Brie, who’s self appointed task of late has been to mind everyone else’s business, announces that Jennie’s turn was up.
Jennie makes an unpleasant face. “I have a…” She frowns more. “I have a part of a person,” she concludes dubiously.
“Person, place, or thing,” cuts in Brie. “If you say a part of a person, you’ve already given it away.”
“That’s fine by me,” counters Jennie a little frostily.
“Is it a head?” pipes in Maggie.
Brie looks at Amelia pleadingly. Amelia responds by making a soothing movement with her hand.
“It’s not a head,” says Jennie.
After a moment of thought, Clara asks, “Is it on someone’s head?”
“No,” says Jennie.
A new voice pipes up, “Is it a hand or a foot?”
Wide-eyed, Maggie asks, “Can we guess two things at once?”
“You can’t,” stresses Brie.
“It has to be a heart, then,” claims Ida.
Jennie nods and stands up, but looks to Amelia for permission before she begins to recite her words in quick succession with neither tone nor pause between words, “ ‘Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.’ Psalm 27 verse 14.” She bobs slightly as she starts to retake her seat, but then catches herself and waits for her teacher’s response.
Amelia believes Jennie participates only because there is little other alternative on a Sunday. But, she is participating, and she had selected and memorized a verse. Her oration still left much to be desired. Amelia is certain Jennie has gleaned no meaning or significance from the exercise. On top of this concern, all the girls are well familiar with Amelia’s standards when it came to oral recitation. Jennie has clearly disregared those standards and Amelia is bound to gently correct her.
“Gertie?” Amelia requests, “Could you verify the verse?”
Gertie holds the large Bible on its spine, parting the pages in half and then letting each half of the book fall gently open. Since Psalms was in the center of the Bible, this method almost always opened the Bible to the Book of Psalms. Amelia had taught all the girls this trick, since the younger girls were instructed to look in Psalms for a memory verse for Sunday afternoons. For the next few minutes, there is the quiet turning of pages while Gertie finds Psalm 27. “Perhaps you should recite the verse for Gertie again, Jennie. This time, speak a little more slowly. Gertie, when you see a stop on the page, hold up a hand and Jennie will pause. The pauses help the listener absorb the words, and learning and practicing them ensures that the speaker has reflected on the meaning of what she is to recite. Mind Gertie’s signal as you speak, Jennie. I expect the verse to be delivered with the appropriate pauses.”
“Yes, Miss Hall,” replies Jennie. To her credit, she takes the correction without letting sourness taint her voice or manners. This in itself is great progress for the young girl who had been full of nothing but sullen bitterness all of last year. Jennie recites again, speaking the words slowly, and pausing when Gertie raises her hand. Of course, the two girls were not completely in synch, yet the effort was made and Amelia was satisfied.
“Well done, Jennie,” Amelia offers sincerely. “It is a mark of maturity to attempt a task a second time with the earnest will to improve upon one’s first efforts. You may copy your verse in the record book, being careful of the spelling and the markings.”
“I think it’s my turn,” says Clara. A few soft sighs fill the room. Clara is well noted for choosing words from verses that met all requirements, and yet prove very difficult to guess. Brie looks as if she is contemplating sitting on Maggie during the next round of questions. “Mine is a thought.”
Someone mutters about being at this until Monday. “Tuesday,” comes the soft correction from another corner of the room.
“A thought?” clarifies Amelia. “Do you mean a concept or an idea?”
“Yes, Miss Hall. I thought classifying that as a thing would be misleading.”
Hoping to encourage some of the long faces around the room, Amelia says, “The Bible is full of many noble ideas. I’m sure the ladies can think of a few of those morals with a little reflection.”
A few of the girls do pause to think; a few look like they have already given up. Many eyes dart from peer to peer, to see if anyone else was coming up with an idea.
“Like honesty?” asks Olivia, who always waited before speaking, only volunteering when it seemed no one else was likely to.
“Honesty is a moral,” confirms Amelia, glad that someone might have started the ball rolling, and hoping that her interventions hadn’t led the girls astray. She checks the verses of girls who are younger, or who are new to Lancaster, but Clara certainly didn’t need supervision. “Is it honesty, Clara?”
“No, Miss Hall,” answers Clara dutifully.
“Have we interpreted your category correctly?” asks Amelia next.
“Yes, Miss Hall.”
Nodding, Amelia holds up two fingers for the two questions she had asked.
“Faith?” asks Maggie. “Faith is in the Bible a lot, right? What?” she demands of Brie. “Miss Hall guessed!”
“Shhh!” comes from several lips at once as Maggie’s excitement translates into volume once again.
“It isn’t faith,” answers Clara.
Another long pause follows.
“Honor,” says another girl. “ ‘Honor thy father and thy mother.’ “
“It isn’t honor.”
“Covet,” is the next guess, as the second girl mentally skips ahead a few commandments.
Seeing a glimmer of hope, Brie asks, “Is it found in the Ten Commandments?”
Clara takes a moment to think, doing her best to remember the Ten Commandments. “ I don’t think so….”
Brie’s eyes narrow with the challenge. “Is it something that the Lord…Is it something that the Lord tells us to do?”
Clara thinks again. “No, I’m pretty sure it isn’t.”
“Is it,” asks Ida, “something that Jesus says?” To Brie, she asks, “Is that the same sort of question?”
“It isn’t something Jesus says,” responds Clara as Brie shrugs.
Mollie glances to Amelia to see how many fingers she is holding up. “Only seven?” she says in disbelief. “I think Maggie should just start guessing. We’re never going to get this one anyway.” Murmurs of agreement met this suggestion.
“Patience,” guesses Maggie. “I know patience has to be in the Bible. I’m pretty sure I had to memorize a verse with patience in it, but I don’t remember it now.”
“Not patience,” says Clara while the room fills with muffled giggles.
“Tame the tongue,” spouts Maggie. “I think I had to memorize that one too.”
“Remember, memory,” another guess is called out.
“No,” answers Clara to both questions and looks for herself to see the question tally. Nearly all other eyes follow Clara’s glance. Amelia holds up both hands with all her fingers splayed open.
”Follow?” comes a random guess.
“That isn’t a moral,” objects another.
“At this point, who cares,” defends a third. “It counts as a question.”
Amelia smiles. The girls complained about Clara’s choices, but yet it was Clara’s impossible picks that always livened up the conversation and pulled in the most participants.
“Not following,” states Clara.
“Love,” chimes in another guesser. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.”
“No,” says Clara.
“Clara would never have picked a verse so easy even you know it,” teases another.
Amelia calls the room back to order with a single word. “Ladies,” she calmly reminds them.
After another frustrated pause, Brie asks the room, “It’s a moral. What moral’s are we always hearing Mrs. Becker lecture us on?” She quickly instructs Clara, “these don’t count as guesses yet, we’re just thinking out loud.”
NW Day 16, Friday: Lovely Last Day
1 year ago