reason forit; so let's discover what the reason is."
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team.
Edith Van Dyne
Author of "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series" "The Daring Twins," etc.
TO YOUNG READERS
You will like Mary Louise because she is so much like yourself. Mrs.Van Dyne has succeeded in finding a very human girl for her heroine;Mary Louise is really not a fiction character at all. Perhaps you knowthe author through her "Aunt Jane's Nieces" stories; then you don'tneed to be told that you will want to read all the volumes that will bewritten about lovable Mary Louise. Mrs. Van Dyne is recognized as oneof the most interesting writers for girls to-day. Her success islargely due to the fact that she does not write DOWN to her youngreaders; she realizes that the girl of to-day does not have to bebabied, and that her quick mind is able to appreciate stories that areas well planned and cleverly told as adult fiction.
That is the theory behind "The Bluebird Books." If you are the girl wholikes books of individuality--wholesome without being tiresome, andfull of action without being sensational--then you are just the girlfor whom the series is being written. "Mary Louise" is more than aworthy successor to the "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series"--it has merit whichyou will quickly recognize.
I JUST AN ARGUMENT
II GRAN'PA JIM
III A SURPRISE
IV SHIFTING SANDS
V OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION
VI UNDER A CLOUD
VII THE ESCAPE
VIII A FRIENDLY FOE
IX OFFICER O'GORMAN
X RATHER QUEER INDEED
XI MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE
XII A CHEERFUL COMRADE
XIII BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE
XIV A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD
XV BUB'S HOBBY
XVI THE STOLEN BOOK
XVII THE HIRED GIRL
XVIII MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPICIOUS
XIX AN ARTFUL CONFESSION
XX DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND
XXI BAD NEWS
XXII THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S
XXIII A KISS FROM JOSIE
XXIV FACING THE TRUTH
XXV SIMPLE JUSTICE
XXVI THE LETTER
JUST AN ARGUMENT
"It's positively cruel!" pouted Jennie Allen, one of a group of girlsoccupying a garden bench in the ample grounds of Miss Stearne's Schoolfor Girls, at Beverly.
"It's worse than that; it's insulting," declared Mable Westervelt, herbig dark eyes flashing indignantly.
"Doesn't it seem to reflect on our characters?" timidly asked DorothyKnerr.
"Indeed it does!" asserted Sue Finley. "But here comes Mary Louise;let's ask her opinion."
"Phoo! Mary Louise is only a day scholar," said Jennie. "Therestriction doesn't apply to her at all."
"I'd like to hear what she says, anyhow," remarked Dorothy. "MaryLouise has a way of untangling things, you know."
"She's rather too officious to suit me," Mable Westervelt retorted,"and she's younger than any of us. One would think, the way she posesas monitor at this second-rate, run-down boarding school, that MaryLouise Burrows made the world."
"Oh, Mable! I've never known her to pose at all," said Sue. "But, hush;she mustn't overhear us and, besides, if we want her to intercede withMiss Stearne we must not offend her."
The girl they were discussing came leisurely down a path, her booksunder one arm, the other hand holding a class paper which she examinedin a cursory way as she walked. She wore a dark skirt and a simpleshirtwaist, both quite modish and becoming, and her shoes were theadmiration and envy of half the girls at the school. Dorothy Knerr usedto say that "Mary Louise's clothes always looked as if they grew onher," but that may have been partially accounted for by the grace ofher slim form and her unconscious but distinctive poise of bearing. Fewpeople would describe Mary Louise Burrows as beautiful, while all wouldagree that she possessed charming manners. And she was fifteen--an agewhen many girls are both awkward and shy.
As she drew near to the group on the bench they ceased discussing MaryLouise but continued angrily to canvass their latest grievance.
"What do you think, Mary Louise," demanded Jennie, as the girl pausedbefore them, "of this latest outrage?"
"What outrage, Jen?" with a whimsical smile at their indignant faces.
"This latest decree of the tyrant Stearne. Didn't you see it posted onthe blackboard this morning? 'The young ladies will hereafter refrainfrom leaving the school grounds after the hour of six p.m., unlesswritten permission is first secured from the Principal. Any infractionof this rule will result in suspension or permanent dismissal.' We'redetermined not to stand for this rule a single minute. We intend tostrike for our liberties."
"Well," said Mary Louise reflectively, "I'm not surprised. The wonderis that Miss Stearne hasn't stopped your evening parades before now.This is a small school in a small town, where everyone knows everyoneelse; otherwise you'd have been guarded as jealously as if you were ina convent. Did you ever know or hear of any other private boardingschool where the girls were allowed to go to town evenings, or wheneverthey pleased out of school hours?"
"Didn't I tell you?" snapped Mable, addressing the group. "Mary Louiseis always on the wrong side. Other schools are not criterions for thisramshackle establishment, anyhow. We have twelve boarders and four dayscholars, and how Miss Stearne ever supports the place and herself onher income is an occult problem that the geometries can't solve. Shepays little Miss Dandler, her assistant, the wages of an ordinaryhousemaid; the furniture is old and shabby and the classrooms gloomy;the food is more nourishing than feastful and the tablecloths are sopatched and darned that it's a wonder they hold together."
Mary Louise quietly seated herself upon the bench beside them.
"You're looking on the seamy side, Mable," she said with a smile, "andyou're not quite just to the school. I believe your parents sent youhere because Miss Stearne is known to be a very competent teacher andher school has an excellent reputation of long standing. For twentyyears this delightful old place, which was once General Barlow'sresidence, has been a select school for young ladies of the bestfamilies. Gran'pa Jim says it's an evidence of good breeding andrespectability to have attended Miss Stearne's school."
"Well, what's that got to do with this insulting order to stay inevenings?" demanded Sue Finley. "You'd better put all that rot you'retalking into a circular and mail it to the mothers of imbeciledaughters. Miss Stearne has gone a step too far in her tyranny, asshe'll find out. We know well enough what it means. There's noinducement for us to wander into that little tucked-up town of Beverlyafter dinner except to take in the picture show, which is our oneinnocent recreation. I'm sure we've always conducted ourselves mostproperly. This order simply means we must cut out the picture show and,if we permit it to stand, heaven only knows what we shall do to amuseourselves."
"We'll do something worse, probably," suggested Jennie.
"What's your idea about it, Mary Louise?" asked Dorothy.
"Don't be a prude," warned Mable, glaring at the young girl. "Try to behonest and sensible--if you can--and give us your advice. Shall wedisregard the order, and do as we please, or be namby-pambies andsubmit to the outrage? You're a day scholar and may visit the pictureshows as often as you like. Consider our position, cooped up here likea lot of chickens and refused the only harmless amusement the townaffords."
"Gran'pa Jim," observed Mary Louise, musingly, "always advises me tolook on both sides of a question before making up my mind, becauseevery question has to have two sides or it couldn't be argued. If MissStearne wishes to keep you away from the pictures, she has a
"To spoil any little fun we might have," asserted Mable bitterly.
"No; I can't believe that," answered Mary Louise. "She isn't unkindly,we all know, nor is she too strict with her girls. I've heard herremark that all her boarders are young ladies who can be trusted toconduct themselves properly on all occasions; and she's right aboutthat. We must look for her reason somewhere else and I think it's inthe pictures themselves."
"As for that," said Jennie, "I've seen Miss Stearne herself at thepicture theatre twice within the last week."
"Then that's it; she doesn't like the character of the pictures shown.I think, myself, girls, they've been rather rank lately."
"What's wrong with them?"
"I like pictures as well as you do," said Mary Louise, "and Gran'pa Jimoften takes me to see them. Tuesday night a man shot another in coldblood and the girl the murderer was in love with helped him to escapeand married him. I felt like giving her a good shaking, didn't you? Shedidn't act like a real girl at all. And Thursday night the picturestory told of a man with two wives and of divorces and disgracefuldoings generally. Gran'pa Jim took me away before it was over and I wasglad to go. Some of the pictures are fine and dandy, but as long as theman who runs the theatre mixes the horrid things with the decentones--and we can't know beforehand which is which--it's really thesafest plan to keep away from the place altogether. I'm sure that's theposition Miss Stearne takes, and we can't blame her for it. If we do,it's an evidence of laxness of morals in ourselves."
The girls received this statement sullenly, yet they had no logicalreply to controvert it. So Mary Louise, feeling that her explanation ofthe distasteful edict was not popular with her friends, quietly roseand sauntered to the gate, on her way home.
"Pah!" sneered Mable Westervelt, looking after the slim figure, "I'malways suspicious of those goody-goody creatures. Mark my words, girls:Mary Louise will fall from her pedestal some day. She isn't a bitbetter than the rest of us, in spite of her angel baby ways, and Iwouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be a regular hypocrite!"