I SAY NO
I SAY NO
BOOK THE FIRST--AT SCHOOL.
THE SMUGGLED SUPPER.
Outside the bedroom the night was black and still.
The small rain fell too softly to be heard in the garden; not a
leaf stirred in the airless calm; the watch-dog was asleep the
cats were indoors; far or near under the murky heaven not a
sound was stirring.
Inside the bedroom the night was black and still.
Miss Ladd knew her business as a schoolmistress too well to allow
night-lights; and Miss Ladd's young ladies were supposed to be
fast asleep in accordance with the rules of the house. Only at
intervals the silence was faintly disturbed when the restless
turning of one of the girls in her bed betrayed itself by a
gentle rustling between the sheets. In the long intervals of
stillness not even the softly audible breathing of young
creatures asleep was to be heard.
The first sound that told of life and movement revealed the
mechanical movement of the clock. Speaking from the lower
regions the tongue of Father Time told the hour before midnight.
A soft voice rose wearily near the door of the room. It counted
the strokes of the clock--and reminded one of the girls of the
lapse of time.
"Emily! eleven o'clock."
There was no reply. After an interval the weary voice tried
again in louder tones:
A girl whose bed was at the inner end of the room sighed under
the heavy heat of the night--and said in peremptory tones "Is
"What do you want?"
"I'm getting hungry Emily. Is the new girl asleep?"
The new girl answered promptly and spitefully "No she isn't."
Having a private object of their own in view the five wise
virgins of Miss Ladd's first class had waited an hour in wakeful
anticipation of the falling asleep of the stranger--and it had
ended in this way! A ripple of laughter ran round the room. The
new girl mortified and offended entered her protest in plain
"You are treating me shamefully! You all distrust me because I
am a stranger."
"Say we don't understand you" Emily answered speaking for her
schoolfellows; "and you will be nearer the truth."
"Who expected you to understand me when I only came here to-day?
I have told you already my name is Francine de Sor. If want to
know more I'm nineteen years old and I come from the West
Emily still took the lead. "Why do you come _here?_" she asked.
"Who ever heard of a girl joining a new school just before the
holidays? You are nineteen years old are you? I'm a year younger
than you--and I have finished my education. The next big girl in
the room is a year younger than me--and she has finished her
education. What can you possibly have left to learn at your age?"
"Everything!" cried the stranger from the West Indies with an
outburst of tears. "I'm a poor ignorant creature. Your education
ought to have taught you to pity me instead of making fun of me.
I hate you all. For shame for shame!"
Some of the girls laughed. One of them--the hungry girl who had
counted the strokes of the clock--took Francine's part.
"Never mind their laughing Miss de Sor. You are quite right you
have good reason to complain of us."
Miss de Sor dried her eyes. "Thank you--whoever you are" she
"My name is Cecilia Wyvil" the other proceeded. "It was not
perhaps quite nice of you to say you hated us all. At the same
time we have forgotten our good breeding--and the least we can do
is to beg your pardon."
This expression of generous sentiment appeared to have an
irritating effect on the peremptory young person who took the
lead in the room. Perhaps she disapproved of free trade in
"I can tell you one thing Cecilia" she said; "you shan't beat
ME in generosity. Strike a light one of you and lay the blame
on me if Miss Ladd finds us out. I mean to shake hands with the
new girl--and how can I do it in the dark? Miss de Sor my name's
Brown and I'm queen of the bedroom. I--not Cecilia--offer our
apologies if we have offended you. Cecilia is my dearest friend
but I don't allow her to take the lead in the room. Oh what a
The sudden flow of candle-light had revealed Francine sitting up
in her bed and displaying such treasures of real lace over her
bosom that the queen lost all sense of royal dignity in
irrepressible admiration. "Seven and sixpence" Emily remarked
looking at her own night-gown and despising it. One after
another the girls yielded to the attraction of the wonderful
lace. Slim and plump fair and dark they circled round the new
pupil in their flowing white robes and arrived by common consent
at one and the same conclusion: "How rich her father must be!"
Favored by fortune in the matter of money was this enviable
person possessed of beauty as well?
In the disposition of the beds Miss de Sor was placed between
Cecilia on the right hand and Emily on the left. If by some
fantastic turn of events a man--say in the interests of
propriety a married doctor with Miss Ladd to look after
him--had been permitted to enter the room and had been asked
what he thought of the girls when he came out he would not even
have mentioned Francine. Blind to the beauties of the expensive
night-gown he would have noticed her long upper lip her
obstinate chin her sallow complexion her eyes placed too close
together--and would have turned his attention to her nearest
neighbors. On one side his languid interest would have been
instantly roused by Cecilia's glowing auburn hair her
exquisitely pure skin and her tender blue eyes. On the other he
would have discovered a bright little creature who would have
fascinated and perplexed him at one and the same time. If he had
been questioned about her by a stranger he would have been at a
loss to say positively whether she was dark or light: he would
have remembered how her eyes had held him but he would not have
known of what color they were. And yet she would have remained a
vivid picture in his memory when other impressions derived at
the same time had vanished. "There was one little witch among
them who was worth all the rest put together; and I can't tell
you why. They called her Emily. If I wasn't a married man--"
There he would have thought of his wife and would have sighed
and said no more.
While the girls were still admiring Francine the clock struck
the half-hour past eleven.
Cecilia stole on tiptoe to the door--looked out and
listened--closed the door again--and addressed the meeting with
the irresistible charm of her sweet voice and her persuasive
"Are none of you hungry yet?" she inquired. "The teachers are
safe in their rooms; we have set ourselves right with Francine.
Why keep the supper waiting under Emily's bed?"
Such reasoning as this with such personal attractions to
recommend it admitted of but one reply. The queen waved her hand
graciously and said "Pull it out."
Is a lovely girl--whose face possesses the crowning charm of
expression whose slightest movement reveals the supple symmetry
of her figure--less lovely because she is blessed with a good
appetite and is not ashamed to acknowledge it? With a grace all
her own Cecilia dived under the bed and produced a basket of
jam tarts a basket of fruit and sweetmeats a basket of
sparkling lemonade and a superb cake--all paid for by general
subscriptions and smuggled into the room by kind connivance of
the servants. On this occasion the feast was especially
plentiful and expensive in commemoration not only of the arrival
of the Midsummer holidays but of the coming freedom of Miss
Ladd's two leading young ladies. With widely different destinies
before them Emily and Cecilia had completed their school life
and were now to go out into the world.
The contrast in the characters of the two girls showed itself
even in such a trifle as the preparations for supper.
Gentle Cecilia sitting on the floor surrounded by good things
left it to the ingenuity of others to decide whether the baskets
should be all emptied at once or handed round
from bed to bed one at a time. In the meanwhile her lovely
blue eyes rested tenderly on the tarts.
Emily's commanding spirit seized on the reins of government and
employed each of her schoolfellows in the occupation which she
was fittest to undertake. "Miss de Sor let me look at your hand.
Ah! I thought so. You have got the thickest wrist among us; you
shall draw the corks. If you let the lemonade pop not a drop of
it goes down your throat. Effie Annis Priscilla you are three
notoriously lazy girls; it's doing you a true kindness to set you
to work. Effie clear the toilet-table for supper; away with the
combs the brushes and the looking-glass. Annis tear the leaves
out of your book of exercises and set them out for plates. No!
I'll unpack; nobody touches the baskets but me. Priscilla you
have the prettiest ears in the room. You shall act as sentinel
my dear and listen at the door. Cecilia when you have done
devouring those tarts with your eyes take that pair of scissors
(Miss de Sor allow me to apologize for the mean manner in which
this school is carried on; the knives and forks are counted and
locked up every night)--I say take that pair of scissors
Cecilia and carve the cake and don't keep the largest bit for
yourself. Are we all ready? Very well. Now take example by me.
Talk as much as you like so long as you don't talk too loud.
There is one other thing before we begin. The men always propose
toasts on these occasions; let's be like the men. Can any of you
make a speech? Ah it falls on me as usual. I propose the first
toast. Down with all schools and teachers--especially the new
teacher who came this half year. Oh mercy how it stings!" The
fixed gas in the lemonade took the orator at that moment by the
throat and effectually checked the flow of her eloquence. It
made no difference to the girls. Excepting the ease of feeble