"As I approached the schoolroom this morning I chanced to catch some words which I presume were not intended for my ear. If I remember rightly they were, 'I don't care how many prizes Rathburn gives his favorite!' There were several that heard them, so that I can be easily corrected if I have made any mistake. Now I will not affect to misunderstand the charge conveyed by these words. I am accused of assigning the prizes, or at least, one of them, yesterday, not with strict regard to the merit of the essays presented, but under the influence of partiality. If this is the real feeling of the speaker, I can only say that I am sorry he should have so low an opinion of me. I do not believe the scholars generally entertain any such suspicion. Though I may err in judgment, I think that most of you will not charge me with anything more serious. If you ask me whether a teacher has favorites, I say that he cannot help having them. He cannot help making a difference between the studious on the one hand, and the indolent and neglectful on the other. But in a matter like this I ask you to believe me when I say that no consideration except that of merit is permitted to weigh. The boy who made this charge is one of my most advanced scholars, and has no reason to believe that he would be treated with unfairness. I do not choose to say any more on this subject, except that I have decided to offer two similar prizes for the two best compositions submitted within the next four weeks. I shall assign them to the best of my judgment, without regard to the scholarship of the writer."
Mr. Rathburn spoke in a quiet, dignified manner, which convinced all who heard him of his fairness. I say all, because even John Haynes was persuaded against his own will, though he did not choose to acknowledge it. He had a dogged obstinacy which would not allow him to retract what he had once said. There was an unpleasant sneer on his face while the teacher was speaking, which he did not attempt to conceal.
"The class in Virgil," called Mr. Rathburn.
This class consisted of Frank Frost, John Haynes, and Henry Tufts. John rose slowly from his seat, and advanced to the usual place, taking care to stand as far from Frank as possible.
"You may commence, John," said the teacher.
It was unfortunate for John that he had been occupied, first, by thoughts of his rejected essay, and afterward by thoughts of the boat which he proposed to buy with the thirty dollars of which he had become possessed, so that he had found very little time to devote to his Latin. Had he been on good terms with Frank, he would have asked him to read over the lesson, which, as he was naturally quick, would have enabled him to get off passably. But, of course, under the circumstances, this was not to be thought of. So he stumbled through two or three sentences, in an embarrassed manner. Mr. Rathburn at first helped him along. Finding, however, that he knew little or nothing of the lesson, he quietly requested Frank to read, saying, "You don't seem so well prepared as usual, John."
Frank translated fluently and well, his recitation forming a very favorable contrast to the slipshod attempt of John. This John, in a spirit of unreasonableness, magnified into a grave offense, and a desire to "show off" at his expense.
"Trying to shine at my expense," he muttered. "Well, let him! Two or three years hence, when I am in college, perhaps things may be a little different."