At her severe misfortune, M.’s school desk was in the front of the classroom.
“Miss Patient,” Ms. Watson declared. M. instantly stopped whispering to Lucy, who’s desk was right beside hers.
“You seem eager to talk,” Ms. Watson said strictly. “We will start with you. Please come up to the front of the classroom. You will all read one of your essays for the class, and just turn in the other two and I will grade them. Miranda?” she glanced at M. once again.
M. got up with one of her essays. She had never liked speaking in front of the entire class. The sullen faces and dreary walls made it very difficult. Also, she had only written her essays last night, so she was not quite sure if all the grammar and commas were correct.
“Which one of your essays are you going to read to us?” Ms. Watson asked. She was a kind and loving teacher, but her strictness covered this up most of the time.
“The—ah—one on Lewis and Clark?” M. had just looked down to see which one she had absent-mindedly picked up.
“Very well,” Ms. Watson replied. “You may start whenever you like.”
Let us just say, in fairness to M., dinner was held very late the night before. And she had dressed for bed and everything like that before she had written her essays. By that time, it was quite late, and she was yawning herself silly. In addition, M. always got nervous when she spoke in front of people, so her hands shook before she even stood before the class. And looking around and tensing up made everything look quite fuzzy and hard to read.
The oral essay to the class did not go over well.
But, as she always did, Ms. Watson gave her a “job well done” smile and silently urged the class to clap and not laugh, as they had been doing. M. sat down at the end of it feeling quite confused and humiliated. She did not really listen to the others give their recitations.
At the end of class, M. turned in her other two essays. Knowing that she had no time to go back and change any other silly remarks or stories she had put in there, she dreaded it entirely. Ms. Watson accepted it easily, and M. walked out of the classroom.
She and Lucy walked home from school side by side that day. Their neighborhood was not a mile from the school house in town square. The further they walked along the sidewalk, the more the busy streets with cars and open stores turned into peaceful parks and shady sidewalks. M. and Lucy wore their school dresses that day. M.’s was crimson and Lucy’s was blue, both with white frocks. M.’s lace-ups were not as comfortable as she would have liked, but she must not loosen them until she got home, for her grandmother would disapprove.
With their books wrapped securely in their arms, they spoke of things that only interested them, as usual. They gradually passed the park. Boys were playing ball in the grassy field, and there were girls laughing, talking, and tossing coins by the water fountain in the center. Little children played on the seesaw and roundabout. Women were sitting serenely on benches reading books, and dogs were being walked by gentlemen and ladies in their usual attire.
Slowly but surely, the noise of the village square was dying out. Lucy, once again, brought school into the subject.
“M.,” she said. “How long did you spend on that essay last night?”
“Please, Lucy, must we talk about school?” she inquired quickly, really hating the subject even more than the day before.
“Not long,” M. said punctually, “maybe ten minutes.”
“That’s it?” Lucy gaped.
“Not everyone spends as much time as you, Lucy,” M. remarked jocularly, glancing at Lucy with mischievous eyes.
“I didn’t mean that,” Lucy said. “No wonder you made up a story—it must have been in the middle of the night.
“I didn’t make it up!” M. objected. “I heard it and its true!”
I will back up for you, dear reader. You see, the night before, M. had remembered a story that Mr. Jenkins (the lighthouse man) had told her once. He usually came to sell fish to Mrs. Anntrove, the cook. While he was waiting to be paid one time, M. appeared and began to talk to him. Mr. Jenkins told her the most wonderful story—or legend, so he called it, but she figured it was the same thing. Mr. Jenkins told her that when Lewis and Clark returned to President Jefferson after their expedition to the Pacific Ocean, they brought him loads of treasures. Not only had they brought back small animals, plants, and other souvenirs, but they had also had gold and real treasures they had taken from Indian tribes.
After President Jefferson saw these, he figured that if anyone was to know that Lewis and Clark stole from the Indians, word would spread and the Indian tribes would try and make war. So the president ordered Lewis and Clark to find a safe place to hide the treasure so that none of the Indian tribes would find out about it. And some say that it was in a cave on a sliver of land, uninhabited.
“M. it’s just a story!” Lucy stated. “Mr. Jenkins doesn’t know if it’s true either.”
“But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting,” M. remarked.
“But our essays were supposed to be about Lewis and Clark—your whole essay was on buried treasure!”
M. had to think about this for a moment.
“Oh,” was all she got out.
She stopped, and so did Lucy. There was a worm on a barbed hook being lowered from the tree in front of them. Both of the girls gasped, for the worm was wriggling. They took a step back in fright as they continued to scream. The tree gave an annoying laugh. The girls stopped screaming as a short boy with red hair and freckles jumped out of the branches. He picked up his fishing wire and worm with a mischievous grin.
“Christopher Bolton!” M exclaimed, quite aggravated. “Don’t go scaring people like that—you’ll hurt somebody! That worm nearly dropped on our heads!”
“That was my intension,” Christopher said carelessly.
Nothing more was said for a long while, as M. and Christopher glared childishly at each other. Suddenly, the red-head sprang forward and grabbed M.’s poetry book. Smirking, he took off down the block, laughing.
“Come on, Lucy!” M. called, already running forward.
“Oh M.!” Lucy said. “We can’t run in our school dresses!”
“Bother the dresses! We must get my book back!”
The two girls ran after Christopher but could not stop him. They must have run several blocks, because M. was tired of running. She disliked this young boy with a deep passion. He was always playing pranks and poking fun at whoever he liked and when he liked, especially with her and Lucy. Perhaps because they were prim and proper girls, he found it more fun. He was a year or two younger than them, and M. had never been allowed to push him or do anything else like that in her defense. Her grandmother always said that ladies “turn the other cheek”. To M., that meant that she just meant she couldn’t seek much-deserved revenge. His mother did not like M. or her family very much, and M. didn’t know why. In any case, Christopher Bolton teased her whenever he liked.
At last, Christopher stopped at his front gate and threw the book behind him. It sailed over the girls’ heads and crashed by the curb. Lucy ran back to grab it.
M. glared at him, pinching her face up as much as she could. “Christopher Bolton,” she started. She tried to come up with a horrible thing to say, though the only thing that could come up with was,
“I’m getting impatient with you!”
“As usual,” Christopher mumbled.
“I’ll tell your mother on you!”
Christopher snickered. “No you won’t! Not if I tell your grandmother you got your shoes dirty again!”
M. ignored him. “If you don’t go away right now, I’ll—I’ll…I’ll hit you on the head with this book!” She grabbed it from Lucy and waved it in threat.
“M.!” Lucy exclaimed in horror.
“Well I will,” M replied. “Very hard too!”
“Not if I’m out of your reach!” Christopher called, and laughing, he dashed up the steps and into the front door of his house.
“You baby!” M. yelled, hoping he could hear. “Chicken!”
“M. stop it!” Lucy tried to hush her. “He’s just like that. Ignore him.”
And M. tried, but not very hard. Then they looked beside them. They stood outside the Perkins’ yard.
“Well at least he’s growing to be some gentleman. He walked us home.” M. said, sort of annoyed that there was a positive fact about her snotty neighbor.
“M.,” Lucy said, avoiding the subject. “Do you think Mrs. Anntrove would let us have something to eat? I’m awfully hungry.”
“Probably not,” M. answered regrettably. “She was busy with the dinner party preparations yesterday. No doubt she hadn’t had a rest today. She would probably just tell us to run along and play.”
She paused, glaring at Christopher’s house. “Oh I do hope Grandmother didn’t invite the Boltons to this dinner party!”