Chapter XL. Ben is Subdued
 

Ben Buffum was biding his time.

In the seat in front of Ben sat Albert Frost, a much smaller boy.

One day, toward the close of the afternoon, a loud shriek was heard in the neighborhood of Ben Buffum's desk.

Walter looked up and saw Albert in tears.

"What is the matter, Albert?" asked Walter.

"Ben Buffum stuck a pin in my leg," answered the boy. "Is that true, Buffum?" demanded Walter sternly.

"Yes, it is," answered Ben, with provoking calmness.

Walter's temper was stirred, but he asked in his ordinary tones: "Why did you do it?"

"Because I chose," answered Ben.

"Then," said Walter, giving full vent to his scorn, "you are a contemptible coward and brute!

"You forget that in this schoolroom I am the master, and consider it my duty to defend my pupils, even the smallest, from the violence of brutes."

"He'll have to pay for this," he muttered to himself. "I can lick you, Walter!" he said, with an insolent leer.

He had hardly got the words out of his mouth when Walter was upon him. He was wonderfully quick in his movements, whereas Ben, though powerful, was slow, and before he well knew what was going to happen he was dragged by the collar from his seat into the middle of the floor. Walter let go for a minute, and Ben, mad all over, prepared to grasp him in a bearlike hug. A stinging blow in the face convinced him that he had entirely underrated the powers of the teacher. He tried to return the blow, but, unable to defend himself, found his own blow parried and another planted in his chest, causing him to stagger. Then Ben lost all caution, and with a furious cry rushed upon Walter, in hope of throwing him down by wrestling. But, instead, he found himself lying on his back on the floor, looking up at the teacher.

Ben got up slowly and "pitched in" once more, but in about a minute he found himself again in a recumbent position.

"Have you had enough?" asked Walter.

"I hit my head," answered Ben, in a sulky tone.

"I hope you are not seriously hurt," said Walter, quietly. "If you would like to be dismissed now, you may go. I shall be glad to see you back here to-morrow."

Without a word, but looking intensely mortified, Ben took his hat and slunk out of the room.

When he had gone Walter said: "Scholars, I want to ask of you a favor. Ben is mortified by what has happened. I wish you would all abstain from reminding him of it. In that case the lesson he has received may do him good."

The next day Ben Buffum stayed at home, and did not show himself on the street till evening. When he found that no one spoke to him of the affair he took courage to go to school the day after. Walter overtook him on the way and hailed him in a friendly manner with: "We will forget all about that little affair day before yesterday, Ben. You are pretty strong."

"I couldn't do nothin' against you."

"No, because I have taken lessons in boxing."

"I'd like to box."

"If you'll come round and see me this evening, Ben, I'll give you the first lesson."

The scholars were very much surprised to see Ben and the teacher walking to school together, and were further surprised at the wonderful change for the better that took place in the once rebellious pupil.