THERE were many ways in
which the methods employed at Dr. Johnston’s school were unique. The
system of registering attendance, proficiency, and conduct has been
already fully explained. It was hardly possible that this could have
been more perfect. No boy could be absent without being missed, and an
explanation or excuse of a thoroughly satisfactory nature was required
the next day. No mistake could occur as to the standing of the pupils in
the different classes. The record of each day was all comprehensive. It
constituted a photograph, so to speak, of each pupil’s doings, in so far
as they related to his school, and the doctor was exceedingly proud of
the journals, which he kept with scrupulous care and neatness.
Another feature of the school, peculiar to itself, was the system by
which a knowledge of arithmetic was fostered, and the faculty of using
it quickly was developed. The whole of one morning each week was devoted
to this. The scholars were grouped in classes according to their varying
proficiency, care being taken to give each one a fair chance by
associating him with those who were about as far advanced as himself.
These classes were then arranged upon seats very much after the fashion
of a Sunday school, save that instead of a teacher being in their
centre, they were placed around a backless chair, in such a manner that
it was equally convenient of access to all. Each boy had his slate and
pencil in readiness.
The school having been called to order, the doctor then proceeded to
read out to the senior class a problem in proportion or compound
interest, or whatever it might be, and this they hurriedly scribbled
down on their slates. If they did not understand it fully at first, he
would read it again, but of course never gave any explanations. So soon
as a scholar had clearly grasped the problem to be solved he set to work
at its solution with all his might, and it was a most interesting
spectacle to watch when the whole class, with heads bent close to the
slates, made their squeaking, scratching pencils fly over them. Every
possible shade of mental condition, from confident knowledge to
foreboding bewilderment, would be expressed in their faces. The instant
one of them had completed his work, he banged his slate down upon the
backless chair, with the writing turned under. The others followed as
best they could, and all the slates being down, they awaited the
doctor’s coming around to their class again.
When Dr. Johnston had completed the round of the classes, and given each
a problem, he would, after a pause, call upon each in turn to read the
answers as set down upon the slate. The boy whose slate was first on the
chair, and therefore at the bottom of the pile, would read his answer
first. If it were correct, he scored a point, and none of the others
were called upon. If incorrect, the next to him would read his answer,
and so on until a correct answer was given, and a point scored by
somebody. Only one point could be made each round, and so the
unsuccessful ones had to console themselves with the hope of having
better luck next time. Not more than four or five rounds would be had
each day, and it rarely happened that the same boy would be successful
in all of them. Three points were considered a very good day’s work, and
if a boy made four points he was apt to feel that the prize in that
class was as good as his, until some other boy made four points also,
and thereby lessened his chances.
It did not always happen that being first down with his slate assured
the scholar of scoring a point. A slight mistake in his addition,
subtraction, or division might have thrown him off the track, and then
number two, or maybe number three, would come in with a correct answer
and triumphantly score the point, success being all the sweeter, because
of being somewhat unexpected.
Now this kind of competition suited Bert thoroughly. He was as quick as
any of his companions, cooler than many of them, and had by this time
acquired a very good understanding of the chief principles of
arithmetic. He greatly enjoyed the working against time, which was the
distinctive feature of the contest. It brought out his mental powers to
their utmost, and he looked forward to “arithmetic day,” with an
eagerness that was not caused entirely by what his father had promised
him in the event of his being successful in carrying off a prize.
In the same class with him were Frank Bowser, Ernest Linton, and a
half-dozen other boys of similar age and standing in the school. He had
no fear of Frank or Ernest. They were no match for him either as to
knowledge, or rapidity of work; but there was a boy in the class who
seemed fully his equal in both respects. This was Levi Cohen, a
dark-skinned, black-haired chap, whose Jewish features were in entire
harmony with his Jewish name. He was indeed a Jew, and, young though he
was, had all the depth, self-control, and steadfastness of purpose of
that strange race. He also had, as the sequel will show their
indifference as to the rightness of the means employed so long as the
end in view was gained.
The school had been in session for more than a month, and those who were
particularly interested in the arithmetic competitions were already
calculating their chances of success. In Bert’s class it was clear
beyond a doubt that the contest lay between him and Levi Cohen. It
rarely happened that they did not monopolise the points between them,
and so far, they had divided them pretty evenly. One day Bert would
score three and Levi two, and then the next week Levi would have three,
and Bert two, and so it went on from week to week.
As the second month drew to a close, Bert began to gain upon his rival.
He nearly always made the majority of the points, and was now at least
six ahead. Then suddenly the tide turned and Levi seemed to have it all
his own way. The quickness with which he got the answers was
bewildering. Nay, more, it was even suspicious. One familiar with the
details of the problems given, and the amount of work a full working out
would require, could not help being struck by the fact that Cohen seemed
to arrive at his answer after a remarkably small expenditure of
slate-pencil. Time and again he would have his slate down at least
half-a-minute before Bert did his, although previous to this sudden
change in his fortunes, the difference in time between them had been
rarely more than a few seconds. Then again it was noticeable that he
took the utmost care that none of the others should see what was on his
slate. He did his work in a corner, hunched up over it so that it was
well concealed, and he snatched his slate away from the pile at the very
Bert noticed all these things, and they perplexed him quite as much as
Cohen’s rapid gain alarmed him.
He soon became convinced that there was something wrong, that Cohen was
doing crooked work; but, puzzle his brains as he might, he could not get
at the bottom of the mystery. Frank and Ernest fully shared his
suspicions, and they had many a talk over the matter. Frank thought that
Cohen must have the answers written on a piece of paper which he managed
to peep at somehow while all the other boys were absorbed in working out
the problems ; but although he on several occasions purposely refrained
from doing anything himself in order to watch Cohen the more closely, he
failed to find the slightest ground for his suspicions in that
direction. Then Bert put forward his theory.
“I’ll tell what it is Frank: Cohen must learn the answers off by heart,
and then he sets them down without working out the whole sum.”
“Shouldn’t wonder a bit,” said Frank. “He’s got a great memory, I know,
and we always can tell from what part of the arithmetic Dr. Johnston is
going to get the sums.”
“But how can we make sure of it, Frank?” inquired Bert, anxiously.
“The only way is to get hold of his slate, and see how he works his sums
out,” replied Frank.
“Yes; but he takes precious good care not to let anybody see how he does
“So he does; but we’ve got to find out some way, and I’m going to do it,
so sure as my name’s Frank Bowser.”
“How’ll you manage it, Frank?” asked Bert, brightening up; for he really
was a good deal troubled over Cohen’s continued success, particularly as
he felt so strongly that there was something wrong at the bottom of it.
“I don’t know yet, Bert; but I’ll find out a way somehow. See if you
can’t think of a plan yourself.”
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll ask father about it,” said Bert, in a
tone that implied perfect confidence in Mr. Lloyd’s ability to furnish a
solution for any difficulty.
Accordingly, that evening, Bert laid the whole case before his father,
who listened with judicial gravity, and then proceeded to ask a question
“You feel quite sure that Cohen does not take the time to work out the
“Yes, father; perfectly sure.”
“Then why don’t you inform Dr. Johnston of your suspicions, and he will
make an examination into the matter?”
“Oh, father!” exclaimed Bert, with a look of profound surprise. “You
wouldn’t have me turn tattletale, would you?”
“No, Bert, dear; indeed, I would not, although you should lose a dozen
prizes. I said that simply to see what you would think of it, and I am
glad you answered me as I expected you would. But, Bert, you have asked
my advice in this matter. Did you think of asking somebody else who is
infinitely wiser than I am?”
Bert understood his father at once.
“No, father; I did not. I never thought of it,” he answered, frankly.
“Then had you not better do so when you are saying your prayers
“I will, father. I’m so glad you reminded me.” And with that Bert
dropped the subject for the time.
That night, ere he went to bed, Bert laid the matter before his Father
in heaven, just as he had done before his father upon earth. He had
imbibed his ideas of prayer from what he heard from his own father at
family worship. Mr. Lloyd’s conception of prayer was that it could not
be too simple, too straightforward. It often seemed as though God were
present in the room, and he was talking with him, so natural, so
sincere, so direct were his petitions. And Bert had learned to pray in
the same manner. A listener might at times be tempted to smile at the
frankness, the naivete of Bert’s requests; but they were uttered not
more in boyish earnest than in truest reverence by the petitioner.
The next morning, when Bert came down to the breakfast-room, he was
evidently in the best of spirits.
“It’s all right, father,” said he. “I asked God to show me what’s the
best thing to do, and I’m sure He will.”
“That’s it, Bert; that’s the way to look at it,” replied Mr. Lloyd, with
a smile of warm approval.
On reaching the school Bert found Frank awaiting him.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” he shouted, so soon as Bert appeared. “I
know how Levi manages it now.” “How is it?” asked Bert, eagerly.
“Why, he learns all the answers off by heart, and then doesn’t work out
the sums at all, but just pretends to, and slaps down the answer before
the rest of us fellows are half through,” explained Frank.
“To be sure, Frank; you know I thought of that before. But how are we
going to stop him?”
“That’s just what I’m coming to. When the time comes to read the answers
I’m going to take up the slates, just as if mine was down first; and
then, if Levi’s been playing sharp on us, I’ll expose him.” “What a
brick you are!” exclaimed Bert, admiringly, patting Frank on the back.
“That’s a grand plan of yours, and I do believe it’s the way God is
going to answer my prayer.”
“Answer your prayer, Bert? Why, what do you mean?” inquired Frank.
“Why, you know, Frank, last night when I was saying my prayers, I told
God all about it, and now I believe He’s going to make it all right. You
just see if He doesn’t.”
Frank was evidently very much struck with the idea of his being chosen
by God to answer Bert’s prayer. It was quite a new thought, and made a
deep impression upon him. He was a clear and strong, if not very rapid,
reasoner, and his reasoning in this case led him to the conclusion that
if God thought that much of him he certainly ought to think more of God.
He did not talk about it to any one, but for many days his mind was
occupied with thoughts of this nature, and their direct result was to
lead him nearer to the kingdom.
At the very first opportunity Frank put his plan into execution.
Arithmetic day came round, the class gathered in its place, the first
sum was read out to them, and before Bert was half through working it
out, Levi Cohen placed his slate softly upon the chair, and leaned back
in his seat with a sly smile lurking in the corners of his mouth. Frank
glanced up from his work, gave Bert a meaning look, and then dropped his
slate upon Cohen’s with a loud bang. The others followed more slowly,
and presently the time came for the answers to be read.
Before Cohen could leave his corner, Frank rose up, seized the pile of
slates, turned them over, and examined the first intently, while Bert
watched him with breathless expectancy, and Cohen, at first too
surprised to act, sprang forward to wrest it from his hands. But Frank
moved out of his reach, and at the same time, with a triumphant smile,
exhibited the face of the slate to the rest of the class, saying, in a
“Look, boys, that’s the way he works them out.” Dr. Johnston noticed the
slight commotion this created, but he was too far away to see clearly
what it meant, so he called out:
“Why does not class six read their answers?” Cohen stood up, and held up
“Well, Cohen, what is it?” asked the doctor.
“Please, sir, Bowser has taken my slate, and won’t give it to me,”
answered Cohen, in a whining voice.
“Bowser, what’s the meaning of this? What are you doing with Cohen’s
slate?” demanded the doctor, frowning darkly.
Frank did not look a bit frightened, but still holding on to the slate,
which Cohen was making ineffectual efforts to regain, replied, in
“May I hand you the slate first, sir?”
At these words Cohen turned ashy pale, and Dr. Johnston, realising that
there must be something going on that required explanation, ordered
Frank to bring all the slates up to him.
With radiant face Frank proceeded to obey, giving Bert a triumphant look
as he passed by him, while Cohen shrank back into his corner, and bit
his nails as though he would devour his finger tips. Taking up Cohen’s
slate, the doctor scrutinised it carefully. One glance was sufficient. A
deep flush spread over his dark face, his eyes lighted up threateningly,
and in his sternest tones he called out:
“Cohen, come here!”
Amid the expectant hush of the school, none but class six knowing what
was the matter, Cohen, looking as though he would give his right hand to
be able to sink through the floor, walked slowly up into the dreadful
presence of the angered master. Holding up the slate before him, Dr.
“Is this your slate, sir?”
Cohen gave it a cowering glance, and said, faintly:
“How long has this been going on?” thundered the doctor.
Cohen made no reply.
“Answer me, sir, at once. How long has this been going on?” repeated the
“I don’t quite know, sir; but not very long,” faltered out Cohen.
With an exclamation of disgust, Dr. Johnston turned from him, and,
holding the slate up high so that all the school might see it, relieved
the curiosity of the scholars, now at fever pitch, by addressing them
“Cohen has just been detected in one of the most contemptible tricks
that has come under my observation since I have been master of this
school. He has evidently been committing to memory the answers to the
problems that would be given out, and instead of doing the work properly
has been scratching down a few figures, then writing the answers, and so
finishing long before any of the other scholars. I need hardly say that
this is not only a most contemptible trick, as I have already said, but
a serious blow at the principles of fair play and justice which should
regulate the winning of prizes in this school. I therefore feel bound to
express my indignation at Cohen’s offence in the most decided manner.”
Turning to Cohen: “You, sir, shall stand upon the floor for punishment.
All the points scored by you already this term will be taken from you,
and you will not be permitted to compete for any prize until I shall so
A kind of subdued whistle rose from the boys when they heard the
doctor’s severe, and yet not too severe, sentence. Cohen was no
favourite with them; and yet they could not help some pity for him, as
thoroughly cowed and crushed he stood before them all, the very picture
of misery. Bert’s tender heart was so touched by his abject appearance,
that he half relented at his exposure. But Frank was troubled by no such
second thoughts. The unexpectedly complete success of his scheme filled
him with delight. It had accomplished two objects, both of which gave
him keen pleasure. Bert’s most dangerous rival for the prize had been
put out of the way, and Cohen, whom he cordially disliked, had been well
punished for his knavery.
With Cohen disqualified, Bert had a comparatively easy time of it for
the rest of the term. He usually managed to secure four out of the five
points obtainable, and steadily added to his score until at last there
was no chance of any one beating him, and he could look forward with
comfortable confidence to the prize that meant so much in his case. A
few days before Christmas the results were declared, and the prizes
awarded, and although Bert gained only the one upon which his heart had
been set, while other boys carried off two, and even three, he envied
none of them. Their prizes meant nothing more perhaps than the
brightly-bound books which the doctor selected with special reference to
boyish preferences. But his prize meant more than a book. It meant a
pony. And so if he was the happiest boy in all the land of Acadia it was
not without good reason. Frank was hardly less jubilant, for he had
gained his prize, and there was a hope taking strong hold upon his
heart, that if fortune was kind to him, there might be a pony for him as
well as for Bert.