These Happy Golden Years (Chaprer 26)
These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Through a March snowstorm Laura rode to town with Pa in the bobsled, to take the teachers’ examinations. There was no school that day, so Carrie and Grace stayed at home.
Winter had been pleasant on the claim, but Laura was glad that spring was coming soon. Vaguely as she rode in the nest of blankets on the hay, she thought of the pleasant winter Sundays with the family and Almanzo in the cosy sitting room, and she looked forward to long drives again through the summer sunshine and wind; she wondered if Barnum would still be gentle after the long winter in a stable.
As they neared the schoolhouse, Pa asked if she were nervous about the examinations.
“Oh, no,” she answered through the frosty veil. “I am sure I can pass. I wish I were as sure of getting a school I will like.”
“You could have the Perry school again,” said Pa.
“I would rather have a larger one with more pay,” Laura explained.
“Well,” Pa said cheerfully as they stopped at the schoolhouse, “the first bridge is the examinations, and here we are! Time enough to cross the next bridge when we come to it.”
Laura was impatient with herself because she felt timid when she went into the room full of strangers. Nearly every desk was occupied, and the only person she knew was Florence Wilkins. When she touched Florence’s hand, she was startled; it was cold as ice, and Florence’s lips were pale from nervousness. Laura felt so sorry for her that she forgot her own timidity.
“I’m scared,” Florence said in a low, shaking voice. “All the others are old teachers, and the examination is going to be hard. I know I’ll never pass.”
“Pooh! I bet they’re scared, too!” Laura said. “Don’t worry; you’ll pass all right. Just don’t be frightened. You know you’ve always passed examinations.”
Then the bell rang, and Laura faced the lists of questions. Florence was right; they were hard. Working her way through them, Laura was tired when intermission came. By noon she felt her own heart failing; she began to fear she would not get a certificate, but she worked doggedly on until at last she was through. Her last paper was collected with the others, and Pa came to take her home.
“I don’t know, Pa,” she said in answer to his question. “It was harder than I expected, but I did the best I could.”
“No one can do better than that,” Pa assured her.
At home, Ma said that no doubt it would be all right. “Now don’t fret! Forget about it until you hear the results of the examinations.”
Ma’s advice was always good, but Laura repeated it to herself every day and almost every hour. She went to sleep telling herself: “Don’t worry,” and wake up thinking with dread: “The letter may come today.”
At school, Florence had no hope for either of them. “It was too hard,” she said. “I’m sure only a few of the oldest teachers passed it.”
A week went by, with no word. Laura hardly expected Almanzo to come that Sunday, for Royal was sick with the grippe. Almanzo did not come. There was no letter on Monday. There was no letter on Tuesday.
A warm wind had melted the snow to slush and the sun was shining, so on Wednesday Pa did not come for Laura. She and Carrie and Grace walked home. The letter was there; Pa had got it that morning.
“What does it say, Ma?” Laura cried as she dropped her coat and crossed the room to pick up the letter.
“Why, Laura!” Ma said in astonishment. “You know I’d no more look at another person’s letter than I’d steal.”
With shaking fingers Laura tore the envelope and took out a teacher’s certificate. It was a second-grade one. “It’s better than I expected,” she told Ma. “The most I hoped for was third grade. Now if I can only have the good luck to get the right school!”
“A body makes his own luck, be it good or bad,” Ma placidly said. “I have no doubt you will get as good as you deserve.”
Laura had no doubt that she would get as good a school as she could get, but she wondered how to make herself the good luck to get the one she wanted. She thought about little else that night, and she was still thinking about it next morning when Florence came into the schoolroom and came directly to her.
“Did you pass, Laura?” she asked.
“Yes, I got a second-grade certificate,” Laura answered.
“I didn’t get any, so I can’t teach our school,” Florence said soberly, “but this is what I want to tell you: You tried to help me, and I would rather you taught our school than anyone else. If you want it, my father says you may have it. It is a three months’ school, beginning the first of April, and it pays thirty dollars a month.”
Laura could hardly get the breath to answer, “Oh, yes! I do want it.”
“Father said, if you did, to come and see him and the board will sign the contract.”
“I will be there tomorrow afternoon,” Laura said. “Thank you, Florence, so much.”
“Well, you have always been so nice to me, I am glad of a chance to pay some of it back,” Florence told her. Laura remembered what Ma had said about luck, and she thought to herself: “I believe we make most of our luck without intending to.”