Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Stories and Readings Selected From The Works of William Dean Howells
STORIES AND READINGS SELECTED FROM THE WORKS OF
WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
AND ARRANGED FOR SUPPLEMENTARY
READING IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS BY
DIRECTOR OF ENGLISH IN THE
ETHICAL CULTURE SCHOOL, NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER’S MODERN SERIES
OF SUPPLEMENTARY READERS FOR THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
Each, Illustrated, 16mo, 50 Cents School.
Stories and Readings Selected from the Works of William Dean Howells, and Arranged by Percival Chubb, Director of English in the Ethical Culture School, New York.
“The literary culture which we are trying to give our boys and girls is not sufficiently contemporaneous, and it is not sufficiently national and American….
“Among the living writers there is no one whose work has a more distinctively American savor than that of William Dean Howells…. The juvenile books of Mr. Howells’ contain some of the very best pages ever written for the enjoyment of young people.”—Percival Chubb.
(Others in Preparation.)
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK
Copyright, 1909, by Harper & Brothers.
All rights reserved.
Published September, 1909.
|I. Adventures in a Boy’s Town|
|HOW PONY BAKER CAME PRETTY NEAR RUNNING OFF WITH A CIRCUS||3|
|THE CIRCUS MAGICIAN||13|
|JIM LEONARD’S HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPE||23|
|II. Life in a Boy’s Town|
|MANNERS AND CUSTOMS||64|
|III. Games and Pastimes|
|A MEAN TRICK||93|
|THE BUTLER GUARDS||103|
|IV. Glimpses of the Larger World|
|THE TRAVELLING CIRCUS||151|
|THE THEATRE COMES TO TOWN||168|
|THE WORLD OPENED BY BOOKS||171|
|V. The Last of a Boy’s Town||183|
|HE BEGAN BEING COLD AND STIFF WITH HER THE VERY NEXT MORNING||5|
|THE FIRST LOCK||43|
|THE BUTLER GUARDS||105|
|ALL AT ONCE THERE THE INDIANS WERE||127|
There are two conspicuous faults in the literary culture which we are trying to give to our boys and girls in our elementary and secondary schools: it is not sufficiently contemporaneous, and it is not sufficiently national and American. Hence it lacks vitality and actuality. So little of it is carried over into life because so little of it is interpretative of the life that is. It is associated too exclusively in the child’s mind with things dead and gone—with the Puritan world of Miles Standish, the Revolutionary days of Paul Revere, the Dutch epoch of Rip Van Winkle; or with not even this comparatively recent national interest, it takes the child back to the strange folk of the days of King Arthur and King Robert of Sicily, of Ivanhoe and the Ancient Mariner. Thus when the child leaves school his literary studies do not connect helpfully with those forms of literature with which—if he reads at all—he is most likely to be concerned: the short story, the sketch, and the popular essay of the magazines and newspapers; the new novel, or the plays which he may see at the theatre. He has not been interested in the writers of his own time, and has never been put in the way of the best contemporary fiction. Hence the ineffectualness and wastefulness of much of our school work: it does not lead forward into the life of to-day, nor help the young to judge intelligently of the popular books which later on will compete for their favor.
To be sure, not a little of the material used in our elementary schools is drawn from Longfellow, Whittier, and Holmes, from Irving and Hawthorne; but because it is often studied in a so-called thorough and, therefore, very deadly way—slowly and laboriously for drill, rather than briskly for pleasure—there is comparatively little of it read, and almost no sense gained of its being part of a national literature. In the high school, owing to the unfortunate domination of the college entrance requirements, the situation is not much better. Our students leave with a scant and hurried glimpse—if any glimpse at all—of Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, or of Lowell, Lanier, and Poe; with no intimate view of Hawthorne, our great classic; none at all of Parkman and Fiske, our historians; or of writers like Howells, James, and Cable, or Wilkins, Jewett, and Deland, and a worthy company of story-tellers.
We may well be on our guard against a vaunting nationalism. It retards our culture. There should be no confusion of the second-rate values of most of our American products with the supreme values of the greatest British classics. We may work, of course, toward an ultimate appreciation of these greatest things. We fail, however, in securing such appreciation because we have failed to enlist those forms of interest which vitalize and stimulate literary studies—above all, the patriotic or national interest. Concord and Cambridge should be dearer, as they are nearer, to the young American than even Stratford and Abbotsford; Hawthorne should be as familiar as Goldsmith; and Emerson, as Addison or Burke. Ordinarily it is not so; and we suffer the consequences in the failure of our youth to grasp the spiritual ideals and the distinctively American democratic spirit which find expression in the greatest work of our literary masters, Emerson and Whitman, Lowell and Lanier. Our culture and our nationalism both suffer thereby. Our literature suffers also, because we have not an instructed and interested public to encourage excellence.
Among the living writers there is no one whose work has a more distinctively American savor than that of William Dean Howells; and it is to make his delightful writings more widely known and more easily accessible that this volume of selections from his books for the young has been prepared as a reading-book for the elementary school. These juvenile books of Mr. Howells contain some of the very best pages ever written for the enjoyment of young people. His two books for boys—A Boy’s Town and The Flight of Pony Baker—rank with such favorites as Tom Sawyer and The Story of a Bad Boy.
These should be introductory to the best of Mr. Howells’ novels and essays in the high school; for Mr. Howells, it need scarcely be said, is one of our few masters of style: his style is as individual and distinguished as it is felicitous and delicate. More important still, from the educational point of view, he is one of our most modern writers: the spiritual issues and social problems of our age, which our older high-school pupils are anxious to deal with, are alive in his books. Our young people should know his Rise of Silas Lapham and A Hazard of New Fortunes, as well as his social and literary criticism. As stimulating and alluring a volume of selections may be made for high-school students as this volume will be, we venture to predict, for the younger boys and girls of the elementary school.
In this little book of readings we have made, we believe, an entirely legitimate and desirable use of the books named above. A Boy’s Town is a series of detachable pictures and episodes into which the boy—or the healthy girl who loves boys’ books—may dip, as the selections here given will, we believe, tempt him to do. The same is true of The Flight of Pony Baker. The volume is for class-room enjoyment; for happy hours of profitable reading—profitable, because happy. Much of it should be read aloud rather than silently, and dramatic justice be done to the scenes and conversations which have dramatic quality.
ADVENTURES IN A BOY’S TOWN
HOW PONY BAKER CAME PRETTY NEAR RUNNING OFF WITH A CIRCUS
Just before the circus came, about the end of July, something happened that made Pony mean to run off more than anything that ever was. His father and mother were coming home from a walk, in the evening; it was so hot nobody could stay in the house, and just as they were coming to the front steps Pony stole up behind them and tossed a snowball which he had got out of the garden at his mother, just for fun. The flower struck her very softly on her hair, for she had no bonnet on, and she gave a jump and a hollo that made Pony laugh; and then she caught him by the arm and boxed his ears.
“Oh, my goodness! It was you, was it, you good-for-nothing boy? I thought it was a bat!” she said, and she broke out crying and ran into the house, and would not mind his father, who was calling after her, “Lucy, Lucy, my dear child!”
Pony was crying, too, for he did not intend to frighten his mother, and when she took his fun as if he had done something wicked he did not know what to think. He stole off to bed, and he lay there crying in the dark and expecting that she would come to him, as she always did, to have him say that he was sorry when he had been wicked, or to tell him that she was sorry when she thought she had not been quite fair with him. But she did not come, and after a good while his father came and said: “Are you awake, Pony? I am sorry your mother misunderstood your fun. But you mustn’t mind it, dear boy. She’s not well, and she’s very nervous.”
“I don’t care!” Pony sobbed out. “She won’t have a chance to touch me again!” For he had made up his mind to run off with the circus which was coming the next Tuesday.
He turned his face away, sobbing, and his father, after standing by his bed a moment, went away without saying anything but “Don’t forget your prayers, Pony. You’ll feel differently in the morning, I hope.”
Pony fell asleep thinking how he would come back to the Boy’s Town with the circus when he was grown up, and when he came out in the ring riding three horses bareback he would see his father and mother and sisters in one of the lower seats. They would not know him, but he would know them, and he would send for them to come to the dressing-room, and would be very good to them, all but his mother; he would be very cold and stiff with her, though he would know that she was prouder of him than all the rest put together, and she would go away almost crying.
He began being cold and stiff with her the very next morning, although she was better than ever to him, and gave him waffles for breakfast with unsalted butter, and tried to pet him up. That whole day she kept trying to do things for him, but he would scarcely speak to her; and at night she came to him and said, “What makes you act so strangely, Pony? Are you offended with your mother?”
“Yes, I am!” said Pony, haughtily, and he twitched away from where she was sitting on the side of his bed, leaning over him.
“On account of last night, Pony?” she asked, softly.
“I reckon you know well enough,” said Pony, and he tried to be disgusted with her for being such a hypocrite, but he had to set his teeth hard, hard, or he would have broken down crying.
“If it’s for that, you mustn’t, Pony dear. You don’t know how you frightened me. When your snowball hit me, I felt sure it was a bat, and I’m so afraid of bats, you know. I didn’t mean to hurt my poor boy’s feelings so, and you mustn’t mind it any more, Pony.”
She stooped down and kissed him on the forehead, but he did not move or say anything; only, after that he felt more forgiving toward his mother. He made up his mind to be good to her along with the rest when he came back with the circus. But still he meant to run off with the circus. He did not see how he could do anything else, for he had told all the boys that day that he was going to do it; and when they just laughed, and said, “Oh yes. Think you can fool your grandmother! It’ll be like running off with the Indians,” Pony wagged his head, and said they would see whether it would or not, and offered to bet them what they dared.
The morning of the circus day all the fellows went out to the corporation line to meet the circus procession. There were ladies and knights, the first thing, riding on spotted horses; and then a band-chariot, all made up of swans and dragons. There were about twenty baggage-wagons; but before you got to them there was the greatest thing of all. It was a chariot drawn by twelve Shetland ponies, and it was shaped like a big shell, and around in the bottom of the shell there were little circus actors, boys and girls, dressed in their circus clothes, and they all looked exactly like fairies. They scarce seemed to see the fellows, as they ran alongside of their chariot, but Hen Billard and Archy Hawkins, who were always cutting up, got close enough to throw some peanuts to the circus boys, and some of the little circus girls laughed, and the driver looked around and cracked his whip at the fellows, and they all had to get out of the way then.
Jim Leonard said that the circus boys and girls were all stolen, and nobody was allowed to come close to them for fear they would try to send word to their friends. Some of the fellows did not believe it, and wanted to know how he knew it; and he said he read it in a paper; after that nobody could deny it. But he said that if you went with the circus men of your own free will they would treat you first-rate; only they would give you burnt brandy to keep you little; nothing else but burnt brandy would do it, but that would do it, sure.
Pony was scared at first when he heard that most of the circus fellows were stolen, but he thought if he went of his own accord he would be all right. Still, he did not feel so much like running off with the circus as he did before the circus came. He asked Jim Leonard whether the circus men made all the children drink burnt brandy; and Archy Hawkins and Hen Billard heard him ask, and began to mock him. They took him up between them, one by his arms and the other by the legs, and ran along with him, and kept saying, “Does it want to be a great big circus actor? Then it shall, so it shall,” and, “We’ll tell the circus men to be very careful of you, Pony dear!” till Pony wriggled himself loose and began to stone them.
After that they had to let him alone, for when a fellow began to stone you in the Boy’s Town you had to let him alone, unless you were going to whip him, and the fellows only wanted to have a little fun with Pony. But what they did made him all the more resolved to run away with the circus, just to show them.
He helped to carry water for the circus men’s horses, along with the boys who earned their admission that way. He had no need to do it, because his father was going to take him in, anyway; but Jim Leonard said it was the only way to get acquainted with the circus men. Still, Pony was afraid to speak to them, and he would not have said a word to any of them if it had not been for one of them speaking to him first, when he saw him come lugging a great pail of water, and bending far over on the right to balance it.
“That’s right,” the circus man said to Pony. “If you ever fell into that bucket you’d drown, sure.”
He was a big fellow, with funny eyes, and he had a white bulldog at his heels; and all the fellows said he was the one who guarded the outside of the tent when the circus began, and kept the boys from hooking in under the curtain.
Even then Pony would not have had the courage to say anything, but Jim Leonard was just behind him with another bucket of water, and he spoke up for him. “He wants to go with the circus.”
They both set down their buckets, and Pony felt himself turning pale when the circus man came toward them. “Wants to go with the circus, heigh? Let’s have a look at you.” He took Pony by the shoulders and turned him slowly round, and looked at his nice clothes, and took him by the chin. “Orphan?” he asked.
Pony did not know what to say, but Jim Leonard nodded; perhaps he did not know what to say, either; but Pony felt as if they had both told a lie.
“Parents living?” The circus man looked at Pony, and Pony had to say that they were.
He gasped out, “Yes,” so that you could scarcely hear him, and the circus man said:
“Well, that’s right. When we take an orphan, we want to have his parents living, so that we can go and ask them what sort of a boy he is.”
He looked at Pony in such a friendly, smiling way that Pony took courage to ask him whether they would want him to drink burnt brandy.
“To keep me little.”
“Oh, I see.” The circus man took off his hat and rubbed his forehead with a silk handkerchief, which he threw into the top of his hat before he put it on again. “No, I don’t know as we will. We’re rather short of giants just now. How would you like to drink a glass of elephant milk every morning and grow into an eight-footer?”
Pony said he didn’t know whether he would like to be quite so big; and then the circus man said perhaps he would rather go for an India-rubber man; that was what they called the contortionists in those days.
“Let’s feel of you again.” The circus man to