"A VISION
 
 Dark  and tempestuous was night. Around the throne on high not a single
star quivered; but the deep intonations of the heavy thunder constantly
vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning revelled in angry
mood through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power
exerted over its terror by the illustrious Franklin! Even the boisterous
winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and blustered about
as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit
sighed; but instead thereof,

My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter and guide-
My joy in grief, my second bliss in joy, came to my side.

She moved like one of those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks
of fancy's Eden by the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned
save by her own transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it failed
to make even a sound, and but for the magical thrill imparted by her
genial touch, as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided away
un-perceived-unsought. A strange sadness rested upon her features, like
icy tears upon the robe of December, as she pointed to the contending
elements without, and bade me contemplate the two beings presented."

This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with
a sermon so destructive of all hope to non-Presbyterians that it took the
first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest effort
of the evening. The mayor of the village, in delivering the prize to the
author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it was by far the
most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that Daniel Webster
himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in
which the word "beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience referred
to as "life's page," was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair
aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of America
on the blackboard, to exercise the geography class upon. But he made a sad
business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered titter rippled over
the house. He knew what the matter was, and set himself to right it. He
sponged out lines and remade them; but he only distorted them more than
ever, and the tittering was more pronounced. He threw his entire attention
upon his work, now, as if determined not to be put down by the mirth. He
felt that all eyes were fastened upon him; he imagined he was succeeding,
and yet the tittering continued; it even manifestly increased. And well it
might. There was a garret above, pierced with a scuttle over his head; and
down through this scuttle came a cat, suspended around the haunches by a
string; she had a rag tied about her head and jaws to keep her from
mewing; as she slowly descended she curved upward and clawed at the
string, she swung downward and clawed at the intangible air. The tittering
rose higher and higher-the cat was within six inches of the absorbed
teacher's head-down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with
her desperate claws, clung to it, and was snatched up into the garret in
an instant with her trophy still in her possession! And how the light did
blaze abroad from the master's bald pate-for the sign-painter's boy had
GILDED it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.

NOTE:
The pretended "compositions" quoted in this chapter are taken without
alteration from a volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a Western
Lady"-but they are exactly and precisely after the schoolgirl pattern, and
hence are much happier than any mere imitations could be.