Second Summer — Mary Smith Again
THE next summer, Mary Smith was the mistress again. She gave such admirable satisfaction, that there was but one unanimous wish that she should be re-engaged. Unanimous, I said, but it was not quite so; for Capt. Clark, who lived close by the school-house, preferred somebody else, no matter whom, fit or not fit, who should board with him, as the teachers usually did. But Mary would board with her Aunt Carter, as before. Then Mr. Patch's family grumbled not a little, and tried to find fault; for they wanted their Polly should keep the school and board at home, and help her mother night and morning, and save the pay for the board to boot. Otherwise Polly must go into a distant district, to less advantage to the family purse. Mrs. Patch was heard to guess that "Polly could keep as good a school as anybody else. Her education had cost enough anyhow. She had been to our school summer after summer, and winter after winter, ever since she was a little gal, and had then been to the 'cademy three months besides. She had moreover taught three summers already, and was twenty-one; whereas Mary Smith had taught but two, and was only nineteen." But the committee had not such confidence in the experienced Polly's qualifications. All who had been to school with her knew that her head was dough, if ever head was. And all who had observed her school-keeping career (she never kept but once in the same place) pretty soon came to the same conclusion, notwithstanding her loaf of brains had been three months in that intellectual oven called by her mother the 'cademy.
So Mary Smith kept the school, and I had another delightful summer under her care and instruction. I was four years and a half old now, and had grown an inch. I was no tiny, whining, half-scared baby, as in the first summer. No, indeed; I had been to the winter school, had read in a class, and had stood up at the fire with the great boys, had seen a snow-ball fight, and had been accidentally hit once by the icy missile of big-fisted Joe Swagger.
I looked down upon two or three fresh, slobbering abecedarians with a pride of superiority, greater perhaps than I ever felt again. We read not in ab, eb, &c., but in words that meant something; and, before the close of the summer, in what were called the "Reading Lessons," that is, little words arranged in little sentences.
Mary was the same sweet angel this season as the last. She was forced to caution us younglings pretty often; yet a caution from her was as effectual as would be a frown, and indeed a blow, from many others. At least, so it was with me. She used to resort to various severities with the refractory and idle, and in one instance she used the ferule; but we all knew, and the culprit knew, that it was well deserved.
At the close of the school, there was a deeper sadness in our hearts than on the last summer's closing day. She had told us that she should never be our teacher again, — should probably never meet many of us again in this world. She gave us much parting advice about loving and obeying God, and loving and doing good to everybody. She shed tears as she talked to us, and when we were dismissed, the customary and giddy laugh was not heard. Many were sobbing with grief, and even the least sensitive were softened and subdued to an unusual quietness.
The last time I ever saw Mary was Sunday evening, on my way home from meeting. As we passed Mr. Carter's, she came out to the chaise where I sat between my parents, to bid us good-by. The next morning she left for her native town; and before another summer, she was married. As Mr. Carter soon moved from our neighborhood, the dear instructress never visited it again.