Recollections of John Pounds: Looking into John Pounds Shop by Reverend Henry Hawkes
Passing the next day, at noon; all was still in the little shop; except the birds singing. No little crowd of scholars; his little tumble-down window was open, and the upper-half of the street door was open; but his bench was vacant. The old man was asleep in his old arm-chair; his cat sitting on his knee, comfortably tucked up, seemingly asleep too.
Two very little children were amusing themselves on the floor; very quietly, as if careful not to make any noise to wake him. They had probably shared his dinner with him. The bit of fire was out; as if it had done its work till tea-time. Near the grate were some potato-peelings, and a sauce-pan.
Passing again on my return, just after two o’clock, all was changed. No stillness now! The little shop was full to overflowing of children; some with slates, or bits of slates; some with books; some with only a single leaf out of some old worn-out book, learning their lessons; some with flowers; some amusing themselves with play-things.
And the old cobbler was sitting on his bench at work, at the open window, mending a boot; all life and authority! the governing spirit of that busy, happy group! loving and loved! His cat was sitting on his shoulder, looking about, interested in every thing. The birds were singing loud, enjoying the lively scene.
“Johnny, when’s you bring me you’s boot to mend, with the big hole in it?” “Any when, Mr. Pounds.” “Any when? Now, ye rascal! Off with you!” And the little fellow ran out, laughing and full of glee; and was soon back with his old boot; and gave it to the kind old man, with love and respect. The old man took it from the child with a tender seriousness; and turned it about and about, and looked at it with such searching care; – all the children were hushed to stillness, and loving respect. He had probably done the like for some of them. “I’se make a good job of it for you, Johnny.” “Thank you, Mr. Pounds.”
“Dick, hears a sum for you;” handing a slate to one of the bigger boys. He was one of the three I had questioned in the multiplication-table the day before. “What rule’s it in?” “Rule of three, Mr. Pounds.” “Right. What sort?” “Double rule of three.” “Right again. Now, quick, lad. But, mind, no blunders. Slow, and sure. But, quickest best; so long as there’s no blundering,” At once the boy was leaning with his back against the wall, intent on doing his sum.
“Sandy, come here, lad.” And a quiet-looking little boy, with chubby cheeks, came to him. “What’s this, Sandy?” touching the boy’s nose with his finger. “My nose, Mr. Pounds.” “Spell nose, Sandy.” And the boy spelt nose. “What’s this?” laying his broad hand on the child’s head. “My head, Mr Pounds.” “What’s it good for?” “Doesn’t know, Mr. Pounds.” “No nor nobody else. Fill it full o’ laming, Sandy! Then it’s be good for something. Here, go and larn this.” And he gave him a torn leaf with some verses on. “I knows you like ‘em; they’s very pretty verses; ‘Birds in their little nests agree.’ And you’s all agree, and be good friends together, like the little birds in they’s nests.” “Yes Mr. Pounds;” several little voices; “we’s all be good friends together.” “That’s it, lads.
“What’s that you’s a-doing Joe?” “Nothing, Mr. Pounds,” “Then keep your nothing to yorself, and don’t molest your neighbur.”
“Here Georgy, here’s some verses for you.” And a beautiful little girl, with open blooming countenance, came and received from him another leaf, out of an old worn-out book. I knows you’s like these pretty verses, Georgy;
‘Hop about, pretty sparrow, and pick up the hay,
‘And the twigs, and the lamb’s-wool, and moss;
‘Indeed I won’t hurt you, my dear little Dick!’
You’s not hurt a poor little Dick, Georgy?” “No, Mr. Pounds.” And all the others seemed to say so too, by their looks. “No; let ‘em all live and be merry!” “Yes Mr. Pounds!” – a crowd of little voices, very emphatic. “There, Georgy; go an’ larn yur verses; and as soon’s yur know the first verse, come an say it.” And she went out and sat down on the little bench in the street, just under his open window, and began reading the verses aloud to herself; another little girl close beside her looking over too; and another, on the other side, leaning against her shoulder, enjoying hearing her read.
A drunken man was passing. “Look at that drunken fellow;” the old man said very solemnly; and all were fixed upon him; eyes and ears. “What a beast he makes of himself! Nay, worse than a beast. Beasts never get drunk. Never get drunk as long as long as ye live.” “No, Mr.Pounds;” several of the older boys, very seriously. “That’s the abuse of God’s good gifts; and they’s be punished for it. Never get drunk. Look, he can’t stand straight. He’s a- trying to stop, and he can’t; he’s all in a totter. He’s despised by every body that sees him. And he’s no comfort in himself. He despises himself. And it’s all for drink. Never get drunk, as long as ye live.” “No, Mr. Pounds.”
“Tom, my lad, come and read the first chapter of Genesis; how God created the heavens and earth, and all things therein! Here’s a Bible for you.” And a stout intelligent boy, of rather superior expression of countenance, received the Bible with reverence; and read the chapter, with a clear voice and pleasant expressiveness; all the rest listening, very still, and full of interest. When he had finished, the old man said with grave tenderness; “Who created this world, Tom, you lives in, and made it so good for us, and
filled it with so many beautiful and pleasant things; all to make us happy?” “God, Mr. Pounds.” “And you’s love God, Tom; and try and do all as you can to serve him, and please him?” “I’se try, Mr. Pounds.” “That’s it, lad. Try, and do your best; and God ‘ill bless you. Here, take the Bible with you Tom; and read on for yourself. And make it yur Friend all yur life. It ‘ill fit you to go to heaven, and be happy for ever.” The lad took the Bible gratefully, and went and sat down on the stairs, and bent over it, with self-devoting earnestness. And a pleasing seriousness dwelt over all.
“Doesn’t that linnet sing sweet, Lizzy?” the old man said in a gentle voice to the little girl who read to us the day before, and who was now leaning against his knee, listening to it. “Yes, Mr. Pounds. I do like to hear it.” “So does I, Lizzy. Who made it, Lizzy?” “God, Mr. Pounds.” “Yes. The great good God, who created the heavens and the earth, made that little linnet, to sing so sweet and happy.”