The Leader of the Lower School - A Tale of School Life
by Angela Brazil
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The Leader of the

Lower School


"Angela Brazil has proved her undoubted talent for writing a story of schoolgirls for other schoolgirls to read."—Bookman.

A Patriotic Schoolgirl.

"A capital story for girls—breezy, healthy, and full of interest."—Ladies' Field.

For the School Colours.

"Angela Brazil knows what schoolgirls like to read and she gives it to them."—Scottish Educational Journal.

The Madcap of the School.

"A capital school story, full of incident and fun, and ending with a mystery."—Spectator.

The Luckiest Girl in the School.

"A thoroughly good girls' school story."—Truth.

The Jolliest Term on Record.

"A capital story for girls."—Record.

The Girls of St. Cyprian's: A Tale of School Life.

"St. Cyprian's is a remarkably real school, and Mildred Lancaster is a delightful girl."—Saturday Review.

The Youngest Girl in the Fifth: A School Story.

"A very brightly-written story of schoolgirl character."—Daily Mail.

The New Girl at St. Chad's: A Story of School Life.

"The story is one to attract every lassie of good taste."—Globe.

For the Sake of the School.

"Schoolgirls will do well to try to secure a copy of this delightful story, with which they will be charmed."—Schoolmaster.

The School by the Sea.

"One always looks for works of merit from the pen of Miss Angela Brazil. This book is no exception."—School Guardian.

The Leader of the Lower School: A Tale of School Life.

"Juniors will sympathize with the Lower School at Briarcroft, and rejoice when the new-comer wages her successful battle."—Times.

A Pair of Schoolgirls: A Story of School-days.

"The story is so realistic that it should appeal to all girls."—Outlook.

A Fourth Form Friendship: A School Story.

"No girl could fail to be interested in this book."—Educational News.

The Manor House School.

"One of the best stories for girls we have seen for a long time."—Literary World.

The Nicest Girl in the School.

The Third Class at Miss Kaye's: A School Story.

The Fortunes of Philippa: A School Story.

* * * * *


The Leader of the Lower School

A Tale of School Life



Author of "The Youngest Girl in the Fifth" "A Pair of Schoolgirls" "The New Girl at St. Chad's" "A Fourth Form Friendship" &c.




CHAP. Page






















A SUCCESSFUL CLIMB Frontispiece 177







Gipsy Arrives

ONE dank, wet, clammy afternoon at the beginning of October half a dozen of the boarders at Briarcroft Hall stood at the Juniors' sitting-room window, watching the umbrellas of the day girls disappear through the side gate. It had been drizzling since dinner-time, and the prospect outside was not a remarkably exhilarating one. The yellow leaves of the oak tree dripped slow tears on to the flagged walk, as if weeping beforehand for their own speedy demise; the little classical statue on the fountain looked a decidedly watery goddess, the sodden flowers had trailed their heads in the soil, and a small rivulet was running down the steps of the summer house. As the last two umbrellas, after a brief and exciting struggle for precedence, passed through the portal and the gate was shut with a slam, Lennie Chapman turned to her companions and heaved a tragic sigh.

"Isn't it withering?" she remarked. "And just on the very afternoon when we'd made up our minds to decide the tennis championship, and secured all the courts for the Lower School. I do call it the most wretched luck! I'm a blighted blossom!"

"We'll never persuade the Seniors to give us all the courts again!" wailed Fiona Campbell. "They said so emphatically that it was only to be for this once."

"I believe they knew it was going to be wet!" growled Dilys Fenton.

"You don't think if it cleared a little we might manage just a set before tea?" suggested Norah Bell half hopefully.

"My good girl, please to look at the lawn! Do you think anyone in her senses would try to play on a swamp like that?"

"It's getting too late in the year for tennis," yawned Hetty Hancock. "Don't believe we shall get another game at all. We'd better resign ourselves."

"Resign ourselves to what?" asked Daisy Scatcherd.

"Why, to leaving the championship till next summer, and to not going out to-day, and to sitting stuffing here and moaning our bad luck, and feeling as cross as a bear with a toothache—at least, that's how I feel: I don't know what the rest of you do!"

"I should like to have gone home with the day girls," sighed Dilys Fenton.

"No, you wouldn't!" snapped Norah Bell. "You know it's jollier to be a boarder; we do have some jolly times, even if it does rain. You can't expect it always to keep fine, and as for——"

"Oh, Norah, don't preach! We must have our growls—it lets off steam. I think it's the wretchedest, miserablest, detestablest, most altogether sickening afternoon that ever was—there!"

"If only something would happen, just to cheer us up a little!" said Lennie Chapman, opening the window rather wider and putting her head out into the rain.

"What do you want to happen?"

"Why, something exciting, of course—something interesting and jolly, and out of the common, to wake us up and make things more lively."

"You'll fall out of the window if you lean over like that, and that would be lively, in all conscience, if you were picked up in fragments. Come in; you're getting your hair wet."

"Let me alone! I shan't! I say, what's that? There's a cab turning in at the gate; it's coming up the drive!"

Five extra heads immediately poked themselves out of the window regardless of the rain, for the Juniors' sitting-room commanded an excellent view both of the carriage drive and of the front steps.

"It is a cab!" murmured Dilys excitedly.

It certainly was a cab, just an ordinary station four-wheeler, with a box on the top of it, bearing the initials G. L. painted in large white letters. As the vehicle came nearer they could see a girl's face inside, and—yes, she apparently caught sight of the row of heads peering out of the window, for she smiled and turned to somebody else who sat beside her. There was a grinding of wheels on the gravel, the cab drew up at the steps, the door opened, and out hopped a dark-haired damsel in a long blue coat. She gave one hurried glance at the window, smiled again and waved her hand, then vanished inside the porch, where she was instantly followed by her companion, a middle-aged gentleman, who carried a bag. The cabman began to take down the box, and the sound of the front door bell could be heard plainly—a loud and vigorous peal, forsooth—enough almost to break the wire! The six Juniors subsided into their sitting-room. Here, at least, was something happening.

"Who is she?"

"Where's she come from?"

"Is she a new girl?"

"Haven't heard of anybody new coming. Have you?"

"She looks jolly."

"I hope she's going to stay."

"I say, let's go downstairs and ask if anyone knows anything about her," said Hetty Hancock, suiting her action to her words, and hurrying out of the room with her five schoolmates following close at her heels. But nobody knew; not even the Seniors could give the least information. Indeed, the six who had seen the newcomer from the window had the advantage, for none of the others had witnessed the arrival. The girls were consumed with curiosity. A scout, who ventured ten steps into the forbidden territory of the front hall, came back and reported that talking could be heard in the drawing-room.

"A big, deep voice, like a man's, and Poppie's saying 'Yes'. I daren't stop more than a second; but somebody's there, you may be sure of that. And the box is standing in the vestibule too."

"I believe she's come to stay!" said Dilys.

"The cab's waiting at the door still, though," objected Norah Bell. "She may be going back in it."

At tea-time Miss Poppleton's accustomed place was empty, and speculation ran high among her pupils. All kinds of wild rumours circulated round the table, but there was no means of verifying any of them, and the girls were obliged to go to preparation with their curiosity still unsatisfied. At seven o'clock, however, when the Juniors had finished their work and trooped back to their own sitting-room, they found the mystery solved. In front of the fire, warming her hands between the bars of the high fender, and looking as comfortably at home as if she owned the place, stood the stranger who had skipped so quickly out of the cab that afternoon. She was a girl who, wherever she was seen, would have attracted notice—slim and erect and trim in figure, and a decided brunette, a real "nut-brown maid", with a pale olive complexion, the brightest of soft, dark, southern eyes, and a quantity of fluffy, silky, dusky curls, tied—American fashion—with two big bows of very wide scarlet ribbon, one on the top of her head and one at the nape of her neck. She smiled as the others entered, showing an even little set of white teeth, and four roguish dimples made their appearance at the corners of her mouth. She seemed to have assumed proprietorship of the room so entirely that the Juniors stopped short in amazement, too dumbfounded for the moment to do anything but stare. The stranger stepped forward with almost an air of welcome and, dropping a mock curtsy, announced herself.

"Glad to make your acquaintance!" she began. "Miss Poppleton said she'd introduce me to the school, but I guessed I'd rather introduce myself—thought I'd do the thing better than she would, somehow. I don't like stiff introductions—I'm not at all a starchy sort of person, as I dare say you can see for yourselves; and I prefer to make friends after my own fashion. My name's Gipsy Latimer, and I'm American and British and Colonial and Spanish all mixed up, and I've travelled half round the world, and been in seven different schools, and I was fourteen last birthday, and I arrived here this afternoon, and I'm going to stop on a while, and I just adore cricket, and I detest arithmetic in any shape, and I'm always ready for any fun that's on the go. There! I've told you all about myself," and she curtsied again.

The girls laughed. There was something decidedly attractive and breezy about the newcomer. Her dark eyes danced and twinkled as she spoke, and there was an unconventional jollity in the very high-pitched tone of her voice, and an infectious merriment in her dimples.

"What did you say your name was?" asked Hetty Hancock, by way of making the first advances.

"That's right—fire off your questions! I've been at seven schools before this, and everybody starts with the same catechism. I'm ready to answer anything within reason, but perhaps I'd best take a seat while you're at it. No, thanks! I prefer the table—always like the highest place, you see! I've sat on the mantel-piece before now. Yes, I said my name was Gipsy—G—I—P—S—Y."

"But it's not your real name, surely?"

"You weren't christened that?"

"Only wish I had been! No, my godfather and godmothers didn't know their business, and they went and gave me the most outlandish, sentimental, ridiculous, inappropriate name you could imagine. You might try a dozen guesses, and you'd never hit on it. Don't you want to guess? Well, I'll tell you, then—it's Azalea."

"Azalea—why, I think that's rather pretty," ventured Lennie Chapman.

"Pretty enough in itself, perhaps, but it doesn't suit me. Do I look like an 'Azalea' with my dark hair and eyes? They should have had more sense when they christened me. Why, an Azalea ought to be a little, pretty, silly thing, with blue eyes and pink cheeks and golden hair—all beauty, you know, and no brains, like this girl! What's your name? You're more an Azalea than I am."

"I'm Barbara Kendrick!" gasped that flaxen-headed member of the Upper Third, not quite knowing whether to be flattered or offended.

"There you are—not a bit like a Barbara! Nothing in the least barbarous about you. I think there ought to be a law against naming a girl till she's old enough to choose for herself. Well, as I told you, I was christened Azalea, but everybody saw from the first it didn't fit. 'She's a regular little gipsy!' Dad said; so they called me Gipsy, and Gipsy I mean to be. I made Dad tell Miss Poppleton so, and enter me Gipsy on the school books. I wasn't going to start in a new place as Azalea."

"So you've been to school before?" said Dilys Fenton.

"Rather! I told you I've been to seven schools—three in America, two in New Zealand, one in Australia, and one in South Africa. This is the first English school I've tried."

"Seven—and you're only fourteen! Why, you must have been to a fresh one every year!"

Gipsy nodded.

"You're just about right there. Never stayed more than two terms at any of them. No—they didn't expel me! I tell you, I'm an absolute miracle of good behaviour when I like. It was simply because Dad and I were always moving on, and whenever he went to a fresh place I had to go to a fresh school. You don't think I'd let him leave me in America when he was going to Australia, do you?"

"Haven't you got a mother?" asked Barbara Kendrick.

"Shut up, you stupid!" murmured Dilys Fenton, giving Barbara a nudge.

Gipsy rolled her handkerchief into a tight ball, and unrolled it again before she replied.

"I've nobody in the world but Dad," she answered, and there was just a suspicion of huskiness in her voice. "He's never gone far away from me before, but he's starting to-morrow for South Africa, and I'm to stop here till he comes back. He says it won't seem long. I hope I'm going to like it. I've only been three days in England, and you're the first English girls I've spoken to. Dad said England ought to feel like home, but it's a queer kind of home when one's all alone. Tell me what this school is like. Is Miss Poppleton nice? She gushed over me before Dad in the drawing-room, but she looks as if she could be a Tartar, all the same. I've had a little experience with schoolmistresses. I can generally take their measure in five minutes. She's got a sister, hasn't she—a Miss Edith, who showed me my bedroom? I expect I shall like her. Have I hit the mark?"

The girls looked at one another and laughed.

"Just about," said Fiona Campbell. "Poppie's temper varies like the barometer. One day she's at 'set fair', and calls everybody 'dear', or 'my child'; and the next she's at 'stormy', and woe betide you if you so much as drop your serviette at dinner, or happen to sneeze in the elocution class! Miss Edie's ripping! She doesn't teach much—only one or two classes. She does the housekeeping, and sees we keep our clothes tidy, and change our wet stockings, and all that sort of thing."

"And how many are there of you? Remember, I've been dumped down here at a day's notice, and I know absolutely nothing at all about the school yet. Is it a big one?"

"Twenty boarders and seventy-two day girls—that's ninety-two, and you'll make the ninety-third. There are eight Senior boarders, and they've got a sitting-room of their own, with a carpet on the floor. We, the common herd, are only provided with linoleum, as you see."

"Eight from twenty leaves twelve! You're not all here."

"No; two of us are practising, and the kids have half an hour with Miss Edith before they go to bed."

"Shouldn't mind half an hour with Miss Edith myself. By the by, are you keen on Fudge here?"

The girls stared.

"I don't know what you mean," returned Hetty Hancock rather stiffly. "What is Fudge?"

Gipsy threw out her arms in mock horror.

"Shades of Yankee Doodle!" she exclaimed. "These benighted Britishers have actually never heard of the magic name Fudge! Why, in the States it's a word to conjure with! I've known some girls who absolutely lived for it."

"You haven't told us what it is yet. Is it a game?"

Gipsy laughed till she nearly collapsed off the table.

"A game? No; Fudge is candy—the most delicious adorable stuff you ever tasted. Get me a pan, and some sugar, and some milk, and some butter, and I'll make some for you this instant. How you'll bless me!"

"Don't I wish you could!" sighed Norah Bell. "But we're not allowed to make toffee except on the 5th of November. They let us have a pan then, and we boil it over this fire."

"We'll have a pan of our own here," said Gipsy cheerily. "I'll go out and buy one to-morrow. I can't exist without Fudge."

"But we aren't allowed to go out and buy things," exclaimed the girls in chorus.

"Do you mean to tell me we mayn't go on the least scrap of an errand if we ask leave?"

"Not if you ask ever so!"

"Why, that's dreadful! I can't be boxed up like that. I'd as soon be in prison. I'm afraid you'll find me walking out on my own sometimes."

"You'll get into an uncommonly big scrape if you do!"

"Dad warned me I'd have to be very prim and proper in England," said Gipsy, looking serious, "but I didn't know things were as bad as that. I'll begin to wish I hadn't come here. Oh dear! we were going right through to Chicago if we hadn't been shipwrecked, and I love America."

"Shipwrecked!" shrieked the girls. "Do you mean to tell us you've been in a real wreck?"

"Only just come from it," replied Gipsy calmly. "A very wet, cold, unpleasant affair it was, too! Especially in only one's nightdress! Every rag of clothing I possessed went to the bottom. Dad had to rig me out again at Liverpool. That's why I've come to this school in such a hurry. Dad lost his papers, and had to go back to South Africa, and he wouldn't take me with him this time. So you see I've been sprung upon you suddenly—an unexpected blessing, you might call me."

"Oh, do tell us about the wreck!" implored Hetty Hancock. "I've never in all my life met anybody who'd really and truly been shipwrecked."

"All right! Come and squat by the fire. I'm tired of the table, and prefer the floor for a change. Please don't expect anything extra blood-curdling, for you won't get it, unless you'd like me to romance a little. Where do you want me to begin? All my adventures in all the places I've lived at? That's rather a big order. You'll have to be contented with a piece. Here goes!"

But as Gipsy's descriptions, though graphic, were not of a remarkably lucid character, it will perhaps be well to omit her version of the story, and, for a better understanding of her independent, whimsical little self, give a brief account of her previous career in a separate chapter.


The "Queen of the Waves"

INTO the fourteen years of her life Gipsy had certainly managed to compress a greater variety of experiences than falls to the share of most girls of her age. She had been a traveller from her earliest babyhood, and was familiar with three continents. Her father was a mining engineer, and in the course of his profession was obliged to visit many out-of-the-way spots in various corners of the globe. As Gipsy was all he had left to remind him of her dead mother, he never could bear to be parted from her for long, and he would generally contrive to put her to school at some place within tolerably easy reach of the vicinity of his mining operations. In the holidays he would sometimes take her up to camp, and Gipsy had spent long delightful weeks in the hills, or the bush, sleeping under canvas, or in a log cabin or a covered wagon, and living the life of the birds and the rabbits as regards untrammelled freedom.

She had grown up a thorough little Colonial, self-dependent and resourceful, able to catch her own horse and saddle it, to ride barebacked on occasion, and to be prepared for the hundred and one accidents and emergencies of bush life. She had taken a hand at camp cookery, helped to head cattle, understood the making of "billy" tea, and could find her own way where a town-bred girl would have been hopelessly lost. The roving life had fostered her naturally enterprising disposition; she loved change and variety and adventure, and in fact was as thorough-hearted a young gipsy as any black-eyed Romany who sells brooms in the wake of a caravan. At her various schools she had of course learnt to submit to some kind of discipline, but her classmates were Colonials, accustomed to far more freedom, than is accorded to English girls, and the rules were not nearly so strict as in similar establishments at home.

After a year spent in South Africa, Mr. Latimer was prepared to return to America, and, wishing to do some business in London en route, had booked passages for himself and Gipsy on the Queen of the Waves, a steamer bound from Durban to Southampton. Gipsy was an excellent sailor, and thoroughly enjoyed life at sea. She would cajole the captain to allow her to walk upon the bridge, or peep inside the wheelhouse; or persuade the second mate to take her to inspect the engines, or teach her flag-signalling on the upper deck: and wheedled marvellous and impossible stories of sharks and storms from the steward. The voyage had passed quickly, and until the headlands of the north coast of Spain were sighted had been quite uneventful.

"Only a few days more, and we shall be in port," said Mr. Latimer, looking through his pocket telescope at the outline of Cape Finisterre. "I think we may congratulate ourselves on the splendid weather we've had the whole time."

"We mustn't boast too soon," returned Captain Smith. "There are some ugly clouds gathering, and I shouldn't be surprised if we had a rough night of it in the Bay. What would you say, Gipsy, if we had the fiddles on the table at dinner?"

"Those queer racks to keep the plates from slipping about? Oh, I'd love to see them on! I've never been in a big storm. The wind may just blow, and blow, and blow to-night. The old sailor who sits on the top of the North Pole can untie all the four knots in his handkerchief if he likes."

"Don't wish for too much. One knot will be quite sufficient for us if we're to get across the Bay in comfort. You'll tell a different tale by to-morrow morning, I expect."

As the captain had prophesied, the dark clouds gathered quickly, and brought both a squall and a shower. The vessel was entering the Bay of Biscay, and that famous stretch of water was already beginning to justify its bad reputation. Gipsy had the satisfaction, not only of seeing the racks used at dinner, but of witnessing half the contents of her plate whirled across the table by a sudden lurch of the ship. The rolling was so violent that she could not cross the cabin without holding tightly to solid objects of furniture.

"I'm afraid we're going to have a terrible tossing," said Mr. Latimer, as he bade Gipsy good night. "Mind you don't get pitched out of your bunk. We're having bad weather with a vengeance now."

"The old sailor on the North Pole has untied all four knots," said Gipsy to herself, as she lay awake listening to the blowing of the gale. It was indeed a fearful storm. The vessel was tossed about like a cork: one moment her bows would be plumped deep in the water, and her stern lifted in mid-air, with the whirling screw making a deafening noise overhead; then all would be reversed, and the timbers seemed to shiver with the effort the ship made to right herself.

Gipsy found it impossible to sleep when her heels were continually being raised higher than her head, and sometimes a sudden roll would threaten to fling her even over the high wooden side of her berth. Everything in the cabin had fallen to the floor, and her boots, clothes, hairbrush, books, and indeed all her possessions were chasing one another backwards and forwards with each lurch of the vessel. The noise was terrific: the howling of the wind and the roaring of the waves were augmented by the creaking of timbers, the clanking of chains, and an occasional crashing sound that appeared to come from below, where the cargo had broken loose, and was being knocked about in the hold.

For an instant there seemed to be a lull; then, as if the storm had been waiting to gather fresh fury, a tremendous sea swept down upon the ship, dashing across the decks with a roar like thunder. Gipsy hid her face in her pillow. It would pass, she supposed, as the other waves had passed, and they would steam on as before. Then all at once she sat up in her berth. The great throb, like a pulsing heart to the vessel, that had never ceased day or night since they left Durban was suddenly still. The engines had stopped working. A moment afterwards her father burst into the cabin.

"Gipsy, child!" he exclaimed. "We must go on deck! Here, fling this coat round you! No, no! You can't wait to dress! We've sprung a bad leak, and the captain says we must take to the boats. Hold tight to my arm, and be a brave girl!"

It was with the utmost difficulty that the pair made their way up the lurching stairs on to the deck. Here the wind was furious, and would have blown them overboard had they not clung to the railings for support. In the fitful gleams of moonlight Gipsy could see towering waves rise like great mountains, and fall against the ship. The sailors were already lowering the boats, and she could hear the sound of the captain's speaking-trumpet as he shouted his orders above the noise of the storm. Were they indeed to trust themselves to the mercy of that terrible sea? Gipsy watched with alarm as the first frail-looking boat was successfully launched on the seething water.

"Have I time to fetch my papers?" asked Mr. Latimer, as the captain came in their direction.

"No; only to save yourself and your child," was the hasty reply. "Come at once; the vessel is filling fast, and may settle even before we can get off her."

When Gipsy afterwards recalled the various events of that night, she decided that the most dreadful moment of all was when, with a lifebelt fastened round her waist, she was lowered over the ship's side. Both the vessel and the lifeboat were so pitched about by the enormous waves that it was a perilous passage; for a few seconds she swung in mid-air, with only blinding foam and spray around her. Then there was a shout, she was grasped by strong hands from below, and drawn down into a place of comparative security. In another minute her father had followed her, and was seated by her side. The captain waited till all the boats were launched and he had seen the last of his crew off in safety, and he had scarcely left the deck himself and taken his place in the lifeboat before the doomed vessel heeled over, and with no further sign or warning disappeared into the depths.

All night long, through the cold and darkness, the little party was tossed upon the surface of the swirling waters; but towards dawn the storm abated, and when day broke, the sea, though still running fast, was sufficiently calm to enable the sailors to make some use of their oars. They put up a signal of distress, and waited anxiously, hoping that some passing vessel might notice them, and stop to pick them up. Hour after hour went by. Cold, hungry, and drenched to the skin, Gipsy tried to be brave, and to bear patiently what she knew must be endured equally by all. The sun rose high, and shone down warmly upon them, but there was still no sign of either land or a ship. It was long past noon when one of the crew, with a jubilant shout, pointed eagerly to a tiny black streak of smoke on the horizon, which they knew must issue from the funnel of some distant steamer. With frantic energy they waved jackets and handkerchiefs, to try to attract the attention of those on board. Would they be seen, or would the ship pursue her course without noticing the small speck far away on the water? There was a minute of horrible uncertainty, then: "They've sighted us!" yelled the captain. "They're turning her about and putting her back!"

"Thank God we're saved!" exclaimed Mr. Latimer.

The rest seemed like a dream to Gipsy. She could remember afterwards that she was helped by two sailors up the companion way of a tall liner, and that she saw a long row of excited passengers staring at her over the railings; then all became a blur, and when she came to herself she was lying on a couch in a strange cabin, with her father and a doctor bending over her.

"She only fainted from exhaustion," she could hear the doctor saying. "We'll soon have her all right again. Ah, here comes the beef tea! A few hours of sound sleep will make all the difference. When she wakes, you'll find she's almost herself again."

Five days later found Gipsy seated at breakfast with her father in the coffee-room of a Liverpool hotel, none the worse for her adventures. The liner that had picked up all the survivors of the ill-fated Queen of the Waves had been on her way to Liverpool, and Mr. Latimer decided to make a brief stay there, to secure new clothes for himself and Gipsy, and to gain time to make fresh plans for the future. Though he had fortunately been able to bring a certain sum of money away with him, all their other possessions had gone down with the wrecked vessel, and it was this loss which he and Gipsy were discussing as they drank their morning tea.

"It was distinctly awkward to be left with nothing in the world but a nightdress that I could call my own!" laughed Gipsy. "Wasn't it funny on the Alexia? People were ever so kind in lending me things, but they didn't fit. Mrs. Hales' skirt swept the deck, and Mrs. Campbell's jacket was miles too big for me. I must have looked an elegant object when we reached the landing stage! I don't wonder you bundled me into a cab in a hurry, and drove straight off to an hotel. Yes, it's decidedly unpleasant to lose one's clothes."

"If it were only clothes we'd lost, Gipsy, I shouldn't mind, but it's a far more serious affair than that. All my valuable papers are gone, child! You don't realize yet what that means. It makes such an enormous difference to my affairs that for the next few years it may entirely alter the course of my life."

"What do you mean, Dad?" asked Gipsy quickly, for her father's tone was grave.

"What I say. The loss of those papers will necessitate a complete change of all my plans. Instead of our going on to America, I shall be obliged to return to South Africa at once."

"More voyaging! All right, Dad; I'm game for another wreck, if you are! It'll seem rather funny to go back to where we've just come from, won't it?"

Mr. Latimer was silent for a moment or two.

"Gipsy!" he said at last, "I've got to break the news to you somehow. I've decided not to take you back with me to the Cape. I want to go up-country, into some rather wild places, places where you couldn't possibly come to camp. You'd be far best at school here in England."

"Dad! Dad! You're never going to leave me behind!"

"Now be sensible, Gipsy! Remember all I've lost. Your passage would be a quite unnecessary expense; schools are better, too, over here, and you'd have more advantages in the way of education than in South Africa. It can't be helped, and we must both try to make the best of it. I'll not be gone long, I promise you that. Then I'll come back to England again and fetch you. For goodness' sake don't make a scene!"

Gipsy blinked hard, and with a supreme effort contrived to master herself. Her knockabout life had taught her self-control and sound common sense in many respects, and she was old enough to appreciate the expediency of the altered plans.

"What school am I to go to?" she asked rather chokily.

"I spoke to Captain Smith about it, and he recommended one at a place called Greyfield. He said his niece used to be there once, and liked it. I'm going to take you to-day. We must get the 11.40 train."

"So soon! Oh, Dad! couldn't we have just one more day together?"

"Impossible, Gipsy! I want to catch the mail steamer for Cape Town to-morrow. This wreck has been a great disaster to us. But there!—things might have been worse, and I suppose I shall manage to pull my affairs round in course of time. It's no good crying over spilt milk, is it? When one's castle comes crashing down about one's ears, there's nothing to be done but to set one's teeth firmly, and try to build it up again."

"If only I could help you, Dad! Couldn't I help the least little atom of a scrap out there?" pleaded Gipsy wistfully.

"You'll help me best by stopping here in England, and making yourself as happy as you can."

"All right! I'll try to be a Stoic! Only—we've never been six thousand miles apart before, and—well, it will seem queer to be left all alone in a country where I simply don't know one single soul."

It was owing to the course of events just narrated that Mr. Latimer, obliged to choose a school in a hurry, had, on Captain Smith's recommendation, selected Briarcroft Hall, and, taking Gipsy to Greyfield, had arranged to leave her in Miss Poppleton's charge until such time as he could come again and fetch her. How she got on in her new surroundings, and how her independent Colonial notions contrasted with more sober English ways, it is the purpose of this story to chronicle.


Gipsy makes a Beginning

BRIARCROFT HALL was a large private school which stood on the outskirts of the town of Greyfield, close to the border of the Lake District in Cumberland. It was a big, rather old-fashioned red-brick house, built in Queen Anne style, with straight rows of windows on either side of the front door, and a substantial porch, surmounted by stone balls. Years ago it had been the seat of a county magnate; but as the town began to stretch out long, growing fingers, and rows of villas sprang up where before had been only green lanes, and an electric tramway was started for the convenience of the new suburb, the owner of Briarcroft had retreated farther afield, glad enough to escape the proximity of unwelcome neighbours, and to let the Hall to a suitable tenant. As Miss Poppleton announced in her prospectuses, the house was eminently fitted for a school: the situation was healthy, yet conveniently near to the town, the rooms were large and airy, the garden contained several tennis courts, and there was a field at the back for hockey. Visiting masters and mistresses augmented the ordinary staff of teachers, and Greyfield was well provided with good swimming baths, Oxford Extension lectures, high-class concerts, art exhibitions, and other educational privileges not always to be met with in a provincial town. On the other hand, the country was within easy reach. Ten minutes' walk led on to comparatively rural roads, and within half an hour you could find yourself beginning to climb the fells, with a long stretch of heather for a prospect, and the pure moorland air filling your lungs.

Miss Poppleton, the Principal of the school, irreverently nicknamed "Poppie" by her pupils, was a double B.A., for she had taken her degree in both classics and mathematics. She was a rather small, determined little lady, with a bright complexion, sharp, short-sighted, greenish-grey eyes, which peered at the world through a pair of round rimless spectacles, but seemed nevertheless to see everything ("too much", the habitual sinners affirmed!), what the girls called "an enquiring nose", grey hair brushed back quite straight from a square, "brainy"-looking forehead, and a mouth that had a habit of pursing and unpursing itself very rapidly when its owner was at all irritated or disturbed in mind. She was a good organizer, a strict disciplinarian, and a clever teacher—everything that is admirable, in fact, in a headmistress, from the scholastic point of view; and her vigorous, intellectual, capable personality always made an excellent impression upon parents and guardians. By the girls themselves she was regarded in a less favourable light: the very qualities which gave her success as a Principal caused her to seem distant and unapproachable. Her pupils held her in wholesome awe, but never expanded in her presence; to them she was the supreme authority, the "she-who-must-be-obeyed", but not a human individual who might be met on any common ground of mutual tastes and sympathies.

Miss Poppleton had a younger sister, whose name did not appear on the prospectuses, and who took a very back seat indeed in the school. Among intimate friends Miss Poppleton was apt to allude to her as "poor Edith", and most people concurred in a low estimation of her capacities. Certainly Miss Edith was not talented, neither would she have shone in any walk of life requiring brains. She was the exact opposite of her sister—tall, with big, round, blue, surprised-looking eyes, a weak chin, and a mouth that was generally set in a rather deprecating smile. She held a poor opinion of herself, and was more than willing to fill a secondary place; indeed, she would have been both alarmed and embarrassed if called upon to take the lead. For her elder sister she had an admiration and devotion that amounted to reverence. She cheerfully performed any tasks set her, and was perfectly content to be a kind of general help and underling, without attempting the least interference with any of the arrangements. Critical friends sometimes hinted that Miss Edith's position at Briarcroft was hardly a fair one, and that Miss Poppleton took advantage of her good nature and affection; but Miss Edith herself never for a single instant entertained such a disloyal notion, and continued to sing her sister's praises almost ad nauseam. Among the girls she was a distinct favourite; her patience was endless, and her good temper unflagging. What she lacked in brains she made up for in warmth of heart, and though she faithfully upheld discipline, she was apt somewhat to tone down the severity of the rules, and indeed sometimes surreptitiously to soften the thorny paths of the transgressor.

Four resident mistresses and a certain number of visiting teachers completed the staff at Briarcroft Hall. The greater proportion of the pupils were day girls, and the boarders, though they gave themselves airs, were decidedly in the minority. Such was the little community into which Gipsy was to be launched, and where for many months to come she would have to make and keep her own position.

Gipsy started with the most excellent intentions of exemplary behaviour, and if her conduct, regulated according to American codes, hardly harmonized with Briarcroft standards, it was more her misfortune than her fault. On the first day after her arrival she betook herself to the Principal's study, and after a light tap at the door, entered confidently with a breezy "Good morning". Miss Poppleton looked up from her papers in considerable surprise. Her private room was sacred to herself alone, and unless armed with a most warrantable errand nobody ever ventured to disturb her.

"Who sent you here, Gipsy?" she enquired rather sharply.

"Nobody," replied Gipsy, quite unaware of having given any occasion for offence. "I only came to ask leave to run out and buy a pan, and some sugar, and a few other things. I reckon there's a store handy, and I wouldn't be gone ten minutes. There's heaps of time before nine."

Miss Poppleton gasped. She had grasped the fact, at the beginning, that Gipsy was likely to prove an unusual pupil, but she had not anticipated such immediate developments.

"What you ask is perfectly impossible," she replied. "The boarders here are never allowed to go out alone to do shopping."

"So some of them told me last night, but I didn't believe them. I thought they were ragging me because I'm new, and I'd best ask at headquarters," returned Gipsy. "I wouldn't lose my way, and I'm accustomed to taking care of myself. I'd engage you'd find you could trust me."

"That's not the question at all, Gipsy. I cannot allow you to break school rules."

"Not just this once?"

"Certainly not. If I made an exception in your case, the others would expect the same privilege."

"Is that so?" said Gipsy slowly. "It seems a funny rule to me, because in Dorcas City we might always go to the store if we reported first."

"You're not in America now: you'll have to learn English ways here, and English speech too. You must make an effort to drop Americanisms, and talk as we do on this side of the Atlantic."

Miss Poppleton's tone was rather tart, and her mouth twitched ominously. Gipsy's eyes twinkled.

"I'll do my best," she answered brightly. "I picked up a few words from the other girls last night that I didn't know before. There was 'ripping' for one, and—what was the other, now, that caught on to me? Oh, I know!—'rotten'. I won't forget it again."

Miss Poppleton's face was a study.

"Of course I don't mean slang words like those. The girls had no business to be using them. You must copy the best, and not the worst."

"I guess it will take me a while to learn the difference."

"You'll have to expunge 'guess' and 'reckon' from your vocabulary."

Gipsy heaved an eloquent sigh.

"I'll make a mental note of what I've got to avoid, but I expect they'll slip out sometimes. But about that pan, please! Might the janitor go out and buy it for me? I can't make any Fudge till I get it, and I reck—that is to say, I mean to teach those girls to make Fudge. They've not tasted it."

Miss Poppleton glared at her irrepressible pupil with a glance that would have quelled Hetty Hancock or Lennie Chapman, but Gipsy did not flinch.

"They've actually never tasted Fudge!" she repeated, with a smile of pity for their ignorance.

But Miss Poppleton's patience was at an end.

"Gipsy Latimer, understand once for all that these things are not allowed at Briarcroft. While you are here you will be expected to keep the rules of the school, or, if you break them, you will be punished. Leave my study at once, and don't report yourself here again until you are sent for."

Gipsy left the room as requested, but she stood for a moment or two on the doormat outside, shaking her head solemnly.

"It's a bad lookout!" she said to herself. "I'm afraid there are breakers ahead. That's not a very difficult matter to foresee. She's got a temper! I've not had any previous experience of English schools, but it rather appears as if this one's run on the lines of a reformatory. If I don't want to get myself into trouble, I shall have to lie low, and mind what I'm doing. Well, I've sampled the teachers, and I've sampled the boarders. Now for the day girls and my new Form!"

Gipsy had already made the acquaintance of the elect twenty who were to be her house companions, but that was a comparatively slight affair compared with the ordeal of her introduction to the school as a whole. In spite of her outward appearance of sangfroid, she felt her heart thumping a little as she marched into the large lecture hall for "call over". It needs a certain courage to face seventy-two critical strangers, and her past experience had taught her that a new girl on her first day is like "goods on approval", and has to run the gauntlet of public opinion. She tried to look airy and unembarrassed, and talked desperately to Lennie Chapman, who had been told off to "personally conduct" her to her Form; but all the same she was conscious that she was the observed of all observers. It was only natural that the little, erect, dark figure, with its bright eyes and big scarlet hair ribbons, should attract attention. Gipsy was about as different from the ordinary run of British schoolgirls as a parakeet is from a flock of pigeons; and the others were quick to note the difference.

"I say, who's that foreign kid?" enquired Madeleine Newsome, a member of the Fifth, pausing in a friendly quarrel with a Form mate to take a quick, comprehensive survey of the stranger's personal appearance.

"Can't say, I'm sure," responded Emily Atkinson, "but we'll soon find out. Hello, you kid, what's your name? And what part of the globe do you spring from?"

"She's Spanish and American and New Zealand and South African and several other things, and she's been shipwrecked dozens of times," began Lennie Chapman, who was prone to exaggerate, and liked to act showman.

"Let her speak for herself," interrupted Madeleine bluntly. "I suppose she understands English, doesn't she? What's your name, kid? Don't stand staring at me with those big black eyes!"

But here Gipsy's momentary bashfulness took flight. Seven schools had taught her to hold her own, and she was soon imparting information about herself with a volubility that left no doubt of her acquaintance with the English tongue. Other girls hurried up to listen, and in less than a minute she was the centre of a crowd, answering a perfect fire of questions with a beaming good humour and a quickness of repartee that rather took the fancy of her hearers.

"She's sharp enough, at any rate," commented Mary Parsons. "Not very easy to take a rise out of her, I should think."

"Awfully pretty, I call her," responded Joyce Adamson. "Those big red bows are immense in more ways than one."

"She's not the sort to play second fiddle evidently," grumbled Maude Helm a trifle enviously. "New girls oughtn't to have such cheek, in my opinion. When I was new——"

"Oh, yes! We all remember how you stood looking black thunders, and no one could drag a single word out of you, not even your name! Can't see where the sense came in! I like a girl with plenty to say for herself."

"This one's got enough, at any rate!" snapped Maude. "She talks away like a Cheap-Jack. Now if I were——"

"Hold your tongue, can't you? I want to hear what she's saying."

"What Form's she in?"

"I believe Poppie's put her in the Upper Fourth."

"Hush! Here's Poppie herself!"

As the Principal stepped upon the platform and rang the bell, the girls hastily scurried to their seats, deferring further catechism of their new schoolfellow till eleven o'clock. Gipsy's name had been placed on the roll call of the Upper Fourth, so as a member of the Lower School she marched in the long line that filed from the lecture hall to the right-hand wing of the house. The preliminary part of her ordeal might be considered successfully over. Schoolgirls are quick to take likes and dislikes; with them, first impressions are everything, and a few minutes are often sufficient to decide the fate of a newcomer. By the end of the day Gipsy had won golden opinions; her whimsical humour and free Colonial manners, however unfavourably they might impress Miss Poppleton, pleased the popular taste, and except by an envious few she was pronounced "ripping". Even Helen Roper, the head of the school, condescended to notice her.

"Hello, you new girl!" she said patronizingly, "you may join our Needlework Guild if you like. You've got to subscribe a shilling, and promise to make a garment every year. They're sent to the hospitals, you know."

"Thanks," replied Gipsy, not too utterly overwhelmed by the honour. "I'm a bad sewer, but I dare say I'd manage to cobble up something."

"Then I'll put your name down, and you can bring me the shilling to-morrow. Have you got a camera? Then I expect you'll like to belong to the Photographic Guild—the subscription's a shilling for that too. Remind me to give you a card of the rules if I forget."

"You'll do!" whispered Lennie Chapman, who had watched over Gipsy's introduction with anxious interest. "If Helen Roper's spoken to you, you're sure to get on. You'll join the Guilds, of course? There's the Dramatic as well, and the Musical, and the Athletic."

"If they want a shilling for each, it will soon run away with one's pocket-money," laughed Gipsy.

"Why, yes, so it does, but then one has to join. It is the thing to do."

"I don't mind the subscriptions if the Guilds are fun."

"Well—um! I can't say they're very much fun for us. We're only Lower School, you see, and we don't get a look-in."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, of course it's all in the hands of the Sixth. They arrange everything. We mayn't so much as express an opinion."

"No, it's really rather too bad," said Hetty Hancock, joining in the conversation. "We Lower School aren't fairly treated. The Photographic Guild spent all the society's money on a gorgeous developing machine last term, and no one's allowed to use it except the Committee."

"But aren't any of the Lower School on the Committee?" asked Gipsy.

"No, we're not counted 'eligible'. We vote, but we may only elect members of the Sixth. And the Sixth just have it all their own way."

"How monstrously unfair!"

"It's just as bad in the Dramatic," continued Hetty, airing her grievances. "The Sixth arrange all the casts, and of course take the best parts for themselves, and only give us Juniors little, unimportant bits."

"But don't the Lower School act plays by themselves?"

"They haven't, so far; you see, it's always been one big Society. But I can tell you we've grumbled when our subscriptions have all gone to buy wigs and costumes for the Sixth."

"But why do you let them?" protested Gipsy.

Hetty shrugged her shoulders.

"How are we going to prevent it, when we've no voice in the matter? I told you the Committee arrange everything. We're supposed to be allowed to give our views at the General Meeting, but it's the merest farce—the Sixth won't condescend to listen to us."

"I'd make them listen!" said Gipsy indignantly.

"You'd better try, then!" laughed Hetty. "It's the Annual Meeting of all the Guilds on Friday week. We have to elect officers for the year. I should like to see you tackle Helen Roper!"

Gipsy turned away without further comment. Her past experience of schools had taught her that it was unwise to begin by criticizing well-worn institutions too soon. During the next few days, however, she asked many questions, and by diligently putting two and two together managed to arrive at a tolerably accurate estimate of the general state of affairs. The result caused her to shake her head. Though she said little, like the proverbial parrot she thought the more, and her thoughts gradually shaped themselves into a plan of action. At the end of a week she faced the situation.

"Look here, Gipsy Latimer!" she said to herself, "there are abuses in this school that need reforming. Somebody's got to take the matter up, and I guess it's your mission to do it! I don't believe it's ever occurred to those girls to make a stand for their rights. They may support you, or they may call you an interfering busybody for your pains; you'll have to take your chance of that. With your free-born democratic standards, it's impossible for you to sit still and see things go on as they are. This annual meeting's your opportunity, so you'd best pluck up your courage and nerve yourself for the fray."


A Mass Meeting

A LARGE school is a state in miniature. Quite apart from the rule of the mistresses, it has its own particular institutions and its own system of self-government. In their special domain its officers are of quite as much importance as Members of Parliament, and wield an influence and an authority comparable to that of Cabinet Ministers. Tyrannies, struggles for freedom, minor corruptions, and hot debates have their places here as well as in the wider world of politics, and many an amateur "Home Rule Bill" is defeated or carried according to the circumstances of the case. At Briarcroft Hall there had hitherto existed a pure oligarchy, or government of the few. The Sixth Form had jealously kept the reins in their own hands, and, while granting a few privileges to the Fifth, had denied the slightest right of interference to the Lower School. So far, though the Juniors had grumbled continually, they had never taken any steps to redress their grievances. Here and there one of them would offer an indignant protest, which was treated with scorn by the Seniors, and things would go on again in the old unsatisfactory fashion.

Gipsy, with the unbiased judgment of an entirely new-comer, had formed her opinion of the Briarcroft code, and deeming reform necessary, set to work to preach a crusade. She expounded her views to Hetty Hancock, Lennie Chapman, and a few other sympathizers, and organized a plan of campaign.

"What we want to do is to combine," she announced. "It's not the slightest scrap of good a few single girls going and airing their woes to the Sixth. They're not likely to listen. If we could show them that the whole of the Lower School is one big united body, pledged to resist,—well, they'd just have to give way."

"All the lower Forms feel the same," said Hetty. "I was speaking to the Third about it this morning."

"How are we going to begin?" asked Lennie.

"We must call a mass meeting of Juniors, and put the thing to them fairly and squarely," said Gipsy. "Explain what we want, and draw up a programme of what we mean to do, then see if they'll give their support."

"Best lose no time about it, then. I'll post up notices at once, and we'll have a meeting at two o'clock to-morrow afternoon in the play-room. It's no use letting the grass grow under our feet. Have you a pencil and a scrap of paper there, Lennie? Give them to me, and I'll make a rough draft. How will this do, do you think?

"'A Mass Meeting of all Members of the Lower School will be held in the Junior Play-room on Wednesday at 2 p.m. prompt. Business: To consider the question of readjusting the Management of the various Guilds.

"'Speaker: GIPSY LATIMER.'"

"First rate!" said Lennie. "I'll help you to make some copies. We must pin one up on the notice board of each Junior classroom, and one in the dressing-room. It'll make a stir, and no mistake!"

"Rather!" chuckled Hetty. "Gipsy, you're an Oliver Cromwell!"

"You might add: 'Chairman, Hetty Hancock', then I guess it will do," said Gipsy, scanning the scrap of paper.

As Lennie had prophesied, the announcement caused a great stir throughout the Lower School. Excited girls crowded round the notices discussing the question, and for that day the talk was of nothing else. Gipsy had rather taken the popular fancy; and though a few considered it impertinence on the part of a new girl to offer any criticisms on existing institutions, all were anxious to hear what she had to say on so absorbing a topic. At 2 p.m. on the Wednesday, therefore, the play-room was crowded. Juniors of all sorts and conditions were there, from the tall girls of the Upper Fourth to giggling members of the Third, and small fry of the First and Second, who felt themselves vastly important at being included in the proceedings. The instigators of the movement were determined that the meeting should be held in strict order. They had placed a table to serve as a platform, and arranged benches that would accommodate at least a part of the audience.

"Lennie, you make them take their seats properly," commanded Hetty; "big ones at the back, and little ones in front: those First Form kids can sit on the floor. Don't stand any nonsense with the Third. Now, Gipsy, are you ready? Then we'll mount the platform."

Hetty had been studying up her duties as "Chairman", and was anxious to do the thing in style. She had prepared her speech carefully beforehand.

"Ladies and gentlemen," she began glibly, "at least, I mean girls and fellow members of our Junior School, my pleasant business this afternoon is to introduce to you the speaker, Miss Gipsy Latimer. Though she is a newcomer amongst us, I'm sure we all realize that by her wide experience of American and Colonial schools she is particularly fitted to speak to us on the subject in hand. She has had the opportunity of studying the working of other Societies and Guilds, and she will no doubt be able to offer us many valuable suggestions. I will not take up the time of the meeting by any further remarks, but will at once call upon the speaker to address us."

Hetty sat down, consciously covered with glory. Her own Form cheered lustily, and even the unruly Third appeared much impressed. The little girls in the front row were staring round-eyed and open-mouthed with admiration. Gipsy rose slowly, took one long, comprehensive glance over her audience, then in her clear, high-pitched tones began her crusade:

"Girls! I'm afraid most of you will think it's rather cheeky of me to have taken the matter up when I've only been ten days or so at Briarcroft, and I'd like at the very start to apologize for what really must look to you like a piece of cocksure presumption. I think you'll all allow, though, that it's a pretty true saying that 'outsiders see most of the game'. I've been examining your institutions pretty carefully since I came, and it seems to me the game's all in the hands of the Sixth. There are five separate Guilds in this school—the Needlework, the Photographic, the Dramatic, the Musical, and the Athletic. I made enquiries about all of them, and I find that though the Juniors contribute the bulk of the subscriptions, they haven't the least voice in the arrangements. Now, in the countries I've lived in, such a state of affairs would be denounced as tyranny pure and simple. I reckon a school ought to be a democracy, and every member who joins a society and pays a subscription has a right to have some say at least in the way the subscriptions are to be spent. If they don't, it's 'taxation without representation', a bad old mediaeval custom that it's taken some countries a revolution to get rid of. I put it to the meeting—Are you willing to sit down and be tyrannized over by the Sixth? Do you mean to go on paying your shillings, and never getting the least advantage or satisfaction out of any of the Guilds?"

An indignant roar of "No, no!" came from the audience. Gipsy had stated the case very clearly. It was what the Juniors had all felt, but had never fairly voiced before. They wanted to hear more.

"Go on! Go on!" they cried eagerly.

"There are at present ninety-three girls in this school," continued Gipsy. "Twenty-two are in the Fifth and Sixth, and seventy-one in the lower Forms. Just compare those figures! Twenty-two Seniors and seventy-one Juniors! Why, our majority is simply overwhelming. Now, for an example let us take the Dramatic Guild. At a shilling a year a head, the subscriptions of the Upper School amount to L1, 2s., and those of the Lower School to L3, 11s. I asked how last year's funds were spent, and found the whole went in hiring Pompadour wigs and other things that were worn by the Sixth. Only three Juniors took part in the performances, and they were actually obliged to provide their own costumes, because there was no money left to buy materials. Now, I ask you, is such a state of affairs to be tolerated any longer?"

"No!" shrieked a chorus of voices.

"The Dramatic Guild is no exception. All the other societies are equally bad. The funds ought to be applied to the general good; and if they're only spent on a few, I call it misappropriation of a trust. In America and in the Colonies our watchword was always 'Liberty'; and we took care that all got their rights. Are you Briarcroft girls going to let this injustice go on, or will you all join together and make a stand for fair practices? In the name of Liberty, I ask you!"

As Gipsy warmed to her subject her brown eyes flashed and sparkled, and the whole of her dark face seemed afire with enthusiasm. She looked a convincing little figure as she stood there, urging the rights of her schoolfellows, and hardly a girl in the room but was carried away by her arguments. Instinctively the Juniors felt they had found a leader.

"I put it to the meeting. Are you ready to combine and stand together? Those who are in favour, kindly hold up their hands."

Such a clamour arose from the play-room that the noise drifted upstairs to the ears of the Seniors, who sat all unconscious of the rebellion that was being preached below. With memories of Wat Tyler, Hampden, Oliver Cromwell, the Seven Bishops, and other famous champions of the commonweal fresh in their minds from their history books, the girls were ready to take any measures suggested to them. There was scarcely a dissenting voice. Enthusiasm fires enthusiasm. Gipsy's speech seemed an inspiration, and everybody was agog with interest.

"She's right!"

"We've been kept down too long!"

"I always said it was monstrously unfair!"

"The Seniors will have to give way!"

"We'll get our rights now!"

"I wonder nobody thought of it before!"

The talk burst out on all sides, for every one was eager to have her own say, and discuss the matter with her neighbour. Even the First Form children had followed the arguments, and were as keen as anybody. Gipsy calmly counted the upraised hands, then rang a bell for silence.

"I may take it, then, that the motion is carried by the general consent of the meeting," she continued. "We're agreed that some stand ought to be made against the aggressions of the Seniors. Now, the next question to be considered is what we mean to do, and how we're going to do it. It seems to me that we ought to have something very definite to work upon. What I propose is that a picked few of us go as delegates to the Sixth, and ask for something that has always been refused before. If, as I expect, they say 'No', then we shall have a just ground of complaint, and we'll use it as a text at the Annual Meeting to demand a new arrangement of the Guilds. Four of us ought to make up the deputation. I'm willing to go for one, and I think I can promise for Hetty Hancock and Lennie Chapman. Who'll volunteer to be the fourth?"

There was a moment's silence. It was all very well to shout rebellion in chorus, but the old tradition of awe for the Sixth still oppressed the Juniors, when it came to the point of openly bearding the lions in question.

"I will!" said a voice from the back row.

It was Meg Gordon, a member of the Upper Fourth, a rather nice-looking girl of about Gipsy's own age. Meg had listened with closest attention and wholehearted agreement, and was prepared to embrace the cause with the zeal she considered it deserved. If called upon to do so, she would have been ready even to face Miss Poppleton herself.

"Good!" replied Gipsy. "Then we'll make up a test case. If it's refused, then we draw up a statement of our grievances, and what we want reformed, and present it at the General Meeting. If that's also refused—" (Gipsy paused a moment to let her words take due effect) "then we show our teeth!"

"What's our programme then?" shouted one of the Lower Fourth.

"I'll tell you. If the Seniors have shown themselves unworthy of our confidence, they don't deserve our support in any respect. Instead of voting to elect them as officers, we'll withdraw our subscriptions, and found a separate system of Guilds for the Lower School alone."

The boldness of Gipsy's suggestion almost took away the breath of her hearers. To break loose from the hard regime of the Seniors and form a system of self-governing societies among the Juniors had never occurred to anybody at Briarcroft before. The idea was splendid in its magnitude.

"It seems to me we've got the game into our own hands if we like," continued the speaker. "Nobody can force us to subscribe to societies of which we don't approve. We'll insist on a referendum of the whole school, and see how the result turns out. Are you all ready to combine on this point? Those in favour, please say 'Aye'."

"Aye! Aye! Aye!" arose from all sides.

"Well spoken!"

"Hurrah for the Junior School!"

"Three cheers for Gipsy Latimer!" shouted Hetty Hancock, jumping up agitatedly from her chair, and nearly falling over the edge of the platform in the heat of her enthusiasm.

"Hear, Hear!"

"Hip, hip, hip, hooray!"

The excitement was intense. Gipsy's oratory had been quite spontaneous and unaffected, and like most genuine things it carried conviction to its hearers. In the midst of a babel of voices the big bell rang for afternoon school. The girls fled to their various classrooms, discussing the matter on their way upstairs.

"It's the best idea I've ever heard!" declared Meg Gordon. "Gipsy Latimer's a trump! I'll support her in anything she proposes."

"I wonder we never thought of such a thing before," said Cassie Bertram.

"Yes, to think of our having stood the Sixth for years, and never making a move!"

"I think it ought to have come from some of us, though," objected Maude Helm. "Gipsy's quite a new girl, and it's rather cheek of her to try and foist her American notions upon us, as if we didn't know anything."

"Oh, you shut up! Why didn't you suggest it yourself?"

"I'm rather of Maude's opinion," said Alice O'Connor. "I agree with the thing in principle, but I don't like it coming from a new girl."

"New girls oughtn't to run the whole show," added Gladys Merriman.

"Oh, you three! You'd find fault with an angel! For goodness' sake don't get up these petty little jealousies, and spoil the whole affair. What does it matter if Gipsy's new? Everybody has to be new some time. She's shown she's capable of a great deal more than most of us are."

"And she knows it too, doesn't she just?" sneered Maude. "The way she stood on that platform and talked!"

"It's sheer nastiness on your part, Maude Helm, to try and belittle her! You won't get much glory for yourself by sticking pins in other people; and I can tell you, if you're going to set up in opposition to Gipsy, you've no chance. I'll undertake there's hardly a girl in the Lower School now who won't side with Gipsy Latimer!"


A Pitched Battle

GIPSY ran upstairs to the classroom with a feeling of intense satisfaction. So far all had gone well. She had succeeded in arousing a spirit of righteous wrath and resistance throughout the Lower School, and a desire to combine for the general welfare. There was a certain exhilaration in the discovery that she was thus able to sway the minds of her companions. She had been popular in other schools, but she had never had a chance such as this. To do Gipsy justice, however, she thought far more of the cause she had taken up than of her own popularity. "Fairness" was her watchword, and wherever her lot had been cast she would have come forward as the champion of any whom she considered unfairly treated. A girl of decided ability, her knockabout life had in many ways made her old beyond her years, and she had that capacity for organization and power of making others work with her that belong to the born leader. Having constituted herself practically head of the movement, she assumed the further conduct of affairs, and at four o'clock held a small committee meeting with Hetty Hancock, Lennie Chapman, and Meg Gordon, her three self-elected coadjutors. As the result of their consultations they presented themselves next day in the Sixth Form classroom, at the identical moment when Miss Giles had just retired, and the members of the Sixth were still engaged in putting away their books.

"Hello, you kids! What are you doing here?" exclaimed Doreen Tristram. "Just you quit, and be quick about it, too!"

"Kids, indeed!" retorted Hetty Hancock. "Not much kids about us, I should think. We're all turned fourteen."

"Are you really? What a magnificent age! I'm glad you've enlightened me, for I should certainly have classed you among the babes!" returned Doreen sarcastically.

"Define a kid!" drawled Esther Hughes, putting on her pince-nez to regard the intruders.

"Everybody knows a kid means a First or Second Form-er, sometimes a Third, but never, never a Fourth Form girl!" burst out Lennie Chapman indignantly. "Why, I'm taller than you!"

The Seniors giggled.

"Merely a difference of opinion, my child," said Ada Dawkins. "Now, according to our standard, every member of the Lower School is a kid, even if she were six feet in height! Our superiority lies in brains, not inches! All Juniors are kids, you are a Junior, therefore you must be a kid. Quod est demonstrandum!"

"And kids aren't allowed to poke their impertinent young noses into our Form room," said Doreen Tristram. "I told you before to quit!"

"Do you want to be turned out by brute force?" added Gertrude Harding. "It would be an undignified exit, I'm afraid."

Despite the threat, none of the four delegates budged an inch.

"You say what we're here for," whispered Meg, nudging Gipsy.

Thus urged, Gipsy opened her campaign:

"We're all four members of the Photographic Guild, and we've come to ask for the developing machine. Some of us in the Fourth want to use it."

"In-deed! I dare say you do!"

"Don't you wish you may get it, that's all!"


"Look here—clear out of our classroom!"

"Not until I've asked a few questions," returned Gipsy firmly. "Is the developing machine the property of the Photographic Guild?"

"I suppose it is," grudgingly admitted Ada Dawkins.

"Then why aren't all members allowed to use it?"

"Because we're not going to have it spoilt by kids' meddlesome fingers. That's the reason, and a very good one too!"

"The Juniors pay their subscriptions as well as the Seniors, so they've a right to everything that's the common property of the Guild," persisted Gipsy.

"No, they haven't!" snapped Helen Roper, the head girl. "Nobody but members of the Committee has a right to anything. If you think we're going to let you Juniors come interfering, you're just mistaken, and the sooner you undeceive yourselves the better."

"We only want our rights."

"Rights? You've got no rights! It's privilege enough for you to be allowed to belong to the Guild at all."

"A great privilege to pay our shillings!"

"You're allowed to vote, you know," put in Lena Morris, who possibly had heard a hint of what was brewing in the Lower School. "You can elect any of us as officers that you like, for any of the Guilds."

"And much good that is, when you all play into one another's hands!" burst out Gipsy. "Who gets the best parts in the Dramatic and the Musical, I should like to know? Who votes the prizes in the Sports?"

Helen Roper turned rather red. The difference in the qualities of the prizes offered to Seniors and Juniors in the last athletic contest had been so marked as to call forth comment from the mistresses.

"That's nothing to do with it," she faltered rather lamely. "If you Juniors have any complaints to make, you must make them at the Annual Meeting."

"We're going to," said Hetty Hancock grimly.

"Then in the meantime keep to your own quarters, and don't intrude yourselves where you've no business," commanded Doreen Tristram angrily. "Do you intend to take yourselves off peaceably, or must we eject you?"

"Thank you, we'll go now. We've found out all we want to know, and it hardly reflects to your credit."

So saying, Gipsy and her confederates stalked away with what dignity they could muster.

Once outside the door they tore along the passage and downstairs to the Junior dressing-room, where, collecting all available members of the Lower School, they promptly held an informal indignation meeting.

"Only what everyone expected!" said Dilys Fenton.

"Trust the Sixth not to give in a single inch!"

"They've been asked heaps of times before."

"Then it adds another nail to their coffin," declared Gipsy. "We've tried them fairly, and they've refused to act fairly. We'll give them one more chance at the meeting to-morrow, and if they won't accept our terms—then we'll break loose and be off on our own. Are you all agreed to that?"

"Rather! We'll stand no nonsense this time."

"Kids, indeed! We'll show them what kids can do."

"They'll get on pretty badly without the kids."

"We'll soon let them find that out!"

If the Seniors had received any warning of what was in the wind, they did not take the matter seriously. From time immemorial the Juniors had always complained, and no notice had ever been taken of their complaints. As Juniors themselves the Sixth had grumbled at former head girls and monitresses, but now that they had reached the elect position of the top Form, they had reversed their old opinions. It had always been the tradition of Briarcroft that all authority should be vested in the Seniors, and they saw no reason why it should be changed. A mere outburst of temper on the part of a few Juniors was nothing: it had happened before, and would no doubt happen again; it was as much the province of Juniors to grumble as of Seniors to rule. But they reckoned without Gipsy. That any girl of her age should be capable of welding the shifting dissatisfaction of the Lower School into one solid mass of opposition had never occurred to them. So far no Junior had exercised any particular influence over her fellows; it had been each for herself, even in clamouring appeals for privileges, and the upper girls looked down on the "kids" as a noisy, selfish, troublesome crew, to be kept well under, and not worthy of very much consideration.

The Annual Meeting of the Guilds was to take place on Friday, 15 October, at three o'clock, in the lecture hall. It was held every year on the Friday nearest to the middle of October, and by old-established custom the last hour of the afternoon was allowed to be devoted to it. The mistresses were never present, and the girls, under the superintendence of the monitresses, were permitted to make any arrangements they thought fit, so long as they did not interfere with the ordinary school rules. Though the meetings had begun in good faith, as representative assemblies for all alike, they had degenerated into a merely formal statement of accounts by the Committee, which the general rank and file were expected to pass without comment, and an election of officers chosen almost entirely from the monitresses. There were favourites, of course, among the candidates, but their number was so limited that they did not even take the trouble to canvass for votes, each one feeling nearly sure of being elected to fill one, if not more, of the numerous posts in the many Guilds. The Fifth, having secured certain privileges denied to Juniors, were content if a few of their number were chosen to supply minor vacancies, and rarely interfered with the main direction of affairs.

On the Friday afternoon, therefore, the Upper School strolled carelessly into the lecture hall, and took their seats with the air of having a perfunctory business to perform which they would be glad to get over. The Juniors, on the other hand, were in a ferment of excitement: their opportunity had arrived, and they intended to make the most of it; even the youngsters of the First Form were grim in their determination to resist. The proceedings began in the ordinary time-honoured fashion. Helen Roper read a report for the previous year, and a statement of accounts. The latter, having been audited by Miss Poppleton and found correct, was passed without demur, and the head girl then went on to announce the list of candidates for the various offices. She rattled off the whole in a rather supercilious, casual manner, and she finished with the usual formula: "If any member of the Society has an objection to raise or a suggestion to make, kindly put it before the meeting now, that it may be discussed before the voting begins."

She paused for a moment with a bored air, expecting to hear the old grievances, and to squash them in the old summary fashion. The thing, to her, was a mere farce, to be gone through as speedily as possible. The eyes of all the Juniors were turned upon Gipsy, and Gipsy stood up.

"In the name of the whole of the Lower School I have an objection to raise and a suggestion to make," she began, in her clear, high-pitched voice. "We Juniors consider that we are unfairly treated in many ways in the Guilds, and we demand that a certain number of us should be eligible to serve on the Committee, to look after the rights of our own Forms."

Helen Roper stared at Gipsy as if she could hardly believe the evidence of her own ears, and the Seniors gasped with astonishment. The impudence of the proposal seemed to them beyond all bounds.

"I'm afraid it's not exactly the province of Juniors to sit on the Committee," returned Helen, with a sarcastic smile. "You can hardly expect us to comply with that demand."


"Sit upon her!"

"We can't allow this kind of thing!" murmured the indignant Seniors.

"A Guild is supposed to be formed for the common benefit of all concerned," continued Gipsy. "And I contend that every member who pays a subscription has a right to fair representation."

"Hear, hear!" shouted the Juniors.

"Well, you are represented. You can vote for any candidate you like," snapped Helen.

"But it is not fair representation when the candidates are obliged to be chosen from the ranks of the opposite camp. We want candidates of our own, to look after Lower School interests."

"We'll have them too!" squeaked a shrill voice from the ranks of the Third Form.

"You're not going to get it all your own way!" yelled another.

"We're tired of tyranny."

"Order! Order!" commanded Helen; then, turning to her fellow monitresses, she held a brief whispered consultation.

"Stop it at once!" "Put it down firmly!" "Don't stand any nonsense from them!" "Show them who are their betters," was the hasty advice given, and she turned again to the excited Juniors.

"What you ask is impossible," she said imperiously. "The Guilds have gone on very well in the past, and they'll go on very well in the future. We promise that the interests of the Juniors shall be looked after, but the general management must remain as before. You can sit down, Gipsy Latimer."

But Gipsy did not sit down.

"I've made a fair request, and you've refused it," she continued calmly. "All that remains for me to do now is to appeal to the whole school. We Juniors have held a meeting amongst ourselves, and have decided that, if we're denied our just rights, we'll withdraw our subscriptions and found Guilds of our own. Am I voicing the public opinion?"

"Yes, yes!" roared the Juniors.

"Put it to the vote!"

"Have it in black and white!"

"We'll settle it to-day!"

Gipsy's ultimatum was so utterly unexpected that the Seniors looked at one another as if an earthquake had occurred. They had imagined it was all "bluff" on the part of the younger girls, and that they were quite incapable of enforcing their demands. This sudden mutiny was a crisis such as had never risen before.

"Hadn't we better yield a point, and let them have one or two candidates of their own?" suggested Lena Morris hastily.

"Certainly not! It would be the greatest mistake to give way. Leave me to deal with them," said Helen, and turning on the Juniors with flashing eyes, she poured forth her scorn.

"Guilds of your own, indeed! Nice Guilds they'd be! Why, the meetings would be bear gardens. What do you know about how to conduct a Society? When I was a Junior I trusted to the wisdom of the Seniors, instead of listening to every newcomer who talked frothy nonsense. I tell you, it is the monitresses who are your best friends, and who can decide what's good for you. Are you going to change the whole of our Briarcroft organizations at the bidding of a girl who has only been in the school ten days?"

The latter part of Helen's argument appealed to a few who were jealous of Gipsy's influence, but the greater number broke out in indignant protest.

"Friends indeed!"

"Pretty friends!"

"Tyrants, more likely!"

"We'll see about bear gardens!"

"We won't be sat upon by a clique!"

These and other remarks were shouted in reply. Some of the excited girls scrambled up and stood on their seats; each began to talk to her neighbour, and the noise swelled till it grew into a general roar of: "A referendum! Give us a referendum!"

Helen rang the bell for silence, and, when some sort of order was restored, once more faced the turbulent Juniors.

"Do I clearly understand what it is you want to put to the vote?" she asked, frowning.

"Yes! Yes! Tell her again, Gipsy!"

"I may be a new girl," said Gipsy, "but the others have chosen me to speak for them, so I'm their lawful delegate. What we want to vote about is a question of separation. Are we Juniors to keep on in the old Guilds, or start Guilds of our own?"

"It will have to be a referendum of both Seniors and Juniors," replied Helen sharply.

"That's only fair. This is a public Annual Meeting, and we want to do everything in order."

Helen conferred again with her own Form. By all rules of general meetings, it was impossible to refuse a referendum if called for. They were obliged, therefore, to submit with the best grace they could, and to deal out the voting papers.

"Those in favour of union with the present Guilds kindly put a nought, and those in favour of separation a cross," commanded Helen. "Any paper with anything more on it will be disqualified. Girls! I make a last appeal to you to remember our old traditions, and to resist these innovations. Be loyal to your monitresses!"

"Old traditions are sometimes bad traditions," exclaimed Hetty Hancock, metaphorically flinging back the gauntlet. "We're ready to obey our monitresses on questions of school rules, but we're not Saxon serfs. Fair play is a jewel! We Juniors haven't had it yet, and we mean to get it. Girls! Be loyal to the Lower School!"

The Juniors snatched their voting papers with hot eagerness, and for a moment or two there was a silence in the room, while the necessary noughts or crosses were being registered. The Seniors were feeling decidedly blue, but for appearances' sake they kept up a show of confidence.

"I think one of us is entitled to help to check the counting," said Hetty, as the papers were collected and handed to the monitresses.

"Oh, certainly! Please come and satisfy yourselves," returned Helen bitterly.

So the votes were counted by Lena Morris and Ada Dawkins on behalf of the Seniors, and by Hetty and Gipsy on behalf of the Juniors. The latter had not doubted the result, but to the Upper School the figures were startling:

Separation 65 Union 28 _ Majority for Separation 37

Only six of the younger girls, therefore, had voted for the old regime, and the victory of the Lower School was complete. A mad scene of triumph ensued. The Juniors clapped and cheered, and waved their handkerchiefs in the exuberance of their enthusiasm; and as the discomfited Seniors beat a hasty retreat, the meeting broke up amid the roar of exultant hurrahs, and an impromptu chorus started by Gipsy and taken up by a dozen jubilant voices:

"Rule, Britannia! Britannia rules the waves! Juniors never, never, never, will be slaves!"


American Fudge

THE events narrated in the last chapter had made an epoch in Briarcroft history. Henceforward the Lower School meant to manage its own affairs, and it set to work at once to settle things upon a firm basis. Needless to say, Gipsy was the heroine of the hour. Except for a half-dozen who envied her popularity, the girls recognized that the revolution was entirely owed to her suggestion, and they were ready to acknowledge her as their leader. She took her honours modestly. Having accomplished what she had aimed at, she was quite ready to retire from the position of dictator until some other good cause needed a champion. After several meetings and much discussion, the Juniors decided that instead of founding a number of separate societies for photography, athletics, acting, &c., they would institute one united Guild, which should include all the various forms of school activity, to be covered by one subscription, payable each term.

"It will be far better than dividing things up," said Hetty Hancock, "because sometimes we want to spend more on one thing than on another, and it's awkward to have to vote the funds of the Photographic Society over to the Dramatic, or vice versa. I think we should manage all right this way. We must elect a Committee, of course, and officers. For President, I beg to nominate Gipsy Latimer. She deserves it."

"Yes! Gipsy! Gipsy!" agreed the girls.

But Gipsy shook her head, and like Oliver Cromwell waved away the tempting offer of a crown.

"No," she said firmly; "I've only been a fortnight in the school, and I don't feel up to the post. Better choose someone as President who understands Briarcroft ways better than I do. I suggest Dilys Fenton. She's the oldest girl in the Upper Fourth, and from what I hear she's been here one of the longest. I'll serve on the Committee, if you like, and be of any use I can, but you want an old-established Briarcroft-ite as President. I don't know any of your arrangements yet about cricket or tennis, and I should always be making mistakes."

The wisdom of Gipsy's remarks appealed to the girls. It was certainly more suitable to choose as President somebody who understood the school ways. They appreciated the motive of her refusal, however; and her generosity in thus standing aside made her, if anything, more popular than before. They insisted upon electing her to the post of Secretary.

"You can keep the accounts, and read aloud the minutes of the meetings, and all those sorts of business things better than anybody," declared Hetty.

"If I don't happen to forget which country I'm in, and add things up as cents and dollars, instead of pence and shillings!" laughed Gipsy.

"We'll soon pull you up if you do, never fear!"

Now that her crusade was successfully accomplished, Gipsy settled down to enjoy life at Briarcroft as well as the limited circumstances permitted. She had already made several warm friends among both the boarders and the day girls. Meg Gordon in particular was inclined to accord her that species of hero worship often indulged in by schoolgirls. She brought offerings of late roses or autumn violets from home, and followed her idol about the school like a love-sick swain. She would sit gazing at Gipsy during classes in deepest admiration, and was ready to accept her every idea as gospel. Meg was rather a curious, abrupt girl in many ways, and though she had been a year at Briarcroft, had hitherto kept very much to herself. Her sudden and violent devotion to the newcomer caused no little amusement in the Form. She was promptly nicknamed "Gipsy's disciple", and subjected to a certain amount of teasing on the score of her attachment.

"You agree with every single thing Gipsy says," laughed Norah Bell. "I believe if she declared the trees were pink and the houses green, you'd uphold her!"

"Do you wear her portrait over your heart?" enquired Daisy Scatcherd facetiously.

"It was a very bad snapshot you got of her," remarked Ethel Newton.

"It certainly didn't do her justice," returned Meg, taking the matter quite seriously. "I'm going to have a new camera for my birthday, then I'll try again. But no snapshot could make Gipsy look as sweet as she really does."

"Not to your love-lorn eyes!" giggled the girls.

"Meg's a perfect joke at present," said Ethel Newton to Daisy Scatcherd. "She copies Gipsy slavishly, even to doing her hair the same, and those two big bows of ribbon don't suit her in the least, however nice they look on Gipsy."

"And yet she's rather like Gipsy, just like enough to be a kind of pale copy—an understudy, in fact."

"You've hit it! Understudy's the very word. She's absolutely forming herself on Gipsy."

Curiously enough, Meg Gordon really bore rather a marked physical resemblance to the object of her worship. She was slim, and dark, and about the same height, and though she lacked Gipsy's vivacity of expression, a stranger might quite possibly have mistaken the one girl for the other. It was perhaps just as well that Gipsy had one such devoted ally, for there were a few malcontents in the Form who were not at all ready to accept her with enthusiasm. Maude Helm had taken a dislike to her from the first, and had allowed her prejudice not only to blind her to Gipsy's good points, but to cause her to try to influence others in her disfavour. It is rarely that anybody succeeds in doing a public service without making any enemies, and Gipsy was no exception to the rule. According to Maude's code, she had violated every tradition of school etiquette by pushing herself, a newcomer, into a position of prominence; and that she had conferred a real benefit upon the Lower School by her championship went for nothing.

"It's sickening, the way everybody truckles to her," declared Maude to a few of her particular chums. "I vote we stick out, at any rate, and don't let her have everything her own way. We don't want the school Americanized to suit her fancy."

"No; Miss Yankee will have to find out we're not all ready to lick her boots!" grumbled Alice O'Connor.

"Glad she wasn't chosen President of the Guild, at any rate," remarked Gladys Merriman. "If she puts up for anything else I shall oppose her. There are other people in this Form quite as capable of taking the lead as she is, if they only got the chance."

"Yourself not excepted, I suppose!" snapped Mary Parsons, who happened to overhear. "You forget Gipsy refused the Presidency voluntarily."

"Clever enough to see it would pay her best!" sneered Gladys. "She evidently knows how to get round the Form."

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