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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.