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LITTLE TORA :
THE SWEDISH SCHOOLMISTRESS.
ano tber Stories.
The school was going on in its usual rout inc."
A liKAVE UKEU
THE SWEDISH SCHOOLMISTRESS
MRS. WOODS BAKER
AUTHOR OF "THE BABES IN THE BASKET," "THE SWEDISH TWINS,
" FIRESIDE SKETCHES FROM SWEDISH LIFE,"
THOMAS NELSON AND SONS
London, Edinburgh, and New York
I8 9 8
B SweMsb Scboolmistress.
I. LITTLE TORA, ....
II. FACING THE WORLD,
III. A NARROW ESCAPE,
IV. A HAPPY MORNING,
V. THE PERMANENT PUPIL,
I. CHURCH SERVICE, ...
ii. AT THE PASTOR S,
III. A STRANGE MEETING,
IV. TOO LATE, ....
V. KARIN AND ELSA, ...
VI. CHRISTMAS EVE, ....
I. A FOOLISU RESOLVE, .... .... .... 97
II. AFTER THIRTY YEARS, .... .... .... 104
III. IN THE POORHOUSE, .... .... .... HO
IV. PREPARING FOR CONFIRMATION, .... .... 118
V. LED TO THE LIGHT, .... .... .... 128
VI. PAINFUL DISCLOSURES, .... .... .... 134
VII. A HAPPY CHRISTMAS, .... .... .... 145
VIII. THE BEATA CHARITY, ... .... .... 151
LITTLE TORA :
THE SWEDISH SCHOOLMISTRESS.
THE SWEDISH SCHOOLMISTRESS.
THE kindly doctor was entertaining his brother-
in-law, and all the family were sitting round
the table in state. The polished silver and shining
glass, with porcelain, flowers, and fruit, seemed to be
all that had been provided for the dinner.
The usual " grace " had hardly been said, when a
trim maid announced that a little girl was at the
door, who must see the doctor about something
particular. " There is nobody sick more than usual,"
she says ; " but she must come in," continued the
" Let her come in here. You can never have
your meals in peace ! " said the doctor s wife affec
14 LITTLE TORA.
The soup and the little girl came in together, the
latterly evidently quite prepared to state her errand.
She was a small, straight child, with a determined
air and a cheery face, as if sure of success in her
undertaking. Fresh in Monday cleanliness, her
white cotton head-kerchief stood stiffly out in a
point behind, and her calico apron was without
spot or wrinkle. Her shoes, though they had been
diligently blackened and were under high polish, did
not correspond with the rest of her appearance.
They had evidently been made for a boy, an in
dividual much larger than their present wearer.
Great wrinkles crossing each other shut off some
low, unoccupied land near the toe, and showed how
much of the sole had been too proud to touch the
common ground. All this the observers saw at once.
" Well, Tora ! " said the doctor pleasantly, after she
had dropped her bob-courtesies, and " good-days " had
" May I sing for you ? " said the little girl, without
further hesitation, as she hastily took out a thin, black
book from the small pocket handkerchief in which it
had been carefully wrapped.
" Sing ? yes, surely ! " said the doctor. " Just the
thing for us while we are taking our dinner. My
LITTLE TOR A. 15
brother-in-law here is a famous judge of music, so
you must do your best."
Tora opened the book, took what she considered
an imposing position, and announced the name of
the song. It was a patriotic one, and in the full
chorus of the schoolroom it had stirred the young
Swedish hearts to their depths.
The first few notes were right, though tremblingly
given ; then came a quivering and a faltering and
a falsity that made the doctor s boys cover their
laughing mouths with their hands, while their eyes
twinkled with suppressed merriment.
Just then there was a queer buzzing noise in the
room, by which the tune was carried on, and Tora
fell in with fresh courage. Most of the party were
taking their soup, as well as listening ; but the boys
observed that their uncle quietly held his motionless
spoon, and was looking at the singer as if lost in
musical bliss. His mouth was closed, but his nostrils
seemed undergoing a rhythmical contraction and dis
tension most interesting and unusual.
Tora gave the closing notes in fine style, and the
expression of applause was general. So encouraged,
she volunteered a simple newly-published carol that
she had that day been practising at school. Here it
16 LITTLE TOR A.
seemed the musical accompaniment could not be relied
upon. Tora began, stopped, and began again, then
was silent, while great tears stood in her eyes.
One of the before-smiling boys hastened to say,
" Let her speak a piece, uncle. She can do that
beautifully, her brother Karl says. He has taught
her ever so many, and it costs her nothing to learn
them. He likes to tell that she is the best scholar in
The uncle seemed to be able to enjoy his dinner
at the same time as the elocutionary treat with
which it was now accompanied, and he warmly
complimented the speaker on her performance at its
" What made you think of giving us this pleasure,
little Tora ? " said the doctor, with a humorous look
in his kindly face.
" Why," said the little girl at once, " I don t like
my shoes. They have been brother Karl s. When I
asked father this morning to give me some new ones,
he said this was a fine strong pair and did not let in
water, and he could not think of letting them go to
waste. Then he looked sorrowful, and I heard him
say to mother, The poor children will have to earn
all they have soon. I made up my mind to begin
LITTLE TORA 17
at once, and earn my shoes, if 1 could. Our teacher
told us to-day about Jenny Lind, who began to sing
when she was a very little girl, and when she was
older she made a great deal of money, and gave away
ever so much, and was loved and admired wherever
she went. I thought I should like to be loved and
admired wherever I went, and have new shoes when
ever I wanted them, and I would try singing too. I
came here first because the doctor has always been so
pleasant to me and so good to us all."
" You have made a real beginning," said the
brother-in-law. " Gustaf, take round the hat."
The doctor s son ran for his cap. There was a
chinking and a silver flash as the uncle put his hand
into the cap. Something of the same kind happened
when it came to the doctor s turn to contribute. The
mother fumbled confusedly in her pocket, and found
only her handkerchief. The boys tossed in conspicu
ously some coppers of their own, perhaps with the
idea of covering, by their munificence, the evident
discomfiture of their mother.
" There ! there ! " said the uncle. " Hand the cap
to the little girl. What is in it is for the singer.
As for the shoes, I ll see about that. I would not
advise you, though, little Tora, to try singing to make
1 8 LITTLE TOR A.
money. It might do for Jenny Lind, but 1 hardly
think it would suit for you."
The little girl s countenance fell. The friendly
stranger went on, " How would you like to be a
little schoolmistress ? That would be a nice way
for you to take care of yourself, and maybe help all
at home, by-and-by. I know how that thing is
done, and I think we could manage it."
The uncle did know "how that thing was done,"
and who meant to do it. Little Tora was provided
for from that day ; and so, if she did not sing like
Jenny Lind, she sang herself into being a school
mistress a little schoolmistress of the very best
FACING THE WORLD.
JT was five o clock in the morning on one of the last
days of August. This was no legally-sanctioned
Swedish moving-day, and yet it was plain that with
somebody a change of residence was in progress.
Before a low house on a winding " cobble-stone "
paved street two long, narrow wagons were standing.
Their horses faced in different directions, though in
all other respects the two establishments were, even
to their loading, like a pair of twins. In each was
the furniture for one simple room, a sofa-bed being
the striking article in the inventory. A carefully-
packed basket of china, a few primitive cooking
utensils, and some boxes and packages indicated,
if not good cheer, at least something to keep soul
and body together.
The outer door of the house was locked at last,
20 FACING THE WORLD.
and the key had been handed to a humble woman,
who courtesied and took it as a matter of form; though
both parties knew that she would soon be opening
that door and coming into lawful possession of all
the effects, remnants, and refuse left on the premises,
and would be sure to hand that house over to the
landlord in a superlatively clean and tidy condition.
Two stout men took their places as drivers, and
two passengers stood on the low steps for a few
parting words. They were by no means twins. The
straight, slight girl, though not tall, yet fully grown,
had been the little Tora, the singer of one public
performance. Now she had in her pocket her great
est treasure the paper that pronounced her a fully-
fledged schoolmistress; who had completed with honour
the prescribed course at the seminary duly authorized
for the manufacture of teachers of unimpeachable
character, and all pedagogical requisites in perfection.
At Tora s side stood " brother Karl." just about
to start for Upsala University, with his arrange
ments complete for his bachelor housekeeping on the
most simple principles.
There \vas no effusiveness in the parting. " Keep
well, Karl, and don t study too hard," said the sister.
" And don t have any food -days ; I could not bear
FACING THE WORLD. 21
that. But you must not live too low, and pull your
self down. Send to me if you get to the bottom of
your purse. I shall be likely to have a few coppers
" I ll warrant that, Miss Prudence," was his reply.
" Nobody but you would have managed to keep us
both comfortably on what was only meant to carry
you through the seminary. Don t be afraid for me !
I shall clear my own way. I shall teach boys in the
evening, and study after they have gone to bed. I
have served a good apprenticeship with the doctor s
chaps these years. I understand packing lessons into
youngsters to be given out in the class next day.
Then I am to write an article now and then for
the paper here, with Upsala news for the country
folks. As to food-days/ I am not exactly of your
mind. I have made arrangements for one already."
" O Karl ! how could you ? " said Tora reproach-
" Gunner Steelhammer liked well enough to take
porridge with us now and then when he was teaching
here. His mother has told him to invite me to dine
at their house on Sundays, and to call there whenever
I feel like it. We are real friends, though he is a
university tutor now. Anybody that I would be
22 FACING THE WORLD
willing to help I am willing to let help ine. Of
course, I shall enjoy a good substantial dinner once
a week, but I really care more to be with the family
at that house. Gunner is a splendid fellow, as you
know, and his father draws all kinds of nice people
about him, I hear. I did not dare to tell you this
before, little sister ; but now I have made a clean
breast of it. I was half teasing about it, too. Be
sure, I ll work hard and live low before I shall let
anybody help me. Well, good-bye," and he stretched
out his hand to Tora, who took it hastily for a hearty
shake, and then they parted.
Karl was wearing his white university cap, which,
with the loading of the wagon, marked him as a
student on the way to Upsala, and would ensure
him many a friendly greeting by the way. Tora
had prudently covered the fresh velvet with a fair
cotton cover ; but the blue-and-yellow rosette was
in full sight a token of the honours he had lately
won at his examination, and would be striving to
win at the old centre of learning. The kind neigh
bours whom he had known from boyhood had added
to his equipment here a cheese, and there a pat of
butter or a bag of fresh biscuits ; but he did not
need to open his stores by the way. Now and
FACING THE WORLD. 23
again from the roadside houses kindly faces smiled
on him, and homely fare was offered him by the
elders ; while flowers or wild berries came to his
share from glad children who had been ranging
the woods for treasures during these last days of
their summer vacation.
As for Tora, sitting in a low chair in the midst
of her possessions, she went rattling over the cobble
stones, if not more proud at least more happy of
heart than a conqueror of old at the head of a
Roman triumph. She had reached the goal towards
which she had long been striving. She was now an
independent worker, with a profession by which she
could earn an honourable living. She was a teacher,
" a teacher of the little school " that is to say, of
the school for little children. The state was her
sure paymaster. If continued health were granted
her, her path for the future was plain her bread
The cobble-stones were soon passed, and over the
smooth country road rumbled the clumsy vehicle,
now through evergreen thickets, now through groves
of bright birches, and at last out on the rolling
meadows. The fences had disappeared, and but for
a lone landmark here and there, the sea of green
24 FACING THE WORLD.
might have seemed the property of any strong-
handed labourer who might choose to call it his own.
Down an unusually steep slope the wagon passed,
then across the low meadow with a bright stream
threading its midst, and then there was a triumphant
sweep up to the little red schoolhouse where Tora
was to have her abode and the sphere of her labours.
A low wooded point ran like a promontory out
into the meadow, and there " the forefathers of the
vale "had built the temple for the spelling-book and
On the opposite side from the meadow the school-
house was entered, after crossing the wide playground.
Where " the field for sport " ended at the road there
stood a lad, evidently looking out eagerly for the
arrival of the new teacher.
" That s a life-member of the little school," said
the driver, with a whimsical look. " Is ils is not
much at books, but he s a powerful singer."
The last words were spoken within the hearing of
the frank-faced boy, who now pulled off his cap, and
stepped up to the wagon to help Tora down. She
shook his hand kindly, and said, " I hear you are a
singer, Nils. I am glad of that, for in my certificate
I got but a poor record for my singing."
FACING THE WORLD. 25
" And great A for everything else, mother said,"
he answered promptly, while his eyes beamed plea
santly on the new teacher, whose first friendly greet
ing had won his heart.
" I ll help you down with the heavy things first,"
said Nils to the driver, " and then if you ll set the
rest here, we ll take them in together later. I want
to show the schoolhouse to the mistress."
The one room set apart for the home of the teacher
did not look dreary as she stepped into it. The table
from the schoolroom stood in the centre covered with
a white cloth, its edge outlined by bright birch leaves
laid on it, loosely and tastefully, like a wreath. Then
on a tray covered with a snowy napkin stood a shining
coffee-pot, with cups for three, and a light saffron
cake that might have sufficed for the whole school
" Mother thought perhaps you would like a taste
of something warm after your ride," said Nils, as he
proceeded to pour out a cup of coffee as if he were
quite at home. At home he was in a way, for in
that schoolhouse he had for years passed his days
among the little ones, through a special permit from
the school board.
Tora clasped her hands, and stood silent a moment
26 FACING THE WORLD.
before she tasted the first morsel of food in her new
home, and her heart sent up really grateful thoughts
to her heavenly Father, who had so blessed her, and
would, she was sure, continue to bless her in her new
" May I take out a cup to Fetter ? " asked Nils,
while he cut the big cake into generous pieces, and
offered the simple entertainment to the teacher. Of
course the driver did not refuse the proposed refresh
ment, nor did Nils hesitate to help himself, while the
mistress was taking her coffee and glancing round the
All was fresh and clean about her. The windows
had evidently been open since early morning, and the
closets and shelves could well afford to be displayed
through the doors more than half ajar.
" Thanks, Nils," said the mistress, as she took the
boy s hand after the refreshment.
" Thanks and welcome to the new teacher I " was
" Now I shall go in and look at the schoolroom
while Fetter and you furnish my room for me. The
sofa should stand there, and the bureau there. The
rest I can leave to you," said Tora, as she disappeared.
Nils unfolded a strip of rag carpeting and " criss-
FACING THE WORLD. 27
crossed " it round the room, whispering to himself,
" Mother said there were to be no footmarks left
The schoolroom was but a big, bare room no maps
on the w T alls, none of the modern aids for instruction,
save that the space between the two windows that
looked out towards the meadow had been painted, to
be used as a blackboard : " a useless, new-fangled
notion " the rustics had called this forward step in
the way of education.
In front of the blackboard stood a wooden arm
chair for the teacher. The benches were low, and the
desks were of the simplest sort, saving one, which
was larger and higher, which the teacher at once
understood was the permanent arrangement for Nils.
Her heart went out towards the big, kind fellow, on
whom so sore a trial had been laid in his youth.
Along one side of the schoolroom there were four
horses standing silent, but not " saddled and bridled,"
as in old nursery stories. Without head or tail, they
stood on four sprawling legs supports for two long,
" shallow boxes " that had been in the schoolroom for
fifty years or more. Wood was abundant in the old
days, and unskilful hands had done the work ; so the
boxes were but clumsy specimens of carpentry, and
28 FACING THE WORLD.
deep enough, it seemed, to hold sand for all the long
winter through. The grandfathers of the neighbour
hood could remember when these receptacles were
their writing-desks, in which, stick in hand, they
were taught to trace in the smoothed sand their
names or any higher efforts of chirography that the
teacher might demand. These superannuated articles
of furniture were now used in winter as places of
deposit for the children s folded outer garments, rather
than the cold vestibule. There, too, the dinner-baskets
had their rightful quarters.
The room was high, as it went up to the very roof.
On the rafters were stored, in cold weather, the stilts
for summer, and the bundles of ropes for the swings
to be fastened to the tall trees by adventurous Nils,
whose friendly hands delighted to send the laughing
little ones flying far up into the fresh air like merry
fairies. There, too, were the bows and arrows, and
all other lawful things for summer sport.
The little schoolmistress took a full survey of her
new kingdom, sat for a moment in her chair of state,
and noticed a simple footstool put in front of it for
her use, as she fancied, by that unknown " mother "
who seemed to have her comfort so much at heart.
When the new mistress returned to her own private
FACING THE WORLD. 29
apartment, the furniture was all in place, the covers
were taken from the boxes, and everything was ready
for her personal arrangement of her property.
" The school board have had shutters put to the
windows," said the driver, pointing to the late im
provement. " They thought perhaps the new teacher
might be afraid. This is a lonely place."
" Afraid ! " said the little schoolmistress, wonder
ingly ; " I am never afraid, night or day."
The driver opened his eyes wide as he answered,
" The last teacher was as tall as I am, and she always
kept a pistol at night by her on a chair, with an
apron thrown over it, so the thieves could not find it
and shoot her before she had a chance at them. This
little mistress must be made of different stuff . Well,
good-bye, miss, and I wish you well/
Tora was about to put in his hand the usual
payment for his services, when he shut his broad
fist expressively, and then half raised it, as he said,
" I never took pay for a mistress s things being
brought to this schoolhouse yet, and I don t mean
to do it now. Folks for the most part seem to like
you, but I have a particular feeling. I knew your
father once, and he was good to me."
The honest man could say no more just then, and
30 FACING THE WORLD.
he hurried out of the room. Nils followed with his
best bow, but the pleasant words reached his ears,
" We ll meet soon again. Thanks ! thanks to you
both. I think we shall be real friends, Nils, you
That little allusion to her father, coming so suddenly,
had almost made Tora break down in the midst of her
abounding courage. The past came up in vivid pic
tures where scenes of sorrow were predominant. Her
weak, ever-ailing little baby sister had floated quietly
across the dark river. The stricken mother sank, and
soon followed her child to the churchyard. The
father s hand, that had first guided an editor s pen, and
then in his long decline that of a mere copyist, grew
weaker and weaker, and finally the last loving pres
sure was given to his daughter, and then that hand
lay still and white. Its work on earth was done,
and the brother and sister were left alone. Coura
geous and loving, they had both struggled on. Her
end was attained, but he was at the beginning of the
steady conflict before him. How would he bear him
self in the battle ? If she could only know whether
his surroundings would be as pleasant and home
like as her own, and his heart as full of hope and
quiet trust ! Would he be borne safely through the
FACING THE WORLD. 31
privations and temptations of his university life ? A
prayer went silently up to the Father of all for that
absent brother, and then the practical little sister was
soon deep in the stir of bringing all things to order
in her new home. Physical effort brought back the
resolute cheerfulness so natural to the little school
mistress, and she hummed to herself a simple song of
long ago, to which she could always hear the buzzing
accompaniment of that stranger who had proved to
her a faithful, untiring benefactor and friend.
A NARROW ESCAPE.
I ^HE winter had been unusually long. For nearly
X six months the ground had been continually
white. Not that it had been clothed by an ever-
smooth, fair mantle. The snow had been tossed and
whirled by the wild winds till it was fitfully heaped,
now in the meadows, and now banked up against the
very hill-sides. But for the dark woods as landmarks,
the face of the country would have seemed to be
utterly changed. The ice-covered streams were hidden
away out of sight, and the wide ponds appeared but
as smooth pastures.
A path from the little-frequented road had been
kept open to the schoolhouse. Week by week this
narrow way to the seat of learning had been walled 4
higher and higher, until at last the rustic scholars
seemed passing through a stately white marble cor-
A NARROW ESCAPE. 33
ridor as they filed along towards the well-known
The first days of April had come and gone without
a flower-bud to greet them. The weather had sud
denly grown soft and mild, and a drizzling rain had
been falling all night.
Nils appeared early at school ; but the tidy mistress
had already cleared away all traces of her modest
breakfast, and was ready to bid him welcome more as
a visitor than a scholar. They had some pleasant
chat together, and then the teacher said seriously, as
she laid her hand on the boy s shoulder, " You must
try as hard as you can, Nils, to do well, or I am afraid
you will not go up this year."
"I do try I try as hard as I can ! " he said.
Tears suddenly filled his large eyes as he added, " I
am not like other boys, and I know it."
" God knows what you can do, Nils," she said ten
derly ; " and He will not judge you for what is not
your fault. It may be, Well done, good and faith
ful servant ! for you at the last, if you cannot be a
Some merry voices at the door put an end to the