ePub 版

plaisirs to produce their cornets of cinnamon or sugar, sprinkle a little into the milk, and then fall to sipping and munching with increased zest and satisfac. tion. So dry and chaffy was our pain de ménage that none ventured to soak it entire, or at once, but would cut it into frustrums, and retain liquid enough to wash down the boluses separately. In a few minutes every plate was completely cleaned out and polished; and the cats, that generally entered the room as we left it, seldom found a drop with which they might moisten their tongues, or remove from cheeks and whiskers the red stains of murdered mice on which they had been breaking their fast in the great tower. So much for the earliest meal of the day, which was to carry us through five hours, if not of laborious mental study, at least of the incarceration of our bodies in class, which was equally irksome to them as if our minds had been hard at work. These five hours terminated, slates were once more insalivated and put by clean, and the hungry garrison began to look forward to the pleasures of the noon-day repast. The same bell that had been calling so often to class would now give premonitory notice of dinner, but in a greatly changed tone. In place of the shrill snappish key in which it had all the morning jerked out each short unwelcome summons from lesson to lesson, as if fearful of ringing one note beyond the prescribed minute, it now would take time, vibrate far and wide in its cage, give full scope to its tongue, and appear from the loud increasing swell of its prolonged oyez, to announce the message of good cheer like a herald conscious and proud of his commission. Ding.dong !-come along! Dinner's dishing !ding-dong! Da capo and encore! Then, starting up from every school-room form throughout the chatoau, the noisy boys rushed pell-mell, opened all the doors, and, like emergent bees in quest of honey, began coursing up and down right busily between the salle-a-manger and the kitchen-snuffing the various aromas as they escaped from the latter into the passage, and inferring from the amount of exhaled fragrance the actual progress of the preparations for eating. Occasionally some "sly Tom” would peep into the kitchen, while the Fraus were too busy to notice him, and watch the great cauldron that had been milked dry of its stores in the morning, now discharging its aqueous contents of a much-attenuated bouillon-the surface covered with lumps of swimming bread, thickened throughout with a hydrate of potatoes, and colored with coarse, insipid carrots, which certainly gave it a savory appearance. It was not good broth-far from it, for it was both sub-greasy and super-salted; but then it was hot, it was thick, and there was an abundant supply. It used to gush, as we have said, from the great stop-cock of the cauldron, steaming and sputtering, into eight enormous tureens. The shreds of beef, together with whatever other solids remained behind after the fluid had been drawn off, were next fished up from the abyss with long ladles, and plumped into the decanted liquor. The young gastronome who might have beheld these proceedings would wait till the lid was taken off the saur-kraul; and then, the odor becoming overpower. ingly appetizing, he would run, as by irresistible instinct, into the dining-room, where most of the boys were already assembled, each with a ration of brown bread in his hand, and ready for the Fraus, who were speedily about to enter. The dinner was noisy and ungenteel in the extreme-how could it be otherwise ? ventre affamé n'a point d'oreilles. Hardly was the German grace concluded, and the covers removed, when that bone of contention, the marrow bone, was caught up by some big boy near the top of the table, and became the signal for a general row. All in his neighborhood would call out second, third, fourth,

fifth, etc., for said bone; and thus it would travel from plate to plate, yielding its contents freely to the two or three first applicants, but wholly inadequateunless it could have resolved itself altogether into marrow-to meet all the demands made upon its stores. Then arose angry words of contention, which waxed hot as the marrow waxed cold, every candidate being equally vociferous in maintaining the priority of his particular claim. Earnest appeals in German, French, Spanish, English, etc., were bandied from one to the other in consequence, as to who had really said après toi first! At last the “dry bone” was found undeserving of further contention; and, ceasing to drop any more fatness upon any boy's bread, the competition for it was dropped too. When now we had half filled our stomachs with a soup which few physicians would have withheld from their fever patients on the score of its strength, we threw in a sufficiency of bread and saur kraut to absorb it; and, after the post prandial German grace had been pronounced, the boys left the table, generally with a saved crust in their pockets, to repair to the garden and filch—if it was filching man alliaceous dessert from the beds, which they washed in the clear stream, and added, without fear of indigestion, to the meal just concluded within the chateau. Most of us throve upon this Spartan diet; but some delicate boys, unendowed with the ostrich power of assimilation usual at that period—for boys, like ostriches, can digest almost anything-became deranged in their chylopoietics, and continued to feel its ill effects in mesenteric and other chronic ailments for years afterwards. Au hour was given for stomachs to do their work, before we re-assembled to ours in the class-room. At half-past four precisely, a gouté was served out, which consisted of a whacking slice of bread, and either a repetition of the morning's milk and water, or café au lait, (without sugar "bien entendu,”) or twenty-five walnuts, or a couple of ounces of strongtasted gruyère, or a plateful of schnitz (cuttings of dried apples, pears, and plums). We might choose any one of these several dainties we liked, but not

Some dangerous characters—not to be imitated—would occasionally, while young Frau Schmidt stood doling out the supplies from her cupboard among the assembled throng, make the disingenuous attempt to obtain cheese with one hand and schnitz with the other. But the artifice, we are happy to say, seldom succeeded; for that vigilant lady, quick-eyed and active, and who, of all things, hated to be imposed upon, would turn round upon the false claimant, and bid him hold up both his hands at once—which he, ambidexter as he was, durst not do, and thus he was exposed to the laughter and jeers of the rest. At nine the bell sounded a feeble call to a soi-disant supper; but few of us cared for a basin of tisane under the name of lentil soup—or a pappy potato, salted in the boiling--and soon after we all repaired to our bed-rooms-made a noise for a short time, then undressed, and were speedily asleep under our duvets, and as sound, if not as musical, as tops.

Our common fare, as the reader has now seen, was sorry enough; but we had our Carnival and gala days as well as our Lent. Vater Pestalozzi's birthday, in summer, and the first day of the new year, were the most conspicuous. On each of these occasions we enjoyed a whole week's holiday; and as these were also the periods for slaughtering the pigs, we fed (twice a year for a whole week !) apon black puddings and pork d discretion, qualified with a sauce of beet-root and vinegar, and washed down with a fluid really like small beer.



The school-rooms, which lay immediately under the dormitories on the ground floor, consisted of a number of detached chambers, each of which issued

upon a corridor. They were airy-there was plenty of air at Yverdun-and lofty as became so venerable a building; but they were unswept, unscrubbed, peeled of their paint, and, owing to the little light that could find its way through two very small windows punched out of the fortress walls, presented, save at mid-day, or as the declining sun illumined momentarily the dark recess, as comfortless a set of interiors as you could well see. It required, indeed, all the elasticity of youth to bear many hours' daily incarceration in such blackholes, without participating in the pervading gloom. Such dismal domiciles were only fit resorts for the myoptic bat, who would occasionally visit them from the old tower; for the twilight horde of cockroaches, which swarmed along the floor, or the eight eyed spiders who colonized the ceiling. The tender sight, too, of a patient just recovering from ophthalmia would here have required no factitious or deeper shade-but merits like these only rendered them as ungenial as possible to the physiology and feelings of their youthful occupants. If these apartments looked gloomy in their dilapidations and want of sun, the somber effect was much heightened by the absence of the ordinary tables and chairs, and whatever else is necessary to give a room a habitable appearance. Had an appraiser been commissioned to make out a complete list of the furniture and the fixtures together, a mere glance had sufficed for the inventory. In vain would his practiced eye have wandered in quest of themes for golden sentences, printed in such uncial characters that all who run may read; in vain for the high-hung well backed chart, or for any pleasing pictorial souvenirs of Æsop or the Ark,-neither these por the long “colored Stream of Time," nor formal but useful views in perspective, adorned our sorry walls. No old mahogany case clicked in a corner, beating time for the class, and the hour upstriking loud that it should not be defrauded of its dues. No glazed globe, gliding round on easy axis, spun under its brassy equator to the antipodes on its sides being touched. No. bright zodiac was there to exhibit its cabalistic figures in pleasing arabesques. In place of these and other wellknown objects, here stood a line of dirty, much inked desks, with an equally dirty row of attendant forms subjacent alongside. There was a scantling-it seldom exceeded a leash-of ricketty rush-bottom chairs distributed at long intervals along the walls; a coal-black slate pegged high on its wooden horse ; a keyless cupboard, containing the various implements of learning, a dirty duster, a pewter plate with cretaceous deposits, a slop-basin, and a ragged sponge ;-and then, unless he had included the cobwebs of the ceiling, (not usually reckoned up in the furniture of a room,) no other moveables remained. One conspicuous fixture, however, there was, a gigantic Dutch stove. This lumbering parallelogram, faggot-fed from the corridor behind, projected several feet into the room, and shone bright in the glaze of earthenware emblazonments. Around it we would sometimes congregate in the intervals of class : in winter to toast our hands and hind-quarters, as we pressed against the heated tiles, with more or less vigor according to the fervency of the central fire; and in summer either to tell stories, or to con over the pictorial History of the Bible, which adorned its frontispiece and sides. We cannot say that every square exactly squared with even our schoolboy notions of propriety in its mode of teaching religious subjects; there was a Dutch quaintness in the illustrations, which would sometimes force a smile from its simplicity, at others shock, from its apparent want of decorum and reverence. Pre-eminent of course among the gems from Genesis, Adam and Eve, safe in innocency and “naked truth,”

here walked unscathed amidst a menagerie of wild beasts—there, dressed in the costume of their fall, they quitted Eden, and left it in possession of tigers, bears, and crocodiles. Hard by on a smaller tile, that brawny “knave of clubs,” Cain, battered down his brother at the altar; then followed a long picturegallery of the acts of the patriarchs, and another equally long of the acts of the apostles. But, queer as many of these misconceptions might seem, they were nothing to the strange attempts made at dramatizing the parables of the New Testament-.g. a stout man, staggering under the weight of an enormous beam which grows out of one eye, employs his fingers, assisted by the other, to pick out a black speck from the cornea of his neighbor. Here, an unclean spirit, as black as any sweep, issues from the mouth of his victim, with wings and a tail! Here again, the good Samaritan, turbaned like a Turk, is bent over the waylaid traveler, and pours wine and oil into his wounds from the mouths of two Florence flasks; there, the grain of mustard-seed becomes a tree, sheltering already a large aviary in its boughs; the woman, dancing a hornpipe with the Dutch broom, has swept her house, and lo! the piece of silver that was lost in her hand; a servant, who is digging a hole in order to hide his lord's talent under a tree, is overlooked by a magpie and two crows, who are attentive witnesses of the deposit;—and many others too numerous to mention. So much for the empty school-room, but what's a hive without bees, or a schoolroom without boys? The reader who has peeped into it untenanted shall now, if he pleases, be introduced, dum fervet opus full and alive. Should he not be able to trace out very clearly the system at work, he will at least be no worse off than the bee fancier, who hears indeed the buzzing, and sees a flux and reflux current of his winged confectioners entering in and passing out, but cannot investigate the detail of their labors any further. In the Yverdun, as in the hymenopterus apiary, we swarmed, we buzzed, dispersed, re-assembled at the sound of the bell, flocked in and flocked out, all the day long ; exhibited much restlessness and activity, evincing that something was going on,

but what it would have been hard to determine. Here the comparison must drop. Bees buzz to some purpose; they know what they are about ; they help one another; they work orderly and to one end,

“How skillfully they build the cell,

How neat they spread the wax,
And labor hard to store it well

With the sweet food," etc., etc. In none of these particulars did we resemble the “busy bee.” This being admitted, our object in offering a few words upon the course of study pursued at the chateau is not with any idea of enlightening the reader as to anything really acquired during the long ten hours’ session of each day; but rather to show how ten hours' imprisonment may be inflicted upon the body for the supposed advantage of the mind, and yet be consumed in “profitless labor, and diligence which maketh not rich"; to prove, by an exhibition of their opposites, that method and discipline are indispensable in tuition, and (if he will accept our “pathemata " for his “mathemata," and guides in the bringing up of his sons) to convince him that education, like scripture, admits not of private interpretation. Those who refuse to adopt the Catholic views of the age, and the general sense of the society in which they live, must blame themselves if they find the experiment of foreign schools a failure, and that they have sent their children “farther to fare worse."

And now to proceed to the geography class, which was the first after breakfast, and begin at half-past eight As the summons-bell sounded, the boys came rushing and tumbling in, and ere a minute had elapsed were swarming over, and settling upon, the high reading desks the master, already at his work, was chalking out the business of the hour, and as this took some little time to accomplish, the youngsters, not to sit unemployed, would be assiduously engaged in impressing sundry animal forms—among which the donkey was a favorite-cut out in cloth, and well powderel, upon one another's backs. When llerr Ghad finished his chalkings, and was gone to the corner of the room for his show-perch, a skeleton map of Europe might be seen, by those who choose to look that way, covering the slate. this, however, was what the major. ity of the assembly never dreampt of, or only dreampt they were doing. The class generally—though ready when called upon to give the efficient support of their tongues-kept their eyes to gape elsewhere, and, like Solomon's fool, had them where they had no business to be. The map, too often repeated to attract from its novelty, had no claim to respect on other grounds. It was one of a class accurately designated by that careful geographer, old Homer, as "pay ov Kara Koopov.” Coarse and clumsy, however, as it necessarily would be, it might still have proved of service had the boys been the draughtsmen. As it was, the following mechanically Herr G—'s wand to join in the general chorus of the last census of a city, the perpendicular altitude of a mountain, or the length and breadth of a lake, could obviously convey no useful instruc. tion to any one. But, useful or otherwise, such was our regime,—to set one of from fifty to sixty lads, day after day, week after week, repeating facts and figures notorious to every little reader of penny guides to science, till all had the last statistical returns at their tongue's tip, and knew, when all was done, as much of what geography really meant as on the day of their first matriculation. Small wonder, then, if some should later have foresworn this study, and been revolted at the bare sight of a map! All our recollections of map, unlike those of personal travel, are sufficiently distasteful Often have we yawned wearily over them at Yverdun, when our eyes were demanded to follow the titubations of Herr G-'s magic wand, which, in its uncertain route, would skip from Europe to Africa and back again-qui modo Thebas modo me ponit Athenis; and our dislike to them since has increased amazingly. Does the reader care to be told the reason of this ? Let hin-in order to obtain the pragmatic sanction of some stiff-necked examiner-have to "get up" all the anastomosing routes of St. Paul's several journeyings, have to follow those rebellious Israelites in all their wanderings through the desert, to draw the line round them when in Palestine; going from Dan to Beersheba, and "meting out the valley of Succoth”; or, finally, have to cover a large sheet of foolscap with a progressive survey of the spread of Christianity during the three first centuries—and he will easily enter into our feelings. To return to the class. room The geographical lesson, though of daily infliction was accurately cir. cumscribed in its duration. Old time kept a sharp look-out over his blooming daughters, and never suffered one hour to tread upon the heels or trench upon the province of a sister hour. Sixty minutes to all, and not an extra minute to any, was the old gentleman's impartial rule; and he took care to see it was strictly adhered to. As the clock struck ten, geography was shoved aside by the muse of mathematics. A sea of dirty water had washed out in a twinkling all traces of the continent of Europe, and the palimpset slate presented a clean face for whatever figures might next be traced upon its

« 上一頁繼續 »