat to walk, and we shall have to roll him about on casters."
"What a terrible fate," said Anne smiling.
"Well, girls? do you promise to attend?"
"Yes? indeed!" cried the four girls.
"Be sure not to surprise us with a disappointment."
"The main thing is not to disappoint you with the surprise," were his parting words.
"If all boys were as nice as David the world would be a better place!" exclaimed Grace. "I suppose you can guess what the object of this party is."
"Never mind, don't mention it," said Jessica in a low tone. "Here come some other girls, and if they knew what we know, there would be a multitude instead of a select, private party at the Omnibus House to-morrow."
AN UNFORTUNATE AVIATOR
It was an unusual entertainment that David had provided for his little circle of intimate friends in the old orchard surrounding the Omnibus House. There was a look of intense excitement in his eyes, as he stood awaiting his guests, the following afternoon. Mrs. Gray had already arrived, and, leaving her carriage to wait for her near the entrance, now stood by David and helped him receive.
"It's good to see all my children together again," she exclaimed, giving Anne a gentle hug; for ever since her Christmas house party she had acquired a sort of proprietary feeling toward these young people. "I only wish Tom Gray were to be with us to-day. I should like him to have a share in the surprise; for you may be sure there is to be a surprise. David would never have asked us to this lonely place for nothing."
"David is a good old reliable, Mrs. Gray," cried Hippy. "Certainly if I had imagined for a moment that he would disappoint us, I never should have dragged my slight frame all this distance."
"Good, loyal old Hippy," replied David. "The surprise is ready, but even if it had not been, there is no exercise so beneficial to stout people as walking."
"Well, bring it on, bring it on," exclaimed Reddy. "We are waiting patiently."
"Curb your impatience, Sorrel Top," said David. "Just follow me, and see what I have to show you."
They helped little Mrs. Gray, who was nimble in spite of her years, through a broken gap in the wall of the Omnibus House. The old ruin was more picturesque than, ever in its cloak of five-leafed ivy which the autumn had touched with red and gold. A lean-to had been built against the back wall of the building, fitted with a stout door on the inside and a pair of doors on the outside.
"I rented this plot of land from the farmer who owns the orchard," explained David, taking a key from his pocket and opening the door in the stone wall. "This was about the best place I could think of for experiments, partly because it's such a lonesome place, and partly because there is a clear open space of several hundred yards back here without a tree or bush on it."
It was dark inside until he had opened the double doors in the opposite wall, when the slanting light showed them an aeroplane; not a little gymnasium model this time, but a full-fledged flying machine, a trim and graceful object, even at close view.
"David," cried Anne joyously, "you don't mean to say you've gone and done it at last?"
"I have," answered David gravely; "and I've made two trips with pretty good success each time."
Then everyone talked at once. David was the hero of the hour.
"David, my dear boy," cried Mrs. Gray. "To think that I should live to see you an aviator!"
"I'm a long way from being one, yet, Mrs. Gray," answered David. "My bird doesn't always care to fly. There are times when she'd rather stay in her nest with her wings folded. Of course, I haven't nearly perfected her yet, so I don't want it mentioned in town until I get things in shape. But I couldn't wait until then to show it to you, my dear friends, because you were all interested in it last year."
"Well, well, come on and fly," cried Hippy. "My heart is palpitating so with excitement that I am afraid it will beat once too often if something doesn't happen."
"I was waiting for my helper," answered David, "but he appears to be late. You boys will do as well."
"Who is your helper, David?" asked Anne.
"You could never guess," he replied smiling, "so I'll have to tell you. It's old Jean, the hunter."
"Why, the dear old thing!" cried Grace. "To think of him leaving his uncivilized state to do anything so utterly civilized and modern as to help with a flying machine."
"And he does it well, too," went on David. "He is not only thoroughly interested but he keeps guard out here in case any one should try to break in. There are his cot and things in the corner. He sleeps in the open unless it rains. Then he sleeps inside."
As the old hunter did not put in an appearance David decided to wait no longer.
"Why can't we all help?" asked Grace. "What must we do? Please tell us."
"All right," answered David, "just give it a shove into the open space, and you'll see how she gradually rises for a flight."
After making a careful examination of all the parts of the aeroplane, and starting the engine, David took his seat in the machine.
Then the two boys, assisted by Grace and Nora, pushed it swiftly out into the broad open space back of the ruin.
Suddenly the machine began to rise. Slowly, at first, then seeming to gather strength and confidence like a young bird that has learned to fly at last, it soared over the apple trees. David, white, but very calm, quietly worked the levers that operated the little engine. When he had risen about a hundred feet, he began to dip and soar around the orchard in circles. He appeared to have forgotten his friends, watching anxiously below. He did not notice that little Mrs. Gray's knees had suddenly refused to support her, nor that she had sat flat on the ground in a state of utter bewilderment at the sight of his sudden flight. David looked far across at the beautiful rolling meadows, and fields dotted with farmhouses and cottages. How he loved the fertile valley, with its little river winding in and out between green banks! It was all so beautiful, but it was time to descend. He must not give his pet too much liberty, or he might rue his indiscretion. He headed his machine for the open space back of the Omnibus House, and began the descent. Then, something snapped, and he fell. He remembered as he fell the look of horror on the up-raised faces of his friends, and then everything became a blank.
It all happened in a flash, much too quickly to do anything but stand and wait until the aeroplane had crashed to the ground, but it seemed much longer, and Anne remembered later that she had felt a curious impulse to run away and hide. If David were to meet his death through this new toy, she could not endure to stay and see it happen.
But David was far from dead. He was only stunned and dizzy from the swift descent. He had not been high enough from the ground when the accident occurred to sustain serious injuries. They lifted him from the machine and laid him upon the grass, while Reddy ran to the brook and brought back his cap filled with water.
Mrs. Gray produced her smelling salts which she always carried with her. "Not for my own use, my dears," she always said, "but for the benefit of other people."
Reddy loosened David's collar and dashed the water into his face; while Hippy chafed the unconscious boy's wrists.
Presently David opened his eyes, looking vaguely about. He had a confused idea that something had happened to him, but just what it was he could not think. He looked up into the anxious faces of his friends who stood around him. Then he remembered.
"I'm not hurt," he said in a rather weak voice. Then he sat up and smiled feebly at the company. "I just had the wind knocked out of me. I am sure no bones are broken. How about my pet bird? Has she smashed her little ribs?"
"No, old fellow," exclaimed Hippy in a reassuring tone, for Hippy had never been able to endure the sight of suffering or disappointment. "Her wings are a good deal battered, that's all. But are you all right, old man?" he added, feeling David's arms and legs, and even putting an ear over his heart.
"It's still beating, you foolish, old fat-head," said David, patting his friend affectionately on the back.
In the meantime Anne had helped Mrs. Gray to her feet.
"I declare, I feel as though I had dropped from the clouds myself," said the old lady, wiping her eyes. "I am so stunned and bewildered. David, my dear boy, if you had been seriously hurt I should never have forgiven myself for allowing you to fly off like that. What would your poor mother say if she knew what had happened?"
"It won't be necessary to break the news to her, Mrs. Gray," said David. "I shall be as good as new inside of a few minutes. It's my poor little bird here who has received the injuries. Look at her poor battered wings! I think I know just what caused my sudden descent though, and I'll take care it doesn't happen again."
David then began a minute examination of his damaged pet, and soon located the trouble. His friends listened, deeply interested, as he explained the principles of aviation, and showed them how he had carried out his own ideas in constructing his aeroplane. Grace, who had a taste for mechanics, asked all sorts of questions, until Hippy asked her if she intended building an aeroplane of her own.
"I may," replied Grace, laughing. "You know that girls have as much chance at the big things of the world to-day, as boys."
"Well, if you do, let me know," responded Hippy, "and I'll write an epic poem about you that will make the world sit up and take notice."
"Then I am assured of fame beforehand," laughed Grace.
"Look!" said Nora suddenly. "Who are those people coming across the orchard? Doesn't that look like Julia Crosby and some of her crowd?"
"Yes," exclaimed Grace, "it is, and Miriam is with them."
"Then help me get my aeroplane into the shed quickly," exclaimed David. "You know that the Crosby girl is not a favorite with me." Then he added half to himself, "I don't see why Miriam insists on going around with her so much."
The boys lost no time in getting the aeroplane into the house, David slammed the doors, and triumphantly turned the key in the lock just as Miriam and her party came up.
With a quick glance Miriam's eyes took in the situation. She bowed courteously to Mrs. Gray, whom she dared not slight; included Grace, Nora and Jessica in a cool little nod, and stared straight past Anne. Then turning to her brother she said, "David, show Miss Crosby and her friends your aeroplane, they wish to see it."
A look of grim determination settled about David's mouth. Looking his sister squarely in the face, he said, "I am sorry to seem disobliging but I cannot show your friends my aeroplane and I am surprised to find that they know I have one."
Miriam reddened at this, but said insolently, "If you can invite other people to see it, you can show it to us."
There was an uncomfortable silence. Mrs. Gray looked surprised and annoyed. The peaceful old lady, disliked scenes of any kind. Grace and her chums, knowing that Miriam was only making herself ridiculous, felt embarrassed for her. Then Julia Crosby laughed in her tantalizing irritating way.
That settled the matter as far as David was concerned.
"You are right," he said, "I could show my flying machine to you and your friends if I cared to do so. However, I don't care to. Knowing that I wished my experiment to be kept a secret, you came here with the one idea of being disagreeable, and you have succeeded. I am sorry to be so rude to my own sister, but occasionally the brutal truth is a good thing for you to hear, Miriam."
Miriam was speechless with anger, but before she could frame a reply, Mrs. Gray said soothingly "Children, children don't quarrel. David, it is getting late. We had better go. I suppose it is of no use to ask any of you athletic young folks to ride back to town." With a little bow to Miriam and her discomfited party, Mrs. Gray turned toward where her carriage awaited her, followed by David and his friends.
After bidding her good-bye, the young people took the road to town. For David's sake all mention of the recent unpleasantness was tacitly avoided, though it was uppermost in each one's mind.
"I have one thing to be thankful for," said Grace to Anne, as she turned in at her own gate, "and that is that Miriam Nesbit isn't my sister."
As for Miriam, her feelings can be better imagined than described. She sulked and pouted the whole way home, vowing to get even with David for daring to cross her. Julia Crosby grew rather tired of Miriam's tirade, and left her with the parting advice that she had better forget it.
When Miriam reached home she immediately asked if David had come in. Receiving an affirmative reply, she went from room to room looking for him, and finally found him in the library. He was busy with a book on aviation. She snatched the book from him, threw it across the room and expressed her opinion of himself and his friends in very plain terms. Without a word David picked up his book and walked out of the library, leaving her in full possession of the field.
ON THE EVE OF BATTLE
But little time remained before the first basketball game of the series between the sophomores and juniors. Both teams had been untiring in their practice. There had been no further altercations between them as to the use of the gymnasium, for the juniors, fearing the wrath of Miss Thompson, were more circumspect in their behavior, and let the sophomore team strictly alone.
"They are liable to break out at any time, you can trust them just as far as you can see them and no farther, and that's the truth," cried Nora O'Malley. The sophomore players were standing in the corridor outside the gymnasium awaiting the pleasure of the juniors, whose practice time was up.
"They are supposed to be out of here at four o'clock," continued Nora, "and it's fifteen minutes past four now. They are loitering on purpose They don't dare to do mean things openly since Miss Thompson lectured them so, but they make up for it by being aggravating."
"Never mind, Nora," said Grace, smiling at Nora's outburst. "We'll whip them off the face of the earth next Saturday."
"Well, I hope so," said Nora, "I am sure we are better players."
"What outrageous conceit," said Jessica, and the four girls laughed merrily.
"By the way, Grace," said Anne, "I want to ask you something about that list you gave me. I don't quite understand what one of those signals means."
"Trot it out," said Grace. "I'll have time to tell you about it before the practice actually begins."
Anne took out her purse and began searching for the list. It was not to be found.
"Why, how strange," she said. "I was looking at it this morning on the way to school. I wonder if I have lost it. That would be dreadful."
She turned her purse upside down, shaking it energetically, but no list fell out.
"Oh, never mind," said Grace, seeing Anne's distress. "It's of no consequence. No one will ever find it anyway. Suppose it were found, who would know what it meant?"
"Yes, but one would know," persisted Anne, "because I wrote 'Sophomore basketball signals' on the outside of it. Oh, dear, I don't see how I could have been so careless."
"Poor little Anne," said Jessica, "she is always worried over something or other."
"Now see here, Anne," said Grace, "just because you lost a letter last term and had trouble over it, don't begin to mourn over those old signals. No one will ever see them, and perhaps you haven't lost them. Maybe you'll find them at home."
"Perhaps I shall," said Anne brightening.
"Now smile Anne," said Nora, "and forget your troubles. There is no use in crossing bridges before you come to them."
This homely old saying seemed to console Anne, and soon she was eagerly watching the work of the team, her brief anxiety forgotten.
That night she searched her room, and the next day gave her desk in school a thorough overhauling, but the list of signals remained missing.
The sophomore players with their substitute team met that afternoon in the gymnasium. It was their last opportunity for practice. Saturday they would rise to victory or go down in ignominious defeat. The latter seemed to them impossible. They had practised faithfully, and Grace had been so earnest in her efforts to perfect their playing that they were completely under her control and moved like clockwork. There was no weak spot in the team. Every point had been diligently worked over and mastered. They had played several games with the freshmen and had won every time, so Grace was fairly confident of their success.
"Oh, girls," she cried, wringing her hands in her earnestness, "don't make any mistakes. Keep your heads, all of you. I am convinced we are better players than the juniors, even if they did get the pennant last year. For one thing I don't think they work together as well as we do, and that's really the main thing. Miriam, you missed practice yesterday. You are going to stay to-day, aren't you?"
Miriam nodded without replying. She was busy with her own thoughts. She wished she could hit upon some way to humiliate Grace Harlowe. But what could she do? That was the question. The members of the team adored their gray-eyed, independent young captain, therefore she would have to be very careful.
She had been steadily losing ground with her class on account of her constant association with the juniors, and the slightest misstep on her part would jeopardize her place on the team. She had a genuine love for the game, and since she couldn't play on the junior team, she concluded it would be just as well not to lose her place with the sophomores. In her heart she cared nothing for her class. She had tried to be their leader, and Grace had supplanted her, but now Grace should pay for it.
All this passed through Miriam's mind as she covertly watched Grace, who was reassuring Anne for the fiftieth time, not to worry over the lost signals.
"Don't tell any one about it," she whispered to Anne. "You may find them yet."
Anne shook her head sorrowfully. She felt in some way that those signals were bound to make trouble for her.
"By the way, girls," said Grace, addressing the team, "has any one any objection to Anne and Jessica staying to see the practice game? They have seen all our work and are now anxious to see the practice game. They know all the points, but they want to see how the new signal code works."
"Of course not," answered the girls. "We won't turn Oakdale's star pupil out of the gym. Anne shall be our mascot. As for Jessica, she is a matter of course."
"I object," said Miriam. "I object seriously."
"Object?" repeated Grace, turning in amazement to Miriam. "Why?"
"You know that it is against all basketball rules to allow any one in the gymnasium during practice except the regular team and the subs. If we follow our rules then we shall be certain that nothing we do reaches the ears of the juniors. We have always made an exception of Jessica, but I don't think we should allow any one else here."
"And do you think that Anne Pierson would carry information?" exclaimed Grace sharply. "Really, Miriam, you are provoking enough to try the patience of a saint. Just as if Anne, who is the soul of honor, would do such a thing."
An indignant murmur arose from the girls. They were all prepared to like little Anne, although they did not know her very well.
"How can you say such things, Miriam?" cried Nora.
"I didn't say she would," said Miriam rather alarmed at the storm she had raised. "But I do think it is better to be careful. However, have it your own way. But if we lose the game——"
She paused. Her judgment told her she had said enough. If anything did happen, the blame would fall on Grace's shoulders.
Anne, deeply hurt, tried to leave the gymnasium but the girls caught her, and brought her back again. She shed a few tears, but soon forgot her grief in the interest of the game.
"Girls," said Grace, as she and Nora and Jessica walked down the street that night after leaving Anne at her corner, "we must look out for Anne. It is evident from the way Miriam acted to-day that she will never lose an opportunity to hurt Anne's feelings. I thought perhaps time would soften her wrath, but it looks as though she still nursed her old grudge."
How true Grace's words were to prove she could not at that time foresee.
"Well," said Nora, "Anne is one of the nicest girls in Oakdale, and if Miriam knows when she's well off she'll mind her own business."
The day before the game, as Grace was leaving school, she heard David's familiar whistle and turned to see the young man hurrying toward her, a look of subdued excitement upon his face.
"I've been looking all over for you, Grace," he said, as he lifted his cap to her. "I have something to tell you. This afternoon after school, Reddy, Hippy and I went out to the old Omnibus House. I wanted to show the fellows some things about my machine. While we were out there who should appear but Julia Crosby and some more of her crowd. They were having a regular pow-wow and were in high glee over something. We kept still because we knew if they saw us they'd descend upon us in a body. They stayed a long time and Julia Crosby made a speech. I couldn't hear what she said, but it seemed to be about the proper thing, for her satellites applauded about every two minutes. Then they got their heads together and all talked at once. While they were so busy we skipped out without being noticed. I thought I'd better tell you, for I have an idea they are putting up some scheme to queer you in the game to-morrow; so look out for them."
"Thank you, David," answered Grace. "You are always looking after our interests. I wonder what those juniors are planning. They are obliged to play a fair game, for they know perfectly well what will happen if they don't. Miss Thompson will be there to-morrow, and they know she has her eye on them."
"Put not your trust in juniors," cautioned David. "They may elude even her watchful eye."
"You are coming to see us play to-morrow, aren't you, David?" asked Grace.
"I'll be there before the doors are open, with Reddy and Hippy at my heels," responded David. "Good-bye, Grace. Look out for squalls to-morrow."
THE DEEPEST POSSIBLE DISGRACE
A feeling of depression swept over Grace Harlowe as she looked out the window the next morning. The rain was falling heavily and the skies were sullen and gray.
"What a miserable day for the game," was her first thought. "I do hope the rain won't keep people away. This weather is enough to discourage any one."
All morning she watched anxiously for the clouds to lift, going from window to door until her mother told her to stop fretting about the weather and save her strength for the coming game.
The game was set for two o'clock, but at one, Grace put on her raincoat and set out for the High School. She knew she was early, but she felt that she couldn't stay in the house a minute longer.
One by one the sophomore team and its substitutes assembled, but the rain had dampened their spirits and the enthusiasm of the past few days had left them.
Grace looked worried, as she noticed how listless her players seemed. She wished it had been one of those cold, crisp days that set the blood tingling and make the heart beat high with hope.
Still Grace felt confident that her team would rise to the occasion when the game was called. They were two well-trained, too certain of their powers to ever think of failing.
The bad weather had evidently not depressed the spirits of their opponents. The juniors stood about laughing and talking. Julia Crosby moved from one girl to the other whispering slyly.
"Wretch!" thought Grace. "How disagreeable she is. She was born too late. She should have lived in the middle ages, when plotting was the fashion. She is anything but a credit to her class and dear old Oakdale High School."
Grace's rather vehement reflections were cut short by the approach of Miss Thompson, who stopped to say a word of cheer to the girls before taking her seat in the gallery.
"Well, Grace," she said, "this is a rather bad day outside, but still there will be a few loyal souls to cheer you on to victory. May the best man win. You must put forth every energy if you expect to conquer the juniors, however. They have held the championship a long time."
"They will not hold it after to-day if we can help it," answered Grace. "We feel fairly sure that we can whip them."
"That is the right spirit," said Miss Thompson. "Confidence is first cousin to success, you know."
"Was there ever a teacher quite like Miss Thompson?" asked Nora as the principal left them to take her seat in the gallery.
"She is a dear," said Marian Barber, "and she's on our side, too."
"There's the referee now!" exclaimed Grace. "Now, girls, make up your minds to play as you never played before. Remember it's for the honor of the sophomores."
By this time the gallery was half filled with an audience largely composed of High School boys and girls. A few outsiders were present. Mrs. Harlowe had come to see her daughter's team win the game, she said; for she knew that Grace's heart was set on victory.
The referee, time-keeper and scorer chosen from the senior class took their places. The whistle blew and the teams lined up. There was a round of loud applause from the fans of both teams. The players presented a fine appearance. The earnest, "do or die" expression on every face made the spectators feel that the coming game would be well worth seeing.
The rival captains faced each other, ready to jump for the ball the instant it left the referee's hands. There was a moment of expectant silence; then the referee put the ball in play, the whistle blew and the game began. Both captains sprang for the ball, but alas for the sophomores, Julia Crosby caught it and threw it to the junior right forward. It looked for a minute as though the juniors would score without effort, but Nora O'Malley, who was left guard, succeeded so effectually in annoying her opponent that when the bewildered goal-thrower did succeed in throwing the ball, it fell wide of the basket. It had barely touched the floor before there was a rush for it, and the fun waxed fast and furious.
During the first five minutes neither side scored; then the tide turned in favor of the juniors and they netted the ball.
Grace Harlowe set her teeth, resolving to play harder than ever. The juniors should not score again if she could help it. Nora had the ball and was dribbling it for dear life. Grace signaled her team, who responded instantly; but, to their consternation, the juniors seemed to understand the signal as fully as did their own team, and quickly blocking their play, scored again.
There was a howl of delight from the junior fans in the gallery. The sudden triumph of the enemy seemed to daze the sophomores. They looked at their captain in amazement, then sprang once more to their work. But the trend the game was taking had affected them, and in their desperate efforts to score they made mistakes. Miriam Nesbit ran with the ball and a foul was called, which resulted in the juniors scoring a point.
Nora O'Malley, in her excitement, caught the forward she was guarding by the arm, and again a foul was called; this time, however, the juniors made nothing from it. But the precious time was flying and only four minutes of the first half remained. Again Grace signaled for another secret play, and again the juniors rose to the occasion and thwarted her.
It was maddening.
The score stood 7 to 0 in favor of the juniors. Miriam Nesbit had the ball now, and was trying to throw it. She stood near the junior basket. Eluding her guard, who was dancing about in front of her, she made a wild throw. Whether by accident or design it was hard to tell, but the ball landed squarely in the junior basket. A whoop went up from the gallery. The whistle blew and the first half was over. The score stood 9 to 0 in favor of the enemy. The last two points had been presented to the juniors.
Up in the gallery discussion ran rife. The admirers of the juniors were loud in their praise of the superior ability of the team. The junior class, who were sitting in a body at one end of the gallery, grew especially noisy, and were laughing derisively at the downfall of the sophomores.
Miss Thompson was puzzled.
"I cannot imagine what ails my sophomores," she said to the teacher next to her. "I understood that they were such fine players. Yet they don't seem to be able to hold their own. It looks as though their defeat were inevitable, unless they do some remarkable playing during the next half."
Mrs. Harlowe, too, was disappointed. She wondered why Grace had boasted so much of her team.
"After all, they are little more than children," she thought. "Those juniors seem older to me."
As for Grace and her team—they were sitting in a room just off the gymnasium gloomily discussing the situation. Tears of mortification stood in Nora's eyes, while Grace was putting forth every effort to appear calm. She knew that if she showed the least sign of faltering all would be lost. Her players must feel that she still had faith in their ability to win.
"We are not beaten yet, girls," she said, "and I believe we shall make up in the last half what we lost in the first. Work fast, but keep your wits about you. Don't give the referee any chance to call a foul, we can't spare a minute from now on. When I give the signal for a certain play, be on the alert, and please, please don't any of you present those juniors with any more points. I'm not blaming you, Miriam, for I know that last throw of yours was an accident, but I could have cried when that ball went into the basket."
Miriam's face flushed; then realizing that all eyes were turned toward her, she said sarcastically:
"Really, Miss Harlowe, it's so kind of you to look at it in that light. However, anyone with common sense would have known without being told that I never intended that ball for the juniors."
"I am not so sure of that," muttered Nora, who, seeing the hurt look that crept into Grace's eyes at Miriam's words, immediately rose in behalf of her captain.
Miriam whirled on Nora.
"What did you say?" asked Miriam angrily.
Before Nora could answer the whistle blew. Intermission was over and the second half was on. The teams changed baskets and stood in readiness for work. Once more Grace and Julia Crosby faced each other. There was a malicious gleam in Julia's eye and a look of determination in Grace's. With a spring, Grace caught the ball as it descended and threw it to Nora, who, eluding her guard, tossed it to Miriam. With unerring aim Miriam sent the ball into the basket and the sophomores scored for the first time.
Their friends in the gallery applauded vigorously and began to take heart, but their joy was short-lived, for as the play proceeded the sophomores steadily lost what little ground they had gained. Try as they might, they could make no headway. Grace called for play after play, only to find that in some inexplicable way the enemy seemed to know just what she meant, and acted accordingly.
The game neared its close and the sophomores fought with the desperation of the doomed. They knew that they could not win save by a miracle, but they resolved to die hard. The ball was in Miriam's hands and she made a feint at throwing it to Nora, but whirled and threw it to Grace, who, divining her intention, ran forward to receive it. There was a rush on the part of the juniors. Julia Crosby, crossing in front of Grace, managed slyly to thrust one foot forward. Grace tripped and fell to the floor, twisting one leg under her. The ball rolled on, and was caught by the enemy, who threw it to goal just as the whistle sounded for the last time. The juniors had won. The score stood 17 to 2 in their favor. The scorer attempted to announce it, but her voice was lost in the noisy yells of the junior class in the gallery.
The fact that Grace Harlowe still sat on the gymnasium floor passed for a moment unnoticed. In the final grand rush for the ball, the other players failed to see that their valiant captain still occupied the spot where she fell. Tumbles were not infrequent, and Grace was well able to take care of herself.
Anne Pierson alone saw Julia Crosby's foot slide out, and, scenting treachery, hastily left her seat in the gallery. She ran as fast as she could to where Grace sat, reaching her a few seconds after the whistle blew.
"Good little Anne," called Grace. "You have come to my rescue even though the others have deserted me. Perhaps you can help me up. I tried it, but my ankle hurts every time I try to stand."
Her face was very white, and Anne saw that she was in great pain.
By this time Grace's team, realizing she was not with them, began looking about, and rushed over to her in a body. David, Reddy and Hippy appeared on the scene, as did Mrs. Harlowe, accompanied by Miss Thompson. Excitement reigned. The boys lifted Grace to her feet; but she cried with pain and would have fallen had they not held her.
"She has sprained her ankle!" exclaimed Miss Thompson. "How did it happen, Grace? I did not see you fall."
"I don't know, Miss Thompson," said Grace faintly. "It all happened so quickly I didn't have time to think about it."
"It certainly is a shame," cried Anne. "And I know——"
Just then Grace gave Anne a warning glance and shook her head slightly. Anne closed her lips and was silent.
"What were you saying, Anne?" asked Miss Thompson.
But Anne had received her orders.
"I am so sorry that Grace has been hurt," she said lamely.
A carriage was ordered and Grace was taken home, Anne and Mrs. Harlowe accompanying her. Mrs. Harlowe sent for their physician, who bandaged the swollen ankle, and told Grace that the sprain was not serious. She refused, however, to go to bed, but lay on the wide lounge in the sitting room.
"Just keep quiet for a few days, and you'll be all right," said Dr. Gale. "You girls are as bad as boys about getting hard knocks. It looks as though basketball were about as barbarous as football."
"It is a dear old game, and I love it in spite of hard knocks," said Grace emphatically.
"I like your spirit, Grace," laughed Dr. Gale. "Now, remember to treat that ankle well if you want to appear again in the basketball arena."
"Grace," said Anne, after the doctor had gone. "You know how it happened, don't you?"
"Yes," answered Grace, after a little hesitation. "I do."
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Anne.
"I don't know," said Grace. "I am not sure it was intentional."
"Grace," said Anne with decision, "it was intentional. I watched her every minute of the game, for I didn't trust her, and I saw her do it. I was so angry that when Miss Thompson asked how it happened I felt that I must tell, then and there. It was you who prevented me. I think such a trick should be exposed."
"What a vengeful little Anne," said Grace. "You are usually the last one to tell anything."
She took Anne's hand in hers.
"It's just this way, Anne," she continued. "If I were to tell what Julia Crosby did, Miss Thompson might forbid basketball. That would be dreadful. Besides, the juniors would hardly believe me, and would say it was a case of sour grapes, on account of the sophomores losing the game. So you see I should gain nothing and perhaps lose a great deal. I believe that people that do mean things are usually repaid in their own coin. Julia didn't really intend to hurt me. Her idea was to prevent me from getting the ball. Of course it was dishonorable and she knew it. It is strictly forbidden in basketball, and if her own team knew positively that she was guilty, it would go hard with her. There is honor even among thieves, you know."
There was a brief silence. Grace lay back among the cushions, looking very white and tired. Her ankle pained her severely, but the defeat of her beloved team was a deeper hurt to her proud spirit.
Anne sat apparently wrapped in thought. She nervously clasped and unclasped her small hands.
"Grace," she said, "don't you think it was queer the way the juniors seemed to understand our signals. They knew every one of them. I believe that they found that list and it is all my fault. I had no business to lose it. I felt when I couldn't find it that it would fall into the wrong hands and cause trouble. I don't care for myself but if the girls find it out they will blame you for giving it to me. You know what Miriam said the other day. Now she will have a chance to be disagreeable to you about it."
Anne was almost in tears.
"Anne, dear," said Grace soothingly, "don't worry about it. I am not afraid to tell the girls about that list, and I shall certainly do so. They will understand that it was an accident, and overlook it. Besides, we are not sure that the juniors found it. I will admit that everything points that way. You know David warned us that they had some mischief on hand. If they did find it, the only honorable thing to do was to return it. They are far more at fault than we are, and the girls will agree with me, I know."
But Anne was not so confident.
"Miriam will try to make trouble about it, I know she will. And I am to blame for the whole thing," she said.
Grace was about to reply when Mrs. Harlowe appeared in the door with a tray of tempting food.
Anne rose and began donning her wraps.
"Won't you stay, Anne, and have supper with my invalid girl?" said Mrs. Harlowe.
"Please do, Anne," coaxed Grace. "I hate eating alone, and having you here takes my mind off my pain."
Anne stayed, and the two girls had a merry time over their meal. Grace, knowing Anne's distress over the lost signals, refused to talk of the subject. Jessica and Nora, David, Hippy and Reddy dropped in, one after the other, to inquire for Grace.
"There is nothing like accidents to bring one's friends together," declared Grace, as the young people gathered around her.
"I told you to look out for squalls, Grace," said David. "But you didn't weather the gale very well."
"Those juniors must have been eavesdropping when you made your signal code. They understood every play you made. By George, I wonder if that were the meaning of that pow-wow the other day. Some one must have put Julia Crosby wise, and that's why she called a meeting at the Omnibus House. It's an out-of-the-way place, and she thought there was no danger of being disturbed.
"Who could have been mean enough to betray us?" cried Nora. "I am sure none of the team did, unless——" Nora stopped short.
She had been on the point of using Miriam's name, but remembered just in time that Miriam's brother was present.
"If we knew the girl who did it, we'd certainly cut her acquaintance," said Reddy Brooks.
"Never again should she bask in the light of our society," said Hippy dramatically.
"None of our friends would do such a thing," said David soberly. Then, turning to Anne, "What's your opinion on the subject, Queen Anne?"
But Anne could find no answer. She simply shook her head.
Grace, knowing Anne's feelings over the affair, came to the rescue.
"Anne's opinion and mine are the same. We feel sure that they knew our signals, but we believe they accidentally hit upon the knowledge. There is no use in crying over spilt milk. We shall have to change all our signals and take care that it doesn't happen again. And now let's talk of something more agreeable, for basketball is a sore subject with me in more than one sense." The talk drifted into other channels much to Anne's relief.
"I have an idea!" exclaimed Hippy.
"Impossible," said Reddy. "No one would ever accuse you of such a thing."
"Be silent, fellow," commanded Hippy. "I will not brook such idle babbling." He strutted up and down the room, his chest inflated and one hand over his heart, presenting such a ridiculous figure that he raised a general laugh.
"Speak on, fat one. I promise not to make any more remarks," said Reddy.
"I propose," said Hippy, pausing in his march, "that we give an impromptu vaudeville show for the benefit of Miss Grace Harlowe, once an active member of this happy band, but now laid on the shelf—couch, I mean—for repairs."
"Done," was the unanimous reply.
"Now," continued Hippy, "get cozy, and the show will begin. Miss Nora O'Malley will open the show by singing 'Peggy Brady,' as only an Irish colleen of her pretensions can."
Nora rose, looked toward Jessica, who went at once to the piano to accompany her, and sang the song demanded with a fascinating brogue that always brought forth the applause of her friends. She responded to an encore. Then Anne's turn came, and she recited "Lasca." Hippy next favored the company with a comic song, which caused them to shout with laughter. Jessica did her Greek dance for which she was famous. The performance ended with an up-to-date version of "Antony and Cleopatra," enacted by David, Reddy and Hippy, with dialogue and stage business of which Shakespeare never dreamed.
It was a product of Hippy's fertile brain, and the boys had been rehearsing it with great glee, in view of appearing in it, on some fitting occasion, before the girls.
David, gracefully draped in the piano cover, represented Egypt's queen, and languished upon Marc Antony's shoulder in the most approved manner. Reddy, as the Roman conqueror left nothing to be desired. The star actor of the piece, however, was Hippy, who played the deadly asp. He writhed and wriggled in a manner that would have filled a respectable serpent with envy, and in the closing scene bit the unfortunate Cleopatra so venomously that she howled for mercy, and instead of dying gracefully, arose and engaged in battle with his snakeship.
Grace forgot her sprained ankle and laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks.
"You funny, funny boys," she gasped, "how did you ever think of anything so ridiculous!"
"Hippy perpetrated the outrage," said David "and we agreed to help him produce it. We have been practising it for two weeks, only we don't generally end up with a scuffle. I hope you will pardon us, Grace, but the desire to shake that husky Egyptian reptile was irresistible."
"There is nothing to pardon," replied Grace, "and we have only thanks to offer for the fun you have given us."
"It was indeed a notable performance," agreed Nora.
"Girls and boys," said Anne, "it is almost ten o'clock and Grace ought to be in bed. I move that we adjourn."
"Second the motion," said David. "We have been very selfish in keeping poor Grace up when she is ill."
"Poor Grace is glad you came, and isn't a bit tired," replied Grace, looking fondly at her friends. "You must all come to see me as often as you can while I am laid up. I shall be pretty lonely for a few days."
The young folks departed, singing "Good Night, Ladies" as they trooped down the walk.
"What a pleasure it is to have such dear, good friends," thought Grace as she lay back on her couch after they had gone. "They are well worth all the loyalty I can give them."
She went to sleep that night unconscious of how soon her loyalty to one of them would be put to the test.
"A sprained ankle is not so serious," declared Grace from her nest among the sofa cushions. It was the Monday after the game. Her various sympathetic classmates were seated about the Harlowe's comfortable living room. A wood fire crackled cheerfully in the big, open fireplace, while a large plate of chocolate fudge circulated from one lap to another.
"Jessica, will you pour the chocolate?" continued Grace to her friend, who rose at once to comply with her request. "Anne, will you help serve, please?"
Anne accordingly drew about the room a little table on wheels, containing on its several shelves plates containing sandwiches, cookies and cakes.
"Trust to the Harlowe's to have lots of good things to eat," exclaimed Marian Barber. "It must be fun to be laid up, Grace, if you can give a party every afternoon."
"I must entertain my friends when they are kind enough to come and see me," answered Grace. "But some people think sandwiches poor provender unless they are the fancy kind, with olives and nuts in them. Miriam, for instance would never serve such plain fare to her company as cream cheese sandwiches."
"Here comes Miriam up the walk now," cried Jessica. "She looks as though she had something on her mind."
Presently the door opened and Miriam was ushered in. Grace wondered a little at her call, considering the unfriendly spirit Miriam had recently exhibited toward her. She greeted Miriam cordially. The laws of hospitality were sacred in the Harlowe family, and not for worlds would Grace have shown anything but the kindest feeling toward a guest under her own roof.
Miriam accepted the chair and the cup of chocolate tendered her, ignoring the plate of cakes offered by Anne. She looked about her like a marksman taking aim before he fires. There was a danger signal in either eye.
"She is out for slaughter," thought Nora.
"Well, Miriam, what's the news?" said Marian Barber good-naturedly. "You have a mysterious, newsy look in your eye. Is it good, bad or indifferent?"
"How did you guess that I had news?" inquired Miriam. Then without waiting for an answer she went on. "I certainly have, and very unpleasant news, at that."
"Out with it," said Nora, "and don't keep us in suspense."
"Well," said Miriam, "I suppose you all noticed how the juniors outwitted us at every point last Saturday? We put up a hard fight, too. The reason of it was that they knew every one of our signals."
"How dreadful!" "How did they get their information?" "Who told you so?" were the exclamations that rose from the assembled girls.
Grace had raised herself to a sitting position and was steadily regarding Miriam, who, well aware of that keen, searching gaze, deliberately continued:
"What makes the matter so much worse is the fact that we were betrayed by a member of our own class."
"Oh, Miriam, you don't mean that?" said Jessica.
"I am sorry to say that it is true," replied Miriam, "and I am going to put the matter before the class."
"Tell us who it is, Miriam," cried the girls. "We'll fix her!"
"Miriam," said Grace in a tone of quiet command that made every girl look toward her, "you are to mention no names while in my house."
Miriam's face flamed. Before she could reply, however, Grace went on. "Girls you must realize the position in which Miriam's remarks place me. She is sure that she knows who betrayed our signals, and is willing to name the person. Suppose she names some girl present. Think of the feelings of that girl, my guest, yet not safe from accusation while here. I should prove a poor sort of hostess if I allowed the honor of any of my friends to suffer while in my house.
"The place to discuss these things is in school. There every girl stands on an equal footing and can refute any charges made against her. I wish to say that I have a communication to make which may put a different face on the whole matter. I know something of the story of those signals. When I go back to school I shall call a meeting of the basketball team and its subs. and tell them what I know about it; but not until then. Furthermore it is not strictly a class matter, as it pertains to the basketball players alone. Therefore any one outside the team has no right to interfere. Please don't think me disagreeable. It is because I am trying to avoid unpleasant consequences that I am firm about having no names mentioned here."
There was an absolute silence in the room. The girls had a deep regard for Grace on account of her frank, open nature and love of fair play; but Miriam had her own particular friends who had respect for her on account of her being a Nesbit. She had a faculty of obtaining her own way, too, that seemed, to them, little short of marvellous, and she spent more money than any other girl in Oakdale High School. It was therefore difficult to choose between the two factions.
Nora broke the embarrassing pause.
"Grace is right as usual," she said, "and none of you girls should feel offended. What's the use of wasting the whole afternoon quarrelling over an old basketball game? Do talk about something pleasant. The sophomore ball for instance. Do you girls realize that we ought to be making some plans for it? It's the annual class dance, and should be welcomed, with enthusiasm. We've all been so crazy over basketball that we've neglected to think about our class responsibilities. We ought to try to make it a greater success than any other dance ever given by a sophomore class. We must call a meeting very soon, not to fight over basketball, but to make arrangements for our dance."
Nora's reminder of the coming ball was a stroke of diplomacy on her part.
What school girl does not grow enthusiastic over a class dance? A buzz of conversation immediately arose as to gowns, decorations, refreshments and the thousand and one things all important to a festivity of that kind.
Miriam seeing that it was useless to try to raise any further disturbance, cut her call short, taking with her several girls who were her staunch upholders.
Those who remained did not seem sorry at her departure, and Grace drew a breath of relief as the door closed upon the wilful girl. She had at least saved Anne from a cruel attack, but how much longer she could do so was a question. Miriam would undoubtedly bring up the subject at the first class meeting, and Grace was not so sure, now, that the girls would be willing to overlook the loss of the signals when she told them of it.
"I shall be loyal to Anne, no matter what it costs me," she decided. "She has done nothing wrong, and Miriam will find that she cannot trample upon either of us with impunity. As for Jessica and Nora, I know they will agree with me."
Under cover of conversation, Grace whispered to Jessica that she wished her to remain after the others had gone, and to ask Nora and Anne to do the same.
When the last of the callers had said good-bye, and the four chums had the room to themselves, Grace told Nora and Jessica about Anne's mishap, and how utterly innocent of blame she was.
"Do you mean to tell me that Miriam meant Anne when she said she could name the girl?" demanded Nora.
"She did, indeed," replied Anne, "and if it had not been for Grace she would have made things very unpleasant for me."
"Humph," ejaculated the fiery Nora, "then all I have to say is that I don't see how a nice boy like David ever happened to have a horrid hateful, scheming sister like Miriam. Stand up for Anne? Well I rather think so! Let Miriam dare to say anything like that to me."
"Or me," said Jessica.
"I knew you girls would feel the same as I do," said Grace. "Anne has some true friends, thank goodness. You see Miriam is basing all her suppositions on the fact that Anne was allowed to come to practice. She doesn't know anything about the loss of the signals. You remember she objected to Anne seeing the practice game. Now she will try to show that she was right in doing so."
"Let her try it," said Jessica, "She'll be sorry."
"I am not so sure of that," said Anne quietly. "You know that Miriam has plenty of influence with certain girls, while I am only a stranger about whom no one cares except yourselves and the boys and Mrs. Gray.
"You are the brightest girl in school just the same," said Nora, "and that counts for a whole lot. Miss Thompson likes you, too, and our crowd is not to be despised."
"You are the dearest people in the world," responded Anne gratefully. "Please don't think that I am unappreciative. You have done far too much for me, and I don't want you to get into trouble on my account. As long as you girls care for me, I don't mind what the others think."
"Don't say that Anne," said Jessica. "You don't know how mean some of those girls can be. Don't you remember the junior that was cut by her class last year? Of course, she did something for which she deserved to be cut, but the girls made her life miserable. The story went through every class, and she got the cold shoulder all around. She's not here this year. Her father sent her away to school, she was so unhappy. You remember her, don't you?" turning to Grace and Nora.
Both girls nodded. The story of the unfortunate junior loomed up before them. Every girl in High School knew it.
"We can only hope that history will not repeat itself," said Grace thoughtfully. "Of course, I don't mean that there is any similarity between the two cases. That girl last year was untruthful and extremely dishonorable. It is perfectly ridiculous to think of placing the blame for those signals upon Anne. If the girls are silly enough to listen to Miriam's insinuations, then they must choose between Miriam and me. Anne is my dear friend, and I shall stick to her until the end."
THE PRICE OF FRIENDSHIP
It was a week before Dr. Gale pronounced Grace fit to return to school. When she did make her appearance, she was hailed with delight by her schoolmates and made much of. Miss Thompson greeted her warmly. She was very fond of Grace, and had expressed great concern over the young girl's accident. It was unusual for a girl to receive so serious an injury during a game, as all rough play was strictly forbidden.
The principal had kept the members of both teams after school and questioned them closely. No one had seen Grace fall, nor realized that she was hurt until she had been discovered sitting on the gymnasium floor. Miss Thompson had a vague suspicion of foul play on the part of the juniors, but was unable to find out anything.
"Athletics for girls have always been encouraged in this school," she had said. "Rough play is disgraceful. If I found that any member of any High School basketball organization, either directly or indirectly, caused the injury of an opponent, I should forbid basketball for the rest of the season at least, and perhaps absolutely. Tripping, striking and kicking are barred out of the boys' games and will certainly not be tolerated in those of the girls."