THE WEEK-END AT THE SHORE

Commencement was over, and Miss Allen’s Boarding School had been closed
for a week. Marjorie Wilkinson was home again.

For the last few days everything seemed strangely quiet and unnatural.
No bells rang in the morning to arouse Marjorie from her much needed
rest; there were no classes or meetings to attend; no gay functions
at night that kept her up till the small hours. She accomplished her
unpacking in less than an hour and arranged her room so that it seemed
as if she had never been gone. Her old favorite books were back in
her secretary-desk; her pictures were in their former places on the
walls; her school pillows were again on the wide window-seat, and her
monogrammed ivory set on the bureau. As far as outward appearance went,
the girl was perfectly at home.

And yet the strangeness of the life, in spite of the familiarity of her
surroundings, impressed her as it had never done before during a summer
vacation. Her old friends had vanished, and her new ones were too far
away to take their places. Ruth Henry, her chum from childhood, who had
afterward proved herself to be such a traitor, had moved to New York to
finish at a fashionable boarding school. Harold Mason was spending his
summer at a young men’s camp, and her brother Jack had taken a vacation
position at a hotel in Atlantic City. There was no one left in town
whom she knew intimately.

For a while, however, Marjorie was too tired to deplore this absence of
friends and excitement. She was glad of the chance to sleep, to read,
and to visit with her mother. She went over her college catalogues,
marking the studies she intended to take in the Fall, and she examined
her wardrobe with the view of selecting the things she would like to
take with her to the ranch.

But when the week had finally passed, and Lily Andrews arrived for the
promised visit, she knew she was thankful for the companionship.

The girls greeted each other as effusively as if it had been a month,
instead of a week, that had separated them.

“But I’m afraid it will be pretty slow for you, till the week end, at
least,” said Marjorie, apologetically, as she started the motor. “There
isn’t a thing doing–the town’s practically dead.”

“Why, isn’t there tennis–and driving–and canoeing, an–?” asked Lily.

“Oh, certainly!” interrupted Marjorie. “But I mean no dances or
parties, or even young men to call!”

“I don’t believe that will worry me much,” laughed the other. “But say,
Marj, couldn’t we go horseback riding–just to practice up a little,
you know?”

“Yes, we can hire horses, of course. That’s a dandy idea!”

Marjorie said nothing more about the week-end until they were
comfortably established on the porch after Lily’s things had been
disposed of. Then she mentioned it again.

“You don’t seem a bit excited about the week-end,” she remarked. “We’re
going away!”

“Why, of course I’m thrilled!” Lily hastened to assure her. “Where are
we going?”

“To Atlantic City–the hotel where Jack is clerking. And mother has
invited Mrs. Hadley and John.”

“That’s great!” cried Lily, rapturously. She had loved the seashore
from childhood. Then, at the mention of John Hadley, she asked whether
Marjorie had told him of her plans for the summer.

“No, I haven’t,” replied her companion. “I tried to when I wrote to
thank him for the roses. But somehow I didn’t know how to tell him,
because you know we had partly arranged to go to the same place this
summer. It seems sort of like going back on my promise!”

“Well, you couldn’t help that,” returned Lily, consolingly. “But I’m
sure he won’t be angry.”

“No, maybe not angry, but hurt, perhaps. Still–scouts have to come
first, don’t they, Lil?”

“You bet they do! Particularly as this is probably the last thing you
and I shall ever do as members of Pansy troop!”

“And that reminds me,” said Marjorie, “I wanted to ask you whether
you thought we couldn’t keep our organization, and have regular scout
meetings at the ranch. And we could wear our uniforms once in a while,
just for old time’s sake, you know.”

“Indeed I do approve of that idea!” cried Lily, with spirit. “Let’s
keep our senior patrol as long as we possibly can.”

“I sort of hesitated to suggest it,” continued Marjorie, “because I
am senior patrol leader, and I was afraid it might look as if I were
trying to keep all the power I could get.”

As Lily listened to these words, a new thought came into her mind. She
seized upon it immediately; it was a veritable inspiration.

“Marj! I have it! You’re eighteen now–let’s get you commissioned as
lieutenant!”

“Lieutenant–of–Pansy–troop?” repeated Marjorie, overcome by the
wonder of such a proposal. When the older girls had received their
commissions, she had looked upon them with awe and admiration, but it
never seemed possible to her that she could hold the same office as
Edith Evans and Frances Wright. She had always dreamed of becoming an
officer–perhaps, in time, a captain–over a troop of little girls. But
to be first lieutenant of her own troop–that seemed utterly out of the
question.

“Certainly,” replied Lily. “I’ll write to Mrs. Remington this very
minute, and she’ll get your examination papers.” She was on her feet
now, starting towards the door. “We have ten days yet,” she added, “we
can easily put it through.”

But Marjorie still seemed reluctant.

“It wouldn’t be fair, Lil–without consulting the other girls.”

“Nonsense! Would they have elected you senior patrol leader, two years
in succession, if they didn’t want you? Would you have been made class
president and first alumnae president, if you weren’t popular? Why,
they’ll be tickled to death! And won’t it be fun to spring a surprise
on them!”

“You mean not say a word about it to them, till everything is settled?”
Marjorie showed plainly that she disapproved of the suggestion.

“Of course! Tell them that Mrs. Remington wouldn’t let us go without
an officer, and that some awful stick of an old maid has been made our
lieutenant, and will join us somewhere on our trip out. Oh, I can just
see Alice’s expression now! Won’t she be furious!”

The humor of such a situation dawned upon Marjorie, and she joined in
Lily’s amusement. Then, after a little more persuasion, she consented
to the writing of the letter.

The girls did not have to wait long for the answer; indeed, they were
surprised at the rapidity with which it came. But then Mrs. Remington
always attended to matters promptly, and this all the more so because
she approved so heartily of the proposal.

Marjorie was delighted to find that the examination was comparatively
easy; after the more difficult merit-badge tests she had taken the
previous summer at training camp, this one seemed almost like child’s
play. She took it into the library, signed the pledge of honor to
answer the questions without assistance, and set immediately to work.
Inside of an hour the paper was finished, sealed in an envelope, and
dropped into the mail-box.

On Friday afternoon the whole family went in the automobile to Atlantic
City. Marjorie and Lily occupied the front seat, with the former at the
wheel, while Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson rode in the tonneau.

The girls were not very talkative; both were absorbed in their own
thoughts. Marjorie went over and over in her own mind the best way
to tell John her plans for the summer. Probably it would make no
difference to him, and yet she wished the ordeal were over. She would
hate so to offend him.

A slight accident to the motor delayed them for a couple of hours at a
garage, bringing them to the hotel in Atlantic City at something after
five o’clock. Jack met them and informed them that the Hadleys had
already arrived, and had gone to their rooms. They would meet in the
lobby at six o’clock to go into the dining-room together.

“Don’t say a word about our trip to the ranch, Lil,” pleaded Marjorie,
as the girls were unpacking their suit-case. “I want to break it to him
gently–in case he should be peeved.”

“I know he’s going to be terribly disappointed,” said Lily. “But I’ll
be very careful, Marj.”

Reassured by her chum’s promise, Marjorie went gaily down to the lobby
at the appointed time. John’s first words, however, took her somewhat
aback; he had not forgotten her promise.

“This certainly is jolly of your mother,” he said. “And more than I
ever dreamed of. An extra week-end with you–besides our two weeks in
August.”

Marjorie winced at the reference, and closed her lips tightly. She
could not tell him now, before all those people, that her plans were
changed. So she merely smiled, and turned to Mrs. Hadley.

Having secured permission for extra time off, Jack felt particularly
gay, and acted as host of the party. Mr. Wilkinson noticed with what
genuine courtesy he carried the thing off, and judiciously retired
to the background. Indeed, it seemed as if the boy even regarded his
father and mother as guests.

The others of the party responded to his mood, and the meal was a
jolly one. It was only when he announced that he had procured seats
for Keith’s theatre that evening, that the girls found their spirits
sinking. For Lily would have preferred to spend the time looking at the
ocean, and Marjorie longed for the opportunity to have a tete-a-tete
with John.

But if the girls were disappointed at this announcement, they were
dismayed at the young man’s next remark. All unconscious of the
situation, he blurted out to John’s surprised ears the unwelcome news
of the girls’ project.

“What do you think of these wild girls, Hadley?” he asked, while they
were all waiting for their dessert. “Imagine them strutting around in
trousers all summer, on a ranch in Wyoming! I’ll bet they join the
cowboys, and never come back!”

“What? _What?_” demanded John, in a most perplexed tone. Marjorie had
said nothing about any such plans.

“Oh–haven’t the girls told you yet? Well, there hasn’t been much time.
Still–I thought you and Marj kept up a steady correspondence!”

“The steadiness is all on my side,” replied the young man, quietly.
Then, louder, “No, I didn’t know a word about it. Tell me!”

Marjorie hastened to relate all there was to tell: her father’s desire
to plan something particularly nice for her for this vacation, Mrs.
Remington’s suggestion, and the Girl Scout party. John said nothing
about his shattered hopes, but Marjorie saw that the slight had cut
deeply. If only she had written to him! But it was too late now for
regrets.

She did not find an opportunity until the following afternoon to
apologize for her failure to explain the project to John. The party,
which had stayed together all morning on the beach and in the ocean,
decided to go their separate ways after luncheon. Mr. Wilkinson joined
a fishing excursion, and Lily and the two older women planned to take
naps. Jack found it his duty to be in the office if he wanted the
evening off, so John seized the chance to ask Marjorie to go walking.
She was only too glad to accept.

Taking the car as far as Ventnor, so that they might avoid the crowd
and the shops, they started their walk in the prettier part of the
town. Marjorie plunged immediately into the subject that was uppermost
in both minds.

“John,” she began, “I didn’t mean to go back on my promise, and I
wanted to tell you all about it before anybody else did. But you see
papa and Mrs. Remington planned everything; I had practically no say in
the matter.”

John regarded her intently, wishing that he might believe that she
was as keenly disappointed as he was because they were not to be able
to spend the vacation together. But no; she certainly did not appear
heart-broken.

“You’re not sorry, though,” he said, somewhat bitterly. “The whole
thing suits you exactly.”

“It would be a lie to say it didn’t,” laughed Marjorie, good-naturedly.
“You know how I adore that sort of thing.”

“Marjorie,” he pursued, “do you think that–that–” he hesitated, as if
he did not know how to put his thought–“that sports, and Girl Scouts,
and things like that, will always come first with you?”

Marjorie seemed hurt at his words; he was accusing her of being cold
and unfeeling.

“I don’t know what you mean!” she returned, sharply. “Do you imply
that I care more for things like that than for people? That I like
horseback-riding and hiking better than mother and father and Lily–”

“No, no! I didn’t mean that. Of course I know your family and Lily come
first. But men, for instance? It seems to me you’d always rather go off
with a pack of girls on some escapade than see any of your men friends.”

“Maybe I would,” laughed the girl, heartlessly. “But,” she added,
“perhaps I’ll wake up some time!”

“When?” he asked, seriously.

“Maybe when I fall in love!” she returned, teasingly.

John knew that now she had adopted this frivolous manner, it would be
useless to pursue the subject further. So he put the thing out of his
mind temporarily, forcing himself to talk of other things.

But when, an hour later, he was alone in his room, he made a new
resolution. Marjorie had treated him shamefully by not writing to him
of her plans, by allowing his hopes to be dashed so rudely to the
ground by a third person. It was evident that she did not care for
him–that she had never cared, and it was foolish of him to pursue her.
In the future, therefore, he meant to treat her with the same polite
indifference with which he accorded the other members of her sex; if he
was nothing to her, he would show her that she was nothing to him!

That evening and the following day, he shared his attentions equally
with both girls, and although nothing was said, when Marjorie drove
away in the car, she felt that something was wrong. She feared she had
lost the friendship of a young man for whom she had the utmost regard
and respect. And she was sorry–but not sorry enough to make an effort
to re-establish it on the old footing.

Resolutely, she thought of the ranch and the Girl Scouts, and talked
volubly to Lily on both subjects. She was rewarded, it seemed; for when
she reached her home, she found her lieutenant’s commission waiting in
the mail-box!