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XCVI.--HISTORY OF A SCHOOL DESK,
TOLD BY ITSELF. 1. I was made in Philadelphia, in a cabinet shop; myself and three others being joined together in one frame. When finished, our lids were all covered with beautiful green baize, and the color of the cherry, of which we were made, was rendered of a dark, rich and glossy hue by a handsome coat of varnish which the carpenter carefully applied.
2. I recollect when we were coming home with what contempt I looked down upon a load of common school desks which we passed in the street. Alas! little did I think to what indignities I should myself subsequently be exposed.
3. I was placed with many other similar desks in a long and very pleasant room, and in a few days afterwards there came in a considerable number of young ladies of various ages, and the school commenced.
4. A pleasant looking girl was stationed before me. I never could ascertain her name, as it was not written upon the outside of any of her books. I soon found that she was quite pleased with my form and appearance, for she took great pleasure in arranging all her books and papers in great order and often surveyed me with a look of much satisfaction.
5. Her books were placed carefully in one corner, her slate in another and her manuscripts in a third ; and whenever she had any thing for a luncheon at school she was careful to put it into a paper by itself. She made, however, one mistake; for not many hours after she took possession of me, while busily engaged in writing, she laid her pen, which was full of ink, down upon my face and made an ugly ink spot.
6. She, however, instantly perceived it, and with a
countenance expressive of great solicitude she hastened to bring a wet sponge, and with it she carefully and gently, but thoroughly, removed the spot. I found great assistance from my coat of varnish in this adventure, as this substance prevented the ink from passing through into the pores of the wood.
7. I found that my mistress was much beloved by her fellow pupils; they often came to sit with her and entertain me with their conversation. I observed, too, that when the teacher of this school came to her desk to speak to her she always looked pleased and happy, and was not afraid to open her desk in his presence, if he wished any thing from it.
8. This happy life, however, could not long continue. I was one day surprised and grieved to find my mistress taking out her books and carrying them away, and there came instead another girl, who brought a most confused collection of books, maps, manuscripts, rules, boxes, pens
9. She hastily crowded some of the largest books into the back part of the desk, pushed the other things this way and that a little, then let my lid fall down with a violence that terrified me, and ran off into the play-room. I thought that she would put me in order when she returned; but no, this was the usual treatment which I received from her.
10. When she wanted any thing she tumbled over her books and papers until she found it. Her luncheon was kept with every thing else and soon the crumbs were strewed all around; and what was worse than all the rest, she inked the beautiful cherry wood of which I was made again and again without any concern.
11. Sometimes she would upset her inkstand and then never more than half wipe up the ink. In such cases I made as much effort as I could, with the help of my varnish, to prevent the ink from insinuating itself into my pores; but all in vain, it would get through, and I was afraid it would stain, indelibly, my beautiful wood.
12. I think the teacher of this school was very much to blame for not getting some old, inky, wooden desks for those of his pupils who were so very slovenly, and not give them such beautiful pieces of furniture as we are, merely to see them spoiled. The teacher would occasionally say something to his pupils about the impor tance of tidiness and of keeping the desks neat, and then my mistress would take it into her head to brush up her establishment.
13. She would put her books into some tolerable or der, and would get a wet sponge and rub the outside of the desk in a vain attempt to remove the spots. Ink spots, like bad habits, must be removed as soon as they are first formed, otherwise they become indelibly fixed. The repeated rubbings which my mistress thus gave me had no effect but to wear away the varnish and turn me from a glossy bright color to a dirty brown. I soon considered myself irretrievably spoiled.
14. After a time my mistress was changed again, and the one who succeeded her remains to this day. She has spread a large paper on the inside and arranges her books and papers neatly upon it. If she makes a blot she carefully wipes it off at once. A few afternoons since two or three ladies came into the school room, and one of them lifted up my lid and said to the others, “See how neatly these scholars keep their desks.”
Hope is the sweetest friend that ever kept a distrossed soul company; it beguiles the tediousness of the way - all the miseries of our pilgrimage.
XCVII.—THE HAPPY FAMILY.
Y Among the novel sights which throng the streets of the city of London, for the cheap entertainment of the people, none of them has made a more pleasing impression on my mind than a family circle of different animals and birds, whose deportment is truly an admirable illustration of the reign of peace. The proprietor of this novel menagerie calls it, very appropriately, “ The Happy Family.”
2. A cage would be too harsh a name for this place of residence, which is almost simple enough to be of their own construction. It is rather a large, square hen-coop, placed on a low hand-cart, which the man draws about from one street to another, and gets a few pennies a day from those who stop to look at the domestic felicity of his motley family circle.
3. Perhaps the first thing that strikes the eye is a large cat, “washing her face,” with a dozen large rats nestling under her like so many kittens, whilst others are climbing up her back and playing with her whiskers. In another corner of the room a dove and hawk are billing and cooing on the head of a dog, which is resting across the neck of a rabbit.
4. The floor is covered with the oddest social circles imaginable. Here weasels, and guinea-pigs, and funny, peeping chickens are putting their noses together caressingly. The slats above are covered with birds whose natural antipathies have been subdued into mutual affection by the law of kindness. For instance, a grave old owl is sitting bolt upright, and meditating in the sun, with a twittering, keen-sighted sparrow perched between his cat ears, and trying to open the eyes of the old sage with his sharp bill.