Heart of Gold

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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CHAPTER I

THE GIRL WHO TOOK A DARE

"Attention, children! Close copy books and pass them to the right. Monitors, collect."

Tired Miss Phelps laid down her crayon, with one sweep of her arm erased the letter exercises she had so laboriously traced on the blackboard for her fifty pupils to copy, wiped the clinging chalk from her dry, chapped hands, and sank wearily into her chair beside the littered desk, as she issued her commands in sharp, almost impatient tones. Her head ached fiercely, her brain seemed on fire, the subdued scratching of scores of pens in unskilled fingers set her nerves on edge, and she was ready to collapse with the strain of the day. Yet another hour remained before the afternoon session would draw to a close. How was she ever to hear the stupid geography recitation, or listen to the halting, singsong voices stumble through pages of a Reader too old for their understanding?

Again she glanced at the clock. A full hour of torture, and she was simply longing for bed! A sudden determination seized her. She would read to her scholars instead of listening to the lessons they had prepared to recite! So, selecting a book from the row on her desk, she waited until the blotted, inky copy books had been gleefully whisked shut by their owners, passed across the aisle and gathered in neat piles by the monitors, who creaked solemnly up to the corner table and laid them beside the day's written exercises for the teacher's inspection later. Then they clattered back to their seats and waited with expectant eyes fixed upon Miss Phelps for the next command.

"Take rest position!"

There was a brisk scraping of feet, a rustling of dresses, and fifty active bodies sat stiffly erect with hands clasped on the desk-tops in front of them. No,—not fifty. One child, a brown-eyed girl with short, riotous curls tumbling about her round, animated face, sat heedless of her surroundings, staring out of the window near her into the bright Spring sunshine, and from her rapt expression it was evident that her thoughts were far away from school and lessons.

Miss Phelps waited an instant, but the child was lost in her dreams and did not feel the unusual silence of the room. Following the gaze of the intent brown eyes, the teacher glanced out of the window and saw a flock of pigeons disporting themselves on the barn roof across the road; and as they fluttered and strutted, scolded and cooed, the little watcher at her desk unconsciously imitated their movements, thrusting out her chest, cocking her head pertly on one side and nodding and pecking at imaginary birds, just as her pretty feathered friends were doing as they basked in the warm sunshine. Involuntarily the woman smiled. Then, as the girl continued to mimic the doves, she tapped her foot impatiently on the floor and repeated emphatically, "Children, take rest position!"

Stealthily the other pupils let their eyes rove about the room in search of the guilty member, for it was very plain from the teacher's manner that someone was out of order. Instantly a pencil rapped sharply on the desk, and forty-nine pair of inquisitive eyes jerked quickly to the front again. But the fiftieth pair continued to stare out of the window, until in exasperation the woman's voice rasped out, "Peace Greenfield, will you please give me your undivided attention?"

With a start of horrified surprise the culprit awoke from her daydreams, to discover that she was flapping her outstretched arms in either aisle like some exultant cockerel just ready to crow. Abashed and dismayed at having been caught napping, she thrust her hands hastily into her desk, seized her geography, and scrambling to her feet, started for the front of the room, remembering that her class was the next to recite. The children tittered, and Peace, much amazed to find that no one followed, paused uncertainly, searched her brain desperately to recall the teacher's command, and then glibly recited, "Brazil is bounded on the north by—"

The scholars burst into a howl of derision, and poor Peace slumped into her seat, covered with confusion. Even the tired teacher smiled at the child's discomfort, but immediately rapped for order, and said sternly, "Rest position, please!...