Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Al Haines
THE EVOLUTION OF "DODD"
A Pedagogical Story
Giving his Struggle for the
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
HIS CHANCES, HIS CHANGES, AND HOW HE CAME OUT.
WILLIAM HAWLEY SMITH.
"Happy is the man who grinds at the mill;
The mill turns 'round and he stands there still."
"Social institutions are made for man,
and not man for social institutions."
"The supreme purpose of creation
is the development of the individual."
THE EVOLUTION OF "DODD."
There was joy in the Weaver household when the child was born, and when
it had been duly announced that it was a boy. The event was the first
of the kind in this particular branch of the Weaver family, and, as is
always the case, there was such rejoicing as does not come with the
recurrence of like episodes. A man hardly feels sure of his manhood
till the magic word father is put in the vocative case and applied to
him direct, and the apotheosis of woman comes with maternity.
There is nothing remarkable about all this. It is the same the world
around. But it is the usual that demands most of our time and
attention here below, whether we wish it so or otherwise; and although
we are everlastingly running after the strange and eccentric in human
nature, as well as in all other branches of creation, it is the rule
and not the exception that we have to deal with during most of our
This Weaver family, father and mother, were much like other young
fathers and mothers, and their child was not unlike other first-born
children. His first low cry and his struggle for breath were just such
as the officiating doctor had witnessed a hundred times, and doubtless
his last moan and gasp will be such as the attending physician will
have seen many a time and oft.
It is not the unusual that this brief tale has to deal with.
Yet, with all of these points held in common with the rest of the race,
the hero of the adventures herein chronicled had an individuality that
was his own, and most thoroughly so. This, too, is common. Most
people have an individuality, if they can only find it! A good many
men never do find this quality in themselves, having it crushed out by
the timid or designing people who take charge of their education, so
called; but for all that, to every man is given a being unlike that of
any other in all the world, and it is the business of each, for
himself, to make the most of his own peculiar gift, and for all his
teachers and all systems of education to help him in his
The young Weaver, whose advent has just been mentioned, was an
individual. The nurse became conscious of it before he was an hour
old, and the same impression has been received by all of his
since-acquired acquaintances. He was a boy with a way of his own. He
came into a world where there are crowds possessed of the same
characteristics. It is a marvel, how, in such a multitude of
differences, either he or the rest of us get along, even as well as we
When it came to naming the child, he was called "Dodd."
"Dodd" was the short for Doddridge, and the full appellation given to
the youth at his christening, when he was two months old, was Doddridge
Watts Weaver, a name which the officiating clergyman pronounced with
great unction, and in the prayer after baptism made mention of again,
asking heaven to grant that the mantle of both the old worthies whose
names the child bore might fall upon the little body wrapped up in an
embroidered blanket and held on the shoulder of the good woman who
stood before the altar.
That is not just the way the preacher said this, but it is
substantially the idea that he tried to convey to the Lord, and perhaps
he succeeded in doing so better than I have succeeded in conveying it
to you, dear reader; but then, he had this advantage: The Lord is
quicker at taking a point hinted at than the public is! Though this
needs to be added: that if the Hearer of Prayer did catch the meaning
that lay around loose somewhere in the jumble of the parson's petition,
that morning, He did not see fit to grant the request, for no scrap of
a rag that ever had graced the backs of those dear old hymn-makers
fell, either soon or late, upon the form of the boy whose wriggling
little body the mother tried to keep in order while the parson prayed.
The father of this bit of humanity was Parson Weaver, a man of some
ability, as was evinced by the fact that he joined the church, got
married, went to preaching, and became a father, as noted, all within a
twelve-month. He was shrewd, and generally had sufficient reasons for
his actions. He even had a purpose in naming his first-born. He was
fresh to the ministry, and young. The elders of the church were somber
men, and feared that their pastor might be too much given to levity.
Mr. Weaver got wind of this, somehow, and to impress upon the pillars
of his church and the payers of his salary the fact that he was "sober,
righteous and godly," he named his first-born out of the hymn book.
But the boy never liked the name. When he began to go to school the
other boys used to laugh at him when he stood up and told the teacher
what his name was, and, a tease among the girls, who had an old
grandmother who used to sit in a corner and read old books, once
nick-named the youth "Rise and Progress." As soon as he could write,
he always signed his name D. W. Weaver, and insisted that the initials
stood for Daniel Webster.
As already noted, the child was the first born of his parents. He was
not the last, however, for, like a faithful clergyman of the old
school, that he was, Parson Weaver ultimately had a family, the number
of which could not be told by any one significant figure. The children
came into the household in quick succession too, for when "Dodd" was
four years old he had four brothers and sisters, two pairs of twins
having blessed the good parson and his wife within the first half
decade of their wedded life. These trifling facts may seem irrelevant
to this record, but due reflection will doubtless show that they are
worthy to be set down as pertaining to the case.
Perhaps first children are more apt to be individual than those of
later birth. Be this as it may, "Dodd" had a much more marked
individuality than his brothers and sisters. Not to attempt to trace
the ways of nature too far, it is perhaps true that in a first-born
child are joined the individualities of the young father and mother to
a greater extent than in the younger members of a family. The untamed
currents of youthful blood that course through the veins of the bride
and groom, and their unmodified natures--all of which mellow with
years,--leave marks upon their eldest which the younger children escape.
At any rate, "Dodd" was a wayward boy from the first, a typical
preacher's son. He was rebellious, belligerent, and naturally
deceitful. This last trait, matched with a vivid imagination, made him
a great liar as soon as he grew old enough to use the two faculties at
the same time. In this regard, however, he was not so wonderfully
unlike a great many other people. He had bursts of great generosity;
was brave and daring even to foolhardiness; had friends, and would
stand by them till death, if need be, when the good impulse was on; or
perhaps betray them in their greatest extremity if the opposite passion
got control at a critical moment.
Intellectually he was bright, even to keenness; physically he was lazy
and a shirk; morally his status is best represented by the algebraic
sign 0-0; spiritually he was at times profoundly reverent and aspiring,
or again, outrageously blasphemous, and reckless almost to desperation.
This is a partial catalogue of the characteristics with which "Dodd"
was originally endowed. The character that was evolved from these, by
means of the education that fell to the lot of this individual, is the
business of these pages. To take such timber as is furnished in this
specimen, and fashion from it a temple of the Lord, is a task that
might puzzle angels. To make a decent child, a boy, or man out of
"Dodd" Weaver, was the thing that worried everybody that had anything
to do with him, and may, some day, perhaps, prove too hard a task for
that individual himself. Yet his case is no uncommon one in many of
its phases, for every day sees thousands quite like it in the school
houses of America, as elsewhere.
And the question is, what are we to do about it?
Not to detail carefully all the events pertaining to the home life of
"Dodd" up to the time he was six years old, it is enough to say that
after the time he was able to creep, he lived much in the street. He
was usually in mischief when not asleep, and his overworn mother and
somewhat shiftless and careless father were so taken up with the other
children and with family and pastoral cares, that "Dodd" grew up by
himself, as so many children do; more is the pity.
A man seldom gets so many calves, or colts, or pigs that he cannot take
good care of them, every one; but for his own children--well, it need
not be said what, the cases are so frequent that everybody knows all
"Dodd" was a youngster for everybody to tease. When he first began to
toddle along the sidewalk in front of the house, the folks who came
along would pull his little cap down over his eyes, and then laugh at
him when he got mad and cried. All this tended to develop him, and
doubtless the evolution of many points in his character took rise in
these and similar events.
At last the morning dawned when "Dodd" was six years old, and there was
joy in Parson Weavers household in the fact that now one youngster
could be got rid of for six hours a day, and ten months in the year,
Saturdays and Sundays excepted.
Gentle teacher, you who read these lines, you know who was to take care
of this specimen, don't you? Alas! alas! what herds of six-year-old
babies there are thus to be taken care of, many of them coming from
homes where they have never known what care meant, but every one to be
got into shape somehow, by you, my dear school ma'am, or master, all
for a handful of paltry dollars per month, while you wait to get
married, or to enter another profession. "To what base uses do we
So, on a leaden morning in November, when the mud was deepest and the
first snow was shied through the air, whose sharpness cut like a knife,
"Dodd" Weaver came into the schoolroom alone, his mother being too busy
to go with him. He had waded across the street where the mud and slush
were worse than anywhere else. His boots were smeared to their very
tops, and the new book that he started with had a black daub the size
of your hand on the bright cover. He came late and, without a word of
hesitation, marched to the desk, and remarked to the woman in charge:
"Mam said you was to take care o' me!"
Miss Elvira Stone was teaching the school that year. Miss Stone was
above the average height of women, and carried her social much higher
than she did her physical head, while there was a kind of
nose-in-the-air bearing in both cases. She had beautiful, wavy black
hair, a clear complexion, black eyes, and narrow, thin lips, which were
always slightly pursed up, as the groundwork or main support of a kind
of cast-iron smile that never left her face for a moment while she was
awake. Her dresses always fitted her perfectly, and her skirts trailed
at the proper angle, but yet there was a feeling, all the time, that
she had been poured into the mould that the dressmaker had prepared,
and now that she had got hard, you could strike her with a hammer and
not break her up, though you could not help thinking that it must have
taken a very hot fire ever to melt her.
She wore glasses, too. Not spectacles, but a dainty pair of eye
glasses, set in gold, that sat astride of her nose in a very dignified
fashion and crowned the everlasting smile that was spread out below
them. In fact Miss Stone was so superior a person that one wondered
how it ever happened that she should condescend to teach school at all.
But this was only a general view of the case.
When viewed in detail the fact appeared that although Elvira was proud
she was also poor!
This accounted for her being in the schoolroom.
But she had made the most of herself in her profession, as she had in
other directions. Her motto was to aim high, even if her arrow should
light in the mud at last, and she always shot by that rule. When she
decided to be a teacher rather than a clerk in a store, she began to
look about for the best opportunities in the direction of her choice.
It should be remarked that the alternative of store or schoolroom came
to her only after several unsuccessful seasons in society, in which the
moulded form, the wavy hair, and the constant smile had been used to
their best possible advantage, but all in vain. The hook on which her
bait was hung was so rigid and cold that no gudgeon, even, ever thought
of biting at it; though the angler thought it a clever and tempting bit
to bite at.
How apt we all are to be deceived--by ourselves.
So Elvira resolved to make a school teacher out of herself.
Being somewhat dull intellectually, and detesting severe study, she
abjured all paths that would lead her to teach the higher branches of
learning, and bent her rather spare and somewhat stale energies to
fitting herself for primary work. This, too, in the face of the fact
that she naturally despised children, except sweet little girls in
their best clothes, with long curls, freshly made up, and hanging like
a golden flood over neck and shoulders; or bright little boys, also
well dressed and duly curled, for about a minute, when they came into
the parlor where Miss Stone used to sit with her smile. For these she
had a fancy merely, it could not be called an affection. Miss Stone
was not affectionate.
She went to St. Louis and associated herself with the Kindergarten of
that far-famed city.
Far be it from this record to intimate that this is not a good thing to
do, on occasion. With this point I have naught to do. But history is
history, and facts must be duly recorded; and the fact is, Miss Stone
went to St. Louis, as before stated, and let out the job of being
fashioned into a Kindergarten, to certain persons who dwelt in that
city, and whose business it was to do just this sort of thing.
Neither can it be here set down what her ultimate success might have
been had she confined herself to Kindergarten work proper. Indeed, it
is an open question how any one ever succeeded in this particular way,
or, in fact, whether any one ever did do Kindergarten work proper for a
week at a time. It is one of the peculiarities of this kind, that it
is never met with in all its purity. Like the old-fashioned
milk-sickness, you can never come to the place where it really exists.
Any one can tell you just where you will find it, but when you pursue
it, and come to the place, like the end of the rainbow, it evades you
and goes beyond.
But this is getting on slowly. Miss Stone got on slowly, too.
This was the woman to whom "Dodd" committed himself, in the words of
the last chapter. The lady turned towards the boy and brought the full
force of her smile to bear upon his luckless head.
"My dear little child," she said, "go and clean your feet!"
This, vocally. In mental reservation she remarked at the same time:
"Drat the little villain, I've got to take him at last," for she had
heard of "Dodd" and his exploits before she had been in her place a
"I don't haf to," returned the youth, scraping a piece of black loam
off his left boot with the toe of his right, and rubbing the sticky
lump into the floor.
But Miss Stone had faith in her training. She hastily ran through all
the precepts and maxims of Froebel, and also such others as his
American followers have added by way of perfecting this highly wrought
system, but though she thought a great deal more rapidly than usual,
she found no rules and regulations duly made and provided for a case
just like this.
For the first time in her life she realized that there was one thing in
this world that even a German specialist, backed up by St. Louis
philosophy, had not reached; neither Froebel nor his followers said a
word about poking mud off one boot with the toe of the other, nor of
rubbing mud into the floor, nor what to do with a saucy little boy who
said defiantly, "I don't haf to."
Had she been teaching in a large city she might have sent for the
principal, and he might have telephoned the superintendent, who might
have called a meeting of the Board to consider the case, and so
overcome the dilemma; but Circleville had a school of only three rooms,
and the principal, so called, heard twenty-two recitations a day, in
his own room, and had little time for anything else. So there was no
help from that quarter, and for the time Miss Stone was dumb.
There is a tradition that her smile left her for a moment, but the fact
is not well authenticated and should not be too freely believed.
How long this teacher would have remained in her unfortunate condition
it is impossible to tell, for just at this instant Esther Tracy, a
motherly little soul, aged seven, who had been conscientiously trying
for half an hour to see in how many different ways she could arrange
four wooden tooth-picks upon the desk, according to a modified form of
Froebel's canons, as interpreted by Miss Stone, took the ends of her
fingers out from between her lips, where she had thrust them during the
moment of her doubt, and raising her hand, said:
"Please, Miss Stone, let me take 'Dodd' and I'll take care of him."
Without waiting for a reply, she came forward, took the boy by the hand
and led him out of the room.
O, Nature, Nature! How inexorable art thou! As people are born, so
are they always, and what do all our strivings to change thy decrees
amount to? Esther Tracy, aged seven, who had never heard of a Theory
and Art of Teaching, and who scarce knew her letters; indeed, has put
to shame Miss Elvira Stone, the handmade disciple of Froebel and the
St. Louis Kindergarten system! She knew what to do with "Dodd," and
Miss Stone didn't. This was the success of one, the failure of the
other. The principle obtains always.
It was fully fifteen minutes before Esther and "Dodd" returned to the
schoolroom. It takes a large reserve force of both patience and
scraping to make presentable such a specimen as "Dodd" was on this
memorable morning. But when the two appeared again, the boy's boots
were clean, and his hair was smoothed down, while the book cover showed
only a wet spot, of deeper tint than the rest of the book, in place of
the black blot that had been so prominent a few minutes before. The
girl led the boy to a seat not far from hers and then returned to her
own little desk.
While the children were out Miss Stone had time to collect her
thoughts, and she began at once to consider what she should do to amuse
the child. It had been a primary principle with those who constructed
this female educator, that the chief end of a primary teacher was to
amuse the children placed under her charge.
This precept had been drilled into Miss Stone, and nothing less than a
charge of dynamite could have dislodged it.
She was taught that it was little less than wicked to impose tasks upon
young shoulders; that the "pretty little birdies" (this always said
with a smile) "enjoyed themselves, hopping about in God's blessed
sunlight, and that it was Nature's way to have her children happy."
"Happiness," in this case, seemed to mean doing nothing, but simply
being amused--a definition that finds general recognition among many,
there being those who dream of heaven as a place where they can be as
everlastingly lazy as they choose, through all eternity, with the
celestial choirs forever tooting soft music in the distance, and
streams of milk and honey flowing perpetually to their lips, all for
their amusement and delectation. Perhaps this last is the correct
idea. It might as well be confessed that on this point we are not well
posted in this world, though many profess to be. The Father will show
us this some day, as he will all else, but till then we can wait.
But, be the employment or enjoyment of heaven what it may, it is
evident that in this world a man or a child has something to do besides
being amused. We are all born destined for work, rich and poor alike.
It is our reasonable service, and the best thing we can do is to fit
ourselves for the task, from the very first. Not that our work shall
be mere drudgery, though it may be that and nothing more, and, even so,
be better than idleness or being amused; but it is the fate of every
soul born on earth to be called upon constantly to do things which it
had rather not do, just then, anyhow, and whenever such a condition
exists, work is the word that describes what has to be done. It is the
business of life to work. The Book has it that, "The Father worketh
hitherto." Even the new version has failed to reveal the phrase, "The
Father is amused," and the Master, when a boy, declared that he must
attend to the "business" that lay waiting for him.
But the pedagogic preceptors of Miss Stone did not draw their system of
education from so old a book as the one just referred to. It is
perhaps true, also, that German philosophy was evolved merely that
people might be amused by it!
Quietly she glided down the aisle, her dress rustling along the seats,
and an odor of "new mown hay" exhaling from her clothing. "Dodd" hung
his head as she approached--perhaps it was to dodge her smile--and
"What is your name, my dear?" came from between the pursed-up lips.
"Doddridge Watts Weaver," said the boy, in a loud tone.
There was a titter all over the room. The name was very odd, and an
oddity is always to be laughed at by the average person, boy or man.
Did you ever think of that, my dear pedagogue; you who would fain amuse
children, and yet will spit them upon the spear of public ridicule by
asking them to tell their names out loud in public, before all the rest
of the boys and girls? It is doubtful if any one ever likes to tell
his name in public. I have known old lawyers to blush when put upon
the witness stand and obliged to tell their names to the court and
jury, all of whom had known them for the last fifty years! If such is
the effect on a dry old stump of a lawyer, what must the effect be on a
green, sensitive child?
"Dodd" heard the titter and it made him mad. He was not to blame for
the name, and he felt that it was mean for the folks to laugh at him
for what he couldn't help. He cast an angry glance out of the corner
of his eyes, as if to say he would be even for this some day, and then
hung his head again.
"That's a very pretty name," said Miss Stone, thinking by this thin
compliment to amuse the boy.
"Tain't nuther!" returned the youth.
Miss Stone ventured no further in that line.
"I am glad you have come to school, and I hope you will be a very nice
little boy, because we all love nice little boys," replied Miss Stone.
"Dodd" glanced across the aisle to where sat a "curled darling" and
wished be could pull his hair till he howled.
"Now here is something that will amuse you a little while, I am sure,"
pursued Miss Stone, and she laid a handful of beans upon the desk.
The boy glanced up and giggled just a little--such a knowing giggle,
too, as much as to say: "What do you take me for? Here's a go! Come
to school to be amused with beans!"
Miss Stone caught the glance, and in her inmost soul knew all it meant,
and realized its full force; but she checked the truth that she felt
within her and proceeded by the card. And why not? Was she not acting
in accordance with the rules and regulations laid down by those who had
fashioned her for this very work, and were not these same warranted to
keep in any climate, and not to be affected by dampness or dry weather?
She had put her faith in a system and had paid for what she received;
and she didn't propose to be beaten out of her possession by any little
white-headed son of a Methodist preacher, in a town of a thousand
She showed "Dodd" how to divide the handful of beans into little
bunches of three each, and how to lay each pile by itself along the top
of the desk, and then left him to be amused according to the rule in
such cases made and provided.
Now it is admitted, right here, that beans are not a strictly
Kindergarten "property"--to bring a stage term into the schoolroom--but
one seldom sees genuine Kindergarten properties, or hardly ever, even
in St. Louis, and beans are so commonly used as above stated, that it
can hardly be the fault of the harmless vegetable that Miss Stone's
plan did not succeed exactly as she wished it to. The fact is, "Dodd"
knew how to count before he went to school, and could even add and
subtract fairly, as was shown by his doing errands at the store for his
mother and counting the change which he brought back to her. The bean
business was therefore mere nonsense to him. He turned up his nose at
the inoffensive kidney-shaped pellets before him, and his reverence for
the dignity of the schoolroom and his faith in Miss Stone fell several
degrees in a few minutes.
Perhaps it would not have been so in Boston. In that city, I am told,
the bean is held in such reverence by all grown-up people that one
might well expect to see the quality descend to all children, as a
natural inheritance. But Circleville is not Boston, and there are
thousands of other towns in these United States that are like
Circleville in this respect.
However, "Dodd" sat idly moving the beans about for some time. He was
quiet, and gradually Miss Stone forgot him in the press of other
thoughts. To be plain, she had recently joined an Art Club, an
organization composed of a few ladies in the little village, women
whose husbands were well-to-do, and who, being childless, were restless
and anxious to "become developed." Miss Stone was a member of this
club, and in a few days she was to read a paper on "Giunta Pisano, and
his probable relation to Cimabue," and the subject was working her
mightily, for she was anxious to have her production longer than Miss
Blossom's, read at the last meet, and to secure this was no small task.
She had been to the "up-stairs room" during recess and brought down the
cyclopedia, and, happily, had found a page and a half regarding Giunta
Pisano therein, which she was copying verbatim. To be sure, there was
no word in it about Cimabue, or the relation of the one to the other,
but this was not taken into account. There were plenty of words in the
article, and that was the chief end just then.
So Miss Stone was soon busy with her pen, the index finger of her left
hand noting the line in the cyclopedia which should be next
transcribed. The children whispered and played a good deal, but she
paid little heed. There was little danger of visitors, for no one
visited schools in Circleville (how like all other towns it is in this
respect!) and Miss Stone knew how to hustle classes through recitations
and make time on a down grade just before dinner, and so took her time
at her task of writing up poor old Giunta.
She was presently conscious, however, that something unusual was going
on, and on looking up, found the eyes of the pupils fastened on "Dodd."
She ran down to his desk, hoping to find the beans in order. But alas
for human expectations! We are all so often doomed to disappointment!
Not a bean was to be seen, and "Dodd" hung his head.
Miss Stone reached for his hands, thinking he was hiding them there;
but his hands were empty. She tried his pockets. They yielded ample
returns of such things as boys' pockets are wont to contain, but no
Miss Stone was alarmed, and she almost trembled as she asked:
"'Dodd,' where are the beans?"
The boy did not look up, but with a kind of suppressed chuckle, he
muttered, "I've eat 'em all up!"
For some cause or other Miss Stone and "Dodd" did not get on well
together as their acquaintance progressed. The boy was impulsive,
saucy, rude, and generally outrageous, in more ways than can be told or
even dreamed of by any one but a primary teacher who has become
familiar with the species.
Miss Stone had no natural tact as a teacher, no gift of God in this
direction, no intuition, which is worth more than all precepts and
maxims combined. She knew how to work by rule, as so many teachers do,
but beyond this she had little ability. This to her credit, however:
she did, ultimately, labor hard with the boy, and tried her best to do
something with him, or for him, or by him, but all to little purpose.
It seemed to be "Dodd's" special mission to knock in the head the pet
theories of this hand-made school-ma'am. She had him up to read on the
afternoon of the first day of his attendance at school. Being but six
years of age, and having just entered school, it was proper, according
to the regulations, that he should enter the Chart Class. So to the
Chart Class he went.
The word for the class that day was "girl," and the lesson proceeded
after the usual manner of those who hold to this method of teaching
children to read.
A little girl was placed upon the platform (the prettiest little girl
in the class, to be sure), and the pupils were asked to tell what they
saw. They all answered in concert, "a girl;" and it is to be hoped
that this answer, thus given, was duly evolved from their inner
consciousness by a method fully in harmony with the principles of
thought-development, as laid down in the books, and by Miss Stone's
preceptors. A picture girl was then displayed upon a card-board which
hung against the wall. There were many of these card-boards in the
room, all made by a book-concern that had some faith and a good deal of
money invested in this particular way of teaching reading--all of
which, I am sure, is well enough, but the fact, probably, ought to be
mentioned just here, as it is.
The pupils were asked if the girl on the platform was the same as the
one on the card-board, and there was a unanimous opinion that they were
not identical. The analysis of differences was not pursued to any
great length, but enough questions were asked the children, by Miss
Stone, to develop in them the thought that "structurally and
functionally the two objects, designated by the common term, were not
the same!" When this diagnosis had been thoroughly mastered by the
children, a third member was added for their serious consideration,
Miss Stone having duly explained to the class that "there is still
another way to make us think girl."
"You know," she said, "we always think girl when we see 'Lollie'"--the
little girl on the platform--"and we always think girl when we see the
picture; but now you all watch me, and I will show you one other way in
which we may always be made to think girl."
Then, with much flourish of chalk, Miss Stone printed "GIRL" upon the
board, and proceeded to elucidate, as follows:
"Now, this that I have written upon the board is not 'Lollie,' for she
is on the platform yet; nor is it the picture, for that is on the
card-board, but it is the word 'girl,' and whenever I see it, it makes
me think girl. Now, 'Lollie' is the real girl, on the card-board is
the picture girl, and on the blackboard is the word girl. Now, who
thinks he can take the pointer and point to the kind of girl I ask for?"
Several little hands went up, but "Dodd's" was not among them. Miss
Stone noticed this and was "riled" a little, for she had tried doubly
hard to do well, just because this tow-head was in the class, and now
to have the little scamp repudiate it all was too bad.
She called on one and another of the children to point, now to the real
girl, now to the picture girl, now to the word girl, and all went very
nicely, till finally she asked "Dodd" to take the pointer and see what
he could do. But the boy made no motion to obey. Gently she urged him
to try, but he hung his head and would not budge.
"Why don't you want to try, 'Dodd?'" asked the lady, bending down over
O fatal question! Quick as thought the lad replied, as he raised his
"Coz, I've knowed that always!"
It is not the intention of this chronicle to pass judgment upon any
system of teaching children to read. This record does not concern
itself with one system nor another. But in the evolution of "Dodd,"
Miss Stone used the word-method of the charts, as before stated, and
using it just as she did, she failed to reach the boy as she hoped to,
and her failure was very unfortunate for the child. She was aware of
this, but she had not strength enough, in her own right, to change the
So it was that day after day went by, and the antagonism between
teacher and pupil grew.
The boy presently discovered that he could annoy Miss Stone mightily,
and he lost no opportunity to do what he could in this direction. It
was contrary to the creed taught this good woman to inflict corporal
punishment upon any child, and though "Dodd" aggravated her almost to
desperation, and was malicious in his persecutions, yet she kept her
hands off him. Once or twice she tried some slight punishment, such as
making him sit on the platform at her feet, or stand with his face in
the corner, but these light afflictions the boy counted as joyous
rather than grievous, and did as he chose more than ever. He slyly
unfastened one of Miss Stone's shoestrings one day, when seated at her
feet for penalty, and laughed when she tripped in it as she got up; and
somehow or other, he would always put the whole room in a turmoil
whenever placed with his face to the wall.
"Dodd" learned to read quite rapidly, however, having mastered his
letters before he went to school, and having spelled a good many words
on signs and in newspapers. Before the end of the third week he had
read his first reader through, one way or another, though he was still
in the Chart Class, and having once been through the book, it lost
many, if not most, of its charms for him thereafter.
But if his reader was so soon crippled for him, what shall be said of
the work of the Chart Class, over which he went again and again, always
in substantially the same way?
It may be said, and truthfully, that there were some pupils in the
class who, even after going over and over the same lesson, for days and
days, still did not master it, and so the class was not ready to move
on; but it does not follow that therefore "Dodd" was not ready to move
on. This did follow, however, according to Miss Stone's teaching, and
according to the system adopted by multitudes of teachers East, West,
North, and South.
I am well aware that there are teachers, plenty of them, whose spirits
will rebel against the above insinuation, so, a word with you, ladies
The system used by Miss Stone may have worked well enough in some other
hands, but it should be remembered that it is not a system that can
educate our children. Nor is it a system--any set of rules and
formularies--that can make our schools, any more than it is forms and
ceremonies that make our churches. These may all be well enough in
their proper places, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in them,
per se. It is the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees in the
one case, and the dry bones of pedagogy in the other,
The evil arises, in the schools as in the churches, from believing and
acting as if there were something in the system itself.
If human nature were a fixed quantity, if any two children were alike,
or anywhere nearly alike, if a certain act done for a child always
brought forth the same result, then it might be possible to form an
absolute system of pedagogy, as, with fixed elements, there is formed
the science of chemistry. But the quick atoms of spirit that manifest
their affinities under the eye of that alchemist, the teacher, are far
more subtle than the elements that go into the crucible in any other of
A chemist will distill for you the odor of a blown rose, or catch and
hold captive the breath of the morning meadow, and do it always just
the same, and ever with like results. But there is no art by which
anything analogous can be wrought in human life. Here a new element
comes in that entirely changes the economy of nature in this regard.
The individuality of every human soul is this new factor, and because
of it, of its infinite variability--because no two atoms that are cast
into the crucible of life are ever the same, or can be wrought into
character by the same means--because of this, no fixed rules can ever
be laid down for evolving a definite result, in the realm of soul, by
And this is where Miss Stone was at fault. She had put her faith in a
system, a mill through which all children should be run, and in passing
through which each child should receive the same treatment, and from
which they should all emerge, stamped with the seal of the institution,
This was the prime idea that lay at the foundation of Miss Stone's
system of training--to make children uniform. This very thing that God
and Nature have set themselves against--no two faces, or forms, or
statures; no two minds, or hearts, or souls being alike, as designed by
the Creator, and as fashioned by Nature's hand--to make all these alike
was the aim of the system under which "Dodd" began to be evolved, and
with which he began to clash at once.
The boy was much brighter than most of the class in which he was
placed. The peculiarity of his own nature, and his surroundings before
entering school, made him a subject for some special notice, something
more than the "regular thing" prescribed by the rules. Yet this he did
not get, and by so much as he did not, by so much he failed to receive
his proper due at this period of his life.
And this is a fault in any system, or in any teacher who works
exclusively by any card other than his or her own good sense, as
applied to each individual case.
It was not so much the means that Miss Stone tried upon "Dodd" that
were at fault, as it was the way in which she applied them and the end
she strove to reach by their use. And for you, my dear, who are
walking over the same road as the one just reported as traversed by
Miss Stone, look the way over and see how it is with you in these
matters. And do not content yourself, either, by merely saying, "But
what are we going to do about it?" Bless your dear life, that is the
very thing that is set for you to find out, and as you hope for success
here and a reward hereafter, don't give up till you have answered the
Neither can any one but yourself answer this question. The experience
of others may be of some help to you, but the problem--and you have a
new problem every time you have a new pupil--is only to be solved by
yourself. Look over the history of the Chart Class, over whose silly
mumblings this boy was dragged till disgust took the place of
expectancy, then think of like cases that you have known, and ask
yourself what you are going to do about it.
It is true that classes are large, that rooms are full, that some
pupils are severely dull, and that it is a very hard thing to know what
it is best to do; but these things, all of them, do not excuse you from
doing your best, and from making that best, in large measure, meet the
absolute needs of the child. "Hic labor, hoc opus est."
And for you, who send your six-year-olds to school with a single book,
and grumble because you have to buy even so much of an outfit, what are
you going to do about it when your boy drains all the life out of the
little volume, in a couple of weeks or a month? He knows the stories
by heart, and after that says them over, day by day, because he must,
and not in the least because he cares to.
What are you going to do about this? It is largely your business. You
cannot shirk it and say that you send the boy to school, and it is the
teacher's business to take care of him. That will not answer the
question. Look the facts in the face, and then do as well by your boy
as you do by your hogs! When they get cloyed on corn, then you change
their feed, and so keep them growing, even if it does cost twice as
much to make the change; and yet, the chances are that when your boy is
tired to death of the old, old stories in his reader, tales worn
threadbare, as they are drawled over and over in his hearing by the
dullards of his class, till his soul is sick of them, even then you
force him to go again and again over the hated pages, till he will
resort to rank rebellion to be rid of them!
And what are you going to do about it?
Miss Stone knew none of these things. They were of little interest to
her, and she bothered her head but little about them. But they were of
interest to "Dodd" Weaver. In the evolution of this young hopeful they
played an important part. They were hindrances to the boy at the very
outset of his course in the public schools. They begot in him habits
and dislikes which it took years to efface, and from which it is
doubtful if he ever did fully recover. There are multitudes in like
case, and what are we going to do about it?
The severity of the duties, pastoral and paternal, that fell to the lot
of Elder Weaver, wore rapidly upon the constitution of that worthy
gentleman, and when "Dodd" was nine years old his father found it
necessary to retire from the pulpit, for a year at least, and, as is
usual in such cases, he went to that refuge for fagged out ministers of
all denominations, the old homestead of his wife's parents.
From this rustic domicile he had led the youngest daughter, a buxom
bride, ten years before; to it he now returned with her and with seven
small children besides. An ambitious young man and a healthy young
woman, a decade before, they came back to the threshold from which they
had gone out, he, broken in spirit and as poor in purse as in purpose;
she, worn and faded, yet trying hard to seem cheerful as she came
within the sunlight of the old home again.
The old people lengthened the cords and strengthened the stakes of
their simple home, and made the Elder and his wife, and the seven
children ("seven devils," an irreverent sister once called them in a
burst of indignation at the state of affairs) as comfortable as
possible. To be sure grandpa and grandma Stebbins were old, and it was
long since there had been children in the house, but they had enough
and to spare in crib and pantry, and they had lived sufficiently long
in this world to accept the inevitable without a murmur.
But for all of that, the children were a source of a good deal of
annoyance to the old people, especially until they were brought
somewhat under subjection by the faithful hand of the old gentleman,
who found that he should have to stand up for his own in the premises
or submit to the unendurable.
The first real climax occurred on the second day of the quartering of
the family thus, and "Dodd" was the boy who brought matters to a focus.
The month was October, and down in the yard, a few feet from the
bee-hives, just beyond the shadow of the weeping-willow that stood near
the well, and along the row of gooseberry bushes under which the hens
were wont to gather and gossip--standing on one leg and making their
toilets meanwhile--there stood a barrel, out of whose bung-hole
protruded a black bottle turned bottom side up. The barrel was filled
with the best cider made that season, a special run from apples that
had been sorted out, and from which every worm-hole and specked place
had been cut by the thrifty hand of Grandma Stebbins. This was for the
family vinegar for the year, and the cask was thus left in the sun duly
to ripen its contents.
"Dodd" had not been in the yard five minutes before his quick eye
caught sight of this, and his eager imagination transformed it into a
horse in a twinkling. He did this the more easily, too, because it was
raised from the ground a foot or more, being supported by blocks of
wood which in the mind's eye of the boy did well enough for legs, while
a spicket, protruding from one end, below, made a head for the animal,
which, though small, was available for bridling purposes.
It was the work of but a minute to jerk a string from his pocket,
bridle the beast, and mount him for a ride.
"Dodd" had but fairly started on this escapade, however, when his
grandfather appeared in the yard and at once saw the danger that
threatened his carefully garnered cider. He quietly approached his
little grandson, and, telling him that he could not permit him to play
with the barrel, began gently to lift him to the ground.
But against this the boy rebelled. He clutched his little legs about
the cask and held to his seat with all his might, and when at last he
was forced to yield, he took the black bottle with him as a trophy.
His grandfather set him down and explained to him how the cider was
turning to vinegar; that if it was jarred it would spoil it, and how
the black bottle "drew the sun."
But "Dodd" heard little of all this, and cared less, even, for what he
did hear. He was used to having his own way. He wriggled and squirmed
during the explanation, and as soon as he was released, he made
straight for his coveted seat again, even in the very face of the old
gentleman, and when his grandfather caught him once more and led him
away somewhat rapidly, he kicked the shins of his captor in a very
malicious and wicked fashion, and yelled lustily the while. The old
man took the boy to his mother and explained matters, assuring "Dodd"
and the other children, who stood about in a ring, that they must in no
case touch the cask in question, and then left the room.
Mrs. Weaver scolded her first-born roundly, told him he was "a very
naughty boy," and ended by taking from behind the clock a small and
brittle switch--an auxiliary that she had made haste to provide herself
with before she had been on the premises an hour, and without which she
felt that her family government would be but sounding brass and a
tinkling cymbal--and striking "Dodd" one or two slight strokes over his
This was Mrs. Weaver's way of "training" her children. From "Dodd's"
earliest infancy he had been used to this sort of thing. His mother
believed in the maxim, "spare the rod and spoil the child," and this
was her method of endeavoring to fulfill both the spirit and the letter
of the precept. There was always a small, brittle switch behind the
clock, and it was taken down numberless times each day, only to make a
child bawl for a minute, as he was threatened or struck lightly with
the harmless stick.
The usual result was that he went ahead and did the very thing he was
forbidden to do.
"Dodd" yelled lustily while his mother laid on, though in truth he
scarcely felt the blows, and then sulked for the rest of the day,
teasing the other children and making life a burden to everybody and
everything he came near.
It was the next day, about two o'clock, that the boy once more got into
the yard and made straight for his coveted seat. The fact is he had
never given up his purpose to return at the first opportunity.
He fastened the bridle to the spigot and mounted in hot haste, kicking
his little heels into the bleached staves, and plying the riding whip
like a young fury. The horse acted badly ("Dodd's" horses always acted
badly), and he jerked smartly on the bridle rein to subdue him. It was
rare sport, and the lad fairly reveled in it, in his little heart
defying those who had forbidden him this pleasure, and glorying in his
But "the way of sinners is as darkness, they know not at what they
stumble," and "Dodd" was destined to "take a header" forthwith. The
jerks on the reins drew the spigot from its place, and the first he
knew it was dangling in the air over the end of the barrel. He leaned
over, fully to observe this fact, and saw the cider shooting out in an
amber stream and flooding all the ground.
"Hurray," he yelled, "that's a bully waterfall!" and he thrust his whip
into the stream to see it spatter, hopping about meantime.
It was just at this instant that grandfather Stebbins came out of the
barn, and, hearing the shout of the boy, looked over that way and took
in the situation. He was over seventy, but he covered the ground from
barn to barrel in most excellent time.
"Hi! hi!" he shouted as he ran. "Stop it up! Stop it up!"
"Dodd" saw the old man coming, and realizing something of the
situation, he began to beat a retreat, taking the spigot with him.
"Here! you young Benjamite" ("Dodd" was left-handed, and the old
gentleman was well posted in Bible lore), "bring back that spigot."
But the boy ran like a white-head that he was, and a race of several
yards ensued before he was caught. But the old man was wiry and was
urged to his topmost speed by the press of the circumstances. He
caught "Dodd," and collared him with a grip such as the boy had never
before felt. He dragged the young rogue back to the barrel in no
gentle manner, and thrust the plug into the hole, saving a mere remnant
that remained of the contents of the cask, and then devoted himself to
the little scamp whom he still held.
For a few times in a lifetime Fortune puts into our hands the very
thing we most want at the very time we most want it, and this was one
of the times when the fickle goddess favored the old man Stebbins.
"Dodd" had dropped the riding whip that he had been using, beside the
barrel, and it lay where it fell. It was a tough bit of rawhide,
hard-twisted, and lithe. The old man's hand caught it instinctively,
as if drawn to it by an irresistible attraction, and before the young
lawbreaker, whom he held by the collar, could say, or think, "what
doest thou?" he plied it so vigorously about his legs and back that the
culprit thought for a moment that he had been struck by lightning. He
yelled from very pain for the first time in his life, from such a
cause, and tried to find breath or words to beg for a respite, but in
vain, for the blows fell thick and fast and they stung terribly, every
"I'll teach you," the old man shouted as he laid on. "Perhaps you
think this is a little switch, and that I shall only tickle you with
He paused a minute to let "Dodd" catch up with the general line of
thought, in his somewhat distracted mind, and while the youth danced
about, he proceeded.
"Young man, I have got to teach you to mind! I told you to keep away
from this barrel and you paid no attention, and now I'm going to whip
you till you will pay attention!"
At the words "going to whip you" "Dodd" tried to find words to beg, but
they came too slowly, and once more the old man wrapped the supple lash
about the smarting understandings of his grandson.
It seemed to "Dodd" as though his legs were fairly whipped off, and as
if the place for the general reception of the strokes had left him
altogether; as though he could not endure another blow, but still the
supply was unexhausted. He fell limp to the ground, and fairly roared
It was the first time in his life that he had really yielded to any
one, but he never thought of that; he only groaned and begged for
The old man stopped when he felt that he had quite fulfilled his duty,
as he understood it, and then spoke as follows to the boy, who lay
collapsed on the ground:
"There, my young man, get up and go into the house, and after this,
remember and do just exactly as I tell you. That's all I want, but
that I must have, and you must understand it. I don't want to be cruel
to you, and I won't be,--but you must learn to mind, and you had better
learn it now than later. Don't you ever do again what I tell you not
to do, or I shall have to punish you even harder than this!"
"Dodd" rubbed his stinging legs and wondered if there was anything
beyond what he had suffered. He staggered to his feet and went to the
house as limp as a rag. He did not seek his mother, but went straight
up stairs and threw himself upon the bed in the back room, where he
cried for half an hour, and finally fell asleep.
As for the old gentleman, he went back to the barn all in a tremble,
his hands shaking like an aspen and his heart in a flutter.
He busied himself here and there for a few minutes, but finally broke
down completely and retired in to the granary, where be fell upon his
knees, and with penitential tears besought the Lord to forgive him if
he had done wrong, and to help him, in his last years, to keep the
devil out of his heart and life. He prayed for the boy too, and asked
the God in whom he trusted to lead him in the right way as he grew out
of youth into manhood.
And then he rose from his knees refreshed, and went about his business.
His heart was somewhat heavy, but he reviewed the whole situation and
concluded that he had done the best thing, and so was content. He knew
that he had not maimed the child in any way, but had only caused him to
suffer intense pain for a time, a sensation which would soon pass away,
but the memory of which, and the dread of a repetition of which, he
trusted, would endure for a lifetime.
At five o'clock he came into the house; and finding "Dodd" in fair good
humor, playing with the children in the kitchen, he asked him to go
with him and fetch the cows for milking. The boy was off for his hat
in an instant, and a moment later the two were seen, hand in hand,
going down the lane that led to the pasture.
They chatted pleasantly as they went along. They even referred freely
to the affair of three hours before. The old gentleman read him no
terrible lesson as to his depravity, and his probable end of life upon
the gallows if he persisted in so headstrong and wilful a course. The
story of the "forty she bears" he did not repeat to the youth, and no
reference was made to the awful death of Jack Ketch. He was too shrewd
an observer of human nature to present anything as attractive as these
things to the imagination of his grandson!
Tell a boy like "Dodd" that he is on the high road to ruin, the prison,
or the rope, and the chances are that you puff him up with pride at his
own achievement, or fill him with ambition to see the end of his own
career carried out in this line.
But grandpa Stebbins gave "Dodd" none of this. He simply told him that
it was the best thing for everybody that he should mind. He reviewed
the facts regarding the waste of the cider, and showed him how bad he
had been in doing as he had done, and why he was bad.
The boy offered no word of remonstrance, but, on the contrary,
acknowledged his fault, and assured his grandfather that he would
"remember" in future. With a light heart he ran for the cows, which
were taking a farewell feed along the banks of the brook that ran
across the pasture, and it was with a genuine pride that he headed them
for home, especially one contrary heifer, that preferred to have her
own way and not obey his command. He ran after her with much spirit,
and was quite delighted when he forced her to do his bidding.
And for you, good people, who do not believe in this sort of thing,
what about this case? It is a hard case, no doubt. There is no
pleasing feature in its early stages, but does not its outcome warrant
all its ugly phases?
Grant that it is all old fashioned; that to you it seems silly for the
old man to go alone and pray after trouncing the boy, or that you fear
the "boy's will was broken" by this episode, yet review the facts in
their entirety, and see if there is not a good in them that you are
wont to overlook.
The punishment was harsh, but it was just such as "Dodd" Weaver had
been needing for a long time, and the only thing that could reach him
just then. It would have been a crime to treat in like manner a gentle
little girl with a sweet disposition, but was it a crime in the case of
And if not a crime in "Dodd's" case, why in other cases like his? And
if the punishment was right, inflicted by the hand of the grandfather,
why not by the hand of the teacher who shall have occasion to resort,
even to this, to put a boy into the right way? I do not mean a
cold-blooded whipping, inflicted by a Principal for a trifling
transgression of a rule in some department of school, under one of the
assistant teachers, but a retribution, swift, sure, and terrible, that
is inflicted by the person against whom the wrong is done, and which
falls upon the willful transgressor to keep him from doing so again.
For this is the mission of penalty, to keep the wrong-doer from a
repetition of his wrong doing.
"Dodd" Weaver was a wrong-doer, and under the treatment he was
receiving from his parents, and had received from Miss Stone, he was
waxing worse and worse with each recurring day. This was really more
unfortunate for him than for the people whom he annoyed by his
lawlessness. There was no likelihood of his correcting the fault by
his own will, nor could persuasion lead him to reform, this having been
worn to rags by Miss Stone, till the boy laughed to scorn so gentle an
opposition to his bad actions.
But over all these misfortunes and follies alike came the lively
thrashing of grandpa Stebbins, and brought the boy to a realizing sense
of the situation. The young sinner found himself suddenly confronted
with the penalty of his sin, and when he found that this penalty was
really extreme suffering, he made up his mind that it was something
worth looking out for.
To be sure, it was not a high motive to right action, but it was a
motive that led to better deeds on the part of "Dodd" Weaver, and as
such is worthy a place in this record. There was one man and one thing
in the world that be had learned to have a decent respect for, and that
was a new acquisition at this period of his life. So long as grandpa
Stebbins lived, he and "Dodd" were fast friends, and when, years after,
the old man went to his reward, there was no more genuine mourner that
stood about his grave than the hero of these adventures.
Quarrel with the theory of corporal punishment as much as you choose,
beloved, but when you get a case like "Dodd's," do as well by it as
grandpa Stebbins did by him--if you can.
The "Fall School" in "deestrick" number four had been in session for
more than a month when the Weavers moved into the country and came
within its jurisdiction. Preparations were at once made to increase
its numbers, if not its graces, to a very perceptible extent, from out
of the bosom of the Weaver homestead; for, as the youngest twins were
now "five past," they were held by the inexorable logic of rural
argumentation to be "in their sixth year," and so to come within the
age limit of the school law, and entitled to go to school and draw
Besides, "Old Man Stebbins owns nigh onter six eighties in the
deestrick, an' pays more school tax nor ary other man in Dundas
township, an' it hain't no more nor fair 'at ef he wants to send the
hull family, he orter be 'lowed ter, coz he hain't sent no one ter
school fur more 'n ten year, only one winter, when Si Hodges done
chores fer him fer his board, an' went ter school," explained old Uncle
Billy Wetzel to a company of objecting neighbors, as they all stood
together by a hitching post in front of the church, waiting for
"meetin' to take up," whittling and discussing local affairs meantime.
So the five young Weavers, headed by "Dodd," became members of the
"fall school in deestrick four, Dundas township," and were marched off
for the day, five times a week, with dinner for the crowd in a wooden
dinner pail, which was the special care of twins number one.
This laxity regarding twins number two would have been rebuked in a
city where there is a superintendent kept on purpose to head off such
midgets as these, who creep in under the legislative gates that guard
the entrance to the road to learning, but no such potentate held sway
in Dundas township, so the little bow-legged pair went to school
unmolested and began, thus early, the heavy task of climbing the hill
of knowledge, starting on their hands and knees.
Is it, or is it not, better so?
Amos Waughops (pronounced Wops, but spelled W-a-u-g-h-o-p-s, such is
the tyranny laid upon us by those who invented the spelling of proper
names, and who have upon their invention the never-expiring patent of
custom), had charge of the school that fall. He had been hired for six
months, beginning the last week in August. School was begun thus early
for the sake of getting an extra week of vacation during the Indian
summer days of November, when the school would close for a while to
give the boys and girls a chance to "help through corn-shucking," and
still get in days enough in the school year to be sure to draw school
Amos had but one reason for being a school teacher, and that was, he
was a cripple. Like the uncouth Richard, he had been sent into the
world but half made up, and a club foot, of immense proportions,
rendered locomotion so great a task that he was compelled, per force,
to choose some occupation by which he could earn a living without the
use of his legs.
He had been endowed by nature with what is commonly known as "a good
flow of language." He learned to talk when very young and his tongue
once started, its periods of rest had been few. From a youth he was
noted for his ability to "argy." He was the hero of the rural debating
society and would argue any side of any question with any man on a
moment's notice. If the question happened to be one of which he had
never heard and concerning which he knew nothing, such a condition did
not embarrass him in the least; he would begin to talk and talk
fluently by the hour, if need be, till his opponent would succumb
through sheer exhaustion.
He had been to school but little, and had not profited much by what
instruction he had received while there. It was an idea early adopted
by him that a "self-made man" was the highest type of the race, and to
him a self-made man was one who worked like the original Creator--made
everything out of nothing and called it all very good.
So it was that, being ignorant, despising both books and teachers, and
yet being able to talk glibly, he came to the conclusion that words
were wisdom, and a rattling tongue identical with a well-stored mind--a
not uncommon error in the genus under the glass just now.
I am sure I shall be pardoned, too, if I still further probe in this
direction, and unfold a little more the nature of the circumstances
that had to do with the evolution of "Dodd" while he went to school to
Amos Waughops, in "deestrick four." As the plot unfolds, and it shall
appear what kind of a pupil-carpenter Amos really was, you may wonder
how it happened that such a blunderer ever got into that workshop, the
school room, and had a chance to try his tools on "Dodd." Wait a
minute, and verily you shall find out about this.
He was the orphan nephew of two farmers in the district, men who had
taken turns in caring for him during his childhood. These men were
school directors and had been elected to their positions for the very
purpose of getting Amos to teach the "fall-and-winter school." This
had further been made possible by the fact that two winters before the
young man had "got religion," and his friends in the church had an eye
on him for the ministry. To work him toward this goal they had
resolved that he, being poor, should teach their school to fill his
purse; and so glorify God through the school fund, and his uncles had
been chosen directors to that end.
Hush! Don't say a word! The thing is done, time and again, all over
The matter had been set up for the year before, but the examiner of
teachers had vetoed the plan by refusing a certificate to teach to the
young man who talked so much and knew so little. This official had
asked the candidate, when he came for examination, to add together 2/3,
3/4, 5/6, and 7/8, whereupon he wrote: "Since you cannot reduce these
fractions to a common denominator, I adopt the method of multiplying
the numerators together for a new numerator, and the denominators
together for a new denominator=210/576! This, reduced to the greatest
common divisor, or, add numerators and denominators=17/21!"
Please do not think that I am jesting, for I have copied this quotation
verbatim from a set of examination papers that lie before me as I
write, papers that were written before the very face and eyes of an
examiner in this great State of Illinois, by a bona fide candidate for
a certificate, on the 16th day of December, in the year of grace, 1875;
the man who wrote them being over thirty years of age and having taught
school for more than half a decade! This is a truthful tale, if
So Amos did not teach the first year that his friends and relations
wanted him to. His friends and relations, however, had their own way
about it after all, for they met and resolved that it should be "Amos
or nobody," and they got the latter. That is, they asked the examiner
to send them a teacher if he would not let them have the one they
The examiner asked them what they would pay for a good teacher and they
replied, "Twenty dollars a month!" The poor man sent them the best he
had for that money, but it was of so poor a quality that it could ill
stand the strain put upon it by the wrangling and angered patrons of
"deestrick four," and it broke down before the school had run a month.
This year they had tried the same thing again, and the examiner, in
sheer despair, gave them their way, as perhaps the lesser of two evils.
If any one thinks this an unnatural picture, please address, stamp
enclosed, any one of the one hundred and two county superintendents of
schools in Illinois, and if you don't get what you want to know, then
try Iowa, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or even the old Bay State. The
quality is largely distributed, and specimens can be picked up in
almost any locality where it is made possible by the system that
permits such a condition.
This was the teacher to whom "Dodd" came on an October morning, just
preceding his ninth birthday. Amos had heard much of Elder Weaver and
had boasted not a little of how he would "out argy" him the first
"lick" he got at him, and he gazed on these small scions of so notable
a stock with a feeling that the contest had already begun. He put the
children into their seats somewhat gruffly when they appeared, as if
resolved to paralyze his antagonist from the first.
"Dodd" had learned to read by this time, in spite of the hindrance
imposed by Miss Stone in the chart class. Indeed, the only redeeming
feature in his career as a pupil up to date, was his natural love for
reading. The child had a fondness for this art, a genius for it, if
you will, which triumphed over all obstacles, and asserted itself in
spite of all attempts to cripple it, or to bring it down to the level
of his more limited attainments, or to raise these lesser powers to a
line with his special gift.
And in this respect, too, "Dodd" was like other children, or other
children are like "Dodd." Most of these individualities have special
things that they can do ever so much better than they can do some other
things. Why not put them at the things that they can do best, and help
them on in this direction, instead of striving to press them down from
the line of their special genius, and up from the line of their
mediocrity, so as to have them on one common level, as some would fain
have all the world?
As said, "Dodd" had a special genius for reading. When he began to go
to school to Amos this fact appeared at once, and it speedily became a
casus belli between the two, for Amos was a blockhead with a reading
book, and the boy put him terribly to shame before all the school.
He could talk, but he could not read.
"Dodd" had come to school with a sixth reader. It was a world too wide
for his small attainments, with its quotations from Greek and Latin
orators, Webster, Clay, Hastings, et al., but it was the only reader of
the series used in Amos's school that grandma Stebbins could find in
the carefully saved pile of old school books that were housed in the
garret, the residuum of former school generations. So, with a sixth
reader, the boy went to school.
This is the common way of supplying children with school books in the
rural districts. He brought, also, an arithmetic and a speller, but as
his knowledge of the first branch only reached to that part of it which
lies on the hither side of the multiplication table, and as "Webster"
is the chief speller used by children in country schools, and he could
not go estray in that point, these facts need not be emphasized.
As he brought a sixth reader, to the sixth reader class he went. This
also is common in schools of this class. It is not supposed to be by
those who talk learnedly before the legislature about "grading the
country schools," and all that, but it is the way things are done in
the country, as any one will find who will take the pains to go into
the country and find out. It is understood by the patrons that it is
the teacher's business to put the pupil to work with the books that he
brings with him, and in putting "Dodd" into the sixth reader Amos only
did as the rest do in this regard, that is all.
This class was made up of four pupils, two boys and two girls, tall,
awkward creatures, who went to the front of the room twice a day and
read in a sing-song tone out of two books which were the joint
possession of the quartette. The girls used always to stand in class
with their arms around each other and their heads leaned together, as
they swayed back and forth and rattled over the words of the page; and
the boys leaned back against the wall, usually standing on one leg and
sticking the other foot up on the wall behind them.
"Dodd" was a pigmy beside these, but he read better than any of them,
and soon convinced Amos that he, "Dodd," must be taken down a peg, or
he, Amos, would find himself looked down upon by his pupils, who would
see him worsted by this stripling.
He strove to nettle the boy in many ways, but "Dodd" bore the slings
and arrows with a good deal of fortitude, and seemed to avoid a clash.
The experience with his grandfather had had a very softening effect
upon him, and he was slow to forget the lesson. He tried to be good,
and did his best for many weeks.
But Amos could ill endure the condition into which affairs were
drifting. Every day the boy improved in his reading, till it got so
that whenever he read all the school stopped to listen. This the
teacher felt would not do, and besides this, he had met the parson, and
"argyed" with him once, and it was the popular verdict that he had not
come out ahead in the encounter. All of which tended to make him bear
down on "Dodd," till finally he resolved that he would have a row with
the boy and that it should be in the reading class.
Do not start at this, beloved. The thing has been done multitudes of
times, not only in the country, but in the city as well, and many a
child has been made to suffer for the sake of satisfying grudges that
existed between teachers and parents.
So Amos was bound to settle with "Dodd." He watched his chance, and
along in early winter he found what he was looking for.
The reading class was on duty, and "Dodd" was leading, as he had for
several months. The lesson for the day was "The Lone Indian," and
related the woes of that poor savage, who, in old age, returned to the
hunting grounds of his young manhood, only to find them gone, and in
their places villages and fenced farms.
"He leaned against a tree," the narrative continued, "Dodd" reading it
in a sympathetic tone, being greatly overcome by the story, "and gazed
upon the landscape that he had once known so well."
He paused suddenly, and a tear or two fell on his book.
"Stop!" exclaimed Amos Waughops, brandishing a long stick which he
always carried in his right hand and waved to and fro as he talked to
the children, as though he were a great general, in the heat of battle,
swinging his sword and urging his men to the charge, "What are you
crying about? Eh? Look up here! Look up, I say! Do you intend to
The boy's eyes were full of tears, but he looked up as he was bidden
and fixed his eyes on Amos. This was worse than ever, and the teacher
was more angry than before.
"See here, I'll ask you a question, if you are so mighty smart. The
book says that the Indian 'leaned against the tree.' Now, what is
meant by that?"
The question was so sudden and so senseless that "Dodd" essayed no
answer. This was Amos's opportunity.
He waved his stick again--the same being one of the narrow slats that
had been torn from one of the double seats in the room, a strip of wood
two inches wide, an inch thick, and nearly four feet long--and swinging
it within an inch of the boy's nose, he shouted again: "The book says
that the Indian leaned against a tree.' What does that mean? Answer
me!" and again he made the passes and swung the slat.
"I don't know," answered "Dodd," just a little frightened.
It was a little, but it was enough. Amos felt that he had Parson
Weaver on the hip and he hastened to make the most of his advantage.
"Do you mean to say that you don't know what it is to lean against a
tree? Why, where was you raised? What kind o' folks hev you got?
Your old man must be mighty smart to raise a boy as big as you be, an'
not learn him what it means to lean ag'in' a tree."
It was a savage thrust and it drew blood from the boy.
"My dad may not be very smart," he retorted, fully forgetting the "lone
Indian," "but he's got gall enough to pound the stuffin' out o' such a
rooster as you be."
There was a sensation in the little school room, a dead pause, so still
that the little clock on the desk seemed to rattle like a factory, as
it hit off the anxious seconds of the strife it was forced to witness.
This speech of "Dodd's" was almost too many for Amos. It smote him in
his weakest part, and for a moment he was daunted, but he rallied, and
with a few wild brandishes of the slat he felt that he was himself
again, and once more led on to the fray.
"See here, young man, you mustn't talk to me like that! Don't you give
me none of your Methodist lip" (Amos was not a Methodist, and, though a
candidate for the ministry, he cordially hated all outside his own
denomination), "or I'll make you wish you'd never saw deestrick four.
Now tell me what it means to 'lean ag'in' a tree,'" and he glared at
the boy and waved the slat again.
"Why, it means to lean up against it," returned "Dodd," who was bound
to do his best. "That's what I think it means; what do you think it
The tables were turned, and Amos almost caught his breath at the
"What do I think it means?" he retorted; "what do I think it means?
Why, it means--it means--it means what it says; that he leaned ag'in'
the tree, that is, that he assumed a recumbent posture ag'in' the tree!"
It was a bold stroke, but Amos felt that it had brought him safely
over. "Recumbent posture" was not a vile phrase, and he patted himself
on the back, though he puffed a little at the exertion it cost him to
hoist the words out of himself.
But it was "Dodd's" turn next. Quick as thought he retorted:
"Well, that ain't half so easy as what the book says."
The school giggled. Amos lost all control, and, starting toward
"Dodd," he shouted:
"I'll whip you, you little devil, if it's the last thing I ever do."
But "Dodd" was too quick for him. He shot down the room like an arrow,
and out at the open door, and was off like a deer. With his club foot,
Amos Waughops was no match for the boy with his nimble legs, and,
flushed and beaten, the gabbler hobbled back to his desk. He looked
toward the twins, all four of them, as if to wreak his vengeance on
them, but he somehow felt that they were foemen unworthy of his steel,
As for "Dodd," it was his last day of school with Amos Waughops. Even
the persuasion of his grandfather, for whom he had the greatest
reverence, was insufficient to get him into the school house again that
winter. He learned to do many things on the farm, and helped in
out-of-door work in all the coldest days, suffering much from cold and
storm, but all this he bore cheerfully rather than meet Amos Waughops
and the slat again.
Under these circumstances his parents did not force him to school, and
who shall say they did wrong by letting him stay at home and work?
Long suffering reader, you may frown at the introduction of this
unfortunate man, Amos Waughops, into the thread of this story, but I
can't help it if you do. I am telling the story of "Dodd" just as it
is, and I can't tell it at all unless I tell it that way. You may not
like Mr. Waughops; you may not like his way of teaching school; you may
say that I am cruel to harp on facts to the extent of intimating that
the mere misfortune of being a cripple is not reason enough for being a
school teacher; but I can't help this either, because it is true, and
we all know it is. We lift up our eyes and behold the educational
field all white for the harvest and even among the few laborers that
are working, we see a large per cent of bungling reapers who trample
under foot more grain than they gather, and whose pockets are full of
the seeds of tares, which they are sowing gratis for next year's crop,
as they stumble about. I am sure I pity a cripple as much as any one
can, but children have rights that even cripples should be made to
respect, and no man or woman has a right in the schoolroom merely from
the fact of physical inability to work at some more muscular calling.
I know there are many most excellent teachers who are bodily maimed,
and whose misfortune seems to enhance their devotion to their
profession and their success therein, but there are a multitude besides
who are in the school room solely because they are the victims of
misfortune, and for them there is little excuse to be made. Amos
Waughops was a factor in the evolution of "Dodd" Weaver, and his like
are found by the quantity in the rural schools of this and other
States. We have had enough of them.
It is all right for us to be kind and charitable to unfortunate people,
but let us be careful whose money and means we are charitable with.
When the State took charge of the schools it removed them from the
realm of charitable institutions, though some people are very unwilling
to acknowledge the fact, and it is a very common thing for the public
funds to be still used indirectly for charitable purposes. They are so
used on fellows like Amos Waughops and his cognates of the other sex.
It is an abomination.
The white drifts of winter grew gray and then turned black under the
March sun that melted them down and drained off their soluble parts,
leaving only a residuum of mud along fences and hedges where, a few
days before had been shapely piles of snow. April came with its
deluges of rain that washed the earth clean and carried off the
riffraff of the previous season, making ready for another and more
bountiful harvest. What a thrifty housekeeper nature is!
"Dodd" still stayed away from school, and through slush and mud and
drenching rain worked like a little man. The fact is, he had secretly
made up his mind never to go to school again, a conclusion that it is
no particular wonder he had reached after his experience with Amos
Waughops, as just chronicled. He observed that his ready work met the
approval of both of his parents and grandparents, and he quietly hoped
that they would let him alone and permit him to stay out of school so
long as he continued to make himself useful on the farm.
He said nothing about this, however. His training had not been such as
to inspire confidence between himself and his parents, and already he
had begun to think, plan and act for himself, unaided by their counsel
Nor is it an uncommon thing for many well-meaning and well-wishing
parents thus to isolate their children from the holy of holies of their
hearts and force them out into the desert of their own inexperience, to
die there alone, or compel them to seek help from the heathenish crowd
that is always camped around about within easy reach of such wandering
How is it in your own household, beloved? Look it up, if you dare to!
But one day when the boy and his grandfather were burning corn stalks
in the field, making ready for plowing, the old gentleman broached the
subject of school to "Dodd," and, by dint of much persuasion, gained
his reluctant consent to brave once more the trials of the school room
and out himself again under the guidance of a teacher. A week later
"Dodd" made his third venture in the legalized lottery of licensed
school teachers. He had drawn blanks twice and he was more than
suspicious of the enterprise. He had no faith in it whatever.
But the counterfeit always presupposes the genuine, and the same system
that includes such specimens as Miss Stone and Amos Waughops in its
wide embrace, enfolds also thousands who are the worthiest of men and
women. After all, Virtue is on top in this mundane sphere; if it were
not so, this old planet would have gone to ruin long ago. Let us look
Amy Kelly bad been awarded the contract to teach the "spring and summer
school" in district four, Dundas township, on this particular year, and
with timid, anxious steps she had walked six miles the first Monday
morning of the term to take charge of her pupils.
It was her first school, and she was worried about it, as folks usually
are about almost anything that is new to them and concerning which they
are conscientious. Some people never are worried, though. They are
born in a don't-care fashion; they absorb the principle from the first,
and it never wears out. Others are anxious to begin with, but grow
careless as they grow familiar with their surroundings. Others are
always anxious. They never do so well that they do not hope to do
better next time, and they would almost decline heaven if they felt it
to be a place where they must forever remain as they are.
Amy Kelly was of the pattern last described.
As her name indicates, she was Irish. Her father and mother came from
"the old sod" before she was born, and they had won their way up from
working at day's wages to being the owners of a snug farm, which was
well stocked and thriftily kept. They spoke their native tongue to
each other when in the secret recesses of their home, and talked with
their children and the neighbors in a brogue so deeply accented that it
would be useless for them ever to claim to be "Scotch-Irish," had they
wished to make such pretensions--which they did not.
Indeed, these people would have been called "very Irish" by the average
observer. The old gentleman had red hair and only allowed his beard to
grow about his neck, under his chin; wore a strap around his wrist, and
smoked a short clay pipe. His wife was stout and somewhat red-faced,
and in summer a stray caller would be likely to find her at work in
petticoat and short gown, her rather large feet and ankles innocent of
shoes or stockings. But she was a good housekeeper, for all of these
things. No better butter than hers ever came to market, and her heart
was warm and true, even if it did beat under a rather full form and
beneath a coarsely woven garment. She had a cheery voice and a
pleasant disposition, loved her husband devotedly, was proud of her
family, both on account of its numbers and the health, brightness and
good looks of her progeny; and her good deeds toward her neighbors,
together with her general thrift and good nature, made her a great
favorite in all the country-side.
Such was the family from which this young school miss was sprung.
The girl was just eighteen when she went to her new work. She had
received most of her education in a similar school, in a neighboring
district, where she had always led her classes, but had spent two
winters in a State Normal School. She was a trim body, compactly
built, had black hair and eyes, and a fresh, rosy complexion that is so
characteristic of her class. She could ride a fractious horse, milk,
sew, knit and cook, and had followed the plow more than one day; while
during harvest and corn-husking she had many a time "made a hand."
From this cause she was strong and well knit in all her frame, a
perfect picture of young womanly health and rustic beauty. She had a
soft, sweet voice and spoke without the slightest trace of a brogue, so
surely does a single generation Americanize such people, and was very
modest and retiring in her manners. Like her parents, she was a devout
It was hardly seven o'clock on an April morning when this girl unlocked
the schoolhouse door at the end of her long walk and let the fresh
spring breeze blow into its interior. It was a small building, with
one door, opening to the south, and six windows, two on each of three
sides, all darkened with tight board shutters. She threw all these
open and raised the sashes for a fuller sweep of the air, for the
school-roomish smell was stifling to one accustomed to wholesome,
out-of-door air. As soon as she felt free to take a long breath she
began to examine the room in which she was to go to work.
The floor was filthy beyond description. There was a hill of dry
tobacco quids on the floor under the "teacher's desk," historical
relics of the reign of Amos Waughops, and equally disgusting debris
scattered all over the room, special contributions of the free American
citizens of "deestrick four," who had held an election in the house a
few days previous. Moreover, the desks were, many of them, smeared
with tallow on the top, patches of grease that told of debating
societies, singing schools, and revival meetings of the winter
before--blots that Amos had never thought of trying to remove. The
stovepipe had parted and hung trembling from the ceiling, while the
small blackboard in the corner was scrawled all over with rude and
indecent figures, the handiwork of the electors aforesaid. Pray do not
think I have painted this picture in too high colors, you fastidious
ones, who dwell in fine houses and live in towns and have never seen
sights like these. I have not. There are thousands of just such
schoolhouses in this and every other State in the Union, that open on
an April morning just as this one did. It is a great pity that it is
so, but so it is. I wish it were otherwise. But it isn't, and I
sometimes wonder if it ever will be!
Amy took in the situation at a glance and resolved what to do
forthwith. There was a house a quarter of a mile down the road, and
thither she bent her sprightly steps. Fifteen minutes later she
returned with two buckets, a scrubbing brush, a broom and a mop. She
rolled up her sleeves, disclosing an arm that you well might envy, my
dear, you who delight in the display of such charms in parlor or ball
room--charms which no cosmetics can rival--turned up the skirt of her
neat calico dress, and pinned it behind her supple waist, donned a
large coarse apron that she had borrowed with the rest of her outfit,
and was ready for work.
She righted the stovepipe--without swearing--and built a brisk fire.
Then she began to scrub.
She had worked an hour, when she heard a voice and footsteps, and a
moment later "Dodd" and the young Weavers darkened the door.
"Good morning!" she exclaimed, pausing a moment in her work and
brushing back her hair with her arm, as she raised her flushed face,
which was covered with a dew of perspiration; "you had better put your
dinner pail out by the well, and then you can play in the yard a while,
till I get the house cleaned up a little," and again she turned to her
"Dodd" stood in the door and looked at the girl in amazement. This was
a new phase of the school teacher, sure enough. He thought of Miss
Stone and wondered bow she would look, down on her knees and scrubbing,
as this girl was. He stood in the door for some minutes, till,
finally, Amy arose and started to carry out a pail of dirty water and
bring in a fresh one in its place. As she neared the boy he stepped to
one side and let her pass, looking up into her face as she went by.
She returned his glance and smiled, and "Dodd" answered back with
something akin to a blush, though the expression was such a stranger to
his face that the superficial observer might have failed correctly to
classify it at first sight.
Amy threw the water out, far into the road, and went to the well,
"Dodd" saw where she was going, and, running to the pump, he seized the
handle and began pumping vigorously.
"Thank you," said Amy, when the bucket was filled; "I hardly think you
can carry the pail so full," she added, as "Dodd" proceeded to grasp
the pail with both hands to carry the water to the house. "Better let
me help you," she continued, taking hold of one side. "There, so; now
we'll carry it together," and, one on either side of the bucket, they
went into the house again.
It may safely be said that the brief space of time occupied in going
from the well to the school room, carrying half of that pail of water,
was the proudest moment yet experienced by the hero of this story. For
the first time in his life the spirit of chivalry arose in his bosom,
and though the act he performed in response to its promptings was a
very simple and menial one, yet it was enough to stir all the pulses of
his boyish nature and to make of him, for the time being, such a little
man as he had never before dreamed of being. It is William Shakspeare,
I think, who has it--
"From woman's eyes this doctrine I derive,
They are the books, the grounds, the academies,
From which doth spring the true Promethean fire!"
or words to that effect. "Dodd," however, knew nothing of the great
poet, but he did know that something in the kindly eyes of this honest
Irish girl made him want to do everything he could for her, and help
her in every possible way.
The most gallant knight could rise to no more sublime condition!
When the pail was set down and Amy was once more on her knees, "Dodd"
began to look about to see what else he could do. The girl took note
of this, and soon set him to work. She had him go through all the
desks and clean out all the places where the books were kept. When
this was done she gave him something else to do, and to all her
biddings he was most obedient. He worked with a will, and carefully,
doing just as he was told to do, and feeling that much of the success
of the enterprise on foot depended on his own exertions. It is such
work as this that counts here below, and transforms the unfixed
elements of human nature into character as enduring as the everlasting
bills. It is a little difficult to realize this fact, just at the time
of its happening, but the after years show the truth of the statement.
The evolution that took place in "Dodd's" soul that morning was a
By noon the dirty, not to say nasty, school house was clean and in
order, and after dinner Amy Kelly began to arrange her classes and
prepare for school work. During the forenoon she had learned the names
of many of her pupils from their conversations with each other, and had
put herself on such terms with them that the work of organizing her
classes was easily accomplished, without annoyance to herself or the
children. By four o'clock she had her work laid out for the entire
school, and the children went home happy, rejoicing in the newly found
treasure of a school teacher in whom they delighted.
Amy knew little of many things that are well worth knowing in this
world, but she did know how to manage children and how to teach school.
She was a girl of resources. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" among
It was no longer a task to keep "Dodd" in school. He went every day,
rain or shine, and was always eager to go. Moreover, he studied well
and learned rapidly. The multiplication table, that had been the bane
of his school life, up to date, and which, under the stupid management
of Amos Waughops and the over-wrought Grube methods of Miss Stone, had
floored him in every tussle he had had with it, now grew tractable and
docile, a creature subservient to his will and quick to do his bidding,
And what wonder, when Amy taught him this early work in numbers by use
of his memory rather than his reason; using a faculty that is strong at
this period of life, rather than one which has hardly begun to sprout?
Did you ever think of that, dear devotee at the shrine of Grube, or
Brother Harris, or all the rest of the train who insist that a child's
reason should "develop" largely before he has finished the first decade
of his existence?
These wise ones lay down a law (take up almost any printed course of
study, nowadays, and you will find it all spread out in the first and
second years' work) that every number must be mastered, in all its
possible arrangements and combinations, from the very first time it is
taken up. Thus, one must be considered in all its possible
correlations to all the universe, and the Almighty Himself, before two
can be touched! So, as soon as the youth strikes a simple unit that
ought to come to him like an old friend, he is straightway packed off
to the ends of the earth with the digit and made to stand it up
alongside of all manner of things, in the heavens above and, the earth
beneath, and even in the waters under the earth. The little fellow
tramps, and trudges, and compares, and contrasts, and divides, and
combines, and eliminates, and expels, and extracts, and subtracts, and
retracts, and contracts, and what not, until finally, he gets all mixed
up and concludes that he never can know anything about it at all, and
the dear old "one," that came to him at first as such a simple thing,
is so tangled up with all creation that he gives it up as an entirely
unknown and unknowable quantity, and begins to guess at it and when he
comes to that point, look out! He has taken the first step in
recklessness, and has begun his initial work as a liar!
You don't believe this? Then sit down to the following, which I clip
from the "second year's work" in a "course of study" that lies before
"Learn to count to 100, forward and back, by 1's, 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's,
6's, 7's, 8's, and 9's, beginning to count from 0, and also from each
digit, respectively, up to the one used continuously, in each case."
Just buckle down to this for a while and see how it goes. See how long
it will take you to master even a tithe of this, so that you can do it,
even passably well, and then compare your own powers of mind with those
of the child that you would fain cram with this "course" and see if
there is not a reason why the children do not take to this "method."
I know what you will say, at least to yourselves. "I have no time for
such a pile of rubbish." You say well. Neither have the children time
But Amy knew nothing of Grube, thank heaven, and gave none of it to
"Dodd." He learned to read better than ever, learned to spell, and
took pride in standing at the head of his class. He plucked flowers
for his teacher as he went to school, and his cheeks flushed as she
took them from his band and set them in the glass tumbler on the table.
He even thought in his little heart, betimes, that, when he got grown
up, he would marry Amy! Rather young for such ideas? Perhaps so; but
these ideas begin to develop, often, when boys are very young. They
don't say anything about it, out loud; but away down in the deep
hiding-places of the heart--oh, well, we all know how it is, and what
an influence such notions may have upon our lives.
But for all of these things "Dodd" Weaver was still "Dodd" Weaver, and
there were times when he suffered a relapse from his high estate. One
of these times came as follows:
It was a sultry forenoon in May, and "Dodd" was restless and uneasy.
He fidgeted about in his seat, teased the boy in front of him, and
tripped up a little fellow who passed him on the way to a class. His
teacher watched him for some time, and, at the last offense, concluded
that it was best to give the boy a bit of attention. She came down to
his desk and said:
"It's a bad kind of a morning for boys, isn't it, 'Dodd'?"
The boy hung his head a little, and Amy proceeded:
"Come here to the door a minute; I want to show you something."
"Dodd" wondered what was wanted, but arose, as he was bidden, and went
to the door,
"Do you see that tree, away down the road?" said Amy, pointing to a
large maple that was more than a quarter of a mile away.
"Dodd" said that he saw the object pointed out.
"Well, now, I want you to start here and run to that tree just as fast
as you can, and then turn right around and run back again, and I'll
stand right here all the time and watch you, and see how long it takes
you to go and come;" and she drew out her watch as she spoke.
"Dodd" looked at her for an instant, but the next moment he was off
with a bound and ran his best, both going and coming. He returned
presently, having made most excellent time. Amy told him how many
minutes he had been gone, and bade him take his seat. The boy was a
little in doubt as to just why he was called on to perform this feat;
but, between pondering over the affair and being tired from his race,
he was a good boy all the rest of the morning! The girl had simply
given the child a chance to work off his superfluous animal spirits,
and, with this quantity reduced to a safety limit, he was himself again.
What a pity there are not more teachers who appreciate the value of a
The incident is but one of a score that illustrate the resources of Amy
Kelly in the management of "Dodd" Weaver. She was always taking the
boy by surprise. He was wayward and wilful at times, but her genius
was equal to the emergency. She won him by her divine power to do just
that thing, as her class always does, and as none others can. She was
born to teach, or with the teaching faculty--with a genius for that
work; and her success was marked from the first. She did for "Dodd"
Weaver in a single term more than all the former years had done; she
made a record in his character that will never be effaced.
And do not say that I have overdrawn this picture, either. Don't turn
up your noses, my dears, because this girl came from a very humble and
unpretentious Irish family. I tell you, genius has a way of its own,
and there is no accounting for it. It was a good while ago that a
conservative old Pharisee thought that he had forever silenced the
followers of the greatest Genius the world ever saw by putting at them
the conundrum, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" But good did come
out of that barren country in spite of the conundrum! And so it keeps
on doing, constantly. It comes from other places, too, and that is all
right. The point is that we want to open our eyes and see it, no
matter where it comes from.
Amy Kelly was a godsend to "Dodd" Weaver. She came to him through the
medium of a country school. She won the boy as such teachers always do
win boys, and always will win them; and her reward ought to be great.
It was only twenty-five dollars a month, reckoned on the order book of
"deestrick four," but there is no telling what it will be on the "other
side." But such as Amy can afford to wait for that.
"Dodd" went to school to Amy Kelly faithfully all that summer. He was
neither tardy nor absent during the term, and when school was over it
seemed to him as though something was gone out of his life; something
that he would have liked to keep always.
But in the fall Elder Weaver was sufficiently rejuvenated to enter the
field again, and after conference he once more set out on his
peregrinations. For several years thereafter it was true of him as it
is of so many of his kind--he was "just two years in a place, and then
This gave "Dodd" a change of pedagogic administration on an average
once a year; for each village would usually manage to change teachers
on the off years, at least, when they didn't change preachers, and so
keep up the principle of rotation in office, which is so dear to the
average American heart. What a glorious thing the fickle will of the
people is in some of its petty phases!
A change of teacher once a year, however, is not beyond the average of
pupils in this country. I know of schools where the pupils, change
teachers six times a day, every school day in the year, besides now and
then an extra when a principal or a superintendent turns himself loose
on them for an hour or two in a term! Dodd's quota of changes should
not, therefore, be regarded as extravagant; that is, according to some
of the "authorities."
In after years the memory of those four months with Amy Kelly remained
with the boy, an oasis in the trackless Sahara of his school life. In
this dreary expanse now and then a shadow of hope arose, as if to lure
him on, as some new teacher came up over his horizon, but in the main
these all proved delusions, mirages that glittered at phantom
distances, but faded away into empty nothingness as he took a nearer
view of them. This constant cheating of his vision, this deferring of
his hope, in time made his heart sick, and he gradually relapsed into
his old hatred of books and schools and school teachers and all that
There was prim Miss Spinacher, thin as a lath and bony, with hands that
you could almost see through and fingers that rattled against each
other when she shook one threateningly at a boy or girl. She had a
hobby of keeping her pupils perpetually front face, and of having them
sit up straight all the time, with folded arms, so that her school room
always had the appearance of a deal board stuck full of stiff pegs, all
in rows, every one as tight in its place as a wedge and never to be
moved on any account whatever.
Right opposite to the school house where this woman taught was a rich
man's residence, in the front yard of which there stood a marble
statue, a bronze deer, a cast-iron dog and a stone rabbit. "Dodd" used
to look over to these when he was very tired from sitting up so
straight so long, and wish that Miss Spinacher had a roomful of such
for pupils. It would have been as well for her and "Dodd" and the rest
of the school if she had. Perhaps it would have been better! Yet you
all know Miss Spinacher, don't you, ladies and gentlemen?
Again, he fell into the hands of Mr. Sliman, whose sole end and aim in
life as a school teacher was the extermination of whispering. For this
purpose he had devised a set of rules, which he had printed in full and
sent all over town to every patron of the school.
The "self-reporting" system was the hobby of this man. "Dodd" told the
truth to him for a few evenings, at roll-call, acknowledging that he
had whispered, as he and all the rest of the pupils had; but he soon
observed that it was the custom of most of the boys and girls to
falsify about their conduct, and that they got great glory thereby.
He took up this custom himself ere long. It troubled his conscience a
good deal at first, but by dint of constant daily practice he got so
that he could look his teacher squarely in the eye and answer "perfect"
as well as any one, even if he had whispered the whole day through, and
knew that the man who recorded his mark knew he had and set down a
clean record for the sake of having a good score to show to visitors!