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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XVII. The Hoisting

MRS. LLOYD gave Bert a more than usually affectionate kiss as he started off for school next morning, and his father called after him:

“Remember, Bert, quit you like a man.”

Yet who could blame the little fellow if his heart throbbed with unwonted vigour all that morning, and that he watched the clocks hands anxiously as they crept slowly, but steadily, round the dial, yellow with age and service.

Frank had adopted an unconcerned, if not defiant air, which told plainly enough that he had no idea of submitting quietly to the inevitable ordeal. He was a born fighter. Strength, endurance, courage were expressed in every line of his body. Indeed, as was seen in the matter of the rows between the Garrison and the National boys, he thought a good lively tussle to be fine fun, and never missed a chance of having one.

The two boys were carefully examined by both Dr. Johnston and Mr. Snelling as to the extent of their learning in the course of the morning, and assigned to classes accordingly. They were given the same work: English grammar and history, arithmetic, geography, Latin grammar, &c., and a list given them of the books they would need to procure. They were glad to find themselves in the same classes with Ernest Linton, who had been only half-a-year at the school before them, for he seemed such a kind, willing, obliging little chap that they both became fond of him at once.

When recess came he slipped up to Bert and whispered in his ear:

“Stay in school, and then they can’t get at you. Mr. Snelling always stays, and they daren’t come in for you.”

“Not a bit of it,” said Bert, emphatically. “The sooner it’s over the better. Come along, Shorty.” And they marched bravely out, with Ernest following closely behind.

As they stepped into the street, they found fifty or more of the boys gathered about the door, evidently awaiting them. Instantly the cry was raised, “The new boys—hoist them! hoist them!” And half-a-dozen hands were laid upon Bert, who led the van, while others seized Frank to prevent his running away. Bert made no resistance. Neither did Frank, when he saw that his time had not yet come, as they were going to hoist Bert first. Clinching his fists, and hunching his shoulders in readiness for a struggle, he stood in silence watching Bert’s fate.

What that would be was not long a matter of uncertainty. In the midst of a noisy rabble of boys, many of whom were larger, and all older than himself, he was borne along to the foot of the high fence that shut in the yard which, as already described, was at the back of the school building. Perched on top of this fence, and leaning down with outstretched arms, were four of the largest lads, shouting at the top of their voices, “Bring him along; hoist him up, hoist him!” The unresisting Bert was brought underneath this quartette, and then his hands were lifted up until they could grasp them in their own. So soon as this was done, a pull all together on their part hoisted him up from the ground, three feet at least, and then his legs were seized, lest he should be tempted to kick. The next moment, as perfectly helpless, and looking not unlike a hawk nailed to a barn-door by way of warning to kindred robbers, Bert hung there, doing his best to keep a smile on his face, but in reality half frightened to death. The whole crowd then precipitated themselves upon him, and with tight-shut fists proceeded to pummel any part of his body they could reach. Their blows were dealt in good earnest, and not merely for fun, and they hurt just as much as one might expect. Poor Bert winced, and quivered, and squirmed, but not a cry escaped from his close-set lips. The one thought in his mind was, “Quit you like men,” and so buoyed up by it was he, that had the blows been as hard again as they were, it is doubtful if his resolution to bear them in silence would have faltered.

He did not know how long he hung there. It seemed to him like hours. It probably was not longer than a minute. But, oh! the glad relief with which he heard one of the leaders call out:

“That’s enough, fellows; let him down. He stood it like a brick.”

The blows ceased at once; those holding his hands swung him a couple of times along the fence after the manner of a pendulum, and then dropped him to the ground, where he was surrounded by his late persecutors, who now, looking pleasant enough, proceeded to clap him on the back, and tell him very emphatically that he was “a plucky little chap”; “one of the right sort”; “true grit,” and so forth.

Feeling sore and strained, from his neck to his heels, Bert would have been glad to slip away into some corner and have a good cry, just to relieve his suppressed emotions; but as he tried to separate himself from the throng about him, he heard the shout of “Hoist him! Hoist him!” again raised, and saw the leaders in this strange sport bear down upon Frank Bowser, who, still in the hands of his first captors had looked on at Bert’s ordeal with rapidly rising anger.

The instant Frank heard the shout, he broke loose from those who held him, and springing up a flight of steps near by, stood facing his pursuers with an expression upon his countenance that looked ill for the first that should attempt to touch him. A little daunted by his unexpected action, the boys paused for a moment, and then swarmed about the steps. One of the largest rushed forward to seize Frank, but with a quick movement the latter dodged him, and then by a sudden charge sent him tumbling down the steps into the arms of the others. But the advantage was only momentary. In another minute he was surrounded and borne down the steps despite his resistance.

The struggle that ensued was really heroic—on Frank’s part, at all events. Although so absurdly outnumbered, he fought desperately, not with blows, but with sheer strength of arm and leg, straining to the utmost every muscle in his sturdy frame. Indeed, so tremendous were his efforts, that for a time it seemed as if they would succeed in freeing him. But the might of numbers prevailed at length, and, after some minutes’ further struggling, he was hoisted in due form, and pounded until the boys were fairly weary.

When they let him go, Frank adjusted his clothes, which had been much disordered in the conflict, took his cap from the hands of a little chap, by whom it had thoughtfully been picked up for him, and with furious flaming face went over to Bert, who had been a spectator of his friend’s gallant struggle with mingled feelings of admiration for his courage and regret at his obstinacy.

“They beat me, but I made them sweat for it,” said he. “I wasn’t going to let them have their own way with me, even if you did.”

“You might just as well have given in first as last,” replied Bert.

“But I didn’t give in,” asserted Frank. “That’s just the point. They were too many for me, of course, and I couldn’t help myself at last, but I held out as long as I could.”

“Anyway, it’s over now,” said Bert, “and it won’t bother us any more. But there’s one thing I’ve made up my mind to: I’m not going to have anything to do with hoisting other new boys. I don’t like it, and I won’t do it.”

“No more will I, Bert,” said Frank. “It’s a mean business; a whole crowd of fellows turning on one and beating him like that.”

Just then the bell rang, and all the boys poured back into the schoolroom for the afternoon session.

Each in his own way, Bert and Frank had made a decidedly favourable impression upon their schoolmates. No one mistook Bert’s passive endurance for cowardice. His bearing had been too brave and bright for that. Neither did Frank’s vigorous resistance arouse any ill-feeling against him. Boys are odd creatures. They heartily admire and applaud the fiery, reckless fellow, who takes no thought for the consequences, and yet they thoroughly appreciate the quiet, cool self-command of the one who does not move until he knows just what he is going to do. And so they were well pleased with both the friends, and quite ready to admit them into the full fellowship of the school.

The Lloyds were greatly interested by Bert’s account of the hoisting. They praised him for his self control, and Frank for his plucky fight against such odds, and they fully agreed with Bert that hoisting was a poor business at best, and that he would be doing right to have nothing to do with it.

“Perhaps some day or other you’ll be able to have it put a stop to, Bert,” said his mother, patting his head fondly. “It would make me very proud if my boy were to become a reformer before he leaves school.”

“I’m afraid there’s not much chance of that, mother,” answered Bert. “The boys have been hoisting the new chaps for ever so many years, and Dr. Johnston has never stopped them.”

That was true. Although he feigned to know nothing about it, the doctor was well aware of the existence of this practice peculiar to his school, but he never thought of interfering with the boys. It was a cardinal principle with him that the boys should be left pretty much to themselves at recess. So long as they did their duty during the school hours, they could do as they pleased during the play hour. Moreover, he was a great admirer of manliness in his boys. He would have been glad to find in every one of them the stoical indifference to pain of the traditional Indian. Consequently, fair stand-up fights were winked at, and anything like tattling or tale-bearing sternly discouraged. He had an original method of expressing his disapprobation of the latter, which will be illustrated further on. Holding those views, therefore, he was not likely to put his veto upon “hoisting.”

As the days went by, Bert rapidly mastered the ways of the school, and made many friends among his schoolmates. He found the lessons a good deal harder than they had been at Mr. Garrison’s. And not only so, but the method of hearing them was so thorough that it was next to impossible for a boy who had come ill-prepared to escape detection. Dr. Johnston did not simply hear the lesson; he examined his scholars upon it, and nothing short of full acquaintance with it would content him. He had an original system of keeping the school record, which puzzled Bert very much, and took him a good while to understand.

On the doctor’s desk lay a large book, something like a business ledger. One page was devoted to each day. At the left side of the page was the column containing the boys’ names, arranged in order of seniority, the boy who had been longest in the school being at the head, and the last new boy at the foot.

Each boy had a line to himself, running out to the end of the page, and these parallel lines were crossed by vertical ones, ruled from the top to the bottom of the page, and having at the top the names of all the different classes; so that the page when ready for its entries resembled very much a checker board, only that the squares were very small, and exceedingly numerous. Just how these squares, thus standing opposite each name, should be filled, depended upon the behaviour of the owner of that name, and his knowledge of his lessons.

If Bert, for instance, recited his grammar lesson without a slip, the letter B—standing for bene, well— was put in the grammar column. If he made one mistake, the entry was V B, vix bene—scarcely well; if two mistakes, Med, mediocriter—middling; and if three, M, male—badly, equivalent to not knowing it at all. The same system prevailed for all the lessons, and in a modified form for the behaviour or deportment also. As regards behaviour, the arrangement was one bad mark for each offence, the first constituting a V B, the second a Med, the third an M, and the fourth a P, the most ominous letter of all, standing, as it did, for pessime—as bad as possible—and one might also say for punishment also; as whoever got a P thereby earned a whipping with that long strap, concerning which Bert had heard such alarming stories.

It will be seen that, by following out the line upon which each boy’s name stood, his complete record as a scholar could be seen, and upon this record the doctor based the award of prizes at the close of the term. For he was a firm believer in the benefits of prize-giving, and every half-year, on the day before the holidays, a bookcase full of fine books, each duly inscribed, was distributed among those who had come out at the head in the different classes, or distinguished themselves by constant good behaviour.

Once that Bert fully understood the purpose of this daily record, and the principle upon which the prize-giving was based, he determined to be among the prize winners at the end of the term. His ambition was fired by what the older boys told him of the beautiful books awarded, and the honour it was to get one of them. He knew that he could not please his father or mother better than by being on the prize list, and so he applied himself to his lessons with a vigour and fidelity that soon brought him to the notice of the observant doctor.

“I am glad to see you taking so much interest in your work,” said he one morning, pausing, in his round of inspection, to lay his hand kindly upon Bert’s shoulder as the latter bent over his slate, working out a problem in proportion. “A good beginning is a very important thing.”

Bert blushed to the roots of his hair at this unexpected and, indeed, unusual compliment from the grim master, who, before the boy could frame any reply, passed out of hearing.

“We’ll do our best, won’t we, Shorty?” said Bert, turning to his friend beside him.

“I suppose so,” answered Frank, in rather a doubtful tone. “But your best will be a good deal better than mine. The lessons are just awful hard; it’s no use talking ”

“They are hard, Shorty, and no mistake. But you’ll get used to them all right,” rejoined Bert, cheerfully.

“I guess I’ll get used to being kept in and getting whipped, first,” grumbled Frank.

“Not a bit of it,” Bert insisted. “You just stick at them and you’ll come out all right.”

The fact of the matter was, that poor Frank did find the lessons a little more than he could manage, and there were a good many more “V B’s ” and “Med’s ” opposite his name than “B’s.” He was a restless sort of a chap, moreover, and noisy in his movements, thus often causing Mr. Snelling to look at him, and call out sharply :

“Bowser, what are you doing there?” And Frank would instantly reply, in a tone of indignant innocence:

“Nothing, sir.”

Whereupon Mr. Snelling would turn to Dr. Johnston, with the request:

“Will you please put a mark to Bowser for doing nothing, sir?” And down would go the black mark against poor Bowser, who, often as this happened, seemed unable ever to learn to avoid that fatal reply: “Nothing, sir.”

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