The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Next day Aunt Nanna was better and the girls went back to school. Marty was resolved that she would not give Claire and Dora up for ten girls like Judith, and she could see that her cousins would never be really friendly with Judith grayley. She thought it would be an easy matter to speak nicely to Judith, and then spend all her time with Claire and Dora. She wanted to get Jessie Sayre to walk with them at recess, for she had been greatly touched by the story of the girl’s devotion to her invalid mother. There had been a great shame in her soul all during the night when she realized what a big difference there was in the characters of Jessie and herself. Jessie’s mother had been injured, and her daughter had lovingly and willingly given up every hour she could toward making her mother’s burden lighter. Marty’s mother had been injured, too, but what had her daughter done for her? Marty answered the question frankly to herself.
“I never once did a kind thing for mother except when Daddy reminded me of something to do. And not only that, but I made every day of her life harder by my grumbling and complaining if anything didn’t please me. I am ashamed of myself.” And she planned to do every little thing she could to make Jessie’s task a little easier.
But Marty had planned without the other two girls. At recess time she leaned over Jessie and said, “Won’t you play with us today?” Jessie’s plain little face lighted up with pleasure, but she replied, “I’d love to, but you see I have to study at noon and recess, for I don’t have a minute after school. Thank you just the same.”
As the class marched out, Marty found Judith again at the foot of the steps waiting for her, and almost before she knew it she was walking up and down the path with Judith, and Claire and Dora were swept into a game of crack-the-whip.
Judith was more pleased than before over finding that Doris Grayley’s best friend was in Springdale for the year.
“When I told Mother about it, she was delighted, and said I must bring you home to lunch with me today. Dad will call for us in the car, so there will be plenty of time, and I’m dying to have Mother know you, too!”
She would listen to no refusal and Marty could really see no reason for declining the invitation, so twelve o’clock found her climbing with Judith into the big automobile, and they were soon at the Grayleys’ lovely home.
Mrs. Grayley was a nice woman, and plainly grateful to Marty for becoming friends with her daughter.
“Judy has been so lonesome this year,” she said. “She does not care for the girls in the town, and it seems almost like a special gift to us, having you come here to school. You must feel perfectly at home, and come often to stay with us.”
So it happened that Marty and Judith were together almost constantly.
Judith never visited the Conway home, but every day or two she had some sort of an arrangement for Marty to come to her house. Mrs. Grayley and her husband were both charming to Judith’s new friend, and gradually Marty found herself enjoying the well-ordered beauty of the Grayley home even more than she did the noise and confusion at Aunt Nanna’s, with so many children, and dishes to wash and napkins and handkerchiefs to iron.
Naturally her relations with Dora and Claire were less friendly. She had not much time for them, and as they would never go with her to Judith’s, she saw very little of them except during school hours and at night. The girls were always very nice to her, but she felt that they did not entirely like her intimacy with Judith, and were consequently not so warm toward their cousin as at first. If matters had just drifted on as they were, Marty’s story would have had a very different ending, but sometimes little things happen which change the entire course of one’s future. It was seemingly a small event which awakened Marty, but small as it was, it started her along a path which led to unselfishness and strength. It was really the turning point in the life of Marty Lane.
February and March had passed, and April was upon them with its budding promises of May flowers. The birds sang joyously, as if they knew that other birds were on their way from the sunny southland to join their little friends for a summer of song and joy. Marbles appeared early for there was less rain than usual, and everyone began to count the days until school should be out.
It was about the middle of April that Miss Ellis announced to her class that instead of the usual Washington’s Birthday contest, she had decided, this year, upon a different kind. She would read a story to the class, and re-read it each day that week until Friday. On Friday morning the grammar period would be devoted to the writing of the story from memory by all the students, and in the after-recess period the four best written ones would be read by their respective writers. The class should judge which one was entitled to the prize.
There was a buzz of excitement around the room, for everyone had hopes of winning the much coveted book. A few, remembering the incident connected with last year’s contest, glanced at Judith Grayley to see how she was taking it, but her face was as expressionless as ever. Jessie Sayre’s eyes were aglow with pleasure, for the book she had won last year had given her countless hours of pleasure ever since. She had read it over and over again, and sometimes to herself and twice to her mother and little Tommy, and they had all enjoyed it immensely. Books were very scarce in the Sayre household, and Jessie resolved to try her hardest to win the book, for her mother and Tommy as well as herself.
Miss Ellis opened her desk and drew out a book. it was covered with brown paper and had her name written in large letters on the front. She opened it and amidst a profound silence, commenced to read.
The story was “The Nurnberg Stove,” and the teacher read it with much feeling. It was new to most of the children, but even those who had heard it before found tears of sympathy springing into their eyes, sympathy for the little boy who loved the old stove so well that he could not bear to part with it.
When she had finished, Miss Ellis put the book back into her desk, and went on with seventh grade arithmetic. The next morning, and Wednesday the story was repeated. On Thursday the interest was intense, as it was known to be the last reading.
Friday morning Marty was dressed early. She and Judith were going to meet at school at eight-thirty to tell the story to each other, and refresh their memories by doing so. Claire and Dora were doing up the breakfast dishes, so with the excuse that was becoming so frequent on Marty’s lips she hastened out and down to the school-house. She had planned to meet Judith outside, but as there was no sign of her, and it was rather chilly that morning, she went directly up to the school-room. Hanging her wraps in the cloakroom, she turned toward the door and met Judith coming out of the room.
“Oh, you beat me here, didn’t you? who else is here? Isn’t that Jessie Sayre’s coat?”
“Yes,” replied Judith hastily. “She was here long before I was. She is copying something on the board for Miss Ellis. I’ll be in before long. Sit in my seat for a minute, until I come back.”
Halfway up the aisle Marty remembered that her handkerchief was in her coat pocket, so she turned and retraced her steps. She reached the hall just in time to see Judith slip something blue into the sleeve of Jessie’s coat, and then turn hurriedly to her own, which hung next to it. Marty pretended not to notice anything strange, but her heart warmed toward Judith Grayley. All these things Claire and Dora had said about her were mistakes. Judith was just misunderstood and misjudged. Here she was, slipping a little gift into Jessie’s coat which nobody knew about. Marty decided not to embarrass Judith by noticing the little kindness, but she surely intended to tell her cousins, and correct the mistaken idea they had of Judith’s character.
The girls linked arms and went to their seat, where in whispered undertones they rehearsed the story which was to be written that morning. Before they knew it, the school-room was full and the bell ringing. The teacher set them at once to work on the writing of their stories. this took over an hour, and then Miss Ellis gave them a study period, while she went over their papers.
“I don’t see how Jessie can be so calm when a contest is on,” whispered Claire as she and Marty marched out together. ‘Here she stays in to copy problems on the board, as if she hasn’t the best chance in the world of winning the contest!”
“My story was poor,” Marty said. “I couldn’t remember it very well in that part where the boy decides to climb inside and go with the stove. I know I won’t have a chance at all.”
They went back into the room in great excitement, and could hardly wait to hear the announcement of the four winners. At last Miss Ellis put a final mark on the paper and arose.
“The four best papers were handed in by Dora Conway, Dan Smedly, Grace Pierson and Jessie Sayre. After they read their stories, I will again read the original to you, and let you vote upon which one is best.”
The suspense was over. Dora had won a place in the finals, while Marty, Claire and Judith had all fallen below fourth place. Everyone had expected Jessie and Grace Pierson to win out, but Dora Conway and Dan Smedly were certainly surprises. Marty hardly knew which boy was Dan Smedly. he sat at the back of the room, she remembered, and was one of the motley group of boys in overalls. But she had never once imagined that any of those overgrown, bashful boys would be able to write a story well.
Grace Pierson read hers first. It was very good, and Dora Conway’s, following after it, sounded childish. Dan read his next and it was the best so far, except that he was so overcome with bashful mortification that he almost choked over a word or two. Then Jessie read hers, and the students were all at a loss to decide which they considered better of the last two.
“Now, before we vote,” said Miss Ellis, “I shall read it to you, and you must judge by the original story.”
Raising the top of her desk she reached into the usual place which the book occupied, but found it empty. A queer expression appeared upon her face, and deepened as further search failed to reveal it. glancing hastily about the desk and floor she spied a familiar paper cover thrust into the waste-basket. Her puzzled look changed into one of hurt anger, and she spoke to the class in sorrowful tones.
“Someone has been unfair and sneaky enough to take the book from my desk – probably to read the story a few extra times. I can scarcely believe that anyone in this room would be guilty of so low, so mean an action, but if anyone here has done it, we’ll give that one a chance to partly make it right by confessing.”
There was only silence, deep and dreadful. After a few silent moments Miss Ellis arose and said, “We must search the desks!” The pupils changed seats and in a moment had examined books and other contents of their neighbors’ desks. No story-book was found, and the teacher was becoming heartsick.
“The book was here in my desk at six o’clock last evening. What has happened must have happened today, and we will get to the bottom of the matter before anyone leaves the room. Take your own seats and study spelling until I return.”
She went out and the crestfallen children gazed vacantly upon their spelling books. There was not a sound in the room, and within ten minutes Miss Ellis was with them, a coat hung over her arm.
“Whose coat is this?”
“Mine, Miss Ellis.” The voice was Jessie Sayre’s.
“I found the book in your sleeve, Jessie. Can you explain how it got there?”
Jessie had turned white to the very lips.
“Miss Ellis, I don’t, truly I don’t know anything about it. I haven’t touched it. Oh, you don’t believe I took it, do you?”
The teacher was ready to cry. Jessie Sayre was her best pupil, studious, hard-working, always cheerful and ready to help out in any way she could. And yet here was this fearful proof against her! What was the meaning of it all? She reached into the coat-sleeve and slowly drew out the book: blue without the familiar paper cover.
Marty Lane’s heart had almost stopped beating. Something blue had been slipped into Jessie’s coat-sleeve, and it was not a kindness, as she had supposed. she knew the real culprit, but how could she be a tattle-tale and give her best friend away?
Suddenly from the back of the room came a boy’s voice. It was Dan Smedly’s.
“I stuck the book there. I took it to read, and then I was afraid I’d get caught, so I stuck it in somebody’s coat. I didn’t know it was Jessie’s.”
This seemed reasonable. Dan had unexpectedly won a place among the final four best, and it was not too much to think that he might have had an extra chance to read it.
Marty sighed with relief. She was spared the duty of telling on Judith. Dan Smedly wouldn’t mind taking the blame. She glanced back, first at Judith who was looking disappointed. Then she glanced at Dan Smedly, and her heart smote her. His plain, freckled face was full of mute suffering. Marty could see that Dan would mind – but was taking the blame to shield a little girl. Marty’s eyes opened as if by magic. She could see Judith as a selfish, dishonorable girl who would stoop to deceive in order to make trouble for a school-mate who had won a prize over her the year before. And she saw Dan as a true-hearted, manly, brave lad, who would sacrifice his own standing for the sake of a friend whose life burden was already too hard for her young shoulders to carry. Marty’s hand reached for her locket. She had promised her mother to try to love everyone! Surely here was her chance to prove herself sincere. It was not right to shield a girl like Judith, while Dan got all the blame, and his honest heart ached beneath the blue overalls.
In a flash she saw her way clear.
She would do the right thing, no matter what the cost. Quietly walking up to the teacher’s desk she spoke to her for a moment, and went back to her seat.
Miss Ellis dismissed the class but requested that Judith, Jessie, Marty and Dan remain in. Nobody ever told what happened in their little meeting. All the rest of the class knew, was that Judith Grayley did not return to school that year, and that both Jessie and Dan Smedly were innocent.
Jessie Sayre was awarded the prize. But Dan was given the little blue book, and in it was written by Miss Ellis:
“To the bravest, finest boy I ever knew.”
Marty’s reward came in the lasting friendship which developed between herself and Jessie Sayre.