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   Chapter 10 No.10

The Luckiest Girl in the School By Angela Brazil Characters: 18825

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


A Scare

The Spring Term came to a close with a very fair number of hockey successes to be placed to the credit of the Seaton High School. Compared with last year's record it was indeed a great improvement, and Kirsty felt that though they had not yet established a games reputation, they at any rate showed good promise of future achievements. She hoped to do much in the cricket and tennis season, though she certainly acknowledged there was much to be done. The cricket so far had been such a half-hearted business that she doubted the advisability of making any fixtures.

"I believe we'd just better train up for all we're worth," she said at the committee meeting. "It'll take ages to lick an eleven into shape. What we want is to get a cricket atmosphere into the school. You can't develop these things all in a few weeks. You've got to catch your kids young and teach them, before you get a school with a reputation. I feel with all the games that we're simply building foundations at present at the Seaton High. This term especially is spade-work. I'll do all I can to get things going, but it will be the Games Captain who comes after me who'll reap the reward."

"Can't you stay on another year?" suggested Patricia.

"Wish I could for some things, but it's impossible. No, I'll do my bit this term, and then hand over the job to my successor. As I said before, what we want now is a good start."

Kirsty was a capital organizer. She soon recognized a girl's capacities, and she had a knack of inspiring enthusiasm even in apparent slackers. She worked thoroughly hard herself, and insisted that everybody else did the same. Her motto for the term was the athletic education of the rank and file. It was really very self-sacrificing of her, for she might have gained far more credit by concentrating her energies on a few, but for the ultimate good of the school it was undoubtedly far and away the best policy to pursue. The training of a number of recruits may not be as interesting as the polishing up of champions, but in time recruits become veterans, and a school in which the standard of the ordinary play is very high has a better general chance than one that depends on an occasional solitary star. So even the little girls were strictly supervised in their practices, and both cricket and tennis showed healthy development.

The Governors and the head mistress were anxious that the games department should prosper, and gave every encouragement. There were a larger number of tennis courts provided than fall to the share of most schools, and each form had its allotted times for play. Athletics were indeed compulsory, every girl being required to take her due part, unless she were excused by a medical certificate.

Winona worked with the utmost enthusiasm. As a Fifth Form girl she had, of course, to be rather humble towards the Sixth, but she felt that Kirsty approved of her. It was never Kirsty's way to praise, and she could be scathing in her remarks sometimes, but Winona did not mind criticism from her captain, and acted so well on all the advice given that she was making rapid strides. In pursuance of Kirsty's all-round training policy, she was not allowed to specialize in either tennis or cricket this summer, but to give equal energy to both. So she practiced bowling under Hester King's careful supervision, and played exciting sets while Clarice Nixon stood by to watch and score.

The games appealed to Winona more than any other part of the school curriculum. She did fairly well now in her Form work, but she knew she could never be clever like Garnet, and that it was extremely unlikely that she would win laurels on her books. She had promised Miss Bishop that she would try to do credit to the school in return for her scholarship, and to help to raise its athletic reputation seemed her most feasible method of success.

"I could never get a College Scholarship, however I tried," she thought, "but-I won't say it's probable, but it's just possible that I might do something some day in the way of winning matches. Miss Bishop would be pleased at that!"

The early summer was delightful at Seaton. The park opposite the school was full of tulips and hyacinths, and the long avenue of trees in the Abbey Close had burst into tender green foliage. Winona studied her home lessons sitting by her open bedroom window with a leafy bower outside, and an accompaniment of jackdaws cawing in the old towers of the Minster. She loved this window and the prospect from it. There was a romantic, old-world flavor about the gray pile opposite, its carvings and cloisters and chiming bells seemed so peaceful and so far removed from modern trouble. Sometimes indeed the whirr of a biplane would disturb the quiet as an airman flittered like a great dragon-fly over the city, reminding her that medieval times were past; while a bugle call from the neighboring barracks emphasized the fact that the world was at war. Not that Winona was likely to forget that! Every day in school the Peace Bell prayer was read at noon, and she might see regiments of recruits marching up or down the High Street on their way to their training grounds. Nearly every girl in V.a. had some relation at the front, and though Winona could not boast of anybody nearer than a third cousin serving "somewhere in France," she looked for news as eagerly as the rest.

"It must be glorious to get letters from the trenches," she said half wistfully one day to Beatrice Howell, who was exulting over a pencil scrawl written by her brother in a dug-out. "I half wish--"

"No, you don't!" snapped Beatrice. "It's a nightmare to have them in the firing line! Be thankful your brother's still safe at school."

On the subject of Percy, Winona was far from easy. He had let fall one or two hints during the Easter holidays which confirmed her previous suspicion that he had got into a wrong set at Longworth College. He had written to her twice already this term, wanting to borrow money, and suggesting that, without mentioning his name, she should ask Miss Beach to lend it to her. With such a request, however, Winona had utterly refused to comply.

"Aunt Harriet has been so decent to us I can't begin to sponge on her," she wrote back. "Besides, she'd want to know what I wanted such a lot for, and then all the mischief would be out!"

Apparently Percy was offended, for his usual weekly letter did not appear. Winona only laughed, expecting he would soon get over his fit of sulks. She was utterly unprepared for the sequel. One day she received a note from him written on Y.M.C.A. paper and headed "Horminster." It ran thus:

"Dear Win,-I'd got into such an altogether grizzly hole that there was only one way out, and I've taken it. I am at present a member of His Majesty's Forces, and if you want to write to me address: Private P. D. Woodward, 17th Battalion, Royal Rytonshire Fusiliers, Horminster.

"Your affectionate brother,

"Percy."

"P.S.-You can tell the mater if you like."

Winona, in a great state of excitement, showed the note to Aunt Harriet, who telegraphed the information to Mrs. Woodward. The latter had just heard from Percy's housemaster of his disappearance, and was greatly relieved to have news of his whereabouts. The runaway was below military age, and his mother's first impulse was to apply for his immediate discharge. But from this course her best friends dissuaded her. The headmaster of Longworth College and Mr. Joynson, her trustee, were unanimous in counseling her to leave the boy alone, and Aunt Harriet cordially agreed with them.

"Let the lad serve his country!" she wrote to her niece. "He is tall for his age, and if the Military Authorities have accepted him, well and good. It seems to me the one thing in the world that is likely to steady him and give him that sense of responsibility that hitherto he has so signally lacked. You will make the mistake of your life if you keep him back now."

It seemed funny to Winona to imagine Percy, so young and boyish, actually in His Majesty's uniform. He had not yet got his khaki, but he promised to have a photo taken as soon as ever he was in military garb, and she looked forward to showing the portrait of her soldier brother to the girls in her Form. She began a pair of socks for him at once. I regret to say that Winona's patriotic knitting had languished very much during the last two terms, but this personal stimulus revived her ardor. She even took her sock to the tennis court, and, emulating the example of Patricia Marshall and several other enthusiasts, got quite good pieces done between the sets. She would have taken it to cricket also, but Kirsty had sternly made a by-law prohibiting all knitting on the pitch since Ellinor Cooper, when supposed to be fielding, had surreptitiously taken her work from her pocket and missed the best catch of the afternoon, to her everlasting disgrace and the scorn of the indignant Games Captain.

Kirsty was keen at present upon each Form having its own Eleven, and had arranged some school matches as trials of skill. The first of these, Sixth v. Fifth, was fixed for the following Saturday afternoon. Winona, to her ecstatic and delirious delight, had been elected captain of the combined V.a. and V.b. Eleven, and she was looking forward to the contest as one of the events of her life. She was aware that o

n its success or failure might hang much of her future athletic career at school, and she was determined to show of what stuff she was made. She urged her team to make heroic efforts, and got all the practice in that was available. On the Thursday afternoon she gave everybody a final drilling. On Friday the pitch would be the property of the Lower School, so this was the last opportunity of play before the match.

"If any of you muff the ball or do anything stupid, I'll never forgive you!" she assured her Eleven. "The Sixth are A1 at fielding, so for goodness' sake don't disgrace our Form. Beware of Patricia's bowling. It looks simple, but it's the nastiest I know. I'd rather have Kirsty's any day, because at least you know what to expect from her, and you're on your guard. Don't try to be clever too soon; it's better not to score at all during the first over than to run any risks. Evelyn, you were a mascot to-day! I hope you'll play up equally well on Saturday. By the by, Joyce, I really can't compliment you on your innings. What were you thinking of to make that idiotic blind swipe?"

"I don't know!" returned Joyce dolefully. (She was sitting on the fence looking decidedly crestfallen.) "I'm afraid I'm rather rocky to-day, somehow."

"Got nerves? Girl alive! Do brace up!"

"No, it's not nerves. My head's been aching all the week, and I've a pain across my chest, and I keep shivering. I suppose I must have caught cold. It'll be a grizzly nuisance if I can't play on Saturday!"

"You must play!" urged Winona. "We've got to beat the Sixth or perish in the attempt! You go home at once, and get some hot tea, and go to bed afterwards if you don't feel better. You may stop in bed all to-morrow if it'll do you good!"

"Thank you, Grannie! Perhaps I will go home now. I really am feeling rather queer."

"She looks queer, too," said Bessie Kirk to Winona, as they stood watching Joyce's retreating figure. "I thought she was going to faint a while ago. It'll be a hideous nuisance if she has to be out of it."

"Our best bowler! It's unthinkable!" groaned Winona.

"It's hard luck, but I'm certain Joyce won't play on Saturday," said Mary Payne.

The team was feeling rather down at the prospect.

"We may throw up the sponge if Joyce is off!" mourned Olave Parry.

"Shut up, you bluebottle!" snapped Winona, decidedly out of temper. "Joyce may be absolutely well again by Saturday, and if she isn't Marjorie Kemp must take her place. Do be sporting! You'll never win if you make up your mind beforehand that you're going to lose!"

When Winona walked into V.a. on the following morning she looked anxiously in the direction of Joyce's desk, but the familiar check dress and amber pigtail were not to be seen. Little groups of girls were standing in clusters, talking in apparent consternation.

"Well! Have you heard the news?" asked Garnet, stepping forward to meet her friend.

"No. What's the damage? You're looking very down in the dumps!"

"Joyce Newton has developed small-pox!"

"Nonsense!" exploded Winona.

"It's perfectly true," said Garnet, with severe dignity in her voice. "One only wishes for Joyce's sake that it wasn't! The news has only just come. Helena Maitland knows about it. She lives next door, and saw the doctor's car at the Newtons' gate this morning."

"I told you Joyce looked queer yesterday!" said Bessie Kirk.

"Suppose we all catch it!" shuddered Freda Long.

"Don't! It's too horrible!"

There was a feeling of utter consternation among the girls as the bad news was discussed. They wondered what was going to happen.

"Miss Bishop is telephoning to the Medical Officer of Health," volunteered Olave Parry, who had been downstairs to seek fresh information.

Just then Miss Huntley came into the room, though it was not yet nine o'clock. She went at once to her desk and took the call over.

"What's going to happen about Joyce?" one or two of the girls ventured to ask her.

"I don't know yet. I expect we shall all be put into quarantine. Miss Bishop is making arrangements. In the meantime we will go on with our work."

It was wise of Miss Huntley to begin the English Language lesson, for though every one was of course very abstracted, it gave some ostensible occupation. Before the hour was over Miss Bishop sailed into the room. She looked pale and anxious, but spoke with her usual calm dignity.

"Girls," she announced, "you have heard of the very difficult situation in which the school is placed. I have rung up Dr. Barnes, the Medical Officer of Health, and he tells me that the whole of V.a. must be regarded as 'contact cases.' That means that as Joyce has been amongst you, it is possible for any of you to develop the disease. In order to avoid the spread of infection throughout the city, you will have to be most carefully kept apart. I have sent all the other girls home, and you will stay at the school during to-day. Dr. Barnes is coming this morning to re-vaccinate you, and this afternoon you are to be taken to the Camp at Dunheath, where you will stay until the period of quarantine is over. Go home? Most certainly not! No girl is to leave the school on any pretext whatever. I am communicating with your home people and requesting that they send you a few necessary things to take to the camp, but no personal interviews can be allowed. Dr. Barnes' orders are most emphatic. You need not be alarmed, for if you are all re-vaccinated it is highly improbable that you will be infected, and I think you will all enjoy yourselves at Dunheath."

When the Principal had gone the girls clustered round Miss Huntley to discuss the situation.

"Yes, of course I'm going with you," said the mistress. "I'm a contact case as much as anybody else! Miss Bishop tells me that Dr. Barnes will send a hospital nurse with us. It's a nuisance to be in quarantine, but it will be beautiful out in the country just now, and we'll manage to enjoy ourselves."

The girls took the matter in various fashions according to their respective temperaments. Some were nervous, while others regarded it as a joke. The latter rallied their more timorous companions with scant mercy.

"Oh, buck up, you sillies!" said Marjorie Kemp, to the tearful plaints of Agatha James and Irene Mills. "Vaccination doesn't hurt! It's nothing but a scratch. You might be going to have your arms cut off. For goodness' sake show some pluck! Suppose you were in the trenches? The Camp will be just topping. We'll have the time of our lives!"

"If we don't break out in spots!" wailed Irene.

"Well, wait till you do before you make a fuss. You're far more likely to catch a thing if you're afraid of it."

"Oh, I say!" said Winona, suddenly remembering Saturday's event. "The match to-morrow will be all off!"

"Hold me up! So it will! What a grizzly nuisance! Oh, the hard luck of it!"

"Well, it can't be helped! We must play the Sixth later on."

"Kirsty'll be as savage as we are!"

"Poor old Joyce, she's responsible for a good deal of damage!"

The rest of the day passed in an extraordinary fashion. V.a. had the whole of the school premises absolutely and entirely to itself. The Fourth Form room was turned into a temporary surgery, and Dr. Barnes installed himself there with tubes of vaccine and packets of new darning needles. Each girl in turn went first to Miss Bishop and had her arm thoroughly sterilized with boiled water and boracic lotion, and was then passed on to the medical officer for vaccination. The scratch with the needle really did not hurt, and the little operations were soon over. Sixteen maidens walking about waiting for their arms to dry before re-donning their blouses made a rather comical sight. The giggles that ensued raised the spirits of even Agatha and Irene.

"Glad it was done on our left arms! I expect we sha'n't be in much form for cricket after this, unless we play one-handed!" laughed Winona. "By the by, will there be any field we can practice on out at the camp?"

"I expect so," returned Miss Huntley. "You had better make a collection of bats, balls and stumps and a few tennis rackets, and also your school books. Put them all together, and Miss Bishop will have them sent to us."

The girls hastened to sort out the necessary impedimenta for cricket and tennis, but arranged piles of books with less enthusiasm, the general opinion being that it was rather stiff to be expected to do work at the Camp. They were each allowed to take a book from the school library, and Miss Huntley added a pile of foolscap paper, pens and a big bottle of ink, which the girls devoutly hoped might get broken on the way and thus save them the labor of writing exercises. They had dinner and a four o'clock tea at school, after which meal Miss Bishop, who seemed to have spent most of the day at the telephone, announced that arrangements were now completed, and that they must get ready to start. Great was the excitement when at five o'clock a motor char-à-banc made its appearance. The sixteen "contacts" and Miss Huntley took their places, their hand-bags, which had been sent from their respective homes during the course of the day, were stowed away with the rest of their luggage inside a motor 'bus, and the company, feeling much more like a picnic party than possibly infected cases, drove merrily away for their period of quarantine.

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