"Of course," she answered. "Why don't you ask David to come too?"
When we were settled in front of her fireplace, I began. "I don't know how much David has told you--"
"Only the bare facts."
"Then I'll begin at the beinning, if I may." And I described it all, beginning with the mud on the steps, through my losing my temper so completely after the buckeye trick.
"Well, don't condemn yourself for that," David protested. "Who wouldn't have lost their temper? I certainly would! Miss Alice, I wish you could have seen that scene. Priceless! Christy, so fragile looking, wading into that hulk of a boy. I'm proud of you, Christy. And believe me, I intend to stay clear of that strong right arm of yours!"
I laughed a bit shakily. ""Thanks, David, but let's talk about the real problem. Who would make a special trip to the schoolhouse for the deliberate purpose of tearing up new books? And why?"
Miss Alice's gray eyes beneath the shining blond braids were thoughtful. "Perhaps because to a certain type of person back here, anything new and strange poses a personal threat."
"I don't understand how new books pose any threat."
"New schoolhouse... new books... new starry-eyed teacher wtih a head full of plans for the future who's constantly talking about them. I don't know-- I'm only guessing. But for some, that may add up to a threat to the only way of life they've ever known."
"Then is it wrong to have so many new ideas?"
"Of course not!" David said quickly. "Stop condemning yourself. I like you when you're fired up."
Miss Alice only smiled.
"But how can we find out who tore up the books?" I persisted. "And I did lose my temper today. So how can I get order and discipline back in my classroom now?"
"You already have it back," David answered. "You saw how good everyone was for the rest of the day. Even Lundy was docile."
"Not docile. Surly."
"Well, manageable, at least. It won't happen again. But if there ever should be any more episodes, then 'm for asking Lundy Taylor to leave school. I'm not sure he has the brains for school anyway."
"But David, I wouldn't like to expel anyone. That really would be a failure."
All at once I realized that Miss ALice was saying nothing at all. I recognized one of her quiet moments; that was when she had her best thoughts. "I'd like your comments," I prodded.
"All right, Christy. You've mentioned your anger. I disagree with you, David, that Christy should be applauded for what she did. Christy's own deepest instinct tells her that the anger didn't finally solve aything. Perhaps it would help, Christy, if you recognized why you got so furious. Do you know?"
"Well, I guess because-- No, I really don't know. What do you mean 'Why'?"
"I believe it was because the new books were the product of your latest brain, child, thoughtfully conceived, brought to birth with flair and success. Those books are a tangible token of a triumph of self-- therefore dear to your heart. True, you undertook the trip to Knoxville to help other people, but self went, self wore a ravishing hat, self sold her cause to an interesting wealthy man. Therefore, when the books were slashed, it was as if you yourself were slashed."
David was looking at Miss Alice in amazement-- as if he wanted to argue with her. But her words had hit home. In my heart I knew she was right. Yet that only made me feel more despairing. I wondered again if I really belonged here. I had thought that love was the answer for Mountie O'Teale, for all my classroom. Perhaps love had not solved anything after all.
"Don't look so woebegone," Miss Alice smiled at me. "No need to be so discouraged, Christy," she continued. "Have you ever watched a baby learning to walk? He totters, arms stretched out to balance himself. He wobbles-- and falls, perhaps bumps his nose. Then he puts the palms of his little hands flat on the floor, hikes his rear end up, looks around to see if anybody is watching him. If nobody is, usually he doesn't bother to cry, just precariously balances himself-- and tries again."
I smiled at the picture.
"Well, the baby can teach us. What you've undertaken here in Cutter Gap in your schoolroom isn't a state of perfection to be arrived at all of a sudden. It's a walk, and a walk isn't static but ever-changing. We Friends say that all discouragement is from an evil source and can only end in more evil. Wallowing in self-condemnation or feeling sorry for yourself is worse than falling on your face in the first place. So-- thee fell into a temper! So thee is human. Thank God for thy humanness."
-Taken from Christy, by Catherine Marshall; Chapter 18, pages 222-224