WHO STOLE THE PICTURE?

As Dorothy had promised, she met Zada at the lakeside, when the class
was dismissed.

The Southern girl seemed so nervous, and so frightened, that Dorothy
took her to the little nook that was sheltered by a rustic, summer
house.

“The others will not see us here,” Dorothy said, “and I, too, feel as
if I want to get away from all eyes.”

“You!” repeated Zada, “you have no reason to want to–hide. Oh,
Dorothy, I don’t know how to tell you, but I _must_ do so.”

“Now, Zada, you are just nervous, and I know perfectly well it is that
old matter that you wanted to tell me of some time ago. Whatever it is
I do not want you to distress yourself about it. It is all past and
gone, I am sure.”

“No,” sobbed Zada, “it will never be passed while it is on my mind. It
is like a terrible nightmare, and it just haunts me.” Tears began to
roll down her cheeks.

“There now, if you go on so you will have a nervous breakdown,”
cautioned Dorothy. “I am sure you are over-rating it.” Dorothy took
the little, trembling hand in hers. “If you had my troubles,” she
suggested, and paused.

“_Your_ troubles must be honorable,” replied the other, between her
sobs, and the thought of that word “arrest” gave Dorothy a start.
“But,” continued Zada, “mother always told me one can stand anything
better than–disgrace.”

“Disgrace!” exclaimed Dorothy. “Why do you speak that way? You could do
nothing to disgrace yourself!”

“I shouldn’t, but I did. But I didn’t know it was so wrong!”

“There, that entirely alters the case. It could not have been so wrong,
if you did not think so,” declared Dorothy.

Two of the girls on the path, hearing even the whispering voices, at
that moment stood before the entrance to the little summer house. They
were Dick and Ned.

“Land sakes!” exclaimed Dick, “are you two thinking of jumping into the
lake? Did one ever see such faces!”

Zada turned her head to avoid their eyes. Dorothy did not know what to
answer.

“Whatever is the matter?” demanded Edna. “I will go and fetch Tavia,
and we will appoint a board of inquiry. This looks serious.”

“Don’t joke,” Dorothy finally said. “Sometimes jokes are painful.”

“Oh, my dear! I _beg_ your pardon. I did not mean to annoy you,”
apologized Edna, sincerely.

“I know you did not, Edna,” said Dorothy, “but we seem to have trouble,
in spite of our very good friends.” She sighed, and glanced at Zada.
The latter had almost dried her eyes. “Zada, I am afraid, is homesick,
and I am trying to cure her—-”

“Homesick!” interrupted Dick. “I had that so bad the first year, that
I broke out in shingles. But even that did not get me free. I had to
stay, and I am glad of it. Don’t you worry, Zada. There are worse
places than Glenwood,” she finished cheeringly.

“Oh, I know that,” said Zada sniffling, “but it is very different here
than at home.”

“Of course it is. That’s why we are here. If home were like this my
mother would go crazy,” said the girl laughing. “Just imagine us
tearing around as we do here! Why, my father would be so shocked he
would put me in close confinement. At the same time, here we think we
are very nice and proper. Well, there goes the bell, and we haven’t had
a bit of fun. I wonder what happened to Jean? She did not come out at
all.”

“And where is Tavia?” asked Dorothy, rising in answer to the bell, and
pressing Zada’s hand kindly. “She must have had to do her work over.”

“Oh, worse than that. She had to apologize. Poor Tavia! She never makes
a face but she is caught at it, I guess. Cummings does not love her as
a sister,” said Molly Richards.

“Well, we had better hurry, or we will be tardy,” suggested Dorothy. “I
have a lot to do–I did not study much last night.”

As they walked along Dorothy fell in step with Zada.

“Now don’t worry, dear,” she insisted. “I am sure everything will be
all right.”

“But I must see you this afternoon,” said Zada. “I have made up my mind
not to go to bed to-night until I have—-”

“Hush,” cautioned Dorothy, for the others had turned around. Then they
all reluctantly went back to the classroom.

Jean was sitting at her desk as they entered. She kept her head well
bent over her books, but it could be seen that her face was flushed.

Tavia sat back defiantly, as if to say “she couldn’t scare me.”
Meaning, of course, that Miss Cummings’ remarks had little, if any,
effect upon her. She had missed her entire recreation, because she
refused to “apologize politely.”

Altogether the class was rather upset. An atmosphere of disquiet
pervaded the room, and when the teachers changed classes, Miss Cummings
left the room with a sigh of relief.

Miss Higley, the teacher of mathematics, was not one to be trifled
with. She was one of the oldest of the faculty both in years, and in
point of service, and when she came in every one sat up straight.




But the day wore on, and finally the work was over. Dorothy was
wondering what could have happened, as the result of Mrs. Pangborn’s
talk with Jean–wondering if the report about her father could be
false. But no look, or word told her.

By a strange coincidence, however, Mrs. Pangborn asked Zada to ride to
the village with her, and this again separated Zada from Dorothy. Of
course the teacher had noticed the girl’s nervous manner, and “took
her out,” hoping the ride would improve her spirits. But Zada would
much rather not have gone. In fact every time Mrs. Pangborn asked her a
question she shook–shook lest the question might be a dreaded one.

So that it was after tea before Zada sought Dorothy again, with the
avowed intention of “confessing the terrible thing that was on her
mind.”

She was indeed tired out, and when Dorothy insisted that she take the
best chair, and rest back, Zada sighed and did as she had been invited
to do.

“Dorothy,” began Zada, “when I did it, I never knew what trouble it
meant, but I _stole your picture_!”

“Stole my picture! The one that was in the paper?”

“Yes,” and Zada gasped in relief, as if a terrible thing, indeed,
had been lifted off her mind. “I was asked to do it. It was part of
our club plan–the old club,” and she bit her lips at the memory. “I
promised never to tell who asked me, or how I was asked, and I don’t
feel yet I should tell. But when I found out all the trouble it made
for you—-”

She stopped, and Dorothy looked horrified. That this little harmless
child could have been the one to steal into her room, and get that
picture from Tavia’s dresser!

“Can you ever forgive me, Dorothy?” pleaded the girl.

“I am sure,” said Dorothy with hesitation, “you could never have
realized what it would mean.”

“I thought it was one of the club jokes. I never had an idea it was to
go to that horrible paper. Oh dear! What I have suffered! I wanted to
tell Mrs. Pangborn, but she is such a friend to mamma—-” and the girl
sobbed beyond words.

“She need not know it,” said Dorothy. “Neither need anyone else. It
was I who was affected, and now I am willing to let it rest, as it has
rested.”

“Oh, you dear, noble girl!” exclaimed Zada, putting her arms around
Dorothy’s neck. “I knew if I told you it would be all right, and I
wanted to tell you before, but you would not let me. Now, I can rest,”
and she breathed a sigh of relief. “But I must try to forgive the
others, as you have been so good to me, I suppose.”

“I never knew I had such enemies,” said Dorothy. “Or perhaps they,
too, thought it would be only a joke,” and Dorothy Dale endeavored,
for her own peace of mind, and for the hope that her rivals might be
friends–she tried to think it was intended for–a joke.