Page:Southern Life in Southern Literature.djvu/322

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SOUTHERN LIFE IN SOUTHERN LITERATURE

morning there did not seem to be anything heavy on his mind which required to be lifted off. He, however, looked at Brinkly Glisson with an expression of some disappointment. He had beaten him the morning before for not having gotten there in time, though the boy's excuse was that he had gone a mile out of his way on an errand for his mother. He looked at him as if he had expected to have had some business with him, which now unexpectedly had to be postponed. He then looked around over the school, and said: "Go to studyin'."

He had been in the habit of speaking but to command, and of commanding but to be obeyed. Instantaneously was heard, then and there, that unintelligible tumult, the almost invariable incident of the country schools of that generation. There were spellers and readers, geographers, and arithmeticians, all engaged in their several pursuits, in the most inexplicable confusion. Sometimes the spellers would have the heels of the others, and sometimes the readers. The geographers were always third, and the arithmeticians always behind. It was very plain to be seen that these last never would catch the others. The faster they added or subtracted, the oftener they had to rub out and commence anew. It was always but a short time before they found this to be the case, and so they generally concluded to adopt the maxim of the philosopher, of being slow in making haste. The geographers were a little faster and a little louder. But the spellers and readers had it, I tell you. Each speller and each reader went through the whole gamut of sounds, from low up to high, and from high down to low again; sometimes by regular ascension and descension, one note at a time, sounding what musicians call the diatonic intervals; at other times, going up and coming down upon the perfect fifths only. It was refreshing to see the passionate eagerness which these urchins manifested for the acquisition of knowledge! To have heard them for the first time,