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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XVIII. School Experiences

BY the time autumn had made way for winter, Bert felt thoroughly at home at Dr. Johnston’s, and was just about as happy a boy as attended this renowned institution. In spite of the profound awe the doctor inspired, he ventured to cherish toward him a feeling of love as well as of respect; and although Mr. Snelling did not exactly inspire awe, nor even much respect, he managed to like him not a little also. As for the boys—well, there were all sorts and conditions of them; good, bad, and indifferent; boys who thought it very fine and manly to smoke, and swear, and swap improper stories, and boys who seemed as if they would have been more appropriately dressed in girls’ clothes, so lacking were they in true manly qualities; while between these two extremes came in the great majority, among whom Bert easily found plenty of bright, wholesome companions.

There were some odd chaps at the school, with whose peculiarities Bert would amuse the home circle very much, as he described them in his own graphic way. There was Bob Mackasey, called by his companions, “Taffy the Welshman,” because he applied the money given him by his mother every morning to get some lunch with, to the purchase of taffy; which toothsome product he easily bartered off for more sandwiches and cakes than could have been bought for ten cents, thus filling his own stomach at a very slight cost to his far-seeing mother.

A big fat fellow in knickerbockers, by name Harry Rawdon, the son of an officer in the English army, had attained a peculiar kind of notoriety in the school, by catching flies and bottling them.

Then there was Larry Saunders, the dandy of the school, although undoubtedly one of the very plainest boys in it, who kept a tiny square of looking-glass in his desk, and would carefully arrange his toilet before leaving the school in the afternoon, to saunter up and down the principal street of the city, doing his best to be captivating.

Two hot-tempered, pugnacious chaps, by name Bob Morley and Fred Short, afforded great amusement by the ease with which they could be set at punching one another. It was only necessary for some one to take Bob Morley aside and whisper meaningly that Fred Short had been calling him names behind his back, or something of that sort equally aggravating, to put him in fighting humour. Forthwith, he would challenge Master Fred in the orthodox way—that is, he would take up a chip, spit on it, and toss it over his shoulder. Without a moment’s hesitation, Fred would accept the challenge, and then the two would be at it, hammer and tongs, fighting vigorously until they were separated by the originators of the mischief, when they thought they had had enough of it. They were very evenly matched, and as a matter of fact did not do one another much harm; but the joke of the thing was that they never seemed to suspect how they were being made tools of by the other boys, who always enjoyed these duels immensely.

Another character, and a very lovable one this time, was a nephew of the doctor’s, Will Johnston by name, but universally called “Teter,” an odd nickname, the reason of which he did not seem to understand himself. This Teter was one of those good-natured, obliging, reckless, happy-go-lucky individuals who never fail to win the love of boys. His generosity was equalled only by his improvidence, and both were surpassed by his good luck.

Bert conceived a great admiration for Teter Johnston. His undaunted courage, as exhibited in snowball fights, when, with only a handful of followers he would charge upon the rest of the school, and generally put them to flight; his reckless enterprise and amazing luck at marbles and other games; his constant championing of the small boys when tormented by the larger ones, more than one bully having had a tremendous thrashing at his hands;_

these were very shining qualities in Bert’s eyes, and they fascinated him so, that if “fagging” had been permitted at Dr. Johnston’s, Bert would have deemed it not a hardship, but an honour, to have been Teter’s fag.

In strong contrast to his admiration for Teter Johnston was his antipathy to Rod Graham. Rod was both a sneak and a bully. It was in his character as a sneak that he showed himself to Bert first, making profuse demonstrations of goodwill, and doing his best to ingratiate himself with him, because from his well-to-do appearance he judged that he would be a good subject from whom to beg lunch, or borrow marbles, and so on. But Bert instinctively disliked Rod, and avoided him to the best of his ability. Then Rod revealed the other side of his nature. From a sneak he turned into a bully, and lost no opportunity of teasing and tormenting Bert, who, being much smaller than he, felt compelled to submit, although there were times when he was driven almost to desperation. It was not so much by open violence as by underhanded trickery that Rod vented his spite, and this made it all the harder for Bert, who, although he was never in any doubt as to the identity of the person that stole his lunch, poured ink over his copy-book, scratched his slate with a bit of jagged glass, tore the tails off his glengarry, and filled the pockets of his overcoat with snow, still saw no way of putting a stop to this tormenting other than by thrashing Rod, and this he did not feel equal to doing. Upon this last point, however, he changed his mind subsequently, thanks to the influence of his friend Teter Johnston, and the result was altogether satisfactory as will be shown in due time.

Bert’s feelings toward Dr. Johnston himself were, as has been already stated, of a mixed nature. At first, he was simply afraid of him, but little by little a gentler feeling crept into his heart. Yet, there was no doubt, the doctor was far more likely to inspire fear than love. He wielded his authority with an impartial, unsparing hand. No allowance was ever made for hesitancy or nervousness on the part of the scholar when reciting his lesson, nor for ebullitions of boyish spirits when sitting at the desk. “Everything must be done correctly, and in order,” was the motto of his rule. The whippings he administered were about as impressive a mode of school punishment as could be desired. The unhappy boy who had behaved so ill, or missed so many lessons as to deserve one, heard the awful words, “Stand upon the floor for punishment,” uttered in the doctor’s sternest tones. Trembling in every limb, and feeling cold shivers running up and down his back, while his face flushed fiery red, or paled to ashy white by turns, the culprit would reluctantly leave his seat, and take his stand in the centre aisle, with the eyes of the whole school upon him variously expressing pity, compassion, or perhaps unsympathetic ridicule.

After he had stood there some time, for be it known this exposure was an essential part of the punishment, he would see the doctor slowly rise from his seat, draw forth from its hiding-place the long black strap that had for so many years been his sceptre, and then come down toward him with slow, stately steps. Stopping just in front of him, the order would be issued: “Hold out your hand.” Quivering with apprehension, the boy would extend his hand but half way, keeping his elbow fast at his side. But the doctor would not be thus partially obeyed. “Hold out your hand, sir!” he would thunder, and out would go the arm to its fullest length, and with a sharp swish through the air, down would come the strap, covering the hand from the wrist to finger tip, and sending a thrill of agony through every nerve in the body. Ten, twenty, thirty, or in extreme cases, even forty such stripes would be administered, some boys taking them as fast as the doctor could strike, so that the torture might soon be over, and others pausing between each blow, to rub their stinging palms together, and bedew them with their tears.

It was a terrible ordeal, no doubt, and one that would hardly be approved of to-day, the publicity uniting with the severity to make it a cruel strain upon a boy’s nervous system. In all the years that Bert spent at Dr. Johnston’s school he was called upon to endure it only once, but that once sufficed. The way it came about was this:

Bert one morning happened to be in a more than usually frolicsome mood, and was making pellets out of the soft part of the rolls he had brought for lunch, and throwing them about. In trying to hit a boy who sat between him and Mr. Snelling’s desk, he somehow or other miscalculated his aim, and to his horror, the sticky pellet flew straight at the bald spot on top of Mr. Snelling’s head, as the latter bent his shortsighted eyes over a book before him, hitting it in the centre, and staying there in token of its success.

With angry face, Mr. Snelling sprang to his feet, and brushing the unlucky pellet from his shiny pate, called out so fiercely as to attract the doctor’s attention:

“Who threw that at me?”

The few boys who were in the secret looked very hard at their books, while those who were not glanced up in surprise, and tried to discover the cause of Mr. Snelling’s excitement.

“Who threw that at me?” demanded Mr. Snelling, again.

Bert, who had at first been so appalled by what he had done that his tongue refused to act, was about to call out “It was I, sir,” when Rod Graham was seen to hold up his hand, and on Mr. Snelling turning inquiringly toward him, Rod, in a low, sneaking voice, said:

“It was Lloyd, sir; I saw him do it.”

Mr. Snelling immediately called out, “Lloyd, come to my desk;” and Bert, feeling hot and cold by turns, went up to the desk, and stood before it, the picture of penitence.

“Did you throw that pellet?” asked Mr. Snelling, in indignant tones.

“Yes, sir; but I didn’t mean to hit you, sir,” answered Bert, meekly.

“I know nothing about that,” answered Mr. Snelling, too much excited to listen to any defence. “Follow me to Dr. Johnston.”

Hastening into the presence of the stern headmaster, Mr. Snelling stated what had happened, and pointed to the trembling Bert as the culprit.

“How do you know he is the offender, Mr. Snelling?” inquired the doctor, gravely.

“Graham said he saw him do it, sir, and Lloyd confesses it himself,” replied Mr. Snelling.

“Oh! indeed—that is sufficient. Leave Lloyd with me.” And thus dismissed, Mr. Snelling returned to his desk.

“Lloyd, I am sorry about this. You must stand upon the floor for punishment,” said the doctor, turning to Bert; and Bert, chilled to the heart, took his place upon the spot where he had so often pitied other boys for being.

Presently, drawing out his strap, the doctor came toward him:

“Hold out your hand, sir.”

Bert promptly extended his right hand to the full.

Swish! and down came the cruel strap upon it, inflicting a burning smart, as though it were a red-hot iron, and sending a thrill of agony through every nerve. Swish! And the left hand was set on fire. Swish! Swish! right and left; right and left, until twenty stripes had been administered; and then, turning on his heel, the doctor walked solemnly back to his desk.

During all this torture not a sound had escaped Bert. He felt that the doctor could not do otherwise than punish him, and he determined to bear the punishment bravely; so closing his lips tightly, and summoning all his resolution, he held out one hand after the other, taking the blows as fast as the doctor could give them. But when the ordeal was over he hurried to his seat, and burying his head in his burning hands, burst into a passion of tears—for he could control himself no longer.

A few minutes later his attention was aroused by hearing the doctor call out, in a loud, stern voice:

“Graham, come forward.”

Graham got out of his seat, and in a half-frightened way, slunk up to the doctor’s desk.

“I understand, Graham,” said the doctor, with his grimmest expression, “that you volunteered to tell Mr. Snelling who it was that threw that pellet. You know, or ought to know, the rule of this school as to informers. You will receive the same punishment that I have just given Lloyd. Stand upon the floor.”

Completely taken aback at this unexpected turn in affairs, Rod Graham mechanically took up his position, looking the very picture of abject misery. The doctor kept him there for full half-an-hour, and then administered twenty stripes, with an unction that showed, clearly enough, his profound contempt for that most contemptible of beings, an informer.

Now, Bert was not an angel, but simply a boy—a very good boy, in many respects, no doubt, but a boy, notwithstanding. It would, therefore, be doing him an injustice to deny that he took a. certain delight in seeing his tormentor receive so sound a whipping, and that it brought, at least, a temporary balm to his own wounded feelings. But the wound was altogether too deep to be cured by this, or by Frank Bowser’s heartfelt sympathy, or even by the praise of his schoolmates, many of whom came up to him at recess and told him he was “a brick,” “a daisy,” and so forth, because he had taken a whipping without crying.

All this could not hide from him what he felt to be the disgrace of the thing. So ashamed was he of himself that he could hardly find courage to tell them about it at home; and although, easily appreciating the whole situation, Mr. Lloyd had only words of cheer for him, and none of condemnation, Bert still took it so much to heart that the following Sunday he pleaded hard to be allowed to remain away from the Sunday school, as he did not want to face Mr. Silver and his classmates so soon. But his father wisely would not suffer this, and so, much against his will, he went to school as usual, where, however, he felt very ill at ease until the session was over, when he had a long talk with Mr. Silver, and told him the whole story.

This relieved his mind very much. He felt as if he were square with the world again, and he went back to Dr. Johnston’s far lighter in heart on Monday morning than he had left it on Friday afternoon. He had learned a lesson, too, that needed no reteaching throughout the remainder of his school days. That was the first and last time Bert Lloyd stood upon the floor for punishment.

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