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- Mr. Midshipman Easy - 5/78 -


"My dear sir, I really had an idea that you were excessively lenient," replied Middleton, laughing; "I am glad that I am under a mistake."

"Look at that cub, Doctor, sitting there more like a brute than a reasonable being; do you imagine that I could ever lick it into shape without strong measures? At the same time, allow me to say, that I consider my system by far the best. At the public schools, punishment is no check; it is so trifling that it is derided: with me punishment is punishment in the true sense of the word, and the consequence is, that it is much more seldom resorted to."

"You are a terrorist, Bonnycastle."

"The two strongest impulses in our nature are fear and love. In theory, acting upon the latter is very beautiful; but in practice, I never found it to answer--and for the best of reasons, our self-love is stronger than our love for others. Now I never yet found fear to fail, for the very same reason that the other does, because with fear we act upon self-love, and nothing else."

"And yet we have many now who would introduce a system of schooling without correction; and who maintain that the present system is degrading."

"There are a great many fools in this world, Doctor."

"That reminds me of this boy's father," replied Dr Middleton; who then detailed to the pedagogue the idiosyncrasy of Mr Easy, and all the circumstances attending Jack being sent to his school.

"There is no time to be lost then, Doctor. I must conquer this young gentleman before his parents call to see him. Depend upon it, in a week I will have him obedient and well broke in."

Dr Middleton wished Jack good-bye, and told him to be a good boy. Jack did not vouchsafe to answer. "Never mind, Doctor, he will be more polished next time you call here, depend upon it." And the Doctor departed.

Although Mr Bonnycastle was severe, he was very judicious. Mischief of all kinds was visited but by slender punishment, such as being kept in at play hours, etc; and he seldom interfered with the boys for fighting, although he checked decided oppression. The great "sine qua non" with him was attention to their studies. He soon discovered the capabilities of his pupils, and he forced them accordingly; but the idle boy, the bird who "could sing and wouldn't sing," received no mercy. The consequence was, that he turned out the cleverest boys, and his conduct was so uniform and unvarying in its tenor, that if he was feared when they were under his control, he was invariably liked by those whom he had instructed, and they continued his friends in after-life.

Mr Bonnycastle at once perceived that it was no use coaxing our hero, and that fear was the only attribute by which he could be controlled. So, as soon as Dr Middleton had quitted the room, he addressed him in a commanding tone, "Now, boy, what is your name?"

Jack started; he looked up at his master, perceived his eye fixed upon him, and a countenance not to be played with. Jack was no fool, and somehow or another, the discipline he had received from his father had given him some intimation of what was to come. All this put together induced Jack to condescend to answer, with his forefinger between his teeth, "Johnny."

"And what is your other name, sir?"

Jack, who appeared to repent his condescension, did not at first answer, but he looked again in Mr Bonnycastle's face, and then round the room: there was no one to help him, and he could not help himself, so he replied "Easy."

"Do you know why you are sent to school?"

"Scalding father."

"No; you are sent to learn to read and write."

"But I won't read and write," replied Jack, sulkily.

"Yes, you will; and you are going to read your letters now directly."

Jack made no answer. Mr Bonnycastle opened a sort of bookcase, and displayed to John's astonished view a series of canes, ranged up and down like billiard cues, and continued, "Do you know what those are for?"

Jack eyed them wistfully; he had some faint idea that he was sure to be better acquainted with them, but he made no answer.

"They are to teach little boys to read and write, and now I am going to teach you. You'll soon learn. Look now here," continued Mr Bonnycastle, opening a book with large type, and taking a capital at the head of a chapter, about half an inch long. "Do you see that letter?"

"Yes," replied Johnny, turning his eyes away, and picking his fingers.

"Well, that is the letter B. Do you see it? look at it, so that you may know it again. That's the letter B. Now tell me what letter that is?"

Jack now determined to resist, so he made no answer.

"So you cannot tell; well, then, we will try what one of these little fellows will do," said Mr Bonnycastle, taking down a cane. "Observe, Johnny, that's the letter B. Now, what letter is that? Answer me directly."

"I won't learn to read and write."

Whack came the cane on Johnny's shoulders, who burst out into a roar as he writhed with pain.

Mr Bonnycastle waited a few seconds. "That's the letter B. Now tell me, sir, directly, what that letter is?"

"I'll tell my mar." Whack! "O law! O law!"

"What letter is that?"

Johnny, with his mouth open, panting, and the tears on his cheeks, answered, indignantly, "Stop till I tell Sarah."

Whack came the cane again, and a fresh burst from Johnny.

"What letter's that?"

"I won't tell," roared Johnny; "I won't tell--that I won't."

Whack, whack, whack, and a pause. "I told you before, that's the letter B. What letter is that? Tell me directly."

Johnny, by way of reply, made a snatch at the cane. Whack, he caught it, certainly, but not exactly as he would have wished. Johnny then snatched up the book, and dashed it to the corner of the room. Whack, whack. Johnny attempted to seize Mr Bonnycastle with his teeth. Whack, whack, whack, whack; and Johnny fell on the carpet, and roared with pain. Mr Bonnycastle then left him for a little while, to recover himself, and sat down.

At last Johnny's exclamations settled down in deep sobs, and then Mr Bonnycastle said to him, "Now, Johnny, you perceive that you must do as you are bid, or else you will have more beating. Get up immediately. Do you hear, sir?"

Somehow or another, Johnny, without intending it, stood upon his feet.

"That's a good boy; now you see, by getting up as you were bid, You have not been beaten. Now, Johnny, you must go and bring the book from where you threw it down. Do you hear, sir? bring it directly!"

Johnny looked at Mr Bonnycastle and the cane. With every intention to refuse, Johnny picked up the book and laid it on the table.

"That's a good boy; now we will find the letter B. Here it is: now, Johnny, tell me what that letter is?"

Johnny made no answer.

"Tell me directly, sir," said Mr Bonnycastle, raising his cane up in the air. The appeal was too powerful. Johnny eyed the cane; it moved, it was coming. Breathlessly he shrieked out, "B!"

"Very well indeed, Johnny--very well. Now your first lesson is over, and you shall go to bed. You have learned more than you think for. To-morrow we will begin again. Now we'll put the cane by."

Mr Bonnycastle rang the bell, and desired Master Johnny to be put to bed, in a room by himself, and not to give him any supper, as hunger would, the next morning, much facilitate his studies. Pain and hunger alone will tame brutes, and the same remedy must be applied to conquer those passions in man which assimilate him with brutes. Johnny was conducted to bed, although it was but six o'clock. He was not only in pain, but his ideas were confused; and no wonder, after all his life having been humoured and indulged never punished until the day before. After all the caresses of his mother and Sarah, which he never knew the value of--after stuffing himself all day long, and being tempted to eat till he turned away in satiety, to find himself without his mother, without Sarah, without supper covered with wheals, and, what was worse than all, without his own way. No wonder Johnny was confused; at the same time that he was subdued; and, as Mr Bonnycastle had truly told him, he had learnt more than he had any idea of. And what would Mrs Easy have said, had she known all this--and Sarah, too? And Mr Easy, with his rights of man? At the very time that Johnny was having the devil driven out of him, they were consoling themselves with the idea, that, at all events, there was no birch used at Mr Bonnycastle's, quite losing sight of the fact, that as there are more ways of killing a dog besides hanging him, so are there more ways of teaching than a posteriors. Happy in their ignorance, they all went fast asleep, little dreaming that Johnny was already so far advanced in knowledge, as to have a tolerable comprehension of the mystery of cane. As for Johnny, he had cried himself to sleep, at least six hours before them.

CHAPTER VI

In which Jack makes essay of his father's sublime philosophy, and arrives very near to truth at last.


Mr. Midshipman Easy - 5/78

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