Excerpt from "School Days at the Convent" by George Sand
1 We had been out about an hour, spying into the garden, looking down on a great part of the courts and buildings, and carefully hiding behind chimneys whenever we saw a black-veiled nun, who might have raised her head and seen us in the clouds, when we asked ourselves how we should get back. The arrangement of the roofs had allowed us to step or jump down. Going up was not so easy. I think it would have been impossible without a ladder. We scarcely knew where we were. At last we recognized a parlor boarder’s window, Sidonie Macdonald’s, the celebrated general’s daughter. It could be reached by a final jump, but would be more dangerous than the others.
2 I jumped too hurriedly, and caught my heel in a flat skylight, through which I should have fallen thirty feet into a hall, if by chance my awkwardness had not made me swerve. I got off with two badly flayed knees, but did not give them a second thought. My heel had broken into a part of the sash of that deuced window, and smashed half a dozen panes, which dropped with a frightful crash quite near the kitchen entrance. A great noise arose at once among the lay sisters, and through the opening I had just made, we could hear Sister Theresa’s loud voice screaming, "Cats!" and accusing Whisky—Mother Alippe’s big tom-cat—of fighting with all his fellows, and breaking all the windows in the house. But Sister Mary defended the cat’s morals, and Sister Helen was sure that a chimney had fallen on the roof.
3 This discussion started the nervous giggle that nothing can stop in little girls. We heard the sisters on the stairs, we should be caught in the very act of walking on the roofs, and still we could not stir to find refuge. Then I discovered that one of my shoes was gone,—that it had dropped through the broken sash into the kitchen hall. Though my knees were bleeding, my laughter was so uncontrollable that I could not say a word, but merely showed my unshod foot and explained what had happened by dumb show. A new explosion of laughter followed, although the alarm had been given and the lay sisters were near.
4 We were soon reassured. Being sheltered and hidden by overhanging roofs, we could hardly be discovered without getting up to the broken window by a ladder, or following the road we had taken. And that was something we could safely challenge any of the nuns to do. So when we had recognized the advantage of our position, we began to meow, so that Whisky and his family might be accused and convicted in our stead. Then we made for the window of Sidonie, who did not welcome us. The poor child was practicing on the piano, and paying no attention to the feline howls vaguely striking her ear. She was delicate and nervous, very gentle, and quite incapable of understanding what pleasure we could find in roaming over roofs. As she sat playing, her back was turned to the window; and when we burst into it in a bunch, she screamed aloud. We lost little time in quieting her. Her cries would attract the nuns; so we sprang into the room and scampered to the door, while she stood trembling and staring, seeing all the strange procession flit by without understanding it nor recognizing any one of us, so terrified was she.
5 In a moment we had all dispersed: One went to the upper room whence we had started, and played the piano with might and main; another took a round-about way to the schoolroom. As for me, I had to find my shoe, and secure that piece of evidence, if I still had the time. I managed to avoid the lay sisters, and to find the kitchen entry free. And indeed I found the lucky shoe, where it had fallen in a dark corner and not been seen. Whisky alone was accused.