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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 14. Crowing After Victory
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 14. Crowing After Victory Post by :kdwashere Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1358

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 14. Crowing After Victory

CHAPTER XIV. CROWING AFTER VICTORY

Greenbank was awake, and the old master had to go. Mr. Weathervane stood up for him as long as he thought that the excitement was temporary. But when he found that Greenbank really was awake, and not just talking in its sleep, as it did for the most part, he changed sides,--not all at once, but by degrees. At first he softened down a little, "hemmed and hawed," as folks say. He said he did not know but that Mr. Ball had been hasty, but he meant well. The next day he took another step, and said that the old master meant well, but he was _often too hasty in his temper. The next week he let himself down another peg in saying that "maybe" the old man meant well, but he was altogether too hot in his temper for a school-master. A little while later, he found out that Mr. Ball's way of teaching was quite out of date. Before a month had elapsed, he was sure that the old curmudgeon ought to be put out, and thus at last Mr. Weathervane found himself where he liked to be, in the popular party.

And so the old master came to his last day in the brick school-house. Whatever feelings he may have had in leaving behind him the scenes of his twenty-five years of labor, he said nothing. He only compressed his lips a little more tightly, scowled as severely as ever, removed his books and pens from his desk, gave a last look at his long beech switches on the wall, turned the key in the door of the school-house, carried it to Mr. Weathervane, received his pay, and walked slowly home to the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Higbie.

The boys had resolved to have a demonstration. All their pent-up wrath against the master now found vent, since there was no longer any danger that the old man would have a chance to retaliate. They would serenade him. Bob Holliday was full of it. Harry Weathervane was very active. He was going to pound on his mother's bread-pan. Every sort of instrument for making a noise was brought into requisition. Dinner-bells, tin-pails, conch-shell dinner-horns, tin-horns, and even the village bass-drum, were to be used.

Would Jack go? Bob came over to inquire. All the boys were going to celebrate the downfall of a harsh master. He deserved it for beating Columbus. So Jack resolved to go.

But after the boys had departed, Jack began to doubt whether he ought to go or not. It did not seem quite right; yet his feelings had become so enlisted in the conflict for the old man's removal, that he had grown to be a bitter partisan, and the recollection of all he had suffered, and of all Columbus had endured during his sickness, reconciled Jack to the appearance of crowing over a fallen foe, which this burlesque serenade would have. Nevertheless, his conscience was not clear on the point, and he concluded to submit the matter to his mother, when she should come home to supper.

Unfortunately for Jack, his mother stayed away to tea, sending Jack word that he would have to get his own supper, and that she would come home early in the evening. Jack ate his bowl of bread and milk in solitude, trying to make himself believe that his mother would approve of his taking part in the "shiveree" of the old master. But when he had finished his supper, he concluded that if his mother did not come home in time for him to consult her, he would remain at home. He drew up by the light and tried to study, but he longed to be out with the boys. After a while Bob Holliday and Harry Weathervane came to the door and importuned Jack to come with them. It was lonesome at home; it would be good fun to celebrate the downfall of the old master's cruel rule, so, taking down an old dinner-bell, Jack went off to join the rest. He was a little disgusted when he found Riley, Pewee, and Ben Berry in the company, but once in the crowd, there was little chance to back out with credit. The boys crept through the back alleys until they came in front of Mr. Higbie's house, at half past eight o'clock. There was but one light visible, and that was in Mr. Ball's room. Jack dropped behind, a little faint of heart about the expedition. He felt sure in himself that his mother would shake her head if she knew of it. At length, at a signal from Bob, the tin pans, big and little, the skillet-lids grinding together, the horns, both conch-shell and tin, and the big bass-drum, set up a hideous clattering, banging, booming, roaring, and racketing. Jack rang his dinner-bell rather faintly, and stood back behind all the rest

"Jack's afraid," said Pewee. "Why don't you come up to the front, like a man?"

Jack could not stand a taunt like this, but came forward into the cluster of half-frightened peace-breakers. Just then, the door of Mr. Higbie's house was opened, and some one came out.

"It's Mr. Higbie," said Ben Berry. "He's going to shoot."

"It's Bugbee, the watchman, going to arrest us," said Pewee.

"It's Mr. Ball himself," said Riley, "and he'll whip us all." And he fled, followed pell-mell by the whole crowd, excepting Jack, who had a constitutional aversion to running away. He only slunk up close to the fence and so stood still.

"Hello! Who are you?" The voice was not that of Mr. Higbie, nor that of the old master, nor of the watchman, Bugbee. With some difficulty, Jack recognized the figure of Doctor Lanham. "Oh, it's Jack Dudley, is it?" said the doctor, after examining him in the feeble moonlight.

"Yes," said Jack, sheepishly.

"You're the one that got that whipping from the old master. I don't wonder you came out to-night."

"I do," said Jack, "and I would rather now that I had taken another such whipping than to find myself here."

"Well, well," said the doctor, "boys will be boys."

"And fools will be fools, I suppose," said Jack.

"Mr. Ball is very ill," continued the doctor. "Find the others and tell them they mustn't come here again to-night, or they'll kill him. I wouldn't have had this happen for anything. The old man's just broken down by the strain he has been under. He has deserved it all, but I think you might let him have a little peace now."

"So do I," said Jack, more ashamed of himself than ever.

The doctor went back into the house, and Jack Dudley and his dinner-bell started off down the street in search of Harry Weathervane and his tin pan, and Bob Holliday and his skillet-lids, and Ben Berry and the bass-drum.

"Hello, Jack!" called out Bob from an alley. "You stood your ground the best of all, didn't you?"

"I wish I'd stood my ground in the first place against you and Harry, and stayed at home."

"Why, what's the matter? Who was it?"

By this time the other boys were creeping out of their hiding-places and gathering about Jack.

"Well, it was the doctor," said Jack. "Mr. Ball's very sick and we've 'most killed him; that's all. We're a pack of cowards to go tooting at a poor old man when he's already down, and we ought to be kicked, every one of us. That's the way I feel about it," and Jack set out for home, not waiting for any leave-taking with the rest, who, for their part, slunk away in various directions, anxious to get their instruments of noise and torment hidden away out of sight.

Jack stuck the dinner-bell under the hay in the stable-loft, whence he could smuggle it into the house before his mother should get down-stairs in the morning. Then he went into the house.

"Where have you been?" asked Mrs. Dudley. "I came home early so that you needn't be lonesome."

"Bob Holliday and Harry Weathervane came for me, and I found it so lonesome here that I went out with them."

"Have you got your lessons?"

"No, ma'am," said Jack, sheepishly.

He was evidently not at ease, but his mother said no more. He went off to bed early, and lay awake a good part of the night. The next morning he brought the old dinner-bell and set it down in the very middle of the breakfast-table. Then he told his mother all about it. And she agreed with him that he had done a very mean thing.

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