Ingred signed her name next morning as a member of the Rainbow League, and received a neat notebook with a Japanese design of purple irises stencilled on the cover. Though the new society was supposed to be run entirely by the girls themselves, it was much encouraged at headquarters, and special allowances were made for its activities. Miss Burd sent for a book on Toy-Making at Home, and gave the Handicraft classes an indulgence to concentrate for the present on the construction of little windmills, carts, dolls’ furniture, trains, jigsaw puzzles, and other articles described in its fascinating pages. Such a number of girls had joined the League that many willing hands were at work, and at Christmas they hoped to have a sale of the best of the toys in aid of a fund for War Orphans, and to send the remainder to be given away as treats for poor children.

Lispeth was highly enthusiastic, and full of future schemes.

“We’ll do toy-making this term,” she decreed, “and then next term we can think of something else. In the spring and summer we’ll have a Posy Union to send bunches of flowers to sick people. We can’t do anything of that, of course, during the winter, unless some of you like to put down bulbs; it would be lovely to give a pot of purple crocuses to a little crippled child! I think making the toys is just A1. I want to start a manufactory!”

“Barring the glue,” said Susie Wakefield. “It smells simply abominable when it boils over. Why doesn’t somebody bring out a patent for sweet-scented glue?”

“Sweet-scented glue! You Sybarite!”

“Why not? They could make it out of all those delicious gums and resins you read about in books on the Spice Islands, instead of⁠—by the by, what is glue made of?”

“Horses’ hoofs, I believe, but I fancy it’s better not to ask what it’s made of. I don’t think your gums and resins would do the deed so well. We’d best stick to good old-fashioned glue.”

“That’s just what I complained of⁠—I do stick to it, or rather it sticks to me. I get it all over my hands, and smears down my overall.”

“Then you’re an untidy workwoman, old sport, and I can’t do anything for you except recommend ‘Gresolvent.’ ”

The girls were grateful for the latitude of the Handicraft class, for otherwise they would have had little or no time to give to the construction of toys. The homework of the College was stiff, and certain games were compulsory. The hockey season had begun, and fixtures had been made with other schools in the neighborhood.

“We must see that the old Coll. keeps up its reputation,” said Blossom Webster, the games captain. “Last year, when we had Lennie Peters and Sophy Aston, we did a thing or two, didn’t we? ‘What girl has done, girl can do!’ and we’ve just got to buck up and try.”

“Rather!” agreed the team.

Among the various matches which had been arranged was one with The Clinton High School Old Girls’ Association. It was an amateur team of enthusiasts, who, debarred from playing any longer for their school, had established a club of their own. They had sent a challenge to Grovebury College, and it had been accepted.

“Saturday morning’s a weird time for a match!” said Blossom, rereading the letter to her chums. “But their captain says it’s the only time they can get their field. It’s used by another club in the afternoons, so she’s fixed eleven o’clock.”

“It suits me rather decently,” said Janie Potter. “I’m going out to tea in the afternoon, so I couldn’t have come if the match had been at three. Don’t stare at me like that! No I’m not a slacker! I must accept invitations to tea sometimes, even if I am in the team. What a dragon you are, Blossom!”

“Good thing someone keeps the team up, or you’d be gadding off tea-drinking instead of playing!” returned Blossom grimly. “Grovebury expects every girl to do her duty on Saturday. It will be bad luck for the season if we lose our first match.”

The Clinton Old Girls’ Association had its field at Denscourt, a town ten miles away from Grovebury. It was arranged by the team, and for any girls from the college who cared to come as spectators, to meet at the railway station at 10:15, and travel together under the escort of Miss Giles.

Ingred, who was a keen player, and very proud of having been placed in the reserve, was to spend Friday night at the hostel, instead of returning as usual to Wynch-on-the-Wold.

Nora, Verity, and Fil were also to be numbered among the spectators.

On the eventful morning, as the girls were just finishing breakfast, a telegram arrived for Rachel Grant. She tore open the yellow envelope, and her face fell as she read the brief message. Her mother was seriously ill, and she must return home immediately. Mrs. Best went upstairs at once to arrange for her hurried journey, and to help her to pack.

Downstairs at the breakfast-table the girls discussed the bad news. They were very sorry for Rachel, and also for themselves, for she was their right inner.

“It’s like our luck!” fretted Janie Potter.

“Too disgusting for words!” groused Doreen Hayward.

“Poor old Rachel!” groaned Fil.

“What’s going to be done?” asked everybody, as they folded their serviettes and left the table.

That question was answered by Miss Giles, who beckoned to Ingred in the hall, and said briefly:

“Ingred, will you fetch your hockey-stick and pads?”

Ingred did not need telling twice. To take Rachel’s place was indeed an honor. Such a chance did not come often. With huge satisfaction she donned her neat navy-blue skirt, edged with its orange band, and her blouse with its orange collar and cuffs.

“You lucker!” sighed Nora enviously. “I’d just jolly well give everything I have to be in the match today. It’s not much sport to stand by and cheer. Oh, don’t think I’m trying to get out of coming! I’m going to look on and see that you do your duty. If you’re not playing up, I’ll hiss!”

“I’ll do my best,” laughed Ingred, “and if I drop down for sheer lack of breath, I shall expect you and Verity to carry me home. There!”

“Right you are! It’s a bargain, though you’d be a jolly heavy burden, I can tell you.”

The team, Miss Giles, and about twenty girls as spectators, were punctual to their appointment, and assembled at the station just in time for the train. By a little maneuvering, combined with good fortune, they secured three compartments to themselves, for a solitary old gentleman, whom they found in possession of a corner seat, bolted in alarm at such an invasion of schoolgirls, and sought sanctuary in a smoking carriage. Some generous spirits had brought chocolates and butterscotch, which they shared round, and Nora, the irrepressible, produced from her pocket a mouth-organ, with which she proceeded to entertain the company, until frantic raps from the next compartment made her aware that Miss Giles heard and disapproved of her amateur recital. Naturally the talk was largely about hockey and the chances of the match. It was known that the Old Clintonians were a strong team, for most of them had been the crack players of their school. To beat them would indeed be a feather in the cap of the college.

“Too good to come off!” groaned Blossom gloomily.

“Nonsense, you can’t tell till you’ve tried! Make up your mind you’re going to win!” said Nora indignantly. “I shan’t speak to you again if you lose this match!”

“I’m only one out of eleven, please!”

“Well, I don’t care! One who makes up her mind to fail can spoil everything, and vice-versa, so just buck up and win!”

The hockey ground was not very far from the station at Denscourt, and when the Grovebury contingent arrived they found the Old Clintonians ready and waiting for them. The eleven ran into the pavilion and took off the long coats that had covered their gym costumes; then trooped out on to the field, as neat and businesslike looking a team as could be imagined. Blossom, with her chums, Janie and Doreen, took good stock of their opponents.

“They’re a strong set, and will take some beating,” said Janie.

“Rather!” agreed Blossom. “You may be sure we’re not going to goal just when we please.”

“They look topping sports!” commented Doreen.

Everything was now in perfect order; the teams were placed, and the umpire blew her whistle for the match to begin. As the account of such a contest is always much more interesting when narrated by an actual spectator, and as Nora wrote a long and accurate description of it afterwards to a cousin at school in London, I will insert her letter, and allow it to speak for itself.

(This letter is an account of a real match, written by a real schoolgirl.)

“Grovebury College.

“My Dear Margaret,

“I simply must tell you about the hockey match we played last Saturday!

“The team played the Clinton High School Old Girls’ Association at Denscourt. Our girls were awfully keen to meet them, and were not at all daunted by the fact that they were exceptionally strong.

“About twenty of us went as spectators, and as we were about to set off to the station with the Eleven, Rachel Grant, the Left Inner, received a telegram, conveying news of her mother’s serious illness. To our great misfortune, she was obliged to go home at once, and the first girl on the Reserve, Ingred Saxon, had to fill her place.

“Miss Giles, the Games Mistress, went on to get the tickets, and, in spite of some delay, we managed to meet her in time to catch the train. It is ten miles from here to Denscourt, and we arrived there in about twenty minutes.

“The field is not very far from the railway station. The team girls were taken to the pavilion, and when they were ready, the captain tossed up. Veronica Hall, the opposing captain, who is a tall strong girl, and a fine hockey player, won the toss, and chose to play against the wind for the first half. At exactly eleven, the center forwards, Blossom and Veronica, began the bully-off. There were three dull clashes as their sticks met, and then with a dexterous stroke, Blossom passed the ball to her Right Inner, Janie Potter. Before she could strike, the wing on the opposite side captured the ball, and with a clean drive sent it spinning down the field. It was soon stopped, however, by Doreen Hayward, the Right Half, who, after successfully dribbling it past the enemy Inner, sent it hard out to Aline West, the School Right Wing. Soon Aline had the ball halfway up the field, but suddenly she stumbled, and fell headlong to the ground. Before she could rise, the ball had been sent to the rival Center Forward, who, with a magnificent hit, drove it nearly into the goal-circle. There it was splendidly blocked by Kitty Saunders, our Left Back, and quickly passed to Evie Irving, the Left Wing. There was a brief, though fierce, struggle for possession of the ball between the two wings, in which Evie was victorious. She neatly avoided the Clinton Right Half, but the ball went off the line. The opposing Halfback rolled in⁠—to her wing, as she thought⁠—but with a swift movement, Ingred Saxon, the Left Inner, reached the ball first, and taking it with her, ran up the field like lightning. The Inner on the other side was an equally fast runner, but Ingred easily evaded her opponent’s continued efforts to get the ball for some time.

“ ‘Oh! has she lost the ball?’ ‘No. Is she still flying on, the ball before her?’ ‘Will she pass the rival back safely?’ were the questions which thronged my brain, nearly paralyzed with excitement.

“Not able to dribble the ball any farther, and being attacked by a girl wearing the Clinton colors, Ingred hit the ball out to her wing, who struck in to center again. The Left Back on the opposing side stopped it just as it entered the goal-circle.

“ ‘Clear!’ yelled one of the onlookers, unable to contain herself, and with a fine stroke the Back sent the ball flying away to the other side of the field. It went with such force that, although our Right Back made an attempt to stop it, it raced past her stick and over the outside line. After the roll-in, nearly all the play was carried on practically in the center of the field. Each side displayed some excellent passing, but when the whistle blew at half time, neither had scored. By this time all the girls were hot and panting, except the Goalkeepers, and were ready for the brief rest. Our Eleven stood in a group together, sharing the lemons which the Clinton girls provided, and discussing the events of the last half-hour.

“ ‘Girls!’ exclaimed Blossom, our captain ‘we simply must win this match! We shall have the wind against us the next half, but we are not going to let things end in a victory for the Clintonians, or in a draw either, are we?’

“ ‘No!’ was the decided answer.

“A few minutes later everyone was in her place again, but of course defending the other goal. Blossom and Veronica were once more bullying-off. This time the latter was the quicker of the two, for, with a clever hit, she succeeded in sending the ball away to her Left Wing. The Clinton Left Wing began to dribble it along towards the goal we were defending, and, when confronted by our Right Half, passed it to her center. I almost screamed out to our Center Forward not to let Veronica keep the ball, for I knew she was a dangerous opponent. She was well up the field, and with a neat turn of her stick sent the ball past our Right Back. There was only one girl now to prevent her from getting a goal! Blossom was now fast gaining, and then, just as Veronica came within shooting distance, her foot slipped in the slimy mud, and she lost her balance. Blossom was level with Veronica by this time, and before the Clinton captain could steady herself, she had sent the ball far away from the danger zone.

“The play went on fairly evenly again until five minutes to twelve. I felt wild with anxiety, and I am sure the others did too, for there were only five minutes left.

“The ball had just been sent over the line by one of the Clinton girls, and our Left Half rolled in. The wing missed the bill, but Ingred took it, and⁠—well, I cannot tell you clearly what happened after that. I still have in my mind the picture of Ingred, who, the ball at her side, literally flew up the field, her feet scarcely touching the ground. No one knows how she did it, but by some marvellous playing she passed all her opponents, and shot the only goal of the whole match just three seconds before the whistle blew for ‘Time.’

“Of course Ingred was the heroine of the hour. As she was being escorted to the pavilion, flushed but triumphant, Miss Giles said to her: ‘Well played! I am proud of you!’

“Those few words of praise meant a good deal to Ingred, and we all felt how well she deserved them, especially as it was only by accident that she played in the team at all.

“I do hope I have not tired you by going too fully into our match, but I know you are interested in our school games, hockey in particular. I will tell you about our later fixtures when I see you at Christmas, so until then⁠—Goodbye.