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Fair Play






CHEERS! We're Bye. It's a gift," cried Mary Ross excitedly as she danced round the deserted cloakroom waving her new tennis racket aloft. Her doubles' partner, Hazel Fenton, still studying the newly posted Tennis Draw on the notice board, turned round anxiously.

"Steady on, my child," she admonished her over- exuberant friend. "If you make a row like that you'll have at least one of the army of Prefects on our tracks."

Her warning, alas, came too late, for Mary, suddenly checking her headlong career lost her balance and sat down with a resounding thud, pulling the nearest cloak stand on the top of her with a loud clatter.

"Great Caesar's Ghost-are you hurt?" cried Hazel in consternation, as she rushed forward.

I think I'm still alive," Mary murmured ruefully as she rubbed her left arm tenderly.

"Then for goodness sake get up quick," urged Hazel as she tried to drag her to her feet.

"Excellent advice, but just a little too late," drawled a familiar voice from the doorway. "I thought the Lower Fifth were at least above this kind of nonsense. You'll each take an order mark and report to your Patrol Captains. Really Hazel and Mary it is time you both gave up behaving like kids in the Third." With which withering remark Dodo Bentley, who seldom missed a chance of exercising her newly acquired authority as a Prefect, turned abruptly and walked slowly down the corridor. But Mary had sprung suddenly to her feet, and in four strides had overtaken the vanishing Prefect.

"I say, Dodo, you've got it all wrong," she explained with more truth than tact. "Hazel had nothing whatever to do with the row, it was all my fault."

Dodo flushed, at all costs she must not show weakness. Mary Ross was always a bit difficult to cope with.

"I think you both heard what I said," she replied with what dignity she could muster. "You both take an order mark and report to your Patrol Captains. I don't allow my orders to be questioned."

Mary controlled her rising anger with difficulty. It would be dangerous to tell Dodo exactly what she thought of her. Without a word she retraced her steps to the cloakroom.

"Well that's that, and goodbye to our Patrol Cup," Hazel greeted her.

"Not if I know it," answered Mary indignantly. "Dodo has become absolutely unbearable since she became a Prefect, but I'm jolly well going to show her that Stuart House is fed up with her 'Divine Right of Kings' tactics, and if necessary I'll organise a modernised Gunpowder Plot and have a regular blow up before the term is over."

"You sound a bit explosive," laughed Hazel, "but don't forget what happened to Guy Fawkes. Even my scanty knowledge of history runs to the fact that he was caught red handed."

"Only you see I won't be caught," Mary answered her. "I told you my plot would be modern and of course it must on no account interfere with our tennis. Come and have another look at the draw before the bell goes," she added. "There's no knowing what may happen when we meet Dodo and Desiree in the Finals."

"When," repeated Hazel, looking at the board over her friend's shoulder. "You are very sure of getting there aren't you? But that bye only gets us through one round; you forget that in all probability we meet the Bartons in the semi-finals even if we do pull off the third and fourth rounds."

"Oh, the Bartons, they're not worth a tuppenny button," the imperturbable Mary answered airily.

"Have you seen them play together?"


"Then wait till you do before you make rash statements," advised Hazel as the bell went and they hurried off to maths.




During the days that followed, Mary realised with some uneasiness that as Hazel had suggested the Bartons were likely to prove formidable opponents. As she had anticipated, Hazel and she had little difficulty in winning their first two matches, but there was no chance of knocking out Dodo Bentley and Desiree Lane, unless they could pull off the semi-finals of the doubles, and this, according to Mary's deeply laid plot, presented an unexpected difficulty.

The lower Fifth, always ready to follow Mary's lead and realising that their chances of winning the Patrol Cup were being unfairly threatened, listened eagerly to Mary's arguments.

"You see," she reasoned, "unless Hazel and I can win out the doubles, and get the Games' Star for the Thistle Patrol we are simply bound to lose the Cup. Hazel has got two order marks already this term, and this third which Dodo has given her so unfairly is bound to mean a stripe, which brings down our total for certain unless we get an extra Star." "What do you say, everybody?"

"We're with you 'en bloc'," Greta Prescott agreed, answering for the rest, "and personally I think Dodo is suffering rather badly at the moment from a swollen head and deserves all she gets."

"Hear, hear," cried several voices together. "Let's make our plans right away."

So the plotters set to work and Mary felt satisfied that her revenge was in sight. If only she could count on knocking out the Bartons in the semi-finals ; if only Greta Prescott and the rest of the Lower Fifth played their part successfully there was no reason why anyone should for a moment suspect Mary herself of any part in the plot, which was to test Dodo Bentley's sportsmanship before the whole school.

An afternoon of brilliant sunshine favoured the doubles' semifinals of the Stuart House tennis tournament. The match, which promised to be a closely contested struggle, had drawn a large audience and every available bench was filled by an enthusiastic crowd of school girls. The Lower Fifth had turned out in a body and had taken up their position at the right hand side of the court which faced the main school buildings.

There was a murmur of suppressed excitement as Theo and Wendy Barton came into the court with Hazel Fenton and began to knock up but, so far, there was no sign of Mary to be seen.

Dodo Bentley who, as luck would have it, was acting as Umpire, completed her marking up of the umpire's book, and looked up impatiently.

"Mary not here yet; whatever is keeping her?" she demanded abruptly, turning to Hazel Hazel looked mystified.

"She was on her way to the games' room for her tennis racket when I left her," she began then paused, for her explanation was cut short by Greta Prescott. "Here she comes at last," she announced, in relieved tones, as Mary appeared running at full speed from the school buildings.

Dodo glanced at her watch. "Do buck up," she called to the late comer. " I suppose you realise we have all been waiting for you for the last five minutes."

Mary, with a flushed face, hurried to the court -"I am awfully sorry," she apologised, hurriedly, "but. . " she glanced down at her old tennis racket, "my new tennis racket has gone, I can't find it anywhere."

"Gone," exclaimed Dodo, incredulously. When did you use it last?"

"I was practising some back hand shots this morning and put it back in my locker before roll call."

"Then it must be somewhere in the games' room. Hazel will you go back with Mary and try to see if you can find it ? - I'll hold up the match for ten minutes."

From her umpire's seat Dodo surveyed the chattering groups of schoolgirls who awaited Mary's return - a puzzled frown creased her brow as she saw the partners returning at length, but with no sign of the missing racket.

"Not there. It is certainly hard luck, but I'm afraid you will have to carry on with the old one," she announced reluctantly, turning to Mary.

"Yes, of course," answered the girl, quickly, spinning her ;cket. "Will you cry, Theo?"



"Rough, rough it is - we'll take side," announced Theo without hesitation and Mary, picking up the balls, walked back to the service line.

As a rule, side did not worry Mary or Hazel. They could usually count on their service games, but to-day, obviously, their luck was out. Having gained the first point Mary promptly served two double faults, and Hazel missing two easy smashes at the net, the first game went to their opponents before they realised what was happening. It looked as though they were also to lose the second game, but Hazel, by a well placed drive between the "tram" lines, saved the situation -" One game all in the first set," came the voice of the umpire.

The Bartons, however, quick to realise Hazel's efforts to cover her partner's weakness, played incessantly to Mary's forearm with the result that they ran away with the next four games almost without a struggle.

Five games to one. Theo and Wendy lead in the first set.

The ominous score rang out in a tense stillness. It was obvious that Mary's old racket was her undoing. Then with a valiant effort she pulled herself together. Gradually the score crept up.

"Five games to two."

"Five games to three."

"Five games to four."

"Five games all."

"Played, oh! well played," came a chorus of voices as Mary, with a well-placed back hand, won the equalising game.

It was Hazel's serve now-would they ever keep it up? Yes, it was their game again-once more the score rang out:

"Six games to five." Mary and Hazel lead in the first set.

The excitement of the spectators grew-every winning shot on either side was cheered to the echo.

Then came a long, brilliant rally-a smash at the net by Mary and no return.

Amid wild applause the first set went to Mary and Hazel seven games to five.

But the struggle was not yet over. The second set began. Rally after rally hung in the balance. Once more the score stood at five games all. Once more it was Hazel's service. Once more the game went to Mary and Hazel. "Six games to five. Mary and Hazel lead in the second set, having won the first."

An almost breathless silence reigned as Theo served. Then, once more, loud applause filled the air.

"Fifteen all."

"Thirty fifteen."

"Thirty all."

"Forty thirty."


"Advantage server."


"Advantage striker."


Would the game never end?

"Advantage striker."


At last it was over. Theo and Wendy ran up to the net and shook hands with their opponents. Congratulations were shouted at the winners, and condolences on the losers, but for Mary the real cause for rejoicing lay in the fact that in two days' time she and Hazel would meet Dodo Bentley and Desiree Lane in the finals.

Revenge would be sweet, yet somehow, for the first time a vague uneasiness of conscience warned Mary that even the winning of the Patrol Cup for the Lower Fifth would be a costly victory if it was to be won by the mean trick which she had planned.



It was Pamela Pike and Betty Horner of the Lower Fifth, however, who, having talked the matter out, decided that Mary's plot for the defeat of Dodo lacked the essence of sportsmanship.

"Of course," said Pamela, thoughtfully-" I quite agree that Dodo acted unfairly about Hazel, still I don't see that there is much satisfaction in our winning the Patrol Cup simply because Mary handicaps Dodo out of the finals by hiding her tennis racket. To my mind it is just stupid. Mary is asking for trouble if she attempts it. After all Dodo is not having a sporting chance." It is a bit late in the day to interfere now," observed Betty. "Anyhow, I don't quite see what we could do to give her a sporting chance."

"We could warn her of her danger as Catesby's friend warned his friend in the real Gunpowder Plot."

"Great Casar's Ghost, what an idea! And how do you propose

to warn her. Easier said than done I should say."

"Your history is really deplorably weak, you old pessimist, why it is as easy as A.B.C. Catesby's friend merely wrote a letter - we can do the same. Listen - what do you think of this?" Pamela tore a sheet of note paper from a writing pad and in clear print lettering wrote the words


"Dear Dodo,

Be sure to lock your racket up, if you wish to win the cup."

" Signed - ' Two Well Wishers.'

Betty laughed. "It is not exactly up to the standard of Shakespeare, but its meaning is fairly clear," she agreed. It should at least put Dodo on her guard."

It was the work of a few moments to place their warning message in an envelope.

"I'll slip it under Dodo's study door on my way to music," suggested Betty as the bell rang for morning school.

"And I would call it Fair Play," quoted Pamela. "Genuine Shakespeare this time in case you don't recognise it," she laughed.

It was during morning break that Dodo found the mysterious letter on the floor of the study which she shared with another prefect, Maeve Hilton. Maeve was busy hunting for her Virgil.

"Did you see who left this letter," questioned Dodo, waving it aloft.

"A letter-I saw no letter," she answered absently.

"Oh, it is all right," Dodo replied, quickly, as she slipped the letter into her English note book and hurried from the room. Her attention, however, was far removed from Macbeth during the English lesson of the next period. Who could have left the letter? The disappearance of Mary's tennis racket then must have been a deliberate piece of work, and she, Dodo, must be marked out as the next victim. But who in the world could be responsible for such an unsporting trick - not Mary certainly, for she would hardly take her own racket. Well as a prefect it was her job to find out who the culprit was, and find out she would - even if it meant the sacrifice of her own racket for the finals. With this object in view she made no effort to lock up her racket when she returned from the courts, but left it lying in a conspicuous place on the window seat of her room. Since it was a privilege of the prefects to keep their tennis rackets in their study, it should be possible, by carefully planned visits to her room during the free periods of the school day, to encounter any chance visitors. It was not, however, until the morning of the tennis finals that she made her startling discovery. She was hurrying along the corridor when the door of her study suddenly opened and Mary Ross almost fell into her arms.

Mary flushed-" I'm awfully sorry. I-I was just fetching a fountain pen for Maeve," she apologised awkwardly.

Dodo accepted her apology in stony silence and walked past her into the room. Mary vanished like a flash. Dodo's eyes went straight to the window seat - her tennis racket was gone. So Mary was the culprit - there was no doubt about it. Of course she might have guessed Mary was bound to be at the bottom of the trouble. What a fool she had been to be misled by the disappearance of Mary's own racket. The little wretch. She had nearly got away with it too. Only thanks to her mysterious letter of warning, Dodo had been on her guard. What an unsporting specimen Mary was. Well she would jolly well pay up for her little game, and the whole school would judge her for what she was worth.

But the tennis finals must first be lost or won before the spectacular moment arrived when she could show up Mary to her greatest disadvantage.

Not even to her partner, Desiree Lane, did she tell the secret of her discovery and as she and Desiree walked laughing to the court, immaculate in their neat white tennis shorts, no one even guessed that either girl had a care in the world. Certainly no one guessed that Dodo, handicapped by the loss of her tennis racket, was putting up a really amazing show with a racket of her younger sister's which was at least an ounce too light for her.

Mary and Hazel on their side had laid themselves out to play the game of their lives in their efforts to pull off the match by fair means, for Mary, realising at the eleventh hour the unsporting nature of her proposed plot, had agreed with the rest of the Lower Fifth to drop her original idea and to make no effort to hide Dodo's racket.

The play which followed certainly justified the loud bursts of applause which greeted every hard fought rally.

At last the end came. A brilliant volley of Mary's proved to be the winning shot.

Above the prolonged clapping and excited cries of "Well played, oh! well played," came the clear voice of Miss Tempest, the junior games mistress and umpire.

"Games-Set-Match, Mary and Hazel."

She paused expectantly waiting as usual for Dodo and Desiree, the losers, to rush forward and shake hands with their opponents but, for the first time in the annals of Stuart House, nothing happened.

"I am afraid the losers have forgotten the unwritten laws of tennis," she remarked frigidly. Desiree began to move forward but Dodo stood rooted to the spot where she stood near the side line. Then turning dramatically towards Miss Tempest she made her startling accusation.

"I am sorry," she answered quietly, but in clear tones that carried to the ends of the court, "but I refuse to shake hands with a player who merely wins matches by taking her opponent's racket."

A breathless silence greeted her words. The junior games mistress, who never before had to cope with such a trying situation was, for the moment, speechless.

Then from the other side of the net came Mary's indignant protest-" I did not touch your wretched tennis racket."

"Can you prove it?" sneered Dodo in dangerously quiet tones, "you forget I met you coming from my study."

Mary was white as a sheet. Only too well she saw the awkwardness of her position. It was only when faced with it like this that she realised fully the meanness of the act she had so nearly committed. Though her conscience was clear, she did not see how she could convince Dodo of the fact. Almost in tears she turned to Miss Tempest but, before she could speak, Maeve Hilton who had been playing in the finals of the handicapped singles on the lower court rushed up and almost hurled herself on top of Dodo.

"I say, Dodo," she gasped, "I have only discovered it this moment - I took your racket by mistake from the window seat. It is exactly the same weight and make as mine and I never noticed your name on it until the very last game. I am most terribly sorry " - she paused as though suddenly realising for the first time the tenseness of the atmosphere, the bewildered expressions of her schoolfellows - " Goodness," she groaned-" don't tell me I've made a complete mess of things."

"On the contrary," interposed Miss Tempest smiling for the first time. "It seems to me you have rather cleared things up. At least you have given us proof that Fair Play wins in the end."

"Three cheers for the winners of the Patrol Cup," cried Dodo, unexpectedly, and the grounds of Stuart House rang to the echo.