But I am sorry to say that my poor, thoughtless Katy _did_ forget, and di_et into another scrape, and that no later than the very next Monday.
Monday was apt to be rather a stormy day at the Carrs'. There was the big was_o be done, and Aunt Izzie always seemed a little harder to please, and th_ervants a good deal crosser than on common days. But I think it was also, i_art, the fault of the children, who, after the quiet of Sunday, wer_pecially frisky and uproarious, and readier than usual for all sorts o_ischief.
To Clover and Elsie, Sunday seemed to begin at Saturday's bed-time, when thei_air was wet, and screwed up in papers, that it might curl next day. Elsie'_aved naturally, so Aunt Izzie didn't think it necessary to pin her paper_ery tight; but Clover's thick, straight locks required to be pinched har_efore they would give even the least twirl, and to her, Saturday night wa_ne of misery. She would lie tossing, and turning, and trying first one sid_f her head and then the other; but whichever way she placed herself, the har_nobs and the pins stuck out and hurt her; so when at last she fell asleep, i_as face down, with her small nose buried in the pillow, which was no_omfortable, and gave her bad dreams. In consequence of these suffering_lover hated curls, and when she "made up" stories for the younger children, they always commenced: "The hair of the beautiful princess was as straight a_ yard-stick, and she never did it up in papers—never!"
Sunday always began with a Bible story, followed by a breakfast of bake_eans, which two things were much tangled up together in Philly's mind. Afte_reakfast the children studied their Sunday-school lessons, and then the bi_arryall came round, and they drove to church, which was a good mile off. I_as a large, old-fashioned church, with galleries, and long pews with hig_ed-cushioned seats.
The choir sat at the end, behind a low, green curtain, which slipped from sid_o side on rods. When the sermon began, they would draw the curtain aside an_how themselves, all ready to listen, but the rest of the time they kept i_hut. Katy always guessed that they must be having good times behind the gree_urtain—eating orange-peel, perhaps, or reading the Sunday-school books—an_he often wished she might sit up there among them.
The seat in Dr. Carr's pew was so high that none of the children, except Katy, could touch the floor, even with the point of a toe. This made their feet g_o sleep; and when they felt the queer little pin-pricks which drowsy feet us_o rouse themselves with, they would slide off the seat, and sit on th_enches to get over it. Once there, and well hidden from view, it was almos_mpossible not to whisper. Aunt Izzie would frown and shake her head, but i_id little good, especially as Phil and Dorry were sleeping with their head_n her lap, and it took both her hands to keep them from rolling off into th_ottom of the pew. When good old Dr. Stone said, "Finally, my brethren," sh_ould begin waking them up. It was hard work sometimes, but generally sh_ucceeded, so that during the last hymn the two stood together on the seat, quite brisk and refreshed, sharing a hymn-book, and making believe to sin_ike the older people.
After church came Sunday-school, which the children liked very much, and the_hey went home to dinner, which was always the same on Sunday—cold corned- beef, baked potatoes, and rice pudding. They did not go to church in th_fternoon unless they wished, but were pounced upon by Katy instead, an_orced to listen to the reading of _The Sunday Visitor_ , a religious paper, of which she was the editor. This paper was partly written, partly printed, o_ large sheet of foolscap, and had at the top an ornamental device, in lea_encil, with "Sunday Visitor" in the middle of it. The reading part began wit_ dull little piece of the kind which grown people call an editorial, about
"Neatness," or "Obedience," or "Punctuality." The children always fidgete_hen listening to this, partly, I think, because it aggravated them to hav_aty recommending on paper, as very easy, the virtues which she herself foun_t so hard to practise in real life. Next came anecdotes about dogs an_lephants and snakes, taken from the Natural History book, and not ver_nteresting, because the audience knew them by heart already. A hymn or tw_ollowed, or a string of original verses, and, last of all, a chapter of
"Little Maria and Her Sisters," a dreadful tale, in which Katy drew so muc_oral, and made such personal allusions to the faults of the rest, that it wa_lmost more than they could bear. In fact, there had just been a nurser_ebellion on the subject. You must know that, for some weeks back, Katy ha_een too lazy to prepare any fresh _Sunday Visitors_ , and so had forced th_hildren to sit in a row and listen to the back numbers, which she read alou_rom the very beginning! "Little Maria" sounded much worse when taken in thes_arge doses, and Clover and Elsie, combining for once, made up their minds t_ndure it no longer. So, watching their chance, they carried off the whol_dition, and poked it into the kitchen fire, where they watched it burn with _ixture of fear and delight which it was comical to witness. They dared no_onfess the deed, but it was impossible not to look conscious when Katy wa_lying about and rummaging after her lost treasure, and she suspected them, and was very irate in consequence.
The evenings of Sunday were always spent in repeating hymns to Papa and Aun_zzie. This was fun, for they all took turns, and there was quite a scrambl_s to who should secure the favorites, such as, "The west hath shut its gat_f gold," and "Go when the morning shineth." On the whole, Sunday was a swee_nd pleasant day, and the children thought so; but, from its being so muc_uieter than other days, they always got up on Monday full of life an_ischief, and ready to fizz over at any minute, like champagne bottles wit_he wires just cut.
This particular Monday was rainy, so there couldn't be any out-door play, which was the usual vent for over-high spirits. The little ones, cooped up i_he nursery all the afternoon, had grown perfectly riotous. Philly was no_uite well, and had been taking medicine. The medicine was called _Elixi_ro_. It was a great favorite with Aunt Izzie, who kept a bottle of it alway_n hand. The bottle was large and black, with a paper label tied round it_eck, and the children shuddered at the sight of it.
After Phil had stopped roaring and spluttering, and play had begun again, th_olls, as was only natural, were taken ill also, and so was "Pikery," John'_ittle yellow chair, which she always pretended was a doll too. She kept a_ld apron tied on his back, and generally took him to bed with her—not int_ed, that would have been troublesome; but close by, tied to the bed-post.
Now, as she told the others, Pikery was very sick indeed. He must have som_edicine, just like Philly.
"Give him some water," suggested Dorry.
"No," said John, decidedly, "it must be black and out of a bottle, or it won'_o any good."
After thinking a moment, she trotted quietly across the passage into Aun_zzie's room. Nobody was there, but John knew where the Elixir Pro was kept—i_he closet on the third shelf. She pulled one of the drawers out a little, climbed up, and reached it down. The children were enchanted when she marche_ack, the bottle in one hand, the cork in the other, and proceeded to pour _iberal dose on to Pikery's wooden seat, which John called his lap.
"There! there! my poor boy," she said, patting his shoulder—I mean hi_rm—"swallow it down—it'll do you good."
Just then Aunt Izzie came in, and to her dismay saw a long trickle o_omething dark and sticky running down on to the carpet. It was Pikery'_edicine, which he had refused to swallow.
"What is that?" she asked sharply.
"My baby is sick," faltered John, displaying the guilty bottle.
Aunt Izzie rapped her over the head with a thimble, and told her that she wa_ very naughty child, whereupon Johnnie pouted, and cried a little. Aunt Izzi_iped up the slop, and taking away the Elixir, retired with it to her closet, saying that she "never knew anything like it—it was always so on Mondays."
What further pranks were played in the nursery that day, I cannot pretend t_ell. But late in the afternoon a dreadful screaming was heard, and whe_eople rushed from all parts of the house to see what was the matter, behol_he nursery door was locked, and nobody could get in. Aunt Izzie calle_hrough the keyhole to have it opened, but the roars were so loud that it wa_ong before she could get an answer. At last Elsie, sobbing violently, explained that Dorry had locked the door, and now the key wouldn't turn, an_hey couldn't open it. _Would_ they have to stay there always, and starve?
"Of course you won't, you foolish child," exclaimed Aunt Izzie. "Dear, dear, what on earth will come next? Stop crying, Elsie—do you hear me? You shall al_e got out in a few minutes."
And sure enough, the next thing came a rattling at the blinds, and there wa_lexander, the hired man, standing outside on a tall ladder and nodding hi_ead at the children. The little ones forgot their fright. They flew to ope_he window, and frisked and jumped about Alexander as he climbed in an_nlocked the door. It struck them as being such a fine thing to be let out i_his way, that Dorry began to rather plume himself for fastening them in.
But Aunt Izzie didn't take this view of the case. She scolded them well, an_eclared they were troublesome children, who couldn't be trusted one momen_ut of sight, and that she was more than half sorry she had promised to go t_he Lecture that evening. "How do I know," she concluded, "that before I com_ome you won't have set the house on fire, or killed somebody?"
"Oh, no we won't! no we won't!" whined the children, quite moved by thi_rightful picture. But bless you—ten minutes afterward they had forgotten al_bout it.
All this time Katy had been sitting on the ledge of the bookcase in th_ibrary, poring over a book. It was called Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered. Th_an who wrote it was an Italian, but somebody had done the story over int_nglish. It was rather a queer book for a little girl to take a fancy to, bu_omehow Katy liked it very much. It told about knights, and ladies, an_iants, and battles, and made her feel hot and cold by turns as she read, an_s if she must rush at something, and shout, and strike blows. Katy wa_aturally fond of reading. Papa encouraged it. He kept a few books locked up, and then turned her loose in the Library. She read all sorts of things: travels, and sermons, and old magazines. Nothing was so dull that she couldn'_et through with it. Anything really interesting absorbed her so that sh_ever knew what was going on about her. The little girls to whose houses sh_ent visiting had found this out, and always hid away their story-books whe_he was expected to tea. If they didn't do this, she was sure to pick one u_nd plunge in, and then it was no use to call her, or tug at her dress, fo_he neither saw nor heard anything more, till it was time to go home.
This afternoon she read the Jerusalem till It was too dark to see any more. O_er way up stairs she met Aunt Izzie, with bonnet and shawl on.
"Where _have_ you been?" she said. "I have been calling you for the las_alf-hour."
"I didn't hear you, ma'am."
"But where were you?" persisted Miss Izzie.
"In the Library, reading," replied Katy.
Her aunt gave a sort of sniff, but she knew Katy's ways, and said no more.
"I'm going out to drink tea with Mrs. Hall and attend the evening Lecture,"
she went on. "Be sure that Clover gets her lesson, and if Cecy comes over a_sual, you must send her home early. All of you must be in bed by nine."
"Yes'm," said Katy, but I fear she was not attending much, but thinking, i_er secret soul, how jolly it was to have Aunt Izzie go out for once. Mis_arr was very faithful to her duties: she seldom left the children, even fo_n evening, so whenever she did, they felt a certain sense of novelty an_reedom, which was dangerous as well as pleasant.
Still, I am sure that on this occasion Katy meant no mischief. Like al_xcitable people she seldom did _mean_ to do wrong, she just did it when i_ame into her head. Supper passed off successfully, and all might have gon_ell, had it not been that after the lessons were learned and Cecy had com_n, they fell to talking about "Kikeri."
Kikeri was a game which had been very popular with them a year before. The_ad invented it themselves, and chosen for it this queer name out of an ol_airy story. It was a sort of mixture of Blindman's Buff and Tag—only instea_f any one's eyes being bandaged, they all played in the dark. One of th_hildren would stay out in the hall, which was dimly lighted from the stairs, while the others hid themselves in the nursery. When they were all hidden, they would call out "Kikeri," as a signal for the one in the hall to come i_nd find them. Of course, coming from the light he could see nothing, whil_he others could see only dimly. It was very exciting to stand crouching up i_ corner and watch the dark figure stumbling about and feeling to right an_eft, while every now and then somebody, just escaping his clutches, woul_lip past and gain the hall, which was "Freedom Castle," with a joyful shou_f "Kikeri, Kikeri, Kikeri, Ki!" Whoever was caught had to take the place o_he catcher. For a long time this game was the delight of the Carr children; but so many scratches and black-and-blue spots came of it, and so many of th_ursery things were thrown down and broken, that at last Aunt Izzie issued a_rder that it should not be played any more. This was almost a year since; bu_alking of it now put it into their heads to want to try it again.
"After all we didn't promise," said Cecy.
"No, and _Papa_ never said a word about our not playing it," added Katy, t_hom "Papa" was authority, and must always be minded, while Aunt Izzie migh_ow and then be defied.
So they all went up stairs. Dorry and John, though half undressed, wer_llowed to join the game. Philly was fast asleep in another room.
It was certainly splendid fun. Once Clover climbed up on the mantel-piece an_at there, and when Katy, who was finder, groped about a little more wildl_han usual, she caught hold of Clover's foot, and couldn't imagine where i_ame from. Dorry got a hard knock, and cried, and at another time Katy's dres_aught on the bureau handle and was frightfully torn, but these were too muc_ffairs of every day to interfere in the least with the pleasures of Kikeri.
The fun and frolic seemed to grow greater the longer they played. In th_xcitement, time went on much faster than any of them dreamed. Suddenly, i_he midst of the noise, came a sound—the sharp distinct slam of the carryall- door at the side entrance. Aunt Izzie had returned from her Lecture.
The dismay and confusion of that moment! Cecy slipped down stairs like an eel, and fled on the wings of fear along the path which led to her home. Mrs. Hall, as she bade Aunt Izzie good-night, and shut Dr. Carr's front door behind he_ith a bang, might have been struck with the singular fact that a distant ban_ame from her own front door like a sort of echo. But she was not a suspiciou_oman; and when she went up stairs there were Cecy's clothes neatly folded o_ chair, and Cecy herself in bed, fast asleep, only with a little more colo_han usual in her cheeks.
Meantime, Aunt Izzie was on _her_ way up stairs, and such a panic a_revailed in the nursery! Katie felt it, and basely scuttled off to her ow_oom, where she went to bed with all possible speed. But the others found i_uch harder to go to bed; there were so many of them, all getting into eac_ther's way, and with no lamp to see by. Dorry and John popped under th_lothes half undressed, Elsie disappeared, and Clover, too late for either, and hearing Aunt Izzie's step in the hall, did this horrible thing—fell on he_nees, with her face buried in a chair, and began to say her prayers very har_ndeed.
Aunt Izzie, coming in with a candle in her hand, stood in the doorway, astonished at the spectacle. She sat down and waited for Clover to ge_hrough, while Clover, on her part, didn't dare to get through, but went o_epeating "Now I lay me" over and over again, in a sort of despair. At las_unt Izzie said very grimly: "That will do, Clover, you can get up!" an_lover rose, feeling like a culprit, which she was, for it was much naughtie_o pretend to be praying than to disobey Aunt Izzie and be out of bed afte_en o'clock, though I think Clover hardly understood this then.
Aunt Izzie at once began to undress her, and while doing so asked so man_uestions, that before long she had got at the truth of the whole matter. Sh_ave Clover a sharp scolding, and leaving her to wash her tearful face, sh_ent to the bed where John and Dorry lay, fast asleep, and snoring a_onspicuously as they knew how. Something strange in the appearance of the be_ade her look more closely: she lifted the clothes, and there, sure enough, they were—half dressed, and with their school-boots on.
Such a shake as Aunt Izzie gave the little scamps at this discovery, woul_ave roused a couple of dormice. Much against their will John and Dorry wer_orced to wake up, and be slapped and scolded, and made ready for bed, Aun_zzie standing over them all the while, like a dragon. She had just tucke_hem warmly in, when for the first time she missed Elsie.
"Where is my poor little Elsie?" she exclaimed.
"In bed," said Clover, meekly.
"In bed!" repeated Aunt Izzie, much amazed. Then stooping down, she gave _igorous pull. The trundle-bed came into view, and sure enough, there wa_lsie, in full dress, shoes and all, but so fast asleep that not all Aun_zzie's shakes, and pinches, and calls, were able to rouse her. Her clothe_ere taken off, her boots unlaced, her night-gown put on; but through it al_lsie slept, and she was the only one of the children who did not get th_colding she deserved that dreadful night.
Katy did not even pretend to be asleep when Aunt Izzie went to her room. He_ardy conscience had waked up, and she was lying in bed, very miserable a_aving drawn the others into a scrape as well as herself, and at the failur_f her last set of resolutions about "setting an example to the younger ones."
So unhappy was she, that Aunt Izzie's severe words were almost a relief; an_hough she cried herself to sleep, it was rather from the burden of her ow_houghts than because she had been scolded.
She cried even harder the next day, for Dr. Carr talked to her more seriousl_han he had ever done before. He reminded her of the time when her Mamma died, and of how she said, "Katy must be a Mamma to the little ones, when she grow_p." And he asked her if she didn't think the time was come for beginning t_ake this dear place towards the children. Poor Katy! She sobbed as if he_eart would break at this, and though she made no promises, I think she wa_ever quite so thoughtless again, after that day. As for the rest, Papa calle_hem together and made them distinctly understand that "Kikeri" was never t_e played any more. It was so seldom that Papa forbade any games, howeve_oisterous, that this order really made an impression on the unruly brood, an_hey never have played Kikeri again, from that day to this.