The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 10 – Halloween Pranks
School had begun again and everything looked as though Old Man Winter might be waiting just around the corner. It had been a very rainy October and the school children were a gloomy crowd, for the hikes they always took to get nuts and autumn leaves had been impossible in the damp slippery weather. Each week they hoped that the sun would come out and shine brightly enough to dry the hills out, but they seemed doomed to disappointment. if the sun shone for a day, it always rained during the next night, so that they finally gave the idea up, and settled down to wait for the first snowfall with its promise of coasting and skating.
Marty had stopped going to Mrs. Sandstrom’s. Tommy Sayre was entirely well now, and Jessie would not hear of staying at home any longer. She went to school as usual, but spent the afternoons working, and accomplished s much in the few hours then as most girls of her age could have done in twice as long.
Marty was getting homesick. She had half believed that her parents would come back in time for her to start to school at home, but as yet no word had been said of their return, and the girl felt that she wanted to see them more than she had ever wanted anything in her life before. During the past months she had been learning many lessons about herself, and one of the biggest ones was that she had been a very ungrateful, selfish girl to her parents. She felt that her eyes had been opened by the sight of such daughterly love and helpfulness as Dora, Claire and Jessie made, and she wanted her mother to come back and give her a chance to prove that a great change had taken place.
It seemed that they intended to stay the full year out in California and Marty had in her heart a half-fear that they would not be back for Christmas. However, she decided to make the best of things, so settled down with her cousins to school work and play. As the end of October drew near, the weather was in the same uncertain condition,. It was neither real Fall nor Winter, but a muddy drizzly mixture that made them all feel wretched.
Their teacher was the same Miss Ellis of last year, who had always been so sweet and full of understanding and her pupils loved her early. She could feel the unrest in the air, and wondered what could be done to make matters better. As her glance rested upon the calendar one gray afternoon, she noticed that Hallowe’en was only a week off, and it gave her an idea. If they couldn’t go on climbs and nut-hunts, the children could at least have a good rousing party, and Miss Ellis determined to make it a huge success. All that evening, she racked her brain and a few magazines for ideas, and next morning had the plans all ready to submit to her class.
“Instead of reading to you this morning, I want you to repeat your favorite Mother Goose rhyme. We’ll begin with the last one on the last row, and see how many we can think of. Ready!”
“Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her.
Put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.”
“Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells
And pretty m aids in a row.”
“Next,” said the teacher.
“Simple Simon met a pieman
Going to the fair.
Said Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.”
And on they went, through Little Bo-Peep and Bobby Shafto to Miss Muffett and Little Boy Blue. Jack Horner, Old King Cole, Little Tommy Tucker, Goosey Gander and A Queen of Hearts, all came in for their share, and almost every one in the room could think of a different rhyme.
Miss Ellis gave no explanation of the unusual affair, but plunged at once into the spelling lesson. She had managed to rouse their curiosity, which was exactly what she wanted to do. When they returned to the room after recess, each one found a square white envelope placed upon his desk. When opened, these were found to contain sheets of paper with a Mother Goose picture at the top. Underneath were the words:
Mother Goose would like to meet you
Dressed as one of her children dear.
On Hallowe’en she’ll be here to greet you,
And show you the jolliest time of the year.
Great was the excitement everywhere. The teacher had given a party for Valentine’s Day two years ago, and none of them had forgotten the lovely time they had had. The fact that this was to be a dress-up party made it more fun than ever, especially as down in the corner in very small letters it said, “Please Mask.”
At noon the Conway girls and Marty ran a race to see who could reach home first to tell Mrs. Conway. Claire beat by several yards, but before she could get her breath and tell the news to her mother, the other two were there gasping and laughing together, and trying to talk.
“Heaven help us!” cried Mrs. Conway, putting her fingers into her ears. “Whoever heard such a racket. Please stop for a minute, and begin over again, one at a time. You first, Claire.”
“We are invited to a big Mother Goose party at the school-house on Hallowe’en, and –”
“We have to dress like a nursery rhyme,” interrupted Marty.
“And wear masks!” finished Dora in triumph.
“That’s lovely!” answered their mother heartily. “Every year when our sewing-circle has had its Hallowe’en masquerade party, I’ve wondered why we didn’t have one for the kiddies as well. Is Miss Ellis doing this?”
“Yes, isn’t she a darling?” Marty was greatly pleased over the prospects. She had curly hair and could already see herself as a lovely Little Bo-Peep with ringlets hanging over her shoulders and a crook in her hand.
“How are you old folks going to dress this year?” was Claire’s next question.
“We aren’t old folks, thanks, and we are going to dress as children. We all know each other so well that we get great fun out of playing together once a year. The rest of the time we have to be stately and sober, to set examples to our children.”
Aunt Nanna was always as merry as any of the girls, so her daughters laughed at the idea of her being stately and sober.
The rest of the week was a busy one for the Conway family as well as many others in Springdale. Everyone was searching through old-clothes bags and trunks to find something to make into Mother Goose clothes, and stitching them together after they were found.
Claire and Dora decided to dress as Jack and Jill, so their costumes were not hard to manage. A pair of patched overalls and a straw hat made Claire into a charming Jack while Dora’s own sack apron and a borrowed sun-bonnet completed Jill’s outfit. The most important things they had to get were a pail for their water, which both would keep hold of all evening, and a queer way of stepping, as though they were going up a hill. They made a very pretty picture together, and Marty admired them intensely. She herself made a delightful shepherdess, and they all looked forward to Hallowe’en with great anticipation.
On the night of the great event, the girls were dressing when their mother walked in covered from neck to feet with a long cloak.
“Hist,” she said mysteriously. “Come into my room and see the sight of your lives, but first promise not to mention it to a living soul!”
All three crossed their hearts, and followed where she led. In their room, Uncle Ned was brushing his hair to look like a little boy. His suit was a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, and he had on a Buster Brown collar.
The girls burst into shrieks of laughter at sight of him, which grew merrier as they gazed upon their mother, dressed in a short pink dress with a flowered sash, and with her hair in two looped braids tied with a pink bow over each ear.
“Oh, oh,” laughed Dora. “How I would love to see Mr. and Mrs. Collier dressed thus. They weigh about a ton apiece. Wouldn’t it be fun if Mrs. Collier wore half socks?”
Turning to Marty, Aunt Nanna said, “For years a group of girls had a sewing circle, and always entertained at a Hallowe’en party. Then as they married, the circle continued, and they invited their husbands to the yearly celebration. So you see we know each other very well, or we never would dress in such a ridiculous fashion.”
“I think it’s darling, and I’d give half my kingdom to see the whole party,” answered Marty.
As she joined her cousins outside the door, Claire whispered in a stage-whisper, “You shall have your wish. Before the night is past, you shall see the whole party.”
“What do you mean?” asked Dora in amazement.
Claire held out a small green card.
“Mother left an extra invitation on the dresser. Now I happen to know that the refreshments at our party will consist of peanuts and apples, which is not enough. At Mother’s party each one takes a sample of her prize cake or pie, and they also have fruit, ice cream and cider. My idea is to stay with the Mother Goose until about ten o’clock, then slip out of there and into the other party in time for the food. Everything is fair on Hallowe’en, isn’t it?”
“But that invitation admits only two, and there are three of us. What will the odd one do?” queried Marty.
“Stand outside the window to catch the spoils of war that the other two manage to get hold of. It’s a very simple matter,” explained Claire, airily.
They went to the schoolhouse and had a very exciting time finding their way along a dark hall, with only a wet rope stretched to guide them. now and then a queer object was encountered and had to be stepped over, or around, but finally they reached the room of the party and the fun began. The room was decorated with corn stalks, pasteboard skeletons, black cats and witches, and was lighted by twenty grinning Jack-o-Lanterns, and the electric light shrouded in orange crepe paper.
The costumes of the children were all very clever, and most of them extremely pretty as well. Miss Ellis had arranged for half-a-0dozen games, so the merriment was continually increasing. it was great fun to guess familiar faces that were hidden behind the grinning masks, and the girls thought it no end of fun to call their school-mates by other’s names.
Just before they were to unmask and have supper, Miss Ellis switched the lights off, and bade her guests sit in a circle. It was a motley group sitting in the dim light shed by the grinning Jack-o-lanterns, and more than one shiver of anticipation slid down spines.
Miss Ellis, in a ghostly voice, began to chant a rhyme. It was to the effect that a monkey had been killed near that spot, and his remains would be passed around. First came a cold, wet hand; next a wrinkled ear, and third a few sharp, dry teeth. These were followed by a slick, chilly windpipe and two slipper eyeballs. it was the most spooky thing that Marty had ever experienced, and she was thrilled. It was hard to believe that it was not real. One girl began to laugh and cry hysterically, so Miss Ellis had the room lighted in half a minute, and everyone felt a vague sense of relief.
“See, these are not really part of the poor monkey! This hand is a kid glove, full of wet sand. the ear is a dried apricot and the teeth kernels of dried corn. The windpipe and eyeballs are cold, cooked macaroni and two peeled grapes, so don’t’ worry over it.”
They all laughed, feeling a trifle foolish over their fears of a moment before.
“Now’s our chance to get away,” whispered Dora, but she paused to hear Miss Ellis announce that there was a fortune-teller in the next room who would tell, briefly, the past, present and future of those who wanted to learn about themselves. Dora rushed in first, anxious for a fortune, and also anxious to slip away to the other party. She saw an old woman shrouded in a great shawl, with wisps of gray hair hanging about her face.
“Will you tell my fortune, old witch?” Without a word of introduction the queer old person began, in a cracked voice:
“Your hand shows an impulsive disposition. You are honest and good, but you are a little bit mischievous. If you want to be happy, never do anything sneaky. Never go to a party where you aren’t invited, or you’ll surely come to some bad end. Goodbye.”
Dora could hardly move, so utterly astonished was she. How had the old woman guessed that that was exactly what she had planned to do? Anyway, she was glad to have something to influence her against going, for there was a feeling within her which all evening had been urging her to stay where she was, and not be deceitful.
Joining the waiting Claire and Marty, Dora said:
“Let’s stay here. It would be sort of cheating to get into Mother’s party on an invitation that wasn’t meant for us. Don’t you think so?”
The others agreed at once, and they all joined heartily in the merry making for the rest of the evening.
The old fortune-teller soon left, and Miss Ellis followed her to the front door.
“It was so kind of you to come for a while and tell fortunes, Mrs. Conway. I don’t believe a soul guessed who you are – not even your own daughters, or Marty!”
“It was not just kindness, Miss Ellis. I had an idea that Dora might have a little mischief planned, for she had my invitation to our party treasured in her handkerchief box for several days. It’s all right now, I’m sure, and I’ll take this old shawl off, and slip back to my own party. Goodnight, Miss Ellis.”
And Dora never could understand how witches could tell fortunes so truly!