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Title: When Sarah Went to School
Author: Singmaster, Elsie
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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(This file was produced from images generously made


  WHEN SARAH WENT
  TO SCHOOL

  [Illustration: IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR ME TO GO (page 18)]



  WHEN SARAH WENT
  TO SCHOOL

  BY ELSIE SINGMASTER

  AUTHOR OF "WHEN SARAH SAVED THE DAY"

  WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

  [Decoration]

  BOSTON AND NEW YORK

  HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

  _The Riverside Press Cambridge_



  COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY ELSIE SINGMASTER

  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE
  THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM

  _Published October 1910_

  PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.



  TO THE MEMORY OF OUR
  GRANDMOTHER
  SARAH MATTERN SINGMASTER

  "What did the other children do?
  And what were childhood, wanting you?"



CONTENTS


     I. THE DRESS PARADE                                              1

    II. "THE NORMAL"                                                 21

   III. SARAH LOSES HER TEMPER                                       44

    IV. SARAH EXPLAINS                                               65

     V. PROFESSOR MINTURN'S EXPERIMENT                               81

    VI. THE "CHRISTMAS CAROL"                                        99

   VII. SARAH SAVES THE DAY ONCE MORE                               121

  VIII. THE RESULT OF PROFESSOR MINTURN'S EXPERIMENT                139

    IX. THE STATE BOARD                                             158

     X. THE CHAIRMAN MAKES A SPEECH                                 173



ILLUSTRATIONS


  "IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR ME TO GO" (page 18)               _Frontispiece_

  ON THE THRESHOLD STOOD MISS ELLINGWOOD                             64

  SHE SEEMS TO HAVE FAINTED                                         146

  HE KEPT HER BESIDE HIM                                            186


  From drawings by Wilson C. Dexter.



WHEN SARAH WENT TO SCHOOL



CHAPTER I

THE DRESS PARADE


Across the angle of the post-and-rail fence at the lower corner of
the Wenners' yard, a board had been laid, and behind the board stood
a short, slender, bright-eyed young girl, her hands busy with an
assortment of small articles spread out before her. There were a few
glass beads, a string of buttons, half a dozen small, worn toys,
a basket of early apples, and a plate of crullers. When they were
arranged to her satisfaction, she took an apple in one hand and a
cruller in the other, and, climbing the fence, perched on the upper
rail and began to eat.

Before she had taken more than two bites an extraordinary procession
appeared round the corner of the house. Ellen Louisa, one of the Wenner
twins, dressed in a long gingham dress of her sister-in-law's, leaned
affectionately upon the arm of the other twin, Louisa Ellen, who wore
with ludicrous effect a coat and hat of their brother William's.
Clinging to Louisa Ellen's hand was a small fat boy. They solemnly
approached the improvised store.

"Is any one at home in this store?" asked Louisa Ellen in a gruff voice.

The proprietress slid down from the top of the fence. She spoke
carefully, but she did not quite succeed in disguising her
Pennsylvania-German accent.

"Well, sir, what is it to-day?"

"I want--" It was Ellen Louisa, who spoke in a simpering tone--"I want
a penny's worth of what you can get the most of for a penny, missis. I
want it for my little boy. Apples will do. He has it sometimes in his
stomach, and--"

A loud crash interrupted Ellen Louisa's account of Albert's delicate
constitution. He had seized the propitious moment for the purloining
of two crullers, and in order to establish his ownership, had taken
a large bite out of each. It was the storekeeper's quick grab which
brought the counter to the ground, and mingled all the wares in wild
confusion on the grass.

Albert looked frightened. When, instead of scolding, Sarah dropped
to her knees and helped him gather up the toys, he stared at her,
bewildered.

"You'd catch it if I wasn't going to the Normal to-morrow to be
learned!" said Sarah. "But to-day is a special day. What shall we play
next?"

The twins swiftly shed their superfluous garments, and became two thin
little girls, who could scarcely be told apart. Their plaid gingham
aprons waved in the breeze as they danced about.

"Let us play 'Uncle Daniel,'" they cried together.

Even sixteen-year-old Sarah hopped up and down at the brilliancy of the
suggestion. Uncle Daniel Swartz was their mother's brother, who lived
on the next farm. After their mother and father had died, and their
older brother had apparently disappeared into the frozen North, whither
he had gone to seek his fortune, Uncle Daniel, who had long coveted
the fine farm, had attempted to divide the little family and add the
fertile acres to his own. It was Sarah who had stubbornly opposed him,
holding bravely out until William had come home. William had married
pretty Miss Miflin, the district-school teacher, and, giving up his
plans for further adventure, had settled down to become a truck farmer.
Already he was succeeding beyond his rosiest hopes.

Both he and his wife were anxious that Sarah should go to school, and
all the summer Laura had been helping her to recall the small knowledge
she had had before heavy care and responsibility had taken her from
the district school. To-morrow she was to enter the sub-Junior class
of the Normal School, which William and Laura had attended. Laura had
corresponded with the principal, Doctor Ellis, and had engaged Sarah's
room. It had been a busy summer. Sarah had kept up her Geography after
she had left school, but in other branches she had needed a good deal
of tutoring.

No one who saw her now, in her wild game with the twins, would have
guessed that she had ever had any care or responsibility. She assumed
first the character of Uncle Daniel; she told the twins that they must
go to live with Aunt Mena, she tried to entice Albert away. Then she
was Uncle Daniel's hired man, Jacob Kalb, who had translated his name
to Calf, because he was anxious to be thought English. In this rôle
she was pursued round the barn by the twins, who brandished an old,
disabled gun, which in Sarah's hands had once terrified Jacob Kalb.

Once, in this delightful game, they passed close to the fence beyond
which Jacob himself was working. Sarah balanced for a second on the
upper rail.

    "Jacob Calf,
    You make me laugh!"

she shrieked, and then jumped down backward. The twins held the gun
aloft, screaming with delight.

The game closed with a scene in the Orphans' Court, where Uncle Daniel
demanded that he be made their guardian, and where William returned at
exactly the proper and dramatic moment.

"And now," announced Sarah breathlessly, when it was all over, "I am
going to say good-by to everything."

A feeling of solemnity fell suddenly upon the twins and Albert. Who
would be storekeeper on the morrow? Who would be Uncle Daniel and Jacob
Kalb and the judge of the Orphans' Court in swift succession? Who would
help them with their lessons? Who would defend them if Uncle Daniel
should ever come threatening again? Who would draw bears and tigers and
"nelephunts" and all manner of birds and beasts? "May we go fishing?"
they would ask Sister Laura, and Sister Laura would answer, "Yes, if
Sarah will go with you." "May we write with ink?"--"Yes, if Sarah will
spread some newspapers on the table, and sit beside you with her book."
Would these treats be forbidden them? Or would they be allowed to do as
they chose? But even independence would be distasteful without Sarah.
Each twin seized her by the hand.

"It is a long time till Christmas," mourned Louisa Ellen.

"_Ach_, stay by us!" wailed Ellen Louisa.

"And grow up to be like Jacob Calf!" cried Sarah derisively. "I guess
not! I am going to be a teacher, and if you ever get in my school, then
look out! You will then find out once if you don't study. I will then
learn you Latin and Greek and Algebray and more things than you ever
heard of in the world, Ellen Louisa and Louisa Ellen. You would like to
grow up like the fishes in the crick. Good-by, crick!" Sarah drew her
hands away from the twins, and dabbled them in the cool, fresh water.
"Good-by, fishes! Good-by, bridge! Good-by, bushes! Why, Ellen Louisa!
Louisa Ellen!" Sarah looked at them with an expression of comical
surprise. Louisa Ellen and Ellen Louisa were crying. "Stop it this
minute!" She seized Albert by the hand. Albert had already opened his
mouth, preparatory to joining his sisters in a wail. "Albert and I will
beat you to the barn."

    "One for the money,
    Two for the show,
    Three to make ready,
    And four to go!"

Louisa Ellen and Ellen Louisa did not stop to dry their tears, but
scampered over the ground like young colts, their skirts flying. When
Albert and Sarah got to the door, the twins had vanished, and there
ensued a game of hide and seek such as the old barn had never smiled
upon. Sarah climbed about like a monkey. She seemed to be in half a
dozen places at once. The twins thought she was downstairs in one of
the mangers, when suddenly her voice was heard from the top of the
haymow. They played tag on the barn-floor, they sang, they danced, with
Sarah always in the lead. It was certain that the stately Normal School
would open its doors on the morrow to no such hoyden as this.

They were in the midst of

    "Barnum had a nelephunt,
    Chumbo was his name, sir,"

when the barn-door opened, and a young woman appeared. She watched them
for a moment silently.

"Well, young Indians," she said.

The oldest of the young Indians clasped her hands in distress.

"Is it time to get supper already?"

"Not quite. And if four members of the family didn't insist upon having
waffles, you shouldn't help at all. Your clothes are all ready, and I
want you to come and see them."

The twins raced wildly toward the house, and Sarah followed more slowly
with her sister-in-law and Albert. She looked shyly and gratefully at
Laura. She had not yet grown quite accustomed to having "Teacher" a
member of the family. She had so long looked up to her with awe and
admiration that her constant presence in the house did not seem quite
real. Laura often laughed at her.

"I should think, Sarah, that after you had cleared up my outrageous
bread-dough three times, and had taken my burnt pies from the oven, you
would begin to feel fairly well acquainted with me."

Sarah flushed with embarrassment. It was true that Laura was slow
about learning to cook. But cooking was such an ordinary, every-day
accomplishment! It was much more remarkable never to have had to cook.

"But now you can make good bread and pies," she would insist.

The whole summer had seemed like a dream. The house was no longer
strange and dark and lonely as it had been after their father had died.
Sarah no longer crept fearfully about at night, fastening the shutters
before dark, for fear that Uncle Daniel would try to get in. It had
been a happy, happy summer. William came and went, whistling, teasing
the twins, riding fat Albert round on his shoulder. Uncle Daniel
annoyed them no more. "Teacher" bent with flushed face over the stove,
laughing at her mistakes, and calling occasionally to Sarah for help;
and Sarah herself sat by the window, a little table before her, on
which were books and paper and pencils.

The little table was gone from the window now, the lessons with Laura
were over, to-morrow night Sarah would sleep away from home for the
first time in her life. They had expected that the trolley company,
which had given them a good price for the right of way through the
farm, would have finished its line, and that Sarah would have been able
to go back and forth to school each week. But the tracks had just begun
to creep out from the county-seat.

The twins had run upstairs; their deep _ohs!_ and _achs!_ could be
heard in the kitchen below. They shrieked for Sarah, who was already on
the steps.

When she looked round the familiar room, she clasped her hands and
then stood perfectly still. Beside her bed was an open trunk, and
spread out on the bed itself and on the twins' trundle-bed was her
outfit for school. There were two school dresses, and a better dress
and a best dress,--the last of red cashmere, with bands of silk. There
were new shoes and a new coat and two hats and gloves and an umbrella
and handkerchiefs and underwear, all marked with her name, and a
gymnasium suit, and a scarlet kimono and a comfort and pencils and
tablets and--Sarah began suddenly to tremble--a little silver watch and
chain and a fountain-pen.

"The little watch was my first one, Sarah," explained her
sister-in-law. "It keeps good time. And the fountain-pen is from
William, and the umbrella--"

"And the umberella"--the twins and Albert had seized upon it
simultaneously--"the umberella is from us. William, he sold our Spotty
Calf for us, and this is some of the money, and you can make it up and
put it down, and it has a cover like a snake, and--Look at it, once!"

Sarah took the umbrella in her hand. Her school dresses had been tried
on by Laura, who had made them; she had known all about those. And
William and Laura had made a trip to town and had been very short and
mysterious about the bundles they brought home. She had supposed they
had brought a few things for her,--a new pair of shoes, perhaps, or a
new shawl. But _these_ things! Once, during her mother's lifetime, she
had had a red woolen dress; she still cherished a patch which remained
after it had been made over for one of the twins. Except for that, her
dresses had always been of gingham or calico. And two hats, when last
year she had had only a sun-bonnet! And a fountain-pen, like Laura's,
and Laura's own silver watch! A lump came into Sarah's throat.

Perhaps Laura felt a lump in her own.

"Come," she said brightly but a little huskily. "You must try these
things on, and you must hurry if you are going to bake waffles for this
hungry brood." With one hand she took the umbrella from Sarah, with
the other she unbuttoned her gingham dress. "Children, shut down the
trunk-lid and sit on it. Now, Sarah, the gymnasium suit first."

Sarah chuckled hysterically as she was helped into the flannel blouse
and bloomers.

"She looks like a bear," giggled Louisa Ellen.

"Like a pretty thin bear," said Sister Laura. "She will have to be
fatter when she comes home. Louisa Ellen, run and get my work-basket.
These elastics must be tightened. Now, Sarah, the school dresses, then
the blue sailor suit and the blue hat. You are to wear those to-morrow."

Sarah stared down at her dress, still speechless with amazement and
delight.

"And now the red dress. Your brother William chose this color, Sarah,
and your hat and coat match it."

Fat and silent Albert opened his mouth to speak.

"She looks like--" he began, but could think of nothing to which to
compare her. "She don't look like nothing."

"She looks like a--a fine lady," said Louisa Ellen. "_Ach_, when can
_we_ go to the Normal?"

Laura had turned down the glass in the old-fashioned bureau.

"Now, Sarah, take a good look, and then undress. These sleeves must
be shortened a little. I can do that this evening. I'll pack the trunk
while you get supper."

Sarah revolved obediently before the glass. But her eyes saw nothing.
The lump in her throat seemed now to suffocate her; she struggled
frantically to swallow it, but it only grew larger. The twins watched
her in fright. Presently Louisa Ellen slid down from the trunk, and
went across the room and touched Laura on the arm.

"Something is after Sarah," she whispered in shocked surprise. Never
before had Sarah behaved like this.

Laura laid down her work.

"Why, Sarah, dear! What is the matter?"

It was a moment before Sarah could speak. She rubbed her eyes, then she
looked down at the new red dress, and the new red coat, and then at the
old gingham dress and apron on the floor, and at her hands, on which
still lingered the marks of heavy toil.

"I would rather stay at home," she faltered. "Ellen Louisa and Louisa
Ellen can have my things, and--and when they are big, they can go
in--in the Normal. I--I would rather stay at home and do the work."

Laura sat down again in her chair by the window, and drew Sarah to her
knee.

"Why would you rather stay at home, Sarah?" she asked gently. It was
not strange that a reaction had come. There had been the struggle with
Uncle Daniel, and then the long, hot months of summer, and now the
immediate excitement of the afternoon. "Tell me, Sarah."

"I am too dumb," wailed Sarah. "Nobody can't teach me nothing."

"I thought I had taught you a good deal this summer."

"But there won't be any teachers like you at the Normal. I would rather
stay at home. I am too old to go any more in the school. I am little
but I am old."

"Like Runty," cried Louisa Ellen. The twins had been listening in
frightened and fascinated attention. Runty was a pig which had never
grown. "Runty is little, but he is old."

Even Sarah had to smile at this.

"But you will have too much work to do," she said to Laura. "It is not
right for me to go."

Laura laughed.

"Cast no aspersions upon my ability to keep this house, young lady,"
she cried gayly. "And you will be no older than many of the girls and
boys in your class. Now take off your dress and go mix your batter, and
in ten minutes I'll be there, and then William will come home, and then
we'll have supper, and then you must go to bed early."

When William came, there was no trace of Sarah's tears. He teased
her gayly, as William always did, and said, as he helped himself to a
fifth waffle, that the first four samples were pretty good, and that
now he was really beginning to eat. It was not until she was safely in
bed that the lump came back into her throat. This going away to school
seemed suddenly worse than the long struggle against Uncle Daniel.
She was going to live among strangers,--she would hear no more dear,
familiar Pennsylvania-German, she would see only strange, critical
faces. The Normal students would probably laugh at her, as she laughed
at Jacob Kalb. They might make rhymes about her, as she made rhymes
about Jacob.

Laura, who tiptoed into the room to put the red coat with its shortened
sleeves into her trunk, heard her whisper.

"What did you say, Sarah?" she asked.

Sarah hid her face in her pillow in an agony of embarrassment. She
could not possibly tell Laura what she was saying to herself, and
Laura, thinking that she was talking in her sleep, tiptoed out again to
complete her preparations for the next day's journey.

Before Sarah went to sleep, she smothered an hysterical giggle. One
possible rhyme which might occur to the Normalites had come into her
mind. It was that which she had been saying to herself. It was ominous,
but she could not help laughing. It ran,--

    "Sarah's Dutch,
    She is not much."



CHAPTER II

"THE NORMAL"


In the morning Sarah found, fortunately, no time for regret or grief.
She had said good-by to the twins and Albert the night before, and
though they had loudly insisted that they would be up in time to see
her off, they did not wake and were not called. The three older members
of the household had breakfast together, then the new trunk was lifted
to the back of the spring-wagon, and Sarah, in her new sailor suit and
blue hat, climbed to her place between William and Laura for the drive
to the station.

Her heart beat so rapidly that she could not speak. She looked back at
the broad, low-lying house, shadowed by a great hickory tree; at the
friendly barn, which had been a playground for them all; and then at
the winding, twisting stream, which made their land so fertile. Was it
possible that a few days ago she had wished to go away?

Up at Uncle Daniel's house, the family was already astir. Jacob Kalb
crossed the barn-yard, milk-pail in hand, disdaining to look back,
though he must have heard plainly the sound of the spring-wagon.

"He will go in and peek out," laughed Sarah. "Jacob, he wouldn't miss
nothing."

"'Jacob wouldn't miss anything' is what you mean, isn't it, Sarah?"
asked her sister-in-law.

"_Ach_, yes!" cried Sarah penitently. "But what is coming?"

She grew pale. Down from the Swartz house hurried Aunt 'Liza. "She
can't stop me!" said Sarah, gasping.

William laughed. "No, indeed."

Aunt 'Liza came to the side of the wagon. She had never approved of
Uncle Daniel's methods.

"Here is something for Sarah," she said. "I thought while she was
going off I would make her a little cake, once, and a little apple
_schnitz_. She liked always apple _schnitz_."

Sarah jumped down over the wheel of the spring-wagon.

"_Ach_, I thank myself."

And she seized the stout lady in a fervent hug, which her aunt as
fervently returned.

"And now," said Sarah happily, as she climbed back, "I am not cross
over nobody, and nobody is cross over me. _Ach_, I know I am talking
dumb again! But after I get on the cars, I will say everything right."

She could scarcely sit still. Laura and William looked at each other
and smiled.

In all her life Sarah had been on the train but once. That was six
months ago, when, accompanied by the twins and "Teacher," she had gone
to the county-seat to protest against Uncle Daniel's being made their
guardian. She was too much worried then to enjoy the roar of the great
engine as it rushed upon them, the hurry with which they scrambled
aboard, the wild thrill of delight as the train got under way. Now
she enjoyed each sensation to the full. There had never been such a
wonderful train as this, whose seats were so luxuriously cushioned,
which moved so swiftly, which was so filled with interesting persons.
Sarah waved her hand to William, she tried to call to him a final
message to the twins, and then they were off. Sarah drew a deep breath.

"_Ach!_" she wailed. "My trunk!"

Laura showed her the check. "Your trunk is on the train, my dear."

"_Ach_, it is too wonderful!" cried Sarah. "No, I won't say _ach_ any
more. _Ach_, but I am going to try!" She clapped her hand over her
mouth and looked up comically. "_Ach_--I can't express me without
_ach_."

"Yes, you can," Laura assured her. "See the girls opposite us. They're
probably going to the Normal School."

Sarah looked eagerly across the aisle. The girls were laughing and
talking together as though they had not seen each other for a long
time. They were tall and slender, and they were unlike any girls that
Sarah's admiring eyes had ever seen. One had blonde curly hair, the
other was dark, with wide, lovely eyes.

"Do you think I will know those girls?" she whispered.

"Of course you will. Those and many more."

Sarah clasped her hands happily. The stern and critical race with
which she had peopled the Normal School suddenly ceased to exist, and
lovely creatures like these took its place. Sarah's eyes brightened as
she smoothed down her new blue dress. Then she sighed. The bothersome
consciousness of her own unworthiness overwhelmed her.

"The Normal will have a hard time to make me look like them," she said
to herself.

Once, long ago, when her mother and father were still alive, and the
twins scarcely more than babies, the Wenners had taken a long holiday
drive. One of the towns which they visited was that in which the Normal
School was situated. It was then that her father promised that if Sarah
studied, she should go there. She could see the school as plainly as
though it were yesterday instead of eight weary years ago; she could
hear her father's voice. Her recollection of the low house and the barn
and the creek which they had left that morning was not more vivid.
Before the train stopped, she saw the tall tower, which she remembered;
she knew just how it overshadowed the other buildings. And there had
been beautiful trees and tennis-courts and young people going back and
forth.

She scrambled down from the train, and clung close to Laura, a little
frightened by the noise and confusion about her, the loud greetings,
the shouts of hackmen.

"This way to the Normal School. Take my carriage, lady!"

They picked their way round a great pile of trunks, and Laura gave
Sarah's check to a baggage man. He touched his hat smilingly.

"Glad to see you back, Miss."

"Does he know you?" asked Sarah in awe.

Laura smiled. A pink glow had come into her cheeks.

"No. He only recognizes me for an old student. We'll walk down to
school. It isn't far, and we'll both enjoy it."

A little farther down the street a grocer stood at the door of his
shop, and to him Laura said good-morning.

"Does _he_ know you?" asked Sarah.

"He remembers that I used to buy apples from him. That is the place to
get the best apples in town. You see, coming back to school is like
coming back home."

"I never thought of that," said Sarah slowly. She was to remember it
clearly enough months afterward. "But--"

They had turned a corner and come out before a wide green campus.
"But this ain't--_ach_! isn't _my_ Normal! It--it wasn't so big, and
this--this isn't _my_ tower!"

"No, the tower you saw is the little one over yonder. This is the new
Recitation Building. This wasn't here then. See, over there on the Main
Building is your tower. And this is the Model School, and yonder is the
Infirmary, and away back there is the Athletic Field, and--Ah, here we
are!" And Laura ran up the steps of the Main Building as though she
were coming to school herself.

The wide door stood open, there was a sound of cheerful talking from
within. Sarah heard a man's voice lifted suddenly above the rest.

"Why, Mrs. Wenner, how do you do? And this is your sister-in-law. We
are glad to see you both."

"Thank you," answered Laura. "Sarah, this is Dr. Ellis. I think you
said Sarah was to have my old room."

"Yes," answered the principal. "Eugene will take you up and give you
the keys. Here, Eugene."

In another minute they were in the elevator; then they went down a wide
hall and turned a corner.

"Here we are. I wonder whether your room-mates are here."

It was the bell-boy who answered as he flung the door open.

"It looks so, miss."

The two newcomers stood in the doorway and gasped. Sarah was not
entirely unacquainted with confusion. She knew what the kitchen at home
looked like at the end of a morning's baking at which the twins and
Albert had been allowed to assist. But the twins and Albert at their
worst could accomplish nothing to equal this.

A room in which two trunks are being unpacked is not expected to
look very neat, but this confusion seemed the result of careful
effort. There were dresses scattered here and there, not on the backs
of chairs, or laid across the beds, but dropped to the floor and in
heaps on the table. There were shoes, not set side by side, but widely
scattered, a slipper and an overshoe on the bureau, a boot and a
slipper on the radiator. A drawer had been taken from the bureau and
laid on a bed; into it a trunk-tray had been emptied, helter skelter,
as though its contents were waste paper. Apparently the owner had been
suddenly called away, for the tray still lay upside down across the
drawer.

To Sarah's Pennsylvania-German eyes, the scene was terrible.

"You'll have to do some missionary work, Sarah," Laura said merrily.
"This closet seems to be empty. Hang your hat here, and take that
bureau. We'll turn it this way so that the light is a little better.
That is the way Helen Ellingwood used to have it when she and I roomed
here together. The school wasn't so crowded and there were only two
of us. Now we'll take your pitcher down the hall and fill it, and by
that time your trunk may come, and perhaps the owners of these clothes,
also, and then we can clear up."

They made their way round the trunks and boxes in the hall. A few doors
away, a girl who was bending over her trunk stood up to let them pass.
She turned her face away, but not before they had seen that it was
streaked with black. Her hands, too, were as black as ink, and she was
crying. Laura stopped at once.

"Why, what is the matter?"

"I packed--a--bottle of ink--in my trunk, and it--it has broken. I--"

Laura looked into the depths of the trunk.

"Oh, my child! Have you taken the bottle out?"

"Yes, but the ink is there yet."

Laura pushed back her cuffs.

"Can you get me a lot of newspapers and spread them thickly on your
floor? There, in the sunshine. Why, these things seem black to begin
with. Your gymnasium suit is black, isn't it? And here is a black
skirt. See, it hasn't reached down to your books, and the trunk isn't
stained."

"But my white petticoats are--are all black." The girl's tears made
white channels on her face.

Laura patted her on the shoulder. "Then wash your face and hands, and
run down to the book-room and get some ink eradicator, and I'll show
you how to apply it. Come, Sarah."

Sarah's bright eyes shone. Laura might not know how to make waffles,
but she knew other, more wonderful things. Sarah's heart swelled; she
thought of Albert and the twins in this safe care, and she slipped her
hand into Laura's without a word, and Laura smiled down at her.

As they came back through the hall, they heard a cheerful voice.

"I'll unlock the door, Eugene. Yes, we're glad to be back. Move that
trunk in here, please. Gertrude, you brought a trunk-cover, didn't you?"

A dark-eyed girl appeared in the doorway.

"Yes, Ethel."

"They are our girls," whispered Sarah.

"Yes, and they are evidently other people's girls."

The hall was suddenly crowded with a welcoming throng.

By this time, Sarah's room-mates had appeared. One was tall and stout;
she said that her name was Ellen Ritter. The other, who was equally
stout but much shorter, said that she was Mabel Thorn. It was to her
that the bureau-drawer belonged. She lifted the trunk-tray and slid the
drawer into place.

"Our trunks must be out of here by night," she said. "They take them to
the trunk-room. Mine's ready."

"And mine," said Ellen Ritter.

She slammed down the lid, and pulled the trunk into the hall, and
Mabel pushed hers after it. Two small, cleared spaces were left,
otherwise there was no change in the appearance of the room. The girls
did not return, even to close the door. Sarah, staring after them,
saw a smiling young woman poise for an instant on the sill, a hand on
either jamb.

"Well, Laura Miflin!" she said.

The speed with which Sarah had flown to meet William upon his return
from Alaska was no greater than that with which Laura crossed the room.

"Helen Ellingwood!" she cried. "What are you doing here?"

"I am going to teach Elocution. Why haven't you written to me? I didn't
even know you were married. I live next door. And who is this, and
how _are_ you?" And Miss Ellingwood pushed aside a pile of books and
underclothes and collars and sat down on the edge of the bed. "These
things don't belong 'to you nor none of your family,' I hope?"

Laura shook her head.

"This is my sister-in-law, Sarah Wenner, question number one. I am
very well and very happy, question number two. No, these do _not_
belong 'to me nor none of my family,' question number three. What would
you do with them?"

"Spank the owners. Perhaps they'll clear up, though. The first day is
always demoralizing. Now tell me everything you can think of."

And Miss Ellingwood shifted to a more comfortable position, and while
Laura unpacked and Sarah put away, the old friends chattered until
dinner-time.

The great dining-room, with all the confusion of the first day of
school, was an awesome place to country-bred Sarah. She was sure that
she should never know one face from another. She should never learn to
find her place.

"You must sit at my table," said Miss Ellingwood. "There will be
plenty of room there to-day, and this afternoon I shall have you
assigned there permanently. This way"; and Miss Ellingwood put out a
guiding hand. Sarah began to take courage.

The afternoon seemed as long as the morning had been short. Directly
after dinner, Sarah went with Laura to the train. She did not see the
rushing engine so clearly now, nor watch the streaming white smoke; her
eyes, fixed firmly upon a slender figure in a brown suit, were dimmed,
and the strange lump of yesterday had come back into her throat. Now,
at last, the moment of separation had come.

She walked slowly back to school, and about the grounds. Laura would
be getting home now, and William would have driven to the station to
meet her. Had the twins done just as they were told all day? Had they
remembered the deserted kittens in the barn? Would Laura be able to fix
the fire for the night?

Sarah ate her supper with difficulty. Miss Ellingwood did not appear,
the other students said little, Sarah could not see her room-mates,
or the Ethel and Gertrude who seemed a little less strange than the
other students, or the girl who had packed the ink in her trunk. At the
recollection of her woe-begone face, Sarah smiled and felt better.

"She is dumber yet than I," she said to herself.

At seven o'clock there was a chapel service. The gongs rang in the
halls, and there was a general opening of doors, and passing of
footsteps. Sarah followed her neighbors down the hall. At the entrance
to the chapel stood Miss Ellingwood, a book in her hand. She was
assigning seats which the students were to keep for the year.

"Wenner, Row B, left, seat 32. Down there to the left, Sarah, near the
girl in the white dress."

Sarah made her way down the sloping aisle. She had never been in
any room larger than the little country church, and this chapel with
its high ceiling, its fine chandeliers, seemed marvelous. In the
chandeliers, strange to say, candles were burning instead of lamps.

To her dismay, her seat was directly beneath one of them. She glanced
upward uneasily. There was no contrivance to catch the drippings, and
everybody must know that candles dripped. She looked down at her new
blue dress; it would be impossible to get candle grease out of it. She
meant to speak to the girl in the white dress; then she saw that Mabel
Thorn was coming down the aisle. She took the next seat.

"Are you not afraid of the candles?" whispered Sarah.

"What candles?"

"Those, up there. They will drip on us."

Mabel tilted her head and looked up. Then she grinned.

"Did you never hear of gas?" she asked.

"Stove gas," answered Sarah. "Our stove makes it when the wind is not
right."

"You never heard of illuminating gas?"

Sarah shook her head. "Never."

"Where do you come from?"

"Near Spring Grove post-office."

"Well, the candles won't hurt you," laughed Mabel.

She got up and went across to the next row of seats to where the girl
in white was sitting, and whispered to her, and they both turned and
looked at Sarah. Then she came back to her place, as the chapel began
to fill, and whispered to the girl on the other side, and she looked
at Sarah and laughed. Sarah became slowly aware that she had said
something very foolish.

Mabel did not wait for her when chapel was over, nor did she and Ellen
appear until bed-time. Sarah had sat for a long time staring across the
moonlit campus, and waiting to ask which bed she should take. There
were a double and a single bed side by side. She supposed that the two
friends would wish to sleep together, but she did not know. Once she
heard the doleful strains of "Home, Sweet Home," played on a mouth
organ, and some one called, "Have mercy on the new students!" and there
was a burst of laughter.

When Mabel and Ellen finally arrived, they told her that she was to
have the single bed. She supposed that now they would put the room in
order. Well, she would cover her head from the light, and be thankful.
But they undressed and tumbled into bed, even before Sarah was ready,
without touching anything except the articles which were in their way.
In a suspiciously short time, they were asleep.

Sarah lifted the clothes from the single bed and laid them on the
chairs, then she attempted to blow out the light. Mabel was wide awake
in an instant.

"Turn it off there at the wall, you goose!" she said; and was at once
apparently asleep.

Sarah made her way warily toward her bed. Having said her prayers, she
laid back the covers and jumped in.

Instantly there was a terrific crash, and she went down with spring
and mattress to the floor. She was for the first second too terrified
to breathe, then she picked herself up and found that she was not hurt.
There was a faint light coming in through the transom, and she could
see that the slats which supported the springs had become misplaced.
With a little help, she could readjust them.

"_Ach_, would you please help me a little?" she begged.

There was no response from the double bed. Instead there came a heavy
knock at the door.

"Who is out?" asked Sarah faintly. If the principal himself had
replied, she would not have been surprised.

A stern "Let me in!" answered her. She drew her dress on over her
nightgown and went to the door. A strange figure stood without,--a tall
woman in a long, flowered dressing-gown.

"What was that noise?"

Sarah pointed to the bed. "I--I didn't know it would go--go down."

"Where are your room-mates?"

Mabel and Ellen evidently thought it was time to manifest signs of life.

"Here, Miss Jones."

"Can you explain this?"

"Oh, no, we were asleep. Weren't we, Sarah?"

"It just went down," stammered Sarah. "I--I guess I jumped too hard on
it."

"What is your name?"

It was the first time the Wenner name had ever been mentioned with
hesitation and shame.

"Sarah Wenner."

The tall figure was gone, its silent departure worse than threats, and
Sarah closed the door. Mabel turned over lazily.

"Get up and help her fix the bed, Ellen, I saved her from blowing out
the light."

Ellen rose, grumbling. Miss Jones lived beneath them and was the
strictest teacher in the school, she said. Sarah would be haled to
the office to-morrow. She helped to put the slats in place, and told
Sarah not to make any more noise. Then, long after exhausted and
terrified Sarah had fallen asleep, she giggled with Mabel until the
night-watchman rapped at the door. That, mercifully, Sarah did not hear.



CHAPTER III

SARAH LOSES HER TEMPER


When Sarah opened her eyes, early the next morning, it was scarcely
more than light. She was accustomed to spring out of bed before she
was fully awake; there had been very little time in her life for the
last, delicious nap of early morning. There was always the stock to be
fed, the cows to be milked, and the milk to be taken to the creamery,
and afterwards the twins to be roused and fed and sent to school.
Since Laura's advent, life had been vastly easier, but the feeling of
responsibility had not altogether vanished from Sarah's mind.

There was something about the happenings of the night before that
sent her hurrying out of bed as she hurried when the fear of Uncle
Daniel hung over her, when she used to get up before daybreak to assure
herself that the twins and Albert and the farm property were all safely
in place.

She could not at first make out where she was; then the prodigious
chaos of the room recalled yesterday's experiences. And here was her
own bed, pushed out a little from the wall, its covers all awry. She
remembered now distinctly what had happened last night.

Ellen and Mabel slept peacefully in their double bed; and as she
remembered her sudden downfall and their lack of sympathy, her face
flushed. Snatches of their whispered talk, heard in drowsiness, came
back to her, and she began slowly to guess that it was neither the
carelessness of the school bedmakers nor her own light weight which had
sent the spring and mattress tumbling to the floor. She felt a pang of
fright as she remembered the stern teacher in the flowered gown. But
surely, they would not punish her for an accident! Presently a faint
smile lifted the corners of her mouth. There was no doubt that it had
been funny. But the girls might have waited until she was a little more
at home.

When she was dressed she sat down by the window. There was not a soul
to be seen on the quiet campus, and not a sound to be heard. It was
almost six o'clock, and she began to be hungry. She had forgotten to
ask the breakfast hour.

After a while there were faint noises, the opening of a distant door,
the sound of sweeping down on the walks, and then the ringing of a
great hand-bell. Sarah heard it first in a far corner of the building,
then it drew nearer and nearer, and she heard the swift steps of
Eugene, who carried it. As it went past the door, she put her hands
over her ears. She smiled again, thinking that a bell like that might
wake even Albert and the twins.

She began to be a little alarmed when she saw that neither Ellen nor
Mabel stirred. She thought that Mabel's eyes opened, but they closed
again at once. Had the girls grown suddenly deaf, or were they ill?
Sarah tiptoed toward the bed and stared at them. Both were breathing
regularly. But it was time to get up, and they would not wish to be
late for breakfast. Sarah laid her hand on Ellen's shoulder.

"Stand up. It belled. _Ach!_" No, thank fortune, they had not heard.
Sarah took a deep breath and amended her speech. "The bell rang," she
called. "It is time to get up."

Still Ellen did not respond, and she went to the other side of the bed
and tried to rouse Mabel.

"It is time to get up!"

A sleepy and cross "What?" answered her.

"The bell rang. It is time to get up."

Mabel turned over on her other side.

"Let me be."

Once more Sarah sat down by the window. Why did these girls not wish
to get up? Didn't they wish any breakfast? Didn't one have to get up?
Perhaps they were like the twins, who were cross at first but grateful
afterwards. She touched Ellen once more.

"It is time to get up."

Ellen sat up in bed.

"If you don't be quiet and stop bothering me I'll settle you. You
needn't tell me when it's time to get up. I've been in this school for
a year." With that she lay down again.

Once more Sarah sat down by the window. The great building was astir
now. She heard doors open and shut, she heard girl call to girl, she
heard Miss Ellingwood moving round in her bedroom, and still her
room-mates slept. Then an electric bell rang, and motion and sound
increased. Sarah started toward the door. She would inquire whether
that was the signal for breakfast, and she would go down. But a sharp
voice stopped her.

Ellen and Mabel had sprung out of bed as though tossed by springs.

"Sarah," commanded Mabel, "run down the hall and fill this pitcher."

A look of distress came into Sarah's black eyes.

"I am afraid I will be late."

"Nonsense! Hurry."

Sarah flew down the hall. She met a score of girls going toward the
elevator, and they looked at her smilingly.

"You'd better hurry, youngster."

"_Ach_, I am!" answered Sarah.

To her amazement Ellen and Mabel were almost dressed when she returned.
She would have set the pitcher down inside the door and then run, but
Mabel called again.

"Wait a minute. You're too late now to get in without permission, and
you don't know where to go for that. See whether you can find a blue
belt in that pile."

Sarah's tears dropped upon the pile of collars and ties and belts.

"I would rather not go than be late," she said.

The girls laughed. Mabel took the belt from her hand and hung it over
her arm, meaning to buckle it as she ran.

"All right, you little goose," she said; and then the door closed
behind them with a slam.

Sarah was desperately frightened. Perhaps they called a roll and the
absentees were punished. There was no one in sight in the hall from
whom she could ask advice, and she began wearily to make her bed.

"Perhaps I will have to pack my trunk, too," she said to herself. "But
if I do not know what to do and nobody will tell me, how shall I find
out?"

She felt a thrill of both terror and relief when she heard a footstep
in the hall. It came directly to the door, there was a rap, then the
door was pushed open.

"Why, Sarah, don't you want any breakfast?"

Sarah made a brave effort to steady her voice.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then why don't you come down?"

"I--I was too late," stammered Sarah.

"Well, come now, and to-morrow morning you will begin a little
earlier." Miss Ellingwood held out a kindly hand. "Won't you?"

Sarah stammered another "Yes, ma'am." She could not say that she had
been up since five o'clock, because that would involve explanation, and
she did not wish to be a tale-bearer.

She caught Ellen Ritter's eye as they went down between the long lines
of tables, and Ellen grinned and nudged Mabel. But Sarah did not care.
Some one was interested in her. Miss Ellingwood had left her breakfast
and had come all the way upstairs to find her. She ate her breakfast
cheerfully, answering shyly the remarks of her companions.

"Now, when the next bell rings, you must go to the chapel," said Miss
Ellingwood. "Take a tablet and pencil with you, and then you can write
down your classes for the day. And if you get into any difficulty, come
to me. The bell will ring at eight o'clock, and you know where the
chapel is."

At half-past seven Sarah took her tablet and two neatly sharpened lead
pencils, and stole out of her room. Nobody should prevent her from
being on time now. She went down quietly and opened the chapel door.
Then she realized that she had forgotten the number of her seat. If she
had such difficulty with little things, what would she do when lessons
began?

Suddenly she remembered with a throb of relief the chandelier whose
dripping she had feared. She sat down in a chair which was, as nearly
as she could guess, the one she had occupied the night before, and bent
her head back to look up. Yes, it was from this spot that she had seen
the dangerous candles. She sighed thankfully, and proceeded to write
her name on her note-books, and then to read the school catalogue,
which gave a list of her lessons.

There would be Physiology, Arithmetic, Spelling, and Political
Geography, to begin with. In each of these she would have three
recitations a week, and she must pass an examination in them before the
State Board at the end of the year in order to enter the Junior class.
Besides, she would have less frequent lessons in Latin, History, and
Grammar. In these branches she would not have to be examined, except
by her teachers, until the end of her Junior year. Each week she
would also have an hour's exercise in drawing and in vocal music. And
every other day she would have to spend three quarters of an hour in
the gymnasium. Sarah shook her head solemnly. It seemed like a large
contract for so small a girl.

All the morning she went to classes, gaining in each room a new book,
a new note on her tablet, and a redder flush on her cheeks. By noon the
pile of books had grown almost to her chin. She carried them proudly
across the campus and up to her room.

It was going to be hard, but not as hard as she had feared. She had
naturally a quick mind, far quicker than she suspected. There were two
branches in which she had a valuable advantage. Political Geography
would be only a review. Her father had been a dreamer, loving accounts
of strange cities and far countries, and in the long evenings after
he had become ill, he and Sarah had pored over the atlas, following
William on his long journey, and trying to picture the strange
countries on the other side of the world. There were few countries
which Sarah could not bound, few rivers and cities which she could not
locate.

Nor would Spelling be hard. The Wenners were naturally good spellers;
even little Albert could spell simple words like "cat" and "dog."

But there were Physiology and Arithmetic and History. The History had
already given her a bad fright.

Professor Minturn, opening the course with a lecture on the interest
and value of historical study, had suddenly looked about the class to
find some one to read a paragraph from the text-book illustrating what
he was saying. Sarah's face, bent eagerly forward, attracted him, and
he asked her her name and told her to read. The color flamed into her
cheeks, and with trembling hands she found her place in the book, and
then rose. Instead of standing still, she walked to the front of the
room, and, in a fashion learned before Laura had come to teach the
Spring Grove School, "toed" carefully a crack in the floor, lifted her
book to a level with her chin, and began.

"Page three, chapter one, paragraph four. 'The Study of History.'"

Wild laughter interrupted her, at which Professor Minturn frowned and
sternly commanded silence. He was a nervous, easily irritated man, who
never felt that his students worked hard enough.

"Go on, Miss Wenner."

Sarah read through the paragraph with a voice which she strenuously
endeavored to make steady. It seemed to her that she had never seen so
many _th_'s and _v_'s, which she was just learning to pronounce. But
she got safely to the end, and then fled to her seat.

"I have never heard a paragraph read more intelligently," commented
Professor Minturn grimly, thereby adding to her confusion.

Of all her lessons, Latin promised to be the most terrible.

"I will not talk to the twins again about learning them Latin," she
said to herself, with a sigh. "But the teacher, he seems like a kind
man. Perhaps he will help me sometimes a little."

In her room that afternoon, she handled the books as though they were
loved dolls. Sarah had never really owned a book. The school-books from
which she had studied had belonged to William, and now were used by the
twins. If anything remained of them after the twins were through with
them, they would go to Albert. But these were hers, they were new, she
might write her own name in them, she might keep them all her life.

The confusion in her room worried her, but she turned her back upon it,
and set resolutely to work. By the time that Ellen and Mabel came in to
prepare for gymnasium she had learned her History lesson and discovered
that she need not study her Spelling.

The period of gymnasium proved to be another surprise. To a girl who
climbed to the upper rung of the barn ladder and the top of a tall
hickory tree, and who could churn butter and drive a fractious horse,
the simple exercises with wands and dumb-bells were child's play. She
wished to get back to her work, she wished to touch again the clean,
white books.

Ellen and Mabel laughed at her unmercifully. They had been in the
Normal School for a year, and had learned and invented many ways
of shirking. After supper they announced that they were going to
straighten up the room, and for five minutes, during which they had
scarcely made a beginning, they worked diligently. Then Ellen threw
herself down on the bed, and declared that she was tired. For a few
minutes there was a welcome silence, then Ellen began to giggle and got
up and left the room. By the time she returned, Mabel had taken her
place on the bed.

"Sarah," Ellen began pleasantly; and Sarah, marking the place in her
book, looked up despairingly.

"What is it?"

"I met the bell-boy in the hall, and he said that your brother is here."

Ellen was frightened by the sudden terror on Sarah's face.

"My brother!"

"Yes. Oh, nothing is wrong. I think he is just here in town and wishes
to see you. And there are people in the reception room, so Eugene will
bring him up here in a few minutes. Mabel and I will go out."

Mabel got up quickly from the bed.

"Yes, of course."

Sarah rose to her feet.

"_Ach_, you needn't go! And"--she looked round the disorderly
room--"couldn't we fix here a little up once?"

Ellen and Mabel shouted with laughter.

"There isn't time to fix here a little up once."

When the door was closed, Sarah looked about once more. She was
frightened by William's coming, she was distressed that he should see
such a room. Ellen and Mabel had not even made their beds. Those, at
least, she would spread up. If he would only delay for a few minutes,
she might make the room look presentable. She drew the curtain across
the alcove where the washstands stood, and hung her room-mates' dresses
in the closets. For an instant she was tempted to toss them in on the
floor and shut the door on them. But Sarah had had too few nice dresses
in her life to treat them roughly. The shoes were swept into the
closets, the bureau drawers were filled and closed; then, as she heard
a step in the hall, she smoothed her hair and went to the door.

"Wil--" she began, and then gasped. It was a man who stood without, but
it was not William. No; it was not even a man. There was a fluffy tie
above the collar of his rain-coat, his derby hat was pinned on with a
hat-pin, the hand which he held out was decked with rings.

"What do you mean?" demanded Sarah, trembling.

"Aren't you glad to see me?" giggled Ellen.

"Where is my brother William?"

"I am your brother William. I--Why, look at this room! She has put it
all in order! Mabel!"

There was a burst of wild laughter, then the two girls ran down the
hall to return the clothes to the girl to whose brother they belonged.
"I never knew such a joke."

Sarah went inside and shut the door. Then she locked it and stood with
clenched hands. It was cruel to play such a trick. They had frightened
her, and now she was desperately disappointed. And she had lost at
least a half-hour, and it was only two hours until the lights were put
out. She would not let the girls come in again; they would not study,
they might visit their friends. With shaking hands she opened her books.

But she could not study. She heard another burst of laughter. Probably
they were telling the other girls about it, and they were laughing at
her.

Presently her heart ceased to beat so rapidly and she settled down to
work once more. Perhaps they would not come back. She knew that it was
against the rules to go from room to room during study-hours, but they
did not keep rules.

"'Man is the only living creature that can stand or walk erect,'" she
began aloud. "'Man is the only living creature that can stand or walk
erect. The human skeleton--'"

The knob was softly turned; then there was a knock at the door. Sarah
did not answer.

"Let us in, Sarah."

Still Sarah made no response.

"Open the door, Sarah."

"No, I am not going to open the door," cried Sarah shrilly. "You can
just stay out."

A long silence succeeded. She settled again to her work.

"'Man is the only living creature that can stand or walk erect. The
human skeleton--'"

When there was another knock at the door, Sarah started up furiously.

"You can knock all night and I won't let you in," she shrieked. "You
are all the time after me, you--"

Again the knob was turned. She did not realize that the voice which
bade her unlock the door was lower and softer than those to which she
had been listening. She was too angry to distinguish one voice from
another. The girl who had withstood the persecutions of an Uncle Daniel
would not endure forever the teasing of two girls of her own age. She
seized her pitcher from the stand. Not without much spilling of water
on floor and bed, she climbed to the footboard.

"Will you go 'way, then!"

"Sarah, open the door."

"I won't." And Sarah turned the pitcher upside down, its mouth
protruding from the transom. There was a splash, a quick exclamation,
and then a stern command.

"Open this door, or I shall send for the principal."

Sarah moved but slowly, not from choice now, but from fright. A
terrible, unbelievable suspicion entered her mind. It seemed that her
hand would never be able to turn the key in the door, that strong
little hand, which lifted so easily the great, brimming pitcher. If it
had been the teacher who lived downstairs, the cross teacher with the
flowered dressing-gown, she could have endured it. If it had been the
principal himself, it would not have been so terrible. But standing on
the threshold, wiping the water from her eyes, and with dripping hair
and soaking shirt-waist, stood Miss Ellingwood.

[Illustration: ON THE THRESHOLD STOOD MISS ELLINGWOOD]

Behind her, Ellen Ritter and Mabel Thorn twisted their faces to keep
from exploding in shocked and delighted laughter, and down the hall,
doors were opening and excited voices asked what was the matter.



CHAPTER IV

SARAH EXPLAINS


Many years afterward Sarah said that nothing in her life had ever
frightened her like the sight of Miss Ellingwood standing outside her
door, with the water dripping from her hair and dress. Miss Ellingwood
herself came to laugh heartily at it, but no amount of teasing
could ever induce Sarah even to smile. It seemed an hour until Miss
Ellingwood spoke, and in that time Sarah saw clearly not only the
laughing, triumphant faces of her room-mates immediately before her,
but of all the family at home: William and Laura, who were sending her
to school at a great sacrifice, the twins and Albert, who had faith in
her, and to whom she should have been an example. She seemed to hear
herself trying to explain to them.

"You see, it was this way," she would begin. But she never got any
further. There was no explanation, no excuse to make.

"This," they would say, "this is what you do with your education!"

In reality, it was only a moment until Miss Ellingwood spoke. Her eyes
flashed; it seemed to Sarah that they would burn through her.

"Come to my room in half an hour. I don't want to hear anything from
you now." Then she turned to the girls laughing behind her, and her
eyes flashed still more brightly. Perhaps it was for their illumination
that the flash existed. "You have been here for a year, and you know
the rules of the school. Dr. Ellis will hold you responsible for any
misconduct in this room, rather than a newcomer."

Ellen and Mabel looked at each other guiltily as Miss Ellingwood's door
closed behind her. Then they went to their own room.

Sarah was not to be seen, and their uneasiness turned to fright. There
was no exit save through the window, and they were on the third floor.
It could not be possible that she was as badly frightened as that!

"Sarah!" cried Mabel sharply.

Sarah appeared from the closet. She had taken off her school dress, and
carried the blue one across her arm.

"What are you going to do?" asked Ellen.

Sarah did not answer. If she tried to speak, she should scream. She
would at least put on her second-best dress and brush her hair before
she went to Miss Ellingwood's room. She remembered in agony that
she had never worn her red dress; probably she would never have an
opportunity now, at least at the Normal School. She looked at her
little silver watch with eyes which could scarcely find the hands.

Mabel and Ellen avoided each other's glance, and sat down by the table.

"What is the History lesson for to-morrow, Sarah?" asked Ellen in a
tone which was meant to be conciliatory.

Sarah silently pushed forward her note-book. She was dressed now and
staring at her Physiology. "Man is the only living creature that can
stand or walk erect." In what long-past stage of her life had she read
that?

At twenty-eight minutes past eight, she closed her book and went into
the hall, where, watch in hand, she lingered outside Miss Ellingwood's
door until the hand pointed to the half-hour. Then, fearfully, she
rapped.

A low "Come in" answered. It took all her strength to turn the knob.
She saw nothing of the beautiful room with its books, its fireplace,
its wide and crowded desk, its low tea-table; she saw only Miss
Ellingwood entering from her bedroom beyond, her curls wet and shining,
clad in a fresh, stiffly starched white shirt-waist and a dry skirt.
She went across to the big chair before her desk, and turning her head
away, stooped to straighten out some papers. She saw the blue dress,
and the smooth hair. Both judge and defendant, she said to herself,
were dressed for the occasion.

"Now, Sarah," she began, "suppose you tell me how it is that an
inoffensive non-combatant, rapping at your door, is received with a
shower of water. Your room-mates asked me to get you to let them in.
They said that you had locked them out, and they couldn't study. Is
this true?"

"Yes, ma'am," faltered Sarah.

"Why did you do it?"

"Because--they--_ach_!" Sarah burst into a flood of tears. She did
not wish to tell on them, she could not bear to recount the foolish
trick which had been played on her. It seemed so ridiculous now to have
been taken in. It was so absurd,--her anxiety at hearing that William
had come, her mystification at the foolish figure which met her at the
door, her rage, when she realized what they had done. That was worst of
all.

"_Ach_, if you will only let me make it up to you," she cried. "I will
never do such a thing again. I will dry your hair if they are wet
yet, and I could iron your shirt-waist, and if it is spoiled, I could
try to earn some money to buy you a new one. Or William would send me
the money right away. I could give you my umbrella to make up, or my
f-fountain-pen. They are new--they--"

"Mercy, child!" Miss Ellingwood put her arm round Sarah, who in her
anguish had moved close to her side. "Don't cry about my clothes,
_please_. They are almost dry already, and water couldn't hurt them.
I'll forgive you willingly, entirely, Sarah. But you must never do
anything of the kind again. You see the evening study-hour is meant for
work. You have long hours in the afternoon and earlier in the evening
to play, and all day Saturday, and you need every minute in study-hour.
By the time you get settled to work again, you will have lost a whole
hour."

"I know it, I know it!" wailed Sarah. "That is the trouble. They will
not let me study. When--when they are out I can study, but not when
they are with. I will have to go home. I am anyhow too dumb for anybody
to learn me anything."

Miss Ellingwood hid her face against Sarah's shoulder.

"Say that again, dear."

"_Ach_, I mean I am too--too stupid to be taught."

"That is better. Now--" Miss Ellingwood meditated for an instant. She
did not approve of putting three persons into a room; even she and
Laura had been a little crowded. It would be very difficult for this
child to get into studious habits if she were constantly in the room
with Ellen and Mabel. They were very evidently not diligent. "Suppose
you bring your books over here this evening, Sarah. Perhaps you can
study here."

Sarah was not gone for two minutes. Ellen and Mabel had disappeared,
and she gathered her books together, made another dab at her hair with
her stiff brush, and was back.

Miss Ellingwood had pulled a chair up to the side of her own desk.

"There, Sarah, is a chair and a foot-stool. Now, if I can help you, ask
me." And she bent her head over her own work.

Peace descended upon Sarah's heart. Once, she sighed, and Miss
Ellingwood looked up.

"Are you tired?"

"_Ach_, no! I am just thinking. It is so nice and still here. I could
learn the whole book through."

Once she ventured to ask a question.

"Please, ma'am, it gives a word here. I cannot say it right, s-y-n,
swine, t-a-x, tax, swinetax. Is that the way to say it?"

"No. S-y-n, sin--syntax. It is not English to say, 'it gives a word
here,' Sarah. Try again."

"Here is a word," said Sarah painstakingly. "_Ach_,--no, I don't mean
_ach_! But will you tell me sometimes when I am wrong?"

"Yes, indeed."

Sarah gazed at Miss Ellingwood with deep admiration and gratitude, and
set again to work. She had only the simple Latin rules to commit to
memory, and then all the lessons assigned her would be learned, even
though it was not until the day after to-morrow that she recited them.

But the page of rules was the most difficult task she had attempted.
The words seemed to dance before her eyes, the lines were crooked, the
letters blurred. She propped her head on her hand, and rubbed her eyes
a countless number of times.

Miss Ellingwood was too much engrossed by her task to see. Each year
under the direction of the teacher of Elocution, the Junior class
gave a play. It was given usually the week before Christmas, and Miss
Ellingwood had selected an arrangement of Dickens's "Christmas Carol,"
whose spirit was so appropriate to the season. She was going over it
now, so that the parts should be fresh in her mind before she began to
get acquainted with the Juniors in her classes, and she smiled at old
Scrooge and sighed over Tiny Tim. She had quite forgotten the student
at her side.

Then, suddenly, there was a dull little bump, as her guest slid from
her chair to the floor, asleep. Strange to say, the fall did not rouse
her. Miss Ellingwood thought that she must be sleepy indeed.

"Come, Sarah," she said. "You must get up and go to bed."

With Miss Ellingwood's help, Sarah got up slowly, and sat down on
her chair, and was immediately asleep once more. Miss Ellingwood was
a little frightened. The child was evidently exhausted, which was not
strange after her passion of tears. Miss Ellingwood glanced at her
again, then at the couch which had been made up for a guest who had not
arrived.

In a moment she went down the hall and rapped at the door of Sarah's
room. No one was within. Smothered laughter a little farther down the
hall implied the presence of Ellen and Mabel. Miss Ellingwood took a
few steps in that direction, then returned. The warning bell would ring
in a moment; after that, for fifteen minutes, the students were allowed
to visit one another. This was really the first day of school, and
rules were not so strictly kept. And Miss Ellingwood hated to scold.

She pushed open Sarah's door and went in, to look for her school dress
and the things she would need for the night.

The smothered laughter became open shrieks as the warning bell rang.

"She's a perfect little spitfire," Ellen Ritter was saying. "I wish you
could have seen her face when she saw me all dressed up. It was white
and purple by turns, she was so angry."

Ethel Davis and Gertrude Manley, going arm-in-arm down the hall, had
stopped at the door to hear, and the group of sub-Juniors opened to let
them in. Blonde Ethel and dark-eyed Gertrude were Juniors, the next
year they would be Middlers, and after that Seniors, and they sometimes
allowed the dignity of their position to awe the sub-Juniors.

"I think it was a pretty mean trick to play on such a youngster," said
Ethel hotly. "Now, if you had played it on Mabel, or Mabel on you, it
might have had some point."

"Oh, she can take care of herself," laughed Ellen. "You needn't worry
about her! Then she locked the door, and wouldn't let us in, and Mabel
and I were very anxious to study, and--"

"Doubtless," laughed Gertrude.

"Well, we were, and we knocked and asked politely to be let in, and
not a word would she say. So we went over to the new hall teacher and
told her that we were afraid our little room-mate was ill. So she came
over and rapped, and there was no answer but a wild yell. And then--"

Ellen rolled over on the bed, helpless with laughter, and Mabel took up
the tale.

"Then out of the transom came a pitcherful of water,--bang!"

"Not on Miss Ellingwood!" said Ethel.

"Yes, right on Miss Ellingwood."

Mabel's cheeks were flushed with pleasure. Ethel and Gertrude never
paid much attention to her, and it was delightful to have them listen
so closely.

"What did she do?"

"Told the youngster to come over in half an hour, and the youngster put
on her Sunday dress and went over."

"And what then?" asked a breathless sub-Junior. "Did Miss Ellingwood
nearly murder her? That's what I should have done."

"No. I guess Sarah told her the whole tale, because in a few minutes
she came back and got her books, and she's been over there all evening.
There'll be no more fun on this hall with a teacher's pet spying on us.
I suppose Miss Ellingwood will come in after the retiring bell, and
read us a lecture."

But Miss Ellingwood did not appear except to say that Sarah would spend
the night with her, and that she wished everything to be very quiet.
Mabel and Ellen looked at each other after she went out.

"What did I say?" said Mabel. "She'll tell everything we do."

"We'll settle her," answered Ellen cheerfully. "Oh, dear, to-morrow the
grind begins!"

Sarah did not see the sun rise the next morning, nor hear the first
sounds of life in the great building. She did not even stir at the
thunderous rising-bell. When she finally woke, she saw Miss Ellingwood
standing by her bed.

"It's time to get up, Sarah."

Sarah rubbed her eyes.

"The rising-bell has rung, dear, and you'll just have time to jump
into my bathtub and then get dressed quickly. Your things are all here."

Sarah looked confusedly about her, while she struggled out of bed.

"Did I stay here?"

"Yes."

"All night?"

"Yes."

"Did I oversleep myself?"

"No, you slept till just the proper time. Now, run along."

It was a pleasure to see the bright eyes and glowing cheeks with
which Sarah presently appeared. She had never seen a bathroom like
Miss Ellingwood's, she had never smelled such soap or seen so many
mysterious brushes and sponges. She had been a little frightened by the
depth of the cool water in the tub which Miss Ellingwood had filled
for her. She did not like to say that she had never been in a bathtub
before, because Miss Ellingwood seemed to expect her to know all about
bathtubs. Miss Ellingwood had never lived on a farm.

Never before had Sarah dressed in such a physical and mental glow. She
tied the ribbon on her hair just as the breakfast-bell began to ring.

"Come here, and I'll button your dress for you. I brought your school
dress over. You poor little chicken, did you think that you would make
a better impression on the ogress if you put on a better dress? If the
girls bother you again, you must bring your books over here. Now, come
along."

Sarah drew a deep breath of delight. She had never had such a good
time. She looked once more about the pretty room before the door
closed. Would she see it again? And then Sarah's heart was guilty of a
very wicked wish.

"_Ach_, I wish," she said to herself, as they went downstairs to
breakfast, "I wish those girls would cut always up so that I could not
study!"



CHAPTER V

PROFESSOR MINTURN'S EXPERIMENT


It needed no "cutting-up" of Sarah's room-mates to send her again to
Miss Ellingwood's room. She had just settled fearfully to study the
next evening, when there was a rap at the door, and Miss Ellingwood
appeared. She was amused at herself because her room had seemed
strangely lonely without the little figure bending over the table at
her side.

"Don't you want to bring your books over to my room?" she asked; and
Sarah responded with delighted alacrity.

When Ellen and Mabel came in and found that she had gone, they were
not at all pleased. They knew that Sarah had finished her Geography
lesson and they had hoped to have some help. When they discovered the
neatly drawn maps in Sarah's drawer in the table, they decided that
they would do as well.

"We'll get even with her for tattling," laughed Mabel, as she prepared
to copy them with tissue paper and black impression paper.

As the days passed, it seemed to Sarah that she was living in a new
world. When she was not in class or in the gymnasium, she was in Miss
Ellingwood's room, or walking with Miss Ellingwood. Miss Ellingwood
helped her over the hard places in her work, she laughed at her
mistakes in English, and corrected them, she let Sarah help to serve
the tea when the boys and girls came in in the afternoons.

The Juniors came oftenest; they were in Miss Ellingwood's class,
and as the time for the giving of the "Christmas Carol" approached,
they were there constantly. Sarah had read the story; she knew how
old Scrooge's sordid heart, devoted to money-getting, was filled with
the Christmas spirit by the appearance of his dead partner, Jacob
Marley, and by the three ghosts of Christmas Present, Christmas Past,
and Christmas Future. Ethel Davis and Gertrude Manley were to be Mrs.
Cratchit and Fred's wife,--they were the leading women's parts. To
Sarah's thinking, there were no rôles so interesting as those of the
ghosts, which were taken by boys. Their costumes were so wonderful,
they moved about so mysteriously, they were able to introduce so many
original devices. Perhaps next year, if she were promoted to the Junior
class, and if there were a ghost in the play, Miss Ellingwood might
give the part to her, and then she would be completely happy.

During the practicing, she took her books into Miss Ellingwood's
bedroom, and sitting there at her work, she could hear the Juniors
laughing merrily. When it was time for the tableaux, in which Scrooge
was to see his past and future, and all the harm he had done in the
present, they opened the door into the bedroom, so that they might have
a double stage.

It was then that Edward Ellis, Dr. Ellis's son, who was a Junior and
represented Jacob Marley, came and stood near Sarah's table and recited
his sepulchral part.

"'Expect the second spirit on the next night at the same hour!'" he
would say, while his chains clanked and rattled, and the blood of one
hearer, at least, congealed in her veins. "'The third upon the next
night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see
me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has
passed between us.'"

And then, "the apparition walked backward, and at every step it took,
the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it,
it was wide open."

Sarah had heard Miss Ellingwood read the directions, and Edward obeyed
them with many ghostly variations. Once Sarah had been called upon to
lift the window by jerks and starts.

In the midst of all the delightful excitement of school life, Sarah
often scolded herself for not feeling perfectly happy and contented.
She was learning more than she ever dreamed of learning, she had the
constant association of Miss Ellingwood, she practically lived in Miss
Ellingwood's luxurious rooms. But she had no life outside them, and it
was that which troubled her. She realized that there was a great deal
of fun in the school in which she had no share. There were parades
which appeared simultaneously with the stroke of ten, beginning at the
upper corner of the woman's side of the great building, and winding in
and out the halls, and down the stairways, like a long snake, to the
lower corner and back again. There were feasts by day and night; there
was dancing in the gymnasium after the classes were over. Sarah was
not invited to the feasts, and she looked on silently at the dancing.
It was true that she did not know how to dance, but if stout Mabel
Thorn could learn, she could also, she was sure. She tried the steps
sometimes when she was alone in Miss Ellingwood's room.

Mabel and Ellen ignored her completely. They did not always speak to
her when she came into the room. Once they allowed her to search for
her maps, which Ellen had been tracing, and which she had hastily
covered with her papers. Gradually, the whole school became aware that
her room-mates avoided her, and no one was clear-sighted enough to see
that it was a compliment to Sarah. When Ellen and Mabel were called to
the office and reproved for making unnecessary noise, they complained
loudly that Sarah had reported them, forgetting the many times that
Miss Jones had come upstairs in the middle of the night to remonstrate
with them. The other students, even Ethel Davis and Gertrude Manley,
who thought they were just, began to look a little askance at Sarah.
No fault is more hated by students than tale-bearing, and no suspicion
flies more quickly.

Ellen's and Mabel's rudeness did not trouble Sarah. That did not seem
worth worrying about. It was her failure to make friends with Ethel and
Gertrude, and the other Juniors whom she so admired, that troubled her.
Once she had called Ethel by her first name, and Ethel had responded
with a quick, "What did you say, Miss Wenner?" She had grown accustomed
to having her teachers call her Miss Wenner. But these boys and
girls,--that was different.

"At home," she said sorrowfully to herself, "I was always common"
(friendly); "and here I am just the same. But these people do not like
it, they are too high up."

It could not be because she was a newcomer, because they were gracious
to other newcomers. They called even the careless girl who spilled her
ink, Mary. They had teas in their room to which only newcomers were
invited, but Sarah was not among them. Sarah was convinced that it was
some grave fault in herself which made them avoid her.

Fortunately her work occupied most of her thoughts, and when that
was over there were always her letters home to be written. She gave
vivid, illustrated accounts of those same feasts and parades at which
she looked longingly, and the home people never guessed that it was
a lonely outsider who described them, sometimes in prose, sometimes
in much-admired jingle. She even described Ellen dressed to represent
William, as though it were all a great joke, which she had enjoyed
immensely. She told about Edward Ellis's wonderful "Bobs," a collie,
who could spring up to the low branches of the apple trees in the
fields at the back of the campus, and who could perform many wonderful
tricks. She drew pictures of him, and of Professor Minturn, who strode
about the room while he lectured, and of the Geography teacher, who
always folded his hands so precisely, and sat so still.

    "Sarah's so dumb,
    It makes him numb,"

she wrote brilliantly.

Laura and the twins wrote to her regularly, the twins with wild,
childish scrawls, which hinted surprises at Christmas, and Laura with
funny accounts of her own difficulties.

"You should have seen my waffles last evening," she would say. "They
were black on one side and a delicate buff on the other."

"Laura made waffles," the twins would write. "William ate seven and we
four."

Occasionally there would come a note in William's clear hand.

"Enclosed find a little spending-money. We hear that you are doing
well. Be a good girl."

It would have been a very ungrateful girl who could have been _very_
unhappy after that.

There were Christmas surprises in her cupboard, also. William's gifts
of money had been well spent. On the shelf above the secretary at
home, there had stood the battered school-books and a worn copy of
"Thaddeus of Warsaw." Poor Thaddeus was to be overshadowed henceforth
by several well-bound companions. There was "Westward Ho" for William,
and "Lorna Doone" for Laura, and "Alice in Wonderland" for the twins,
and a fairy-book for Albert. Rarely does the approach of Christmas find
a person so entirely satisfied with her gifts as Sarah was. But Miss
Ellingwood had selected them, and Miss Ellingwood was infallible.

There was another present which she was taking home. She had read
halfway through the upper shelf of Miss Ellingwood's story-books, and
she meant to remember them all, and then during the vacation, she would
sit down before the fire after she had washed the supper dishes, and
she would take Albert in her arms, and a twin would perch on each side
of her on the old settle, and they should hear some stories that were
stories.

She had become well acquainted with several of the professors who
came in to call on Miss Ellingwood in the evenings. One was Professor
Minturn, for whom she had read the paragraph of history on the first
day of school. He seemed to grow more nervous each day, and more
certain that his pupils might do more work if they would.

"That sub-Junior and Junior History might just as well be combined,"
he would say irritably to Miss Ellingwood. "Then they would finish
the American History in the sub-Junior year, and a thorough course of
General History could be divided between the Junior and the Middle
years. The present arrangement is senseless."

One day he asked Sarah to remain after class. The sub-Juniors looked at
one another and laughed. By this time, suspicion had spread through the
whole school.

"He probably wants to ask her whether you and Ellen study your
lessons," whispered Mabel's neighbor.

Sarah was startled by the first question which Professor Minturn
addressed to her.

"Are you well?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you ever been sick?"

"I had the measles and the mumps." This sounded like the questions of
the gymnasium director. "And the whooping cough I had, too."

"Do you take regular exercise?"

"Yes, sir."

"You like to study, don't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"I thought so. How should you like to do a little extra work for me?"

All Sarah's life she had been doing extra physical work. She had taken
her mother's duties gradually upon her shoulders as she became ill; she
had then taken a large part of her father's work. But hitherto no one
had ever complimented her by asking her to do extra study. Her cheeks
glowed.

"I would like it very much."

"Very well," answered Professor Minturn, beaming with satisfaction. "I
wish you to prepare eight pages of history instead of four. Each day I
shall ask you some questions after class." Professor Minturn smiled.
He thought that he had discovered a way of trying a long-planned
experiment.

The Geography teacher had long since noticed that Sarah always knew her
lessons. One day he asked her in his precise way whether she had been
over the book before.

"No, sir. But I studied Geography with my father, and it is not so hard
for me like it is for some people. I know what is in this book."

The Geography teacher gave her a little examination.

"Why, I believe you are ready for State Board now. There isn't any
reason why you should waste your time with this class. How would you
like to come into the Physical Geography class with the Juniors?"

Sarah gasped. That would bring her into constant association with Ethel
and Gertrude, the objects of her devotion.

"I--I am afraid I am too--too dumb, _ach_, stupid, I mean."

The teacher laughed. All Sarah's teachers laughed at her more or
less. It was only yesterday that the gymnasium teacher had laughed at
her because she talked about "planting the smallpox" when she meant
vaccinating.

"You aren't too stupid at all," the teacher of Geography assured her.
"To-morrow I'll speak to Dr. Ellis about it. In the mean time, you
report with the Juniors."

Sarah's room-mates were not at all pleased by her promotion. Hereafter
there would be no maps lying in her desk ready to be copied, and their
marks would be materially lowered. They felt that her change of classes
was a personal grievance.

"No wonder that you get along," said Ellen rudely. "You are what we
call a teacher's pet. The other evening I went to Miss Ellingwood's
room to get permission to go downstairs, and the Latin teacher was
helping you. I don't think it is fair."

Sarah opened her mouth to speak, then closed it, flushing scarlet.
The Latin teacher did help her, but not with her regular lessons. His
helping her was a joke between him and Miss Ellingwood. They had a
great many jokes together, many of which Sarah did not understand. He
said that he should have to have some excuse for coming to see Miss
Ellingwood so often; he would pretend that Sarah was his pupil. And so
he used to give her simple sight translations to read. It was not part
of her daily lesson; with that of course he never helped her at all.
It was true that she studied her Latin grammar very hard, so that she
should be able to read at sight for Mr. Sattarlee without very much
stumbling, and she paid all the more attention to her daily lessons.
But he did not help her with them.

Ellen's remark seemed like an accusation of dishonesty. But she did
not explain, she could not. It seemed like disloyalty to talk about
the Latin teacher and his coming to Miss Ellingwood's room. He seemed
to belong to Miss Ellingwood, and if she were kind enough to allow
Sarah to be there when he came,--and he never came unless Sarah was
there,--it would be all the more contemptible to talk to Ellen Ritter
about it. Sarah hunted through her drawer for a fresh pencil and went
back to Miss Ellingwood's room. Her books had not been in her own room
for a month, nor had she slept there.

By this time Sarah had begun to think that the curriculum was very
carelessly planned. She was even with the Juniors in History and
Physical Geography and Latin, which were the three most difficult
subjects of the six which the Juniors had to pass.

She did not realize that she was growing a little tired. She could
scarcely keep her eyes open until bedtime; it seemed to her that the
Juniors, busily practicing for their play, or Mr. Sattarlee, calling
upon Miss Ellingwood, would never go. Gymnasium had become more of a
bore than ever. She disliked it before because it was monotonous; now
her step lagged in the marches and her arms fell heavily in the drills
because she was tired.

She went walking less often with Miss Ellingwood; Miss Ellingwood
went with Mr. Sattarlee. Miss Ellingwood had begun to be a little
absent-minded. Perhaps that was the reason that she did not notice that
Sarah's cheeks had lost their ruddy color, and that she no longer ran
briskly down the hall when she came from class.

Sometimes, when Miss Ellingwood was away, Sarah opened the door and
peered out into the hall. Down in Gertrude's room there was the sound
of merry laughter. She and Ethel were constantly inventing some new
entertainment. Once, when they had put up a sign at the corner of the
hall, notifying the public that they meant that evening to gratify a
plebeian fondness for Bermuda onions and bread and butter, Sarah almost
went to the feast. The notice begged all those who liked onions to
come, and warned all others to spend the evening with their friends in
distant parts of the building. Sarah would cheerfully have eaten crow
in such company. But she did not dare to go.



CHAPTER VI

THE "CHRISTMAS CAROL"


To Sarah's surprise and delight, she had Miss Ellingwood almost
entirely to herself the day of the play. Miss Ellingwood always prided
herself upon the absence of the mad rush which is supposed to accompany
and follow the dress rehearsal. She was especially anxious that this
play should succeed, since it was the first appearance of her class.

The dress rehearsal had been given the night before. Sarah had
watched it, entranced, from the edge of the stage, where she waited
for possible errands. The Juniors paid no attention to her, but she
was too interested to care. The extraordinary make-up of old Scrooge,
the mysterious gliding about of the ghosts, the thrilling tableaux,
directed by Miss Ellingwood from behind the scenes,--Sarah had never
dreamed of anything like this. And it would be still more wonderful
the next night, from the front, when strange green and purple lights
were to follow the ghosts about, and when there would be the added
excitement of a large audience. This would be a story to tell the
twins! But could the twins be persuaded to believe such wonders? Sarah
sighed a little. She was going home the day after the play, but it
seemed weeks ahead.

Miss Ellingwood slipped into the chapel for a last look about
before she started with Sarah for a walk. She glanced over the
properties,--Scrooge's bowl of gruel, his candlestick, the chains
and money-boxes which were to be rattled upon the approach of Jacob
Marley's ghost, the crutch for Tiny Tim, the old clothes for Mrs.
Dilber.

"It has all gone too smoothly," she said to Sarah. "There hasn't been a
hitch anywhere."

"I should think that would be good," said Sarah.

Miss Ellingwood shook her head.

"No, when things go so well at the rehearsal they don't go so well
afterwards, usually. At any rate, nobody will be tired."

"The ghosts went skating," said Sarah. "I saw them go off with their
skates, and take the car."

Miss Ellingwood frowned.

"That was a little risky." Then she ran lightly down the steps. "But
they'll be back. Come on." She was only a little older than the oldest
pupil in her classes, and it was difficult to be always grave and
dignified. Dr. Ellis watched her and smiled.

"I hope Miss Ellingwood's preparations are all made," he said to his
secretary. "She's a fore-handed person."

The secretary looked up quizzically at the sky. He was inclined to be
pessimistic.

"The leading members of the cast have gone out to the park to skate.
They don't run the cars when it snows."

Dr. Ellis also walked to the window and looked out.

"Was Edward with them?"

"Yes."

"Then they'll be back. Edward knows all about the cars."

An hour later, Miss Ellingwood and Sarah returned, laughing and covered
with snow. Miss Ellingwood glanced in at the office-door.

"Have the boys come?"

The secretary answered her.

"No. I shouldn't be surprised if they didn't get here."

Some of the color faded from Miss Ellingwood's rosy cheeks.

"But they _must_. What makes you say that?"

"The cars don't run in snows like this."

"But they could get a carriage and drive."

The secretary shook his head dolefully.

"There aren't many houses out there."

"But they could walk."

"Not ten miles in this snow. Not in time, anyway."

Miss Ellingwood spent the next hour looking out of the window. The
cars from the park connected with the Normal School cars at the square.
At the end of the hour, when darkness had fallen and no boys had
appeared, Miss Ellingwood slipped into the dress which Sarah had laid
out for her, and ran down to the office. It was still snowing heavily.

"They're not here?"

"No."

Miss Ellingwood went toward the telephone-booth. There was one way out
of the difficulty.

"I am going to telephone to the car-barn and ask them to send out a
car. It doesn't make any difference what it costs."

The secretary threw out a crumb of comfort.

"Dr. Ellis attended to that, a few minutes ago."

"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried Miss Ellingwood, with a great rise of
spirits. "Then they'll certainly be here."

She ate her supper with a good appetite, and then went up to the chapel.

Sarah dressed slowly. Ellen and Mabel, having seen the flurry which
preceded other Junior plays, laughed scornfully. They did not like Miss
Ellingwood.

"It'll be a failure," declared Mabel. "I could manage a play better."
She looked impertinently at Sarah. "Now don't you go and tell her,
Sarah."

Sarah did not answer. The walk had made her tired. She meant to go
early to the chapel and take a book. Then she could get a good seat,
and could study her extra history lesson until the play began.

She heard voices as she opened the chapel door. She thought at first
that some one had mounted the stage for a final bit of practice, then
she saw that it was Miss Ellingwood. Just in front of the stage stood
Dr. Ellis.

"I've had a telephone message, Miss Ellingwood. They have tried to get
a car out, but they say the snow is so soft and heavy that they can't
get out and back before ten o'clock."

"Then my play is doomed!"

"Isn't there anything that can be done?"

The principal was much disturbed. He prided himself upon the prompt
performance of all school exercises. In this case, his own son helped
to cause the failure.

"Nothing," answered Miss Ellingwood helplessly. "They have the
principal parts. They're the play."

"Couldn't any one take their places?"

"No, not possibly. All the Junior boys are in the tableaux, and anyhow,
no one knows the lines. I could do it myself, but I have to direct
behind the scenes. It is hopeless."

"We'll have to postpone it till after Christmas, I suppose?"

Miss Ellingwood sat down wearily on the nearest chair.

"Oh, I can't! All the spirit will have gone out of it. And it's a
Christmas play!"

"Then we will have to give it up."

Miss Ellingwood looked at him dismally. Then her brows knitted. Could
she take the parts? Could they manage the tableaux without her? It
would make no difference whether the ghosts were men or women. Anything
would be better than postponement.

"Perhaps," she began slowly. "No, it can't be done. I suppose a notice
will have to be put up on the door, and if you will send Eugene
for some of the boys, we will straighten up the stage. The case is
hopeless."

It was at this moment that little Sarah Wenner appeared by the side
of the tall principal. Her cheeks were flushed, she clasped her hands
across the bosom of her red dress.

"Is it anything I can do?" she asked. "I know what the ghosts should
say, and where they should stand always. You begin here, and then you
wheel a little piece up there and--_Ach_, I know it all by heart. I
heard them say it every evening when they practiced. You said--you
said--"

But the impulsive courage which had prompted her speech had fled, her
voice failed, and she stood abashed, her face growing scarlet.

It was several minutes before she dared to look up. She expected that
Miss Ellingwood would reprove her sternly. She knew better than to
interrupt older persons like that, but she had forgotten. She was
always forgetting. In one awful moment of forgetfulness she had emptied
a pitcher of water on Miss Ellingwood's head. Her presumption in
offering overwhelmed her. They would think that she was crazy. If she
could only get away, where she would not need to look up and see the
frowns on their faces.

"_Ach_," she began, "I do not know what I am talking about. Sometimes
I act so dumb. I--" She backed slowly away. "I--"

Suddenly Miss Ellingwood was at her side. She seized her arm, and held
her for a moment without speaking.

"Wait a minute." Then she looked up at Dr. Ellis. "I believe--I believe
it could be done. Come, Sarah."

Dr. Ellis followed them behind the scenes.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Yes. Postpone the ringing of the bell till a quarter after eight.
And send all the Juniors here at once. Sarah, run up and get into
your gymnasium suit, and bring two stiff petticoats and my long white
wrapper, and tell Ethel and Gertrude to come as fast as they can. Go
like a breeze, Sarah dear."

Sarah, in the character of Jacob Kalb pursuing the twins, never moved
faster. Ethel and Gertrude, finishing their leisurely dressing, watched
her fly down the hall, after she had summoned them.

"That wild youngster's in her gym suit, and has a lot of white stuff
over her arm. What can she be up to?"

"Hard to tell. Let's hurry."

When they clambered up to the stage, having taken the short cut through
the chapel, they stood still, gaping.

Miss Ellingwood's cheeks were red, her hair ruffled.

"Robert, you will have to read the part of Marley's ghost from behind
the scenes. You'll have to speak as Edward did and move about. I'll
help you. And Sarah knows the other parts. As the Ghost of Christmas
Past,--here, Sarah, is your tunic and your golden belt." Miss
Ellingwood held up a handful of white and gold, digged from the bottom
of the property-box. "It's really better to have a girl for this part.
Your hair must be down, there! and powdered, and you must make your
voice as thin and clear as you can. As the Ghost of Christmas Present,
you will sit here on this throne. We will have it turned this way, so
that there can be a prompter behind it. And as the Ghost of Christmas
Future, you will be in black. Ethel and Gertrude will help you dress,
and there will be plenty of time. But oh, Sarah, are you _sure_ you
know the parts?"

Sarah looked round at the circle of astonished, doubting faces.

"Yes, ma'am," she declared solemnly. "Believe me, I do."

"Then get into your dress, quickly, and then you and Scrooge go over
there and go over your parts. No, we'll do it here. If anybody comes
into the chapel, and overhears, he'll just have to, that's all."

There were early comers, visitors from town, who did not know that the
hour had been changed. They heard murmurs from behind the curtain, but
they laughed and talked among themselves, and paid no heed.

The students did not appear until the bell rang. They were thankful
for the last moment to finish a bit of packing or a visit. There were
no study-hours,--this was one of the great occasions of the year. They
did not know how narrowly they had missed having any play at all, or
how its success still hung upon the slender thread of a small girl's
memory.

The cheerless, unpleasant room upon which the curtain lifted gave
no hint of the Christmas spirit which already excited the great
school. Scrooge sat beside his table, unshaven, wizened, clad in an
old dressing-gown and slippers, with a night-cap on his head. He was
eating a bowl of gruel, and at the same time trying to identify the
peculiar substance of which it was made, and also to keep the audience
from suspecting that there was anything the matter with it. When he
discovered that it was cotton, he made a resolve of revenge upon the
Junior girls who had prepared it, which had nothing to do with the
play. It helped him, however, to growl out maledictions upon the poor
and those who relieved their distress.

It was then that he was disturbed by the clanking of chains and
money-boxes, and the voice of his old partner, Marley, was heard
faintly from behind the curtain which divided the front and back of the
stage. Marley reproved him for his grasping, cruel spirit, his sordid
struggle for wealth, and Scrooge cowered and listened in terror to the
promise of the ghost that he should be visited by three others.

The curtain went down and rose almost immediately. There had been only
faint applause. Scrooge had done his best, but the ghost, speaking from
behind the scenes, had not the power to amuse and thrill which he would
have had if he had been able to appear. Miss Ellingwood remembered,
with a pang, Edward Ellis's delightful vanishing through the window.

Miss Ellingwood's face was pale. She realized that the first scene had
fallen flat. And they were depending for the success of the second upon
little Sarah Wenner, who had never even practiced with the rest of the
cast! It had been madness in Sarah to offer, it had been worse than
madness for Miss Ellingwood to accept.

She peered out from behind the scenes, her hand on Sarah's shoulder.
Scrooge was in bed, his night-cap tassel nodded from his pillow. It was
time for Sarah to go on. Directions trembled on Miss Ellingwood's lips,
but she said nothing. It was too late now to advise.

The light was dim, and the audience could see nothing but the outlines
of the old four-post bed, and a faint, tiny, white figure, which
glided about, now slowly, now swiftly, once with a dash of yellow
light upon it, once with a faint glow of purple. Her dress was short,
her feet were sandaled, she looked even shorter than she was. The
audience gasped. They thought that Edward Ellis was to play the part.
Who was this sprite who moved about so lightly? They leaned forward
breathlessly as the fairy thing approached Scrooge's bed, and drew the
curtain back. A trembling, faltering voice issued from within.

"'Are you the spirit whose coming was foretold me?'"

It seemed to Miss Ellingwood that long moments passed before the answer
came. The child had never been on any stage in all her life. Miss
Ellingwood knew what stage fright was. She was suffering from it now
herself. Then faintly but clearly came the answer:--

"'I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.'"

"'Long past?' inquired the trembling Scrooge."

"'No, your past. Rise and come with me.'"

The lights went out, there was the sound of a great wind, then a wild
cry which made the timid clutch one another's hands.

"'I am afraid! I am afraid! I shall fall.'"

The clear voice answered, "'Bear but a touch of my hand upon your
heart, and you shall be upheld in more than this.'"

The curtain before the back of the stage was lifted, the light came
on slowly. There, on the bench in an old-fashioned school-room, sat a
small boy, tired, homesick, forlorn. To him entered a little girl, who
threw her arms about his neck and told him that he was to come home.
The little boy cried happily, and there was a strange echo from the
front of the stage.

"'It is I!' cried Scrooge. 'I and my sister Fanny.'"

"'And here?' said the spirit."

The curtain fell and at once was lifted.

"'My old master Fezziwig!' laughed Scrooge."

The laugh died away at the next scene, when he saw once more the girl
whom he had jilted because she was poor. A wild horror was in his voice.

"'Leave me, spirit! I cannot bear it!'"

The spirit in the white dress and with the streaming hair had already
gone, and Scrooge felt his way across the room to bed.

When the curtain went up again, it was in a blaze of light. The
bed-curtains were closely drawn, and sitting upon the green throne at
the other end of the room was a little figure in a long green robe.
Even now her schoolmates did not know her. She laughed merrily as she
called to Scrooge, whose frightened face peered out from between the
curtains. It brightened at sight of this cheerful ghost, but not for
long. The Ghost of Christmas Present had sad sights to show.

The light faded, and though Christmas bells rang merrily, one could not
hear them or enjoy them because of starved, wolfish children living
in misery, and poor Cratchit and his family trying to make merry over
their goose, while want stared them in the face. The audience sighed
when the curtain fell once more and Scrooge wandered about his room
alone.

By this time Miss Ellingwood had dropped her book and was devoting
her whole attention to the tableaux. They were saddest of all now.
Sarah was a tall figure without shape. Miss Ellingwood had contrived
a support far above her head for the black robe. The stage was almost
dark, and Scrooge had fallen upon his knees, as he watched the scenes
of future Christmases.

Tiny Tim, the Cratchit cripple, had died from want of care, Scrooge
himself lay in the churchyard, hideous Mrs. Dilber and her friends
discussed his scant personal possessions, and the vast amount of his
wealth went back into his business without ever having profited a human
soul.

The audience caught the spirit of Scrooge's horror of himself, of his
ecstatic joy at finding that he was still alive, and that there was
time for him to redeem himself. They laughed and applauded, and there
were those who cried. Then when the applause had died down, there was a
loud call for the ghosts.

"It sounds like Edward," said Miss Ellingwood. "Run out and bow,
Sarah."

Sarah clutched Miss Ellingwood's dress.

"_Ach_, I cannot!"

"Yes, dear, you must."

In a second she found herself in the middle of the stage. She saw the
laughing, astonished faces, she saw Dr. Ellis applauding, she saw
Professor Minturn smile, and back against the wall four tall boys, the
real ghosts, who had come back at last. Near them, there stood some one
else, a little taller than they, who waved his hand. It was William; he
had come to take her home. Then her fright vanished. She was not Sarah
any more. She was the Christmas Spirit, just as in the old days, when
she played with the twins, she had been Jacob Kalb or Uncle Daniel or
the Judge of the Orphans' Court by turns.

"Merry Christmas!" she cried, and then, like Tiny Tim, "'God bless us,
every one!'"

Mr. Sattarlee was back of the scenes when she returned. He took both
her hands in his. It was as though she had saved the day for him,
instead of for Miss Ellingwood.

"Everybody is coming over to my rooms to have something to eat, Sarah,
and of course we want you."

Sarah smiled at him.

"I thank myself, _ach_, I mean I am much obliged. But my brother is
here, and--"

"We will have him too. We couldn't get along without either of you."

Ethel and Gertrude each held out a grateful hand. Even a tale-bearer
must have her due.

"You saved the play, Miss Wenner."

Sarah's happy little smile died away.

"_Ach_, no, ma'am."

But she could not be long unhappy. Miss Ellingwood's hand would not
let her go. When William came he only said, "Why, you little rascal!"
which was praise enough. He talked and laughed with Miss Ellingwood
and Mr. Sattarlee, and made friends with the boys, until he grew more
wonderful than ever in the eyes of his little sister. She sat on the
sofa beside Miss Ellingwood, and Edward Ellis and the other ghosts told
them how they had walked home, despairing of getting there in time, but
determined to do their best.

Ethel and Gertrude glanced at them, and Ethel shrugged her shoulders
lightly.

"How do you suppose she ever did it?" said Gertrude.

A mocking smile came into Ethel's blue eyes. It was well for Sarah that
she did not hear; it would have grieved her heart almost as much as it
hurt generous Ethel's to say a thing so mean.

"Isn't it her usual occupation to listen and tell?" asked Ethel.



CHAPTER VII

SARAH SAVES THE DAY ONCE MORE


The fall term of school is a time of adjustment, and the spring term
flies so quickly that it is hardly begun before it is over. It is
in winter that most real work is accomplished. Then, too, when the
days are short, and life out of doors does not call so insistently,
friendships quicken and school spirit grows.

Sarah felt very much better after her return from home. Laura had
sternly forbidden her to do any heavier work than drying dishes, and
looking after the twins and Albert, and she had told stories to her
heart's content, and coasted and skated until she forgot that a grammar
or a geography ever existed.

Now she worked diligently. It is safe to say that never had one
small girl learned so much in so short a time. Professor Minturn was
delighted with her progress; he regarded his theory that the sub-Junior
and the Junior History could be combined as already proved. The
Geography professor cheered her enthusiastically on. He had meant to
speak to Dr. Ellis about her transference from one class to the other,
but he had forgotten it, and Sarah proceeded undisturbed. Mr. Sattarlee
continued to have her read at sight for him in the evenings. He had
begun to be really interested in seeing how much she could do.

Class rivalry always came to a head at the annual gymnasium exhibition,
which took place just before the close of the winter term. There were
performances by individuals, elaborate swinging of clubs and heavy work
of various kinds, Gilbert dancing and intricate drills. The class which
made the best record was given a silver cup.

Hitherto the cup had always been won by the Middle or the Senior
class. Each year the enthusiastic Juniors made a frantic effort and
failed. Occasionally they excelled in individual work, but the other
classes had the advantage of longer team-work in the drills. This year
the Senior class was weak, and the Juniors would have had some hope,
had it not been that the Middlers were exceptionally strong.

By this time the glow which followed the Christmas vacation was gone,
and Sarah was once more a very tired girl. She had looked forward to
the entertainment for weeks, but now that it was at hand, she wished
with all her heart that she could go to bed instead of attending it.

The sub-Junior girls gave only an elementary wand-drill at the opening
of the exhibition. The audience was still gathering; they formed
merely the inconspicuous orchestra before the beginning of the real
performance. When the drill was over, Sarah was glad to climb the steps
to the running-track, and look down sleepily over the crowd in search
of Miss Ellingwood.

The floor of the great gymnasium was divided into two parts. One was
left bare for the exhibition; the other was covered by a steep tier of
seats occupied by the invited guests of the faculty and the faculty
themselves. The students, when they were not at work, watched from
the wide running-track which circled the gymnasium. Its railing was
gayly decked with school and class banners, and it was crowded with
close-packed groups of enthusiastic boys and girls. Far above in the
dusk, showed dimly the great beams which upheld the vaulted roof.

Presently Sarah found Miss Ellingwood, sitting almost beneath her, with
Mr. Sattarlee by her side. Then Sarah grew more and more sleepy. She
heard the girls of her own class whispering round her. Mabel and Ellen
were near by, but she did not turn her head, which rested comfortably
against one of the upright supports of the great beam.

Below on the floor the girls of the Middle class were beginning an
elaborate swinging of Indian clubs, moving in such perfect time with
the music and with one another that the difficult task seemed the
easiest in the world. Already the girls of the Junior class, who were
to follow, were quietly slipping down the stairs. Sarah saw them dimly,
Ethel and Gertrude and all the others whom she so admired, and who
paid no attention to her. The fact that she had saved their class play
seemed to make them not more but even less friendly. The tears came
into her eyes, and she brushed them angrily away. What a goose she
was! She tightened her hold a little on the upright iron, and leaned
her head against it once more. If she could only go over to the Main
Building and go to bed!

Then suddenly she awoke. It seemed to her at first that she heard the
cheering in her sleep; then it grew to a great roar all about her. The
sub-Juniors beside her were cheering, the group of boys of the Middle
class on the opposite side of the running-track were yelling madly,
and "Bobs," Edward Ellis's collie, who would not be left at home, was
barking as though he would burst his throat. Sarah made out the Middle
class yell:--

    "Hip, hip, hooray,
    Scarlet and gray,
    We win the day!"

Then, looking up, she saw the cause of the excitement. Floating proudly
from the great central beam, far above her head, was the scarlet and
gray banner of the Middle class. The banner must have been rolled up
and fastened there by some adventurous climber, and a cord by which it
could be unfurled carried down along the supports to the opposite side
of the running-track. It was no wonder that the Middlers had insisted
upon having that particular spot. The cord had unfastened itself
properly, and the great flag was left free to float back and forth in
the slight breeze which came in round the many tall windows.

There was a wild yell from the Junior class, not of delight, but of
disgust and dismay, and "Bobs" changed his bark to a howl. The trick
was a clever one, and it did not add to the comfort of the Juniors
to realize that there was nothing to be done. The next number on the
programme was a minuet by the Junior girls. They would have to give it,
alas, under the colors of their rivals.

Edward Ellis and half a dozen others tried to push their way through
the close-packed ranks of the Middlers, but Dr. Ellis saw them and
motioned them back. Meanwhile the Middler girls went quietly on, not
losing a beat of their time. When they finished, they marched out amid
loud cheers and clapping of hands.

The sub-Juniors round Sarah were dancing up and down. Traditionally
they were the friends of the Middle class, and the Middle class itself
did not enjoy the sight of the great banner as much as they.

"Won't the Juniors be furious?" laughed Ellen Ritter. "I can just see
Ethel Davis and Gertrude Manley when they behold it. And they can't do
a thing. Good for 'em!"

And the sub-Juniors moved a little farther down the running-track,
crowding the Seniors behind them, so that they could see the faces of
the Junior girls when they caught the first glimpse of the scarlet flag.

The same flame leaped suddenly in Sarah's heart that had flared before
she pursued Jacob Kalb with a gun, and before she had poured the water
out through the transom. But this time she deliberated and laid her
plans more slowly. She owed the members of her own class no loyalty.

She looked up at the great beam far above her head. She tried to shake
the iron upright upon which her hand rested and found it as firm as the
boards beneath her feet; then she stared up again at the beam and down
at the floor far below, and her eyes brightened.

There was a Junior flag just under her hand. The Junior class would
enter in the dark, the lights were to be entirely extinguished, so
that they could slip to their places without being seen, and then the
light would come, not from the electric globes, but from a stereopticon
lantern at the end of the room, which would throw colored lights upon
the performers. Sarah knew all the arrangements. Already the gymnasium
director had risen to announce that the lights would be turned out, and
that no one should be alarmed.

Sarah glanced about once more. It was fortunate that she was just
above the entrance to the dressing-room, and in the most undesirable
place on the track. There was no one within ten feet. She put her hand
on the belt of her gymnasium suit to be sure that the buttons were all
tight and that nothing should hamper her, and then she thought of the
tall hickory tree at home, up which she had scrambled ever since she
could remember, and smiled.

The row of lights above the running-track faded and went out, and
she put her arms round the slender iron pole. Then those below were
darkened, and with a spring her rubber-soled feet were on the railing.
When she felt the great beam, she had one moment of awful fright.
What if they should suddenly turn on the lights and she be discovered
hanging in mid-air? She would not be able to keep her hold. There would
be one agonized moment, then she would drop down, down to the floor
beneath.

But the fright did not make her stop. It vanished completely when she
felt under her hands the cord which fastened the flag.

She did not attempt to untie it, there was no time for that. There
were two pins on the front of her blouse, which had fastened on the
sub-Junior badge which she had worn during her own drill. Wrapping the
Middler flag round the beam, so that it was completely hidden, she
pinned the Junior flag to its edge, and then crept slowly back. She
could see far below her the line of dim white figures crossing the
gymnasium. In another instant they would be in their places, and then
the lights would flare out.

Thankfully she felt the iron pole beneath her feet, and in wild panic
slid down, the iron burning her hands like steam. Then she stood
holding desperately to it, panting.

It was the man who managed the stereopticon who revealed the new
banner. The Junior girls in their white dresses wove back and forth
in intricate figures, now in the gleam of violet, now in the glow of
rose-color. Now they spread out from one end of the wide floor to
the other, now they were close together. Presently there was a glow
of yellow light which illuminated the whole gymnasium and rested
especially upon the high beam. The stereopticon man had no sympathy
with any particular class. He realized that the scarlet and gray flag
was an object of interest, so he trained his light upon it. Every eye
in the gymnasium was lifted at once.

Bedlam broke loose, after an instant's pause, during which faculty and
students and guests stared open-mouthed. Where was the Middler banner?
Who had dared to climb out there and remove it? And who had hung the
Junior banner there?

    "Light blue and white,
    We're all right!"

roared the Junior boys.

"Wow, wow, wo-o-ow," howled "Bobs."

"Bang, bang, bang," played the pianist, in a noble effort to be heard
above the din. Only the Junior girls seemed undisturbed. They wove more
intricate evolutions, deaf to the piano as they were; their powdered
heads bowed to one another, their motion seemed to grow more light and
fairy-like. Presently one of them glanced upward, then another, and
some one smiled faintly, and without another sign, they went on with
more spirit than ever.

A Middler started at once to climb the pole, but was ordered back. Then
another tried it, and was sternly reproved. The flag must hang there
now, there would be no more seasons of convenient darkness in which
it might be torn down. The Junior girls marched out, Ethel Davis and
Gertrude Manley leading, as they led most affairs in their class.

Now it was the turn of the Middler boys to take a taste of their own
medicine, and give their drill under a rival banner. They gritted their
teeth angrily. The displacement of their flag disturbed them sorely.
The cup was theirs already, they were sure of that, but the celebration
with which they meant to mark their victory was spoiled.

Anger may be a spur in a long jump or in putting the shot, but it
does not conduce to good team-work. One of the Middlers lifted his
clubs too swiftly, another too slowly, and they did not begin in good
form. And then there was the click of club against club, an evidence of
carelessness of which not even the sub-Juniors would be guilty.

A giggle spread along the line of the Juniors. The audience heard and
the Middlers themselves heard, and their faces grew hot and their
hands unsteady. There was a bang, a crash, and an Indian club flew in
a wide curve, and sailed through the glass door which opened into the
director's office. It was an unpardonable crime.

"Attention!" cried the director. "Clubs at rest, right face, march."

For the first time in the history of the school a Middle class had
failed, and the Juniors had won the cup.

Sarah had slipped to the rear of the group of her classmates. She was
desperately tired, and her hands burned like fire. If she could only
go to bed! But no one was expected to leave until the end. It seemed
to her that minutes lengthened into hours and still the entertainment
dragged on.

All round her she heard excited inquiry. What Junior had crept out on
the beam? Was it Edward Ellis?

"You didn't see a Junior go up this side, did you, Sarah?" asked Mabel
Thorn; and Sarah answered with a truthful and weary "No."

She had sat down on the edge of a springboard, she did not hear even
the loud cheering which followed the handing of the cup to the Junior
president. There was a rush for the stairs, and she was carried on
unresisting. Then she slipped aside and opened the door leading to
the lower floor. From there a narrow passageway ran between the
swimming-pool and the girls' dressing-room and thence led out of doors.
The main exit was jammed with arguing, cheering students; she could not
go out that way.

As she passed the door of the girls' dressing-room, she heard the
same excited questions shouted back and forth. Ethel and Gertrude were
laughing and talking as they struggled out of their long cheese-cloth
dresses. Suddenly one of them called to her:--

"Who are you, out there? Suppose you come in and untangle me!"

Sarah knew well enough that if they had known it was she they would not
have called her. Nevertheless, she went in and asked what she could do.

"Oh," said Gertrude, "is it you, Miss Wenner? Please unpin this down
the back."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Sarah.

She could scarcely open her hand; it felt as though there were not
a fragment of skin left on the palm, but she struggled bravely with
the stubborn pins. It seemed to her a long time until she was able to
extract the first one.

"There is one out already," she said faintly.

Ethel turned to look at her and then came a little closer.

"What's the matter? Look at me, child!" The word slipped out
involuntarily, and she corrected herself at once. "Miss Wenner, what is
the matter? Let me see your hand." And Ethel seized it and pointed to
the white dress. There was a slow-spreading, scarlet stain on it.

"No," cried Sarah. "Leave me go. It is nothing. I--I just skinned
myself a little. I--"

Ethel firmly opened her fingers. Then Gertrude looked at her other
hand. It too was bleeding.

Sarah tried to pull her hands away.

"_Ach_, it is nothing. Leave me be!"

"It looks to me--" began Ethel slowly.

"As though you had been sliding down the pole in the gym," finished
Gertrude.

"I skinned my hand there once before I learned how," said Ethel. "But
the gym hasn't been open for practice to-day, and this has just been
done. How did you do it?"

Sarah had lost all power to struggle.

"_Ach_, it is nothing!"

Gertrude gasped.

"Did you climb up that pole and put our flag on the beam?"

"Answer her, please," commanded Ethel.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Why?"

"Because--because--_Ach_, leave me go!"

The great low-ceiled locker-room was growing dim. Sarah tried to jerk
away. This time it was not embarrassment but terror which gave her
strength.

"You haven't any business to talk to me like this. I did it because I
didn't want to see you drill under that other flag. I hate that other
flag. And I hate--" Sarah took a deep breath. Her heart felt like a
hard lump in her breast. There was a red flaming light before her
eyes,--"I hate _you_!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE RESULT OF PROFESSOR MINTURN'S EXPERIMENT


It was a long time before either Ethel or Gertrude answered. They had
not been more surprised at sight of the Junior banner above their
heads. They were both accustomed to being liked, not hated.

"What makes you say that?" asked Ethel.

Her cheeks were hot. Sarah's climbing to the roof of the gymnasium
was not in accord with the character which she bore in the school.
Certainly that was not the way to please teachers, or to win their
favor for herself.

Sarah's voice shook. She did not feel the pain in her hands. The
lights had gone out, and they seemed to be alone in the locker-room.

"Because I meant it." Then good English flew to the winds. "You are
all the time cross over me. You are too high up. I am dumb and I can't
always talk right, and I come from Spring Grove post-office, but I
don't do _you_ anything. I never did you anything. I--"

There was the spurt of a match, and Gertrude lit the gas. Then she laid
her hands on Sarah's shoulders and turned her to the light. Her voice
trembled also.

"Look here. You've been frank, and I shall, too. Did you ever report
your room-mates for making a noise?"

"No." The answer was explosive.

"Do you tell Miss Ellingwood everything that you can find out?"

Sarah laughed hysterically. "I don't find out anything to tell her. How
should I?"

"Did you never tell her about your room-mates?"

"I never say nothing from them at all to nobody. I leave them alone.
But they won't leave me alone. They made me throw water on Miss
Ellingwood, they made me--" She looked about so wildly that the girls
were frightened.

Gertrude put a steadying arm round her.

"You were right. We have been mean."

Sarah looked at her piteously. "_Ach_, I--I shouldn't have talked so.
I--"

Ethel looked gravely into Gertrude's eyes.

"Yes, you should," she said to Sarah. "Now, come over to our room and
I'll tie up your hands for you. You mustn't tell anybody that it was
you that slid down the pole."

"No, ma'am. I wish I could go in my bed. If I don't go in my bed, I
won't know my lessons for to-morrow."

"You shall go to bed."

But Miss Ellingwood's room was crowded with guests, and there was the
sound of many voices in Sarah's.

"It is no place I can sleep," she cried.

The pain in her hands had come back, and made her feel faint. It
seemed to her that she should die if she could not sleep.

"Yes, there is," said Ethel and Gertrude together.

And so with peaceful heart and bandaged hands, Sarah slept in Ethel's
bed, while Ethel and Gertrude whispered together across the room.

"It was in the air," said Ethel. "Everybody distrusted her."

Gertrude sat up in bed. "I think we've been hateful, _hateful_," she
said. "Listen!"

"Some people always talk in their sleep," answered Ethel. "I guess
she's tired, poor child. I'm not sleepy, are you?"

"No," said Gertrude, "I'm ashamed. Are you?"

Following the gymnasium entertainment came a few days of examinations,
then a day of hurried packing, before the scattering of five hundred
boys and girls to their homes for a week. Sarah was to go home; she had
been thinking for a long time of the snowdrops which would be in bloom
on the south side of the house, and the daffodils which must be poking
up through the earth. But now at the last moment, she did not seem to
care. If they would only let her go to bed and sleep and sleep! She
feared that some day she might drop over asleep where she stood, and
frighten Miss Ellingwood and Ethel and Gertrude. How absurd it would be
to fall asleep in the middle of the day! Mabel Thorn and Ellen Ritter
often took naps after dinner, but Sarah had not slept in the daytime
since she was a baby.

If she had been a little older or a little less forgiving, she might
have been slower to accept the friendship of Ethel and Gertrude,
offered at once in many penitent and friendly ways. But almost
immediately the hardness went out of her heart and the tremor from her
voice when she saw them or spoke to them. Finally she felt the same
soft, happy thrill of relief that she had felt when Aunt 'Liza appeared
with her gift of cake and _schnitz_.

"Nobody is cross over me, and I am not cross over anybody," she said to
herself.

And in a day or two she did tumble over as she had feared. Ethel and
Gertrude were waiting for her on the steps. She was going with them
to the shop to order viands for a feast to be held in their room that
evening. Miss Ellingwood had gone walking, and Sarah grew heated and
impatient over the fastening of her sailor suit, and the tying of her
red scarf.

She did not wait for the elevator, but ran downstairs, jumping over
the last step of each flight, and then going more sedately out past
the office door. She remembered afterwards that she had felt a little
dizzy, and that she had once put out her hand to steady herself. She
saw Professor Minturn coming toward her on his way to the faculty
meeting in the office, and she tried to straighten up and bow to him.
Instead, she pitched forward at his feet.

In one step, Professor Minturn was beside her. He expected to see her
scramble up, red-faced and embarrassed.

"Oh, I hope you haven't hurt yourself!" he began to say.

But Sarah did not move.

"Miss Wenner!" he said, in a tone which brought Dr. Ellis and the
Secretary and Eugene hurrying from the office. By that time, he had
lifted her from the floor.

"She seems to have fainted," he said.

Dr. Ellis swept a pile of catalogues from the office-sofa.

"Lay her down there, Minturn. Eugene, get some water."

The color was coming back faintly to Sarah's cheeks when Miss
Ellingwood walked in. Then it vanished once more, and she lay limp and
deadly white.

"Telephone for Dr. Brownlee," commanded Dr. Ellis. "Ah, there, she's
opening her eyes. Look here, Sarah!"

Sarah smiled faintly.

"I feel so--so--queer," she whispered. "I would like to go in my bed."

[Illustration: SHE SEEMS TO HAVE FAINTED]

"You shall," Dr. Ellis assured her. "Eugene, do you think you can carry
her upstairs?"

Professor Minturn held out his arms. He was frowning; he felt suddenly
a great anxiety and uneasiness. But he was sure that he had asked the
child whether she was well; he could not have been so careless as to
give her extra work without ascertaining that. She had always looked
strong. He could not believe that this pale child could be that same
rosy-cheeked little girl who had worked with such spirit.

"Let me take her upstairs," he said nervously.

By the time he returned, Dr. Brownlee was coming in at the front door.

"You'll come down and tell us at once how she is and what is the
matter, doctor?" he said. "She's a favorite pupil of mine."

Then he went in and took his seat by the window in the faculty room,
among his colleagues who were waiting for him, and the meeting was
called to order.

Dr. Brownlee tapped at the door before the business was fairly begun.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I thought I could get back before your
meeting was in session."

"Come in," invited Dr. Ellis. "How is your patient? What is the
trouble?"

Dr. Brownlee's answer was prompt and to the point.

"Overstudy."

"Impossible!" answered Dr. Ellis just as promptly. "She is a
sub-Junior, and the sub-Junior branches are not hard, and she is a
bright girl and was well prepared."

Dr. Brownlee did not like to be contradicted.

"She's been talking incoherently about extra history and extra
geography and extra something else. I don't remember what the other is.
She doesn't look like a girl who should have any extras of any kind. At
least not now. I don't know what she looked like when she came here."

"She looked like a strong, healthy country girl. She was slender, but
she looked well. She has had regular exercise in the gymnasium, and she
hasn't had any extra work to do, I am positive."

Professor Minturn rose suddenly.

"I have always had a theory that the sub-Junior and the Junior History
could be advantageously combined. I thought Miss Wenner was a good
subject upon whom to try it. I see now that I was wrong." And he sat
down and stared out the window.

The teacher of Geography got more slowly to his feet.

"I meant to report to you, Dr. Ellis, but I forgot it, that Miss
Wenner had been taking the Junior Geography. She was considerably ahead
of the sub-Junior class, and so I allowed her to begin the Physical
Geography, and perhaps she has been going a--a little faster than
the--the rest of the class. She was so enthusiastic, it was a pleasure
to teach her. I--I have never had a pupil like her."

Dr. Ellis smiled queerly.

"Are there any more confessions to be made?"

Young Mr. Sattarlee rose from his place at the back of the room. He did
not look at Dr. Ellis, or at any of his colleagues, but stared straight
over their heads. There was no one in the room who did not know of his
devotion to Miss Ellingwood, and Sarah's constant association with her.

"She has been reading a little Latin at sight for me," he said. "She
did it very well."

"She seems to have done very well for all of you," said Dr. Ellis
grimly. "I wish that I could feel that we had done as well by her."

Dr. Brownlee stood motionless at the door. He was polite enough not
to say, "I told you so," though restraining himself must have cost
considerable effort.

"Put her to bed at once over in the Infirmary where it's quiet," he
commanded. "I'll see the nurse. And keep her there for two weeks. Then,
if she goes slowly for the rest of the year, doing only her own regular
work, and that as easily as possible, she'll get through without any
injury to herself. Don't let her go home for the vacation. She isn't
fit for the journey or the excitement of seeing people. I'll be down
to-morrow morning again. Good-by."

At first Sarah lay very still and stared at the infirmary ceiling.
She did not remember being carried thither, and it seemed to her that
she spent days in trying to realize where she was. She remembered
afterwards that she was constantly disturbed by a person in a white
dress who insisted that she must eat and drink when she did not wish to
eat and drink.

"It is very good," the person in white would say coaxingly, and Sarah
would rejoin politely but a little wearily,--

"Is it so? Then won't you please eat it? I don't want to eat."

But all her protestations made no difference; the hot broth or cold
milk was poured down her throat.

Once a tall man spent several hours by her bed, and fed her and held
her hand and was very strong and comforting. After he had gone she said
to the nurse, as though she had made a great discovery, "Why, that was
William!" and the nurse laughed and said, "Yes."

Slowly she began to distinguish other faces, those of three repentant
professors, who brought her flowers and sent her fruit and squab,
and Miss Ellingwood, equally repentant and even more attentive, who
made Sarah proud by whispering to her that she was going to marry Mr.
Sattarlee, and that no one but Sarah was to know it until school was
over.

Presently Ethel and Gertrude came, one at a time, and one day, after
she was sitting up, Edward Ellis, with his mother and an armful of
flowers.

"I never knew that being sick was like this!" she said to her nurse.

"It isn't for everybody," answered the nurse, smiling.

At the end of two weeks she was allowed to get up, and even to study a
little. Every one was anxious to help her. Eugene sprang to take her up
in the elevator, even though it was not elevator hours, and Mabel and
Ellen said awkwardly that if she would come back and sleep in her own
room they would be very quiet. Fortunately, they made the offer before
Miss Ellingwood, who said at once that she could not spare Sarah. It
was amazing how the sentiment of the school had changed during her
illness.

Dr. Ellis stopped her and spoke to her whenever he met her in the
hall, and one day he asked her to come into his office.

"Sarah," he said, "I had a talk with your brother about you, and what
he told me made me very proud to have you here, and more sorry than
ever that between us we should have let you get sick. Now every Monday
morning I want you to come in and report to me how you feel. No, we'd
better make it Friday evening. One is most apt to be tired on Friday
evening. And Sarah,"--he smiled at the sudden flush of frightened
color,--"you won't climb any more gymnasium beams, will you?"

Sarah clasped her hands.

"_Ach_, no! I--I was up before I thought. That is the trouble with me.
I do things before I think always. I--I promise."

She went out of the office with her old swift step. She felt almost
entirely well physically. Mentally, she seemed a stranger to herself.
Her illness, her watching Miss Ellingwood's happiness, her association
with the older girls, made her feel grown up. She was homesick for the
twins and Albert and the farm and her old, childish self.

The solicitude of the professors was amusing to see.

"You have been over the year's work," Professor Minturn reminded
her. "Now you will have to do only a little reviewing, just a little
each day, Sarah." It was strange how to faculty and girls alike she
had become Sarah instead of Miss Wenner. "You needn't come to class
regularly. You can spend that time in study, and I will give you a
shorter recitation by yourself."

"_Ach_, no, I thank you!" cried Sarah. It was only under special stress
of surprise or gratitude that she said _ach_ now. "I will come to
class, thank you."

The Geography teacher said that he would go over all the Political
Geography with her, and Mr. Sattarlee did not say a word to Miss
Ellingwood in the evenings until he had heard Sarah's Latin lesson for
the next day. It must have been a good deal of a sacrifice, for they
had many things to say to each other.

And day by day the spring passed. The maples on the campus budded and
burst into full leaf, the oaks and hickories followed more slowly. The
air was full of the song of birds and the scent of flowers, and slowly
the ruddy color came back to Sarah's cheeks to stay.

But she was strangely nervous. Each hour that brought home and summer
nearer brought also the dreaded ordeal of State Board examinations a
little closer. One might study faithfully through the year, and pass
the faculty examinations brilliantly, and one's efforts count for
nothing unless the state also put its seal upon the results. And Sarah
became each day more certain that she should not pass.

"It's exactly like a funeral," wailed Ethel Davis. "They come on
Wednesday night, seven of them, county superintendents and Normal
School principals, and the next morning they begin to examine us, and
in the afternoon they examine us again, and then they give us ice-cream
for supper when nobody has any appetite for ice-cream, and in the
evening sometimes there are left-over examinations, and then we spend
the whole night worrying for fear we haven't passed, and they spend the
whole of the next day correcting papers,--I'm always glad when it's
sweltering hot!--and then they insult us by giving us more ice-cream
for supper, and then we go into the chapel to hear whether we have
passed."

"I won't pass," said Sarah in despair. "I can't pass."

Ethel laughed.

"Nonsense! Of course you'll pass, child. Why, you have only Spelling
and Political Geography and Arithmetic and Physiology to pass. And you
always know your Spelling, and you're ahead in Geography. You are a
little gosling. Now suppose you had six branches, Latin and History and
Physical Geography and Grammar and Drawing and Civil Government. What
would you do then, young lady?"

"I should die," said Sarah solemnly.

"But you'll have them next year."

"No," answered Sarah. "I do not believe I will be here next year. The
twins must soon have their chance. I cannot take two years to one
class. And if they did let me come back, I would be taking Arithmetic
and Spelling and Geography and Physiology over again, and you and
Gertrude would be two classes ahead of me. That is the way it would be."

Ethel looked at her sharply.

"You come out for a walk," she said cheerfully; and she took Sarah's
books almost by force. She and Gertrude had had a talk with Dr.
Ellis, and no dragons could have insisted more firmly than they upon
the carrying out of both the letter and the spirit of Dr. Brownlee's
directions.



CHAPTER IX

THE STATE BOARD


There was a tradition that the day of the State Board examinations was
always fair. This year it was not to be belied. Sarah, who had been
awake since before daylight, watched the sun rise, clear and bright, as
she dressed. Miss Ellingwood slept peacefully in her room next door,
and the morning sweeping and dusting in the halls had not yet begun
when Sarah sat down on the window-seat with a pile of books before her.
There were a dozen things at which she wished to take a final look.
Even her confidence in the Wenner ability to spell had vanished under
the strain of the last months, and she meant to glance rapidly through
at least half the book. The thought of Arithmetic plunged her into
despair; there was no use in trying to review that. But she could take
a final look at the Geography and the Physiology.

Then, strange to say, she did nothing but sit still and look out over
the dewy campus until it was time to go to breakfast.

"How do you feel?" asked Miss Ellingwood.

"Scared," answered Sarah, trying to smile.

The members of the Board breakfasted at the Secretary's table, which
was next to Miss Ellingwood's. Sarah, who could not keep her eyes
away from them, felt that there was a terrible menace in the way they
laughed and joked with one another. Only exceedingly hard-hearted
persons could laugh that way just before they assisted in such an
inquisition as their examinations were said to be. There was one tall,
brown-bearded man at the head of the table, who looked about smilingly
at the whole dining-room; he doubtless imposed the most difficult
questions of all He made Sarah tremble.

If only the day were over and she knew finally and certainly that she
had not passed! They would be glad to see her at home, whether she
succeeded or failed; and she could hide her stupid head at the farm,
and the twins could have her chance. She tried not to think of how
wretched she would be if she could never come back. She would never
see Ethel and Gertrude again, she would never be able to think of the
school with pleasure. She remembered often that Laura had said that
coming back to school was like coming back home. And Laura did not have
as many ties as Sarah had and would have. Both William and Laura had
graduated there, and eventually the twins and Albert would come too.
Was she to disgrace them all?

Suddenly her sad meditations were interrupted by Miss Ellingwood.

"You must eat, Sarah. Finish your coffee at least. See, they don't look
so awesome, do they?"

The brown-bearded Chairman heard, and turned to Miss Ellingwood
and laughed, and then went on to speak in a round, friendly voice.
He had a strangely familiar accent. He spoke a little as Sarah's
father had spoken, and as Henry Ebert and Uncle Daniel and the
other Pennsylvania Germans spoke. Sarah thought that he might have
come from Spring Grove itself, and was not far wrong, for he had
learned his Pennsylvania-German accent in another little town when
he was a boy, and would never lose it. He had evidently, also, the
Pennsylvania-German fondness for a joke.

"Is she afraid we'll eat her up, Miss Ellingwood?" he asked; at which a
good deal of Sarah's fright evaporated.

The chapel exercises were more solemn than usual. It was a little
like a service before going into battle. At the door, Sarah found Dr.
Brownlee waiting to talk to her. He felt her pulse, and laughed at her
frightened "Did you ever have to take such examinations?" and told her
that if she didn't pass, he'd give her still more bitter medicine.
Sarah almost skipped as she ran along the board-walk to the recitation
building.

The seats, which were assigned in the largest class-rooms, were
not given according to classes. Sarah was in the back of the great
Drawing-room, a Junior boy beside her, a Senior in front of her.
Clutched in her hot hand was her fountain-pen, a blotter, three newly
sharpened pencils, and two erasers. If Sarah failed, it was not to be
for lack of tools. Even Edward Ellis, who sat next her, was subdued,
and gave her only a faint smile as she arranged them on her desk.

In the front of the great room, Dr. Ellis talked to the Board of
Examiners. This was the main examination room; from here all the papers
were given out, and thither they were brought when collected. Sarah
watched the men absently, half of her mind trying to bound China, when
suddenly they all turned and looked in her direction, and the man with
the brown beard smiled. Sarah was terror-stricken. Was the principal
telling them that she would not pass? Perhaps he would come to her
and say that it was hardly worth while for her to try. Sarah did not
blame her teachers for her breaking down; in her opinion it was her own
natural "dumbness."

But the examiner who distributed the papers had already left one on her
desk, and she seized it, and gazed at the printed questions. At first
they looked entirely unfamiliar. The two battles of Saratoga? Was it
part of Geography or Physiology? It was certainly neither Spelling nor
Arithmetic. She frowned and the questions seemed to vanish, and a blank
page to stare her in the face.

Then, suddenly, she remembered. The battles of Saratoga took place on
September 19 and October 7, 1777. But it was a History question, and
in History one was not examined until the end of one's Junior year.
History was one of Ethel's and Gertrude's subjects. But Sarah was not
there to reason, but to obey. She remembered her extra lessons, took
courage, and read another question: "Mention four causes of the Civil
War." That was easy! And there were only five questions in all.

Presently, when she had answered three, she ventured to lift her
head. Another paper had been laid on her desk. A new examiner had
just passed, his head turned toward the other side of the room, as he
answered a question from one of the Seniors. This was a double paper:
there were four questions in each of two branches, Arithmetic and
Physiology. To Sarah's great joy, these seemed even less difficult. She
finished the first paper and attacked the second. Before she had quite
finished, the first examiner came to collect, and with a long sigh she
passed in all the papers. She saw Mabel Thorn and Ellen Ritter get up
and go out, and with them other sub-Juniors, but she did not stir. She
would wait until she was told to go. If perseverance would help her
through, that should not be lacking.

The distributor of papers looked at her a little sharply as he went by.

"Physical Geography?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," answered Sarah indistinctly. She was beginning to be
confused. She could not remember whether she was to be examined in
Physical Geography or not, but at least she would try. There were
questions in Latin on the same paper, and a half page of translation.
The translation was easy. She remembered having read the little story
with Mr. Sattarlee. But she could not understand why they should give
her a Latin paper. When one was given extra studies by mistake, did one
have to take examinations in them?

She was afraid to ask questions. Mabel Thorn had asked whether she
must answer all the questions in order to pass, and the examiner had
not answered her very pleasantly. Evidently they did not like to be
questioned. Sarah was too excited to distinguish between necessary and
unnecessary questions. Bewildered, she set to work once more.

The day was as hot as a June day can be. Not a breath of air stirred
the shades at the windows, which did not seem to keep out a bit of
the hot sunshine. The examiners had large palm-leaf fans, which they
waved tantalizingly back and forth. Occasionally a student stopped
writing long enough to fan himself with his examination-paper or to
mop his brow. Not so Sarah. Her hand seemed to stick to the paper, the
perspiration ran down her cheeks, but she did not stop.

Once "Bobs" Ellis furnished a slight diversion. He wandered in in
search of Edward, and having found him walked lazily to the front of
the room, and sat down, panting, to stare at the examiners. For a few
minutes he contemplated them gravely, then he opened his mouth in a
tremendous yawn and stalked out. Every one but Sarah laughed and felt
better.

At noon Miss Ellingwood tried to coax Sarah to eat.

"Were they hard, Sarah?"

"I--I guess so."

"You must lie down for a while after dinner," said Miss Ellingwood
solicitously. "And you mustn't say a word or think about examinations."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Sarah obediently. She had meant to ask Miss
Ellingwood to help her to fathom the mystery of the morning's
examinations, but if Miss Ellingwood did not wish to talk about
examinations, she would not insist. But she did not lie down. She
hunted up her spelling-book and glanced once more at "phthisis" and
"relieve" and "receive," and all the words which bothered her.

It was the middle of the afternoon before she realized that she had
written the answers to seven sets of questions.

Several of the grammar questions had baffled her completely, and when
an examiner had laid on her desk a sheet of drawing-paper, and had
intimated that she was to draw the fern which was placed near her on a
table, she had lifted her hand to protest. But no one seemed to see her
hand, and she lowered it again and set desperately to work.

Edward Ellis, next to her, was also drawing the fern, and he looked
at her wonderingly. Then he remembered that she had been taking some
Junior courses. It was that which had made her ill. Perhaps they were
going to let her try the Junior examinations. And at any rate the Board
knew what it was about. Edward stood in great awe of that august body,
and did not dare to offer any objections to its proceedings.

Sarah was told also to draw the steps leading to the platform, and she
proceeded to obey. She had had only elementary drawing. She saw with
alarm that the boys near her were working with careful measurements and
ruling. She knew nothing about ruling, or about holding up one's pencil
and squinting past it, or the rules of perspective by which they worked
so carefully. She only drew the steps as she had drawn things for the
twins, as they looked to her.

"Political Geography and Arithmetic and Physiology and Spelling I
was to be examined in," she said to herself. "I have been examined
in Arithmetic and Physiology and History and Latin and Physical
Geography and Grammar and Drawing, but not yet in Spelling or Political
Geography. Most of these things do not come till next year. _Ach_, I do
not know what it means!"

The examiner had collected the papers once more, and laid a new one on
her desk. Sarah glanced at it, then finally she raised her voice in
protest.

"I don't take Civil Government," she said. "I never took it. I don't
know anything about it. If I knew anything about it, I--"

"What class are you?" asked the examiner shortly.

"The sub-Junior."

"Then you don't belong here." He spoke impatiently. He remembered
that the papers which she had handed in in the morning were the most
voluminous in the class. Lengthy papers do not please gentlemen who
have hundreds to examine. "You belong over in the other room, where
the sub-Juniors are being examined in Spelling. You'll have to hurry.
People that are late are sometimes refused admission."

Sarah gathered pencils and erasers and fountain-pen, and flew across
the hall. The examiner there received her even less cheerfully.

"You are very late," he said sharply. "Spell 'picnicking.'"

He was somewhat mollified by her prompt answer. Ten sub-Juniors had
misspelled the word.

Sarah breathed a long sigh and found a seat. Her mind was suddenly
clear; she felt that she could not fail even if he gave her all the
hard words in the book. Here her foot was on its native heath. William
would be able to forgive her for knowing nothing about Latin, but no
Wenner would ever be able to forgive her for being a poor speller.

Long after the examiner had marked them, he continued to amuse himself
by giving them all the "catchy," treacherous words he could think
of. He coupled words on purpose to snare them, "four" and "forty,"
"precede" and "proceed," "defendant" and "precedent." He gave them all
the short, trying words, like "fiery," which half the class spelled
"f-i-r-e-y," and all the long words, which one does not expect to meet
with outside the spelling-book, like "eleemosynary" and "monocotyledon"
and "asseveration." When he finished, both he and the students were out
of breath. Of all the class only Sarah had not missed a word.

"Are you the young lady who missed time by being sick?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Umph!" said the examiner non-committally.

Ethel and Gertrude waited for Sarah outside the door, and walked across
the campus with her. As in a dream she heard them discussing their
questions.

"The two battles of Saratoga were on September 19 and October 7, 1777,"
said Gertrude. "Gates was in command of the Americans and Burgoyne of
the British."

"Yes," answered Ethel. "And the Treaty of Ghent was the one which ended
the War of 1812, wasn't it?"

"Were those _your_ questions?" asked Sarah wearily.

"Yes, what were yours like?"

"_Ach_, I don't know. 'I want,'"--she laughingly quoted a jingle which
Miss Ellingwood often repeated,--

    "'I want to have my supper,
    And I want to go to bed,'

and then I want to sleep and sleep and sleep, and then I will not know
for a long time that I am put out of the Normal School."



CHAPTER X

THE CHAIRMAN MAKES A SPEECH


The wild uproar of the gymnasium entertainment did not compare
in intensity with the suppressed excitement of the day following
examinations. There were no school-exercises except a chapel-service
in the morning, which the students wished might be longer, since it
was all they had to occupy them during the long and tedious day. The
girls wandered about from room to room, the Seniors, who were to
have a vacation of a week before Commencement, packing their trunks
half-heartedly, the others doing nothing. It did not seem worth while
to begin anything until one knew whether one was to return.

The Board was closeted down in the principal's office, where they
worked from breakfast till dark. Sometimes a student, passing through
the hall when the door was opened, saw them laboring at long tables,
each with a great pile of papers before him and a pitcher of water hard
by. If the student had hoped for hot weather so that the Board might
be uncomfortable, he prayed now much more fervently that their tempers
might not be influenced by the heat.

"They say the marks go down five points whenever the thermometer goes
up one," laughed Edward Ellis.

Sarah slept until long after breakfast-time. When she woke Miss
Ellingwood was writing at her desk.

"Am I put out?" asked Sarah faintly.

"Not yet," answered Miss Ellingwood. "Here is some breakfast for you."

Once in the history of the school, the Board had finished its work
before supper, and the students who were wandering about the fields
back of the campus out of hearing of the bell had to get their reports
from Dr. Ellis himself,--a sad duty for those who had failed. Since
then no one ever wandered away in the afternoon, for fear that the
ominous bell might ring and he not be there to hear. Usually it did not
ring till eight o'clock, and sometimes it was ten. By that time hopes
had often sunk very low, and there were strange rumors flying about.

"They say that ten Seniors have failed, and half the Junior class,"
some one would announce. "They're debating about them now. Dr. Ellis
thinks that some of them can be changed."

The Secretary always shook his head gloomily when applied to.

"I never knew such a year," was his invariable response; and it never
occurred to any one to suppose that he meant a good year.

As usual there was ice-cream for supper. Gertrude Manley pretended to
wave it aside.

"At dinner I might have been able to eat a few mouthfuls," she
groaned. "But now! No, thank you!"

It was with a great sigh of relief that Sarah watched her take a second
helping. Perhaps they were not as despairing as they seemed. It would
be bad enough if she should not pass, but it would be much worse if
Ethel and Gertrude should fail.

Sarah spent the hours after supper wandering up and down the hall which
led to the chapel. She did not expect to pass; the calmer thought of
to-day had convinced her that she had been the victim of some strange
mistake in the giving out of the papers. It was altogether her own
fault. She should have told them that she was not a Junior.

In spite of her certainty, however, she was wildly excited. No one
could have been in the school for a minute and have remained calm.
Miss Ellingwood was excited, and Dr. Ellis and Eugene, who, when he
passed an anxious boy in the hall, drew his finger across his throat to
signify the operation in which the State Board was engaged.

Presently Ethel and Gertrude came down the hall.

"We were looking for you, Sarah."

"I don't believe it will ever ring," cried Sarah.

"Hark!" said Ethel.

They heard the first faint ring of the gong on the boys' side of the
building, then the bell rang sharply above their heads.

"Our fate is sealed!" cried Gertrude. "We are doomed. Come on to the
slaughter!"

She seized Ethel by one hand and Sarah by the other, and they were the
first to reach the chapel-stairs. Behind them doors were opening, and
there was the sound of hurrying steps and excited voices.

"Let us sit here on the last row," suggested Sarah.

"So that we can be more easily borne hence," laughed Gertrude.

The State Board was already seated on the platform. They were all
talking and laughing as heartily as they had the day before. The
Chairman carried a paper in his hand. He made some joke about it, and
his colleagues all laughed; then he laid it down on a long box on the
table by his side.

"The names are on that paper," whispered Ethel.

"Yours is," answered Sarah, "but mine isn't. I know that much."

Mercifully Sarah was not kept long in suspense. The students had
never gathered so quickly. The doors were closed, and then Dr. Ellis
announced that the Chairman would read the names of those who had
passed.

The brown-bearded Chairman rose slowly, still laughing with the man
next to him. Then he looked out solemnly over the audience and the
audience looked back solemnly at him. He lifted the paper from the
table, looked at it solemnly too, and then laid it back.

"Nobody passed, perhaps," whispered Sarah.

The Chairman had begun to speak.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said. "I am not going to hurt you." At
which there was a great laugh, and then a settling back into easier
positions. "You all look so frightened and so sure that you have
failed, that you make us feel that our judgment is at fault and that we
have made a mistake to let any of you through. There, that's better!
Once, a good many years ago, when I was a little boy--" He stopped and
looked at them comically over his glasses--"Which would you rather have
first, the story about the time when I was a little boy, or the names?
All in favor of the names say '_Ay_.'"

The response left no room for doubt upon that question.

"Well, then. We'll take the sub-Juniors first. Those who have passed
are--" The falling of the proverbial pin would have made a loud noise
in the silence which ensued. Sarah felt a frightened thrill run up and
down her back. Suppose she _should_ pass! How glorious it would be!
Then William and Laura would feel that their faith in her had been
warranted, that their sacrifice was not in vain. It would encourage the
twins to study, it would astonish the neighbors. Sarah leaned forward,
one hand tight in Ethel's, one in Gertrude's. Suppose she should pass!

It seemed to her hours before she leaned limply back. Her name was not
on the list. She had been mad to expect it. Mabel Thorn's was there and
Ellen Ritter's; she had thought they were stupid and lazy, yet they had
passed. The girl who had packed her ink-bottle in her trunk had passed.
Even she could answer State Board questions. Any of these would have
had sense enough to object if they had been given Junior papers instead
of some of their own.

She felt her companions' hands tighten sympathetically on her own, and
she struggled bravely to keep back the tears. She would not cry. Not
even if they expelled her would she cry.

The cheerful voice went on reading. Ethel and Gertrude had passed;
they let go of Sarah's hands for an instant to clasp each other's, and
smiled at each other above her head, while she looked at them sadly.
They were Middlers now, and in another year they would be Seniors with
all the Senior privileges. They would study Psychology and Methods of
Teaching, and they would begin to teach in the Model School and lead
the gymnasium classes, and soon they would be gone. Even if Sarah were
allowed to come back to redeem herself, they would be too far ahead to
think of her. She would have to make friends anew, and--

The list of Juniors was finished and the speaker folded his paper.

"The Middlers have all passed," he said, smiling, and a wild cheer
responded. The excitement was no longer to be kept under control.

"As for the Seniors--" The Chairman paused. The cheer died down into
silence. It was time once more to drop the proverbial pin.

"They have all passed too."

Then Bedlam suddenly broke loose. Boys and girls were on their feet,
there was cheer after cheer, and Dr. Ellis sat smiling and making no
effort to subdue them. Perhaps it would have been a relief to him to
join. His pupils had never done so well.

After a long time the Chairman held up his hand.

"I have still more to say," he declared. "And after I am through with
the announcements you will still have to listen to my story about the
time when I was a little boy. But first I have a story to tell about a
little girl.

"When we are boys and girls, we are taught to think that our teachers
are infallible, that they can never make mistakes, and it is good
for us to think so. It is equally good for us to find out later that
teachers and grown-up people have made mistakes. It makes us feel
easier about our own.

"There is a young lady in this school who has found this out. She
came here to learn something about books, after a hard experience had
taught her many more valuable lessons, and this is the way the teachers
treated her. Instead of giving her as little to do as possible, and
watching to see that she played, and taking her books away from her by
force if necessary, they began to give her extra work to do. It wasn't
altogether their fault, because they were not accustomed to having to
restrain pupils. Overstudy is a little like smallpox. Many doctors
wouldn't recognize smallpox because they have never seen a case. It was
the same way with these teachers who let this girl work too hard.

"That, one would think, was enough hardship for one year. But worse
things were to happen to her.

"Yesterday--and this story is a terrible confession for a State Board
official to make--yesterday the State Board gave her the wrong papers.
The principal told us about her,--I suppose he meant us to mark her as
easily as we could. But the examiner who distributed the sub-Junior
papers thought that the principal had said she was a sub-Junior, and
the examiner who distributed the Junior papers thought she was a
Junior, and so both gave her papers, and she--"

Gertrude Manley felt suddenly a head against her shoulder.

"Why, Sarah!" she whispered, and saw only a bit of scarlet cheek.

"And she," the Chairman went on, "being accustomed to having extra
work, said nothing and sawed wood, with this result." He unfolded again
the paper in his hand.

"She passed the Arithmetic, Physiology, and Spelling which she was
expected to pass, with good marks. She did not take the sub-Junior
Political Geography, but she passed the Junior Physical Geography and
the Junior Latin and the Junior History with good marks. In these
branches I believe she did the extra work during the winter. In the
Junior Grammar, which includes the sub-Junior Grammar, she just made
passing mark. We tried to persuade ourselves that she hadn't really
passed, but she was too much for us. Even when a fern and some steps
were thrust before her to be drawn, she did not falter but drew them.
The Civil Government paper she did not attempt, which surprised us
greatly. It was very inconsiderate of the teacher of Civil Government
not to give her extra lessons too. I think Dr. Ellis should speak to
him about it. And now, what shall we do with this girl?"

Not one of the gasping students offered a suggestion.

"Well, there are several possibilities," went on the Chairman. "We
can say that inasmuch as she hasn't passed her sub-Junior Geography,
she hasn't passed at all and will have to take the year over. But that
doesn't seem fair. Or we can say that she is a Junior in spite of the
Geography. The only objection to that is that she will grow very lazy
next year with nothing new to study but Civil Government. Not all of
us approve of that. Then there is one other plan. We can make her a
Middler, with the provision that she makes up the Civil Government some
time within the next two years. It is unprecedented, but it can be
done. What does the school think of this plan?"

The pupils looked about in complete mystification. Was it all true,
or was it only a story? Then a few of them began to guess whom the
Chairman meant. One of them was Edward Ellis.

"I think she should be made a Middler," he said.

[Illustration: HE KEPT HER BESIDE HIM]

"Very well, so be it." The Chairman opened the box at his side.
"I wish that State Boards did not change, so that we might all come
back here next year and make it easy for this young lady; but since we
can't, we wish to apologize to her, and to give her a little present to
remember us by." He lifted a great handful of roses from the box. "And
now, good-by, and good luck." And he stood still with the bouquet in
his hands, forgetting apparently the promised story of his boyhood.

"Well," he said, with a smile, his voice more Pennsylvania-German than
ever, "where is this Sarah Wenner, about whom I have been talking?"

Ethel Davis's voice shook.

"Go and get your flowers, youngster."

"I can't."

"You must. Run along."

She rose to let Sarah pass, and then some one near by stood up to see,
and in a moment the school was on its feet and some one was singing.
It was the old tune which for many years had closed the session of the
State Board, the long-metre doxology. They finished the first line
as the Chairman put the flowers into Sarah's arms. Then, seeing what
a little girl she was, he laid his hand on her shoulder and kept her
beside him, while he startled her with his great bass.

And Sarah gave up trying to puzzle out how what the Chairman said
could be true. She saw Ethel smiling at her and Gertrude waving her
hand, and Professor Minturn and Miss Ellingwood and Mr. Sattarlee
laughing together at the back of the room, and she grew a little less
frightened and clasped her flowers a little more tightly in her arms.
The troubles of the past year seemed to dwindle, the joys to grow,
until it was all joy and happiness, and she lifted up her voice and
sang out with all her heart.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes: Obvious punctuation errors repaired.
                     Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.





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