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CHAPTER XXVII 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.

202 “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.203 “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.”

204 “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 alon............
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