Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College
By JESSIE GRAHAM FLOWER, A. M.
Author of The Grace Harlowe High School Girls Series, Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College.
PHILADELPHIA HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY Copyright, 1914
I. A Semper Fidelis Luncheon
II. The Last Freshman
III. An Accident and a Surprise
IV. Patience Promises to Stand By
V. A Declaration of War
VI. A Face to Face Talk
VII. When Friends Fall Out
VIII. A Leaf from the Past
IX. A Thanksgiving Invitation
X. Kathleen's Promise
XI. Kathleen's Great Story
XIII. The Invitation
XIV. A Congenial Sextette
XV. A Firelight Council
XVI. Elfreda Shows Grace the Way
XVII. What the Seniors Thought of the Plan
XVIII. The Fairy Godmother's Visit
XIX. What Patience Overheard
XX. The Mysterious "Peter Rabbit"
XXI. Who Will Win the Honor Pin?
XXII. Kathleen's Great Moment
XXIII. Grace Finds Her Work
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Grace Paused in the Doorway.
Grace Stepped Behind a Tree.
They Clustered About the Fireplace.
The Four Friends Were Strolling Across the Campus.
Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College
A SEMPER FIDELIS LUNCHEON
"The skies must smile and the sun must shine When Semper Fidelis goes out to dine,"
sang Arline Thayer joyously as she rearranged her sofa pillows for the eighth time, patting each one energetically before placing it, then stepping back to view the effect. "Aren't you glad every one's here, and things have begun to happen again, Ruth?" she asked blithely. "I hope no one disappoints us. I wish this room were larger. Still, it held eighteen girls one night last year. Don't you remember my Hallowe'en party, and what a time we had squeezing in here?"
"It is so good in Mrs. Kane to let us have the dining room with Mary to serve the oysters," said Ruth. "We never could do things properly up here."
"I know it. Oysters are such slippery old things, even on the half shell," returned Arline, who was not specially fond of them. "Let me see. The girls will be here at four o'clock. We are to have oysters, soup, a meat course, salad and dessert. That makes five different courses in five different houses. It will be eight o'clock before we reach the dessert. I am glad that is to be served in Grace's room. We always have a good time at Wayne Hall."
To the readers of "Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College," "Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College" and "Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College," Grace Harlowe and her various intimate associates have become familiar figures. Those who made her acquaintance, together with that of her three friends, Nora O'Malley, Jessica Bright and Anne Pierson, during her high school days will recall with pleasure the many eventful happenings of these four happy years as set forth in "Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School," "Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School," "Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School" and "Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School."
The September following the graduation of the four friends from high school had seen their paths diverge widely, for Nora and Jessica had entered an eastern conservatory of music, while Anne and Grace, after due deliberation, had decided upon Overton College. Miriam Nesbit, of Oakdale fame, had entered college with them, and the trio of friends had spent three eventful years at Overton.
"It is time we gathered home," grumbled Arline. "I have hardly seen Grace or any of the Semper Fidelis girls this week. They have all been so popular that they haven't given a thought to their neglected little friends."
"Let me see," returned Ruth slyly. "How many nights have you stayed quietly at home this week?"
"Not one, you rascal," retorted Arline, laughing. "I ought to be the last one to grumble. But in spite of all the rush, I have missed the dear old quartette."
"So have I," declared Ruth earnestly. "Twenty minutes to four. They will soon be here."
"Yes. I asked Grace to come as early as possible," said Arline. "There, I hear the bell now." Arline whisked out of the room and peered anxiously over the baluster. "Hello, Grace," she called joyously. "Hurry as fast as ever you can. Where are your faithful three?"
"I came on ahead," laughed Grace. "I had promised you that I would, and being a person of my word, I didn't wish to disappoint you. When I left Wayne Hall Miriam was playing maid to Elfreda. The new gown she had made for the luncheon didn't arrive until the last minute. So Miriam stayed to help her dress. It is a perfectly darling gown. Just wait until you see Elfreda in it. She hasn't gained an ounce since she went home last spring. She has had a strenuous time all summer to keep her weight down. You must ask her to tell you about it."
"I will," promised Arline, with an anticipatory smile. "But where is Anne?"
"I left Anne finishing a letter to her mother. She will be here with Miriam and Elfreda. Isn't it splendid to think you and Ruth can be together this year?"
Grace ran lightly up the stairs in Arline's wake, and a moment later greeted Ruth with outstretched hands.
"Take the seat of honor, Grace," directed Arline, gently propelling her toward her best leather upholstered armchair. "Isn't it obliging of the weather to stay so nice and warm? We don't need hats or coats. You were sensible and didn't wear either. Not having to bother with wraps will save time, too."
"I am highly impressed with this house-to-house luncheon," declared Grace. "It was clever in you to suggest it, Arline."
"Oh, these progressive luncheons are nothing new," returned Arline quickly. "I have read that they are extremely popular among college and high school girls. I am sure I don't know why I never before proposed that we give one. It is going to be lots of fun, isn't it? There's the bell again. I hope that maid hasn't gone on a vacation. It usually takes her forever." Arline darted out of the room to hang over the baluster once more.
This time it was the Emerson twins, and by four o'clock the last member of the club had taken her place beside her sisters in Arline's room.
"As we are all here," announced Arline, "we might as well begin. The feast awaits you downstairs in the dining room; that is, a very small part of it. There is one beautiful feature about this luncheon, we are to have plenty of exercise between each course. Are all of you hungry?"
There was a lively chorus of affirmatives.
"Then choose your partners and come along," ordered the little curly-haired girl.
It did not take long to dispose of the oysters, and, headed by Sara and Julia Emerson, the little procession of girls moved on to Ralston House, where the twins were to play hostess and serve the soup.
"You can thank your stars and me that you don't have to squeeze into our room and eat your soup from cups instead of Mrs. Bryant's best soup plates," Julia informed her guests as they swarmed up the steps. "Mrs. Bryant couldn't see this luncheon at first. She had no appreciation of what a really important affair it was to be. I had to use all my persuasive powers on her. But I won, and she descended to the kitchen and made the soup herself."
"I think we owe Julia a special vote of thanks," declared Miriam Nesbit a little later, as she finished her soup. "This vermicelli soup is the best I ever tasted."
"It can't be beaten, can it?" asked Sara Emerson eagerly. "That was why we were so anxious to take the soup course on our shoulders. We knew what was in store for us if we could make Mrs. Bryant see things in our light."
"S-h-h, she's coming!" warned Julia. "For goodness' sake, Sara, be careful."
Mrs. Bryant, a rather austere person and not in the least like her sister, Mrs. Elwood, who managed Wayne Hall, walked into the dining room at this juncture, apparently in the best of humors.
Arline glanced inquiringly at Grace, who nodded slightly, whereupon the dainty president of the Semper Fidelis Club rose and made the matron a pretty little speech of thanks in behalf of the club. Then the luncheon party started on their way again, Mrs. Bryant hospitably seeing them to the door and extending a smiling invitation to come again.
"I knew she couldn't resist us," chuckled Sara Emerson, as the girls filed down the walk. "A combination like ours is safe to make its way anywhere. Come on, Marian and Elizabeth, you are the hostesses now. Shall we head for Livingstone Hall?"
"No, indeed," smiled Marian. "Bess and I are not so lucky. It is Vinton's for ours. But we can assure you that you won't be disappointed in the layout."
One of the features of the luncheon was the fact that no one knew until the moment of serving what the various courses were to be. When it was discovered that Marian and Elizabeth had ordered fried chicken, for which Vinton's was famous, with potatoes au gratin and tiny French peas, there was general rejoicing. It took the better part of an hour to eat these good things, and the guests, feeling that they were on familiar ground, enjoyed themselves hugely.
"Oh, dear!" groaned Elfreda, "I know I have gained a pound since I started out this afternoon. I haven't eaten so much at one time for ages. There is still the salad and dessert to come. I can't possibly miss either one of them."
"Never mind, Elfreda," soothed Emma Dean; "we won't invite you to the next luncheon, then you can——"
"Just try leaving me out and see what happens," retorted Elfreda threateningly. "You may find yourself locked in your room on that self-same day with the key missing."
"Be good, both of you," admonished Miriam, "or I'll see that neither of you get any dessert."
"Grace and Anne wouldn't be so mean," returned Elfreda with supreme self-assurance.
"How could we blast such touching faith?" laughed Anne.
"There, what did I tell you?" asked Elfreda, turning triumphant eyes on Emma. "Now, leave me out if you dare."
"I don't dare. I don't want to," declared Emma affably. "I was merely trying to be pleasant and helpful. If you were not invited to the spread, naturally you wouldn't eat, and if you didn't eat, then you wouldn't have to worry about that extra pound. It is all very simple."
"Very!" agreed Elfreda, with such scathing emphasis that the exchange of words ended in a general giggle at Emma's expense.
"Now that you've all finished laughing at me," she declared good-naturedly, "I hereby invite all of you, even Elfreda, to Martell's for the salad, which is my part of the ceremony."
"Oh, goody, it's Waldorf!" exclaimed Elfreda delightedly, as, seated about the big corner table at Martell's, perhaps twenty minutes later, they saw the salad brought on. "You knew what we liked, didn't you, Emma?"
"I did, in spite of my simple tendencies," murmured Emma.
"That was a well merited thrust," laughed Elfreda, laying her hand lightly over her heart.
"And now Wayne Hall and our humble apartment await you," proclaimed Grace when the last vestige of salad had disappeared. "Anne and I extend you a pressing invitation to dessert and conversation. Although this is to be a strictly informal session of the club, we may wish to discuss certain club business. The evening is before us. We ought to make good use of it."
"And so we shall," returned Emma Dean, as they rose to go. "The affairs of the nation shall be discussed and adjusted to-night."
"And the world will be upside down forever after," predicted Elfreda.
"Don't croak," reproved Emma. "Who knows what this night may bring forth? It may engender indigestion, or a stern injunction to make less noise on the part of Mrs. Elwood, but whatever the future has in store for us, we shall have had at least one luncheon worth remembering."
THE LAST FRESHMAN
It was ten minutes past seven when the club settled down to the frozen custard and delicious cakes that Grace and Anne had provided for them. Then Elfreda, who had taken upon herself the making and serving of the coffee, returned after a brief absence with a percolator of steaming coffee, Miriam following with the sugar and cream.
"Isn't it too bad we never thought of doing this before?" said Marian Cummings.
"Something had to be left for our senior year," said Anne Pierson.
"Do you know, I am anything but joyful at being a senior," announced Elfreda Briggs. "Of course, it is a satisfaction to know that one has weathered the last three years' examinations and is practically on Easy Street as far as studies go, but every now and then comes the awful feeling, 'only a little while and it will all be over'—college, I mean."
"'Yet a few days, and thee the all-beholding sun shall see no more.'"
quoted Emma Dean lugubriously.
"Not quite so bad as that," returned Elfreda with an appreciative grin.
"Even we juniors feel more or less that way," said Laura Atkins. "I never had any real fun until I came to Overton. The time has gone so fast I can't believe that it is two years since I locked Grace and Anne out of their room and behaved like a savage. I don't wonder Elfreda named me the Anarchist. I did my best to live up to the name."
"Oh, forget about that," murmured Elfreda, looking embarrassed.
The members of the club were wholly familiar with the history of Laura Atkins's freshman year and admired her for the matter-of-fact way in which she was wont to discuss her early short-comings. Under the sunny influence of the four girls who had helped her to find herself, she had developed into a gracious and likeable young woman. She and Mildred Taylor were the guests of the club that afternoon.
"What is the latest word from erring freshmen? Has any one heard?" asked Grace. Laura's reference to herself had set Grace to thinking of freshmen in general.
"We've six at Ralston," groaned Julia Emerson. "The usual variety—neither rich nor poor, brilliant nor dull, amiable nor perverse, goody-goody nor lawless. Just that comfortable, maddeningly commonplace variety of girls who never go to extremes."
"Extremes are dangerous," declared Elfreda judicially.
"Better be an extremist than nothing at all," grumbled Julia.
"For the first time since we came here, there isn't a single freshman at Wayne Hall," announced Miriam.
"Are all the rooms taken?" asked Marian Cummings.
"All but half of one room," replied Emma Dean. "The illustrious Miss West is alone in her glory. I heard Mrs. Elwood lamenting to-day because that particular half was still vacant."
"Some one may take it yet," said Arline Thayer. "This is only the second week of the term. Only yesterday a freshman arrived at Morton House. Girls have been known to drift into Overton a whole month after the beginning of the term."
"Did Miss West ask for a single?" questioned Grace of Emma.
"No, she doesn't in the least yearn for one. You know she is paying her own way through college. She told Mrs. Elwood that it was all she could do to keep her head above water as it was and couldn't afford to think of a single. Of course, Mrs. Elwood hasn't charged her single rates yet, but if no one else appears she will either have to pay the advanced price or make other arrangements. Mrs. Elwood knows of two girls who have been trying to get into Wayne Hall for a long time, and who will come bag and baggage the moment she says the word."
"That is too bad," said Miriam slowly—"for Miss West, I mean."
A significant silence fell upon the company of girls. The same thought was in each one's mind. It was Elfreda who finally voiced it. "It looks as though the S. F.'s ought to get busy," she said slangily. "We might lend her the money to make up the difference."
"I am afraid that wouldn't do," objected Anne, whose practical experience with poverty had made her wise. "I imagine with her it is a question of being economical. It wouldn't be fair to tempt her to extravagance, for a single would be the height of improvidence, particularly if she had to go in debt for it."
"Anne is right," declared Gertrude Wells decidedly. "But to be perfectly frank, I am not in favor of the club taking up Miss West's case. You all know how badly she behaved toward us last year, particularly toward Grace. If we offered her help, no doubt we should be ridiculed for our pains. I think the best thing for us to do is to let her alone."
"So do I," echoed Sarah Emerson.
Several affirmative murmurs went up from various girls.
"Now, see here," began Elfreda Briggs emphatically. "What is the use in our calling ourselves Semper Fidelis and then going back on our principles? When we organized this club, we didn't make any conditions as to who should be helped and who shouldn't, did we? Whoever needed help was to have it. If there is anyway in which we can be of assistance to Miss West, then it is our duty to respond cheerfully."
"Hurrah for you, Elfreda!" cried Arline. "You're an honor to the Sempers and your own sweet native land. Of course we aren't going to pick and choose whom we shall help. I think we had better appoint a committee to call on Miss West and find out if we can render her any financial assistance."
"I'm in favor of that committee," declared Emma Dean, "only don't ask me to serve on it."
"Grace and Arline are the very ones for that stunt," proposed Julia Emerson. "They can do it to perfection."
"Please don't ask me," said Grace with sudden earnestness. "I just can't, that's all." Her face flushed, and a distressed look crept into her eyes which her friends were quick to note.
"Suppose you and Elfreda call on her, Miriam?" proposed Arline. "You two are very valiant."
"Excuse me," said Elfreda so promptly that everyone laughed. "I may look valiant, but to every woman her own fear, you know."
"Oh, look, girls!" The sudden exclamation came from Gertrude Wells, who was sitting near the open window. "There's the automobile bus from the station. It's stopping in front of Wayne Hall, too."
There was a concerted rush for the two windows.
"I wonder who it can be!" cried Emma Dean. "Wouldn't it be funny if it were the greatly desired freshman, Miss West's other half?"
The watchers saw the bus door open. Then out of it stepped the tallest girl they had ever seen.
"I believe she is seven feet tall," muttered Emma Dean. "I am sure of it."
"Nonsense," laughed Miriam. "But she is not far from six. I wish it were daylight, then we could see her face."
"I wonder who she can be," mused Arline.
"There is only one answer," smiled Miriam Nesbit. "As Emma just stated, she must be Miss West's other half. However, we shall know before long."
A moment later they heard the bell ring, then up from the hall came the sound of Mrs. Elwood's voice speaking in surprised but pleased tones. A voice almost masculine in its depth answered. There was a tramp of feet up the stairs and down the hall. In the next instant the door of the end room had opened and closed upon the newcomer.
"Girls, you are saved," proclaimed Gertrude Wells dramatically. "We have been wasting our valuable time to-night trying to solve Miss West's problem, while all the time the queen of the giants was hurrying as fast as ever she could to the rescue."
There was a faint general laugh at the remark, then Elfreda said severely, "Young women, do you consider making uncomplimentary remarks about new students in the line of true Overton spirit?"
"But she did look seven feet tall," persisted Emma Dean.
"Think how deceitful appearances sometimes are," reminded Miriam.
"Never judge a person by moonlight," added Ruth Denton.
"Never judge them at all," smiled Grace. "Let the poor freshman rest in peace. I have a last sweet surprise for you. Name it and you can have it."
"Caramels," guessed Julia Emerson.
"Marshmallows," said Gertrude Wells.
"Oh, I know," cried Arline. "Nut chocolates; the delicious kind that old candy man in Oakdale makes."
"Some one must have told you," said Grace, going to the closet and returning with a huge box. "You are all to stay here until the last chocolate is eaten."
It was on the ragged edge of half-past ten when the Semper Fidelis Club trooped happily across the campus to their various houses, but, faithful to their duty, the big candy box reposed in Grace's waste basket, quite empty.
"I wonder how Kathleen West received her roommate," observed Miriam. She and Elfreda had lingered for a moment in Grace's room after the others had gone.
"It is fortunate for her that a belated freshman happened along," was Grace's serious reply.
"But most unfortunate for the freshman," added Elfreda. "However, this one looks perfectly capable of fighting her own battles."
AN ACCIDENT AND A SURPRISE
"Well, what do you think of her?" inquired Elfreda Briggs the following morning, poking her head in at Grace's door, a quizzical smile on her round face. Grace and Anne had left the breakfast table a few minutes before Elfreda, who had foregone finishing her breakfast and rushed upstairs to hear her friends' opinion of the tall freshman, who had seemed taller than ever as she stalked uncompromisingly into the dining room that morning in Kathleen West's wake. The newspaper girl looked anything but in a happy frame of mind, and after several covert glances in her direction, Grace decided that the new arrival had not been met with open arms on the part of Kathleen.
"What do I think of her?" repeated Grace. "A good many things, I should say. What do you think?"
"I think she is the most interesting and entertaining person I've seen in years," declared Elfreda exaggeratingly.
"Then her entertaining powers do not lie in speech," laughed Anne. "I heard her say three things this morning at the table. They were, 'yes,' 'thank you' and 'I believe so.'"
"She didn't talk, that's a fact," admitted Elfreda, "but she looked as though she was keeping up an awful thinking. Does any one know from whence she came, and why?"
"I don't know anything about her," said Grace, shaking her head, "but I am sure that you will find out everything worth knowing before night. You will be able to see a great deal, you know."
"Don't flatter me," grinned Elfreda. "That's no joke, though," she added hastily. "I'll find out, never fear, and then I'll tell you girls."
"What a comfort it is to have the latest news brought to one's door every morning," jeered Anne.
"You'll find yourself without that comfort if you are not more respectful," threatened Elfreda. "I'll carry my news to other doors where it will be more highly appreciated."
"Your threats fail to impress me," retorted Anne. "You know that you couldn't bear to ignore us."
"I know I shall be late to chapel, and that you will be later," replied Elfreda significantly. "Tardiness is unbecoming in a senior. I am sorry to be obliged to remind you of it."
"Save your sorrow and come along," called Miriam Nesbit from the doorway. "Aren't you going to chapel this morning, Grace?"
"Not this morning," replied Grace, not raising her eyes from the book over which she was poring. "This is psychology morning and I'm very shaky on the lesson. I feel in my bones that I'll be called upon to recite, so please go away, all of you, and don't bother me," she finished with an affectionate smile that did not accord with her blunt words.
"Going, going, gone!" flung back Elfreda over her shoulder as she left the room, followed by Miriam and Anne.
Grace glanced anxiously at the clock, then concentrated her mind anew upon her reading. The sound of hurried feet on the stairs and through the halls, accompanied by an occasional murmur of voices as the students left Wayne Hall, was borne to her ears as she read and tried to familiarize herself with the main points of the lesson. Gradually the house settled down to quiet, and Grace, becoming thoroughly interested in her work, lost all track of time.
The sound of a terrific crash, apparently just outside the half-opened door, brought her to her feet in alarm. "What was that?" she exclaimed. Stepping to the door she looked up and down the hall. From the room at the end, the door of which was ajar, came a jingling sound as of dishes being piled together. For a moment Grace hesitated, then walked toward the sound. At the doorway she paused again; then the sight that met her eyes caused her to spring forward with an impulsive, "What a dreadful smash! Do let me help you."
The extremely tall young woman who sat on the edge of her bed surveying the wreck of her washbowl, pitcher and every other piece of china that five minutes before had reposed confidently on the top of her washstand regarded Grace ruefully. There was a twinkle in her eyes, however, that belied her regret. "It did make considerable noise, I imagine," she said crisply. "Strange the rest of the students here haven't appeared on the scene."
Grace involuntarily retreated a step or two, her face flushing. She could not endure the idea of being thought an intruder.
"Don't go," said the tall young woman, in the same crisp tone. "I didn't mean that you were an intruder. I only wonder that no one else came. The wreck of the Hesperus wasn't serious compared with this," she said dryly, indicating the littered floor. "I tried to move my wash stand. It stuck. Then all of a sudden it gave way and I fell back, dragging it with me. I had hold of one end of it with both hands, and I was stronger than I thought, for I just missed sitting on the floor and receiving all that china in my lap. I was horrified for a second, but all of a sudden the funny side of it struck me, and I sat down on my couch and laughed until I cried. I was just wiping my eyes and preparing to pick up the pieces when you came in. Perhaps you thought I was crying over it. Can you imagine me in tears?" she added humorously.
"Hardly," said Grace with a frank smile that was reflected on the tall young woman's face.
"No, I am not one of the weeping kind," she declared sturdily. "I come of good, old, undaunted New England stock. My name is Patience Eliot and I live just outside Boston. I might as well tell you all about myself in the first place, because I decided at breakfast that I liked you. I know your Christian name because I heard your friends addressing you as "Grace" this morning, but I don't know your surname."
"I am Grace Harlowe, at your service," replied Grace lightly, "and it is always gratifying to be liked. I saw you last night when you arrived. I was entertaining a crowd of girls, and, of course, we couldn't resist running to the window when one of the girls happened to see the bus stopping in front of the house."
"Were you at the window?" asked Miss Eliot unconcernedly. "I didn't see you. In fact, I wasn't thinking of anything but getting into my room and to bed. I had been on the train long enough to become thoroughly tired of it. It was two hours late, too. We should have arrived at Overton at half-past seven, but it was half-past nine when the train pulled into the Overton station."
"You must have been very tired," sympathized Grace. "I hope you rested well last night. If there is anything I can do for you in the way of showing you to the registrar's office or wherever you may wish to go, I shall be only too glad to do so. My first recitation happens to be at ten o'clock this morning, so I have plenty of time."
"My first duty lies before me," returned Miss Eliot grimly, pointing to the floor. "I think you had better direct me to a store where I can replace this. If I ask Mrs. Elwood to set a price on it, she will cheat herself."
"Why, how did you know that?" asked Grace in surprise. "You only saw her for a few minutes last night."
"That was long enough to discover several things concerning her greatly to her credit," was the calm answer. "However, as you have been so kind as to offer to direct me, I think I will ask you to take me to the registrar's office. She has been expecting me ever since college opened. I imagine she has given me up by this time." Stepping over the wreck of broken china to the closet, she took her hat from its hook on the inner side of the door, and, putting it on without glancing into the mirror, announced herself in readiness to depart. "I'll lock the door on this wreck and have it removed when I return," she said.
The registrar was writing busily, her head bent intently over her work, when Grace led the way into her office. "Good morning, Miss Sheldon," she began. "This is Miss Eliot of the——" Grace was about to say freshman class when the registrar rose and came toward them with outstretched hand.
"My dear Patience!" she exclaimed cordially, "I am so glad you arrived at last. How is your father?"
"Much better, thank you," replied the tall girl. "We still have two nurses, but I think he is out of danger now. I hated to leave him, but he was so worried because I had missed the first two weeks of college, that he insisted I should come on here at once. I arrived last night and went directly to Holland House, but the matron there thought I had given up coming, and the room I engaged by letter had been given to some one else only yesterday morning. She directed me to Wayne Hall, where, by the merest luck, I managed to secure half a room."
During this flow of explanations, delivered in Miss Eliot's crisp, business-like tones, Grace had listened in open amazement. This tall freshman's manner of addressing Miss Sheldon, the dignified registrar, betokened long acquaintance, while the registrar looked as delighted as though she had found a long-lost relative.
"I see you have fallen into good hands," said the registrar, a pleasant smile lighting her rather austere face as she glanced at Grace.
"I am quite sure of that," responded Miss Eliot heartily. "I also brought disaster upon myself." An account of the morning's accident followed.
"I believe you were born to disaster, Patience Eliot," laughed Miss Sheldon.
"I shouldn't be at all surprised," was the dry response.
"Miss Harlowe, I have known Miss Eliot since she was a little girl," explained Miss Sheldon. "I am pleased to know that she is to live at Wayne Hall. I am sure she will be happy there. I understand that the Wayne Hall girls make a very congenial household."
"We try to," said Grace with a frank smile. "My three friends and I have never lived in any other house since our freshman days. Perhaps Miss Eliot will find her freshman year there as delightful as we found ours."
"My freshman year!" exclaimed Miss Eliot in evident surprise.
"Yes," returned Grace rather blankly. "Aren't you a freshman? I don't know why I thought so, but I supposed, of course, that——" She paused irresolutely.
Miss Sheldon and the tall girl exchanged openly smiling glances, then the latter turned toward Grace almost apologetically. "I am a freshman in one sense," she said. "I have never before been to college, but as far as work goes I studied with my father and was lucky enough to pass up the freshman year. I ran down here last June to talk things over and find where I stood. I'm a sophomore, if you please."
Grace burst into merry laughter. "Won't the girls be surprised!" she exclaimed. "We all thought you were a freshman."
"I hadn't stopped to think of what any one else thought of me," said Patience, "or I might have enlightened the girls at the breakfast table as to my superior sophomore estate. They'll find out soon enough. I have a great mind to let them stumble upon the truth gradually."
"Oh, do," begged Grace gleefully. "It will be great fun to let matters take their own course."
Miss Sheldon smiled indulgently, but made no comment. She was versed in the ways of college girls. She, too, had been a student at Overton.
"I should like to stay longer, Miss Sheldon, but I know you are very busy." Patience rose at last to go, Grace following her example. "Now that I have come to headquarters, been identified, had my thumb marks registered and become a unit in this great and glorious organization," went on the tall girl calmly, "I shall feel free to go forth and replace Mrs. Elwood's demolished china. I should like to put the new set on the washstand before I tell her of the accident. Good-bye, Miss Sheldon." She held out her hand. "May I come to see you soon?"
"You know you will always be welcome, my dear."
"I wish you wouldn't tell even your roommate that I am a sophomore," said Patience Eliot as they left the campus and turned into College Street.
"I won't," promised Grace. "I'll be a positive clam. But what about your roommate? She will be sure to find out first, and then——" Remembering Patience Eliot's roommate Grace broke off suddenly.
"And then what?" asked the tall girl with disconcerting directness.
"Nothing," murmured Grace.
"Then we don't need to become alarmed, do we?" was the next question.
"No, not in the least," said Grace, smiling faintly. She was trying to decide whether or not she ought even to intimate to the tall, matter-of-fact girl, whom she already liked, that Kathleen West was likely to prove a disappointment in the way of a roommate.
But the decision was not left to her, for Patience Eliot said with calm amusement in her tones: "I have a better idea of what you are thinking than you know. All I have to say is, don't waste a minute worrying over me. Patience Eliot will take care of herself regardless of who her roommate may be."
PATIENCE PROMISES TO STAND BY
For the next three days Patience Eliot passed successfully for a freshman. Then came the sudden dismaying rumor that she was registered in the sophomore theme class. A little later it was announced positively that she had passed up freshman French. The truth suddenly burst upon certain members of the sophomore class who had selected Miss Eliot as a splendid subject for sophomore grinds, when, on the occasion of their first class meeting, she walked quietly into the class room where it was to be held, and took her place with a cheerful, matter-of-course air that was very disturbing to various abashed sophomores who had planned mischief.
Far from being angry, the astonished sophomores treated the New England girl's mild deception as a joke, and by it she sprang into instant popularity with her class. There were a few disgruntled students who criticized her, but these were so far in the minority that they counted for little. Kathleen West was among this minority. On the evening when the girl from New England had been shown into the room at the end of the hall, Kathleen had conceived a strong dislike for this calm-faced, independent young woman, whose quiet self-assurance nettled her, and mentally decided that she belonged to the preaching, narrow-minded class of girls who made life a burden for those who did not live up to a certain impossible standard. Patience Eliot had been even less favorably impressed with the newspaper girl. "She has a frightful temper," had been her mental observation, "and looks the reverse of agreeable." Aside from a brief exchange of conversation, silence had reigned in the room, and remembering the happy faces of the girls she had seen at the breakfast table that morning, Patience had felt not wholly pleased with her new quarters and not a little lonely.
The incident of the broken china had been fortunate in that it had brought about a friendly, informal meeting between Grace and herself. After that everything had glided smoothly along. Patience and Grace received an invitation to take dinner with Miss Sheldon the following Sunday, and this occasion served to strengthen the New England girl's favorable impression of Grace to such an extent that by the end of the week the knot of friendship between them had been firmly tied.
From the moment of Kathleen West's discovery that her roommate was fast becoming friendly with the very girls she affected to despise, she adopted an aggressive manner toward the New England girl which the latter was quick to perceive and tactfully ignore. Patience had an unusually keen insight into character, and she had made up her mind not to get beyond the point of exchanging common civilities with the disgruntled young woman who seemed determined to go through college with her eyes tightly closed to her own interests.
That the newspaper girl possessed a fondness for study and never neglected her lessons was a point in her favor, in Patience's eyes. As the daughter of a well-known man of letters she had inherited her father's love of study and an appreciation of that same love in others. She frequently smiled at the clever, caustic remarks the strange, moody girl was wont to make about everything and everybody, and occasionally she surprised even Kathleen herself by her ready appreciation of the themes the latter wrote.
It was several weeks before the two young women even became accustomed to each other. During that time Kathleen learned that Patience was proof against her aggressiveness, and not half so narrow-minded as she had thought; while Patience discovered, to her dismay, that in spite of Kathleen's undoubted wit and brilliancy, she disliked her rather more, if anything, than on first acquaintance.
"I feel quite conscience-stricken over it," she confided to Grace one afternoon as they started down College Street for a short walk before dinner. "I wouldn't tell any one else, Grace, but I simply can't like Miss West. I've tried, and I can't. I am equally sure she doesn't like me. Imagine us sharing the intimacy of one room, and at the same time disliking each other cordially. I suppose there isn't the slightest chance for me to make a change this year. Besides, I don't wish to leave Wayne Hall."
"Oh, you mustn't think of leaving Wayne Hall!" exclaimed Grace in dismay. "I am so sorry about Miss West. She is a peculiar girl. None of the girls here pretend to understand her. When first she came here as a freshman she was friendly enough with us. Then something occurred for which we were not to blame, or rather, we did not know that Miss West considered us at fault," corrected Grace conscientiously. "At any rate, she suddenly began to avoid us. For a long time we didn't know the reason." Grace paused for an instant. "By the time we found out, it was too late. Other things had happened. I can't really tell you much about that part of it," she added, reddening, "but in fairness to myself and my friends I will say that we were not to blame for what followed. There, that isn't very definite, is it? But I know you won't ask any questions."
"Not one," returned Patience gravely. "I knew, of course, that relations between you two were strained, but hadn't the slightest idea of the cause of it all. I believe I understand something of the situation now."
They tramped along in silence for a time. Grace was thinking almost resentfully that even in her senior year she seemed unable to free herself from a sense of responsibility toward Kathleen West. Her great affection for Mabel Ashe had undoubtedly been at the bottom of it, but, deep in her heart, Grace knew that had there been no Mabel to pave the way for Kathleen, she would have done whatever lay in her power to help this strange girl, who had no conception of, and was not likely ever to imbibe, that intangible and yet wholly necessary principle, college spirit. She wondered a little sadly why Mabel Ashe had not written her. Could it be possible that Mabel had heard unkind, untruthful tales of her from the newspaper girl? Grace impatiently accused herself of being suspicious and tried to shake off the impression.
While she was pursuing this uncomfortable train of thought, Patience Eliot was covertly watching her companion's face. The expression she saw there evidently did not please her, and with a slightly determined set of her lips and a gleam of sudden purpose in her frank eyes, she promised herself that, beginning that very day, she would try to study Kathleen from an entirely different standpoint than heretofore. Laying her hand on Grace's shoulder she said warmly: "Don't worry, Grace. I will take back what I said about leaving Wayne Hall. I'm going to stay there until the last day of my sophomore year, at least. And as long as I stay I shall no doubt go on rooming with Miss West. There, does that make you feel better?"
"It is positively noble in you to say that, Patience," responded Grace gratefully. "I know you are bound to be put to endless personal inconvenience on account of it. I feel peculiarly responsible for Miss West, because I promised Mabel Ashe, who knows her, that I would help her to like college. I have told you all about Mabel before. Next to Anne and Miriam, Mabel was my best friend here at Overton. I can't begin to tell you how I missed her last year. When Miss West first came to Overton I thought it would be perfectly splendid to have a real newspaper reporter with us, and because she was Mabel's friend I felt doubly sure of liking her.
"Mabel had sent me a telegram asking me to go to the station to meet her. Anne and I didn't allow any grass to grow under our feet. We rushed off post haste to the station. Confidentially, we were dreadfully disappointed in her. She was not in the least the sort of girl that I had expected to meet. I suppose I entertained an almost exaggerated idea of what a newspaper woman should be. I've always enjoyed reading stories about clever women who covered important assignments and made good on newspapers. You know the kind of stories I mean."
Patience nodded understandingly. "Real people are never like people in books," she commented. "Usually the real folks do far more startling things than the book people ever thought of doing."
"I know it," agreed Grace, with a rueful smile. "Suppose I say what you just said happens to apply to this case, and leave the rest to your imagination."
"Very neatly put," was Patience's grim answer. "My imagination is quite equal to the strain. As her roommate, I can draw upon fact rather than imagination."
"Yet I have a curious feeling that you are going to succeed where we have failed. You are so strong and capable and——" Grace's earnest eyes looked their confidence in Patience, as she groped for the word that would describe her friend. "I can't think of the right word now, but you understand me. What I mean is that once you had made up your mind to do something, you'd do it or die."
"'Tis the blood of my Revolutionary ancestors that spurs me on to deeds of might," declaimed Patience. "Don't give up the ship—girl, I mean," she finished humorously.
"That looks like Miss West just ahead of us!" exclaimed Grace. "She came from that house at the end of the row. A crowd of freshmen live there and one of them seems to be a particular friend of hers."
"You mean Miss Rawle?" replied Patience. "I have named her my daily affliction. She haunts Wayne Hall with a persistency worthy of a better cause. She adores Miss West, and tells me all about it while she is waiting for Kathleen, who, I suspect, runs away from her more than once. She refers to little Miss Rawle as 'my crush,' but her tone is unpleasantly sarcastic. Miss Rawle honestly admires Miss West and seems to have a great deal of faith in her ability to write. Sometimes Kathleen is the soul of hospitality. At other times she barely responds to Miss Rawle's timid remarks. When she behaves in that fashion I feel tempted to give her a good shaking. More than once I have seen Miss Rawle say good night when she looked ready to cry."
"I wish I knew how to get hold of Kathleen," said Grace, looking troubled. "It is simply a case of good material going to waste, isn't it?"
Patience shrugged her square shoulders. "I had a glimmer of hope that, once she and I became accustomed to each other, we might at least dwell together in peace. So far peace has been maintained by great effort on my part. How much longer it will endure is a question."
At the door of Wayne Hall Grace paused irresolutely. "Oh, dear!" she exclaimed, "I forgot to stop at the stationer's, and I need a lot of little things, too. I must go back and get them. Will you come with me, Patience?"
Patience shook her head. "I want to read for a few minutes before dinner. It is almost the only time I have to read for pleasure. You won't care if I go on upstairs, will you, Grace?"
"Of course not. I wish I didn't have to go. I'll see you at dinner."
Grace hurried down the walk on her errand, while Patience went on into the house and to her room.
A DECLARATION OF WAR
The October twilight had fallen before the two girls finished their walk. When Patience opened her door she did not at first glance see the huddled figure crouched close to the window. A sound, half sob, half sigh, caused her to cross the room in an instant.
"Who are you, and what is the trouble?" were her blunt questions.
The girl burrowed her face in her arm and made no answer.
"Get up!" commanded Patience, an imperative note in her voice that caused the girl to half struggle to her feet, then sink sobbing to her old position.
"This won't do at all," remonstrated Patience. "You mustn't sit here. Stop crying instantly." She purposely made her voice coldly unsympathetic with a view toward summoning the weeper's pride to her aid.
It had the desired effect. The girl rose from the floor and stumbled toward the door, her head still hidden on her arm.
With a cry of, "Why, it is Miss Rawle!" Patience sprang forward and caught the girl by the hand. "You poor child! What has happened to you to make you cry so?"
"Please don't sympathize with me, Miss Eliot, or I'll break down and cry again. It isn't anything in particular. I'm just a silly goose, that's all. Miss West promised to be here this afternoon, and I've been waiting for her ever since half-past four. I suppose she forgot all about it." Miss Rawle made a valiant attempt to smile. "Please tell her I was here, and—and was very sorry I didn't see her." Her lip quivered like that of a grieved child.
Patience turned on the light, then went over to where Miss Rawle stood. "Do you wish me to give you a piece of good advice?" she asked with abrupt frankness, placing her hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Yes," responded Miss Rawle in a halfhearted manner.
"Then don't leave any word for Miss West, and don't put yourself within speaking distance of her for at least a week."
"But—I can't do that. She wouldn't understand——"
"All the better for you," cut in Patience's crisp voice. "You are very fond of Miss West, aren't you?"
Miss Rawle nodded. "She is so bright and clever and says such smart things, and can write. I adore cleverness. I'm not a bit clever. I work dreadfully hard to keep up in my classes. But Kathleen is actually brilliant, and, besides, she took me to the sophomore reception."
The tall girl listened gravely to this enthusiastic tribute to her captious roommate. "Very good reasons," she agreed. "Still, I wish you would try to do what I just suggested. Miss West is like a great many other clever people, she doesn't appreciate what is easily won."
A deep flush overspread Miss Rawle's face. An angry light leaped into her blue eyes. Then, meeting Patience's calm glance, she said slowly, "Do you mean that I force myself upon her?"
"In a measure, yes," was the cool reply. "You are very fond of her and she knows it, consequently she doesn't value your friendship half as highly as though she weren't sure of it. You must meet her on her own ground, and make her realize that you are of as much importance in the world as she. It may be hard at first, but it will be best for both of you. Miss West stands in need of a friend, and I am sure you would be loyal to her."
"How nice in you to say so," returned Miss Rawle, brightening. "I thought I was angry with you for saying what you did about my forcing myself upon Kathleen, but I'm not. I am going straight home, now, and I'll do as you say. Would you mind if I were to come and see you some time, and won't you take luncheon with me some day at Vinton's?"
Patience smilingly acquiesced to both eager requests, and little Miss Rawle descended the steps of Wayne Hall and set off for Livingston Hall, where she lived, looking anything but sorrowful.
"I'll try her way," she planned as she sped along through the soft fall darkness. "It is worth trying. But I wonder what made her say that Kathleen stood in need of a friend."
After Miss Rawle had departed, armed and equipped with her newly-born independence, Patience smiled whimsically to herself as she brushed her long, fair hair, rebraided it and wound it about her head. It was a coiffure she had recently adopted at Elfreda's suggestion, and it went far toward softening the severe outline of her face. "I didn't come to college to play mentor to any one," she said, half aloud, "nor to give advice, for that matter. Perhaps I should not have told Miss Rawle to stay away from Kathleen. It isn't really any of my business. Wouldn't she be angry if she knew? Shall I tell her? No, I don't believe I will. If, during a season of adoration, Miss Rawle is indiscreet enough to tell her, then that is a different matter. But I don't believe she will."
Patience had just finished doing her hair when the object of her monologue appeared in the door and after a quick survey of the room stepped inside.
"Was Miss Rawle here?" she asked abruptly.
"Yes," answered Patience, noncommittally.
"I'm glad I wasn't. She is such a frightful bore. What did she say?"
"She asked me to tell you she was here and was very sorry she missed you."
"I am very glad I missed her," declared Kathleen, with a shrug. "Deliver me from 'crushes' of her sort, at least. There are several girls in the freshman class who look rather interesting, but they are evidently not anxious to know me," she added, her face darkening.
"Whose fault is it?" asked Patience pointedly.
"Not mine," retorted Kathleen with asperity. Then, turning upon Patience, she said in a voice shaking with sudden anger: "What do you mean by asking me such a question? I did not realize the insult it contained or I wouldn't have answered you."
"I did not intend to be insulting," said Patience, "but candidly I think you are to blame for whatever attitude the girls here maintain toward you. Then, again, you do not value your friends. For instance, there is little Miss Rawle who is really fond of you. Yet you are continually running away from her. If I were Miss Rawle I would let you severely alone; you don't deserve her friendship. You don't and can't appreciate it."
Kathleen stared at Patience in angry amazement. No one had ever before spoken to her quite so plainly. Then she found her voice.
"I think you are not only insulting, but impertinent and meddlesome as well. I suppose Miss Rawle complained to you because I didn't keep my engagement with her and you thought it your duty to take me to task for it. Understand, once and for all, you are not to interfere in my affairs. I shall answer to no one for my actions. I did not choose you for a roommate. You are the last girl I would choose. I won't stand being criticized and lectured at every turn. Save your criticisms for those who are silly enough to take them seriously, but please don't imagine for an instant that what you may think or say carries the slightest weight with me."
Before Patience could frame a reply the newspaper girl had rushed from the room, slamming the door with a vehemence that fairly shook the walls.
She did not return to the room until after dinner, and then only long enough to slip into her coat and hat. During that brief moment she neither spoke to nor noticed Patience, who went quietly on with her studying as though nothing had happened. Kathleen's outburst had made no impression upon this calm-faced girl, but Patience's all too truthful words had sunk deeper into the newspaper girl's mind than she cared to admit.
A FACE TO FACE TALK
For a week at least Alice Rawle stayed religiously away from Wayne Hall and her idol, during which time Kathleen went serenely about her business, apparently undisturbed by the lull in the attentions of her one "crush." Then a certain sharp-eyed sophomore noted the fact and, happening to run across the newspaper girl in the gymnasium one afternoon, remarked laughingly, "I hear your little friend, Miss Rawle, has transferred her allegiance to Miss Eliot."
"What utter nonsense," declared Kathleen. Yet she frowned her displeasure at the intimation, and immediately held Patience responsible for Miss Rawle's deflection. She decided to look into the matter that very afternoon and found time to stop and see Alice on her way home from her class. She rang the bell at Livingston Hall a little before five o'clock, only to find that Miss Rawle had not yet come in. The newspaper girl turned her steps toward Wayne Hall, feeling slightly disappointed and vexed. Arrived at the Hall, she slipped upstairs with the cat-like quiet and ease that always characterized her movements. At the door of her room she paused for a moment, listening to the sound of voices that came from within. Then, with a vehement exclamation, she flung wide the door and darted into the room.
"Whatever you have to say of me you can say in my presence," she stormed. "Do you hear? I said, 'In my presence,'" she repeated, her voice rising.
The two astonished occupants of the room regarded the angry girl in silent astonishment. Then the tension of the moment relaxed, and Alice Rawle found her voice. "You are right," she said to Kathleen, with a scornful little gesture. "We were talking of you. Evidently you heard what we said. I am glad you did. Until this moment I liked you better than any other girl in Overton. If you had come sooner, you would have heard me say so. But now I think you are unjust and contemptible and I shall never speak to you again." Turning to Patience, who had stood impassive during this outburst, she said with sudden penitence: "I'm sorry I lost my temper. I will come again to see you at some other time. Good-bye."
As the door closed on Alice, Kathleen confronted Patience with blazing eyes. "It is all your fault," she accused wildly. "I hate you! You are one of the superior, narrow-minded sort of girls who will excuse nothing. You imagine yourself to be perfect, but you can always discover faults in others. You don't like me. I know it. I have those dear friends of yours to thank for it, too. I know that Miss Harlowe has taken particular pains to strengthen your first impression of me, which wasn't favorable. It is very unfortunate that we are obliged to room together. I suppose it is useless to ask you to mind your own business and let me alone."
Kathleen walked moodily to the window and stood looking out, her favorite attitude when greatly disturbed in spirit. Crossing swiftly to where the newspaper girl stood, Patience laid two firm hands on Kathleen's shoulders. She whirled at the touch, her eyes flashing.
"That's right," commented Patience. "I want you to look at me. The time has come for you and me to have an understanding. I've been putting off the evil day, and there have been times when I have even dreamed that we might dispense with it altogether. But now we must face it. I am going to tell you exactly what I think of you and why I think it, and you are going to perform the same kind office for me. Will you please begin?"
Kathleen's face set in sullen lines. "You know what I think of you," she muttered. "I just finished telling you. I told you last week, too."
"So you did," smiled Patience, "but surely you must think other uncomplimentary things of me."
"Will you kindly take your hands off my shoulders and attend to your own affairs?" Kathleen's voice choked with renewed anger.
Patience's hands dropped to her sides. "Very well. If you haven't anything further to say on the subject of my short-comings, I'll proceed to yours," was her brisk declaration.
"I won't listen to you," cried Kathleen passionately. "I won't stay here and allow you to insult me."
She sprang toward the door, but Patience, divining her intention, turned the key in the lock and calmly pocketed it. "Don't be a goose," she advised. "You are too clever to be so childish. You are deliberately trying to shut yourself out of all the pleasant part of college by going about with a grievance on your shoulder. If you weren't so clever I shouldn't take the trouble to say what I think. Why, you could be one of the foremost girls in the sophomore class if you wished."
"I haven't seen any particular indication of admiration on the part of my class," sneered Kathleen.
"You haven't given your class cause to admire you, have you?" asked Patience imperturbably.
Sheer inability to reply to this unwelcome assertion held Kathleen silent.
"Please don't misunderstand me," went on Patience. "I know I have no right to criticize you, but as your roommate, I feel a certain interest in your welfare."
"Very kind in you, I am sure," muttered Kathleen sarcastically.
Unmindful of the sarcasm, Patience continued: "I believe your chief trouble lies in the fact that newspaper standards are so different from those of a college. On a newspaper it is a case of get the story and no questions asked. It isn't honor that counts. It is shrewdness, determination, dogged persistence, hardness of head, and deafness to personal appeal that wins the day."
A curious light leaped into the other girl's eyes. "How do you happen to know so much about what counts on a newspaper?" she questioned sharply.
"Because my father edited one for years. All the newspaper folks know James Merton Eliot. You must have heard of him," replied Patience with grim satisfaction.
"You don't mean it! I never dreamed you could be his daughter," gasped Kathleen, regarding her tall roommate with positive awe. Then she said, almost humbly: "Say what you like to me. I'll listen to it, no matter how much it hurts."
"But I don't wish to hurt you," remonstrated Patience, "nor to preach. I do wish you to know, however, that I am quite familiar with the inside workings of a newspaper. I have haunted Father's office since I was a little girl. I was bitterly resentful of being packed off to a preparatory school when I yearned to be a reporter. Father didn't resign his editorship of a Boston paper until last year. He overworked and has been very ill since then. That is the reason I was not here when college opened. I waited until I was sure he was really convalescent. Had my affairs shaped themselves differently, you would not now be obliged to endure me as a roommate."
Kathleen continued to survey Patience with wondering eyes. It was simply incredible that this brusque, matter-of-fact young woman whom she had held in secret contempt should be the daughter of a man whose name was known and honored throughout the newspaper world. Sheer astonishment tied her tongue.
"I would have told you in the beginning," continued Patience, "but I did not wish to travel on my father's passport. When I saw what an unfavorable impression I had made on you I was tempted to tell you. It would at least have given me a certain prestige in your eyes. Then I decided never to tell you. But to-day it seemed the only way. None of the girls know it. Miss Sheldon and Miss Wilder know. They are personal friends of Father's."
"If I had only known when first you came to Wayne Hall," was Kathleen's regretful cry.
"But I didn't wish you to know," returned Patience. "I wished you to like me for myself, and you wouldn't. You thought me pedantic and narrow-minded, and set me down as a typical New England woman of the grim, uncompromising type, who boasts of her Puritan ancestry, and goes through life ungracious and forbidding. I don't believe I am pedantic or narrow-minded or small-souled, but I have plenty of other faults, as you'll learn before the year is over. I meant what I said about your standing in your own light. You'll have to learn the difference between college and newspaper standards, too."
Kathleen's face reddened. She understood all that the sharp criticism implied. "I know I haven't lived up to——" she began.
Patience shook her head vigorously. "Don't tell me," she said. "Just decide that hereafter you are going to cultivate Overton as your Alma Mater for all you're worth. You'll find you can adapt Overton standards to your paper more successfully than you can adapt newspaper tactics here. At least it will do no harm to try out my suggestion and see how far it will carry you."
"I will try," responded Kathleen with a suddenness that surprised even herself. "Only," her eyes grew resentful, "you mustn't expect me to be an angel all in a twinkling, or even like certain girls you and I know. I can't, and that settles it."
"I shall have no expectations in the matter," smiled Patience. "Your likes and dislikes concern no one save yourself. Please forgive me for locking the door and speaking so candidly."
Patience stepped to the door and unlocked it. Kathleen took an uncertain step forward, wavered, then, advancing almost timidly, held out her hand.
"Will you shake hands?" she asked. "I am glad you did it, and I am going to be different—if I can," she added moodily.
"Be fair to yourself and give the clever, capable Kathleen West a chance," was the New England girl's advice. "This little talk of ours has served to clear the atmosphere of this room. Let us be friends and keep it clear."
"I will try," Kathleen repeated, but Patience was obliged to confess to herself that she had very little faith in the newspaper girl's promise. She felt that the fact that James Merton Eliot was her father had made far more impression upon Kathleen than had her little lecture on standards.
WHEN FRIENDS FALL OUT
"What has happened to the Semper Fidelis Club? Did such a worthy organization ever exist, or did I merely dream?" inquired Arline Thayer, walking suddenly into the living room at Wayne Hall one evening, where Grace sat idly turning the pages of a magazine, at the same time trying to decide the best possible way of spending her evening.
"Oh, Arline!" she exclaimed. "I am so glad you came. You are just in time. I was trying to decide what I had better do this evening. For a wonder, I haven't a line of studying to worry me. But there are so many other things I ought and wish to do. My correspondence is fast going to rack and ruin, and I owe at least a dozen calls, the drop-in-in-the-evening kind. Anne wants me to go for a walk, and Elfreda and Miriam are determined I shall go to see 'Les Miserables' at the motion picture theatre on Main Street. They saw 'The Taming of the Shrew' one evening last week, and came home ardent moving picture fans."
"I saw it, too," replied Arline. "It was wonderfully well acted, and the photography and arrangement of the scenes were excellent. Suppose we gather the club in, and go to see 'Les Miserables' in a body?"
"I could please the populace and myself at the same time by taking your advice, couldn't I?" Grace cast a laughing glance toward Arline.
"Of course you could," urged Arline. "Don't stand upon the order of your going, but go at once and tell Elfreda and Miriam what we propose doing. Anne can take her walk some other time, and your letters can languish unanswered a little longer. I'm going to hurry back to Morton House for Ruth and Gertrude. We will pick up the Emerson twins on our way here, and also Elizabeth Wade and Marian. You can ask Emma and the others."
"What about Patience?" asked Grace.
"By all means ask her. We want her in the club, too. The only objection is that she will be the thirteenth member. That is the reason I haven't proposed her name before this. We shall be obliged to ask some one else to make fourteen."
"Arline," Grace's tone caused her friend to eye her sharply, "do you suppose we ought to ask Kathleen West to join our club?"
"No." Arline's blue eyes grew resentful. Her "no" was coldly incisive. "If she is asked to join the club, I shall immediately resign."
Grace looked her surprise at this uncompromising statement. She had not reckoned on Arline's opposition to an idea which had been steadily forcing itself upon her since the beginning of her senior year. Ever since the last days of her junior year, when Alberta Wicks had made plain what seemed obscure in the case of Kathleen West, Grace had experienced a generous desire to recompense the newspaper girl for the fancied slight she had received at their hands.
Toward Grace and her three friends Kathleen still preserved the same antagonistic attitude. So far Grace had been unable to discover any way in which at least a semblance of friendly relations might be established. The idea of asking Kathleen to join the club had suddenly occurred to her, and in her usual impetuous fashion she had given voice to it. Arline's sharp "no" was in the nature of a dash of cold water to impulsive Grace, and she now regarded her friend with troubled eyes.
"Why are you so bitter against Kathleen?" she asked. "You have no personal grievance against her, have you?"
"You know perfectly well that she tried to prevent the club from giving the bazaar, and you know of other contemptible things she has done. A girl who would work directly against Semper Fidelis on the outside, wouldn't make a particularly desirable member. At least that is my opinion." Arline compressed her lips, looking very dignified.
"I didn't dream you felt so opposed to her," said Grace quietly. "Still, it will do no particular hurt to ask her to go with us to-night. I hate to go to her room to invite Patience and leave her out. Besides, I think Patience would wish her to go. Confidentially, Arline, she and Patience had some sort of understanding the other day and now they appear to be almost friends."
"I'm sorry, Grace, but I won't go to-night if you invite Miss West. I am willing to do almost anything else to please you, but I simply can't endure her, and I don't intend to have my evening spoiled. I should prefer not to go. After all, I don't know that it matters much whether I go or not." With a gesture of superb indifference Arline rose to depart.
Grace was at her side in an instant. "Daffydowndilly Thayer, you know you care," she smiled, putting her finger under Arline's chin. "You are not half as hard-hearted as you would have me think."
Arline drew away from her with a pettish little shrug. "You can't make me feel differently about her, Grace. Please don't try. If she goes to-night, I shan't. You may choose between us. If you are afraid of offending her by asking Patience to go and leaving her out, then I will invite Patience to go."
"I am not afraid to ask Patience to go with us in Miss West's presence," was Grace's proud response, "although I believe it would be kinder not to ask either of them as long as they appear to be friends. Patience wouldn't feel hurt or slighted, and that would make the party strictly Semper Fidelis." Grace spoke evenly, although there was a note of constraint in her voice. "But, please, don't misinterpret my feeling in the matter as one of fear."
Arline made no answer, and the two girls left the living room in silence.
"I'll see you in half an hour," was Arline's sole comment.
"Shall we meet here?" asked Grace. "It is nearer the theatre and quite central."
"Very well." Arline walked to the hall door, her golden head held very high. Grace took a half step toward her, hesitated, then turned and walked quietly up the stairs to carry the invitation to the Semper Fidelis girls.
She stopped first at the door of Emma Dean's room. Emma answered her knock with a cheerful "Come in."
"As a loyal member of Semper Fidelis it is your duty to turn out with your sisters and attend a motion picture show," declaimed Grace from the threshold.
"No urging is necessary," responded Emma, rising from her chair and going to the closet for her wraps. "I am nothing if not loyal, and I adore picture shows."
"Meet me in the living room in five minutes, then. I must see Patience," returned Grace, but she could not help hoping as she walked down the hall that she would find Patience alone.
A LEAF FROM THE PAST
At Patience's door she paused. It stood partly open, and peeping in she saw that her friend was alone. Rapping softly, she announced with a laugh, "The Honorable Grace Harlowe."
"Enter without further ceremony," was the quick reply. "To what do I owe my good fortune?"
"To the absence of your roommate," answered Grace dryly. "Where is she?"
"At the library. She left the house directly after dinner to look up a number of references. She is infinitely more industrious than I."
"The Semper Fidelis crowd are going down to that new motion picture theatre to see 'Les Miserables.' We want you to go with us," invited Grace, looking relieved at having been able to deliver the invitation so easily.
"Let me think. Is there any reason why I can't go? I have a hazy recollection of having something else on hand to-night, but I can't remember what it is."
"Is it anything about lessons?" asked Grace.
"No." Patience glanced perplexedly about her. "I can't recall it. It isn't anything of importance or I certainly would have no difficulty in remembering it. Perhaps it will come to me suddenly."
"I must make the round of the house and ask the other girls. Be ready and downstairs, within the next fifteen minutes."
By the time Grace had collected the Semper Fidelis girls of Wayne Hall, Arline had returned with the other members of the club, and the party set out for the theatre. Grace walked with Anne and Patience, who, unable to remember any other engagement, had dismissed the disturbing thought from her mind and prepared to enjoy her evening.
At the entrance of the theatre, the party halted for a moment while Arline bought the tickets. Grace looked interestedly about her. Even in quiet, staid old Overton she derived an active pleasure from scanning the faces of the passersby. She tried to read their thoughts from their expressions, and her habit of observation had on more than one occasion proved of value to her.
"All right," called Arline, holding up the tickets. "Come on."
Grace turned her eyes toward Arline, then some unaccountable influence caused her to turn her head and glance again in the direction of the street. A roughly-dressed man had stopped on the sidewalk directly in front of the theatre to stare at one of the gayly colored lithographs. Grace stopped short, seized with a peculiar feeling of apprehension. Why was the face of this man so familiar to her? Surely she had seen it somewhere under decidedly unpleasant circumstances. Was it at Overton she had seen him? No, it was further back than that.
During the first part of Hugo's famous novel, which had been filmed to perfection, Grace was obsessed with the question: "Where have I seen him?" The stranger's face haunted her. It was a low-browed, sullen face. She could not keep her mind on the story that was being unfolded on the screen. She watched the ill-fated Jean Valjean being led off to prison for stealing a loaf of bread almost without seeing him. It was not until the scene where, bruised in spirit and prison-warped, Jean steals the good priest's candlesticks and makes off with them, that full remembrance came to Grace. Now she knew why that face was strangely familiar. The man she had seen was none other than "Larry, the Locksmith." In her mind's eye Grace saw him sitting in the court room with humped shoulders, his eyes bent fiercely upon her, as she related what she had seen with her face pressed close to the window pane of the haunted house. It had all happened during her senior year at high school. To Grace it seemed but yesterday since she had given the testimony that sent Henry Hammond's accomplice to prison for a term of seven years in the state penitentiary. Seven years! It had been only four years since that memorable occasion. Perhaps the man had been released earlier for good behavior, or perhaps—Grace's heart beat a trifle faster—he had escaped.
She paid but scant attention to the rest of the performance, and when Jean had died in the arms of his devoted foster daughter, the lights had appeared, and the crowd began filing out of the theatre, she scanned it eagerly. There was no sign of the disturbing face of "Larry, the Locksmith."
The little company of girls made their way to the street, discussing the merits of the various actors who had portrayed so admirably the roles assigned to them. Arline, feeling rather ashamed of her brusque refusal to countenance Kathleen West as a possible member of the club, slipped her arm through Grace's, saying contritely, "I am awfully sorry I was so cross, Grace."
Grace, whose mind was still fully occupied with the thought of the man she had good reason to recognize, did not answer. Arline glanced reproachfully at her, then withdrew her arm from Grace's with an offended suddenness that caused Grace to cry apologetically: "Please pardon me, Arline. What did you say?"
Arline, however, was now thoroughly incensed. She had apologized, and Grace had not even taken the trouble to listen. Without answering, save by an angry flash of her blue eyes, she walked on rapidly, overtaking the Emerson twins, who were heading the little procession. Grace sprang impulsively forward. Then, as Arline slipped between the twins, laughingly taking hold of an arm of each, Grace fell back, deciding that she would say nothing. She would write Arline a note that very night.
True to her resolve, the note was written and sent. At the end of a week she had received no answer. Later she was greeted with a cold "good afternoon" and a stiff little bow when she chanced to encounter Arline on the campus. Remembering Arline's stubborn stand in regard to Ruth during their sophomore year, Grace knew the dainty little girl's resentment to be very real and lasting. She was also reasonably sure that not even Ruth was aware of their estrangement. She wished she had not seen that disturbing face. She wondered if she had been mistaken. No doubt there were men in the world who bore a strong resemblance to "Larry, the Locksmith." She blamed herself entirely for Arline's withdrawal of friendship. If she had only heard and accepted the apology! It was humiliating indeed to make an earnest apology to unhearing ears.
"It serves you right, Grace Harlowe," she reflected, coming into the living room late one afternoon. "I'm not sorry for you. I hope Arline won't be too haughty at the club meeting to-morrow. It is such a shame. I wanted to propose the 'Famous Fiction' dance as a Semper Fidelis merry-making this year, and I can never talk enthusiastically of it knowing she disapproves. Of course, I'll pretend I don't care, but it hurts, just the same."
With a sigh Grace reached for the evening paper which lay on the library table. She glanced over the headlines without any special interest until a single sentence in large black type caused her to stare, then give voice to a surprised, "I knew it!" The headline read, "Larry, the Locksmith, Still at Large."
Grace sat down heavily in the nearest chair, the newspaper still clutched in one hand. She had not been mistaken. The man for whom the authorities were searching was the man she had seen in front of the moving picture theatre. It was evident that he had very little fear of being recognized in Overton, or he would not have risked appearing in the streets of the college town. "He must have friends here, who are sheltering him," sprang into her mind, "or he may be passing through the town. The question is, ought I to make my discovery known to the police?"
"Here you are!" called a familiar voice, "I've been looking for you." Patience Eliot entered the living room, and seated herself opposite Grace. "Do you remember my saying when you asked me to go to the theater that I had a faint recollection of having another engagement last night?"
"My faint recollection was perfectly correct. I had promised to go for a walk with Kathleen, and consequently she wouldn't speak to me when I came in last night. She wouldn't accept my humble apologies. Just when I thought I was making a little progress with her, too. I am the most unfortunate mortal," sighed Patience. "I know she imagines I did it purposely."
Patience's recital of her woes brought back the subject of Arline's displeasure to Grace's mind, and when, a little later, the two girls went upstairs arm in arm, the important question of whether or not to inform the Overton police of her discovery had slipped, for the time being, from Grace's mind.
A THANKSGIVING INVITATION
"At last!" exclaimed Grace triumphantly, as she extracted a letter from the Wayne Hall bulletin board addressed to her in Mabel Ashe's unmistakable handwriting. "Oh, I am so glad! I thought she had forgotten me."
"Or had been persuaded to forget you," put in Elfreda Briggs, who had come downstairs to breakfast directly behind Grace.
Grace looked frankly amazed. "How did you know?"
"How do I find out everything I know?" demanded Elfreda. "Don't you suppose I noticed that you were worried about not hearing from Mabel? I could see you thought some one had made mischief."
"Elfreda Briggs, will you please tell me your exact method of deduction!" exclaimed Grace in a half vexed tone. "Your ability for 'seeing things' is positively uncanny."
"There was nothing very uncanny about seeing you look ready to cry every time Mabel's name was mentioned," retorted Elfreda. "We all knew that you hadn't received a letter from her. Put two and two together, what is the result? Ask me something harder. That's easy."
"I make my bow to you, most observing of all observers," laughed Grace. "I have been worried over not receiving a letter from Mabel, but I hadn't breathed it to any one. Come into the living room before breakfast. No; let us have breakfast first. It is early yet and we shall have time to read the letter afterward in my room. Then Anne and Miriam can hear it, too. Here they come, the slow pokes."
"A dillar, a dollar, a ten-o'clock scholar, Oh, why did you come so soon?"
chanted Elfreda as Anne, followed by Miriam, appeared at the head of the stairs.
"A ten-minutes-to-eight-o'clock scholar," calmly corrected Miriam. "We are early, but you and Grace are distressingly early. I suppose you found the fabled worm."
"Here it is." Grace held up the letter. "If you are pleasant and respectful to us during breakfast, I will invite you to my room to hear it read."
"Your half of the room," reminded Anne, with emphasis.
"I beg your pardon, my half of the room," corrected Grace. "I might lease your half for the occasion, then I could turn you out if you proved a disturbing factor."
"But I could refuse to lease my half," declared Anne.
"Then I should be obliged to turn you out, at any rate. I am much stronger than you."
"It sounds like a discussion between the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, doesn't it?" commented Elfreda.
"It has a true Alice in Wonderland tang," agreed Miriam solemnly. "In the meantime I am growing hungrier. On to breakfast!"
After breakfast, the quartette lost no time in going upstairs to Grace's room to listen to Mabel's letter. Grace opened it, glanced hastily over the first page, then read:
"MY DEAR GRACE:—
"Your faith in me as a correspondent must be shattered by this time. I've intended to write, but my days and nights, too, have been so crowded with work that I have almost forgotten that I am entitled to a little recreation. I'll try not to let it happen again, Grace, dear. I hoped to be able to run down for Thanksgiving, but I am afraid it won't be possible.
"I am doing the clubs now, and there will be so much to write about them during Thanksgiving week that I am afraid I shall have to stay in town all week. Next week the opera begins, and, oh, joy! I am to help write it—along with my club duties. I went to almost every performance last year and loved them all. Why couldn't you girls make up a party and spend Thanksgiving with me? Isn't that a brilliant idea? I might succeed in getting a day off.
"You might ask Miss West to come with you. Last summer I asked her all about you but could get no particular information regarding you. I saw very little of her during the summer, as she was given a number of important assignments and covered them splendidly. I am sorry to say she is not well liked among the other reporters. They say she is too hard and merciless and that she is terribly unfeeling. Of course, you would hardly see that side of her. I should imagine she must have quite a reputation at Overton by this time, she writes so well. Remember me to her when you see her and deliver my invitation.
"I must stop instantly or lose my train home. Let me hear from you about Thanksgiving. Love to you and Elfreda, Miriam and Anne.
"Yours, as ever,
"P. S.—I saw Frances last week. She is engaged to be married. More about her when I see you."
"Doesn't it sound exactly as she talks?" smiled Anne.
"I like the Thanksgiving idea," declared Elfreda.
"Of course, we'll go," said Grace, looking questioningly at her friends.
"Of course," repeated Miriam. "But what of Miss West?"
"We might ask Patience to break the news to her," proposed Anne.
"She would be doubly angry with us and say we were afraid of her," said Elfreda. "I'll tell her if you want me to. Nothing she can say will injure my castiron feelings."
"Why not put off the evil day? It is still three weeks until Thanksgiving. We can give her two weeks' notice, as they do in theatrical companies," laughed Anne. "Something might happen in the meantime to make us her bosom friends."
Elfreda giggled derisively. "I'd like to see it happen, then. We could all pursue our favorite phantoms in peace for the rest of our senior year. She is the only disturber left. Mabel says she imagines Kathleen must have quite a reputation at Overton by this time. She has. There isn't a doubt of it."
"Elfreda, be good," admonished Grace, laughing a little.
"Be good, bad child, and let who will be naughty," paraphrased Elfreda in a piping, affected voice.
"That sounded exactly like Hippy, didn't it?" said Miriam.
Grace and Anne nodded.
"We ought to call her Hippy the Second," suggested Anne.
"Good gracious!" gasped Elfreda, pointing a warning finger at the mission clock on the wall. "Half-past eight, and here I sit gayly loitering as though I had nothing else to do. How about chapel this morning? I know you are going, Miriam. How about you, Grace and Anne?"
"I am," said Anne. "Run along and get your wraps. I'll meet you downstairs."
After the three girls had gone off to chapel Grace pulled her favorite chair over to the window and sat down to think things over. First of all came the disturbing problem of the newspaper girl and Mabel's invitation. From the tone of the letter it was evident that Mabel knew nothing of the real state of affairs. Kathleen had maintained a discreet silence. Grace felt dimly that the hard, self-centered girl had taken at least one step in the right direction. She had gone from her freshman year to her paper without telling tales. "I wish she'd hurry and take a whole lot more," Grace reflected moodily, as she tried to decide whether to write Mabel, asking her to send Kathleen a separate invitation, or to take matters into her own hands and deliver the invitation in person. "I know she won't go if we ask her. I can't settle that to-day. I shall have to see Patience first. She may be able to suggest something."
Grace passed on to the next worry, which was over her misunderstanding with Arline. It was so extremely unfortunate that it should have happened just when they had begun to talk of the Semper Fidelis fancy dress party. She could not carry out her ideas successfully without Arline's co-operation and help. After changing her mind several times, Grace decided to go to Morton House and see Arline.
"It really isn't my place," she ruminated, "but I can't bear to have Arline angry with me."
Last of all, Grace was troubled over the notice she had read in the paper concerning "Larry, the Locksmith." She was certain that the man she had seen in front of the moving picture theatre on the evening of their little theatre party was none other than the robber in whose capture she had been instrumental during her senior year at high school. Should she notify the Overton authorities of her discovery? Perhaps by this time the thief was many miles from Overton. Grace disliked the idea of figuring even privately in the affair. Yet was it right to withhold her knowledge? She could not determine on any particular course of action, and with an impatient sigh at her own lack of decision in the matter she rose from her chair and prepared to go to her first class in anything but a cheerful frame of mind.
"Not in, Miss," was the disappointing information Grace received from the maid who answered the door at Morton House.
"Did she leave word when she would return?" questioned Grace.
"She did not, Miss. She went out with Miss Denton, and didn't say nothin', Miss," was the discouraging reply. "An' will I tell her you was askin' for her, Miss?"
"No; I may come again this evening."
Grace walked slowly down the steps and across the campus. She was not at all sure that she would repeat her call. Dear as was Arline to her, the inevitable reaction had set in. Now Grace's pride whispered to her that there was no real reason why she should humble herself to her too-easily-offended friend. It was Arline, not she, who was in the wrong, she mused resentfully. She was rather glad, after all, that Arline had not been at home.
Glancing undecidedly toward Wayne Hall, then at her watch, Grace set off in the opposite direction at a rapid walk. It was five o'clock. She would have time to do a little shopping in the Overton stores before they closed. She hurried toward the nearest dry goods store, so intent upon reaching there that she paid little or no attention to the people she passed in the street.
Shopping at this late hour proved a comparatively easy matter. Here and there a belated customer might be seen wandering from counter to counter, but the day's business was practically finished and the saleswomen were busily counting their sales or conversing with their nearest neighbors in low tones. It was ten minutes to six when Grace, inwardly congratulating herself on having been able to do so much shopping in so short a space of time, hurried to the ribbon counter. Blue velvet ribbon was the last item on her list. Then she could go home feeling that her hour had been well spent.
"We're out of that shade of blue velvet ribbon," said the saleswoman, glancing at the sample Grace held out to her. "Everybody's been buying it. It's on order. Have it in next week."
Grace left the store almost on the run and hurried into a shop farther down the street, only to meet with the same disappointing reply. Three blocks farther on was the "French Shop." Grace was sure of finding it there, but was equally sure it would be infinitely more expensive. Still, she only needed a yard and a half. She was about to enter the shop, when the stocky figure of a man just ahead of her sent a sudden thrill of apprehension through her. There was something unpleasantly familiar about the round shoulders and slouching walk. Forgetting her errand, Grace began following him, keeping not more than twenty feet behind him. As he neared the first cross street the man glanced furtively about him, then, turning into the intersecting street, hurried on, almost at a run. Grace, bent only on seeing the stranger's face, unhesitatingly dogged his footsteps. It was now after six o 'clock and growing darker with every moment. Block after block they went, but now Grace kept a distance of a hundred feet or more between herself and the man she was following. She observed rather anxiously that they were nearing the end of Main Street, where the houses were fewer and farther apart.
All at once her quarry stopped short and peered sharply about him through the gathering twilight. Grace strolled on at a leisurely pace, though her heart beat violently. Suppose instead of going on he were to turn and walk toward her. Grace trembled a little. She was drawing altogether too near to him to suit her. She was now positive that he was "Larry, the Locksmith." Suddenly the man left the sidewalk and started across a field used in the summer by the small boys of Overton as a playground.
This ended the pursuit as far as Grace was concerned. Stepping behind a tree at the edge of the field she strained her eyes to watch the hulking figure as it moved swiftly on. Then she gave a little exclamation of surprise and triumph. The man was hurrying up the steps of a dingy little house that stood at the end of a row of similar houses which bounded the side of the field directly opposite where she stood. Again consulting her watch, she hesitated. It was almost seven o'clock, and she was at least a mile from Wayne Hall. Anne would wonder at her absence, for she had left no word regarding her call upon Arline. She would be more than likely to miss her dinner. Mrs. Elwood's dinner hour was from half-past five until seven o'clock. She rigidly refused to serve meals to those who came later.
"I can't possibly make it," mused Grace. "I'll run into Vinton's for dinner. All this comes of playing sleuth." She laughed softly at her own remark, then her face grew grave. "What shall I do?" she thought. "It is my duty to tell the authorities, but I promised Father after the class money was found that I'd never meddle in any such affair again. Yet here I am, on the outskirts of Overton, trailing an escaped convict as though my bread and butter depended upon it. If I could only turn over this affair to some one else, and let him do the rest, I'd be perfectly satisfied."
On the way to Vinton's, Grace reluctantly decided to go in person to the police station and report her discovery to the Chief of Police. "It is only right," she argued. "I will simply tell them the facts and ask them to keep my part in the affair a secret. Then I'll write Father and tell him about it. Perhaps I ought to write him first. But if I wait for his answer it may be too late. I'll go and report my news as soon as I have had my dinner."
Grace did not enjoy her solitary meal. To her, the chief charm of a dinner at Vinton's consisted in eating it with her friends. The smart little restaurant seemed unusually quiet. There were not more than half a dozen persons dining there and only two of the half dozen were Overton girls. It was less than a week until Thanksgiving. It looked as though the girls were practicing economy. This accounted for the slim patronage. Grace ate her dinner with one eye on the door, vainly hoping for the entrance of some one she knew. But no one of her friends appeared, and without waiting for dessert she asked the waitress for her check and left the restaurant to go on her disagreeable errand.
It was not a long walk to the police station, and Grace resolved to go there with all possible speed. She wished to be able to dismiss the affair from her mind at the earliest moment. She had reached the cross street on which the station house was situated and was about to turn into it when she almost collided with a young woman who gave a smothered exclamation of annoyance and hurried on. As they came together directly under the rays of the arc light, they could scarcely help recognizing each other.
"I beg your pardon," called Grace after the hurrying figure. Then with a sudden flash of inspiration she called, "Miss West, please wait a minute."
The figure halted, and in the next second Grace confronted the coldly inquiring eyes of the newspaper girl.
"Would you like a real news item for your paper?" she asked impulsively.
Kathleen regarded her with an expression of mingled incredulity and contempt which changed to one of lively displeasure. "Do you believe that I would accept anything from you?" she asked tensely.
"I never thought of that," returned Grace, her color rising. "I was thinking only of the story. Suppose for once we put aside everything personal. I have something to tell you that cannot fail to be of interest to you. Will you forget that I am Grace Harlowe and listen to me?"
Grace's earnestness impressed Kathleen against her will. She hesitated briefly, then said in a low voice, "I will listen to you."
Grace began with the story of the bazaar given on the Thanksgiving afternoon and evening of her senior year in high school. She related briefly the theft of the strong box containing the bazaar money, the unsuccessful attempts of the police to apprehend the thief, the finding of the money by her and Eleanor Savelli and the capture of the thief by the Oakdale police in the haunted house.
Kathleen listened to Grace's rapidly told narrative with growing interest.
When she came to the trial of the thief and his recognition by the officers as "Larry, the Locksmith," Kathleen interrupted excitedly: "Why, that's the man who has escaped from prison. The police of all the large cities have been ordered to watch for him. He is an exceptionally clever criminal who has always escaped until that time in Oakdale. And to think it was you who were responsible for his capture! I remember the affair. It was my first year on the paper. One of our reporters was sent on to interview this Larry. He laid his capture to the fact of his having been foolish enough to waste his time in a small town."
The newspaper girl had now become eager and animated. Her black eyes gleamed with excitement. "Did you know he had escaped?" she asked.
"Yes," replied Grace. "That is the part I am going to tell you. He is here in Overton. I saw him to-night."
"You saw him?" questioned Kathleen, her eyes wide with astonishment.
Grace nodded. "To-night and one evening last week, too. I wasn't sure then. But to-night I knew him. I followed him to a house on the outskirts of Overton. Then I came back to notify the police. I was on my way to the station when I met you. Don't you imagine it will make a good newspaper story if the police capture him?"