The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 3 – School Days
A month had gone by since Marty had come to live with the Conway cousins. Marian had left Springdale just two days after Marty’s arrival and the farewells had been very tearful ones indeed. None of the children had ever been away from the rest of the family for any length of time before, and they all seemed to think that Marian would be lost to them forever if she once got out of their sight. From Aunt Nanna and Uncle Ned down to the baby, they all followed her about wherever she went, and hindered her packing greatly by their frequent hugs and kisses.
Marty had been deeply touched by the devotion of all the younger Conways to their eldest sister. Each one had come to her and given her as a parting gift some cherished possession. First Dora had given her best bead purse.
“Marian,” she had said, “I want you to take this with you. I’ve never had a chance to use it yet and the blue beads are almost the exact color of the scarf and cap mother is knitting for you.”
Marty had no idea of the sacrifice Dora was making in giving up her much loved bead purse, but Marian knew, and the tears filled her eyes and ran over as she threw her arms about Dora and kissed her.
“You darling!” she cried. “that’s the sweetest thing I ever heard of in my life, and I’ll never forget it.”
Teddy gave her his new pencil which had never been sharpened, and Claire proudly presented a nightgown which she had made every stitch herself.
“The initial looks a little scraggly,” she explained, “because first I made a ‘C’ for ‘Claire,’ but then I felt so selfish when you needed new things, that I picked it all out and put ‘M’ instead. It will straighten out after it’s washed, I think.”
“Oh, Claire!” Marian answered shakily, “I’m the selfish one, to have this wonderful trip and then take all your best things away with me. But in California I’ll make you the prettiest nightgown you ever saw – wait and see if I don’t.”
Soon after this little Dick came trudging in breathless under the weight of some heavy awkward wooden object he was carrying.
“Here, Marian,” he said shyly as he staggered toward his sister. “I want to give to you something, too, but all I’ve got is this old rabbit cage and my two rabbits. But you can have ‘em anyway.”
Marian took the proffered cage and bunnies very seriously.
“Thank you, Dicky dear. I’ve always loved these white rabbits, and I’m so glad to have them. I wonder where I could find a little boy about five years old who would feed them for me while I’m away?”
Dick was much delighted.
“I’ll take care of them for you,” he said promptly, and when Marian had expressed her appreciation, he lifted the rabbit house and retraced his steps to the back yard. All was right in his little world. He had given Marian a present but still was to be in charge of his adored pets.
Finally all the packing was done and the trunk had been taken to the station. The family all got into their wraps to take Marian to the train. None of them talked much, but Marty could feel unspoken messages in the air about them. How they all loved Marian! And how kind and sweet she was to them. It was no wonder that Marty’s own parents would rather take Marian on their trips with them than their selfish, inconsiderate, sulky little daughter. Again, and stronger than before, arose in Marty’s heart the determination to be a different girl in the future.
The train was in sight now, puffing and pounding its black way into the station. Uncle Ned quietly slipped a green bill into the blue bead bag, and Marty heard his whisper, “It isn’t much, Marian, but it will buy you a few of the pretty things you deserve.”
Marian burst into wild sobbing and clung desperately to her father.
“I can’t leave you!” she wailed. “You are all so good to me – I want to stay here.”
But a few minutes later she was waving to them out of the car window as it bore her away from them. She was on her way.
The ones left at home climbed into the sleigh and in a few minutes were talking gaily of the day when Marian would be back again.
The month since Marian’s departure had sped on wings to Marty. The letters from her mother made her homesick at times, but those spells did not last very long, and the days between the homesick ones were merry and full of fun. She made a game of the housework she helped to do. Of course she could by no means do her work as well nor as quickly as Marian had done it, but each day she learned a little more, and each night felt that she was a trifle nearer the goal she had set out to reach in the year she was to spend in Springdale.
School was fun, too. The desks were old-fashioned and ugly, but two sat in one and Marty thought it a much better plan than sitting alone. She sat with Claire, and enjoyed every hour of the day. Claire and Dora were both friendly, happy girls, and were popular with all of the other students, so it followed that a cousin of theirs would be taken in at once as a friend.
Marty laughed a great deal, at first, over the queer sights she saw at school. There were only two rooms and two teachers, as Springdale was a small town and the residents for the most part farmers. They employed one teacher for the primary grades, or “little room,” as it was called, and another for the grammar grades in the “big room.” Marty, being in the sixth grade, was in the big room, and it did seem big to her when she looked at some of the boys. They were older than the rest, and came to school in over-alls, which Marty thought very funny indeed. But before school was over, she discovered that over-alls could be worn over loyal hearts and true.
For the first month Marty was so busy making friends with all of the pupils that she scarcely had time to decide which ones she liked best. She accepted the ones Dora and Claire seemed to prefer as her own favorites, and felt that Springdale was the town above all others for her. She loved the jolly snowball fights, the candy-pulls and the sleigh rides which were so new and delightful to her, and by the first of February she was sure that she would never want to live all of her life in a big city again.
Then one day she was walking to school alone. Aunt Nanna was ill, and Dora and Claire were staying at home to help her. Marty was a little early, so went to her seat and began to go over the arithmetic lesson. Before long she felt someone looking at her. As she raised her eyes, she met those of Jessie Sayre, a little girl in the same grade as she was. There was a look in Jessie’s eyes so lonely and hungry that Marty smiled at once and said cheerily, “Won’t you come over and sit by me awhile? I’m having trouble with this fourth arithmetic problem, and I know you always get even the hardest of them.”
Jessie blushed and looked very much confused, but she came and took Claire’s seat. There was no arithmetic problem solved, but for ten minutes the two girls chatted on different matters, and Marty wondered why Jessie had never been to any of the sleigh0riding parties or candy-pulls.
“I’ll ask Claire,” she decided to herself as the bell rang.
At recess the teacher asked Jessie to stay in and put some problems on the board. Marty wanted to stay in also, as she felt strange and alone without her cousins, but Miss Ellis was firm in her demand that “everyone pass outside and get some fresh air.” Marty’s grade was the third in line to march out, and as she reached the bottom of the stairs, she was extremely surprised to find her arm being grasped with a strong hold. Before she realized quite what was happening she was walking arm in arm with Judith Grayley, an eighth grade girl whom Claire and Dora had declared was “too stuck up for words.”
Judith always wore beautiful clothes and seemed to consider herself above all the rest of the students in school. She had no close friends and wanted none of the kind Springdale had to offer. Up until now she had never so much as spoken to Marty, so it was not surprising that Marty felt that she must be dreaming.
“My dear!” Judith began in the friendliest of tones. “You have no idea how ashamed of myself I am for letting a whole month go by without getting acquainted with you. You see, I didn’t dream that Claire Conway would have a cousin who was anybody, so I didn’t bother to find out. But yesterday after school I found a letter from my own cousin, Doris Grayley, and she told me that you are Marty Lane, her very best friend. I was so mortified to think how stupid I had been. I do hope you’ll forgive me and be chums now.”
Marty laughed and answered in her friendliest tone.
“Of course I’ll be friends with you. I’d love to have Doris’ cousin for my chum. But really, there is nothing to forgive, except that you don’t seem to like my cousins, Claire and Dora. I simply love them both.”
“They are nice enough, I suppose,” was Judith’s reply. “But they are so much like the rest of the Springdale girls – just ordinary. Now you are different, Marty. You are so clever and refined, and your clothes are lovely! Last year I was at a boarding-school in California, and I met such nice girls. Ever since I came back, I’ve been simply starved for a friend of my own kind. I’m so glad Doris told me about you.”
For a minute Marty was puzzled. She was flattered by the attentions of this older girl, and yet she felt that she could not have her for a “chum,” and still be loyal to her cousins. “Anyway,” she decided, “it won’t hurt anyone if I walk around with her today when Claire and Dora are absent. Judith does seem lonely, and I can’t be rude to her.”
So the two girls walked up and down during the recess period, talking over every subject under the sun.
At noon, as they both brought lunch with them, they ate together, and felt very well acquainted with one another when the one o’clock bell rang.
In the afternoon they again spent the recess together, and it was then that Judith explained her position to Marty.
“I don’t have any real chums here at school, for the simple reason that all of the girls are jealous of me. Don’t think I’m conceited, but everyone knows that Dad has more money than any other man in town, so of course I have nicer clothes and more spending money than other girls. That hateful little Jessie Sayre is the worst of all. It made me positively sick to see you sitting with her this morning!”
Something in Marty responded to the nature of this new girl. Her friends at home were all girls who dressed well and thought themselves far better than girls whose clothes were not so fine, and the old Marty, forgetful of her locket and the happiness of the month just past, squeezed Judith’s arm and whispered as they marched back into the room, “Oh, I know we’re going to be the very best of pals. I’ll write to Doris this very night and tell her what an adorable cousin she has.”
After school Marty could scarcely wait to get home to talk it all over with Dora and Claire. She rushed into the house and finding both girls in the kitchen, burst into her story at once.
“Judith has been so sweet to me all day that I simply love her!” Marty exclaimed. “I don’t see why you haven’t had her in your crowd all the time. She wants to have a little sewing club, just a few girls, to meet in the afternoons once a week and have a jolly time. I think that would be fun, don’t you?”
Claire and Dora looked at each other with anything but enthusiasm. Each one seemed to be waiting for the other to speak, but neither did at first. Then seeing Marty’s amazed face, Claire answered her question.
“To tell the truth, Marty, dear, I wouldn’t care a fig about being in Judith Grayley’s sewing club. She is so smart and unkind in her treatment of some of the girls, and she makes all kinds of fun of us because we have to wear some of the clothes Marian has outgrown. So you can have her for a friend if you like, but we’ll just go on with our own crowd, as we’ve been doing.”
Then Dora added her word.
“Claire hasn’t told you half of it, for she never tells mean things about people. But last year Judith and Jessie Sayre were in a contest to see who could give the best five-minute paper about Washington and Lincoln. Judith was sure she would win, but Jessie’s was the best and Judith was so furious when Jessie was given the prize that she burst out crying. then she gave a party on May Day, for she knew that was Jessie’s birthday, and invited every single girl in the room but Jessie. Wasn’t that mean?”
Before Marty could collect her thoughts, Claire was speaking again.
“That poor little Jessie Sayre! I feel sorry for her anyway. Her father is dead, and summer before last her mother fell and hurt her spine, and that little Jessie, just your age, Marty, has to work after school and all summer long to buy food for the family. She has a little brother eight years old, and those two youngsters keep a garden and sell the vegetables they don’t need for winter. They are trying to save for an operation for their mother. Can you imagine anything more plucky than that?”
Marty had forgotten all about Judith in listening to this pathetic story of Jessie Sayre. She picked up a dishtowel and began to wipe dishes for Dora without speaking, but in her heart she felt ashamed to think that Judith’s pretty clothes and flattery had seemed more desirable to her than the companionship of a girl like Jessie.