Project Canterbury

Dorchester Polytechnic Academy;
Dr. Neverasole, Principal

by James DeKoven

Milwaukee: Morehouse, 1879. 226 pp.


The Dorchester Polytechnic Academy is presided over by Nehemiah Neverasole, LL. D., assisted by a corps of competent teachers. The Academy is a four-story, brick building, with two wings. In one wing, Dr. Neverasole resides with his family, consisting of Mrs. Neverasole and Miss Mehitabel, his only child. In the other wing, lives Professor Poggers, the Professor of Mathematics. There is also a teacher of Natural Sciences, Professor Goshkms, A. M., La Tombe, teacher of Gymnastics, and Edward Whoony, B. A., teacher of Latin and Greek--and others whose names need not be mentioned. The grounds are about five acres in extent. In front, there is a pretty lawn with ornamental trees, and the fence is neat, with a stone gate.

In the rear, where company do not go, the boys reign supreme. There is a good deal of broken glass in the windows, and the out-houses are full of inscriptions, and greatly hacked and hewed with knives. Boy's names are carved everywhere, and in the places where the teachers do not frequently visit, Dr. Neverasole appears to the view in every variety of costume, and in every position which a lively imagination could suggest. Whatever shape he takes, however, there is always a certain dignity and majesty about the Doctor; but poor Mr. Whoony is subjected to every ignominy which boyish art can suggest. The reason why, will appear by-and by.

On the morning of Monday, the day after the Sunday mentioned in the last chapter, Mrs. Neverasole and Miss Mehitabel, breakfast being over, were conjointly washing up the breakfast things. The Doctor was seated at a small desk, getting letters ready for the post, and waiting for the school bell to ring for morning exercises. A carriage was heard driving on the gravelled road, in front, and Mrs. and Miss Neverasole moved to the window, to reconnoitre.

"My dear," said Mrs. Neverasole, "it is two new boys."

"Now, father, remember," said Miss Mehitabel, "you told me, if two new ones came, this term, I should have a new silk dress."

"Run, Hetty!" said Mrs. Neverasole, "they are coming here; the parlor is upside down, and that Betsey is showing them into the dining-room."

"Sit down!" said the Doctor to his wife, "and take up your sewing; it looks domestic."

As he spoke, the Doctor seized a ponderous tome, and began diligently reading, as a knock at the door announced the arrival.

"Come in!" said the Doctor.

In came Mr. Stebbins, and, following him, Edward Stebbins and Robert Graham. The Doctor looked up with an abstracted glance, as though with difficulty his mind had been withdrawn from the book he was reading, and with a start of apparent surprise rose and extended his hand, saying--"How do you do, Mr. Stebbins? You are welcome to the Dorchester Polytechnic Academy."

"I have brought with me my son, Edward Stebbins, and my nephew, Robert Graham."

Dr. Neverasole smiled, in a fatherly way, on the two boys, and patted them on the head. "Take a seat, Mr. Stebbins."

They all sat down. At this, Mrs. Neverasole sighed audibly; the sigh seemed to say--"lovely boys--good Mrs. Neverasole--what a shame it is, they should not know me?" So the Doctor understood it immediately, and introduced Mr. Stebbins and the boys to his wife. From over her sewing, Mrs. Neverasole inspected the boys, from head to foot. A sort of look, about Edward Stebbins, the better cut of his clothes, and a generally young-manish appear-anee, made her say to herself, "The nephew is supported by charity, and is green." Externally she only sighed, and the sigh seemed to say--"My heart swells with interest for these youths; I will be a mother to them!" Ned, however, who was not to be disturbed by any circumstances or surroundings, only whispered to Rob--"Have you got any pepper-mint drops?"

"Yes," said Rob, feeling in his pocket for a little paper that Ned had treated him to, on the way out.

"Hand them to the old lady," said Ned, "She's got an awful stomach-ache."

Rob, who had himself experienced the good effects of pepper-mint, when administered by the kind hand of Mrs. Dorothy, and without considering that Ned could scarcely, on so short an acquaintance, know the condition of Mrs. Neverasole's digestive organs, rose immediately, and offered the pepper-mint drops to Mrs. Neverasole. Mrs. Neverasole looked bewildered, but took one, with a smile, and another sigh.

"It is astonishing," said Dr. Neverasole, how soon boys take to her. She is a mother to them all."

"I hope you will soon be better," said Rob, a little confused, and not knowing what to say. His confusion was increased by a stifled giggle, which proceeded from Ned. Mrs. Neverasole, who thought herself in delicate health, and was perpetually trying to convince the Doctor of the fact, and never could, and whose claims to a delicate constitution were not appreciated by her friends and acquaintances, in consequence of the redness of her face and a general healthiness of aspect, felt propitiated, and looked at the Doctor, as much as to say, "You see, even a stranger notices it." She leaned languidly upon her chair and said with another sigh--"It is general debility."

"Is it?" said Rob, offering her another drop, "green apples gave it to me, and once before, too many currants and goose-berries."

At this Ned could contain himself no longer, but rushed to the window, where, with his back to the rest of the company, he made a series of noises, which would have sounded like laughter, had they not ended in a severe fit of coughing.

"Come here, Rob," said Mr. Stebbins, a little harshly, and turned to the Doctor. "I have not much to say about the boys. Robert Graham, my nephew, has been under the charge of his Grandmother--brought up in a somewhat confined and narrow way--you will soon discover his defects."

"My own son--" and Mr. Stebbins' face warmed into interest--"is a boy of very peculiar disposition. He differs from any boy I ever heard of. At an early age, I had his head examined by Professor Howler, and he pronounced that there was a remarkable formation of bumps. Dr. Neverasole," said Mr. Stebbins, rising with great solemnity, "Professor Howler told me, and my own experience has confirmed it--Ned can be led, but' he cannot be driven.

His instincts are good, and I have generally found it best to let him have his own way. His coming here to school is his own choice, entirely; he desires to improve. I suppose you use no coercion here?"

"Do you mean whipping?" said Dr. Neverasole.

"Yes, sir."

"Never," said Dr. Neverasole, "I am convinced that the degrading lash should never be applied to the corporeal frame of a freeman. When we punish for lighter offenses, we impose memoriter exercises, which make punishment improving, and for more serious offenses, we employ solitary confinement and bread and water."

"Far more proper than corporeal punishment," said Mr. Stebbins. "With respect to studying"--he went on, "I do not wish to dictate, but I am anxious that both the boys should be trained for the practical duties of life. The classics will be of no use to them; but Arithmetic and Natural Science, they should be well trained in."

"Exactly!" said Dr. Neverasole. "Professor Poggers is a man of world-wide celebrity, and Professor Goshkin's work on Chemistry, is familiar to every school-boy. Familiar lectures on Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, Geology, Mineralogy and Ethnology, are delivered twice a week, in the chapel, and once a week on general subjects, by Professor Gubbms, who is a perfect Encyclopedia. Thus, the minds of the boys are developed, expanded and refreshed, by a great variety of subjects, and without any effort, they become acquainted with the vast stores which modern science has accumulated."

"That's the kind of school I like," whispered Ned to Rob--"a school where you learn everything, without any trouble."

Just then, the door was thrown open, in no very gentle way, and a large woman, with an expression of countenance which seemed to imply that she was in a state of chronic opposition, to somebody or something, appeared to the view.

"Mrs. Jollipop," said Dr. Neverasole, in a propitiatory and reassuring way, "we have company. Mr. Stebbins, our excellent matron--Mrs. Jollipop."

Mrs. Jollipop did not heed Mr. Stebbins; she only looked at the boys, and her eye rested, for a moment, graciously on Rob, but on seeing Ned she muttered--"another on 'em!" and broke out--"Dr. Neverasole, them dormitories never can be cleaned up--the pillow cases is all in threads, and the sheets is all tied up in knots, and the mattresses is all thrown out of the winders, and sich lots of tobaccer, all over! I won't stand them boys, no more. They is not Christians at all, but Turkeys and Mahommetaneers, and there's little Billy Rubber, who daresent say his prayers no more, and your pattern boy, Mr. Thomas Durkey." She dwelt on the Mr., with a peculiar emphasis. "If he ain't"--and she paused, as if to gather words to express her feelings--"if he ain't 'the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh,' then my name isn't Betsey Jollipop!"

She did not wait for an answer, but bounced out of the room again, and slammed the door. Dr. Neverasole looked a little confused, and Mrs. Neverasole retreated into the kitchen; but the Doctor soon recovered himself and said, "An excellent woman, is Mrs. Jollipop, and a capital nurse in sickness, and the boys are greatly attached to her; but a little high tempered, and sometimes forgets herself."

Mr. Stebbins rose from his seat and said politely: "I must hurry back to Dorchester. You must, of course, with so many boys, have things go wrong in your dormitories, sometimes. I have only one question further--Your school is, I understand, thoroughly unsectarian?"

"Thoroughly so," said Dr. Neverasole.

"For modes of faith, let graceless zealots fight,
He can't be wrong whose life is in the right."

"What do the boys do, on Sundays?"

"We have exercises, in the chapel, on Sabbath mornings. Ministers, of different denominations, officiate. Professor Poggers, who is a Unitarian minister, occasionally preaches. Mr. Gooby, of St. Bridget's, sometimes comes down, and Mr. Sever, who is a Methodist, comes once in three weeks. When we cannot get any clergyman, I myself read a lecture on the Conservation and Correlation of Forces, or some other instructive subject."

"Thank you," said Mr. Stebbins. "Good morning! Good-bye, boys." He gave them, each, a little shake of the hand.

"Good-bye, sir!" said Rob.

"Good-bye, Pop!" said Ned.--"I say, Pop," said Ned, as his father went out of the door, "give me ten dollars; I must have some money to spend for eatables. I guess," he added, in a whisper, "the grub here is not any great fixings."

Mr. Stebbins took out his pocket-book and handed Ned a note, and with another shake of the hand, walked out of the door, followed by Dr. Neverasole.

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