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   Chapter 21 No.21

The Luckiest Girl in the School By Angela Brazil Characters: 21952

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


The End of the Term

"Look here, my hearties!" said Winona to the cricket team. "Do you realize that Seaton versus Binworth is on Wednesday week? If you don't, it's time you did, and you'd better buck up! My opinion of you at this present moment is that you're a set of loafers! What are you doing lounging about here, when you ought to be practicing for all you're worth?"

The little group sitting on the grass under the lilac bushes smiled indulgently.

"Go ahead! Lay it on thick!" twittered Betty Carlisle. "We knew when you hove into sight that we might expect some jaw-wag!"

"It's all very fine to sermonize," yawned Maggie Allesley, "but you'd oblige me very much by going indoors and inspecting the thermometer in the hall."

"One can't tear about in this heat!" added Irene Swinburne.

"What a set of dainty Sybarites you are! No one would ever win matches if they waited for the right kind of day to practice. It's always too hot or too cold or too wet, or too something!"

"Well, to-day it's decidedly too something! Don't roast us!"

"But I shall roast you! D'you mean to let Binworth have a complete walk-over? I'll tell you what-if you can't or won't play during the heat, will you all come back to school for an hour every evening, and practice then? I'd square it up with Miss Bishop. I'm sure she wouldn't mind."

"There's sense in your remarks now," admitted Irene, sitting up. "I'm game, if others are!"

"And so's this child!" agreed Betty Carlise. "I can put the screw on Cassie and Nell, and bring them along any evening."

"Then mind you do! I'm going to take an oath of the whole team to meet here at seven each night. I shall write it down on a piece of paper, and make you all put your names to it, like signing the pledge."

"Right you are, O She-who-must-be-obeyed!"

"Your humble servants, Ma'am!"

Their Captain's suggestion of an evening cricket practice was welcomed by the team, and approved by Miss Bishop. It was delightfully cool at seven o'clock; the girls, instead of being languid and half-hearted, were energetic and enthusiastic, and their play became a different matter altogether. Winona, who had been decidedly down about the prospects of the match, began to feel more confidence. Betty's bowling was improving daily, and Irene, who had been given to blind swiping, was gaining discretion. If they would continue to make progress at the same rate, Seaton would have a chance.

"It would be too bad if we lost the last match of the season!" fluttered Winona. "While I'm your captain I want to break the record."

"All right, old girl! It shall be a kind of Charge of the Light Brigade. 'Theirs but to do or die!' It will probably be a broiling hot day, but we'll play till we drop!" Betty assured her.

"Only have the Ambulance Corps ready with fans and stretchers to revive us and bear us from the field!" added Irene, giggling.

"I'll see there's lemonade for you!"

Though to Winona, as Games Captain, "Seaton v. Binworth" seemed the one event worth living for, there were plenty of other interests going on in the school. Linda Fletcher, the head girl, was arranging a program for the Parents' Afternoon, the efficient performance of which was, in her eyes, of infinitely greater public importance than the cricket match. She also required numerous rehearsals, and the conflicting claims on the girls' time became so confusing that after one or two struggles between rival "whips," who contended hotly for possession, the chiefs were obliged to strike a bargain, Winona releasing two members of the team in order that they might act, and filling up their places from her reserve, while Linda undertook to leave the rest of the eleven out of her calculations. After this there was peace, and Violet Agnew and Averil Walmer, who had been secretly burning to distinguish themselves in the dramatic line in preference to athletics, could meet Winona with clear consciences.

Among other items of the program, Linda had fixed upon a French Pastoral Play, which was to be acted in the garden among the trees and lilac bushes. The girls were really supposed to get up the whole of the little entertainment by themselves, but Mademoiselle was kind in this instance, and helped to coach them. The scene was to be a Fête Champêtre, and the costumes were to be copied from some of Watteau's pictures. There were tremendous consultations over them. A dressmaking Bee was held every afternoon from four to five o'clock in the small lecture-room, Miss Bishop generously lending her sewing machine for the purpose. Here a band of willing workers sat and stitched and chattered and laughed and ate chocolates, while pretty garments grew rapidly under their fingers. The dresses were only made of cheap materials, and were hastily put together, but they had a very good effect, for the colors were gay, and the style, with its panniers and lace frills was charming. The girls would hardly have managed the cutting out quite unaided, had not Miss Lever offered her assistance. "Dollikins" had large experience in the preparation of school theatricals, and possessed many invaluable paper patterns, so she was given a royal welcome, and installed at the table with the biggest and sharpest pair of scissors at her disposal.

On the afternoon fixed for the entertainment quite a goodly audience assembled to watch and applaud. Mothers were in the majority, with a fair number of aunts and elder sisters, and just a sprinkling of fathers. Forms had been carried into the garden and arranged as an amateur theater, a flat piece of lawn with a background of bushes serving as stage. The program was to be representative of the whole school, so the first part was devoted to the performances of the Juniors. Twelve small damsels selected from Forms I. and II. gave a classic dance. They were dressed in Greek costume with sandals, and wore chaplets of roses round their hair. They had been carefully trained by Miss Barbour, the drill mistress, and went through their parts with a joyousness reminiscent of the Golden Age. The Morris Dance which followed, rendered by members of Forms III. and IV., though hardly so graceful, was sprightly and in good time, the fantastic dresses with their bells and ribbons suiting most of their wearers. It was felt that the Juniors had distinguished themselves, and "Dollikins," who with Miss Barbour had worked hard on their behalf, felt almost justified in bragging of their achievements.

Meantime the Seniors had been making ready, and presently from behind the bushes tripped forth a charming group of Louis XV. courtiers, pattering the prettiest of French remarks. Dorrie Pollack as Monsieur le Duc de Tourville was a model of gallantry in a feathered hat and stiff ringlets (the result of an agonizing night passed in tight knobby curl papers!), while Linda, as Madame la Comtesse, quite outdid herself in the depth of her curtseys, and the distinguished grace with which she extended her hand for her cavalier to kiss. Nora Wilson tripped over her sword in her excitement, and Violet Agnew forgot her part, and had to be prompted by Mademoiselle, who stood with the book behind a bush; but these were only minor accidents, and on the whole the scene passed off with flying colors, and greatly impressed the parents and aunts with the high stage of proficiency in the French language attained by the pupils of Seaton High School.

Linda was so elated by the success of the afternoon that she sat up long after she ought to have been in bed that night, writing an account of the proceedings for the School Magazine. The manuscript, couched in antique language, was headed:

Ye Seaton Chronicle.

"Then whereas ye damsels at ye schule had laboured well and diligently during many days at ye tasks set them by their reverend elders, it seemed good to those that did govern to appoint unto them a day to make merry and rejoice. Therefore did they choose out certain among them, and arraying them in goodly fashion, did charge them to dance, to instruments of music before ye face of ye whole assembly of ye damsels, and likewise of some of their kindred, ye which were gathered together. Then did ye maids with no small skill tread ye dance, clad in fair garments with gauds and ornaments of silver upon them, at ye sight of which their kindred did raise cries of joy, and did further make great ado with clapping of ye hands. And when ye little maidens had duly presented their dances before ye company, then did ye elder damosels give a goodly masque, being decked forth in brave trappings, and speaking cunningly in ye tongue of ye fair lande of France, wherein all who heard them might well understand. And ye kindred and alle they that were gathered together for to look upon them did in kindness and with glad hearts commend them, and did of their charity vouchsafe to say that ye like had not aforetime been witnessed at ye schule, whereat ye maidens rejoiced greatly, as evenso it seemed unto them a reward for their diligent labour."

"We shall leave an account of our doings behind us," said Linda to some of her friends in the Sixth, "for the copies of the School Magazine are to be bound, and kept in the library for ever and a day. Future generations of girls will at least see our names and our Form photo, if they don't know anything else about us."

Winona was living for one event, the match with Binworth. This was not to take place on the playing grounds of either school, but on a very superior cricket ground hired for the occasion from a local club. Winona, as Secretary for Seaton, had made fullest arrangements, including the presence in the pavilion of a cheery little woman from a neighboring restaurant, who undertook the purveying of lemonade, ginger pop, cakes, and any fruit which might be obtainable for the occasion.

Tickets of admission to the ground were issued and distributed throughout the school, public opinion deeming attendance almost compulsory. The team were inspected and criticized beforehand almost as the Roman gladiators used to be reviewed by their patrons. Winona was on the whole proud of her eleven. Though not up to the lofty standard at which she had aimed, she felt that they realized a very respectable degree of merit.

The ground lay a few miles out of the city, and was reached as a rule by tramcar, but as the ordinary service would be utterly unable to cope with the large numbers who proposed going, special omnibuses and brakes had been put on for the occasion to accommodate the school, which turned out almost in full force to witness the show. Binworth also contributed its quota of spectators, so the stands of the cricket ground were rapidly filled.

Winona had a short preliminary talk with Dora Evans, who commanded the rival team, and as soon as the clock in the pavilion pointed to 2.30 the Captains stood out to toss.

"Heads!" cried Winona. "It's tails! Your choice!"

"We

'll bat, then," decreed Dora.

Winona placed her field at once, and Dora, after a whispered word or two to her team, selected her first bats. One was a business-like looking girl who hummed a tune as she came, with ostentatious carelessness; the other, stout and dark, blinked her eyes nervously. It was manifestly impossible to judge their capacities beforehand. Betty Carlisle was to take the first over. She had a high overhand action, and sent the ball down the pitch at a good pace. Lottie Moir, the dark-haired damsel who faced the bowling, was cautious. She played the first ball respectfully back to the bowler. The next, being of good length, she played quietly to long-off for one. She was evidently not out to take risks, and the rest of the over she did not attempt to score. Her partner, Meg Perkins, was a fairly brilliant, but more reckless player. The first ball she received came down at a good pace, but well on the off-side of the wicket. A well-timed cut sent it flying to the short boundary for two. Perhaps the success turned her head a little. The next ball pitched well to the leg-side; she made a mighty stroke at it, not allowing for the break, and missed it altogether. Next moment she was walking ruefully back to the pavilion.

Phyllis Knight, the next bat, was evidently regarded by the Binworth team as a champion. She was tall, and decidedly athletic looking. Winona nodded to Irene Swinburne, celebrated for her twisters, and Irene went on to bowl. Phyllis had a long reach, which she employed successfully in driving the first ball she received right along the ground into "the country" for three. Seaton began to look rather glum. The next ball she stone-walled. Irene was growing desperate. Phyllis was waiting with her bat slightly raised. "Now if only I can drop the ball just under that bat, out she goes!" said Irene to herself, and sent the swiftest she knew how. Phyllis made a slash at it, evidently thinking it a half volley, but alas! her bails flew, and the Seaton contingent were roaring "Well bowled!"

None of the rest of the Binworth team approached to Phyllis' standard, though they played with caution, and their score mounted up steadily. At the end of their innings sixty was up on the board.

The Binworth Captain now arranged her field, and Winona sent in Bessie Kirk and Irene Swinburne to face the bowling of Meg Perkins at one end, and Phyllis Knight at the other. At first things did not go over well for Seaton. Bessie Kirk fell a victim to Meg's crafty slows. She played too soon at a short-pitched ball, and spooned a catch to mid-on. Irene at first scored merrily, but growing foolhardy was clean bowled by Phyllis Knight, to her huge discomfiture. Betty Carlisle and Maggie Allesley met with better luck, and the score began to creep up. The Seaton girls breathed more freely. Audrey Redfern and Lizzie Morris came up next. Lizzie broke her duck in the first over, and gaining confidence began to get her eye in, and with Audrey stone-walling with dogged persistence at the other end, and now and then making a single, the score reached fifty-three. There were only ten minutes left. Winona began to grow desperate. She came forth herself now, with a look of determination on her face. Dora Evans at once rolled the ball to Lottie Moir. Winona took her block composedly. Lottie might with advantage have been put on before. Her style, though by no means swift, was most awkward to play. Winona in the first over did not attempt to score. She wished to take the measure of her opponent. In the next over her partner made a single, which brought Winona to the opposite wicket. The first ball came well on the off-side, and she sent it flying to the boundary for four. Fifty-eight was now up on the board, and there were only five minutes left! Perhaps Lottie Moir was tired, or waxed a little careless. The next ball she sent down was an easy full pitch. Winona waited till just the right moment, and then, with a fine swing of her bat, sent the ball clean over the boundary for six. The match was won, and Seaton, in the ecstasy of victory, was cheering itself hoarse.

"I never thought we'd do it!" murmured Winona to Betty, as they drank ginger pop together in the pavilion.

"I reckoned our Captain wouldn't fail us!" chuckled Betty delightedly. "Linda must compose an epic on it for the School Magazine. It beats Marathon, in my opinion!"

"Well, I'm glad my last match at the old 'High' has been a success, anyway!"

"Seaton versus Binworth" had taken place on Wednesday, and the school had scarcely finished exulting over its triumph before another matter claimed its attention.

On Thursday morning the results of the examination arrived. Miss Bishop summoned the whole school into the lecture hall to hear the news. She was looking flushed and excited. She waited a few moments as if to give extra effect to her words, then announced:

"I have just received the results of the Entrance Examinations from Dunningham University. Out of twelve candidates who were entered from this school, ten have satisfied the examiners. Their names stand as follows in order of merit:

First Class.

Garnet Emerson.

Second Class.

Linda Fletcher.

Agatha James.

Helena Maitland.

Freda Long.

Third Class.

Mary Payne.

Hilda Langley.

Winona Woodward.

Dorrie Pollack.

Estelle Harrison."

Winona heaved an immense sigh of mingled amazement and relief. She had passed! Actually passed! She-Winona Woodward, whose form record had never soared above the most modest average. It was an unprecedented and altogether delightful finale to her school career. For the moment she could hardly believe that it was true. But Miss Bishop had not finished her speech; she held up her hand to stop the burst of clapping, and continued:

"As you are aware, the Governors of the School offered a three years' scholarship, tenable at Dunningham University, to whichever of the candidates should head the list, being not lower than second class. Garnet Emerson, who has secured a First Class, is therefore, at the desire of the Governors, awarded the scholarship. Now if you like to clap for her, you may do so!"

That Garnet, her dear Garnet, should have won the coveted scholarship, put the coping-stone on Winona's glee. She squeezed her friend's hand afterwards in an ecstasy of congratulation. Garnet said little, so little that her enthusiastic chum was almost disappointed. Winona, judging by her own feelings, expected her to be at delirium point. Beatrice Howell and Olave Parry, the two candidates who had failed, were receiving condolences with chastened resignation, the rest were in various stages of jubilee.

That evening, about six o'clock, a small packet was left at Abbey Close, directed to Miss Winona Woodward. She opened it eagerly. It held a small jewelers' box containing a beautiful little ring, and was accompanied by a letter from Garnet.

"Dear Win" (so the letter ran),-"You must have thought me slack this morning when you were congratulating me, but the fact was I was utterly overwhelmed. I'd hoped and hoped to win the scholarship, and then put the idea away, and when I knew my good fortune I just felt stunned. It's all owing to you, for if you hadn't helped me I could never, never even have passed. I don't know how to thank you. Words are quite inadequate. But will you believe that I shall never forget your kindness all the rest of my life, and will you accept this little ring and wear it for my sake? It is a garnet, and belonged to my grandmother, after whom I was named. I value it greatly, but I would far rather know you have it than keep it myself.

"Always your most grateful friend,

"Garnet Emerson."

There was a further surprise for Winona that evening. When supper was over, and she and Miss Beach were taking their usual twilight stroll round the garden, Aunt Harriet, who had been silent for a few minutes, suddenly spoke.

"I wish to say something to you, Winona. I'm very gratified indeed to hear that you have passed your college examinations. It has given me a better opinion of your capacity and perseverance than I possessed before. This result, combined with your conduct in coaching your friend through all these weeks, has decided me in a project that I was debating in my mind. I am going to send you either to a Physical Training College to qualify as a Games Mistress, or to a Horticultural College to prepare for a National Rural Economy diploma. Whichever career you decide to choose, I am resolved that you shall have the best training available."

"Oh, Aunt Harriet! Thank you! Thank you! I don't deserve it!" faltered Winona.

The end of the term had come at length. The next day was Winona's very last at Seaton High School. She was loth to leave, for the two years she had passed there had been the happiest and the fullest in her life. But though the past had pleasant memories, the future also held out fair hopes to her. As she entered Miss Bishop's study to say good-by, the head-mistress looked up kindly.

"I shall miss you, Winona. I have just been turning over your school record. It's not perhaps brilliant, but it has been persevering, and I am sure you've done your best. I am particularly pleased that you have passed your examination. As Games Captain you have been a decided asset to the school. I think I may safely say that you have justified the decision of the Governors in allowing you to hold the County Scholarship. Your aunt tells me that you are to go in either for Physical Training or Horticulture. Don't decide in a hurry. Get to know as much as you can about both, and think the matter over. Remember if ever you want a friend to come to me. Good-by!"

Outside in the playground the Juniors were hanging about rather shyly and awkwardly. As Winona came from the dressing-room, Daisy James, much nudged by the others, advanced and thrust a little parcel into her hand.

"It's a present from us Juniors," she said hurriedly. "Please take it! It's not much-only a birthday book-but we've all written our names in it, so that you mayn't forget us. You've been so awfully good all the year in coaching us at hockey and cricket. I don't know what we're going to do without you when you've gone! Now, girls, are you ready? One, two, three!"

And the ring of Juniors standing round shouted in one unanimous chorus: "Three cheers for our Games Captain! Hip-hip-hooray!"

SAVE THE WRAPPER!

If you have enjoyed reading about the adventures of the new friends you have made in this book and would like to read more clean, wholesome stories of their entertaining experiences, turn to the book jacket-on the inside of it, a comprehensive list of Burt's fine series of carefully selected books for young people has been placed for your convenience.

Orders for these books, placed with your bookstore or sent to the Publishers, will receive prompt attention.

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