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IT seems to mewho have passed a very
long and varied school-lifethat there is no
such pitiable class in a civilized community
as that of ushers, and at the same time none
so mysterious. No man is born an usher;
no man achieves (if he can help it) ushership.
Ushership is always thrust upon him. Born an
usher! What offence could father or mother
have committed, to have it visited so roughly
upon their innocent? Could its cheeks have
ever been chubby, and dimpled into smiles ?
Had it ever at any time a will of its own?
Could the boy as he grew up have ever
laughed out honestly among his fellows ?
enjoyed himself in the playground like the
rest ? Could he have shirked impositions,
broken bounds, and hated and despised his
ushers ? Could he ever have had holidays,
gone home? Heaven knows! but, from
what I have seen of him since he became a
man, I scarcely think it.

Alone, and amidst a crowd of enemies; in
authority, and without the shadow of power;
learned, and doomed to pace to and fro upon
the low roads to learning; a master and a
servant, a gentleman and an usher,—I pity
him from the bottom of my heart. Sleek clergy
of public schools with lucrative boarders
in your own houses, and gratuitous monitors
to save you from all carking cares, it is
not you I mean. Nor you, high wranglers,
who have only just missed your fellowships,
and are sub-wardens or vice-principals
in some well-endowed grammar-school until
your brilliant testimonials and optime
discessits shall have dazzled a committee of
aldermen, and procured you a better thing.
Nor you, trebly refined gentlemen, whose
mission it is to educate, under their ancestral
roofs, our future hereditary legislators;
or to be offered the comforts of a
home for a mere three hundred a year, and
another hundred added in case you keep a
horse. No! I mean the native resident who
teaches German, French, and the sword
exercise, at Minerva House; and whose
serviceswith washing, parental care, and
religious training inclusiveare to be procured
by scions of the nobility and gentry for two-
and-twenty guineas per annum, and a silver
fork and spoon: I mean the intelligent
assistant by whom every branch of
mathematical study is imparted: I mean the
gentleman from the university, to whom
the junior classical department is
entrusted: I mean the under-master in
general, who partakes of the task of expanding
youth with the Reverend the Principal,
or with Maunder Crichton Mivins, Esquire,
Licentiate of the College of Preceptors, D.C.L.,
F.S.A., and half the alphabet besides.

The usher I was first acquainted with, I
remember but dimly; and yet he impressed
my infant mind with the utter hopelessness
of ushership, more than any other usher did
afterwards. Of all ushers I think he must
have been the most miserable: his casehis
outward visible frameworkappeared to be
that of Peter Schlemil reversed; there was
the shadow of him, but there was no Peter; a
gaunt, wan, hungry-looking, transparent man,
speaking under his breath, flitting about
without a sound, and serving, like an
obedient spirit, his stern master, Habbakuk
Straithare, who must have bound him unto
him by some unhallowed spell. I went to
Habbakuk's (who was a dissenting minister
in our town) as a day-boarder, and the shadow
because he was so noiseless and inoffensive,
perhapsseemed to me to be kind and
friendly. Straithare had a habit of drumming
upon his desk (when he was not drumming
upon us) with the end of his cane, after
the manner of a crazy auctioneer; of roaring
Silence, when you might have heard a
pin drop, and there was not the least
occasion; of singling out during extemporaneous
prayers the very quietest boy, and treating
him in a spiritually anatomical way, to the
last degree distressing to the subject,—and
none of these things did the shadow do
or dream of doing. Therefore I got my
governor to ask him home occasionally;
and, since I was to have a tutor during
the vacation, I chose him. Upon the first
morning of his breakfasting with us, there
was a piece of cold bacon on table, which was
almost gone as far as slices went, but had a
basis of rusty meat at the bottom, into which
nobody had cared to cut down into; I
remember, quite distinctly, the shadow carving
this objectionable stratum completely off, and
consuming it with apparent relish; which
gave me a terrible notion of the way