“Of course it’s great to go to Europe; any one would jump at the chance, but still——” As the speaker, a bright-eyed girl of sixteen, paused, her companion, slightly younger, continued:
“Yes, I know what you mean—it doesn’t seem just like Irma to go away before school closes. Why, if she misses the finals, she may have to drop from the class next year.”
“Probably she expects Italy to help her in her history and Latin.”
“Travelling is all very well,” responded the other, “but there’s nothing better than regular study. Why, here’s Irma coming,” she concluded hastily; “she can speak for herself.”
“You are surely gossiping about me,” cried Irma pleasantly, as she approached her two friends seated on the front steps of Gertrude’s house. “You have surely been gossiping, for you stopped talking as soon as you saw me, and Lucy looks almost guilty.”
“Listeners sometimes hear good of themselves,” replied Lucy, “but we’ll admit we have been wondering how you made up your mind to run away from school. I shouldn’t have dared.”
“My father and mother decided for me, when Aunt Caroline said she must know at once. There was some one else she would invite,
if I couldn’t go. I simply could not give up so good a chance to see Europe. But of course I am sorry to leave school.”
“Now, Irma, no crocodile tears.” Gertrude pinched her friend’s arm as she spoke. “Fond as I am—or ought to be—of school, I wouldn’t think twice about leaving it all, if I had a chance to shorten this horrid winter.”
“Winter! And here we are sitting in the open air. In six weeks it will be May, and you won’t find a pleasanter month in Europe than our May,” protested Lucy.
“We intend to have some fine picnics this spring; you’ll lose them if you go,” added Gertrude.
“One can’t have everything,” sighed Irma. “I know that I must lose some good things if I go away.”
“Examinations, for instance,” cried George Belman, who had joined the group.
“And promotions, perhaps,” added John.
“But still,” continued George, “I say Irma deserves a change for her unselfishness in having whooping-cough last summer, just to keep Tessie company.”
“Well, it was considerate in Irma to get over it before school opened; stand up, dear, and let yourself be counted.”
“Oh, Gertrude, how silly you are!” but even while protesting Irma rose slowly to her feet, and her friends, looking at her, noticed that she was paler and thinner than she had been a year earlier.
“Come, now,” said Lucy, rising, and affectionately slipping her arm around Irma’s waist, “tell us your plans. Gertrude knows them, but I have heard only rumors.”
“I am not quite sure myself about it all. Only I am to sail with Aunt Caroline and Uncle Jim to Naples by the southern route, and, after going through Italy, we shall be home in July—and a niece of Aunt Caroline’s, or rather of Uncle Jim’s, is going with us.”
“You didn’t tell me that,” interposed Gertrude. “You won’t miss us half as much if you have another girl with you. I begin to be jealous.”
“If there were ten other girls in our party I’d miss my friends just as much,” said Irma. “Besides, I’ll be too busy to take an interest in mere girls.”
“Busy!” It was George who said this, with a little, mocking laugh.
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