apt to be strenuous upon the point of not admitting to their school pupils from other towns; but Horace was an engaging child; ‘every one liked the little, white-headed fellow,’ says a surviving member of the school committee, ‘and so we favored him.’
A district school—and what was a district school forty years ago?
never attended any but a district school, and it concerns us to know what manner of place it was, and what was its routine of exercises.
The school-house stood in an open place, formed (usually) by the crossing of roads.
It was very small, and of one story; contained one apartment, had two windows on each side, a small door in the gable end that faced the road, and a low door-step before it. It was the thing called House
, in its simplest form.
But for its roof, windows, and door, it had been a Box, large, rough, and unpainted.
Within and without, it was destitute of anything ornamental.
It was not enclosed by a fence; it was not shaded by a tree.
The sun in summer, the winds in winter, had their will of it: there was nothing to avert the fury of either.
The log school-houses of the previous generation were picturesque and comfortable; those of the present time are as prim, neat, and orderly (and as elegant sometimes) as the cottage of an old maid who enjoys an annuity; but the school-house of forty years ago had an aspect singularly forlorn and uninviting.
It was built for an average of thirty pupils, but it frequently contained fifty; and then the little school-room was a compact mass of young humanity: the teacher had to dispense with his table, and was lucky if he could find room for his chair.
The side of the apartment opposite the door was occupied, chiefly, by a vast fireplace, four or five feet wide, where a carman's load of wood could burn in one prodigious fire.
Along the sides of the room was a low, slanting shelf, which served for a desk to those who wrote, and against the sharp edge of which the elder pupils leaned when they were not writing.
The seats were made of ‘slabs,’ inverted, supported on sticks, and without backs.
The elder pupils sat along the sides of the room,—the girls on one side, the boys on the other; the youngest sat nearest the fire, where they were as much too warm as those who sat near the door were too cold.
In a school of forty pupils, there would be a dozen who were grown up, marriageable