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YALE LITERARY MAGAZINE
WALTER MILLIS CULBRETH SUDLER
JOHN CROSBY, JR.
BUSINESS MANAGERS. FRANK P. HEFFELFINGER
PAUL P. BUSHNELL
A CURIOUS OCCURRENCE.
“YES, sir, and it all happened on a Sunday !"
-We had been sitting in the Lit. office working on an editorial that should make a great impression this first issue, when we heard a knock, and upon our opening the door, a tall old man came in. He was grey and rather dried and accompanied his uneven footsteps with the tap of a knotted cane. He had seated himself in a most homelike fashion in the chairman's armchair and filled his pipe. He claimed to be the LIT.'s oldest subscriber; and had come in for a chat.
"Yes, sir," he said, "and it all happened on a Sunday! If it had been on any other day it wouldn't have mattered so much; but Sunday!" and he shook his head mournfully. "You see,' he went on, “we were just coming out of church. It was a very pleasant Sunday, too, warm and comfortable. And we were all very peaceful indeed. Suddenly there's a commotion on the green.
Men come running from all directions; and soon there's a dense circle. Those at the center bend down over something lying on the ground, their hats upon their knees; the circle behind them stand upright, leaning their elbows on the backs of those in front; behind these are others, the lawyers, businessmen, and ministers, all mixed up with the common crowd. They jostle, push, and crane their necks in a most unchristianlike manner, sir. As for those who come last, they can only straggle along the edge and ask questions of their neighbors, as indeed everyone is doing on every hand, till there's a frightful hubbub of voices. And to add to this confusion, there are many of our
boys who have just returned from a round campaign with the enemy, with whom they have been engaged for several months; and being long away from home are eager to miss nothing.
"Well, sir, it soon becomes noised about that our old friend and neighbor on the hill, the schoolmaster, has been taken with a stroke, and is lying on the grass while the doctors are being called. At once everyone is agog. Of course they knew, each and everyone of them, that the schoolmaster has been ailing for some time, and that the school board has been receiving complaints about his work. And every one of them had felt a personal concern about him, because he was a fine old fellow in his way, and the school is a mighty important thing in the life of the community. So they are pretty well worried to see him lying there on the grass, white as a sheet. 'It certainly is bad,' says the Lawyer over on Orange Street to the Grocer, 'to have the old schoolmaster laid up. If it was some one else now it wouldn't matter so much, but there isn't anyone to take his place. His work hasn't been up to snuff this year or so; but when he taught me in the old days the work was well done, all right; just look at me! But since those old times the world has been traveling along quite a bit at a pretty good rate of speed, and it doesn't appear to me that the schoolmaster has been keeping up to it, particularly in the law business. Now there's a business....' But the Grocer stopped him with a wave of his hand. "That's all true enough,' he says, 'though I'm not so sure about that law business of yours. Anyway, though, I am getting along pretty well nowadays, still there are a few things I can't quite understand, now that the world has got a bit more complicated. Before I get my son in to help me behind the counter, I want him to know a thing or two about the world, so as he can get to be an alderman or something here in town. Good brains in the family, you know. After that he can learn all the grocery business he wants to, but he's got the rest of his life to do that in. I've talked to the schoolmaster more'n once about it, only he don't seem to take much interest in suggestions. Guess he must be a-getting old.' And these two old fellows push their way in to see if they can help hold the schoolmaster's head, or something. And I hear the Editor of the Weekly say to the Minister of Center Church: 'It's sure tough on the old schoolmaster there,
A Curious Occurrence
but somehow I'm beginning to think that perhaps it was the best thing that could happen. The school over there's been doing first rate in Reading and Rithmetic and Latin and English, but somehow the world's been thinking along other lines these last few years and what he's been teaching isn't enough.' And the Minister says: “Between you and me now you're quite right, but you see with the way things are around here I can't commit myself; and, anyway, you shouldn't talk so of a man that is sick and down.' And just at this moment the doctors come up and begin an examination of the schoolmaster, while everyone leaves his chatter and crowds around to hear what's going on. In a minute they pick the old fellow up and hustle him off to the hospital. And somebody says he hears there's to be an operation.
"Well, that pleases everyone. An operation. Just the thing. The Grocer and Minister and Lawyer and Editor and all the rest of the crowd stand and nod gravely at each other as the cart drives off with the schoolmaster. That's it. An operation. That would settle the troubles all right. And, sir, would you believe it, they are all agreed for two minutes and a half. And then it breaks out again: what kind of an operation? And there are as many different opinions as there are people there; and that's a lot. Some say it's the appendix they're going to take out, because its inefficient and worn out and is poisoning the whole system; and some say that this isn't so, that they're taking it out because man in his evolution has outgrown the appendix, which is a relic of the grass-eating stage; and some say that it is a sacrilege if they take it out at all because the Creator put it there Himself, and that none but the Creator Himself can take it away. Lord, what a noise there is! Another says that the schoolmaster is having a nervous breakdown; he'd mixed up the big boys and the little boys and even the little girls who came to him for music and dancing till he didn't know where he was at; and it was the same way with the two assistants and himself. They'd all been doing each other's work over and over again, and fighting dreadfully about it; and the schoolmaster had broken down under the strain. Some say it's a case of under-nourishment, too. And a few say that all this is true enough, but the real trouble with the schoolmaster's work is that he has been teaching the right things badly and in the