Split Cherry Tree

by Jesse Stuart

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Why does Professor Herbert say that Dave can't go home? What is Pa's reaction?

Quick answer:

Professor Herbert sees that Dave was part of the group that broke a cherry tree. He makes Dave work four hours in order to pay off the dollar of damage he caused. After working, he can go home. Pa is upset and tired, because he had to do his own work as well as the chores Dave normally is supposed to handle when he gets back from school.

Expert Answers

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Professor Herbert says that Dave can't go home as a punishment for being one of the boys who split the cherry tree. He and five other boys had climbed the tree all at once to catch a lizard for a science project. Their combined weight broke the tree, and the owner, Eif Crabtree, demanded that each boy contribute a dollar to pay for replacing the tree.

Dave can't afford to pay his dollar, so Professor Herbert says he has to remain after school and work off the money. This means he will need to stay after school for two hours a day for two days; Professor Herbert will pay him twenty-five cents an hour for helping to clean the school room. Only when the debt is paid can he go home.

Dave is very unhappy that he can't go home because he has chores to do. He knows his father will be very upset that he is not there to do them. As he suspects, his father is very angry at him when he arrives late. His father is tired from working in the fields all day, and he had to do his son's work too. He doesn't fully understand why Dave has to go to high school or what he is learning there. As he says:

Don't they teach you no books at that high school? Do they jist let you get out and gad over th' hillsides? If that's all they do I'll keep you at home, Dave. I've got work here fer you to do!

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