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Authors: Angela Brazil
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Title: A harum-scarum schoolgirl
Author: Angela Brazil
Illustrator: John Campbell
Release Date: February 19, 2008 [EBook #24645]
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A HARUM-SCARUM SCHOOLGIRL
[Illustration: "COULD YOU DO ME A KINDNESS, MISS?" SHE ASKED
A HARUM-SCARUM SCHOOLGIRL
Illustrated by John Campbell
NEW YORK FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1920, by
FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY
All rights reserved
I. A PIXIE GIRL 9
II. STARS AND STRIPES 23
III. A PENNILESS PRINCESS 39
IV. THE RUSH-BEARING 51
V. DIANA DARES 65
VI. FRENCH LEAVE 77
VII. LAND GIRLS 91
VIII. ARMISTICE DAY 108
IX. DIANA'S ENGLISH CHRISTMAS 128
X. A FIT OF THE BLUES 141
XI. DIANA TO THE RESCUE 153
XII. DIANA BREAKS OUT 167
XIII. CRUSOE ISLAND 178
XIV. SPOOKS 195
XV. JOY-RIDING 207
XVI. A FAMILY CREST 219
XVII. THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER 235
XVIII. DIANA'S FOUNDLING 247
XIX. AMBITIONS 259
XX. A TANGLED PLOT 271
"COULD YOU DO ME A KINDNESS, MISS?" SHE ASKED
"O-O-O-OH! HOW GORGEOUS TO BELONG TO A HIGH-FALUTING FAMILY THAT'S GOT LEGENDS AND GHOSTS!" 48
TWO PAIRS OF BARE FEET WENT SPLASHING JOYOUSLY INTO THE BROOK 72
WE SET OFF AND RODE ALL THE MORNING 144
ITS COWL FELL BACK, AND DISCLOSED A WELL-KNOWN AND DECIDEDLY MIRTHFUL COUNTENANCE 200
DIANA CALLED AND SHOUTED TO THEM. THEY TOOK NO NOTICE 240
A HARUM-SCARUM SCHOOLGIRL
A Pixie Girl
"If I'd known!" groaned Winifred Cranston, otherwise Wendy, with a note of utter tragedy in her usually cheerful voice. "If I'd only known! D'you think I'd have come trotting back here with my baggage? Not a bit of it! Nothing in this wide world should have dragged me. I'd have turned up my hair--yes, it's
long enough to turn up, Jess Paget, so you needn't look at it so scornfully; it's as nice as yours, and nicer! Well, I tell you I'd have turned up my hair, and run away and joined the 'Waacs' or the 'Wrens', or have driven a motor wagon or conducted a tramcar, or scrubbed floors at a hospital, or done anything--
, I say!--rather than stay at the Abbey without Mrs. Gifford."
"It's pretty stiff, certainly, for the Head to go whisking away like this," agreed Magsie Wingfield, sitting on the other shaft of the wheelbarrow. "And without any notice either! It leaves one gasping!"
"Stiff? It's the limit! Why didn't she give us decent warning, instead of springing it on to us in this sudden fashion? I feel weak!"
"There wasn't time," explained Sadie Sanderson, who, with Violet Gorton and Tattie Clegg, occupied, in a tight fit, the interior of the wheelbarrow. "It was all done at a day's notice. Geraldine's been telling me the whole history."
"Mr. Gifford got suddenly exempted, and was made Governor of some outlandish place with an unpronounceable name in Burma. He telegraphed to Mrs. Gifford to join him at Marseilles, and go out with him. So she went--that's the long and the short of it!"
"Went and left her school behind her," echoed Vi.
"I call it simply running away," commented Wendy. "Why couldn't she have stopped to arrange things--say till Christmas--and then followed him?"
"It's some tiresome red-tape business at the War Office. They'd give her a passport to travel out
him, but not to join him afterwards, so she thought she'd better take the opportunity and go out with him while she could. It must have been a terrific scramble for her to get off. I believe she just bundled her things together and bolted, and left the school to Miss Todd."
"Will she ever come back?"
"I shouldn't think it's likely now."
"Then we're left for evermore to the tender mercies of Toddlekins?"
"That's just about the size of it. Toddlekins has taken the whole thing over."
"She's been longing and yearning to seize the reins and drive the coach ever since she came," commented Tattie.
"Well, she's got her chance now."
"And she'll use it, too! You bet there'll be changes!"
"Changes! There are changes already, although Mrs. Gifford can hardly have reached Marseilles yet."
"It's going to be a queer term," grunted Wendy.
The five girls were sitting in a retired corner of the garden at Pendlemere Abbey. On one side, above the tops of the rhododendron bushes, they could see the tall, twisted chimneys and flagged stone roof of the old house; on the other side, below the lawn and across the paddock, gleamed the silver waters of the lake, with its banks of rushes and alders, and beyond lay a range of grey hills that seemed to melt away into more distant peaks that merged into the mists on the horizon. It was a beautiful view, and on this hazy September afternoon, with the hidden sun sending long shafts of light from behind radiant masses of cloud, it formed a prospect that should have afforded keen æsthetic satisfaction to anybody who cared to look at it. Usually the girls appreciated its changeful glories, but to-day--this first day of a new term--they were too much taken up with their own grievances to think about scenery. In fact, they sat huddled together in the wheelbarrow with their backs towards the view.
It had certainly been a considerable shock to the girls to find, on arriving after the holidays, that their popular Principal had deserted them in so sudden a fashion. It was not indeed the first surprise which she had given them. Two years before she had been Miss Housman, with a purely educational outlook in life, and a horizon bounded by her school; but Cupid, who plays strange pranks even with head mistresses, brought her fate along in the shape of a major from the temporary camp by the lake, and shot his arrows with such deadly aim that the whole romantic business--courtship, engagement, and war wedding--took place in the course of a few weeks, almost under the very noses of her interested pupils. They had gone home for their Easter holidays much thrilled about her engagement ring, and had returned to school to find her a war bride, with her husband already in the trenches. When the excitement of choosing her a wedding present was over, matters seemed to settle down pretty much as before. Except in an increased anxiety for news from the front, Mrs. Gifford had differed in no degree from Miss Housman. To the school the Major was a mere abstraction; his leave had always occurred during the holidays, and up to this time his existence--apart from the element of romance with which it invested their head mistress--had not affected the atmosphere of Pendlemere in the least. It had occasionally occurred to some of the girls to question what would happen when the war was over, but they generally ended by deciding: "He'll have to come and live here, I suppose, and turn the junior room into a smoke-room". Some of the more imaginative had even ventured the suggestion that he might teach drilling and Latin. It never struck any of them that instead of settling down at the school he would want to whisk away his bride to the other side of the world. The unexpected had happened, however. Pretty Mrs. Gifford had decided that the claims of matrimony outweighed all consideration for her pupils, and had gone without even a good-bye, leaving Miss Todd to reign in her stead.
There was no doubt that Miss Todd was admirably fitted to fill the post. Possibly, unknown to the girls, she had been gravitating towards it ever since her principal's hasty war wedding. Certainly she was ready, with the utmost calm, to take over the school at the critical moment, and transfer the connection from Mrs. Gifford's name to her own. She was a woman of decided character, at her prime intellectually and physically, tremendously interested in reconstruction problems, and longing to try some educational experiments. So far, her ambitious schemes had been much hampered by her Head. Mrs. Gifford, pleasant and popular both with girls and parents, had clung to old-fashioned methods, and had been very difficult to move in the matter of modern innovations. She had always put on the curb when the second mistress's fertile imagination had pranced away on Utopian lines. To an ardent spirit, steeped in new race-ideals, and longing for an opportunity of serving her generation, it was a proud moment when she suddenly found herself in a position to carry out her pet schemes unchecked. On this first day of the new term she moved round the school with the satisfaction of an admiral reviewing a battleship.
It was much to Miss Todd's credit that she was able to take her fresh duties quite calmly, and without any fuss or exhibition of nerves. She was not a nervy woman, to begin with, and she had made a great point of cultivating self-control. With her tall figure, clear grey eyes, bright complexion, and abundant chestnut hair, she made a very favourable impression upon those parents who had brought their daughters back to school in person. At the moment when Wendy, Sadie, Tattie, Magsie, and Vi were sitting grousing in the wheelbarrow, Miss Todd, in the drawing-room, was completing an arrangement which was largely to affect their future.
"It's very short notice, of course," she was saying. "But, as it happens, there's a vacant bed, and I can manage it perfectly well."
"That's just a real relief to me!" replied a pleasant American voice from the sofa. "We can't take Diana with us to Paris, and I don't want to burden my cousin with her, so I said to my husband: 'There's nothing for it but school, only it must be a good one'. Well, we motored along to the nearest clergyman, introduced ourselves, and asked him to recommend a real first-class, high-toned British school that would take in Diana, and he said: 'Why, there's one on the spot here--you needn't go any farther!' Time was getting short, so we brought her right along. I must say I'm satisfied with all I've seen, and the talk I've had with you, and I feel we're leaving her in good hands. My cousin, Mrs. Burritt, will send over the rest of her things from Petteridge, and if there's anything else she needs please get it for her. Well, Steve, if we've to catch that 4.30 train, we must be going."
The tall dark gentleman in the arm-chair consulted his watch and rose hastily.
"Just time if we put on some speed; but the roads are execrable," he vouchsafed.
The central figure around whom this conversation had revolved had been sitting in the window gazing at the view over the lake. She now turned her head sharply, with an inscrutable expression in her dark grey eyes, and, walking across to her father, linked her arm in his. He bent down and whispered a few rapid words into her ear. Her mother patted her on the shoulder reassuringly.
"You're going to have a good time, Diana. Why, I expect you won't be wanting us to come back, you'll be so happy here. Address your letters under cover of the American Embassy, Paris, till we send you the name of our hotel. Good-bye! Be a good child and a credit to us."
The leave-taking was perhaps purposely cut short. Mr. and Mrs. Hewlitt each bestowed a swift kiss upon their daughter, then made a hasty exit to their waiting car, and were whirled away in the direction of Glenbury Station and the 4.30 train, and their ultimate destination of Paris.
Ten minutes later Lennie Browne, one of the juniors, disturbed the quintette on the wheelbarrow with a message.
"Miss Todd's sent me to find you," she announced. "You've got to come and make friends with a new girl."