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Trent's Trust and Other Stories

A Pupil Of Chestnut Ridge
The schoolmaster of Chestnut Ridge was interrupted in his after-school solitude by the
click of hoof and sound of voices on the little bridle path that led to the scant clearing in
which his schoolhouse stood. He laid down his pen as the figures of a man and woman on
horseback passed the windows and dismounted before the porch. He recognized the
complacent, good-humored faces of Mr. and Mrs. Hoover, who owned a neighboring
ranch of some importance and who were accounted well to do people by the community.
Being a childless couple, however, while they generously contributed to the support of
the little school, they had not added to its flock, and it was with some curiosity that the
young schoolmaster greeted them and awaited the purport of their visit. This was
protracted in delivery through a certain polite dalliance with the real subject characteristic
of the Southwestern pioneer.
"Well, Almiry," said Mr. Hoover, turning to his wife after the first greeting with the
schoolmaster was over, "this makes me feel like old times, you bet! Why, I ain't bin
inside a schoolhouse since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Thar's the benches, and the
desks, and the books and all them 'a b, abs,' jest like the old days. Dear! Dear! But the
teacher in those days was ez old and grizzled ez I be—and some o' the scholars—no
offense to you, Mr. Brooks—was older and bigger nor you. But times is changed: yet
look, Almiry, if thar ain't a hunk o' stale gingerbread in that desk jest as it uster be! Lord!
how it all comes back! Ez I was sayin' only t'other day, we can't be too grateful to our
parents for givin' us an eddication in our youth;" and Mr. Hoover, with the air of recalling
an alma mater of sequestered gloom and cloistered erudition, gazed reverently around the
new pine walls.
But Mrs. Hoover here intervened with a gracious appreciation of the schoolmaster's youth
after her usual kindly fashion. "And don't you forget it, Hiram Hoover, that these young
folks of to-day kin teach the old schoolmasters of 'way back more'n you and I dream of.
We've heard of your book larnin', Mr. Brooks, afore this, and we're proud to hev you
here, even if the Lord has not pleased to give us the children to send to ye. But we've
always paid our share in keeping up the school for others that was more favored, and now
it looks as if He had not forgotten us, and ez if"—with a significant, half-shy glance at
her husband and a corroborating nod from that gentleman—"ez if, reelly, we might be
reckonin' to send you a scholar ourselves."
The young schoolmaster, sympathetic and sensitive, felt somewhat embarrassed. The
allusion to his extreme youth, mollified though it was by the salve of praise from the
tactful Mrs. Hoover, had annoyed him, and perhaps added to his slight confusion over the
information she vouchsafed. He had not heard of any late addition to the Hoover family,
he would not have been likely to, in his secluded habits; and although he was accustomed
to the naive and direct simplicity of the pioneer, he could scarcely believe that this good
lady was announcing a maternal expectation. He smiled vaguely and begged them to be
seated.
 
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