Harper's Young People, September 14, 1880 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt THE NEW PUPIL. The boys who attended Mr. Morton's Select School in the village of Laketon did not profess to know more than boys of the same age and advantages elsewhere; but of one thing they were absolutely certain, and that was that no teacher ever rang his bell to assemble the school or call the boys in from recess until just that particular instant when the fun in the school-yard was at its highest, and the boys least wanted to come in. A teacher might be very fair about some things: he might help a boy through a hard lesson, or give him fewer bad marks than he had earned; he might even forget to report to a boy's parent's all the cases of truancy in which their son had indulged; but when a teacher once laid his hand upon that dreadful bell and stepped to the window, it really seemed as if every particle of human sympathy went out of him. On one bright May morning, however, the boys who made this regular daily complaint were few; indeed, all of them, except Bert Sharp, who had three consecutive absences to explain, and no written excuse from his father to help him out, were already inside the school-room, and even Bert stood where he could look through the open door while he cudgelled his wits and smothered his conscience in the endeavor to frame an explanation that might seem plausible. The boys already inside lounged near any desks but their own, and conversed in low tones about almost everything except the subject upper-most in their minds, this subject being a handsome but rather sober-looking boy of about fourteen years, who was seated at a desk in the back part of the room, and trying, without any success whatever, to look as if he did not know that all the other boys were looking at him. It was not at all wonderful that the boys stared, for none of them had ever before seen the new pupil, and Laketon was so small a town that the appearance of a strange boy was almost as unusual an event as the coming of a circus. "Let's give it up," said Will Palmer, who had for five minutes been discussing with several other boys all sorts of improbabilities about the origin of the new pupil; "let's give it up until roll-call; then we'll learn his name, and that'll be a little comfort." "I wish Mr. Morton would hurry, then," said Benny Mallow. "I came early this morning to see if I couldn't win back my striped alley from Ned Johnston, and this business has kept us from playing a single game. Quick, boys, quick! Mr. Morton's getting ready to touch the bell." The group separated in an instant, and every member was seated before the bell struck; so were most of the other boys, and so many pairs of eyes looked inquiringly at the teacher that Mr. Morton himself had to bite his lower lip very hard to keep from laughing as he formally rang the school to order. As the roll was called, the boys answered to their names in a prompt, sharp, business-like way, quite unusual in school-rooms; and as the call proceeded, the responses became so quick as to sometimes get a little ahead of the names that the boys knew were coming....
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