Bessie’s seatmate, a girl named Nora, about Bessie’s own age, was very mischievous. She did so many things deserving punishment that the teacher was often perplexed to know what course to take with her. Some one has said that “misery likes company.” This was certainly true of Nora. She knew that the teacher and Bessie were good friends, and she longed to see Bessie get into trouble and receive some punishment. Knowing that Bessie tried hard to obey the rules of the school, Nora saw that she should have to lay some cunning plan or she should not realize her wish. She began to watch for an opportunity.
A streamlet ran past the schoolhouse. While Bessie and Nora were playing near it one day, Bessie fell down in some mud. Just as she fell, the school-bell rang and they had to hurry back to their lessons. Fearing that some of the mud might have splattered on her face, Bessie asked if her face was clean. Nora answered quickly, “Oh yes; do hurry up.” Nora felt that her chance had come, and she made up her mind to get her seatmate into trouble, if possible. Hurrying into the schoolroom, she whispered to one of the boys, telling him to ask Bessie as she passed what was the matter with her face, but to say nothing more. When Bessie came down the aisle, she saw this boy looking at her with an amused expression, and gave him close attention. As she passed him, he whispered, “Bessie, what is the matter with your face?” and then turned quickly away. Fully convinced that her face was dirty, Bessie sat down very much ashamed. Nora knew how her seatmate would feel and prepared herself for the question that she was sure would be asked. As it was time for the writing-lesson, she stuck her finger in inks of different colors; and, when Bessie asked where her face was dirty, she quickly pointed out the places, each time leaving a large spot of ink. Bessie, wholly unconscious of the ink-spots on her face, thought what a dreadful sight she must be, and asked permission of the teacher to wash. When the teacher turned, she saw, not mud, but ugly ink-spots. Supposing that Bessie had put them there, she shook her head. Her surprise was great. She felt that she ought to do something about it; but, being undecided, she turned away.
Bessie became much worried; for many eyes were turned upon her, and some of the pupils were laughing. She wanted to hide, but could not, and kept wondering why a little mud should cause so much amusement. One girl, Anna, tried secretly to pass her a wet handkerchief, but this Nora quickly caught from her and hid. Poor Bessie was now ready to cry, and again asked permission to wash her face; but her teacher answered, “No; you must go to writing.”