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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 27. The Last Day Of School, And The Last Chapter Of The Story
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 27. The Last Day Of School, And The Last Chapter Of The Story Post by :geoall28 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :2004

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 27. The Last Day Of School, And The Last Chapter Of The Story


It was the last day of the spring term of school. With Jack this meant the end of his opportunity for going to school. What he should learn hereafter he must learn by himself. The money was nearly out, and he must go to work.

The last day of school meant also the expiration of the master's authority. Whatever evil was done after school-hours on the last day was none of his business. All who had grudges carried them forward to that day, for thus they could revenge themselves without being called to account by the master the next day. The last day of school had no to-morrow to be afraid of. Hence, Pewee and his friends proposed to square accounts on the last day of school with Jack Dudley, whom they hated for being the best scholar, and for having outwitted them more than once.

It was on the first day of June that the school ended, and Mr. Williams bade his pupils good-bye. The warm sun had by this time brought the waters of the Ohio to a temperature that made bathing pleasant, and when the school closed, all the boys, delighted with liberty, rushed to the river for a good swim together. In that genial climate one can remain in the water for hours at a time, and boys become swimmers at an early age.

Just below the village a raft was moored, and from this the youthful swimmers were soon diving into the deep water like frogs. Every boy who could perform any feat of agility displayed it. One would turn a somersault in the water, and then dive from one side of the raft to another, one could float, and another swim on his back, while a third was learning to tread water. Some were fond of diving toes downward, others took headers. "The little fellows" who could not swim kept on the inside of the great raft and paddled about with the aid of slabs used for floats. Jack, who had lived for years on the banks of the Wildcat, could swim and dive like a musquash.

Mr. Williams, the teacher, felt lonesome at saying good-bye to his school; and to keep the boys company as long as possible, he strolled down to the bank and sat on the grass watching the bathers below him, plunging and paddling in all the spontaneous happiness of young life.

Riley and Pewee--conspirators to the last--had their plans arranged. When Jack should get his clothes on, they intended to pitch him off the raft for a good wetting, and thus gratify their long-hoarded jealousy, and get an offset to the standing joke about dough-faces and ghosts which the town had at their expense. Ben Berry, who was their confidant, thought this a capital plan.

When at length Jack had enjoyed the water enough, he came out and was about to begin dressing. Pewee and Riley were close at hand, already dressed, and prepared to give Jack a farewell ducking.

But just at that moment there came from the other end of the raft, and from the spectators on the bank, a wild, confused cry, and all turned to hearken. Harry Weathervane's younger brother, whose name was Andrew Jackson, and who could not swim, in dressing, had stepped too far backward and gone off the raft. He uttered a despairing and terrified scream, struck out wildly and blindly, and went down.

All up and down the raft and up and down the bank there went up a cry: "Andy is drowning!" while everybody looked for somebody else to save him.

The school-master was sitting on the bank, and saw the accident. He quickly slipped off his boots, but then he stopped, for Jack had already started on a splendid run down that long raft. The confused and terrified boys made a path for him quickly, as he came on at more than the tremendous speed he had always shown in games. He did not stop to leap, but ran full tilt off the raft, falling upon the drowning boy and carrying him completely under water with him. Nobody breathed during the two seconds that Jack, under water, struggled to get a good hold on Andy and to keep Andy from disabling him by his blind grappling of Jack's limbs.

When at length Jack's head came above water, there was an audible sigh of relief from all the on-lookers. But the danger was not over.

"Let go of my arms, Andy!" cried Jack. "You'll drown us both if you hold on that way. If you don't let go I'll strike you."

Jack knew that it was sometimes necessary to stun a drowning person before you could save him, where he persisted in clutching his deliverer. But poor frightened Andy let go of Jack's arms at last. Jack was already exhausted with swimming, and he had great difficulty in dragging the little fellow to the raft, where Will Riley and Pewee Rose pulled him out of the water.

But now, while all were giving attention to the rescued Andy, there occurred with Jack one of those events which people call a cramp. I do not know what to call it, but it is not a cramp. It is a kind of collapse--a sudden exhaustion that may come to the best of swimmers. The heart insists on resting, the consciousness grows dim, the will-power flags, and the strong swimmer sinks.

Nobody was regarding Jack, who first found himself unable to make even an effort to climb on the raft; then his hold on its edge relaxed, and he slowly sank out of sight. Pewee saw his sinking condition first, and cried out, as did Riley and all the rest, doing nothing to save Jack, but running up and down the raft in a vain search for a rope or a pole.

The school-master, having seen that Andy was brought out little worse for his fright and the water he had swallowed, was about to put on his boots when this new alarm attracted his attention to Jack Dudley. Instantly he threw off his coat and was bounding down the steep bank, along the plank to the raft, and then along the raft to where Jack had sunk entirely out of sight. Mr. Williams leaped head first into the water and made what the boys afterward called a splendid dive. Once under water he opened his eyes and looked about for Jack.

At last he came up, drawing after him the unconscious and apparently lifeless form of Jack, who was taken from the water by the boys. The teacher despatched two boys to bring Dr. Lanham, while he set himself to restore consciousness by producing artificial breathing. It was some time after Dr. Lanham's arrival that Jack fully regained his consciousness, when he was carried home by the strong arms of Bob Holliday, Will Riley, and Pewee, in turn.

And here I must do the last two boys the justice to say that they called to inquire after Jack every day during the illness that followed, and the old animosity to Jack was never afterward revived by Pewee and his friends.

On the evening after this accident and these rescues, Dr. Lanham said to Mrs. Lanham and Susan and Mr. Williams, who happened to be there again, that a boy was wanted in the new drug-store in the village, to learn the business, and to sleep in the back room, so as to attend night-calls. Dr. Lanham did not know why this Jack Dudley wouldn't be just the boy.

Susan, for her part, was very sure he would be; and Mr. Williams agreed with Susan, as, indeed, he generally did.

Dr. Lanham thought that Jack might be allowed to attend school in the daytime in the winter season, and if the boy had as good stuff in him as he seemed to have, there was no reason why he shouldn't come to something some day.

"Come to something!" said Susan. "Come to something! Why, he'll make one of the best doctors in the country yet."

And again Mr. Williams entirely agreed with Susan, Jack Dudley was sure to go up to the head of the class.

Jack got the place, and I doubt not fulfilled the hope of his friends. I know this, at least, that when a year or so later his good friend and teacher, Mr. Williams, was married to his good and stanch friend, Susan Lanham, Jack's was one of the happiest faces at the wedding.

Edward Eggleston's Novel: Hoosier Schoolboy

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