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The Golden Road Lucy Maud Montgomery

Sara Ray Helps Out

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"The court pronounces the defendant--DEAD!" and the Story Girl was wont to render it with such dramatic intensity and power that the veriest dullard among her listeners could not have missed its force and significance.

She swept along through the poem royally, playing on the emotions of her audience as she had so often played on ours in the old orchard. Pity, terror, indignation, suspense, possessed her hearers in turn. In the court scene she surpassed herself. She was, in very truth, the Florentine judge, stern, stately, impassive. Her voice dropped into the solemnity of the all-important line,

"'The court pronounces the defendant--'"

She paused for a breathless moment, the better to bring out the tragic import of the last word.

"DEAD," piped up Sara Ray in her shrill, plaintive little voice.

The effect, to use a hackneyed but convenient phrase, can better be imagined than described. Instead of the sigh of relieved tension that should have swept over the audience at the conclusion of the line, a burst of laughter greeted it. The Story Girl's performance was completely spoiled. She dealt the luckless Sara a glance that would have slain her on the spot could glances kill, stumbled lamely and impotently through the few remaining lines of her recitation, and fled with crimson cheeks to hide her mortification in the little corner that had been curtained off for a dressing-room. Mr. Perkins looked things not lawful to be uttered, and the audience tittered at intervals for the rest of the performance.

Sara Ray alone remained serenely satisfied until the close of the concert, when we surrounded her with a whirlwind of reproaches.

"Why," she stammered aghast, "what did I do? I--I thought she was stuck and that I ought to prompt her quick."

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"You little fool, she just paused for effect," cried Felicity angrily. Felicity might be rather jealous of the Story Girl's gift, but she was furious at beholding "one of our family" made ridiculous in such a fashion. "You have less sense than anyone I ever heard of, Sara Ray."

Poor Sara dissolved in tears.

"I didn't know. I thought she was stuck," she wailed again.

She cried all the way home, but we did not try to comfort her. We felt quite out of patience with her. Even Cecily was seriously annoyed. This second blunder of Sara's was too much even for her loyalty. We saw her turn in at her own gate and go sobbing up her lane with no relenting.

The Story Girl was home before us, having fled from the schoolhouse as soon as the programme was over. We tried to sympathize with her but she would not be sympathized with.

"Please don't ever mention it to me again," she said, with compressed lips. "I never want to be reminded of it. Oh, that little IDIOT!"

"She spoiled Peter's sermon last summer and now she's spoiled your recitation," said Felicity. "I think it's time we gave up associating with Sara Ray."

"Oh, don't be quite so hard on her," pleaded Cecily. "Think of the life the poor child has to live at home. I know she'll cry all night."

"Oh, let's go to bed," growled Dan. "I'm good and ready for it. I've had enough of school concerts."

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The Golden Road
Lucy Maud Montgomery

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