Madge’s sole fortune was just ten dollars a month, which she used for her dress allowance. Her uncle and aunt were not rich, but they were paying for her education, and Madge knew she was expected to make her own living as soon as she was old enough. Mr. and Mrs. Butler had hoped she would become a teacher, for they held the old-fashioned southern belief that teaching school was the only avenue open to the woman who was forced by necessity to make her own living.
Madge, however, had decided, a long time before, that she would much rather die than teach. She would do anything but that. Just at present her poverty was very inconvenient. Madge was generous to a fault, and she would have liked nothing better than to finance royally their proposed trip. She vowed mentally to rise to the occasion, even though the way to do it was not yet clear.
Prudent Eleanor had also asked her whom she meant to invite to act as their chaperon. So it was of this chaperon that Madge was thinking while she was in the act of mailing her letters.
Down in Virginia, on a big place next to her uncle’s, was a girl whom she had decided would make an ideal chaperon. She was as fond of larks as was Madge herself. She could fish, ride, swim and shoot a rifle when necessary. Moreover, she was so beautiful and aristocratic that Madge always called her the “Lady of Quality.” It was true she could not cook nor wash dishes, nor do anything practical, and she was only twenty-two. Still, Madge thought she would be a perfectly delightful chaperon and was sure the girls would love her. Madge’s red lips unconsciously formed the letter O, and before she knew what she was doing she was whistling from sheer pleasure.
“Miss Morton,” the cold voice that was unpleasantly familiar to the girl’s ears came from behind a chair, “do you not know that whistling is against the rules of the school? You are one of the older girls. Miss Tolliver depends on you to set the younger pupils a good example. I fear she is sadly disappointed.”
“You mean you are sadly disappointed, Miss Jones,” replied Madge angrily. “Miss Tolliver has not said she was disappointed in me. When she is she will probably tell me herself.”
Madge knew she should not speak in this rude fashion to her teacher, but she was an impetuous, high-spirited girl who could not bear censure. Besides, she had a special prejudice against Miss Jones. She was particularly homely and there was something awkward and repellant in her manner. Worshipping beauty and graciousness, Madge could not forgive her teacher her lack of both. Besides, Madge did not entirely trust Miss Jones. Still, the girl was sorry she had made her impolite speech, so she stood quietly waiting for her teacher’s reproof, with her curly head bent low, her eyes mutinous.
She waited an instant. When she looked up, to her dismay she saw that the eyes of her despised teacher were full of tears.