IN INKY PLIGHT
"It's perfectly fine, Glad; I think it will be the most fun ever. How many are you going to have?"
"About thirty, Mother says. I can't ask Kitty, and Dorothy Adams. All on the list are about as old as we are."
"Kitty'll be sorry, of course; but I don't believe mother would let her go in the evening, anyway. She's only nine, you know."
The two friends, Marjorie and Gladys, were on their way to school, and Gladys was telling about a Hallowe'en party she was to have the following week. The party was to be in the evening, from seven till nine, and, as it was unusual for the girls to have evening parties, they looked forward to this as a great occasion. Nearly all of the children who were to be invited went to the same school that Gladys did, so she carried the invitations with her, and gave them around before school began.
The invitations were written on cards which bore comical little pictures of witches, black cats, or jack-o'-lanterns, and this was the wording:
Though the weather's bad or pleasant, You're invited to be present At Miss Gladys Fulton's home On Hallowe'en. Be sure to come. Please accept, and don't decline; Come at seven and stay till nine.
Needless to say these cards caused great excitement among the favored ones who received them.
Boys and girls chattered like magpies until the school-bell rang, and then it was very hard to turn their attention to lessons.
But Marjorie was trying in earnest to be good in school, and not get into mischief, so she resolutely put her card away in her desk, and studied diligently at her lessons.
Indeed, so well did she study that her lesson was learned before it was time to recite, and she had a few moments' leisure.
She took out her pretty card to admire it further, and she scrutinized closely the funny old witch riding on a broomstick.
The witch wore a high-peaked black hat, and her nose and chin were long and pointed.
Suddenly the impulse seized Marjorie to make for herself a witch's hat.
She took from her desk a sheet of foolscap paper. But she thought a white hat would be absurd for a witch. It must be black. How to make the paper black was the question, but her ingenuity soon suggested a way.
She took her slate sponge, and dipping it in the ink, smeared it over the white paper.
This produced a grayish smudge, but a second and third application made a good black.
The process, however, of covering the whole sheet of paper with ink was extremely messy, and before it was finished, Marjorie's fingers were dyed black, and her desk was smudged from one end to the other.
But so interested was she in making a sheet of black paper that she paid no heed to the untidiness.
Gladys, who had turned her back on Marjorie, in order to study her lesson without distraction, turned round suddenly and gave an exclamation of dismay. This startled Marjorie, and she dropped her sponge full of ink on her white apron.
She straightened herself up, with a bewildered air, aghast at the state of things, and as her curls tumbled over her forehead, she brushed them back with her inky hands.
This decorated her face with black fingermarks, and several of the pupils, looking round at her, burst into incontrollable laughter.
Midget was usually very dainty, and neatly dressed, and this besmeared maiden was a shock to all beholders.
Miss Lawrence turned sharply to see what the commotion might be, and, when she saw the inky child, she had hard work to control her own merriment.
"What is that all over you, Marjorie?" she said, in as stern tones as she could command.
"Ink, Miss Lawrence," said Midget, demurely, her simple straightforward gaze fixed on her teacher's face. This calm announcement of a fact also struck Miss Lawrence ludicrously, but she managed to preserve a grave countenance.
"Yes, I see it's ink. But why do you put it on your face and hands and apron?"
"I don't know, Miss Lawrence. You see, I was using it, and somehow it put itself all over me."
"What were you doing with it?" Miss Lawrence was really stern now, for she had advanced to Marjorie's desk, and noted the sponge and paper.
"Why, I was just making some white paper black."
"Marjorie, you have been extremely naughty. What possessed you to ink that large sheet of paper?"
"I wanted to be a witch," said Marjorie, so ruefully that Miss Lawrence had to laugh after all.
"You are one, my child. You needn't ever make any effort in that direction!"
"And so," went on Midget, cheered by Miss Lawrence's laughing face, "I thought I'd make me a witch's hat, to wear at recess. Truly, I wasn't going to put it on in school. But I had my lessons all done, and so——"
But by this time the whole class was in a gale.
The inky little girl, so earnestly explaining why she was inky, was a funny sight, indeed. And, as they laughed at her, some big tears of mortification rolled down her cheeks.
These she furtively wiped away with her hand, and it is needless to say that this added the finishing touch to the smudgy countenance.
Miss Lawrence gave up. She laughed until the tears ran down her own cheeks, for Marjorie was really crying now, and her little handkerchief only served to spread the inky area around her features.
"My dear child," said the teacher, at last, "I don't know exactly what to do with you. I can't wash that ink from your face, because it won't come off with only cold water. You must go home, and yet you can't go through the streets that way. But I have a brown veil I will lend you. It is fairly thick, and will at least shield you from observation."
So Miss Lawrence took Marjorie to the cloak-room, arrayed her in her own hat and her teacher's veil, and then went with the little girl downstairs to the front door. On the way she talked to her kindly, but she did not attempt to gloss over her naughty deed.
"I am sending you home, Marjorie," she said, "because you are not fit to stay here. If you were, I should keep you in, and punish you. You surely knew it was wrong to spill ink all over everything. You have ruined your desk, to say nothing of your clothes and your own belongings."
"I'm so sorry, Miss Lawrence," said penitent Midget. "I just tried to be good this morning. But I happened to think what fun it would be to have a big, high-peaked witch's hat to prance around in at recess; and I thought I could make the paper black without such a fuss."
"Well," said Miss Lawrence, with a sigh, "I don't know what to say to you. Go home now, and tell your mother all about it. I'll leave the matter of punishment in her hands. I'm sure you didn't mean to do wrong,—you never do,—but, oh, Marjorie, it was wrong!"
"Yes, it was, Miss Lawrence, and I'm awful sorry. I do hope Mother will punish me."
Marjorie's hope was so funny that Miss Lawrence smiled, as she kissed the stained little face through the sheltering veil, and then Midget trudged off home, thinking that as Miss Lawrence had kissed her, she hadn't been so very bad, after all.
"What is the matter, child?" exclaimed Mrs. Maynard, as Marjorie marched into her mother's room. "Why have you that thing on your head, and why are you home from school at this hour?"
Midget couldn't resist this dramatic situation.
"Guess," she said, blithely. Her inky hands were in her coat pockets, her apron was covered by her outer garment, and her face was obscured by the thick brown veil.
"I can't guess just what's the trouble," said her mother, "but I do guess you've been getting into some mischief."
Marjorie was disappointed.
"Oh," she said, "I thought you'd guess that I've broken out with smallpox or measles or something!"
Mrs. Maynard was preoccupied with some intricate sewing, and did not quite catch the first part of Marjorie's remark. But the last words sent a shock to her mother-heart.
"What!" she cried. "What do you mean? Smallpox! Measles! Has it broken out in the school? Take off that veil!" As she spoke, Mrs. Maynard jumped up from her chair, and ran to her daughter with outstretched arms.
This was more interesting, and Midget danced about as she turned her back to her mother to have the veil untied.
With trembling fingers Mrs. Maynard loosened the knot Miss Lawrence had tied, and hastily pulled off the veil. Meantime, Midget had thrown off her coat, and stood revealed in all her dreadful inkiness.
The saucy, inky face was so roguishly smiling, and Mrs. Maynard was so grateful not to see a red, feverish countenance, that she sat down in a chair and shook with laughter.
This was just what Marjorie wanted, and, running to her mother's side, she laughed, too.
"Get away from me, you disreputable individual," said Mrs. Maynard, drawing her pretty morning dress away from possible contamination.
"Oh, Mothery, it's all dry now; it can't hurt you a bit! But isn't it awful?"
"Awful! You scamp, what does it mean?"
"Why, it's ink, Mother, dear; and do you s'pose it will ever come off?"
"No, I don't! I think it's there for the rest of your life. Is that what you wanted?"
"No. Not for my whole life. Oh, Mother, can't you get it off with milk, or something?"
Marjorie had seen her mother try to take ink-stains out of white linen with milk, and, though the operation was rarely entirely successful, she hoped it would work better on her own skin.
"Milk! No, indeed. Pumice stone might do it, but it would take your skin off, too. Tell me all about it."
So the inky little girl cuddled into her mother's arms, which somehow opened to receive the culprit, and she told the whole dreadful story. Mrs. Maynard was truly shocked.
"I don't wonder Miss Lawrence didn't know what to do with you," she said; "for I'm sure I don't, either. Marjorie, you must have known you were doing wrong when you began that performance. Now, listen! If somebody had told you of another little girl who cut up just such a prank, what would you have said?"
"I'd have said she ought to know better than to fool with ink, anyway. It's the most get-all-overy stuff."
"Well, why did you fool with it, then?"
"Well, you see, Mother, I did know it was awful messy, but that know was in the back of my head, and somehow it slipped away from my memory when the thought that I wanted a witch hat came and pushed it out."
"Now, you're trying to be funny, and I want you to talk sensibly."
"Yes'm, I am sensible. Honest, the thought about the witch hat was so quick it pushed everything else out of my mind."
"Even your sense of duty, and your determination to be a good little girl."
"Yes'm; they all flew away, and my whole head was full of how to make the white paper black. And that was the only way I could think of."
"Well, have your thoughts that were pushed out come back yet?"
"Oh, yes, Mother; they came back as soon as I found myself all inky."
"Then, if they've come back, you know you did wrong?"
"Yes, I do know it now."
"And you know that little girls who do wrong have to be punished?"
"Ye-es; I s'pose I know that. How are you going to punish me?"
"We must discuss that. I think you deserve a rather severe punishment, for this was really, truly mischief. What do you think of staying home from Gladys' Hallowe'en party as a punishment?"
"Oh, Moth-er May-nard! You just can't mean that!"
"I'm not sure but I do. You must learn, somehow, Midget, that if you do these awful things, you must have awful punishments."
"Yes, but to stay home from Gladys' party! Why, those horrid, cruel people in the history book couldn't get up a worse punishment than that! Mother, say you don't mean it!"
"I won't decide just now; I'll think it over. Meantime, let's see what we can do toward cleaning you up."
The process was an uncomfortable one, and, after Marjorie's poor little face and hands had gone through a course of lemon juice, pumice stone, and other ineffectual obliterators, she felt as if she had had punishment enough.
And the final result was a grayish, smeared-looking complexion, very different from her own usual healthy pinky glow.
Greatly subdued, and fearful of the impending punishment, Marjorie lay on a couch in her mother's room, resting after the strenuous exertions of her scrubbing and scouring.
"I do think I'm the very worst child in the whole world," she said, at last. "Isn't it surprising, Mother, that I should be so bad, when you're so sweet and good? Do you think I take after Father?"
Mrs. Maynard suppressed a smile.
"Wait till Father comes home, and ask him that question," she said.