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- Jane Allen: Junior - 10/37 -
"As if you came for that! If you do not leave at once I shall phone the police!"
"Do," dared Jane. "And I shall demand that they search the place. Someone is hidden here."
A laugh, empty of mirth but bursting with scorn, followed Jane's accusation. It ran down a falsetto scale like pebbles off a tin roof. Then Dolorez turned to summon her maid.
"Yolande!" she called. "Show these persons out."
The perplexed darky muttered, "Yes'm," and proceeded to obey, but Jane and Dozia never moved. They were listening now to noise of another sort. The girls on the side porch seemed to be having a good time of it.
"Come," demanded the inexorable Dolorez. "My time is precious and I must have this room. If you do not both leave I'll phone the college."
"How perfectly absurd you are, Dolorez," said Jane, more alarmed now that no hint of Judith's whereabouts had leaked out. "You know perfectly well we can explain all this, and you also know we are here to find Judith Stearns and we will not leave until you have told us where she is or where she went? May I use your telephone?"
"Judith Stearns is not here," snapped the South American. "And what's more I don't know nor care where she is. I can't spend my time with wild college girls who try to run down poor messenger boys."
"Very well," said Jane, deciding no more time could be wasted in argument. "But I warn you if our friend has been placed in any compromising position, or has been misrepresented to that hateful officer, we shall hold you responsible, for our girls saw her come here."
Jane and Dozia turned to the door. The maid was evidently well pleased with the move, for she showed glittering teeth in an inopportune smile. Dolorez had gained a very high natural color that cut in streaks through her make-up. She was breathing hard, and Dozia, usually fearless, thought it best not to anger her further. She followed Jane without even throwing out a look of defiance or challenge, and when the door closed on their heels both Jane and Dozia felt and really looked pale.
The situation was growing more complicated every moment, and now the girls from the side porch pounced upon the others with frivolous inquiries about that beauty shop.
"Hush," ordered Jane. "Do you realize Judith may have been taken to that horrible old station house? You three go back to college and make sure she has not returned. We, Dozia, Janet and I, will go into the town hall. You can phone us there in twenty minutes. Now hurry and be prudent. Don't spread any sensational stories."
Jane acted like a senior now, but the emergency was sufficiently exacting to demand such forceful means.
Where was Judith Stearns and what was the meaning of Dolorez Vincez' sinister statement, about running down poor messenger boys? Also who could have been sobbing in the room back of the parlors?
"Look!" exclaimed Jane as they left the tanbark walk. "Who is that running from the back driveway?"
"Little Sarah Howland," replied Dozia in amazement. "Whatever can that innocent little thing be doing around here?"
"I--wonder," sighed Jane as they hurried off to the old town hall.
"Jane," murmured Dozia, halting her companion for a moment as a sudden calling was heard through the fields, "do you think that baby can be implicated with those unscrupulous shop keepers?"
"She was in there, and we saw her run," replied Jane. "I would like to doubt my own eyes--"
Dozia grasped her arm and again they hurried on.
"Find Judith!" That was their slogan.
WHAT HAPPENED TO JUDITH
In that mysterious way peculiar to girls, the students knew, without the facts being apparent, that something strange and perhaps even desperate had happened to Judith.
They had not been told any of the details, but when the party walking in from the village was suddenly broken up, first by the incident of the messenger boys' quarrel and then by Judith's disappearance into Dol Vin's beauty shop, with officer Sandy twirling his club and "gum-shoeing" after her, the whole situation was as clear as if the pieces had been patched together on a movie screen.
Judith, fighting for justice, had been ranged with the culprits!
There was no possibility of her return to the college grounds without her companions' knowledge; neither was it probable she had gone to take a youngster's part at the emergency court in the Town Hall without first having notified Jane or some of the other girls. She would have dragged them along with her, for Judith believed in team play for all things, even at trials and courts of alleged justice.
So it was that the girls' anxiety was not so thinly supported as the mere record of events might have indicated; they knew there was something wrong, knew it instantly and knew it positively; and they were right about it, too.
The outstanding fact was a weighty argument. Dolorez Vincez had been expelled from Wellington the year previous; she had vowed vengence against Jane Allen and her friend, Judith Stearns (although both girls had actually interceded for the culprit with the college faculty), and now was the time and this was the place to wreak her vengeance.
In a shorter time than occupies this explanation Jane and Dozia and Janet reached the Town Hall. The ancient building of dingy brick filled a conspicuous spot facing the Square; its carriage stone was a revolutionary relic and two reliable cannon set off the much trampled green diamond in front with something of a stately significance. It was fast growing dark in the early autumn evening, but the excitement of an arrest had drawn a crowd from the few business offices and from the passersby at the supper hour, flanked and reinforced by boys, boys who seem to go with excitement--always, at all times and in all places.
The students made their way into the hall with its sputtering gas light, and while Janet went to the telephone booth, Jane and Dozia hurried to the office of the chief of police.
Both girls had uttered the name and both now elbowed their way through the curious crowd up to the rail, where stood the disconsolate Judith.
"Keep back, keep back," ordered an officer. He was the second and only other active member of "the force" besides Sandy Jamison, he who had "taken Judith in."
Jane and Dozia urged forward in spite of orders, however, and now Judith saw them! She flashed a look first defiant then hopeless. It had defiance for the charge, but was hopeless to make that country court understand. Jane and Dozia answered the code with unwavering determination fairly emitting from their every feature.
But the chief was talking or muttering, and he had been pompously rapping for order.
Officer Sandy was trying desperately to tell his story, but between twirling his club and chewing tobacco he was sorely pressed for a chance to say anything.
"This here girl," he mumbled, "was racin' after a boy with a package of joo-ell-ry. It was joo-ell-ry I know, for them boys from the city store was called to deliver----"
"Never mind about the boys," interrupted the chief, "tell us what the charge is against this girl."
Jane and Dozia exchanged a look complimentary to that chief. He had some sense they privately admitted.
"Yes, yer honor, I'm comin' to that," defended Sandy. "She ran first after a boy, then after a girl, and I seen the package go through the air----"
"Flyin'? Had it wings or was it a toy balloon?" Chief Hadfield was not a man to disappoint his audience, and the laugh that thanked him for this quip set Sandy twirling and chewing more vigorously than ever.
"It was pegged, throwed, fired," shouted Sandy, and his club just touched Judith's sleeve, electrifying her into open indignation.
"Keep that--stick down," ordered the chief, while Judith's indignation subsided.
How pretty she looked standing there in those sordid surroundings! Contrast, the maker of all standards, outlined the tall dark-haired girl in her brilliant red junior cap and definite red sweater, like the central figure in some old time country picture, where urchins and queer men gave her the middle of the stage and plagiarized the scene, "At the Bar of Justice."
"You caught this here flying joo-ell-ry?" demanded the chief.
"Oh no, oh no," parried Sandy. "Someone else caught that," and he waddled his head from side to side in amplification.
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