Part 1 out of 4
Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Author of "A Fortunate Term"
"The Princess of the School" &c.
_Illustrated by Treyer Evans_
_DEDICATED TO THOSE READERS WHO ASKED ME TO WRITE THE FURTHER
ADVENTURES OF MAVIS AND MERLE_
* * * * *
I. A LAST BATHE
II. A SCHOOL BALLOT
III. THE NEW MONITRESS
IV. CHAGMOUTH FOLK
V. MISS MITCHELL, B.A.
VII. MUSICAL STARS
IX. FACING THE FOOTLIGHTS
X. THE MUMPS
XI. BAMBERTON FERRY
XII. FIFTH FORM JUSTICE
XIII. "THE KITTIWAKE"
XIV. THE HAUNTED TREE
XVI. THE TADPOLE CLUB
XVII. THE FOURTH OF JULY
* * * * *
"WHY DIDN'T 'EE FASTEN UP THE CHAIN?"
"WE'RE JUST READY! YOU CAN COME IN IF YOU LIKE!"
MR. CASTLETON DID NOT LOOK AT ALL PLEASED
SHE HAD BROUGHT HER WONDERFUL STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN
HE KEPT THEM DAWDLING
THE FOURTH OF JULY PARADE
* * * * *
A Last Bathe
The warm, mellow September sunshine was streaming over the irregular
roofs and twisted chimneys of the little town of Chagmouth, and was
glinting on the water in the harbour, and sending gleaming, straggling,
silver lines over the deep reflections of the shipping moored by the side
of the jetty. The rising tide, lapping slowly and gently in from the
ocean, was floating the boats beached on the shingle, and was gradually
driving back the crowd of barefooted children who had ventured out in
search of mussels, and was sending them, shrieking with mirth, scampering
up the seaweed-covered steps that led to the fish market. On the crag-top
above the town the corn had been cut, and harvesters were busy laying the
sheaves together in stooks. The yellow fields shone in the afternoon
light as if the hill were crowned with gold.
Walking along the narrow cobbled path that led past the harbour and up on
to the cliff. Mavis and Merle looked at the scene around with that sense
of rejoicing proprietorship with which we are wont to revisit the pet
place of our adoption. It was two whole months since they had been in
Chagmouth, and as they both considered the little town to be the absolute
hub of the universe it was really a great event to find themselves once
more in its familiar streets. They had spent the summer holidays with
their father and mother in the north, and had come back to Durracombe
just in time for the reopening of school. On this first Saturday after
their return to Devonshire they had motored with Uncle David to his
branch surgery at Chagmouth, and were looking forward to several hours of
amusement while he visited his patients at the sanatorium.
Readers who have followed the adventures of Mavis and Merle Ramsay in
_A Fortunate Term_ will remember that the sisters, on account of
Mavis's health, had come to live with their great-uncle Dr. Tremayne at
Durracombe, where they attended school daily at 'The Moorings.' Dr.
Ramsay, their father, had decided shortly to leave his practice at
Whinburn and go into partnership with Dr. Tremayne, but the removal to
Devonshire could not take place till nearly Christmas, so the girls were
to spend another term in sole charge of Uncle David, Aunt Nellie, and
Jessop the elderly housekeeper, an arrangement which, though they were
sorry to be parted from their parents, pleased them uncommonly well. It
was a favourite excursion of theirs to accompany their uncle on Saturdays
when he motored to visit patients at Chagmouth. On these occasions they
would have lunch and tea with him at Grimbal's Farm, where he had his
surgery, and would spend the intervening time on the seashore or
wandering along the cliffs. To-day, tempted by the brilliant sunshine,
they had brought their bathing costumes, towels, and tea-basket, and
meant to secure the last dip of the holidays in case the weather should
change and further mermaiding should prove impossible. They chatted
briskly as they climbed the path up the cliff.
"Too bad Bevis has gone back to school! I thought we should just have
seen him before he went!"
"And Tudor too! I met Babbie, while you were inside Carlyon's shop buying
chocs, and she told me Tudor started yesterday, and Gwen went last
Tuesday to a boarding-school near London. It was decided quite in a hurry
because there happened to be a vacancy for her. It's a very fashionable
school where they take the girls out to theatres and concerts and all
sorts of places. Gwen's fearfully thrilled to go. They wanted to send her
there before, only they couldn't get her in. Somebody else has left
unexpectedly though, so there was a cubicle at liberty for her."
"It will just suit Gwen! But she'll miss her riding. She nearly lived on
Taffy's back as a rule. Won't it be very lonely for Babbie all by herself
with a governess? Will she come to school for French and dancing as
"She's coming to 'The Moorings' altogether. They're going to motor her
over every day, and fetch her back at four. She's quite pleased about it.
She always liked 'The Moorings' much better than Gwen did."
"And 'The Moorings,' from all reports, is going to be an utterly
different school this term!"
"So I suppose! Hope it won't be too much changed, that's all! A new
teacher, hot from a High School, means a new broom that will sweep very
clean. It strikes me those nice do-as-you-please lessons with Miss Fanny
will be dreams of the past, and we shall have to set our brains to work
and swat! Ugh! It's not a particularly delirious prospect!"
"Don't wrinkle your forehead into quite so many kinks! You look about
forty!" she objected. "It mayn't turn out as hard as you expect. Anyhow,
don't let us spoil the last Saturday of the holidays with thinking about
it. I want to enjoy this afternoon thoroughly. I feel as if I'd been away
from Chagmouth for years and years. Isn't it priceless to see it again?
Have a chocolate! Or would you rather take a piece of toffee?"
The two girls had been mounting steadily as they talked, and were now
walking along a narrow track which led along the top of the cliffs. Below
them lay the gorgeous-hued crags of the rugged coast and a great expanse
of sea, silver at the horizon, blue at mid-distance, and deep metallic
green where it touched the shore. Innumerable sea-birds wheeled and
screamed below, and the incoming tide lapped with little white waves over
the reefs of rocks, and submerged the pools where gobies were darting
about, and sea-anemones were stretching out crimson or green tentacles,
and scurrying crabs were hiding among masses of brown oar-weed. Above and
beyond was a network of brambles, where ripe blackberries hung in such
tempting clusters that it was hardly in human nature to resist them, and
Merle, with purple-stained fingers, loitered and lingered to enjoy the
"If you're not quick the tide will have turned and it won't be half so
nice to bathe!" urged Mavis impatiently. "Do hurry up now, and you can
absolutely gorge on blackberries as we come back, if you want to. I'll
promise to wait for you then."
"Right-o! I'm coming! Though I must just get that one big beauty! There!
I won't eat a single one more till I've had my dip. We must be close to
the cove now. I'll run if you like!"
The bathing-place for which the girls were bound was a sandy creek among
the rocks. A hundred years ago it had been a favourite spot for smugglers
to land contraband goods, and a series of steps cut in the cliff
testified to its former use. Nowadays it was commonly deserted, and in
the early part of the summer, when Mavis and Merle had been wont to visit
it, they had had it all to themselves. They had gone there so often and
found it untenanted that they had come to regard it as their private
property, and, in consequence, they were most unreasonably annoyed, when
climbing down the steps, to hear sounds of laughter rising up from below.
"Who's in _our_ cove?" demanded Merle sharply, somewhat as Father
Bruin asked the immortal question, "Who's sleeping on _my_ bed?"
"All the world, I should say!" replied the aggrieved voice of Mavis, who
was in front and had first view of the scene beneath. "The place is an
absolute 'seaside resort.' Never saw so many people in my life before!
Where do they all come from?"
The little cove, _their_ cove, which in June had been so
delightfully secluded and retired, was undoubtedly invaded by quite a
number of visitors. Children were paddling or scampering along the sands,
wet heads were bobbing in and out of the water, every rocky crevice was
in use as a dressing-room, picnic parties were taking tea on the rocks,
and a circle of boys and girls were playing a noisy game at the brink of
the waves. Very ruefully Mavis and Merle descended to swell the throng.
It was not at all the sort of bathe which they had anticipated, and, had
there been another available spot within reach, they would have utterly
"Shall we go on to Yellow Head?" ventured Merle hesitatingly.
"There isn't time. The tide would be out before we got there, and it's a
perfect tangle of oar-weed unless the water's high. Never mind! There'll
be elbow-room in the sea at any rate. There's a corner here where we can
undress. Come along! O-o-h! There's some one else inside!"
[Illustration: "WE'RE JUST READY! YOU CAN COME IN IF YOU LIKE!"]
"We're just ready! You can come in if you like!" proclaimed a voice, as
two girls in navy bathing costumes and rubber caps issued from behind a
rock, and running swiftly down the sand plunged into the water.
Availing themselves of the opportunity Mavis and Merle took temporary
possession of the naiads' dressing-room, and in the course of a few
minutes more were revelling in a swim. The red rubber caps of the girls
who preceded them were plainly to be seen some distance from the shore,
where their owners were apparently having a race towards a rock that
jutted from the waves.
"Oh, they _mustn't_ go out there! There's an awful current! Bevis
warned us about it!" gasped Mavis, swimming securely with one foot on the
ground. "Can't we stop them? Shout, Merle!"
"Hello, there! Ahoy! Come back!" yelled Merle, who possessed stronger
lungs than her sister. "They don't hear me! Coo-oo-ee! That's done it,
thank goodness! Come--back--you're--going--to--get--into--a--current!"
The two red caps, warned in time of their danger, turned and swam into
safer waters. They did not venture so far again from the shore, but
frolicked with some companions, trying to make wheels and to perform
various other feats of agility, which were generally failures and ended
in a splash. They were so long about it that Mavis and Merle went from
the water first and had time to dress quite leisurely before the others,
shaking out wet fair hair, followed to the crevice among the rocks.
The Ramsays took their picnic basket, and, climbing a short way up the
steps, settled themselves upon a grassy platform which afforded a good
view of the cove below. They liked this vantage-ground better than the
sands, and began to spread out the cups and saucers and parcels of cakes
which Jessop had packed for them, congratulating themselves upon having a
spot at least fairly apart. But they were not destined to spend that
afternoon in solitary state. They had scarcely opened their basket when
three heads came bobbing up the steps, shamelessly invaded their
platform, and also began to unpack tea-cups.
Merle, who did not like other people to trespass upon her rights, frowned
and turned her back upon them, and probably each little party would have
taken its meal separately had not an unforeseen and utterly untoward
accident happened. Mavis knocked their thermos flask with her elbow and
sent it spinning over the cliff. Here was a pretty business! Their tea
was gone, and the flask, if they found it, would be utterly smashed.
"It's not worth climbing down to pick it up!" lamented Mavis contritely.
"I'm so sorry, Merle! It was horribly clumsy of me!"
"Do have some of ours!" suggested one of the strangers sympathetically.
"We've heaps! Two flasks; and that's more than we shall drink ourselves.
You might just as well!"
"I say, it was awfully decent of you to call to us not to go on to those
rocks!" put in another. "We didn't know about the current."
The third girl made no remark, but she smiled invitingly and held out one
of their flasks.
So it came about that Mavis and Merle moved nearer and joined the others,
so that they formed one party. For a few minutes they sat in polite
silence, taking in the items of their neighbours' appearance. When the
Ramsays compared notes afterwards they decided that they had never before
seen three such pretty girls. The two who had worn the red bathing caps
were evidently sisters, for they had the same clear-cut features, fair
complexions, cupid mouths, and beautiful dark-fringed eyes. Their
companion, whose brown hair was drying in the breeze, was a complete
contrast, with her warm brunette colouring and quick vivacious manner,
"like an orchid between two roses," as Mavis described her later. It was
she who spoke first--quite a conventional inquiry but decidedly to the
"Are you staying in Chagmouth?" she asked.
"We've only come over for the day from Durracombe," answered Merle.
The three strangers looked immediately interested.
"Durracombe! Why, we're going to start school there next week!"
"Never at 'The Moorings'!" gasped Merle excitedly.
"That's the place! Do you go there too? Oh! I say! Do tell us all about
it! We've been just crazy to know what it's like. You two look sports!
What are your names? Are the rest of the school jolly, and is Miss
With such a common interest as 'The Moorings' to talk about, the ice was
completely broken, and the five girls were soon chatting in friendly
Mavis and Merle, having given a few details about themselves and how they
often motored over to Chagmouth with Dr. Tremayne, drew in turn some
information from their new acquaintances. The two fair-haired girls, aged
respectively fourteen and thirteen, were Beata and Romola Castleton, and
their father, an artist, had lately removed from Porthkeverne in
Cornwall, and had taken a house at Chagmouth. Their friend Fay Macleod, a
year older than Beata, was an American, whose father had come to Europe
in search of health, and being attracted to Chagmouth by his love of
sketching, had settled there temporarily for a rest-cure, and was
enjoying the quiet and beauty of the quaint place and its surrounding
"I suppose you'll all be weekly boarders?" ventured Mavis, when Fay had
finished her communications.
"No, we're to be day-girls. Six of us from Chagmouth are joining in a car
and motoring every morning and being fetched back at four--ourselves, Nan
and Lizzie Colville, and Tattie Carew. It will be rather a squash to cram
six of us into Vicary's car! We've named it 'the sardine-tin' already. I
hope nobody else will want to join us!"
"Babbie Williams is to be a day-girl this term. She lives over there at
"We haven't room for her."
"She's going in their own car."
"That's good news for the sardines! I was thinking some of us would have
to ride on the footboard or the luggage-carrier. Is Babbie fair, with
bobbed hair? Then I've seen her in church. Seven of us from Chagmouth! We
ought to make quite a clique in the school!"
"Oh, we don't want any cliques," said Merle quickly. "We had enough of
that sort of thing when Opal was there. Miss Pollard told mother that the
new mistress, Miss Mitchell, is going to reorganise everything, and bring
it up to date, so I expect we shall find a great many changes when we
start again. Have you been at school before?"
"Romola and I went to The Gables at Porthkeverne," replied Beata. "We
loved it, and we were dreadfully sorry to leave. Fay, of course, has been
at school in America."
"And we used to go to a big High school in the north until we came to
Durracombe. 'The Moorings' seemed a tiny place at first, and then we grew
to love it. We adore Miss Pollard and Miss Fanny. I hope you'll like them
too! I'm so glad we've met you, because we'll know you when you arrive at
school, and we can show you round. I'm afraid we shall have to be going
now, because Uncle David will be back from the sanatorium and waiting for
us. Thanks most immensely for the tea. We'll look out for you on Tuesday.
As Mavis and Merle walked back along the cliffs to Chagmouth their
tongues wagged fast in discussion of their new acquaintances. Mavis was
charmed with Beata and Romola, and Merle had utterly lost her heart to
"I feel as if I could like her!" she declared. "She's a sport, and really
we want somebody to wake us up a little at 'The Moorings.' I believe this
term is going to be jolly. My spirits are rising and I see fun ahead. I
only wish Daddy could go and live at Chagmouth and _we_ could go to
school every day in 'the sardine-tin.' They'll have the time of their
lives, the luckers! Don't I envy them, just!"
"I don't think I'd like to be packed quite so tight, thanks!" objected
Mavis. "On the whole, I much prefer going backwards and forwards to
Chagmouth in Uncle David's car. Merle! Do you know it's after five! We
must simply scoot--oh, I daresay I did promise you might eat
blackberries, but you haven't time now. You shouldn't have stayed so long
at the cove if you wanted a blackberry feed! If you don't hurry up I
shall run off and leave you and go home with Uncle David by myself!
There! Oh, you're coming! Good! I thought you'd hardly care to spend the
night upon the cliffs with the sea-gulls!"
A School Ballot
Mavis and Merle started for school on Tuesday morning confident of
finding many changes. Hitherto 'The Moorings' had been a modest
establishment where about twenty-four children had been educated by Miss
Pollard and her sister Miss Fanny, who were the daughters of the late
Vicar of the parish. They were neither of them particularly learned or up
to date, but they had a happy knack with girls, and had been especially
successful in the care of delicate pupils. The remarkably mild climate of
Durracombe made the place peculiarly suitable for those who had been born
in India or other hot countries, and so many more boarders had been
entered for this term that the school was practically doubled.
Recognising the fact that this sudden enlargement in numbers ought also
to mean a march forward in other ways, the sisters were wise enough to
seize their golden opportunity and completely reorganise their methods.
They were fortunate in being able to get hold of the house next to their
own, and, turning that into a hostel for boarders, they devoted the whole
of 'The Moorings' to classrooms. They engaged a thoroughly competent and
reliable mistress, with a university degree and High School experience,
and gave her _carte blanche_ to revise the curriculum and institute
what innovations she thought fit. They allowed her to choose her own
assistant mistress, and made fresh arrangements for visiting teachers,
reserving for themselves only a very few of the classes, and
concentrating most of their energies on the management of the hostel.
These new plans gave great satisfaction to both parents and pupils.
"It will be rather nice to have somebody modern at the head of things, so
long as Miss Pollard and Miss Fanny aren't entirely shelved," declared
"They're perfect dears! We couldn't do without them," agreed Mavis.
"But they're not clever!"
"Um--I don't know! It depends what you call clever! They mayn't be B.A.'s
and all the rest of it, but they're well read, and they can sketch and
sing and play and do a hundred things that a great many graduates can't.
I call them 'cultured,' that's the right name for them. They're such
absolute and perfect ladies. It's a style you really don't meet every
day. And they're so pretty with their pink cheeks and their silver hair,
like the sweet old-fashioned pictures of eighteenth-century beauties in
powder and patches. I love to look at them, and to listen to the gentle
refined way they talk--I think they're adorable!"
"So they are-but you want something more in a school. I hope the fresh
teacher will be a regular sport, and that she'll use slang sometimes, and
play hockey. That's my ideal of a head mistress."
Miss Mitchell, the new peg upon which so much was now to depend at 'The
Moorings,' might not have been blamed for regarding Tuesday morning as
somewhat of an ordeal. If she was nervous, however, she managed to
conceal her feelings, and bore the introduction to her prospective pupils
with cheerful calm.
Forty-six girls, taking mental stock of her, decided instantly that she
was 'the right sort.' She was tall, in her middle twenties, had a fresh
complexion, light brown hair, a brisk decisive manner, and a pleasant
twinkle in her hazel eyes. She was evidently not in the least afraid of
her audience, a fact which at once gave her the right handle. She faced
their united stare smilingly.
"I'm very pleased to meet you all!" she began. "I hope we shall work
together splendidly and have an extremely happy term. As Miss Pollard has
just told you, there have been so many changes at 'The Moorings' that it
is practically a new school. It's a tremendous opportunity to be able to
make a fresh start like this. We can make our own traditions and our own
rules. Some of you have been at the school before and some have been at
other schools, but I want you all to forget past traditions and unite
together to make 'The Moorings' the biggest success that can possibly be.
We're all going to love it and to be very loyal to it. We hope to do well
with our work, and well with our games. I must explain to you later about
all the various societies which we mean to start, but I want to tell you
that though there is plenty of work in front of you there's also plenty
of fun, and that if every girl makes up her mind to do her very best all
round we shall get on grandly. Now I am going to read out the lists of
the various forms, and then you can march away in turn to your own
In making her arrangements for the reorganisation of the school Miss
Mitchell had decided to have no Sixth form as yet. The girls were all
under seventeen, and she did not consider any of them sufficiently
advanced to be placed in so high a position. The Fifth was at present to
be the top form, and consisted of eleven girls, all of whom she intended
should work their uttermost and fit themselves for the honour of becoming
the Sixth a year later.
Mavis and Merle, both of whom were included in this elect eleven, walked
demurely away to their new classroom. Five of their old companions were
with them, Iva Westwood, Nesta Pitman, Aubrey Simpson, Muriel Burnitt,
and Edith Carey, and the remaining four consisted of Beata Castleton, Fay
Macleod, and two strangers, Sybil Vernon and Kitty Trefyre. Romola
Castleton had been placed in the Fourth, together with Maude Carey,
Babbie Williams, Nan Colville, Tattie Carew, and several other new girls.
The Fifth, as the top form, was to be mainly Miss Mitchell's; Miss
Barnes, the fresh assistant mistress, was to take the Fourth; and the
teaching of the three lower forms would be shared by Miss Hopkins,
Mademoiselle, and Miss Fanny Pollard. Lessons, on a first morning, are
usually more or less haphazard, but at any rate a beginning was made, the
pupils were entered on their class registers, their capacities were
tested, and they began in some slight degree to know their teachers.
Before the school separated at 12.30 for dinner Miss Pollard had an
announcement to make.
"Miss Mitchell and I have decided that for the general good of the school
it will be wise to appoint four monitresses. Two of these must be
boarders and will be chosen by us, but the other two may be elected by
yourselves. We will have a ballot this afternoon. You may nominate any
girls you like by writing their names upon slips of paper and handing
them in to me before 2.30. All candidates, however, must be over the age
of fifteen and must have spent at least two previous terms at 'The
Moorings.' The voting will take place in the big schoolroom immediately
after four o'clock."
Mavis and Merle, walking home to lunch at Bridge House, discussed the
project eagerly as they went.
"Good for Miss Pollard! Or I expect it's really Miss Mitchell who
suggested it! I call it a ripping idea. It's just exactly what's wanted.
The monitresses will lead the games and all the various societies. Run
the school, in fact. What sport!" rejoiced Merle, with shining eyes. "The
old 'Moorings' will really wake up at last."
"Only four monitresses, and two of them are to be boarders and chosen by
the powers that be!" mused Mavis. "That means Iva and Nesta, if I know
anything of Miss Pollard and Miss Fanny! Now the question is who are to
be the other two lucky ones?"
"It ought to be somebody who could lead!" flushed Merle. "Somebody really
good at games and able to organise all that rabble of kids. Some one
who's been accustomed to a big school and knows what ought to be done.
Not girls who've spent all their lives in a tiny school like this.
They've no standards. I've often told them that! They've simply no idea
of how things used to swing at the Whinburn High!"
"I wish Miss Pollard and Miss Mitchell would have done all the choosing,"
said Mavis anxiously. "I think myself it's a mistake to put it to the
vote. Probably somebody quite unsuitable will be elected. The juniors
will plump for the girl they like best, without caring whether she knows
anything about games or not. There's Aubrey Simpson!"
"Oh! They _can't_ choose 'the jackdaw'!" interrupted Merle.
"They can choose her if they like. She's over fifteen and perfectly
eligible. Edith Carey is rather a favourite, I believe."
"That silly goose! Good-night!"
"Well, there's Muriel Burnitt at any rate. She's been a long time at 'The
"All the worse for that, though she's better than Edith or Aubrey. I
shall vote for her myself, and for you."
"And I'm going to vote for _you_, and for Muriel, because, as you
say, she's better than the others. I sincerely hope you'll win."
"I hope we both shall. I'll nominate you if you'll nominate me!"
"Rather a family affair, isn't it? I think I'll ask first and see if
anybody else is going to give in our names. Perhaps Iva or Nesta may. It
would be much nicer than seeming to poke ourselves forward."
"If we don't hustle a little we'll never get there! That's my opinion!
You're too good for this wicked world, Mavis! I've often told you so!"
declared Merle, running into the house and putting down her books with a
slam. "Angel girls are all very well at home, but school is a scrimmage
and it's those who fight who come up on top! Don't laugh! Oh, I enjoy
fighting! I tell you I want most desperately and tremendously to be made
a monitress, and if I'm not chosen, well--it will be the disappointment
of my life! I'm not joking! I mean it really and truly. I've set my heart
Mavis, who had a very fine sense of the fitness of things, and who did
not think sisters should nominate one another, returned early to school
that afternoon and hunted up Iva Westwood. She found her very
enthusiastic about the election.
"We've never had anything of the sort before at 'The Moorings,'" purred
Iva. "We're beginning to wake up here, aren't we? I'm going to give in
your name as a candidate, Mavis! I'm just writing it now."
"Thanks! Won't you put Merle too?"
"Oh, I will if you like." (Iva's voice was not too enthusiastic.) "I
suppose it doesn't matter how many we nominate. Somehow I never thought
"She's a splendid leader, and A1 at games. You should have seen her at
"Oh, I daresay! Well, to please you I'll put her name on my list. It can
do no harm at any rate."
"Thanks ever so!"
"Old Muriel's canvassing like anything downstairs among the kids!"
"Is canvassing allowed?"
"Well, it hasn't been forbidden. Nesta and I are too proud to go and beg
for votes, but Mu doesn't care in the least; rather enjoys it, in fact.
She's sitting in the playroom, with Florrie Leach and Betty Marshall on
her knee, 'doing the popular,' and giving away whole packets of sweets.
If Merle really wants--hello! here's Merle herself!"
Mavis turned quickly, for her younger sister, looking flushed and
excited, had burst suddenly into the room and was speaking eagerly.
"Mavis! Have you a shilling in your pocket? I left my purse at home!
_Do_ lend it to me! What for? I want to tear out and buy some
sweets. Oh yes, I've time. I shall simply sprint. Hand it over, that's a
saintly girl! Thanks immensely!"
Merle departed like a whirlwind, slamming the door after her. Iva
Westwood pulled an expressive grimace and laughed.
"So she's trying the popular trick too! Well, sometimes it works and
sometimes it doesn't. I think Edith Carey has a good chance myself. The
kids are rather fond of her. Have you written your nominations yet,
Mavis? Then come along, and we'll drop them inside the box."
As the first bell rang at 2.25 and the girls began to assemble in the big
schoolroom, Muriel Burnitt walked in followed by a perfect comet's tail
of juniors, some of whom were hanging on to her arms. Each was sucking a
peppermint bull's-eye, and each wore a piece of pink ribbon pinned on to
"Muriel's favours!" they explained, giggling loudly. "We're all of us
going to vote for her. Isn't it fun?"
Mavis glanced round for Merle, hoping her expedition to the sweet-shop
would not have made her late, and to her relief saw her sitting on the
opposite side of the room, in company with Beata and Romola Castleton,
Fay Macleod, and a number of other new girls whose acquaintance she had
evidently just made. They were passing round chocolates, and seemingly
enjoying themselves. Merle waved a hand gaily at her sister, beckoning
her to join the group, but at that moment Miss Mitchell entered the room,
and all seated themselves on the nearest available benches while the
roll-call was taken.
"We will meet here at four o'clock for the election," said the mistress,
as she closed the register and dismissed the various forms to their
The first day of a new term always seems intolerably long, and with such
an interesting event as a ballot before them most of the girls felt the
hour and a half to drag, and turned many surreptitious glances towards
wrist watches. Merle in especial, who hated French translation, groaned
as she looked up words in the dictionary, and made several stupid
mistakes, because her thoughts were focussed on the election instead of
on the matter in hand. Once she yawned openly, and drew down a reproof
from Mademoiselle, whereupon she heaved a submissive sigh, controlled her
boredom, and went on wearily transferring the flowery sentiments of
Fenelon into the English tongue. At precisely five minutes to four the
big bell clanged out a warning, dictionaries were shut, exercise-books
handed in, pencil-boxes replaced in desks, and the class filed downstairs
to the big schoolroom. Miss Pollard was not there: she was busy in the
hostel; and Miss Fanny, looking rather flustered and nervous, had
evidently given over the conduct of the meeting to Miss Mitchell, and was
present merely as a spectator. The new mistress seemed perfectly at home
and ready for the occasion. She passed round pieces of paper, inquired
whether everybody had a pencil, then made her announcements.
"As Miss Pollard told you this morning, you are here to elect two
monitresses. Two from among the boarders have already been chosen by us,
these are Iva Westwood and Nesta Pitman, but the remaining two are to be
balloted for from among the list of candidates. As perhaps some of you
don't understand a ballot, I will tell you just what to do. I have
written on the blackboard the names of those girls who have been
"What I want you to do is to write on your piece of paper the names of the
two candidates for whom you wish to vote, then fold your paper and hand
it in. You must not add your own name to it, and you have no need to tell
anybody how you voted. The whole principle of a ballot is that it is done
in secret. Are you ready? Then please begin."
The little ceremony was soon over, the girls scribbled rapidly, folded
their papers, and passed them along the benches to Nesta and Iva, who
collected them and gave them to Miss Mitchell.
"It will take a short time to count the votes," explained the mistress.
"Those girls who wish to go home can do so, but any who like to wait and
hear the result can stay."
Miss Mitchell and Miss Fanny retired to the study and the meeting broke
up. Most of the day-girls put on their hats and coats in readiness to go
home, but hung about the hall until the names should be announced. The
contingent from Chagmouth, whose car was stationed outside in the road,
and whose driver was waxing impatient, were obliged to depart without the
exciting news. Merle went as far as the gate to watch them pack into
their 'sardine-tin.' Four sat behind, and two in front with the
chauffeur, all quite radiant and thoroughly enjoying themselves.
"Good-bye! I hope you'll win!" said Beata, waving a hand to Merle with
difficulty, for she was tightly sandwiched between Fay and Tattie. "We
did our best for you and Mavis. I didn't know any of those others.
Romola, have you got the books? That's all right. I was afraid we'd left
the satchel. Yes," (to the chauffeur) "we're quite ready now, thanks!
Ta-ta, Merle! Good luck to you! We're off!"
Merle, looking after the retreating car, was joined by Aubrey Simpson,
rather injured, and disconsolate.
"I didn't know all these new girls were to have votes," she grumbled.
"How can _they_ choose a monitress when they don't know anybody!
It's rather humbug, isn't it?"
"They know _me_" perked Merle.
"Did you canvass them? Oh, how mean!"
"Why mean? You could have done it yourself. Muriel was canvassing among
the juniors as hard as she could go."
"I might have canvassed among the new boarders! Why didn't I think of
it?" wailed Aubrey.
"Well, really, it's your own stupid fault! Don't blame me!" snapped
"Iva and Nesta said they didn't mean to ask for votes."
"Well, they'd no need to. They were both jolly certain that Miss Pollard
would make them monitresses. It's easy to talk loftily when you're sure
of your innings."
"Did Mavis canvass?"
"No--but then, of course, Mavis wouldn't!"
"Oh-because she's Mavis! I can't see her doing it somehow. What a long
time Miss Mitchell and Miss Fanny are over their counting! I wish they'd
hurry up. I want to go home to tea."
The girls had not much longer, however, to wait.
In the course of a few minutes the new mistress entered the hall and read
out the important result.
"The polling is as follows," she announced.
"Muriel Burnitt . . . 27
Mavis Ramsay . . . 20
Merle Ramsay . . . 19
Edith Carey . . . 14
Aubrey Simpson . . . 12
"The two monitresses elected, therefore, are Muriel Burnitt and Mavis
Some of the girls raised a cheer, others took no notice; Miss Mitchell,
who seemed in a hurry, vanished back into the study. The boarders,
hearing their tea-bell, made for the hostel.
"Congrats, Mavis!" said Iva, as she walked away arm-in-arm with Nesta.
"I'm glad the lot has fallen on you. Muriel was pretty sure of a
walk-over, but it was a toss-up who was to be the fourth. I don't mind
telling you I voted for you myself. And so did Nesta, I'm sure."
"It was a ballot, and I'm not going to let out whom I voted for!"
declared Nesta. "Some people can't keep their own secrets! All the same,
I'm glad it's you, Mavis. I wouldn't have had Aubrey a monitress for
The Ramsays walked home together along the High Street to Bridge House.
Muriel Burnitt, escorted by Florrie and Viola Leach and the three little
Andrews, was on in front, pluming herself upon her victory. The Careys
had disappeared down the short cut to the Vicarage. Mavis hardly dared to
look at Merle. The latter kept her face turned away and blinked her eyes
hard. She had enough self-restraint not to weep openly in the High
Street. When they reached their own door however, she bolted through the
surgery entrance and, running into the garden, hid herself in the
summer-house, whither Mavis, after a word to Aunt Nellie, presently
followed her to offer what consolation she could.
"It's not that I'm jealous of _you_!" sobbed Merle stormily. "I
wanted us both to win! What does Muriel know about a decent game of
hockey, or how to conduct a society, or run a school magazine? It's
idiotic that she should be chosen. Neither she nor Iva nor Nesta has ever
been at a big school. A precious bungle they'll make of their meetings. I
know _you'll_ be there--but you're so gentle you'll never stand up
against them, and they'll have everything their own silly way. 'The
Moorings' won't be very much changed if it's just to be run upon the same
old lines. I shan't bother to try and help. I might have done so much if
they'd elected me, but what's the use now? I'm frightfully and
frantically disappointed. If Miss Mitchell had had any sense she'd have
waited a fortnight till she got to know the girls, and then have chosen
the monitresses herself. If it's Miss Fanny's fault, I'm not friends with
her any more! Tea-time, did you say? I suppose I shall have to come in
then, though I really don't want any. Ugh! I hate everything!"
Tea that day was a dreary affair. Uncle David was out, Aunt Nellie had a
headache so was unusually quiet, and Merle, with red eyes, sat silent and
brooding. Mavis tried desperately to make a little conversation, but it
was impossible to maintain a monologue, and she soon dropped the futile
attempt. Merle, after eating half a piece of bread and butter and
declining a chocolate biscuit, begged suddenly to be excused, and with
two big unruly tears splashing down her cheeks fled from the room.
"Poor child! I'm afraid she's terribly disappointed," commented Aunt
"It seems a pity she wasn't chosen. I suppose she would have made a
splendid monitress. It's half the battle to be keen about anything."
Mavis agreed, passed the cake, finished her tea, picked up the dropped
stitches in Aunt Nellie's piece of knitting, carried a message to the
cook, then went out into the garden. She wanted to be alone for a little
while. There was a retired corner among the bushes by the wall
overlooking the river. She had placed a box here for a seat, and called
it her hermitage. Even Merle had not so far discovered it. It was a
retreat where she could withdraw from everybody, and be absolutely
uninterrupted and by herself. There was something about which she wished
to think in quiet. The idea had been pressing upon her, clamouring in her
brain ever since Miss Mitchell's announcement, but she must consider it
carefully before she acted upon it. Sitting in her green nook, watching
the golden light sparkling upon the river below, she faced her problem:
"_Merle would really make afar better monitress than I should. Oughtn't
I to give the post up to her?_"
It was a struggle, and a very difficult one, for Mavis, quiet though she
was, had her ambitions, and it would be hard to yield place to her
younger sister. It is only those who are accustomed to practise self-
control who have the strength for an emergency. She longed for the
opportunity of helping the school, and to stand aside voluntarily and
give the work up to another seemed a big sacrifice.
"It's got to be, though!" sighed Mavis. "I'll go down and see Miss Fanny
about it at once. I expect I can make her understand."
Dodging Merle, who was disconsolately doing some gardening, she walked
back to 'The Moorings' and went to the hostel. Miss Fanny, busy among the
new boarders, received her with astonishment.
"What is it, Mavis? I can only spare you five minutes. You want to speak
to me about the monitress-ship? My dear child, Miss Mitchell will explain
everything to you to-morrow, and tell you exactly what you have to do.
There's no need to trouble about it now."
"It isn't that, please, Miss Fanny!" blushed Mavis. "The fact of the
matter is that I think Merle ought to have been chosen instead of me. I
was only one mark ahead of her. She'd make a far better monitress than I
should. May I resign and let her have the post instead?"
This was coming to the point with a vengeance. Miss Fanny knitted her
eyebrows and pursed up her mouth into a button.
"I rather expected Merle to be elected," she admitted cautiously.
"She'd be splendid!" urged Mavis, pursuing her advantage. "She's a born
leader. She's able to organise things and to keep order, and she's good
at games. She'd throw herself heart and soul into it, and work
tremendously at all the new schemes. She'd start clubs among the juniors
as well as the seniors, and coach them in hockey, and do her level best!
I'll guarantee she would!"
"And what about yourself? Can't you do any of these things?" questioned
"Not so well as Merle! I'm shyer, and I daren't speak out, and I'm not
much good at games. And oh! Miss Fanny, there's another side of the
question. I know Merle so well. If she's made monitress she'll be heart
and soul for the school and an enormous help, but--she's a queer girl,
and if she has no special place here or anything to concentrate her
energy on, she may give trouble."
"That is certainly no reason for placing her in a post of authority,"
frowned Miss Fanny.
"No--but she's a girl who's always for or against, and it's so very
important she should be on the right side. I believe this would be the
making of her. She'd try for the sake of others when she wouldn't make
any effort for herself."
"I believe you're right," conceded Miss Fanny thoughtfully. "Miss
Mitchell would certainly be most relieved to have a monitress who was
capable of organising the juniors at games. She was wondering how she was
going to manage. Do I understand, then, that you wish to resign in favour
"Please! I'll help her all I can in the background."
"Very well, Mavis. I'll accept your resignation and announce the matter
in school to-morrow. Now I must go, for I have a hundred things to do.
Tell Merle to come five minutes earlier in the morning and I'll talk to
her in the study. On the whole, I think the arrangement will be all for
It was a very radiant, triumphant Mavis who ran home to the old garden,
found Merle among the flowerbeds, and told her the glorious news.
"Sis! You can't mean it! Is it true? Oh, I don't like to take it! It's
too good of you! Don't you really mind? It's all the world to _me_.
I've been hoping to be made monitress ever since Miss Pollard spoke about
reorganising the school. Won't I have the time of my life! Monitress
Merle! It sounds nice, doesn't it? I must go and tell Jessop and Aunt
Nellie! How astonished everybody will be in school to-morrow. Fay and
Beata will be pleased. They were tremendously keen on my winning the
ballot. I'm so glad about it I want to turn a somersault or do something
mad. Come and dance with me, you old darling! What a trump you are!
You're _sure_ you don't mind?"
"Not a bit," said Mavis, swallowing a little lump in her throat. "Of
course I'll be ready to help you with anything whenever you want me.
There'll be plenty of hard work just at first, no doubt. You'll soon be
up to your eyes in starting clubs and societies. Keep a corner for me on
the school magazine if you found one. That's all I bargain for. I always
liked the Literary Society at Whinburn High. My hearty congratulations to
you, and every good wish for the success of everything you undertake
--Miss Monitress Merle!"
The New Monitress
The announcement of Mavis's resignation and the consequent promotion of
Merle to the post of monitress was received at school with varying
degrees of surprise. Some of the girls regretted it, others thought that
in the circumstances it was a wise decision.
"On the whole, I'm glad," admitted Iva in private to Nesta. "I love
Mavis, but she's too fine stuff for the job. It's like trying to cut
sacking with your most delicate pair of scissors. Now Merle will slash
away and won't mind anything. She's not afraid of those juniors, and
really some of them need a tight hand, the young wretches. It would half
kill Mavis to have to battle with them. Merle enjoys fighting."
"She'll get it, then," laughed Nesta. "There'll be plenty of scope for it
in the school, and I daresay I shall have a scrimmage or two with her
myself. Certainly Muriel will! Don't look shocked. We'll do our squabbles
in private if we have any. To the rest of the world, of course, the four
monitresses will seem absolutely at one about everything. We won't give
In a school where hitherto there has been no strict standard of
discipline, and which has suddenly doubled its numbers, it is rather a
difficult matter to decide the absolute limits of authority. Miss
Mitchell, new herself, gave the monitresses some general rules and
directions but left them to make what she called 'their own by-laws.'
"Work as much as you can through committees, and have an occasional
general meeting to voice popular opinion," she counselled. "Always keep
your position as leaders, but don't degenerate into an oligarchy. Listen
to just grievances, and try and bring everybody into harmony. The tone of
the school will depend very largely upon you four. Remember it's a
responsibility as well as an honour to have such a post of trust."
By the wish of both Miss Pollard and Miss Mitchell, it was arranged that
Iva and Nesta, who were boarders, should busy themselves mostly with the
affairs of the hostel, and that Muriel and Merle should look after those
things which specially concerned the day-girls. There were, of course,
various societies in which they could all unite, but the interests of
both were to be equally balanced. In order that the girls should have
time to inaugurate the numerous projects that loomed on the horizon, the
last hour of the coming Thursday afternoon was set apart for the purpose,
and a general meeting was to be held in the schoolroom.
"I shall leave you to manage it entirely yourselves," said Miss Mitchell.
"Found your own clubs, make your own arrangements, and elect your own
committees and officers. You can come and tell me about it afterwards."
Merle, rejoicing over the liberty thus given, found Iva, Nesta, and
Muriel a trifle nervous and diffident.
"The fact of the matter is," admitted Iva ruefully, "we none of us know
how to conduct a public meeting. What do you _do_? I've a vague idea
that there ought to be a chairman and a secretary, but what else? Rather
weak of us, isn't it? It seems so humiliating to go and tell Miss
Mitchell we can't carry on! She'll think us queer monitresses. Merle, can
you give any light?"
"We used to have heaps of public meetings at Whinburn High, and I think I
know the ropes. I can coach you all up beforehand. I should say we'd
better find out what girls are most likely to be of help, and arrange for
them to be proposed as members of committees. There's Mavis, of course.
Beata and Romola Castleton have been at school before, and so has Fay
Macleod. Kitty Trefyre looks as if she might be useful."
"I shall propose that you take the chair," said Iva. "Oughtn't that to be
a question of age?" interrupted Muriel quickly.
"It's a question of who is competent to do it. Merle's the only one of us
who knows how," returned Nesta, looking Muriel squarely in the face.
"Oh, all right!" (rather sulkily).
"We shall want a secretary, and you're a quick writer," suggested Merle,
with more tact than she generally possessed.
It was evident to Merle from the first that the greatest factor of
trouble in connection with her new post would lie with Muriel Burnitt.
Muriel was a little older than herself, she was clever, and she had a
sharp tongue. She had been educated solely at 'The Moorings,' and she
very much resented any allusions by Merle to former doings at the
Whinburn High school. Iva and Nesta were more broad-minded, and were
quite ready to take the benefit of Merle's past experiences, but as their
work lay largely at the hostel they were not so likely to clash. Even
Muriel, however, recognised the necessity of receiving instruction on the
subject of a public meeting, and allowed herself to be duly coached for
the duties of the occasion.
All the school felt quite excited when three o'clock on Thursday
afternoon arrived, and they were left to themselves in the large
classroom. Big girls, little girls, new girls, and old girls sat on the
forms in giggling anticipation, chattering like swallows on the eve of
migration, and determined to have a good time and enjoy themselves.
"You're the eldest! Open the ball!" said Iva, pushing Nesta forward.
But Nesta had turned shy. She had never been in such a position before,
and, flushing scarlet, she urged her utter inability to cope with the
"I can't! You do it--or Muriel!" she whispered in an agonized voice.
But Muriel, in spite of her ambition, was also afflicted with stage-fright
and passed on the honour.
Iva, making a supreme effort, called to the girls for silence, but they
were too much out of hand to listen to her and only went on talking.
Merle, following some wise advice administered by Mavis, had allowed the
other three to have first innings, but as none seemed capable of
controlling the meeting she now stepped to the front and, making a
megaphone of a roll of foolscap, yelled, "Order!" with all the force of
her lungs. The effect was instantaneous. There was an immediate dead
hush, and all eyes were turned in her direction.
"We're here this afternoon on business, and our first matter is to elect
a chairwoman," she proclaimed. "Will somebody kindly nominate one."
"I beg to propose Merle," piped Iva.
"And I beg to second her," fluttered Nesta, taking courage.
The clapping and stamping that followed witnessed the entire approval of
the meeting. Merle was unanimously elected to the chair, and having thus
received the symbol of authority proceeded to wield it. She was not in
the least bashful, and was quite ready to cope with anything that lay
before her. She held up a hand for silence and addressed her audience.
"I've told you we're here on business, and I want to explain. As it
affects everybody, perhaps you'll kindly listen without talking. Will
those three girls on the back bench move out here? Thanks! Now you all
know the school has started on a new era, and we hope it's going to forge
ahead. In the past we haven't done very much in the way of societies.
Perhaps that's all the better, because it gives us the chance to make a
clean start now, without any back traditions to hamper us. What I propose
is this: We'll go slow at first until we get into the swing of things,
and then later on we can blossom out as much as we like. I suggest that
we should get up three societies:
"A Games Club.
"A Literary Club.
"An Entertainment Club.
"The Games Club will try and work up a decent hockey team, and when our
play is worth anything, we'll see if we can't arrange a match with some
other school. The Literary Club will run a magazine, to which you'll all
be welcome to send contributions; and the Entertainment Club will
concentrate on getting up theatricals or something of that sort for the
end of the term. Does this meet your views?"
"Go ahead!" shouted several voices.
"Well, our first business is to appoint a president and a secretary for
each. I'm going to write a few likely names upon the blackboard, and then
you can make your choice. I ought to add that the boarders have already
started a Recreation Club of their own, and have made Nesta Pitman
president and Aubrey Simpson secretary. This has nothing to do with the
day-girls, but I just mention it, thinking you'd like to know about it.
We haven't time for a ballot, so if you'll propose candidates we'll take
the voting by a show of hands."
An interesting and exciting ten minutes followed, in which the merits and
demerits of various nominations were discussed, and the following girls
were finally elected to office:
_President_. Merle Ramsay.
_Secretary_. Kitty Trefyre.
_Committee_. Muriel Burnitt.
_President_. Muriel Burnitt.
_Secretary and Editress of Magazine_. Mavis Ramsay.
_Committee._ Iva Westwood. Maude Carey.
Merle Ramsay. Fay Macleod.
Nesta Pitman. Peggie Morrison.
_President_. Iva Westwood.
_Secretary_. Nesta Pitman.
_Committee_. Muriel Burnitt. Aubrey Simpson.
Mavis Ramsay. Sybil Vernon.
Merle Ramsay. Kitty Trefyre.
It was just when the successful candidates were receiving congratulations
that Beata Castleton stood up.
"As this is an open meeting may I make a suggestion?" she asked.
"Certainly," replied Merle from the chair.
"Well, I should like to suggest a 'Nature Study Club.' There doesn't seem
to be anything of that sort in the school, is there?"
"We have a museum somewhere about the place, I believe," admitted Merle.
"It's all put away in boxes," said Edith.
"Then why can't we bring it out and arrange it and add to it? And can't
we start a record, year by year, of when we find the first specimens of
certain wild flowers, hear the first notes of certain birds, and see
migratory birds? It would be ever so interesting."
"What a splendid idea! I'd like to second that!" exclaimed Mavis, jumping
up in great enthusiasm.
The general feeling was in favour of the proposition, and the Nature
Study Club was duly inaugurated, with Beata for president and Fay Macleod
for secretary, and a committee consisting mostly of the particular little
set of girls who motored daily from Chagmouth.
By four o'clock the whole of the business was concluded, the societies
were established, and a very hopeful start had been made. Among the many
activities of that important afternoon one point seemed to stand out
firmly and clearly--Merle above all the other monitresses had shown
herself capable of taking the lead. Where Iva, Nesta, and Muriel had
failed to control the school she had restored order, conducted the
meeting admirably, and exhibited considerable powers of organisation. She
had undoubtedly justified her position, and had won the respect of most
of her comrades.
"Did I do all right?" she asked Mavis anxiously, as they walked home.
"Splendiferously! I was bursting with pride! I couldn't have done it
myself, Merle! When I saw all that rackety crew talking and ragging, I
thought it was hopeless and that we should have to fetch Miss Mitchell.
Some of those juniors had just made up their minds to give trouble. You
tackled them marvellously."
"I wasn't going to give in to them!" declared Merle. "I meant to stop
their ragging if I had to go round and box all their ears. Well! They
know now they have to behave themselves or I'll know the reason why! But
oh, Mavis! I don't think Muriel will ever forgive me for being
"She never wanted me to be a monitress!"
"It's the truth."
"Well, she missed her own opportunity, so she can't blame you for taking
it this afternoon."
"She's against me all the same. Iva and Nesta are quite nice, but there
are going to be squalls with Muriel. You'll take my part?"
"Of course I shall, through thick and thin. You can always count on your
"That's something to go upon at any rate. I shall need support. I don't
believe it's going to be an easy business."
"'Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,'" quoted Mavis laughingly.
"Exactly. I wanted tremendously to be monitress, but I didn't realise all
I was in for. I see many breezes in front."
"You'll weather them all, don't fear! After such a splendid start I've
every confidence in you. It's only a question now of keeping it up and
Merle was not mistaken in her estimation of the difficulties that lay
before her. A certain section of the juniors, led by Winnie Osborne and
Joyce Colman, the firebrands of the Third form, offered great resistance
to the authority of the monitresses, and put every possible obstacle in
their way. To keep these unruly youngsters in order meant a constant
clashing of wills, and needed much courage and determination. Some of the
new girls also were inclined to rebel and to air their own views. Sybil
Vernon, in particular, was a thorn in the flesh. She had been at
boarding-school before, and on the strength of her previous experience
she offered advice upon any and every occasion. She was very aggrieved
that she had not been eligible for election to office herself.
"I know so much more about it than most of you!" she would explain
airily. "If Miss Pollard had only chosen _me_ as a monitress I could
have organised everything exactly like it used to be done at The Limes."
Sybil was a curious girl, fair, with a fat babyish face, and a vast idea
of her own importance. She was very proud of her family, and never for a
moment forgot, or allowed anybody else to forget, that she belonged to
the Vernons of Renshaw Court, and that Sir Richard Vernon was her second
cousin. She expected a great deal more attention than the school was
willing to accord to her, and was invariably offended or aggrieved or
annoyed about something. The girls did not take her very seriously, and
laughed at what they called her 'jim-jams,' which had the effect of
making her first very indignant and finally reducing her to floods of
Though Sybil might be annoying there was really not much harm in her, and
her criticisms were very easily combated. A different girl altogether,
however, was Kitty Trefyre. She also had been at another school, and set
forth standards of conduct which were dissimilar from those at 'The
Moorings.' She was cautious in airing these, and wisely so, for most of
them caused the monitresses to lift their eyebrows in amazement,
whereupon she would instantly retract her remarks and declare she was
only 'ragging.' How much she really meant Merle never knew, but the
latter did not trust her.
"There's a sneaky look about her eyes," she commented to Mavis. "Sybil
lunges out and finds open fault, but Kitty hits in the dark. I hope she's
not going to spoil Iva!"
"Oh, don't say that!"
"They're chums already, and Iva is rather a chameleon! She takes the
colour of her character from her friends."
As this book partly concerns the doings of the group of girls who came
daily from Chagmouth to Durracombe, we will follow them as they motored
back on their ten miles' journey from school. Squashed together in 'the
sardine-tin,' as they irreverently nicknamed the highly respectable car
driven by Mr. Vicary, who owned the garage close to the mill, they held
high jinks and talked at least thirteen to the dozen. There was so much
to discuss. The school was new to all of them, and naturally they wished
to criticise its methods, its teachers, its girls, and its prospects of
fun during the ensuing term.
"I like Miss Mitchell!"
"Yes, she's jolly, though I fancy she could be stern."
"Oh, I shouldn't like to face her in the study, of course."
"Miss Fanny is a dear!"
"And so is Miss Pollard."
"What d'you think of the monitresses?"
"Merle is A1!"
"Yes, I'm taken with Mavis and Merle! Partly because they seem to belong
to Chagmouth. They come over nearly every Saturday with Dr. Tremayne."
"Good! Then we shall see something of them. Hello! What's this car trying
to pass us? Babbie Williams! I'd forgotten for the moment she lives at
It was Babbie, driving in solitary state, who flew by in the big motor,
which turned up the side road that led to The Warren. She gave a friendly
nod as she passed, and the six 'sardines' smiled in return.
"It's a case of 'we are seven' from Chagmouth," commented Fay. "If we
include Mavis and Merle that would make nine. I guess we'll get up a set
of nature study rambles on Saturday afternoons and all go out together.
We'd have some real frolics!"
"Rather! I'm your girl! Romola and I are ready for any fun that's going.
That's to say if there's going to be time for any fun. But with all the
pile of lessons Miss Mitchell has given us we shall be busy, with our
noses at the grindstone. It always takes both of us hours to do our
The car meanwhile, with Mr. Vicary at the driving-wheel, had run across
the moor and down the steep hill, and was jolting over the cobble-stones
of the narrow main street of Chagmouth. It stopped outside the Post
Office, for the principal reason that if it went any farther it would be
impossible for it to turn round, and the girls, dismounting, took their
satchels or piles of books, said good-bye to one another, and scattered
to their respective homes. Beata and Romola crossed the bridge that
spanned the brook, skirted the harbour, climbed a flight of steps cut in
the solid rock, and reached a house which stood on the top of a high crag
overlooking the sea. It was an ideal spot for an artist to live, and it
was chiefly for its glorious view that Mr. Castleton had chosen it. He
was intensely sensitive to his surroundings, and preferred a picturesque
cottage, however inconvenient, to the comforts of an unaesthetic, bow-
windowed, modern, red-brick, suburban residence.
"Romance before everything!" he declared. "It's impossible to paint
unless you're in the right atmosphere. English scenery is getting spoilt
and vulgarised to such a degree that there'll soon be none of it left to
sketch. Where are the beautiful villages of thirty years ago? Gone--most
of them! The thatched roofs replaced by corrugated iron, and the hedges
clipped close to please the motorists. I defy anybody to make a
successful picture out of a clipped hedge! Even the gnarled apple trees
are being cut down and replaced by market gardeners' 'choice saplings.'
Picturesque England will soon be a thing of the past! I consider
Chagmouth one of the last strongholds for an artist, and I'm going to
live here as long as it remains unspoilt. There's enough work to keep me
busy for several years at any rate."
It is part of an artist's business to move about from place to place in
quest of fresh subjects. Mr. Castleton had spent some years at
Porthkeverne, and having, from a professional point of view, exhausted
that neighbourhood, he had transferred himself and his family to a new
horizon. He had a genius for discovering his right niche, and he had been
fortunate enough to light upon exactly the place that appealed to him. It
would not have suited everybody. It was a long low house, made of three
fishermen's cottages thrown into one, built so close to the edge of the
cliff that it seemed like a sea-bird's nest, with windows overlooking the
channel and the harbour, and a strip of stony garden behind. Inside, the
accommodation was somewhat cramped, but the rooms, if small, were quaint,
with an old-fashioned air about the panelled parlour and raftered dining-
room that suggested bygone days of smugglers and privateers. Below, in a
nook of the cliff, stood an old sail-shed, which Mr. Castleton had turned
into his studio. The big new skylight had only just been fitted into the
roof, and the stove which was to heat it during the winter was still at
Durracombe station waiting for the carrier to fetch it, but canvases were
already hung round the walls, the throne was erected and the big easel
placed in position, and an old fisherman, with weather-beaten countenance
and picturesque stained jersey, sat every morning for his portrait.
Those of our readers who have met the Castletons before in _The Head
Girl at the Gables_, will remember that they were a very large family.
Morland, the eldest, had been at the war, had won the D.C.M., and was now
learning engineering; Claudia was studying singing in London; Madox had
been sent for his first term at boarding-school; and the four little
ones, Constable, Lilith, Perugia, and Gabriel, were still in the nursery.
There was only one gap, Landry, poor Landry, who had never been like
other boys, had passed over the divide and joined the beautiful mother
whom in features he had so strongly resembled. A painting of him, as a
little child in her arms, hung on the studio wall. In some respects it
was the most brilliant portrait which Mr. Castleton had ever achieved. He
always showed it to visitors as a specimen of his best work.
At the time this story begins, Beata and Romola were fourteen and
thirteen years of age. They thoroughly maintained the family reputation
for good looks. There was a certain resemblance between them, and yet a
difference. Beata's eyes were clear grey, with dark lines round the iris,
and her hair was the exact shade of one of her father's best English gold
picture frames. She was a clever, capable girl, with a great love for
music, and was beginning to play the violin rather well. She got on quite
tolerably with her stepmother, and was fond of the little half-brothers
and sisters, though the warmest corner of her heart was reserved for
Madox, who was the baby of the elder portion of the family.
Romola, blue-eyed and ethereal, with long amber hair like a Saxon
princess, was her father's favourite model whenever he wished to depict
scenes of olden times. She figured as 'Guinevere' in a series of
illustrations to the _Morte d'Arthur_, as 'Elaine' her portrait had
been exhibited in the Academy, as 'The Lady of Shalott' she had appeared
in a coloured frontispiece of _The Art Review_, she inspired a most
successful poster of 'Cinderella,' and was the original of a series of
fairy drawings in a children's annual. She was not so clever or go-ahead
as Beata, and was rather dreamy and romantic in temperament, with a gift
towards painting and poetry, and a disinclination to do anything very
definite. She left most of the problems of life to Beata, and seldom
troubled to make decisions for herself. She was rather a pet with Violet,
her young stepmother, who, while preferring her to her sister, found her
the less useful of the two.
"You go, Beata, you're so quick!" Violet would say, when she wanted an
errand done, and for the same reason gave the charge of the children to
the one who was the more capable of assuming the responsibility.
It was not that Romola consciously shirked home duties, but she would any
time rather pose for an hour on the throne in the studio than take
temporary command of the nursery. Beata, on the contrary, hated sitting
still, and considered there was no greater penance than to be
commandeered by her father as a model. Her energetic temperament liked to
find its expression in outdoor activities. She had set to work upon the
neglected garden, and was busy trying to make flower-beds, and she looked
forward keenly to the forthcoming hockey season at school. The daily
drive to Durracombe and back was pure delight, and formed her greatest
compensation for leaving Porthkeverne and The Gables.
The Haven, as the house occupied by the Castletons was called, had been
changed into its present form by an old retired sea-captain, and there
was much about it that suggested a nautical atmosphere. The panelled
walls of the parlour might have been taken from a ship's cabin, the
dining-room contained convenient lockers, there was a small observatory
upstairs built to accommodate a big telescope, and the figure-head of a
vessel adorned the garden. Young Mrs. Castleton, whose tastes inclined
towards up-to-date comforts, often grumbled at its inconveniences, but on
the whole the family liked it. They would not have exchanged it for a
suburban villa for worlds. Just on the opposite side of the harbour, with
the jetty and the broad strip of green water in between, was the
furnished house rented at present by the Macleods. It stood in the more
aristocratic portion of Chagmouth, apart from the town and the fishing,
in company with one or two other newly-built residences. It was
charmingly pretty and artistic, in a perfectly modern fashion, and had
been designed by a famous architect. Its owner, a retired naval officer,
had gone abroad for a year, and had let the place in his absence,
rejoicing to have secured a careful tenant. He might certainly
congratulate himself upon leaving his house in such good hands. Mr.
Macleod was an American gentleman, who, owing to a nervous breakdown, was
travelling in Europe, and happening in the course of the summer to wander
to Chagmouth, he had fallen in love with the quaint old town and had
decided to spend the winter there. The factor which largely influenced
this decision was the presence of Mr. Castleton. Mr. Macleod was an
enthusiastic amateur painter, and the prospect of being able to take
lessons from so good an artist was sufficient to chain him to Chagmouth.
His wife encouraged the idea.
"George is just miserable if he's nothing to do," she explained to her
friends. "The doctor told me not to let him read too much or take up any
special mental hobby, but sketching strikes the happy medium. He
thoroughly enjoys pottering about in Mr. Castleton's studio, or making
drawings down on the quay. It's not arduous work and yet it keeps him
occupied. I like the house, and Fay can go to school near, so I expect
we're fixed here until next spring at any rate. If I get too bored I
shall run over to Paris and see my sister, but really I haven't been well
lately myself, and it will do me good to take a thorough rest for a
Fay, who had formed an enthusiastic friendship with Beata and Romola, was
as pleased with Chagmouth as her parents. From the windows of Bella Vista
she could look across the harbour to The Haven, and had already arranged
a code of signals by which she might communicate with her chums. She was
a bright, amusing girl, rather grown-up for her age, and the constant
companion of her father and mother.
"Fay runs the house!" Mrs. Macleod would declare sometimes; but she was
immensely proud of her young daughter, and unwilling to thwart her in any
of the projects which she might care to take up. These, indeed, were
many. Fay dabbled in numerous hobbies, and her demands varied from
photographic materials to special sandals for toe dancing. She thoroughly
enjoyed life, and the freshness of her enthusiasm provided her parents
with a perpetual interest. To those friends who urged boarding-school her
mother was ready with the reply:
"Why must we be parted from her? She's her father's best tonic! She keeps
him young and makes him laugh. She's getting her education and living her
home life at the same time, and that seems to me ideal. We shall probably
have to spare her later on to be married, so we may as well make the most
of her now while we've got her. It's the chief tragedy of parents that
the children grow up and go away. We'll enjoy our nest while we have our
one chick here. When the young ones are fledged, the old birds stop
[Illustration: MR. CASTLETON DID NOT LOOK AT ALL PLEASED]
Of the other girls who shared the car to Durracombe, Tattie Carew, whose
parents were in India had come to live with her aunt Miss Grant, in the
ivy-covered house at the top of the hill, while Nan and Lizzie Colville
were the daughters of the newly-appointed vicar. All six, therefore, were
fresh comers to the neighbourhood, and as yet had neither explored the
whole of its beauties nor learnt to understand its traditions. In both of
these respects Mavis and Merle, though non-residents, had the advantage
of them. Their friendship with Bevis Talland, the boy who, once the
village foundling, had turned out to be heir to the Chagmouth estate, had
given them an intimate acquaintance with the life of the place. Bevis had
shown them the haunts of the birds, and the best places for wild flowers,
had told them the local legends and the histories of the various worthies
of the parish. The little town indeed seemed strangely empty without him,
but at present he was away at school, and later would be going to
college, though eventually, when he came of age, he would probably take
up his residence in the old family home. The Warren, where Tallands had
lived for so many generations, had been let on a lease to Mr. Glyn
Williams, and the lawyers who managed the property had decided that this
arrangement should be continued during Bevis's minority; heavy death
duties and land-taxes would cripple the estate for some years, and it was
not worth while running a house for the sake of a schoolboy who could
pass only his holidays there. Mr. Glyn Williams meanwhile had bought
Bodoran Hall near Port Sennen, and would have leisure to make all the
many structural alterations which he wished before he was obliged to
leave The Warren. Through Bevis's foster-mother, Mrs. Penruddock of
Grimbal's Farm, where Dr. Tremayne had his branch surgery at Chagmouth,
Mavis and Merle were also kept very much in touch with the tone of the
place and knew most of the little happenings that occurred. They were
friendly with many of the village people, almost all of whom were their
uncle's patients at one time or another, and the Saturday expedition over
the moor from Durracombe was to them the central attraction of the whole
On the first Saturday afternoon of the new term, by special invitation,
they called at The Haven, and made the acquaintance of at least a portion
of the Castleton family. Beata was practising her violin, but she laid it
aside at once.
"I'll finish my half-hour afterwards. It will do quite as well this
evening. It's too fine a day to stay stuffing inside the house. Do you
care to come into the garden? We can step out through this window. These
are the babies, Constable, Lilith, Perugia, and Gabriel. I was keeping an
eye on them while I practised, to see they weren't in any mischief.
Violet has a headache and is lying down. She's our stepmother, you know.
We don't let the little ones call her Violet though! Come here, Perugia,
and shake hands! She's rather a pet, isn't she?"
The younger Castletons, from curly-headed Constable, known familiarly as
'Cooney,' to lovely three-year-old Baby Gabriel, were beautiful children,
and looked particularly picturesque in holland play-overalls embroidered
with saxe-blue. Mr. Castleton, who valued artistic effect before
everything, found Constable one of his most useful models, and though the
boy was now seven and a half, he was generally dressed in a Kate
Greenaway smock and his crop of golden curls was still uncut.
"Don't touch him!" his father would protest, whenever the question of
Constable's hair arose in the family; "as he is he's worth an income to
me! He always gets into exhibitions and he generally sells. He's just
what the average British patron wants to buy. The public can't always
understand my allegorical pictures, but they know a pretty child when
they see one. He'll be spoilt for the studio if he loses his curls, and I
want to sketch him as a singing angel, and as a water-baby, and for some
of my Hans Andersen illustrations. It's too bad to ruin his artistic
value just when I've trained him to pose properly. It will be years
before Gabriel learns to sit as still--if he ever does."
The little fellow had charmingly attractive manners, and came forward
willingly to talk to visitors. He and Perugia were the talkative ones;
Lilith, a flaxen-haired fairy of six, was very shy, and the baby was busy
with his own affairs and refused to be interrupted.
"Romola is sitting for Father," explained Beata. "I expect he'd let her
go now though, if you'd care to come for a walk with us. Bother! What
shall I do with the little ones? I can't leave them to Violet when she's
"Bring them with you," suggested Mavis, who was making friends with
"Should you mind? I'll tell you what! I'll borrow the donkey from the
farm, then they can ride in turns and won't get tired. Mrs. Donnithorne
is very good-natured about lending it. Constable, you run and ask her,
while we go to fetch Romola. Do you care to come to the studio?"
Mavis and Merle were only too delighted to have the opportunity of taking
a peep into Mr. Castleton's den, so followed Beata to the old sail-room
down a flight of steps cut in the cliff side. They remembered the place,
for Job Helyar used to plait osiers there, and they had come once to buy
a basket from him. In its former days it had been nothing but a rough
shed. They hardly recognised it now it was turned into a studio. Beata
went boldly in, and introduced her visitors. Her father was painting a
study of Romola for incorporation in a large historical picture. She was
standing on the throne, in a beautiful scarlet mediaeval costume, with
her long fair hair unbound and flowing like an amber waterfall down her
back. Mr. Castleton did not look at all pleased at being interrupted in
his work, but he glanced at his watch and nodded a reluctant permission
to Romola to relieve her pose. She came down from the platform,
stretching her tired arms.
"I'm supposed to be holding up a casket, and it's a horrid position to
keep," she explained. "May I go now, Dad? We want Mavis and Merle to take
us for a walk. I shan't be three seconds changing out of this costume.
You think the study is like me, Mavis? Show them the sketch for the
picture, Dad! Now you see where my place will be in it--just there. The
little page-boy is Constable, and Violet sat for the queen."
While Romola slipped off her mediaeval robe and plaited her long hair,
Beata escorted the visitors back to the garden. She fetched a pair of
field-glasses, took a survey through them, then declared:
"I can see Fay at her window, and Tattie sitting on the bank above her
aunt's tennis-court. I'll signal to them both, and they'll meet us by the
bridge. We'll call at the Vicarage and pick up Nan and Lizzie, then we
shall be quite a jolly party. Oh, here's Constable with Billy. I'm so
glad Mrs. Donnithorne will lend him to us. Are we all ready? Then come
The six picturesque Castletons were already well known in the streets of
Chagmouth, and many eyes were turned to look at them as they passed
along, with Perugia and Gabriel riding the donkey together, Romola
holding them both on, and Lilith leading Billy by the bridle. Kindly
comments came from cottage doorways.
"Stick on tight, ma dear!"
"Don't 'ee walk behind or her'll kick!"
"Mind her don't run away with ee!"
"Don't they ride pretty, bless 'em!"
At the bridge by the harbour the party was reinforced by Fay and Tattie,
and farther on they were joined by the Colvilles, so that they were
twelve strong as they left the town, and a particularly merry crew. At
the beginning of the first hill, however, the donkey stopped dead.
Several hands seized its bridle and tried to urge it forward, while Mavis
and Merle pushed it in the rear, but not all their efforts could induce
it to stir an inch.
"Romola! What utter idiots we are!" exclaimed Beata. "Of course we've
forgotten the peppermints!"
"Bother! So we have! We must go back for some, that's all!"
"The 'donk' won't go without peppermints! He simply loves them!"
explained Beata tragically.
"We always take a big packet of them with us to give him. He expects
them! He's turning his head round to look for them!"
"Bless his heart, he shall have them then!" cooed Merle, patting the
dusty coat of their steed. "His auntie will go and get some for him
herself if he'll wait like a good boy. Is he particular what kind he
"He likes those big brown humbugs!"
"Right-o! I'll run to Denham's shop and buy some. It's not far. Wait for
me, won't you?"
"Wait!" echoed Beata. "There'll be no question of going on. Nothing but
humbugs will make him move his four feet. We'll camp here till you come
Merle performed her errand quickly, returning with two packets of sweets,
one for Billy and the other for the rest of the party. The donkey, after
consuming several peppermints, condescended to move on, and the
procession started once more. They had not gone far, however, before a
mishap occurred: in lieu of saddle a cushion had been tied on to Billy's
back, the strap had loosened, the cushion suddenly slipped, and Perugia
and Gabriel descended into the road. Romola managed to break their fall,
but they were both terrified, and refused to mount again, so Constable
took a turn instead, holding the bridle himself, while Lilith, with all
the Castleton instinct for artistic effect, gathered posies of wild
flowers and wove them into a wreath for the donkey's neck.
The small people could not walk fast, and the steed stopped so often to
demand refreshments, that the expedition was very leisurely and they did
not proceed far. They had only reached the point above the lighthouse
when Mavis, with an eye on her wrist watch, declared it was time to turn
"We'll go with you another time, when we haven't to trail all this crew
along!" sighed Beata, as she bade good-bye to her friends. "Children are
a nuisance if you want to get on quickly. I'd have left them in the
garden if I could! Come and see us again at The Haven, won't you? I wish
Claudia and Morland were at home and we'd have some music. Well, I shall
see you next week, I suppose. I'm to have my first violin lesson on
Monday. I don't know whether I'm glad or not. I expect I shall be
terrified of Mr. Barlow. I learnt from a lady before. How I'm going to
practise and do all the home lessons Miss Mitchell sets us I can't
imagine! I think I shall strike like the 'donk' and refuse to stir unless
they give me peppermints!"
Miss Mitchell, B.A.
Naturally at present the most prominent person at 'The Moorings' was Miss
Mitchell. Hers was a task which required a combination of a number of
very high qualities. It needed force of character and tact, initiative
and patience, energy and experience. To reorganise an old school is a far
more difficult matter than to start an entirely new one, especially when
those responsible for the former _regime_ have not absolutely
retired. To a certain extent the Misses Pollard had given their teacher a
free hand, but she realised that at first it would be wise to go slowly
and not make the changes too drastic. She did not yet know what stuff she
had to work upon, the characters or capacities of her pupils, or their
readiness to adopt her ideas. While leading the school, she wished it to
be self-developing, that is to say, she thought it better to give the
girls a few general directions, and allow them to run their own
societies, than to arrange all such matters for them.
"Never mind if they make a few mistakes," she said to Miss Fanny, who
held up her hands in horror at some of the names chosen to serve on
committees. "If a secretary proves inefficient, the others will very soon
call her a 'slacker,' and she will have to reform or resign. It will be a
question of public opinion. A girl may shirk her lessons in school and
her classmates don't much care, but if she shirks the work she has
undertaken to do for a society they will be very indignant. These clubs
are an elementary object-lesson in community life, and will teach that
each individual must do something for the general good. The girls must
'feel their feet' before they can run; they'll probably have difficulties
but they'll learn by experience, and in the meantime they'll be shaping
their own traditions."
"Ye-es; I suppose you're right," dubiously agreed Miss Fanny, whose ideal
of management was to trust everything in the hands of a few girls whom
she knew best and discourage any signs of individuality on the part of
As regards the work of the various forms Miss Mitchell, helped by her
assistant mistress Miss Barnes, made many innovations. She introduced new
subjects and fresh modes of teaching, and fixed a very high standard of
efficiency. She expected great concentration, and exacted hard work,
especially in the matter of home preparation, but she was an exceedingly
interesting teacher and put much enthusiasm into her lessons. She had a
theory that no subject was really absorbed unless it was vividly realised
by the pupils.
"Imagination is half the value of education" was her favourite saying. "A
child may reel off a string of facts, but unless it can apply them they
are undigested mental food and of no use. What I want to do is to find
out how far each girl understands what she has learnt. Mere parrot
repetition is quite valueless in my opinion, and most public examinations
are little better."
Miss Mitchell's method of testing the knowledge of her pupils was
undoubtedly modern. She would teach them certain episodes of history,
explaining particularly the characters of the various personages and the
motives for their actions, then, instead of a verbal or written catechism
on the lesson, she would make the girls act the scene, using their own
words, and trying as far as possible to reproduce the atmosphere of the
period. Free criticism was allowed afterwards, and any anachronisms, such
as tea in the times of Queen Elizabeth, or tobacco during the Wars of the
Roses, were carefully pointed out. Most of the girls liked this new
method immensely. It encouraged their dramatic instincts, and resembled
impromptu theatricals. It was a point of honour to throw themselves
thoroughly into the parts, and they would often prepare themselves at
home by reading up various points in histories or encyclopaedias. This
was exactly what Miss Mitchell aimed at.
"They're educating themselves!" she explained to Miss Fanny. "They'll
never forget these facts that they have taken the trouble to find out.
Once a girl has realised the outlook of Mary Queen of Scots or Elizabeth,
and has learnt to impersonate her without glaring mistakes, she has the
keynote to the history of the times. When she has spoken to 'Darnley,'
'Black Both-well,' 'Rizzio,' 'John Knox,' or to 'Bacon,' 'Raleigh,'
'Essex,' and 'Sidney,' she has turned mere names into real personages,
and will be no more likely to confuse them than to mix up her friends.
By supplying her own dialogue she shows exactly how much she knows of the
character, and I am able to judge how far the lesson has been
assimilated. Fifteen years hence I venture to think Scottish Mary or
Queen Elizabeth will still be vivid remembrances to her; but would she be
able to tell the date of the battle of Pinkie? And would it be of very
vital importance whether she did or not? In my opinion to grasp the main
motives of history and to follow the evolution of the British nation is
far more necessary than memorising dates. Of course, a few must be
insisted on, or there would be no means of relative comparison, but these
few, accurately learnt, are better than a number repeated glibly without
any particular conception of their importance."
In the teaching of geography Miss Mitchell also put her theories into
action. As taught in many schools she thought it was a wearisome subject.
"You don't want to knock into a child's head the names of the capes and
bays of Africa or the population of Canada, but you want to give it some
conception of the different countries on the face of God's earth. Instead
of making it learn the exports of Italy, show it pictures of the orange
groves and of gathering the olives, and it will name you the exports for
itself. Geography ought to be as interesting as a game."
And so indeed she contrived to make it. She had brought a magic lantern
to school with her, and used it for most of her lessons, arranging thick
curtains to darken the windows. She had a selection of good slides
showing many different countries, and when her pupils were somewhat
accustomed to these she would test their knowledge by exhibiting one and
asking them where it was, whether in a hot or cold country, what kind of
people lived in such a place, what fruits, flowers, and animals would be
found there, and for what reasons British traders went to it. If the
girls made mistakes she would show them again the particular slides
relating to the place, explaining where they had been wrong, and taking
them, by means of the eye, on a short foreign tour.
"Imagine you're there and you'll feel quite travellers!" she would say.
"Now on this slide you notice a little pathway up the hill among some
trees. If you could walk up that path what would you be likely to find?
What language would the people, whom you met, speak? And how would they
Geography on these lines became very attractive, and, as in the case of
the history lessons, the girls eagerly looked out all kinds of points in
books of reference so as to come to class armed with information about
the birds, flowers, or native customs of some particular country. By
visualising the place, imagining themselves to be there, and relating all
they saw, they created such vivid mental pictures that they could almost
believe they had spent the hour really in Africa or South America, as the
case might be.
"You'd know what clothes to take with you to India or Canada at any
rate," said Miss Mitchell, "and what sort of a life you must be prepared
to live there. Before the term is over I think you'll realise what
British women are doing all over the globe. Climatic conditions have an
immense effect upon people and ought to be properly understood. The
knowledge of these is the foundation of the brotherhood of races."
It was not only in history and geography that Miss Mitchell made
innovations. French also was to be on a different method. It had always
been a successful subject at 'The Moorings,' though it had developed
along old-fashioned lines. Mademoiselle Chavasse, however, had left, and
the new Mademoiselle came from a very up-to-date School of Languages in
London. She taught largely by the oral system, making her pupils repeat
words and build them into sentences, like babies learning to talk. She
used English as little as possible, trying to make them catch ideas in
French without the medium of translation. Thus, in a beginners' class she
would hold up a book and say, "le livre," then placing it _on_ the
table or _under_ the table would extend her sentence to show the use
of the prepositions. The girls soon began to grasp the method, and learnt
to reply in French to simple questions asked them, and were given by
degrees a larger vocabulary and encouraged to try to express themselves,
however imperfectly, in the foreign tongue. She also instituted French
games, and set the whole school singing, "Qui passe ce chemin si tard?"
or "Sur le pont d'Avignon," while several of the Fifth form who could
write letters in French were put into correspondence with schoolgirls in
Miss Pollard and Miss Fanny, who had gasped a little at some of the
drastic changes, were pleased with the improvement in the teaching of
French, and still more so with the innovations with regard to music. This
had been a very special subject at St. Cyprian's College, where Miss
Mitchell had been educated, and she was anxious to introduce some of the
leading features. Her theory was that most girls learn to play the piano,
a few practise the violin, but hardly any are taught to understand and
appreciate music, apart from their own often unskilful performances. She
arranged, therefore, to hold a weekly class at which a short lecture
would be given on the works of some famous composers, with musical
illustrations. A few of the selections could be played by the pupils
themselves or by Miss Fanny, and others could be rendered by a
gramophone. The main object was to make the girls familiar with the best
compositions and cultivate their musical taste.
"Constant listening is the only way to learn appreciation," said Miss
Mitchell. "You form a taste for literature by reading the best authors,
not by trying to write poetry yourself! Learning an instrument is a good
training, but certainly only a part of music--to understand it and
criticise it is quite another matter."
So all the school, including even the little girls, met to listen to the
masterpieces of Beethoven, Chopin, or Schubert, and were encouraged to
note particular points and to discuss them intelligently.
"At the end of the term," said Miss Mitchell, "we'll have a concert, just
among ourselves, and then I hope some of you will surprise me. You must
all practise hard, because it will be a great honour to be asked to play
on that particular afternoon."
In revising the curriculum of 'The Moorings' upon these very modern
lines, Miss Mitchell did not neglect the athletic side. The school did
not yet possess a gymnasium, but there were classes for drill and
calisthenics, and games were compulsory.
"A good thing too!" commented Merle. "Some of the girls are fearful
slackers! They've never been accustomed to stir themselves. Maude Carey
hardly knows how to run. I believe she thinks it's unladylike! And Nesta
would shirk if she could. Those kids need a fearful amount of coaching. I
shall have my work cut out with them."
Merle, owing to her enthusiasm for sports, had been chosen as Games
Captain, and was doing her best to cultivate a proper enthusiasm for
hockey in the school. In this matter she had the full co-operation of the
new mistress. Merle liked Miss Mitchell, whose cheery, breezy, practical
ways particularly appealed to her. Merle was not given to violent
affections, especially for teachers, so this attraction was almost a
matter of first love. She, who had never minded blame at school, found
herself caring tremendously for praise in class. It raised the standard
of her work enormously. She could do very well if she tried. She had
always poked fun at girls who took much trouble over home lessons, and
had been accustomed to leave her own till the last possible moment. It
was certainly a new phase to find her getting out her books immediately
after tea, or practising for half an hour before breakfast. She was ready
to do anything to win notice from Miss Mitchell, and was decidedly
jealous that Iva and Nesta, being boarders, were able to see more of her,
and thus establish a greater intimacy. Merle always wanted to 'go one
better' than the other monitresses. The status of all four was exactly
equal, and so far there was no head girl at 'The Moorings.' Merle had
indeed taken a most prominent part at the general meeting of the school,
but though she might be the unacknowledged leader, that gave her no
increased authority. Sometimes her excess of zeal led to ructions. Miss
Mitchell had strongly urged the necessity of improving the games, and
particularly of training the juniors to play hockey properly. Merle
seized upon them at every opportunity and made them practise. One
afternoon, as everybody filed out at four o'clock, she captured her
recruits and began some instruction. But unfortunately it happened that
Winnie and Joyce, who were her aptest pupils, were wanted by Nesta for
schemes of her own, and she came and called them in.
"Can't spare them now!" objected Merle briefly.
"Sorry! But they'll have to come!"
"Not if their Games Captain wants them!"
"I'm their hostel monitress!"
"Miss Mitchell asked me to see to the hockey!"
"Then you must get day-girls to stay for your practice. I've instructions
to see that all the boarders come straight back to the hostel after
Merle gave way with a very bad grace. She felt that Nesta was interfering
out of sheer officiousness.
"What a jack-in-office!" she grumbled under her breath. "I believe those
boarders may do anything they like until tea-time. Nesta needn't plume
herself upon being prime favourite with Miss Mitchell. She may whisk
Joyce and Winnie off now and spoil our practice, but I'll be even with
her in some other way!"
In talking about the various school institutions, Miss Mitchell mentioned
one day that there ought to be a general record of the various societies
and their officers, and the work which they had undertaken to do.
"It should be kept in the study so as to be available any time for
reference," she said. "It would be a far simpler method than having to
ask the secretaries for particulars."
This gave Merle an idea. She said nothing to her fellow-monitresses, but
she at once began to compile the list which Miss Mitchell wanted. She was
determined to do it beautifully. Her handwriting was not remarkably good,
so she decided to type it. There was a little typewriter in Uncle David's
consulting-room, which he allowed her to use, and though she was so far
from being an adept at it that it actually took her longer than using pen
and ink, she thought the result would justify the trouble. She meant to
stitch the sheets together and fasten them inside a cardboard cover,
decorated with an artistic design. She set to work upon it with much
energy and enthusiasm.
She was leaving school one afternoon when Muriel Burnitt ran up to her.
"By the by, Merle! Can you give me the names of the committee of the
Nature Club? I can't just remember them all."
"What d'you want them for?" asked Merle suspiciously.
"Oh, to write out for Miss Mitchell! She was asking for a list the other
"Fay Macleod is secretary of the Nature Club. She'd be able to tell you
exactly," temporised Merle.
"So she would! I'll ask her to-morrow."
Merle went home with her head in a whirl. It was quite evident that
Muriel had hit upon exactly the same idea as herself, and intended to
present Miss Mitchell with a full record of the societies.
"Only, hers will probably be written in an exercise-book and not be half
as nice as mine! She mustn't forestall me, though! However artistic my
list is, it will fall very flat if Muriel gives hers in first. I've got
to finish it somehow to-night and take it to school to-morrow morning.
When Merle made up her mind about anything, nothing could move her.
Directly she got home she set to work upon the book-back, and toiled away
at it, utterly ignoring her preparation. In vain Mavis urged the claims
of Latin verbs and Shakespeare recitation.
"I shan't stop till I've finished this!" declared Merle stubbornly. "Not
if I sit up all night over it. Bother the old 'Merchant of Venice' and
beastly Latin verbs! I'll glance through them at breakfast-time and trust
to luck. Surely Miss Mitchell will understand when she knows how busy
I've been over this! I shall give it to her before nine o'clock."
"Can't I help you? I've finished my prep."
"No, thanks! I want it to be entirely my own work."
Merle was not so clever at drawing as Mavis, but she contrived to turn
out a very pretty cover all the same. She illuminated 'The Moorings' in
large letters upon it, and painted a picture of a boat moored to a jetty
below, as being an appropriate design. She stitched the typed sheets,
fastened the whole together, and tied it with a piece of saxe-blue ribbon
(saxe was emphatically Miss Mitchell's pet colour), then she printed upon
the back of it, 'With much love from your affectionate pupil Merle
Ramsay.' She sat up over it long after Mavis and Aunt Nellie had gone to
bed, and, indeed, finished it hurriedly under the eyes of Jessop, who was