What Katy Did at School/Chapter 5
ROSES AND THORNS.
" H! what is it? What has happened? cried Clover starting up in bed, the next morning, as a clanging sound roused her suddenly from sleep. It was only the rising-bell, ringing at the end of Quaker Row.
Katy held her watch up to the dim light. She could just see the hands. Yes: they pointed to six. It was actually morning! She and Clover jumped up, and began to dress as fast as possible.
"We've only got half an hour," said Clover, unhooking the rules, and carrying them to the window,—"half an hour; and this says that we must turn the mattress, smooth the under-sheet over the bolster, and spend five minutes in silent devotion! We'll have to be quick to do all that, besides dressing ourselves!"
It is never easy to be quick, when one is in a hurry. Every thing sets itself against you. Fingers turn into thumbs; dresses won't button, nor pins keep their place. With all their haste, Katy and Clover were barely ready when the second bell sounded. As they hastened downstairs, Katy fastening her breast-pin, and Clover her cuffs, they met other girls, some looking half asleep, some half dressed; all yawning, rubbing their eyes, and complaining of the early hour.
"Isn't it horrid?" said Lilly Page, hurrying by with no collar on, and her hair hastily tucked into a net. "I never get up till nine o'clock when I'm at home. Ma saves my breakfast for me. She says I shall have my sleep out while I have the chance."
"You don't look quite awake now," remarked Clover.
"No, because I haven't washed my face. Half the time I don't, before breakfast. There's that old mattress has to be turned; and, when I sleep over, I just do that first, and then scramble my clothes on the best way I can. Any thing not to be marked!"
After prayers and breakfast were done, the girls had half an hour for putting their bedrooms to rights, during which interval it is to he hoped that Lilly found time to wash her face. After that, lessons began, and lasted till one o'clock. Dinner followed, with an hour's "recreation;" then the bell rang for "silent study hour," when the girls sat with their books in their bedrooms, but were not allowed to speak to each other. Next came a walk.
"Who are you going to walk with?" asked Rose Red, meeting Clover in Quaker Row.
"I don't know. Katy, I guess."
"Are you really? You and she like each other, don't you? Do you know, you're the first sisters I ever knew at school who did! Generally, they quarrel awfully. The Stearns girls, who were here last term, scarcely spoke to each other. They didn't even room together; and Sarah Stearns was always telling tales against Sue, and Sue against Sarah."
"How disgusting! I never heard of any thing so mean," cried Clover, indignantly. "Why, I wouldn't tell tales about Katy if we quarrelled ever so much. We never do, though, Katy is so sweet."
"I suppose she is," said Rose, rather doubtfully; "but, do you know, I'm sort of afraid of her. It's because she's so tall. Tall people always scare me. And then she looks so grave and grown up! Don't tell her I said so, though; for I want her to like me."
"Oh, she isn't a bit grave or grown up. She's the funniest girl in the world. Wait till you know her," replied loyal Clover.
"I'd give any thing if I could walk with you part of this term," went on Rose, putting her arm round Clover's waist. "But you see, unluckily, I'm engaged straight through. All of us old girls are. I walk with May Mather this week and next, then Esther Dearborn for a month, then Lilly Page for two weeks, and all the rest of the time with Mary. I can't think why I promised Lilly. I'm sure I don't want to go with her. I'd ask Mary to let me off, only I'm afraid she'd feel bad. I say, suppose we engage now to walk with each other for the first half of next term."
"Why, that's not till October!" said Clover.
"I know it; but it's nice to be beforehand. Will you?"
"Of course I will; provided that Katy has somebody pleasant to go with," replied Clover, immensely flattered at being asked by the popular Rose. Then they ran downstairs, and took their places in the long procession of girls, who were ranged two and two, ready to start. Miss Jane walked at the head; and Miss Marsh, another teacher, brought up the rear. Rose Red whispered that it was like a funeral and a caravan mixed,—"as cheerful as hearses at both ends, and wild beasts in the middle."
The walk was along a wooded road; a mile out and a mile back. The procession was not permitted to stop or straggle, or take any of the liberties which make walking pleasant. Still, Katy and Clover enjoyed it. There was a spring smell in the air, and the woods were beginning to be pretty. They even found a little trailing arbutus blossoming in a sunny hollow. Lilly was just in front of them, and amused them with histories of different girls, whom she pointed out in the long line. That was Esther Dearborn,—Rose Red's friend. Handsome, wasn't she? but awfully sarcastic. The two next were Amy Alsop and Ellen Gray. They always walked together, because they were so intimate. Yes; they were nice enough, only so distressingly good. Amy did not get one single mark last term! That child with pig-tails was Bella Arkwright. Why on earth did Katy want to know about her? She was a nasty little thing.
"She's just about Elsie's height," replied Katy. "Who's that pretty girl with pink velvet on her hat?"
"Dear me! Do you think she's pretty? I don't. Her name is Louisa Agnew. She lives at Ashburn,—quite near us; but we don't know them. Her family are not at all in good society."
"What a pity! She looks so sweet and lady like."
Lilly tossed her head. "They're quite common people," she said. "They live in a little mite of a house, and her father paints portraits."
"But I should think that would be nice. Doesn't she ever take you to see his pictures?"
"Take me!" cried Lilly, indignantly. "I should think not. I tell you we don't visit. I just speak when we're here, but I never see her when I'm at home."
"Move on, young ladies. What are you stopping for?" cried Miss Jane.
"Yes; move on," muttered Rose Red, from behind. "Don't you hear Policeman X?"
From walking-hour till tea-time was "recreation" again. Lilly improved this opportunity to call at No. 6. She had waited to see how the girls were likely to take in the school before committing herself to intimacy; but, now that Rose Red had declared in their favor, she was ready to begin to be friendly.
"How lovely!" she said, looking about. "You got the end room, after all, didn't you? What splendid times you'll have! Oh, how plainly you can see Berry Searles's window! Has he spoken to you yet?"
"Spoken to us,—of course not! Why should he?" replied Katy: "he doesn't know us, and we don't know him."
"That's nothing: half the girls in the school bow, and speak, and carry on with young men they don't know. You won't have a bit of fun if you're so particular."
"I don't want that kind of fun," replied Katy, with energy in her voice; "neither does Clover. And I can't imagine how the girls can behave so. It isn't lady-like at all."
Katy was very fond of this word, lady-like. She always laid great stress upon it. It seemed in some way to be connected with Cousin Helen, and to mean every thing that was good, and graceful, and sweet.
"Dear me! I'd no idea you were so dreadfully proper," said Lilly, pouting. "Mother said you were as prim and precise as your grandmother; but I didn't suppose"—
"How unkind!" broke in Clover, taking fire, as usual, at any affront to Katy. "Katy prim and precise! She isn't a bit! She's twice as much fun as the rest of you girls; but it's nice fun,—not this horrid stuff about students. I wish your mother wouldn't say such things."
"I didn't—she didn't—I don't mean exactly that," stammered Lilly, frightened by Clover's indignant eyes. "All I meant was, that Katy is dreadfully dignified for her age, and we bad girls will have to look out. You needn't be so mad, Clover; I'm sure it's very nice to be proper and good, and set an example."
"I don't want to preach to anybody," said Katy. coloring, "and I wasn't thinking about examples. But really and truly, Lilly, wouldn't your mother, and all the girls' mothers, be shocked if they knew about these performances here?"
"Gracious! I should think so; ma would kill me. I wouldn't have her know of my goings on for all the world."
Just then Rose pulled out a drawer, and called through to ask if Clover would please come in and help her a minute. Lilly took advantage of her absence to say,—
"I came on purpose to ask you to walk with me for four weeks. Will you?"
"Thank you; but I'm engaged to Clover."
"To Clover! But she's your sister; you can get off."
"I don't want to get off. Clover and I like dearly to go together."
Lilly stared. "Well, I never heard of such a thing," she said; "you're really romantic. The girls will call you 'The Inseparables.'"
"I wouldn't mind being inseparable from Clover," said Katy, laughing.
Next day was Saturday. It was nominally a holiday; but so many tasks were set for it, that it hardly seemed like one. The girls had to practise in the gymnasium, to do their mending, and have all their drawers in apple-pie order, before afternoon, when Miss Jane went through the rooms on a tour of inspection. Saturday, also, was the day for writing home letters; so, altogether, it was about the busiest of the week.
Early in the morning Miss Jane appeared in Quaker Row with some slips of paper in her hand, one of which she left at each door. They told the hours at which the girls were to go to the bath-house.
"You will carry, each, a crash towel, a sponge, and soap," she announced to Katy, "and will be in the entry, at the foot of the stairs, at twenty-five minutes after nine precisely. Failures in punctuality will be punished by a mark." Miss Jane always delivered her words like a machine, and closed her mouth with a snap at the end of the sentence.
"Horrid thing! Don't I wish her missionary would come and carry her off. Not that I blame him for staying away," remarked Rose Red, from her door; making a face at Miss Jane, as she walked down the entry.
"I don't understand about the bath-house," said Katy. "Does it belong to us? And where is it?"
"No, it doesn't belong to us. It belongs to Mr. Perrit, and anybody can use it; only on Saturday it is reserved for us nuns. Haven't you ever noticed it when we have been out walking? It's in that street by the bakery, which we pass to take the Lebanon road. We go across the green, and down by Professor Seccomb's, and we are in plain sight from the college all the way; and, of course, those abominable boys sit there with spy-glasses, and stare as hard as ever they can. It's perfectly horrid. 'A crash towel, a sponge, and soap,' indeed! I wish I could make Miss Jane eat the pieces of soap which she has forced me to carry across this village."
"O Rose!" remonstrated Mary Silver.
"Well, I do. And the crash towels afterward, by way of a dessert," replied the incorrigible Rose. "Never mind! Just wait! A bright idea strikes me!"
"Oh! what?" cried the other three; but Rose only pursed up her mouth, arched her eyebrows, and vanished into her own room, locking the door behind her. Mary Silver, finding herself shut out, sat down meekly in the hall till such time as it should please Rose to open the door. This was not till the bath hour. As Katy and Clover went by, Rose put her head out, and called that she would be down in a minute.
The bathing party consisted of eight girls, with Miss Jane for escort. They were half way across the common before Miss Jane noticed that everybody was shaking with stifled laughter, except Rose, who walked along demurely, apparently unconscious that there was any thing to laugh at. Miss Jane looked sharply from one to another for a moment, then stopped short and exclaimed, "Rosamond Redding! how dare you?"
"What is it, ma'am?" asked Rose, with the face of a lamb.
"Your bath towel! your sponge!" gasped Miss Jane.
"Yes, ma'am, I have them all," replied the audacious Rose, putting her hand to her hat. There, to be sure, was the long crash towel, hanging down behind like a veil, while the sponge was fastened on one side like a great cockade; and in front appeared a cake of pink soap, neatly pinned into the middle of a black velvet bow.
Miss Jane seized Rose, and removed these ornaments in a twinkling. "We shall see what Mrs. Florence thinks of this conduct," she grimly remarked. Then, dropping the soap and sponge in her own pocket, she made Rose walk beside her, as if she were a criminal in custody.
The bath-house was a neat place, with eight small rooms, well supplied with hot and cold water. Katy would have found her bath very nice, had it not been for the thought of the walk home. They must look so absurd, she reflected, with their sponges and damp towels.
Miss Jane was as good as her word. After dinner, Rose was sent for by Mrs. Florence, and had an interview of two hours with her: she came out with red eyes, and shut herself into her room with a disconsolate bang. Before long, however, she revived sufficiently to tap on the drawers and push through a note with the following words:—
"My heart is broken!
Clover hastened in to comfort her. Rose was sitting on the floor, with a very clean pocket-handkerchief in her hand. She wept, and put her head against Clover's knee.
"I suppose I'm the nastiest girl in the world," she said. "Mrs. Florence thinks so. She said I was an evil influence in the school. Wasn't that un—kind?" with a little sob.
"I meant to be so good this term," she went on; "but what's the use? A codfish might as well try to play the piano! It was always so, even when I was a baby. Sylvia says I have got a little fiend inside of me. Do you believe I have? Is it that makes me so horrid?"
Clover purred over her. She could not bear to have Rose feel badly. "Wasn't Miss Jane funny?" went on Rose, with a sudden twinkle; "and did you see Berry, and Alfred Seccomb?"
"No: where were they?"
"Close to us, standing by the fence. All the time Miss Jane was unpinning the towel, they were splitting their sides, and Berry made such a face at me that I nearly laughed out. That boy has a perfect genius for faces. He used to frighten Sylvia and me into fits, when we were little tots, up here on visits."
"Then you knew him before you came to school?"
"Oh. dear, yes! I know all the Hillsover boys. We used to make mud pies together. They're grown up now, most of 'em, and in college; and when we meet, we're very dignified, and say 'Miss Redding,' and 'Mr. Seccomb,' and 'Mr. Searles;' but we're just as good friends as ever. When I go to take tea with Mrs. Seccomb, Alfred always invites Berry to drop in, and we have the greatest fun. Mrs. Florence won't let me go this term, though, I guess, she's so mad about the towel."
Katy was quite relieved when Clover reported this conversation. Rose, for all her wickedness, seemed to be a little lady. Katy did not like to class her among the girls who flirted with students whom they did not know.
It was wonderful how soon they all settled down, and became accustomed to their new life. Before six weeks were over, Katy and Clover felt as if they had lived at Hillsover for years. This was partly because there was so much to do. Nothing makes time fly like having every moment filled, and every hour set apart for a distinct employment.
They made several friends, chief among whom were Ellen Gray and Louisa Agnew. This last intimacy Lilly resented highly, and seemed to consider as an affront to herself. With no one, however, was Katy so intimate as Clover was with Rose Red. This cost Katy some jealous pangs at first. She was so used to considering Clover her own exclusive property that it was not easy to share her with another; and she had occasional fits of feeling resentful, and injured, and left out. These were but momentary, however. Katy was too healthy of mind to let unkind feelings grow, and by and by she grew fond of Rose and Rose of her, so that in the end the sisters shared their friend as they did other nice things, and neither of them was jealous of the other.
But, charming as she was, a certain price had to be paid for the pleasure of intimacy with Rose. Her overflowing spirits, and "the little fiend inside her," were always provoking scrapes, in which her friends were apt to be more or less involved. She was very penitent and afflicted after these scrapes; but it didn't make a bit of difference: the next time she was just as naughty as ever.
"What are you doing?" said Katy, one day, meeting her in the hall with a heap of black shawls and aprons on her arm.
"Hush!" whispered Rose, mysteriously; "don't say a word. Senator Brown is dead,—our senator, you know. I'm going to put my window into mourning for him, that's all. It's a proper token of respect."
Two hours later, Mrs. Nipson, walking sedately across the common, noticed quite a group of students, in the president's side yard, looking up at the Nunnery. She drew nearer. They were admiring Rose's window, hung with black, and decorated with a photograph of the deceased senator, suspended in the middle of a wreath of weeping-willow. Of course she hurried upstairs, and tore down the shawls and aprons; and, equally of course, Rose had a lecture and a mark; but, dear me! what good did it do? The next day but one, as Katy and Clover sat together in silent study hour, their lower drawer was pushed open very noiselessly and gently, till it came out entirely, and lay on the floor, and in the aperture thus formed appeared Rose's saucy face flushed with mischief. She was crawling through from her own room!
"Such fun!" she whispered; "I never thought of this before! We can have parties in study hours, and all sorts of things."
"Oh, go back, Rosy!" whispered Clover in agonized entreaty, though laughing all the time.
"Go back? Not at all! I'm coming in," answered Rose, pulling herself through a little farther. But at that moment the door opened: there stood Miss Jane! She had caught the buzz of voices, as she passed in the hall, and had entered to see what was going on.
Rose, dreadfully frightened, made a rapid movement to withdraw. But the space was narrow, and she had wedged herself, and could move neither backward nor forward. She had to submit to being helped through by Miss Jane, in a series of pulls, while Katy and Clover sat by, not daring to laugh or to offer assistance. When Rose was on her feet, Miss Jane released her with a final shake, which she seemed unable to refrain from giving.
"Go to your room," she said; "I shall report all of you young ladies for this flagrant act of disobedience."
Rose went, and in two minutes the drawer, which Miss Jane had replaced, opened again, and there was this note:—
"If I'm never heard of more, give my love to my family, and mention how I died. I forgive my enemies; and leave Clover my hand bracelet.
"My blessings on you both.
"With the deepest regard,
"Your afflicted friend, R. R."
Mrs. Florence was very angry on this occasion; and would listen to no explanations, but gave Katy and Clover a "disobedience mark" also. This was very unfair, and Rose felt dreadfully about it. She begged and entreated; but Mrs. Florence only replied: "There is blame on both sides, I have no doubt."
"She's entirely changed from what she used to be; declared Rose. "I don't know what's the matter; I don't like her half so much as I did."
The truth was, that Mrs. Florence had secretly determined to give up her connection with the school at midsummer; and, regarding it now rather as Mrs. Nipson's school than her own, she took no pains to study character or mete out justice carefully among scholars with whom she was not likely to have much to do.