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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

Czar Brench gazed at her for some moments in silence


shook Rufus until the little fellow's teeth chattered and his eyes rolled; and while he shook him, he seemed to be reflecting what new punishment he could devise for this rebellious attempt.

To the utter amazement of us all, Catherine, who was sitting directly in front of them, suddenly spoke out.

"Mr. Brench," she cried, "you are a hard, cruel man!"

The master was so astounded that he let go of Rufus and stared down at her. "Stand up!" he commanded, no longer in his soft tone, but in a terrible voice.

Catherine stood up promptly, unflinching; her eyes, blazing with indignation, looked squarely into his.

"Let me see your hand," he said.

Instead of one hand, Catherine instantly thrust out both, under his very nose.

"Ferule me!" she cried. "Ferule both my hands, Mr. Brench! Ferule me all you want to! I don't care how hard you strike! But you are a bad, cruel man, and I hate you!"

Still holding the ruler, Czar Brench gazed at her for some moments in silence; he seemed almost dazed.

"You are the first scholar that ever spoke to me like that," he said at last. A singular expression had come into his face; he was having a new experience. For another full minute he stared down

at the girl, but he apparently had no longer any thought of feruling her.

"Take your seat," he said to her at last; and, after sending the still trembling Rufus to his seat, he dismissed the grammar class.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened afterwards. There were but three weeks more of school, and the term ended about as usual.

The school agent and certain of the parents in the district who believed in the importance of rigid discipline wished to have Czar Brench teach there another winter; but for some reason he declined to return. At the old Squire's we thought that it was, perhaps, because he had failed to conquer Catherine.



During the fifth week of school there was an enforced vacation of three or four days, over Sunday, while the school committee were investigating certain complaints of abusive punishment, against Master Brench.

The complaints were from numbers of the parents, and concerned putting those props in pupils' mouths to abolish "buzzing" of the lips, while studying their lessons; and also complaints about "sitting on nothing," said to be injurious to the spine. The affair did not much concern us young folks at the old Squire's. Indeed, we did not much care for the school that winter. Master Brench's attention was chiefly directed to keeping order and devising punishments for violations of school discipline. School studies appeared to be of minor importance with him.

It was on Tuesday of that week, while we were at home, that the following incident occurred.

Owing to our long winters, sheep raising, in Maine, has often been an uncertain business. But at the old Squire's we usually kept a flock of eighty or a hundred. They often brought us no real profit, but grandmother Ruth was an old-fashioned housewife who would have felt herself bereaved if she had had no woolen yarn for socks and bed blankets.

The sheep were already at the barn for the winter; it was the 12th of December, though as yet we had had no snow that remained long on the ground. We were cutting firewood out in the lot that day and came in at noon with good appetites, for the air was sharp.

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