When they arrived, they found that Mary Erskine had got every thing ready for the school.
Good teachers and proper conveniences for study, tend very much, it is true, to facilitate the progress of pupils in all attempts for the acquisition of knowledge. But where these advantages cannot be enjoyed, it is astonishing how far a little ingenuity, and resolution, and earnestness, on the part of the pupil, will atone for the deficiency. No child need ever be deterred from undertaking any study adapted to his years and previous attainments, for want of the necessary implements or apparatus, or the requisite means of instruction. The means of supplying the want of these things are always at the command of those who are intelligent, resolute, and determined. It is only the irresolute, the incompetent, and the feeble-minded that are dependent for their progress on having a teacher to show them and to urge them onward, every step of the way.
When Mary Bell and Bella returned home they found that Mary Erskine had made all the preparations necessary for the commencement of the school. She had made a desk for the two children by means of the ironing-board, which was a long and wide board, made very smooth on both sides. This board Mary Erskine placed across two chairs, having previously laid two blocks of wood upon the chairs in a line with the back side of the board, in such a manner as to raise that side and to cause the board to slope forward like a desk. She had placed two stools in front of this desk for seats.
Upon this desk, at one end of it, the end, namely, at which Bella was to sit, Mary Erskine had placed a small thin board which she found in the shop, and by the side of it a piece of chalk. This small board and piece of chalk were to be used instead of a slate and pencil.
At Mary Bell’s end of the desk there was a piece of paper and a pen, which Mary Erskine had taken out of her work-table. By the side of the paper and pen was Bella’s picture-book. This picture-book was a small but very pretty picture-book, which Mary Bell had given to Bella for a present on her birth-day, the year before. The picture-book looked, as it lay upon the desk, as if it were perfectly new. Mary Erskine had kept it very carefully in her work-table drawer, as it was the only picture-book that Bella had. She was accustomed to take it out sometimes in the evening, and show the pictures to Bella, one by one, explaining them at the same time, so far as she could guess at the story from the picture itself, for neither she herself, nor Bella, could understand a word of the reading. On these occasions Mary Erskine never allowed Bella to touch the book, but always turned over the leaves herself, and that too in a very careful manner, so as to preserve it in its original condition, smooth, fresh, and unsullied.