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Turquoise and Ruby

L. T. Meade

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Turquoise and RubyBy L.T. MeadePublished by Grosset and Dunlap, New York.This edition dated 1906.

  Turquoise and Ruby, by L.T. Meade.


  ________________________________________________________________________TURQUOISE AND RUBY, BY L.T. MEADE.



  "Nora, Nora! Where are you?" called a clear, girlish voice, and CaraBurt dashed headlong into a pretty bedroom all draped in white, where atall girl was standing by an open window. "Nora!" she cried, "what areyou doing up in your room at this hour, when we are all busy in thegarden preparing our tableaux? Mrs Hazlitt says that she herself willrecite `A Dream of Fair Women,' and by unanimous consent you are to beHelen of Troy. Did any one ever suit the part so well? `Divinely tall,and most divinely fair.' Why, what is the matter, Honora? Why have youthat frown between your pretty brows, and why aren't you just delighted?There is not a girl in the school who does not envy you the part. Whyare you staying here, all by yourself, instead of joining in the fundownstairs? It's a heavenly evening, and Mrs Hazlitt is in the best ofhumours, and we are all choosing our parts and our dresses for the grandscene. Oh, do come along, they are all calling you! There's thattiresome little Deborah Duke--Mrs Hazlitt's right hand, as we callher--shouting your name now, downstairs. Why _don't_ you come; what isthe matter?"

  "There is this the matter!" said Honora Beverley, and she turned andflashed two dark brown eyes out of a marvellously fair face full at hercompanion. "I won't take the part of Helen of Troy; she was not a goodwoman, and I will have nothing to do with her. I will be Jephtha'sdaughter, or Iphigenia, or anything else you like, but I will not beHelen of Troy."

  "Oh, how tiresome you are, Nora! What does the character of Helenmatter? Besides, we are not supposed to know whether she is good orbad. Tennyson speaks of her--oh, so beautifully; and we have just tolisten to his words, and the audience won't know, why should they? Allyou have to do is just to steal out of the dusky wood and stand for aminute with the limelight falling all over you, and then go back again.It's the simplest thing in the world, and there's no one else in theschool who can take the part, for there's no one else tall enough, orfair enough. Now, don't be a goose; come along, this minute."

  "It's just because I won't be a goose that I have determined not to actHelen of Troy," replied Honora. "Leave me alone, Cara; take the partyourself, if you wish."

  "I?" said Cara, with a laugh. "Just look at me, and see if I shouldmake a worthy Helen of Troy!"

  Now, Cara was exceedingly dark, not to say sallow, and was slightlybelow middle height and also rather thickly built, and even Nora laughedwhen she saw how unsuited her friend would be to the part.

  "Well, I won't be it, anyhow," she said, with a shrug of her shoulders."I don't want to take part in the tableaux, at all."

  "Then you will disappoint Mrs Hazlitt very cruelly," said Cara, hervoice changing. "Ah, and here comes Deborah. Dear old Deb! Now,Deborah, I am going to leave this naughty girl in your hands. She isthe most obstreperous person in the entire school, and the most beloved,for that matter. Just say a few words of wisdom to her and bring herdown within five minutes to join the rest of us in the garden. I willmanage to make an excuse for her non-appearance until then."

  As Cara spoke, she waved her hand lightly towards Nora, who was stillstanding by the open window, and then vanished from the room as quicklyas she had entered it. After she had gone, there was a moment'ssilence.

  Nora Beverley was close on seventeen years of age. She was practicallythe head girl of the school of Hazlitt Chase--so-called after itsmistress, who was adored by her pupils and was one of the bestheadmistresses in England. Mrs Hazlitt possessed all thequalifications of a first-rate high-school mistress, with those gentlehome attributes and that real understanding of the young, which is givento but few. She had married, and had lost her only child; husband andchild had both been taken from her. But she did not mourn as onewithout hope. Her endeavour was to help girls to be good, and true, andnoble in the best sense. Her education was, therefore, threefold,embracing body, mind, and soul. Her school was not an especially largeone, never consisting of more than thirty girls, but the time spent atHazlitt Chase was one unlikely to be forgotten by any of them in afterlife, so noble was the teaching, so systematic the complete training.Mrs Hazlitt knew quite well that, to make a school really valuable toher young scholars, she must be exceedingly careful with regard to thegirls who came there. She admitted no girl within the school under theage of fourteen, and allowed no girl to stay after she had reachedeighteen years of age. The girl who came need not necessarily belong tothe aristocracy, but she must be a lady by birth, and must have broughtfrom her former schools or teachers the very highest recommendations forhonour, probity, and good living. She must, besides, be intellectualabove the average. With those recommendations, Mrs Hazlitt--whohappened to be exceedingly well off--made the money part a secondaryconsideration, taking many a girl for almost nominal fees, although, onthe other hand, those who could pay were expected to do so generously.

  So great, did the reputation of this school become that girls' nameswere on the books often for years before they were old enough to beadmitted, and, in after years, to have belonged to that select academicgroup who walked the old cloisters at Hazlitt Chase and played happilyin the ancient grounds was in itself a distinction.

  It was now early in June. The school would break-up in about fiveweeks--for Mrs Hazlitt never kept to the usual high-school dates--andall the girls were deeply interested in those guests who were toassemble to witness the distribution of prizes, to see an old play ofthe time of Queen Elizabeth acted in the Elizabethan garden, and, inespecial, to behold the tableaux of that masterpiece of Tennyson--"ADream of Fair Women."

  Mrs Hazlitt was remarkable for her gifts as a reciter, and had arrangedto tell the story herself in Tennyson's immortal words and to allowthose girls who were best suited to the parts to appear in the tableauxduring the recitation.

  By common consent, to Nora Beverley was assigned the part of Helen ofTroy. Nora had been at the school almost since she was fourteen, andhad grown up in its midst a gentle, reserved, dignified girl, who nevergave her heart especially to any one particular person, but was admiredand respected by all. She was clever, without being ingenious; verybeautiful in appearance, and was known to be rich.

  Cara Burt was supposed to be her special friend, and was sent to her nowon this occasion to desire her to come at once to Mrs Hazlitt, who wasseated in the old Elizabethan garden, and was choosing the differentgirls who were to take part in the coming tableaux. Cara returnedsomewhat slowly up the box walk and stood before Mrs Hazlitt withdowncast eyes.

  "Well," said that good lady; "and where is Honora? You were some timeaway, Cara; why has she not come with you?"

  "I don't know whether she will come at all," said Cara. "She seemsvery--I don't mean undecided, but decided against taking the part."

  A swift red passed over Mrs Hazlitt's cheeks. She was evidently quiteunaccustomed to the slightest form of insubordination.

  "Did you tell Nora that I desired her to be present?" was her remark.

  "Yes--of course I did, Mrs Hazlitt. Oh, may I sit near you, Mary?"

  Cara seated herself cosily beside Mary L'Estrange.

  "I told her, Mrs Hazlitt, that you wanted her immediately, and where wewere all to be found, and that she was to be Helen of Troy."

  "Well--and--?" said Mrs Hazlitt.

  "She said she did not want to be Helen of Troy--that Helen of Troy was awicked woman, and that she would not take the part."

  Again the colour swept across Mrs Hazlitt's face. "We must regardHelen as visionary," she said, "a vision of womanly beauty. There is noone in the school who can take her, except Honora, but I override noone's scruples. I presume, however, that she will be gracious enough togive me an answer."

  The headmistress was too calm ever to allow her real feelings to beseen, but the girls who knew her well, and who clustered round her nowin pretty groups, watched her face with anxiety. Jephtha's daughter didnot wish to be deprived of her part, nor did Cleopatra, nor did FairRosamond, nor did Iphigenia. How dreadful of Helen of Troy if she upsetall the arrangements and made the pretty tableaux impossible!

  "Oh, of course she will yield," said Mary