"Oh! what is it? What has happened?" cried Clover, starting up in bed, th_ext morning, as a clanging sound roused her suddenly from sleep. It was onl_he rising-bell, ringing at the end of Quaker Row.
Katy held her watch up to the dim light. She could just see the hands. Yes: they pointed to six. It was actually morning! She and Clover jumped up, an_egan to dress as fast as possible.
"We've only got half an hour," said Clover, unhooking the rules, and carryin_hem to the window,—"Half an hour; and this says that we must turn th_attress, smooth the under-sheet over the bolster, and spend five minutes i_ilent devotion! We'll have to be quick to do all that besides dressin_urselves!"
It is never easy to be quick, when one is in a hurry. Every thing sets itsel_gainst you. Fingers turn into thumbs; dresses won't button, nor pins kee_heir place. With all their haste, Katy and Clover were barely ready when th_econd bell sounded. As they hastened downstairs, Katy fastening her breast- pin, and Clover her cuffs, they met other girls, some looking half asleep, some half dressed; all yawning, rubbing their eyes, and complaining of th_arly hour.
"Isn't it horrid?" said Lilly Page, hurrying by with no collar on, and he_air hastily tucked into a net. "I never get up till nine o'clock when I'm a_ome. Ma saves my breakfast for me. She says I shall have my sleep out while _ave the chance."
"No, because I haven't washed my face. Half the time I don't, befor_reakfast. There's that old mattress has to be turned; and, when I sleep over, I just do that first, and then scramble my clothes on the best way I can. An_hing not to be marked!"
After prayers and breakfast were done, the girls had half an hour for puttin_heir bedrooms to rights, during which interval it is to be hoped that Lill_ound time to wash her face. After that, lessons began, and lasted till on_'clock. Dinner followed, with an hour's "recreation;" then the bell rang for
"silent study hour," when the girls sat with their books in their bedrooms, but were not allowed to speak to each other. Next came a walk.
"Who are you going to walk with?" asked Rose Red, meeting Clover in Quaker Row.
"I don't know. Katy, I guess."
"Are you really? You and she like each other, don't you? Do you know you'r_he first sisters I ever knew at school who did! Generally, they quarre_wfully. The Stearns girls, who were here last term, scarcely spoke to eac_ther. They didn't even room together; and Sarah Stearns was always tellin_ales against Sue, and Sue against Sara."
"How disgusting! I never heard of any thing so mean," cried Clover, indignantly. "Why, I wouldn't tell tales about Katy if we quarrelled ever s_uch. We never do, though, Katy is so sweet."
"I suppose she is," said Rose, rather doubtfully; "but, do you know, I'm sor_f afraid of her. It's because she's so tall. Tall people always scare me. An_hen she looks so grave and grown up! Don't tell her I said so, though; for _ant her to like me."
"Oh, she isn't a bit grave or grown up. She's the funniest girl in the world.
Wait till you know her," replied loyal Clover.
"I'd give any thing if I could walk with you part of this term," went on Rose, putting her arm round Clover's waist. "But you see, unluckily, I'm engage_traight through. All of us old girls are. I walk with May Mather this wee_nd next, then Esther Dearborn for a month, then Lilly Page for two weeks, an_ll the rest of the time with Mary. I can't think why I promised Lilly. I'_ure I don't want to go with her. I'd ask Mary to let me off, only I'm afrai_he'd feel bad. I say, suppose we engage now to walk with each other for th_irst half of next term!"
"Why, that's not till October!" said Clover
"I know it; but it's nice to be beforehand. Will you?"
"Of course I will; provided that Katy has somebody pleasant to go with,"
replied Clover, immensely flattered at being asked by the popular Rose. The_hey ran downstairs, and took their places in the long procession of girls, who were ranged two and two, ready to start. Miss Jane walked at the head; an_iss Marsh, another teacher, brought up the rear. Rose Red whispered that i_as like a funeral and a caravan mixed,—"as cheerful as hearses at both ends, and wild beasts in the middle."
The walk was along a wooded road; a mile out and a mile back. The processio_as not permitted to stop or straggle, or take any of the liberties which mak_alking pleasant. Still, Katy and Clover enjoyed it. There was a spring smel_n the air, and the woods were beginning to be pretty. They even found _ittle trailing aribitus blossoming in a sunny hollow. Lilly was just in fron_f them, and amused them with histories of different girls, whom she pointe_ut in the long line. That was Esther Dearborn,—Rose Red's friend. Handsome, wasn't she? but awfully sarcastic. The two next were Amy Alsop and Ellen Gray.
They always walked together, because they were so intimate. Yes; they wer_ice enough, only so distressingly good. Amy did not get one single mark las_erm! That child with pig-tails was Bella Arkwright. Why on earth did Kat_ant to know her? She was a nasty little thing.
"She's just about Elsie's height," replied Katy. "Who's that pretty girl wit_ink velvet on her hat?"
"Dear me! Do you think she's pretty? I don't. Her name is Louisa Agnew. She lives at Ashburn,—quite near us; but we don't know them.
Her family are not at all in good society."
"What a pity! She looks sweet and lady-like."
Lilly tossed her head. "They're quite common people," she said. "They live i_ little mite of a house, and her father paints portraits."
"But I should think that would be nice. Doesn't she ever take you to see hi_ictures?"
"Take me!" cried Lilly, indignantly. "I should think not. I tell you we don'_isit. I just speak when we're here, but I never see her when I'm at home."
"Move on, young ladies. What are you stopping for?" cried Miss Jane.
"Yes; move on," muttered Rose Red, from behind. "Don't you hear Policeman X?"
From walking-hour till tea-time was "recreation" again. Lilly improved thi_pportunity to call at No. 6. She had waited to see how the girls were likel_o take in the school before committing herself to intimacy; but, now tha_ose Red had declared in their favor, she was ready to begin to be friendly.
"How lovely!" she said, looking about. "You got the end room, after all, didn't you? What splendid times you'll have! Oh, how plainly you can see Berr_earles's window! Has he spoken to you yet?"
"Spoken to us,—of course not! Why should he?" replied Katy: "he doesn't kno_s, and we don't know him."
"That's nothing: half the girls in the school bow, and speak, and carry o_ith young men they don't know. You won't have a bit of fun if you're s_articular."
"I don't want that kind of fun," replied Katy, with energy in her voice;
"neither does Clover. And I can't imagine how the girls can behave so. I_sn't lady-like at all."
Katy was very fond of this word, lady-like. She always laid great stress upo_t. It seemed in some way to be connected with Cousin Helen, and to mean ever_hing that was good, and graceful, and sweet.
"Dear me! I'd no idea you were so dreadfully proper," said Lilly, pouting.
"Mother said you were as prim and precise as your grandmother; but I didn'_uppose"—
"How unkind!" broke in Clover, taking fire, as usual, at any affront to Katy.
"Katy prim and precise! She isn't a bit! She's twice as much fun as the res_f you girls; but it's nice fun,—not this horrid stuff about students. I wis_our mother wouldn't say such things!"
"I didn't—she didn't—I don't mean exactly that," stammered Lilly, frightene_y Clover's indignant eyes. "All I meant was, that Katy is dreadfull_ignified for her age, and we bad girls will have to look out. You needn't b_o mad, Clover; I'm sure it's very nice to be proper and good, and set a_xample."
"I don't want to preach to anybody," said Katy, coloring, "and I wasn'_hinking about examples. But really and truly, Lilly, wouldn't your mother, and all the girls' mothers, be shocked if they knew about these performance_ere?"
"Gracious! I should think so; ma would kill me. I wouldn't have her know of m_oings on for all the world."
Just then Rose pulled out a drawer, and called through to ask if Clover woul_lease come in and help her a minute. Lilly took advantage of her absence t_ay,—
"I came on purpose to ask you to walk with me for four weeks. Will you?"
"Thank you; but I'm engaged to Clover."
"To Clover! But she's your sister; you can get off."
"I don't want to get off. Clover and I like dearly to go together."
Lilly stared. "Well, I never heard of such a thing," she said, "you're reall_omantic. The girls will call you 'The Inseparables.'"
"I wouldn't mind being inseparable from Clover," said Katy, laughing.
Next day was Saturday. It was nominally a holiday; but so many tasks were se_or it, that it hardly seemed like one. The girls had to practise in th_ymnasium, to do their mending, and have all drawers in apple-pie order, before afternoon, when Miss Jane went through the rooms on a tour o_nspection. Saturday, also, was the day for writing home letters; so, altogether, it was about the busiest of the week.
Early in the morning Miss Jane appeared in Quaker Row with some slips of pape_n her hand, one of which she left at each door. They told the hours at whic_he girls were to go to the bath-house.
"You will carry, each, a crash towel, a sponge, and soap," she announced t_aty, "and will be in the entry, at the foot of the stairs, at twenty-fiv_inutes after nine precisely. Failures in punctuality will be punished by _ark." Miss Jane always delivered her words like a machine, and closed he_outh with a snap at the end of the sentence.
"Horrid thing! Don't I wish her missionary would come and carry her off. No_hat I blame him for staying away," remarked Rose Red, from her door; making _ace at Miss Jane, as she walked down the entry.
"I don't understand about the bath-house," said Katy. "Does it belong to us?
And where is it?"
"No, it doesn't belong to us. It belongs to Mr. Perrit, and anybody can us_t; only on Saturday it is reserved for us nuns. Haven't you every noticed i_hen we have been out walking? It's in that street by the bakery, which w_ass to take the Lebanon road. We go across the green, and down by Professo_eccomb's, and we are in plain sight from the college all the way; and, o_ourse, those abominable boys sit there with spy-glasses, and stare as hard a_ver they can. It's perfectly horrid. 'A crash towel, a sponge, and soap,'
indeed! I wish I could make Miss Jane eat the pieces of soap which she ha_orced me to carry across this village."
"O Rose!" remonstrated Mary Silver.
"Well, I do. And the crash towels afterward, by way of a dessert," replied th_ncorrigible Rose. "Never mind! Just wait! A bright idea strikes me!"
"Oh! what?" cried the other three; but Rose only pursed up her mouth, arche_e eye-brows, and vanished into her own room, locking the door behind her.
Mary Silver, finding herself shut out, sat down meekly in the hall till suc_ime as it should please Rose to open the door. This was not till the bat_our. As Katy and Clover went by, Rose put her head out, and called that sh_ould be down in a minute.
The bathing party consisted of eight girls, with Miss Jane for escort. The_ere half way across the common before Miss Jane noticed that everybody wa_haking with stifled laughter, except Rose, who walked along demurely, apparently unconscious that there was any thing to laugh at. Miss Jane looke_harply from one to another for a moment, then stopped short and exclaimed,
"Rosamond Redding! how dare you?"
"What is it ma'am?" asked Rose, with the face of a lamb.
"Your bath towel! your sponge!" gasped Miss Jane.
"Yes, ma'am, I have them all," replied the audacious Rose, putting her hand t_er hat. There, to be sure, was the long crash towel, hanging down behind lik_ veil, while the sponge was fastened on one side like a great cockade; and i_ront appeared a cake of pink soap, neatly pinned into the middle of a blac_elvet bow.
Miss Jane seized Rose, and removed these ornaments in a twinkling. "We shal_ee what Mrs. Florence thinks of this conduct," she grimly remarked. Then, dropping the soap and sponge in her own pocket, she made Rose walk beside her, as if she were a criminal in custody.
The bath-house was a neat place, with eight small rooms, well supplied wit_ot and cold water. Katy would have found her bath very nice, had it not bee_or the thought of the walk home. They must look so absurd, she reflected, with their sponges and damp towels.
Miss Jane was as good as her word. After dinner, Rose was sent for by Mrs.
Florence, and had an interview of two hours with her: she came out with re_yes, and shut herself into her room with a disconsolate bang. Before long, however, she revived sufficiently to tap on the drawers and push through _ote with the following words:—
"My heart is broken!
Clover hastened in to comfort her. Rose was sitting on the floor, with a ver_lean pocket-handkerchief in her hand. She wept, and put her head agains_lover's knee.
"I suppose I'm the nastiest girl in the world," she said. "Mrs.
Florence thinks so. She said I was an evil influence in the school.
Wasn't that un—kind?" with a little sob.
"I meant to be so good this term," she went on; "but what's the use?
A codfish might as well try to play the piano! It was always so, even when I was a baby. Sylvia says I have got a little fiend inside of me.
Do you believe I have? Is it that makes me so horrid?"
Clover purred over her. She could not bear to have Rose feel badly. "Wasn'_iss Jane funny?" went on Rose, with a sudden twinkle; "and did you see Berry, and Alfred Seccomb?"
"No: where were they?"
"Close to us, standing by the fence. All the time Miss Jane was unpinning th_owel, they were splitting their sides, and Berry made such a face at me tha_ nearly laughed out. That boy has a perfect genius for faces. He used t_righten Sylvia and me into fits, when we were little tots, up here o_isits."
"Then you knew him before you came to school?"
"Oh dear, yes! I know all the Hillsover boys. We used to make mud pie_ogether. They're grown up now, most of 'em, and in college; and when we meet, we're very dignified, and say, 'Miss Redding,' and 'Mr. Seccomb,' and 'Mr.
Searles;' but we're just as good friends as ever. When I go to take tea wit_rs. Seccomb, Alfred always invites Berry to drop in, and we have the greates_un. Mrs. Florence won't let me go this term, though, I guess, she's so ma_bout the towel."
Katy was quite relieved when Clover reported this conversation. Rose, for al_er wickedness, seemed to be a little lady. Katy did not like to class he_mong the girls who flirted with students whom they did not know.
It was wonderful how soon they all settled down, and became accustomed t_heir new life. Before six weeks were over, Katy and Clover felt as if the_ad lived at Hillsover for years. This was partly because there was so much t_o. Nothing makes time fly like having every moment filled, and every hour se_part for a distinct employment.
They made several friends, chief among whom were Ellen Gray and Louisa Agnew.
This last intimacy Lilly resented highly, and seemed to consider as an affron_o herself. With no one, however, was Katy so intimate as Clover was with Ros_ed. This cost Katy some jealous pangs at first. She was so used t_onsidering Clover her own exclusive property that it was not easy to shar_er with another; and she had occasional fits of feeling resentful, an_njured, and left out. These were but momentary, however. Katy was too health_f mind to let unkind feelings grow, and by and by she grew fond of Rose an_ose of her, so that in the end the sisters share their friend as they di_ther nice things, and neither of them was jealous of the other.
But, charming as she was, a certain price had to be paid for the pleasure o_ntimacy with Rose. Her overflowing spirits, and "the little fiend insid_er," were always provoking scrapes, in which her friends were apt to be mor_r less involved. She was very pen intent and afflicted after these scrapes; but it didn't make a bit of difference: the next time she was just as naught_s ever.
"What are you?" said Katy, one day, meeting her in the hall with a heap o_lack shawls and aprons on her arm.
"Hush!" whispered Rose, mysteriously, "don't say a word. Senator Brown i_ead—our senator, you know. I'm going to put my window into mourning for him, that's all. It's a proper token of respect."
Two hours later, Mrs. Nipson, walking sedately across the common, notice_uite a group of students, in the president's yard, looking up at the Nunnery.
She drew nearer. They were admiring Rose's window, hung with black, an_ecorated with a photograph of the deceased senator, suspended in the middl_f a wreath of weeping- willow. Of course she hurried upstairs, and tore dow_he shawls and aprons; and, equally of course, Rose had a lecture and a mark; but, dear me! what good did it do? The next day but one, as Katy and Clove_at together in silent study hour, their lower drawer was pushed open ver_oiselessly and gently, till it came out entirely, and lay on the floor, an_n the aperture thus formed appeared Roses's saucy face flushed with mischief.
She was crawling through from her own room!
"Such fun!" she whispered; "I never thought of this before! We can hav_arties in study hours, and all sorts of things."
"Oh, go back, Rosy!" whispered Clover in agonized entreaty, though laughin_ll the time.
"Go back? Not at all! I'm coming in," answered Rose, pulling herself through _ittle farther. But at that moment the door opened: there stood Miss Jane! Sh_ad caught the buzz of voices, as she passed in the hall, and had entered t_ee what was going on.
Rose, dreadfully frightened, made a rapid movement to withdraw. But the spac_as narrow, and she had wedged herself, and could move neither backward no_orward. She had to submit to being helped through by Miss Jane, in a serie_f pulls, while Katy and Clover sat by, not daring to laugh or to offe_ssistance. When Rose was on her feet, Miss Jane released her with a fina_hake, which she seemed unable to refrain from giving.
"Go to your room," she said; "I shall report all of you young ladies for thi_lagrant act of disobedience."
Rose went, and in two minutes the drawer, which Miss Jane had replaced, opene_gain, and there was this note:—
> "If I'm never heard of more, give my love to my family, and > mention how I died. I forgive my enemies; and leave Clover > my band bracelet.
> "My blessings on you both.
> "With the deepest regard, > "Your afflicted friend, R. R."
Mrs. Florence was very angry on this occasion, and would listen to n_xplanations, but gave Katy and Clover a "disobedience mark" also. This wa_ery unfair, and Rose felt dreadfully about it. She begged and entreated; bu_rs. Florence only replied: "There is blame on both sides, I have no doubt."
"She's entirely changed from what she used to be," declared Rose. "I don'_now what's the matter; I don't like her half so much as I did."
The truth was, that Mrs. Florence had secretly determined to give up he_onnection with the school at midsummer; and, regarding it now rather as Mrs.
Nipson's school than her own, she took no pains to study character or mete ou_ustice carefully among scholars with whom she was not likely to have much t_o.