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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 23. Called To Account
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 23. Called To Account Post by :geoall28 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :3321

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 23. Called To Account


Successful hounds, having caught their fox, ought to have come home in triumph; but, instead of that, they came home like dogs that had been killing sheep, their heads hanging down in a guilty and self-betraying way.

Jack walked into the school-house first. It was an hour and a half past the time for the beginning of school. He tried to look unconcerned as he went to his seat. There stood the teacher, with his face very calm but very pale, and Jack felt his heart sink.

One by one the laggards filed into the school-room, while the awe-stricken girls on the opposite benches, and the little A B C boys, watched the guilty sinners take their places, prepared to meet their fate.

Riley came in with a half-insolent smile on his face, as if to say: "I don't care." Pewee was sullen and bull-doggish. Ben Berry looked the sneaking fellow he was, and Harry Weathervane tried to remember that his father was a school-trustee. Bob Holliday couldn't help laughing in a foolish way. Columbus had fallen out of the race before he got to the "brick-pond," and so had returned in time to be punctual when school resumed its session.

During all the time that the boys, heated with their exercise and blushing with shame, were filing in, Mr. Williams stood with set face and regarded them. He was very much excited, and so I suppose did not dare to reprove them just then. He called the classes and heard them in rapid succession, until it was time for the spelling-class, which comprised all but the very youngest pupils. On this day, instead of calling the spelling-class, he said, evidently with great effort to control himself: "The girls will keep their seats. The boys will take their places in the spelling-class."

Riley's lower jaw fell--he was sure that the master meant to flog them all. He was glad he was not at the head of the class. Ben Berry could hardly drag his feet to his place, and poor Jack was filled with confusion. When the boys were all in place, the master walked up and down the line and scrutinized them, while Riley cast furtive glances at the dusty old beech switches on the wall, wondering which one the master would use, and Pewee was trying to guess whether Mr. Williams's arm was strong, and whether he "would make a fellow take off his coat" or not.

"Columbus," said the teacher, "you can take your seat."

Riley shook in his shoes, thinking that this certainly meant a whipping. He began to frame excuses in his mind, by which to try to lighten his punishment.

But the master did not take down his switches. He only talked. But such a talk! He told the boys how worthless a man was who could not be trusted, and how he had hoped for a school full of boys that could be relied on. He thought there were some boys, at least--and this remark struck Jack to the heart--that there were some boys in the school who would rather be treated as gentlemen than beaten with ox-goads. But he was now disappointed. All of them seemed equally willing to take advantage of his desire to avoid whipping them; and all of them had shown themselves _unfit to be trusted_.

Here he paused long enough to let the full weight of his censure enter their minds. Then he began on a new tack. He had hoped that he might have their friendship. He had thought that they cared a little for his good opinion. But now they had betrayed him. All the town was looking to see whether he would succeed in conducting his school without whipping. A good many would be glad to see him fail. Today they would be saying all over Greenbank that the new teacher couldn't manage his school. Then he told the boys that while they were sitting on the trunk of the fallen sycamore looking at the steam-boat race, one of the trustees, Mr. Weathervane, had driven past and had seen them there. He had stopped to complain to the master. "Now," said the master, "I have found how little you care for me."

This was very sharp talk, and it made the boys angry. Particularly did Jack resent any intimation that he was not to be trusted. But the new master was excited and naturally spoke severely. Nor did he give the boys a chance to explain at that time.

"You have been out of school," he said, "one hour and thirty-one minutes. That is about equal to six fifteen-minute recesses--to the morning and afternoon recesses for three days. I shall have to keep you in at those six recesses to make up the time, and in addition, as a punishment, I shall keep you in school half an hour after the usual time of dismission, for three days."

Here Jack made a motion to speak.

"No," said the master, "I will not hear a word, now. Go home and think it over. To-morrow I mean to ask each one of you to explain his conduct."

With this, he dismissed the school, and the boys went out as angry as a hive of bees that have been disturbed. Each one made his speech. Jack thought it "mean that the master should say they were not fit to be trusted. He wouldn't have stayed out if he'd known it was school-time."

Bob Holliday said "the young master was a blisterer," and then he laughed good-naturedly.

Harry Weathervane was angry, and so were all the rest. At length it was agreed that they didn't want to be cross-questioned about it, and that it was better that somebody should write something that should give Mr. Williams a piece of their mind, and show him how hard he was on boys that didn't mean any harm, but only forgot themselves. And Jack was selected to do the writing.

Jack made up his mind that the paper he would write should be "a scorcher."

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