“Now, Sally,” Jane began, “please don’t consider it is at all ignoble to be financially embarrassed. In fact, more than half of our girls are continually ‘rationed,’ as they call a cut in allowance. And if it is only a matter of a pretty little flowered gown——”
“No, that isn’t it,” interrupted Sally.
“The fact is, Miss Allen, we are both getting ready to—escape,” said Shirley, with a double-edged laugh.
“Go home and desert!”
Jane showed her astonishment. “You couldn’t mean anything like that!” she gasped. “Oh, you wouldn’t be so disloyal!”
The girls looked at each other, puzzled, neither seeming to know what might be best to reply. Finally Shirley said:
“You must know, Miss Allen, I am totally unprepared for exams, and I see no reason why I should face them. I plan to stay home after the Christmas vacation.”
“Shirley!” exclaimed Jane. “If you ever knew my dad you wouldn’t treat him like that,” her voice quavered with excitement. “He seems to think more of the record of his scholarship girl than of his own daughter’s achievements. Oh, you can’t mean you are going to cut!”
“Your daddy!” repeated Shirley. “I didn’t suppose he cared a snap for his—beneficiary.”
“Beneficiary indeed! He called you a very different name. He is a great, big western man, with a heart as fine as the hills and a soul as true as their granite.” Jane did not pause to note the effect of her words, although Shirley was almost gasping. “He has what some might call a deep personal interest in the girl he sponsors at Wellington, but it’s more than interest,” she was almost breathless, “it’s affection; my dad just naturally loves the girl he sends here, and if she fails him utterly—–”
“Stop! Miss Allen, please do,” Shirley entreated. Her face was flushed and her breathing plainly audible. “I had no idea it was like that. Your dad would care? And I would be a coward?”
Sally stood like one shocked into deadly silence. Not even her lips parted, and the color left her face sickly white.
“Don’t you know, don’t you understand what it means for a student to deliberately flunk? Not even to try?” demanded Jane.
“Bobbie!” said Sally to the big girl who was trying to find words. “We have got to try—you cannot—go.”
Then Jane knew why the girls had been calling Shirley Bobbie. It was her companion’s affectionate name for her.
“Yes, Kitten,” Shirley said. “We have got to, but now, how can we do it?”
The situation was becoming more difficult each moment, and when presently Jane Allen left the two freshmen, she had taken on the weight of a new mystery.
Those girls were in a conspiracy to desert before exams. Why?
“Now, what can we do? However are we going to get out of this?” Sally asked Shirley. They seemed desperate.