The School Parliament

During the excitement of the concert Ingred had hardly time to realize the greatness of the honor thrust upon her in being chosen as warden to represent her form. All it stood for struck her afterwards.

“My word! You’ll have to sit up and behave yourself after this, Madame!” remarked Quenrede, when she mentioned the matter at home.

“Yes, of course they’ll all look to you now as an example!” added Mother.

“Oh, I don’t think they will!” declared Ingred, who had not considered her new office from that point of view. “I’ve just to speak up for the interests of the form, you know.”

“There are obligations as well as interests,” said Mother seriously. “Try to make Va a useful factor in the school. That would be something worth doing, wouldn’t it?”

In arranging for the School Parliament, Miss Burd had allowed wardens to be chosen by each form, from IIIb upwards, but had decided that the smaller girls were too young to take part in public affairs. Every form that sent a representative constituted itself into a kind of club, and chose a special name. These were placed on the Council Register as follows:

VI The True Blues.
Va The Pioneers.
Vb The Amazons.
IVa The Old Brigade.
IVb The Mermaids.
IIIa The Dragonflies.
IIIb The Cuckoos.

“You can compare marks every fortnight,” said Miss Burd, “and whichever gets the best average shall hold a cup that I intend to present. The marks of the whole form will count, so that slackers will be a distinct drawback to their own companies. Any girl who loses a mark hinders her form from gaining the cup, and of course vice versa, those who work will help.”

The question of marks had been a much debated subject with Miss Burd. She had discussed it in detail at several educational conferences, and had come to the conclusion that, on the whole, the system was highly desirable.

“It’s all very well to talk about the evils of emulation, and work for work’s sake,” she confided to Miss Strong, “but you can’t get children to see things altogether in the same light as grownups. I own that, when I was a child myself, I made tremendous efforts so that I might be head of my form, and when the arrangements were changed at our school, and, instead of carefully-registered marks and places, we only had first, second, or third class, I slacked off considerably. I knew that a lesson not quite so perfectly learnt, or an exercise with one or two mistakes, would still find me in the First Class, so why should I make such enormous exertions? When every slip might mean the loss of my chance to be top, I was far more careful. Of course I know that Emulation, with a big E, is supposed to be all wrong, but really I think people make too much fuss about it. It was quite friendly rivalry when I was at school, and the girls with whom I competed were my dearest chums. I believe my new system here is going to unite both methods. Every girl will work for herself, but her marks will also count for her form, and if she slacks, and so pulls down the standard, I hope her companions will give her as bad a time as they do to a ‘butterfingers’ at cricket, and that’s saying something!”

The idea of each form constituting a club appealed to the school. It was far more interesting to be “Amazons” or “Cuckoos” than merely Vb or IIIb, and as awards were to be according to averages, it was thrilling to feel that girls of twelve could wrest away the silver cup from the hands of the very prefects themselves.

“It makes it just like playing a game!” declared Ida Brooke.

“Yes, a sort of tug-of-war when everybody’s got to pull, and mustn’t let go!” added Cissie Barnes, “Do you remember playing ‘Oranges and Lemons’ once with the Sixth? We all held on to each others’ waists like grim death, and Janie Potter gave way and broke their chain, so we won!”

“We’ll beat them again, too! I’d like to see that cup on our mantelpiece!”

“The Pioneers,” otherwise Va, were as anxious as any of the other forms to carry off laurels. Even Fil, much under protest, really made quite an effort to work.

“You ought to help me with my exercises, though, Ingred,” she wheedled. “Remember, it’s for the benefit of the form. If you let me make mistakes, well⁠—it’s the form that will suffer. You can’t call it my fault, it’s on your own head. You know as well as I do that I simply can’t spell, and it takes me hours to hunt up words in the dictionary. I’m looking for ‘phenomenon’ now.”

“You certainly won’t find it in the F’s,” laughed Ingred. “What an infant in arms you are! Here, then, go ahead, and I’ll act as dictionary. You’ve only written half a page yet. You’ll be a week of Sundays at this rate.”

“And I haven’t touched my Latin or French!” sighed Fil dismally. “I wish I could go to a school where there isn’t any homework, and that somebody would invent a typewriter that would just spell the words ready-made when you press a button.”

“There’s a fortune waiting for the man who does!” agreed Ingred. “ ‘The Royal-Road-to-Learning Typewriter: spells of itself.’ It would sell by the million, I should think.”

Ingred washed her hands, plaited her hair, and put on her best brooch and her new bangle to attend the first meeting of the School Parliament. The function was held in the Sixth Form room, which she thought slightly unfair, for the prefects, being on their own ground, felt a distinct advantage, and acted as hostesses. There were four of them, so with the games captain they made a party of five from the Sixth, as opposed to six representatives of lower forms, a quite undue proportion in the opinion of the younger girls. Whatever successes the intermediates might win later on, “The True Blues” had carried all before them so far, and had won the cup by an average at least a dozen marks in advance of “The Mermaids,” who came second. The trophy stood on their mantelpiece, and they had brought an ornamental glazed tile on which to place it, as if they meant it to stay there.

On the whole they received the other wardens very graciously, and gave them opportunities to speak and air their views. Questions such as the due apportioning of the asphalt tennis-courts, basketball and hockey fixtures, and various school societies were discussed, and the general business of the term got under way.

“It helps things to be able to talk it over and know what you all think,” said Lispeth. “We’re making so many changes with coming into the new building, that it’s almost like an entirely fresh start. Miss Burd wants us to get up a sort of Reconstruction Society in the school. She hasn’t quite planned it out yet, but she told me a little about it, and I think it’s ever so nice. As soon as it’s quite fixed up, I’m going to call a general meeting, and explain it to everybody. I expect that will be next Wednesday. Will you give me power to do this on my own, or must I call a special committee on Monday to discuss it first, before I put it to the school?”

“It’s my music lesson on Monday, I couldn’t come,” demurred Ingred.

“And I have to go to the dentist immediately after four,” chimed in Alys Horner, the warden of “The Amazons.”

“If Miss Burd has arranged it, I suppose it’s all serene,” said Mabel Hughes, of “The Old Brigade.”

“You’ll like it, I know. I’d explain now, only I haven’t got any of the papers, and besides, it would take such a long time, and it’s rather late, and I want to be getting home. Anyway, I hope we shall all take it up hot and strong. Be sure to keep Wednesday free, though I’m going to ask Miss Burd to let us have the meeting in school hours if possible, then we’re absolutely sure of everybody.”

“Right you are!” agreed the wardens, separating in a rather unparliamentary fashion to admire a vinaigrette, scented with heliotrope, which Althea took from her pocket and handed round for appreciative sniffs.

All the girls felt that Lispeth Scott was to be trusted. She was a worthy leader for the new order of things. She was a tall, stout, fair girl of almost eighteen, and rather grownup for her age. She was the youngest member of a large family who had made enormous exertions during the war, and, with sisters who had nursed in Serbia, driven motor-ambulances in France, served in canteens, in Y.M.C.A. huts, and worked at munitions, she had excellent examples of what it is possible to do for one’s country. She was a decided favorite in the College, being athletic as well as clever, and of a very jolly merry temperament with a vein of great earnestness. Though the girls sometimes called her “Jumbo,” they meant the nickname in token of friendship, and submitted to her dictatorship far more readily than they would have done to that of any other member of the Sixth who had been put in her place. Miss Burd had great confidence in Lispeth, and consequently, when they had talked over the matter of the new society which she wished to be formed in the school, she decided to leave its institution entirely in the hands of her head girl.

“It will be far better for the mistresses not to be present at the meeting,” she said. “I can trust you, Lispeth, to explain things, and the girls will like it much more if it seems to emanate from the new Council. Talk to them in your own way, and they’ll understand you. I want the Society to be an absolutely voluntary one, or it’s of no use. Don’t let them think they must join merely to please me. I’d rather have a dozen who are in earnest over it than a hundred halfhearted members. Only those who feel enthusiastic need give in their names. I don’t mind if it begins in quite a humble way. Indeed, I only expect a small membership at first.”

“On the contrary, Miss Burd, I think it will catch on,” replied Lispeth.

In consequence of this conversation, the head prefect pinned a paper on the notice-board, convening a general meeting of all girls over twelve years of age, to be held in the big hall on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 sharp, the last lesson of the day having been remitted by orders from the Study. There was a universal feeling that something important was on foot, so those forms that were eligible trooped in a body to the hall, while the disappointed juniors tried to console themselves with the reflection that they would be able to go home half an hour earlier than their elders. After considerable shuffling about, places were taken. Unwilling to waste further time, Lispeth mounted the platform, and rang the bell for silence.

“Are we all here? Well, I can’t wait for anybody else. Those who come in late will have to hear what they can, and you must tell them the rest afterwards. Oh, here they are! Quietly, please! There’s plenty of room over there. Violet, will you shut the door? Now that we’re all together, I want to have a talk with you. You know I’m what may be called ‘Prime Minister’ of our School Parliament, and, though your wardens will report all we say in council, I think it is well to have a public meeting sometimes. This term everything seems to have made a fresh start. We’re in new buildings, and we have new rules, and our very Parliament is a new institution. You’re all in new forms, and I’m the new Head Prefect. It’s not only in school that everything’s different, but in the outside world as well. This is our first term since peace was signed. I can remember our first term after War was declared. I was only in IIIa then⁠—quite a youngster! Hetty Hughes, who was the head girl, made a speech, and told us what we ought to do to try to help our country. I think some of us who were here have never forgotten that. We nearly hurrahed the roof off, and we formed a Knitting Club and a Soldiers’ Parcel Society on the spot. You know for yourselves how we worked to keep those up. Well, today the Empire is at peace, but our country needs our help as much as ever, or even more. It’s making a fresh start, and we want the new world to be a better place than the old. Hundreds of thousands of gallant young lives have been gladly given to establish this new world⁠—in this school alone we know to our cost⁠—and we owe it to our heroic dead not to let their sacrifice be in vain. We want a better and purer England to rise up and make a clean sweep of the bad things that disgraced her before. I expect you’ll say: ‘Oh, that’s for politicians, and not for us schoolgirls!’ but it isn’t. Popular opinion is a mighty thing. The schoolgirls of today are the women of tomorrow, and the women of a country have an enormous amount to do with the formation of public opinion⁠—more nowadays than ever before⁠—and their influence will go on increasing with every year that passes. If each of us tries to help the world instead of hindering it, think what an asset each one may be to the country! It’s really a tremendous honor to know that we can all take our part in the reconstruction of England. It’s like each being allowed to lay a brick in the foundation of a new building. Of course you’ll ask me: ‘Well, and how are we going to help?’ That’s just what I want to talk about. We pride ourselves on being practical at the College. Some of us thought we might start a new society, to be called ‘The Rainbow League.’ It’s a sort of ‘Guild of Helpers,’ and we want to do all kinds of jolly things to help in the town, something like our old ‘Knitting Club’ and ‘Soldiers’ Parcel Society,’ only of course different. We could give concerts and make clothes for war orphans, and toys for the hospitals, and scrapbooks for crippled children. There are heaps of nice things like that you’ll just love doing. It’s called ‘The Rainbow League,’ because a rainbow was set in the sky after the Flood, to help people to remember, and we want, in our small way, not to let the Great War be forgotten, but to do our bit to help with the future of the race.

“I’m not any great hand at speaking or explaining, so I want you each to take a copy of the rules of ‘The Rainbow League’ and to read them quietly over at home. Then any girl who likes to join can put her name down. All the Sixth want to become members, and I hope lots of others will too. That’s all I have to say. I’m afraid I’m rather a bungler, but you’ll understand everything if you read the papers. I’m going to give them out now.”

Lispeth, very red in the face, came down from the platform, and, aided by her fellow-prefects, began to distribute papers right and left to the girls as they filed from the benches. Amongst the others, Ingred took hers, and put it in her pocket. She did not care to discuss it with the crowd, so retired to a corner of the hostel garden, and, amid a shower of falling autumn leaves, opened the typewritten sheet, and read as follows:

The Rainbow League

A Society for Schoolgirls who wish to help in the great work of reconstruction after the War

What the League holds

That every soul is of infinite and equal value, because all are the children of one Father.

That every girl must do her best to help all other girls, and to advance the Sisterhood of Women.

That woman’s greatest and strongest weapons are love and sweetness.

That by conscious radiation of unselfish love to her fellow-beings, a girl may undoubtedly raise the moral atmosphere of the world around her.

That every girl, however young, can help this glorious old country, and that, joined together for good, the schoolgirls of a nation can influence the well-being of a race.

That good can always triumph over evil, and that love and unselfishness will wipe out many social blots, and put beauty in their place.

As the rainbow has seven prismatic colors, these may stand for seven talents of woman.

Violet = Virtue⁠—the bedrock of woman’s influence.
Indigo = Industry⁠—which means willing service.
Blue = Beauty⁠—in its many and varied forms.
Green = Generosity⁠—to give of our best to others.
Yellow = Youth⁠—to offer our best years to God.
Orange = Order⁠—which includes organization.
Red = Radiation⁠—the Love Force going out to others.


Every member of the League shall pledge herself to forward its objects and to take an active part in any schemes of help that may be instituted in connection with it.

Flower Emblem. The Iris.
Motto. “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

Ingred sat for a moment or two, watching the petals blow from the last roses on the bush that hung over the worn stone wall. The old Abbey lay on one hand, the buildings of the new school on the other. They seemed the very personification of ancient and modern.

“The world can’t stand still,” she thought, “and if it’s got to move on, I suppose I’d better help to give it a shove in the right direction.”

Walking into the hostel, she met Nora and Fil walking arm-in-arm.

“Hullo, Ingred! Have you read the paper about the Rainbow League?” asked Fil eagerly. “I think it’s ripping! Nora and I are both going to join.”

“And so am I,” said Ingred, as she passed by them, and went upstairs.