“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 any one. 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 doating 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 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.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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