Guest post by Annika Barranti
Being away from home is hard on Laura, but she is too proud to say anything to Ma and Pa. Still, Pa knows her better than anyone and asks if she doesn’t want to “make a clean breast of it.”
Afraid that her folks will not let her return to the Brewsters’ if she tells them about Mrs. Brewster—and Laura cannot imagine going back on her word and leaving before the term is up—she tells Pa only of the troubles she is having with the children at school.
Pa’s advice to Laura is to find a way to manage Clarence, rather than try to boss him. Ma, oh wise and gentle Ma, suggests that Clarence just wants attention and that if Laura makes sure he doesn’t get it, he’ll change his ways. (Funny how this has become conventional wisdom but it never seems to work for me…)
After a happy, comfortable weekend at home, Almanzo drives Laura back to the Brewsters’ place. He says, “I’ve got an idea it’s pretty tough, staying at Brewster’s,” and Laura excuses her discomfort as homesickness.
It’s funny how much I’m fixated on it, re-reading this chapter, but Laura downplays her own feelings so much; in her place now, 130 years later, I would not have stayed for two days and would have no compunction going back on my word given such bad living conditions. Granted, I am quite a bit older than she was. Still, times and expectations sure were different, and it seems to me that Laura was an exceptional girl even for her time.
Laura realizes when Almanzo drops her off with a “Good-by till Friday!” that he may be hoping to become her beau. She does not dwell on it at the time, but (spoiler alert!) brings it up again in the following chapter. Funny that she’s only just noticed that he likes her.
So how does Laura manage Clarence? Wisely, she begins by managing the younger, easier to understand students. Ruby and Tommy often fight over their spelling book, so Laura rewards them for their good recitations by allowing them to take turns writing their spelling words on the blackboard, allowing the other child to use the book. Martha struggles with grammar, so Laura goes over the lesson with her at lunchtime so as not to take time away from the other lessons. Clarence finds out that she studies at night to keep up with her class in town, and he is impressed.
And as for Clarence, he is so far behind Martha and Charles in history, Laura gives him a special (and shameful) assignment: a mere three pages. It takes just until Friday for Clarence, taking his cue from Laura and studying at night, to catch up with the rest of the class.
Mischief: managed. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)