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himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic gestures which a machine might
have used-supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through
safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made
his manufactured bow and retired.

A little shame-faced girl lisped “Mary had a little lamb, etc.,” performed a
compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed
and happy.

Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the
unquenchable and indestructible “Give me liberty or give me death” speech,
with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it. A
ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to

True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house-but he had the house’s silence,
too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this
completed the disaster. Tom struggled a while and then retired, utterly defeated.
There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.

“The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck” followed; also “The Assyrian Came
Down,” and other declaratory gems. Then there were reading exercises, and a
spelling fight. The meager Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of
the evening was in order, now-original “compositions” by the young ladies.
Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat,
held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with
labored attention to “expression” and punctuation. The themes were the same
that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them,
their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear
back to the Crusades.

“Friendship” was one; “Memories of Other Days;” “Religion in History;”
“Dream Land;” “The Advantages of Culture;” “Forms of Political Government
Compared and Contrasted;” “Melancholy;” “Filial Love;” “Heart Longings,”
etc., etc.

A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy;
another was a wasteful and opulent gush of “fine language;” another was a
tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they
were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and
marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled
tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might
be, a brainracking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the
moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring
insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the
fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient to-day; it never will be sufficient
while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the
young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and
you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and least religious girl in the

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