The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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It was mid-afternoon by the old sun-dial that marked the hours in Warwick Hall garden; a sunny afternoon in May. The usual busy routine of school work was going on inside the great Hall, but no whisper of it disturbed the quiet of the sleepy old garden. At intervals the faint clang of the call-bell, signalling a change of classes, floated through the open windows, but no buzz of recitations reached the hedge-hidden path where Betty Lewis sat writing.

The whole picturesque place seemed as still as the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. Even the peacocks on the terraced river-front stood motionless, their resplendent tails spread out in the sun; and although the air was filled with the odor of wild plum blossoms, the breeze that bore it through the arbor where Betty sat, absorbed in her work, was so gentle that it scarcely stirred the vines around her.

With her elbows resting on the rustic table in front of her, and one finger unconsciously twisting the lock of curly brown hair that strayed over her ear, she sat pushing her pencil rapidly across the pages of her note-book. At times she stopped to tap impatiently on the table, when the word she wanted failed to come. Then she would sit looking through half-closed eyes at the sun-dial, or let her dreamy gaze follow the lazy windings of the river, which, far below, took its slow way along between the willows.

As editor-in-chief of The Spinster, there was good reason why she should be excused from recitations now and then, to spend an afternoon in this retreat. This year's souvenir volume bade fair to be the brightest and most creditable one ever issued by the school. The English professor not only openly said so, but was plainly so proud of Betty's ability that the lower classes regarded her with awe, and adored her from a distance, as a real live genius.

Whether she was a genius or not, one thing is certain, she spent hours of patient, painstaking work to make her writing measure up to the standard she had set for it. It was work that she loved better than play, however, and to-day she sighed regretfully when the hunter's horn, blowing on the upper terrace, summoned the school to its outdoor sports.

Instantly, in answer to the winding call, the whole place began to awaken. There was a tread of many feet on the great staircase, the outer doors burst open, and a stream of rollicking girls poured out into the May sunshine.

Betty knew that in a few minutes the garden would be swarming with them as if a flock of chattering magpies had taken possession of it. With a preoccupied frown drawing her eyebrows together, she began gathering up her papers, preparatory to making her escape. She glanced down the long flight of marble steps leading to the river. There on the lowest terrace, a fringe of willow-trees trailed their sweeping branches in the water. Around the largest of these trees ran a circular bench. Seated on the far side of this, the huge trunk would shield her from view of the Hall, and she decided to go down there to finish.

It would never do to stop now, when the verses were spinning themselves out so easily....