"Only seven days more to cross off," said Clover, drawing her pencil throug_ne of the squares on the diagram pinned beside her looking- glass, "seve_ore, and then—oh, joy!—papa will be here, and we shall start for home."
She was interrupted by the entrance of Katy, holding a letter and looking pal_nd aggrieved.
"Oh, Clover," she cried, "just listen to this! Papa can't come for us. Isn'_t too bad?" And she read:—
> "Burnet, March 20.
> "My dear Girls,—I find that it will not be possible for me to come for yo_ext week, as I intended. Several people are severely ill, and old Mrs. Barlo_truck down suddenly with paralysis, so I cannot leave. I am sorry, and s_ill you be; but there is no help for it. Fortunately, Mrs. Hall has jus_eard that some friends of hers are coming westward with their family, and sh_as written to ask them to take charge of you. The drawback to this plan is, that you will have to travel alone as far as Albany, where Mr. Peters (Mrs.
Hall's friend) will meet you. I have written to ask Mr. Page to put you on th_rain, and under the care of the conductor, on Tuesday morning. I hope yo_ill get through without embarassment. Mr. Peters will be at the station i_lbany to receive you; or, if any thing should hinder him, you are to drive a_nce to the Delavan House where they are staying. I enclose a check for you_ourney. If Dorry were five years older, I should send him after you.
> "The children are most impatient to have you back. Miss Finch has bee_uddenly called away by the illness of her sister-in-law, so Elsie is keepin_ouse till you return.
> "God bless you, my dear daughters, and send you safe.
> "Yours affectionately, > P. Carr."
"Oh, dear!" said Clover, with her lip trembling, "now papa won't see Rosy."
"No," said Katy, "and Rosy and Louisa and the rest won't see him. That is th_orst of all. I wanted them to so much. And just think how dismal it will b_o travel with people we don't know. It's too, too bad, I declare."
"I do think old Mrs. Barlow might have put off being ill just one wee_onger," grumbled Clover. "It takes away half the pleasure of going home."
The girls might be excused for being cross, for this was a grea_isappointment. There was no help for it, however, as papa said. They coul_nly sigh and submit. But the journey, to which they had looked forward s_uch, was no longer thought of as a pleasure, only a disagreeable necessity, something which must be endured in order that they might reach home.
Five, four, three days,—the last little square was crossed off, the las_inner was eaten, the last breakfast. There was much mourning over Katy an_lover among the girls who were to return for another year. Louisa and Elle_ray were inconsolable; and Bella, with a very small pocket handkerchief hel_ightly in her hand, clung to Katy every moment, crying, and declaring tha_he would not let her go. The last evening she followed her into No. 2 (wher_he was dreadfully in the way of the packing), and after various od_ontortions and mysterious, half-spoken sentences, said:—
"Say, won't you tell if I tell you something?"
"What is it?" asked Katy, absently, as she folded and smoothed her best gown.
"Something," repeated Bella, wagging her head mysteriously, and looking mor_ike a thievish squirrel than ever.
"Well, what is it? Tell me."
To Katy's surprise, Bella burst into a violent fit of crying.
"I'm real sorry I did it," she sobbed,—"real sorry! And now you'll never lov_e any more."
"Yes, I will. What is it? Do stop crying, Bella dear, and tell me," said Katy, alarmed at the violence of the sobs.
"It was for fun, really and truly it was. But I wanted some cake too,"
—protested Bella, sniffing very hard.
"And I didn't think anybody would know. Berry Searles doesn't care a bit fo_s little girls, only for big ones. And I knew if I said "Bella," he'd neve_ive me the cake. So I said 'Miss Carr' instead."
"Bella, did you write that note?" inquired Katy, almost to much surprised t_peak.
"Yes. And I tied a string to your blind, because I knew I could go in and dra_t up when you were practising. But I didn't mean to do any harm; and whe_rs. Florence was so mad, and changed your room, I was real sorry," moane_ella, digging her knuckles into her eyes.
"Won't you ever love me any more?" she demanded. Katy lifted her into her lap, and talked so tenderly and seriously that her contrition, which was only hal_enuine, became real; and she cried in good earnest when Katy kissed her i_oken of forgiveness.
"Of course you'll go at once to Mrs. Nipson," said Clover and Rose, when Kat_mparted this surprising discovery.
"No, I think not. Why should I? It would only get poor little Bella into _readful scrape, and she's coming back again, you know. Mrs. Nipson does no_elieve that story now,—nobody does. We had 'lived it down,' just as I hope w_hould. That is much better than having it contradicted."
"I don't think so; and I should enjoy seeing that little wretch of a Bella well whipped," persisted Rose. But Katy was not to be shaken.
"To please me, promise that not a word shall be said about it," she urged; and, to please her, the girls consented.
I think Katy was right in saying that Mrs. Nipson no longer believed he_uilty in the affair of the note. She had been very friendly to both th_isters of late; and when Clover carried in her album and asked for a_utograph, she waxed quite sentimental and wrote, "I would not exchange th_odest Clover for the most beautiful parterre, so bring it back, I pray thee, to your affectionate teacher, Marianne Nipson;" which effusion quit_verwhelmed "the modest Clover," and called out the remark from Rose,—"Don'_he wish she may get you!" Miss Jane said twice, "I shall miss you, Katy," _peech which, to quote Rose again, made Katy look as "surprised as Balaam."
Rose herself was not coming back to school. She and the girls were hal_roken-hearted at parting. They lavished tears, kisses, promises of letters, and vows of eternal friendship. Neither of them, it was agreed, was ever t_ove anybody else so well. The final moment would have been almost to_ragical, had it not been for a last bit of mischief on the part of Rose. I_as after the stage was actually at the door, and she had her foot upon th_tep, that, struck by a happy thought, she rushed upstairs again, collecte_he girls, and, each taking a window, they tore down the cotton, flung ope_ashes, and startled Mrs. Nipson, who stood below, by the simultaneous wavin_herefrom of many white flags. Katy, who was already in the stage, had th_ull benefit of this performance. Always after that, when she thought of th_unnery, her memory recalled this scene,—Mrs. Nipson in the door-way, Bell_lubbering behind, and overhead the windows crowded with saucy girls, laughin_nd triumphantly flapping the long cotton strips which had for so many month_bscured the daylight for them all.
At Springfield next morning she and Clover said good-by to Mr. Page and Lilly.
The ride to Albany was easy and safe. With every mile their spirits rose. A_ast they were actually on the way home.
At Albany they looked anxiously about the crowded depot for "Mr. Peters."
Nobody appeared at first, and they had time to grow nervous before they saw _entle, careworn little man coming toward them in company with the conductor.
"I believe you are the young ladies I have come to meet," he said. "You mus_xcuse my being late, I was detained by business. There is a great deal to d_o move a family out West," he wiped his forehead in a dispirited way. Then h_ut the girls into a carriage, and gave the driver a direction.
"We'd better leave your baggage at the office as we pass," he said, "becaus_e have to get off so early in the morning."
"The boat goes at six, but we ought to be on board by half-past five, so as t_e well settled before she starts."
"The boat?" said Katy, opening her eyes.
"Yes. Erie Canal, you know. Our furniture goes that way, so we judged it bes_o do the same, and keep an eye on it ourselves. Never be separated from you_roperty, if you can help it, that's my maxim. It's the Prairie Belle,—one o_he finest boats on the Canal."
"When do we get to Buffalo?" asked Katy, with an uneasy recollection of havin_eard that canal boats travel slowly.
"Buffalo? Let me see. This is Tuesday,—Wednesday, Thursday,—well, if we'r_ucky we ought to be there Friday evening; so, if we're not too late to catc_he night boat on the lake, you'll reach home Saturday afternoon."
Four days! The girls looked at each other with dismay too deep for words.
Elsie was expecting them by Thursday at latest. What should they do?
"Telegraph," was the only answer that suggested itself. So Katy scribbled _espatch, "Coming by canal. Don't expect us till Saturday," which she begge_r. Peters to send; and she and Clover agreed in whispers that it wa_readful, but they must bear it as patiently as they could.
Oh, the patience which is needed on a canal! The motion which is not so muc_otion as standing still! The crazy impulse to jump out and help the crawlin_oat along by pushing it from behind! How one grows to hate the slow, monotonous glide, the dull banks, and to envy every swift-moving thing i_ight, each man on horseback, each bird flying through the air.
Mrs. Peters was a thin, anxious woman, who spent her life anticipatin_isasters of all sorts. She had her children with her, three little boys, an_ teething baby; and such a load of bundles, and baskets, and brown pape_arcels, that Katy and Clover privately wondered how she could possibly hav_ot through the journey without their help. Willy, the eldest boy, was alway_egging leave to go ashore and ride the towing horses; Sammy, the second coul_nly be kept quiet by means of crooked pins and fish-lines of blue yarn; whil_aul, the youngest, was possessed with a curiosity as to the under side of th_oat, which resulted in his dropping his new hat overboard five times in thre_ays, Mr. Peters and the cabin-boy rowing back in a small boat each time t_ecover it. Mrs. Peters sat on deck with her baby in her lap, and was in _erpetual agony lest the locks should work wrongly, or the boys be drowned, o_ome one fail to notice the warning cry, "Bridge!" and have their head_arried off from their shoulders. Nobody did; but the poor lady suffered th_nguish of ten accidents in dreading the one which never took place. Th_erths at night were small and cramped, restless children woke and cried, th_abins were close, the decks cold and windy. There was nothing to see, an_othing to do. Katy and Clover agreed that they never wanted to see a cana_oat again.
They were very helpful to Mrs. Peters, amused the boys, and kept them out o_ischief; and she told her husband that she really thought she shouldn't hav_ived through the journey if it hadn't been for the Miss Carrs, they were suc_ind girls, and so fond of children. But the three days were terribly long. A_ast they ended. Buffalo was reached in time for the lake boat; and onc_stablished on board, feeling the rapid motion, and knowing that each strok_f the paddles took them nearer home, the girls were rewarded for their lon_rial of patience.
At four o'clock the next afternoon Burnet was in sight. Long before the_ouched the wharf Clover discovered old Whitey and the carryall, an_lexander, waiting for them among the crowd of carriages. Standing on the edg_f the dock appeared a well-known figure.
"Papa! papa!" she shrieked. It seemed as if the girls could not wait for th_oat to stop, and the plank to be lowered. How delightful it was to feel pap_gain! Such a sense of home and comfort and shelter as came with his touch!
"I'll never go away from you again, never, never!" repeated Clover, keepin_ight hold of his hand as they drove up the hill. Dr. Carr, as he gazed at hi_irls, was equally happy,—they were so bright, affectionate and loving. No, h_ould never spare them again, for the boarding-school or any thing else, h_hought.
"You must be very tired," he said.
"Not a bit. I'm hardly ever tired now," replied Katy.
"Oh, dear! I forgot to thank Mr. Peters for taking care of us," said Clover.
"Never mind. I did it for you," answered her father.
"Oh, that baby!" she continued: "how glad I am that it has gone to Toledo, an_ needn't hear it cry any more! Katy! Katy! there's home! We are at the gate!"
The girls looked eagerly out, but no children were visible. They hurried u_he gravel path, under the locust boughs just beginning to bud. There, ove_he front door, was an arch of evergreens, with "Katy" and "Clover" upon it i_carlet letters; and as they reached the porch, the door flew open, and ou_oured the children in a tumultuous little crowd. They had been on the roof, looking through a spy-glass after the boat.
"We never knew you had come till we heard the gate," explained John and Dorry; while Elsie hugged Clover, and Phil, locking his arms round Katy's neck, too_is feet off the floor, and swung them in and ecstasy of affection, until sh_egged for mercy.
"How you are grown! Dorry, you're as tall as I am! Elsie, darling, how wel_ou look! Oh, isn't it delicious, delicious, delicious, to be at home again!"
There was such a hubbub of endearments and explanations that Dr. Carr coul_ardly make himself heard.
"Clover, your waist has grown as small as a pin. You look just like th_eautiful princess in Elsie's story," said Johnnie.
"Take the girls into the parlor," repeated Dr. Carr: "it is cold out here, with the door open."
"Take 'em upstairs! You don't know what is upstairs!" shouted Phil, whereupo_lsie frowned and shook her head at him.
The parlor was gay with daffodils and hyacinths, and vases of blue violets, which smelt delightfully. Cecy had helped to arrange them, Elsie said. An_ust at that moment Cecy herself came in. Her hair was arranged in a sort o_in-cushion of puffs, with a row of curls on top, where no curls used to grow, and her appearance generally was very fine and fashionable; but she was th_ame affectionate Cecy as ever, and hugged the girls, and danced round them a_he used to do at twelve. She had waited until they had had time to kiss onc_ll round, she said, and then she really couldn't wait any longer.
"Now come upstairs," suggested Elsie, when Clover had warmed her feet, and th_lowers had been admired, and everybody had said ten times over how nice i_as to have the girls back, and the girls had replied that it was just as nic_o come back.
So they all went upstairs, Elsie leading the way.
"Where are you going?" cried Katy: "that's the Blue Room." But Elsie did no_ause.
"You see," she explained, with the door-knob in her hand, "papa and I though_ou ought to have a bigger room now, because you are grown-up young ladies! S_e have fixed this for you, and your old one is going to be the spare roo_nstead." Then she threw the door open, and led the girls in.
"See, Katy," she said, "this is your bureau, and this is Clover's.
And look what nice drawers papa has had put in the closet,—two for you, and two for her. Aren't they convenient? Don't you like it?
And isn't it a great deal pleasanter than the old room?"
"Oh, a great deal," cried the girls. "It is delightful, every thing about it."
All Katy's old treasures had been transferred from her old quarters to this.
There was her cushioned chair, her table, her book- shelf, the pictures fro_he walls. There were some new things too, —a blue carpet, blue paper on th_alls, window curtains of fresh chintz; and Elsie had made a tasteful pin- cushion for each bureau, and Johnnie crocheted mats for the wash-stand.
Altogether, it was as pretty a bower as two sisters just grown into ladie_ould desire.
"What are those lovely things hanging on either side of the bed?" aske_lover.
They were two illuminated texts, sent as a "welcome home," by Cousin Helen.
One was a morning text, and other an evening text, Elsie explained. Th_vening text, which bore the words, "I will lay me down to sleep, and take m_est, for it is thou, Lord, only who makest me dwell in safety," was painte_n soft purples and grays, and among the poppies and silver lilies whic_reathed it appeared a cunning little downy bird, fast asleep, with his hea_nder his wing. The morning text, "When I awake, I am still with Thee," was i_right colors, scarlet and blue and gold, and had a frame of rose garlands an_ide-awake-looking butterflies and humming-birds. The girls thought they ha_ever seen any thing so pretty.
Such a gay supper as they had that night! Katy would not take her old place a_he tea-tray. She wanted to know how Elsie looked as housekeeper, she said. S_he sat on one side of papa, and Clover on the other, and Elsie poured th_ea, with a mixture of delight and dignity which was worth seeing.
"I'll begin to-morrow," said Katy.
And with that morrow, when she came out of her pretty room and took her plac_nce more as manager of the household, her grown-up life may be said to hav_egun. So it is time that I should cease to write about her. Grown-up live_ay be very interesting, but they have no rightful place in a child's book. I_ittle girls will forget to be little, and take it upon them to become youn_adies, they must bear the consequences, one of which is, that we can follo_heir fortunes no longer.
… … … … .
I wrote these last words sitting in the same green meadow where the firs_ords of "What Katy Did" were written. A year had passed, but a cardinal- flower which seemed the same stood looking at itself in the brook, and fro_he bulrush-bed sounded tiny voices. My little goggle-eyed friends wer_iscussing Katy and her conduct, as they did then, but with less spirit; fo_ne voice came seldom and faintly, while the other, bold and defiant as ever, repeated over and over again, "Katy didn't! Katy didn't! She didn't, didn't, didn't"
"Katy did!" sounded faintly from the farther rush.
"She didn't, she didn't," chirped the undaunted partisan. Silence followed.
His opponent was either convinced or tired of the discussion.
"Katy didn't." The words repeated themselves in my mind as I walked homeward.
How much room for "Didn'ts" there is in the world, I thought What an importan_art they play! And how glad I am that, with all her own and other people'_oings, so many of these "Didn'ts" were included among the things which m_aty did at School!