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A harum-scarum schoolgirl by Angela Brazil

She asked in a low creaking voice


"Well,

there's one now, at any rate."

Wendy looked at her pityingly, and shook her head.

"Lennie, you're a decent kid, but you're not clever. If you'd really wanted to have us on successfully, why didn't you try something more out of the common? You've a great lack of imagination. Anybody--yes, _anybody_--could have thought of inventing a new girl!"

"But I _haven't_ invented her--she's really here! She walked with me as far as the sundial, and I left her sitting on the seat while I went to look for you. I said I wouldn't be a minute. Why, there she is!--come to see what's become of me."

The quintette turned hastily, to find themselves confronted with an absolute endorsement of the truth of Lennie's statements. A stranger of about fourteen was walking towards them, or perhaps "shambling" would be a better description of her method of progress. She stooped badly, swung her arms in an awkward fashion, and shuffled her feet along the grass; her eyes were vacant, her chin was retreating, and her mouth was set in a foolish smile. For a full ghastly minute she stood and stared at the girls, and they, in utter and amazed consternation, could not think of a single intelligent remark with which to break the silence. Magsie was the first to recover herself.

"You--you've only just come, I suppose?" she gasped, as politely as

she could.

The stranger gave a sickly giggle.

"Are you my new schoolfellows?" she asked in a low creaking voice. "Miss Todd said you'd be pleased to see me, and I must make friends with you. I've been wanting a bosom friend, so I'll just pick one of you out. Let me see"--running her vacant eyes over the group and singling out Wendy--"I may as well choose you as anybody. Are you ready to be my chum?"

Wendy flushed scarlet, and, jumping up from the grass, brushed some dead leaves from her dress.

"It's too soon to think about chums yet," she returned. "You haven't even told us your name, and you don't know ours. Where do you come from?"

"That means, I suppose, that you don't want me for a friend!" rasped the creaking voice. "Don't you like the look of me? What's wrong with me now? Please tell me, for I'd really like to know. I'm just crazy to make friends."

In huge embarrassment Wendy and her companions stared at the extraordinary stranger. She bore their united gaze without flinching. She even turned round slowly, so that they might have an adequate view of her foolish profile, protruding lips, and retreating chin.

"Do tell me what's wrong with me?" she repeated.

No one volunteered a criticism, and for another whole minute there was dead silence. Then a brisk voice remarked:

"Would this style suit you better now, I wonder?"


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