« PreviousContinue »
he attended to the interests of his scholars, however he might have neglected his own. Indeed, he less resembled, even in externals, the modern worldly trading Schoolmaster than the good, honest, earnest, olden Pedagogue-a pedant, perchance, but a learned one, with whom teaching was “a labor of love,” who had a proper sense of the dignity and importance of his call. ing, and was content to find a main portion of his reward in the honorable proficiency of his disciples. Small as was our Col. lege, its Principal maintained his state, and walked gowned and covered. His cap was of faded velvet, of black, or blue, or purple, or sad green, or as it seemed, of all together, with a nuance of brown. His robe, of crimson damask, lined with the national tartan. A quaint, carved, high-backed, elbowed article, looking like an émigré, from a set that had been at home in an aristocratical drawing-room, under the ancien régime, was his Professional Chair, which, with his desk, was appropriately elevated on a dais, some inches above the common floor. From this moral and material eminence, he cast a vigilant yet kindly eye over some dozen of youngsters; for adversity, sharpened by habits of authority, had not soured him, or mingled a single tinge of bile with the peculiar red-streak complexion, so common to the healthier natives of the North. On one solitary occasion, within my memory, was he seriously, yet characteristically discomposed, and that was by his own daughter, whom he accused of " forgetting all regard for common decorum,” because, for. getting that he was a Dominie as well as a Parent, she had heedlessly addressed him in public as “Father," instead of “Papa.” The mere provoking contrariety of a dunce never stirred his spleen, but rather spurred his endeavor, in spite of the axiom, to make Nihil fit for anything. He loved teaching for teaching's sake; his kill-horse happened to be his hobby : and doubtless, if he had met with a penniless boy on the road to learning, he would have given him a lift, like the charitable Waggoner to Dick Whittington-for love. I recall, therefore, with pleasure, the cheerful alacrity with which I used to step up to recite my lesson, constantly forewarned—for every true schoolmaster has his stock joke—not to “stand in my own light.” It was impossible not to take an interest in learning what he seemed
so interested in teaching; and in a few months my education progressed infinitely farther than it had done in as many years under the listless superintendance of B. A., and LL.D. and Assistants. I picked up some Latin, was a tolerable English Grammarian, and so good a French scholar, that I earned a few guineas—my first literary fee—by revising a new edition of “Paul et Virginie” for the press. Moreover, as an accountant, I could work a summum bonum-i. e., a good sum.
In the meantime,-so generally unfortunate is the courtship of that bashful undertoned wooer, Modest Merit, to that loud, brazen masculine, worldly heiress, Success—the school did not prosper. The number of scholars diminished rather than increased. At least no new boys came—but one fine morning, about nine o'clock, a great “she gal,” of fifteen or sixteen, but so remarkably well grown that she might have been “ any of our mothers," made her unexpected appearance with bag and books. The sensation that she excited is not to be described! The apparition of a Governess, with a Proclamation of a Gynecocracy, could not have been more astounding! Of course SHE instantly formed a class; and had any form SHE might prefer to herself:-the most of us being just old enough to resent what was considered as an affront on the corduroy sex, and just young enough to be beneath any gallantry to the silken one. The truth was, sub rosâ, that there was a plan for translating us, and turning the unsuccessful Boys' School into a Ladies' Academy, to be conducted by the Dominie's eldest daughter—but it had been thought prudent to be well on with the new set before being off with the old. A brief period only had elapsed, when, lo! a leash of female school Fellows-three sisters, like the Degrees of Comparison personified, Big, Bigger, and Biggest-made their unwelcome appearance, and threatened to push us from our stools. They were greeted, accordingly, with all the annoyances that juvenile malice could suggest. It is amusing, yet humiliating, to remember the nuisances the sex endured at the hands of those who were thereafter to honor the shadow of its shoe-tieto groan, moan, sigh, and sicken for its smiles,—to become poetical, prosaical, nonsensical, lack-a-daisical, and perhaps even melodramatical for its sake. Numberless were the desk-quakes, the
ink-spouts, the book-bolts, the pea-showers, and other unregis. tered phenomena, which likened the studies of those four unlucky maidens to the “Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties,”-60 that it glads me to reflect, that I was in a very small minority against the persecution ; having already begun to read poetry, and even to write something which was egregiously mistaken før something of the same nature. The final result of the strug. gle in the academic nest-whether the hen-cuckoos succeeded in ousting the cock-sparrows, or vice versa—is beyond my record; seeing that I was just then removed from the scene of contest, to be introduced into that Universal School, where, as in the preparatory one, we have very unequal shares in the flogging, the fagging, the task-work, and the pocket-money; but the same breaking up to expect, and the same eternity of happy holidays to hope for in the Grand Recess.
In brief, a friend of the family having taken a fancy to me, proposed to initiate me in those profitable mercantile mysteries which enabled Sir Thomas Gresham to gild his grasshopper; and like another Frank Osbaldestone, I found myself planted on a counting-house stool, which nevertheless served occasionally for a Pegasus, on three legs, every foot, of course, being a dactyl or a spondee. In commercial matters, the only lesson imprinted on my memory is the rule, that when a ship's crew from Arch. angel come to receive their L. S. D., you must lock up your P. Y. C.
For the present month, there must be what Dr. Johnson called a solution of continuity in my Literary Reminiscen
Confined to my chamber by what ought to be termed roomatism—then attacked by my old livery complaint-and finally, by a minor, but troublesome malady, the Present has too much prevailed over the Past, to let me indulge in any retrospective reviews. In such cases, on the stage, when a Performer is unable to support his character, a substitute is usually found to read the part; but unfortunately, in the present case there is no part written, and consequently it cannot be read. But apropos of theatricals—there is an anecdote in point.
In the Olympic days of the great Elliston, there was one evening a tremendous tumult at his Theatre, in consequence of the absence of a favorite performer. One man in the pit-a Butcher--was especially vociferous in his cry for “Carl ! Carl ! Carl !” Others called for the Manager, who duly made his appearance, and black as the weather looked, he was the very sort of pilot to weather the storm. With one of his princely bows he proceeded to address the House." Ladies and Gentlemenbut by your leave I will address myself to a single individual. I will ask that gentleman (pointing to the vociferous Butcher) what right he has to demand the appearance of Mr. Carl ?” “'Cos," said the Butcher, “'cos he's down in the Bill." Such an unde. niable answer would have staggered any other Manager than Elliston, but he was not easily to be disconcerted. - Because he is down in the bill !” he echoed, in a tone of the loftiest indig. nation : "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mr. Carl, so unseasonably, so vociferously, and so unfeelingly called for, is at this very
moment laboring under severe illness—he is in bed. And let me ask, is a man, a fellow-creature, a human being, to be torn from his couch, from his home, on a cold night, from the affectionate attention of his wife and family, at the risk of his valuable life perhaps, to go through a fatiguing part because he happens to be DOWN IN THE BILL ?" [Cries of “Shame! shame!" from all parts of the house.] “And yet, ladies and gentlemen, there stands a man—if I may call him so—a Butcher, that for his own selfish gratification—the amusement of a few short hours—would risk the very existence of a deserving member of society, a good husband, father, friend, and one of your favorite actors, and all, forsooth, because he is DOWN IN THE BILL !" [Universal hooting, with cries of “Turn him out.”] “By all means,” acquiesced the Manager, with one of his best bows—and the indignant pittites actually hooted and kicked their own champion out of the theatre, as something more than a Butcher, and less than a Christian.
Now I am myself, gentle readers, in the same predicament with Mr. Carl. Like him I am an invalid-and like him I am unfortunately down in the Bill. It would not become me to set forth my own domestic or social virtues, or to hint what sort of gap my loss would make in society-still less would it consist with modesty to compare myself with a favorite actor—but as a mere human being I throw myself on your mercy, and ask, in common charity, would you have had me leave my warm bed, to shiver in a printer's damp sheets, at the risk of my reputation perhaps, and for the mere amusement of some half hour, or more probably for no amusement at all—simply because I
66 down in the Bill ?"
But there is no such Butcher, or Butcheress, or little Butcherling, amongst you; and by your good leave and patience, the instalment of my Reminiscences that is over due, shall be paid with interest in the next number.