PROFESSOR LEE

MARIAN asked no questions the following morning until she was on her
way to the station with Uncle George. “Where am I going?” she finally
ventured.

“Where you passed the summer last year,” was the reply. “How does that
suit you?”

“Suit me,” repeated Marian, “nothing ever suited me better. I’m pretty
glad I’m going there. Why didn’t you send me back to school, Uncle
George? School won’t be out for two months. I’m glad you didn’t, but
why?”

“Well, sis, you told me you wanted to go to the country school.”

“Yes, but—-”

“Now’s your chance,” interrupted the man, “learn all you can and try to
do some one thing better than any one else in school, will you?”

“Well, but Uncle George, big boys and big girls go to country schools.”

“What of it, Marian? You do some one thing better than any one else in
school, and when you come home this fall you may choose any book you
wish at the book store, and I will buy it for you.”

“But, Uncle George, how will you know whether I really do something
better than any one else or not?”

“I’ll take your word for it, Marian.”

“My word is true,” the child remarked with dignity.

“No doubt about it,” added Uncle George, turning away to hide a smile.

Just as the train pulled into the station, Marian caught a glimpse of a
small blue butter-fly. It fluttered away out of sight as Uncle George
said “good-bye.” “Oh, I hate to leave that butter-fly,” exclaimed
Marian, and those were the last words Uncle George heard as he left
her. The passengers smiled, but Uncle George looked thoughtful. There
was so much to be seen from the car windows and so many folks to
wonder about within the car, the journey seemed short.

Two young ladies welcomed Marian at the train, hugging and kissing her
the minute the small feet touched the platform. “I guess folks will
think you’re some relation to me,” laughed the child.

“So we are,” replied Miss Ruth Golding. “We are your cousins.”

“Certainly,” agreed Miss Kate, “your Uncle George knew us when we were
little girls, so of course we are your cousins.”

“Of course!” echoed Marian, “and I know my summer of happiness has
begun this day in April.”

“Your troubles have begun, you mean,” warned Miss Ruth; “the
school-teacher boards with us and you’ll have to toe the mark.”

“Oh, goody!” exclaimed Marian. “I can walk to school with her.”

“You won’t say ‘goody’ when you see the lady,” predicted Miss Kate.
“She’s as sober as a judge, very quiet, and keeps to herself.”

“What’s the matter with her?” asked Marian.

“She’s lived in the city all her life and eaten books,” explained Ruth.
“She eats them, Marian, covers, binding, pictures and everything. Too
bad, but maybe you’ll get used to it. Here is mother coming to meet
you, and here comes Carlo.”

Marian ran ahead to throw her arms around Mrs. Golding’s neck. “I am so
glad they sent me back to you,” she cried. “I didn’t say anything about
it to my aunt because she would have sent me somewhere else. It doesn’t
do to let her know when you’re too happy. She isn’t a bit like you, not
a bit.”

“No, I think not,” was the response. “You see, dear, your neighbor,
Mrs. Russel, is one of my old friends, and she has told me so much
about your aunt I feel as if I know her. I am sure we are not alike.”

“Why, I should say not!” laughed Marian. “Why she’s as thin as–as
knitting needles, and you’re as plump as new pin cushions. Won’t we
have fun this summer, though? Well, Carlo, old fellow. Didn’t forget
Marian, did he? Nice old doggie.”

“Down, sir!” Mrs. Golding commanded. “He is so glad to see you, Marian,
he can’t express his feelings without trying to knock you over.”

“I wish Uncle George owned a dog,” commented Marian; “there’d always
be some one glad to see you when you got home. I like dogs. Does the
teacher come home at noon, Mrs. Golding?”

“No, sometimes we don’t see her until supper time. She won’t be such
jolly company for you as my girls. She’s too quiet.”

“Is she cross, Mrs. Golding?”

“No, oh, no indeed.”

“Then I shall like her,” was the quick reply.

There were callers in the late afternoon, so Marian wandered out alone.
She had gone but a short distance down the lane when she saw dandelions
ahead. She gathered a handful of the short-stemmed blooms and walked
on. In the distance she heard a bluebird singing. Marian ran to find it
and was rewarded by a flash of glorious blue as the bird sought a tree
across the river. Marian followed it as far as she could, being obliged
to stop at the river’s bank. As she stood gazing after the bird, she
was startled by a woman’s voice.

“What have you in your hand, little girl?”

Turning, Marian saw a young lady sitting on a log near by. “Just
dandelions,” the child replied, and would have hidden the bunch behind
her if the young lady had not forbidden it.

“We all love dandelions, little girl,” she said; “come and show them to
me.”

Marian wonderingly obeyed.

“Did you ever look at a dandelion through a microscope?” continued the
young lady.

“No, I never did.”

The stranger passed Marian a microscope and asked her to tell what she
saw.

“Oh, I never knew a dandelion was like this,” said Marian; “why there
are a thousand little blossoms in it all crowded together, and they are
the goldenest golden ever was! Oh, oh, oh! Wasn’t it lucky you were
here so I could see through your microscope? What if I had never seen
that dandelion!”

“Would you like to borrow the microscope often?” asked the young lady,
smiling so pleasantly Marian straightway decided that she was pretty.

“Well, I should say yes, Miss–Miss–you see I don’t know what your
name is?”

“Oh, that’s so, I am Miss Smith, Miss Virginia Smith. Who are you?”

“My name,” was the reply, “is Marian Lee, but who I am I don’t really
know.”

Miss Smith repressed her curiosity, believing that Marian was the
little girl the Goldings were to meet that day.

“It’s everything to have a name,” said she.

“Yes, but I’d like some relatives,” Marian explained, “some real
sisters and cousins and aunts of my own.”

“Why don’t you do as Hiawatha did?” Miss Smith suggested.

“You mean play all the birds and squirrels are my brothers and sisters?
I think I will. I’ll be little sister to the dandelion.”

Miss Smith laughed with Marian. “I’ll do the same thing,” said she,
“and if we are sisters to the dandelion, you must be my little sister
and I’m your big sister and all the wild flowers belong to our family.”

“It’s a game,” agreed Marian. “I suppose little Indian children picked
dandelions in the spring-time before Columbus discovered America.”

“There were no dandelions then to pick,” Miss Smith remonstrated. “The
plant was brought here by white men. Its name is from the French,
meaning lion’s tooth.”

“I don’t see anything about a dandelion to mean lion’s tooth,” objected
Marian; “do you?”

“No, I don’t, Marian, nor does any one know exactly how it came by
its name. Some believe it was given to the plant because its root is
so white; then again, in the old days lions were pictured with teeth
yellow as dandelion blossoms. The explanation I like best is that the
dandelion was named after the lion because the lion is the animal that
used to represent the sun, and all flowers named after him are flowers
of the sun.”

“Do you know anything more about dandelions?” questioned Marian.

“If I don’t,” said Miss Virginia Smith, smiling as she spoke, “it isn’t
because there is nothing more to learn. Did you ever hear the dandelion
called the shepherd’s clock?”

“No, Miss Smith, never. Why should they call it that?”

“Because the dandelion is said to open at five and close at eight.”

“Well!” exclaimed Marian, “I guess you could write a composition about
dandelions.”

“Possibly,” was the laughing response. “As far as that goes, Marian,
there isn’t a thing that grows that hasn’t a history if you take the
time and trouble to hunt it up.”

“Skunk cabbages?” suggested Marian.

“Yes, ‘skunk cabbages,'” was the reply. “What flowers do you suppose
are related to it?”

“I don’t know, unless Jack-in-the-pulpit, maybe, is it?”

“That’s right, guess again.”

“I’ll have to give up, Miss Smith. I never saw anything except
Jack-in-the-pulpit that looks a bit like old skunk cabbage.”

“The calla lily, Marian, what do you think of that?”

“I don’t know, Miss Smith, but such things happen, of course, because
Winnie Raymond has a horrible looking old Uncle Pete, and Winnie’s
awful pretty herself. But how do you know so much about plants?”

“By reading and observation, Marian.”

“Are there many books about wild flowers, Miss Smith?”

“More than we can ever read, little girl. Better than that the country
around this village is a garden of wild flowers. Down by the old mill
and on the hills, in the fields and woods and along the river bank, we
shall find treasures from now on every time we take the shortest walk.”

“Oh, dear,” grumbled Marian, “isn’t it too bad I’ve got to go to
school?”

“Why don’t you like to go to school, child?”

“At home I do, on account of recesses. I don’t like the school part of
it much, but here it would be recess all the time if I could go in
the woods with you, besides having a good time with the Golding girls
and playing all day long where I don’t get scolded. Dear! I wish I
didn’t have to go to school, or else I wish they’d have lessons about
birds and flowers and butterflies and little animals, instead of old
arithmetic. I hate arithmetic.”

“Do you?” sympathized Miss Smith. “That’s too bad, because we all need
to understand arithmetic.”

“I don’t,” protested Marian. “I don’t even think arithmetic thoughts.”

“Some day, Marian, you will wish you understood arithmetic,” said Miss
Smith. “Now if you and I went for a walk and we saw ten crows, three
song sparrows, five bluebirds, seven chipping sparrows and twenty-seven
robins, and Mrs. Golding asked us when we got home how many birds we
saw, I wonder how you would feel if you couldn’t add?”

“Well, but don’t you see,” interrupted Marian, “I could add birds, yes
and subtract and multiply and divide them. That’s different. What I
don’t like is just figures and silly arithmetic things.”

“Well, Marian, I may as well tell you now that I’m the school-teacher
and we’ll have arithmetic stories about birds and flowers and little
animals.”

“Oh, are you the teacher?” exclaimed Marian. “I thought she
was–was–different, you know.”

“Different, how?”

“Well, they told me the teacher was–was quiet.”

“So she is, usually,” agreed Miss Smith, “but this afternoon she met
one of her own folks. This little sister to the dandelion.”

“Won’t we have fun!” was Marian’s comment.

MISS VIRGINIA SMITH knew how to teach arithmetic. Fractions lost
their terror for Marian, even the mysteries of cube root were eagerly
anticipated. History became more than ever a living story to the child,
and geography was a never failing joy. On rainy days every stream and
puddle between Mrs. Golding’s home and the schoolhouse was named, and
if several Mississippi Rivers emptied into Gulfs of Mexico, and if
half a dozen Niles overflowed their banks over the country road, what
difference did it make? When the sun shone bright and only dew-drops
glistened in the shade, Marian saw deserts and plains, mountains and
volcanoes along the dusty way.

For a time the game of geography became so absorbing Marian played it
at the table, forming snowy peaks of mashed potatoes and sprinkling
salt upon the summits until the drifts were so deep, only the valleys
below were fit to be eaten. Brown gravy was always the Missouri River
winding its way across Marian’s plate between banks of vegetables. Ice
cream meant Mammoth Cave. A piece of pie was South Africa from which
the Cape of Good Hope quickly disappeared. However hungry Marian might
be, there was a time when she ate nothing but continents and islands.

Whatever Miss Virginia Smith tried to teach the country children,
Marian Lee appropriated for herself. She listened to all recitations
whether of the chart class or the big boys and girls. Perhaps if Marian
had attended more strictly to her own lessons, she might have made the
kind of a record she thought would please Uncle George. As it was,
Jimmie Black “Left off head” in the spelling class more times than she
did, the first month. Belle Newman had higher standings in arithmetic
and geography, and some one carried off all the other honors.

Marian, however, knew something about botany before the end of May,
and she gloried in the fact that she could name all the bones in her
body. Mr. Golding was proud of her accomplishment and once when she
went with him to see old Bess newly shod, he asked her to name the
bones for the blacksmith: and the blacksmith thought it wonderful that
a little girl knew so much. “Yes, but that’s nothing,” remarked the
child, “all the big boys and girls in the fifth reader class know their
bones.”

“Ain’t you in the fifth reader?” asked the blacksmith.

“No,” was the reply, “I can read the whole reader through, but I’m
not in that reader class. That’s the highest class in the country. I
suppose being in the fifth reader here is like being in the high school
at home just before you graduate. I won’t have to learn bones when I
get up to the high school.”

“And still you say that ain’t nothing,” protested the blacksmith.

Marian shook her head. “I haven’t done one thing in school better’n
anybody else,” she said, “and to do something better’n anybody else
is all that counts. Don’t you try to be the best blacksmither in the
country?”

Old Bess flourished her tail in the blacksmith’s face and the man spoke
to her next instead of to Marian. He wasn’t the best blacksmith and he
knew it. Some years afterwards when he had won an enviable reputation,
he told Mr. Golding that the first time he thought of trying to do
unusually good work was when the little Lee girl asked him if he tried
to be the best blacksmith in the country.

Concerning botany, Miss Smith knew that Marian was interested in the
wild flowers and had told her many a legend of wayside blooms when
walking with her through the fields and across the hills: but she
had no idea how much the child had learned from listening to the
recitations of the botany class, until the Saturday morning when the
wax doll went to school. Miss Smith happened to pass the corn-crib
unnoticed by teacher or pupil.

The doll was propped in an attitude of attention among the ears of corn.

“Now, little girl,” the instructor was saying, “if you ever expect to
amount to anything in this world, you’ve got to use your eyes and
ears. I’m the Professor of Botany your mother was reading about last
night, who knew nothing about botany until she began to study it. Next
winter when we can’t get outdoors, I am going to give you lessons on
seeds and roots and things and stems and leaves. The Professor of
Botany has got to learn the names of the shapes of leaves and how to
spell them. She really ought to own a book but she doesn’t, and that
can’t be helped. You’re sure to get what you want some time though, if
you only try hard enough, and the Botany Professor will get a book. You
just wait.

“Don’t think, little girl, because we are skipping straight over
to flowers this morning that you are going to get out of learning
beginnings. We’re taking flowers because it is summer. Of course you
know this is a strawberry blossom I hold in my hand. Well, if it
wasn’t for strawberry blossoms you couldn’t have strawberry shortcake,
remember that. That’s the principal thing about strawberries. This
little circle of white leaves is called the corolla. Now don’t get the
calyx mixed with the corolla as some children do. I tell you it makes
me feel squirmy to hear some big girls recite. You ought to see this
flower under a microscope. I guess I’ll go and ask Professor Smith for
hers.”

Marian turned around so quickly Professor Smith was unable to get out
of sight. The doll’s instructor felt pretty foolish for a moment, but
only for a moment.

“Marian Lee,” said Miss Smith, “you shall join the botany class next
Monday morning and I’ll give you a book of mine to study.”

“What will the big girls say?” gasped Marian.

“About as much as your doll in there,” laughed Miss Smith, adding
seriously, “I won’t expect too much of you, Marian, but you may as well
be in the class and learn all you can.”

On Monday morning, although the big girls smiled and the little girls
stared, Professor Lee became a member of the botany class and learned
to press the wild flowers.

“I won’t have the most perfect lessons of anybody in the class,”
Marian confided to her doll, “because the big girls know so much; but
I’ll try and have the best specimens in my herbarium. I can do that, I
am sure. I have just got to do something better than any one else in
school before I go home.”

The following Saturday the doll listened with unchanging face to a
confession. “Every one of the big girls can press specimens better than
I can. Their violet plants look like pictures but mine look like hay.
I guess Uncle George will be discouraged. I don’t do anything best. A
robin is building a nest just outside the window where my seat is in
school and I forgot to study my spelling lesson. Of course I missed
half the words. It was the robin’s fault. She ought to keep away from
school children.”