What Katy Did at School/Chapter 10
A BUDGET OF LETTERS.
"Hillsover, October 21st.
Dearest Elsie,—I didn't write you last Saturday, because that was the day we came back to school, and there hasn't been one minute since when I could. We thought perhaps Miss Jane would let us off from the abstracts on Sunday, because it was the first day, and school was hardly begun; and, if she had, I was going to write to you instead, but she didn't. She said the only way to keep girls out of mischief was to keep them busy. Rose Red is sure that something has gone wrong with Miss Jane's missionary during the vacation,—she's so dreadfully cross. Oh, dear, how I do hate to come back and be scolded by her again!
"I forget if I told you about the abstracts. They are of the sermons on Sunday, you know; and we have to give the texts, and the heads, and as much as we can remember of the rest. Sometimes Dr. Prince begins: 'I shall divide my subject into three parts,' and tells what they are going to be. When he does that, most of the girls take out their pencils and put them down, and then they don't listen any more. Katy and I don't, for she says it isn't right not to listen some. Miss Jane pretends that she reads all the abstracts through, but she doesn't; for once Rose Red, just to try her, wrote in the middle of hers, 'I am sitting by my window at this moment, and a red cow is going down the street. I wonder if she is any relation to Mrs. Seccomb's cow?' and Miss Jane never noticed it, but marked her 'perfect' all the same. Wasn't it funny?
"But I must tell you about our journey back. Mr. Page came all the way with us, and was ever so nice. Clarence rode down in the carriage to the depot. He gave me a real pretty india-rubber and gold pencil for a good-by present. I think you and Dorry would like Clarence, only just at first you might say he was rather rude and cross. I did; but now I like him ever so much. Cousin Olivia gave Katy a worked collar and sleeves, and me an embroidered pocket-handkerchief with clover leaves in the corner. Wasn't it kind? I'm sorry I said in my last letter that we didn't enjoy our vacation. We didn't much; but it wasn't exactly Cousin Olivia's fault. She meant we should, but she didn't know how. Some people don't, you know. And don't tell any one I said so, will you?
"Rose Red got here in the train before we did. She was so glad when we came that she cried. It was because she was home-sick waiting four hours at the Nunnery without us, she said. Rose is such a darling! She had a splendid vacation, and went to three parties and a picnic. Isn't it queer? her winter bonnet is black velvet trimmed with pink, and so is mine. I wanted blue at first, but Cousin Olivia said pink was more stylish; and now I am glad, because I like to be like Rose.
"Katy and I have got No. 2 this term. It's a good deal pleasanter than our old room, and the entry-stove is just outside the door, so we shall keep warm. There is sun, too, only Mrs. Nipson has nailed thick cotton over all the window except a little place at top. Every window in the house is just so. You can't think how mad the girls are about it. The first night we had an indignation meeting, and passed resolutions, and some of the girls said they wouldn't stay,—they should write to their fathers to come and take them home. None of them did, though. It's perfectly forlorn, not being able to look out. Oh, dear, how I wish it were spring!
"We've got a new dining-room. It's a great deal bigger than the old one, so now we all eat together, and don't have any first and second tables. It's ever so much nicer, for I used to get so dreadfully hungry waiting that I didn't know what to do. One thing is horrid, though, and that is, that every girl has to make a remark in French every day at dinner. The remarks are about a subject. Mrs. Nipson gives out the subjects. To-day the subject was 'Les oiseaux,' and Rose Red said, 'J'aime beaucoup les oiseaux, et surtout ceux qui sont rôtis,' which made us all laugh. That ridiculous little Bella Arkwright said, 'J'aime beaucoup les oiseaux qui sing.' She thought sing was French! Every girl in school began, 'J'aime beaucoup les oiseaux'! To-morrow the subject is 'Jules César.' I'm sure I don't know what to say. There isn't a word in Ollendorf about him.
"There aren't so many new scholars this term as there were last. The girls think it is because Mrs. Nipson isn't so popular as Mrs. Florence used to be. Two or three of the new ones look pleasant, but I don't know them yet. Louisa Agnew is the nicest girl here next to Rose. Lilly Page says she is vulgar, because her father paints portraits and they don't know the same people that Cousin Olivia knows, but she isn't a bit. We went to spend the day there just before we left Ashburn, and her father and mother are splendid. Their house is just full of all sorts of queer, interesting things, and pictures; and Mr. Agnew told us ever so many stories about painters, and what they did. One was about a boy who used to make figures of lions in butter, and afterward he became famous. I forget his name. We had a lovely time. I wish you could see Lou's little sister Daisy. She's only two, and a perfect little beauty. She has got ten teeth, and hardly ever cries.
"Please ask papa"—
Just as Clover had got to this point she was interrupted by Katy, who walked in with her hat on, and a whole handful of letters.
"See here!" she cried. "Isn't this delightful? Miss Marsh took me with her to the Post-Office, and we found these. Three for you and two for me, and one for Rose. Wait a minute till I give Rose hers, and we'll read them together."
In another moment the two were cosily seated with their heads close together, opening their budget. First came one from papa.
"My dear Daughters,"—
"It's for you too, you see," said Katy.
"Last week came your letter of the 31st, and we were glad to hear that you were well and ready to go back to school. By the time this reaches you, you will be in Hillsover, and your winter term begun. Make the most of it, for we all feel as if we could never let you go from home again. Johnnie says she shall rub Spalding's Prepared Glue all over your dresses when you come back, so that you cannot stir. I am a little of the same way of thinking myself. Cecy has returned from boarding-school, and set up as a young lady. Elsie is much excited over the party dresses which Mrs. Hall is having made for her, and goes over every day to see if any thing new has come. I am glad on this account that you are away just now, for it would not be easy to keep steady heads and continue you studies, with so much going on next door. I have sent Cousin Olivia a check to pay for the things she bought for you, and am much obliged to her for seeing that you were properly fitted out. Katy was very right to consider expense, but I wish you to have all things needful. I enclose two ten-dollar bills, one for each of you, for pocket-money; and, with much love from the children, am,"Yours affectionately,
"P.S.—Cousin Helen has had a sharp attack, but is better."
"I wish papa would write longer letters," said Katy. "He always sends us money, but he don't send half enough words with it." She folded the letter, and fondled it affectionately.
"He's always so busy," replied Clover. "Don't you remember how he used to sit down at his desk and scrabble off his letters, and how somebody always was sure to ring the bell before he got through? I'm very glad to have some money, for now I can pay the sixty-two cents I owe you. It's my turn to read. This is from Elsie, and a real long one. Put away the bills first, Katy, or they'll be lost. That's right; now we'll begin together."
"Dear Clover,—You don't know how glad I am when my turn comes to get a letter all to myself. Of course I read papa's, and all the rest you write to the family, but it never seems as if you were talking to me unless you begin 'Dear Elsie.' I wish some time you'd put in a little note marked 'private,' just for me, which nobody else need see. It would be such fun! Please do. I should think you would have hated staying at Cousin Olivia's. When I read what she said about your travelling dresses looking as if they had come out of the Ark, I was too mad for any thing. But I shouldn't think you'd want much to go back to school either, though sometimes it must be splendid. John has named her old stockinet doll, which she used to call 'Scratchface,' 'Nippy,' after Mrs. Nipson; and I made her a muslin cap, and Dorry drew a pair of black spectacles round her eyes. She is a perfect fright, and John plays all the time that dreadful things happen to her. She pricks her with pins, and pretends she has the ear-ache, and lets her tumble down and hurt herself, till sometimes I nearly feel sorry, though it's all make-believe. When you wrote us about only having pudding for dinner, I didn't a bit. John put her into the rag-closet that very day, and has been starving her to death ever since, and Phil says it serves her right. You can't think how awfully lonely I sometimes get without you. If it wasn't for Helen Gibbs, that new girl I told you about, I shouldn't know what to do. She is the prettiest girl in Miss McCrane's school. Her hair curls just like mine, only it is four times as long and a million times as thick, and her waist is really and truly not much bigger round than a bed-post. We're the greatest friends. She says she loves me just exactly as much as if I was her sister, but she never had any real sisters. She was quite mad the other day because I said I couldn't love her quite so well as you and Katy; and all recess-time she wouldn't speak to me, but now we've made up. Dorry is so awfully in love with her that I never can get him to come into the room when she is here, and he blushes when we tease him about her. But this is a great secret. Dorry and I play chess every evening. He almost always beats unless papa comes behind and helps me. Phil has learned too, because he always wants to do every thing that we do. Dorry gives him a castle, and a bishop, and a knight, and four pawns, and then beats him in six moves. Phil gets so mad that we can't help laughing. Last night he buttoned his king up inside his jacket, and said, 'There! you can't checkmate me now, any way!'
"Cecy has come home. She is a young lady now. She does her hair up quite different, and wears long dresses. This winter she is going to parties, and Mrs. Hall is going to have a party for her on Thursday, with real, grown-up young ladies and gentlemen at it. Cecy has got some beautiful new dresses,—a white muslin, a blue tarlatan, and a pink silk. The pink silk is the prettiest, I think. Cecy is real kind, and lets me see all her things. She has got a lovely breastpin too, and a new fan with ivory sticks, and all sorts of things. I wish I was grown up. It must be so nice. I was to tell you something, only you mustn't tell any body except Katy. Don't you remember how Cecy used to say that she never was going out to drive with young gentlemen, but was going to stay at home and read the Bible to poor people? Well, she didn't tell the truth, for she has been out three times already with Sylvester Slack in his buggy. When I told her she oughtn't to do so, because it was breaking a promise, she only laughed, and said I was a silly little girl. Isn't it queer?
"I want to tell you what an awful thing I did the other night. Maria Avery invited me to tea, and papa said I might go. I didn't want to much, but I didn't know what to tell Maria, so I went. You know how poor they are, and how aunt Izzie used to say that they were 'touchy,' so I thought I would take great care not to hurry home right after tea, for fear they would think I wasn't having a good time. So I waited, and waited, and waited, and got so sleepy that I had to pinch my fingers to keep awake. At last I was sure that it must be almost nine, so I asked Mr. Avery if he'd please take me home; and don't you believe, when we got there, it was a quarter past ten, and papa was coming for me! Dorry said he guessed I must be enjoying myself to stay so late. I didn't tell anybody about it for three days, because I knew they'd laugh at me, and they did. Wasn't it funny? And old Mrs. Avery looked as sleepy as I felt, and kept yawning behind her hand. I told papa if I had a watch of my own I shouldn't make such mistakes, and he laughed, and said, 'We'll see.' Oh, do you suppose that means he's going to give me one?
"We are so proud of Dorry's having taken two prizes at the examination yesterday. He took the second Latin prize, and the first Mathematics. Dr. Pullman says he thinks Dorry is one of the most thorough boys he ever saw. Isn't that nice? The prizes were books: one was the life of Benjamin Franklin, and the other the Life of General Butler. Papa says he doesn't think much of the Life of Butler; but Dorry has begun it, and says it is splendid. Phil says when he takes a prize he wants candy and a new knife; but he'll have to wait a good while unless he studies harder than he does now. He has just come in to tease me to go up into the garret and help him to get down his sled, because he thinks it is going to snow; but there isn't a sign of it, and the weather is quite warm. I asked him what I should say for him to you, and he said, 'Oh, tell her to come home, and any thing you please.' I said, 'Shall I give her your love, and say that you are very well?' and he says, 'Oh, yes, Miss Elsie, I guess you'd think yourself mighty well if your head ached as much as mine does every day.' Don't be frightened, however, for he's just as fat and rosey as can be; but almost every day he says he feels sick about school-time. When papa was at Moorfield, Miss Finch believed him, and let him stay at home two mornings. I don't wonder at it, for you can think what a face he makes up; but he got well so fast that she pays no attention to him now. The other day, about eleven o'clock, papa met him coming along the road, shying stones at the birds, and making lots of noise. He told papa he felt so sick that his teacher had let him go home; but papa noticed that his mouth looked sticky, so he opened his dinner-basket, and found that the little scamp had eaten up all his dinner on the road, corned beef, bread and butter, a great piece of mince pie, and six pears. Papa couldn't help laughing, but he made him turn around and go right back to school again.
"I told you in my last about Johnnie's going to school with me now. She is very proud of it, and is always talking about 'Elsie's and my school.' She is twice as smart as the other girls of her age. Miss McCrane has put her into the composition class, where they write compositions on their slates. The first subject was, 'A Kitten;' and John's began, 'She's a dear, little, soft scratching thing, only you'd better not pull her by the tail, but she's real cunning.' All the girls laughed, and Johnnie called out, 'Well, it's true, anyhow.'
"I can't write any more, for I must study my Latin. Beside, this is the longest letter that ever was. I have been four days writing it. Please send me one just as long. Old Mary and the children send lots of love, and papa says, 'Tell Katy if a pudding diet sets her to growing again she must come home at once, for he couldn't afford it.' Oh, dear, how I wish I could see you! Please give my love to Rose Red. She must be perfectly splendid. "Your affectionate Elsie."
"Oh, the dear little duck! Isn't that just like her?" said Clover. "I think Elsie has a real genius for writing, don't you? She tells all the little things, and is so droll and cunning. Nobody writes such nice letters. Who's that from, Katy?"
"Cousin Helen, and it's been such a long time coming. Just look at this date! September 22, a whole month ago!" Then she began to read.
"Dear Katy,—It seems a long time since we have had a talk, but I have been less well lately, so that it has been difficult to write. Yesterday I sat up for the first time in several weeks, and to-day I am dressed and beginning to feel like myself. I wish you could see my room this morning,—I often wish this,—but it is so particularly pretty, for little Helen has been in with a great basket full of leaves and flowers, and together we have dressed it to perfection. There are four vases of roses, a bowl full of chrysanthemums, and red leaves round all my pictures. The leaves are Virginia creeper. It doesn't last long, but is lovely while it lasts. Helen also brought a bird's nest which the gardener found in a hawthorn-tree on the lawn. It hangs on a branch, and she has tied it to one side of my bookshelves. On the opposite side is another nest quite different,—a great, gray hornets' nest, as big as a band-box, which came from the mountains a year ago. I wonder if any such grow in the woods about Hillsover. In spite of the red leaves, the day is warm as summer, and the windows stand wide open. I suppose it is cooler with you, but I know it is delicious cold. Now that I think of it, you must be in Ashburn by this time. I hope you will enjoy every moment of your vacation.
"Oct. 19th. I did not finish my letter the day it as begun, dear Katy, and the next morning it proved that I was not so strong as I fancied, and I had to go to bed again. I am still there, and, as you see, writing with a pencil; but do not be worried about me, for the doctor says I am mending, and soon I hope to be up and in my chair. The red leaves are gone, but the roses are lovely as ever, for little Helen keeps bringing me fresh ones. She has just been in to read me her composition. The subject was 'Stars,' and you can't think how much she found to say about them, She is a bright little creature, and it is a great pleasure to teach her. I am hardly ever so sick that she cannot come for her lessons, and she gets on fast. We have made an arrangement that when she knows more than I do she is to give me lessons, and I am not sure that the time is so very far off.
"I must tell you about my Ben. He is a new canary which was given me in the summer, and lately he has grown so delightfully tame that I feel as if it were not a bird at all, but a fairy prince come to live with me and amuse me. The cage door is left open always now, and he flies in and out as he likes. He is a restless, inquisitive fellow, and visits any part of the room, trying each fresh thing with his bill to see if it is good to eat, and then perching on it to see if it good to sit upon. He mistakes his own reflection in the looking-glass for another canary, and sits on the pin-cushion twittering and making love to himself for half an hour at a time. To watch him is one of my greatest amusements, especially just now when I am in bed so much. Sometimes he hides and keeps so still that I have not the least idea where he is. but the moment I call, 'Ben, Ben,' and hold out my finger, wings begin to rustle, and out he flies and perches on my finger. He isn't the least bit in the world afraid, but sits on my head or shoulder, eats out of my mouth, and kisses me with his beak. He is on the pillow at this moment making runs at my pencil, of which he is mortally jealous. It is just so with my combs and brushes if I attempt to do my hair; he cannot bear to have me do any thing but play with him. I do wish I could show him to you and Clover.
"Little Helen, my other pet, has just come in with a sponge cake which she frosted herself. She sends her love, and says when you come to me next summer she will frost you each one just like it. Good-by, my Katy. I had nothing to write about and have written it, but I never like to keep silent too long, or let you feel as if you were forgotten by your loving cousin,Helen."
"P.S. Be sure to wear plenty of warm wraps for your winter walks. And, Katy, dear, you must eat meat every day. Mrs. Nipson will probably give up her favorite pudding now that the cold weather has begun; but, if not, write to papa."
"Isn't that letter Cousin Helen all over?" said Katy, "So little about her illness, and so bright and merry, and yet she has really been sick. Papa says 'a sharp attack.' Isn't she the dearest person in the world, next to papa I mean?"
"Yes, indeed. There's nobody like her. I do hope we can go to see her next summer. Now it's my turn. I can't think who this letter is from. Oh, Clarence! Katy, I can't let you see this. I promised I wouldn't show his letters to anybody, not even you!"
"Oh, very well. But you've got another. Dorry, isn't it? Read that first, and I'll go away and leave you in peace."
So Clover read:—
"Dear Clover,—Elsie says she is going to write you to-day; but I won't stop because next Saturday I'm going out fishing with the Slacks. There are a great many trout now in Blue Brook. Eugene caught six the other day,—no, five, one was a minnow. Papa has given me a splendid rod, it lets out as tall as a house. I hope I shall catch with it. Alexander says the trout will admire it so much that they can't help biting; but he was only funning. Elsie and I play chess most every night. She plays a real good game for a girl. Sometimes pa helps, and then she beats. Miss Finch is well. She don't keep house quite like Katy did, and I don't like her so well as I do you, but she's pretty nice. The other day we had a nutting picnic, and she gave me and Phil a loaf of Election cake and six quince turnovers to carry. The boys gave three cheers for her when they saw them. Did Elsie tell you that I have invented a new machine? It is called 'The Intellectual Peach Parer.' There is a place to hold a book while you pare the peaches. It is very convenient. I don't think of any thing else to tell you. Cecy has got home, and is going to have a party next week. She's grown up now, she says, and she wears her hair quite different. It's a great deal thicker than it used to be. Elsie says it's because there are rats in it; but I don't believe her. Elsie has got a new friend. Her name is Helen Gibbs. She's quite pretty.
"Your affectionate brother,
P.S.—John wants to put in a note."
John's note was written in a round hand, as easy to read as print.
"Dear Clover,—I am well, and hope you are the same. I wish you would write me a letter of my own. I go to school with Elsie now. We write compossizions. They are hard to write. We don't go up into the loft half so much as we used to when you ware at home. Mrs. Worrett came to dinner last week. She says she ways two hundred and atey pounds. I should think it would be dredful to way that. I only way 76. My head comes up to the mark on the door where you ware mesured when you ware twelve. Isn't that tal? Good-bye. I send a kiss to Katy."Your loving
After they had finished this note, Katy went away, leaving Clover to open Clarence's letter by herself. It was not so well written or spelt as Dorry's by any means.
"Dear Clover,—Don't forget what you promised. I mene about not showing this. And don't tell Lilly I rote. If you do, she'll be as mad as hops. I haven't been doing much since you went away. School begun yesterday, and I am glad; for it's awfully dull now that you girls have gone. Mother says Guest has got flees on him, so she won't let him come into the house any more. I stay out in the barn with him insted. He is well, and sends you a wag of his tail. Jim and me are making him a colar. It is black, with G.P. on it, for Guest Page, you know. A lot of the boys had a camping out last week. I went. It was real jolly; but ma wouldn't let me stay all night, so I lost the best part. They roasted scullpins for supper, and had a bon-fire. The camp was on Harstnet Hill. Next time you come I'll take you out there. Pa has gone to Mane on bizness. He said I must take care of the house, so I've borrowed Jim's gun, and if any robers come I mean to shoot them. I always go to sleep with a broom agenst the door, so as to wake up when they open it. This morning I thought they had come, for the broom was gone, and the gun too; but it was only Briget. She opened the door, and it fell down; but I didn't wake up, so she took it away, and put the gun in the closset. I was mad, I can tell you."This is only a short letter, but I hope you will answer it soon. Give my love to Katy, and tell Dorry that if he likes I'll send him my compas for his machenery, because I've got two.
"Your affectionate Cousin,
This was the last of the budget. As Clover folded it up, she was dismayed by the tinkle of the tea-bell.
"Oh, dear!" she cried, "there's tea, and I have not finished my letter to Elsie. Where has the afternoon gone! How splendid it has been! I wish I could have four letters every day as long as I live."