Mrs. Knight's school, to which Katy and Clover and Cecy went, stood quite a_he other end of the town from Dr. Carr's. It was a low, one-story buildin_nd had a yard behind it, in which the girls played at recess. Unfortunately, next door to it was Miss Miller's school, equally large and popular, and wit_ yard behind it also. Only a high board fence separated the two playgrounds.
Mrs. Knight was a stout, gentle woman, who moved slowly, and had a face whic_ade you think of an amiable and well-disposed cow. Miss Miller, on th_ontrary, had black eyes, with black corkscrew curls waving about them, an_as generally brisk and snappy. A constant feud raged between the two school_s to the respective merits of the teachers and the instruction. The Knigh_irls for some unknown reason, considered themselves genteel and the Mille_irls vulgar, and took no pains to conceal this opinion; while the Mille_irls, on the other hand, retaliated by being as aggravating as they knew how.
They spent their recesses and intermissions mostly in making faces through th_not-holes in the fence, and over the top of it when they could get there, which wasn't an easy thing to do, as the fence was pretty high. The Knigh_irls could make faces too, for all their gentility. Their yard had one grea_dvantage over the other: it possessed a wood-shed, with a climbable roof, which commanded Miss Miller's premises, and upon this the girls used to sit i_ows, turning up their noses at the next yard, and irritating the foe b_eering remarks. "Knights" and "Millerites," the two schools called eac_ther; and the feud raged so high, that sometimes it was hardly safe for _night to meet a Millerite in the street; all of which, as may be imagined, was exceedingly improving both to the manners and morals of the young ladie_oncerned.
One morning, not long after the day in Paradise, Katy was late. She could no_ind her things. Her algebra, as she expressed it, had "gone and lost itself,"
her slate was missing, and the string was off her sun-bonnet. She ran about, searching for these articles and banging doors, till Aunt Izzie was out o_atience.
"As for your algebra," she said, "if it is that very dirty book with only on_over, and scribbled all over the leaves, you will find it under the kitchen- table. Philly was playing before breakfast that it was a pig: no wonder, I'_ure, for it looks good for nothing else. How you do manage to spoil you_chool-books in this manner, Katy, I cannot imagine. It is less than a mont_ince your father got you a new algebra, and look at it now—not fit to b_arried about. I do wish you would realize what books cost!
"About your slate," she went on, "I know nothing; but here is the bonnet- string;" taking it out of her pocket.
"Oh, thank you!" said Katy, hastily sticking it on with a pin.
"Katy Carr!" almost screamed Miss Izzie, "what are you about? Pinning on you_onnet-string! Mercy on me, what shiftless thing will you do next? Now stan_till, and don't fidget. You sha'n't stir till I have sewed it on properly."
It wasn't easy to "stand still and not fidget," with Aunt Izzie fussing awa_nd lecturing, and now and then, in a moment of forgetfulness, sticking he_eedle into one's chin. Katy bore it as well as she could, only shiftin_erpetually from one foot to the other, and now and then uttering a littl_nort, like an impatient horse. The minute she was released she flew into th_itchen, seized the algebra, and rushed like a whirlwind to the gate, wher_ood little Clover stood patiently waiting, though all ready herself, an_erribly afraid she should be late.
"We shall have to run," gasped Katy, quite out of breath. "Aunt Izzie kept me.
She has been so horrid!"
They did run as fast as they could, but time ran faster, and before they wer_alf-way to school the town clock struck nine, and all hope was over. Thi_exed Katy very much; for, though often late, she was always eager to b_arly.
"There," she said, stopping short, "I shall just tell Aunt Izzie that it wa_er fault. It is _too_ bad." And she marched into school in a very cros_ood.
A day begun in this manner is pretty sure to end badly, as most of us know.
All the morning through, things seemed to go wrong. Katy missed twice in he_rammar lesson, and lost her place in the class. Her hand shook so when sh_opied her composition, that the writing, not good at best, turned out almos_llegible, so that Mrs. Knight said it must all be done over again. This mad_aty crosser than ever; and almost before she thought, she had whispered t_lover, "How hateful!" And then, when just before recess all who had
"communicated" were requested to stand up, her conscience gave such a twing_hat she was forced to get up with the rest, and see a black mark put agains_er name on the list. The tears came into her eyes from vexation; and, fo_ear the other girls would notice them, she made a bolt for the yard as soo_s the bell rang, and mounted up all alone to the wood-house roof, where sh_at with her back to the school, fighting with her eyes, and trying to get he_ace in order before the rest should come.
Miss Miller's clock was about four minutes slower than Mrs. Knight's, so th_ext playground was empty. It was a warm, breezy day, and as Katy sat here, suddenly a gust of wind came, and seizing her sun-bonnet, which was only hal_ied on, whirled it across the roof. She clutched after it as it flew, but to_ate. Once, twice, thrice, it flapped, then it disappeared over the edge, an_aty, flying after, saw it lying a crumpled lilac heap in the very middle o_he enemy's yard.
This was horrible! Not merely losing the bonnet, for Katy was comfortabl_ndifferent as to what became of her clothes, but to lose it _so_. In anothe_inute the Miller girls would be out. Already she seemed to see them dancin_ar-dances round the unfortunate bonnet, pinning it on a pole, using it as _ootball, waving it over the fence, and otherwise treating it as Indians trea_ captive taken in war. Was it to be endured? Never! Better die first! An_ith very much the feeling of a person who faces destruction rather tha_orfeit honor, Katy set her teeth, and sliding rapidly down the roof, seize_he fence, and with one bold leap vaulted into Miss Miller's yard.
Just then the recess bell tinkled; and a little Millerite who sat by th_indow, and who, for two seconds, had been dying to give the excitin_nformation, squeaked out to the others: "There's Katy Carr in our back-yard!"
Out poured the Millerites, big and little. Their wrath and indignation at thi_aring invasion cannot be described. With a howl of fury they precipitate_hemselves upon Katy, but she was quick as they, and holding the rescue_onnet in her hand, was already half-way up the fence.
There are moments when it is a fine thing to be tall. On this occasion Katy'_ong legs and arms served her an excellent turn. Nothing but a Daddy Long Leg_ver climbed so fast or so wildly as she did now. In one second she had gaine_he top of the fence. Just as she went over a Millerite seized her by the las_oot, and almost dragged her boot off.
Almost, not quite, thanks to the stout thread with which Aunt Izzie had sewe_n the buttons. With a frantic kick Katy released herself, and had th_atisfaction of seeing her assailant go head over heels backward, while, wit_ shriek of triumph and fright, she herself plunged headlong into the midst o_ group of Knights. They were listening with open mouths to the uproar, an_ow stood transfixed at the astonishing spectacle of one of their numbe_bsolutely returning alive from the camp of the enemy.
I cannot tell you what a commotion ensued. The Knights were beside themselve_ith pride and triumph. Katy was kissed and hugged, and made to tell her stor_ver and over again, while rows of exulting girls sat on the wood-house roo_o crow over the discomfited Millerites: and when, later, the foe rallied an_egan to retort over the fence, Clover, armed with a tack-hammer, was lifte_p in the arms of one of the tall girls to rap the intruding knuckles as the_ppeared on the top. This she did with such good-will that the Millerites wer_lad to drop down again, and mutter vengeance at a safe distance. Altogethe_t was a great day for the school, a day to be remembered. As time went on, Katy, what with the excitement of her adventure, and of being praised an_etted by the big girls, grew perfectly reckless, and hardly knew what sh_aid or did.
A good many of the scholars lived too far from school to go home at noon, an_ere in the habit of bringing their lunches in baskets, and staying all day.
Katy and Clover were of this number. This noon, after the dinners were eaten, it was proposed that they should play something in the school-room, and Katy'_nlucky star put it into her head to invent a new game, which she called th_ame of Rivers.
It was played in the following manner: Each girl took the name of a river, an_aid out for herself an appointed path through the room, winding among th_esks and benches, and making a low, roaring sound, to imitate the noise o_ater. Cecy was the Platte, Marianne Brooks, a tall girl, the Mississippi, Alice Blair, the Ohio, Clover, the Penobscot, and so on. They were instructe_o run into each other once in a while, because, as Katy said, "rivers do." A_or Katy herself, she was "Father Ocean," and, growling horribly, raged up an_own the platform where Mrs. Knight usually sat. Every now and then, when th_thers were at the far end of the room, she would suddenly cry out, "Now for _eeting of the waters!" whereupon all the rivers bouncing, bounding, scrambling, screaming, would turn and run toward Father Ocean, while he roare_ouder than all of them put together, and made short rushes up and down, t_epresent the movement of waves on a beach.
Such a noise as this beautiful game made was never heard in the town of Burne_efore or since. It was like the bellowing of the bulls of Bashan, th_queaking of pigs, the cackle of turkey-cocks, and the laugh of wild hyena_ll at once; and, in addition, there was a great banging of furniture an_craping of many feet on an uncarpeted floor. People going by stopped an_tared, children cried, an old lady asked why some one didn't run for _oliceman; while the Miller girls listened to the proceedings with maliciou_leasure, and told everybody that it was the noise that Mrs. Knight's scholars
"usually made at recess."
Mrs. Knight coming back from dinner, was much amazed to see a crowd of peopl_ollected in front of her school. As she drew near, the sounds reached her, and then she became really frightened, for she thought somebody was bein_urdered on her premises. Hurrying in, she threw open the door, and there, t_er dismay, was the whole room in a frightful state of confusion and uproar: chairs flung down, desks upset, ink streaming on the floor; while in the mids_f the ruin the frantic rivers raced and screamed, and old Father Ocean, wit_ face as red as fire, capered like a lunatic on the platform.
"What _does_ this mean?" gasped poor Mrs. Knight, almost unable to speak fo_orror.
At the sound of her voice the Rivers stood still, Father Ocean brought hi_rances to an abrupt close, and slunk down from the platform. All of a sudden, each girl seemed to realize what a condition the room was in, and what _orrible thing she had done. The timid ones cowered behind their desks, th_old ones tried to look unconscious, and, to make matters worse, the scholar_ho had gone home to dinner began to return, staring at the scene of disaster, and asking, in whispers, what had been going on?
Mrs. Knight rang the bell. When the school had come to order, she had th_esks and chairs picked up, while she herself brought wet cloths to sop th_nk from the floor. This was done in profound silence; and the expression o_rs. Knight's face was so direful and solemn, that a fresh damp fell upon th_pirits of the guilty Rivers, and Father Ocean wished himself thousands o_iles away.
When all was in order again, and the girls had taken their seats, Mrs. Knigh_ade a short speech. She said she never was so shocked in her life before; sh_ad supposed that she could trust them to behave like ladies when her back wa_urned. The idea that they could act so disgracefully, make such an uproar an_larm people going by, had never occurred to her, and she was deeply pained.
It was setting a bad example to all the neighborhood—by which Mrs. Knigh_eant the rival school, Miss Miller having just sent over a little girl, wit_er compliments, to ask if any one was hurt, and could _she_ do anything?
which was naturally aggravating! Mrs. Knight hoped they were sorry; sh_hought they must be—sorry and ashamed. The exercises could now go on a_sual. Of course some punishment would be inflicted for the offense, but sh_hould have to reflect before deciding what it ought to be. Meantime sh_anted them all to think it over seriously; and if any one felt that she wa_ore to blame than the others, now was the moment to rise and confess it.
Katy's heart gave a great thump, but she rose bravely: "I made up the game, and I was Father Ocean," she said to the astonished Mrs. Knight, who glared a_er for a minute, and then replied solemnly: "Very well, Katy—sit down;" whic_aty did, feeling more ashamed than ever, but somehow relieved in her mind.
There is a saving grace in truth which helps truth-tellers through the wors_f their troubles, and Katy found this out now.
The afternoon was long and hard. Mrs. Knight did not smile once; the lesson_ragged; and Katy, after the heat and excitement of the forenoon, began t_eel miserable. She had received more than one hard blow during the meeting_f the waters, and had bruised herself almost without knowing it, against th_esks and chairs. All these places now began to ache: her head throbbed s_hat she could hardly see, and a lump of something heavy seemed to be lying o_er heart.
When school was over, Mrs. Knight rose and said, "The young ladies who too_art in the game this afternoon are requested to remain." All the others wen_way, and shut the door behind them. It was a horrible moment: the girls neve_orgot it, or the hopeless sound of the door as the last departing schola_lapped it after her as she left.
I can't begin to tell you what it was that Mrs. Knight said to them: it wa_ery affecting, and before long most of the girls began to cry. The penalt_or their offense was announced to be the loss of recess for three weeks; bu_hat wasn't half so bad as seeing Mrs. Knight so "religious and afflicted," a_ecy told her mother afterward. One by one the sobbing sinners departed fro_he schoolroom. When most of them were gone, Mrs. Knight called Katy up to th_latform, and said a few words to her specially. She was not really severe, but Katy was too penitent and worn out to bear much, and before long wa_eeping like a water-spout, or like the ocean she had pretended to be.
At this, tender-hearted Mrs. Knight was so much affected that she let her of_t once, and even kissed her in token of forgiveness, which made poor Ocea_ob harder than ever. All the way home she sobbed; faithful little Clover, running along by her side in great distress, begging her to stop crying, an_rying in vain to hold up the fragments of her dress, which was torn in, a_east, a dozen places. Katy could not stop crying, and it was fortunate tha_unt Izzie happened to be out, and that the only person who saw her in thi_iteous plight was Mary, the nurse, who doted on the children, and was alway_eady to help them out of their troubles.
On this occasion she petted and cosseted Katy exactly as if it had bee_ohnnie or little Phil. She took her on her lap, bathed the hot head, brushe_he hair, put arnica on the bruises, and produced a clean frock, so that b_ea-time the poor child, except for her red eyes, looked like herself again, and Aunt Izzie didn't notice anything unusual.
For a wonder, Dr. Carr was at home that evening. It was always a great trea_o the children when this happened, and Katy thought herself happy when, afte_he little ones had gone to bed, she got Papa to herself, and told him th_hole story.
"Papa," she said, sitting on his knee, which, big girl as she was, she like_ery much to do, "what is the reason that makes some days so lucky and othe_ays so unlucky? Now today began all wrong, and everything that happened in i_as wrong, and on other days I begin right, and all goes right, straigh_hrough. If Aunt Izzie hadn't kept me in the morning, I shouldn't have lost m_ark, and then I shouldn't have been cross, and then _perhaps_ I shouldn'_ave got in my other scrapes."
"But what made Aunt Izzie keep you, Katy?"
"To sew on the string of my bonnet, Papa."
"But how did it happen that the string was off?"
"Well," said Katy, reluctantly, "I am afraid that was _my_ fault, for i_ame off on Tuesday, and I didn't fasten it on."
"So you see we must go back of Aunt Izzie for the beginning of this unluck_ay of yours, Childie. Did you ever hear the old saying about, 'For the wan_f a nail the shoe was lost'?"
"No, never—tell it to me!" cried Katy, who loved stories as well as when sh_as three years old.
So Dr. Carr repeated—
> "For the want of a nail the shoe was lost, > For the want of a shoe the horse was lost, > For the want of a horse the rider was lost, > For the want of a rider the battle was lost, > For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost, > And all for want of a horse-shoe nail."
"Oh, Papa!" exclaimed Katy, giving him a great hug as she got off his knee, "_ee what you mean! Who would have thought such a little speck of a thing a_ot sewing on my string could make a difference? But I don't believe I shal_et in any more scrapes, for I sha'n't ever forget—