Lo, Michael (Chapter 4, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 4

Into a new world came Mikky, a world of blue skies, song birds, and high, tall pines with waving moss and dreamy atmosphere; a world of plenty to eat and wear, and light and joy and ease.

Yet it was a most bewildering world to the boy, and for the first week he stood off and looked at it questioningly, suspiciously. True, there were no dark cellars or freezing streets, no drunken fathers or frightened children, or blows, or hunger or privation; but this education he had come to seek that he might go back to his own world and better it, was not a garment one put on and exercised in so many times a day; it was not a cup from which one drank, nor an atmosphere that one absorbed. It was a strange, imperceptible thing got at in some mysterious way by a series of vague struggles followed by sudden and almost alarming perceptions. For a time it seemed to the boy, keen though his mind, and quick, that knowledge was a thing only granted to the few, and his was a mind that would never grasp it. How, for instance, did one know how to make just the right figures under a line when one added a long perplexity of numbers? Mikky the newsboy could tell like a flash how much change he needed to return to the fat gentleman who occasionally gave him a five-dollar bill to change on Broadway; but Mikky the scholar, though he knew figures, and was able to study out with labor easy words in his papers, had never heard of adding up figures in the way they did here, long rows of them on the blackboard. It became necessary that this boy should have some private instruction before he would be able to enter classes.

Professor Harkness himself undertook the task, and gradually revealed to the child's neglected understanding some of the simple rudiments that would make his further progress possible. The sum that was paid for his tuition made it quite necessary that the boy advance reasonably, for his benefactor had made it understood that he might some day visit the institution and see how he was getting on. So great pains were taken to enlighten Mikky's darkness.

There was another thing that the boy could not understand, and that was the discipline that ruled everywhere. He had always been a law unto himself, his only care being to keep out of the way of those who would interfere with this. Now he must rise with a bell, stay in his room until another bell, eat at a bell, go to the hard bench in the schoolroom with another bell, and even play ball when the recreation bell rang. It was hard on an independent spirit to get used to all this, and while he had no mind to be disorderly, he often broke forth into direct disobedience of the law from sheer misunderstanding of the whole régime.

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