THE GRAMMATICAL BOY
by Bill Nye
Sometimes a sad, homesick feeling comes over me, when I
compare the prevailing style of anecdote and school
literature with the old McGuffey brand, so well known
thirty years ago. To-day our juvenile literature, it
seems to me, is so transparent, so easy to understand,
that I am not surprised to learn that the rising
generation shows signs of lawlessness.
Boys to-day do not use the respectful language and large,
luxuriant words that they did when Mr. McGuffey used to
stand around and report their conversations for his
justly celebrated school reader. It is disagreeable to
think of, but it is none the less true, and for one I
think we should face the facts.
I ask the careful student of school literature to compare the
following selection, which I have written myself with great care,
and arranged with special reference to the matter of choice and
difficult words, with the flippant and commonplace terms used in
the average school book of to-day.
One day as George Pillgarlic was going to his tasks, and while
passing through the wood, he spied a tall man approaching in an
opposite direction along the highway.
"Ah!" thought George, in a low, mellow tone of voice, "whom have
"Good morning, my fine fellow," exclaimed the stranger, pleasantly.
"Do you reside in this locality?"
"Indeed I do," retorted George, cheerily, doffing his cap. "In yonder
cottage, near the glen, my widowed mother and her thirteen children
dwell with me."
"And is your father dead?" exclaimed the man, with a rising inflection.
"Extremely so," murmured the lad, "and, oh, sir, that is why my poor
mother is a widow."
"And how did your papa die?" asked the man, as he thoughtfully stood
on the other foot a while.
"Alas! sir," said George, as a large hot tear stole down his pale
cheek and fell with a loud report on the warty surface of his bare
foot, "he was lost at sea in a bitter gale. The good ship foundered
two years ago last Christmastide, and father was foundered at the
same time. No one knew of the loss of the ship and that the crew
was drowned until the next spring, and it was then too late."
"And what is your age, my fine fellow?" quoth the stranger.
"If I live till next October," said the boy, in a declamatory tone
of voice suitable for a Second Reader, "I will be seven years of
"And who provides for your mother and her large family of children?"
queried the man.
"Indeed, I do, sir," replied George, in a shrill tone. "I toil, oh,
so hard, sir, for we are very, very poor, and since my elder sister,
Ann, was married and brought her husband home to live with us, I
have to toil more assiduously than heretofore."
"And by what means do you obtain a livelihood?" exclaimed the man,
in slowly measured and grammatical words.
"By digging wells, kind sir," replied George, picking up a tired ant
as he spoke and stroking it on the back. "I have a good education,
and so I am able to dig wells as well as a man. I do this day-times
and take in washing at night. In this way I am enabled barely to
maintain our family in a precarious manner; but, oh, sir, should my
other sisters marry, I fear that some of my brothers-in-law would
have to suffer."
"And do you not fear the deadly fire-damp?" asked the stranger in an
"Not by a damp sight," answered George, with a low gurgling laugh,
for he was a great wag.
"You are indeed a brave lad," exclaimed the stranger, as he repressed
a smile. "And do you not at times become very weary and wish for other
ways of passing your time?"
"Indeed, I do, sir," said the lad. "I would fain run and romp and be
gay like other boys, but I must engage in constant manual exercise,
or we will have no bread to eat, and I have not seen a pie since
papa perished in the moist and moaning sea."
"And what if I were to tell you that your papa did not perish at sea,
but was saved from a humid grave?" asked the stranger in pleasing
"Ah, sir," exclaimed George, in a genteel manner, again doffing his
cap, "I am too polite to tell you what I would say, and besides,
sir, you are much larger than I am."
"But, my brave lad," said the man in low musical tones, "do you not
know me, Georgie? Oh, George!"
"I must say," replied George, "that you have the advantage of me.
Whilst I may have met you before, I can not at this moment place
"My son! oh, my son!" murmured the man, at the same time taking a
large strawberry mark out of his valise and showing it to the lad.
"Do you not recognize your parent on your father's side? When our
good ship went to the bottom, all perished save me. I swam several
miles through the billows, and at last, utterly exhausted, gave up
all hope of life. Suddenly I stepped on something hard. It was the
"And now, my brave boy," exclaimed the man with great glee, "see
what I have brought for you." It was but the work of a moment to
unclasp from a shawl-strap which he held in his hand and present
to George's astonished gaze a large forty-cent watermelon, which
until now had been concealed by the shawl-strap.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~