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A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 16659

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Sunday morning was bright and clear. It was so dazzlingly bright when the little girls arose that they thought it must be much later than it was. Cousin Ben, however, was already up and dressed and had been down some time when the two finally descended to the lower floor. This was made known by reason of the fires burning brightly and of there being a path cleared to the hen-house, while as many as a dozen eggs were in a bowl on the kitchen table.

"Oh, Cousin Ben," cried Edna, "what a lot you have done. It is so cosey and warm down here, and we won't have to wait at all for breakfast."

"I hope not," he returned, "for I'm hungry, for one. What are you going to have?"

Edna turned to Nettie who considered the question. It was a great occasion when there were two guests to be provided for. "As long as there are so many eggs," she said, "we can have muffins or something and some eggs. I could have some kind of breakfast food, too, I believe there's some oat-meal."

"Never mind the oat-meal," said Ben. "You get me out the flour and stuff and I'll make the muffins. There is a royal fire and I'll get them ready in three shakes of a sheep's tail."

"You?" Nettie looked amazed.

"Of course. Did you never hear of a man cook? I've served my apprenticeship, I can assure you. I'll make the coffee, too, if you have any."

"Oh, there is some already ground, in the basket mother sent," Edna assured him. "We don't drink it, but we can have cambric tea."

"All right, you go along and set the table, and I'll do the rest."

Nettie was rather glad to have the responsibility taken off her hands in this summary manner, though she said to Edna, "Do you think it is polite to let him do it all?"

"Why, certainly," replied Edna. "He does those things at home for his mother sometimes, for he has no sisters, and the boys have to pitch in and help when the servant goes out. He has told me all about it. And as for its being polite, I remember mother said it was always more polite to let your company do the thing which made them comfortable than to insist upon doing something for them that would make them uncomfortable."

Nettie considered this for some time before she quite took in the sense of it. She was a thin, demure little girl, not at all pretty, but with a kind face, big blue eyes and sandy hair. She was dressed very plainly, but her clothes were neat and simply made. She was not the kind of child Edna might have expected to find in such a little house.

The muffins turned out a great success, and Ben said his coffee just suited him. "I never saw fresher eggs than your hens lay," he said, looking at Nettie with a serious face.

"Of course, they are fresh," she returned, "when they were only laid yesterday."

"That's what I said," returned Ben, with gravity.

Edna laughed. She was used to Cousin Ben's ways, but Nettie was a little puzzled.

The breakfast was as merry an affair as the supper had been, and after it was cleared away there was a consultation upon what should be done next. "There's no use in thinking of church," said Ben. "We couldn't get there if we tried."

"And there are so few trains I don't suppose I can expect mother this morning," said Nettie.

"Better not expect her at all," replied Ben, "that is, not while the roads are so snowy. There is scarcely any use in even a sleigh while these drifts are so high. Ande, what is the use of a sleigh, anyhow?" he asked, turning to his cousin who saw a joke.

"You tell," she answered.

"Snow use" he replied. "Now, I'll go out and feed the hens, and then I'll put on my boots and start on the road again. I'll see what's going on at the house, and then I'll come back again." They watched him ploughing through the snow, but because he had been there and was coming back it seemed not lonely at all, though Nettie said, wistfully, she did hope her mother could come that day, and Edna hoped she could find a way of getting home.

Toward noon they saw a queer box-sleigh coming from the main road. They watched it interestedly from the window as it approached nearer and nearer. "I do believe it is mother," exclaimed Nettie, joyfully. And sure enough the sleigh did stop before the door, a man got out, and then helped a slight woman in black to alight. "It is mother," cried Nettie, running to the door, and presently she was in her mother's arms.

Then there were great explanations. Like the little girls, Mrs. Black had been snowed in, for her sister lived quite a distance from the station, but she had at last been able to get some one of the neighbors to bring her across, as he had to go to the doctor's, and was willing to take her the short distance further.

"If I had known how well cared for you would be," she told her daughter, "and that you were not alone at all, I should have been much less anxious. Certainly, we have a great deal to be thankful for."

Edna felt that she certainly had a great deal to be thankful for when a little later she saw a big black sleigh stop before the door. She recognized it as Mrs. MacDonald's, for it was driven by her coach-man, though in it sat Cousin Ben. He had come back as he promised, but in great state. And because Nettie's mother had returned he bore Edna off alone, after many good-bys and promises to see her new friend as often as she could.

"How did you happen to come in Mrs. MacDonald's sleigh?" she asked her cousin.

"Well, I will tell you. When I reached the house I found that Mrs. MacDonald had telephoned over to ask about all of you, and to see how Celia was. When she heard where you were and all about it, she said she would send over her sleigh and I could go for you and Nettie in it, and so as that seemed a good arrangement I was going to put it into execution. We had decided to leave a note for Mrs. Black in case she should get back to-day, so she wouldn't be worried."

"It's really much better this way," returned Edna, "for now she has her mother, and I will have mine."

It seemed a delightful home coming, and because the snow was still so deep there was the extra holiday on Monday, but by Tuesday all started off to school again. Mrs. MacDonald knew all about Mrs. Black, and said she was a very good woman, who had taken this little house in the country because she could live there more cheaply, and because in such a place as she could afford in the city her little daughter would not be surrounded by pleasant influences. Nettie went to the district school, and was such a little girl as Edna's parents would select as a companion for their daughter. So, Edna felt she had made quite a discovery, and planned all sorts of times with Nettie when the winter was over.

Matters went on at school uninterruptedly, until just before Christmas, when it was suddenly made known that Miss Ashurst was to be married, and that another teacher would take her place after the holidays. The G. R.'s got up a linen shower for the departing teacher, but the Neighborhood Club did nothing. Its numbers were dwindling, for when it was learned what good times the rivals had at their meetings, there was more than one deserter. For some reason, Clara Adams had picked out Edna as the prime cause of all this. She had never forgiven her for winning the doll at the fair the year before, and was likewise furiously jealous of her friendship for Jennie Ramsey. If Edna had been a less generous and sweet-tempered child, matters might have been much worse, but even as it was they were made bad enough.

No sooner had the new teacher appeared than Clara set to work to do everything in her power to make Edna appear to disadvantage, by all sorts of mean innuendoes, by sly hints, by even open charges, till the child was almost in tears over the state of affairs.

"I would just tell Miss Newman, so I would," said Dorothy indignantly, when a specially mean speech of Clara's came to her ears.

"Oh, but I couldn't be a tattle-tale," declared Edna.

"She'd better not say anything about you to me," returned Dorothy. "She knows better than that. I'd tell her a thing or two."

"If Uncle Justus knew, he would believe me and not Clara," said Edna. "I don't cheat in my lessons, and he knows I don't, whatever Clara may say, and I'm not the one who sets the girls up to mischief, you know I'm n


"I know mighty well who it is," declared Dorothy, "and if this keeps up I shall tell, so I shall."

It did keep up till one morning the climax was reached when Miss Newman came into her school-room to find on the board a very good caricature of herself, with under it written: "Ugly, old Miss New," in scrawling letters. Clara came into the school-room late, and slipped into her seat after the exercises had begun. Miss Newman left the drawing on the board and made no reference to it, using a smaller board for what was necessary. She was far less attractive than Miss Ashurst, and had a dry little way with her, which many of the girls thought oldmaidish, but she was a good teacher, if not a very beautiful one. When the girls returned from recess, in place of Miss Newman at the desk stood Mr. Horner, his eyes fairly snapping with indignation, and his eyebrows looking fiercer than ever.

"Oh," whispered Dorothy, as she sank down into her seat by Edna's side. The rest of the girls looked pale and awe-stricken. Never before had they any recollection of Mr. Horner's coming into the room. Offenders were sometimes sent to him in the larger room, but this was a new experience.

There was complete silence, while Mr. Horner looked from one to the other as if he would search their very hearts. Some of the girls returned his gaze pleadingly, some dropped their heads, Clara Adams, with a little smile of indifference, began to play with her pencil. Mr. Horner glared at her. "Put that down!" he said, and she dropped it, though still wearing her impertinent little smile. "I wish to know," said Mr. Horner, "who was the first to arrive in this room this morning?"

"I was the last," spoke up Clara.

"You were not asked that," said Mr. Horner, turning upon her.

After quite a silence, Margaret arose. "I think I was the first, Mr. Horner," she said, and then sat down again.

"There was no one in the room when you came?"

"No, Mr. Horner."

"And was this on the board?" He pointed to the drawing.

"Yes, Mr. Horner."

"You did not do it?"

"No, Mr. Horner," then with a little catch of her breath, "I wouldn't do such a mean thing, not for nothing."

"Not for anything, I think you mean, Margaret," said Mr. Horner in gentler tones.

"Not for anything," repeated Margaret, meekly.

"Then, I shall have to ask each separately, and I expect a truthful answer," said Mr. Horner. He began putting the question, going from one to the next till every girl in the room had been questioned.

"It might have been one of the older girls," said Miss Newman, in an undertone to him.

Clara caught the words, as she was nearest. "I should think it would be very easy to know who did it," she said, "when there is only one of us girls who stays in the house."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Mr. Horner severely.

Clara was not daunted. "I mean that there is only one girl who can come into the school-room before the others can get here."

"Do you mean my niece? I should as soon think of suspecting Miss Newman herself." He looked over at Edna with a little reassuring smile. "However, as we do not seem to be making much headway I shall take other means of finding out who did this very unladylike and unkind thing." Then he gave them such a lecture as none of them forgot and if the G. R.'s did not have their motto brought home to them on that occasion they never did. Then Mr. Horner returned to his own school-room and Miss Newman called one of the girls to clean off the board.

Nothing further was said of the matter, and Miss Newman went on as if it had never happened; but one day the last of the week, the girls were asked to illustrate in pencil drawings a story from their history lesson.

"Oh, Miss Newman, I couldn't possibly do it," exclaimed Dorothy. "I don't expect finished drawings," she replied, "and you may even make them as humorous as you choose, but I want some little attempt, no matter how slight. Mr. Horner has asked that you do your best, and I shall expect you to hand in something beside blank paper."

Dorothy and Edna both sighed. Neither one had the slightest idea of drawing and knew that their results would be absurd, but they labored away and finally with half deprecating, half amused expressions showed their drawings to one another. It was as much as they could do to keep from laughing outright, they were so very funny, but they signed their names in the corner as Miss Newman directed them to do, and handed them in. Then, Miss Newman took them into the next room. At the close of school, she said, "Mr. Horner wishes Clara Adams to stay after school; he wishes to see her about her drawing."

Clara perked up and looked around with a little smirk. So she was the prize draughtsman, and she remained with a perfectly good grace. However, it was a very different looking Clara who was led into the room the next morning by Mr. Horner. Her eyes were swollen with crying and she wore a rebellious expression when Mr. Horner announced, "Clara Adams wishes to make a public acknowledgment of her part in the rudeness directed against Miss Newman by the drawing you all saw on the board, and she will also make a public apology both to her teacher and to my niece."

Clara murmured something unintelligible and burst into tears. The only words the girls could make out were "I did it." It was the most terrible thing that had ever happened to any of them and Edna felt so sorry for the culprit that all resentment vanished altogether. She forgot entirely that she was included in the apology, if apology there was, and all morning she cast the most sympathetic looks across the room at Clara.

It came out later that the drawings were the proof of the child's guilt, for they were done in the same style as the caricature and because they were so much better than the rest it was evident that only Clara could have made the figure on the board. She had come very early, had slipped upstairs before anyone else and had gone out again to return later and thus hoped to avoid any suspicion. It happened, too, that Ellen saw her come in and go out again and this of course clinched the matter when she was brought face to face with the Irish girl who did not know her name but recognized the hat and coat she wore.

The affair made a great impression but somehow did not increase Miss Newman's popularity, for the idea of the drawings was hers and Clara could not forgive her for the position into which she had forced her, therefore she lost no opportunity of making it as unpleasant for her teacher as she could in the thousand and one ways a sly and unprincipled girl can, and her little pin-pricks were so annoying, that finally Dorothy and Edna, who had not particularly cared for the new teacher, began to stand up for her and to do as many kind things as they could. Perhaps the G. R. Club was mainly responsible for this, but at all events it made matters a little happier for the teacher.

As for Clara, Dorothy set her face against any sort of friendship with her, but it was not within Edna's heart to be unkind to anyone, and she made up her mind that she would meet Clara half way if ever the chance came.

Uncle Justus never mentioned the affair of the caricature to her, but she knew he had never the slightest belief that she had done it and his open approval of her before the whole class was very much valued. She had won her way into the hearts of most of the girls, and there were only two or three of Clara's most adoring adherents who still called her "a pet" and said she was at the bottom of all Clara's trouble. This seemed a very strange way to look at it, but poor Clara was so blinded by jealousy and rage that she saw nothing in the right light. Edna wondered if she would ever cease to dislike her, and insisted to Dorothy that they ought to try to persuade her to come into the club. "You see," she said, "if she could once find out what doing to others really means she maybe would get over all her hatefulness. Mother thinks so, and I'm not going to give up being nice to her if I get a chance."

"Well, you don't catch me," returned Dorothy. "I don't want to go with such a horrid story-teller as she is. I shouldn't think you would, either."

Edna said not a word, but still hoped.

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