As for Jerome, he had to stand in the middle of the floor, a spectacle unto the school, folded in his father’s coat, which had, alas! two buttons torn off, and a three-cornered rag hanging from one tail, which fluttered comically in the draught from the door; but nobody dared laugh. There was infinite respect, if not approbation, for Jerome in the school that day. Some of the big boys scowled, and one girl said out loud, “It’s a shame!” when the teacher ordered him to stand in the floor. Had he rebelled, the teacher would have had no support, but Jerome took his place in the spot indicated, with a grave and scornful patience. The greatness of his triumph made him magnanimous. It was clearly evident to his mind that ’Lisha Robinson and not he should stand in the floor, and that he gained a glory of martyrdom in addition to the other.
Jerome had never felt so proud in his life as when he stood there, in his father’s old coat, having established his right to wear it without remark by beating the biggest boy in school. He stood erect, equally poised on his two feet, looking straight ahead with a grave, unsmiling air. He looked especially at no one, except once at his sister Elmira. She had just raised her head from the curve of her arm, in which she had been weeping, and her tear-stained eyes met her brother’s. He looked steadily at her, frowning significantly. Elmira knew what it meant. She began to study her geography, and did not cry again.
At recess the teacher went up to Jerome, and spoke to him almost timidly. “I am very sorry about this, Jerome,” she said. “I am sorry you fought, and sorry I had to punish you in this way.”
Jerome looked at her. “She’s a good deal like mother,” he thought. “You had to punish somebody,” said he, “an’—I’d licked him.”
The teacher started; this reasoning confused her a little, the more so that she had an uneasy conviction that she had punished the lesser offender. She looked at the proud little figure in the torn coat, and her mild heart went out to him. She glanced round; there were not many scholars in the room. Elmira sat in her place, busy with her slate; a few of the older ones were in a knot near the window at the back of the room. The teacher slipped her hand into her pocket and drew out a lemon-drop, which she thrust softly into Jerome’s hand. “Here,” said she.
Jerome, who treated usually a giver like a thief, took the lemon-drop, thanked her, and stood sucking it the rest of the recess. It was his first gallantry towards womankind.
This teacher remained in the school only a half-term. Some said that she left because she was not strong enough to teach such a large school. Some said because she had not enough government. This had always been considered a man’s school during the winter months, but a departure had been made in this case because the female teacher was needy and a minister’s daughter.