torstai 14. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Thirteen: The Picnic

When the service was over at church in the next Sunday after the Andersons’ visit, were the children already waiting for Laura and Aunt Maggie on the churchyard.

“What are you doing here?” asked Laura. “Didn’t you have any Sunday school at all?”

“Oh, we did, but Miss Marshall said we could leave earlier, because — oh, Mommy, next Saturday we’ll have a Sunday school picnic!” cried Myra. ”Isn’t that brilliant? Every boy must ask a lady and the lady takes the picnic basket.”

“Well, who’s asking whom? asked Aunt Maggie.

“Geordie asked Louisa already”, said Ethel innocently. “That’s why Tom’s angry.”

“I’m not angry!” exclaimed Tom.

“Oh, yes, you are. But Louisa likes Geordie better than you”, said Myra.

“Shut up!” hissed Louisa. ”I don’t like anybody better, Geordie just asked first. Mommy, can I have some fried chicken for lunch? And new tomatoes and cream sauce?”

“Of course you can. What about the rest of you? Who are you going to ask, Tom?” asked Laura friendly.

“I dunno.” Tom shrugged his shoulders, which had become much wider during the past weeks. “Mebbe I won’t go at all.”

“Of course you’ll go”, commanded Aunt Maggie. ”Ask Kitty Brown, for example.”

“I dunno”, Tom repeated and fell into silence.

“Miss Marshall said we must train our manners, that’s why every girl must have an invitation”, said Ethel. ”I hope so somebody asks me — I mean, that I don’t have to go with some of the little boys.”

“You are a little girl yourself”, reminded Laura. “And you have the whole week to plan the picnic.”

What a long week it was! Louisa would have liked to make the lunch ready in Monday morning, and could hardly believe her Aunty, who told her it could not be made before Saturday morning.

“Five days!” she cried in despair.

“Quickly come, quickly gone”, said Aunt Maggie.

But even longer was the week for the uninvitated Myra and Ethel and to Tom, who did not know whom to ask. He was angry, because Louisa had accepted Geordie’s invitation so eagerly. At last he made up his mind and asked Muriel Henderson, the beauty of the village. Indeed that did stick Louisa a little — Muriel was always proud and spoiled, but after being asked by the London boy she was unbearable.

“I guess I won’t be asked at all”, said little Ethel in Thursday evening, when they were spending the dim hour in Laura’s bedroom. Tom was not yet come from the village, where he had been all the day helping Geordie in the Kerr farm. 

“I hope you will be asked”, comforted Laura and thought Miss MarshalI’s idea maybe was not as good as the schoolmistress had thought. She remembered from her own childhood how awful it was not to have invitation somewhere where everybody else was going.

“But if nobody will ask us?” worried Myra. ”It’s a humiliation. You should have heard how Muriel Henderson boasted of Tom!”

“Muriel is a stupid little hen”, said Louisa.

“That wasn’t nice thing to say”, pointed Aunt Maggie.

“Muriel’s not nice either!”

“Now now. Why don’t you go together, Myra and Ethel?” asked Laura.

That would be an awful humiliation!” cried little Ethel. “Don’t you understand, Mommy!”

Mommy understood.

“Well, if you won’t be asked, we’ll arrange a picnic of our own on Sunday”, she said. “I’ll take you to Glennari after church and we’ll go to a restaurant arid eat chicken and cold potatoes and ice-cream”, promised Laura.

“You will, Mommy?” cried Ethel.

“Yes I will. Just you and Myra, not Louisa.”

Louisa sighed. As eagerly as she waited for the picnic, she was not quite sure if it was comparable with a restaurant and ice-cream.

“As if you couldn’t eat cold potatoes at home!” muttered Aunt Maggie. ”Well, time to go to sleep. Hurry up!”

When the Friday afternoon arrived, it was clear that nobody would ask the little girls for the picnic. Hardly any of the smaller boys were going — they could not think anything as awful as having a girl for company. Louisa made her lunch ready, and Ethel wept bitterly on the parlour coach.

Myra was brave until Saturday morning, but when Tom left for Muriel and Louisa sat by the dining-room window waiting for Geordie, she rushed to the garret and dried her tears to the curtains of the gable window.

When Louisa had left, Aunt Maggie went up to the garret and said Myra would have her eyes red of those dusty curtains. Then she asked if she would like to see her treasure box with Ethel.

Aunt Maggie’s treasure box was beloved by the MacDonald girls. It was a little wooden chest, full of memories and stories. There were Aunty’s first high-heeled shoes and silk stockings, an old memory book her friends had filled with wise, old-fashioned poems at school, interesting clippings of old newspapers, and photographs of people she could tell many stories of. Few letters, too, but Aunty never let the girls to look at them.

Myra and Ethel spent a joyful day reading the memory books and listening stories about the girls who had written the poems twenty-eight years ago. After all they forgot all the picnic and did not remember it until they heard Laura’s cry from downstairs.

“What’s going on there?” said Aunt Maggie. “We’ll go and see. Put the books back, you can look them some other time.”

Downstairs they went. And in the middle of the hall stood Louisa — a very wet, a very dirty, a very furious Louisa. Behind her was Tom, who tried severely not to laugh.

“For heaven’s sake!” gasped Laura, who had sat down to a footstool. ”For heaven’s sake, what you’ve made to yourself, Louisa MacDonald?”

“I’ve made nothing”, sobbed Louisa. ”It was Muriel Henderson, who…”

“Don’t blame Muriel”, interrupted Tom. ”If you hadn’t been that foolish...”

“I wasn’t foolish!”

“Quiet!” commanded Aunt Maggie with a tone Louisa called her ”colonel-voice”. ”Louisa, you tell first, then it’s Tom’s turn.”

“We were on the moor by the brook and played among the spruces”,  Louisa said. “Miss Marshall told us we could play as much as we liked till one o’clock, then we would have lunch. After the lunch we went to the brook and Miss Marshall told us many things about the fishes and the other animals that lived in it. And then Muriel said with her nose up that her uncle had all the books written about the animals. Miss Marshall said very politely that she wouldn’t believe anybody could have all of ‘em, and Muriel got angry, because we all laughed.

“I didn’t laugh louder than the others or say anything, but suddenly Muriel turned to me and said, ‘You manor-beggar don’t have to go to a zoo to see a monkey — you just have to look at the mirror.’ Geordie got furious and asked if Muriel wanted a spank, but Miss Marshall said ladies should never be spanked.

“We walked along the brook banks, and the boys dared each other to hop over the water. Geordie hopped, and Tom, and Don, and all of them wetted their shoes. Then Muriel took her lace hems and hopped, and didn’t touch the water at all.

“’Do that if you can’, she said to me, and then she hopped back, as the boys had done. ‘Go on, if you dare.’ And I just had to dare. Muriel is smaller and lighter than me, and besides, when I tried to jump, she pushed me. So I dropped just in the middle of the brook.

“Geordie rushed to help me up, and Miss Marshall scolded Muriel, but now my best muslin dress is ruine-e-e-d!”

And the story ended with bitter tears.

“Is that what happened?” asked Laura.

“Exactly.” Tom nodded. ”I’m innocent, I haven’t any idea what Muriel had in her mind, and besides she such a crybaby that...”

“Forget Muriel for a second”,  said Aunt Maggie. “Come to the kitchen, Louisa, you drop water to my just-washed floor. We’ll get those wet things off. And your dress is not ruined, I wash it right away and it’s dry and neat for church tomorrow. Go and get another dress for Louisa, Myra!”

“Well”,  said Laura and rose. ”I guess I must go to the Hendersons’ place. Muriel owns you an apologise, Louisa.”

Laura went upstairs, and when she came back after a while, Myra and Ethel and Tom just gasped.

Laura was thirty-five years old, but sometimes she looked as a young girl. Now she was angry, scarlet roses were burning on her soft cheeks, and she had worn her best creamy-coloured blouse with laces and frills. A fine hat with veil and silk flowers was on her auburn curly hair, and she was that beautiful and noble and dangerous that the children drew themselves away.

Nobody could have said that she was one of any “manor-beggars”.

“I don’t know when I’m back”,  said Laura and put on her gloves. “Obey your Aunty.” Then she smiled a little. ”But I promise I won’t leave until that spoiled pussy hears what I’ve got in my mind!”

“Well”, said Aunt Maggie, who just came from the kitchen. “You can be small and soft, Laurie, but you’ve got Highland strength in you, if you ask me!”

Laura went down to the village, and Aunt Maggie took Louisa’s lunch basket, and they had a good dinner with the leftovers of the cold chicken, red juicy tomatoes, potato sallad, white soft bread, cream sauce, and little cakes, covered with sugar.

“I didn’t even know food can be that delicious”,  said Tom at last, when he felt he could not swallow a piece more. “Muriel Henderson can spoil any meal by her existence.”

“Don’t be mean to your lady,” said Louisa, who still felst hurt — though brown cakes are good medicine for any aching feelings.

“Drink your milk”, said Aunt Maggie. ”Well, your mother’s comin’ up the way. I wonder what’s the result.”

When Laura stepped into the kitchen, ten eyes stared at her.

“Muriel will apoligise you in public tomorrow in Sunday school”, she said to Louisa. ”I must admit I’ve never felt that good. At last I could give Mrs Henderson a piece of my mind, what comes to her way of upbringing her children!”

“Laura”,  scolded Aunt Maggie. ”What did you say?”

“The truth, dearie.” Laura laughed. Her curlies were in a little disorder under the hat, but her brown eyes were shining. “She’ll never have anything sewed by me anymore, and I’m glad of it. Now, do you have any chicken left? I feel just like chicken now. Poor Muriel, I guess it’ll take long until she dares anybody to hop over a brook again!”

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