September 03, 2006


The first of September came, and with it came the opening of the fall
schools. On the first day, when Andy, at work in the yard, saw the
boys and the girls go by with their books, he felt a longing to go,
too. He knew very well that his education had been very much
neglected, and that he knew less of books than a boy of his age ought
to do.
"I wish I could go to school this term," he said to himself; "but it's
no use wishin'. Mother needs my wages, and I must keep on workin'."
The same thought had come to the Misses Grant. Andy had been in their
employ now for six weeks, and by his unfailing good humor and
readiness to oblige, had won their favor. They felt interested in his
progress, and, at the same moment that the thought referred to passed
though Andy's mind, Miss Priscilla said to her sister:
"The fall school begins to-day. There's Godfrey Preston just passed
with some books under his arm."
"Just so."
"I suppose Andrew would like to be going to school with other boys of
his age."
"Just so."
"Don't you think we could spare him to go half the day?"
"Just so," said Sophia, with alacrity.
"There isn't so much work to do now as there was in the summer, and he
could do his chores early in the morning. He could go to school in the
forenoon and work in the afternoon."
"Just so, Priscilla. Shall we give him less wages?"
"No, I think not. He needs the money to give his mother."
"Call him in and tell him," suggested Sophia.
"It will do at dinner time."
"Just so."
When the dinner was over, and Andy rose from the table, Miss Priscilla
introduced the subject.
"Are you a good scholar, Andrew?"
"I'm a mighty poor one, ma'am."
"Did you ever study much?"
"No, ma'am, I've had to work ever since I was so high," indicating a
point about two feet from the ground.
"Dear me," said Sophia, "you must have been very small."
"Yes, ma'am, I was very small of my size."
"I've been thinking, Andrew, that perhaps we could spare you half the
day, so that you could go to school in the forenoon--you could learn
something in three hours--should you like it?"
"Would I like it, ma'am? Wouldn't I, though? I don't want to grow up a
poor, ignorant crathur, hardly able to read and write."
"Then you can go to school to-morrow, and ask the teacher if he will
take you for half the day. You can get up early, and get your chores
done before school."
"Oh, yes, ma'am, I can do that easy."
"I think we have some schoolbooks in the house. Some years ago we had
a nephew stay with us, and go to school. I think his books are still
in the closet."
"Thank you, ma'am. It'll save me buyin', and I haven't got any money
to spare."
"We shall give you the same wages, Andrew, though you will work less."
"Thank you, ma'am. You're very kind."
"Try to improve your time in school, as becomes the great-grandson of
such a distinguished orator."
"I'll try, ma'am," said Andy, looking a little queer at this allusion
to the great Edmund Burke. In fact, he was ashamed of having deceived
the kind old ladies, but didn't like now to own up to the deception
lest they should lose confidence in him. But he determined hereafter
to speak the truth, and not resort to deception.
The next morning, at twenty minutes of nine, Andy left the house
provided with books, and joyfully took his way to the schoolhouse,
which was a quarter of a mile distant. As he ascended the small hill
on which it stood, he attracted the attention of a group of boys who
had already arrived. Among them was his old adversary, Godfrey
"Is that Irish boy coming to school?" he said in a tone of disgust.
"What? Andy Burke? I hope so," said Charles Fleming, "he's a good
"He's only an Irish boy," said Godfrey, with a sneer.
"And I am only an American boy," said Charles, good-humoredly.
"You can associate with him if you want to; I shan't," said Godfrey.
"That's where I agree with you, Godfrey," said Ben Travers, who made
himself rather a toady of Godfrey's.
Andy had now come up, so that Charles Fleming did not reply, but
called out, cordially:
"Are you coming to school, Andy?"
"Yes," said Andy.
"I'm glad of it."
"Thank you," said Andy. "What's the matter with them fellows," as
Godfrey and Bill Travers walked off haughtily, tossing their heads.
Charles Fleming laughed.
"They don't think we are good enough for their company," he said.
"I'm not anxious for it," said Andy. "I like yours better."
"I didn't think you could get away from work to come to school. Are
you working for Miss Grant now?"
"Yes, but she lets me come to school half the day. She's a bully ould
"Well, half a loaf's better than no bread. Will you sit with me? I've
got no one at my desk. Say yes."
"It's just what I'd like, Charlie, but maybe Godfrey Preston wants to
sit with me. I wouldn't like to disappoint him," said Andy, with sly
"Sit with me till he invites you, then."
"That'll be a long day."
They went into the schoolhouse, and Andy deposited his books in the
desk next to Charlie Fleming's. He couldn't have wished for a better
or more agreeable companion. Charlie was the son of Dr. Fleming, the
village physician, and was a general favorite in the town on account
of his sunny, attractive manner. But, with all his affability, he was
independent and resolute, if need be. He was one of the leaders of the
school. Godfrey aspired also to be a leader, and was to some extent on
account of his father's wealth and high standing, for, as we have
seen, Colonel Preston was not like his son. Still, it is doubtful
whether anyone was much attached to Godfrey. He was too selfish in
disposition, and offensively consequential in manner, to inspire
devoted friendship. Ben Travers, however, flattered him, and followed
him about, simply because he was the son of a rich man. Such cases
occur sometimes among American schoolboys, but generally they are too
democratic and sensible to attach importance to social distinctions in
the schoolroom, or in the playground.
When the teacher--a certain Ebenezer Stone, a man of thirty or
upward--entered, Andy went up to him and asked permission to attend
school a part of the time. As there had been such cases in former
terms, no objection was offered by the teacher, and Andy went back to
his seat, a regularly admitted member of the school.
It was found necessary to put him in a low class to begin with. He was
naturally bright, but, as we know, his opportunities of learning had
been very limited, and he could not be expected to know much. But Andy
was old enough now to understand the worth of knowledge, and he
devoted himself so earnestly to study that in the course of three
weeks he was promoted to a higher class. This, however, is
When recess came, the scholars poured out upon the playround. Charles
Fleming and Godfrey Preston happened to pass out side by side.
"I see you've taken that Irish boy to sit with you," he said.
"You mean Andy Burke? Yes, I invited him to be my desk-fellow."
"I congratulate you on your high-toned and aristocratic associate,"
observed Godfrey, sarcastically.
"Thank you. I am glad to have him with me."
"I wouldn't condescend to take him into my seat."
"Nor do I. There isn't any condescension about it."
"He works for a living."
"So does my father, and so does yours. Are you going to cut your
father's acquaintance for that reason?"
"My father could live without work."
"He doesn't choose to, and that's where he shows his good sense."
"It's a different kind of work from sawing and splitting wood, and
such low labor."
"It strikes me, Godfrey, that you ought to have been born somewhere
else than in America. In this country labor is considered honorable.
You ought to be living under a monarchy."
"I don't believe in associating with inferiors."
"I don't look upon Andy Burke as my inferior," said Charlie. "He is
poor, to be sure, but he is a good fellow, and helps support his
mother and sister, as I would do in his place."
"Charlie Fleming," was heard from the playground, "come and choose up
for baseball."
Without waiting for an answer, Charlie ran to the field alongside the
schoolhouse, where the game was to take place.
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