“Good morning!” said the young man, removing his cap, coat, and overshoes. Some nodded, dumb with timidity. Only a few little ones had the bravery to speak up, as they gave back the words in a tone that would have fitted a golden text. He came to the roaring stove and stood a moment, warming his hands. A group of the big boys were in a corner whispering. Two were sturdy and quite six feet tall,—the Beach boys.
“Big as a bull moose,” one whispered,
“An’ stouter,” said another.
The teacher took a pencil from his pocket and tapped the desk.
“Please take your seats,” said he.
All obeyed. Then he went around with the roll and took their names, of which there were thirty-four.
“I believe I know your name,” said Trove, smiling, as he came to Polly Vaughn.
“I believe you do,” said she, glancing up at him, with half a smile and a little move in her lips that seemed to ask, “How could you forget me?”
Then the teacher, knowing the peril of her eyes, became very dignified as he glanced over the books she had brought to school. He knew it was going to be a hard day. For a little, he wondered if he had not been foolish, after all, in trying a job so difficult and so perilous. If he should be thrown out of school, he felt sure it would ruin him—he could never look Polly in the face again. As he turned to begin the work of teaching, it seemed to him a case of do or die, and he felt the strength of an ox in his heavy muscles.
The big boys had settled themselves in a back corner side by side—a situation too favourable for mischief. He asked them to take other seats. They complied sullenly and with hesitation. He looked over books, organized the school in classes, and started one of them on its way. It was the primer class, including a half dozen very small boys and girls. They shouted each word in the reading lesson, laboured in silence with another, and gave voice again with unabated energy. In their pursuit of learning they bayed like hounds. Their work began upon this ancient and informing legend, written to indicate the shout and skip of the youthful student:—
“You’re afraid,” the teacher began after a little. “Come up here close to me.”
They came to his chair and stood about him. Some were confident, others hung back suspicious and untamed.
“We’re going to be friends,” said he, in a low, gentle voice. He took from his pocket a lot of cards and gave one to each.
“Here’s a story,” he continued. “See—I put it in plain print for you with pen and ink. It’s all about a bear and a boy, and is in ten parts. Here’s the first chapter. Take it home with you to-night—”
He stopped suddenly. He had turned in his chair and could see none of the boys. He did not move, but slowly took off a pair of glasses he had been wearing.