The Old School House,” by J. A., is less about the school than it is about anger. While Youth’s Companion did its best to promote education, it was just as interested in shaping the character of its readers.


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[Editorial] “The Old School House,” by J. A. (from Youth’s Companion, 15 November 1849; p. 116)

It stood by the side of a beautiful pond. The waters were deep, and when the wind blew, its surface was thrown into tiny waves. I have often watched from the window of the schoolroom, the rolling of those waves, and tried to form some idea of the waves of the ocean. I used often to make haste to get my lessons, that I might have time to look out upon that beautiful sheet of water. My teachers some times told me I wasted my time in gazing thus from the window, though they never forbade my doing so, so long as I was prepared to recite promptly the lessons assigned me. It may be that I wasted time in looking upon that lake, now sleeping in the bright sunshine, and now slightly ruffled by the freshing breeze. But my mind was not idle while thus employed. Many a thought was suggested to my mind, and many a lesson impressed upon my heart. I have loved the quiet and beautiful scenes of nature, the more for that peaceful lake. I rejoice that I was permitted to take lessons from it. In consequence, I have experienced many a happy home in later life.

But I am forgetting the object for which I took my pen. It was to relate an incident which occurred in connection with the pond.

One clear, frosty day in December, the pond was frozen over, and it was proposed that the boys should assemble at night for the purpose of gliding over its glassy surface, on skates. Soon after dark, nearly all the boys of the village who were so fortunate as to be the possessors of skates, were at the school-house, waiting for the arrival of Edgar Howe, who was the acknowledge leader of the boys in the amusement before them.

“Come, boys,” said Alanson Hurd, “let us put on our skates. We are not obliged to wait for Edgar.”

“No,” said one, “he will be here soon. It is his right to take the first turn.”

“It is no more his right than it is mine. I am not going to wait here; come on.”

He left the school-house, and went towards the pond. None of the boys followed him. He became very angry, and said to himself, “I will have my revenge.”

When Edgar came, the boys came down to the shore, and soon a number were coursing about after him; he seemed to exert but half his skill and strength in keeping ahead of all who attempted to pursue him. As he skated up to a part of the pond called the bay, he found Alanson refitted his skates.

“What business have you here?” said he jocosely.

“I will let you know what business I have here, pretty soon,” replied Alanson angrily.

“Be about it, then,” said Edgar, a little moved by the rude reply of Alanson.

When Alanson had fitted his skates, he made trial of his skill, and went faster than several of the boys who tried to outstrip him.

“Let me show him how it is done,” said Edgar. “I will give him twenty yards to start with, and will overhaul him before he gets half way across the pond.” Alanson said nothing, but took the twenty yards, and set off at his greatest speed.

“Catch him, Edgar,” said the boys. Alanson kept ahead for some time, but finding himself likely to be passed, he suddenly threw a walking stick which he had in his hand before Edgar. It caused him to fall with great violence upon the ice. Alanson, without waiting to see the effect of his wickedness, hurried on till he had reached nearly the opposite side of the pond. He then turned, and saw all the boys collected on the spot where Edgar had fallen. He then went back. “Here you,” said one, “you will have to be hung: you have killed Edgar.”

It was not true that Edgar was dead, though the boy verily thought so. He had remained insensible from the time his head struck the ice, till that moment. He now opened his eyes and soon asked to be carried home. Alanson offered to assist in the work, but the boys drove him away.

From the effects of that fall, Edgar never fully recovered. It injured his brain for a lifetime at least—it was agreed on all hands, that he was never the boy he was before. He became dull, and almost stupid, and never fulfilled any of the hopes his friends had entertained respecting him. All this evil was the result of a thoughtless act, prompted by momentary passion. What hours of regret must have followed that act!

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