A few rods distant from the Town Hall, but on the opposite side of the street, stood the Rossville Academy. It had been for some years under the charge of James Rathburn, A. M., a thorough scholar and a skilful teacher. A large part of his success was due to his ability in making the ordinary lessons of the schoolroom interesting to his scholars.
Some forty students attended the academy, mostly from the town of Rossville. Mr. Rathburn, however, received a few boarders into his family.
There were three classes in the Latin language; but the majority of those who had taken it up stopped short before they had gone beyond the Latin Reader. One class, however, had commenced reading the Aeneid of Virgil, and was intending to pursue the full course of preparation for college; though .n regard to one member of the class there was some doubt whether he would be able to enter college. As this boy is to be our hero we will take a closer look at him.
Frank Frost is at this time in his sixteenth year. He is about the medium size, compactly made, and the heallhful color in his cheeks is good evidence that he is not pursuing his studies at the expense of his health. He has dark chestnut hair, with a slight wave, and is altogether a fine-looking boy.
At a desk behind him sits John Haynes, the son of Squire Haynes, introduced in our last chapter. He is nearly two years older than Frank, and about as opposite to him in personal appearance as can well be imagined. He has a thin face, very black hair is tall of his age, and already beginning to feel himself a young man. His manner is full of pretension. He never forgets that his father is the richest man in town, and can afford to give him advantages superior to those possessed by his schoolfellows. He has a moderate share of ability but is disinclined to work hard. His affectation of Superiority makes him as unpopular among his schoolfellows as Frank is popular.
These two boys, together with Henry Tufts, constitute the preparatory class of Rossville Academy. Henry is mild in his manners, and a respectable student, but possesses no positive character. He comes from a town ten miles distant, and boards with the principal. Frank, though the youngest of the three, excels the other two in scholarship. But there is some doubt whether he will be able to go to college. His father is in moderate circumstances, deriving a comfortable subsistence from a small farm, but is able to lay by a very small surplus every year, and this he feels it necessary to hold in reserve for the liquidation of the mortgage held by Squire Haynes. Frank's chance of attaining what he covets-a college education-seems small; but he is resolved at least to prepare for college, feeling that even this will constitute a very respectable education.
The reader is introduced to the main schoolroom of the Rossville Academy on the morning of the day of which the war meeting takes place.
At nine o'clock the bell rang, and the scholars took their seats. After the preliminary devotional exercise, Mr. Rathburn, instead of calling up the first class at once, paused a moment, and spoke as follows:
"Scholars, I need not remind you that on the first day of the term, with the design of encouraging you to aim at improvement in English composition, I offered two prizes-one for the best essay written by a boy over fourteen years of age; the other for the best composition by any one under that age. It gives me pleasure to state that in most of those submitted to me I recognize merit, and I should be glad if it were in my power to give three times as many prizes. Those of you, however, who are unsuccessful will feel repaid by the benefit you have yourselves derived from the efforts you have made for another end."
During this address, John Haynes looked about him with an air of complacency and importance. He felt little doubt that his own essay on the "Military Genius of Napoleon" would win the prize. He did not so much care for this, except for the credit it would give him. But his father, who was ambitious for him, had promised him twenty-five dollars if he succeeded, and he had already appropriated this sum in imagination. He had determined to invest it in a handsome boat which he had seen for sale in Boston on his last visit to that city.
"After careful consideration," continued the teacher, "I have decided that the prize should be adjudged to an essay entitled 'The Duties of Boys on the Present National Crisis,' written by Frank Frost."
There was a general clapping of hands at this announcement. Frank was a general favorite, and even his disappointed rivals felt a degree of satisfaction in feeling that he had obtained the prize.
There was one exception, however. John Haynes turned pale, and then red, with anger and vexation. He scowled darkly while the rest of the boys were applauding, and persuaded himself that he was the victim of a great piece of injustice.
Frank's face flushed with pleasure, and his eyes danced with delight. He had made a great effort to succeed, and he knew that at home they would be very happy to hear that the prize had been awarded to him.
"Frank Frost will come forward," said Mr. Rathburn.
Frank left his seat, and advanced modestly. Mr. Rathburn placed in his hand a neat edition of Whittier's Poem's in blue and gold.
"Let this serve as an incentive to renewed effort," he said.
The second prize was awarded to one of the girls. As she has no part in our story, we need say nothing more on this point.
At recess, Frank's desk was surrounded by his schoolmates, who were desirous of examining the prize volumes. All expressed hearty good-will, congratulating him on his success, with the exception of John Haynes.
"You seem mighty proud of your books, Frank Frost," said he with a sneer. "We all know that you're old Rathburn's favorite. It didn't make much difference what you wrote, as long as you were sure of the prize."
"For shame, John Haynes!" exclaimed little Harvey Grover impetuously. "You only say that because you wanted the prize yourself, and you're disappointed."
"Disappointed!" retorted John scornfully. "I don't want any of old Rathburn's sixpenny books. I can buy as many as I please. If he'd given 'em to me, I should have asked him to keep 'em for those who needed 'em more."
Frank was justly indignant at the unfriendly course which John chose to pursue, but feeling that it proceeded from disappointed rivalry, he wisely said nothing to increase his exasperation. He put the two books carefully away in his desk, and settled himself quietly to his day's lessons.
It was not until evening that John and his father met. Both had been chafed--the first by his disappointment, the second by the failure of his effort to prevent the town's voting bounties to volunteers. In particular he was incensed with Mr. Frost, for his imputation of interested motives, although it was only in return for a similar imputation brought against himself.
"Well, father, I didn't get the prize," commenced John, in a discontented voice.
"So much the worse for you," said his father coldly. "You might have gained it if you had made an effort."
"No, I couldn't. Rathburn was sure to give it to his favorite."
"And who is his favorite?" questioned Squire Haynes, not yet siding with his son.
"Frank Frost, to be sure."
"Frank Frost!" repeated the squire, rapidly wheeling round to his son's view of the matter. His dislike of the father was so great that it readily included the son. "What makes you think he is the teacher's favorite?"
"Oh, Rathburn is always praising him for something or other. All the boys know Frank Frost is his pet. You won't catch him praising me, if I work ever so hard."
John did not choose to mention that he had not yet tried this method of securing the teacher's approval.
"Teachers should never have favorites," said the squire dogmatically. "It is highly detrimental to a teacher's influence, and subversive of the principles of justice. Have you got your essay with you, John?"
"You may sit down and read it to me, and if I think it deserving, I will take care that you sha'n't lose by the teacher's injustice."
John readily obeyed. He hurried up to his chamber, and, opening his writing-desk, took out a sheet of foolscap, three sides of which were written over. This he brought down-stairs with him. He began to hope that he might get the boat after all.
The squire, in dressing-gown and slippers, sat in a comfortable armchair, while John in a consequential manner read his rejected essay. It was superficial and commonplace, and abundantly marked with pretension, but to the squire's warped judgment it seemed to have remarkable merit.
"It does you great credit, John," said he emphatically. "I don't know what sort of an essay young Frost wrote, but I venture to say it was not as good. If he's anything like his father, he is an impertinent jackanapes."
John pricked up his ears, and listened attentively.
"He grossly insulted me at the town meeting to-day, and I sha'n't soon forget it. It isn't for his interest to insult a man who has the power to annoy him that I possess."
"Haven't you got a mortgage on his farm?"
"Yes, and at a proper time I shall remind him of it. But to come back to your own affairs. What was the prize given to young Frost?"
"A blue-and-gold copy of Whittier's Poems, in two volumes."
"Plain binding, I suppose."
"Very well. The next time I go to Boston, I will buy you the same thing bound in calf. I don't intend that you shall suffer by your teacher's injustice."
"It wasn't so much the prize that I cared for," said John, who felt like making the most of his father's favorable mood, "but you know you promised me twenty-five dollars if I gained it."
"And as you have been defrauded of it, I will give you thirty instead," said the squire promptly.
John's eyes sparkled with delight. "Oh, thank you, sir!" he said. "I wouldn't change places with Frank Frost now for all his prize."
"I should think not, indeed," said the squire pompously. "Your position as the son of a poor farmer wouldn't be quite so high as it is now."
As he spoke he glanced complacently at the handsome furniture which surrounded him, the choice engravings which hung on the walls, and the full-length mirror in which his figure was reflected. "Ten years from now Frank Frost will be only a common laborer on his father's farm--that is," he added significantly, "if his father manages to keep it; while you, I hope, will be winning distinction at the bar."
Father and son were in a congenial mood that evening, and a common hatred drew them more closely together than mutual affection had ever done. They were very much alike--both cold, calculating, and selfish. The squire was indeed ambitious for his son, but could hardly be said to love him, since he was incapable of feeling a hearty love for any one except himself.
As for John, it is to be feared that he regarded his father chiefly as one from whom he might expect future favors. His mother had been a good, though not a strong-minded woman, and her influence might have been of advantage to her son; but unhappily she had died when John was in his tenth year, and since then he had become too much like his father.