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- Mr. Midshipman Easy - 3/78 -
years, as chronicled by Sarah, who continued his dry nurse after he had been weaned, it would take at least three volumes folio. Jack was brought up in the way that every only child usually is--that is, he was allowed to have his own way.
In which the doctor prescribes going to school as a remedy for a cut finger.
"Have you no idea of putting the boy to school, Mr Easy?" said Dr Middleton, who had been summoned by a groom with his horse in a foam to attend immediately at Forest Hill, the name of Mr Easy's mansion, and who, upon his arrival, had found that Master Easy had cut his thumb. One would have thought that he had cut his head off by the agitation pervading the whole household--Mr Easy walking up and down very uneasy, Mrs Easy with great difficulty prevented from syncope, and all the maids bustling and passing round Mrs Easy's chair. Everybody appeared excited except Master Jack Easy himself, who, with a rag round his finger, and his pinafore spotted with blood, was playing at bob-cherry, and cared nothing about the matter.
"Well, what's the matter, my little man?" said Dr Middleton, on entering, addressing himself to Jack, as the most sensible of the whole party.
"Oh, Dr Middleton," interrupted Mrs Easy, "he has cut his hand; I'm sure that a nerve is divided, and then the lock-jaw--"
The Doctor made no reply, but examined the finger: Jack Easy continued to play bob-cherry with his right hand.
"Have you such a thing as a piece of sticking-plaster in the house, madam?" observed the Doctor, after examination.
"O yes: run, Mary, run, Sarah!" In a few seconds the maids appeared, Sarah bringing the sticking-plaster, and Mary following with the scissors.
"Make yourself quite easy, madam," said Dr Middleton, after he put on the plaster, "I will answer for no evil consequences."
"Had I not better take him upstairs, and let him lie down a little?" replied Mrs Easy, slipping a guinea into the Doctor's hand.
"It is not absolutely requisite, madam," said the Doctor; "but at all events he will be kept out of more mischief."
"Come, my dear, you hear what Dr Middleton says."
"Yes, I heard," replied Jack; "but I shan't go."
"My dear Johnny--come, love--now do, my dear Johnny."
Johnny played bob-cherry, and made no answer.
"Come, Master Johnny," said Sarah.
"Go away, Sarah," said Johnny, with a backhander.
"Oh! fie, Master Johnny," said Mary.
"Johnny, my love," said Mrs Easy in a coaxing tone, "come now--will you go?"
"I'll go in the garden and get some more cherries," replied Master Johnny.
"Come, then, love, we will go into the garden."
Master Johnny jumped off his chair, and took his mamma by the hand.
"What a dear, good, obedient child it is!" exclaimed Mrs Easy; "you may lead him with a thread."
"Yes, to pick cherries," thought Dr Middleton. Mrs Easy, and Johnny, and Sarah, and Mary, went into the garden, leaving Dr Middleton alone with Mr Easy, who had been silent during this scene. Now Dr Middleton was a clever, sensible man, who had no wish to impose upon anyone. As for his taking a guinea for putting on a piece of sticking-plaster, his conscience was very easy on that score. His time was equally valuable, whether he were employed for something or nothing; and, moreover, he attended the poor gratis. Constantly in the house, he had seen much of Mr John Easy, and perceived that he was a courageous, decided boy, of a naturally good disposition; but from the idiosyncrasy of the father, and the doting folly of the mother, in a sure way of being spoiled.
As soon, therefore, as the lady was out of hearing, he took a chair, and made the query at the commencement of the chapter, which we shall now repeat. "Have you no idea of putting the boy to school, Mr Easy?"
Mr Easy crossed his legs, and clasped his hands together over his knees, as he always did when he was about to commence an argument. "The great objection that I have to sending a boy to school, Dr Middleton, is, that I conceive that the discipline enforced is, not only contrary to the rights of man, but also in opposition to all sound sense and common judgment. Not content with punishment, which is in itself erroneous, and an infringement of social justice, they even degrade the minds of the boys still more by applying punishment to the most degraded part, adding contumely to tyranny. Of course, it is intended that a boy who is sent to school should gain by precept and example; but is he to learn benevolence by the angry look and the flourish of the vindictive birch,--or forbearance, by the cruelty of the ushers,--or patience, when the masters over him are out of all patience, or modesty, when his nether parts are exposed to general examination? Is he not daily reading a lesson at variance with that equality which we all possess, but of which we are unjustly deprived? Why should there be a distinction between the flogger and the floggee? Are they not both fashioned alike after God's image, endowed with the same reason, having an equal right to what the world offers, and which was intended by Providence to be equally distributed? Is it not that the sacred inheritance of all, which has tyrannously and impiously been ravished from the many for the benefit of the few, and which ravishment, from long custom of iniquity and inculcation of false precepts, has too long been basely submitted to? Is it not the duty of a father to preserve his only son from imbibing these dangerous and debasing errors, which will render him only one of a vile herd who are content to suffer, provided that they live? And yet are not these very errors inculcated at school, and impressed upon their mind inversely by the birch? Do not they there receive their first lesson in slavery with the first lesson in A B C; and are not their minds thereby prostrated, so as never to rise again, but ever to bow to despotism, to cringe to rank, to think and act by the precepts of others, and to tacitly disavow that sacred equality which is our birthright? No, sir, without they can teach without resorting to such a fundamental error as flogging, my boy shall never go to school."
And Mr Easy threw himself back in his chair, imagining like all philosophers, that he had said something very clever.
Dr Middleton knew his man, and therefore patiently waited until he had exhausted his oratory.
"I will grant," said the Doctor at last, "that all you say may have great truth in it; but, Mr Easy, do you not think that by not permitting a boy to be educated, you allow him to remain more open to that very error of which you speak? It is only education which will conquer prejudice, and enable a man to break through the trammels of custom. Now, allowing that the birch is used, yet it is at a period when the young mind is so elastic as to soon become indifferent; and after he has attained the usual rudiments of education, you will then find him prepared to receive those lessons which you can yourself instil."
"I will teach him everything myself," replied Mr Easy, folding his arms consequentially and determinedly.
"I do not doubt your capability, Mr Easy; but unfortunately you will always have a difficulty which you never can get over. Excuse me, I know what you are capable of, and the boy would indeed be happy with such a preceptor, but--if I must speak plain--you must be aware as well as I am, that the maternal fondness of Mrs Easy will always be a bar to your intention. He is already so spoiled by her, that he will not obey; and without obedience you cannot inculcate."
"I grant, my dear sir, that there is a difficulty on that point; but maternal weakness must then be overcome by paternal severity."
"May I ask how, Mr Easy? for it appears to me impossible."
"Impossible! By heavens, I'll make him obey, or I'll--"--Here Mr Easy stopped before the word flog was fairly out of his mouth,--"I'll know the reason why, Dr Middleton."
Dr Middleton checked his inclination to laugh, and replied, "That you would hit upon some scheme, by which you would obtain the necessary power over him, I have no doubt; but what will be the consequence? The boy will consider his mother as a protector, and you as a tyrant. He will have an aversion to you, and with that aversion he will never pay respect and attention to your valuable precepts when he arrives at an age to understand them. Now it appears to me that this difficulty which you have raised may be got over. I know a very worthy clergyman who does not use the birch; but I will write, and put the direct question to him; and then if your boy is removed from the danger arising from Mrs Easy's overindulgence, in a short time he will be ready for your more important tuition."
"I think," replied Mr Easy, after a pause, "that what you say merits consideration. I acknowledge that in consequence of Mrs Easy's nonsensical indulgence, the boy is unruly, and will not obey me at present; and if your friend does not apply the rod, I will think seriously of sending my son John to him to learn the elements."
The Doctor had gained his point by flattering the philosopher. In a day he returned with a letter from the pedagogue in answer to one supposed to be sent to him, in which the use of the birch was indignantly disclaimed, and Mr Easy announced to his wife, when they met that day at tea-time, his intentions with regard to his son John.
"To school, Mr Easy? what, send Johnny to school! a mere infant to school!"
"Surely, my dear, you must be aware that at nine years it is high time that he learnt to read."
"Why he almost reads already, Mr Easy; surely I can teach him that. Does he not, Sarah?"
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