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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrom Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 12. Who Shall Be Master?
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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 12. Who Shall Be Master? Post by :TheWonderer Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :3246

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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 12. Who Shall Be Master?

CHAPTER XII. WHO SHALL BE MASTER?

With as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances, James stepped to the teacher's desk and rang the bell.

This was hardly necessary, for out of curiosity all the scholars had promptly followed the young teacher into the school-room and taken their seats.

After the introductory exercises, James made a brief address to the scholars:

"I don't need any introduction to you," he said, "for you all know me. I see before me many who have been my playfellows and associates, but to-day a new relation is established between us. I am here as your teacher, regularly appointed by the committee, and it is my duty to assist you as far as I can to increase your knowledge. I should hardly feel competent to do so if I had not lately attended Geauga Seminary, and thus improved my own education. I hope you will consider me a friend, not only as I have been, but as one who is interested in promoting your best interests. One thing more," he added, "it is not only my duty to teach you, but to maintain good order, and this I mean to do. In school I wish you to look upon me as your teacher, but outside I shall join you in your sports, and be as much a boy as any of you. We will now proceed to our daily lessons."

This speech was delivered with self-possession, and favorably impressed all who heard it, even the boys who meant to make trouble, but they could not give up their contemplated fun. Nevertheless, by tacit agreement, they preserved perfect propriety for the present. They were not ready for the explosion.

The boy teacher was encouraged by the unexpected quiet.

"After all," he thought, "everything is likely to go smoothly. I need not have troubled myself so much."

He knew the usual routine at the opening of a school term. The names of the children were to be taken, they were to be divided into classes, and lessons were to be assigned. Feeling more confidence in himself, James went about this work in business fashion, and when recess came, the comments made by the pupils in the playground were generally favorable.

"He's going to make a good teacher," said one of the girls, "as good as any we've had, and he's so young too."

"He goes to work as if he knew how," said another. "I didn't think Jimmy Garfield had so much in him."

"Oh, he's smart!" said another. "Just think of brother Ben trying to keep school, and he's just as old as James."

Meanwhile Tom Bassett and Bill Stackpole had a private conference together.

"What do you think of Jim's speech, Bill?" asked Tom.

"Oh, it sounded well enough, but I'll bet he was trembling in his boots all the while he was talkin'."

"Maybe so, but he seemed cool enough."

"Oh, that was all put on. Did you hear what he said about keepin' order?"

"Yes, he kinder looked at you an' me when he was talkin'."

"I guess he heard about our turnin' out the last teacher."

"Of course. I tell you, it took some cheek to come here and order 'round us boys that has known him all his life."

"That's so. Do you think he's goin' to maintain order, as he calls it?"

"You just wait till afternoon. He'll know better then."

James did not go out to recess the first day. He had some things to do affecting the organization of the school, and so he remained at his desk. Several of the pupils came up to consult him on one point or another, and he received them all with that pleasant manner which throughout his life was characteristic of him. To one and another he gave a hint or a suggestion, based upon his knowledge of their character and abilities. One of the boys said: "Do you think I'd better study grammar, Jimmy--I mean Mr. Garfield?"

James smiled. He knew the slip was unintentional. Of course it would not do for him to allow himself to be addressed in school by a pupil as Jimmy.

"Yes," he answered, "unless you think you know all about it already."

"I don't know the first thing about it."

"Then, of course, you ought to study it. Why shouldn't you?"

"But I can't make nothin' out of it. I can't understand it nohow."

"Then you need somebody to explain it to you."

"It's awful stupid."

"I don't think you will find it so when you come to know more about it. I shall be ready to explain it. I think I can make you understand it."

Another had a sum he could not do. So James found the recess pass quickly away, and again the horde of scholars poured into the school-room.

It was not till afternoon that the conflict came.

Tom Bassett belonged to the first class in geography.

James called out the class.

All came out except Tom, who lounged carelessly in his seat.

"Thomas, don't you belong to this class?" asked the young teacher.

"I reckon I do."

"Then why don't you come out to recite?"

"Oh, I feel lazy," answered Tom, with a significant smile, as if to inquire, "What are you goin' to do about it?"

James thought to himself with a thrill of unpleasant excitement, "It's coming. In ten minutes I shall know whether Tom Bassett or I is to rule this school."

His manner was calm, however, as he said, "That is no excuse. I can't accept it. As your teacher I order you to join your class."

"Can't you wait till to-morrow?" asked Tom, with a grin, which was reflected on the faces of several other pupils.

"I think I understand you," said James, with outward calmness. "You defy my authority."

"You're only a boy like me," said Tom; "I don't see why I should obey you."

"If you were teacher, and I pupil, I should obey you," said James, "and I expect the same of you."

"Oh, go on with the recitation!" said Tom, lazily. "Never mind me!"

James felt that he could afford to wait no longer Turning to the class, he said, "I shall have to delay you for a minute."

He walked deliberately up to the seat where Tom Bassett was sitting.

Tom squared off in the expectation of an assault; but, with the speed of lightning, the young teacher grasped him by the collar, and, with a strength that surprised himself, dragged him from his seat, in spite of his struggles, till he reached the place where the class was standing.

By this time Bill Stackpole felt called upon to help his partner in rebellion.

"You let him alone!" he said, menacingly, stepping forward.

"One at a time!" said James, coolly. "I will be ready for you in a minute."

He saw that there was only one thing to do.

He dragged Tom to the door, and forcibly ejected him, saying, "When you get ready to obey me you can come back."

He had scarcely turned when Bill Stackpole was upon him.

With a quick motion of the foot James tripped him up, and, still retaining his grasp on his collar, said, "Will you go or stay?"

Bill was less resolute than Tom.

"I guess I'll stay," he said; then picked himself up and resumed his place in the class.

Apparently calm, James returned to his desk, and commenced hearing the class recite.

The next morning, on his way to school, James overtook Tom Bassett, who eyed him with evident embarrassment. Tom's father had sent him back to school, and Tom did not dare disobey.

"Good morning, Tom," said James, pleasantly.

"Mornin'!" muttered Tom.

"I hope you are going to school?"

"Father says I must."

"I am glad of that, too. By the way, Tom, I think I shall have to get some of the scholars to help me with some of the smaller pupils. I should like to get you to hear the lowest class in arithmetic to-day."

"You want me to help you teach?" exclaimed Tom, in amazement.

"Yes; it will give me more time for the higher classes."

"And you don't bear no malice on account of yesterday?"

"Oh, no; we are too good friends to mind such a trifle."

"Then," said Tom, impulsively, "you won't have no more trouble with me. I'll help you all I can."

There was general surprise felt when the young teacher and his rebellious scholar were seen approaching the school-house, evidently on the most friendly terms. There was still greater surprise when, during the forenoon, James requested Tom to hear the class already mentioned. At recess Tom proclaimed his intention to lick any boy that was impudent to the teacher, and the new Garfield administration seemed to be established on a firm basis.

This incident, which is based upon an actual resort to war measures on the part of the young teacher, is given to illustrate the strength as well as the amiability of Garfield's character. It was absolutely necessary that he should show his ability to govern.

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