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Chapter 3 The day of scrapes

  • 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—
  • "'For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.'"