Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Sarah Orne Jewett.
MARY LEONARD and Hattie West were walking home from school arm in arm. They were leaders of the school, although they were by no means the wisest scholars. They were both very pretty and well-dressed. If Mary and Hattie said that anything was stylish or anybody was proud, there was no appeal. Mary Leonard was the better-natured, but Hattie West was apt to be jealous and hard-hearted toward any one whom she did not quite understand, or for some reason was forced to envy. She was very pretty indeed when one first looked at her, but presently most persons began to think that her eyes were rather sharp, and the bright color in her cheeks somehow did not give as much pleasure as at first. She was like a bright flower that has no fragrance, and hides a little selfish thorn.
There was a tall girl behind them, hurrying along the sidewalk, a girl who was not pretty at all. She evidently wished to catch up with them and to speak to them, but Hattie West gave a glance over her shoulder and said a quick word to Mary; they began to walk faster, and to put their heads together as if they had some very important, great secret under discussion.
"Oh, won't you wait for me?" said the other girl, pleadingly; but they did not wait, and talked and hurried all the faster, so that she stopped on the sidewalk, discouraged for a moment, and then with her head drooping a little, followed them all the way up the long street. They did not take any notice of her. Her name was Alice Dean, and when she turned in at the gate of her aunt's house her eyes were full of tears. It was not the first time they had pretended not to know she was behind them, and had showed plainly that they did not wish to have her walk home with them from school. It always made Alice Dean feel strangely defeated and lonely.
"I think it's mean of us not to wait for her," said Mary Leonard, uneasily, as she heard Alice shut the gate and go up the flagstoned walk. She had almost caught up with them on the steep part of the hill, but she had not spoken again.
"We shouldn't like it ourselves," Mary said again, reproachfully.
"I don't care," insisted Hattie. "She might wait for some of the other girls that come part way."
"There are only the Kennards, and some of the little ones, and they are a lot younger," answered Mary, with unwonted bravery.
"You can wait for her if you wish to. If you don't wish to go with me any longer, you needn't. She'd expect to come with us every day!" Hattie West dropped her companion's arm and took the other side of the pavement. "She ought to know better - poking in when we have our own affairs to talk over!"
"She's a stranger; she feels lonely," pleaded Mary.
"I'm not going to walk with that prim-looking thing, and I'm not going to have her go with us. You're my most intimate friend and I'm yours, and she needn't think she can intrude," Hattie insisted. "Come over after dinner and we'll get our geography lesson," and so they parted.
From the top of the hill there was a splendid view over all the country, and down the great river that led to the sea. Hattie West went across the street and straight into the house; but her companion stood for a moment looking at the white sails and a big steamer that was coming up the channel, while its gray smoke made pretty clouds that blew off along the sparkling water.
"Well, my dear, are the girls coming?" Alice Dean's aunt, an elderly woman with a lovely face, was sitting in her deep chair by the window when the library door opened.
"Why, what's the matter, dear child?" asked Mrs. Sheldon. Alice turned quickly away and stood looking at one of the bookcases, with her back to her aunt.
"I wish you would please let me get my lessons at home, and not go to school any more," she faltered presently, and then she went to her aunt's side and leaned against the chair and tried not to cry. Mrs. Sheldon took hold of her hand and held it fast, and waited a minute to hear the rest.
"I feel left out all the time. I thought they all looked like such nice girls at first, and that I should have such a nice time; and now, when I come where they are, they all whisper together and look at me and laugh, or they whisper and go somewhere else. You see there are but few in the school as old as I, and we might have such fun! But they leave me out all the time, and they won't walk with me or anything." And Alice could not keep from crying.
"It is all Hattie West's fault," she said, when she could speak, and then sobbed and hid her face again. "Oh, it's too bad, Aunt Annie! Need I go to school again?"
"You are sure that it isn't Alice Dean's fault, too?" asked the aunt, gravely. "You haven't been unkind?" Then she stopped, for the wistful young face beside her bore no look of malice, only sorrow.
"Perhaps it is just because you seem a little strange to them. You must remember that you have only been a month in their little company. You have been far away, and had a very different sort of life, and they have lived just here, and may not understand some things as you do." Mrs. Sheldon's face wore a wondering look for a moment. "I thought Mary Leonard a very nice girl, and some of the others, too," she added, as if half to herself.
"They are nice," insisted poor Alice. "The first two or three days they talked and walked home with me and everything. I think that Hattie West is the unkind one. First she stopped being friendly, and then all the others did as she did."
"Then the only way for you is to be just as polite and friendly to them as ever," said Mrs. Sheldon. "Do not take any notice of whatever you do not like. Just accept it all, and walk home quietly by yourself. Perhaps they will begin to think it over a little, and will be very sorry. I am sorry for you, dear; these things are very hard to bear. I do not think that it can be explained except that one of the girls is a bad leader, and something makes her wish to rule the others. It would be very cowardly of you to leave school. Perhaps you have not chosen the right friends, but you must try to make somebody else happy; try to make friends with one of the younger girls."
"I have tried to please them and to be nice," Alice mourned.
"Perhaps you have only tried to make them pleased with you," said her aunt, speaking gravely again. "We have to learn to please others for their sakes, not for ours, which is quite different. But I am not going to blame you, dear. Just go right on doing the very best you can."
"I didn't ask Hattie and Mary Leonard to come to tea," confessed Alice. "I called to them, but they wouldn't hear and they wouldn't wait for me, and made believe they had secrets all the way up the hill."
"Never mind!" said Mrs. Sheldon, gently, and she drew the young face down to hers and kissed it twice.
"Never mind!" she repeated. "The world is full of friendship. But if you would have a friend, you must be a friend."
A fortnight after this Mary Leonard and Hattie West were walking down the hill to school one morning. As they came near Mrs. Sheldon's house Alice Dean came out, and seeing them, nodded pleasantly and waved he hand to Mary, and then hurried off down the street.
"Don't you think Mrs. Sheldon's house is the handsomest in town?" asked Mary Leonard. "It is so dignified and pleasant-looking."
"It is a big house, but I think white houses are old-fashioned," acknowledged Hattie.
"The Kennards and their brother and Tom Harrison had a lovely time the other night when they went there to tea," said Mary, wistfully.
"I should think they might have invited more of the girls at school," protested her friend.
"Alice Dean said one day that her aunt liked to have her bring the girls home whenever she chose. Mrs. Sheldon likes to see people, but she never goes out."
"I don't see what you are always talking about that Alice Dean for!" exclaimed Hattie, spitefully. "I don't care if she is rich and can have company, and has been to India with her father. She is hateful, and she's stuck up. Just because she is come to Deptford for a while and goes to our school I sha'n't make a queen of her! You can go with Alice Dean if you want to."
Hattie had never been so unfriendly and cross as this. The two girls had been playmates and friends from their babyhood. Mary was grieved to the heart. She took Hattie's arm again, but Hattie pulled it away, and they did not speak to each other any more until they got to school.
Hattie turned as they went up the steps. "I was awfully cross, Mary," she said, humbly. "I don't want to go with anybody but you!"
But Mary Leonard would not look at her. Her feelings were too sadly hurt, and they did not mend all the morning, although at recess Hattie stayed behind at the double desk where they sat together, and hid her face and cried.
Not long after this the small private school where our friends went was much excited by an invitation. Miss Marshall, the head teacher, gave it from the desk after the morning exercises.
"Young ladies and children of the lower school," she began, very seriously, and then her eyes twinkled and she smiled with pleasure. "I have something to tell you that you will like very much to hear. There is a very famous and beautiful yacht coming to Deptford to-day, and to-morrow, Saturday, the school is asked to spend the day on board. We are going far down the bay among the islands. It looks like perfectly good weather now, but if not we are asked to go on Monday instead."
There was a sound of delight and surprise in the schoolroom.
"I am asked to give you this very pleasant invitation from your schoolmate, Alice Dean," continued Miss Marshall. "It is her father's yacht, the Starlight, on which she has made so many voyages. You will all like to see it. I am sure that we shall have a delightful day together."
All the teachers were smiling, as all their scholars were. Alice Dean, the plain girl in a brown dress, was blushing with excitement. All her schoolmates knew that the young stranger at school had only come to pay a long visit to her invalid aunt, and that her mother was dead, and she had lived a wandering life with her father, who was a very rich man. It was wholly delightful, this day of pleasure that she had planned to give the school, but some of them felt a little embarrassed.
Luckily the morning session must drag its slow course until recess. Then things felt a little easier, and most of the girls went at once to Alice Dean's desk, and told her how glad they should be to go.
"Oh, I shall be so glad to have you!" she cried, eagerly. "I can go all over the yacht by myself. I know it better than a house, and in the bay here she will be just as steady! Papa thought it would be so nice to have the girls come when I asked him," and they chattered together happily until recess was over.
Mary Leonard was quite friendly now, but Hattie West looked very cross. Alice looked at her many times, rather sorrowfully; for the first time something made her pity poor Hattie.
"I don't care a bit!" she said once to herself. "She tried to keep all the girls from being nice to me. I wonder what aunty would think? I wonder if Hattie really wants to go?"
After school she happened to meet Hattie West face to face in the entry. "I hope you can go to-morrow," said the young hostess, timidly. Each was trying to escape from the other, if the truth were known.
"Oh, thank you!" Hattie was much confused. "I should love to go if - if you really want me to. I shouldn't think you would."
"Oh, yes, they're all going," answered Alice, cheerfully, running down the steps. She did not wait for Mary leonard or even the Kennards, whom she had grown to like very much, they were such pleasant, friendly girls!
Mrs. Sheldon looked up with a smile as her young niece came hurrying into the beautiful great room where she always sat. The girl's face, which had been so dull and gloomy a little while before, was bright enough now.
"Can you make up your party for to-morrow?" her aunt asked her.
"Every single one is coming, all the teachers and all the girls, big and little, the Kennards' brother and some of his friends, too!" announced Alice, triumphantly. "Old Captain Dunn told me as I came up the street that the Starlight is in, she lies in the lower harbor, and will come up late this afternoon with the tide. I asked him to go with us, too, to-morrow; I knew that papa would like it. He said that he should love to look the Starlight over, and spend a good long day aboard."
The plain, brown girl was radiant with pleasure.
"Stop, my dear. I wish to ask you something else. Is it all right about - about those girls with whom you were not on good terms?"
"You mean Hattie West, don't you, aunty?" answered Alice, honestly. "Yes, I asked her, and she said she should like to come. We haven't been very good friends; how could we be? But when it came to her being left out and our all going without her, I knew what you would say. And Mary Leonard, her great friend, has been put out with her lately. I didn't want to say anything to Hattie, at first, but I did."
"That's my dear girl!" said Mrs. Sheldon, smiling, and Alice went dancing away.
The next afternoon the Starlight was sailing along among the green islands with the fresh sea wind, and every one on board was happy. They had just finished a capital luncheon in the big dining cabin, and had come on deck again. Alice's father was so handsome and generous and kind. He had always known Miss Marshall, the head teacher, but he did not seem to forget the comfort of the least little girl or boy on board, and it was the happiest of holidays.
Alice Dean herself was the happiest of young hostesses. She was no longer timid and shy with the other girls.
Just as she was stopping for a moment, standing alone to look at a tiny island which they were passing, somebody, touched her arm and stood at her side. "Oh, isn't it cool and lovely!" she said, without looking round.
"Alice, won't you speak to me?" begged Hattie West. "I think it was so good of you to let me come to-day, after - "
Alice turned to look at her; she could not think what to say. Suddenly she thought of a Bible verse that had never seemed to mean anything before: "I was a stranger, I was a stranger." She could hardly help saying the touching words aloud.
"I suppose it was hard to have a new girl come to school when you all knew each other so well," she managed to say, simply. "I did feel counted out at first. I've lived alone a good deal with papa, but that was different. It's awfully hard for anybody to be left out. I was afraid none of the girls liked me. But Aunt Annie said I mustn't think of that; only to be as nice as I could to them."
"Why, you have been, Alice," whispered Hattie West, then. "I don't know what made me act so. I'm ashamed enough now. You didn't seem just like us. You seemed - I didn't want the girls to like you, and now - now I like you myself! I liked you before you had this chance to make me the one to feel left out, and then didn't take it."
At this moment Mary Leonard joined them. She saw by their faces that something had touched their hearts. They made believe that they were only watching the sheep on the little green island, and Mary leaned over the rail and began to watch, too. There is nothing happier in the world than being friends.
Illustrations for "Counted Out"
These illustrations are available courtesy of the St. Lawrence University Library in Canton, NY. The drawing is by William Frederick Stecher (1864-1940). Born in Boston, Stecher studied in Paris and in Dusseldorf. He was a painter and illustrator who exhibited in Boston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. (Source: Who Was Who in American Art,1985). The drawing is reproduced from a microfilm reader using a Konica digital camera.
Alice turned to look at her.
"Counted Out" appeared in Youth's Companion (77:646-647) on December 24, 1903, where the story was illustrated by W. F. Stecher.
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The Starlight: A boat of this name also appears in Jewett's Betty Leicester.
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"I was a stranger": See Matthew 25:35-36.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers