From the Juvenile Instructor, February 1908 —
The Comic Valentine
May R. Atwater
With the little people the joys of Valentine day begin long before the fourteenth, so, on the very first day of February Miss L. was not at all surprised at the greeting she received from her children. “Oh, Miss L., Eddie’s got a valentine! it’s an awful funny one!”
“Have you, Eddie?’ said Miss L.
“Yes’m, I bring it to show you,” and Eddie walked proudly to the front of the room.
Miss L’s heart sank as she looked. A partially intoxicated man was leaning against a bar, with a pig standing near him. However, according to her custom of exhibiting to the school any treasures brought from the children’s homes, she held up the picture. Of course it was greeted with laughter.
“Do you like it?” she asked in a non-committal tone.
“Yes, Miss Lilly,” came from all parts of the room.
“Why do you like it?”
“Because it’s so funny.”
“What is there funny about it?” said she, still striving to conceal her own feeling on the subject. There were a few voices for the pig, but the majority agreed that the man was the amusing part.
“Would you like that man for your father, Dannie?”
“No,” said Dannie, with a decidedly falling inflection.
“How many would like this man for their father?”
No hands were raised, and the children looked as if they were doubtful as to what Miss Lilly meant. With a note of surprise in her voice she went on: “Why wouldn’t you like him for your father? You say he is funny, and I know that you like funny people.”
Still more dubious looks, then after a short pause, five year old Leola announced solemnly, “He’s drunk.”
“And you don’t like men whoa re drunk?” queried Miss Lilly.
then the tongues were loosened. One little girl said, “Miss Lilly, I want to tell you something. Kitty Reilly’s papa gets drunk and drives Kitty out of the house, and my mamma calls her into my house and gives her bread and molasses.” As Kitty was not in this room it was safe to pursue the subject further.
“Children, which would you rather have, a picture of Mr. Reilly driving Kitty out, or a picture of Dannie’s mamma giving her some bread?”
Of course, Dannie’s mamma has a unanimous vote.
It was Miss Lilly’s custom to pin up for a short time the picture brought by the children, so now she said slowly, ‘Let me see. Where shall I put this? Where would you like it? Shall I fasten it up here between the White Cow and the Aurora?”
A breathless pause, and then came in a decided tone: “No, don’[t put it there. Don;’t put it up anywhere.”
The teacher drew a long breath and took courage. “But you said you liked it.” she said.
“I thought I did, but I don’t any more,” announced Della, and this seemed to be the prevailing sentiment.
“What shall I do with it? I wouldn’t put it on my desk for anything.”
“Tear it up and put it into the waste-basket,” said Mikey, and again the teacher’s heart rejoiced.
“I can’t; it is not mine,” said she.
“You can have it. You can do anything you want to do with it,” said the owner, heroically. It was heroic. He did not have many pennies to spend.
“The pig is all right. You might cut him off,” suggested Russell, so the pig was saved, but the man went to his own place.
“Was that the prettiest penny valentine they had at the store?”
“Oh, my, no; they have real lovely ones at Smith’s,” said Leola.
Her taste being of recognized value, Miss Lilly said, “I am going to send Leola over to Smith’s to get the valentine she thinks is the prettiest. Get your hat, Leola, and here is your penny.”
To be sure it was in school hours, but Miss Lilly believed with Artemus Ward that “Now is the present time.” Calisthenics filled the three minutes till Leola returned. She brought a simple card with a fancy edge, a bird picture, and a verse.
“I thought I’d get a bird ‘cause everybody likes them,” said the little messenger.
Comments were in order, and then the teacher said, “When you are buying your valentines, if any of you should find one as pretty as this, will you bring it and show it to me? I shall pin mine up on the wall, and leave it there till Valentine day. When you bring yours, we will put them side by side.”
The children were on their mettle at once. Of course they could find one as pretty as Leola’s. Every day till the fourteenth came found the time before nine o’clock taken up with discussion and comparison of pleasing, not comic, valentines.
Miss Lilly looked at the clock. The time for the first and second number classes had passed. Three threes are nine must wait till another day. Perhaps they have gotten something better than three threes, she said to herself.