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Ida’s New Year Cake
by [?]

Mary Craig and Sara Reid and Josie Pye had all flocked into Ida Mitchell’s room at their boarding-house to condole with each other because none of them was able to go home for New Year’s. Mary and Josie had been home for Christmas, so they didn’t really feel so badly off. But Ida and Sara hadn’t even that consolation.

Ida was a third-year student at the Clifton Academy; she had holidays, and nowhere, so she mournfully affirmed, to spend them. At home three brothers and a sister were down with the measles, and, as Ida had never had them, she could not go there; and the news had come too late for her to make any other arrangements.

Mary and Josie were clerks in a Clifton bookstore, and Sara was stenographer in a Clifton lawyer’s office. And they were all jolly and thoughtless and very fond of one another.

“This will be the first New Year’s I have ever spent away from home,” sighed Sara, nibbling chocolate fudge. “It does make me so blue to think of it. And not even a holiday–I’ll have to go to work just the same. Now Ida here, she doesn’t really need sympathy. She has holidays–a whole fortnight–and nothing to do but enjoy them.”

“Holidays are dismal things when you’ve nowhere to holiday,” said Ida mournfully. “The time drags horribly. But never mind, girls, I’ve a plummy bit of news for you. I’d a letter from Mother today and, bless the dear woman, she is sending me a cake–a New Year’s cake–a great big, spicy, mellow, delicious fruit cake. It will be along tomorrow and, girls, we’ll celebrate when it comes. I’ve asked everybody in the house up to my room for New Year’s Eve, and we’ll have a royal good time.”

“How splendid!” said Mary. “There’s nothing I like more than a slice of real countrified home-made fruit cake, where they don’t scrimp on eggs or butter or raisins. You’ll give me a good big piece, won’t you, Ida?”

“As much as you can eat,” promised Ida. “I can warrant Mother’s fruit cake. Yes, we’ll have a jamboree. Miss Monroe has promised to come in too. She says she has a weakness for fruit cake.”

“Oh!” breathed all the girls. Miss Monroe was their idol, whom they had to be content to worship at a distance as a general thing. She was a clever journalist, who worked on a paper, and was reputed to be writing a book. The girls felt they were highly privileged to be boarding in the same house, and counted that day lost on which they did not receive a businesslike nod or an absent-minded smile from Miss Monroe. If she ever had time to speak to one of them about the weather, that fortunate one put on airs for a week. And now to think that she had actually promised to drop into Ida’s room on New Year’s Eve and eat fruit cake!

“There goes that funny little namesake of yours, Ida,” said Josie, who was sitting by the window. “She seems to be staying in town over the holidays too. Wonder why. Perhaps she doesn’t belong anywhere. She really is a most forlorn-appearing little mortal.”

There were two Ida Mitchells attending the Clifton Academy. The other Ida was a plain, quiet, pale-faced little girl of fifteen who was in the second year. Beyond that, none of the third-year Ida Mitchell’s set knew anything about her, or tried to find out.

“She must be very poor,” said Ida carelessly. “She dresses so shabbily, and she always looks so pinched and subdued. She boards in a little house out on Marlboro Road, and I pity her if she has to spend her holidays there, for a more dismal place I never saw. I was there once on the trail of a book I had lost. Going, girls? Well, don’t forget tomorrow night.”