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The Luckiest Girl in the School By Angela Brazil Characters: 17187

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The Hockey Season

When the hockey season commenced, Winona got to business. She was wildly anxious to prove an effective Games Captain, and win credit for the school. It would be no easy matter to follow so excellent a predecessor as Kirsty Paterson, but she determined to keep Kirsty's ideals well in mind, and try to live up to them. One change, which Kirsty had suggested, Winona at once carried out. The hockey badge was altered. The new one had the initials S.H.S. embroidered in the school colors on plain dark blue shields, and looked very imposing on the tunics. There was another point upon which Winona was resolved to effect a reform. The field was not in a thoroughly satisfactory condition, and certainly needed attention. The prefects had put the matter before Miss Bishop, who referred it to the Governors. Those august personages, mindful of war economies, decided that for the present it would do well enough, and would not vote the spending of any money upon its improvement. The bad news was received with indignation throughout the school.

"It's too stingy for anything! How can we possibly have decent practice on such a rough old place? I'd like to make them come and try it for themselves, the mean wretches!" protested Bessie Kirk.

Winona laughed. A vision of the Governors wildly brandishing hockey sticks flashed across her imagination. She seized her note-book and drew a fancy portrait of the delicious scene: old Councillor Thomson, very wheezy and fat, running furiously; bald-headed Mr. Crabbe performing wonderful acrobatic feats; a worthy J.P. engaged in a tussle with the Town Clerk; and various other of the City Fathers in interesting and exciting attitudes. The masterpiece was passed round for general admiration. The girls sniggered.

"Wish we could show it to them!" said Margaret Kemp. "Perhaps it might make them realize their responsibilities. It's too sickening of them to grudge keeping the field in order!"

"Look here, it's no use complaining!" said Winona. "Of course it relieves one's feelings, but it doesn't make any difference to the field. I've got a plan to propose. Let us ask Miss Bishop how much it would cost to hire somebody to do the rolling, and offer to pay for it ourselves. We could get up a Hockey Concert in aid of it."

"What a frolicsome notion! I'm your man!"

"Wouldn't it be setting a bad precedent?" objected Marjorie Kemp. "Suppose the Governors stop having the tennis courts cut, and say we may do it ourselves?"

"We'd put that to Miss Bishop first, and make it well understood."

"It would just make all the difference to the practices to have a roller at work, even once a week," urged Olave Parry. "Do ask about it, Win!"

Miss Bishop, on being appealed to, considered the suggestion favorably.

"Certainly there's no reason why you shouldn't improve the field, if you wish," she replied, adding with a smile: "I'll take care that the tennis courts don't suffer in consequence. It was a prudent thought to mention them. I expect when the war is over, the Governors may be persuaded to take the full expense of the playing field too. I'll get an estimate at once of what the rolling would cost."

Jones, the school janitor, who formerly kept the courts and cricket pitch in order, had gone to the war, and his place was occupied by a rheumatic old fellow who could do little more than carry coke and attend to the heating apparatus. When every able-bodied man seemed fighting or making munitions, it was difficult to find anybody to roll a hockey field, A volunteer was procured at last, however, who undertook the job at the rate of £1 per month, with an extra thirty shillings for putting the field in good order to begin with. Six or seven pounds, therefore, would cover the expenses of the season. Winona, mindful of the terrible offense she had given in connection with the Old Girls' Guild, very wisely took the matter to Linda Fletcher, who called a united meeting of Prefects and Games Committee to discuss the best way of raising the money.

"It will have to be done on a bigger scale than the symposium last year," said Hilda Langley. "If I remember rightly, that made exactly £2 13s. 7d., enough for a Form trophy, but not sufficient for this venture."

"We'd better issue tickets, and sell some of them to parents and friends," suggested Linda.

"How many will the hall hold?"

"Three hundred at a pinch, if the babes squash up tight."

"They won't mind doing that in a good cause."

"The Dramatic Society ought to take an innings, and provide at least half the program."

"They'll jump at the opportunity. I believe they have something quite prepared, and have been yearning for an audience."

"Then by all means let them have one."

"At sixpence a head," added practical Marjorie; "we ought easily to be able to sell sixpenny tickets."

Everybody took up the idea with enthusiasm. The difficulty was not so much to find helpers as to decide who was to have the honor of performing. There were many heart-burnings before the program was finally fixed. It was decided that a musical selection should be given first, followed by a piece by the Dramatic students. To cut these to reasonable limits needed all Linda's discretion, tact and firmness.

"You can't have an entertainment beginning at three, and going on till midnight," she urged, as the various desired items were submitted to her. "You'd have to hire ambulances to take your exhausted audience home! Very sorry, but we must keep some of the things for a future occasion."

Linda, being wise in her generation, and having an eye to the sale of tickets, insisted that the Lower School should take a share in the performance.

"Who wants to bother to hear the kids?" objected Grace Olliver, who, by the bye, was a member of the "Dramatic," and therefore not entirely disinterested.

"If we don't bother with the kids, they mayn't bother to come and bring friends, and we should look silly if we didn't sell all our tickets! Let them do their flag display, and sing their Empire song. That will content them and their mothers, and leaves quite time enough for other people."

Miss Bishop allowed a special Wednesday afternoon to be set aside for the entertainment; the tickets sold briskly, and expectation ran high. All concerned in the program kept their parts a dead secret, but items leaked out, and the wildest rumors were afloat. It was whispered that some of the Governors were to be present, and even that Miss Bishop would perform a sword dance, though not the most callow of juniors really consented to swallow such an astounding piece of information. The uncertainty as to what was in store, however, added largely to the pleasurable anticipation, and though the Dramatic Society rehearsed with locked door, and the keyhole carefully stopped up, juvenile spies, by hoisting one another up to the level of the windows, obtained brief and tantalizing peeps and spread news of gorgeosities in the way of costumes.

When the great afternoon arrived, the hall was crammed. The little girls were packed as tightly as sardines. A long line of them squatted on the floor in front of the first row, and others sat on the window sills, the latter positions having been scrambled for with enthusiasm.

Every one was at the tip-top of expectation. The concert opened with the inevitable piano solo which seems indispensable for the starting of any entertainment, and during the performance of which latecomers hurry to their seats, programs are sold, and the audience, with a tremendous amount of rustling and whispering, settles itself down to listen. This initiatory ceremony being over, more interesting items followed. The juveniles sang an Empire song, accompanied by a pretty flag drill; it was a taking tune, and as Linda had prophesied was immensely applauded by the visitors, who insisted on an encore. A violin solo came next, and was followed by a charming Russian dance given by two members of Form IV.a. Garnet played a piece on her mandoline, with piano accompaniment. She had suggested a duet for mandoline and guitar, but Winona had had no time to practice her instrument lately, and had begged to be excused. The fact was that Winona had been busy with a special item which she now brought out as a surprise to the school. She had composed some verses in praise of hockey, and set them to one of the tunes in the senior school song-book. The piece was sung by an eleven in full hockey costume, and they waved their hockey-sticks with appropriate actions to the music:

"When autumn returns, and the trees are all bare,

Our blue tunics are off to the field;

No team in excitement with ours can compare,

As our hockey-sticks wildly we wield.

For hockey's the game to play

When autumn has come to stay,

And this is the reason we love the cold season,

For hockey's the game to play.

"Hurrah for goalkeepers, for forwards and halves!

Hurrah for the clash of the sticks!

Hurrah for the rapture of scoring a goal!

(Who minds a few bruises or kicks?)

For hockey's the game to play,

When autumn has come to stay,

And this is the reason we love the cold season,

For hockey's the game to play.

"But a team that is set upon scoring its goal,

And winning a vict'ry or two,

Must see that its field it should carefully roll,

And that's what we're hoping to do!

Oh! hockey's the game to play,

When autumn has come to stay,

Yes, this is the reason we love the cold season,

When hockey's the game we play!

"Hurrah for Form trophies! Hurrah for our badge!

We'll make it an annual rule

To hold a 'Sports' Concert,' to wish all success

To the team of the Seaton High School!

Oh! hockey's the game to play,

And at Seaton we know the way!

Yes, this is the reason we love the cold season,

When hockey's the game we play!"

Winona's words would certainly not have passed muster as a literary composition, but their extreme appropriateness to the occasion, combined with the action of the hockey-sticks, completely brought down the house. The applause was thunderous, and the last verse was encored twice over. Undoubtedly it was the hit of the afternoon.

For the second part of the performance the Dramatic Society gave an amusing little play, and the concert wound up with a lusty rendering of certain patriotic songs.

Winona was highly gratified. Both artistically and financially the entertainment had proved a success. The committee would be well able to bear the expense of keeping the field in order. A gardener had been at work there, and already a marked improvement was noticeable. The Games Captain's enthusiasm was infectious. Under her leadership the girls became wonderfully keen. To Winona the thrill of struggle when a game seemed on the eve of being lost was one of the wildest excitements in life, and the joy when she struck the ball home straight and true the utmost triumph obtainable. During this autumn term she lived for hockey. The crowd of school girls, in thick boots and blue tunics, struggling and shouting in a somewhat muddy field might not be an altogether picturesque sight, but to the Captain it was Marathon and Waterloo combined. No colonel prided himself on a crack regiment more than Winona on her team. Sometimes, of course, a practice was off color; the day might be bleak or drizzly, or players might be penalized for "sticks," or grumblers might express their dissatisfaction audibly, but whatever went wrong, Winona emerged cheerful from the fray, remonstrated with "off-sides" and "sticks," and reminded growlers that it is unsporting to murmur. By Kirsty's advice she had sent out challenges to several good clubs in the neighborhood.

"While we were still in our callow infancy I should not have ventured," wrote Kirsty from Cornwall. "But one must begin some time to measure one's strength. After the work we did last season, I certainly think you might risk it. Nothing improves a team so much as playing plenty of matches; you see in time you get to know the strokes of everybody at the High, and you can calculate what others will do at certain turns of the game; it's far better for you to meet all sorts and conditions of opponents."

Winona had been afraid it was rather "cheek" to challenge the "West Rytonshire Club" or "Oatlands College," but she ascertained that both those august bodies had two teams, Number 1 and Number 2, and that while the first only met foes worthy of their steel (or rather sticks!) the second would graciously condescend to play a yet unknown High School. The match with Oatlands College was fixed for December 16th, and Winona looked forward to it with some anxiety. The last practice had not been altogether satisfactory. The day had been wretchedly cold, and everybody had been cross in consequence. The team, though proud of its fixture with so celebrated an opponent, was not very sure of itself.

"I hope to goodness Peggie'll play up!" groaned Marjorie Kemp. "The way she lost that last goal on Saturday was idiotic."

"She said she was cold!" commented Gladys Porter, witheringly. "She wanted to change at half-time. She said her feet were solid ice, and her nose was blue, and it was no fun watching the whole of the game being played right away at the other end of the field."

"Most unsporting!" moralized Marjorie. "Besides, when she got her chance, she hit the air! It will be very humiliating if the Oatlands team walk over us!"

"Oh, don't be a Jeremiah! We're not beaten yet! If anybody can pull us through, our Captain will!"

"Winona's a jewel!" agreed Marjorie. "And yet the best captain in the world can't make up for an only moderately good team. I feel my own deficiencies!"

Practically the whole of the High School assembled as spectators on the great day of the match. Things were very different now from the old times when a mere handful collected to cheer the Seaton team. Mistresses and girls were alike keen, and most desirous of witnessing the combat. They followed the game breathlesly.

"Oatlands isn't worth a toss!" commented Garnet exultantly.

"Don't make too sure!" replied Linda, looking with apprehension as the red jerseys of their rivals massed round the ball.

A familiar figure dashed forward, a hockey stick struck, and the ball swept out to safety. Linda heaved a long sigh of relief.

"Winona is just A1," she murmured. "Hello! Good gracious! what's that idiot doing?"

For Ellinor Cooper, whose arm was the strongest in the school, wielding her hockey stick with all her force, had hit Winona across the shin.

Instantly there was a commotion. Winona, white with the agony of the blow, leaned hard against Bessie Kirk, and clenched her fists to avoid crying out.

"Are you hurt?"

"What's happened?"

"You've had a nasty knock!"

There was quite a crowd round Winona, and a chorus of sympathy.

"Put in a substitute!" urged Bessie. "You're not fit to go on!"

"No, no! I'm better now," panted their captain, with a wan little smile. "I'll manage, thanks! Yes, really! Please don't worry yourselves about me!"

The game recommenced and Winona, with a supreme effort, continued to play. The pain was still acute, but she realized that on her presence or absence depended victory or defeat. Without her, the courage of the team would collapse. How she lived through the time she never knew.

Inspired by the heroic example of their captain, the girls were playing for all they were worth. The score, which had been against them, was now even. Time was almost up. Winona set her teeth. The ball seemed a kind of star which she was following-Following anyhow. As the French say, she "did her possible." The ball went spinning. Next minute she was leaning against a goal-post, trembling with the violence of her effort, while the High School hoorayed itself hoarse in the joy of the hard-won victory.

"I say, old girl, were you really hurt?" asked Bessie anxiously. "You're looking the color of chalk!"

"Never mind, it's over now! Yes, I am hurt. Give me your arm, and I'll go back to the hostel."

"You're an absolute Joan of Arc to-day!" purred Bessie.

Winona, with a barked shin and bad bruises, limped for more than a week, but she was the heroine of the school.

"I can't think how you ran, after that awful whack Ellinor Cooper gave you," sympathized Marjorie.

"It was easier to run then than after my leg grew stiff," laughed Winona. "I suppose it's the excitement that keeps one up. Don't make such a fuss, we've all had hard knocks in our time. Agnes Smith got a black eye last spring!"

As the result of her wounds in the hockey field Winona made friends with Miss Kelly. The latter was most prompt in applying lanoline and bandages, and proved so kind in bringing Winona her breakfast in bed, and making her rest on the sofa during preparation, that a funny little sort of intimacy sprang up between them.

"She's fussy on the surface, but nice when you know her," confided Winona to Garnet. "If I'd been staying at the hostel, I expect we should have got on capitally next term!"

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