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Reveries of a Schoolmaster by Francis B. Pearson

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down with the word-picture of the little one's mother pacing back and
forth in front of the shack, her hair hanging in strings, her
clothing drenched with rain and clinging to her body, her eyes
upturned, and her face expressing the most poignant agony. When they
left she had thus been pacing to and fro for seven hours and was, no
doubt, doing so yet. The mother-heart of the woman could not
withstand such an appeal, and soon she was busy in the difficult task
of trying to get the little arms into the sleeves of dress and apron.
Meanwhile, the two bedraggled men were on their knees striving with
that acme of awkwardness of which only men are capable, to ensconce
the little feet in stockings and shoes. The dressing of that child
was worthy the brush of Raphael or the smile of angels. At three
o'clock in the morning the schoolmaster stepped from the buggy and
placed the sleeping baby in the mother's arms, and only the heavenly
Father knows the language she spoke as she crooned over her little
one. As the schoolmaster wended his way homeward, cold, hungry, and
worn he was buoyant in spirit to the point of ecstasy. But he was
chastened, for he had stood upon the Mount of Transfiguration and
knew as never before that the mission of the schoolmaster is to find
and restore the lost child.



I'm quite in the notion of playing a practical joke on Atropos, and,
perhaps, on Methuselah, while I'm about it. I'm not partial to
Atropos at the best. She's such a reckless, uppish, heedless sort of
tyrant. She rushes into huts, palaces, and even into the grand
stand, and lays about her with her scissors, snipping off threads
with the utmost abandon. She wields her shears without any sort of
apology or by your leave. Not even a check-book can stay her
ravages. Her devastation knows neither ruth nor gentleness. I don't
like her, and have no compunction about playing a joke at her
expense. I don't imagine it will daunt her, in the least, but I can
have my fun, at any rate.

It is now just seven o'clock in the evening, and I shall not retire
before ten o'clock at the earliest. So here are three good hours for
me to dispose of; and I am the sole arbiter in the matter of
disposing of them. My neighbor John has a cow, and he is applying
the efficiency test to her. He charges her with every pound of corn,
bran, fodder, and hay that she eats, and doctor's bills, too, I
suppose, if there are any. Then he credits her with all the milk she
furnishes. There is quite a book-account in her name, and John has a
good time figuring out whether, judged by net results, she is a
consumer or a producer. If I can resurrect sufficient mathematical
lore, I think I shall try to apply this efficiency test to my three
hours just to see if I can prove that hours are as important as cows.
I ought to be able, somehow, to determine whether these hours are
consumers or producers.

I read a book the other evening whose title is "Stories of Thrift for
Young Americans," and it made me feel that I ought to apply the
efficiency test to myself, and repeat the process every waking hour
of the day. But, in order to do this, I must apply the test to these
three hours. In my dreamy moods, I like to personify an Hour and
spell it with a capital. I like to think of an hour as the singular
of Houri which the Mohammedans call nymphs of paradise, because they
were, or are, beautiful-eyed. My Hour then becomes a goddess walking
through my life, and, as the poet says, _et vera incessu patuit dea_.
If I show her that I appreciate her she comes again just after the
clock strikes, in form even more winsome than before, and smiles upon
me as only a goddess can. Once, in a sullen mood, I looked upon her
as if she were a hag. When she returned she was a hag; and not till
after I had done full penance did she become my beautiful goddess

A young man who had been spending the evening in the home of a
neighbor complained that they did not play any games, and did nothing
but talk. I could not ask what games he meant, fearing that I might
smile in his face if he should say crokinole, tiddledy-winks, or
button-button. Later on I learned that much of the talking was done
that evening by a very cultivated man who has travelled widely and
intelligently, and has a most engaging manner in his fluent
discussions of art, literature, archaeology, architecture, places,
and peoples. I was sorry to miss such an evening, and think I could
forego tiddledywinks with a fair degree of amiability if, instead, I
could hear such a man talk. I have seen people yawn in an art
gallery. I fear to play tiddledywinks lest my hour may resume the
guise of a hag. But that makes me think of Atropos again, and the
joke I am planning to play on her. Still, I see that I shall not
soon get around to that joke if I persist in these dim generalities,
as a schoolmaster is so apt to do.

Well, as I was saying, these three hours are at my disposal, and I
must decide what to do with them here and now. In deciding
concerning hours I must sit in the judgment-seat whether I like it or
not. Tomorrow evening I shall have other three hours to dispose of
the same as these, and the next evening three others, and my decision
to-night may be far-reaching. In six days I shall have eighteen such
hours, and in fifty weeks nine hundred. I suppose that a generous
estimate of a college year would be ten hours a day for one hundred
and eighty days, or eighteen hundred hours in all. I am quite aware
that some college boys will feel inclined to apply a liberal discount
to this estimate, but I am not considering those fellows who try to
do a month's work in the week of examination, and spend their
fathers' money for coaching. Now, if eighteen hundred hours
constitute a college year then my nine hundred hours are one-half a
college year, and it makes a deal of difference what I do with these
three hours.

If I had only started this joke on Atropos earlier and had applied
these nine hundred hours on my college work, I could have graduated
in three years instead of four, and that surely would have been in
the line of efficiency. But in those days I was devoting more time
and attention to Clotho than to Atropos. I would fain have ignored
Lachesis altogether, but she made me painfully conscious of her
presence, especially during the finals when, it seemed to me, she was
unnecessarily diligent in her vocation. I could have dispensed with
much of her torsion with great equanimity. I suppose that now I am
trying to square accounts with her by playing this joke on her sister.

So I have decided that I shall read a play of Shakespeare to-night,
another one to-morrow evening, and continue this until I have read
all that he wrote. In the fifty weeks of the year I can easily do
this and then reread some of them many times. I ought to be able to
commit to memory several of the plays, too, and that would be good
fun. If those chaps back yonder could recite the Koran word for word
I shall certainly be able to learn equally well some of these plays.
It would be worth while to recite "King Lear," "Macbeth," "Othello,"
"Hamlet," "The Tempest," and "As You Like It," the last week of the
year just before I take my vacation of two weeks. If I can recite
even these six plays in those six evenings I shall feel that I did
well in deciding for Shakespeare instead of tiddledywinks.

Next year I shall read history, and that will be rare fun, too. In
the nine hundred hours I shall certainly be able to read all of
Fiske, Mommsen, Rhodes, Bancroft, McMaster, Channing, Bryce, Hart,
Motley, Gibbon, and von Holst not to mention American statesmen.
About the Ides of December I shall hold a levee and sit in state as
the characters of history file by. I shall be able to call them all
by name, to tell of the things they did and why they did them, and to
connect their deeds with the world as it now is. I can't conceive of
any picture-show equal to that, and all through my year with
Shakespeare I shall be looking forward eagerly to my year with the
historians. I plainly see that the neighbors will not need to bring
in any playthings to amuse and entertain me, though, of course, I
shall be grateful to them for their kindly interest. Then, the next
year I shall devote to music, and if, by practising for nine hundred
hours, I cannot acquire a good degree of facility in manipulating a
piano or a violin, I must be too dull to ever aspire to the favor of
Terpsichore. If I but measure up to my hopes during this year I
shall be saved the expense of buying my music ready-made. The next
year I shall devote to art, and by spending one entire evening with a
single artist I shall thus become acquainted with three hundred of
them. If I become intimate with this number I shall not be lonesome,
even if I do not know the others. I think I shall give an art party
at the holiday time of that year, and have three hundred people
impersonate these artists. This will afford me a good review of my
studies in art. It may diminish the gate receipts of the
picture-show for a few evenings, but I suspect the world will be able
to wag along.

Then the next year I shall study poetry, the next astronomy, and the
next botany. Thus I shall come to know the plants of earth, the
stars of heaven, and the emotions of men. That ought to ward off
ennui and afford entertainment without the aid of the saloon. In the
succeeding twelve years I shall want to acquire as many languages,
for I am eager to excel Elihu Burritt in linguistic attainments even
if I must yield to him as a disciple of Vulcan. If I can learn a
language and read the literature of that language each year, possibly
some college may be willing to grant me a degree for work _in
absentia_. If not, I shall poke along the best I can and try to
drown my grief in more copious drafts of work.

And I shall have quite enough to do, for mathematics, the sciences,
and the arts and crafts all lie ahead of me in my programme. I
plainly see that I have played my last game of tiddledywinks and
solitaire. But I'll have fun anyhow. If I gain a half-year in each
twelve-month as I have my programme mapped out, in seventy years I
shall have a net gain of thirty-five years. Then, when Atropos comes
along with her scissors to snip the thread, thinking I have reached
my threescore and ten, I shall laugh in her face and let her know,
between laughs, that I am really one hundred and five, and have
played a thirty-five-year joke on her. Then I shall quote Bacon at
her to clinch the joke: "A man may be young in years but old in hours
if he have lost no time."



I have no ambition to become either a cynic, a pessimist, or an
iconoclast. To aspire in either of these directions is bad for the
digestion, and good digestion is the foundation and source of much
that is desirable in human affairs. Introspection has its uses, to
be sure, but the stomach should have exemption as an objective. A
stomach is a valuable asset if only one is not conscious of it. One
of the emoluments of schoolmastering is the opportunity it affords
for communing with elect souls whose very presence is a tonic. Will
is one of these. He has a way of shunting my introspection over to
the track of the head or the heart. He just talks along and the
first thing I know the heart is singing its way through and above the
storm, while the head has been connected up to the heart, and they
are doing team-work that is good for me and good for all who meet me.
At church I like to have them sing the hymn whose closing couplet is:

"I'll drop my burden at his feet
And bear a song away."

I come out strong in singing that couplet, for I like it. In a human
sense, that is just what happens when I chat with Will for an hour.
When I ask him for bread, he never gives me a stone. On the
contrary, he gives me good, white bread, and a bit of cake, besides.

In one of our chats the other day he was dilating upon Henry van
Dyke's four rules, and very soon had banished all my little clouds
and made my mental sky clear and bright. When I get around to
evolving a definition of education I think I shall say that it is the
process of furnishing people with resources for profitable and
pleasant conversation. Why, those four rules just oozed into the
talk, without any sort of flutter or formality, and made our chat
both agreeable and fruitful. Henry Ward Beecher said many good
things. Here is one that I caught in the school reader in my
boyhood: "The man who carries a lantern on a dark night can have
friends all about him, walking safely by the help of its rays and he
be not defrauded." Education is just such a lantern and this
schoolmaster, Will, knows how to carry it that it may afford light to
the friends about him.

Well, the first of van Dyke's rules is: "You shall learn to desire
nothing in the world so much but that you can be happy without it."
I do wonder if he had been reading in Proverbs: "Better is a dinner
of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." Or he
may have been reading the statement of St. Paul: "For I have learned,
in whatever state I am, therewith to be content." Or, possibly, he
may have been thinking of the lines of Paul Laurence Dunbar,

"Sometimes the sun, unkindly hot,
My garden makes a desert spot;
Sometimes the blight upon the tree
Takes all my fruit away from me;
And then with throes of bitter pain
Rebellious passions rise and swell--
But life is more than fruit or grain,
And so I sing, and all is well."

I am plebeian enough to be fond of milk and crackers as a luncheon;
but I have just a dash of the patrician in my make-up and prefer the
milk unskimmed. Sometimes, I find that the cream has been devoted to
other, if not higher, uses and that my crackers must associate
perforce with milk of cerulean hue. Such a situation is a severe
test of character, and I am hoping that at such junctures along
life's highway I may find some support in the philosophy of Mr. van

I suspect that he is trying to make me understand that happiness is
subjective rather than objective--that happiness depends not upon
what we have, but upon what we do with what we have. I couldn't be
an anarchist if I'd try. I don't grudge the millionaire his turtle
soup and caviar. But I do feel a bit sorry for him that he does not
know what a royal feast crackers and unskimmed milk afford. If the
king and the anarchist would but join me in such a feast I think the
king would soon forget his crown and the anarchist his plots, and
we'd be just three good fellows together, living at the very summit
of life and wishing that all men could be as happy as we.

The next rule is a condensed moral code: "You shall seek that which
you desire only by such means as are fair and lawful, and this will
leave you without bitterness toward men or shame before God." No one
could possibly dissent from this rule, unless it might be a burglar.
I know the grocer makes a profit on the things I buy from him, and I
am glad he does. Otherwise, he would have to close his grocery and
that would inconvenience me greatly. He thanks me when I pay him,
but I feel that I ought to thank him for supplying my needs, for
having his goods arranged so invitingly, and for waiting upon me so
promptly and so politely. I can't really see how any customer can
feel any bitterness toward him. He gives full weight, tells the
exact truth as to the quality of the goods, and in all things is fair
and lawful. I have no quarrel with him and cannot understand why
others should, unless they are less fair, lawful, and agreeable than
the grocer himself. I suspect that the grocer and the butcher take
on the color of the glasses we happen to be wearing, and that Mr. van
Dyke is admonishing us to wear clear glasses and to keep them clean.

The third rule needs to be read at least twice if not oftener: "You
shall take pleasure in the time while you are seeking, even though
you obtain not immediately that which you seek; for the purpose of a
journey is not only to arrive at the goal, but also to find enjoyment
by the way." I have seen people rushing along in automobiles at the
mad rate of thirty or forty miles an hour, missing altogether the
million-dollar scenery along the way, in their haste to get to the
end of their journey, where a five-cent bag of peanuts awaited them.
Had I been riding in an automobile through the streets of Tacoma I
might not have seen that glorious cluster of five beautiful roses on
a single branch in that attractive lawn. Because of them I always
think of Tacoma as the city of roses, for I stopped to look at them.
I have quite forgotten the objective point of my stroll; I recollect
the roses. When we were riding out from Florence on a tram-car to
see the ancient Fiesole I plucked a branch from an olive-tree from
the platform of the car. On that branch were at least a dozen young
olives, the first I had ever seen. I have but the haziest
recollection of the old theatre and the subterranean passages where
Catiline and his crowd had their rendezvous; but I do recall that
olive branch most distinctly. I cannot improve upon Doctor van
Dyke's statement of the rule, but I can interpret it in terms of my
own experiences by way of verifying it. I am sure he has it right.

The fourth rule is worthy of meditation and prayer; "When you attain
that which you have desired, you shall think more of the kindness of
your fortune than of the greatness of your skill. This will make you
grateful and ready to share with others that which Providence hath
bestowed upon you; and truly this is both reasonable and profitable,
for it is but little that any of us would catch in this world were
not our luck better than our deserts." I shall omit the lesson in
arithmetic to-morrow and have, instead, a lesson in life and living,
using these four rules as the basis of our lesson. My boys and girls
are to have many years of life, I hope, and I'd like to help them to
a right start if I can. Some of my many mistakes might have been
avoided if my teachers had given me some lessons in the art of
living, for it is an art and must be learned. These rules would have
helped, could I have known them. I am glad to know that my pupils
have faith in me. When I pointed out a nettle to them one day, they
avoided it; when I showed them a mushroom that is edible, they
accepted the statement without question. So I'll see what I can do
for them to-morrow with these four rules. Then, if we have time, we
shall learn the lines of Mrs. Higginson:

"I know a place where the sun is like gold,
And the cherry blooms burst with snow,
And down underneath is the loveliest nook,
Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,
And one is for love, you know,
And God put another in for luck--
If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,
You must love and be strong--and so,
If you work, if you wait, you will find the place
Where the four-leaf clovers grow."



Mountain-climbing is rare sport. And it is sport if only one has the
courage to do it. We had gone to the top of Vesuvius on the
funicular railway; but one man decided to make the climb. We forgot
the volcano in our admiration of the climber. Foot by foot he made
his way zigzagging this way and that, slipping, falling, and
struggling till at last he reached the summit. Then, fifty throats
poured forth a lusty cheer to do him honor. He was not good to look
at, for his clothing was crumpled and soiled, the veins stood out on
his neck, his hair was tousled, his face was red and streaming with
sweat; yet, for all that, we cheered him and meant it, too. He
acknowledged our applause in an honest, simple way, and then
disappeared in the crowd. He was not posing as a heroic figure, but
was just an honest mountain-climber who accepted the challenge of the
mountain and won. In our cheering we did just what the world does:
we gave the laurel wreath to the man who wins in a test of courage.

I think "Excelsior" is pretty good stuff in the way of depicting
mountain-climbing, and I always want to cheer that young chap as he
fights his way toward the top. He could have stopped down there in
the valley, where everything was snug and comfortable, but he chose
to climb so as to have a look around. I thought of him one day at
Scheidegg. There we were, nearly a mile and a half above sea-level,
shivering in the midst of ice and snow in mid-July, but we had a look
around that made us glad in spite of the cold. As Virgil says: "It
will be pleasing to remember these things hereafter." I have often
noticed that the old soldiers seem to recall the hardest marches, the
most severe battles, and the greatest privations more vividly than
their every-day experiences.

So the mountain-climbing that I have been doing with my boys and
girls stands out like a cameo in my retrospective view. Sometimes we
looked back toward the valley, and it seemed so peaceful and
beautiful that it caused the mountain before us to seem ominous. At
such times, when courage seemed to be oozing, we needed to reinforce
one another with words of cheer. The steep places seemed perilously
rough at times, and I could hear a stifled sob somewhere in my little
company. At such times I would urge myself along at a more rapid
pace, that I might reach a higher level and call out to them in
heartening tones to hurry on up to our resting-place. We would often
sing a bit in the midst of our resting, and when the sob had been
changed to a laugh I felt that life was well worth while.

As we toiled upward I was ever on the lookout for a patch of sunlight
in the midst of the shadows that it might lure them on. And it never
failed. Like magic that sun-spot always quickened their pace, and
they often hailed it with a shout. They would even race toward that
sunny place, their weariness all gone. When a bird sang we always
stopped to listen; and the song acted upon them as the music of a
band acts upon drooping soldiers. On the next stage of the journey
their eyes sparkled, and their step was more elastic. When one
stumbled and fell, we helped him to his feet and praised his effort,
wholly ignoring the fall. Sometimes one would become discouraged and
would want to drop out of the company and return home. When this
happened, we would gather about him and tell him how good it was to
have him with us, how he helped us on, and how sorry we should be to
have him absent when we reached the top. When he decided to keep on
with us, we gave a mighty cheer and then went whistling on our upward

We constantly vied with one another in discovering chaste bits of
scenery along the way, and we were ever too generous to withhold
praise or to appropriate to ourselves the credit that belonged to
another. If one found the nest of a bird hidden away in the foliage,
we all stopped in admiration. When another discovered a spring
gushing out from beneath the rocks, we all refreshed ourselves with
the limpid water and poured out our thanks to the discoverer. When a
rare flower was found, we took time to examine it minutely till we
all felt joy in the flower and in the finder. To us nothing was ever
small or negligible that any one of our company discovered. If one
started a song we all joined in heartily as if we had been waiting
for that one to lead us in the singing. Thus each one, according to
his gifts and inclinations, became a leader on one or another of the
enterprises connected with our journey.

So, in time, it seemed to us that the big tree came to meet us in
order to give its kindly shade for our comfort; that the bird poured
forth its song as a special gift to us to give us new courage; that
the flower met us at the right time and place to smile its beauty
into our lives; that each stream laughed its way to our feet to
quench our thirst, and to share with us its coolness; that the mossy
bank gave us a special invitation to enjoy its hospitality; that the
cloud had heard our wishes and came to shield us from the sun, and
that the path came forth from among the thickets to guide us on our
way. Because we were winning, all nature seemed to be cheering us on
as the people cheered the man at Vesuvius.

Having reached the summit, we sat together in eloquent silence. We
had toiled, and struggled, and suffered together, and so had learned
to think and feel in unison. Our spirits had become fused in a
common purpose, and we could sit in silence and not be abashed. We
had become honest with our surroundings, honest with one another, and
honest with ourselves, and so could smile at mere conventions and
find joy in one another without words. We had encountered honest
difficulties--rocks, trees, streams, sloughs, tangles, sand, and sun,
and had overcome them by honest effort and so had achieved honesty.
We had met and overcome big things, too, and in doing so had grown
big. No longer did our hearts flutter in the presence of little
things, for we had won poise and serenity.

The fogs had been banished from our minds; our sight had become
clear; our spirits had been enlarged; our courage had been made
strong, and our faith was lifted up. A new horizon opened up before
us that stretched on and on and made us know that life is a big
thing. The sky became our companion with all its myriad stars; the
sea became our neighbor with all the life it holds, and the landscape
became our dooryard, with all its varied beauty and grandeur. The
ships upon the sea and the trains upon the land became our messengers
of service. The wires and the air sped our thoughts abroad and
linked us to the world. We looked straight into the faces of the big
elemental things of life and were not afraid.

When we came back among our own people, they seemed to know that some
change had taken place and loved us all the more. They came to us
for counsel and comfort, paying silent tribute to the wisdom that had
come to us from the mountain. They looked upon us not as superiors,
but as larger equals. We had learned another language, but had not
forgotten theirs. We nestled down in their affections and told them
of our mountain, and they were glad.

* * * * *

And now I sit before the fire and watch the pictures in the
flickering flames. In my reverie I see my boys and girls, companions
in the mountain-climbing, going upon their appointed ways. I see
them healing and comforting the sick, relieving distress, ministering
to the needy, and supplanting darkness with light. I see them in
their efforts to make the world better and more beautiful, and life
more blessed. I see them bringing hope and courage and cheer into
many lives. They are bringing the spirit of the mountain down into
the valley, and men rejoice. Seeing them thus engaged, and hearing
them singing as they go, I can but smile and smile.

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