ELIZABETH ANN FAILS IN AN EXAMINATION
 I WONDER if you can
guess the name of a little girl who, about a
month after this, was walking along through the melting snow
in the woods with a big black dog running circles
around her. Yes, all alone in the woods with a
terrible great dog beside her, and yet not a bit
afraid. You don't suppose it could be Elizabeth Ann? Well,
whoever she was, she had something on her mind, for
she walked more and more slowly and had only a
very absent-minded pat for the dog's head when he thrust
it up for a caress. When the wood road led
into a clearing in which there was a rough little
house of slabs, the child stopped altogether, and, looking down,
began nervously to draw lines in the snow with her
 You see, something perfectly dreadful had happened
in school that day. The Superintendent, the all-important, seldom-seen Superintendent,
came to visit the school and the children were given
some examinations so he could see how they were getting
Now, you know what an examination did to Elizabeth
Ann. Or haven't I told you yet?
Well, if I
haven't, it's because words fail me. If there is anything
horrid that an examination didn't do to Elizabeth Ann, I
have yet to hear of it. It began years ago,
before ever she went to school, when she heard Aunt
Frances talking about how she had dreaded examinations when she
was a child, and how they dried up her mouth
and made her ears ring and her head ache and
her knees get all weak and her mind a perfect
blank, so that she didn't know what two and two
made. Of course Elizabeth Ann didn't feel all those things
right off at her first examination, but by the time
she had had several and had rushed to tell Aunt
Frances about how awful they were
 and the
two of them had sympathized with one another and compared
symptoms and then wept about her resulting low marks, why,
she not only had all the symptoms Aunt Frances had
ever had, but a good many more of her own
Well, she had had them all and had them
hard this afternoon, when the Superintendent was there. Her mouth
had gone dry and her knees had shaken and her
elbows had felt as though they had no more bones
in them than so much jelly, and her eyes had
smarted, and oh, what answers she had made! That dreadful
tight panic had clutched at her throat whenever the Superintendent
had looked at her, and she had disgraced herself ten
times over. She went hot and cold to think of
it, and felt quite sick with hurt vanity. She who
did so well every day and was so much looked
up to by her classmates, what must they be thinking
of her! To tell the truth, she had been crying
as she walked along through the woods, because she was
so sorry for herself. Her eyes were
 all red still, and her throat sore from the big lump
And now she would live it all over
again as she told the Putney cousins. For of course
they must be told. She had always told Aunt Frances
everything that had happened in school. It happened that Aunt
Abigail had been taking a nap when she got home
from school, and so she had come out to the
sap-house, where Cousin Ann and Uncle Henry were making syrup,
to have it over with as soon as possible. She
went up to the little slab house now, dragging her
feet and hanging her head, and opened the door.
Ann, in a very short old skirt and a man's
coat and high rubber boots, was just poking some more
wood into the big fire which blazed furiously under the
broad, flat pan where the sap was boiling. The rough,
brown hut was filled with white steam and that sweetest
of all odors, hot maple syrup. Cousin Ann turned her
head, her face very red with the heat of the
fire, and nodded at the child.
 "Hello, Betsy,
you're just in time. I've saved out a cupful of
hot syrup for you, all ready to wax."
heard this, although she had been wild about waxed sugar
on snow ever since her very first taste of it.
"Cousin Ann," she said unhappily, "the Superintendent visited our school
"Did he?" said Cousin Ann, dipping a thermometer
into the boiling syrup.
"Yes, and we had examinations!"
"Did you?" said Cousin Ann, holding the thermometer
up to the light and looking at it.
know how perfectly awful examinations make you feel," said Betsy,
very near to tears again.
"Why, no," said Cousin Ann,
sorting over syrup tins. "They never made me feel awful.
I thought they were sort of fun."
Betsy, indignantly, staring through the beginnings of her tears.
yes. Like taking a dare, don't you know. Somebody stumps
you to jump off the
 hitching-post, and you
do it to show 'em. I always used to think
examinations were like that. Somebody stumps you to spell 'pneumonia,'
and you do it to show 'em. Here's your cup
of syrup. You'd better go right out and wax it
while it's hot."
Elizabeth Ann automatically took the cup in
her hand, but she did not look at it. "But
supposing you get so scared you can't spell 'pneumonia' or
anything else!" she said feelingly. "That's what happened to me.
You know how your mouth gets all dry and your
knees . . . " She stopped. Cousin Ann had
said she did not know all about those things. "Well,
anyhow, I got so scared I could hardly stand up!
And I made the most awful mistakesthings I know just
as well! I spelled 'doubt' without any b and 'separate'
with an e, and I said Iowa was bounded on
the north by Wisconsin, and I . . . "
"Oh, well," said Cousin Ann, "it doesn't matter if you
really know the right answers, does it? That's the important
 This was an idea which had never
in all her life entered Betsy's brain and she did
not take it in at all now. She only shook
her head miserably and went on in a doleful tone.
"And I said 13 and 8 are 22! and I
wrote March without any capital M, and I . .
"Look here, Betsy, do you want to tell
me all this?" Cousin Ann spoke in this quick, ringing
voice she had once in a while which made everybody,
from old Shep up, open his eyes and get his
wits about him. Betsy gathered hers and thought hard; and
she came to an unexpected conclusion. No, she didn't really
want to tell Cousin Ann all about it. Why was
she doing it? Because she thought that was the thing
to do. "Because if you don't really want to," went
on Cousin Ann, "I don't see that it's doing anybody
any good. I guess Hemlock Mountain will stand right there
just the same even if you did forget to put
a b in 'doubt.' And your syrup will be too
cool to wax right if you don't take it out
 She turned back to stoke the
fire, and Elizabeth Ann, in a daze, found herself walking
out of the door. It fell shut after her, and
there she was under the clear, pale-blue sky, with the
sun just hovering over the rim of Hemlock Mountain. She
looked up at the big mountains, all blue and silver
with shadows and snow, and wondered what in the world
Cousin Ann had meant. Of course Hemlock Mountain would stand
there just the same. But what of it? What did
that have to do with her arithmetic, with anything? She
had failed in her examination, hadn't she?
She found a
clean white snow-bank under a pine-tree, and, setting her cup
of syrup down in a safe place, began to pat
the snow down hard to make the right bed for
the waxing of the syrup. The sun, very hot for
that late March day, brought out strongly the tarry perfume
of the big pine-tree. Near her the sap dripped musically
into a bucket, already half full, hung on a maple-tree.
A blue-jay rushed suddenly through the upper branches of the
 screaming and chattering voice sounding like
noisy children at play.
Elizabeth Ann took up her cup
and poured some of the thick, hot syrup out on
the hard snow, making loops and curves as she poured.
It stiffened and hardened at once, and she lifted up
a great coil of it, threw her head back, and
let it drop into her mouth. Concentrated sweetness of summer
days was in that mouthful, part of it still hot
and aromatic, part of it icy and wet with melting
snow. She crunched it all together with her strong, child's
teeth into a delicious, big lump and sucked on it
dreamily, her eyes on the rim of Hemlock Mountain, high
above her there, the snow on it bright golden in
the sunlight. Uncle Henry had promised to take her up
to the top as soon as the snow went off.
She wondered what the top of a mountain would be
like. Uncle Henry had said the main thing was that
you could see so much of the world at once.
He said it was too queer the way your own
house and big barn and great fields looked like little
toy things that weren't
 of any account. It
was because you could see so much more than just
the . . .
She heard an imploring whine, and
a cold nose was thrust into her hand! Why, there
was old Shep begging for his share of waxed sugar.
He loved it, though it did stick to his teeth
so! She poured out another lot and gave half of
it to Shep. It immediately stuck his jaws together tight,
and he began pawing at his mouth and shaking his
head till Betsy had to laugh. Then he managed to
pull his jaws apart and chewed loudly and visibly, tossing
his head, opening his mouth wide till Betsy could see
the sticky, brown candy draped in melting festoons all over
his big white teeth and red gullet. Then with a
gulp he had swallowed it all down and was whining
for more, striking softly at the little girl's skirt with
his forepaw. "Oh, you eat it too fast!" cried Betsy,
but she shared her next lot with him too. The
sun had gone down over Hemlock Mountain by this time,
and the big slope above her was all deep blue
shadow. The mountain looked much higher now as the
 dusk began to fall, and loomed up bigger and
bigger as though it reached to the sky. It was
no wonder houses looked small from its top. Betsy ate
the last of her sugar, looking up at the quiet
giant there, towering grandly above her. There was no lump
in her throat now. And, although she still thought she
did not know what in the world Cousin Ann meant
by saying that about Hemlock Mountain and her examination, it's
my opinion that she had made a very good beginning
of an understanding.
She was just picking up her cup
to take it back to the sap-house when Shep growled
a little and stood with his ears and tail up,
looking down the road. Something was coming down that road
in the blue, clear twilight, something that was making a
very queer noise. It sounded almost like somebody crying. It
was somebody crying! It was a child crying. It was
a little, little girl . . . . Betsy could
see her now . . . stumbling along and crying
as though her heart would break. Why, it was little
Molly, her own particular charge at school, whose
 reading lesson she heard every day. Betsy and Shep ran
to meet her. "What's the matter, Molly? What's the matter?"
Betsy knelt down and put her arms around the weeping
child. "Did you fall down? Did you hurt you? What
are you doing 'way off here? Did you lose your
"I don't want to go away! I don't want
to go away!" said Molly over and over, clinging tightly
to Betsy. It was a long time before Betsy could
quiet her enough to find out what had happened. Then
she made out between Molly's sobs that her mother had
been taken suddenly sick and had to go away to
a hospital, and that left nobody at home to take
care of Molly, and she was to be sent away
to some strange relatives in the city who didn't want
her at all and who said so right out . . .
Oh, Elizabeth Ann knew all about that! and
her heart swelled big with sympathy. For a moment she
stood again out on the sidewalk in front of the
Lathrop house with old Mrs. Lathrop's ungracious white head bobbing
 window, and knew again that ghastly feeling
of being unwanted. Oh, she knew why little Molly was
crying! And she shut her hands together hard and made
up her mind that she would help her out!
Do you know what she did, right off, without thinking about
it? She didn't go and look up Aunt Abigail. She
didn't wait till Uncle Henry came back from his round
of emptying sap buckets into the big tub on his
sled. As fast as her feet could carry her she
flew back to Cousin Ann in the sap-house. I can't
tell you (except again that Cousin Ann was Cousin Ann)
why it was that Betsy ran so fast to her
and was so sure that everything would be all right
as soon as Cousin Ann knew about it; but whatever
the reason was it was a good one, for, though
Cousin Ann did not stop to kiss Molly or even
to look at her more than one sharp first glance,
she said after a moment's pause, during which she filled
a syrup can and screwed the cover down very tight:
"Well, if her folks will let her stay, how would
 to have Molly come and stay
with us till her mother gets back from the hospital?
Now you've got a room of your own, I guess
if you wanted to you could have her sleep with
"Oh, Molly, Molly, Molly!" shouted Betsy, jumping up
and down, and then hugging the little girl with all
her might. "Oh, it will be like having a little
Cousin Ann sounded a dry, warning note: "Don't be
too sure her folks will let her. We don't know
about them yet."
Betsy ran to her, and caught her
hand, looking up at her with shining eyes. "Cousin Ann,
if you go to see them and ask them, they
This made even Cousin Ann give a little abashed
smile of pleasure, although she made her face grave again
at once and said: "You'd better go along back to
the house now, Betsy. It's time for you to help
Mother with the supper."
The two children trotted back along
the darkening wood road, Shep running before them, little Molly
clinging fast to the older child's
 hand. "Aren't
you ever afraid, Betsy, in the woods this way?" she
asked admiringly, looking about her with timid eyes.
said Betsy, protectingly; "there's nothing to be afraid of, except
getting off on the wrong fork of the road, near
the Wolf Pit."
"Oh, ow!" said Molly, scringing. "What's
the Wolf Pit? What an awful name!"
Betsy laughed. She
tried to make her laugh sound brave like Cousin Ann's,
which always seemed so scornful of being afraid. As a
matter of fact, she was beginning to fear that they
had made the wrong turn, and she was not quite
sure that she could find the way home. But she
put this out of her mind and walked along very
fast, peering ahead into the dusk. "Oh, it hasn't anything
to do with wolves," she said in answer to Molly's
question; "anyhow, not now. It's just a big, deep hole
in the ground where a brook had dug out a
cave. . . Uncle Henry told me all about it
when he showed it to me . . . and
then part of the roof caved in; sometimes there's ice
in the corner of the covered
 part all the summer, Aunt Abigail says."
"Why do you call
it the Wolf Pit?" asked Molly, walking very close to
Betsy and holding very tightly to her hand.
ever so long ago, when the first settlers came up
here, they heard a wolf howling all night, and when
it didn't stop in the morning, they came up here
on the mountain and found a wolf had fallen in
and couldn't get out."
"My! I hope they killed him!"
"Oh, gracious! that was more than a hundred
years ago," said Betsy. She was not thinking of what
she was saying. She was thinking that if they were
on the right road they ought to be home by
this time. She was thinking that the right road ran
down hill to the house all the way, and that
this certainly seemed to be going up a little. She
was wondering what had become of Shep. "Stand here just
a minute, Molly," she said. "I want . . .
I just want to go ahead a little bit and
see . . .
 and see . . ." She darted on around a curve of the road
and stood still, her heart sinking. The road turned there
and led straight up the mountain!
For just a moment
the little girl felt a wild impulse to burst out
in a shriek for Aunt Frances, and to run crazily
away, anywhere so long as she was running. But the
thought of Molly standing back there, trustfully waiting to be
taken care of, shut Betsy's lips together hard before her
scream of fright got out. She stood still, thinking. Now
she mustn't get frightened. All they had to do was
to walk back along the road till they came to
the fork and then make the right turn. But what
if they didn't get back to the turn till it
was so dark they couldn't see it . . .
? Well, she mustn't think of that. She ran back,
calling, "Come on, Molly," in a tone she tried to
make as firm as Cousin Ann's. "I guess we have
made the wrong turn after all. We'd better . . ."
But there was no Molly there. In the
 brief moment Betsy had stood thinking, Molly had disappeared.
The long, shadowy wood road held not a trace of
Then Betsy was frightened and then she did begin
to scream, at the top of her voice, "Molly! Molly!"
She was beside herself with terror, and started back hastily
to hear Molly's voice, very faint, apparently coming from the
ground under her feet.
"Ow! Ow! Betsy! Get me out!
Get me out!"
"Where are you?" shrieked Betsy.
know!" came Molly's sobbing voice. "I just moved the least
little bit out of the road, and slipped on the
ice and began to slide and I couldn't stop myself
and I fell down into a deep hole!"
felt as though her hair were standing up straight on
end with horror. Molly must have fallen down into the
Wolf Pit! Yes, they were quite near it. She remembered
now that big white-birch tree stood right at the place
where the brook tumbled over the
 edge and
fell into it. Although she was dreadfully afraid of falling
in herself, she went cautiously over to this tree, feeling
her way with her foot to make sure she did
not slip, and peered down into the cavernous gloom below.
Yes, there was Molly's little face, just a white speck.
The child was crying, sobbing, and holding up her arms
"Are you hurt, Molly?"
"No. I fell into
a big snow-bank, but I'm all wet and frozen and
I want to get out! I want to get out!"
Betsy held onto the birch-tree. Her head whirled. What should
she do! "Look here, Molly," she called down, "I'm going
to run back along to the right road and back
to the house and get Uncle Henry. He'll come with
a rope and get you out!"
At this Molly's crying
rose to a frantic scream. "Oh, Betsy, don't leave me
here alone! Don't! Don't! The wolves will get me! Betsy,
don't leave me alone!" The child was wild with terror.
 "But I can't get you out myself!" screamed
back Betsy, crying herself. Her teeth were chattering with the
"Don't go! Don't go!" came up from the darkness
of the pit in a piteous howl. Betsy made a
great effort and stopped crying. She sat down on a
stone and tried to think. And this is what came
to her mind as a guide: "What would Cousin Ann
do if she were here? She wouldn't cry. She would
think of something."
Betsy looked around her desperately. The first
thing she saw was the big limb of a pine-tree,
broken off by the wind, which half lay and half
slantingly stood up against a tree a little distance above
the mouth of the pit. It had been there so
long that the needles had all dried and fallen off,
and the skeleton of the branch with the broken stubs
looked like . . . yes, it looked like a
ladder! That was what Cousin Ann would have done!
a minute! Wait a minute, Molly!" she called wildly down
the pit, warm all over in
 excitement. "Now
listen. You go off there in a corner, where the
ground makes a sort of roof. I'm going to throw
down something you can climb up on, maybe."
it'll hit me!" cried poor little Molly, more and more
frightened. But she scrambled off under her shelter obediently, while
Betsy struggled with the branch. It was so firmly imbedded
in the snow that at first she could not budge
it at all. But after she cleared that away and
pried hard with the stick she was using as a
lever she felt it give a little. She bore down
with all her might, throwing her weight again and again
on her lever, and finally felt the big branch perceptibly
move. After that it was easier, as its course was
down hill over the snow to the mouth of the
pit. Glowing, and pushing, wet with perspiration, she slowly maneuvered
it along to the edge, turned it squarely, gave it
a great shove, and leaned over anxiously. Then she gave
a great sigh of relief! Just as she had hoped,
it went down sharp end first and stuck fast in
 which had saved Molly from broken
bones. She was so out of breath with her work
that for a moment she could not speak. Then, "Molly,
there! Now I guess you can climb up to where
I can reach you."
Molly made a rush for any
way out of her prison, and climbed, like the little
practised squirrel that she was, up from one stub to
another to the top of the branch. She was still
below the edge of the pit there, but Betsy lay
flat down on the snow and held out her hands.
Molly took hold hard, and, digging her toes into the
snow, slowly wormed her way up to the surface of
It was then, at that very moment, that
Shep came bounding up to them, barking loudly, and after
him Cousin Ann striding along in her rubber boots, with
a lantern in her hand and a rather anxious look
on her face.
She stopped short and looked at the
two little girls, covered with snow, their faces flaming with
excitement, and at the black hole gaping behind them. "I
always told Father we ought
 to put a
fence around that pit," she said in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Some day a sheep's going to fall down there. Shep
came along to the house without you, and we thought
most likely you'd taken the wrong turn."
Betsy felt terribly
aggrieved. She wanted to be petted and praised for her
heroism. She wanted Cousin Ann to realize . . .
oh, if Aunt Frances were only there, she would realize
. . . !
"I fell down in the hole,
and Betsy wanted to go and get Mr. Putney, but
I wouldn't let her, and so she threw down a
big branch and I climbed out," explained Molly, who, now
that her danger was past, took Betsy's action quite as
a matter of course.
"Oh, that was how it happened,"
said Cousin Ann. She looked down the hole and saw
the big branch, and looked back and saw the long
trail of crushed snow where Betsy had dragged it. "Well,
now, that was quite a good idea for a little
girl to have," she said briefly. "I guess you'll do
to take care of Molly all right!"
She spoke in
her usual voice and immediately
 drew the children
after her, but Betsy's heart was singing joyfully as she
trotted along clasping Cousin Ann's strong hand. Now she knew
that Cousin Ann realized. . . . She trotted fast,
smiling to herself in the darkness.
"What made you think
of doing that?" asked Cousin Ann presently, as they approached
"Why, I tried to think what you would
have done if you'd been there," said Betsy.
Cousin Ann. "Well . . ."
She didn't say another
word, but Betsy, glancing up into her face as they
stepped into the lighted room, saw an expression that made
her give a little skip and hop of joy. She
had pleased Cousin Ann.
That night, as she lay in
her bed, her arm over Molly cuddled up warm beside
her, she remembered, oh, ever so faintly, as something of
no importance, that she had failed in an examination that