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unbuttoned and flung back as far as it could go, sat fanning his flushed face with a spelling-book, wishing himself a whale, or a minnow, or a fly, or anything but a boy at school, on that hot, broiling day.
Heat! ask that other boy, whose seat being nearest to the door, gave him ? opportunities of gliding out into the garden, and driving his companions to madness, by dipping his face into the bucket of the well and then rolling on the grass,ask him if there was ever such a day as that, when even the bees were diving deep down into the cups of the flowers, and stopping there, as if they had made up their minds to retire from business, and be manufacturers of honey no more. The day was made for laziness, and lying on one's back in green places, and staring at the sky, till its brightness forced the gazer to shut his eyes and go to sleep. And was this a time to be poring over 8 musty books in a dark room; slighted by the very sun itself? Monstrous !
The lessons over, writing time began. This was à more quiet time ; for the master would come and look over the writer's shoulder, and mildly tell him to observe how such a letter was turned up, in such a copy on the wall, which had been written by their sick companion, and bid him take it as a model. Then he would stop and tell them what the sick child had said last night, and how he had longed to be among them once again ; and such was the poor schoolmaster's gentle and affectionate manner, that the boys seemed quite remorseful that they had worried him so much, and were absolutely quiet ; eating no apples, cutting no names, and making no grimaces for full two minutes afterwards.
“I think, boys,” said the schoolmaster, when the clock struck twelve, “that I shall give you an extra half-holiday this afternoon." At this intelligence, the boys, led on and headed by the tall boy, raised a great shout, in the midst of which the master was seen to speak, but could not be heard. As he held up his hand, however, in token of his wish that they should be silent, they were considerate enough to leave off, as soon as the longestwinded among them were quite out of breath. * You must promise me, first,” said the schoolmaster, “ that you'll not be noisy, or at least, if you are, that you'll go away first, out of the village, I
I'm sure you wouldn't disturb your old playmate and companion.”
There was a general murmur (and perhaps a very sincere one, for they were but boys), in the
negative ; and the tall boy, perhaps as sincerely as any of them, called those about him to witness that he had only shouted in a whisper. “Then pray don't forget, there's my dear scholars,” said the schoolmaster, “what I have asked you, and do it as a favour to me. Be as happy as you can, and don't be unmindful that you are blessed with health. Good-bye, all.”'
“Thank’ee, sir,” and “Good-bye, sir,” were said a great many times, in a great variety of voices,
and the boys went out very slowly and softly. But there was the sun shining, and there were birds singing, as the sun only shines and the birds only sing on holidays and half-holidays ; there were the trees waving to all free boys to climb, and nestle among their leafy branches ; the hay, entreating them to come and scatter it to the pure air ; the green corn, gently beckoning toward wood and stream ; the smooth ground, rendered smoother still by blending lights and shadows, inviting to runs and leaps and long walks, nobody knows whither. It was more than boy could bear; and with a joyous whoop, the whole cluster took to their heels, and spread themselves about, shouting and laughing as they went. “ 'Tis natural, thank Heaven !” said the poor schoolmaster, looking after them: “I am very glad they didn't mind me.”
Toward night, the schoolmaster walked over to the cottage where his little friend lay sick. Knocking gently at the cottage door, it was opened without loss of time. He entered a room where a group of women were gathered about one who was wringing her hands and crying bitterly. dame!” said the schoolmaster, drawing near her chair, “is it so bad as this ?” Without replying, she pointed to another room, which the schoolmaster immediately entered; and there lay his little friend, half-dressed, stretched upon a bed.
He was a very young boy ; quite a little child. His hair still hung in curls about his face, and his eyes were very bright; but their light was
of heaven, not of earth. The schoolmaster took a seat beside him, and stooping over the pillow, whispered his name. The boy sprung up, stroked his face with his hand, and threw his wasted arms around his neck, crying that he was his dear, kind friend. “I hope I always was. I meant to be, God knows," said the poor schoolmaster. “You remember my garden, Henry ?” whispered the old man, anxious to rouse him, for a dulness seemed gathering upon the child,"and how pleasant it used to be in the evening-time? You must make haste to visit it again, for I think the very flowers have missed you, and are less gay than they used to be. You will come soon-very soon now, won't you ?
The boy smiled faintly—so very, very faintlyand put his hand upon his friend's grey head. He moved his lips, too, but no voice came from them-no, not a sound. In the silence that ensued, the hum of distant voices borne upon the evening air came floating through the open window. “What's that ? ” said the sick child, opening his eyes. “The boys at play upon the green." He took a handkerchief from his pillow, and tried to wave it above his head ; but the feeble arm dropped powerless down. “Shall I do it?” said the schoolmaster. " Please wave it at the window, was the faint reply. “Tie it to the lattice. Some of them may see it there. Perhaps they'll think of me,
and look this way.” He raised his head and glanced from the fluttering 10 signal to his idle bat, that lay, with slate and book and other boyish property, upon the table in the room. And then he laid him softly down once more; and again clasped his little arms around the old man's neck. The two old friends and companions—for such they were, though they were man and child-held each other in a long embrace, and then the little scholar turned his face to the wall and fell asleep.
The poor schoolmaster sat in the same place, holding the small, cold hand in his, and chafing it. It was but the hand of a dead child. He felt that ; and yet he chafed it still, and could not lay it down.
11 Charles Dickens.
abstracting, drawing off ; separating. Abstract comes from a Latin work signifying to draw from, to separate. 2 violate, this word generally means to do injury or violence ; here it signifies to disturb or take liberties, and by so doing show disregard or contempt. conning, repeating in order to learn. *tedium, tiresomeness. Simpunity, exemption (freedom) from punishment; security. wag, a person full of sport or humour; a ludicrous fellow ; a wit. opportunity, generally means a fit or convenient time for doing anything ; here it simply means chance. 8 musty, dull; heavy; spiritless ; the word generally applies to books spoiled by age and which have a mouldy smell. 'negative, that which implies denial. The boys said they would not disturb their sick friend. 10 signal, a sign which has been agreed upon to give notice of some occurrence, command, or danger to a person at a distance ; here simply means a sign or token. 11 Charles Dickens, the most popular writer of the present century ; born at Land. port, Hampshire, in February 1812. He died suddenly, June 9th, 1870.