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2 The Village School 乡村小学

By Charles Dickens

Little Nell looked round the room as she took her seat. There were a couple of forms, notched and cut and inked all over; a small deal desk perched on four legs, at which no doubt the master sat, a few dog eared books upon a high shelf; and beside them a motley collection of peg-tops, balls, kites, fishing-lines, marbles, half-eaten apples, and other confiscated property of idle unchins. Displayed on hooks upon the wall in all their terrors were the cane and ruler; and near them, on a small shelf of its own, the dunce’s cap, made of old newspapers and decorated with glaring wafers of the largest size. But the greatest ornaments of the walls were certain moral sentences fainly copied in good round text, and well-worded sums in simple addition and multiplication, evidently achieved by the same hand, which were plentifully pasted all around the room for the double purpose, as it seemed, of bearing testimony to the excellence of the school and kindling a worthy emulation in the bosoms of the scholars.

As the schoolmaster, after arranging the two forms in due order, took his seat behind his desk, and made other preparations for school, Nell was apprehensive that she might be in the way, and offered to withdraw to her little bedroom. But this he would not allow, and, as he seemed pleased to have here there, she remained, busying herself with her knitting.

A small white-headed boy with a sunburst face appeared at the door while the schoolmaster was speaking, and stopping there to make a rustic bow, came, in, and took his seat upon one of the forms. The white-hearded boy put an open book, astonishingly dog-eared, upon his knees, and thrusting his hands into his pockets began counting the marbles with wich they were filled, displaying in the expression of his face a remarkable capacity of totally abstracting his mind from the spelling on which his eye…. Soon afterwards another white-headed boy came straggling in, and after him a red-headed lad, and after him two more with white heads, and then one with a flaxen poll, and so on until the forms were occupied by a dozen boys or thereabouts, with heads of every color but gray, and ranging in their ages from four years old to fourteen or more; for the legs of the youngest were a long way from the floor when he sat upon the form, and the eldest was a good-tempered fellow, about half a head taller than the schoolmaster.

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