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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter X. Bert goes to School

WITH the waning of summer came the time for Mrs. Lloyd to return to the city. Both she and Bert felt very sorry to leave Maplebank, and the family there was unanimous in seeking to persuade her to allow Bert to remain for the winter. But this was not practicable, because, in the first place, Mr. Lloyd had been writing to say that he was quite tired of being without his boy, and would like to have him back again as soon as was convenient; and, in the second place, Bert had reached the age when he ought to begin his schooling, and must return home for that purpose.

So at length, after more than one postponement, the day of departure arrived. Grandmother and Aunt Martha, and Aunt Sarah, could not restrain their tears, and big, kind Kitty, was among the mourners too, as Bert and his mother took their seats in the carriage beside the Squire and Uncle Alec, to drive in to the village where the coach would be met.

With many a promise to come back ere very long, and many a fond “Good-bye! God bless you, my darling!” the travellers started on their homeward journey. The village was reached in good time, the coach found awaiting its passengers, the trunks safely stowed behind, the last good-bye to grandfather and Uncle Alec said, and then, amid cracking of whips and waving of handkerchiefs, the big coach rolled grandly off, and Bert had really parted with dear, delightful Maplebank, where he had spent such a happy summer.

The homeward journey was a very pleasant one, and marked by no exciting incidents. Jack Davis was in his place on the box, and, recognising Bert when the passengers got out at the first change of horses, hailed him with a hearty: “Holloa, youngster! Are you on board? Would you like to come up on top with me again?”

It need hardly be said that Bert jumped at the invitation, and, his mother giving her consent, he rode on the box seat beside Davis the greater part of the day as happy as a bird. The weather was perfect, it being a cool, bright day in early September, and Bert enjoyed very much recognising and recalling the different things that had particularly interested him on the way down. “Black Rory” was as lively as ever, and seemed determined to run away and dash everything to pieces as they started out from his stable, but calmed down again after a mile or two, as usual, and trotted along amiably enough the rest of his distance.

It happened that Davis had no one on the outside with whom he cared to talk, so he gave a good deal of attention to Bert, telling him about the horses and their peculiarities, and how they were in so many ways just like people, and had to be humoured sometimes, and sometimes punished, and how it was, upon the whole, so much better to be kind than cruel to them.

“If your father ever lets you have a pony, Bert,” said Davis, “take my word for it it it'll pay you to treat that ere pony like a brother. Just let him know you are fond of him from the start; give him a lump of sugar or a crust of bread now and then—it’s wonderful how fond horses are of such things—and he’ll follow you about just like a dog. Horses have got a good deal more human nature in ’em than folks generally give ’em credit for, I can tell you, and I think I know what I am talking about, for I’ve had to do with them ever since I’ve been as big as you.”

Bert listened to this lecture with very lively interest, for his father had more than once hinted at getting him a pony some day if he were a good boy, and showed he could be trusted with one. He confided his hopes to his friend, and received in return for the confidence a lot more of good advice, which need not be repeated here.

The sun was setting as the coach drove up to the hotel at Thurso, where Mrs. Lloyd and Bert were to remain for the night, taking the train for Halifax the next morning. Bert felt quite sorry at parting with his big friend, the driver, and very gladly promised him that the next time he was going to Maplebank he would try to manage so as to be going down on Jack Davis’ day that their friendship might be renewed.

Both Bert and his mother were very glad to get to bed that night. Coaching is fine fun in fine weather, but it is fatiguing, nevertheless. You cannot ride all day in a coach without more or less backache, and Bert was so sleepy that, but for his mother preventing him, he would have flung himself upon his bed without so much as taking off his boots. He managed to undress all right enough, however, and then slept like a top until next morning.

Bright and early they took the train, and by midday were at Halifax, where Mr. Lloyd and Mary received them with open arms and many a glad kiss.

After allowing him a few days to settle down to home life again, the question of Bert’s going to school was raised. He was now full eight years of age, and quite old enough to make a beginning. His mother and sister had between them given him a good start in the “three R’s” at home, for he was an apt pupil, and he was quite ready to enter a larger sphere.

At first his parents were somewhat undecided as to whether they would send him to a school presided over by a woman or a man. It was usual in Halifax for those who preferred the private to the public schools to send their boys for a year or two to a dame’s school as a sort of easy introduction to school life; and in the very same street as that in which the Lloyds lived there was such a school where two rather gaunt and grim old-maid sisters aided one another in the application of primer and taws. To this institution Mrs. Lloyd thought it would be well for Bert to go. His father had no very decided views to the contrary, but on Bert himself being consulted, it became very clear that his mind was quite made up.

“Please don’t send me to 'Old Goggles’ school, father,” pleaded he, earnestly.

“‘Old Goggles!’ Why, Bert, what do you mean by calling Miss Poster by such a name as that?”

“It’s most disrespectful,” interrupted his mother, with a very much shocked expression, while Mr. Lloyd tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to conceal a smile beneath his moustache.

“Well, mother, that’s what they all call her,” explained Bert.

“Even though they do, Bert, you should not. Miss Poster is a lady, and you must act the gentleman toward her,” replied Mrs. Lloyd. “But why don’t you want to go to school there? Several boys about your own age are going.”

“Oh, because a lot of girls go there, and I don’t want to go to school with girls,” was Master Bert’s ungallant reply.

Mr. Lloyd, who had evidently been much amused at the conversation, now joined in it by drawing Bert toward him and asking, in a half-serious, half-humorous tone:

“Is my boy Bert afraid of little girls?”

Bert’s face flushed till it was crimson, and dropping his head upon his breast, he muttered:

“I’m not afraid of them, but I don’t like ’em, and I don’t want to go to school with ’em.”

The fact of the matter was that Bert not only had his full share of the repugnance to the other, sex common to all boys of his age, but he had besides a strong notion that it was not a manly thing to go to school with girls, and if there was one thing more than another that he aspired after, it was manliness.

Mr. Lloyd thoroughly understood his son’s feelings, and felt disposed to humour them. Accordingly, lifting up his head, he gave him a kiss on the forehead, saying:

“Very well, Bert; we’ll see about it. Since you have such decided objections to Miss Goggles’—I beg her pardon, Miss Poster’s—excellent establishment, I will make inquiry, and see if I cannot find something that will suit you better. I want you to like your school, and to take an interest in it.”

Bert’s face fairly beamed at these words, and he heaved a huge sigh of relief which brought another smile out on his father’s countenance.

“You’re such a good father,” said Bert, hugging his knees, and there the matter dropped for a few days.

When it came up again, Mr. Lloyd had a new proposition to make. In the interval he had been making some inquiries, and had been recommended to send his boy to a school just lately established by an accomplished young lawyer, who had adopted that method of earning an honest penny while waiting for his practice to become more lucrative. It was a good deal of an experiment, Mr. Lloyd thought but possibly worth trying.

Accordingly, one fine morning in October, behold Master Bert in a rather perturbed frame of mind trotting along beside his father, who pretended not to be aware of his son’s feelings, although at the same time seeking in every way to divert him. But it was not with much success. Bert felt thoroughly nervous over the new experience that awaited him. He had never seen Mr. Garrison, who was to be his teacher, and imagined him as a tall, thin man with a long beard, a stern face, a harsh voice, and an ever-ready “cat-o’-nine tails.” As for his future schoolmates, they were no doubt a lot of rough, noisy chaps, that would be certain to “put him through a course of sprouts ” before they would make friends with him.

If, then, such thoughts as these filled Bert’s mind, it must not be wondered at that he lagged a good deal both as to his talking and walking, although he was always spry enough with both when out with his father. Much sooner than he wished they reached the building, a large rambling stone structure, only one room of which was occupied by the school; they climbed the broad free-stone staircase to the upper storey, knocked at a door from behind which came a confused hum of voices, and being bidden “Come in,” entered a big room that at first seemed to Bert to be completely filled by a misty sea of faces with every eye turned right upon him. He cowered before this curious scrutiny, and but for his father’s restraining grasp would probably have attempted a wild dash for the still unclosed door, when he heard his father saying:

“Good-morning, Mr. Garrison; I have brought my boy to place him in your care for a while, if you will have him as a pupil.” Looking up, Bert beheld a person approaching very different from the schoolmaster of his gloomy anticipations.

Mr. Garrison was indeed tall, but there the similarity ended. He was youthful, slight, and very attractive in appearance, his manner being exceedingly graceful and easy, as he came forward with a winning smile upon his countenance, and extending his right hand to Mr. Lloyd, placed the other upon Bert’s shoulder, and said, in a mellow, pleasant voice:

“Good-morning, Mr. Lloyd. I shall be very glad indeed to have your boy in my school, and if he is anything like as good a man as his father, he will make one of my very best pupils.”

Mr. Lloyd laughed heartily at this flattering remark. “Listen to that, Bert,” said he. “When you are in any doubt just how to behave, you have only to ask yourself what I would do under the same circumstances, and act accordingly.” Then, turning to Mr. Garrison, he said: “Perhaps you would like me to join your school, too, so as to set a good example to the other boys.”

“Right glad would I be to have you, Mr. Lloyd,” answered Mr. Garrison, with a cordial smile. “Many a time I find my boys almost too much for one man to handle.”

Bert, clinging fast to his father’s hand, and half-hoping he was in earnest, felt a pang of disappointment when he replied:

“I’m afraid it’s too late, Mr. Garrison. My schooldays are past; except so far as I may be able to live them over with this little chap here. I will leave him with you now; do your best with him. He can learn well enough when he likes, but he is just as fond of fun as any youngster of his age.” Then giving Bert an affectionate pat on the shoulder, and whispering in his ear, “Now, be a man, Bert,” Mr. Lloyd went away, and Bert followed Mr. Garrison up to the desk, where his name, age, and address were duly entered in the register book.

The next business was to assign him a seat. A few questions as to what he knew showed that his proper place was in the junior class of all, and there accordingly Mr. Garrison led him. A vacancy was found for him in a long range of seats, extending from the door almost up to the desk, and he was bidden sit down beside a boy who had been eyeing him with lively curiosity from the moment of his entrance into the room. So soon as Mr. Garrison went away, this boy opened fire upon the new-comer.

“Say, sonny, what’s yer name?” he asked, with unhesitating abruptness.

Bert looked the questioner all over before replying. He was a short, stout, stubble-haired chap, evidently a year or two older than himself, with a broad, good-humoured face, and the inspection being, upon the whole, satisfactory, Bert replied, very pleasantly:

“Bert Lloyd—and what’s yours?”

Ignoring the question put to him, the other boy gave a sort of grunt that might be taken as an expression of approval of his new schoolmate’s name, and then said:

“Guess you don’t live down our way; never seen you before, that I know of.”

“I live in Fort Street. Where do you live?” replied Bert, giving question for question.

“I’m a West-ender,” said the other, meaning that his home was in the western part of the city.

“But what’s your name?” asked Bert again.

“Oh, my name’s Frank Bowser,” was the careless reply. “But everybody calls me ‘Shorty,’ and you may as well, too.”

“All right,” said Bert. And the two began to feel quite good friends at once.

As the morning passed, and Bert came to feel more at home, he took in the details of his surroundings. Mr. Garrison’s school consisted of some fifty boys, ranging in age from sixteen downward, Bert being about the youngest of them all. They all belonged to the better class, and were, upon the whole, a very presentable lot of pupils. Scanning their countenances curiously as they sat at their desks or stood up in rows before the teacher to recite, Bert noticed more than one face that he instinctively liked, and, being charmed with Mr. Garrison, and well pleased with his new friend “Shorty,” his first impressions were decidedly favourable.

He had, of course, nothing to do that morning, save to look about him, but Mr. Garrison gave him a list of books to be procured, and lessons to be learned in them before the school broke up for the day; and with this in his pocket he went home in excellent spirits, to tell them all there, how well he had got on his first day in school.

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