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April 10, 19—.
Dearest old K:
The Winnebagos have scored again, although it did take us nearly all year to make this particular basket. I know that if you had been here, you old miracle worker, you would have found the way before the first month had passed, but, not having your gift for seeing right through people’s starched shirtwaists and straight into their hearts, we had to wait for chance to show us the way. And it turned out the way it usually does for the Winnebagos—we stooped to pick up a common little stone and found a pearl of great price. Of course, now there are lots of people who would like to be the setting for that pearl, but she belongs to the Winnebagos by right of discovery and we mean to keep her for our very own. For, after all, who but the Winnebagos could have discovered Sally Prindle, when up to that very week, day, hour and minute she hadn’t even discovered herself? The chances are that she never would have, either, and what a shame it would have been!
You remember my telling about Sally Prindle long ago, the time we tried to fix up her room for her and she wouldn’t let us? Of course she hurt our feelings, because we hadn’t been trying to patronize her and didn’t deserve to be snubbed, but we got over it in a day or two and saw her side of it. It probably was annoying to have three separate delegations take notice of your poverty in one day, and there was no telling how tactless the first two had been. At the second meeting of the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS, held on and around Oh-Pshaw’s bed, we formally decided, with much speechifying by Agony and Oh-Pshaw, that Sally would be the special object of our Give Service Pledge. We would make her feel that we didn’t care a rap whether she was poor or not; that it was she herself we cared about. We would ask her to share all our good times and would drop in to see her often, as good neighbors should, and would finally bring her around to the point where she would begin to Seek Beauty for herself, see that her bare room was too ugly for any good use, and gladly share our overflow with us. Oh, we planned great things that night!
“Let’s go over and call on her right away,” suggested Hinpoha, who was fired with enthusiasm at the plan and couldn’t wait to begin the program of Give Service.
Off we went down the hall, filled with virtuous enthusiasm. Sally was at home because we could see the light shining through the transom.
“Wait a minute, don’t knock,” whispered Agony with a giggle. “I know a lot more Epic way.” She pulled a candy kiss from her pocket, scribbled an absurd note on a piece of paper about weary travelers waiting at the gate, tied it to the kiss and threw it through the transom.
We heard it strike the floor and heard Sally rise from a creaking chair and pick it up. Giggling, we waited for her to come and let us in. In a minute her footsteps came toward the door and with comradely smiles we stepped forward. The door was opened a very small crack, and out flew the kiss, much faster than it had gone in. It just missed Hinpoha’s nose by a hair’s breadth and fell on the floor with a spiteful thud. Then the door slammed emphatically. We looked at each other in consternation.
“Whee-e-e-e-e-!” said Agony in a long-drawn whistle.
“Horrid—old—thing!” said Hinpoha, picking up the kiss from the floor and holding it up for us to see that the note had never been opened. Feeling both foolish and hurt we trailed back home and sadly gave up the idea of Giving Service to Sally Prindle.
“Let her alone, she isn’t worth worrying about,” said Hinpoha, beginning to be just as cross as she had been enthusiastic before. “She hasn’t a spark of sociability in her.”
“There are Hermit Souls——” began Oh-Pshaw, and Agony cut in with
“Twinkle, twinkle, little Sal,
How we’d like to be your pal,
But you hold your nose so high
You don’t see us passing by.”
That ended Sally Prindle as far as the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS were concerned. But I had an uncomfortable feeling all the time that if Nyoda had been there she would have managed to become friendly with Sally in some way, and that we had failed to “warm the heart” of this “lonely mortal” who “stood without our open portal.” Sally haunted me. How any girl could live and not be friendly with the people she saw every day was more than I could understand. She just grubbed away at her lessons, paid no attention to what went on around her, snubbed any girl who tried to make advances and lived a life of lofty detachment. She was a good student and invariably recited correctly when called upon, but beyond that none of the teachers could get a particle of warmth out of her, not even fascinating Miss Allison, who has all her classes worshipping at her feet.
Sally worried me for a while; then she moved out of Purgatory and took a room with some private family in town and as I hardly ever saw her any more I forgot her after a time. Life is so very full here, Katherine dear, that you can’t bother much about any one person.
Of course, the big thought that runs through everything this year, all our work and all our play, is the War and what we can do to help. At the beginning of the year Brownell pledged herself to raise five thousand dollars for the Red Cross by various activities; this was outside of the personal subscription fund. A big Christmas bazaar and several benefit performances brought the total close to four thousand, but the last thousand proved to be a sticker. Various committees were called to discuss ways and means of raising the money, but they never could agree on anything for the whole college to do together, and finally abandoned the quest for a bright idea and decided to let everybody raise money in any way they could think of and put it all together to make up the total. The Board of Trustees offered a silver loving cup to the individual, club, sorority, group or clique of any kind that raised the largest amount inside of a month.
The day that was announced there was a hastily called meeting of the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS.
“We’re going to win that loving cup,” declared Hinpoha in a tone of finality. “This is our chance to show what we’re made of. Up until now we’ve been doing little easy ‘Give Services.’ At last we’re up against something big. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. The WINNEBAGOS have never fallen down on anything yet that they undertook and they’re not going to now. We’re going to win that contest. Won’t Nyoda be proud of us?”
We cheered until the windows rattled and then Migwan brought us to earth with a thud. “How are we going to do it?” she asked soberly. We all fell silent and donned our thinking caps. Minutes passed but nobody sprouted a bright idea. Suggestion after suggestion was made, only to be turned down flat.
“We might give a circus,” suggested Hinpoha rather doubtfully. “Remember the circus we gave at home last year?”
“There have been nine circuses of various kinds already this year,” wet-blanketed Agony. “You couldn’t hire anybody to attend another.”
“Masquerade as seeresses and give select parlor readings of people’s futures,” suggested Oh-Pshaw. “We could charge five dollars for a reading.”
“Been done already,” said Migwan. “Anyway, the faculty have forbidden it. The girls that did it last year scandalized a prominent Trustee’s wife by telling her that her daughter was going to elope with an Italian count before the month was out. The daughter had married a minister the week before, only the girls didn’t know it, and the Trustee’s wife got so excited she sat down on a two-hundred-dollar Satsuma vase and smashed it and tried to sue the seeresses for damages. Then, of course, she found out they were students and the faculty put an end to parlor seeresses.”
That’s the way it went. Not a plan was suggested but what turned out to be old stuff or not practicable.
“Oh, for an idea!” groaned Agony, beating her white brow with the palm of her hand.
“We might go round with a hand organ,” suggested Oh-Pshaw in desperation. “Gladys could be the monkey and pass around a tin cup.”
“Thanks, I wouldn’t think of aspiring to such an honor,” I replied modestly.
“What we want,” said Migwan decidedly, “is a fad—something that will take the college by storm and separate them from their cash. I remember last year some of the seniors started the fad of taking impressions of the palm of your hand on paper smoked with camphor gum and sending them away to have the lines read by some noted palmist, and they made oceans of money at twenty-five cents an impression.”
We talked possible fads until we were green in the face, but nobody got an inspiration and we finally adjourned with our heads in a whirl.
The next day I went into a deserted classroom for a book I had left behind and found Sally Prindle with her head down on one of the desks, crying. By that time I had forgotten how disagreeable she had been to us and hastened over to see what was the matter.
“What’s the trouble, Sally?” I asked, laying my hand on her shoulder.
Sally started up and tried to wipe the tears away hastily. “Nothing,” she answered in a flat voice.
“There is too something,” I said determinedly, and sat down on the desk in front of her.
She looked at me sort of defiantly for a minute and then she broke down altogether. Between sobs she told me that she wasn’t going to be able to come back to college next year because she hadn’t won the big Andrews prize in mathematics she had counted confidently on winning, and she had worked so hard for it that she had neglected her other work, and the first thing she knew she had a condition in Latin. Besides, she was sick and couldn’t do the hard work she had been doing outside to pay her board.
I never saw anyone so broken up over anything. I wouldn’t have expected her to care whether she came back to college or not; I couldn’t see what fun she had ever gotten out of it, but I suppose in her own queer way she must have enjoyed it. I tried to comfort her by telling her that the way would probably be found somehow if she took it up with the right people, but Sally wasn’t the kind of girl that took comfort easily. Life was terribly serious to her. She felt disgraced because she hadn’t won the prize and was sure nobody would want to lend her money to finish her course. I left her at last with my heart aching because of the uneven way things are distributed in this world.
Our room was a mess when I got back. Our floor was entertaining the floor below that night and Hinpoha was in the show. She was standing in the middle of the room draping my dresser scarf around her shoulders for a fichu, while Agony was piling her hair high on her head for her and Oh-Pshaw was pinning on a train made of bath towels.
“Have you a blue velvet band?” Hinpoha demanded thickly, as I entered, through the pins she was holding in her mouth.
“No, I haven’t,” I replied, retiring to a corner to escape the sweeping strokes of the hair brush in Agony’s hand.
“Why haven’t you?” lamented Hinpoha. “I just have to have one.”
“What for?” I asked.
“To put around my neck, of course,” explained Hinpoha impatiently. “It’s absolutely necessary to finish off this costume. Go out and scrape one up somewhere, Gladys, there’s a dear.”
I obediently made the rounds, but nowhere did I find the desired blue band. Not even a ribbon of the right shade was forthcoming.
“Paint one on,” suggested Agony, with an inspiration born of despair. “Then you’ll surely have it the right shade.”
“The paint box is in the bottom dresser drawer,” said Hinpoha, warming to the plan at once. “Hurry up, Agony.”
“Oh, I’ll not have time to do it,” said Agony, moving toward the door. “I’ve got just fifteen minutes left to sew the ruffle back on the bottom of my white dress to wear in chapel to-morrow when we sing for the bishop, and it’s really more important for the country’s cause that I have a white dress to wear to-morrow than that you have a blue band around your neck to-night. My green and purple plaid silk would look chaste and retiring among the spotless white of the choir, now, wouldn’t it?” And swinging her hairbrush she went out. Oh-Pshaw had already disappeared.
“Here, Gladys,” said Hinpoha, holding out the box to me, “mix the turquoise with a little ultramarine.”
“I’m awfully sorry, ’Poha, but I can’t stop,” said I. “I’ve an interview with Miss Allison in five minutes. Get somebody else, dear.”
“Everybody’s rushed to death,” grumbled Hinpoha.
I went off to keep my appointment and Hinpoha took up her watch for a passer-by whom she could bully into painting a blue band on her neck. Being part of the surprise for the guests she couldn’t very well go out and risk being seen; she just had to stay in the room and wait for someone from our floor to come along. For a long while nobody came, and then, when she was about ready to give up, she did hear footsteps coming down the corridor. It was dark by that time and she couldn’t see who it was, but she pounced out like a cat on a mouse and dragged the girl into her room.
“Paint a blue band on my neck, quick!” she commanded, thrusting out the paint box and switching on the light.
Then she saw who it was. It was Sally Prindle. Hinpoha was a little taken aback, but she had about exhausted her patience waiting for someone to come by and help her.
“Will you, please?” she pleaded, holding out the paints enticingly.
“What is it?” asked Sally dully, looking at Hinpoha in that crazy costume as if she thought she was not in her right mind.
Hinpoha explained the urgent and immediate need of a blue band of a certain shade on her neck.
“But I never painted anything before,” objected Sally.
“You’ll never learn any younger,” said Hinpoha, jubilant that Sally hadn’t walked out with her nose in the air. “Here, take the brush, I’ll show you what to mix; see, this and this and this.”
Under Hinpoha’s direction Sally painted the blue band and then regarded her handiwork with critical eyes.
“Thanks, that’s fine,” said Hinpoha, holding out her hand for the paints.
“It needs something more,” said Sally slowly, squinting at Hinpoha’s neck. “Do you mind if I use any more paint?”
“Go as far as you like,” said Hinpoha, surprised into flippancy, “let your conscience be your guide!”
Sally made swift dabs at the little color squares, her face all puckered up in a deep frown of concentration.
“Now, how do you like it?” she asked anxiously, after a few minutes, leading Hinpoha to the mirror.
Hinpoha says she screamed right out when she looked, she was so surprised and delighted. For on the front of the band Sally had painted the most wonderful ornament. It was an enormous ruby, set in a gold frame, the design of which simply took your breath away. How she ever did it with the colors in Hinpoha’s box is beyond us.
“Oh, wonderful!” raved Hinpoha, hugging Sally in her extravagant way. “I can’t wait until the girls see it. Won’t I make a sensation, though! Come to the party, won’t you please, Sally? We’d love to have you.”
Sally shook her head and prepared to depart. “I have to go,” she said with a return to her old brusque manner. “I have another engagement.”
But Hinpoha saw the wistful look that came into her face and she knew that Sally’s “other engagement” was waiting on table in the boarding house where she lived.
Hinpoha’s painted jewelry created a sensation all right. Cries of admiration rose on every side, and the fact that the stony-faced Sally Prindle had done it only added to the sensation. Who would ever have suspected that the most inartistic-looking girl in the whole college had such a talent up her sleeve?
Two days later there was another excited meeting of the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS.
“Our fortune’s made!” shrieked Agony joyfully, dancing around the room and waving a Japanese umbrella over her head.
“Why? How?” we all cried.
“The fad! The fad!” shouted Agony.
“What fad?” I asked. “Do stop capering, Agony, and put down that umbrella before you break the lamp shade. We’ve smashed three already this year.”
“Don’t you see,” continued Agony, breathless, dropping down on the bed and fanning herself with the handle of the umbrella. “Hinpoha’s started a fad with that painted jewelry—blessings on that fool notion of hers of painting a band on her neck, anyway! Half a dozen girls came to classes this morning with bands painted on their necks and ornaments in front that they’d gotten Sally to paint for them. In another day the whole college will be after her to paint ornaments on their necks. Don’t you see what I mean? We’ve got to join forces with Sally, set up in business for the Benefit of the Red Cross—and the cup is ours. Whoop-la! Oh, girls, don’t you see!”
We saw, all right. Inside of two minutes Sally was voted a member of the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS and in a few hours business was in full swing. Sally, of course, was the star of the cast, but the rest of us worked just as hard as press agents. We placarded the whole college with posters announcing that Mme. Sallie Prindle, the distinguished painter of jewelry, would create, for the benefit of the Red Cross, any combination of precious stones desired by the paintee—charges twenty-five cents and up. Students were urged to show their patriotism by appearing in classroom adorned with one of the masterpieces of the above-mentioned Prindle.
It was a success from the word go. The fad spread like wildfire, and Sally spent all her waking hours that were not actually taken up with recitations painting jewelry on fair necks and arms. Lessons were almost forgotten in the fascinating business of admiring designs and comparing effects, and many were the wails because the wonderful things had to be washed off all too soon. We had offered our room as studio because Sally’s was too far away from the center of things, and most of the time it was so crowded with eager customers that we couldn’t get in ourselves. Prices rose as business increased, and the candy box we were using for a bank showed signs of collapsing.
The next week the juniors gave a dance and they all ordered dog collars for the occasion. Everybody else had to stand aside. Prices for these were to be one dollar and up, according to how elaborate they were. How Sally ever got them all on without fainting in her tracks will always be a mystery. She did a lot of them the night before and then the girls wound their necks with gauze bandages to keep them clean. Miss Allison, who dropped in during the performance, folded up on the bed and laughed until she was weak.
“I never saw anything to equal it, never,” she declared. “There’s never been such a fad in the history of the college.” Then she sat up and demanded a dog collar herself.
“Why on earth didn’t you tell us you could paint jewelry, Sally Prindle?” she asked, as she watched those swift fingers doing their wonderful work. “Of all things, wasting your time specializing in mathematical figures, when all the time you had designs like these in your head!”
“I never knew I could do it,” said Sally in a funny, bewildered fashion that set the girls all a-laughing. “I never had a paint brush in my hand before. She,”—pointing to Hinpoha—“put the things into my hands and ordered me to paint, and I painted. It came to me all of a sudden.”
Did we get the loving cup? I should say we did! By the end of the month we had raised five hundred and some odd dollars, more than half of the total, and by far the largest amount raised by any group. We were all wrecks by the time it was over, because we had to take turns waiting on table down at Sally’s boarding house to hold her job for her while she worked up in our room; besides getting the paint off the girls’ necks again. That wasn’t always an easy job because sometimes she had to use things beside water colors to get certain effects.
But it was well worth our while, for the LAST OF THE WINNEBAGOS have achieved undying fame. Migwan started it with her fake Indian legend and the rest of us surely carried it to a grand finish. The best of the whole business, though, was getting Sally.
Do you know why she was so queer and stand-offish to people all this while? She told us in a burst of confidence that night after we had been given the loving cup. O Katherine, it would almost break your heart. It seems she has a brother who forged a note last year and was sent to prison. She considered that money a debt of honor which she must pay back, and so she came away to college, planning to work her way through and become a teacher of mathematics, which was her strong subject. But she had taken her brother’s disgrace so to heart that she thought the people in college would consider her an outcast if they found it out, and, rather than go through the misery of having people drop her after they had been friendly with her she made up her mind to make no friends at all, and then she didn’t need to worry about their finding it out and cutting her. It broke her all up to turn down our offers of friendship last fall and she left Purgatory because she couldn’t bear to see us after that.
Think of it, Katherine, what she must have suffered, and nobody to tell it to! And everybody calling her a prune! We all cried over her and assured her a million times we didn’t care a rap what her brother had done; we loved her and were proud to have her for a friend. She was a different girl after that. All the stiffness came out of her like magic and she looked like a person who has been let out of prison after being shut up for years. Her great dread all the time had been that somebody would find out about her brother; now that we actually knew it and it didn’t make a bit of difference, the big load was off her spirits. From being the most unpopular girl in the class she suddenly became one of the most popular.
All her money troubles faded too, because she got work making designs for a big Art Craft jewelry shop that paid her enough so she didn’t have to borrow any more money.
The nicest part of it all, though, was what Agony did. The night that Sally Prindle told us about her brother Agony wrote to her father, who, I imagine, must be a very influential man, and asked if he could get Sally’s brother pardoned. Just how Agony’s father went about it we will never know, but not long afterward Sally got a letter from her brother saying that he had been pardoned on the condition that he would enlist in the army, which he had done.
Think what that meant to Sally! Instead of being afraid anyone would find out she had a brother she could now speak of him as proudly as the other girls did who had brothers in the army; could take her place with the proudest of them.
Oh, Katherine, if we could only see right through people and know just why they do things the way they do, what a wonderful world this would be!
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