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The School Teacher and the Waif 1912

D.W. Griffith's Biograph short The Schoolteacher and the Waif (1912) can be seen as foundational in terms of this storyline. Nora, the waif, played by Mary Pickford, is forced to attend school--she is actually dragged through the dirt kicking and screaming--by local officials. She warms to her teacher for the way that he defends her against the taunts of some other students, but subsequently rejects him when she has to wear a dunce cap during a spelling bee. Unsupervised by her alcoholic father, Nora becomes a determined truant, wandering the town during school hours. There she catches the attention of a carnival huckster, who convinces her that they will run away and be married. The schoolmaster, meanwhile, preoccupied by Nora's absence, leaves his other students to go find her. He encounters her at a crossroads, being spirited away by the huckster, and calls the man's bluff by saying that he'll find them a minister.

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