“Wal, I ain’t said nuthin’ I’m ’shamed of,” said Sam Beach, thoughtfully.
A bell rang, and all hurried to the schoolhouse. The afternoon was uneventful. Those rough-edged, brawny fellows had become serious. Hope had died in their breasts, and now they looked as if they had come to its funeral. They began to examine their books as one looks at a bitter draught before drinking it. In every subject the teacher took a new way not likely to be hard upon tender feet. For each lesson he had a method of his own. He angled for the interest of the class and caught it. With some a term of school had been as a long sickness, lengthened by the medicine of books and the surgery of the beech rod. They had resented it with ingenious deviltry. The confusion of the teacher and some incidental fun were its only compensations. The young man gave his best thought to the correction of this mental attitude. Four o’clock came at last—the work of the day was over. Weary with its tension all sat waiting the teacher’s word. For a little he stood facing them.
“Tom Linley and Joe Beach,” said he, in a low voice, “will you wait a moment after the others have gone? School’s dismissed.”
There was a rush of feet and a rattle of dinner pails. All were eager to get home with the story of that day—save the two it had brought to shame. They sat quietly as the others went away. A deep silence fell in that little room. Of a sudden it had become a lonely place.
The teacher damped the fire and put on his overshoes.
“Boys,” said he, drawing a big silver watch, “hear that watch ticking. It tells the flight of seconds. You are—eighteen, did you say? They turn boys into oxen here in this country; just a thing of bone and muscle, living to sweat and lift and groan. Maybe I can save you, but there’s not a minute to lose. With you it all depends on this term of school. When it’s done you’ll either be ox or driver. Play checkers?”
“I’ll come over some evening, and we’ll have a game. Good night!”
The Tinker at Linley School
Every seat was filled at the Linley School next morning. The tinker had come to see Trove and sat behind the big desk as work began.
“There are two kinds of people,” said the teacher, after all were seated—“those that command—those that obey. No man is fit to command until he has learned to obey—he will not know how. The one great thing life has to teach you is—obey. There was a young bear once that was bound to go his own way. The old bear told him it wouldn’t do to jump over a precipice, but, somehow, he couldn’t believe it and jumped. ’Twas the last thing he ever did. It’s often so with the young. Their own way is apt to be rather steep and to end suddenly. There are laws everywhere,—we couldn’t live without them,—laws