L. T. Meade.

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THE SCHOOL QUEENS

BY

L T. MEADE

Author of "Polly, a New-Fashioned Girl," "Sue, a Little Heroine,"
"Daddy's Girl," "A Sweet Girl Graduate," etc.

NEW YORK

THE NEW YORK BOOK COMPANY

1910




BIOGRAPHY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY

L. T. Meade (Mrs. Elizabeth Thomasina Smith), English novelist, was
born at Bandon, County Cork, Ireland, 1854, the daughter of Rev. R. T.
Meade, Rector of Novohal, County Cork, and married Toulmin Smith in
1879. She wrote her first book, _Lettie's Last Home_, at the age of
seventeen and since then has been an unusually prolific writer, her
stories attaining wide popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.

She worked in the British Museum, living in Bishopsgate Without,
making special studies of East London life which she incorporated in
her stories. She edited _Atlanta_ for six years. Her pictures of
girls, especially in the influence they exert on their elders, are
drawn with intuitive fidelity; pathos, love, and humor, as in _Daddy's
Girl_, flowing easily from her pen. She has traveled extensively,
being devoted to motoring and other outdoor sports.

Among more than fifty novels she has written, dealing largely with
questions of home life, are: _David's Little Lad; Great St.
Benedict's; A Knight of To-day (1877); Miss Toosey's Mission;
Bel-Marjory (1878); Laddie; Outcast Robbin: or, Your Brother and Mine;
A Cry from the Great City; White Lillie and Other Tales; Scamp and I;
The Floating Light of Ringfinnan; Dot and Her Treasures; The
Children's Kingdom: the Story of Great Endeavor; The Water Gipsies; A
Dweller in Tents; Andrew Harvey's Wife; Mou-setse: A Negro Hero
(1880); Mother Herring's Chickens (1881); A London Baby: the Story of
King Roy (1883); Hermie's Rose-Buds and Other Stories; How it all Came
Round; Two Sisters (1884); Autocrat of the Nursery; Tip Cat; Scarlet
Anemones; The Band of Three; A Little Silver Trumpet; Our Little Ann;
The Angel of Love (1885); A World of Girls (1886); Beforehand; Daddy's
Boy; The O'Donnells of Inchfawn; The Palace Beautiful; Sweet Nancy
(1887); Deb and the Duchess (1888); Nobody's Neighbors; Pen (1888); A
Girl from America (1907)._




THE SCHOOL QUEENS

CHAPTER I

THE FASCINATING MAGGIE


Cicely Cardew and her sister Merry were twins. At the time when this
story opens they were between fifteen and sixteen years of age. They
were bright, amiable, pretty young girls, who had never wanted for any
pleasure or luxury during their lives. Their home was a happy one.
Their parents were affectionate and lived solely for them. They were
the only children, and were treated - as only children often are - with
a considerable amount of attention. They were surrounded by all the
appliances of wealth. They had ponies to ride and carriages to drive
in, and each had her own luxurious and beautifully furnished bedroom.

It was Mr. Cardew's wish that his daughters should be educated at
home. In consequence they were not sent to any school, but had daily
masters and governesses to instruct them in the usual curriculum of
knowledge. It might be truly said that for them the sun always shone,
and that they were carefully guarded from the east wind. They were
naturally bright and amiable. They had their share of good looks,
without being quite beautiful. They had not the slightest knowledge of
what the world meant, of what sorrow meant, or pain. They were brought
up in such a sheltered way that it seemed to them that there were no
storms in life. They were not discontented, for no one ever breathed
the word in their presence. Their requests were reasonable, for they
knew of no very big things to ask for. Even their books were carefully
selected for them, and their amusements were of a mild and orderly
character.

Such were the girls when this story opens on a bright day towards the
end of a certain July. Their home was called Meredith Manor, and Merry
was called after an old ancestor on their mother's side to whom the
house had at one time belonged.

Mr. Cardew was a merchant-prince. Mrs. Cardew belonged to an old
county family. If there was one thing in the world that Cicely and
Merry thought nothing whatever about, it was money. They could
understand neither poverty nor the absence of gold.

The little village near Meredith Manor was a model place, for Mr.
Cardew, to whom it belonged, devoted himself absolutely to it. The
houses were well drained and taken great care of. Prizes were offered
for the best gardens; consequently each cottager vied with the other
in producing the most lovely flowers and the most tempting fruits. The
village consisted entirely of Mr. Cardew's laborers and the different
servants on his estate. There were, therefore, no hardships for the
girls to witness at Meredith village. They were fond of popping in and
out of the cottages and talking to the young wives and mothers, and
playing with the babies; and they particularly enjoyed that great
annual day when Mr. Cardew threw open the grounds of Meredith to the
entire neighborhood, and when games and fun and all sorts of
amusements were the order of the hour.

Besides the people who lived in the village, there was, of course, the
rector, who had a pretty, picturesque, old brown house, with a nice
garden in one corner of the grounds. He had a good-natured,
round-faced, happy wife, and a family of four stalwart sons and
daughters. He was known as the Reverend William Tristram; and, as the
living was in the gift of the Meredith family, he was a distant
connection of Mrs. Cardew, and had been appointed by her husband to
the living of Meredith at her request.

The only playfellows the girls had ever enjoyed were the young
Tristrams. There were two boys and two girls. The boys were the
younger, the girls the elder. The boys were not yet in their teens,
but Molly and Isabel Tristram were about the same age as the young
Cardews. Molly was, in fact, a year older, and was a very sympathetic,
strong-minded, determined girl. She and her sister Isabel had not been
educated at home, but had been sent to foreign schools both in France
and Germany; and Molly, in her heart of hearts, rather looked down
upon what she considered the meager attainments of the young Cardews
and their want of knowledge of the world.

"It is ridiculous!" she was heard to say to Isabel on that very July
morning when this story opens. "Of course they are nice girls, and
would be splendid if they could do anything or knew what to do; but,
as it is, they are nothing whatever but half-grown-up children, with
no more idea of the world than has that baby-kitten disporting itself
at the present moment on the lawn."

"Oh, they're right enough," said Isabel. "They will learn by-and-by. I
don't suppose Mr. and Mrs. Cardew mean to keep them always shut up in
a nutshell."

"I don't know," replied Molly. "Mr. and Mrs. Cardew are like no other
people. I have heard father say that he thinks it a great pity that
girls should be so terribly isolated."

"Well, as to that," replied Isabel, "I wouldn't be in their shoes for
creation. I have so enjoyed my time at Hanover and in France; and now
that we are to have two years at Aylmer House, in Kensington, I
cannot tell you how I look forward to it."

"Yes, won't it be fine?" replied Molly. "But now we had better go up
at once to Meredith Manor and ask the girls if we may bring Maggie
Howland with us this afternoon. Father has sent the pony-trap to the
station to meet her, and she may arrive any moment."

"All right," said Isabel; "but one of us had better stay at home to
receive her. You, Molly, can run up to the Manor and ask the girls if
we may bring our visitor."

"All right," replied Molly. Then she added "I wonder if Maggie is as
fascinating as ever. Don't you remember, Belle, what a spell she cast
over us at our school at Hanover? She was like no one else I ever met.
She seems to do what she likes with people. I shall be deeply
interested to know what she thinks of Cicely and Merry."

"Thinks of them!" replied Isabel. "It's my opinion she won't tolerate
them for a minute; and we are bound to take her with us, for of course
they will give permission."

"Well," said Molly, "I'll be off at once and secure that permission.
You' look after Maggie - won't you, Isabel? - and see that her bedroom
is all right." As Molly spoke she waved her hand to her sister, then
departed on her errand.

She was a bright, fairly good-looking girl, with exceedingly handsome
eyes and curling dark-brown hair. She was somewhat square in build and
athletic in all her movements. In short, she was as great a contrast
to the twin Cardew girls as could be found. Nevertheless she liked
them, and was interested in them; for were not the Cardews the great
people of the place? There was nothing of the snob about Molly; but it
is difficult even for the most independent English girl to spend the
greater part of her life in a village where one family reigns as
sovereign without being more or less under its influence.

Mr. Tristram, too, was a very great friend of Mr. Cardew's; and
Molly's fat, round, good-natured mother, although a little afraid of
Mrs. Cardew, who was a very stately lady in her way, nevertheless held
her in the greatest respect and admiration. It was one of the rules of
the house of Tristram that no invitation sent to them from Meredith
Manor should be refused. They must accept that invitation as though it
were the command of a king.

The girls, brought up mostly at foreign schools, had in some ways
wider ideas of life than had their parents. But even they were more or
less influenced by the fact that the Cardews were the great people of
the place.

The day was a very hot one; rather oppressive too, with thunder-clouds
in the distance. But Molly was very strong, and did not feel the heat
in the least. The distance from the rectory to the Manor was a little
over a mile. In addition, it was all uphill. But when you passed the
village - so exquisitely neat, such a model in its way - you found
yourself entering a road shaded by overhanging elm-trees. Here it was
cool even on the hottest summer day. There were deep pine-woods at
each side of the road, and the road itself had been cut right through
a part of the forest, which belonged to the Meredith estate. After
going uphill for nearly three-quarters of a mile you arrived at the
handsome wrought-iron gates which led to the avenue that brought you
to the great front door of Meredith Manor.

Molly often took this walk, but she generally did so in the company of
her sister Isabel. Isabel's light chatter, her gay, infectious
laughter, her merry manner, soothed the tedium of the road. To-day
Molly was alone; but by no means on this account did she feel a sense
of weariness; her mind was very busy. She was greatly excited at the
thought of seeing Maggie Howland again. Maggie had made a remarkable
impression on her. She made that impression on all her friends.
Wherever she went she was a leader, and no one could quite discover
where her special charm or magnetism lay; for she was decidedly plain,
and not specially remarkable for cleverness - that is, she was not
remarkable for what may be termed school-cleverness. She was
indifferent to prizes, and was just as happy at the bottom of her form
as at the top; but wherever she appeared girls clustered round her,
and consulted her, and hung on her words; and to be Maggie Howland's
friend was considered the greatest honor possible among the girls
themselves at any school where she spent her time.

Maggie was the daughter of a widow who lived in London. Her father had
died when she was a very little girl. He was a man of remarkable
character. He had great strength of will and immense determination;
and Maggie, his only child, took after him. She resembled him in
appearance also, for he was very plain of face and rather ungainly of
figure. Maggie's mother, on the other hand, was a delicate, pretty,
blue-eyed woman, who could as little manage her headstrong young
daughter as a lamb could manage a young lion. Mrs. Howland was
intensely amiable. Maggie was very good to her mother, as she
expressed it; and when she got that same mother to yield to all her
wishes the mother thought that she was doing the right thing. She had
a passionate love for her daughter, although she deplored her plain
looks, and often told the girl to her face that she wished she had
taken after her in personal appearance. Maggie used to smile when this
was said, and then would go away to her own room and look at her
queer, dark face, and rather small eyes, and determined mouth, and
somewhat heavy jaw, and shake her head solemnly. She did not agree
with her mother; she preferred being what she was. She liked best to
take after her father.

It was Maggie Howland who had persuaded Mr. Tristram, during a brief
visit which he had made to town at Christmas, to send his daughters to
Aylmer House. Maggie was fond of Molly and Isabel. With all her
oddities, she had real affection, and one of her good qualities was
that she really loved those whom she influenced.

Mr. Tristram went to see Mrs. Ward, the head-mistress of that most
select establishment for young ladies at Kensington. Mrs. Ward was all
that was delightful. She was a noble-minded woman of high aspirations,
and her twenty young boarders were happy and bright and contented
under her influence.

Maggie joined the school at Easter, and spent one term there, and was
now coming on a visit to the rectory.

"I wonder what she will have to tell us! I wonder if she is as
fascinating as ever!" thought Molly Tristram as she hurried her
steps.

She had now reached that point in the avenue which gave a good view of
the old Manor, with its castellated walls and its square towers at
each end. The gardens were laid out in terraces after an old-world
fashion. There was one terrace devoted to croquet, another to tennis.
As Molly approached she saw Cicely and Merry playing a game of croquet
rather languidly. They wore simple white frocks which just came down
above their ankles, and had white washing-hats on their heads. Their
thick, rather fair hair was worn in a plait down each young back, and
was tied with a bunch of pale-blue ribbon at the end.

"Hello!" shouted Molly.

The girls flung down their rackets and ran joyfully to meet her.

"Oh, I am so glad you have come!" said Cicely. "It's much too hot to
play tennis, and even croquet is more than we can manage. Are you
going to stay and have lunch with us, Molly?"

"No," replied Molly; "I must go back immediately."

"Oh dear! I wish you would stay," continued Merry. "We could go and
sit in the arbor, and you could tell us another fascinating story
about that school of yours at Hanover."

"Yes, yes," said Cicely; "do stay - do, Molly! We want to hear a lot
more about that remarkable girl Maggie Howland."

"I can't stay," said Molly in a semi-whisper; "but I tell you what,
girls." She seized a hand of both as she spoke. "I have come with
news."

"What?" "What?" asked the twins eagerly.

"There's very seldom much news going on here," said Cicely. "Not that
we mind - not a little bit; we're as happy as girls can be."

"Of course we are," said Merry. "We haven't a care in the world."

"All the same," said Cicely, "tell us your news, Molly, for you do
look excited."

"Well," said Molly, who enjoyed the pleasure of giving her friends a
piece of information which she knew would interest them intensely,
"you know we are to come up here this afternoon to have tea and buns,
aren't we?"

"Oh, don't talk in that way!" said Merry. "One would suppose you were
school children, when you are our darling, dear friends."

"Our only friends," said Cicely. "You are the only girls in the world
father allows us to be the least bit intimate with."

"Oh, well," said Molly, "of course Belle and I are very fond of you
both, naturally."

"Naturally!" echoed Cicely. But then she added, "How queer you look,
Molly, as though you were keeping something back!"

"Well, yes, I am," said Molly; "but I'll have it out in a minute."

"Oh, please, be quick!" said Merry. "Anything a little bit out of the
common is very interesting. - Isn't it, Cicely?"

"Very," said Cicely; "more particularly in the holidays. When we are
busy with our lessons things don't so much matter, you know. - But do
be quick, Molly; what is it?"

"Well," said Molly, "you've asked us to spend the afternoon with
you."

"Of course, and you're both coming, surely?"

"We are - certainly we are - that is, if you will allow us to
bring" - -

"To bring" - - interrupted Cicely. "Oh Molly, do speak!"

"Well, I will; only, don't jump, you two girls. To bring Maggie
Howland!"

Cicely's face grew very pink. Merry, on the contrary, turned a little
pale. They were both silent for a brief space. Then Merry said
excitedly, "Maggie Howland - _the_ Maggie Howland?"

"Yes, _the_ Maggie Howland; the one who has got the power, the charm,
the fascination."

"Oh, oh!" said Cicely. "But why is she with you? How has it
happened?"

"She is not absolutely with us yet; and as to how it happened I cannot
exactly tell you. We had a telegram from her late last night asking if
she might come to-day to spend a week or fortnight, and of course we
wired back 'Yes.' We are delighted; but of course you may not like
her, girls."

"Like her! like her!" said Cicely; "and after all you have said too!
We shall be certain to more than like her."

"She's not a bit pretty, so don't expect it," said Molly.

"We were brought up," said Merry a little stiffly, "not to regard
looks as anything at all."

"Nonsense!" replied Molly. "Looks mean a great deal. I'd give I don't
know what to be beautiful; but as I am not I don't mean to fret about
it. Well, Maggie's downright plain; in fact - in fact - almost ugly, I
may say; and yet - and yet, she is just Maggie; and you are not five
minutes in her society before you'd rather have her face than any
other face in the world. But the immediate question is: may she come
this afternoon, or may she not?"

"Of course - of course she may come," said Cicely; "we'll be delighted,
we'll be charmed to see her. This _is_ pleasant news!"

"I think, perhaps," said Merry, "we ought to go and ask mother. Don't
you think so, Cis?"

"Of course we ought," said Cicely. "I forgot that. Just stay where you
are, Molly, and I'll run to the house and find mother. It's only to
ask her, for of course she will give leave."

Cicely ran off at once, and Merry and Molly were left alone.

"I know you'll be delighted with her," said Molly.

"It will be very delightful to see her," replied Merry.

"You must expect to be disappointed at first, all the same," continued
Molly.

"Oh, looks do not matter one scrap," said Merry.

"Isabel and I are going to her school; you know that, don't you,
Merry?"

"Yes," said Merry with a sigh. "What fun you do have at your different
schools! Don't you, Molly?"

"Well, yes," said Molly rather gravely; "but it isn't only the fun; we
see a lot of the world, and we mix with other girls and make
friends."

"Mother prefers a home education for us, and so does father," remarked
Merry. "Ah! here comes Cicely. She is flying down the terrace. Of
course mother is delighted."

This proved to be the case. Mrs. Cardew would welcome any girl
introduced to her daughters through her dear friend Mr. Tristram. She
sent a further invitation for the three young people to remain to an
impromptu supper, which was pleasanter than late dinner in such hot
weather, and asked if Mr. and Mrs. Tristram would join them at the
meal.

"Hurrah!" cried Molly. "That will be fun! I must be off now, girls.
We'll be with you, all three of us, between four and five o'clock."




CHAPTER II.

SPOT-EAR.


Isabel took great pains arranging Maggie Rowland's bedroom. At the
Castle (or Manor) there were always troops of servants for every
imaginable thing; but at the rectory the servants were few, and the
girls did a good many odds and ends of work themselves. They were
expected to dust and keep in perfect order their exceedingly pretty
bedrooms, they were further required to make their own beds, and if a
young visitor arrived, they were obliged to wait on her and see to her
comfort. For the Tristrams had just an income sufficient to cover
their expenses, with nothing at all to put by. Mr. Tristram had his
two little boys to think of as well as his two girls. His intention
was to give his children the best education possible, believing that
such a gift was far more valuable to them than mere money. By-and-by,
when they were old enough, the girls might earn their own living if
they felt so inclined, and each girl might become a specialist in her
way.

Molly was exceedingly fond of music, and wished to excel in that
particular. Isabel, on the contrary, was anxious to obtain a post as
gymnasium teacher with the London County Council. But all these things
were for the future. At present the girls were to study, were to
acquire knowledge, were to be prepared for that three-fold battle
which includes body, soul, and spirit, and which needs triple armor in
the fight.

Mr. Tristram was a man of high religious principles. He taught his
children to love the good and refuse the evil. He wanted his girls to
be useful women by-and-by in the world. He put usefulness before
happiness, assuring his children that if they followed the one they
would secure the other.

Belle, therefore, felt quite at home now as she took out pretty mats
and laid them on little tables in the neat spare room which had been
arranged for the reception of Maggie Howland. She saw that all the
appointments of the room were as perfect as simplicity and cleanliness
could effect, and then went out into the summer garden to pick some
choice, sweet-smelling flowers. She selected roses and carnations,
and, bringing them in, arranged them in vases in the room.

Hearing the sound of wheels, she flew eagerly downstairs and met her
friend as she stepped out of the little governess-cart.

"Well, here I am!" said Maggie. "And how is Belle? How good-natured of
you all to have me, and how delightful it is to smell the delicious
country air! Mother and I find town so hot and stuffy. I haven't
brought a great lot of luggage, and I am not a bit smart; but you
won't mind that - will you, dear old Belle?"

"You always talk about not being smart, Maggie; but you manage to look
smarter than anyone else," said Isabel, her eager brown eyes devouring
her friend's appearance with much curiosity. For Maggie looked, to use
a proverbial phrase, as if she had stepped out of a bandbox. If she
was plain of face she had an exceedingly neat figure, and there was a
fashionable, trim look about her which is uncommon in a girl of her
age; for Maggie was only just sixteen, and scarcely looked as much. In
some ways she might almost have been a French girl, so exceedingly
neat and _comme il faut_ was her little person. She was built on a
_petite_ scale, and although her face was so plain, she had lovely
hands and beautiful small feet. These feet were always shod in the
most correct style, and she took care of her hands, never allowing
them to get red or sunburnt.

"Where's Molly?" was her remark, as the two girls, with their arms
twined round each other, entered the wide, low hall which was one of
the special features of the old rectory.

"She has gone up to see the Cardews."

"Who are the Cardews?"

"Why, surely, Mags, you must have heard of them?"

"You don't mean," said Maggie with a laugh, and showing a gleam of
strong white teeth, "the two little ladies who live in a bandbox?"

"Oh, you really must not laugh at them," said Isabel, immediately on
the defensive for her friends; "but they do lead a somewhat exclusive
life. Molly has gone up to the Castle, as we always call Meredith
Manor, to announce your arrival, and to ask permission to bring you
there to a tennis-party this afternoon; so you will soon see them for
yourself. Now, come in and say good-morning to the mater; she is
longing to see you."

"Hello, Peterkins!" called out Maggie at that moment, as a small boy
with a smut across his face suddenly peeped round a door.

"I'm not Peterkins!" he said angrily.

Maggie laughed again. "I am going to call you Peterkins," she said.
"Is this one of the little brothers, Belle?"

"Yes. - Come here at once, Andrew, and speak to Miss Howland."

The boy approached shyly. Then his eyes looked up into the queer face


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