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Chapter 5
Friday, December 26.

Christmas has come and gone, and in spite of our gloomy expectations we have had the jolliest time. You would hardly believe it! Oh,—there were plenty of roses!

The first nice thing that happened was on Tuesday morning when mother received a letter from Miss Brown, stating that she had been asked to stay over the holidays with her niece in Flatbush.

“Hurrah! hurrah!” carolled Ernie:
“Shout the glad tidings, exultantly sing,
Jerusalem triumphs, Messiah is king!”

She did not mean anything the least irreligious. It was simply a spontaneous outburst of joy; and at the same instant a mad enthusiasm seemed to seize hold of us all.

“Let’s finish the breakfast dishes at once, Elizabeth,” said mother. “I have some sewing upstairs that I must attend to.”

“And there is something I must finish, too,” answered I. “How considerate of Miss Brown’s niece! Just think, our Christmas dinner alone!”

“Have you decided—how you are going—to spend my lucky penny?” shouted Hazard from the hall above. “You understand, Ernie,—I want it to go—as far as possible!”

“Yes! yes!” answered Ernie. “I’ve a grand idea! Don’t you worry, Hazard. Geof and I are going shopping this afternoon after school.”

And so they did, and so did mother, and so did I! It was really amusing. Nobody could be prevailed upon to tell what had been bought, except that “it was very cheap, dear. Don’t worry!”

Then in the evening Ernie and I made old-fashioned molasses candy, because it is less expensive than fudge and we had determined to pull it and twist it into original shapes, something individual for each one. For Robin we made a little yellow bird (I must confess it looked more like a chicken than anything else), a boy with a big hat and a crooked nose, and a pig with a curly tail. Hazard’s candy we put peanuts in, and did not pull, because he prefers it that way. Mother’s we tied into a variety of charming bow-knots; and Ernie made me a mandolin, and Geof a hockey stick, while I made Ernie a Santa Claus. He was a little wobbly in the legs, to be sure, but any one could recognise him from his pack.

In the middle of it all Mrs. Burroughs came over, full of her own plans.

“I do hope you won’t say no, Mrs. Graham,” she pleaded. “I haven’t had any Christmas fun—for ages!”

It seems that she wished to give a party for Robin. “I will have it Wednesday night, Christmas eve,” she explained. “So it needn’t interfere with your family celebration in the least. May I, please?”

“Why, it would be lovely,” we all answered with enthusiasm. And Mrs. Burroughs flushed a beautiful rose colour, and for a moment the quick tears stood in her eyes.

“Thank you so much,” she answered. “Then that’s settled. You see Francis and I used to have such good times, and just the last year I got him a magic lantern. It is really a very nice one, and there are some charming slides. ‘The Night before Christmas’ is the set Francis liked best,—especially the pictures of the reindeer. I thought we might give it for Robin, and perhaps you will lend your back parlour for the occasion. We can begin early,—say half-past seven. I wonder if Hazard will consent to act as manager?”

“You’d better choose Geof,” warned Ernie. “He’s cleverer at that sort of thing, and I’m sure he’d like to come.”

So the matter was arranged. The following afternoon,—to the intense excitement of Robin,—Mrs. Burroughs, Geof, and Ernie shut themselves up in the back parlour, from whence began to issue the sound of much laughter and hammering.

Despite his impatience, it was not till quarter to seven o’clock that the doors were finally thrown open and Robin was carried down. How charming everything looked, to be sure! Long loops of ground-pine were festooned about the chandelier, and along the picture-rail. A great artificial Christmas bell hung in the doorway, from either side of which dropped gay streamers of baby-ribbon strung with sleigh-bells, that jingled and sang in the merriest fashion at the touch of a passing hand. In the window were holly wreaths, and back of the Madonna over the chimney-piece were two more great branches of holly with the biggest, brightest berries I have ever seen. A red Christmas candle burned upon the piano. The old lounge, covered with a tiger rug lent by Mrs. Burroughs, had been pushed out into the middle of the room, and a series of “orchestra chairs” arranged about it. Between the folding doors the magic sheet was hung, and behind it could be heard the voices of Geof and Ernie in animated discussion.

Presently the guests began to arrive,—Georgie and his nurse, Robin’s “chum” John, who had been looked up especially for the occasion, because, as Bobs persuasively explained, “it would be pretty odd for a boy to give a party and not ask his own chum”; old Mrs. Endicott, who is Mrs. Burroughs’ aunt, and Rosebud, very gay and debonair in a becoming red ribbon bow.

“The audience is ready,” sang out Robin, from his lair on the tiger skin. “What makes the party so late, I’d like to know?”

“It isn’t late at all,” returned Mrs. Burroughs, from behind the curtain. “The idea! we said half-past seven o’clock, and it is only quarter after. You are early! That’s all!”

However, in another moment Geof appeared to turn down the lights. With a deep, expectant sigh from Robin, Georgie, and John, the party had begun!

The pictures were certainly charming, and Geoffrey managed the slides without a hitch.

First came “The Night before Christmas”:—Santa Claus starting out on his journey with a sleigh overladen with toys. How life-like the reindeer looked, to be sure! and how impatient to be off!

“They can go, I bet you!” shouted Georgie, “once Santa takes up the lines.”

Next followed a scene among the roof-tops; a great round moon overhead, and Santa Claus already disappearing down the chimney.

“This can be your house, John,” says Robin, magnanimously. “Perhaps he’s going to leave that tin trumpet. I don’t want it.”

“Neither do I,” answered John. “I’d rather have a real automobile.”

But already the scene had shifted. Santa Claus, upon the hearthrug, was filling stockings with a roguish glance at three little heads buried among the pillows of a great four-poster bed.

How the children laughed and applauded! Next came the stories of Cinderella, Puss in Boots, and Hop o’ My Thumb, which were an almost equal success; and, finally, when the last slide was exhausted, the lights were turned up, and what Georgie called “the real party” was brought in. This consisted of ice cream, served in pretty coloured forms of fruits and flowers; lady-fingers; dishes of sugar-plums, and a mild brew of cocoa.

The favours were mechanical toys, such as are sold in quantities along Broadway and Twenty-third Street at this season of the year,—something amusing or interesting for each one. Georgie had a monkey that ran up a stick; Robin a small toy balloon in the shape of a pink rubber pig, that squealed shrilly when blown up; Geof a rooster that could flap its wings and crow; and Ernie a little old woman with a rake and a watering-pot, who, after being properly wound up, would start conscientiously forth to sprinkle her garden, only to trip at the first obstruction she met, and lie kicking her heels frantically on the carpet.

“Oh, it has been a love-ly party,” sighed Robin, at last, his arms tight about Mrs. Burroughs’ neck, as he kissed her a sticky but affectionate good-bye. “Thank you so much, and Merry Christmas, dear!”

“God bless you, darling boy,” returned Mrs. Burroughs. “Promise you won’t lie awake thinking about it, and to-morrow will come all the sooner.”

So, with season’s greetings, and many protestations of having passed a most delightful evening, the guests departed. Robin was hustled upstairs to bed by mother; while Ernie, Haze, and I proceeded to collect the various Christmas gifts that had arrived, preparatory to filling his stocking.

Really, there was so much! A delightful swan’s-down comforter for his cot from Aunt Adelaide; a set of building-blocks from Georgie; the Jungle Books from Mrs. Burroughs; and a regiment of tin-soldiers, with artillery and mounted officers, that had come in the morning’s mail from Miss Brown. Next we brought out the home things;—a gay little dressing-gown that mother had made from her old cashmere shawl with cherry-colour collar and cuffs; a pair of crocheted slippers to match, this was my gift; a little white flannel rabbit, with pink beads for eyes and a fluff of a tail, from Ernie, and a really amazing menagerie, of some hundred and fifty animals, elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers, leopards, monkeys, and all. She had traced the pictures from old magazines, transferred the outline to heavy paper, cut the figures out and coloured them.

“They’re wonderful, Ernie!” I cried.

“But where’s my present?” asked Haze, looking worried.

“It’s coming,” says Ernie. And, running from the room, she returned a moment later with—what do you think? Nothing more nor less than a clam! a live clam, if you please, neatly housed in the little glass globe that Hazard used to keep gold-fish in some years ago.

“Holy smoke!” muttered Haze, not knowing whether to be most disappointed or amused. “Wh-what’s it for?”

“A pet, to be sure!” answered Ernie, nonchalantly. “I bought it of Murray, the fishman, and, though he said he did not usually sell clams by the piece, when he did they cost just one cent. So we’ll call it Abraham Lincoln in memory of your lucky penny. Bobsie will love it! It can snap at a straw if you try to tickle it, and hang on like a bulldog. You’ll see.”

“But how did you ever come to think of it, Ernie?” I asked.

“Clam-fritters,” answered Ernie, succinctly. “We had ’em the other morning for breakfast, and then, too, we’ve been studying bivalves in school this term, and they are really very interesting animals.”

So, the stocking was filled, with an orange, an apple, the molasses-candy figures,—chicken, pig, boy,—some sugar-plums left over from the party, my slippers, and the white flannel rabbit, whose pink silesia ears poked alluringly out at the top. Mother and I stole on tiptoe into the nursery to play the part of Santa Claus, by light of a shaded candle. We dropped the down quilt softly over Robin’s crib, and stood for a moment watching our baby, who, quite worn out with the evening’s excitement, slept feverishly, a bright flush upon his cheek, his little breast rising and falling in answer to his hurried breathing.

“I hope it has not been too much for him,” said mother, in a low voice.

“I hope not,” I answered.

But we might have spared ourselves anxiety. Robin slept quietly through the night, and till half-past seven Christmas morning, when he woke as fresh and blithe as a lark. And how delighted he was with all his things! He positively shouted with joy over the paper menagerie and tin soldiers; and insisted upon being put into his new dressing-gown on the spot, with many sarcastic side remarks about “boys what said there was no Santa Claus!”

But the present that pleased him most of all was—Abraham Lincoln!

“It is what I wanted more than anything in the world!” he remarked, with a fondly doting glance at his new pet. “Only I didn’t think of it in time to say so. Now when Rosebud runs away and leaves me, I need never be lonely again!”

Though the rest of us did not fare as royally as Robin, there was some trifle for each one;—Ernie had seen to that.

“I had just fifty cents to spend on the entire family,” she explained. “Don’t you think I managed well?”

There were also a number of pretty gifts from Mrs. Burroughs, the score of Robin Hood from Meta for me, and a really portentous jackknife with three blades and a corkscrew attachment from Geof for Ernie.

“How jolly!” she cried, hopping about on her little pink toes. “I need never borrow Hazard’s again, and I can pull all Robin’s cod-liver oil corks! Hurr-oo!”

After breakfast came church. Haze volunteered to stay with Bobsie, so that mother, Ernie, and I might go. But just as we were leaving the house whom should we meet on the front stoop but Geoffrey, bearing his much-heralded present for Robin,—a really handsome nickel-plated cage in which crouched a pair of tiny white mice!

“The darlings!” chortled Ernie. “I can’t leave ’em! I can’t!”

So she deserted mother and me, and followed Geof to the nursery. And when we returned from service some two hours later, the three enthusiasts were still gloating.

“Look, Elizabeth!” exulted Ernie. “We’ve let ’em out of the cage, and they are quite tame!”

“I’m going to call them Open, O Buds, O Open, and Sweet Fern,” remarked Robin, in sentimental accents. “Nobody helped me think of those names. Aren’t they pretty?”

“See, Aunt Peggy,” says Geof. “There’s a wheel to the cage, so they can get plenty of exercise, and the man I bought ’em of told me we might expect a family about every three weeks.”

“Dear me!” murmured mother, in some dismay. “I wish he hadn’t been quite so lavish in his promises. But I must go down to attend to dinner now. Be careful of Rosebud, Robin. She would like your mice only too well, I fear.”

The afternoon passed quietly, Ernie and Haze carrying our usual Christmas package to the little Kerns, whose mother used to wash for us, once on a time. She is an invalid, now, and the family are even poorer than we, poor lambs!

“So whatever we may have to go without ourselves, we can’t afford to economise on Luella, Joseph, and Angeline,” remarked Ernie some two or three weeks ago. And immediately she and Robin set to work patching up their dilapidated toys and picture books, generously casting aside those that were “too shabby,” clipping, stitching, and gluing, till “the Kern shelf” in the nursery cupboard presented a very attractive appearance, indeed.

Mother added oranges, a jar of beef extract, and half a pound of tea.

“I do hope they will like their things as well as we like ours,” sighed Robin responsibly, stuffing his molasses candy pig and the last of the sugar plums into Haze’s overcoat pocket. “Do you think they will, mother dear?”

“I don’t see why they should not,” mother answered, and then she took Robin in her lap in the big rocker, and read him the Christmas story from St. Matthew, explaining about the Wise Men and the gifts they brought. After which she lowered the nursery shades, and left him to take a nap, “because,” she explained, “I want our boy to be fresh and rested for this evening.”

“What?” I asked. “More surprises?”

“Just a little one,” returned mother, modestly.

Yet it turned out to be the most charming of all. You would never guess! A tiny toy Christmas tree, not more than a foot and a half high, lighted with twelve little candles, and gay with popcorn wreaths, gilded walnuts, and silver tinsel.

“I found it on the Bowery,” explained mother, half guiltily,—“in a small German shop. It was very cheap, Elizabeth. So don’t worry!”

How Robin’s eyes shone as he was carried into the back parlour, where the little tree stood sparkling on a table drawn up beside the couch!

“There are presents on it, too,” says mother.

And so there were! For from every branch and twig dangled a series of coloured pasteboard discs, lettered in white ink, and reading thus:—

“A pearl ring, with much love to Elizabeth from mother.”

“A pair of skates, for dear Ernie from mother.”

“Lockhart’s Life of Scott,—three volumes, good type,—for Hazard from mother.”

“A canary in a gold cage, for Robin from mother.”

“An ermine muff and stole, for Elizabeth from mother,” etc., etc.

All the dear, beautiful, dream gifts that mother would have given to her children, if only she had been able!

The candles on the little tree began to blink and twinkle like living stars, the way lights will when looked at through happy tears. Even Robin understood.

“I love my autoharp better than anything in the world,” he declared, dangling the small pasteboard disc by its red cord. “Even, even, better than Abraham Lincoln!” he cried. “Thank you so much, mother dear!”

“And that Lockhart’s Life!” echoed Haze, as enthusiastically as if he expected to sit down to the first volume next minute. “U-m-m!!”

“I hope I have not only succeeded in making you dissatisfied, my poor lambs,” said mother, a little anxiously.

“Dissatisfied!” cried Ernie, striking out in fine skating style for the piano. “Do you think it’s a brood of ungrateful brutes you’ve hatched into the wor-rld, mum? Let’s have some carols now. I want to shout!”

And so we did! Hazard quite off the tune, as usual, Robin piping away in his gay little treble, Ernie and I trying our best to keep the others up to time.

It was all very jolly; and, as I said when I first sat down to write, we simply could not have passed a lovelier Christmas, no matter how much money we might have spent,—now do you think we could?
Thursday, January 1.

We sat up last night to watch the New Year in,—Haze, Geof, Ernie, and I. The workshop was cold, and we missed the flying-machine.

“I do not believe,” declared Ernie, dejectedly, “that Resolutions do a bit of good. I have made the same four regularly for the last two years. I’ve written them out in red ink on a slip of paper, and kept them in my Bible;—and nobody seems to find me any nicer!”

“Perhaps they were not the right kind,” hazarded Geof. “A good deal depends upon what one resolves, I suppose.”

“The idea!” flashed Ernie. “I guess you did not make any better;—say my prayers, wash my teeth, love God, and the Boarders, so there!”

“Too general,” criticised Haze. “You ought to do those things whether you resolve them or not,—and it wouldn’t be especially annoying even if you didn’t. It is my opinion that no man is competent to make his own resolutions. He doesn’t know where he most needs reform. If one’s family made them for one, now, and one was pledged in advance——”

“All right,” agreed Geof. “Let’s try it. I resolve, old chap, that you hold up your head when you walk, and quit peering through your glasses like a Reuben at a County fair.”

“And take only one butter-ball at dinner,” seconded Ernie.

“And brush your coat every morning. If one isn’t handsome, one can at least be neat,” I cried.

“I’ll see myself hanged,” retorted Hazard, angrily, “before I resolve one of those things! They are childish, as well as insulting. If this meeting is going to degenerate into a travesty, I withdraw.” And he stalked haughtily from the room.

“Silly chap!” chuckled Geof. “What did he get mad at?”

“Haze must be very conceited, if he can’t stand a little friendly criticism,” agreed Ernie. “Shall we take Elizabeth next?”

“No,” I amended hastily. “I have just thought of such a good one for you, Ernie dear. Don’t wear stockings with Jacob’s ladders running up the leg. It isn’t ladylike, and you have plenty of time to darn them.”

“And stop worrying about the shape of your nose,” added Geof. “You can’t change it, you know.”

“I don’t worry,” snapped Ernie, untruthfully. “You are a pig, Geoffrey Graham! And I resolve that you learn to dance, so there!”

“Shan’t do it,” said Geof, with whom dancing is still a sore subject. “And if you are going to call names, I think it is about time for me to go home.”

“Good-night,” consented Ernie, readily.

“Good-night,” returned Geof. And he picked up his cap, and left.

“Dear me!” I remarked as the first horn sounded, and the bells began to chime their welcome to the New Year;—“what made everybody so cross to-night? I am the only person who did not get mad.”

“You are the only person who did not have a resolution made for you,” replied Ernie. “Here is one,—and you can just see how you like it! Stop being so everlastingly ready to preach, Elizabeth. I know you call it ‘sympathy,’ but it bores people.”

“Oh, Ernie!” I gasped. “Do you really mean that?”

“Well, perhaps not entirely,” admitted Ernie, with a swift return to normal lovableness. “But there is some truth in it, dear. One likes to be blue at times, and feel that it isn’t noticed. Come along to bed. I’m sorry I let Geof go without saying ‘Happy New Year,’ and I’m sorry we forgot to eat the Italian chestnuts he brought. After all, the old way of making resolutions was best.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “and pleasanter, by far!”

Then we kissed one another, and laughed, and crept down the attic stairs hand in hand;—for it isn’t often that Ernie and I come near a quarrel, and the New Year was in. I wonder what it will bring us? Oh, I do want to be good,—resolutions apart,—not “preachy,” of course,—just stronger, and more contented and happy in our lot.
Monday, January 5.

Ernie wore her new dress to school this morning. She has been working hard on it ever since Christmas time, and the result is really very creditable.

“The girls will never believe I made it myself, Elizabeth,” she remarked, standing proudly before the mirror while I buttoned her up the back. “It actually fits, and look at these box-pleats! Could anything be more stylish! Don’t you think I’m clever, honey? now, don’t you?”

Indeed, Ernie’s spirits rose to such bubbling point,—what with the openly expressed admiration of the girls, and her own inward conviction of merit,—that she found it impossible to keep them corked up during school hours, and so got into trouble, poor child!

Under the circumstances it is doubly hard. For ever since September, when a “Visiting Board,” as Ernie persists in calling him, was so impressed with the intelligent answers he obtained to his questions in the Sixth Grammar Grade of School No. 47 that he was moved to offer five dollars’ worth of books to be awarded as a prize at the end of the term to the pupil whose general average in attendance, conduct, and scholarship should be highest, her record has been impeccable.

“I simply must come out ahead,” she has declared, over and over again. “It is too good a chance to miss. Five dollars’ worth of books, Elizabeth! Think of it! And if I should get ’em, I’ll choose the kind that will be appropriate to every age and gender, and then I’ll put ’em away, and give them as birthday presents to the family during the year. Isn’t that a scheme?”

So, spurred on by this proud ambition, Ernie has done wonderfully:—even succeeding in subduing her mercurial temperament to such a degree that “there is not a betther gur-rul in all the school than me an’ me hated rival, Lulu Jennings,” as she was moved to confess last Saturday night.

This aforesaid rival is a “creature,” according to Ernie and her chum, Mary Hobart. She has shifty little eyes, a thin, blond pigtail, and “no shape to her legs, at all.” Also, she smells of cheap perfume. Yet these imperfections might be forgiven her, if only she were what the girls call “straight.”

“I’ve seen her myself,” says downright Mary, “with an open Geography hid under a handkerchief in her lap during recitation. She tattles, too, and I believe she’d copy off her own grandmother, if only she got the chance.”

Naturally such sins are not easily forgiven; and there is a decided opinion among the girls that at all hazards Lulu Jennings must be prevented from winning the prize. Feeling runs high on the subject. “She’s smarter than all the rest of us put together in some ways,” they admit. “You can never foresee what trick she is going to play next. But you are clever, too, Ernie, in a way we like better. So keep up the good fight!”

“All right,” promised Ernie, with a weary little sigh. “I don’t mind the studying so much; but I must confess I’m tired of being a plaster saint!”

And, alas! to-day, which was composition day, the poor little plaster saint fell! It happened in this wise. The subject assigned the Sixth Grade was Benjamin Franklin. Ernie, who takes naturally to writing, finished her essay as usual before any of the other girls; and then, just for the fun of the thing, and as an outlet, I suppose, to the general ebullition of vivacity caused by her new frock, she started in to write a second theme, in verse this time, making it as nonsensical and ridiculous as ever she could.

As soon as finished, she passed the lines to Mary Hobart, her seatmate, who began to read and giggle at the same moment,—till finally she was so overcome by mirth that she was obliged to put her head into her desk, and pretend to look for a slate pencil.

Lulu Jennings, who sits directly across the aisle from Mary, observed these demonstrations. “What’s the matter?” she whispered.

And Mary thoughtlessly passed her Ernie’s effusion;—proud, I suppose, to prove to the enemy how clever her chum really was.

Lulu cast one quick glance down the lines. Then, taking up a pencil, she scrawled the query along the margin,—“Why don’t you ask to read it aloud?” And handed the paper back to Ernie.

“I will, if you like,” returned Ernie with a chuckle; supposing, of course, that the suggestion was only part of the fun.

“All right, I dare you to,” whispered Lulu.

Quick as a flash Ernie was out of her seat. She has never been known to take a dare, yet; and Lulu counted upon this weakness, we feel sure.

“May I read my composition, Miss Horton?” asked Ernie. There was nothing unusual in the request, since any girl who considers her theme extra-good is accorded this privilege.

Miss Horton looked up from the exercises she was correcting.

“Certainly, if you think it will interest us, Ernestine,” she said.

Mary Hobart pulled at Ernie’s skirt, shook her head, and motioned imperiously to the first composition which still lay upon the desk.

But Lulu’s little eyes flashed the mean message,—“I knew you would not dare!”

And, without a moment’s hesitation, Ernie in a clear, serious voice began to read:
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
Benjamin Franklin was, when a boy,
His mother’s delight, and his grandmother’s joy;
He would chase after lightning wherever he spied it,
Because he declared that he wanted to ride it.
His hair was quite straight, but his nose he could curl,
And so people thought him “a dear little girl!”

There was a general shout from the class, while Miss Horton rapped sharply on the desk with her ruler:—

“Silence!” she commanded. “Proceed with your composition, Ernestine.”

And Ernie, with a rosy and rather abashed countenance, was about to begin the second stanza when the door opened and Miss O’Connell, the principal, entered the room. Miss O’Connell is a very imposing person, and endowed with a rather high temper. All the girls are afraid of her. She stood for a moment looking majestically about.

“What was the cause of the outburst of disorder I heard just now?” she finally asked Miss Horton.

“Ernestine Graham is reading her composition on Benjamin Franklin,” answered Miss Horton, really anxious to shield Ernie, it would seem. “There was something in it that struck the girls as funny.”

“So I should judge,” answered Miss O’Connell. “It might be well for me to hear the rest of the composition myself. You may proceed, Ernestine.”

Poor Ernie! her knees were literally clapping together with horror beneath the elegant box-pleats of her new plaid skirt. The thought of her cherished record assailed her. She turned a piteous, sickly smile upon Miss O’Connell, who met it with a glance of adamant. Evidently no quarter was to be expected from that direction. So, steadying her voice as well as she could, Ernie began to read again. This time you might have heard a pin drop:—
Benjamin’s father, a terrible man,
Kept in the closet a worn rattan;
When Ben or his brothers did what was wrong,
Their father would chant them this horrible song:—
“Run, run, to my closet as quick as you can,
And bring me my rat-te-tee, tat-te-tee, tan!
And with it I’ll rat-te-tee, tat-tee-tan you,
Until with your eyeses you crieses, boo-hoo!”

Ernie gasped for breath.

“Is that all?” asked the inexorable Miss O’Connell.

“No, ma’am,” answered Ernie, plaintively; and spurred on by the recklessness of despair, she began the last stanza:—
So Ben and his brothers they grew very good,
They never stole nothing, not even their food!
But lived upon pickles, and peanuts, and paint,
And when asked, “Are you hungry?” replied, “No, we ain’t;
But we’ll take, if you’ll give it, a wee bite of soap!”
And now they’re all dead, and in heaven, I hope.

With a final, hysterical giggle, Ernie dropped back into her seat.

Miss O’Connell stood looking at her.

“What possessed you,” she asked at last, “to write such a composition as that? Have you no respect for your teacher? have you no respect for your school? have you no respect for me? Miss Horton, you may mark Ernestine a failure in her conduct and her English, too. She will remain after school, and rewrite her composition along more conservative lines. The class may now proceed with its studies.” And Miss O’Connell swept from the room.

Well, Ernie had had her little joke. Poor child! it was all she could do to blink back the mortified tears as she felt Mary Hobart’s sympathetic hand in hers, and divined instinctively that the thoughts of every girl in the room were busy with her shattered record.

“I am sorry, Ernestine,” said Miss Horton not unkindly, as she took up her pencil and opened the portentous covers of the Conduct Book. “Do you really think it was worth while?”

Lulu Jennings snickered; but quickly recovered herself with a prim pursing of the lips. Apparently, she was the one person in the room to experience any touch of satisfaction in the public downfall of “the plaster saint.” Which speaks pretty well for Ernie’s popularity, it seems to me.

“The mean sneak!” declared Mary Hobart indignantly, some half-hour later, to the little group of sympathisers who lingered in the schoolyard till Ernie should be released. “It was all a plot! And to think that I should have helped to lead Ernie into it! Well, I’m more determined than ever that she shall win the prize. We mustn’t let her feel too discouraged, girls! we mustn’t! The poor, silly darling!”

And now, lest you mistake me for a wizard, I will confess that Mary came home with Ernie after school. The two girls talked the excitement over as they set the table for dinner, while I stood in the kitchen doorway and listened, potato-knife in hand, till I felt quite as if I had witnessed it all myself,—and so I have set it down here, though it is hard to snatch time on a Monday.


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