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newspapers, had suppressed a private post-office, had forbidden
distortions of the face, nicknames, and caricatures, and done all that
one man could do to keep half a hundred rebellious girls in order. Boys
are trying enough to human patience, goodness knows! but girls are
infinitely more so, especially to nervous gentlemen with tyrannical
tempers, and no more talent for teaching than "Dr. Blimber." Mr. Davis
knew any quantity of Greek, Latin, algebra, and ologies of all sorts, so
he was called a fine teacher; and manners, morals, feelings, and
examples were not considered of any particular importance. It was a most
unfortunate moment for denouncing Amy, and Jenny knew it. Mr. Davis had
evidently taken his coffee too strong that morning; there was an east
wind, which always affected his neuralgia, and his pupils had not done
him the credit which he felt he deserved; therefore, to use the
expressive if not elegant language of a school-girl, "he was as nervous
as a witch, and as cross as a bear." The word "limes" was like fire to
powder: his yellow face flushed, and he rapped on his desk with an
energy which made Jenny skip to her seat with unusual rapidity.

"Young ladies, attention, if you please!"

At the stern order the buzz ceased, and fifty pairs of blue, black,
gray, and brown eyes were obediently fixed upon his awful countenance.

"Miss March, come to the desk."

Amy rose to comply with outward composure; but a secret fear oppressed
her, for the limes weighed upon her conscience.

"Bring with you the limes you have in your desk," was the unexpected
command which arrested her before she got out of her seat.

"Don't take all," whispered her neighbor, a young lady of great presence
of mind.

Amy hastily shook out half a dozen, and laid the rest down before Mr.
Davis, feeling that any man possessing a human heart would relent when
that delicious perfume met his nose. Unfortunately, Mr. Davis
particularly detested the odor of the fashionable pickle, and disgust
added to his wrath.

"Is that all?"

"Not quite," stammered Amy.

"Bring the rest, immediately."

With a despairing glance at her set she obeyed.

"You are sure there are no more?"

"I never lie, sir."

"So I see. Now take these disgusting things, two by two, and throw them
out of the window."

There was a simultaneous sigh, which created quite a little gust as the
last hope fled, and the treat was ravished from their longing lips.
Scarlet with shame and anger, Amy went to and fro twelve mortal times;
and as each doomed couple, looking, oh, so plump and juicy! fell from
her reluctant hands, a shout from the street completed the anguish of
the girls, for it told them that their feast was being exulted over by
the little Irish children, who were their sworn foes. This - this was too
much; all flashed indignant or appealing glances at the inexorable
Davis, and one passionate lime-lover burst into tears.

As Amy returned from her last trip, Mr. Davis gave a portentous "hem,"
and said, in his most impressive manner: -

"Young ladies, you remember what I said to you a week ago. I am sorry
this has happened; but I never allow my rules to be infringed, and I
_never_ break my word. Miss March, hold out your hand."

Amy started, and put both hands behind her, turning on him an imploring
look, which pleaded for her better than the words she could not utter.
She was rather a favorite with "old Davis," as of course he was called,
and it's my private belief that he _would_ have broken his word if the
indignation of one irrepressible young lady had not found vent in a
hiss. That hiss, faint as it was, irritated the irascible gentleman, and
sealed the culprit's fate.

"Your hand, Miss March!" was the only answer her mute appeal received;
and, too proud to cry or beseech, Amy set her teeth, threw back her head
defiantly, and bore without flinching several tingling blows on her
little palm. They were neither many nor heavy, but that made no
difference to her. For the first time in her life she had been struck;
and the disgrace, in her eyes, was as deep as if he had knocked
her down.

"You will now stand on the platform till recess," said Mr. Davis,
resolved to do the thing thoroughly, since he had begun.

That was dreadful. It would have been bad enough to go to her seat and
see the pitying faces of her friends, or the satisfied ones of her few
enemies; but to face the whole school with that shame fresh upon her
seemed impossible, and for a second she felt as if she could only drop
down where she stood, and break her heart with crying. A bitter sense of
wrong, and the thought of Jenny Snow, helped her to bear it; and taking
the ignominious place, she fixed her eyes on the stove-funnel above
what now seemed a sea of faces, and stood there so motionless and white,
that the girls found it very hard to study, with that pathetic little
figure before them.

During the fifteen minutes that followed, the proud and sensitive little
girl suffered a shame and pain which she never forgot. To others it
might seem a ludicrous or trivial affair, but to her it was a hard
experience; for during the twelve years of her life she had been
governed by love alone, and a blow of that sort had never touched her
before. The smart of her hand, and the ache of her heart, were forgotten
in the sting of the thought, - "I shall have to tell at home, and they
will be so disappointed in me!"

The fifteen minutes seemed an hour; but they came to an end at last, and
the word "Recess!" had never seemed so welcome to her before.

"You can go, Miss March," said Mr. Davis, looking, as he felt,

He did not soon forget the reproachful look Amy gave him, as she went,
without a word to any one, straight into the ante-room, snatched her
things, and left the place "forever," as she passionately declared to
herself. She was in a sad state when she got home; and when the older
girls arrived, some time later, an indignation meeting was held at once.
Mrs. March did not say much, but looked disturbed, and comforted her
afflicted little daughter in her tenderest manner. Meg bathed the
insulted hand with glycerine, and tears; Beth felt that even her beloved
kittens would fail as a balm for griefs like this, and Jo wrathfully
proposed that Mr. Davis be arrested without delay; while Hannah shook
her fist at the "villain," and pounded potatoes for dinner as if she had
him under her pestle.

No notice was taken of Amy's flight, except by her mates; but the
sharp-eyed demoiselles discovered that Mr. Davis was quite benignant in
the afternoon, and also unusually nervous. Just before school closed Jo
appeared, wearing a grim expression as she stalked up to the desk and
delivered a letter from her mother; then collected Amy's property and
departed, carefully scraping the mud from her boots on the door-mat, as
if she shook the dust of the place off her feet.

"Yes, you can have a vacation from school, but I want you to study a
little every day with Beth," said Mrs. March that evening. "I don't
approve of corporal punishment, especially for girls. I dislike Mr.
Davis's manner of teaching, and don't think the girls you associate with
are doing you any good, so I shall ask your father's advice before I
send you anywhere else."

"That's good! I wish all the girls would leave, and spoil his old
school. It's perfectly maddening to think of those lovely limes," sighed
Amy with the air of a martyr.

"I am not sorry you lost them, for you broke the rules, and deserved
some punishment for disobedience," was the severe reply, which rather
disappointed the young lady, who expected nothing but sympathy.

"Do you mean you are glad I was disgraced before the whole school?"
cried Amy.

"I should not have chosen that way of mending a fault," replied her
mother; "but I'm not sure that it won't do you more good than a milder
method. You are getting to be altogether too conceited and important, my
dear, and it is about time you set about correcting it. You have a good
many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them,
for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real
talent or goodness will be overlooked long; even if it is, the
consciousness of possessing and using it well should satisfy one, and
the great charm of all power is modesty."

"So it is," cried Laurie, who was playing chess in a corner with Jo. "I
knew a girl once who had a really remarkable talent for music, and she
didn't know it; never guessed what sweet little things she composed when
she was alone, and wouldn't have believed it if any one had told her."

"I wish I'd known that nice girl; maybe she would have helped me, I'm so
stupid," said Beth, who stood beside him listening eagerly.

"You do know her, and she helps you better than any one else could,"
answered Laurie, looking at her with such mischievous meaning in his
merry eyes, that Beth suddenly turned very red, and hid her face in the
sofa-cushion, quite overcome by such an unexpected discovery.

Jo let Laurie win the game, to pay for that praise of her Beth, who
could not be prevailed upon to play for them after her compliment. So
Laurie did his best and sung delightfully, being in a particularly
lively humor, for to the Marches he seldom showed the moody side of his
character. When he was gone, Amy, who had been pensive all the evening,
said suddenly, as if busy over some new idea: -

"Is Laurie an accomplished boy?"

"Yes; he has had an excellent education, and has much talent; he will
make a fine man, if not spoilt by petting," replied her mother.

"And he isn't conceited, is he?" asked Amy.

"Not in the least; that is why he is so charming, and we all like him so

"I see: it's nice to have accomplishments, and be elegant, but not to
show off, or get perked up," said Amy thoughtfully.

"These things are always seen and felt in a person's manner and
conversation, if modestly used; but it is not necessary to display
them," said Mrs. March.

"Any more than it's proper to wear all your bonnets, and gowns and
ribbons, at once, that folks may know you've got 'em," added Jo; and the
lecture ended in a laugh.


From the Atlantic Monthly, September, 1863

We, sighing, said, "Our Pan is dead;
His pipe hangs mute beside the river;
Around it wistful sunbeams quiver,
But Music's airy voice is fled.
Spring mourns as for untimely frost;
The bluebird chants a requiem;
The willow-blossom waits for him; -
The Genius of the wood is lost."

Then from the flute, untouched by hands,
There came a low, harmonious breath:
"For such as he there is no death;
His life the eternal life commands;
Above man's aims his nature rose:
The wisdom of a just content
Made one small spot a continent,
And turned to poetry Life's prose.

"Haunting the hills, the stream, the wild,
Swallow and aster, lake and pine,
To him grew human or divine, -
Fit mates for this large-hearted child.
Such homage Nature ne'er forgets,
And yearly on the coverlid
'Neath which her darling lieth hid
Will write his name in violets.

"To him no vain regrets belong,
Whose soul, that finer instrument,
Gave to the world no poor lament,
But wood-notes ever sweet and strong.
O lonely friend! he still will be
A potent presence, though unseen, -
Steadfast, sagacious, and serene:
Seek not for him, - he is with thee."


From 'Little Women'

Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high;
And sturdily wash, and rinse, and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.

I wish we could wash from our hearts and souls
The stains of the week away,
And let water and air by their magic make
Ourselves as pure as they;
Then on the earth there would be indeed
A glorious washing-day!

Along the path of a useful life,
Will heart's-ease ever bloom;
The busy mind has no time to think
Of sorrow, or care, or gloom;
And anxious thoughts may be swept away,
As we busily wield a broom.

I am glad a task to me is given,
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health, and strength, and hope,
And I cheerfully learn to say, -
"Head you may think, Heart you may feel,
But Hand you shall work alway!"

Selections used by permission of Roberts Brothers, Publishers, and John
S.P. Alcott.




Alcuin, usually called Alcuin of York, came of a patrician family of
Northumberland. Neither the date nor the place of his birth is known
with definiteness, but he was born about 735 at or near York. As a child
he entered the cathedral school recently founded by Egbert, Archbishop
of York, and ultimately became its most eminent pupil. He was
subsequently assistant master to Aelbert, its head; and when Aelbert
succeeded to the archbishopric, on the death of Egbert in 766, Alcuin
became _scholasticus_ or master of the school. On the death of Aelbert
in 780, Alcuin was placed in charge of the cathedral library, the most
famous in Western Europe. In his longest poem, 'Versus de Eboracensi
Ecclesia' (Poem on the Saints of the Church at York), he has left an
important record of his connection with York. This poem, written before
he left England, is, like most of his verse, in dactylic hexameters. To
a certain extent it follows Virgil as a model, and is partly based on
the writings of Bede, partly on his own personal experience. It is not
only valuable for its historical bearings, but for its disclosure of the
manner and matter of instruction in the schools of the time, and the
contents of the great library. As master of the cathedral school, Alcuin
acquired name and fame at home and abroad, and was soon the most
celebrated teacher in Britain. Before 766, in company with Aelbert, he
made his first journey to Germany, and may have visited Rome. Earlier
than 780 he was again abroad, and at Pavia came under the notice of
Charlemagne, who was on his way back from Italy. In 781 Eanbald, the new
Archbishop of York, sent Alcuin to Rome to bring back the Archbishop's
pallium. At Parma he again met Charlemagne, who invited him to take up
his abode at the Frankish court. With the consent of his king and his
archbishop he resigned his position at York, and with a few pupils
departed for the court at Aachen, in 782.

Alcuin's arrival in Germany was the beginning of a new intellectual
epoch among the Franks. Learning was at this time in a deplorable state.
The older monastic and cathedral schools had been broken up, and the
monasteries themselves often unworthily bestowed upon royal favorites.
There had been a palace school for rudimentary instruction, but it was
wholly inefficient and unimportant.

During the years immediately following his arrival, Alcuin zealously
labored at his projects of educational reform. First reorganizing the
palace school, he afterward undertook a reform of the monasteries and
their system of instruction, and the establishment of new schools
throughout the kingdom of Charlemagne. At the court school the great
king himself, as well as Liutgard the queen, became his pupil. Gisela,
Abbess of Chelles, the sister of Charlemagne, came also to him for
instruction, as did the Princes Charles, Pepin, and Louis, and the
Princesses Rotrud and Gisela. On himself and the others, in accordance
with the fashion of the time, Alcuin bestowed fanciful names. He was
Flaccus or Albinus, Charlemagne was David, the queen was Ava, and Pepin
was Julius. The subjects of instruction in this school, the centre of
culture of the kingdom, were first of all, grammar; then arithmetic,
astronomy, rhetoric, and dialectic. The king himself studied poetry,
astronomy, arithmetic, the writings of the Fathers, and theology proper.
It was under the influence of Alcuin that Charlemagne issued in 787 the
capitulary that has been called "the first general charter of education
for the Middle Ages." It reproves the abbots for their illiteracy, and
exhorts them to the study of letters; and although its effect was less
than its purpose, it served, with subsequent decrees of the king, to
stimulate learning and literature throughout all Germany.

Alcuin's system included, besides the palace school, and the monastic
and cathedral schools, which in some instances gave both elementary and
superior instruction, all the parish or village elementary schools,
whose head was the parish priest.

In 790, seeing his plans well established, Alcuin returned to York
bearing letters of reconciliation to Offa, King of Mercia, between whom
and Charlemagne dissension had arisen. Having accomplished his errand,
he went back to the German court in 792. Here his first act was to take
a vigorous part in the furious controversy respecting the doctrine of
Adoptionism. Alcuin not only wrote against the heresy, but brought about
its condemnation by the Council of Frankfort, in 794.

Two years later, at his own request, he was made Abbot of the
Benedictine monastery of St. Martin, at Tours. Not contented with
reforming the lax monastic life, he resolved to make Tours a seat of
learning. Under his management, it presently became the most renowned
school in the kingdom. Especially in the copying of manuscripts did the
brethren excel. Alcuin kept up a vast correspondence with Britain as
well as with different parts of the Frankish kingdom; and of the two
hundred and thirty letters preserved, the greater part belonged to this
time. In 799, at Aachen, he held a public disputation on Adoptionism
with Felix, Bishop of Urgel, who was wholly vanquished. When the king,
in 800, was preparing for that visit to the Papal court which was to end
with his coronation as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, he invited
Alcuin to accompany him. But the old man, wearied with many burdens,
could not make the journey. By the beginning of 804 he had become much
enfeebled. It was his desire, often expressed, to die on the day of
Pentecost. His wish was fulfilled, for he died at dawn on the 19th of
May. He was buried in the Cloister Church of St. Martin, near the

Alcuin's literary activity was exerted in various directions. Two-thirds
of all that he wrote was theological in character. These works are
exegetical, like the 'Commentary on the Gospel of St. John'; dogmatic,
like the 'Writings against Felix of Urgel and Elipandus of Toledo,' his
best work of this class; or liturgical and moral, like the 'Lives of the
Saints,' The other third is made up of the epistles, already mentioned;
of poems on a great variety of subjects, the principal one being the
'Poem on the Saints of the Church at York'; and of those didactic works
which form his principal claim to attention at the present day. His
educational treatises are the following: 'On Grammar,' 'On Orthography,'
'On Rhetoric and the Virtues,' 'On Dialectics,' 'Disputation between the
Royal and Most Noble Youth Pepin, and Albinus the Scholastic,' and 'On
the Calculation of Easter,' The most important of all these writings is
his 'Grammar,' which consists of two parts: the first a dialogue between
a teacher and his pupils on philosophy and studies in general; the other
a dialogue between a teacher, a young Frank, and a young Saxon, on
grammar. These latter, in Alcuin's language, have "but lately rushed
upon the thorny thickets of grammatical density" Grammar begins with the
consideration of the letters, the vowels and consonants, the former of
which "are, as it were, the souls, and the consonants the bodies of
words." Grammar itself is defined to be "the science of written sounds,
the guardian of correct speaking and writing. It is founded on nature,
reason, authority, and custom." He enumerates no less than twenty-six
parts of grammar, which he then defines. Many of his definitions and
particularly his etymologies, are remarkable. He tells us that feet in
poetry are so called "because the metres walk on them"; _littera_ is
derived from _legitera_, "since the _littera_ serve to prepare the way
for readers" (_legere, iter_). In his 'Orthography,' a pendant to the
'Grammar,' _coelebs_, a bachelor, is "one who is on his way _ad coelum_"
(to heaven). Alcuin's 'Grammar' is based principally on Donatus. In
this, as in all his works, he compiles and adapts, but is only rarely
original. 'On Rhetoric and the Virtues' is a dialogue between
Charlemagne and Albinus (Alcuin). The 'Disputation between Pepin and
Albinus,' the beginning of which is here given, shows both the manner
and the subject-matter of his instruction. Alcuin, with all the
limitations which his environment imposed upon him, stamped himself
indelibly upon his day and generation, and left behind him, in his
scholars, an enduring influence. Men like Rabanus, the famous Bishop of
Mayence, gloried in having been his pupils, and down to the wars and
devastations of the tenth century his influence upon education was
paramount throughout all Western Europe. There is an excellent account
of Alcuin in Professor West's 'Alcuin' ('Great Educators' Series),
published in 1893.

Wm. H. Carpenter.


There the Eboric scholars felt the rule
Of Master Aelbert, teaching in the school.
Their thirsty hearts to gladden well he knew
With doctrine's stream and learning's heavenly dew.

To some he made the grammar understood,
And poured on others rhetoric's copious flood.
The rules of jurisprudence these rehearse,
While those recite in high Eonian verse,
Or play Castalia's flutes in cadence sweet
And mount Parnassus on swift lyric feet.

Anon the master turns their gaze on high
To view the travailing sun and moon, the sky
In order turning with its planets seven,
And starry hosts that keep the law of heaven.

The storms at sea, the earthquake's shock, the race
Of men and beasts and flying fowl they trace;
Or to the laws of numbers bend their mind,
And search till Easter's annual day they find.

Then, last and best, he opened up to view
The depths of Holy Scripture, Old and New.
Was any youth in studies well approved,
Then him the master cherished, taught, and loved;
And thus the double knowledge he conferred
Of liberal studies and the Holy Word.

From West's 'Alcuin, and the Rise of the Christian Schools': by
permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.


_Pepin_ - What is writing?

_Albinus_ - The treasury of history.

_Pepin_ - What is language?

_Albinus_ - The herald of the soul.

_Pepin_ - What generates language?

_Albinus_ - The tongue.

_Pepin_ - What is the tongue?

_Albinus_ - A whip of the air.

_Pepin_ - What is the air?

_Albinus_ - A maintainer of life.

_Pepin_ - What is life?

_Albinus_ - The joy of the happy; the torment of the suffering;
a waiting for death.

_Pepin_ - What is death?

_Albinus_ - An inevitable ending; a journey into uncertainty; a
source of tears for the living; the probation of wills; a waylayer
of men.

_Pepin_ - What is man?

_Albinus_ - A booty of death; a passing traveler; a stranger on

_Pepin_ - What is man like?

_Albinus_ - The fruit of a tree.

_Pepin_ - What are the heavens?

_Albinus_ - A rolling ball; an immeasurable vault.

_Pepin_ - What is light?

_Albinus_ - The sight of all things.

_Pepin_ - What is day?

_Albinus_ - The admonisher to labor.

_Pepin_ - What is the sun?

_Albinus_ - The glory and splendor of the heavens; the attractive
in nature; the measure of hours; the adornment of day.

_Pepin_ - What is the moon?

_Albinus_ - The eye of night; the dispenser of dew; the presager
of storms.

_Pepin_ - What are the stars?

_Albinus_ - A picture on the vault of heaven; the steersmen of
ships; the ornament of night.

_Pepin_ - What is rain?

_Albinus_ - The fertilizer of the earth; the producer of crops.

_Pepin_ - What is fog?

_Albinus_ - Night in day; the annoyance of eyes.

Online LibraryUnknownLibrary of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern — Volume 1 → online text (page 28 of 46)