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Page 48

11. XI.

For a while the school-master walked to and
fro, looking at the gleam of the sunshine on the
carpet, and revelling in his day-dreams of unwritten
books, and literary fame. With these day-dreams
mingled confusedly the pattering of little
feet, and the murmuring and cooing of his children
overhead. His plans that morning, could he
have executed them, would have filled a shelf in
his library with poems and romances of his own
creation. But suddenly the vision vanished; and
another from the actual world took its place. It
was the canvas-covered cart of the butcher, that,
like the flying wigwam of the Indian tale, flitted
before his eyes. It drove up the yard and stopped
at the back door; and the poet felt that the
sacred rest of Sunday, the God's-truce with
worldly cares, was once more at an end. A


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dark hand passed between him and the land of
light. Suddenly closed the ivory gate of dreams,
and the horn gate of every-day life opened, and
he went forth to deal with the man of flesh and

“Alas!” said he with a sigh; “and must my
life, then, always be like the Sabbatical river of
the Jews, flowing in full stream only on the
seventh day, and sandy and arid all the rest?”

Then he thought of his beautiful wife and
children, and added, half aloud,—

“No; not so! Rather let me look upon the
seven days of the week as the seven magic rings
of Jarchas, each inscribed with the name of a
separate planet, and each possessing a peculiar
power;—or as the seven sacred and mysterious
stones which the pilgrims of Mecca were forced
to throw over their shoulders in the valleys of
Menah and Akbah, cursing the devil and saying
at each throw, `God is great!' ”

He found Mr. Wilmerdings, the butcher, standing
beside his cart, and surrounded by five cats,
that had risen simultaneously on their hind legs,
to receive their quotidian morning's meal. Mr.
Wilmerdings not only supplied the village with
fresh provisions daily, but he likewise weighed all


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the babies. There was hardly a child in town
that had not hung beneath his steelyards, tied
in a silk handkerchief, the movable weight above
sliding along the notched beam from eight pounds
to twelve. He was a young man with a very
fresh and rosy complexion, and every Monday
morning he appeared dressed in an exceedingly
white frock. He had lately married a milliner,
who sold “Dunstable and eleven-braid, open-work
and colored straws,” and their bridal tour
had been to a neighbouring town to see a man
hanged for murdering his wife. A pair of huge
ox-horns branched from the gable of his slaughter-house;
and near it stood the great pits of the
tannery, which all the school-boys thought were
filled with blood!

Perhaps no two men could be more unlike than
Mr. Churchill and Mr. Wilmerdings. Upon
such a grating, iron hinge opened the door of his
daily life;—opened into the school-room, the
theatre of those life-long labors, which theoretically
are the most noble, and practically the most
vexatious in the world. Toward this, as soon
as breakfast was over, and he had played awhile
with his children, he directed his steps. On his
way, he had many glimpses into the lovely realms


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of Nature, and one into those of Art, through the
medium of a placard pasted against a wall. It
was as follows:—

“The subscriber professes to take profiles,
plain and shaded, which, viewed at right-angles
with the serious countenance, are warranted to be
infallibly correct.

“No trouble of adorning or dressing the person
is required. He takes infants and children at
sight, and has frames of all sizes to accommodate.

“A profile is a delineated outline of the exterior
form of any person's face and head, the use
of which when seen tends to vivify the affections
of those whom we esteem or love.

William Bantam.”

Ere long even this glimpse into the ideal world
had vanished; and he felt himself bound to the
earth with a hundred invisible threads, by which a
hundred urchins were tugging and tormenting
him; and it was only with considerable effort,
and at intervals, that his mind could soar to the
moral dignity of his profession.

Such was the school-master's life; and a
dreary, weary life it would have been, had not


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poetry from within gushed through every crack
and crevice in it. This transformed it, and made
it resemble a well, into which stones and rubbish
have been thrown; but underneath is a spring of
fresh, pure water, which nothing external can
ever check or defile.