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The Boy's School by Unknown

 

Not very long ago, Mr. Harrison kept a boarding-school for little boys in a delightful village in Hertfordshire. He took twenty boys to educate, and he was so kind, and had such a pleasant way of teaching, that the boys were happier with him than they would have been at home.

When the boys came in the spring, Mr. Harrison gave to each of them a little plot of ground for a garden; and the little fellows were very busy during play-hours, in preparing and arranging their gardens. They had permission to go to the gardener and get just what seeds they wanted; so some of the boys planted melons and cucumbers, and some pumpkins and radishes, and  two of them made an elegant flower-garden. They put their ground together, and erected a little hill in the centre, with a path all round it, and all the borders they planted with roses, and cockscombs, and mignonette, and sweet-peas, and many other pretty flowers; and when the flowers came out, their garden gave quite a brilliant appearance to the place.

The boys had also a very large play-ground, and in it their kind teacher had had a number of gymnastic poles put up, for their healthy exercise and amusement. There was one very high pole, with four strong ropes fastened to the top of it, and an iron ring at the ends of the ropes. The boys would take hold of the rings, and run round as fast as they could; then lifting their feet off the ground, away they would fly in the air, round and round, like so many little crazy monkeys. There was one little chap that could climb up one of the ropes like a cat, and hang upon the top of the pole.

 Then they had swinging-bars, and jumping-bars, with a spring-board to jump from, and wooden horses, and a climbing-pole, and several other things; but, what was better than all, they had a funny little ragged pony, and a short-legged, long-eared donkey, for their especial use, and many were the fine rides they had on their backs.

Sometimes, to be sure, the pony had a fashion of dancing a slow jig on his hind-legs, with his fore-feet in the air; but the boys were used to that, and stuck on until the dance was finished; then the pony would trot off very peaceably.

The donkey, too, had a way of putting his nose to the ground, and pitching his rider, head over heels, on the grass. But the boys were used to that too, and did not mind it in the least. They would jump up and shake themselves, and try again, and by dint of poking and punching the sides of the sulky little animal, he would after a while make up his mind to go. When  he had once done that, it was all right. You would think he was the most amiable donkey in the world. The pony's name was "Napoleon," and the boys called the donkey "Old Pudding-head."

Twice a-week during the summer, Mr. Harrison took the boys to bathe in a fine pond, where such as could would swim, and the rest would tumble about in the water; and altogether he was so kind to them that the boys thought there never was a better teacher, or such a famous boarding-school.

I have not yet told you that they learned anything. I suppose you all think that playing was the principal thing they went to that school for. But if you do, you make a great mistake, for the greater part of every day was spent in the school-room.

Mr. Harrison made school-time very pleasant. He seldom had to punish a boy for bad conduct or neglect in getting his lessons. He always  encouraged them to ask questions about their studies, and told them never to learn anything by rote, like a parrot, but to come to him when they did not understand a lesson; and he always made it so clear that it was a pleasure to learn. Sometimes a boy would ask a foolish question, which would make the rest laugh; but then Mr. Harrison would say it was better to be laughed at for trying to learn, than to grow up a dunce.

In this way the boys would improve so much, both in mind and body, that their parents left them with Mr. Harrison as long as he could keep them; and both the boys and their parents were very sorry when the time came for them to leave, for Mr. Harrison would not take any boy after he was fourteen years of age.

One afternoon after school, the boys were all busy weeding in their gardens, when one of them suddenly cried out, "Phil, do you know how long it is to the Fifth of November?"

 "To be sure I do," answered Philip; "it is just four weeks and four days."

"So it is, I declare," said Thomas, the first boy who had spoken. "Boys, I'll tell you what we will do. Let us all write to our parents for an immense lot of fireworks; then we will club together, and keep all, except the crackers, for a grand display of fireworks in the evening."

"Oh yes, yes," cried all the boys, "that is an excellent idea."

"I will ask Mr. Harrison," said Phil, "to help us fix the wheels and so forth, for all I ever fixed myself stuck fast, and would not go round at all."

"I mean to write for some Roman candles," said Frank; "they look so beautiful going up. They look like planets with wings."

"I will ask for some snakes and grasshoppers," said another; "it is such fun to see the boys racing round to get out of the way of them."

 "We'll make some wooden pistols to put the crackers in," said another boy.

"Yes, and I will send for a little brass cannon that my uncle, Major Brown, gave me," said another.

Just then the bell rang for tea, and the boys, putting their little rakes and hoes into their tool-house, ran in to wash their faces and hands, and brush their hair. Then they took off their blouses, which they wore when at work in the garden, and hung them up in the play-room. They had a nice large play-room for playing in when the weather was unpleasant.

It was astonishing what large quantities of bread and butter, and apple-sauce, these boys consumed for their supper, for working out-of-doors in the fresh country air is sure to make people hungry, and boys especially are always ready for eating. After supper, Mr. Harrison read prayers, while all the boys knelt at their  chairs around the table. Then they were permitted to play out-of-doors again until the sunset. Phil and Frank allowed themselves to be harnessed to a hand-wagon, and galloped off at full speed, with two of the smaller boys in it. The rest had a game at leap-frog; and Mr. Harrison and his family sat in the porch watching and admiring the gorgeous tints lent to the clouds by the rays of the setting sun, and sometimes laughing heartily at the capers of the boys.

At length the sun sank beneath the horizon, and Mr. Harrison said, "Come in, boys." He never had to speak more than once, for the boys were so well governed that they found it to their advantage and happiness to obey directly. So they came in as quietly as they could, and went into the study, where Mr. Harrison soon joined them, and read aloud an interesting book of travels for an hour. Then they went up stairs to bed.

 One evening, not long after this, the boys were all together in the sitting-room. Philip was reading a book in which was an anecdote about a bad boy who had frightened another, by coming into his room at night, with his face apparently in a blaze, and looking, as the terrified child thought, like a flaming dragon. All at once, Phil shut the book, and said, "I say, boys, I will show you a funny thing, if you will put out the light, and it will be useful to you too. But first, let me read this story to you, and then we will try the game, and none of you little chaps will be frightened, because you will know what it is."

So saying, he read the story, which interested the boys very much indeed, and made them all eager for Philip's experiment.

Phil took a box of matches from the mantelpiece, and gave some to each of the boys; but suddenly he cried, "Wait a moment: I will be  back before you can say Jack Robinson," and ran out of the room.

He went out to ask Mr. Harrison's permission to try this experiment. Mr. Harrison said, "I am glad, my dear boy, you have come first to me; I believe I can always trust you. You may try your plan, and I will go with you and join in your amusement."

The boys were glad to see their teacher. He often helped them in their plays; and they were never afraid to frolic and laugh before him.

So Phil blew out the light, and then told the boys to take a match, and wet it on the tip of the tongue, and rub it on the sides of their faces, and they would soon have a pair of fiery whiskers apiece, without its burning them in the least.

In a moment all the boys had flaming whiskers, and streaks of flame all over their faces.

Peals of laughter resounded from all sides.  Such a troop of little blazing imps were never seen before. Some had noses on fire, some ears; some made fiery circles round their eyes, and some rubbed their fingers with the matches—always taking care to wet them first—and ran after the rest.

Only one person was frightened; and that was because she had not been let into the secret. This was a servant girl, who opened the door, and seeing a room full of dark figures, with faces on fire, dancing, and laughing, and capering about, she ran, screaming, up stairs, crying, "Murder! Fire! Help!" with all her might, which made the boys laugh till they were nearly suffocated. But Phil ran after her, and with much difficulty persuaded her that they were really human beings, and good friends of hers.

After they had danced about for some time, Mr. Harrison advised them to go and wash their faces, and said that they had better not play this game again, as some accident might occur: a  match might get lighted and set fire to their clothes. He said he had been willing to let them try it once, for then they would not be frightened if any wicked or thoughtless person should play a trick of this kind upon them. So the boys put up the matches, and went off to bed full of the fun they had had, and saying, that if they saw a person with his nose on fire, coming into their rooms at night, they would take hold of it, and give it a good pinching.

During this time, each of the boys had written home for fireworks; and for two or three days before the Fifth of November, all kinds of boxes, directed to the different boys, had been left at Mr. Harrison's house, and safely locked up by him, until the right time.

At last the day came. The boys tumbled out of bed in the greatest hurry, dressed, and went out on the lawn, where they gave nine hearty cheers; three for the day, three for Mr. Harrison, and three for fun. After that they  all ran into the play-room, where they found the boxes, which had been put there the night before.

Never were boxes opened so quickly. They tore off the tops, and for some moments nothing was heard on all sides but "Only look here," and "Just see here;" "Boys, here is my cannon;" "Here are lots of Roman candles," &c.

They had crackers enough between them all to keep them busy the whole day, and they soon got to work at them, and such a popping and cracking began, as frightened all the cats and dogs about the house into the woods.

It was fortunate that the house was situated on a hill, away from any other; so Mr. Harrison let them make as much noise as they pleased, without fear of disturbing any neighbours.

Presently the bell rang for prayers, and directly after that they had breakfast; but the bread and milk and honey were not so much in favour as usual, for the boys were so full  of the Fifth of November, that they had no time to think of honey.

Nearly all the fireworks were piled up on a seat against the wall in the play-room. The boys were firing their crackers from their wooden pistols, at some distance from the house.

For some time everything went on well. Mr. Harrison had strictly forbidden them to have any fire in or near the play-room, and they were careful to obey him. But, alas! I must tell you what happened through the thoughtlessness of one of the boys. He was the youngest and smallest of them all. He had fired off the crackers he had taken out, and he ran into the play-room to get more. He held in his hand a piece of punk. All boys know that this is what they use to light their fireworks, as it burns very slowly, and lasts very long. The punk which the little fellow held was burning. He had forgotten to lay it down. He went to  the seat where the fireworks were, and began to pull them about to find his crackers.

As he was leaning over, the punk slipped from his fingers, and fell into the midst of the combustibles.

The little fellow was so terribly frightened at this, that he rushed out of the room, without trying to pick it up.

In a moment the fireworks all began to go off together. Pop! crack! fizz! bang! whizz! went the elegant wheels and the crackers, the grasshoppers, the Roman candles and the snakes, while the smoke rushed through the house.

Mr. Harrison ran out of his room where he was reading, and saw, instantly, that the house was in great danger of being burned down. The boys heard the noise, and came flying back to the play-room, to save what they could; but it was impossible to enter. The room was black with smoke, and they looked on dismayed, as they heard the popping and banging of their precious  fireworks, while "Who did it?" "Who did it?" was asked on all sides.

Mr. Harrison instantly shut all the doors leading to the play-room, and, quicker than I can tell you, he got some pails of water, and threw them into the room. After some effort, he succeeded in quenching the fire, and ending this display of fireworks, which was a very different one from what had been intended.

But what a sight presented itself! There lay the blackened remnants of the wheels and Roman candles, and a large hole was burned in the side of the room. The blouses of the boys, which hung just above, were burned, some one arm, some both; and the room looked like desolation.

After the fright, and hurry, and confusion, were over, Mr. Harrison called all the boys into the study. He looked very much offended, indeed; and asked in a stern voice, "Which boy went into the play-room with fire?"

 The poor little fellow who had done the mischief was crying bitterly. It was very easy to see that he was the guilty one, for the rest looked grave, but not confused.

"Come to me, Edwin," said Mr. Harrison, "and tell me if you have disobeyed me; don't be afraid to speak the truth."

"I did not mean to do it," sobbed the little boy. "I forgot to leave my punk outside, and I dropped it by accident. I am very, very sorry, Mr. Harrison. I am afraid all the boys will hate me, because I have spoiled their sport. I hope you will forgive me, sir." And here his tears and sobs redoubled.

"Edwin," said his kind teacher, "do you not know that my house might have been burned to the ground by your carelessness?—and this night, which we expected to spend so joyfully, we might have been without a roof to cover us? I must punish you to make you remember this accident, which your thoughtless disobedience  has occasioned. You must remain in the study until dinner-time. The rest of the boys may go out."

When the boys were out on the lawn again, they got together in a knot, to talk about the accident. Some were very angry with Edwin, and said Mr. Harrison ought to have given him a tremendous flogging; but others were more generous. They were just as sorry for the loss of their fireworks; but, when they looked towards the house, and saw little Edwin gazing mournfully at them from the study window, and wiping away the tears that fell from his eyes, they were more sorry for him, and wished that he could be out among them. Still, they knew it was right that he should be punished.

"Come, boys," said Phil, when they had been standing there talking some time,—"come, let us go and see if anything is left."

They all ran to the play-room, and some of the boys cried out to Edwin,—

 "Don't cry, little fellow; we forgive you."

"Why here," shouted Phil—"here's a lot of Roman candles all safe and sound. Hurrah!"

"And here are six wheels in this corner," cried Thomas. "We are not so badly off, after all."

The boys at this good news began to rummage under the pile of ruins, and managed to collect quite a respectable quantity of fireworks. There were enough left to make a display with in the evening, though not near so splendid as they had intended.

"Hurrah!" cried the boys, "we have plenty of Fifth of November left."

"I have lots of crackers outside," said Phil; "but we won't fire them off now. They will do for the small boys to-night. Let us go to the stable, and pay our respects to Napoleon, and Old Pudding-head. They will think themselves quite neglected on this glorious occasion."

So they sallied off to the stable, and saddled  the pony and the donkey, and led them out to the play-ground, where Napoleon treated them in turn to a very fine dance on his hind-legs, and Old Pudding-head, not to be behindhand in politeness, gave all the little boys a somersault over his nose. They had a first-rate frolic, and did not think once of the lost fireworks.

After dinner—and a fine dinner they had of chickens, and goose-pie, and custard—Mr. Harrison took the boys (little Edwin, too) down into the village, where a band of musicians were playing and parading through the street. Every little while they would stop playing and hurrah! The boys always hurrahed when the band did, for boys in general are not slow about making a noise. So they made all the noise they possibly could, and came back to tea, each one so hoarse, that Mrs. Harrison asked them if they had frogs in their throats.

At last the evening came, and a still and beautiful evening it was. The stars peeped out,  one by one, and the moon stayed in—that is, she did not make her appearance until very late. They could not have had a finer night for the grand display.

The family were all assembled on the lawn, and Mr. Harrison fixed the wheels so nicely, that they whizzed round in the most astonishing manner. The Roman candles went up beautifully, and the grasshoppers and snakes sent the little fellows laughing and scampering in all directions.

The hurrahing was tremendous, and the shouts of laughter were tremendous too.

Altogether they had a very nice time, and went off to bed tired, it is true, but highly pleased with their day's enjoyment—all except little Edwin. He sighed many times, and could hardly get to sleep; but his carelessness was a good lesson to him, for it afterwards made him the most careful boy in the school.

After the Fifth of November, the boys settled  down into their usual employments. Their gardens were carefully tended, and many a fine bouquet of flowers was presented with pride and pleasure to Mrs. Harrison. They ate pumpkin-pie, made with their own pumpkins, and thought them the most delicious pumpkins that ever grew; and their melons were the sweetest melons they ever tasted in all their lives.

They were very attentive in school also; and at the end of the term, when the boys were preparing to go home for the holidays, they all said it was the pleasantest time they had ever spent together. They parted with their kind teacher with many thanks for his kindness, and hopes that after the holidays all would meet together again, and be as happy as before.