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A harum-scarum schoolgirl by Angela Brazil

Wendy mounted each stile in turn


Warned

by the head girl's awful threat, tasks were completed in good time, and promptly by half-past ten the school, in a uniform of brown jerseys, brown tam-o'-shanters with orange tassels, strong boots, lunch-wallets slung over their shoulders, and sticks in their hands, were prepared, like a group of pilgrims, to make their start. Spot, the fox terrier, escorted them, barking his loudest. Meg and Elsie Fleming joined them in the village; so with Miss Todd and Miss Beverley they formed a party of twenty-four. They set their faces towards the fells, and stepped out briskly. They were not bound to walk in a crocodile, but, though some progressed in groups, most of the girls gravitated into pairs. Diana and Wendy linked arms as naturally as two pieces of mercury merge together in a box. Their spirits, usually high, were to-day at bubbling-over point: they laughed at everything, whether it was a joke or not.

"It's my first real mountain walk in England," announced Diana.

"Oh! I'm glad you allow they _are_ mountains," said Sadie, coming up from behind. "You've been bragging so hard about America, that I thought perhaps you'd consider them hillocks."

"They _are_ hillocks compared with the Rockies," flashed Diana. "I'm not going to give way an inch about America, so there!"

"All right, Uncle Sam, brag away. Everything over there is ten times bigger and

better than here--the apples are the size of pumpkins, and the brooks are so wide you can't see across them, and it takes you years to ride round a single farm! We know! You needn't tell us again."

"I wasn't going to!" retorted Diana. "What's the use, when you can make it all up for yourself?"

"Oh! my invention's nothing to yours. I expect you're telling Wendy some startlers. I'm going to walk with Vi, she's more interesting than you two."

"What's the matter with Sadie?" asked Diana, as their schoolmate ran on to catch up Violet.

"Jealous!" said Wendy, shaking her head sagely. "She has these attacks sometimes, and I know the symptoms. She doesn't like to see you and me walking together. Last term she and I and Magsie and Tattie were in Dormitory 4. Magsie and Tattie did the 'twin cherries on one stalk' business all the time, so in self-defence Sadie and I had to chum, though we squabbled six times a day. I'm not going to be monopolized now, so she needn't think it. Let her chum with Vi if she likes, I'm sure I don't care. Hallo! Which stile do we go over here, I wonder?"

The two girls had lagged behind, so that the rest of the party, walking at the brisk pace set by Miss Todd, had passed on in front. Wendy mounted each stile in turn, and surveyed the prospect of fields and high hedges. There was not a solitary tam-o'-shanter to be seen from either of them. In much doubt she hesitated.

"It'll probably be to the left, because I know we have to go through that wood over there before we get out on to the fells," she conjectured.

"I can't help you," said Diana. "Is it any use tossing for it?"

They ventured to the left, and, after walking over three fields, found themselves in a narrow lane which terminated in a pond. It was such an evident cul-de-sac that there was nothing for it but to turn back. When they again reached the stiles they found Geraldine sitting upon the right-hand one. Her expression was thundery, and her greeting the reverse of cordial.

"Where _have_ you been, you two stupids? Why can't you keep up with the rest of us instead of side-tracking like this? Here you're keeping the whole party waiting, and I've had to turn back to hunt you up."


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