IT was five minutes of nine when Allen Barclay, accompanied by Walter,
approached the schoolhouse. It was a plain wooden building of two
stories, painted white. Beside it was a good-sized playground, on which
from a dozen to twenty boys were engaged in a game of ball. As Walter
saw the ball flying across the field, impelled by a hard knock from the
bat, he felt a strong impulse to join in the game. When a student at the
Essex Institute he had played ball a good deal, and was considered quite
a superior player. But since his departure he had not joined in a game.
Now as he witnessed the game of the Portville boys, he wished himself
again a scholar, and a sharer in their fun.
“Do you ever play ball, Mr. Barclay?” he asked.
“No; the physician has forbidden all violent exercise as likely
injurious to my health. It increases my cough. For that matter, however,
I don’t think I should play if I were able. I tried it sometimes as a
boy, but I never succeeded very well. Do you play?”
“I used to play considerably, but for several months I have not touched
“There’s the master,” called out one of the players.
“Give me another ball,” said the boy at the bat. “The bell won’t ring
So the game continued.
Among those who were watching the game, Walter noticed John Wall. John
was more carefully dressed than any of the other boys, many of whom had
taken off their coats, and were playing in their shirt sleeves.
“That is John Wall, isn’t it?” asked Walter. “Does he play ball?”
“Not often. He isn’t much of a player. Besides, he doesn’t like to run
the risk of soiling his clothes. He is something of a dandy.”
“So I should think. He wore kid gloves the other day in the rain.”
“He is partial to kid gloves. He thinks they distinguish him as the son
of a gentleman from his more plebeian companions. But come in, Mr.
Walter followed the teacher into the schoolroom. It was about forty feet
by fifty in size, and well supplied with desks. The girls sat upon one
side, the boys on the other. Some were already in their seats, while
others were grouped near the teacher’s desk. They separated on the
entrance of Allen Barclay, and repaired to their seats, not without
curious glances at Walter.
There was a larger desk for the teacher, with a chair drawn up behind
it. There was another chair in the room, which the teacher drew up near
“That is the company chair, Mr. Howard,” said he, smiling. “Will you
“Thank you,” said Walter.
All his associations with schools were in the character of a scholar,
and he felt a little out of place. It seemed to him that he ought to be
seated at one of the desks.
“Julius, will you ring the bell?” said Mr. Barclay.
A boy of twelve advanced to the teacher’s desk, and took from his hand a
large bell, with which he went out into the entry and rang with
emphasis, as if he enjoyed it. Soon, in answer to the sonorous summons,
came trooping in the boys from the playground, flushed with exercise,
some of them drawing on their coats as they walked to their desks. John
Wall alone looked as if he were fresh from a bandbox, his hair plastered
down with pomatum, and his clothes innocent of dust or wrinkle.
“If he cared less for his appearance he would have a good deal more
fun,” thought Walter, judging from a boy’s standpoint.
At last all were in their seats. After the preliminary exercises, the
recitations commenced. The first were in arithmetic. Walter listened
attentively to the recitations of the different classes, and concluded
that he would have no difficulty in instructing any of them. The
mathematical teacher at the Essex Institute was well fitted for his
duties, and had a remarkably clear and simple way of explaining the
leading principles of arithmetic. Allen Barclay, as Walter quickly
perceived, was deficient in the art of teaching. He did not know how to
explain difficulties in a plain, simple way. Walter felt desirous more
than once of coming to his assistance, but of course could not do so.
“I believe I should like to teach,” he thought to himself. “It must be
At last the classes in arithmetic finished their recitations.
“You will now have a chance to hear John Wall recite,” said the teacher,
in a low voice. Walter’s interest was at once enlisted, partly because
he was fond of Latin, and partly because he knew something already of
John, and wished to see how he would acquit himself.
“The class in Cæsar,” said the teacher.
John rose slowly from his seat, and, book in hand, advanced pompously to
the bench occupied by classes reciting. There was no other scholar so
far advanced in Latin, and he looked down from his superior place of
knowledge with calm contempt upon his fellow-pupils. His manner, as he
advanced to recite, seemed to say, “Look at me! I am going to recite in
Cæsar! I am a long way ahead of everybody else in school. They can’t any
of them hold a candle to me.”
“Where does your lesson commence, Mr. Wall?” asked the teacher.
“At the beginning of the second book.”
“Very well. You may read and translate.”
John read the first line as follows, pronouncing according to a method
of his own, _Cum esset Cæsar in citeriore Gallia in hibernis_, and
furnished the following translation:
“He might be with Cæsar in hither Gaul in the winter.”
“I don’t think that is quite correct, Mr. Wall,” said the teacher.
“It makes good sense,” said John, pertly.
“It doesn’t make the right sense. _Cum_ is not a preposition, and if it
were it could not govern _Cæsar_ in the nominative case.”
“I don’t see what else you can make of it.”
“It is a conjunction, and means ‘when,’ ‘Cæsar’ being the subject of the
sentence. Then there is another mistake. _Hibernis_ means
winter-quarters, not winter. The clause is to be translated, ‘When Cæsar
was in winter-quarters in hither Gaul.’ Proceed.”
“_Ita uti supra demonstravimus_,” continued John; “so have we shown to
be used above.”
“Do you think that makes good sense, Mr. Wall?”
“I didn’t quite understand it,” John condescended to acknowledge.
“_Uti_,” explained the teacher, “is not from the verb _utor_, as you
appear to have taken it, and, if it were, could not be translated
passively. It means ‘as’ here. Translate, ‘just as we have shown
John continued: “_Crebri ad eum rumores afferebantur_–frequent persons
brought rumors to him.”
“I am afraid, Mr. Wall, I must correct you again,” said the teacher.
“_Crebri_ agrees with _rumores_, and the verb is passive. How, then,
will you translate the clause?”
“Frequent rumors were brought to him,” answered John, correctly, for a
“_Literisque item Labieni certior fiebat_–and letters made the same
Labienus more sure.”
“No less than four mistakes, Mr. Wall. I hardly know where to begin to
correct you. What part of speech is _item_?”
“What does it mean?”
“Will you decline it?”
“You need not go on. You have mistaken the word for _idem_. It means
‘likewise.’ Is _literis_ nominative?”
“No, sir; it is dative.”
“It is ablative, and _fiebat_ cannot be rendered actively. Without
specifying all the mistakes, I will translate for you, ‘and likewise was
informed by the letters of Labienus,’ _Certior fiebat_ means, literally,
‘was made more certain;’ but we cannot always translate literally.”
It would be tedious to follow John through his blundering recitation. He
made fewer mistakes in the passages that succeeded, but it was easy to
see that he knew very little Latin. His lesson comprised the whole of
the first section, and was on the whole the worst recitation to which
Walter had ever listened. He could not help thinking that Mr. Barclay
made a mistake in merely correcting the errors, without adding
directions by which a repetition of them might be avoided; and he
resolved, if John should become his pupil, to drill him thoroughly in
the elementary principles of the language.
“What do you think of that recitation?” asked the teacher, in a low
voice, as John took his seat.
“Very poor,” answered Walter.
“I am afraid he will never make a Latin scholar. I will now call up the
other class in Latin.”
This was a class of beginners, and acquitted itself much more creditably
than the student in Cæsar. It might be supposed that John would have
been mortified by his mistakes; but it was enough for him that he could
report himself as studying Cæsar, and he appeared to think it of no
importance how he got along.
Other classes succeeded, and the session at length ended.
“Well, Mr. Howard,” said Mr. Barclay, as they were returning homeward,
“do you think you would like to take the school?”
“I will take it if the trustees will accept me,” said Walter, promptly.
“IF you really think you would be willing to take my place,” said Allen
Barclay, “I will see at once if I can obtain your appointment.”
“I am not in any hurry to commence, Mr. Barclay, though I may be in a
hurry to get through, if I should take the place.”
“That is my feeling now. The sooner I can be free, the better it will be
for my health. The climate is getting worse for me with the approach of
“I leave the matter in your hands, then. Who are the trustees?”
“General Wall is the principal one, and I will call to see him this
evening. Besides him there is the village doctor–Dr. Owens–but he has
so much to attend to that he has very little to do with the schools.
Then there is Squire Griffiths, a man who was selected because he is
rather prominent in town affairs, but he is a man of no education.
General Wall is the only one at all qualified for the position. Last
year the minister belonged to the board, and was competent and useful,
but he got unpopular by taking sides in a local dispute, and was left
“I suppose teachers are examined by the trustees so that they may
discover whether they are competent.”
“Yes, but the examinations don’t amount to much, as you can judge from
the composition of the Board of Trustees.”
“I think I can pass pretty well. I have not been out of school long
enough to forget my studies.”
“I have no doubt you’ll be all right. I’ll call on the general this
In accordance with his determination, Allen Barclay knocked at the door
of General Wall’s residence about an hour after supper.
“Is the general in?” he inquired.
“Yes, sir; will you come in?”
“I would like to see him a few minutes.”
He was ushered into the sitting-room, and General Wall soon made his
“Good-evening, Mr. Barclay,” he said, in his usual patronizing way, “I
am glad to see you. Nothing wrong at the school, I hope?”
“No, sir; there is nothing wrong at the school; but it is about the
school I have come to speak.”
“Any advice, ahem! which I can give, will be freely tendered. This is,
of course, incumbent upon me in the official position which I hold, but
I feel an additional interest as a parent.”
“You haven’t much reason as a parent to feel proud,” thought Allen
Barclay; but there are some thoughts that are best unspoken.
“I am afraid, General Wall, that I shall be compelled to give up the
“What!” exclaimed General Wall, in surprise. “Have you any cause of
dissatisfaction? Are you not content with the salary?”
“I don’t complain of that, but I find that the climate does not agree
with my health.”
“Indeed! Are you feeling unwell?”
“My lungs are weak, and I find that the cough with which I have been
troubled for a year past, instead of improving, as I hoped it would, is
increasing, and becoming daily more troublesome. I think it will be
best, therefore, for me to give up teaching, and go elsewhere.”
“I am sorry to hear this, Mr. Barclay. Don’t you think you can keep
along to the end of the term–six weeks, I believe?”
“I don’t think it would be wise, General Wall.”
“We shall find it difficult to fill your place. We could get teachers,
but we want one who is competent to teach Latin as well as English. I
want my son John to go on in the same liberal course which I have
projected for him,” said the general, rather pompously.
“It is on this account that I have delayed mentioning the matter before,
but I now think I can recommend a substitute.”
“Indeed! May I inquire who it is?”
“You perhaps observed the young man who was walking with me this morning
when we met.”
“I saw a boy with you, Mr. Barclay. Surely you do not allude to him.”
“I know he is young, General Wall, but I have reason to think he is a
good scholar. In Latin he is as far advanced as I am. He was educated at
an Eastern institution of high rank.”
“I am afraid,” said General Wall, dubiously, “that his extreme youth
would prevent his succeeding.”
“I was not much older when I commenced teaching, but I got along well.”
“Is the young man desirous of teaching? Is that the object of his coming
“No; he was not certain that there was an opening. He is looking round
for some business to occupy him. Being well educated, he thinks he might
like to be a teacher.”
“I should prefer that you would remain, Mr. Barclay.”
“Thank you, General Wall; I like teaching, and if my health would allow
of it, I would be glad to continue; as it is, I must resign at any rate.
I think you had better try this young man.”
“What is his name?”
“Were you previously acquainted with him, Mr. Barclay?”
“No, sir; but from what I have seen of him, I have formed a favorable
opinion of him.”
“He was my fellow-passenger on the stage last evening.”
“So he told me.”
“John and he didn’t quite agree, but I dare say John was in fault. John
is a spirited boy, Mr. Barclay, and is disposed to stand up for his
“And sometimes for what are not his rights,” thought the teacher; but
this again was one of the things which he thought it would not be best
“I think he will be a smart man,” continued the general.
“So I hope,” said Allen Barclay.
“As a lawyer, it won’t do him any harm to be a little tenacious.”
Allen Barclay thought the term tenacious rather a mild one to express
John’s overbearing and grasping tendency. But he only said, “It won’t do
for a lawyer to be too mild and unselfish.”
“Just my idea, Mr. Barclay. A milk-and-water sort of a man won’t
At this moment John Wall entered the room.
“Don’t you see Mr. Barclay, John?” said his father.
John nodded carelessly, for he thought the teacher of a country school,
earning a salary of forty dollars a month, out of which he had to pay
his board, by no means his equal in the social scale; and financially
speaking, certainly, Allen Barclay could make no great pretensions; but
he was a gentleman, which John Wall was not, and probably never would
“Good-evening, John,” said the teacher.
“Evening,” was all that could be heard in reply.
Considering the manner in which he got on, or rather did not get on, in
Latin, John might have supposed that Mr. Barclay had called to speak on
the subject to his father; but he was too conceited to think he was
doing poorly, and never dreamed that, if he were, the teacher would have
the temerity to complain of him.
“John is, I believe, your most advanced pupil, Mr. Barclay,” said
General Wall, complacently.
“He is further advanced in Latin than any other,” answered the teacher.
“I referred to that. I am not acquainted with Latin myself, but I
consider it a highly important branch of education.”
“A good deal of benefit may be derived from the study, I think,” said
Barclay. “But John is not likely to know enough to be of much advantage
to him,” was his inward reflection.
“I should be sorry to have John discontinue it, now that he is so far
advanced. However, the young man you speak of understands it well, you
“Yes, sir; at least I have every reason to think so.”
There was something in this remark which caught John’s attention. Who
was the young man referred to, and what connection could his scholarship
have with his continuing the study of Latin?
“What are you speaking of?” he inquired of his father.
“Mr. Barclay is thinking of giving up teaching, John, on account of his
health. I was speaking of the young man whom he has recommended in his
“Who is it?”
“You remember the young man who was in the stage yesterday?”
“Do you mean the one that wouldn’t give up his seat to me?”
“As he took the seat first, he had the best right to it. He is the one I
“What! is he a teacher? Why, he is only a boy!”
“He is rather young, but Mr. Barclay tells me he is an excellent
scholar, especially in Latin. However, we shall examine him to-morrow
evening, and see if he is qualified.”
“He can’t keep school,” said John.
“Why not, my son?”
“He can’t keep order. He is only a boy.”
“If the scholars behave themselves, and he knows enough to teach, I
don’t see why he should not succeed. I hope, John, you do not propose to
make any trouble.”
“No,” said John, slowly, “but the other fellows will.”
“Then,” said Mr. Barclay, “you can exert your influence to prevent
John felt rather flattered by this reference to his influence, but
nevertheless he did not like the idea of having Walter for a teacher.
Mr. Barclay, though he entertained no very flattering opinion of John,
was worldly wise, and had shown him some subserviency on account of his
father’s position. John had a secret feeling that Walter would not do
this, and he determined to make trouble for him. He didn’t mean to help
him, at any rate.
“YOU are to be examined to-morrow evening at General Wall’s, Mr.
Howard,” reported Allen Barclay to Walter, who was waiting the result of
“Does General Wall know that I am the one whom he met in the stage?”
“Yes, he mentioned it himself.”
“What did he say when you first mentioned me as your successor?”
“He thought you were too young. But I told him that I should resign at
any rate, and he had better try you.”
“Will the examination be very difficult?”
“Not if the trustees confine themselves to what they know themselves,”
answered Barclay, laughing. “Squire Griffiths will probably ask a
question or two in geography and spelling; but you need not trouble
yourself. They won’t be hard.”
“It might be a good plan to study a little to-morrow,” suggested Walter.
“You are welcome to sit in my room, and use my books, if you wish, Mr.
“Thank you. Did you see John Wall?”
“Yes; he was at home.”
“Did he know anything about the plan of my teaching?”
“Yes; his father mentioned it to him.”
“What did he say?” asked Walter, curiously.
“I hope it won’t hurt your feelings if I tell you, but he did not seem
in favor of your appointment. He seems to think that you will not
succeed. Are you frightened?”
“I shall not expect a very cordial welcome from John,” said Walter; “but
if that is all the opposition I am to encounter, I shan’t trouble myself
“You have never inquired the salary paid,” said Barclay.
It was true. Walter had not thought of this, as he had another object in
view of much more importance, and chiefly desired the school because it
would give him an excuse to remain in Portville without suspicions as to
his real motive. However, he felt some interest in the matter, and
inquired as to the amount he might expect.
“There isn’t much chance of a teacher growing rich in Portville,” said
Mr. Barclay. “All I receive is forty dollars per month, and I pay five
dollars a week board. That is below the usual price, but they make
allowance at the hotel for my small income.”
“That will satisfy me,” said Walter. “I made more as a book agent, but
then it was harder work.”
“I hope you will find the position agreeable. I shall feel relieved to
give up the school. I ought to have done it before.”
Allen Barclay was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which confirmed
his statement in an emphatic manner. He inherited a consumptive
tendency, and it seemed probable that, do what he would, he would be
The next day Walter, according to the teacher’s invitation, installed
himself in his room, and spent the greater part of the day in a hasty
review of the English branches which he would be called upon to teach.
He found the task of refreshing his memory comparatively an easy one,
for he had been good in all his studies. By the time Allen Barclay
returned from school he had completed his review.
“Well, Mr. Howard, how have you spent the time?” he asked.
“In literary pursuits, Mr. Barclay. I have been examining myself in the
different branches of study, and feel pretty confident of passing the
ordeal. What time had I better go to General Wall’s?”
“It is best to be punctual. I think they will be ready for you by seven
Seven o’clock found Walter knocking at the door of the chairman of the
school trustees. He felt tolerably composed. Still it was a novel
situation, and the undertaking he contemplated might well be formidable
to one so young and inexperienced. But Walter was not a timid boy. He
had plenty of pluck, and he meant to do his best, whatever might be the
issue. As to the examination, he did not feel much alarmed.
The servant had her orders, and ushered him at once into the presence of
General Wall, who seemed to be alone.
“Good-evening, Mr. Howard,” said the chairman of the trustees. “Mr.
Barclay has mentioned your name to me in connection with the school,
which he is compelled to resign.”
“Yes, sir. He thinks he must give up teaching.”
“You have never taught before, I think.”
“Where were you educated?”
“At the Essex Classical Institute, in the State of New York.”
“You are acquainted with the Latin language, I presume.”
“My son, whom you saw in the stage the other evening, is studying Latin.
Do you feel competent to teach so advanced a pupil?”
“I don’t think I shall find any difficulty in doing so,” said Walter,
who felt strongly inclined to laugh, but knew it would not do.
“My son is studying Cæsar.”
“Yes, sir; I am familiar with that author.”
“I am glad to hear it. It is my desire that John should not lose any
time. In fact, we should have little difficulty in filling Mr. Barclay’s
place, but for requiring a knowledge of Latin. For example, there is an
experienced teacher in the next town, Epaminondas Smith, who has been
teaching for fourteen years, and would be glad of the place, but he only
teaches English branches. He has a great reputation for management,
stands six feet in his stockings, and weighs a hundred and ninety-five
pounds. I went into his school once. I tell you, Mr. Howard, the boys
were as still as mice. They knew what they would get if they broke the
Walter was large for his age; still he only measured five feet six
inches in height, and weighed but one hundred and twenty-eight pounds.
While General Wall was speaking, he could not help observing that he was
comparing unfavorably his small physical proportions with those of the
redoubted Epaminondas Smith. He might have felt discouraged, but he
remembered that one of the most effective teachers at the Essex
Institute, who commanded the general respect and obedience of the
students, was an inch shorter than himself, and probably weighed no
“Is the school hard to manage?” he asked.
“No, I should say not. Mr. Barclay has had no trouble that I have heard
of. Still he is an experienced teacher.”
“That is an advantage, of course,” said Walter, answering the
implication. “But he tells me that he succeeded as well in his first
school, though he was less than a year older than I am now.”
“That is encouraging. I have spoken to my fellow-trustees, Dr. Owens and
Squire Griffiths, Mr. Howard, and we have determined to give you a
trial; that is, if you pass a satisfactory examination. I am afraid the
doctor won’t be able to come this evening, as he has to visit a patient
five miles distant. However, he said he was willing to agree to anything
the squire and myself might decide upon. Have you long been in the West,
“No, sir; I have never before been as far west as Wisconsin. I spent the
last three months in Ohio, however.”
“We hardly call Ohio a Western State. We always look upon it as in the
“The West is a large country,” remarked Walter.
“It is very large, and has vast resources. Its prairies are immense in
extent, its rivers are numerous and long, its mines are the richest in
the world,” said General Wall, rather oratorically.
“I should like to inquire all about the Great Metropolitan Mining
Company,” thought Walter.
“Do all the mines pay well?” he asked.
“Those that are well managed do for the most part. I am myself connected
with one or two, which we hope will pay in the end. One of them has thus
far been unsuccessful, but it only needs reorganization and improved
management to pay.”
“I wish I knew whether he meant the Metropolitan mine,” thought Walter.
But General Wall did not specify whether this was the one he referred
to, and Walter was left in doubt.
“Do you know when Mr. Barclay wishes to cease teaching?” inquired
“I think at once. He has a severe cough, and he thinks the climate here
does not suit him.”
The door opened at this point, and John Wall entered.
“Here is a letter, father,” he said.
His father took the letter with some eagerness and opened it. He turned
the envelope in such a way that Walter saw the postmark, and with no
little interest recognized it as Willoughby, N. Y. He also recognized
the handwriting as that of Mr. Shaw. It was doubtless the letter in
which the lawyer declined to close at once with the offer of two per
cent. for Mr. Conrad’s claims. Walter was confirmed in this supposition
by seeing a look of dissatisfaction upon the face of General Wall. The
latter had imagined that the executor of Mr. Conrad’s estate would be
glad to realize so much from what he might have concluded to be a
worthless claim. The temporary refusal would necessarily interfere with
his plans for the organization of a new company, who should enrich
themselves at the expense of the original owners.
“Excuse me, Mr. Howard,” said General Wall, “but I recognize this as an
important business letter. This is my son, as you doubtless know.”
“Good-evening,” said Walter, politely, offering his hand.
John took the proffered hand coldly, just touching it, and muttering
“Good-evening” in a not very gracious manner.
“I foresee that he won’t prove a very agreeable scholar,” thought
At this moment a knock was heard at the door.
“That must be Squire Griffiths,” said General Wall. “John, you may go to
the door and let him in.”