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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XV. A Change of School

WITH the coming of September the holidays ended, and the question of schools once more was earnestly discussed in the Lloyd household.

“I have quite made up my mind not to send Bert back to Mr. Garrison,” said Mr. Lloyd. “He seems to be learning little or nothing there. The fact of the matter is, what he does learn, he learns at home, and Mr. Garrison simply hears him recite his lessons.”

“That’s very true,” assented Mrs. Lloyd. “I am only too glad to help Bert all I can in his studies, but I do not see the propriety of our having the greater part of the work of teaching him ourselves when we are at the same time paying some one else to do it. Do you, Mary?” she added, turning to her daughter.

“No, mother,” replied Mary. “I suppose it is not quite fair. Yet I would feel sorry if Bert went to a school where everything was done for him, and nothing left for us to do. I like to help him. He gets hold of an idea so quickly; it is a pleasure to explain anything to him.”

“It seems to me that a school where there is a good deal of healthful rivalry among the boys would be the best place for Bert. He is very ambitious, and eager to be at the top, and in a school of that kind his energies would be constantly stimulated,” said Mr. Lloyd. “What do you think, Kate?” addressing his wife.

“I think that would be very good, indeed,” answered Mrs. Lloyd. “But do you know of any such school?”

“I have been hearing good accounts of Dr. Johnston’s school, and he certainly seems to have a great deal of system in his methods, so that I am inclined to give him a trial.”

“Oh, Dr. Johnston’s is a splendid school,” spoke up Mary, with enthusiasm. “Both of Edie Strong’s brothers go there, and I have often heard them tell about it. But isn’t Bert too young for it yet? He’s only nine, you know, and they are mostly big boys who go to Dr. Johnston’s.”

“Not a bit! ” said Mr. Lloyd, emphatically. “Not a bit! True, Bert is only nine, but he looks more like twelve, and thinks and acts like it, too. It will be all the better for him to be with boys a little older than himself. He will find it hard to hold his own among them, and that will serve to strengthen and develop him.”

“Poor little chap!” said Mrs. Lloyd, tenderly. “I expect he will have a pretty hard time of it at first. I wish Frank were going with him, for he thinks all the world of Bert, and is so much older and bigger that he could be a sort of protector for him.”

“I’m glad you mentioned Frank, Kate,” exclaimed Mr. Lloyd. “You’ve given me an idea. If I decide to send Bert to Dr. Johnston’s, I will make a point of seeing Mr. Bowser, to ask him if he will not consent to send Frank, too. I hardly expect he will make any objection, as it is not likely there will be any difference in the expense.”

“Oh, I do hope Frank will go, too,” cried Mary, clapping her hands. “If he does, I shall feel ever so much easier about Bert. Frank is so fond of him that he won’t let him be abused, if he can help it.” “Very well, then,” said Mr. Lloyd, bringing the conversation to a close. “I will make some further inquiries about Dr. Johnston’s, and if the results are satisfactory I will see Mr. Bowser, and do what I can to persuade him to let Frank accompany Bert.”

A few days after, Mr. Lloyd called Bert to him, while they were all sitting in the parlour, just after dinner.

“Come here, Bert,” said he. “I want to have a talk with you about going to school. You know I don’t intend you to go back to Mr. Garrison’s. Now, where would you like to go yourself?”

“Oh, I don’t know, father,” replied Bert. “I don’t want to go to the Acadian or National school anyway.”

“You need not feel troubled on that score. So far as I can learn, they are no better than the one you have been going to. But what do you think of Dr. Johnston’s school? How would you like to become a pupil there?”

“Oh, father,” exclaimed Bert, looking up, with a face expressive of both surprise and concern, “I’m not big enough for that school. They ’re all big boys that go there.”

“But you’re a big boy,—for your age, at all events, —Bert,” returned Mr. Lloyd, with a reassuring smile, “and you’ll soon grow to be as big as any of them.” “But, father,” objected Bert, “they’re awfully rough there, and so hard on the new fellows. They always hoist them.”

“Hoist them?” inquired Mr. Lloyd. “What do you mean?”

“Why, they hang them up on the fence, and then pound them. It hurts awfully. Robbie Simpson told me about it. They hoisted him the first day.”

“Humph!” said Mr. Lloyd. “I must say I don’t like that, but at the worst I suppose you can survive it, just as the others have done. Is there any other reason why you wouldn’t like to go to Dr. Johnston’s?” “Well, father, you know he has a dreadful strap, most a yard long, and he gives the boys dreadful whippings with it.”

“Suppose he has, Bert; does he whip the boys who know their lessons, and behave properly in school?” asked Mr. Lloyd, with a quizzical glance at his son.

Bert laughed. “Of course not, father,” said he. “He only whips the bad boys.”

“Then why should his long strap be an objection, Bert? You don’t propose to be one of the bad boys, do you?”

“Of course not, father; but I might get a whipping, all the same.”

“We’ll hope not, Bert; we’ll hope not. And now, look here. Would you like it any better going to Dr. Johnston’s if Frank were to go with you?”

“Oh, yes indeed, father,” exclaimed Bert, his face lighting up. “If Frank goes too, I won’t mind it.”

“All right then, Bert; I am glad to say that Frank is going, too. I went to see his father to-day, and he agreed to let him go, so I suppose we may consider the matter settled, and next Monday you two boys will go with me to the school.” And Mr. Lloyd, evidently well-pleased at having reconciled Bert to the idea of the new school, took up his paper, while Bert went over to his mother’s side to have a talk with her about it.

Mrs. Lloyd, felt all a mother’s anxiety regarding this new phase of life upon which her boy was about to enter. Dr. Johnston’s was the largest and most renowned school in the city. It was also in a certain sense the most aristocratic. Its master charged high rates, which only well-to-do people could afford, and as a consequence the sons of the wealthiest citizens attended his school. Because of this, it was what would be called select; and just in that very fact lay one of the dangers Mrs. Lloyd most dreaded. Rich mens sons may be select from a social point of view, but they are apt to be quite the reverse from the moral standpoint. Frank Bowser, with all his clumsiness and lack of good manners, would be a far safer companion than Dick Wilding, the graceful, easy-mannered heir of the prosperous bank president.

On the other hand, the school was undoubtedly the best in the city. A long line of masters had handed down from one to the other its fame as a home of the classics and mathematics with unimpaired lustre. At no other school could such excellent preparation for the university be obtained, and Bert in due time was to go to the university. Many a long and serious talk had Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd over the matter. True, they had great confidence in their boy, and in the principles according to which they had sought to bring him up. But then he was their only boy, and if their confidence should perchance be found to have been misplaced, how could the damage be repaired? Ah ! well, they could, after all, only do their best, and leave the issue with God. They could not always be Bert’s shields. He must learn to fight his own battles, and it was as well for him to begin now, and at Dr. Johnston’s school.

Bert himself took quite a serious view of the matter, too. He was a more than ordinarily thoughtful boy, and the prospect of going to Dr. Johnston’s made his brain very busy. While the school was not without its attractions for him, there were many reasons why he shrank from going to it. The most of the boys were, as he knew from often seeing them when on his way to and from Mr. Garrison’s, older and bigger than himself, and, still worse, they were strangers to him with one or two exceptions. Of course, since Frank was to go with him, he would not mind that so much, but it counted for a good deal, notwithstanding.

Then he had heard startling stories of Dr. Johnston’s severity; of his keeping boys in after school for a whole afternoon; of the tremendous whippings he gave with that terrible strap of his, the tails of which had, according to popular rumour, been first soaked in vinegar, and then studded with small shot; of the rigorous care with which the lessons were heard, every boy in the class having to show that he was well prepared, or to take the consequences. These, and other stories which had reached Bert’s ears, now perturbed him greatly.

At the same time, he had no idea of drawing back, and pleading with his father to send him somewhere else. He saw clearly enough that both his father and mother had quite made up their minds that it would be the best thing for him, and he knew better than to trouble them with vain protests. He found his sister an inexpressible comfort at this time. He confided in her unreservedly, and her sweet, serene, trustful way of looking at things cleared away many a difficulty for him. It was easy to look at the bright side of affairs with Mary as an adviser, and the more Bert talked with her, the more encouraged he became. It was a happy coincidence, that on the Sunday preceding Bert’s entrance into Dr. Johnston’s school, the lesson for the Sabbath school should contain these ringing words: “Quit you like men; be strong.” Mr. Silver had much to say about them to his class:

“Only six simple words of one syllable each, boys,” said he, as he gathered his scholars close about his chair, “but they mean a great deal. And yet, we do not need to look into some wise old commentator to tell us just what they do mean, for we can all understand them ourselves. They are not intended solely for grown-up people, either. They are for boys just like you. Now, let us look into them a bit. ‘Quit you like men.’ What kind of men, Bert? Any kind at all, or some particular kind?”

“Like good men, of course,” replied Bert, promptly.

“Yes, Bert, that’s right. And what does it mean to quit yourself like a good man?” asked Mr. Silver, again.

“To be always manly, and not be a baby,” answered Walter Thomson, with a vigour that brought a smile to Mr. Silver’s face.

“Right you are, Walter; but is that all?”

“No,” said Will Murray, “it means to do only what is right.”

“That’s it, Will. To be always manly, and to do only what is right Now, boys, do you know that you are very apt to confuse these two things, and by forming mistaken notions as to what constitutes the first, you fail to do the second? Many boys think that it is manly to swear, to use tobacco, to be out late at night hanging round the street corners, and so they do all these things, although they are not right things to do. Have they the right ideas of manliness, boys?”

“No, sir; no, sir,” answered the thoroughly interested class, in full chorus.

“No, indeed, boys, they have not,” continued Mr. Silver. “There is over a hundred times more manliness in refusing to form those bad habits than in yielding to them. And that is just the kind of manliness I want all the boys of my class to have. ‘Quit you like men,’ boys, and then, ‘be strong.’ What does that mean?”

“To keep up your muscle,” spoke out Frank, much to the surprise of everybody, for, although he listened attentively enough, he very rarely opened his mouth in the class.

Mr. Silver smiled. It was not just the answer he wanted, but he would not discourage Frank by saying so.

“That’s part of the answer, but not quite the whole of it,” he said, after a pause. “It’s a good thing for boys to keep up their muscle. God wants what is best in this world, and we can often serve Him with our muscle as well as with our minds. If Samson and Gideon and David had not been men of muscle, they could not have done such grand work for God as they did. I like to see a boy with legs and arms ‘as hard as nails,’ as they say. But the words ‘be strong’ here mean more than that, don’t they, Bert?”

“They mean to be strong in resisting temptation, don’t they, Mr. Silver?” replied Bert.

“Yes; that’s just it. Quit you like men — be manly, and be strong to resist temptation. Now, boys, some people think that young chaps like you don’t have many temptations. That you have to wait until you grow up for that. But it’s a tremendous mistake, isn’t it? You all have your temptations, and lots of them, too. And they are not all alike, by any means, either. Every boy has his own peculiar difficulties, and finds his own obstacles in the way of right doing. But the cure is the same in all cases. It is to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. That is the best way of all in which to be strong, boys. When the Philistines were hard pressed by the Israelites, they said one to another, ‘Be strong and quit yourselves like men . . . quit yourselves like men, and fight.’ And they fought so well that Israel was smitten before them, and the ark of God was taken. And so, boys, whenever, at home, at school, or at play, you feel tempted to do what is wrong, I ask you to remember these words, ‘Quit yourselves like men, be strong, and fight.’ If you do, so sure as there is a God in heaven who loves you all, you will come off conquerors.”

Mr. Silver’s words made a deep impression upon Bert. The great ambition of his boyish heart was to be esteemed manly. Nor was he entirely free from the mistaken notions about manliness to which his teacher had referred. He had more than once been sneered at, by some of the boys at Mr. Garrison’s, for refusing to do what seemed to him wrong. They had called him “Softy,” and hinted at his being tied to his mother’s apron-strings. Then, big, coarse Bob Brandon, always on the look-out to vent his spite, had nicknamed him “Sugar-mouth” one day, because he had exclaimed to one of the boys who was pouring out oaths:

“Oh, Tom! how can you swear so? Don’t you know how wicked it is to take God’s name in vain?”

These and other incidents like them had troubled Bert a good deal. He dreaded being thought a “softy,” and had even at times felt a kind of envy of the boys whose consciences did not trouble them if they swore, or indulged in sly smokes, or defiled their mouths with filthy quids. Mr. Silver’s words now came in good time to give a changed current to these thoughts. They presented to his mind a very different idea of manliness from the confused conception which had been his hitherto.

“That’s a good motto for a fellow, Shorty,” said he, as the two friends walked home together from the school. “Mother asked me the other day to take a text for a motto. I think I’ll take ‘Quit you like men, be strong.’”

“I think I will, too, Bert,” said Frank. “It’s no harm if we have the same one, is it?”

“Why no, of course not,” answered Bert. “We’ll both have the same, and then we’ll help one another all we can to do what it says.”

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