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freedom and for equal rights. It is no mere pretty sentimentality that puts the flag there, but the serious recognition of the bed-rock principle of our Union: That we are all of one blood, one bounden duty; that all these anti-social prejudices are just as shameful as illiteracy, and that they must disappear as soon as ever we shall come to know each other well. Knowledge is power. That is true. And it is also true: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
"The Flag of our Union forever!" is our prayer, our heart's desire for us and for our children after us. Heroes have died to give us that, heroes that with glazing eyes beheld the tattered ensign and spent their latest breath to cheer it as it passed on to triumph. "We who are about to die salute thee!" The heart swells to think of it. But it swells, too, to think that, day by day, thousands upon thousands of little children stretch out their hands toward that Flag and pledge allegiance to it. "We who are about to LIVE salute thee!"
It is no mere chance affair that all our federal buildings should be so ugly and so begrudged, and that our school-houses should be so beautiful architecturally - the one nearest my house is built from plans that took the first prize at the Paris Exposition, in competition with the whole world - so well-appointed, and so far from being grudged that the complaint is, that there are not enough of them.
That So-and-so should be the President, and such-and-such a party have control is but a game we play at, amateurs and professionals; the serious business is, that in this country no child, how poor soever it may be, shall have the slightest let or hindrance in the equal chance with every other child to learn to read, and write, and cipher, and do raffia-work.
It is a new thing with us to have splendid school-houses. After all, the norm, as you might say, is still "The Old Red School-house." You must recollect how hard the struggle is for the poor farmer, with wheat only a dollar a bushel, and eggs only six for a quarter; with every year or so taxes of three and sometimes four dollars on an eighty-acre farm grinding him to earth. It were folly to expect more in rural districts than a tight box, with benches and a stove in it. Never-the-less, it is the thing signified more than its outward seeming that catches and holds the eye upon the country school-house as you drive past it. You count yourself fortunate if, mingled with the creaking of the buggy-springs, you hear the hum of recitation; yet more fortunate if it is recess time, and you can see the children out at play, the little girls holding to one another's dress-tails as they solemnly circle to the chant:
"H-yar way gow rand tha malbarry bosh, Tha malbarry bosh, tha malbarry bosh, H-yar way gow rand tha malbarry bosh On a cay-um and frasty marneng."
The boys are at marbles, if it is muddy enough, or one-old-cat, or pom-pom-peel-away, with the normal percentage of them in reboant tears - that is to say, one in three.
But even this is not the moment of illumination, when it comes upon you like a flood how glorious is the land we live in, upon what sure and certain footing are its institutions, when we know by spiritual insight that whatsoever be the trial that awaits us, the people of these United States, we shall be able for it! Yes. We shall be able for it.
If you would learn the secret of our nation's greatness, take your stand some winter's morning just before nine o'clock, where you can overlook a circle of some two or three miles' radius, the center being the Old Red School-house. You will see little figures picking their way along the miry roads, or ploughing through the deep drifts, cutting across the fields, all drawing to the school-house, Bub in his wammus and his cowhide boots, his cap with ear-laps, a knitted comforter about his neck, and his hands glowing in scarlet mittens; and little Sis, in a thick shawl, trudging along behind him, stepping in his tracks. They chirrup, "Good-morning, sir!" As far as you can see them you have to watch them, and something rises in your throat. Lord love 'em! Lord love the children!
And then it comes to you, and it makes you catch your breath to think of it, that every two or three miles all over this land, wherever there are children at all, there is the Old Red Schoolhouse. At this very hour a living tide, upbearing the hopes and prayers of God alone knows how many loving hearts, the tide on which all of our longed-for ships are to come in, is setting to the school-house. Oh, what is martial glory, what is conquest of an empire, what is state-craft alongside of this? Happy is the people that is in such a case!
The city schools are now the pattern for the country schools: but in my day, although a little they were pouring the new wine of frothing educational reform into the old bottles, they had not quite attained the full distention of this present. We still had some kind of a good time, but nothing like the good times they had out at the school near grandpap's, where I sometimes visited. There you could whisper! Yes, sir, you could whisper. So long as you didn't talk out loud, it was all right. And there was no rising at the tap of the bell, forming in line and walking in lock-step. Seemingly it never entered the school-board's heads that anybody would ever be sent to state's prison. They left the scholars unprepared for any such career. They have remedied all that in city schools. Now, when a boy grows up and goes to Sing Sing, he knows exactly what to do and how to behave. It all comes back to him.
But what I call the finest part of going to school in the country was, that you didn't go home to dinner. Grandma had a boy only a few years older than I was, and when I went a-visiting, she fixed us up a "piece." They call it "luncheon" now, I think - a foolish, hybrid mongrel of a word, made up of "lump," a piece of bread, and "noon," and "shenk," a pouring or drink. But the right name is "piece." What made this particular "piece" taste so wonderfully good was that it was in a round-bottomed basket woven of splints dyed blue, and black and red, and all in such a funny pattern. It was an Indian basket. My grandma's mother, when she was a little girl, got that from the squaw of old Chief Wiping-Stick.
The "piece" had bread-and-butter (my grandma used to let me churn for her sometimes, when I went out there), and some of the slices had apple-butter on them. (One time she let me stir the cider, when it was boiling down in the big kettle over the chunk-fire out in the yard. The smoke got in my eyes.) Sometimes there was honey from the hives over by the gooseberry bushes - the gooseberries had stickers on them - and we had slices of cold, fried ham. (I was out at grandpap's one time when they butchered. They had a chunk-fire then, too, to heat the water to scald the hogs. And say! Did your grandma ever roast pig's tails in the ashes for you?) And there were crullers. No, I don't mean "doughnuts." I mean crullers, all twisted up. They go good with cider. (Sometimes my grandma cut out thin, pallid little men of cruller dough, and dropped them into the hot lard for my Uncle Jimmy and me. And when she fished them out, they were all swelled up and "pussy," and golden brown.
And there was pie. Neither at the school nooning nor at the table did one put a piece of pie upon a plate and haggle at it with a fork. You took the piece of pie up in your hand and pointed the sharp end toward you, and gently crowded it into your face. It didn't require much pressure either.
And there were always apples, real apples. I think they must make apples in factories nowadays. They taste like it. These were real ones, picked off the trees. Out at grandpap's they had bellflowers, and winesaps, and seek-no-furthers, and, I think, sheep-noses, and one kind of apple that I can't find any more, though I have sought it carefully. It was the finest apple I ever set a tooth in. It was the juiciest and the spiciest apple. It had sort of a rollicking flavor to it, if you know what I mean. It certainly was the ne plus ultra of an apple. And the name of it was the rambo. Dear me, how good it was! think I'd sooner have one right now than great riches. And all these apples they kept in the apple-hole. You went out and uncovered the earth and there they were, all in a big nest of straw; and such a gush of perfume distilled from that pile of them that just to recollect it makes my mouth all wet.
They had a big red apple in those days that I forget the name of. Oh, it was a whopper! You'd nibble at it and nibble at it before you could get a purchase on it. Then, after you got your teeth in, you'd pull and pull, and all of a sudden the apple would go "tock!" and your head would fly back from the recoil, and you had a bite about the size of your hand. You "chomped" on it, with your cheek all bulged out, and blame near drowned yourself with the juice of it.
Noon-time the girls used to count the seeds:
"One I love, two I love, three my love I see; Four I love with all my heart, and five I cast away. Six he loves; seven she loves; eight . . . eight . . . "
I forget what eight is, and all that follows after. And then the others would tease her with, "Aw, Jennie!" knowing who it was she had named the apple for, Wes. Rinehart, or 'Lonzo Curl, or whoever. And you'd be standing there by the stove, kind of grinning and not thinking of anything in particular when somebody would hit you a clout on your back that just about broke you in two, and would tell you "to pass it on," and you'd pass it on, and the next thing was you'd think the house was coming down. Such a chasing around and over benches, and upsetting the water-bucket, and tearing up Jack generally that teacher would say, "Boys! boys! If you can't play quietly, you'll have to go out of doors!" Play quietly! Why, the idea! What kind of play is it when you are right still?
Outdoors in the country, you can whoop and holler, and carry on, and nobody complains to the board of health. And there are so many things you can do. If there is just the least little fall of snow you can make a big wheel, with spokes in it, by your tracking. I remember that it was called "fox and geese," but that's all I can remember about it. If there was a little more snow you tried to wash the girls' faces in it, and sometimes got yours washed. If there was a good deal of wet snow you had a snowball fight, which is great fun, unless you get one right smack dab in your ear - oh, but I can't begin to tell you all the fun there is at the noon hour in the country school, that the town children don't know anything about. And when it was time for school to "take up," there wasn't any forming in line, with a monitor to run tell teacher who snatched off Joseph Humphreys' cap and flung it far away, so he had to get out of the line, and who did this, and who did that - no penitentiary business at all. Teacher tapped on the window with a ruler, and the boys and girls came in, red-faced and puffing, careering through the aisles, knocking things off the desks with many a burlesque, "oh, exCUSE me!" and falling into their seats, bursting into sniggers, they didn't know what at. They had an hour
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