Gateway to the Classics: The Irish Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Irish Twins by  Lucy Fitch Perkins


By this time they had reached the schoolhouse. The Schoolmaster was standing in the door calling the children to come in.

He was a tall man dressed in a worn suit of black. He wore glasses on his nose, and carried a stick in his hand.


The schoolhouse had only one room, with four small windows, and Larry hung his cap and Eileen her shawl, on nails driven into the wall.

The schoolroom had benches for the children to sit on, with long desks in front of them. On the wall hung a printed copy of the Ten Commandments. At one side there was a fireplace, but, as it was summer, there was no fire in it.

The Master rapped on his desk, which was in the front of the room, and the children all hurried to their seats. Larry sat on one side of the room, with the boys. Eileen sat on the other, with the girls.

The Master called the roll. There were fifteen boys and thirteen girls. When the roll was called and the number marked down on a slate in front of the school, the Master said, "First class in reading."

All the little boys and girls of the size of Larry and Eileen came forward and stood in a row. There were just three of them: Larry and Eileen and Dennis.


"Larry, you may begin," said the Master.

Larry read the first lines of the lesson. They were, "To do ill is a sin.

"Can you run far?"

Larry wondered who it was that had done ill, and if he were running away because of it, and who stopped him to ask, "Can you run far?" He was thinking about it when Eileen read the next two sentences

They were, "Is he friend or foe?

"Did you hurt your toe?"

This did not seem to Larry to clear the mystery.

"Next!" called the Master.

Dennis stood next. He read, "He was born in a house on the hill.

"Is rice a kind of corn?

"Get me a cork for the ink jar."

Just at this point the Master went to the open door to drive away some chickens that wanted to come in, and as Dennis had not been told to stop he went right on. Dennis was eight, and he could read quite fast if he kept his finger on the place. This is what he read:—

"The morn is the first part of the day.

"This is my son, I hope you will like him.

"Sin not, for God hates sin.

"Can a worm walk?

"No, it has no feet, but it can creep.

"Did you meet Fred in the street?

"Weep no more."

By this time the chickens were frightened away and Dennis was nearly out of breath.

The Master came back. Then Eileen had a turn. They could almost say the lessons by heart, they knew them so well.

After the reading-lesson they went back to their benches, and studied in loud whispers, but Larry was thinking of something else. He drew a pig with a curly tail on his slate—like this—


He held it up for Dennis to see. He wanted to tell him about Diddy and the Fair, but the Master saw what he had done. "Come here, Larry McQueen, and bring your slate," he said. "Sure, I 'll teach you better manners. Get up on this stool now, and show yourself." He put a large paper dunce-cap on Larry's head, and made him sit up on a stool before the whole school!


The other children laughed, all but Eileen. She hid her face on her desk, and two little tears squeezed out between her fingers.

But Larry did n't cry. He pretended he did n't care at all. He sat there for what seemed a very long time, while other children recited other lessons in reading, and grammar, and arithmetic. The Master gave him this poem to learn by heart:—

"I thank the Goodness and the Grace

That on my birth have smiled,

And made me in these Christian days,

A happy English child."

Larry wondered why he was called an English child, when he knew he was Irish. And he was n't so sure either about the "Christian days"; but he learned it and said it to the teacher before he got down off the stool. It seemed to him that it was about three days before noontime came. At last they were dismissed, and the Twins went out with the other children into the schoolyard to eat their luncheon. Dennis ate his with them, and Larry told him the Secret.

After lunch they went back into the dark, smoky little schoolroom for more lessons, and when three o'clock came, how glad they were to go dancing out into the sunshine again, and walk home along the familiar road, with the air sweet about them and the little birds singing in the fields.

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