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A Boarding School Club by Elinor Elliott

 

"Well, Mildred, what does she say?" asked Dr. Clifford of his pretty eldest daughter, as she came to the end of her long letter; and the shower of questions following showed how eager were all at the breakfast table to hear from the sister away at boarding-school.

"She says so much," laughs Mildred, "that I will read it to you."

Elm Bank, —— 13, 1880.

Dear Milly,—I am rejoiced to know your first party was a success, and that you were spared the ignominious fate of "full many a flower born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the"—ball-room wall.

Your dress must have been a beauty, but I do not envy you. "Fine clo'" I have forsworn, and I would not exchange my jolly school-days for all your festive parties.

Tell papa I must have some new boots—very thick, with broad soles and low heels—and entreat him not to send them C. O. D., for I truly can't pay the expressage.

We girls have formed a club for the "Abolition and Extirpation of Grotesque Idiotic Style."

Our initials, A, E, G, I, S, as you see, spell "Aegis," which is to be our shield (its literal meaning) from aristocratic scorn. I dare say I shall not be received in polite circles when I go home, but when I look at my ring, on which is engraved A E G I S, I shall gain such invulnerability that all sneers will glance aside ineffective.

There is a curious fact about our club and motto. Like the old English Cabal, we have five members whose initials form the name, viz.,

Anna Clifford,
Enid Evans,
Gertrude Wood,
Ida Langford,
Sallie Peterson.

I have given up curling my hair, and braid it. Of course it isn't becoming, but we Aegises stoop not to vanity. I have gained five pounds since Christmas; so when my spring suit is made, tell the dress-maker to put the extra material into the waist, and not waste it (a pun, but very poor) in puffs and paniers, for we have abolished them. We try to get along with the bare necessities of life.

I'd give a good deal to see you all, but I'm not the least bit homesick.

Good-by. Give my double-and-twisted love to everybody, and kiss the dear pink of a baby a hundred times for me.

Lovingly,
Anna I. Clifford.

P.S.—When you send the boots, perhaps if you put them in a fair-sized box, there'll be room for a cooky or two.

A. I. C.

"Isn't that a happy letter!"

"Think of our dainty, exquisite Anna so independent! her pretty brown curls straightened out in a braid, and her dresses shorn of puffs and ruffles!"

"That's the kind of 'society' for school-girls to form," says papa. "I'll order the thickest boots I can find to be sent up; also a chicken for Bridget to roast; and as she has given us so delicate a hint, perhaps you can find something else to put in the box."

Afternoon finds the Clifford family again assembled in the dining-room, intent upon packing the boots and "cookies"; and from the size of the box on the table one would infer that the boots must be No. 17's, and the cookies as large as cheeses, or, more correctly, that something more is to be added.

"Wouldn't it be fine to send five things for the club individually?" asks one.

"Capital!" "Good!" "Just the thing!" cry all.

"And have their initials spell Aegis."

"What shall the first be?"

"A—Apples!" sounds a full chorus.

"It is a vote. And the next?"

"E—Eels," suggests fourteen-year-old Dick, whose suggestions are apt to be more ludicrous than elegant.

"Eggs; hard-boiled eggs are always dear to my heart in the scenes of my childhood."

"Bridget, put on a dozen eggs, to boil ten minutes."

"G—Ginger-snaps."

"Grapes."

"Gum-arabic," from Dick.

It takes so long to decide this important point that Dr. Clifford calls out the fourth letter:

"I."

A hush falls upon them, but, as Dick would say, made no noise, and did no damage in falling. No one can think of anything but ice-cream. And I challenge you: put your hand over your eyes, and name two other edibles beginning with "I."

At last Dick, in an ecstasy of inspiration, starts up, and cries, "Inch-worms!"

A peal of laughter, and each one suggests some impossible or awful article; and then the dauntless Richard again: "A few Ideas."

"If we had them to spare," says papa, dryly.

"Irish potatoes would be like coals at Newcastle."

"I feel it in my bones that Bridget would suggest 'Isters.'"

"Apropos of that," says Milly, "I think we shall have to adopt the sound, and send Inglish walnuts, as Anna loves them dearly."

"Now for the last letter."

"S—Sardines."

The things are collected, and stowed away in the box; it is sent off by express, and in a few days the following letter announces its arrival.

Elm Bank, —— 16, 1880.

Dear, dear, dear Family,—I know I can't show you my delight better than by telling you all about it.

Yesterday we Aegises were out walking all the afternoon, and when we came home, hungry as wolves, were cheered by a chorus from the piazza:

"A Clifford box, a Wood box—
A Clifford box, a Wood box."

Perhaps you have no appetizing association with a wood-box, but the news quickened our steps, and inspired us with the elasticity of a quintette of rubber balls as we bounded up the steps, and fell upon our boxes with all the love of a father upon a returned prodigal.

I sat down on my box, and Gertie on hers, and there we sat, as happy as two enthroned queens, with serfs and vassals standing near. How every girl in school idolized us last night!

"George has driven Madame over to town, and won't be back till late," said Enid, coming from her expedition to the basement in search of George. (George is the man-servant who "does the chores" and "plays hero" for the school.)

"How can we ever get these up stairs?" asks Gertie.

"Carry them ourselves," cried a brawny girl; "we'll all help."

So, with a girl at each corner of each box, we struggled up stairs. Mine was not very heavy, but Gertie's was; and one girl let her corner slip, which threw us all into confusion, and in the midst of the hurly-burly we became aware of a majestic presence at the head of the stairs, and there stood—Miss Coningham, the first assistant. Our hearts stood still, for we had not asked permission; but Sallie, whom nothing overcomes, saved us.

"Oh, Miss Coningham," she called, "do come and help us;" and she actually stepped down and caught it as the girls were losing control of it, and engineered it into our sitting-room.

You know we five Aegises have one sitting-room, with three bedrooms opening out of it. As she turned to go, I thought I saw in her face a longing to stay, and be a girl with the rest of us, and I said,

"Don't go, Miss Coningham; stay and see what is in the boxes."

"Thank you; I know you will enjoy yourselves more alone. Madame told me to give you five young ladies permission to have supper in your own room to-night."

"Why?" we all cried. "What made her?"

"Because it is Miss Wood's birthday."

"My birthday!" cried Gertie, in amaze. "I didn't once think of it;" while the girls flew at her ears.

"I don't see how any one could forget such a thing—do you, Miss Coningham?" I asked, as she stood in the door.

"No; I could not forget mine," she said. "This is mine too."

When I told the girls it was Miss Coningham's birthday too, they unanimously proposed to give her a present, and ran to their rooms for their purses.

"There are just ten of us," said Enid, counting.

"Pass round a hat," said Ida.

"This will do," cried Sallie, seizing an India rubber shoe, and taking up the collection. "If you have little, give little, but if you've got a lot, give a good deal. Six dollars and ninety cents," said Sallie, counting it. "Now what shall we get?"

"Flowers? They fade so quickly."

"Let's get something she can keep."

"Well, what?"

"A gold thimble. You know hers rolled down the register, and was lost."

We agreed upon the thimble. Then Enid went to Miss Coningham, and gained permission for us to go down to the jeweller's. So the five other girls left the selection of the thimble to us, and went down stairs.

"Wasn't 'Cony' good?" said Sallie. "Little did she suspect our object."

"Would it be a bad idea to ask her to feast with us to-night?"

"Not at all bad. Do you believe she'll come?"

"Very doubtful. Who will ask Madame if we may have the feast?"

"I," said Sallie; "my life for my country."

We bought a beautiful gold thimble for six dollars, and spent the rest for flowers; then hurried home to open the boxes, and get everything ready before study hour.

"What shall we do for a table-cloth?"

"Take a fresh sheet," said Sallie.

"Isn't there anything better?" asks Ida.

"Positively nothing," answered Sallie, throwing a sheet at her. "Take this, and be thankful it isn't sheet lightning that strikes you. Now I start for my interview with Madame."

"Good luck attend you! Enid, put the flowers in the centre, with a lemon pie at one side and a mince at the other."

"Here is a roast chicken," I cried. "Ida, put it at one end."

"Enid," called Gertie, "here's a duck in my box; put him opposite the chicken."

"'Dido et dux,'" said Enid.

"Well," answered Gertie, "I'm glad she didn't eat them all."

Here Sallie came in, triumphant.

"I showed her the thimble, girls, and told her all about everything, and she says we five and the other five and Miss Coningham—Elsie, she called her—can come up here right after prayers, and stay till ten o'clock."

"Could anything be jollier?"

"She says Elsie was our age when she first came here, and was as full of fun as we are."

Then I found your note, saying there were Apples for Anna, Eggs for Enid, Grapes for Gertie, Inglish walnuts for Ida, and Sardines for Sallie. We saw how hard up you were for I's, but we'd rather have the nuts than anything.

We had just got everything in order when the study bell rang. You can scarcely mention a "goody" that was not in one of those boxes. Gertie had a birthday cake with fifteen tapers on it, which we lighted.

I can't begin to tell you what a jolly time we had when we came back up stairs. All our invitations were accepted. Miss Coningham was charmed with the thimble. We "toasted" all you good people at home who were the cause of our joy, and sent the flowers to Madame when our revelry was o'er.

By-the-way, the boots are exactly right. Now, with the love and thanks of all the Aegises, I must close, for I haven't touched a lesson for to-morrow.

Lovingly, gratefully, and thankfully yours,
Anna I. Clifford.