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The Luckiest Girl in the School By Angela Brazil Characters: 13275

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Captain Winona

To the entire satisfaction of themselves, their relations, and Dr. Barnes, the girls passed safely through their period of quarantine, and were certified as fit once more to take their places among the rest of the world. They left the Camp almost with regret. They had been such a jolly, merry party, and had enjoyed such high jinks there, that they felt their departure closed a pleasant episode. They were going straight home to holidays, however, which was a very different matter from returning to work. The remainder of July and the month of August passed very swiftly to Winona. She missed Percy, who was in training with his regiment, but since the advent of their new governess, Letty and Mamie had grown more sensible, and proved quite pleasant companions. Letty especially seemed suddenly to have awakened, so far as her intellectual capacities were concerned. She had begun to devour Scott and Dickens, took a keen interest in nature study, and tried-sometimes with rather comical effect-to be extremely superior and grown-up.

"She's far cleverer really than I am," thought Winona. "Pity she's not at the Seaton High! She'd be the star of her form directly. I wish she could get a scholarship some day."

With her school experience in coaching juniors, Winona was able to give her family some drilling in the matter of cricket, though she did not find that younger brothers and sisters proved such docile pupils as the members of III.a. and III.b. It was the usual case of "a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country," and while to High School juniors she preserved the authority and dignity of a senior, to Letty, Mamie, Ernie, Godfrey, and Dorrie she was "only Winona." She practiced tennis with the Vicarage girls, and was surprised to find how much her play had improved. Last summer they had nearly always beaten her, now it was she who scored the victories.

"I've learnt how to play games at 'The High,' even if my report was only moderate," she said to herself.

To make up for the long holiday caused by the small-pox scare, school was to commence at the beginning of September. Aunt Harriet, who had not been well, and was taking a rest in Scotland, wrote that her house in Abbey Close was shut up for the present, but that she was making other arrangements for her great-niece until her return. This term a hostel was to be opened in connection with the High School, and Winona was to be a boarder there for a few weeks. She was uncertain whether she liked the prospect or not, but she nevertheless left home in good spirits.

The hostel was under the superintendence of Miss Kelly. It was prettily furnished, and looked bright and pleasant. The girls had a common sitting-room, where they could read, write, paint or play games, and the bedrooms were divided into cubicles. So far there were only ten boarders, though there was accommodation for eighteen, but no doubt the numbers would be increased when the venture became better known.

The school seemed very strange without the familiar figures of Margaret Howell, Kirsty Paterson, Patricia Marshall and the other prefects. All of the Sixth had left except Linda Fletcher and Dorrie Pollock, and the members of V.a. were now promoted to the top form. Linda Fletcher was head of the school, the new prefects being Hilda Langley, Agatha James, Bessie Kirk, Grace Olliver, Evelyn Richards and Garnet Emerson. Linda, with her past year's experience, made an extremely suitable "Head." She understood thoroughly what ought to be done, and at once called a mass meeting of the whole school in the gymnasium. Everybody clapped as Linda stood up on the platform to open the proceedings. She had been a favorite as a prefect, so she was welcomed in her new capacity of "General."

"Girls!" she began. "I felt it was better to lose no time in calling this meeting to settle the affairs of the coming school year. I am in a difficult position, because I have to follow such an extremely able and efficient 'Head.' I'm afraid I can't hope to rival Margaret Howell (cries of "Yes! Yes!" and "You'll do!" from the audience), but at least I shall try to do my duty. During the past year we may fairly consider that the 'Seaton High' made enormous strides. Owing to the exertions of our former 'Head' and prefects a most excellent foundation has been laid. The Dramatic Society, the Debating Club, the Literary Association, the Photographic Union and the Natural History League all accomplished very satisfactory work, and may be considered in a most flourishing condition. Perhaps, though, our greatest improvement is in the direction of games. This may not appear on the surface, for though we won five hockey matches, it was impossible, for reasons well known to you, to have fixtures for hockey and tennis. We feel, nevertheless, that in spite of our inability to test our skill against that of other schools we are conscious of the enormous all-round improvement that has taken place in our play. It was Kirsty Paterson's policy to train recruits for the games so that every girl in the school might be a possible champion. How well she succeeded I hope our next season's matches may testify. Let us all work together for the good of the school, and try to establish the reputation of the 'Seaton High.' I need not remind you that everything in the coming year will depend upon the energy and efficiency of the Games Captain. As soon as I knew that I was 'Head,' I wrote to Kirsty, who is staying in Cornwall, and asked for her opinion upon this most important point. I want to read you an extract from her reply, which I received this morning. She says:

"'You ask me who is to be the new Games Captain. Well, of course it is a delicate matter to nominate my own successor, but from my knowledge of everybody's capacities I should most decidedly suggest Winona Woodward. She is a good all-round player herself, and has a particular aptitude for organization, which should prove invaluable. She thoroughly appreciates the advantage of having reserves to fall back upon, and is most keen on keeping up the standard. I do hope the dear old "High" will have a splendid year. I shall be frantic to hear how you get on. Send me a p.c. with the result of the meeting.'

"Well," continued Linda, "you've heard Kirsty's opinion. It coincides entirely with mine. Will some one kindly propose that Winona Woodward shall be elected Games Captain?"

"I have much pleasure in making the proposal," said Bessie Kirk, standing up promptly.

"And I have much pleasure in seconding it," murmured Grace Olliver.

"Will all who are in

favor kindly hold up their hands? Carried unanimously! I'm extremely glad, as I'm sure Winona is 'the right man for the job,' and worthy to carry on Kirsty's traditions. I vote we give her three cheers!"

Winona flushed crimson as the hip-hip-hoorays rang forth. She had never expected such a complete walk-over. She had known that her name was to be submitted for the captaincy, but she had thought that Bessie Kirk and Marjorie Kemp held equal chances, and that the voting would probably be fairly evenly divided. That Kirsty should have written to nominate her was an immense gratification. Kirsty's praise at the time had been scant, and Winona had no idea that her former chief held her in such esteem. To Winona the occasion seemed the triumph of her life. She would rather be Games Captain than have any other honor that could possibly be offered to her. Glorious visions of successful matches, of shields or cups won, and a county reputation for the school swam before her eyes. And she-Winona Woodward-was to have the privilege of leading and directing all this! It was indeed a thrilling prospect. Her thoughts went back to the symposium of a year ago, when as a new and unknown girl, she had listened to Margaret Howell's inspiring speech. How unlikely it had seemed then that she would ever have a hand in making school history, but how her spirit had been stirred, and how she had longed to do her part! It was something to have realized her pet ambition.

"It was most awfully good of you to propose me," she said to Bessie Kirk afterwards. "You'd a splendid chance yourself."

"Not I!" returned Bessie lightly. "Kirsty's letter settled the whole business. I shouldn't have made nearly as good a Captain as you. I don't care to bother with the kids, and I'd hate all the business part of it, making the fixtures and that sort of thing, you know. You'll be A1, and we'll all play up no end. I believe we dare venture a fixture with Grant Park this season."

Winona fully realized the responsibilities of her important position, and began at once to pick up the threads of her new duties. She took possession of the Games Register, with its records of past matches, and began to make plans for hockey fixtures. The term had begun so early that the other schools in the county had not yet re-opened; that, however, was really an advantage, as it gave her more time for consideration. At present the September weather was hot as summer, and tennis and cricket were still in full swing. In order to spur on enthusiasm Winona organized a school tennis tournament. The result was highly satisfactory. Several new and unsuspected stars swam into view, and she determined to keep her eye upon them as possible champions for next summer.

"You never know what a girl's capable of till you try her!" she confided to Garnet. "Who would ever have thought that that stupid-looking little Emily Cooper could beat Ethel March? I was simply astounded. I've my plans for Emily, I can tell you! And I believe Bertha March is going to be a second Annie Hardy. She serves in exactly the same way. Oh, I've hopes for next summer. Brilliant, glorious hopes."

The school took every opportunity of using the fine weather while it lasted. The Photographic Union organized an outing to Linworth, a picturesque town six miles away, where an old castle, an Elizabethan mansion, a river and many quaint streets made subjects for their cameras, and promised to provide materials for an exhibition later on, when films were developed and prints taken. The Natural History League had another delightful ramble under Miss Lever's leadership, and secured additional specimens for the museum. On this occasion Winona and Garnet started in better time for the station, and did not get into the wrong train, as they had done on the expedition to Monkend Woods.

"Dollikins," as Miss Lever was affectionately nicknamed, was as great a favorite as ever among the girls. Owing to changes on the staff, she now had charge of IV.a. and taught mathematics throughout the junior forms, so that the seniors saw little of her in school hours. On a ramble she was as jolly as one of themselves.

The Sixth had a new mistress, Miss Goodson, who had only joined the staff this term. The form was rather uncertain whether to like her or not. It was rumored that she had been engaged specially to coach them for the matriculation. So far the High School had been laying foundations, and had not sent in any candidates for public examinations. This year, however, having a certain amount of promising material in the Sixth, Miss Bishop had decided that the time was ripe for trying to win the educational laurels towards which their training had been directed. Miss Goodson came from a High School in the north, and brought with her a reputation for successful coaching. She was well up in all her subjects, but she was a cold and not very inspiring person. She was apt to concentrate her energies on the clever members of her form, and leave the less brilliant to stumble along as best they could. Winona, who certainly belonged to the second category, did not like Miss Goodson, while Garnet was strongly in her favor.

In her new capacity of prefect, Garnet proved a success. She was as enthusiastic over the "bookish" side of the school as Winona over the athletic department. She was President of the Literary Association, a member of the Debating Club Committee, and head librarian. The school library had grown and prospered exceedingly since its installation by Margaret Howell. It now numbered nearly five hundred volumes, and its shelves almost filled the Prefects' Room. Garnet managed it systematically. She had special hours at which books were issued, and assistants whose business it was to be on duty at the specified times.

Among other improvements in the school welcomed by the girls was the advent of a fresh drilling mistress, and some new apparatus for gymnastics. Under Miss Barbour, "Gym" became highly popular, and it was felt that an athletic display would probably be held at Christmas. This was something to work for, and every one seemed much keener than formerly. Winona was naturally an enthusiast, and tried to keep others up to the mark. She had once seen an "Assault-at-Arms" at Percy's college, and the memory of it made her long for the Seaton High School to have a similar opportunity of showing its prowess. She and a select circle of friends practiced whenever possible. Altogether among the various athletic activities of the school, Captain Winona promised herself a very enjoyable year in the Sixth Form.

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