Chapter XXXIX. The New Master

On the platform of the main schoolroom in the Shelby Classical Institute stood Colonel Owen and Walter Sherwood.

"My young friends," began Colonel Owen, "you are all aware that your respected teacher, Mr. Haywood, is obliged to be absent for the remainder of the term. I have been able to secure as his substitute Mr. Walter Sherwood, who will do his best to carry on the work which Mr. Haywood has so auspiciously commenced. I hope you will receive him cordially and uphold him in his task."

Walter felt some diffidence as he realized what a responsibility had been placed upon him.

He cleared his throat and spoke a few words.

"Colonel Owen has introduced me to you and expressed a hope in which I join him--that you will receive me cordially and uphold me in my work. I will now go about among the seats, make inquiries as to your progress, and arrange the classes."

This short speech made a favorable impression upon all the pupils with two exceptions. These were the largest scholars--Ben Buffum and Enoch Snow. What they thought of Walter may be gathered from their conversation as they walked home together.

"What do you think of the new master, Ben?" said Enoch.

"I s'pose he'll do. He ought to, if he's been to college; but I'll tell you what, Enoch, it riles me to have a boy of my own age set over me."

"Me ditto!"

"He would do for a primary school, but when it comes to young men like us, I don't like to let people know that he's my teacher."

"It's all right for the others to obey him, but you and I are just as strong as he, and maybe stronger."

"I guess I could floor him in wrestling."

"You're too much for me, Ben, and I think I can stand up to him, and maybe lick him."

"It's likely you can. Now, there was Hayward--he was a big man. I didn't mind obeying him."

"Are you talking about Mr. Sherwood?" asked Harry Howe, a boy of fourteen.

"No, I'm not. I'm talking about Mr. Hayward."

"How do you like the new teacher?"

"He's only a boy. He'll have a hard row to hoe."

"Who'll make it hard for him?"

"Enoch and I."

"Then it will be a shame. He seems to be a perfect gentleman."

"Gentleman! He's only a boy, like ourselves."

"At any rate, he knows enough to teach us."

"That may be, but he can't keep order."

"Why can't he?"

"You'll see whether he can or not," said Ben, significantly.

"Are you going to make trouble?"

"It isn't best for small boys to know too much."

Walter had not failed to notice the half-rebellious demeanor of his two oldest pupils. Moreover, he had been warned by the janitor of the building that they would be likely to give him trouble.