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   Chapter 15 A KNITTING BEE.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 10314

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"What shall the story be about?" asked grandma, her needles flashing as they flew.

"When you were a little girl," answered Cricket, promptly, in the usual formula. "Oh, grandma! I have an idea! haven't you a box of old things that I could look over, and select something for you to tell me a story about, like that dear old grandma in 'Old-Fashioned Girl?'"

"Yes, Jean, I have the very thing, and it's a good idea. Bring me that little table that stands in the corner. That's right. Put it close beside me. Now, open these drawers-yes, pull them way out. Now, lift that dividing piece. You see the bottom is inlaid. Touch the second one of the little black inlaid circles."

"A secret drawer!" cried Cricket, excitedly. "Oh, grandma! how book-y!"

"Yes. Grandpa brought this table from China, years ago. It is full of secret places."

Cricket touched the spring, and the supposed bottom flew up, showing a box below. The little stand was really more of a cabinet than a table, though it had a flat top and rolled easily on its castors. In the box thus opened were all sorts of things.

"They are all old keepsakes," said grandma. "Find something you want to hear about."

Cricket lifted a string of oddly carved beads.

"This, grandma. Isn't it funny? Has it an interesting story?"

Grandma took the beads in her hands, thoughtfully.

"It's an old keepsake, to be sure, and I used to be very fond of it when I was a girl, and I wore it a good deal, but I don't know that there is any story connected with it. But I'll tell you how I got it. It taught me a bit of a lesson. I'll tell you the story, and you can guess the lesson for yourself, if you can.

"You know I lived in Boston when I was a girl. I went to a private school there, of, perhaps, twenty girls. It was kept by Miss Sarah and Miss Abbie Cartwright. We all loved Miss Sarah, but none of us liked Miss Abbie, and I don't wonder at it when I think how little she understood girls.

"We used to recite seated in a semi-circle around the teacher, and all whispering was strictly forbidden during the recitation. One day-but I must stop here, and tell you that we all wore white stockings and low shoes then. We never had any high shoes at all. Our white stockings must always be fresh and clean, of course, and I always put on a clean pair every day. A soiled stocking would have made us feel simply disgraced. Coloured stockings were perfectly unknown as far as I remember, and I should have felt dreadfully mortified to wear anything but white."

"Oh, I know! like Ellen in the 'Wide, Wide World,'" broke in Cricket. "Don't you remember her horrid aunt, who dyed all her white stockings gray, and she felt so badly? I never knew why. Wouldn't I feel silly in white stockings now!"

"Yes, but if everybody wore them, it would be different. There was one girl, Ph?be Dawson, in my class, who was a very untidy girl. She always had hooks off her dress, or a hook and eye put together that did not mate, or her dress was broken from its gathers. Her stockings were always grimy around the ankles. Ours were always smoothly gartered up, but hers wrinkled down over her shoes."

"Yes," nodded Cricket, "Sort of mousquetaire stockings."

Grandma laughed. "That exactly describes it. I know now there was some excuse for her getting her stockings so dirty, for she had a much longer walk to school than any of us did, as she came from Charlestown,-over a long, dusty road.

"So, one day, as I was saying, the recitation was just over, and Miss Abbie was talking about something just to fill up the time till the class bell should ring. Ph?be Dawson sat just opposite me in the half circle. I can see her now. The part in her hair was as uneven as possible-what we used to call a 'rail-fence' parting, and her braids straggled unevenly down behind her ears. She had forgotten the brooch that should have fastened her collar. The facing of her dress was ripped and was hanging down, and her pantalets were actually dirty."

"Pantalets, grandma?"

"Yes, we all wore pantalets, beautifully starched and ironed, that came nearly to the tops of our village-ties, as we called them. We had very fancy ones for Sundays, and plainer ones for every day, but we were very particular about them. Ph?be sat with her feet crossed and actually sticking out in front of her-which was considered very bad manners-and her stockings were very grimy.

"I forgot about the rule of no whispering, and I said, suddenly, to Dolly Chipman, who sat on the other side of me, 'Pearl-gray stockings are the latest thing from Paris. You can always depend on Ph?be Dawson to set the style-pig-sty-le.'

"Instantly Miss Abbie's cold, gray eyes were on me.

"'Did you speak, Miss Winthrop?' for we were all called, very formally, by our last names.

"'Yes'm,' I answered, very meekly.

"'Very well, then, we will hear the remark you made, and judge if it was necessary enough to excuse you for breaking the rule.'

"I fairly gasped, for nothing would have made me repeat the remark, and hurt Ph?be's feelings. In spite of her untidiness, we all liked her, for she was always good com

pany. Besides, we really respected her, for she was one of the best scholars in the class.

"'Please excuse me, Miss Abbie,' I said, getting furiously red. 'It was a silly little remark I made, and I had no business to make it.'

"'We will be the best judge of that, Miss Winthrop,' she said, in her severest tones. Just then the class bell rang outside the room. This happened to be the last class of the morning. Some of the girls got up to go, but Miss Abbie motioned them down.

"'If you choose to keep the whole class waiting,' she said to me, 'it will not be pleasant, but we can wait. I hope you enjoy feeling we are all waiting for you.'"

"How perfectly horrid of her!" cried Cricket.

"I really think it was, myself. Well, the girls groaned softly, and frowned at me, and motioned 'tell,' with their lips, but nothing would have induced me to have repeated my silly little speech, and make them all laugh at Ph?be.

"I was ashamed of myself already, for saying a mean thing of one of my classmates, even to one girl, and I certainly did not intend to repeat the remark for the benefit of the whole class.

"'I can't tell you before them all, Miss Abbie,' I said, desperately, 'but I will tell you all by yourself. It was something I had no business to say.'

"'If it was fitting to be said to one girl, it is fitting to be heard by all,' she said, inexorably. I have always thought that she was very dull not to see that it must have been some uncomplimentary personal remark-possibly about herself, for all she knew."

"Oh, I wish it had been!" broke in Cricket.

"I am very glad it wasn't. But we were well-trained girls in those days, and rarely thought of grumbling at anything our teachers did. We might not like them, but I don't remember talking about them much.

"'We are waiting,' she said, again, after a moment.

"'I can't tell you before the class,' I repeated, obstinately. 'But I'll tell you by yourself. I'm ashamed I said it, anyway.'

"Perhaps Ph?be had noticed me glance at her, or perhaps she knew, more than we realized, that we sometimes made fun of her untidiness, for she suddenly said, good-naturedly:

"'Do tell what it is, if it's anything about me, I sha'n't care. I'd much rather go home and get my dinner.'

"'Was it about Ph?be?' asked Miss Abbie, instantly.

"To this point-blank question, I had to say 'Yes.'

"'Tell it,' urged Ph?be, good-naturedly.

"'Well, then,' I began, desperately,-but I could not say it. I hesitated, and then added, quickly:

"'I said I wondered how Ph?be Dawson always managed to keep herself looking so nice!'

"A little surprised look, then a laugh, went around the class. Every one knew that I was not speaking the truth, and I dare say Miss Abbie knew it herself. She cast a very sharp glance at me, but, nevertheless, dismissed the class. Every one surrounded me in the cloak-room, laughing, and teasing me about what I had said. But I only waited till Miss Sarah was at liberty, and then I went to her and told her the story. I was very angry, and in a state of great indignation against Miss Abbie, and finally I burst out with, 'She made me tell that lie, herself!'

"'Hush! my dear!' Miss Sarah said, gravely. 'If you think, you will see that the trouble was that your sense of politeness was stronger than your sense of truth. Again, if you hadn't broken the rule about whispering in class in the first place, nothing would have happened. So I think we won't blame Miss Abbie. I will tell her about it myself, and nothing more will be said about it to you.'

"I thought Miss Sarah was very good and kind, but my conscience troubled me very much. Ph?be Dawson, too, made me feel thoroughly ashamed of myself. When she came to school the next day she brought me this lovely string of beads, which she said her uncle had brought her home from India.

"'You had all that trouble on my account yesterday,' she said, in her good-natured way, 'so I brought you these to make up. My uncle brings me quantities of things, so you must take these, to please me,' for, of course, I protested against taking them.

"'You needn't have minded about telling what you really did say,' she went on. 'I know I'm dreadfully untidy, but if I had a mother, or a sister, or any one to look out for me, I'd be different, perhaps,' and her eyes filled with tears.

"Well, I grew very fond of Ph?be Dawson after that, and soon I went to see her. She had a lovely home, full of beautiful things, but everything was as untidy and uncared for as she was herself. Ph?be's mother had died when she was a baby, and her father was a great scholar, who was always buried in his books, and the two servants managed things as they liked. But Ph?be improved very much as she grew older, and we remained friends always."

"Is she living now?" asked Cricket, turning over the beads with interest.

"No, she died several years ago, and she was the grandmother of your little friend, Emily Drayton."

"Was she? How funny! And what was the lesson you learned, grandma?"

"You may guess that for yourself," said grandma, smiling. "Will you choose again?"

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