Maida was very happy nowadays. Laura was the only person in the Court who had caused her any uneasiness. Since the day that Laura had made herself so disagreeable, Maida had avoided her steadily. Best of all, perhaps, Maida’s health had improved so much that even her limp was slowly disappearing.
In the course of time, the children taught Maida the secret language of the W.M.N.T.’s. They could hold long conversations that were unintelligible to anybody else. When at first they used it in fun before Maida, she could not understand a word. After they had explained it to her, she wondered that she had ever been puzzled.
“It’s as easy as anything,” Rosy said. “You take off the first sound of a word and put it on the end with an ay added to it like MAN—an-may. BOY—oy-bay. GIRL—irl-gay. When a word is just one sound like I or O, or when it begins with a vowel like EEL or US or OUT, you add way, like I—I-way. O—O-way. EEL—eel-way. US—us-way. OUT—out-way.”
Thus Maida could say to Rosie:
“Are-way ou-yay oing-gay o-tay ool-schay o-tay ay-day?” and mean simply, “Are you going to school to-day?”
And sometimes to Maida’s grief, Rosie would reply roguishly:
“O-nay I-way am-way oing-gay o-tay ook-hay ack-jay ith-way Arthur-way.”
Billy Potter was finally invited to join the W.M.N.T.’s too. He never missed a meeting if he could possibly help it.
“Why do you call Maida, ’Petronilla’?” Dicky asked him curiously one day when Maida had run home for more paper.
“Petronilla is the name of a little girl in a fairy-tale that I read when I was a little boy,” Billy answered.
“And was she like Maida?” Arthur asked.
“How?” Rosie inquired.
“Petronilla had a gold star set in her forehead by a fairy when she was a baby,” Billy explained. “It was a magic star. Nobody but fairies could see it but it was always there. Anybody who came within the light of Petronilla’s star, no matter how wicked or hopeless or unhappy he was, was made better and hopefuller and happier.”
Nobody spoke for an instant.
Then, “I guess Maida’s got the star all right,” Dicky said.
Billy was very interested in the secret language. At first when they talked this gibberish before him, he listened mystified. But to their great surprise he never asked a question. They went right on talking as if he were not present. In an interval of silence, Billy said softly:
“I-way onder-way if-way I-way ought-bay a-way uart-quay of-way ice-way-eam-cray, ese-thay ildren-chay ould-way eat-way it-way.”
For a moment nobody could speak. Then a deafening, “es-yay!” was shouted at the top of four pairs of lungs.