CHAPTER I COMMENCEMENT DAY AT MISS TOLLIVER’S
“O Phil, dear! It is anything but fair. If you only knew how I hate to have to do it!” exclaimed Madge Morton impulsively, throwing her arms about her chum’s neck and burying her red-brown head in the soft, white folds of Phyllis Alden’s graduation gown. “No one in our class wishes me to be the valedictorian. You know you are the most popular girl in our school. Yet here I am the one chosen to stand up before everyone and read my stupid essay when your average was just exactly as high as mine.”
Madge Morton and Phyllis Alden were alone in their own room at the end of the dormitory of Miss Matilda Tolliver’s Select School for Girls, at Harborpoint, one morning late in May. Through the halls one could hear occasional bursts of girlish laughter, and the murmur of voices betokened unusual excitement.
It was the morning of the annual spring commencement.
Phyllis slowly unclasped Madge’s arms from about her neck and gazed at her companion steadfastly, a flush on her usually pale cheeks.
“If you say another word about that old valedictory, I shall never forgive you!” she declared vehemently. “You know that Miss Tolliver is going to announce to the audience that our averages were the same. You were chosen to deliver the valedictory because you can make a speech so much better than I. What is the use of bringing up this subject now, just a few minutes before our commencement begins? You know how often we have talked this over before, and that I told Miss Matilda that I wished you to be the valedictorian instead of me, even before she selected you.”
Phil’s earnest black eyes looked sternly into Madge’s troubled blue ones. “If you begin worrying about that now, you won’t be able to read your essay half as well,” declared Phil impatiently. “Please sit still for a minute and wait until Miss Jenny Ann calls us.”
Phil pushed Madge gently toward the big armchair. Then she walked over to stand by the window, in order to watch the carriages drive up to Miss Tolliver’s door and to keep her back turned directly upon her friend Madge.
The little captain sat very still for a few minutes. She had on an exquisite white organdie gown, a white sash, white slippers and white silk stockings. In the knot of sunny curled hair drawn high upon her head she wore a single white rose. A bunch of roses lay in her lap, also a manuscript in Madge’s slightly vertical handwriting, which she fingered restlessly.
The silence grew monotonous to Madge.
“Are you angry with me, Phil?” she asked forlornly.
Madge and Phyllis Alden had been best friends for four years, and had never had a real disagreement until this morning.
Phyllis was too honest to be deceitful. “I am a little cross,” she admitted without turning around. “I wish Lillian and Eleanor would come upstairs to tell us how many people have arrived for the commencement.”
Madge started across the room toward Phil. But Phyllis’s back was uncompromising....