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Why Pickle Gave the German Teacher A Present

by Laura F. Fitch

 

Pickle had waked in high spirits. That was unlucky, in the first place, for Pickle's high spirits always bubbled over before the day ended into some deed of mischief. Then, Miss Prim had a headache, and could not appear in the school-room. That was unlucky, too, for the new German teacher was to arrive that morning, and she would not be able to introduce him to the girls, and enjoin upon them attention and obedience. To be sure, Miss Meek, the assistant-principal, undertook to perform all necessary ceremonies, but then the girls never minded Miss Meek. In the third place, the new teacher was queer-looking. That was the most unfortunate circumstance of all, and was really to blame for the whole affair.

"What business," Pickle wrathfully demanded of her friend Sally, "has a man, even if he is a German, to come to a girls' boarding-school looking like a guy?"

Sally, who was trying to dispose of two thick slices of bread and butter before recitation, was too much occupied to answer.

But Pickle was not particular about an answer, and continued, nodding her head in the direction of the hall: "Look at him out there, now. Such a great broad-shouldered man. And then see how he blushes. And do just look at that long curly hair, 'way down to his shoulders. Gracious! I should think he'd be ashamed of it."

Pickle evidently resented the teacher's fine curls, which were too long for a man, as a personal insult to herself, it being one of the sorrows of her life that her own thick hair was kept cropped by her mother's orders.

"I know I sha'n't like him," she added to herself, as the unfortunate possessor of the obnoxious curls entered the room.

He was not naturally a nervous man, he thought, but he had never taught girls before, and he found the calm, cool scrutiny to which he was being subjected by every member of the class something formidable. He would rather teach fifty boys, he said to himself, than these fifteen girls.

Pickle, from her desk, watched the new teacher's every movement. She laughed to see him nervously twist his feet around the leg of the chair, while a smile of scorn played over her lips when he ran his fingers through his waving locks.

"Sal," she whispered, "ain't he too funny for anything, though? I hope he speaks English with an accent; that is, if he ever gets the courage to speak at all."

These disrespectful whispers, though inaudible to Herr Müller, were terminated by his speaking at that moment. In the very mildest possible tones he asked, "Vill some young lady haf ze goodness to acquaint me eggsactly how far ze class haf read in ze book?"

"Oh, he's as meek as Moses, and speaks worse than Professor Schultz used to!" was Pickle's murmured comment upon this speech; while Alice Smith rose to say that the class had read as far as the twenty-fourth page, fifteenth line.

"No, we haven't, either," immediately exclaimed Pickle. Then, as Herr Müller looked inquiringly at her, "We only got to the fourteenth line. I just mentioned it," she added, as the girls tittered, "because you wanted to know eggsactly."

Herr Müller frowned, but judged it best to take no notice of this speech, merely saying to the speaker, "Vill you haf ze goodness to read a leetle?"

Pickle knew he was addressing her, but she ignored the request, and gazed blankly before her. Sally nudged her, whispering, "Pickle, he means you."

"He must address me by my name, then."

"Why, how can he, when he doesn't know what it is?"

"That's his look-out," was the reply.

Herr Müller, perceiving that every one else in the room knew whom he was addressing, exclaimed, impatiently, "Vill ze young lady wiz ze very short hair please to read?"

Unconscious Herr Müller knew not what mortal offense he had given, as Pickle quickly arose, glibly read as far as desired, and then sat down, boiling with indignation.

"'Very short hair!'" she muttered to Sally. "Maybe it is; but it can grow, I guess; anyway, it's no disgrace. But as for his curls, hair like that is a disgrace to any man."

"Yes, indeed," assented Sally; "his curls are only fit for a girl. They'd look nice, now, on you, Pickle."

Pickle replied to this apparently innocent speech with a withering glance. The next moment, however, her face lighted up with an idea.

The door of the class-room opened, and Miss Meek entered to say that some new German books had arrived, and to request Herr Müller to come and look at them. No sooner had the door closed behind the two teachers than Pickle exclaimed aloud, "I've forgotten my translation book," and also left the room. Sally was suspicious of this errand. Pickle often forgot her books, yet seldom took the trouble to go for them, unless sent. But when she came into the class-room again, with several others who had also seized this opportunity of walking out, she seemed hardly to merit her friend's suspicions. She paused a moment by the teacher's desk, and then took her seat.

In a few minutes Herr Müller's step outside caused all the girls to scramble to their seats, so that when he entered they sat as quiet and demure as though they had not stirred during his absence. He took his seat, and opened his book again at the lesson, when the girls saw him suddenly flush up to the roots of his hair, and run his fingers nervously through his long curls. He next removed a small package that had evidently been lying in his book, and laid it on the side of the desk. In so doing, something fell out of the package on to the floor, and showed itself to the wondering girls to be a hair-pin. Thereupon some of the girls giggled, others smiled, and all involuntarily fastened their gaze on the teacher's flowing hair.

Sally turned to Pickle. "How could you do it?" she whispered to her companion, whose face, flushed with the effort to restrain her mirth, was alarmingly red.

"What do you mean?" returned Pickle, with an unconscious air.

The next minute Miss Meek again entered, this time with an inkstand for the teacher's desk. In placing it she evidently saw the bundle of hair-pins, for she looked indignantly around the class before leaving the room, while Herr Müller once more flushed a rosy red.

"She'll tell that to Miss Prim, Pickle—see if she don't," whispered Sally, anxiously, to her friend.

"Do you think so?" queried Pickle, hastily; then, with marked indifference, "Yes, I suppose she will. I wonder if she'll find out who did it?"

"Oh, you needn't try to deceive me; as if I didn't know who did it!" returned the other.

"Do you?" was the only reply she got to her attempt at confidence.

This provoked Sally. "Yes, I do; and Miss Prim'll find out, too, without much telling—you can be sure of that."

Miss Prim did find out, but not without any telling. Pickle wisely determined to forestall all investigations. She went privately to the grieved Miss Prim, and announced herself as the culprit.

Although Miss Prim punished Pickle at the time for her disrespect, the kind-hearted girl—for she was kind-hearted in spite of her love of mischief—was much more severely punished by her own conscience when, a few days later, she learned why Herr Müller allowed his curly locks to grow down over his shoulders.

A brave young soldier in the German army, he had, during the siege of Metz, left the shelter of the trenches, and in the face of almost certain death rushed across the open ground where shot, shell, and bullets fell thick as hail, to snatch up and bring safely back in his strong arms a little child. It was a blue-eyed four-year-old girl who, terror-stricken and bewildered by the death of her parents and the awful firing, had wandered from one of the crumbling houses outside the walls of the city. When the soldiers in the trenches first saw her she was standing irresolute but unharmed amid the storm of flying death that swept across the plain.

Just as he reached the trenches with his precious burden the young soldier was hurled to the ground badly wounded, and apparently dead. A fragment of a bursting shell had struck him on the back of the neck. Although he lived and finally recovered, a terrible and unsightly scar remained, and was only hidden from sight by the thick curls that Pickle had so despised.

The brave soldier had adopted the child he had saved, and it was to provide means for her support that he now taught German in Miss Prim's school.

You may be sure that after this the little Elsie and her adopted father had no firmer friend nor warmer admirer than Pickle, who through them had learned a lesson that she never forgot.