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- Jane Allen: Junior - 2/37 -
There was no mistake about it, something was wrong, for Jane Allen swung along the path, calling greetings to friends grouped in knots and colonies with an evident half heartedness foreign to her usual buoyant, cheerful personality.
Espying her own contingent on the poplar slope she threw her arms out in a reckless, boyish sort of gesture to give force to the "Hello girls!" she called, but even that was much too mild for Jane.
"We were in despair," began Judith, Jane's particular friend and school-long companion. "Janie dear, why the clouds? What's up? Let us know the worst, do. We are fortified now, whereas in an hour hence we may be weak from interviews with the new proctor. Sit down Jane. We just rose to go in search of you, and by my new watch I see there is still time before the hour to report. There," and the little spot cleared for Jane in the semi-circle was now covered with a pretty plaid skirt, "do tell us. You really look worried,"
"Not really?" contradicted the gray eyed Jane. "Worried, and on our very first lovely day? You surely wrong me!" she tried to get her arms around more girls than even finger tips might touch. "I'm simply bubbling with joy, as I should be. I was detained in the office longer than I wanted to stay, and you all know how mean it is to have to sit on one particular chair facing the desk while a lot of new girls ask a larger lot of foolish questions. Perhaps that made me a little cross, but do forgive me. I wouldn't spoil this initial hour for worlds. Please tell me everything in one breath. I am just dying to hear."
No one answered. Ted Guthrie did gurgle a bit, and Velma Sigsbee threw a handful of leaves in Nettie Brocton's hair, but the pause was a riot. Why should Jane deceive them? Cross from delay in the busy office indeed, as if she would not have bolted out and left the whole room to the nervous new students! The girls looked from one to the other and finally Judith Stearns saved the situation by proposing that the juniors line up to help the seniors show newcomers about the grounds. On this day at least, class lines were forgotten at Wellington.
"We were just waiting for you Janie," she declared adroitly, "and Mildred Manners has been whoo-hooing her lungs out across the campus. Come along girls, and see you don't waylay all the millionaires. I hear every garage in the village is bursting with classy cars, and the livery stable can't take another single boarder. Ted, you take Velma and Maud, and be careful not to divulge any club secrets; Janet, you tag along with Winifred and just gush to death over that timid little blonde who seems to have a whole bag full of hand made handkerchiefs for weeps. Jane, may I have the honor of your company?"
Judith's black eyes looked into Jane's gray orbs that asked and answered so many questions.
"Thanks, Judy," said Jane aside. "You're a dear. Let's go and do the honors."
The next moment Wellington grounds rang with shouts and laughter, and the voice of Jane Allen defied the criticism her pretty face had so lately invited.
"It's perfectly all right," she assured Judith, but the latter stuck her chin out in contradiction.
"Can't fool me, Janie," she whispered between handshakes and greetings. "But I'll wait till the picnic winds up. Did you ever see so many new girls? Has some college burned down since last year?"
"No, love, but our reputation has gone forth. This is a glorious day for Wellington and, Judy Stearns, it is going to be a glorious year for us. We are still juniors!" and Jane trailed off to find her place in the long line that was automatically forming around the great old elm. An extension course in special work kept Jane with her junior friends.
"Wellington, dear Wellington!" rang out the then famous strain in hundreds of silvery voices. The college song was echoed from every hill into every grass lined hollow, and if the new girls doubted the spirit of comradeship they were to be favored with there, the consecration brought it home to them, like strong loving arms stretched out in the sea of school day mysteries.
It was hours later, when the pattering of feet in the long corridors died down to a mere trail of sound, that Jane and Judith managed to pair off for a confidential chat.
"You have got to tell me," demanded Judith.
"As if I wouldn't," replied Jane.
"You can't blame us for being curious, Janey. This afternoon was almost a failure, just because your eyes had a faraway look."
"I'm so sorry, really, Jude. What an abominable temper I must have."
"We all know better than that girlie." Judy might now have been charged with harboring a faraway look herself.
"Just give me a little time," smiled Jane, "and if there's anything on my conscience I'll gladly transfer it to yours."
The look in both gray and brown eyes was suddenly changed to intimacy. It was no longer faraway.
A SHADOW IN FORECAST
I thought everyone had been supplied with the anti-tack hammer circular," remarked Jane, falling back where Judith's cushions ought to be. "Just hear that tattoo over in the wing. I'll bet it's Dozia."
"She has a collection of movie queens and I doubt not that is the official coronation. Let us hope the new proctor is deaf on the left, Dozia's room leans that way," replied Judith. Then she tossed a couple of sweaters at Jane's head. "Put those under your ears dear," she ordered, "my pillows aren't unpacked yet and you may find Neddie's last year tacks in that burlap. There now, you look almost human. But the wistful whimper lingers. Jane, what has happened? You are simply smothered in the soft pedal. Tell your Judy all about it," she cooed.
Feet stretched out straight in front of her and arms ending with finger tips laced over her black head, Judith looked longer than she really needed to measure up or down. Also, she looked too stiff to be comfortable, but the wooden pose was Judith's favorite. She rested that way, defying every known law for relaxation. Jane, au contraire, was curled up like a kitten, with one red sweater balled under her ruffled head and the other blue one tangled about her slim ankles. Both girls were tired--justly so, for the opening day at Wellington was ever a time of joyous activity, and the day just closed had roared and yelled itself into an evening still vibrant with bristling energy, tack hammers and movie pictures smashing rules and regulations, until the night gong sounded its irrevocable warning. Then roommates paired off even as did Jane and Judith.
"Has anything happened to your baggage?" prompted Judith, as her companion failed to confide.
Jane teased one small worsted tassel of Judith's blue sweater free from its tangle with her shoe lace, then she poked her dimpled chin forward saucily.
"Can't ever have a secret, I suppose, Pally dear," she mocked the girl sliding slowly but surely out of her chair. "But I don't mind. Shows how truly you love me. There, you will feel better on the rug. I knew you were coming." Judith had landed.
"I believe I'll sleep here," declared Judith, one end of the international carpet sample was bunched up under her ear. "Never was so tired on any other first or last day." The long legs shot out straight again. "And if your secret is really thrilling Janie, pray keep it for a more auspicious occasion. I am apt to snore when I should groan, or even sneeze when I should----" A choking spasm interrupted. "Don't tell me to take quinine, Janie. This is the end. I have had it since August and it is due to depart now, exactly now." A couple of sneezes added punctuation to this.
"But get up from that floor instantly," ordered the girl on the divan. "Nothing worse for colds than rag carpet rugs. There's plenty of room up here out of drafts. Come, lovey. Do try to curl up some. I always fear you will break up in splinters when I see you go wooden."
"Too comfy, Dinks, I can't move."
"Sneeze then and I'll catch you. You have just got to get up off that chilly floor somehow. Besides the oil may be contagious. It still smells gooey."
"Anything for peace. Give me a lift. There," Judith hung over the edge but Jane held on to the black head. "It's not so safe as the floor but I suppose it is more prophylactic. Now I will sleep. The girls seem to have died down. Strange"--yawn and groan--"how they do love to fuss up the rooms."
"Temperment, my dear. Dozia wouldn't sleep a wink with her photograph gallery unhung. What do you think of the crowd this year? Spot any stars?"
"A couple. Did you see that beauty with the shiny gold hair? The one who stood under the hemlock alone during the cheering? Isn't she tragically pretty?"
"Exactly that. One couldn't help seeing her, although she struck me as being shy."
"Scared to death, and so unconscious of her charms. There Janie, my brain is sound asleep this moment. If I say real words they must be coming from another world. This is gone." Judith ducked deeper into the pillowless couch. She plainly was sleepy.
"Why Judith Stearns," called Jane severely, "you are giving me as much trouble as a baby. Don't you dare fall asleep. We have got to
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