BLTC Press Titles

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The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Paradoxes of the Highest Science

Eliphas Levi

Our mutual friend

by Charles Dickens


The schools—for they were twofold, as the sexes—were down in that district of the flat country tending to the Thames, where Kent and Surrey meet, and where the railways still bestride the market-gardens that will soon die under them. The schools were newly built, and there were so many like them all over the country that one might have thought the whole were but one restless edifice with the locomotive gift of Aladdin's palace. They were in a neighborhood which looked like a toy neighborhood taken in blocks out of a box by a child of particular incoherent mind, and set up any how; here, one side of a new street; there, a large solitary public house facing nowhere ; here, another unfinished street already in ruins; there, a church ; here, an immense new warehouse ; there, a dilapidated old country villa; then a. medley of black ditch, sparkling cucumber frame, rank field, richly cultivated kitchen-garden, brick viaduct, arch-spanned canal, and disorder of frowziness and fog. As if the child had given the table a kick, and gone to sleep.

But, even among school-buildings, school-teachers, and school-pupils, all according to pattern, and all engendered in the light of the latest Gospel according to Monotony, the older pattern into which so many fortunes have been shaped for good and evil, comes out. It came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress, watering her flowers, as Mr. Bradley Headstone walked forth. It came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress, watering the flowers in the little dusty bit of garden attached to her small official residence, with little windows like the eyes in needles, and little doors like the covers of school books.

Small, shining, neat, methodical, and buxom was Miss Peecher: cherry-cheeked and tuneful of voice. A little pin-cushion, a little housewife, a little book, a little workbox, a little set of tables and weights and measures, and a little woman, all in one. She could write a little essay on any subject, exactly a slate long, beginning at the left-' hand top of one side and ending at the right-hand bottom of the other, and the essay should be strictly according to rule. If Mr. Bradley Headstone had addressed a writteu

proposal of marriage to her, she would probably have replied in a complete little essay on the theme exactly a slate long, but would certainly have replied Yes. For she loved him. The decent hair-guard that went round his neck aud took care of his decent silver watch was an object of envy to her. So would Miss Peecher have gone round his neck and taken carp of him. Of him, insensible. Because he did not love Miss Peecher.

Miss Peecher's favorite pupil, who assisted her in her little household, wa.s in attendance with a can of water to replenish her little watering-pot, and sufficiently divined the state of Miss Peecher's affections to feel it necessary that she herself should love young Charley Hexam. So there was a double palpitation among the double stocks and double wall-flowers when the master and the boy looked over the little gate.

"A fine evening, Miss Peecher," said the Master.

"A very fine evening, Mr. Headstone," said Miss Peecher. "Are you taking a walk?"

"Hexam and I are going to take a long walk."

"Charming weather," remarked Miss Peecher, "for a long walk."

"Ours is rather on business than mere pleasure," said the Master.

Miss Peecher inverting her watering-pot, and very carefully shaking out the few last drops over a flower, as if there were some special virtue in them which would make it a Jack's bean-stalk before morning, called for -replenishment to her pupil, who had been speaking to the boy. . "Good-night, Miss Peecher," said the Master.

"Good-night, Mr. Headstone," said the Mistress.

The pupil had been, in her state of pupilage, so imbued with the class-custom of stretching out an arm, as if to hail a cab or omnibus, whenever she found she had an observation on hand to offer to Miss Peecher, that she often did it in their domestic relations ; and she did it now.

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