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The Luckiest Girl in the School By Angela Brazil Characters: 16131

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Seaton High School

The autumn term at Seaton High School began on September 22nd. On the 21st Winona set forth with great flourish of trumpets, feeling more or less of a heroine. To have been selected for a scholarship among twenty-one candidates was a distinction that even Aunt Harriet would admit. In the brief interval pending her departure, her home circle had treated her with a respect they had never before accorded her.

"I hope you'll do well, child," said her mother, half proud and half tearful when it came to the parting. "We shall miss you here, but when you get on yourself you must help the younger ones. I shall look to you to push them on in life."

There is a certain satisfaction in the knowledge that you are considered the prop of the family. Winona's eyes glowed. In imagination she was already Principal of a large school, and providing posts as assistant mistresses for Letty, Mamie and Doris, that is to say unless she turned her attention to medicine, but in that case she could be head of a Women's Hospital, and have them as house surgeons or dispensers, or something else equally distinguished and profitable. It might even be possible to provide occupation for Godfrey or Ernie, though this was likely to prove a tougher job than placing the girls. With such a brilliant beginning, the future seemed an easy walk-over.

Mrs. Woodward was exulting over the fact that she had engaged Miss Jones when she did, and that Winona's school clothes were all made and finished. There had been a fluster at the last, when it was discovered that her mackintosh was fully six inches too short for her new skirts, and that she had outgrown her thick boots, but a hurried visit to Great Marston had remedied these deficiencies, and the box was packed to everybody's satisfaction. There was a universal feeling in the family that such an outfit could not fail to meet with Aunt Harriet's approval. The first sight of the nightdress case and the brush-and-comb bag must wring admiration from her. They had been bought at a bazaar, and were altogether superior to those in daily use. As for the handkerchief case, Letty had decided that unless one equally well embroidered were presented to her on her next birthday, she would be obliged to assert her individuality by showing temper.

Winona walked into the dressing-room of the High School on September 22nd with a mixture of shyness and importance. On the whole the latter predominated. It was a trifle embarrassing to face so many strangers, but it was something to have won a scholarship. She wondered who was the other fortunate candidate.

"I expect it will be that red-haired girl with the spectacles," she thought. "I believe she answered every question, though she was rather quiet about it."

She looked round, but could not see the ruddy locks, nor indeed any of the companions who had taken the examination with her.

"Hunting for some one you know?" asked a girl who had appropriated the next hook to hers.

"Yes, at least I'm not sure whether she'll be here or not. I believe her name's Marjorie Kaye."

"Never heard of her!"

"There are heaps of new girls," volunteered another who stood by.

"I wondered if she'd won a County Scholarship," added Winona.

"Ask me a harder! I tell you I've never heard her name before."

"I've won the other scholarship."

Winona's voice was intended to sound very casual.

"Indeed!"

Her neighbor was taking off her boots, and did not seem as much impressed as the occasion merited.

"Oh! so you're one of the 'outlanders,'" sniggered another. "It's a sort of 'go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in' business."

"I suppose we shall be having Council School Scholarships next!" drawled a third.

They were friends, and went off together without another glance at Winona. She followed soberly, wondering what she ought to do next. She had a vague idea that the winner of a scholarship should present herself at the Head Mistress' study to receive a few words of encouragement and congratulation on her success. At the top of the stairs she met the mistress who had presided over the examination. The latter greeted her unceremoniously.

"Winona Woodward, you've been placed in V.a., first room to the right, round the corner. You'll find the number on the door."

Other girls were hurrying in the same direction. Winona entered with what seemed to her quite a small crowd. Everybody appeared to know where to go, except herself. She stood in such evident hesitation that one, more good-natured than the rest, remarked:

"You'd better seize on any desk you fancy, as quick as you can. They're getting taken up fast, if you want a front one!"

Winona slid into the nearest seat at hand, and appropriated it by placing her note-book, pencil-box, ruler, atlas and dictionaries inside the desk.

The room was filling quickly. Every moment fresh arrivals hurried in and took their places. Marjorie Kaye was nowhere to be seen, but in the second row sat the dark-eyed girl with the red ribbon in her hair. She turned round and nodded pleasantly.

"So she's got the other scholarship!" thought Winona. "I shouldn't have expected it. I'd have staked my reputation on the sandy-haired one. Well, I suppose her answers weren't correct, after all. I'm rather glad on the whole it's this girl; she looks jolly."

At that moment Miss Huntley, the form mistress, entered and took the call-over, and the day's work began. Each girl was given a time-table and a list of the books she would require, and after that, class succeeded class until one o'clock, with a ten minutes' interval for lunch at eleven. The conclusion of the morning left Winona with a profound respect for High School methods. After the easy-going routine of Miss Harmon's it was like stepping into a new educational world. She supposed she would be able to keep pace with it when she got her books, but the mathematics, at any rate, were much more advanced than what she had before attempted. As she walked down the corridor, the girl with the red hair-ribbon overtook her, and claimed acquaintance.

"So you're Winona Woodward? And I'm Garnet Emerson. We had the luck, after all! I'm sure I never expected to win. It was the greatest surprise to me when the letter arrived. Yes, five of the other candidates are at school, but they've been put in IV.a., and IV.b. Marjorie Kaye? You mean that girl in spectacles? No, she's not come. I heard her say that if she didn't win she was to be sent somewhere else. Where are you staying? With an aunt? I'm with a second cousin. She's nice, but I wish they'd open a hostel; it would be topping to be with a heap of others, wouldn't it? We'd get up acting in the evenings, and all sorts of fun. Well, perhaps that may come later on. I shall see you this afternoon, shan't I?"

"Yes, I'm coming for my books. It's too late to stop and get them now."

Afternoon attendance at the High School was not nominally compulsory. All the principal subjects were taken in the morning, but there were classes for drawing, singing or physical culture from half-past two until four, and practically very few girls had more than one free afternoon in a week. Any who liked might do preparation in their own form room, and many availed themselves of the permission, especially those who came from a distance, and stayed for dinner at the school. When Winona first examined her time-table she had not considered its demands excessively formidable, but before she had been a week at Seaton she began to realize that she would have very few spare moments to call her own. Miss Bishop believed in girls being fully occupied, and in addition to the ordinary form work, expected every one to take part in the games, and in the numerous societies and guilds which had been instituted. Winona found that she was required to join the Debating Club, and the Patriotic Knitting Guild, while a Dramatic Society and a Literary Association would be prepared to open their doors to her if she proved worthy o

f admission. So far, however, she considered that she had enough on her hands. The demands of her new life were almost overwhelming, and she lived from day to day in a whirl of fresh experiences. It took her some time even to grasp the names of the seventeen other girls in her form. Audrey Redfern, her left-hand neighbor, was friendly, but Olave Parry, at the desk in front, ignored her very existence. She gathered that Audrey, like herself, was a new-comer, while Olave had attended the school since its foundation; but she did not realize the significance of this in the difference of their behavior to her. The fact was that the three new girls in the form were on probation. The others, who had come up from the Lower School, and were well versed in the traditions of the place, were not willing to admit them too quickly into favor. They talked them over in private.

"Audrey Redfern seems a decent enough little soul," said Estelle Harrison. "There's really nothing offensive about her, to my mind. Garnet Emerson I rather like. I fancy she could be jolly. I'm going to speak to her in a day or two, but not too soon."

"What do you think of Winona Woodward?" queried Bessie Kirk.

"Much too big an opinion of herself. Began bragging about her scholarship first thing. She needs sitting upon, to my mind."

"She's pretty!"

"Yes, and she knows it, too!"

"Well, she can't help knowing it. I call her most striking looking. Her eyes are lovely, though I never can make out whether they're dark gray or hazel under those long lashes. Her hair's just the color of bronze, and such a lot of it! It beats Joyce Newton's hollow; besides, Joyce has absolutely white eyelashes."

"Like a pig's!" laughed Hilda Langley. "I agree with you that Winona's pretty, but I don't think she'll ever be a chum of mine, all the same."

The result of the stand-off attitude on the part of the rest of the form was the cementing of a close friendship between Winona and Garnet. It seemed natural for the holders of the two County Scholarships to become chums, also they found each other's society congenial. It marked a new epoch for Winona. She had had few friends of her own age. She had been the eldest pupil at Miss Harmon's small school, and her sisters were so much younger than herself that their interests were on a different plane to her own. Garnet, with her merry brown eyes, eager and enthusiastic nature, and amusing tongue, seemed a revelation.

The two girls spent every available moment together, and soon waxed confidential on the subject of their home affairs.

"We're all named after precious stones," said Garnet. "Pearl, my eldest sister, is classics mistress at a school; Jacinthe is studying for a health visitor, Ruby is at a Horticultural College, and Beryl is secretary at a Settlement. Aren't there a lot of us? All girls too, and not a single brother. I'm the baby of the family! I'd like to go to Holloway, if I can get a scholarship, but that remains to be seen. Meanwhile two years at the High's not so bad, is it? I expect I'm going to enjoy it. Aren't you?"

"Yes-perhaps. If the rest of the form were nicer, I might."

"Oh, they'll come round! We can't expect them to take us to their bosoms straight off! We're goods on approval."

"We've as much right here as they have!" grunted Winona.

"But they were here first, and of course that always counts for something. We shall have to show that we're worth our salt before we get any footing in the form. The question is how best to do it."

Winona shook her head. It was beyond her comprehension.

"I had a few tips from Jacinthe," ruminated Garnet. "She was Captain the last year she was at school, so she ought to know. You see, we've to steer between Scylla and Charybdis. We mustn't push ourselves forward too violently, or they'll call us cheeky, but on the other hand, if we're content to take a back seat, we may stay there for the rest of the term. Comprenez vous? It's a matter of seizing one's chance. I've an idea floating about in my mind. Do you happen to be anything extra special at singing, or reciting, or acting?"

"I haven't had much practice at acting, but I can play the guitar. Mummie taught me. She lived in Spain for three years when she was a girl, and learnt there."

"The very thing! How perfectly splendid! I play the mandoline myself, and the two go so well together. Did you bring your guitar with you?"

"No. I didn't think I should have any time for it."

"But you could write for it, couldn't you?"

"Oh, yes! Mummie would send it to me."

"Well, this is my idea. You know next week there's to be a big general meeting of the whole school to choose a Games Captain. So far the games department here is rather in its infancy. I've been making enquiries, and there isn't such a thing as a form trophy. There certainly ought to be, to spur on enthusiasm. I'm going to pluck up my courage, tackle one or two members of the Sixth, and suggest that after the meeting we hold a sing-song, and take a collection to provide a form trophy. I don't believe anybody's ever thought of it."

"Ripping! But what exactly is a sing-song?"

"Oh, just an informal concert. I thought if you and I played the mandoline and guitar together, it would make a good item. I see two of the prefects coming along over there, I believe I'll go and ask them."

"I admire your courage!"

Garnet returned in a few minutes, tolerably well satisfied with her mission.

"I believe the idea will catch on," she announced. "Of course I couldn't expect them to say 'yes' immediately. They were very cautious, and said they would put it to the form. I've sown the seed at any rate, and we must wait for developments."

Apparently Garnet's proposition proved acceptable to the Sixth, for the very next day a notice was pinned on the board in the hall:

"There will be a General Meeting of the School on Tuesday, October 4th, at 3 p.m., for the purpose of electing a Games Captain.

"The meeting will be followed by a Symposium, when a collection will be taken, the proceeds of which will be devoted to the purchase of a form trophy.

"Performers kindly submit their names without delay to M. HOWELL, as the program is being made up."

Garnet was one of the first to read the notice, and she started off at once to the Sixth Form room. She sought out Winona on her return.

"So my little scheme's come off!" she beamed. "You bet the Sixth will take all the credit for evolving it, but I don't care! I've put our names down for a mandoline and guitar duet, and said we'd be ready to help with any accompaniments they like. Meg Howell just jumped at that. It seems Patricia Marshall and Clarice Nixon are going to sing a Christy Minstrel song, and she thought our instruments would add to the effect no end. I tell you we shall score. Did you write for your guitar?"

"Yes, I expect it will be sent off to-day."

"Then we must begin and practice. I've got a topping duet that's quite easy. Can you come home with me after school to-morrow for half an hour or so? I know my cousins will be glad to see you. Then we might try over one or two things, and see how they go."

"It will be all right if I tell Aunt Harriet I shall be late," agreed Winona.

The instrument arrived the same evening, so she was able to keep her promise to Garnet next day. Fortunately they had only one class that afternoon, and were able to leave school at half-past three. Garnet's cousins lived within a short tramcar ride. They were musical people, and sympathized with her project. Garnet led Winona into the drawing-room, and began without waste of time.

"Let me look at your guitar! Oh, what a beauty! What's the label inside? Juan Da Costa, Seville! Then it must be Spanish. I suppose they're the best. My mandoline's Italian; it was made in Milan. We must tune them together, mustn't we? Can you read well? This is the book of duets. I thought this Barcarolle would be easy, it has such a lovely swing about it. Here's the guitar part."

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