The Head Girl at the Gables

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The Head Girl at the Gables, by Angela Brazil

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Title: The Head Girl at the Gables

Author: Angela Brazil

Illustrator: Balliol Salmon

Release Date: May 28, 2010 [EBook #32575]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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THE HEAD GIRL AT THE GABLES

BY ANGELA BRAZIL

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

A Harum-Scarum Schoolgirl. The Head Girl at the Gables. A Patriotic Schoolgirl. For the School Colours. The Madcap of the School. The Luckiest Girl in the School. The Jolliest Term on Record. The Girls of St. Cyprian's. The Youngest Girl in the Fifth. The New Girl at St. Chad's. For the Sake of the School. The School by the Sea. The Leader of the Lower School. A Pair of Schoolgirls. A Fourth Form Friendship. The Manor House School. The Nicest Girl in the School. The Third Class at Miss Kaye's. The Fortunes of Philippa.

LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, LTD., 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C.

[Illustration: "OH, DO FIND OUT WHERE 'KILMENY' IS," BEGGED LORRAINE
Page 208
]

THE HEAD GIRL AT THE GABLES

BY

ANGELA BRAZIL

Author of "For the School Colours" "The Madcap of the School" "A Patriotic Schoolgirl" &c. &c.

Illustrated by Balliol Salmon

BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY

Contents

CHAP. Page

I. A MOMENTOUS DECISION 9

II. THE FIRST DAY OF TERM 22

III. NEW BROOMS 35

IV. GREETS CLAUDIA 48

V. A QUESTION OF DISCIPLINE 61

VI. THE SEA-NYMPHS' GROTTO 75

VII. KILMENY 89

VIII. VIVIEN MAKES TERMS 101

IX. WHITE ELEPHANTS 114

X. A SINISTER INCIDENT 128

XI. MADAME BERTIER 140

XII. THE SENSATION BUREAU 154

XIII. ROSEMARY'S SECRET 168

XIV. WHAT HAPPENED AT EASTER 181

XV. AN ACADEMY PICTURE 196

XVI. AN OPPORTUNITY 211

XVII. A MID-TERM BEANO 223

XVIII. AN ADVENTURE 235

XIX. MORLAND ON LEAVE 243

XX. SMUGGLERS' COVE 250

XXI. TROUBLE 266

XXII. THE PARTING OF THE WAYS 280

Illustrations

Page

"OH, DO FIND OUT WHERE 'KILMENY' IS," BEGGED LORRAINE
Frontispiece

LORRAINE 72

"EVERYTHING'S GONE WRONG!" DECLARED LORRAINE TRAGICALLY 144

"CLAUDIA! HOW
COULD
YOU FORGET?" 192

CLAUDIA FLUNG HER ARMS ROUND ROSEMARY'S NECK AND HUGGED HER 216

SHE STOOD UP CAUTIOUSLY 240

THE HEAD GIRL AT THE GABLES

CHAPTER I

A Momentous Decision

It was exactly ten days before the opening of the autumn term at The Gables. The September sunshine, flooding through the window of the Principal's study, lighted up the bowl of carnations upon the writing-table, and, flashed back from the Chippendale mirror on the wall, caught the book-case with the morocco-bound editions of the poets, showed up the etching of "Dante's Dream" over the mantelpiece, and glowed on Miss Kingsley's ripply brown hair, turning all the silver threads in it to gold. Miss Kingsley, rested and refreshed after the long summer holiday, a touch of pink in her cheeks and a brightness in her eyes, left as a legacy from the breezes of the Cheviot Hills, was seated at her desk with a notebook in front of her and a fountain pen in her hand, making plans for a fresh year's work.

Miss Janet, armed with a stump of pencil and the back of an envelope, ready to jot down suggestions, swayed to and fro in the rocking-chair with her lips drawn into a bunch and the particular little pucker between her eyebrows that always came when she was trying to concentrate her thoughts.

"It really
is
a difficulty, Janet!" said Miss Kingsley. "A suitable head girl makes all the difference to a school, and if we happen to choose the wrong one it may completely spoil the tone. If only Lottie Carson or Helen Stanley had stayed on! Or even Enid Jones or Stella Hardy!"

"It's hard luck to lose all our best senior girls at once!" agreed Miss Janet, biting her stump of pencil abstractedly. "But if they're gone, they're gone."

"Of course!" Miss Kingsley's tone savoured slightly of impatience. "And the urgent matter is to supply their places. It's like making bricks without straw. Haven't you any suggestions? I
do
wish you'd stop rocking, it worries me to hear your chair creak!"

Miss Janet, seasoned by thirty-five years' acquaintance with her sister's nervous temperament, rose and walked to the window, where she stood looking out over the sunlit tennis court to the bank of exotic shrubs that half hid the blue line of the sea. There was a moment's pause, then she said:

"Suppose you read over the list of 'eligibles', and we'll discuss their points each in turn."

Miss Kingsley reached for a certain black-backed shiny exercise-book and opened it. The entries were in her own neat hand.

"There will only be eight girls in the Sixth Form this term," she volunteered. "Taking them in alphabetical order they are: Nellie Appleby, Claire Bardsley, Claudia Castleton, Vivien Forrester, Lorraine Forrester, Audrey Roberts, Dorothy Skipton, and Patricia Sullivan."

Miss Janet smiled.

"First of all you may cross off the last," she suggested.

"Decidedly. Patsie Sullivan as head girl would be about as suitable as--as----"

Miss Kingsley paused for an appropriate simile.

"As making Charlie Chaplin Archbishop of Canterbury!" finished Miss Janet with a chuckle.

"It's unthinkable! Most of the others are soon weeded out too. Nellie Appleby and Claire Bardsley--good stodgy girls, but quite unfit for leadership--Claudia Castleton, a new girl, so of course not eligible; Audrey Roberts--could you imagine silly little Audrey in any post of trust? It really only leaves us the choice between Lorraine Forrester, Vivien Forrester, and Dorothy Skipton."

"In last term's exams these three were fairly equal," commented Miss Janet.

"So equal that I shan't take the results of the exams into consideration. It must be a question of which girl will make the most efficient head. Each has her points and her drawbacks. Take Vivien, now: she's smart and capable, and would revel in exercising authority."

"Too much so. I should be sorry for the school with anyone so domineering as Vivien Forrester at the head of affairs. She's too forward altogether, and inclined to argue and pit her opinion against that of the mistresses. If she were singled out for special office, I believe she'd grow insufferable. Dorothy Skipton, with all her faults, would be preferable to Vivien."

"And Dorothy
has
faults--very big ones too!" sighed Miss Kingsley. "I never can consider Dorothy to be absolutely straight and square. I've several times caught her cheating or copying, and she's not above telling a fib if she's in a tight place. She's clever, undoubtedly, and decidedly popular, and in that lies the greatest danger, for a popular head girl whose moral attitude is not of the very highest might ruin the tone of the school in a single term. I'm afraid Dorothy is too risky an experiment."

"Then that leaves only Lorraine Forrester?"

"Yes--Lorraine."

Both the sisters paused, with the same look of puzzled doubt on their faces.

"She's a child I never seem to have got to know thoroughly," said Miss Janet. "I must say I've always found her perfectly square and a plodding worker. She has given very little trouble in class."

"Not so brilliant, perhaps, as Vivien, but, on the whole, more satisfactory," commented Miss Kingsley. "I agree with you that we have never really got to know Lorraine. She's a very reserved girl, and hasn't pushed herself forward, but there's great strength of character in her, in my opinion. Those big brown eyes look in earnest over anything she's doing. She's never made a bid for popularity, like Dorothy Skipton, but I've seen her coaching the younger ones at hockey and cricket. She's inclined to go about in a dream, but I believe if she were placed in a post of authority she'd wake up. I really think we could depend on Lorraine. The first quality in a head girl is that she must be conscientious, and she certainly comes out top in that respect."

"If it were put to the general vote----" began Miss Janet, but her sister snapped her up.

"I don't believe in allowing the girls a choice! The popular idol of the school isn't always the one with the best influence. I've quite decided, Janet! Lorraine is far and away the most suitable among the new Sixth. I shall send for her the day before term opens and have a private talk with her. Unless I'm very much mistaken in the girl, we shan't be disappointed."

"I believe you are right!" agreed Miss Janet, sinking into the easy-chair and resuming her rocking, without further remonstrance from her now satisfied sister.

Miss Kingsley and Miss Janet had kept school together at The Gables for the last twelve years. It was not a very large school, but then Porthkeverne was not a very large place--only a little quaint, old-fashioned seaside town, built down the sloping cliffs of a Cornish cove, with its back to the heather-clad moors and its face to the broad Atlantic. Whether you appreciated Porthkeverne or not was entirely a matter of temperament. Strangers, whose pleasure in a summer holiday depended on pier, esplanade, band, and cheap amusements, found it insufferably dull, and left for the more flaring gaieties of St. Jude's or Trewenlock Head. Porthkeverne was glad to get rid of them; it did not cater for such as these. But there were others for whom the little town had a peculiar fascination; its quaint, irregular houses and grey roofs, its narrow streets of steep steps, its archways with glimpses of the sea, its picturesque harbour and red-sailed fishing-boats, its exotic shrubs and early flowers, its yellow sands and great pinnacled crags, the softness of the west wind and the perpetual dull roll of the Atlantic breakers cast a spell over certain natures and compelled them to remain. Visitors would return to it again and again, and some of them, who were free to live where they chose, would take houses and settle down as residents. Over literary and artistic people Porthkeverne seemed to exercise a special charm. Authors and artists had collected there, and, partly attracted by the place and partly by each other's society, had formed an intellectual colony that centred round the Arts Club in the old Guildhall down by the harbour.

Marine painters, and those who sought to immortalize peasant life on their canvases, found ample subjects among the crags and coves and sea-weed-covered rocks where the blue water lapped softly, or the white waves came foaming and churning up; and the fisher-folk, bronzed, blue-eyed, and straight of limb, were models to set the heart of a Millet or a Wilkie on the thrill. To authors the quiet place, with its miles of moorland lying inland from the cliffs, was a ripe field for literary work. Novelists worked out their plots undisturbed by the hooting of motor horns or the whizzing of tram-cars; scientific men, who had spent years of study over the treasures of the British Museum or Kew, came there to sort out their materials for books of reference, and to have leisure for making certain experiments; writers of travels reviewed their notes, and archaeologists scheduled the antiquities of the neighbourhood. To this literary and artistic brotherhood Porthkeverne offered the calm of the country combined with the mental stimulus of intellectual comradeship, and though, in the inevitable march of events, its individual members often changed, the colony remained and flourished, and sent forth work of a character that was of value to the world of art and letters.

Miss Kingsley and her sister, Miss Janet, themselves women of strong literary tastes, had come to the town with the rising tide of the Arts Settlement, and had established their school chiefly to meet the needs of the new colony. Most of their pupils were the children of painters and authors, though a few of the gentry and professional men of the district also took advantage of such a good local opportunity to educate their daughters. The Gables was a pleasant old-fashioned white house, standing on a narrow terrace of the cliff, with a high rock behind to screen it from the wind, and a view of grey roof-tops leading down to a peep of the harbour. In the sheltered garden grew, according to their season, white arum lilies and rosy tamarisk, aloes and myrtle and oleander and other beautiful half-tropical shrubs, while geraniums, carnations and humbler flowers bloomed in profusion. There was a veranda covered with a wistaria, and most of the class-room windows were framed with sweet-smelling creepers. Long afterwards, when the pupils looked back to their time at The Gables, they would always connect certain lessons with the strong scent of honeysuckle, or the faint odour of tea roses, for the flowers seemed just as much a part of the general culture of the school as were the Botticelli pictures on the library walls, or the weekly recitals of modern music.

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