Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Kevin Handy, Joshua Hutchinson, Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
The Girls of Central High Aiding the Red Cross
AMATEUR THEATRICALS FOR A WORTHY CAUSE
GERTRUDE W. MORRISON
I THE ODDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED
II THE RED CROSS GIRL
IV THE MYSTERY MAN
V SAND IN THE GEARS
VI THE BANK-NOTE
VII SOMETHING EXCITING
VIII THE FOREFRONT OF TROUBLE
IX THE ICE CARNIVAL
X BUT WHO IS HE?
XI A REHEARSAL
XII BUBBLE, BUBBLE
XIII MOTHER WIT HAS AN IDEA
XIV CHAINS ON HIS WHEELS
XV PIE AND POETRY
XVI EMBER NIGHT
XVII A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT
XVIII WHERE WAS PURT?
XIX LAURA LISTENS
XX TWO THINGS ABOUT HESTER
XXI AND A THIRD THING
XXII THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST PURT
XXIII THE LAST REHEARSAL
XXIV MR. NEMO, OF NOWHERE
XXV IT IS ALL ROUNDED UP
THE ODDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED
"Well, if that isn't the oddest thing that ever happened!" murmured Laura
Belding, sitting straight up on the stool before the high desk in her
father's glass-enclosed office, from which elevation she could look down
the long aisles of his jewelry store and out into Market Street,
Centerport's main business thoroughfare.
But Laura was not looking down the vista of the electrically lighted shop
and into the icy street. Instead, she gave her attention to that which lay
right under her eyes upon the desk top. She looked first at the neat
figures she had written upon the page of the day ledger, after carefully
proving them, and thence at the packet of bills and piles of coin on the
desk at her right hand.
"It is the oddest thing that ever happened," she affirmed, as though in
answer to her own first declaration.
It was Saturday evening, and it was always Laura's duty to straighten out
her father's books for him on that day, for although she was a high school
girl, she was usually so well prepared in her studies that she could give
the books proper attention weekly. Laura had taken a course in bookkeeping
and she was quite familiar with the business of keeping a simple set of
books like these.
She never let the day ledger and the cash get far apart. It was her custom
to strike a balance weekly, and this she was doing at this time. Or she was
trying to! But there seemed to be something entirely wrong with the cash
She knew that the figures on the ledger were correct. She had asked her
father, and even Chet, her brother, who was helping in the store this
evening, if either of them had taken out any cash without setting the sum
down in the proper record.
"It is an even fifty dollars--neither more nor less," she had told them,
with a puzzled little frown corrugating her pretty forehead.
They had both denied any such act--Chet, of course, vigorously.
"What kind of hardware are you trying to hang on me, Mother Wit?" he
demanded of his sister. "I know Christmas will soon be on top of us, and a
fellow needs all the money there is in the world to buy even one girl a
decent present. But I assure you I haven't taken to nicking papa's cash
"I don't know but mother is right," Laura sighed. "Your language is
becoming something to listen to with fear and trembling. And I am not
accusing you, Chetwood. I'm only asking you!"
"And I'm only answering you--emphatically," chuckled her brother.
"It is no laughing matter when you cannot find fifty dollars," she told
"You'd better stir your wits a little, then, Sis," he advised. "You know
Jess and Lance will be along soon and we were all going shopping together,
and skating afterward. Lance and I want to practice our grapevine whirl."
But being advised to hurry did not help. For half an hour since Chet had
last spoken the girl had sat in a web of mystery that fairly made her head
spin! Her ledger figures were proved over and over again. But the cash!
Then once more she bent to her task.
The piles of coin were all right she finally decided. She counted them over
and over again, and they came to the same penny exactly. So she pushed the
Then she slowly and carefully counted again the bank-notes, turning them
one by one face down from left to right. The amount, added to the sum of
the coins, was equal to the figures on the ledger. Then she did what she
had already done ten or a dozen times. She recounted the bills, turning
them from right to left.
She was fifty dollars short!
Christmas was approaching, and the Belding jewelry store was, of course,
rather busier than at other seasons. That was why Chet Belding was helping
out behind the counters. Out there, he kept a closer watch on the front
door than Laura, with her financial trouble, could.
Suddenly he darted down the long room to welcome a group of young people
who pushed open the jewelry-store door. They burst in with a hail of merry
voices and a clatter of tongues that drowned every other sound in the store
for a minute, although there were but four of them.
"Easy! Easy!" begged Mr. Belding, who was giving his attention to a
customer near the front of the store. "Take your friends back to Laura's
Hushed for the moment, the party drifted back toward Laura's desk. The
young girl was still too deeply engaged with the ledger and cash to look up
"What is the matter, Mother Wit?" demanded the taller of the two girls who
had just come in--a most attractive-looking maiden, whom Chet had at once
taken on his arm.
"Engine trouble," chuckled Laura's brother. "The old thing just won't
budge! Isn't that it, Laura?"
The tall youth--dark and delightfully romantic-looking, any girl would have
told you--went around into the little office and looked over Laura's
"What's gone wrong, Laura?" he asked, with sympathy in his voice and
"You want to get a move on, Mother Wit!" cried the youngest girl of the
troop, saucy looking, and with ruddy cheeks and flyaway curls. This was
Clara Hargrew, whom her friends called Bobby, and whose father kept the big
grocery store just a block away from the Belding jewelry store. "Everybody
will have picked over the presents in all the stores and got the best of
everything before we get there."
"That's right," said the last member of the group; and this was a short and
sturdy boy who had the same mischievous twinkle in his eye that Bobby
His name was Long, and because he was short, everybody at Central High
(save the teachers, of course) called him "Short and Long." He and Bobby
Hargrew were what hopeless grown folk called "a team!" When they were not
hatching up some ridiculous trick together, they were separately in
"But you say Short and Long has done some of his Christmas shopping
already," Jess Morse, the tall visitor, said. "Just think, Laura! He has
sent Purt Sweet his annual present."
"So soon?" said Laura Belding, but with her mind scarcely on what her
friends were saying. "And Thanksgiving is only just passed!"
"I thought I'd better be early," said Short and Long, with solemn
countenance. "I wrote 'Not to be opened till Christmas' upon the package."
Bobby and Jess and Lance burst into giggles. "Let's have the joke!"
demanded Chet. "What did you send the poor fish, Short?"
"You guessed it! You guessed it, Chet Belding!" cried Bobby. "Aren't you a
"What do you mean?" asked Laura, now becoming more seriously interested.
"Why," Jess Morse said, "he got a codfish down at the market and wrapped it
up in a lot of paper and put it in a long, beautifully decorated Christmas
box. If Purt Sweet keeps that box without opening it until Christmas, I am
afraid the Board of Health will be making inquiries about the Sweet
"You scamp!" exclaimed Laura sternly, to Short and Long.
"He's all right!" declared Bobby warmly. "You know just how mean and stingy
Purt Sweet is--and his mother has more money than anybody else in
Centerport. Last Christmas, d'you know what Purt did?"
"Something silly, of course," Laura said.
"I don't know what you call silly. I call it mean," declared the smaller
girl. "Purt got it noised abroad that he was going to give a present to
every fellow in his class--didn't he, Short?"
"That's what he did," said Billy Long, taking up the story. "And the day
before Christmas he got us all over to his house and offered each of us a
drink of ice-water! And some of the kids had been foolish enough to buy him
things--and give 'em to him ahead of time, too!"
"Serves you right for being so piggish," commented Chet.
"It was a mean trick," agreed Laura, "for some of the boys in Purt's grade
are much younger than he is. But this idea of giving Christmas presents
because you expect something in return----"
"Is pretty small potatoes," finished Lance Darby, the dark youth. "But
what's the matter here, Laura?" he added. "I've counted these bills and
they are just exactly right by those figures you have set down there."
"You turned them from left to right as you counted, Lance," cried Laura.
"Sure! I counted the face of each bill," was the answer.
"Now count them the other way!" exclaimed Laura in despair.
Her friends gathered around while Laura did this. Even Chet gave some
attention to his sister's trouble now. From right to left the packet of
bank-notes came to fifty dollars less than the sum accredited to them on
"Well, what do you know about that?" breathed Lance.
"That's the strangest thing!" declared Jess Morse.
"Why," said Bobby of the quick mind, "must be some of the bills are not
"Nonsense!" ejaculated Chet.
"Who ever heard of such a thing as a banknote being printed wrong unless it
was a counterfeit?" demanded Laura.
Mr. Belding, having finished with his customer, came back to the little
office and heard this. "I am quite sure we have taken in no counterfeits--
eh, Chet?" he said, smiling.
"And there's only one big bill--this hundred," said Chet, who had taken the
package of bills and was flirting them through his fingers. "I took that in
myself when I sold that lavalliere to the man I told you about, Father. You
remember? He was a stranger, and he said he wanted to give it to a young
"Let's see that bill, Chet!" exclaimed Bobby Hargrew suddenly.
Chet slipped the hundred-dollar note out of the packet and handed it to the
grocer's daughter. But she immediately cried:
"I want to see the hundred-dollar bill, Chet. Not this one."
"Why, that's the hundred------"
"This is a fifty," interrupted Bobby. "Can't you see?"
She displayed the face of a fifty-dollar bank-note to their wondering eyes.
Their exclamations drowned Mr. Belding's voice, and he had to speak twice
before Bobby heard him.
"Turn it over!"
The grocer's daughter did so. The other side of the bill was the face of a
hundred-dollar bank-note! At this there certainly was a hullabaloo in and
around the office. Mr. Belding could scarcely make himself heard again. He
"What is the matter with that bank-note? Whether it is counterfeit or not,
you took it in over the counter, Chetwood," he said coldly.
"This very day," admitted his oldest son.
"Then, my boy, it is up to you," said the jeweler grimly.
"What----Just what do you mean?" asked Chet, somewhat troubled by his
"In a jewelry store," said Mr. Belding seriously, "as I have often told
you, a clerk must keep his eyes open. You admit taking in this bill. If the
Treasury Department says it is worth only fifty dollars, I shall expect you
to make good the other fifty."
The young people stared at each other in awed silence as the jeweler turned
away. They could feel how annoyed he was.
"Gee!" gasped Chet, "if I'm nicked fifty dollars, how shall I ever be able
to buy Christmas presents, or even give anything for the Red Cross drive?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, Chet!" Jess Morse murmured.
"Looks as if hard times had camped on your trail, old boy," declared Lance.
"But maybe it is a hundred-dollar bill," Laura said.
"It's tough," Short and Long muttered.
"Try to pass it on somebody else," chuckled Bobby, who was not very
sympathetic at that moment.
"Got it all locked up, Laura?" Jess asked. "Well, let us go then. You can't
make that bill right by looking at it, Chet."
"I--I wish I could get hold of the man who passed it on me," murmured the
"Would you know him again?" Lance asked.
"Sure," returned his chum, getting his own coat and hat while his sister
put on her outdoor clothing. "All ready? We're going, Pa."
"Remember what I said about that bill, Chetwood," Mr. Belding admonished
him. "You will learn after this, I guess, to look at both sides of a
hundred-dollar bill--or any other--when it is offered to you."
"Aw, it's a good hundred, I bet," grumbled Chet.
"If it is, I'll add an extra fifty to my Red Cross subscription," rejoined
his father with some tartness.
"Well, that's something!" Bobby Hargrew said quickly. "We want to boost the
fund all we can. And what do you think?"
"My brain has stopped functioning entirely since I got so bothered by that
bank-note," declared Laura Belding, shaking her head. "I can't think."
"Mr. Sharp and the rest of the faculty have agreed that we shall give a
show for the Red Cross," declared Bobby, with enthusiasm. "Just what we
wanted them to do!"
"Oh, joy!" cried Jess, clasping her hands in delight.
"Miss Josephine Morse, leading lady, impressarioess, and so forth," laughed
Lance Darby, "will surely be in on the theatricals."
"Maybe they will let you write the play, Jess," said Chet admiringly.
They reached the door and stepped into the street. There had been rain and
a freeze. The sidewalks, as well as the highway itself, were slippery.
Bobby suddenly screamed:
"See there! Oh! He'll be killed!"
A rapidly-driven automobile turned the corner by the Belding store. A man
was crossing Market Street, coming toward the group of young people.
The careless driver had not put on his chains. The car skidded. The next
instant the pedestrian was knocked down, and at least one wheel ran over
his prostrate body.
Instead of stopping, the car went into high speed and dashed up the street
and was quickly out of sight. The young people ran to the prostrate man.
Nobody for the moment thought of the automobile driver who was responsible
for the affair.
The victim had blood on his face from a cut high up on his crown. He was
unconscious. It was Chet Belding who stood up and spoke, first of all.
"I thought so! I thought so!" he gasped. "Do you know who this is?"
"Who?" asked Jess, clinging to his arm as the crowd gathered.
"This is the man who passed that phony hundred-dollar bill on me. The very
"Is he dead?" whispered Bobby Hargrew, looking under Chefs elbow down at
the crimson-streaked face of the unfortunate man.
THE RED CROSS GIRL
Market street was well lighted, but it was not well policed. That last fact
could not be denied, or the recklessly driven automobile that had knocked
down the stranger would never have got away so easily. People from both
sides of the street and from the stores near by ran to the spot; but no
policeman appeared until long after the automobile was out of sight.
The exciting statement that Chet Belding had made so interested and
surprised his friends that for a few moments they gave the victim of the
injury little of their attention. Meanwhile a figure glided into the group
and knelt beside the injured man who lay upon the ice-covered street. It
was a girl, not older than Laura and Jess, but one who was dressed in the
veil and cloak of the Red Cross.
She was not the only Red Cross worker on Market Street that Saturday
evening, for the drive for the big Red Cross fund had begun, and many
workers were collecting. This girl, however seemed to have a practical
knowledge of first-aid work. She drew forth a small case, wiped the blood
away from the man's face with cotton, and then began to bandage the wound
as his head rested against her knee.
"Somebody send for the ambulance," she commanded, in a clear and pleasant
voice. "I think he has a fractured leg, and he may be hurt otherwise."
Her request brought the three girls of Central High to their senses. Bobby
darted away to telephone to the hospital from her father's store. The older
girls offered the Red Cross worker their aid.
For a year and a half the girls of Central High had been interested in the
Girls' Branch League athletics; and with their training under Mrs. Case,
the athletic instructor, they had all learned something about first-aid
The girls of Centerport had changed in character without a doubt since the
three high schools of the city had become interested so deeply in girls'
athletics. With the high schools of Keyport and Lumberport, an association
of league units had been formed, and the girls of the five educational
institutions were rivals to a proper degree in many games and sports.
How all this had begun and how Laura Belding by her individual efforts had
made possible the Central High's beautiful gymnasium and athletic field, is
told in the first volume of this series, entitled: "The Girls of Central
High; Or, Rivals for All Honors." This story served to introduce this party
of young people who have met in the jewelry store, as well as a number of
other characters, to the reader.
In "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna; Or, The Crew That Won," the
enthusiasm in sports among the girls of the five high schools reaches a
As the three cities in the league are all situated upon the beautiful lake
named above, aquatic games hold a high place in the estimation of the rival
associations in the league. Fun and sports fill this second volume.
"The Girls of Central High at Basket Ball; Or, The Great Gymnasium
Mystery," the third book, tells of several very exciting games in which the
basket-ball team of Central High takes part, and the reader learns, as
well, a good deal more about the individual characters of the girls
themselves and of some very exciting adventures they have.
"The Girls of Central High on the Stage; Or, The Play That Took the Prize,"
the fourth volume in the series, is really Jess Morse's story, although
Laura and their other close friends have much to do in the book and take
part in the play which Jess wrote, and which was acted in the school
auditorium. It was proved that Jess Morse had considerable talent for play
writing, and the professional production of her school play aided the girl
and her mother over a most trying financial experience.
The fifth volume, "The Girls of Central High on Track and Field; Or, The
Champions of the School League," is an all around athletic story in which
rivalries for place in school athletics, excitement and interest of plot,
and stories of character building are woven into a tale calculated to hold
the attention of any reader interested in high school doings.
During the summer previous to the opening of the present story in the
series, these friends spent a most enjoyable time camping on Acorn Island,
and the sixth tale, "The Girls of Central High in Camp; Or, The Old
Professor's Secret," is as full of mystery, adventure, and fun as it can
be. Since the end of the long vacation the Girls of Central High, as well
as the boys who are their friends, had settled down to hard work both in
studies and athletics. Ice had come early this year and already Lake Luna
was frozen near the shore and most of the steamboat traffic between the
lake cities had ceased.
The great pre-holiday Red Cross drive had now enthralled the girls of
Central High, as well as the bulk of Centerport's population. Everybody
wanted to put the city "over the top" with more than its quota subscribed
to the fund.
In the first place, the boys' and girls' athletic associations of Central
High were planning an Ice Carnival to raise funds for the cause, and it was
because of that exhibition that Chet Belding and Lance Darby wished to get
down to the ice that evening and try their own particular turn, after the
shopping expedition that also had been planned.
As it happened, however, neither the shopping nor the skating was done on
this particular Saturday night.
As Bobby Hargrew ran to telephone to the hospital, Short and Long had
grabbed the wrists of his two older and taller boy friends and led them out
of the crowd in a very mysterious way.
"Did you get a good look at that car?" he whispered to Chet and Lance.
"Of course I didn't," said the latter. "It went up the street like the
wind. Didn't it, Chet?"
"That rascal was going some when he turned the corner of Rapidan Street. I
wonder he did not skid again and smash his car to pieces against the
hydrant. Served him right if he had," Chet said.
"There were no chains on his wheels," said Short and Long, in the same
"You said it," agreed Lance. "What then?"
"There are not many cars in Centerport right now without chains on. The
streets have been icy for more than twenty-four hours."
"Your statement is irrefutable," said Chet, grinning.
"Get it off your chest, Short and Long," begged Lance. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," said the earnest lad, "that I know a car that was out this
afternoon without chains, and it was a seven-seater Perriton car--just as
this one that knocked down Chet's friend was."
"It was a Perriton, I believe," murmured Lance.
But Chetwood Belding said: "I don't know whether that poor fellow is a
friend of mine or not. If I have to give Pa fifty dollars--Whew!"
"But the car?" urged Lance Darby. "Who has a Perriton car, Short and Long?"
"And without chains?" added Chet, waking up to the main topic.
"Come along, fellows," said the younger lad. "I won't tell you. But I'll
take you to where you can see the car I mean. If it still is without chains
on the wheels, and has just been used--Well, we can talk about it then!"
"All right," said Chet. "We can't do any good here. Here comes the
ambulance. That poor fellow is going to be in the hospital for some time, I
There was such a crowd around the spot where the victim of the accident lay
that the boys could not see the Central High girls, save Bobby Hargrew, who
came running back from her father's store just as the clanging of the
ambulance gong warned the crowd that the hospital had responded in its
usual prompt fashion.
The boys hailed the smaller girl and told her they were off to hunt for the
car that had knocked down the victim. Then the three hurried away.
Meanwhile, in the center of the crowd Laura Belding and Jess Morse had been
aiding the girl in the Red Cross uniform as best they could to care for the
man who was hurt. The latter had not opened his eyes when the ambulance
worked its way into the crowd and halted beside the three girls on their
knees in the street.
"What have you there?" asked the young doctor, who swung himself off the
rear of the truck.
Laura and Jess told him. The third girl, the one who had done the most for
the unfortunate man, did not at first say a word.
The driver brought the rolled stretcher and blanket. He laid it down beside
the victim. When the doctor had finished his brief notes he helped his aid
lift the man to the stretcher. They picked it up and shoved it carefully
into the ambulance.
"I know you, Miss Belding," said the doctor. "And this is Miss Morse, isn't
it? Do you mind giving me your name and address?" he asked the third girl.
Was there a moment's hesitation on the part of the Red Cross girl? Laura
thought there was; yet almost instantly the stranger replied:
"My name is Janet Steele."
"Ah! Your address?" repeated the doctor.
This time there was no doubt that the girl flushed, and more than a few
seconds passed before she made answer:
"Thirty-seven Whiffle Street."
At the same moment somebody exclaimed: "Here comes Fatty Morehead, the cop.
Better late than never," and a general laugh went up from the crowd.
Jess seized Laura's wrist, exclaiming: "Oh, Laura! he will want to take
down our names and addresses, too. Let's get away."
The Red Cross girl uttered an ejaculation of chagrin. She began pushing her
way out of the press, and in an opposite direction from that in which the
portly policeman was coming.
Jess whispered swiftly in Laura's ear: "Come on! Let's follow her! I'm
awfully interested in that Red Cross girl, Laura!"
"Why should you be?" asked her chum. "Although she looks like a nice girl,
I never saw her before."
"Neither did I," said Jess. "But did you hear the address she gave? That is
the poor end of Whiffle Street, as you very well know, and mother and I
used to live right across the street from that house. I did not know
anybody lived in the old Eaton place. It has been empty for a long, long
Bobby Hargrew met Laura and Jess on the edge of the crowd, for she had been
unable to worm herself into the middle of it again, and told them swiftly
of the boys' departure to hunt for the car that had done the damage.
"And that's just like the boys!" exclaimed Jess Morse, with some
exasperation. "To run away and desert us!"
"I don't know but I'm glad," said Laura. "I don't feel much like shopping
after seeing that poor man hurt."
"Or skating, either," complained Jess.
Presently the three overtook the strange girl. Bobby, whom Chet had said
was "just as friendly with strangers as a pup with a waggy tail,"
immediately got into conversation with her.
"Say! was he hurt badly?" she asked.
"I think his right leg was broken," the Red Cross girl replied. "And his
head was badly hurt. Your friends, here, could see that."
"He bled dreadfully," sighed Laura. "But you had the bandage on so nicely
that the doctor did not even disturb it, my dear."
"Thank you," said the Red Cross girl. She hesitated on the corner of the
side street. "I fear I must leave you here. I am going home."
"Oh," cried Jess, who was enormously curious, "we can go your way just as
well as not, Miss Steele! We live at the other end of Whiffle Street--up on
the hill, you know."
"All but me," put in Bobby. "But I can run right through Laura's yard to my
She indicated Laura as she spoke. The Red Cross girl looked at Mother Wit
with some expectancy. Jess came to the rescue.
"Let's get acquainted," she said. "Why not? We'll never meet again under
more thrilling circumstances," and she laughed. "This is Miss Laura
Belding, Miss Steele. On your other hand is Miss Hargrew--Miss Clara
Hargrew. I am Josephine Morse. I used to live across the street from the
old Eaton place where you live now."
"You are a stranger in town, are you not?" Laura asked, taking the new
"Yes, Miss Belding. We have only been here four weeks. But I have worked in
the Red Cross before--and one must do something, you know."
"Do something!" burst forth Bobby. "If you went to Central High and had Gee
Gee for one of your teachers, you'd have plenty to do."
"We are all three Central High girls," said Laura gently. "Have you
finished school, Miss Steele?"
"I have not been able to attend school regularly for two years," admitted
the new girl. "I am afraid," and she smiled apologetically, "that you are
all much further advanced in your education than I am. You see, my mother
is an invalid and I must give her a great deal of my time. It does not
interfere, however, with my doing a little for the Red Cross."
"I am sorry your mother is ill," said Laura.
"We were advised to come up here for her sake," said Janet Steele hastily.
"We have been living in a coast town. The doctors thought an inland
climate--a drier climate--would be beneficial."
"I hope it will prove so," said Laura.
"It seems a shame you can't get out with the other girls," Jess added.
"And come to school and let Gee Gee get after you," joined in Bobby grimly.
"Is she such a very strict disciplinarian?" asked Miss Steele, smiling down
at the irrepressible one as they walked through the side street toward
"She's the limit," declared Bobby.
"Oh," said Laura mildly, "I think Miss Carrington is nowhere near so strict
as she used to be. Margit Salgo really has made her quite human, you know."
"Say!" grumbled Bobby, "she can hand out demerits just as easy as ever. And
she had her sense of humor extracted years ago."
"Has that fault cropped up lately, my dear?" asked Laura, laughing. "It
must be so. What happened, Bobby?"
The younger girl, who was a sophomore, whereas Laura and Jess were juniors,
came directly under Miss Carrington's attention in several classes. Bobby
was forever getting into trouble with the strict teacher.
"Why, look, now," said Bobby, warmly, "just what happened yesterday!
English class. You know, that's nuts for Gee Gee. I was bothered enough, I
can tell you, trying to correct a paper she had handed back to me, and she
kept right on talking and asking questions, and the recitation period was
almost ended. I didn't want to hang around there to correct that paper--"
"You know very well you should have taken it home to correct," Laura put
"Oh, don't tell me that! I take so much extra work home as it is, that
Father Tom Hargrew asks me if I don't do anything at all in school. And,
anyway, I didn't think Gee Gee saw me. But, of course, she did."
"And then what?" Jess asked.
"Why, she shot a question at me, and I didn't get it at first. 'Miss
Hargrew! Pay attention!' she went on. Of course, that brought me up
standing. 'What is a pseudonym?' she wanted to know. How silly! You know
the trouble we've been having with that car Father Tom bought. 'I don't
know what it is, Miss Carrington,' I told her. 'But if it is something that
belongs to an automobile, father will have to buy a new one pretty soon,
"And she docked you for that!" exclaimed Jess, as though wildly amazed.
"Really, I am afraid we are sometimes cruel to our dear teachers," laughed
Laura. "But if they are too serious they are such a temptation to us witty
"Now, don't be sarcastic, Mother Wit," said Jess, shaking her chum a little
by the elbow. "You know very well you enjoy nagging the teachers a bit
yourself, now and then. And Professor Dimp!"
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" gasped Bobby suddenly. "Did you hear the latest about Old
"Now, girls," said Laura, quite sternly, "I refuse to hear of Professor
Dimp being made a goose of."
"Gander, dear! Gander!" exclaimed Jess, _sotto voce_.
"He's an old dear," declared Laura, quite as earnestly. "We found that out,
I am sure, when we went camping on Acorn Island last summer."
"True! True!" admitted her chum.
"Oh, nobody wants to hurt the old fellow," chuckled Bobby. "But one day
this week there was a bunch of the boys down at the post-office, and
Professor Dimp came in to mail a letter. You know he is always reading on
the street when he walks; never sees anybody, and goes stumbling about
blindly with a book under his nose. He got into the revolving door and
Short and Long declares Old Dimple went around ten times before he knew
enough to come out--and then he was on the street again and had failed to
mail the letter."
"Oh, Bobby!" cried Jess, while Miss Steele was quite convulsed by the
"He's so absent-minded," said Laura sympathetically. "Why didn't Short and
Long tell him he was in the revolving door?"
"Humph!" chuckled Bobby, "I guess Short thought the old fellow needed the
Just then the girls came to the corner of Whiffle Street The street was
narrow and crooked in an elbow here. The houses were mostly small, and were
out of repair. It was, indeed, the poor end of Whiffle Street. On the hill
end were some of the best residences in Centerport.
"There's the Eaton place across the street," said Jess briskly. "I see
there is a light, Miss Steele."
"That is mother's room on the first floor--right off the piazza. You know,
we could not begin to use all the house," the girl added frankly. "There
are only mother and I and Aunt Jinny."
"Oh! Your aunt?" asked Jess.
"She is mother's old nurse. She has come with us--to help do the housework,
you know," Miss Steele said frankly, yet again flushing a little. "I--I
guess I have never lived just as you girls do. We have moved around a great
deal. I have got such education as I have by fits and starts, you see. I
suppose you three girls have a perfectly delightful time at your Central
"Especially when Gee Gee gets after us with a sharp stick," grumbled Bobby.
"Don't mind Bobby," said Laura, laughing. "She is dreadfully slangy, and
sometimes quite impossible. We do have fine times at Central High.
Especially in our games and athletic work."
"Miss Steele must be sure and come to our Ice Carnival next week," said
"'Ice Carnival'?" cried the Red Cross girl. "And I just love to skate!"
There came a sudden tapping on the window of the lighted room in the old
Eaton house. The girls had crossed the street and were standing at the
gate. Janet Steele wheeled quickly and waved her hand. A sitting figure was
dimly outlined at the long, French window.
"Oh!" Janet said. "Mother wants us to come in. She doesn't see many
people--and she enjoys young folk. Won't you come in? It will be a pleasure
for us both."
Jess and Bobby looked at Laura. They allowed Mother Wit to decide the
question, and she was but a few seconds in doing so.
"Why, of course! It's not late," she said. "We shall stay but a minute this
time, Miss Steele."
"Call me Janet," whispered the Red Cross girl, squeezing Laura's arm as
they went through the sagging gate.
The quartette climbed the steep steps to the piazza. That the Eaton house
was in bad repair was proved by the broken boards in steps and piazza floor
and the dilapidated condition of the railing. Even the lock of the front
door was broken. Janet turned the knob and ushered them into the dimly-lit
This was neatly if sparsely furnished. And everything seemed scrupulously
clean. Their young hostess opened the door into her mother's room, which
was that originally intended for the parlor.
The eager and curious girls of Central High saw first of all the figure of
the woman in the wheel chair by the window. She had pulled down the shade
now and dropped the curtains into place. The whole room was warm and well
lighted. There was a gas chandelier lighted to the full and an open grate
heaped with red coals. There was a good rug, comfortable chairs, and a
canopied bed set in a corner. A tea-table with furnishings was drawn up
near the fireplace. If one was obliged to spend one's time in a single
room, this apartment seemed amply furnished for such a condition.
Mrs. Steele herself was no wan and hopeless-looking invalid. She was as
buxom as Janet, and Janet was as well built a girl, even, as Laura Belding.
The invalid had shrunken none in body or limbs. She owned, too, a very
attractive smile, and she held out both hands to greet her young visitors.
"I am delighted!" she said in a strong, quick voice, which matched her
smile and bright glance perfectly. "Why, Janey, you may go out every
evening, if you will only bring back with you such a bevy of fresh, sweet
faces. Introduce me--do!"
The introductions were made amid considerable gaiety. Mother Wit took the
lead in telling Mrs. Steele who they were. Later Janet related the accident
on Market Street, which had led to her acquaintance with the three girls of
Laura's keen eyes were not alone fixed upon Mrs. Steele while they talked.
She took into consideration everything in the house. There was no mark of
poverty; yet the Steeles lived in a house in a poor neighborhood and one
that was positively out of repair, and they occupied only a small part of
When the three girls came out again and Janet had gone in and closed the
door, Laura was in a brown study.
"Wake up, Mother Wit!" commanded Jess. "What do you think of the Steeles--
All Laura Belding could say in comment, was:
THE MYSTERY MAN
The three boys who had set off to find the car that had knocked down the
stranger on the icy street were as mysterious the next day as they could
be. At least, so their girl friends declared.
Being Sunday, there was no general gathering of the Central High girls and
boys, but Laura, naturally, saw her brother early. He was coming from his
shower in bathrobe and slippers when Laura looked out of her own door.
"What sort of fox-and-goose chase did Short and Long take you and Lance
away on?" she demanded.
"Oh, I don't know that he was altogether foolish," said Chet doubtfully.
"Then did you really find some trace of the car?" cried Laura, eagerly.
"Well, we found a car. Yes."
"'Goodness to gracious!' as poor Lizzie Bean says. You are
noncommunicative, Chetwood Belding. What do you mean--you found a car?"
"Laura," said her brother, "I don't know--nor does Lance, or Short and
Long--whether the fellow we suspect had anything to do with that accident
"And we don't want to get him in wrong."
"Who is it?" demanded his sister, bluntly.
"No. We won't tell anybody who it is we suspect until we make further
"I declare, you are as mysterious as a regular detective! And suppose the
police do make inquiries?"
"They will, of course,"
"And what will you boys tell them?"
"Pooh!" returned Chet, going on to his room to dress, "they won't ask us
because they don't know we know anything about it"
"I guess you don't know much!" shouted Laura after him before he closed his
It was the same when Jess Morse met Lance Darby on the way to Sunday
"Ho, Launcelot!" she cried. "Tell us all the news--that is a good child.
Who was that awful person who ran down the man last night? I hear from Dr.
Agnew that they had to patch the poor victim up a good deal at the
hospital. Did you boys find the guilty party?"
"I don't know that we did," said Darby. "You see, nobody seemed to see the
license number of the automobile."
"But didn't Short and Long have suspicions?"
"Well, what are suspicions?" demanded the boy. "We all agreed to say
nothing about it unless we have proof. And we haven't any proof--as yet."
"Why, I believe you are 'holding out' on your friends, Lance," declared
Jess, in surprise. "For shame!"
"Aw, ask Chet--if you must know!" exclaimed Lance, hurrying away.
As it chanced it was Bobby Hargrew who attempted to play inquisitor with
Short and Long, meeting the boy with the youngest Long, Tommy, on the
slippery hill of Nugent Street Tommy was so bundled up in a "Teddy Bear"
costume that he could scarcely trudge along, and he held tightly to his
"For goodness' sake!" exclaimed Bobby, when she saw Tommy slipping all over
the icy sidewalk, "what is the matter with that boy?"
"He hasn't got his sea-legs on," grinned Short and Long.
"You mean to tell me he is nearly five years old and can walk no better
than _that?_" exclaimed Bobby teasingly. "Why, we have a little dog at home
that isn't even a year old yet, and he can ran right over this ice. He can
walk twice as good as Tommy does."
"Hoh!" exclaimed that youngster defensively. "That dog's got twice as many
legs as I have."
"Right you are, Kid!" chuckled his brother. "He got you there, Clara."
"And did you boys get that man who ran the poor fellow down on Market
Street last night?" demanded Bobby, with interest. "Did you have him
"No. What do you suppose? We're not going around snitching to the police,"
growled Short and Long.
"But if that man at the hospital is seriously hurt----"
"Oh, we're not sure it's the right car," said the boy, and evidently did
not wish to talk about it.
"Billy Long!" exclaimed the girl. "Are you boys trying to defend the guilty
"Suppose that man at the hospital dies?"
"Pshaw! He wasn't hurt as bad as all that."
"How do you know?"
"Because I've been to the hospital to find out He's got a broken leg and a
"Is he conscious yet?" demanded Bobby Hargrew quickly.
"No-o. They say he doesn't know anybody--and nobody knows who he is."
"Now you see!" cried the girl "Maybe he will die! And you boys will let the
man who did it get away."
"Oh, he won't get away," grumbled Short and Long. "We know where to find
him when we want to."
"You'd better let the police know where to find him," said Bobby tartly.
"You're not the police, Bobby Hargrew!" returned Short and Long, grinning
and going on with Tommy.
The girls, of course, got together and compared notes and decided that the
boys were "real mean, so now!" To pay Chet and Lance and Billy Long for
being so secretive about the person they suspected of having caused the
injury to the stranger Saturday evening, the three girls went alone that
Sunday afternoon to the hospital to inquire after the injured man.
And there they met Janet Steele again. The Red Cross girl had been making
inquiries, too, about the same case.
"It really is a very serious matter," Janet said to her new friends. "The
man who knocked him down should be found. Although the doctors think he has
no internal injuries after all, there is a compound fracture which will
keep him in bed for a long time, and in addition he seems unable to give
any satisfactory explanation of who he is or where he comes from."
"Goodness!" exclaimed Jess Morse. "Do you mean he has lost his mind?"
"Merely mislaid it," said Janet with a smile. "Or, at least, he cannot
remember his name and address."
"Didn't he have any papers about him that explain those points?" asked
"That seems to be odd, too," said Janet "No. Not a mark on his clothing,
either. But he was plentifully supplied with money, and all the bills were
"Oh!" exclaimed Laura. "That reminds me. That funny bill he passed on Chet
was brand new, too. I wonder if all his money is queer?"
"What do you mean?" asked Janet, wonderingly. "Is the man a criminal, do
Laura and Jess explained about the peculiarly printed bill, which had given
the first named so much trouble in making up her father's accounts the
"But that may be all explained in time," said Janet.
"All right," grumbled Bobby Hargrew. "But suppose poor Chet has to lose
"Father is going to take the bill to the bank to-morrow to see if they can
explain the mystery," Laura said.
"But that will not explain the mystery of the stranger." said Jess. "Why,
he is a regular 'man of mystery,' isn't he?"
"Humph!" said Bobby. "And so is the fellow the boys think ran him down. He
is a man of mystery as well."
SAND IN THE GEARS
Since the whole school had taken such a tremendous interest in "the
profession" at the time Central High blossomed forth in Jess Morse's play,
the M.O.R.s had given several playlets, and Mrs. Case, the physical
instructor, had staged folk dances and tableaux in the big hall.
For the Red Cross the association of girls connected with the Girls Branch
Athletic League that had carried forward these smaller affairs, had
determined to stage "a real play." Nellie Agnew, the doctor's daughter, and
secretary of the club, had sent to a publisher for copies of plays that
could be put on by amateurs, and interest in the affair waxed high already.
The principal point of decision was the identity of the play they were to
produce. Mr. Sharp and the other members of the school faculty had agreed
to let the girls act, and the big hall, or auditorium, could be used for
the production. At noon on Monday the girls interested in the performance
met in the principals office to decide upon the play.
"And of course," grumbled Bobby Hargrew to the Lockwood twins, Dora and
Dorothy, "all the teachers have got to come and interfere. We can't do a
sol-i-ta-ry thing without Gee Gee, or Miss Black, or some of them, poking
their noses into it."
"You can't say that Professor Dimp pokes his nose into our affairs,"
"No, indeed," said her twin. "Outside of his Latin and physics he doesn't
seem to have a single idea."
"Doesn't he?" scoffed Bobby. "The boys say he's gone into the dressmaking
business, or something."
"What is that?" asked Dora, smiling. "What do they mean?"
"Why, the professor's niece is living with him now. He is not much used to
having a woman in his sitting-room, I guess. She sits and sews with him in
the evening while he reads or corrects our futile work," said Bobby,
"The other night Ellie Lingard--that's his niece--lost her scissors and she
said they hunted all over the room for them. The next morning in one of the
physics classes the professor opened his book, and there were the lost
scissors, which he had tucked into it for a bookmark while he helped Ellie
Lingard hunt for her lost property."
"Oh, oh!" laughed the twins.
"The worst of it was," continued Bobby, with an elfish grin, "Old Dimple
grabbed them up and said right out loud: 'Oh, here they are, Ellie!' The
boys just hooted, and poor Old Dimp was as mad as a hatter."
"The poor old man," said Dorothy commiseratingly.
It was a fact that, although Professor Dimp did not interfere in this play
business, most of the other teachers desired to have their opinions
considered. The girls would not have minded Mr. Sharp. Indeed, they courted
his advice. But when Miss Grace Gee Carrington stood up to speak, some of
them audibly groaned.
Miss Carrington was Mr. Sharp's assistant and almost in complete control of
the girls of the school. At least, the girls came in contact with her much
more than they did with Mr. Sharp himself.
She was a very stiff and precise woman, with an acrid temper and a sharp
tongue. She had been teaching unruly girls for so many years that she was
to a degree quite soured upon the world--especially that world of school
which she had so much to do with.
Of late, however, Miss Carrington had become interested "quite in a human
way," her girls said, in a person who had first appeared to the ken of the
girls of Central High as a Gypsy girl. Margit Salgo's father, a Hungarian
Gypsy musician, had married Miss Carrington's sister, much against the
desire of Miss Grace Gee Carrington herself. When the orphaned Margit found
her way to Centerport she made such an impression upon her aunt's heart
that the latter finally took the girl into her own home and adopted her as
That, however, could not change Miss Carrington's nature. She was severe
and (in the opinion of fly-away Bobby Hargrew) she was much inclined to
interfere in the girls' affairs. On this occasion the girls were not
disappointed when Miss Carrington "said her little say."
"I approve of any acceptable attempt to raise funds for such a worthy
object as this we have in mind," said Miss Carrington. "An exhibition which
will interest the school in general and our parents and friends likewise,
meets, I am sure, with the approval of us all. Some of our young ladies, I
feel quite sure, show some talent for playing, and much interest therein.
Without meaning to pun, I would add that I wish they showed as great talent
for work as for play."
"She could not help giving us that dig, if she were to be martyred for it,"
Nellie Agnew whispered to Laura.
"Sh! She'll see your lips move," warned Dora Lockwood, on the other side of
the doctor's daughter. "I believe she has learned lip reading."
Miss Carrington went on quite calmly: "The first consideration, however, it
seems to me, is the selection of the play. I should not wish to see the
standard of Central High lowered by the acting of a play that would cater
only to the amusement-loving crowd. It should be educational. We should
achieve in a small way what the Greek players tried to teach--a love of
beauty, of form, of some great truth that can be inculcated in this way on
the public mind."
"But, Miss Carrington!" cried Bess Yeager, one of the seniors, almost
interrupting the staid teacher, "we want to make money for the Red Cross.
We could not get a room full with a Greek play."
"I beg Miss Yeager's pardon," said Miss Carrington stiffly. "We have our
standard of education to uphold first of all."
"I hope you will excuse me, Miss Carrington," said Laura, likewise rising
to object. "Our first object is to give the people something that will
amuse them so that they will crowd the auditorium. Otherwise our object
will not have been achieved. This is a purely money-making scheme," added
the jeweler's daughter with her low, sweet laugh.
"I am amazed to hear you say so!" exclaimed the instructor, quick for
argument at any time. "Have you young ladies no higher desire than to make
the rabble laugh?"
"I want you to know," muttered Jess Morse, "that my mother is coming, and
she isn't 'rabble.'"
Perhaps it was fortunate that Miss Carrington did not hear this comment.
But she could not fail to hear some of the others made by the girls. There
was earnest protest in all parts of the room. Mr. Sharp brought them to
"Miss Carrington has, under ordinary circumstances, made an excellent
point, and I want you all to notice it," said the principal. "We are an
educational institution here on the hill. If we were giving a class play,
or anything like that, I should vote for Miss Carrington's idea. At such a
time something primarily educational should be in order.
"But as I understand it, you young ladies are going to act for the benefit
of the Red Cross fund, and what will benefit that fund the most is the
drawing together of a well-paying crowd to see you act.
"I am afraid we shall have to set aside our own desires, Miss Carrington,"
he continued, smiling at his assistant. "We must let the actors choose
their own play--as long as it is a proper one--and abide for once by the
decision of those of our friends who wish to be amused rather than
"He's half backing her up!" complained Dora.
"Well, he has to pour oil on the troubled waters," whispered Laura.
"Huh!" grumbled Bobby Hargrew. "But Gee Gee is determined to throw sand in
the gears, not oil on the waters. She always does."
Really, Miss Carrington seemed in an interfering mood that day. Nellie had
a collection of plays from which they were supposed to choose that very
session the one to be acted. There was but brief time to learn the parts
and the acting directions. But Mr. Mann, who had directed them in other
plays, said he thought he would be able to whip the girls into shape for a
performance in two weeks. Although they were amateurs, they had all had
When the girls themselves got a chance to talk it was shown that their
desires were all for a parlor comedy with bright lines, some farcical turns
to the plot, but a play of sufficient weight to gain the approval of
sober-minded people. It was, however, far from being classic.
"Such a play is preposterous!" ejaculated Miss Carrington, breaking out
again. "Don't you think so yourself, Mr. Sharp?"
The principal had the book in his hand and was skimming through some of the
dialogue. If the truth was told he was on a broad grin.
"I don't know about that, Miss Carrington. It--it is really very funny."
"'Funny!'" gasped his assistant, with all the emphasis she dared show in
the presence of the principal. "As though to make fun should be our
"What would you like to have us play?" asked Bobby, daringly. "Julius
Caesar? If we do, I want to play old Julius. He dies in the first act. The
rest of us would be killed lingeringly by the audience, I know, before the
"Miss Hargrew!" snapped the teacher. Then she remembered that this was not
a recitation and she could not easily punish the girl. She shook her head
and looked offended during the remainder of the discussion.
"But you know very well," snapped Lily Pendleton, a rather overdressed
girl, as they all crowded out of the schoolhouse after the meeting, "that
Gee Gee will do her wickedest to spoil it all."
"Oh, no!" cried Laura. "Not when it is for the Red Cross!"
"It wouldn't matter what the object was," said Jess morosely. "She always
does try to crab the game."
"Goodness, Josephine!" gasped her chum, "you are positively as slangy as
"I guess I catch it from him," admitted Jess Morse. "And she is a crab!"
"Now girls!" called Nellie, a regular Martha for trouble at the present
moment. "Now girls, remember the 'sides' will be here day after tomorrow,
and Mr. Mann will look us over and give out the parts that afternoon in the
small hall. Nobody must be absent. We want this show to be the biggest
success that ever was."
"It won't be if Gee Gee can help it," growled Bobby Hargrew, shaking her
"There's one sure thing about it," Lance Darby said to Laura when she told
him of the way in which Miss Carrington had tried to interfere with the
girls' choice of the play, "she cannot butt into the Ice Carnival
arrangements. Nobody but your Mrs. Case and our Mr. Haskins has anything to
say about the Carnival Committee's arrangements."
"Oh! Indeed?" laughed Laura. "There you are mistaken about the far-reaching
influence of our Miss Carrington."
"What do you mean?"
"You forget that our share of the Carnival is under the jurisdiction of the
Girls Branch League, and in the constitution and by-laws of that
association it is stated that none of us girls can take part in any
exhibition without the consent of our teachers, and without, indeed, having
a certain standing in all branches of study. Miss Carrington can get her
word in right there."
"Wow, wow! That's so, I presume," admitted Lance.
"But we have gone so far now," said Laura complacently, "that I don't think
even Bobby will be refused permission to join in the festivities--and Bobby
is a splendid little skater, Lance."
"Bobby is all right," agreed the youth. "But here comes old Chet--and his
face is as long as the moral law. He is still worried about that fifty
dollars he may have to dig down into his jeans for--if your father sticks
to what he said he'd do."
Chetwood had a cheerful word, however, despite his serious aspect.
"Have you seen the ice, Lance?" he demanded, brightening up.
"Not to-day, old boy."
"It's scrumptious--just!" exclaimed the big fellow. "They have been shaving
it, and have got it all roped off."
"Better have somebody watch it, too, or the kids from downtown will get in
there and cut it all up. Just like 'em," growled Lance.
"Don't fret. Old Godey is on guard. Trust him to keep the kids off the
track," said Chet. "Is father at home, Laura?"
"He's just come in," said his sister. "Has he found out about that
"That is what I wanted to know," said the worried Chet. "I've been over to
the hospital this afternoon--before I went down to the lake shore. That,
chap who was hurt is off his nanny----"
"Chet! Don't let mother hear you," begged Laura, yet laughing.
"I wouldn't want the mater to be shocked," admitted Chet. "But that is
exactly what is the trouble with that man who gave me the phony bill. The
doctor told me the crack he got on the head had injured his brain."
"The poor man!" sighed his sister.
"What about 'poor me'?" demanded Chet indignantly. "And they say he carried
a roll of brand new bills big enough to choke a cow! The doctor says he
thinks the money is good, too. But he passed that hundred-dollar note on
"If it is a hundred," interjected Lance.
"Now you said a forkful," grumbled Chet, shaking his head. "Let's go in and
see what father has to say about it. He was going to see Mr. Monroe at the
First National. They say Mr. Monroe knows all about money--knew the fellow
who invented it, personally, I guess."
The young folks found Mr. Belding in the library, and he welcomed them with
his customary smile when the three came in.
"The bank-note?" he repeated. "I left it for Mr. Monroe to look at. He was
out of town. But he will tell me when he returns--if he knows about it. It
is a curious thing. And I hope it will teach you a lesson, Chetwood."
"Sure!" grumbled Chet, "Of course, there is nothing so important in this
world as learning lessons. Little thing about me being nicked fifty dollars
His father laughed at his rueful countenance. "Well, Son, I can't offer you
much sympathy. Perhaps the Treasury Department will make it right. And how
about that man who gave it to you? He can't get far with a broken leg."
"He's gone far enough already," declared Chet. "They say he has lost his
"What's that?" cried Mr. Belding.
"Looks fishy, doesn't it?" said Lance. "Lots of folks who owe money lose
"No," said Chet, shaking his head. "This chap really got a hard bang on the
head, and the doctors say he may never remember who he is."
"Lost his identity?" demanded Mr. Belding.
"Completely. At least, he doesn't know his name or where he came from. He
remembers a part of his life, they say, for he seems to think he has been
in Alaska. Asked the nurse, in fact, how long Sitka had had such a hospital
as this. Thought he was in Sitka, you see."
"Why, isn't it strange?" Laura said. "The poor fellow!"
"He's not poor, I tell you," said the literal Chet.
"He's got a lot of money. But not a card, or a mark about him--not even on
his clothes--to tell who he is."
"How about his hat?" questioned Lance. "And his suit? The labels, I mean."
"The hat was brand new," said Chet, "and was bought right here in
Centerport. Oh, the hospital folks have been trying through the police to
find out something about him. Nothing doing, they say."
"Why," said Mr. Belding thoughtfully, "there must be some way of
discovering who the unfortunate is, even if he cannot remember himself."
"Who do you mean, Pa, by 'the unfortunate'?" demanded his son. "I should
think I was the unfortunate. Especially if that bank-note is phony."
"But you did not get a broken leg--and a broken head--out of it," his
father said dryly.
"That's all right," muttered Chet "But I am likely to have a broken
pocketbook, all right all right!"
Mr. Belding was not unmindful of his son's anxiety regarding the odd
bank-note that Chet had taken over the counter in the jewelry store.
Besides, Laura sat herself upon the arm of his big Morris chair after
dinner that Monday evening, and said:
"You know, dear Pa, Chet is a pretty good boy. And fifty dollars is much
more money than he can afford to lose--all in one bunch."
"Indeed?" said her father indignantly. "And how about me? With my expensive
family, do you think I can afford to lose fifty dollars? And the boy is
"I deny it," said Laura briskly.
"Chet! not careless?"
"What is the difference?"
"Academic, or moral?" demanded Mother Wit, looking at him slyly.
"Oh, well, it doesn't pay to split hairs with you," declared her father,
pinching a warm cheek until it was rosier than ever. "But what's the big
idea, as Chet himself would say?"
"Why, now, Pa Belding----"
"Out with it! What do you want me to do?"
"I--I thought if you'd make Chet pay only half of the fifty dollars, that
perhaps you lost----"
"Well?" he growled, in apparent indignation still.
"Why, I would pay the other twenty-five!" burst out Laura hurriedly. "Only
you must promise not to tell Chet."
"What do you mean? To pay half his fine?"
"Well, you don't need to halloo so about it, Pa dear," she pouted.
"I wouldn't let you!"
"Oh, yes you would. You know it is going to be awfully hard on Chet to take
that money out of the bank to pay you."
"There, there!" said Mr. Belding gruffly. "We won't talk about it--yet.
Perhaps we'll find the bank-note is all right."
But he said afterward to his wife that evening: "What are we going to do
with such children, Mother? You can't punish one without hurting the other
right to the quick."
"We have been blessed in our children, Henry," said Mrs. Belding proudly.
"And--really--Chet should not be too much blamed."
"There, there!" exclaimed her husband in a disgusted tone of voice. "You're
every whit as bad as Laura."
Mr. Monroe did not return to the bank for several days; and meanwhile other
important and interesting things were happening. The three boys who seemed
to have secret knowledge about the accident on Market Street refused to
answer the questions of their girl friends as to the identity of the car
that had run the victim down.
"You are just the meanest boys!" flared out Bobby Hargrew, as they all
trooped down to Lake Luna to take almost the last look at the roped-off
arena before the carnival would twinkle its lights that evening at six
"I don't know, Bobby," drawled Chet. "I believe we really could be meaner
if we tried."
"No you couldn't!" snapped Clara Hargrew with finality.
"Oh, girls!" gasped Laura suddenly, "tell me what this is coming up the
hill? Or am I seeing something that you folks don't?"
"Gee!" exclaimed the slangy Bobby, forgetting her indignation with Chet and
the other boys. "Is it? Can it be?"
"Pretty Sweet!" ejaculated Jess, beginning to laugh. "And he is in his
forest green hunting suit. _I_ call it his 'Robin Ridinghood' suit."
"It just matches him, all right," said Lance. "He's verdant green and so is
the suit. And look how he is carrying that gun, will you?"
The gun was in its case, but the boy in question was carrying the shotgun
in a most awkward manner. Without a doubt he was half afraid of it.
"And I bet he hasn't had a charge in it all the time he's been out. Who did
he go with?" asked Chet.
"Some of the East Siders. They cater to him a lot, and you know," said
Lance, with disgust, "tight as Purt is with money, if you flatter him you
can pull his leg."
"Dear me!" murmured Laura, "it is not in your province to use such slang,
Lance. Leave that to Chet and Bobby."
"Hey, Pretty!" Chet shouted to the very dandified lad, as he crossed the
street toward them. "What luck, old top?"
Although when they had first seen him, Prettyman Sweet was undoubtedly
footsore, he began to strut now and pride "fairly exuded from his
countenance," as Jess whispered to her chum.
"Did you get any cottontails?" demanded Lance.
"Oh, a few--a few, muh boy," declared Pretty Sweet airily.
Then they saw that he had a game bag slung over his shoulder in true
"I did not suppose you would go out to shoot the poor, innocent little
rabbits, Mr. Sweet," said Laura, with sober face but dancing eyes. "They
have never done you any harm."
"I bet a real bad rabbit would make Purt run," muttered Bobby.
"Oh, Miss Belding!" said the school dandy. "You know I'm awf'ly keen on
sport--awf'ly keen, doncher know. I just _have_ to get a day now and then
in the woods, when game is in season."
"He's as keen on it as the two Irishmen were, who went hunting for the
first time," broke in Bobby. "When they sighted a bird sitting on a bush
Meehan took very careful aim and prepared to fire. Said his friend,
grabbing him by the arm:
"'Don't fire, Meehan! Shure an' yez haven't loaded yer gun.'
"'That's as it may be, me lad,' retorted Meehan, 'but fire I must. The
bur-rd won't wait!'"
Prettyman Sweet was used to being laughed at, yet he flushed at the gibe.
"Never mind," he said. "I bring home the game, just the same."
"You 'bring home the bacon,' in other words," said Chet, approaching him.
"Let's see the bunnies?"
Nothing loath, the overdressed boy opened the bag and displayed his
plunder. He brought two big hares out of the bag by their ears and held
them up with pride.
"Bet they were trapped," said Bobby in an undertone.
"They were not trapped!" cried Purt Sweet sharply. "See! That is where one
was shot! And there is the other--see?"
"Jinks!" said Lance. "Both through the head. _You_ never did it, Purt?"
"I did so!" cried the huntsman angrily. "I shot them both."
Chet was looking them over closely. He shook his head.
"They have been shot all right," he said. "And you shot them over there on
"I can prove it," said Purt haughtily.
"That's all right," said Chet thoughtfully. "You may have shot them--and on
Cavern Island. But whose rabbits were they before you bought them?"
Bobby and Jess began to giggle. Chet grinned as he added:
"Those are Belgian hares, not rabbits, Pretty. Somebody has put something
over on you. Belgian hares don't run wild in the woods of Cavern Island--
that is sure."
"Bet he shot them hanging up on a fence," snapped Short and Long, who thus
far had said never a word to Prettyman Sweet.
"And I know the market to-day is full of Belgian hares," chuckled Chet.
"Oh, Purt! you never could pull off anything like that on us in a hundred
"I don't care--I--I--"
The angry Purt snatched up his game bag and marched away.
"That he's been caught in the trick puts a crimp in him," chuckled Chet
"And that isn't all that ought to happen to him," muttered Short and Long,
who seemed to have become suddenly very bitter against the dandified Sweet.
"Can it, Billy, can it," advised Lance. "Give a calf rope enough and he
will hang himself."
"And maybe that fellow ought to be hung," was Short and Long's further
"Why, Billy!" exclaimed Laura, "what ever do you mean?"
"Yes, Short and Long," said Jess. "Why the 'orrid hobservation about poor
Perhaps Billy Long would have blurted out something, had not another
incident taken place which so excited all the young people that they forgot
Purt Sweet and his foibles.
The group had reached Lakeside Avenue, which overlooked many shore estates
and some private docks. This was the residential end of Centerport, and the
vicinity in summer was lovely. Now the outlook on Lake Luna's sparkling
surface--frozen in a sheen of ice to the shore of Cavern Island in the
middle of the lake--was wonderfully attractive.
At the foot of Nugent Street, which they now reached, the girls and boys
from Central High heard suddenly a great shouting and peals of laughter
from up the hill. Some snow still lay on the side of Nugent Street; and the
hill was a glare of ice. Down the steep descent were coming three or four
heavy sleds loaded with young folks. Many of them were girls and boys of
"Some coasting!" exclaimed Chet. "I had no idea it was so good. We ought to
get our bob out, Lance."
"Oh, see, Laura!" murmured Jess. "There comes Janet Steele. She must have
been canvassing for Red Cross members away over here. I wish we had time to
do some of that work."
The Red Cross girl appeared from around a turn in the avenue, and the
instant she spied her new friends she waved her gloved hand.
"Is that the girl who gave first-aid to the man on Market Street Saturday
night?" asked Chet.
"Some little queen, isn't she?" rejoined Lance, with twinkling eyes.
"Oh," said Laura placidly, "you needn't think that you can get us girls
jealous about Janet Steele. She is an awfully sweet girl."
"And she isn't little at all," put in Jess, tossing her head. "She is as
husky as Eve Sitz."
Before they could say more, or further hail the Red Cross girl, there was a
crash and terrific rattling around the turn of the avenue. The next instant
a horse appeared, madly galloping along the roadway, and drawing the
shattered remains of a grocery wagon after him.
The maddened beast would, so it seemed, cross the foot of Nugent Street
just as the bobsleds shot down to that point. Across the avenue was a steep
bank against which the sleds were easily halted. But they could not be
stopped before they crossed Lakeside Avenue!
THE FOREFRONT OF TROUBLE
The three boys drew Laura and her girl friends into the gateway of a
residence that faced the lake. The Red Cross girl was on the other side of
Nugent Street, and the runaway horse was coming along the avenue behind
Chet would have leaped away to her assistance had not Jess grabbed him by
the arm and screamed. The sleds were almost at the crossing, and surely
Chet Belding would have been knocked down.
Janet Steele proved to be perfectly able to look out for herself. And on
this occasion she could even do more than that.
She whirled and saw the horse coming with the wrecked wagon. She could not
see up the hill of Nugent Street, for the corner house barred her vision in
that direction. But without doubt she had heard the eager shouts of the
coasters and understood what was ahead of them.
The runaway would cross the foot of the hill just in time, perhaps, to
collide with one or more of the bobsleds.
Almost opposite the foot of Nugent Street and right beside the steep bank
against which the coasters had been wont to stop their sleds, was a narrow
lane pitching toward the lakeshore. This lane was near Janet Steele.
Chet saw it and realized how the horse might be turned. But the boy was too
far away. Even as he shook off Jess Morse's frenzied hold on his arm, the
runaway was upon Janet Steele.
The latter had whipped off the Red Cross veil she wore. Seizing it by both
extremes she allowed the veil to float out on the brisk winter breeze,
darting with it into the street.
The runaway's glaring eyes caught sight of the flapping folds of the veil,
and he swerved, his hoofs sliding on the slippery drive. The eyes of a
horse magnify objects tremendously, and the girl's figure and her flowing
veil probably looked to the frightened animal like some awful and
Scrambling and snorting, he swerved to the side of the road, saw the open
lane, and the next moment thundered into it, the broken wagon skidding
across the lane and smashing into a gatepost.
It was at the same instant that the head sled came sweeping down Nugent
Street, crossed the avenue, and stood almost on end against the bank,
stopping abruptly in the snow bank.
The other sleds poured down and stopped; but none had been in so much
danger as that first one. Laura and Chet and their friends started on the
run for the spot--and for Janet Steele.
"Oh! _Oh! OH!_" shrieked in crescendo one girl who had ridden on the first
bobsled. "We might have been killed!"
Some of the boys ran after the horse. The rest of the young people
surrounded Janet Steele.
"How brave you were," murmured Jess Morse admiringly.
"You've got a head on you, sure enough!" exclaimed Bobby Hargrew, while the
Red Cross girl, blushing and with downcast eyes, began hastily to adjust
her veil again.
"Oh, it was nothing," murmured Janet.
"Tell it to Lily. Here comes Lily Pendleton," said Jess, smiling again.
"She won't think it was nothing."
The girl who had shrieked so loudly came up quickly to the group of Central
"Did you turn that horse?" she demanded of Janet Steele. "You are a regular
duck! We might have all been killed! I never will ride down a hill with
Freddy Brubach again! There should have been somebody down here to signal
that we were coming!"
"Guess the horse would not have paid much attention to signals, Lil,"
"Only the kind that Miss Steele waved," added Bobby.
"Is that your name?" Lily Pendleton asked the Red Cross girl. "I'm awfully
glad to know you."
"And much gladder that she was right on the job here when the horse came
along, aren't you, Lil?" chuckled Bobby.
"She ought to have a medal," declared one of the other girls.
"Let's write to Mr. Carnegie about her," proposed Jess, but good-naturedly,
and hugged Janet now that she had rearranged her veil.
"Oh, dear me!" gasped Janet Steele, "please don't make so much over so
little. I shall almost be sorry that I turned the horse into the lane. And
it was a little thing. I am not afraid of horses."
"A mere medal is nothing to Miss Steele, I bet," said Bobby, the emphatic.
"I expect she has a trunk full of 'em. Like the German army officer who had
his chest covered with iron crosses and medals and the like. Somebody asked
him how he came to get them all.
"'Vell,' he said, pointing to the biggest and shiniest medal, 'I got dot py
meestake; undt dey gif me de odders pecause I got dot one!'"
"Oh, you and your jokes, Bobby!" said Lily Pendleton, with some scorn.
"This was a serious business. And there is another very serious matter,
girls, that I have to call to your attention," she added, turning to Laura
"What has gone wrong? Nothing about the play, I hope!" cried Jess.
"It is worse, because it is right at hand," said Lily, shaking her head.
"What do you suppose Miss Carrington has done?"
"Oh, Gee Gee!" groaned Bobby, in despair. "I knew she would break out in a
"Do tell us what it is," begged Jess Morse.
"It is about Hessie," said Lily.
"Hester Grimes?" demanded Laura, with a rather grim expression. "What has
happened to her now?"
"Why!" cried Lily, rather sharply, "you speak as though Hessie was always
getting into trouble."
"You cannot deny but that she has frequently made a _faux pas,_ as it
were," said Jess, smiling.
"And what she does wrong," added Laura, with some bitterness, "usually
affects the rest of us."
"She did not do a thing wrong!" cried Lily stormily. "You girls are just
"Oh, come on, Lil," said Bobby. "Tell us the worst. We're prepared for
"You are very rude, Clara Hargrew," declared Lily Pendleton. "Hessie is not
to blame. She failed in rhetoric, and when Miss Carrington tried to put a
lot of home work on her she refused to take it."
"What?" gasped Jess.
"Oh! She did refuse, did she?" snapped Bobby. "And a fat lot that would
"Well, I don't care!" cried Lily. "Gee Gee is just as mean----"
"Granted!" agreed Bobby, with emphasis. "But tell us how much Hessie has
been set back?"
"Of course Miss Carrington has punished her if she was impudent," said
"She has punished us all!" cried Lily. "She refuses to allow Hessie to
skate to-night. She's out of it."
"Out of the carnival?" cried several of her listeners in chorus.
"And Hester," cried Bobby, "is in the Dress Parade. What did I tell you?
Gee Gee was just hoping to queer us."
"It is Hester Grimes who has queered us," Laura said, much more sternly
than she usually spoke. "And we were all warned to be so careful!"
"Now, don't blame Hessie!" cried Hester's chum angrily.
"I'd like to know who we are to blame, then?" demanded Jess Morse, with
disgust, "Knowing that Gee Gee is what she is, why couldn't Hester keep her
"Well! I just guess--"
But after all it was Mother Wit who, though greatly offended, became
"There, there!" she said. "Enough is done already. We shall miss Hester.
But we mustn't get angry with each other and therefore spoil the whole
Dress Parade. That masquerade should be the most spectacular number on the
"But who will take Grimes' place?" demanded Bobby.
Laura stood beside Janet Steele, whose eyes were wide open, her cheeks
glowing, and even her lips ajar with excitement. Laura had a very keen
mind, and already she had apprehended that Janet was more deeply interested
in this discussion, and the subject of it, than a stranger naturally would
be. She turned now to stare into the Red Cross girl's face.
"Oh, Miss Steele!" she said, "didn't you tell us that you loved to skate?"
"Ye-es," admitted Janet.
"And she's as big as Hessie Grimes!" exclaimed Jess on the other side, and
catching her chum's idea.
"Would you take Hester's part in the masquerade?" asked Laura pointblank.
"But she doesn't belong to Central High!" wailed Lily Pendleton.
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Jess. "What does it matter? This is all for a show.
It is no competition with other members of the League."
"Right-o, Jess!" crowed Bobby Hargrew.
"We-ell!" murmured Lily doubtfully.
"Come, Miss Steele--Janet," said Laura, pleadingly. "I know you can help
us. Hester, being the biggest girl, was to lead in certain figures on the
ice. You could easily learn them. And you can wear her costume, I know."
"You don't know anything of the kind, Laura Belding," snapped Lily,
interrupting Janet. "I don't believe Hessie would let any other girl wear
her masquerade suit."
"Sure she wouldn't!" exclaimed Bobby, with disgust. "She'll crab the whole
game if she can. Hester Grimes always was a nuisance."
But Laura suddenly clapped her hands in real joy. "Oh, no!" she cried. "We
won't ask Janet to wear any other girl's costume. I know what would be
"Let's hear it, Laura dear," said Jess, eagerly. "Of course, you would have
a bright idea. You always do."
"Why," said the pleased Laura, "if Janet will come and skate with us, she
need only wear the very cloak and veil she has on now. What could be more
fitting for a leader of our costume parade? The whole carnival is for the
Red Cross, and with a Red Cross girl to lead the procession, and Chet in
his Uncle Sam suit to lead the boys--Why! it will be the best ever."
"Hooray!" shouted Bobby, wild with enthusiasm.
"It is splendid!" agreed Jess.
Everybody in hearing agreed, save, perhaps, Lily Pendleton. Laura turned to
Janet again and clasped her gloved hands over the new girl's arm.
"Will you, dear? Will you help us out?" she asked.
THE ICE CARNIVAL
"Oh, Miss Laura! Do you really mean it?" murmured Janet Steele, her full
pink cheeks actually becoming white she was so much in earnest.
"Of course we mean it," Jess Morse said practically. "And glad to have
"I don't know--"
Janet looked for a moment at the sulky-faced Lily Pendleton. Jess
immediately pulled that young girl forward.
"Why, Lil isn't half as bad as she sounds," declared Jess, laughing. "This
is our very particular friend, Janet Steele, Lil. You've got to treat her
nicely. If you don't," she added sharply, "you'll never get a chance to go
camping with us girls again as you did last summer. You and your Hester
Grimes can go off somewhere by yourselves."
Really, Lily Pendleton had improved a good deal since the time Jess
mentioned, and the latter's blunt speech brought her to a better mind at
"Well, of course," she said, offering Janet her hand, "I did not mean it
just that way. You know how cranky Hessie is when she does get mad. But
Laura has suggested a perfectly splendid idea. Miss Steele as a Red Cross
girl and Chet as Uncle Sam will be fine to lead the grand march on skates."
So it was decided, and they hurried Janet down to the girls' boathouse,
which had a warm, cozy clubroom at one end where Mr. Godey, the watchman,
stayed, and where, at this time of year, he was often busy sharpening
skates. Laura found a pair of skates for the Red Cross girl, and for an
hour the latter practiced with the girls of Central High the steps and
figures of the masquerade parade, which Laura and her friends already had
worked out to perfection.
"Don't worry a bit about to-night, Janet," Laura told her, when they all
hurried away from the lakeshore about dusk. "We'll push you through the
figures. Jess and I will be on either side of you, except when we pair off
with the boys. And then you will be with my brother Chet. And if he isn't
nice to you he'll hear from me!" she added with vigor.
"Oh, but Laura!" whispered Jess Morse, as they separated from Janet, "Chet
mustn't be too nice to her. For Janet Steele is an awfully pretty girl."
"Now, dear!" exclaimed her laughing chum, "don't develop incipient
With only two hours before them in which to do a hundred things, the girls
were as busy as bees for the remainder of the afternoon. That Hester Grimes
had been forbidden to take part in the carnival by Gee Gee troubled the
girls of Central High less than they might have been troubled had it been
almost any other of their number that the strict teacher had demerited.
For, to tell the truth, Hester Grimes was not well loved.
The daughter and much-indulged only child of a wealthy butcher, Hester had
in the beginning expected to be catered to by her schoolmates. With such
rather shallow schoolmates as Lily Pendleton, Hester was successful. Lily
toadied to her, to use Bobby Hargrew's expression; nor was Lily alone in
Upon those whom Hester considered her friends she spent her pocket money
lavishly. She was not a pretty girl, but was a tremendously healthy
one--strong, well developed, and tomboyish in her activities. Yet she
lacked magnetism and the popularity that little Bobby Hargrew, for
instance, attained by the exercise of the very same traits Hester
Hester antagonized almost everybody--teachers and students alike. Even
placid, peace-loving Mother Wit, found Hester incompatible. And because
Laura Belding was a natural leader and was very popular in the school,
Hester disliked her and showed in every way possible that she would not
follow in Laura's train. Yet there had been a time when Hester had felt
under obligation to Laura.
Laura was secretly glad to see Lily Pendleton weaned slowly away from the
butcher's daughter. The last summer had started Lily in the right