“De bigger dat you see de smoke
De less de fire will be,
And de leastest kind ob possum
Climbs de biggest kind ob tree.
“De nigger at de camp-groun’
Dat kin loudest sing an’ shout,
Am gwine ter rob some hen-roos’
Befo’ de week am out.”
Thus, often, from a bud seemingly withered and dead, would unexpectedly blossom out an unknown flower of startling brilliancy and unprecedented attractiveness.
SUNLIGHT AND DARKNESS IN PALACE AND COTTAGE.
My pupils at the reform school were from the dens and hovels of the Bowery, while those at S—— were from the palaces of Fifth Avenue; but to my utter astonishment, the children of the slums were morally and perhaps intellectually superior to those of the plutocrats. I was occasionally the guest of both the poverty-stricken and the millionaire parents of my scholars, and I verily believe that I saw as much depravity and misery in the abodes of the rich as in those of the poor.
On my arrival in Berkshire County, I found both of my employers were off on a spree, and that I was ordered to do the work of receiving and organizing. One day, a princely equipage with liveried coachman and outrider halted at the schoolroom door, a “bloated bondholder” and his wife, arrayed in purple, fine linen, and diamonds, pulled a flashily appareled, humpbacked boy up to me, every lineament of whose face showed depravity and cunning. “There,” said the father, “is my d—— d son, he drinks, swears, and breaks all the commandments every day. Take him, and send the bill to me.” He handed me his card and away they went.
This was not an isolated case. I did my best for them; but they were satiated with luxury, hated books, and seemed to care for nothing but debauchery. The very next day several of these scamps obtained permission to visit the cave in “Bear Mountain,” where ice could be found throughout the year. As they did not return on time, I went in search and found them all drunk. They had no appreciation of the sun-kissed mountains, waving forests, or verdure-clad valleys; the grand scenery awakened no responsive smiles, no ennobling aspirations; they were intent upon nothing but drowning their ignoble souls in the noxious fumes of tobacco and alcohol. I tumbled them into the wagon, drove them to their dormitory and put them to bed, lower than the beasts they seemed to be in their depravity; not all to be sure, for there were a few choice spirits like Julian Hawthorn, who followed to some extent the example of his illustrious father, and has won his spurs in literature.
I found to my disgust that bad eggs would ruin the good ones; but that many good ones could not take the rottenness from even one of the bad. It seemed a hopeless task to endeavor to inspire such impoverished souls, and I retired in despair, to accept the principalship of the ancient academy in the village.