Recollections of John Pounds: John Pounds teaches the Children by Reverend Henry Hawkes
Stopping one morning at the old cobbler’s open half-door, to have a chat with him, and look on the busy scene of life and improvement and happiness so full of vigour about him, I observed some books beside his left elbow very much worn, and coming to pieces; and I said, “I think, Mr. Pounds, you want some knew books.” “Why so?” he said .
“Because those just under the bird- cage seem to be coming to pieces.” “So much the better.” “How can that be, Mr. Pounds.” “Why, ye sees, Sir, when a book’s new like, an all tight together, it sarves for only one at a time; but when it comes to pieces, every leaf sarves for one. Besides, I doesn’t always larn ‘em out o; books.
Here, you curly dog! Joe, lad, when’s ye coming? Stir yourself, lad; quick, lad!” And a fine strong boy, with curly head, about twelve years old, came to him, colouring, as if he thought he had not lost much time in coming; but there was a loving smile of respect too, more prevailing in his countenance, “What’s slops, Joe?” “What father wears.” “Spell slops, Joe?” And the boy spelt slops.
“Any other sort o’ slops, Joe?” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; what’s in that bucket.” “Right, lad. Spell bucket.” After a blunder, the boy succeeded in spelling bucket. “Now spell pump, Joe.” And the lad smiled; for he new what was coming; and he spelt pump. “Now, Joe, take bucket to th’ pump an empty slops out, an bring it back full o’ fresh water. Dick.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds.” “You go too, an help Joe.” And the lads ran off with the bucket; glad to be set free, and get into the open air; and frisked about, full of redundant life.
“Tom Tit. They calls him Tom Tit, Sir, ‘cause he’s such a plump little round fellow! But he’s sharp enough, the little rascal.” And a very little boy came to his knee, with bright face, and sparkling black eyes, and a quick smile, that looked ready for any fun. “Willy Dale.”
And a meek boy came and stood beside him, about the head and shoulders taller than the plump little fellow; slender and delicate, but full of gentle life and fine perception. He had a fair complextion, blue eyes, beautiful features, and flaxen hair, that flowed gracefully down to his shoulders; his clothes fitted him neatly, and had evidently been made for him, with a simple air of taste; but their colours were faded, and their textures seemed thin and slight.
Every thing about him seemed to imply tender care, but extreme poverty. “Ye likes a bit o’ fun, Tom, doesn’t y’?” turning a waggish smile and tone to the to the plump little fellow. “Yes, Mr. Pounds; so does you!” “Yes lad, I does! I likes a bit o’fun as well as any on ye; an y’ knows that!” “Yes, Mr. Pounds!” – many joyous voices.
“I likes fun, an I likes work. A bit o’ fun makes work go light an easy. But fun, an no work, brings a man to grief in the end. Now, which o’ you two spells fun first?” Tom Tit spelt it instantly; while Willy Dale seemed scarcely to have had time to think about it, in his gentle way. “Now, Tom, spell run!” And he spelt it like lightning. “Off with y’! run to th’ pump, an help‘em bring back bucket. And off he sprung; and a good-natured laugh followed him as he ran out, overflowing with fun.
The meek little boy seemed depressed, that he was not allowed to go too; and stood sad and silent. “Willy dear,” the old man said tenderly, – with gentle hand patting his fair cheek; “what’s sunshine?” “When the sun shines, Mr. Pounds.”
“Spell sunshine, Willy.” And the tender child spelt sunshine with simple sweet voice, that flowed like music. “Does y’ like sunshine, Willy?” “Yes, Mr. Pounds. Don’t you?” “Yes, Willy. God gives us sunshine to cheer us an make us happy; an it’s for us to enjoy it thankfully; an bless him for his kindness.
Now, Willy, off with y’!” Run to ‘em at th’ pump; an’ get a breath o’ sunshine!” It was beautiful to observe, how still and pleasant all the school were, while this little conversation was going on with the tender child.
Every syllable of his sweet silvery voice and artless utterance was heard clear and impressive; listened to with delight by them all. And when the old man said to him – “Off with y’!” in his merry way, his light step bounded off with a native grace, – that even the rough old cobbler followed him with charmed eye, till he was out of sight! And then he said, as if recollecting himself; “I sends ‘em out a bit, now an then, ye sees, Sir, for a little fresh air, an to stretch their limbs like; for we’s rather thick on the ground here. An then they comes in again bright an fresh, an ready for work again.”
“Here they comes with the bucket!” exclaimed a loud voice at the door, in a tone of admiration. And the boys came up to the door with it, full of glee. There was no little stir to make way for its coming in; for the crowd of children were packed close to the door. “Here’s a bustle you’s a-maken!” said the old man merrily. “Spell bustle – who can.” Several tried; but blundered.
Only one spelt it right. “Jem’s right. Spell it again for ‘em, Jem, lad.” And the boy spelt it again, with a clear voice, and deliberately, while they listened. “Now, you’s all remember, spell bustle like Jem Put th’ bucket down, lads; an thank y’.” “You’s welcome Mr. Pounds?” – with frank heartiness. “Mind the cat, in her basket.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; we’s not hurt pussy; will us, pussy?” “Now, all to work, again.” And all were soon still, and happily at their lessons again; save one.
“You rascal there, what’s you a-doing?” “Nothing, Mr. Pounds.” “Nothing? Then come here, an I’se give y’ something to be doing. I’se not like idlers. How far’s ye know in this?” giving him a multiplication-table. “To five-times, Mr. Pounds.” “Larn six- times. Quick, lad! An as soon’s ye knows it, come an say it. Look sharp.” “Yes. Mr. Pounds.” And the boy went, and, standing straight up in the thick of the crowd, set earnestly to work learning it; and soon came with bright look, and said it without a blunder. “Good lad! Now larn seven-times,
“What month’s this?” – to all the school.
“September.” – “October.”
“October’s right. Last week’s September; now’s October come in. Now autumn’s come. Spring for flowers; an autumn for fruits. All at once now. Answer first as can. What fruits’ ripe now?”
“Crabs, Mr. Pounds.” – “Ah, Jem, lad, you’s ben at the crab-tree’s.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; that crab-tree you showed us over the Hill; so full of blossom; pink, an white, an crimson, all mixed together; oh, so beautiful!”
“Full o’ blossom; an now they’s full o’ fruit; an fruit’s ripe. How long ago’s that when they’s in blossom?”
“About five months, Mr. Pounds.” Right, Jem: – in the merry month o’ May! – when the flowers comes out so gay! an the birds they’s all a-singin!” And the old man looked round on all the children, joyous and thankful, as if he would inspire them with the same thankfulness and joy at the remembrance!
“Any more sorts o’ fruit ripe now?” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; – blackberries.” – “Hips an haws, Mr. Pounds.” – “Nuts.” – “Sloes and bullaces.” – “Horse-chestnuts.”
“Acorns” – “Beech-nuts.” – “That ‘ill do lads; there’s lots more.
“I s’pose you sometimes pricks your fingers when you’s a-getting blackberries.” “Yes Mr. Pounds!” – several voices, with a wincing laugh. “What’s blackberries fruit of?” “Brambles.” “Where’s you mostly find brambles a-growing?” Along hedge-rows and among wild bushes.” “Does mother make pies an puddings o’ blackberries?” “Yes! they’s so good! An we goes an gets baskets full, an sells ’em.” “That’s right, lads. Am an honest penny, when’s y’ can; an help father an mother keep y’.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds!” – many voices heartily.
“What trees bears acorns?” “Oak trees, Mr. Pounds.” “The oak of old England! Our ships ben built of oak. An our brave sailors likes to sing ‘Hearts of oak!” What’s they mean, Jem, when they says – ‘Hearts of oak?’ ” “Strong for duty.” “Right lad. They calls our ships the wooden walls of old England. What’s they mean by that, Jem?” “ ‘Cause they keeps us safe from our enemies outside.” “Right, lad; with our brave sailors a-board. But if all’s be good friends, an neighbourly like; that’s be best for all. All’s safe then, an good friends, an no fighting. But they’s a long time coming to this.
“What sort of a tree does horse-chestnuts grow on?” A great broad tree, that grows high, with long spreading branches, an large handsome leaves, an beautiful white flowers, that stands straight up, in long bunches.” “Well done Jem!” the old man exclaimed with joy, as if proud of his scholar. “But you says, the flowers ben white.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds.”
“So they looks, when ye sees ‘em far up the tree. But take a horse-chestnut flower into your hand, an look at it close; an you’s find, the white’s beautifully spotted wi’ red and yellow inside. Does any on ye likes to eat horse-chestnuts?” “No, Mr. Pounds; they’s not good to eat.” “What’s they good for then?”
“Nothing, Mr. Pounds, but to play with. We plays marbles with ‘em; an throws ‘em at one another; all in fun, ye knows.” “But that’s not all they’s good for. When God Almighty makes horse-chestnuts, he means ‘em for good. Horses feeds on ‘em, an they likes ‘em; an so does sheep; an stags an deer in the Forest.
“Hips an haws, you says. What’s hips the fruit of?” “Rose trees along the hedges.” “What’s haws the fruit of?” “Hawthorn bushes, that grows along the hedges too.” “Right, Dick. The hawthorn bears haws, an it has thorns; an so they calls it hawthorn. Does y’ care to eat hips and haws much?” “No, Mr. Pounds; not much.
Hips ben nice-tasted, but they’s little hairs in ‘em, that tickles our throats; an haws ben nearly all stone.” “No, they’s not much good for man to eat; but birds likes both hips and haws, and they feeds on ‘em all the winter through. An we’s praise God for his goodness in providing food for the birds.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds;” – several voices, with simple, touching solemnity.
“Does they call the hawthorn blossom by any other name?” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; they calls it May.”
“Right Flemming. Why’s they call it May?” “ ‘Cause it flowers in May.” “Right again, lad. There’s another bush common along the hedge-rows, that bears white flowers. The flowers comes out three or four weeks before the May,” What’s they call that?” Blackthorn, Mr, Pounds.” “Right Jenks; the blackthorn. It’s branches ben very dark-looking, an it has sharp thorns; an so they calls it blackthorn.
It’s white flowers comes out before the leaves. Does the May flowers come out before the leaves?” “No, Mr. Pounds. The branches ben covered with young leaves, bright an green, before we finds any flowers come out.” “Right, Jem. Any other difference atween the blackthorn flowers an the May flowers?” – A long silence, Not one answered. “Why, lads, next April, – if it please God to let you live so long, – be on the look-out along the hedge-rows; an you’s see plenty o’ blackthorn in flower.
Take hold of a branch, an you’s find the flowers scattered like, all over it; only one or two together: not many flowers close together in a bunch. An so’s they scattered all over the bush. Then next month, May, look out for the hawthorn, when it comes into blossom; an you’s find the flowers o’ the hawthorn not scattered all over the bush, like the blackthorn, but a bunch here, and a bunch there, a good many flowers together in a bunch.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds:” – a sweet little voice, full of life; – “an sometimes the white May flowers has some pink in ‘em; – oh, so pretty!” “Right Polly.
That’s another difference atween ‘em; for the white flowers o’ the blackthorn never has any pink in ‘em. That is, I means,” – the old man said cautiously; – “I’se never see a blackthorn flower have any pink in it. I always finds ‘em all white.
“What’s they call the fruit o’ the blackthorn?” “Sloes.” “Right Jem. What colours ben sloes?” “Black; when you rubs off the whitesh mealy dust that covers ‘em.” “Right again, Jem,. What ben sloes like?” “They’s like little plums.” “So they bes, lad. Any other wild fruit that you finds like sloes; only bigger?” “Yes, Mr. Pounds; bullaces.”
“Right. Sloes grows on bushes; does bullaces grow on bushes? “No, Mr. Pounds; I has to climb up a tree to get bullaces.” What colours a bullace?” “Mostly black, like sloes; but sometimes, Mr. Pounds, I’se find bullaces yellowish green, with some red in it, when they’s quite ripe.”
“They calls that a variety, Jem, when they’s not black; ‘cause black bullaces ben commonest. Jem, lad, which does you like best to eat; bullaces or sloes?” “Bullaces. I’se not eat more than one sloe at a time; or two, at most; ‘cause they’s so sour like, an bitter. But fine ripe bullaces ben almost as good as plums.”
“But birds like sloes;” the old man said. “An God makes ‘em all good for something. An we bless God for his goodness. We sees his goodness everywhere, wherever we goes. An we’s be very thankful.” All were very still, as their dear old master said this. All seemed to feel it reverently, and gratefully.
After a pause for a few moments; which I felt to be sacredly impressive: – “What’s nuts grow on?” the old man said, with fresh liveliness. “Hazels!” exclaimed many lively voices. “You’s stick’s a hazel, Mr. Pounds!” “Yes, lad, it is. An a good friend it’s a-ben to me, many a year. It’s ben wi’ me many a mile; – that good hazel stick o’ mine. I goes into Havant Thicket, an I cuts it for myself.
I looks about for a good straight stick, an a good strong on. An I cuts it with a hook at one end; to pull down branches with, when they’s too high to reach without it.” “Yes, Mr. Pounds, you pulls ‘em down for us; an we gets flowers an acorns from ‘em, whiles you holds ‘em down for us;” several lively little voices. “Yes, dears. An I puts a thick piece of iron on t’other end, wedge-like.”
“Yes Mr. Pounds, you digs roots up for us with it.” “Oh, I’se such a nice daisy-root at home. – You digs it up for me in Tipner Lane. I waters it ‘most every morning. Oh, such pretty flowers! White, an pink all round the edges!” “Bes it in flower now, Polly?” “No, Mr. Pounds; but you says, its flowers ‘ill come out again next year.” “Yes, Polly dear! – if it pleases God to let you live till next spring, you’s most likely see its pretty flowers again; pink an white,” “Yes, Mr. Pounds.” And the child looked thoughtful and happy.
“Well now, nuts ben ripe, an blackberries ben ripe, an bullaces, an acorns, an horse-chestnuts, an lots more o’ nice things; an I means to go a bit of a walk to the Hill next week; an all you as likes to go wi’ me, I means you to go too; an we’s have good day of it.” “What day, Mr. Pounds?” “Saturday, in next week; if it’s a fine day. What day’s this?”
“Monday.” “Well now, all you means to go wi’ me to the Hill on Saturday in next week; – mind now, you’s come to school meanwhiles, every day, both morning an a’ternoon; or else you’s not a-going wi’ me to the Hill next week.” “On Saturday- a’ternoon, Mr. Pounds?” “No Jenks, I’se wrong there; Saturday-a’ternoon’s a holiday; you’s not come then.” “Sunday too, Mr. Pounds” “Right again, lad, I’se wrong there too. I’se ought to say; everyday, morning an a’ternoon, save Saturday-a’ternoon, and Sunday.” Tse come!” – and “I’se come!” and “I’se come!” – in rapid succession.
“An you’s see the beautiful trees in all their autumn glory! Ash-trees an lime trees turns bright yellow in autumn; horse-chestnut-trees turns rich orange, an yellow, an reddish brown; beech-trees turns deep red brown; oaks turns deep red brown, an bright yellow, an other beautiful colours, all mixed together. An all the trees together, spread out far an wide over the country, makes it look very rich an beautiful, in this glorious month of October!
“Now, these ben the glorious thing’s you’s a-going to see wi’ me next week, if you’s be good, an comes to school meanwhiles.” Tse try an be good;” – “An so’s I;” several subdued voices; – as if not quite confident; – but desiring.
“Mick Robins.” “Please, Mr. Pounds, he’s not here.” “Not here? How’s that?” “He’s ill, Mr. Pounds.” “Ill? What’s matter with him?” “He’s got the fever, Mr. Pounds.” “Fever? Run, Lizzie, and ask his mother all about it; an tell her I’se come at twelve.” And off she ran, without waiting to get her bonnet.
“Georgy, peel taties; an you’s have a taty when they’s boiled. Bessy, make some nice gruel; an I’se take it to little Mick at twelve; an I’se tell him, Bessy sends this to thee, Mick!” And the child set about it with a blooming smile.
“Mr. Pounds, if there’s any thing we can help you with for your invalid” –
“Bless y’, Sir, if I’se not forget you’s here. But poor little Mick! I’se thinking of him. We all loves him; an we’s all very sorry for him.”
“If there’s any thing you want for him, that we can get; please let us know.”
“I will, Sir; an thank y’.”
“Good morning, Mr. Pounds.”
“Yer sarvant, Sir.”