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The facilities for study.
Good teachers and proper conveniences for study, tend very much, it is true, to facilitate the progress of pupils in all attempts for the acquisition of knowledge. But where these advantages cannot be enjoyed, it is astonishing how far a little ingenuity, and resolution, and earnestness, on the part of the pupil, will atone for the deficiency. No child need ever be deterred from undertaking any study adapted to his years and previous attainments, for want of the necessary implements or apparatus, or the requisite means of instruction. The means of supplying the want of these things are always at the command of those who are intelligent, resolute, and determined. It is only the irresolute, the incompetent, and the feeble-minded that are dependent for their progress on having a teacher to show them and to urge them onward, every step of the way.
When Mary Bell and Bella returned home they found that Mary Erskine had made all the
Mary Bell's seat.
preparations necessary for the commencement of the school. She had made a desk for the two children by means of the ironing-board, which was a long and wide board, made very smooth on both sides. This board Mary Erskine placed across two chairs, having previously laid two blocks of wood upon the chairs in a line with the back side of the board, in such a manner as to raise that side and to cause the board to slope forward like a desk. She had placed two stools in front of this desk for seats.
Upon this desk, at one end of it, the end, namely, at which Bella was to sit, Mary Erskine had placed a small thin board which she found in the shop, and by the side of it a piece of chalk. This small board and piece of chalk were to be used instead of a slate and pencil.
At Mary Bell's end of the desk there was a piece of paper and a pen, which Mary Erskine had taken out of her work-table. By the side of the paper and pen was Bella's picture-book. This picture-book was a small but very pretty picture-book, which Mary Bell had given to Bella for a present on her birth-day, the year before. The picture-book looked, as it lay upon the desk, as if it were perfectly new. Mary Erskine had kept it very carefully in her work
table drawer, as it was the only picture-book that Bella had. She was accustomed to take it out sometimes in the evening, and show the pictures to Bella, one by one, explaining them at the same time, so far as she could
at the story from the picture itself, for neither she herself, nor Bella, could understand a word of the reading. On these occasions Mary Erskine never allowed Bella to touch the book, but always turned over the leaves herself, and that too in a very careful manner, so as to preserve it in its original condition, smooth, fresh, and unsullied.
Mary Bell and Bella looked at the desk which Mary Erskine had prepared for them, and liked it very much indeed.
“But where are you going to study ?” asked Mary Bell.
" I shall study at my work-table, but not now. I can't study until the evening. I have my work to do, all the day, and so I shall not begin my studies until the evening when you children are all gone to bed. And besides, there is only one pen.”
Oh, but you will not want the pen," said Mary Bell.
You are going to learn to read.”
Mary Erskine's way of learning to write.
“No," said Mary Erskine. “I am going to learn to write first."
“ Not first,” said Mary Bell. “We always learn to read, before we learn to write."
“But I am going to learn to write first," said Mary Erskine. “I have been thinking about it, and I think that will be best. I have got the plan all formed. I shall want you to set me a copy, and then this evening I shall write it.”
Well,” said Mary Bell, “I will. The first copy must be straight marks."
"No," said Mary Erskine, " the first thing is to learn to write my name.
I shall never have any occasion to write straight marks, but I shall want to write my name a great many times.”
“Oh, but you can't begin with writing your name,” said Mary Bell.
Yes,” said Mary Erskine, “I am going to begin with Mary: only Mary. I want you to write me two copies, one with the letters all separate, and the other with the letters together.
“Well," said Mary Bell, “I will. So she sat down to her desk, taking up her pen, she dipped it into the ink-stand. The ink-stand had been placed into the chair which Mary Bell's end of the ironing-board rested upon. It could not
Mary Erskine's copy.
stand safely on the board itself as that was sloping.
Mary Bell wrote the letters M-A-R-Y, in a large plain hand upon the top of the paper, and then in a same line she wrote them again, joining them together in a word. Mary Erskine stood by while she wrote, examining very attentively her method of doing the work, and especially her way of holding the pen. When the copy was finished, Mary Erskine cut it off from the top of the paper and pinned it up against the side of the room, where she could look at it and study the names of the letters in the intervals of her work during the day.
" There," said she in a tone of satisfaction when this was done. “I have got my work be
The next thing is to give Bella hers.”
It was decided that Bella should pursue a different method from her mother. She was to learn the letters of the alphabet in regular order, taking the first two, a and b, for her first lesson. Mary Bell made copies of those two letters for her, with the chalk, upon the top of the board. She made these letters in the form of printed and not written characters, because the object was to teach Bella to read printed books.