JUDY OF YORK HILL
With Illustrations by Harold Cue
Boston and New York Houghton Mifflin Company The Riverside Press Cambridge
Copyright, 1922, by Ethel Hume Bennett All Rights Reserved
The Riverside Press Cambridge, Massachusetts Printed in the U.S.A.
AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO YOU WHO IN THE OLD SCHOOL LEARNED
"To set the cause above renown, To love the game beyond the prize, To honour, while you strike him down, The foe that comes with fearless eyes; To count the life of battle good, And dear the land that gave you birth, And dearer yet the brotherhood That binds the brave of all the earth.
. . . . . . .
To-day and here the fight's begun Of the great fellowship you're free; Henceforth the School and you are one, And what You are, the race shall be."
I. BEGINNINGS 3
II. IMPORTANT THINGS 21
III. DRESSING UP 37
IV. A SUPPER PARTY 47
V. "ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST" 54
VI. PUTTING IT THROUGH 65
VII. CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 87
VIII. CASTLES IN THE AIR 100
IX. THE ANONYMOUS LETTER 115
X. JUDITH PLAYS DETECTIVE 133
XI. FRIENDS 148
XII. EASTER HOLIDAYS 169
XIII. THE MESSENGER 186
XIV. JUDITH WINS THE TENNIS CUP 203
XV. JUNE SHOWERS 218
XVI. A TOAST TO THE SCHOOL 239
XVII. PRIZE-GIVING 259
PILLOWS WERE SORTED OUT, AND NANCY WITH THE TINY LIGHT LED THE WAY Frontispiece
JUDITH WAS TUCKED UP IN A FUR ROBE IN THE CUTTER AND OFF THEY WENT 102
JUDITH HAD TO HEAR EVERY SINGLE THING THAT HAD HAPPENED TO NANCY SINCE THEY PARTED 182
THEN CURIOSITY URGED HER TO OPEN THE LITTLE WHITE BOX 248
JUDY OF YORK HILL
"YES, we're nearly in," said Uncle Tom, glancing out at the flying landscape. "There's the lake, and here comes the porter to stir up the dust."
Judith's heart beat a little more quickly. Toronto and York Hill School had been the centre of her thoughts for months past, and now she was almost there and a new life ahead of her!
"I suppose you've read your 'Tom Brown,' Judy, eh? 'Like young bears with all your troubles to come,'" quoted Uncle Tom as he left her a few minutes later with Aunt Nell who had come to the station to meet them. "Can't help having trouble, I'm afraid, but when you're going to be expelled for not having solved your geometry problem, just drown your grief in an ice-cream soda in the tuck shop"—and he dexterously inserted a crisp bank-note into Judith's bag.
"Don't mind him, Judy, darling, he's always teasing. We'll do our shopping first of all. I've arranged for a fitting at Madame's for you."
"Mother and Daddy sent their love," said Judith a little soberly as they got into the waiting motor. "Yes, I think Mother seemed a little better—and she's just sure that Florida will make her perfectly well."
Her lips quivered ever so slightly as she remembered how every hour was taking her mother farther away from her.
But Aunt Nell, who had promised her sister to finish Judith's shopping, made haste to introduce the fascinating question as to whether taffeta or crepe would be best for the afternoon frock, and how many sweater coats would she need.
They spent a busy and a delightful morning. Who doesn't like to get a new outfit? And then, after luncheon at Aunt Nell's club, they motored out to York, for they had an appointment with the Head Mistress at three o'clock.
"Just around this curve and then we can see the School—there!" said Aunt Nell, and Judith leaned forward, her eyes shining with excitement.
"Blessed old York! I can't have quite the same affection, of course, for these new buildings as I had for the old School in town—York Ladies' College it was then; but this certainly is handsomer, and we've still got Miss Meredith and some of the old staff, so it's the same York."
Judith looked eagerly at the great pile of grey stone vine-clad buildings.
"That's the main school with the bell-tower," continued Aunt Nell in her character of guide. "The classrooms and offices are there, the two wings are East and West Houses, farther to the north—there, you see—is North House, and here is South where you are to be. That's Miss Meredith's house over there by the maple trees, and back of the main school are the gymnasium and the tennis courts. I hope you've brought your tennis racquet; you'll get excellent practice."
Aunt Nell paused for a moment, and then she laughed a little ruefully.
"I'd love to give you a bit of advice or guidance that would help, Judy; but honestly I don't know how to do it. Fathers and uncles in the school stories always seem to know what to say. I do know that you're going to have a splendid time—I wish I were sixteen again and my first year at York before me." Aunt Nell looked reminiscent for a moment, and then added, "One thing—York is going to help you to grow; and if I didn't feel rather like a very heavy uncle who was being listened to for the tip he was to bestow, I'd conclude by quoting from 'Hamlet'—yes, I will—it's the soundest piece of advice I know.
'To thine own self be true, And it shall follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.'
There, that's my last will and testament. York is going to show you how to be true to the best that's in you; perhaps the girls will teach you as much as the staff will—you've got some very important things to learn from them."
Judith looked politely astonished, but not very deeply interested. Fancy having to listen to "Hamlet" when a perfectly fascinating new world lay just a few yards away! But Aunt Nell really was a dear—that new blue taffeta was going to be stunning.
Judith had dreaded a little the interview with Miss Meredith; she was sure that the Head of this great School must be an awe-inspiring person, stern and somewhat like a judge. But Miss Meredith's welcome was so warm and gracious that Judith felt surprisingly at her ease. She was conscious of a dignified presence, kind yet keen blue eyes, a beautiful, low-pitched voice, and a personality, which, even in that first short interview, Judith recognized as strong and powerful.
Judith's course of study was discussed, and then a charming-looking girl—who was apparently waiting in the corridor for the purpose—was summoned and introduced as Nancy Nairn, a classmate, and member of the same house.
They made way for another newcomer and her mother, and the moment Judith had dreaded was come. She kept Aunt Nell a few minutes in the hall sending messages to Doris and Bobby and Uncle Tom, and a miserable aching lump rose in her throat, though she swallowed hard.
"Head up, honey," whispered Aunt Nell, holding Judith's hands firmly. "Ask Miss Marlowe to let you 'phone me if you need anything, and on Friday I'll come for you. What a lot you'll have to tell me!"
For one desperate instant Judith felt that she must follow her or else let the wretched lump, which was growing larger and larger, compel her to tears, but there at her elbow was Nancy whose blue eyes were dancing and who apparently had no sympathy for tears.
"Let's go over to South and see about your room," she began. "Do you know any one here?"
Judith shook her head.
"Oh, well, you'll soon know heaps. What a perfectly sweet bag," she added tactfully, surveying Judith's beaded treasure from Paris. "Do let me see it."
Judith wondered if she could speak, but Nancy didn't wait. Her soldier brother had brought her a bag from Liberty's. Would Judith come and see it? She did hope Judith's room was near hers; at least hers was not a room, but a cubicle. Judith's eyes questioned. Cubicle had to be explained as a room with low walls about six feet high, such a friendly place to live in, "five or six of us in a row and we're never lonely," finished Nancy; "but then no one is lonely at York."
By this time they had crossed by a cloister to South House and were standing at the House Mistress's door.
"Miss Marlowe must be a very popular person," thought Judith. Outside the green baize door was a chattering mob of girls, all apparently talking at the top of their voices. Indeed, it seemed to Judith that they were screaming.
"Nancy, darling!" cried one, and Nancy was literally dragged from Judith by several impetuous young persons who all talked at once.
"Glorious time" . . . "Did you?" . . . "Temagami" . . . "camped out for three weeks" . . . "Indian guides" . . . "Such diving" . . . "Heavenly time" . . . "Murray Bay" . . .
Then a louder voice—
"Miss Marlowe wants Peggy Forrest."
"Here, Piggy, hurry along"—and a fat girl was propelled through the crowd.
"Jane, my dear, I thought you were never coming," heralded a new arrival.
"Miss Marlowe is a brick; we are to have thirty-three."
Squeals of delight and the retreat of three inseparables.
Judith began to feel that she would drown amidst all the noise, but Nancy had a tight grip of her arm again, and at last it was her turn at the door.
Judith never lost that first picture of Miss Marlowe in her study, a pleasant, sun-flooded room, low bookcases, the gleam of brass, colorful pictures, a cosy fire, and Miss Marlowe herself, grey-eyed, ruddy-haired, and low-voiced. The quiet voice began to work a magic, and after a few minutes' chat Judith felt less like a lost soul and more like a normal girl again. Then Nancy was summoned from without.
"Judith is to be in number twenty-five, Nancy; will you take her up and see that she is settled? Her trunk is there already; it came this morning. You can be very busy at once, Judith"—and Miss Marlowe's smile was friendly and comforting.
Nancy squeezed Judith's hand impulsively as they left the room to make way for other girls.
"Twenty-five! I am glad you are in our set of cubicles."
Twenty-five proved to be the tiniest room Judith had ever seen, more like a ship's cabin than a room, she thought, surveying her new abode with disfavour. A couch-bed, writing-desk and bookcase, a bureau, a wicker chair—how was there room for them all? And how dreadful to have only half a wall—well, three quarters of a wall between you and your neighbour!
There were five of these little cubicles in a row, she saw; then a closed door evidently opening into a bedroom at the end, and the six rooms had their own hall which was closed off from the main corridor by a big door.
Judith unlocked her trunk and began to unpack her treasures. Wherever was the clothes-closet? Surely there was one?
In a few moments Nancy's voice was heard again—
"Come and see my new evening frock before I put it away."
Judith began to realize the advantages of a cubicle. How nice to be able to talk to one's neighbours in this friendly fashion—and a new frock! Judith adored clothes, and she was soon admiring Nancy's pet frock.
The cupboard was discovered, one of a row in the hall, and the two spent a happy hour, unpacking.
Nancy explained the use of the shelf on the inside of the cupboard door to hold toilet articles, and pointed out the towel bars and a wooden locker for hats on the cupboard shelf.
"It's great luck," said Nancy, "to have our trunks up so soon; we can get our things put away before the others come, and then we'll have plenty of time for visiting.
"I wonder who is coming to the other rooms! I know Josephine Burley is trying to get into this set of cubicles, but Miss Marlowe has her own ideas about which rooms we're to have.
"You'll love Miss Marlowe. She's a dear—strict, you know, but just—and she helps with the plays—she can act anything. Aren't you glad you're in South? Of course South is the crack house! We won the basket-ball cup last year and our captain is School Captain this year."
While they talked, they finished their unpacking, and Judith, who was naturally very orderly, soon had everything in its place. Her mother's parting gift had been couch-cover, cushions, and hangings for the new room—homespun of a lovely deep blue for cover and cushions, and a delightful rosy chintz for hangings.
Judith was eager to see how her room would look and worked quickly and deftly. She was hanging her curtains when she heard excited voices in the corridor, then a banging of doors and screams of delight as the newcomers found Nancy.
"Good work, Nancy," said some one in a gruff voice. "How did you do it? I never thought Miss Marlowe would let us three be together again."
"My blameless character, Miss Josephine Burley, did the trick," retorted Nancy. "I pointed out to Miss Marlowe the good influence living with me would have on a reprobate like you."
"Reprobate! I like that," said the owner of the deep, boyish voice, and sounds of scuffling feet, the creaking of the bed, and bursts of laughter proclaimed a tussle.
Nancy apparently had the worst of it, and she was sat upon literally and heavily and then fed with chocolates.
Scraps of conversation floated over the walls:
"Rosamond's in thirty-seven—very, very mad is Rosamond. Hope we'll have Pat as prefect."
"No such luck. Pat is in number ten."
"There's a new girl in twenty-five"—this from Nancy in a lowered voice.
In a moment there was a knock at the door and Judith was introduced to the owner of the deep voice, Josephine Burley, and her satellite, Jane Fenton.
"Why, you've got your room fixed already," said Josephine admiringly. "Somebody's been working hard! Look at her lovely curtains! I wish I'd had rose now, instead of yellow."
"'T wouldn't have made a speck of difference, Jo, and you know it," commented Jane with a wicked twinkle. "You know you say you were made untidy, and untidy you'll stay."
"I promised Miss Marlowe I'd reform. I'm not going to forget anything, and I'm going to get a beautiful record for my room, and my hair and clothes are going to be so irreproachable that Miss Watson will have nothing to do but create masterpieces all term."
"Are we going to have Miss Marlowe for English, by the way?" asked Jane. "I hope so. And is Eleanor here yet? I've got to see her about a new basket-ball."
"I never saw three girls so different," thought Judith as she sat eating chocolates and listening to School gossip. "Nancy's much the prettiest—I love gold hair, and she has such aristocratic hands and feet—she's lovely—I do hope we'll be friends. Josephine's almost rough—and what an untidy mop of hair! I wonder if her eyes are brown—she shuts them up so tight when she laughs I can't see—and she seems to be laughing most of the time. She's awfully big—I don't think I'd like to be quite so tall. Jane's funny—she's almost square—fair and solid—and how straight her hair is; she's got a wicked grin—she's a monkey, I do believe."
The dressing-bell rang before the three friends had caught up on the latest news, but thanks to the low walls conversation could proceed even while they dressed. Nancy remembered to ask Judith if she needed any help with dome fasteners, and then they went down to the dining-room together.
The tables were laid for six, each headed by a sixth-form girl.
"At dinner we usually have a teacher at each table," explained Nancy, "but this being first night the staff are by themselves."
Judith was introduced to the prefect, Esther Harriman, a tall, black-haired girl who enquired at once what games Judith played, and learning that she preferred tennis assured her that she could have a game the next day.
Nancy continued to point out notables: the brown-haired prefect at the next table with the frank, boyish look was Eleanor Ormsby, the Captain of the School, and next to her was Rosamond—
Esther interrupted them in order to introduce a newcomer who had arrived late, evidently just from a journey.
"This is Sally May Forsythe, Nancy, from Richmond, Virginia, and she's going to be in your set of cubicles, Miss Marlowe says."
Sally May was almost as pretty as Nancy, Judith decided, but not quite, though her eyes were big and brown, and her soft Southern voice wholly charming.
"We're to go back to Miss Marlowe's room so she can talk over your schedule of lessons with you," announced Nancy as they left the dining-room, "and then we'll go over to the gymnasium."
"Gymnasium?" gasped Judith.
"Oh, just for a dance," said Nancy, "It'll be good fun. Wait for me in the corridor outside Miss Marlowe's room."
It was good fun, Judith decided a little later as she had her first dance with Nancy, and then with Sally May—but bewildering. There had been only about fifty girls in the dining-room at South, and even there she had been confused by the number of voices, but here the whole School, some two hundred girls, were gathered, and there was a perfect Babel of sound.
Nancy piloted them back to South, and as Sally May's luggage had not come she was fitted out with what she needed. Nancy went to the housekeeper's room for soap and a toothbrush—Mrs. Bronson kept a supply for such emergencies; Josephine donated her best crepe nightie—in which Sally May was presently to look quite lost, so large was it; and Judith got out her newest and prettiest kimono.
"You'll feel as if you'd been here all your life by the time you get all these and my old bath slippers on," said Jane saucily. "Come into my room as soon as you're arrayed in all this glory—there's a little cake left and I'm going to do my best to find some ginger-ale."
Judith was brushing out her pretty brown hair and looking rather solemnly at her reflection in the mirror when shrieks of delight testified to the arrival of some one, who, to judge by the commotion, must be very popular.
"Cathy, you darling, are you really to be ours? What precious luck!—Josephine and Jane, and—yes—two new girls—Judith Benson in twenty-five and Sally May Forsythe in twenty-one."
There was a knock at the door and a clear voice said, "May I come in?"
Judith opened her door and straightway lost her heart when the newcomer smiled a welcome. Catherine was adored by every beauty-loving girl in the School, for she had beauty of a rare type—a slender, graceful body, a well-set little head crowned with a big braid of softly waving dark brown hair, and haunting, black-lashed Irish blue eyes.
"Isn't she simply lovely?" whispered Nancy after Catherine had gone to her own room. "And she's just as good as she looks. Oh, goody, I'm so glad she's our prefect!"
Miss Marlowe put her head in the door to say good-night just before the "Lights out" bell rang, and then Judith was at last alone. She was bewildered by the mass of new impressions; the twinkling of the trainman's lanterns as she looked out of her berth in the early morning; the cold, chilly touch of homesickness when she followed the porter out of the Pullman; Aunt Nell's welcome; the exciting shopping; the first glimpse of the school set high on the hill; Aunt Nell's little sermon; Nancy's merry eyes; the Babel of voices in the gymnasium; Catherine Ellison's beautiful face; her mother's proud good-bye, "I can trust you, Judy, darling—"
Suddenly Judith realized that Mother and Daddy were many hundreds of miles away, that Aunt Nell had gone, and that she was alone, alone with these hundreds of strangers. The thought terrified her: the ache in her throat grew intolerable: she would have to sob and disgrace herself.
There was a rustling of paper on the other side of the partition, and then—
"Catch," said Josephine in a hoarse whisper, and something dropped on to Judith's bed.
"Catch," came in a shriller whisper from the other side, and a second something followed.
Judith groped for them in surprise and discovered a chocolate bar and a huge sticky Chelsea bun wrapped in tissue paper.
"Promised Cathy we wouldn't have a picnic to-night," said Nancy, "but we didn't say that we wouldn't sit up in bed like little ladies and partake of some light refreshment."
Sheer surprise made it possible for Judith to say, "Thank you." A moment ago she would have felt one word was an impossibility and then—oh, blessed bun!—one cannot sob and eat a large Chelsea bun at the same time.
Judith ate slowly and carefully, set her lips, and kept back the miserable lump. The chocolate was still to finish, and Jane began an interminable story of a canoe trip in Algonquin Park, but before it was nearly ended, tired Judith was fast asleep.
JUDITH never forgot morning prayers on the first day of school at York Hill. In some miraculous way the throng of girls, who crowded the corridors before nine o'clock, formed in lines at the doors of their old classrooms, new girls were piloted to a special position, and when the prayer-bell rang, an orderly procession, beginning with the little "Removes" and ending with the serious and important-looking Sixth Form, filed into Big Hall and took their places.
The beautiful arching Gothic windows, the soft music from the pipe organ, the dignity of the high, oak-beamed ceiling, all this to Judith's beauty-loving mind was curiously satisfying. The service was short but reverent; a hymn, the reading of the lesson, the prayers for the day, and then the Head Mistress was reading out the promotion of old girls and the placing of new girls.
Form Five A was announced; "Judith Benson, Josephine Burley, Sally May Forsythe, Joyce Hewson, Nancy Nairn, Frances Purdy"—Judith's cheeks glowed as the list was read. Five A! How pleased Daddy would be, and how glad she was that she had stuck to the hated mathematics this summer! And to be in Nancy's form, what joy!
Then followed a busy morning; new books piled high on the waiting desk, new teachers, each seemingly more interesting than the last, new rules to be learned, new girls to meet.
Judith was quite ready for buns and milk at eleven-thirty and enjoyed her fifteen minutes in the open, and by the end of the morning she was both tired and stimulated, for she found that she was required to think for herself in order to take part in the discussions. There was to be a written test to-morrow on the books which had been set for Form Five A's summer reading and Judith had thought that she was prepared for it. But as Miss Marlowe proceeded with her keen questioning, Judith began to wonder if she knew anything at all about "The Idylls of the King." Miss Marlowe had a way of saying, when answers were given, "Yes—yes—what do you yourself think?" which Judith, accustomed to teachers who had spoken with a voice of authority, found disconcerting but highly interesting.
After luncheon and a rest period, Nancy took Judith for a tour of inspection; tennis courts, cricket field, gymnasium, common room, and library were visited in turn, the etiquette of the stairs explained—Judith learned that it was considered fearful "side" for a Fifth-Form girl to use the front stairway to the entrance hall—and the round ended in the tuck shop where Judith was introduced to the presiding genius—Mrs. Wilcox, the housekeeper's sister—a bright-eyed, cheerful little Englishwoman, who, to judge by the way the girls greeted her, was immensely popular.
Sally May and Josephine hailed them from a coveted table by the west window, and the four of them were soon busily and happily engaged with peach sundaes and the foibles and peculiarities of teachers new and old.
The four-thirty bell caused a hasty scattering: Judith was enrolled in music and studio classes and introduced to study hour in the library.
It was a busy day. Judith, as she drifted off into the sleep that claimed her before she had time to think over the events of the last twenty-four hours, wondered drowsily whether she had been at York a day or a week, and however was she going to tell Mother and Daddy all about it as she had promised!
By the end of the week the new girls had been so well shepherded by the old that Judith had lost her first shyness and bewilderment at living with so many new people, and was beginning to feel that she herself was an old girl and ready to uphold and defend York Hill traditions. Everything had so far been made so easy for her that she had lost sight of Aunt Nell's cryptic remarks concerning the important things that the girls were to teach her. But the week was not to end without the beginning of the discipline Aunt Nell had been thinking about.
When Nancy and Judith ran upstairs after luncheon on Friday, Judith was surprised to find on her bedroom door a card. There was one on Josephine's too.
"Oh, dear," groaned that young person, "bedroom inspection already! And I left my boots under my bed last night. 'C,' of course, and I did want to have at least 'B's' this term. What've you got, Judy?" And looking over Judith's shoulder she read aloud, "A. Excellent. A pretty room in exquisite order."
"My word, Judy, you're in Miss Watson's good books all right. Did you hear that, Cathy?"—as their prefect appeared in her door dressed for going out, "Judy has 'A' on her card."
"Splendid," said Catherine approvingly; "I wish the rest of you would take Judith's room as a model. You may thank your lucky star, Sally May," she continued as Sally May joined them, "that Miss Watson hadn't time to inspect your room. It's in a shocking state. Run along now and have things ship-shape by dinner-time."
"Isn't she simply lovely?" breathed Sally May when Catherine had gone; "I'd do anything in this world for her. But I don't see how I could ever be tidy. I never looked after my things before and there's so little space in these tiny rooms."
"They certainly are tiny," agreed Judith. "I couldn't think of anything but a cabin on board ship when I saw mine."
"Well, if Cathy wants us to be tidy, we've just got to be," said Nancy with finality, and Josephine and Jane were summoned to help eat the last of Judith's chocolates, and lend their brains to a scheme "for furthering extreme and painful neatness," as Sally May put it.
"We might have a box for fines," suggested Josephine hopefully.
"I have it!" cried Nancy. "Judith's idea of the cabin was an inspiration. Let's pretend we are a ship. Cathy'll be the captain and we'll be the crew and we'll have to be disciplined if we're not orderly."
Nancy's plan was received with enthusiasm, chiefly because, since sororities were not permitted in the school, it gave them a chance to band themselves together. They had great fun discussing a name before they finally settled on Josephine's suggestion of the "Jolly Susan." "'Jolly,' because we are jolly, and 'Susan,' because, well—don't you think of 'Susan' as tidy, and a ship?"
So the cubicles were formally christened the "Jolly Susan" by Jane, who donated a bottle of ginger-ale for the purpose, and Judith's empty candy-box was hung up beside Catherine's door to hold the fines which were to be used "for the sustenance of disabled (or dejected) seamen."
Sally May entreated Judith to show her how she managed to stow away all her belongings so neatly, and when the half-past two bell rang for outdoor recreation, the "Jolly Susan" was ready for Captain Catherine's inspection.
A basket-ball practice for South House had been posted on the bulletin board, but Judith felt lazy and wanted to finish "The Scarlet Pimpernel," so, taking her book, she went across the quadrangle to a sheltered spot under the big beech tree where she meant to spend a blissful hour reading and lying at her ease on the soft warm grass.
The story would be sure to be interesting, but she postponed the treat and lay watching the big white clouds sailing lazily across the blue of the sky, and enjoying the brilliant splashes of colour in the maples at the foot of the garden.
It had been a very happy week, Judith decided, reviewing the events which she planned to chronicle in her letter to her mother to-night. How nice everybody had been to her! No one could have a better chum than Nancy! How pleased Mother would be that she had received such an excellent mark for her room; and Daddy would be delighted at the high mark Miss Marlowe had given her on that initial literature test; Nancy and Josephine were loud in their admiration of the way she had translated for Miss Langton in Latin class. Altogether, as Judith rolled over on to her elbows and found the place in her book, she was feeling happy and a bit too complacent. Only a page or two had been turned when a shadow blotted out the flickering tracings of the beech leaves, and a surprised voice said—
"Hullo, aren't you Judith Benson of South?"
"Yes," said Judith, sitting up and smiling politely, unconsciously ready for a little more praise: she knew that this was Catherine's friend, Patricia Caldwell, another South House prefect.
"Well, then, why aren't you playing basket-ball?"
"Because I don't want to play," said Judith calmly; "I prefer tennis."
Patricia almost gasped; this from a new girl—"She didn't want to!"
"Every girl is expected to join in the first practice matches so we can pick our players for South," she said pleasantly but firmly. "Weren't you at the Athletic Union meeting on Wednesday? I suppose you didn't understand. However, you can join in the second half."
Patricia was Senior basket-ball captain and secretary of the Athletic Union, and basket-ball was to her at present the most important thing in the School. Judith felt rebellious, but made no reply. She watched Patricia's retreating figure and wondered whether she dare skip the practice.
Nancy, who had come to look for her, was questioned.
"Skip it? You had better not!" she exclaimed in horrified tones.
"But it isn't on my time-table," objected Judith. "Mayn't I do as I please in spare time?"
"Why, but Patricia said you must," said Nancy.
Nancy, brought up in the traditions of York Hill, felt that it was almost sacrilegious to question the authority of a senior prefect.
Judith was aggrieved and a bit defiant. She wanted to finish her story. It was extremely pleasant out under the beech trees. She didn't want to get up and dash about getting all hot and untidy, and making all kinds of mistakes in a silly old game that did nobody any good as far as she could see. Anyhow, her afternoon was spoiled now, and she began to wish that basket-ball had never been invented. The very idea of action grew more and more distasteful, but at the sound of the three o'clock bell she got up very reluctantly and crossed over to the basket-ball court. Fortunately she was dressed ready for the game, since at four o'clock she was due at a gymnasium class.
Esther Harriman, who was umpiring, gave her a red scarf to tie on her arm and briefly explained where she was to play and what she was to do. Unfortunately the girl she was to check was Georgia Fisher for whom Judith had taken an unreasonable dislike; partly because she disliked the way Georgia giggled, and partly because she thought her impossibly stupid. Judith hadn't much patience with stupid people!
"No, I haven't played much," Judith said loftily in answer to Georgia's question. "I don't care about basket-ball—I'd sooner play tennis. Last year I won the tennis prize." Georgia wasn't to think that she, Judith, couldn't play games if she wanted to.
Esther blew her whistle, and instantly the two centres were leaping for the ball, and before Judith could remember that she was supposed to be on guard Georgia quite easily caught the ball, and passed it neatly to Josephine who threw for the basket and made the first score for the Blue scarves.
Judith looked annoyed and Georgia giggled, sympathetically.
"You got to keep your eye on me, and on the ball," she explained good-humouredly, and proceeded to take the ball again in spite of Judith's utmost endeavors to prevent her.
An exhausting half-hour followed. Georgia seemed to be all arms, thought Judith despairingly, trying in vain to check her. Once she did get the coveted ball, and in the excitement of at last outwitting Georgia, she threw it straight into the outstretched arms of Josephine who wore the enemy's Blue scarf. Josephine threw her a kiss of thanks when the ball was safely landed in the net, and Georgia's unfailing giggle helped to heighten the colour in Judith's cheeks.
Up went the ball again and then swiftly it came, passed from one Red scarf to another. "I will have it this time," said Judith fiercely to herself, too engrossed in a desire to win from the Blues to remember the most elementary rules of the game; she caught the ball and ran, yes, just ran to the goal and threw. The proverbial good luck which attends the beginner was hers, but instead of the applause which Judith expected there was a burst of good-natured laughter. She had run with the ball and all in order to throw it into the Blues' goal!
Poor Judith, it was all she could do to smile feebly when Georgia met her with a grin, and, "This ain't football, you know." She hated being laughed at, and when the practice was finally over, left the campus humiliated, cross, and hardly able to bear herself or any one else.
On the way back to the beech tree and the story-book, she consulted her time-table to make sure of the time of the gymnasium class. Yes! thank goodness, she was free until four o'clock—there was just time to finish the chapter.
Four o'clock found Judith in line, a pair of dumb-bells tucked under her arms, ready to march into the gymnasium as the three-thirty class marched out. She had had two lessons already and was beginning to like her class. Last year's instructor had been adored by the girls and consequently their work was excellent. Miss Evans, a young teacher, new to York Hill, busy finding out what her new classes could do, scarcely realized how much she was on trial. This afternoon she called out a last year's girl to lead the class while she stood aside to watch and criticize.
"Wrong, wrong," she cried, and held up her hand as figure five was concluded. Now Miss Evans, as we said, was young and new at her job, and did not count on the adoration which the girls had given her predecessor.
"Quite wrong," she said again.
"That is the way we did last year, Miss Evans," stiffly replied Jane who was leading.
"Indeed!" said Miss Evans, who did not like Jane's tone; "that doesn't make it right. Is there any one here who belonged to another class who can do this figure correctly?"
Alas, Miss Evans, your Irish impetuosity will cost you dear! Condemnation shone forth from thirty pairs of eyes, the hot, unreasoning condemnation of the young. Alas, Miss Evans, it will take you many a day to recapture what you have just lost! Alas, poor Judith, here was the opportunity to regain her lost self-complacency. It happened that she had been taught figure five in a different fashion, and, eager to show that she at least knew how, her hand went up.
"Ah, Judith knows how? Judith, stand out and do the figure."
The music began and Judith went through it accurately and perfectly, entirely to her own satisfaction and to that of Miss Evans.
"Good," said Miss Evans, "that's right. Now once more, Judith, so that the others may follow."
Judith's eyes flew to Nancy's. She loved to see the admiring affection which she had been finding there. But Nancy's eyes were cold and unseeing. Judith, like most clever little girls, was extremely sensitive to public opinion, and she almost dropped her dumb-bells in an agony of shame and humiliation as she saw the coldness of Nancy's eyes faithfully repeated in all the eyes about her. Alas, poor Judith! "Teacher's pet," terrible phrase, was whispered as the class filed out, and when Nancy and Josephine rushed down to the tuck shop for an ice-cream cone they affected not to see Judith, who at first followed disconsolately, and then fled to her room, where, with head buried under the pillows, she sobbed herself into a misery of self-pity and supposed homesickness.
Five o'clock bell rang. Horrors! She had forgotten that Aunt Nell was to be here at five o'clock to take her out for dinner. Aunt Nell would be cross at being kept waiting. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Would she never find her gloves? Where was her new scarf? She must have left them down in the cloakroom after morning walk. A hurried flight to the cloakroom, another search, and an entirely discomfited Judith presented herself in the drawing-room.
Aunt Nell would look displeased, she thought, as she entered. Judith really did not care that Aunt Nell had been inconvenienced, but merely that disapproval, instead of the approbation for which she thirsted, would be her portion. But Aunt Nell looked amused. Indeed, when they were once in the motor she laughed outright.
"I must say, Judy, considering that you have been in school only a week, you seem to have got rid of any superfluous neatness very quickly." And she pointed to a mirror at the side of the car.
Judith's eyes rounded with horror; she had washed her face, but a grimy streak still outlined one side of her chin, her hair was rough in spite of a hasty brushing, and her hat was comically askew.
"I have been so busy," said Judith, turning scarlet and blinking to keep back the tears of mortification at this last straw.
"Busy!" said Aunt Nell quizzically; "busy learning important things?"
"Very important things," said Judith.
"GOT your costume ready for to-night, Judy?" asked Nancy one glorious sunshiny morning a few weeks later.
"I have not," came from Judith in dismayed tones; "I absolutely forgot about it. Why didn't you remind me? I haven't heard any one mention it all week."
"Well, there hasn't really been time to do anything, has there? And, anyway, we usually concoct something at the last minute. I do love dressing up, don't you?"
"I do if I don't have to make up the dress," said Judith honestly, as she finished making her bed and leaned out of the window to take deep breaths of the glorious October air. "Nancy, do come and look at the maple grove, and the oaks and the beeches against that lovely sky, and isn't the vine on Miss Meredith's house simply a gorgeous colour? I could almost eat the sunshine, it's so good. Tell me what to wear to-night. I don't know what I should have done without your help last Friday."
"Let's think it over," said Nancy, pulling on a sweater and cap and running off to play tennis with Jane; "see you at recess and we'll decide then."
But when recess came Judith confessed to not having given it a thought, she had been kept too busy for the consideration of such frivolities as a Friday party, and Nancy on her part had a doleful tale of returned lessons to be made up during the afternoon.
"Oh, why didn't I prepare that French prose?" she wailed when the crew of the "Jolly Susan" foregathered after luncheon in her room. "I begged Madame to let me make it up any other time, but of course she wouldn't."
"Oh, well, we're not going to dress alike this time," said Sally May, "so it doesn't matter. It was fun, though, wasn't it, making sailor-boy costumes out of sheets and pillowcases, and I never laughed so hard in my life as when North House came in. You really ought to have seen them"—this to Jane who had been away for the week-end—"not one of them looked more than six months old—they pasted paper over their teeth and had on the cutest little bonnets and long dresses and carried bottles—really cold-cream bottles with a glove finger on top—"
"I think the Hindus were the cleverest," said Judith.
"The question before the house is, what are we going to do to-night?" observed Josephine. "Now my idea"—
But what Josephine's idea was the rest never knew, for Rosamond put her head in at the door and called, "Long distance 'phone for you, Jo; Miss Martin says hurry"—
Judging by the speed with which Josephine vanished down the corridor she was anxious to oblige Miss Martin.
The half-past two bell rang and Nancy and Judith went off to music lessons without deciding anything about the costume for the party, and when Judith came upstairs after an early dinner she was still as undecided as ever. The corridor was as busy as the proverbial beehive, for the "borrowing-rule" had been suspended for the day, and everybody seemed to be making the most of the opportunity.
Judith was besieged with requests the moment she appeared.
"I bag your white slippers, Judy, if you don't want them," called Rosamond.
"And I want your black beads—"
"Your blue scarf, please, Judy," called Catherine from her room, "I'll be awfully careful of it."
Squeals of delight came from the various rooms where tryings-on were proceeding. "Every one seems happy but me," thought Judith dismally when the borrowers had departed.
What would a Southern costume be like, anyway? Africa? No that would be too hard and she hadn't the least idea how the Australians dressed. South America? India? Was India south? No, it couldn't be, because she had heard Audrey Green of East House describing a perfectly sweet Hindu costume which her roommate was going to wear. Southerner? How stupid of her! Why not a Virginian lady of the Colonial period? Why not? That's settled. Now as to the how; whom could she ask? But no sympathetic friend presented herself and Judith again began to feel aggrieved.
"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried Josephine excitedly rushing into the room. "Jim—my brother—arrives to-night from Alberta and he'll call here to-morrow first thing. I believe," she added in a lower, confidential tone, "I believe I must have been a bit homesick and didn't know it—there'll be letters and messages, and probably a box, too, from home. Oh, I can hardly wait till to-morrow! Jim says Mother is all right, though she misses me dreadfully—you see our nearest neighbour lives fifty miles away, and sometimes she doesn't see a white woman all winter."
"Fifty miles!" repeated Judith in amazement.
"Yes, we have to have a lot of land for the horses, and sometimes Dad is away for several days visiting the outlying parts and Mother gets pretty lonely."
"You're joking, Jo—your father couldn't spend several days travelling on his own farm."
"Not farm, Judibus," said Josephine, laughing, "it's a ranch, and it has to be big, as I said, for the horses."
"How big?" demanded Judith, still thinking of the farms she had seen in Ontario and Quebec.
"We had twenty-five thousand acres last year, but Dad has leased another ten thousand on the other side of the river. Oh, Judy, my dear, if ever you come to the West I'll show you what real fun is! Sometimes I ride all day—and such riding! I've a gem of a little mare—Patsy's her name—she's as good a chum as I ever had until I came here last year. Aren't mothers bricks?" she added with a little catch in her voice. "Mother really needs me, but she just insisted on my coming—she taught me in her spare time until I came here last year, and because spare time wasn't plentiful there are big gaps in what I know, and as I'm stupid to begin with, the lessons sometimes seem so hard that I just want to give up and run home. But of course I'm not going to," she finished, laughing at Judith's sober face; "that would be a poor way to say 'thank you' to my blessed little mother. What are you going to be to-night?"
"A Colonial lady from Virginia," answered Judith superbly.
"Good—isn't that funny? I'm going to be be a Virginian Colonel. Let's be partners. Molly was to be mine, but she certainly can't go with a sprained ankle. We'd better get busy—there isn't much time left." And Josephine disappeared into her own cubicle where Judith could hear her opening and closing drawers and singing in her funny boyish voice their new nonsense song:
"Of all the ships that sail on land, There's none like 'Jolly Susan.' Her crew works well with heart and hand, And sometimes they're amusin'."
Sally May and Jane whirled into the "Jolly Susan" like small hurricanes in time to sing the verse over again, and then the snatches of talk she could hear told Judith that her neighbours were thoroughly enjoying the fascinating business of dressing up, and had evidently forgotten all about her.
Perhaps it was a little reaction after several weeks of new and exciting experiences; perhaps Josephine's reference to mothers being "bricks"; whatever it was Judith felt lonely and homesick. She didn't know how to make her costume; she didn't think of Sally May, and she hated to confess to Josephine—to whom, it must be confessed, she had always felt a little superior—that she hadn't a ghost of a notion how to make, out of nothing at all, the dress of a Virginian lady of fashion.
But although Josephine had convulsed the class and enraged Madame Phillippe by translating hors de combat as "war-horse," and although her ideas as to angles and triangles were so hazy as to be of no service to her in a geometry class, she was not at all stupid where her fellow humans were concerned, and she had seen the quickly restrained quiver on Judith's lips when mothers were mentioned.
"I guess she's homesick and doesn't know it," said Josephine to herself. "I'd better buck her up a bit and give her a good time." But because she had a generous admiration of Judith's cleverness she never thought of offering her any suggestions as to how to put her costume together.
A little later she appeared in Judith's doorway in black tights, blue silk stockings, buckled shoes (cardboard buckles covered with silver paper), a white shirt blouse buttoned high, and a long black ribbon in her hand.
"Please wind it round my neck, Judy, several times as high up as you can. Why, where is your dress?" she asked in surprise.
Poor, proud Judith, how she hated to confess that she simply could not think of anything. But the despised Josephine rose to the occasion: she took charge with an assurance which immediately dispelled Judith's gloom.
"Colonial lady—um—you will look awfully nice with your hair powdered—let me see—your chintz curtains will do for panniers—put on your frilliest blouse and a white skirt, pull down your curtains, and I'll drape you in a minute or two."
Josephine was as good as her word. Blouse and skirt by means of an overdrape of window curtain were made into the dress of a lady of quality; Judith's pretty hair was piled high and liberally powdered with talcum, and Josephine even produced a tiny bit of rouge and a black patch, and insisted that to make the picture complete Judith must have the buckled shoes, and as there wasn't time to make more buckles she'd wear her old pumps.
Josephine was having such a good time admiring the result of her handiwork that Judith accepted the shoes with a good grace, and off they went to join the throng in the Big Hall. So successful had Josephine been that Judith had quite a little triumph as she entered the hall on her colonel's arm, for she had discarded the spectacles she wore during school hours, and the powder and rouge had discovered a hitherto unnoticed pair of beautiful arching eyebrows, and altogether her appearance was so distinguished that numbers of girls turned to ask, "Who's that pretty Virginian with Jo?"
It was a thrilling evening. Indeed, it is to be doubted whether bona-fide balls of later years would ever bring such thrills and such intoxicating happiness to the Pierrots and Pierrettes, gypsies and Arabs, Spanish dancers and flower girls, Elizabethan ladies and cavaliers, Red Cross nurses and college dons, Indian chiefs and squaws, cowboys and "habitant" girls, who were so thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Judith laughed and danced away her blues, and to all the compliments paid her was glad to be able to say with honest admiration, "Oh, I couldn't do it—Josephine did—isn't she just wonderful?"
And when, after "the loveliest party ever," Judith tucked up in bed and her thoughts ran to the absent mother, instead of tears she smiled happily and whispered, "What a lot of nice people there are in the world, mummy, dear—I've got an awful lot to learn—but I'm going to try hard to be unselfish and kind like Josephine and Nancy."
A SUPPER PARTY
"OH, goody!" Judith heard Nancy saying, "isn't it splendid that it came on Friday! We never have anything but buns and milk after a Friday night lecture. Your mother is an angel, Sally May; she must have guessed that this was going to be a Friday without a party."
"That you, Judy?" came in Sally May's pretty voice; "come on in." And Judith was soon seated on Sally May's couch.
The crew of the "Jolly Susan" were invited, she learned, to partake of an elegant cold collation consisting of roast chicken, meringues, cakes, candies, etc., etc., which Sally May's mother was thoughtfully sending them from a caterer in town.
"Have you asked Miss Marlowe if we may have the small sitting-room?" asked Nancy after Judith had been informed of the feast awaiting her.
"Asked—Miss Marlowe?" gasped Sally May; "well, of all the queer schools! Ask a teacher if we may have a midnight supper? Well, I reckon not!"
"Why, that's the way we do," returned Nancy; "the lecture will be over early and then we'll go up to the sitting-room and have our feed."
"Oh, that," said Sally May, "is ridiculous and no fun at all. Why, at Knowlton Manor we always waited until twelve o'clock, at least, and had our feasts in the loveliest places. Once we had supper in the cellar, and the engineer caught us and we had a terrible time bribing him; and last June, at Miss Gray's school, five of us were caught in the teachers' own sitting-room at three A.M."
Her hearers looked horrified enough to satisfy even Sally May, who loved to tell a story, and she related one epic after another, until the York audience were convinced that life would not be worth living unless they too could recount similar tales when they went home for the Christmas vacation.
Miss Marlowe and her rules were forgotten, and they laid their plans for a midnight supper.
"But Miss Marlowe knows that your box has arrived," objected practical Nancy.
"Then we'll buy some buns at tuck and have a camouflage supper after the lecture, and the real one at midnight," retorted Sally May, not to be done out of her scheme.
"I wish we could ask Cathy, don't you?" said Josephine; "she's been such a dear that it seems a shame to have a glorification without her."
Catherine, hard at work at her desk in her own room, caught the sound of her name, and the next sentence in an excited voice revealed the fact that a midnight supper was being planned for that very night. Her first impulse, of course, was to tell the crew that she had unwittingly overheard them, and use her influence as captain and prefect to stop the whole proceeding; and then, because she was taking her duties as a prefect very seriously, she stopped to consider the little escapade in a new light.
Sally May, Catherine could see, was going to be troublesome. Already she had chafed at several time-honoured rules and customs, for her sense of reverence for traditions had been stifled by her ceaseless change of residence, and Sally May was becoming exceedingly popular. Her soft Southern voice, with its delicious inflections and its lazy drawl, was most persuasive. The crew of the "Jolly Susan" had so far been a model crew and Catherine had not yet had to enforce discipline, but at the last prefects' meeting Sally May had been mentioned as the cause of two practical jokes perpetrated in other parts of the house, and, "Such things are not done, they are simply not done," said the School captain severely; "Catherine, you must take Sally May in hand." Perhaps this was her chance. She waited until the four o'clock bell scattered the conspirators to practising and gymnasium classes and then went down to the captain's study.
"Come in," said a clear ringing voice as Catherine knocked at Eleanor's door; "you're just in time for tea—here, you toast the crumpets and I'll brew the tea."
"Wait a jiffy and I'll get some jam—wild strawberry with crumpets is heavenly."
Catherine was back in the specified jiffy, and in a few moments the two friends were chatting comfortably over their tea-cups.
York Hill like most modern schools had adopted a modified form of self-government. Each of the four Houses had its quota of prefects appointed by the staff, and a House captain; the Senior House captain was known as the Captain of the School, and this year South House had the honour of providing the School Captain—Eleanor Ormsby. The prefects, usually members of the various Sixth Forms, were girls who had shown themselves worthy of responsibility and privilege and who could be trusted to set the tone of the School.
Eleanor Ormsby was deservedly popular: there was a frankness and a directness about her almost boyishly clear-cut face which inspired confidence, and the girls who brought their difficulties to her found in her a wise and sympathetic counsellor. Eleanor was not beautiful like Catherine, not brilliant like Patricia—in fact it was with difficulty that she held her place in the Sixth-Form classes, but on basket-ball court, hockey-rink, or gymnasium floor she had no rival. Above all she was a born leader, and having spent all her school days at York was steeped in its traditions and ideals.
Just now Eleanor was keen upon getting the two plays given just before the Christmas vacation well started before the busy time at the end of term: it was the custom for the Old Girls to entertain the New Girls at a play and for the New Girls to return the compliment.
So the absorbing topic of Queen's new hockey coach being exhausted for the time being, "Got any good stuff for the play in your cubicles, Cathy?" asked Eleanor; "looks to me as if they are a nice lively little bunch. What a little witch Sally May is, and what lovely eyes Judy has! I'm glad she and Nancy are such pals—they make a good team."
"They're darlings, all of 'em," said Catherine enthusiastically; "but 'not too good for human nature's daily food.'" And she unfolded the plan for the midnight supper.
"Well, of course," said Eleanor, laughing reminiscently, "you couldn't expect them to go home for the holidays without a story of some such adventure as that. Remember the time we went down to the gym and Pat fell over the dumb-bell rack."
"And it was such a mean supper to get punished for," added Catherine, grinning; "only cold baked beans and apples. The trouble is that Miss Marlowe is death on suppers since Christine Dawson caught pneumonia last year when they climbed out on to the sun-parlour roof, and of course now that I know—"
"Oh, of course we'll have to do something. But what?"
Various plans were discussed, but nothing satisfied their desire for poetic justice until suddenly Catherine exclaimed: "I've got it! Let them have their supper, and then we'll make them wish they hadn't—let's lock the door of the common room (that's where they mean to go) and give them a good long time in which to repent of their sins. I've got the key—Miss Marlowe loaned it me for the dress rehearsals."
"Good," said Eleanor. "I'll see that the windows are kept shut during the evening so that they won't catch cold, and I'll oil the lock at tea-time."
And in spite of the solemnity befitting prefects, their eyes danced as they pictured the dismay of the young sinners when they discovered themselves caught; for prefects, notwithstanding their dignity and general "high and mightiness," are not by any means above a bit of a lark themselves.
"ENOUGH IS AS GOOD AS A FEAST"
THE crew of the "Jolly Susan" did little work during the evening study hour; Judith, especially, found that she could not keep her mind on her tasks. This was the full flavour of life at a boarding-school, surely, to break the rules, and creep down the corridor in the dark to eat forbidden food! She even let her mind play round the food itself—chicken, meringues! She could hardly wait for bedtime.
If Catherine had not been in the secret, she would have been amazed at the swiftness with which her family went to bed. Josephine was usually incorrigibly slow, and Sally May always needed reminding that the devotion bell would ring in two minutes' time. To-night clothes were neatly arranged ready for the morning, rooms were in impeccable order, hair was properly brushed, and there was no mad rush to be at one's own door when the fatal bell sounded.
At last "Lights out" bell rang and silence descended on South House. Ten o'clock, and the prefects put out their lights, only the tiny red fire-escape lamps shone dimly at intervals down the corridor. Eleven o'clock, and the night watchman had creaked by on his way to East House. The way was clear.
Out of bed slipped the conspirators. Judith's cheeks burned with excitement as, obedient to orders, she put on her warmest kimono, and, carrying mug and sofa pillow, followed Josephine and Jane to the corridor.
Nancy and Sally May had already gone, Josephine informed her in a piercing whisper, and Nancy had said to be very careful of the boards opposite Miss Marlowe's door because they sometimes squeaked horribly.
Stealthily in Indian file they crept down the corridor.
Horrors! The boards certainly did creak! Miss Marlowe's light was still on! What if she should open her door!
Judith, with her eyes glued on the crack of light, clutched her kimono more tightly as if to escape being seen, and in some inexplicable way her mug slid from her cold fingers.
The fate of Sally May's party hung in the balance for just so long as it takes a mug to fall to the ground, and Judith for a nightmare second felt the bitterness of having betrayed her friends to the enemy; but Jane, with a magical dexterity, caught the mug "on the fly" as Judith described it later, and for the time being they were saved.
Judith's heart was still thumping from their narrow escape when they joined the rest of the party in the common room at the head of the stairs. The blinds had been pulled up to let in the pale moonlight, and in the semi-darkness Judith could see five shadowy forms seated on their pillows around the precious box.
"Are we all here?" said Sally May in a sepulchral whisper.
"We are—thanks to Jane," said Judith, and the episode of the mug was told to appreciative listeners.
"Put on your flash, Nancy," commanded Sally May; "no one is going to pass this door and we'll never manage to carve the chicken with this miserable knife unless we have more light."
With infinite precautions the papers were unwrapped, and mouths began to water as certain favorite goodies appeared.
"Who's going to carve?" asked Sally May surveying with a certain dismay a plump brown bird and a seemingly inadequate pocketknife.
"Draw lots," suggested Rosamond.
"Uggledy wuggledy doo, Rackety wackety boo, Out goes you!"
"Here, Jane, you're it." And Jane lost no time in attacking her job.
"My children! what do you think? Here's a jelly or a mousse or something—it's all creamy and quivery, anyway, and we haven't any spoons!"
"I asked you—" began Jane reproachfully.
"Yes, I know you did, but Mother never mentioned a jelly and I thought spoons would make a noise."
"Well, we'll have to have some," said Nancy practically.
"Uggledy wuggledy doo,"
Judith felt in her bones she was going to be it. And she was.
"Let me go," said Nancy generously.
"No," said Judith, "Certainly not. Where'll I get spoons?"
"Oh, just collect what you can," said Sally May, handing round rolls and sandwiches. "I've got a shoe-horn and a medicine spoon, and so has Jane. Watch out for Miss Marlowe."
Fear and the desire to partake of the "eats" speeded Judith on her way, and she lost no time in gathering up what utensils the "Jolly Susan" could offer. Her thoughts flew to Catherine for a moment as she passed her door and she wished their beloved captain could be with them. She little knew how nearly her wish was fulfilled.
On the return journey as she hurried up the corridor, having safely passed Miss Marlowe's door, she suddenly heard a soft footfall or the swish of a kimono, and then discovered a dark form bearing down upon her. Could it be Miss Marlowe? No, it wasn't tall enough. It must be Miss Ashwell. Judith flattened herself against the wall, which was fortunately in the shadow, in the hope that she would not be seen. But it was a very slender little hope, and for the second time that evening Judith was sure that their plans for a good time were ruined, when, just as she had given herself up for lost, the figure turned about and a voice, unmistakably Miss Ashwell's, said, "Bother! I've forgotten my sponge again."
Another disaster averted!
What a gorgeous time they had! What a heavenly chicken!
What luscious meringues! And if you have never in semi-darkness balanced a precious morsel of jelly on the end of a nail-file, you have missed one of thrills of real living.
"The spiffingest feed I ever had," declared Judith as they began to pack up the remains and remove all traces of their feast.
"Well, we haven't had all the thrills that you've had to-night, Judibus, but for once I've had a perfectly good meal," confessed Rosamond, who was holding the useful little flashlight, "and now I'm good and ready for my perfectly good bed." She was voicing a unanimous thought—they had had a jolly time, but their feet had gone to sleep and their eyes were beginning to feel drowsy—yes, certainly bed would be good.
Pillows were sorted out, and Nancy with the tiny light led the way. She tried to open the door; it would not budge! She pulled hard. Josephine pulled harder; Sally May tried; and then consternation took possession of their souls. Some one had them, had them with a vengeance! Whatever would they do now?
Sally May was not in the least daunted, whatever the others might feel. "I'll tell you," she said; "it's some one who wanted to come to the party doing it for a joke"—but that brought little comfort. The party was a secret, and who would know where to find them? Forebodings as to to-morrow's punishment filled their minds.
Sally May, however, was accustomed to punishments. "Sufficient unto the day" was evidently her motto. "Come on, let's tell ghost stories," she said, and the others obediently seated themselves on the floor again. Sally May produced a large box of chocolates which they were keeping for another time, and began a long tale of a ghost who followed, and followed, and followed a man up and down, up and down, the corridors of an old manor house. The hero could hear the ghost's footsteps and its blood-curdling laugh, but he was afraid to turn his head, and when he did—very, very, very, slowly—the muscles of seven little necks stiffened obedient to Sally May's suggestion—he saw a terrible—but here Rosamond broke in with an hysterical cry, "Please, Sally May, I can't bear any more"—and Sally May's spell was broken.
Indeed they all began to be frankly miserable, for they were chilly by this time, and even schoolgirls' stomachs are susceptible to unlimited cake and candy. Nancy fell asleep and leaned on Judith, making her most uncomfortable. Sally May confessed quite openly to a feeling of sickness, and in a steady whisper poured into Judith's ear the ghastly details of how ill she had been at Knowlton after a lobster supper. The night wore on. Most of them finally went to sleep in uncomfortable attitudes, but about four o'clock in the morning, Judith, who was much too unhappy and too uncomfortable to sleep, got up stiffly from the floor and walking about the room, tried the door once more. To her huge astonishment and joy it opened! Catherine had come up a couple of hours before, but the striking of the big clock in the hall had covered the very slight noise of the turning of the lock.
"It was open all the time," protested several unhappy voices.
"You didn't try it properly."
"We did," said other cross voices, and sulkily and stiffly they creaked down the hall to their longed-for beds.
The rising bell rang in about an hour's time; at least so it seemed to eight very sleepy girls. Pancakes and maple syrup, the favourite York Hill breakfast, brought them no solace; indeed, to the surprise of their friends, they refused them. Sally May, who demanded much sympathy, reported to the nurse after breakfast.
"I don't feel well, Miss Anderson, I don't really. I'm tired all over. I think if I had a little rest—" she added plaintively.
"Put out your tongue," said Miss Anderson cruelly. "Hm, blowing up for a bilious attack. Oh, yes, you can go to morning lessons, but report at the Infirmary this evening for a dose of calomel."
Poor Sally May! The thought of the horrid dose haunted her all day, and when evening came her punishment was indeed complete.
Judith, Nancy, and Josephine had separately and independently resolved by hook or by crook to escape the hated morning walk or "crocodile." A walk after their wakeful night seemed simply impossible and the weather was too bad for games. Many excuses were thought of and rejected, but eventually they presented themselves to the mistress-in-charge, a certain zealous Miss Martin.
"Too tired to go out, Nancy? Very well, early bed, of course"—and she chalked up Nancy's name with "Bed at eight-thirty." Judith and Josephine were treated in like manner; not that they minded very much, for bed at eight-thirty had a soothing sound. But Madam Retribution was not done with them yet.
For a week or more they had been expecting an invitation from Catherine to supper in her room. It was a regular first-term institution that a prefect should entertain her set of cubicles, and rumours of other suppers had already reached the ears of the crew of the "Jolly Susan." Judith, especially, had been looking forward to this treat. An evening in Catherine's room, what a delight!
At evening prayers it was announced that to-night's lecturer would not be able to come, and promptly afterwards Catherine gave the longed-for invitation. "Supper in my room at eight-thirty," she whispered to each of the five; "we'll have a jolly time." Her surprise and astonishment at their stammered refusals were great.
"Slacking the walk?" she said coldly. "Of course, then, you can't have a treat"—and she wasted no sympathy on them. Judith could have wept with vexation and disappointment.
At half-past eight the crew of the "Jolly Susan" crept sadly into bed and listened to the laughter of the prefects gathered in Catherine's room, devouring their supper. Sally May had gone to the Infirmary, but one vow was registered by the other chastened souls in the "Jolly Susan"—"No more midnight suppers!"
PUTTING IT THROUGH
THE last two weeks had been so full of other things that lessons and their preparation had taken a somewhat secondary place in the thoughts of Form Five, and, in consequence, they had merited and received many rebukes.
Sally May had spent two hours of a precious Saturday afternoon learning poetry, for she had failed miserably in the last literature test; Josephine had been her companion in disgrace, and had even had to spend a precious Friday evening "in durance vile" because of returned lessons.
Judith's pride had been badly hurt by Miss Hilton's comment written in her geometry exercise book, "Very poor work, indeed, untidy and careless," and, worse still, when the lists were posted for the mid-term Latin examination, Judith's name had been halfway down with fifty-six marks to her credit. At Miss Graham's she had always headed the list. Just for a moment she almost thought that there must be some mistake, and then she realized that Five A standards were high and first-class standing meant first-class work.
Literature and history were Judith's strong subjects, and on the morning when she saw her Latin marks she made a mighty resolve to head the list in at least one of these. It wouldn't be easy. Joyce Hewson and Phyllis Lovell had been steadily piling up marks all term, and the whole form was watching their tussle for first place. Christmas reports and class standing for the half-year were made on class work and on the examinations at the end of the term.
"I've just got to have one 'first' on my report," said Judith to herself as she put away her books after morning school. "I've just got to—Daddy'll be awfully disappointed if I don't." And then, taking her place in the line that was filing into Big Hall, she whispered to Nancy, "What're we going to have this morning?"
"I'm not sure," said Nancy, "but I think Ruth Laughton's going to speak. I saw her going into Miss Meredith's study this morning."
The last period of Friday morning school belonged to Miss Meredith.
"It's like a grab-bag," Nancy had inelegantly told Judith; "you never know what you are going to get—sometimes it is a lecture, sometimes Miss Meredith reads us a story, sometimes we have carol singing—I do like that—and during the War we had talks from people who had been there. Once we had a Polish Countess who spoke the funniest English, but she was awfully brave, and once a man from Serbia. He was in the Red Cross and he told us a terrible story about the state of the Serbian children. We held form meetings the Monday following and voted to give up candy for a whole term, all of us, and we sent the money to him for the relief work. I think it's the nicest time of the week."
Judith too was coming to look forward to that last hour of the school week, very often to schoolgirls a wasted hour at the fag end of things.
This Friday an Old Girl was to speak to them. Miss Meredith held that a school like York Hill, in order to justify the time and effort, the money and brains, the service and consecration put into it, should send out girls who would be leaders and workers in everything which would make for the betterment of the community in which they lived, and unconsciously the Nancys and Judiths of the School, through these Friday morning glimpses of the great world of service, would be steadily and surely prepared for the part which they were to play. Social service, as such, was not talked about; most girls dislike what they call "preachments," but when Form Four decided to make baby clothes as a Christmas shower for the creche where an Old Girl worked, and when Form Five promised a woolen sweater from every girl for the Fourteen Club at the University Settlement, social service became a real and vital fact in their lives. For, as Judith learned, knitted sweaters mean work, and wool costs money, which had to be deducted from an already painfully shrunken allowance, and baby clothes, although fascinating and cute, represent many hours of careful stitching.
Meanwhile the seeds planted on Friday mornings grew and flourished until "Noblesse oblige" became a natural and an actual attitude towards life. Social service of some sort or other, after one left school, was an established fact like unlimited tea-parties and dancing partners. And Miss Meredith and many of her staff made it the business of their lives to see that it should be social service of the right kind.
About once a term the Old Girls' Association provided a speaker. Miss Meredith had entertained many distinguished guests who had spoken in Big Hall, but none were made more welcome than the Old Girls, for the Head Mistress knew the appeal which they alone could, and did make. To-day the speaker was to be Ruth Laughton, a nursing sister decorated for gallantry by the King. Catherine had been a Junior when Ruth was Captain of South House, and she had pointed out to Judith Ruth's name on the tablet in Big Hall where the names of House and School captains were printed in letters of gold.
Judith considered, as Form Five marched into the Hall, what it would be like to carry out wounded soldiers under fire. Nursing Sister Laughton must be big and strong and brave, perhaps she was always brave and did not really mind the explosions. What was courage, anyway? And then, before she could decide this puzzling question, Miss Meredith was coming down the centre aisle with her distinguished guest. The School gave a thunderous welcome and settled back after Miss Meredith's brief introduction to hear a thrilling story.
Form Five confessed among themselves afterwards to a distinct feeling of disappointment when the speaker came forward. She was small, "not a bit pretty," the girls decided, and her voice seemed tired and lacking in vitality. The decoration on her breast appeared to be the only significant thing about her. Evidently Ruth was nervous.
"If she is not afraid of bombs, she is afraid of us," thought Judith, for the Sister's face grew white, her lips dry, and her assertion that she was glad to be back at dear old York Hill seemed to be all that she could remember of her speech. Three hundred pairs of hands had clapped her a warm welcome, but now she confronted three hundred pairs of critical eyes. She faltered, began again, and finally looked appealingly, a schoolgirl once more, at her Head Mistress.
"Never mind about your own experiences just now, Ruth," said Miss Meredith's calm, reassuring voice, "we'd like to hear a little more about the children's hostels in the north of France. We are all interested because we are sending clothes to Jean Warner to distribute."
And then a miracle happened, the whole School saw it. Ruth was transformed before them, her eyes brightened, her shoulders straightened, her voice had an inspiring ring in it as she told the story of the heroism of other Old Girls.
She had an interesting story to tell and she told it well: even the First-Form wrigglers sat with their eyes glued on her face as she told of the brave fight which was being made for the life and health of the children of Europe. "There is one thing especially I should like to tell you," she finished, looking down into the sea of upturned faces, "wherever I found a York girl—and you know my duties have taken me into all sorts of queer places these last four years—whether she was a V.A.D. ambulance driver, a nurse in hospital, a Y.W.C.A. secretary, or a Child's Welfare worker, always the record was the same, that when a York Hill girl undertook something, she put it through—especially if it were a hard job! That's what the General said when he pinned on Gwen's Mons Star—'Another of the ladies from Canada! They have taught you out there to put things through with a will!' York Hill Old Girls look to York Hill present girls to maintain the record of the School."
And if the applause meant anything, it surely stood for a determination on the part of her listeners to maintain the York Hill tradition.
Without considering the matter overmuch, Judith was convinced that the thing she was "to put through" during these last few weeks of term was hard study, and she bent to her tasks with a will.
"But the best laid schemes of mice and men Gang aft agley."
The School seemed suddenly to become very busy, though about what Judith did not know. Much whispering was heard in the "Jolly Susan"; Nancy and Josephine looked very mysterious, girls from all parts of the School seemed to be in the same secret, and Judith heard tantalizing phrases, "scenery committee"—"scene shifters"—"costume committee"—"the Play." Very soon she herself was in a big secret, for a meeting of all New Girls was called by the School Captain, and Eleanor explained that the New Girls would be entertained at a play in the last week of November; that the custom was that the New Girls should return the compliment by an entertainment given during the last week of term; that since the New Girls were decidedly in the minority, two of the prefects and she herself would help in any way they could; and that, in a word, she was now ready to receive nominations for the various committees.
An exciting hour followed. To her dismay Judith found herself on the Costume Committee and she hated sewing. Sally May gave her little comfort—"just be glad you don't have to paint scenery; that's a dirty and hard job if you like," said Sally May. "Miss Ashwell makes us work like demons. If she didn't work like a demon herself, we just wouldn't do it," was her sage comment. Committee meetings multiplied. The play chosen was to be kept a secret from its audience and a delicious air of mystery pervaded the whole School.
After much discussion and help from Eleanor and Miss Marlowe, the New Girls chose the "Christmas Carol." Many other things were suggested, but Scrooge and Tiny Tim had apparently a warm place in their affections, and the appropriateness of the Christmas story for the end of term was irresistible.
The choosing of the cast was a difficult and a tedious job, and Miss Marlowe and Eleanor spent much time trying out various candidates, but at last the list was complete, and, a little to her relief, and, it must be confessed, a little to her regret, Judith was not included. She had never acted, and she had a firm conviction that she could not, so that the regret was merely that she didn't like to think that other people had the same conviction.
Her membership on the Costume Committee was no sinecure. Coveted Saturday afternoon and evening leisure had to be given up to the stitching of long seams. Mathilde LeBrun, who was another Josephine in that her brain seemed to be in her fingers, was convener of the committee, and under her direction Judith sewed and cut out, and, it must be confessed, ripped. Tiny Tim's coat and trousers were her task, and although the smallest of the new girls, Edith Holland by name, had been chosen for this role, Judith found the utmost difficulty in making her look like a Tiny Tim. Twice did she make and un-make that wretched little suit, but she was nothing if not conscientious, and at last it was finished.
"Twelfth Night," which was the Old Girls' play, was a huge success. Nancy and Josephine had been so excited all week that Judith had found it about impossible to keep her own attention on her lessons. Catherine must be a chief character in the play, decided Judith, for Catherine's room was the centre of numberless committee meetings and endless discussions, and Genevieve Singleton—who, to Judith's envy had established herself as Catherine's chief messenger—ran hither and thither, bursting with importance. Nevertheless the secret was kept, and as Judith sat with Sally May and Frances Purdy and all the other new girls on Friday night and listened to the noise behind the green curtain, she felt that she could bear the suspense no longer.
And then, when the curtain rose, the Master Magician waved his wand and Judith, who had seen very few plays, was transported to a land of beauty, romance, and sweet adventure. Helen made a noble Duke, and Catherine an enchanting Viola. Judith had never quite recaptured the thrill of delight she had felt when on the opening night of term she had first seen Catherine, but now to the charm and witchery of first impressions of beauty was added the knowledge of Catherine's sweetness and gentleness. Nancy might be a witty Maria, and Josephine a rollicking Sir Toby; Judith had eyes and ears for Viola only, and as the play progressed she envied passionately the Duke who seemed criminally stupid in his misunderstanding of Viola's love. The surprise of the play was Genevieve Singleton's Malvolio. Even Judith was moved out of her trance of adoration to laughter and admiration.
"That was real acting," said Sally May with the air of a theatre habitue as Malvolio pranced off the stage in the immortal scene of the yellow stockings and cross-garters.
After the last bravos had died away and the actors had bowed their thanks before the footlights, both audience and players were refreshed with lemonade and cakes, and Judith transferred her envy to the fortunate ones who stood talking over the evening's triumph with Catherine and Genevieve and the rest of the cast. She envied Genevieve who had had such a success, and she wished, but did not dare, to join the group. "Perhaps," thought silly Judith, "if I run upstairs now and get her room ready for her, Catherine may kiss me good-night." Judith was on the verge of what is technically known as a "crush."
Meanwhile preparations went forward in earnest for the "Christmas Carol," and "All costumes must be finished for Monday. Full rehearsal at eight o'clock in the Big Hall." So ran the Order-in-Council.
"I'm certainly glad Tiny Tim's costume is done," thought Judith as she ran downstairs for the rehearsal; "four more days till the literature exam. I'm going to work like everything."
"Come on, Judy," Sally May hailed her as she found her place behind the curtain where she was to help shift scenery; "you're late, but who ever heard of a rehearsal starting on time?"
"Seems to be some sort of a row on," said Judith as a distinct groan reached their ears. "What's up?" she asked as they joined the group on the stage.
"Marjorie Jones has measles," answered Eleanor, their stage manager: "come here, all of you, and think hard. Who can take Scrooge at such short notice? Is there any new girl with a good memory? It's the longest part by far."
Various names were proposed and rejected for one reason or another, and then Eleanor's eye fell on Judith, who saw her consider for a moment, speak in a low tone to the two other prefects; then very reluctantly she answered the summons, "Judith, come here and read this page for me, will you, please? Perhaps you'll do."
Judith read the page and a tiny feeling of resentment began to make itself felt. She hadn't been asked to do anything nice, or anything she wanted, and now they weren't even asking her if she would be willing to take Marjorie's place.
"I guess you'll do," was Eleanor's uncomplimentary comment when Judith had finished.
"There's really no one else," she said, turning to Patricia, "and I think Judy can be word-perfect by Friday. I'll coach her every spare minute myself. Come along, Judy," she added, "and read over the part before we begin."
Somewhat breathless from this prompt decision, Judith obediently took the manuscript and seated herself at one corner of the stage. Suddenly as she read, the full meaning of this new turn of events flashed into her brain. The final term examination in literature was listed for Friday morning, and Judith had planned to spend all her spare time between now and then in the thorough revision of her work, for there was still much to be done, and this examination would really decide whether she or Joyce or Phyllis would head the list.
For a long ten minutes Judith read her part and at the same time debated within herself, while Eleanor settled some difference of opinion about exits and entrances. Self number one tried to hoodwink self number two—"Top Self" and "Deep-Down Self," Judith as a little girl had christened these two voices within her. "Daddy would like you to come out first; you oughtn't to disappoint him. Lessons must be done. Just go and tell Eleanor you can't do it and then your time will be your own."
"No," said Deep-Down Self, "be fair, Judy. You know you can't act well, you won't be a success like Genevieve. You don't want Catherine and the others to see you fail, and honestly, do you want to come out first for Daddy's sake or for your own? I really believe you don't think enough fuss has been made over you. You'd rather work at your literature and come first, perhaps, but you can memorize quickly and they need you. Which ought you to do?—never mind whether it's hard or not."