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A whisper went around the room while Dear Teacher and the gentleman were conferring. Rumor said Kitty McKoeghany started it. Certainly Kitty, in her desk across the aisle from Hattie, in the sight of all, tossed her black head knowingly.
The whisper concerned the visiting gentleman. "He is running for Trustee," said the whisper.
Emmy Lou wondered. Hattie seemed to understand. "He puts his name up on tree boxes and fences," she whispered to Emmy Lou, "and that's running for trustee."
The rumor was succeeded by another. "He's running against the Trustee that's not here to-day.'
No wonder Kitty McKoeghany was head. The extent of Kitty's knowledge was boundless.
The third confidence was freighted with strange import. It came straight from Kitty to Hattie, who told it to Emmy
"When he's trustee, he means the School Board shall take his pork house for the new school."
Even Emmy Lou knew the pork house which had built itself unpleasantly near the neighborhood.
Just then the Second Reader class was summoned to the bench. As the line took its place a hush fell. Emmy Lou, at its foot, looked up its length and wondered how it would seem to be Kitty McKoeghany at the head.
The three gentlemen were looking at Kitty, too. Kitty tossed her head. Kitty was used to being looked at because of being head.
The low words of the gentleman reached the foot of the line. "The head one, that's McKoeghany's little girl." It was the Trustee telling the visiting gentleman. Emmy Lou did not wonder that Kitty was being pointed out. Kitty was head. But Emmy Lou did not know that it was because Kitty was Mr. Michael McKoeghany's little girl that she was being pointed out as well as because she was head. For Mr. Michael McKoeghany was the political boss of a district known as Limerick. And by the vote of Limerick a man running for office could stand or fall.
Now there were many things unknown to Emmy Lou,
about which Kitty, being the little girl of Mr. Michael McKoeghany, could have enlightened her.
Kitty could have told her that the yard of the absent Trustee ran back to the pork house. Also that the Trustee present was part owner of that offending building. And further that Emmy Lou's Uncle Charlie, leading an irate neighborhood to battle, had compelled the withdrawal of the obnoxious business.
But to Emmy Lou only one thing was clear. Kitty was being pointed out by the Principal and the Trustee to the visiting gentleman because Kitty was head.
Dear Teacher took the book. She stood on the platform apart from the gentlemen, and gave out the words distinctly but very quietly.
Emmy Lou felt that Dear Teacher was troubled. Emmy Lou thought it was because Dear Teacher was afraid the poor spellers were going to miss. She made up her mind that she would not miss.
Dear Teacher began with the words on the first page and went forward. Emmy Lou could tell the next word to come each time, for she knew her Second Reader by heart as far as the class had gone.
Emmy Lou stood up when her time came and spelled her word. Her word was "wrong." Emmy Lou spelled it right. Dear Teacher locked pleased. There was a time when Emmy Lou had been given to leaving off the introductory "w" as superfluous.
On the next round a little girl above Emmy Lou missed on "enough." To her phonetic understanding, a u and two f's were equivalent to an ough.
Emmy Lou spelled it right and went up one. The little girl went to her seat. She was no longer in the race. She was in tears.
Presently a little girl far up the line arose to spell.
"W-r-i-t-e, right," said the little girl promptly.
"R-i-t-e, right," said the next little girl.
The third stood up with triumph preassured. In spelling, the complicated is the surest, reasoned this little girl.
"W-r-i-g-h-t, right," spelled the certain little girl; then
burst into tears.
The mothers of the future grew demoralized. The "pillars of state" of English orthography at least seemed destined to totter. The spelling grew wild.
Then in the desperation of sheer hopelessness came "w-r-i-t-e, right," again.
There were tears all along the line. At their wits' end, the mothers, dissolving as they rose in turn, shook their heads hopelessly.
Emmy Lou stood up. She knew just where the word was in a column of three on page 14. She could see it. She looked up at Dear Teacher, quiet and pale, on the platform.
"R," said Emmy Lou, steadily, "i-g-h-t, right."
A long line of weeping mothers went to their seats, and Emmy Lou moved up past the middle of the bench.
The words were now more complicated. The nerves of the mothers had been shaken by this last strain. Little girls dropped out rapidly. The foot moved on up towards the head, until there came a pink spot on Dear Teacher's either cheek. For some reason Dear Teacher's head began to hold itself finely erect again.
"Beaux," said Dear Teacher.
The little girl next the head stood up. She missed. She burst into audible weeping. Nerves were giving out along the line. It went wildly down. Emmy Lou was the last. Emmy Lou stood up. It was the first word of a column on page 22. Emmy Lou could see it. She looked at Dear Teacher.
"B," said Emmy Lou, "e-a-u-x, beaux.”
The intervening mothers had gone to their seats, and Kitty and Emmy Lou were left.
Kitty spelled triumphantly. Emmy Lou spelled steadily. Even Dear Teacher's voice showed a touch of the strain.
She gave out half a dozen words. Then "receive," said Dear Teacher.
It was Kitty's turn. Kitty stood up. Dear Teacher's back was to the blackboard. The Trustee and the visiting gentle
man were also facing the class. Kitty's eyes, as she stood up, were on the board.
"The best speller in this room is to recieve this medal." was the assurance on the board.
Kitty tossed her little head. "R-e, re, c-i-e-v-e, ceive, receive," spelled Kitty, her eyes on the blackboard.
Emmy Lou stood up. It was the second word in a column on a picture page. Emmy Lou could see it. She looked at Dear Teacher.
"R-e, re, c-e-i-v-e, ceive, receive," said Emmy Lou.
One person beside Kitty had noted the blackboard. Already the Principal was passing an eraser across the words of the visiting gentleman.
Dear Teacher's cheeks were pink as Emmy Lou's as she led Emmy Lou to receive the medal. And her head was finely erect. She held Emmy Lou's hand through it all.
The visiting gentleman's manner was a little stony. It had quite lost its playfulness. He looked almost gloomily on the mother who had upheld the "pillars of state" and the future generally.
It was a beautiful medal. It was a five-pointed star. It said "Reward of Merit.”"
The visiting gentleman lifted it from its bed of pink cotton. "You must get a ribbon for it," said Dear Teacher.
Emmy Lou slipped her hand from Dear Teacher's. She went to the front desk. She got her Second Reader, and brought forth a folded packet from behind the criss-cross stitches holding the cover.
Then she came back. She put the paper in Dear Teacher's hand.
"There's a ribbon," said Emmy Lou.
They were at dinner when Emmy Lou got home. blue ribbon around her neck dangled a new medal. In her hand she carried a shiny box.
Even Uncle Charlie felt there must be some mistake.
Aunt Louise got her hat to hurry Emmy Lou right back to school.
At the gate they met Dear Teacher's carriage, taking Dear Teacher home. She stopped.
Aunt Cordelia came out, and Aunt Katie. Uncle Charlie, just going, stopped to hear.
"Spelling match!" said Aunt Louise.
"Not our Emmy Lou?" said Aunt Katie.
"The precious baby," said Aunt Cordelia. "Hammel," said Uncle Charlie, "McKoeghany," and Uncle Charlie smote his thigh.
THE CORPORAL ON DUTY
From 'Letitia.' Copyright, S. S. McClure Company, and used here by permission of the author and the publishers.
ANOTHER pay-day was come and gone. The senior captain's wife was giving a bridge to-night.
"Don't you ever tire—” began papa on the afternoon of it. Papas, you see, have days of brooding dejection.
"Never," said mama.
"Don't you ever think of Letitia-"
Now and then, you see, papas thus do think of their Letitias.
'Always. I'm expecting you to get permission for Leg'ré as usual. Why this sudden concern for Letty?"
"I'm tired of it, tired to the soul," said papa, slim, trim papa, biting at his little fair mustache, "of it all-of myself, first. I-it meant something different to me from this at the start. I meant to-"
"I can go without you at any time, you know," said mama, accommodatingly. "The doctor, always, or Toddy, will be more than glad, or—”
But papa went with mama. Toddy was a bachelor, and a captain, and he came to drink afternoon tea and brought Letitia chocolates and Chinese beads. Yet papa did not like Captain Todd, but then, as Letitia tried to fight against admitting, papas seem to have a way of objecting to pleasant things. So papa went with her.
Corporal Leg'ré held mama's scarlet cloak for her as they were starting.
"It's bath-night, Letty," said she remindingly, which proves that she did think of Letitia, you see.