Scanned by John Edward Heaton in Guatemala.
Note: Another different print edition of this book has been posted as etext#21553
MR MIDSHIPMAN EASY
By FREDERICK MARRYAT (1792-1848)
Which the reader will find very easy to read.
Mr Nicodemus Easy was a gentleman who lived down in Hampshire; he was a married man, and in very easy circumstances. Most couples find it very easy to have a family, but not always quite so easy to maintain them. Mr Easy was not at all uneasy on the latter score, as he had no children; but he was anxious to have them, as most people covet what they cannot obtain. After ten years, Mr Easy gave it up as a bad job. Philosophy is said to console a man under disappointment, although Shakespeare asserts that it is no remedy for toothache; so Mr Easy turned philosopher, the very best profession a man can take up, when he is fit for nothing else; he must be a very incapable person indeed who cannot talk nonsense. For some time, Mr Easy could not decide upon what description his nonsense should consist of; at last he fixed upon the rights of man, equality, and all that; how every person was born to inherit his share of the earth, a right at present only admitted to a certain length; that is, about six feet, for we all inherit our graves and are allowed to take possession without dispute. But no one would listen to Mr Easy's philosophy. The women would not acknowledge the rights of men, whom they declared always to be in the wrong; and, as the gentlemen who visited Mr Easy were all men of property, they could not perceive the advantages of sharing with those who had none. However, they allowed him to discuss the question, while they discussed his port wine. The wine was good, if the arguments were not, and we must take things as we find them in this world.
While Mr Easy talked philosophy, Mrs Easy played patience, and they were a very happy couple, riding side by side on their hobbies, and never interfering with each other. Mr Easy knew his wife could not understand him, and therefore did not expect her to listen very attentively; and Mrs Easy did not care how much her husband talked, provided she was not put out in her game. Mutual forbearance will always ensure domestic felicity.
There was another cause for their agreeing so well. Upon any disputed question Mr Easy invariably gave it up to Mrs Easy, telling her that she should have her own way and this pleased his wife; but, as Mr Easy always took care, when it came to the point, to have his way, he was pleased as well. It is true that Mrs Easy had long found out that she did not have her own way long; but she was of an easy disposition, and as, in nine cases out of ten, it was of very little consequence how things were done, she was quite satisfied with his submission during the heat of the argument. Mr Easy had admitted that she was right, and if like all men he would do wrong, why, what could a poor woman do? With a lady of such a quiet disposition, it is easy to imagine that the domestic felicity of Mr Easy was not easily disturbed. But, as people have observed before, there is a mutability in human affairs. It was at the finale of the eleventh year of their marriage that Mrs Easy at first complained that she could not enjoy her breakfast. Mrs Easy had her own suspicions, everybody else considered it past doubt, all except Mr Easy; he little "thought, good easy man, that his greatness was ripening"; he had decided that to have an heir was no Easy task, and it never came into his calculations, that there could be a change in his wife's figure. You might have added to it, subtracted from it, divided it, or multiplied it, but as it was a zero, the result would be always the same. Mrs Easy also was not quite sure—she believed it might be the case, there was no saying; it might be a mistake, like that of Mrs Trunnion's in the novel, and, therefore, she said nothing to her husband about the matter. At last Mr Easy opened his eyes, and when, upon interrogating his wife, he found out the astounding truth, he opened his eyes still wider, and then he snapped his fingers and danced, like a bear upon hot plates, with delight, thereby proving that different causes may produce similar effects in two instances at one and the same time. The bear dances from pain, Mr Easy from pleasure; and again, when we are indifferent, or do not care for anything, we snap our fingers at it, and when we are overjoyed, and obtain what we most care for, we also snap our fingers. Two months after Mr Easy snapped his fingers, Mrs Easy felt no inclination to snap hers, either from indifference or pleasure, The fact was, that Mrs Easy's time was come, to undergo what Shakespeare pronounces the pleasing punishment that women bears but Mrs Easy, like the rest of her sex, declared "that all men were liars," and most particularly poets.
But while Mrs Easy was suffering, Mr Easy was in ecstasies. He laughed at pain, as all philosophers do when it is suffered by other people, and not by themselves.
In due course of time, Mrs Easy presented her husband with a fine boy, whom we present to the public as our hero.
In which Mrs Easy, as usual, has her own way.
It was the fourth day after Mrs Easy's confinement that Mr Easy, who was sitting by her bedside in an easy chair, commenced as follows: "I have been thinking, my dear Mrs Easy, about the name I shall give this child."
"Name, Mr Easy! why, what name should you give it but your own?"
"Not so, my dear," replied Mr Easy; "they call all names proper names, but I think that mine is not. It is the very worst name in the calendar."
"Why, what's the matter with it, Mr Easy?"
"The matter affects me as well as the boy. Nicodemus is a long name to write at full length, and Nick is vulgar. Besides, as there will be two Nicks, they will naturally call my boy young Nick, and of course I shall be styled old Nick, which will be diabolical."
"Well, Mr Easy, at all events then let me choose the name."
"That you shall, my dear, and it was with this view that I have mentioned the subject so early."
"I think, Mr Easy, I will call the boy after my poor father—his name shall be Robert."
"Very well, my dear, if you wish it, it shall be Robert. You shall have your own way. But I think, my dear, upon a little consideration, you will acknowledge that there is a decided objection."
"An objection Mr Easy?"
"Yes, my dear; Robert may be very well, but you must reflect upon the consequences; he is certain to be called Bob."
"Well, my dear, and suppose they do call him Bob?"
"I cannot bear even the supposition, my dear. You forget the county in which we are residing, the downs covered with sheep."
"Why, Mr Easy, what can sheep have to do with a Christian name?"
"There it is; women never look to consequences. My dear, they have a great deal to do with the name of Bob. I will appeal to any farmer in the county, if ninety-nine shepherds' dogs out of one hundred are not called Bob. Now observe, your child is out of doors somewhere in the fields or plantations; you want and you call him. Instead of your child, what do you find? Why, a dozen curs at least, who come running up to you, all answering to the name of Bob, and wagging their stumps of tails. You see, Mrs Easy, it is a dilemma not to be got over. You level your only son to the brute creation by giving him a Christian name which, from its peculiar brevity, has been monopolised by all the dogs in the county. Any other name you please, my dear, but in this one instance you must allow me to lay my positive veto."
"Well, then, let me see—but I'll think of it, Mr Easy; my head aches very much just now."
"I will think for you, my dear. What do you say to John?"
"O no, Mr Easy, such a common name."
"A proof of its popularity, my dear. It is scriptural—we have the Apostle and the Baptist—we have a dozen Popes who were all Johns. It is royal—we have plenty of kings who were Johns—and moreover, it is short, and sounds honest and manly."
"Yes, very true, my dear; but they will call him Jack." "Well, we have had several celebrated characters who were Jacks. There was—let me see—Jack the Giant Killer, and Jack of the Bean Stock—and Jack— Jack—"
"Jack Spratt," replied Mrs Easy. "And Jack Cade, Mrs Easy, the great rebel—and Three-fingered Jack, Mrs Easy, the celebrated negro—and, above all, Jack Falstaff, ma'am, Jack Falstaff—honest Jack Falstaff— witty Jack Falstaff—"
"I thought, Mr Easy, that I was to be permitted to choose the name."
"Well, so you shall, my dear; I give it up to you. Do just as you please; but depend upon it that John is the right name. Is it not now, my dear?"
"It's the way you always treat me, Mr Easy; you say that you give it up, and that I shall have my own way, but I never do have it. I am sure that the child will be christened John."
"Nay, my dear, it shall be just what you please. Now I recollect it, there were several Greek emperors who were Johns; but decide for yourself, my dear."
"No, no," replied Mrs Easy, who was ill, and unable to contend any longer, "I give it up, Mr Easy. I know how it will be, as it always is: you give me my own way as people give pieces of gold to children, it's their own money, but they must not spend it. Pray call him John."
"There, my dear, did not I tell you you would be of my opinion upon reflection? I knew you would. I have given you your own way, and you tell me to call him John; so now we're both of the same mind, and that point is settled."
"I should like to go to sleep, Mr Easy; I feel far from well."
"You shall always do just as you like, my dear," replied the husband, "and have your own way in everything. It is the greatest pleasure I have when I yield to your wishes. I will walk in the garden. Good-bye, my dear."
Mrs Easy made no reply, and the philosopher quitted the room. As may easily be imagined, on the following day the boy was christened John.
In which our hero has to wait the issue of an argument.
The reader may observe that, in general, all my first chapters are very short, and increase in length as the work advances. I mention this as a proof of my modesty and diffidence. At first, I am like a young bird just out of its mother's nest, pluming my little feathers and taking short flights. By degrees I obtain more confidence, and wing my course over hill and dale.
It is very difficult to throw any interest into a chapter on childhood. There is the same uniformity in all children until they develop. We cannot, therefore, say much relative to Jack Easy's earliest days; he sucked and threw up his milk while the nurse blessed it for a pretty dear, slept, and sucked again. He crowed in the morning like a cock, screamed when he was washed, stared at the candle, and made wry faces with the wind. Six months passed in these innocent amusements, and then he was put into shorts. But I ought here to have remarked, that Mrs Easy did not find herself equal to nursing her own infant, and it was necessary to look out for a substitute.
Now a common-place person would have been satisfied with the recommendation of the medical man, who looks but to the one thing needful, which is a sufficient and wholesome supply of nourishment for the child; but Mr Easy was a philosopher, and had latterly taken to craniology, and he descanted very learnedly with the Doctor upon the effect of his only son obtaining his nutriment from an unknown source. "Who knows," observed Mr Easy, "but that my son may not imbibe with his milk the very worst passions of human nature."
"I have examined her," replied the Doctor, "and can safely recommend her."
"That examination is only preliminary to one more important," replied Mr Easy. "I must examine her."
"Examine who, Mr Easy?" exclaimed his wife, who had lain down again on the bed.
"The nurse, my dear."
"Examine what, Mr Easy?" continued the lady.
"Her head, my dear," replied the husband. "I must ascertain what her propensities are."
"I think you had better leave her alone, Mr Easy. She comes this evening, and I shall question her pretty severely. Doctor Middleton, what do you know of this young person?"
"I know, madam, that she is very healthy and strong, or I should not have selected her."
"But is her character good?"
"Really, madam, I know little about her character; but you can make any inquiries you please. But at the same time I ought to observe, that if you are too particular in that point, you will have some difficulty in providing yourself."
"Well, I shall see," replied Mrs Easy. "And I shall feel," rejoined the husband.
This parleying was interrupted by the arrival of the very person in question, who was announced by the housemaid, and was ushered in. She was a handsome, florid, healthy-looking girl, awkward and naive in her manner, and apparently not over wise; there was more of the dove than of the serpent in her composition.
Mr Easy, who was very anxious to make his own discoveries, was the first who spoke. "Young woman, come this way, I wish to examine your head."
"Oh! dear me, sir, it's quite clean, I assure you,". cried the girl, dropping a curtsey.
Doctor Middleton, who sat between the bed and Mr Easy's chair, rubbed his hands and laughed.
In the meantime, Mr Easy had untied the string and taken off the cap of the young woman, and was very busy putting his fingers through her hair, during which the face of the young woman expressed fear and astonishment.
"I am glad to perceive that you have a large portion of benevolence."
"Yes," replied the young woman, dropping a curtsey.
"And veneration also."
"And the organ of modesty is strongly developed."
"Yes, sir," replied the girl with a smile.
"That's quite a new organ," thought Dr Middleton.
"Philoprogenitiveness very powerful."
"If you please, sir, I don't know what that is," answered Sarah, with a curtsey.
"Nevertheless you have given us a practical, illustration. Mrs Easy, I am satisfied. Have you any questions to ask? But it is quite unnecessary."
"To be sure I have, Mr Easy. Pray, young woman, what is your name?"
"Sarah, if you please, ma'am."
"How long have you been married?"
"If you please, ma'am, I had a misfortune, ma'am," replied the girl, casting down her eyes.
"What, have you not been married?"
"No, ma'am, not yet."
"Good heavens! Dr Middleton, what can you mean by bringing this person here?" exclaimed Mrs Easy. "Not a married woman, and she has a child!"
"If you please, ma'am," interrupted the young woman, dropping a curtsey, "it was a very little one."
"A very little one!" exclaimed Mrs Easy.
"Yes, ma'am, very small, indeed, and died soon after it was born."
"Oh, Dr Middleton!—what could you mean, Dr Middleton?"
"My dear madam," exclaimed the Doctor, rising from his chair, "this is the only person that I could find suited to the wants of your child, and if you do not take her I cannot answer for its life. It is true, that a married woman might be procured; but married women, who have a proper feeling, will not desert their own children; and as Mr Easy asserts, and you appear to imagine, the temper and disposition of your child may be affected by the nourishment it receives, I think it more likely to be injured by the milk of a married woman who will desert her own child for the sake of gain. The misfortune which has happened to this young woman is not always a proof of a bad heart, but of strong attachment, and the overweening confidence of simplicity."
"You are correct, Doctor," replied Mr Easy, "and her head proves that she is a modest young woman, with strong religious feeling, kindness of disposition, and every other requisite."
"The head may prove it all for what I know, Mr Easy, but her conduct tells another tale."
"She is well fitted for the situation, ma'am," continued the Doctor.
"And if you please, ma'am," rejoined Sarah, "it was such a little one."
"Shall I try the baby, ma'am?" said the monthly nurse, who had listened in silence. "It is fretting so, poor thing, and has its dear little fist right down its throat."
Dr Middleton gave the signal of assent, and in a few seconds Master John Easy was fixed to Sarah as tight as a leech.
"Lord love it, how hungry it is!—there, there, stop it a moment, it's choking, poor thing!"
Mrs Easy, who was lying on her bed, rose up, and went to the child. Her first feeling was that of envy, that another should have such a pleasure which was denied to herself; the next, that of delight, at the satisfaction expressed by the infant. In a few minutes the child fell back in a deep sleep. Mrs Easy was satisfied; maternal feelings conquered all others, and Sarah was duly installed.
To make short work of it, we have said that Jack Easy in six months was in shorts. He soon afterwards began to crawl and show his legs; indeed, so indecorously, that it was evident that he had imbibed no modesty with Sarah's milk, neither did he appear to have gained veneration or benevolence, for he snatched at everything, squeezed the kitten to death, scratched his mother, and pulled his father by the hair; notwithstanding all which, both his father and mother and the whole household declared him to be the finest and sweetest child in the universe. But if we were to narrate all the wonderful events of Jack's childhood from the time of his birth up to the age of seven 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?"
"Lord bless him, yes, ma'am, he was saying his letters yesterday."
"Oh, Mr Easy, what can have put this in your head? Johnny, dear, come here—tell me now what's the letter A? You were singing it in the garden this morning."
"I want some sugar," replied Johnny, stretching his arm over the table to the sugar-basin, which was out of his reach.
"Well, my love, you shall have a great lump if you will tell me what's the letter A."
"A was an archer, and shot at a frog," replied Johnny in a surly tone.
"There now, Mr Easy; and he can go through the whole alphabet—can't he, Sarah?"
"That he can, the dear—can't you, Johnny dear?"
"No," replied Johnny.
"Yes, you can, my love; you know what's the letter B. Now don't you?"
"Yes," replied Johnny.
"There, Mr Easy, you see what the boy knows, and how obedient he is too. Come, Johnny dear, tell us what was B?"
"No, I won't," replied Johnny, "I want some more sugar"; and Johnny, who had climbed on a chair, spread himself over the table to reach it.
"Mercy! Sarah, pull him off—he'll upset the urn," screamed Mrs Easy. Sarah caught hold of Johnny by the loins to pull him back, but Johnny, resisting the interference, turned round on his back as he lay on the table, and kicked Sarah in the face, just as she made another desperate grasp at him. The rebound from the kick, given as he lay on a smooth mahogany table, brought Johnny's head in contact with the urn, which was upset in the opposite direction, and, notwithstanding a rapid movement on the part of Mr Easy, he received a sufficient portion of boiling liquid on his legs to scald him severely, and induce him to stamp and swear in a very unphilosophical way. In the meantime Sarah and Mrs Easy had caught up Johnny, and were both holding him at the same time, exclaiming and lamenting. The pain of the scald, and the indifference shown towards him, were too much for Mr Easy's temper to put up with. He snatched Johnny out of their arms, and, quite forgetting his equality and rights of man, belaboured him without mercy. Sarah flew into interfere, and received a blow which not only made her see a thousand stars, but sent her reeling on the floor. Mrs Easy went off into hysterics, and Johnny howled so as to be heard at a quarter of a mile.
How long Mr Easy would have continued it is impossible to say; but the door opened, and Mr Easy looked up while still administering the punishment, and perceived Dr Middleton in mute astonishment. He had promised to come in to tea, and enforce Mr Easy's arguments, if it were necessary; but it certainly appeared to him, that in the argument which Mr Easy was then enforcing, he required no assistance. However, at the entrance of Dr Middleton, Johnny was dropped, and lay roaring on the floor; Sarah, too, remained where she had been floored, Mrs Easy had rolled on the floor, the urn was also on the floor, and Mr Easy, although not floored, had not a leg to stand upon.
Never did a medical man look in more opportunely. Mr Easy at first was not certainly of that opinion, but his legs became so painful that he soon became a convert.
Dr Middleton, as in duty bound, first picked up Mrs Easy, and laid her on the sofa. Sarah rose, picked up Johnny, and carried him, kicking and roaring, out of the room; in return for which attention she received sundry bites. The footman, who had announced the doctor, picked up the urn, that being all that was in his department. Mr Easy threw himself panting in agony on the other sofa, and Dr Middleton was excessively embarrassed how to act: he perceived that Mr Easy required his assistance, and that Mrs Easy could do without it; but how to leave a lady, who was half really and half pretendedly in hysterics, was difficult; for if he attempted to leave her, she kicked and flounced, and burst out the more. At last Dr Middleton rang the bell, which brought the footman, who summoned all the maids, who carried Mrs Easy upstairs, and then the Doctor was able to attend to the only patient who really required his assistance. Mr Easy explained the affair in few words, broken into ejaculations from pain, as the Doctor removed his stockings. From the applications of Dr Middleton, Mr Easy soon obtained bodily relief; but what annoyed him still more than his scalded legs, was the Doctor having been a witness to his infringement of the equality and rights of man. Dr Middleton perceived this, and he knew also how to pour balm into that wound.
"My dear Mr Easy, I am very sorry that you have had this accident, for which you are indebted to Mrs Easy's foolish indulgence of the boy; but I am glad to perceive that you have taken up those parental duties which are inculcated by the Scriptures. Solomon says, 'that he who spares the rod, spoils the child,' thereby implying that it is the duty of a father to correct his children, and in a father, the so doing does not interfere with the rights of man, or any natural equality, for the son being a part or portion of the father, he is only correcting his own self; and the proof of it is, that a father, in punishing his own son, feels as much pain in so doing as if he were himself punished. It is, therefore, nothing but self-discipline, which is strictly enjoined us by the Scriptures."
"That is exactly my opinion," replied Mr Easy, comforted at the Doctor having so logically got him out of the scrape. "But—he shall go to school to-morrow, that I'm determined on."
"He will have to thank Mrs Easy for that," replied the Doctor.
"Exactly," replied Mr Easy. "Doctor, my legs are getting very hot again."
"Continue to bathe them with the vinegar and water, Mr Easy, until I send you an embrocation, which will give you immediate relief. I will call to-morrow. By-the-bye, I am to see a little patient at Mr Bonnycastle's: if it is any accommodation, I will take your son with me."
"It will be a great accommodation, Doctor," replied Mr Easy.
"Then, my dear sir, I will just go up and see how Mrs Easy is, and to-morrow I will call at ten. I can wait an hour. Good-night."
The doctor had his game to play with Mrs Easy. He magnified her husband's accident—he magnified his wrath, and advised her by no means to say one word, until he was well and more pacified. The next day he repeated this dose, and, in spite of the ejaculations of Sarah, and the tears of Mrs Easy, who dared not venture to plead her cause, and the violent resistance of Master Johnny, who appeared to have a presentiment of what was to come, our hero was put into Dr Middleton's chariot, and with the exception of one plate of glass, which he kicked out of the window with his feet, and for which feat the Doctor, now that he had him all to himself, boxed his ears till he was nearly blind, he was, without any further eventful occurrence, carried by the Doctor's footman into the parlour of Mr Bonnycastle.
Jack Easy is sent to a school at which there is no flogging.
Master Jack had been plumped down in a chair by the doctor's servant, who, as he quitted him, first looked at his own hands, from which the blood was drawn in several parts, and then at Master Jack, with his teeth closed, and lips compressed, as much as to say, "If I only dared, would not I, that's all!" and then walked out of the room, repaired to the carriage at the front door, when he showed his hands to the coachman, who looked down from his box in great commiseration, at the same time fully sharing his fellow-servant's indignation. But we must repair to the parlour. Dr Middleton ran over a newspaper, while Johnny sat on the chair all of a heap, looking like a lump of sulks, with his feet on the upper front bar, and his knees almost up to his nose. He was a promising pupil, Jack.
Mr Bonnycastle made his appearance—a tall, well-built, handsome, fair man, with a fine powdered head, dressed in solemn black and knee buckles; his linen beautifully clean, and with a peculiar bland expression of countenance. When he smiled he showed a row of teeth white as ivory, and his mild blue eye was the ne plus ultra of beneficence. He was the beau-ideal of a preceptor, and it was impossible to see him and hear his mild pleasing voice, without wishing that all your sons were under his protection. He was a ripe scholar, and a good one, and at the time we speak of, had the care of upwards of one hundred boys. He was celebrated for turning them out well, and many of his pupils were rising fast in the senate, as well as distinguishing themselves in the higher Professions.
Dr Middleton, who was on intimate terms with Bonnycastle, rose as he entered the room, and they shook hands. Middleton then turned to where Jack sat, and pointing to him, said, "Look there."
Bonnycastle smiled. "I cannot say that I have had worse, but I have almost as bad. I will apply the Promethean torch, and soon vivify that rude mass. Come, sit down, Middleton."
"But," said the Doctor, as he resumed his chair, "tell me, Bonnycastle, how you will possibly manage to lick such a cub into shape, when you do not resort to flogging?"
"I have no opinion of flogging, and therefore I do not resort to it. The fact is, I was at Harrow myself, and was rather a pickle. I was called up as often as most boys in the school, and I perfectly recollect, that eventually I cared nothing for a flogging. I had become case-hardened. It is the least effective part that you can touch a boy upon. It leaves nothing behind to refresh their memories."
"I should have thought otherwise."
"My dear Middleton, I can produce more effect by one caning than twenty floggings. Observe, you flog upon a part the most quiescent; but you cane upon all parts, from the head to the heels. Now, when once the first sting of the birch is over, then a dull sensation comes over the part, and the pain after that is nothing; whereas a good sound caning leaves sores and bruises in every part, and on all the parts which are required for muscular action. After a flogging, a boy may run out in the hours of recreation, and join his playmates as well as ever, but a good caning tells a very different tale; he cannot move one part of his body without being reminded for days by the pain of the punishment he has undergone, and he is very careful how he is called up again."
"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?"
"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.
In which Jack makes essay of his father's sublime philosophy, and arrives very near to truth at last.
The next morning Master Jack Easy was not only very sore, but very hungry, and as Mr Bonnycastle informed him that he would not only have plenty of cane, but also no breakfast, if he did not learn his letters, Johnny had wisdom enough to say the whole alphabet, for which he received a great deal of praise, the which, if he did not duly appreciate, he at all events infinitely preferred to beating. Mr Bonnycastle perceived that he had conquered the boy by one hour's well-timed severity. He therefore handed him over to the ushers in the school, and as they were equally empowered to administer the needful impulse, Johnny very soon became a very tractable boy.
It may be imagined that the absence of Johnny was severely felt at home, but such was not the case. In the first place, Dr Middleton had pointed out to Mrs Easy that there was no flogging at the school, and that the punishment received by Johnny from his father would very likely be repeated—and in the next, although Mrs Easy thought that she never could have survived the parting with her own son, she soon found out that she was much happier without him. A spoilt child is always a source of anxiety and worry, and after Johnny's departure Mrs Easy found a quiet and repose much more suited to her disposition. Gradually she weaned herself from him, and, satisfied with seeing him occasionally, and hearing the reports of Dr Middleton, she, at last, was quite reconciled to his being at school, and not coming back except during the holidays. John Easy made great progress; he had good natural abilities, and Mr Easy rubbed his hands when he saw the Doctor, saying, "Yes, let them have him for a year or two longer, and then I'll finish him myself." Each vacation he had attempted to instil into Johnny's mind the equal rights of man. Johnny appeared to pay but little attention to his father's discourses, but evidently showed that they were not altogether thrown away, as he helped himself to everything he wanted, without asking leave. And thus was our hero educated until he arrived at the age of sixteen, when he was a stout, good-looking boy, with plenty to say for himself,—indeed, when it suited his purpose, he could out-talk his father.
Nothing pleased Mr Easy so much as Jack's loquacity. "That's right; argue the point, Jack—argue the point, boy," would he say, as Jack disputed with his mother. And then he would turn to the Doctor, rubbing his hands, and observe, "Depend upon it, Jack will be a great, a very great man." And then he would call Jack and give him a guinea for his cleverness; and at last Jack thought it a very clever thing to argue. He never would attempt to argue with Mr Bonnycastle, because he was aware that Mr Bonnycastle's arguments were too strong for him, but he argued with all the boys until it ended in a fight, which decided the point; and he sometimes argued with the ushers. In short, at the time we now speak of, which was at the breaking up of the Midsummer holidays, Jack was as full of argument as he was fond of it. He would argue the point to the point of a needle, and he would divide that point into as many as there were days of the year, and argue upon each. In short, there was no end to Jack's arguing the point, although there seldom was point to his argument.
Jack had been fishing in the river, without any success, for a whole morning, and observed a large pond which had the appearance of being well stocked—he cleared the park palings, and threw in his line. He had pulled up several fine fish, when he was accosted by the proprietor, accompanied by a couple of keepers.
"May I request the pleasure of your name, young gentleman?" said the proprietor to Jack.
Now Jack was always urbane and polite.
"Certainly, sir; my name is Easy, very much at your service."
"And you appear to me to be taking it very easy," replied the gentleman. "Pray, sir, may I enquire whether you are aware that you are trespassing?"
"The word trespass, my dear sir," replied Jack, "will admit of much argument, and I will divide it into three heads. It implies, according to the conventional meaning, coming without permission upon the land or property of another. Now, sir, the question may all be resolved in the following. Was not the world made for all? and has any one, or any portion of its inhabitants, an exclusive right to claim any part of it, as his property? If you please, I have laid down the proposition, and we will now argue the point."
The gentleman who accosted Jack had heard of Mr Easy and his arguments; he was a humorist, and more inclined to laugh than to be angry; at the same time that he considered it necessary to show Jack that under existing circumstances they were not tenable.
"But, Mr Easy, allowing the trespass on the property to be venial, surely you do not mean to say that you are justified in taking my fish; I bought the fish, and stocked the pond, and have fed them ever since. You cannot deny but that they are private property, and that to take them is a theft?"
"That will again admit of much ratiocination, my dear sir," replied Jack; "but,—I beg your pardon, I have a fish." Jack pulled up a large carp, much to the indignation of the keepers, and to the amusement of their master, unhooked it, placed it in his basket, renewed his bait with the greatest sang, and then throwing in his line, resumed his discourse. "As I was observing, my dear sir," continued Jack, "that will admit of much ratiocination. All the creatures of the earth were given to man for his use—man means mankind—they were never intended to be made a monopoly of; water is also the gift of heaven, and meant for the use of all. We now come to the question how far the fish are your property. If the fish only bred on purpose to please you, and make you a present of their stock, it might then require a different line of argument; but as in breeding they only acted in obedience to an instinct with which they are endowed on purpose that they may supply man, I submit to you that you cannot prove these fish to be yours more than mine. As for feeding with the idea that they were your own, that is not an unusual case in this world, even when a man is giving bread and butter to his children. Further—but I have another bite—I beg your pardon, my dear sir—ah! he's off again."
"Then, Mr Easy, you mean to say that the world and its contents are made for all."
"Exactly, sir; that is my father's opinion, who is a very great philosopher."
"How then does your father account for some possessing property and others being without it?"
"Because those who are the strongest have deprived those who are weaker."
"But would not that be always the case even if we were in that state of general inheritance which you have supposed? For instance, allowing two men to chase the same animal, and both to come up to it at the same time, would not the strongest bear it off?"
"I grant that, sir."
"Well, then, where is your equality?"
"That does not disprove that men were not intended to be equal; it only proves that they are not so. Neither does it disprove that everything was not made for the benefit of all; it only proves that the strong will take advantage of the weak, which is very natural."
"Oh! you grant that to be very natural. Well, Mr Easy, I am glad to perceive that we are of one mind, and I trust we shall continue so. You'll observe that I and my keepers being three, we are the strong party in this instance, and admitting your argument, that the fish are as much yours as mine, still I take advantage of my strength to repossess myself of them, which is, as you say, very natural—James, take those fish."
"If you please," interrupted Jack, "we will argue that point—"
"Not at all; I will act according to your own arguments—I have the fish, but I now mean to have more—that fishing-rod is as much mine as yours, and being the stronger party I will take possession of it. James, William, take that fishing-rod,—it is ours."
"I presume you will first allow me to observe," replied Jack, "that although I have expressed my opinion that the earth and the animals on it were made for us all, that I never yet have asserted, that what a man creates by himself, or has created for him for a consideration, is not his own property."
"I beg your pardon; the trees that that rod was made from were made for us all, and if you, or any one for you, have thought proper to make it into a rod, it is no more my fault than it is that I have been feeding the fish, with the supposition that they were my own. Everything being common, and it being but natural that the strong should take advantage of the weak, I must take that rod as my property, until I am dispossessed by one more powerful. Moreover, being the stronger party, and having possession of this land, which you say does not belong to me more than to you—I also shall direct my keepers to see you off this property. James, take the rod—see Mr Easy over the park palings. Mr Easy, I wish you a good morning."
"Sir, I beg your pardon, you have not yet heard all my arguments," replied Jack, who did not approve of the conclusions drawn.
"I have no time to hear more, Mr Easy; I wish you a good morning." And the proprietor departed, leaving Jack in company with the keepers.
"I'll trouble you for that rod, master," said William. James was very busy stringing the fish through the gills upon a piece of osier.
"At all events you will hear reason," said Jack: "I have arguments—" "I never heard no good arguments in favour of poaching," interrupted the keeper.
"You're an insolent fellow," replied Jack. "It is by paying such vagabonds as you that people are able to be guilty of injustice."
"It's by paying us that the land an't poached—and if there be some excuse for a poor devil who is out of work, there be none for you, who call yourself a gentleman."
"According to his account, as we be all equal, he be no more a gentleman than we be."
"Silence, you blackguard, I shall not condescend to argue with such as you: if I did, I could prove that you are a set of base slaves, who have just as much right to this property as your master or I have."
"As you have, I dare say, master."
"As I have, you scoundrel; this pond is as much my property, and so are the fish in it, as they are of your master, who has usurped the right."
"I say, James, what do you say, shall we put the young gentleman in possession of his property?" said William, winking to the other.
James took the hint, they seized Jack by the arms and legs, and soused him into the pond. Jack arose after a deep submersion, and floundered on shore blowing and spluttering. But in the meantime the keepers had walked away, carrying with them the rod and line, fish, and tin can of bait, laughing loudly at the practical joke which they had played our hero.
"Well," thought Jack, "either there must be some mistake in my father's philosophy, or else this is a very wicked world. I shall submit this case to my father."
And Jack received this reply—"I have told you before, Jack, that these important truths will not at present be admitted—but it does not the less follow that they are true. This is the age of iron, in which might has become right—but the time will come when these truths will be admitted, and your father's name will be more celebrated than that of any philosopher of ancient days. Recollect, Jack, that although in preaching against wrong and advocating the rights of man, you will be treated as a martyr, it is still your duty to persevere; and if you are dragged through all the horse—ponds in the kingdom, never give up your argument."
"That I never will, sir," replied Jack; "but the next time I argue it shall be, if possible, with power on my side, and, at all events, not quite so near a pond."
"I think," said Mrs Easy, who had been a silent listener, "that Jack had better fish in the river, and then, if he catches no fish, at all events he will not be soused in the water, and spoil his clothes."
But Mrs Easy was no philosopher.
A few days afterwards, Jack discovered, one fine morning, on the other side of a hedge, a summer apple-tree bearing tempting fruit, and he immediately broke through the hedge, and climbing the tree, as our first mother did before him, he culled the fairest and did eat.
"I say, you sir, what are you doing there?" cried a rough voice.
Jack looked down, and perceived a stout, thickset personage in grey coat and red waistcoat, standing underneath him.
"Don't you see what I'm about," replied Jack, "I'm eating apples— shall I throw you down a few?"
"Thank you kindly—the fewer that are pulled the better; perhaps, as you are so free to give them to others as well as to help yourself, you may think that they are your own property!"
"Not a bit more my property than they are yours, my good man."
"I guess that's something like the truth; but you are, not quite at the truth yet, my lad; those apples are mine, and I'll trouble you to come down as fast as you please; when you're down we can then settle our accounts; and," continued the man, shaking his cudgel, "depend upon it you shall have your receipt in full."
Jack did not much like the appearance of things.
"My good man," said he, "it is quite a prejudice on your part to imagine that apples were not given, as well as all other fruit, for the benefit of us all—they are common property, believe me."
"That's a matter of opinion, my lad, and I may be allowed to have own."
"You'll find it in the Bible," says Jack.
"I never did yet, and I've read it through and through all, bating the Pocryfar."
"Then," said Jack, "go home and fetch the Bible, and I'll prove it to you."
"I suspect you'll not wait till I come back again. No, no; I have lost plenty of apples, and have long wanted to find the robbers out; now I've caught one I'll take care that he don't 'scape without apple sauce, at all events—so come down, you young thief, come down directly—or it will be all the worse for you."
"Thank you," said Jack, "but I am very well here. I will, if you please, argue the point from where I am."
"I've no time to argue the point, my lad; I've plenty to do, but do not think I'll let you off. If you don't choose to come down, why then you may stay there, and I'll answer for it, as soon as work is done I shall find you safe enough."
"What can be done," thought Jack, "with a man who will not listen to argument? What a world is this!—however, he'll not find me here when he comes back, I've a notion."
But in this Jack was mistaken. The farmer walked to the hedge, and called to a boy, who took his orders and ran to the farmhouse. In a minute or two a large bull-dog was seen bounding along the orchard to his master. "Mark him, Caesar," said the farmer to the dog, "mark him." The dog crouched down on the grass with his head up, and eyes glaring at Jack, showing a range of teeth that drove all our hero's philosophy out of his head.
"I can't wait here, but Caesar can, and I will tell you, as a friend, that if he gets hold of you, he'll not leave a limb of you together,— when work's done I'll come back"; so saying, the farmer walked off, leaving Jack and the dog to argue the point, if so inclined. What a sad jade must philosophy be, to put her votaries in such predicaments!
After a while the dog laid his head down and closed his eyes, as if asleep, but Jack observed that at the least movement on his part one eye was seen partially to unclose; so Jack, like a prudent man, resolved to remain where he was. He picked a few more apples, for it was his dinner-time, and as he chewed he ruminated.
Jack had been but a few minutes ruminating before he was interrupted by another ruminating animal, no less a personage than a bull, who had been turned out with full possession of the orchard, and who now advanced, bellowing occasionally, and tossing his head at the sight of Caesar, whom he considered as much a trespasser as his master had our hero. Caesar started on his legs and faced the bull, who advanced pawing, with his tail up in the air. When within a few yards the bull made a rush at the dog, who evaded him and attacked him in return, and thus did the warfare continue until the opponents were already at some distance from the apple-tree. Jack prepared for immediate flight, but unfortunately the combat was carried on by the side of the hedge at which Jack had gained admission. Never mind, thought Jack, there are two sides to every field and although the other hedge joined on to the garden near to the farmhouse, there was no option. "At all events," said Jack, "I'll try it."
Jack was slipping down the trunk, when he heard a tremendous roar; the bull-dog had been tossed by the bull; he was then high in the air, and Jack saw him fall on the other side of the hedge; and the bull was thus celebrating his victory with a flourish of trumpets. Upon which Jack, perceiving that he was relieved from his sentry, slipped down the rest of the tree and took to his heels. Unfortunately for Jack, the bull saw him, and, flushed with victory, he immediately set up another roar, and bounded after Jack. Jack perceived his danger, and fear gave him wings; he not only flew over the orchard, but he flew over the hedge, which was about five feet high, just as the bull drove his head into it.
Look before you leap, is an old proverb. Had Jack done so, he would have done better; but as there were cogent reasons to be offered in extenuation of our philosopher, we shall say no more, but merely state that Jack, when he got to the other side of the hedge, found that he had pitched into a small apiary, and had upset two hives of bees who resented the intrusion; and Jack had hardly time to get upon his legs before he found them very busy stinging him in all quarters. All that Jack could do was to run for it, but the bees flew faster than he could run, and Jack was mad with pain, when he stumbled, half-blinded, over the brickwork of a well. Jack could not stop his pitching into the well, but he seized the iron chain as it struck him across the face. Down went Jack, and round went the windlass, and after a rapid descent of forty feet our hero found himself under water, and no longer troubled with the bees, who, whether they had lost scent of their prey from his rapid descent, or being notoriously clever insects, acknowledged the truth of the adage, "leave well alone," had certainly left Jack with no other companion than Truth. Jack rose from his immersion, and seized the rope to which the chain of the bucket was made fast—it had all of it been unwound from the windlass, and therefore it enabled Jack to keep his head above water. After a few seconds Jack felt something against his legs, it was the bucket, about two feet under the water; Jack put his feet into it and found himself pretty comfortable, for the water, after the sting of the bees and the heat he had been put into by the race with the bull, was quite cool and refreshing.
"At all events," thought Jack, "if it had not been for the bull, I should have been watched by the dog, and then thrashed by the farmer; but then again, if it had not been for the bull, I should not have tumbled among the bees; and if it had not been for the bees, I should not have tumbled into the well; and if it had not been for the chain, I should have been drowned. Such has been the chain of events, all because I wanted to eat an apple.
"However, I have got rid of the farmer, and the dog, and the bull, and the bees—all's well that ends well; but how the devil am I to get out of the well?—all creation appears to have conspired against the rights of man. As my father said, this is an iron age, and here I am swinging to an iron chain."
We have given the whole of Jack's soliloquy, as it will prove that Jack was no fool, although he was a bit of a philosopher; and a man who could reason so well upon cause ant effect, at the bottom of a well, up to his neck in water, showed a good deal of presence of mind. But if Jack's mind had been a little twisted by his father's philosophy, it had still sufficient strength and elasticity to recover itself in due time. Had Jack been a common personage, we should never, have selected him for our hero.
In which Jack makes some very sage reflections, and comes to a very unwise decision.
After all, it must be acknowledged that although there are cases of distress in which a well may become a place of refuge, a well is not at all calculated for a prolonged residence—so thought Jack. After he had been there some fifteen minutes, his teeth chattered, and his limbs trembled; he felt a numbness all over, and he thought it high time to call for assistance, which at first he would not, as he was afraid he should be pulled up to encounter the indignation of the farmer and his family. Jack was arranging his jaws for a halloo, when he felt the chain pulled up, and he slowly emerged from the water. At first he heard complaints of the weight of the bucket, at which Jack was not surprised; then he heard a tittering and laughing between two parties; and soon afterwards he mounted up gaily. At last his head appeared above the low wall, and he was about to extend his arms so as to secure a position on it, when those who were working at the windlass beheld him. It was a heavy farming man and a maid-servant.
"Thank you," said Jack.
One never should be too quick in returning thanks; the girl screamed and let go the winch, the man, frightened, did not hold it fast; it slipped from his grasp, whirled round, struck him under the chin, and threw him over it headlong, and before the "Thank you" was fairly out of Jack's lips, down he went again like lightning to the bottom. Fortunately for Jack, he had not yet let go the chain, or he might have struck the sides and have been killed; as it was, he was merely soused a second time, and in a minute or two regained his former position.
"This is mighty pleasant," thought Jack, as he clapped his wet hat once more on his head; "at all events, they can't now plead ignorance, they must know that I'm here."
In the meantime the girl ran into the kitchen, threw herself down on a stool, from which she reeled off in a fit upon sundry heaps of dough waiting to be baked in the oven, which were laid to rise on the floor before the fire.
"Mercy on me, what is the matter with Susan?" exclaimed the farmer's wife. "Here—where's Mary—where's John—Deary me, if the bread won't all be turned to pancakes."
John soon followed, holding his under-jaw in his hand, looking very dismal and very frightened, for two reasons; one, because he thought that his jaw was broken, and the other, because he thought he had seen the devil.
"Mercy on us, what is the matter?" exclaimed the farmer's wife again. "Mary, Mary, Mary!" screamed she, beginning to be frightened herself, for with all her efforts she could not remove Susan from the bed of dough, where she lay senseless and heavy as lead. Mary answered to her mistress's loud appeal, and with her assistance they raised up Susan; but as for the bread, there was no hopes of it ever rising again. "Why don't you come here and help Susan, John?" cried Mary.
"Aw-yaw-aw!" was all the reply of John, who had had enough quite of helping Susan, and who continued to hold his head, as it were, in his hand.
"What's the matter here, missus?" exclaimed the farmer, coming in. "Highty-tighty, what ails Susan? and what ails you?" continued the farmer, turning to John. "Dang it, but everything seems to go wrong, this blessed day. First, there be all the apples stolen—then there be all the hives turned topsy-turvy in the garden—then there be Caesar with his flank opened by the bull—then there be the bull broken through the hedge and tumbled into the saw-pit—and now I come to get more help to drag him out, I find one woman dead like, and John looks as if he had seen the devil."
"Aw-yaw-aw!" replied John, nodding his head very significantly.
"One would think that the devil had broke loose to-day. What is it, John? Have you seen him, and has Susan seen him?"
"He's stopped your jaw, then, at all events, and I thought the devil himself wouldn't have done that-we shall get nothing of you. Is that wench coming to her senses?"
"Yes, yes, she's better now,—Susan, what's the matter?"
"Oh, oh, ma'am! the well, the well—"
"The well! Something wrong there, I suppose: well, I will go and see."
The farmer trotted off to the well; he perceived the bucket was at the bottom and all the rope out; he looked about him, and then he looked into the well. Jack, who had become very impatient, had been looking up some time for the assistance which he expected would have come sooner; the round face of the farmer occasioned a partial eclipse of the round disk which bounded his view, just as one of the satellites of Jupiter sometimes obscures the face of the planet round which he revolves.
"Here I am," cried Jack; "get me up quick, or I shall be dead"; and What Jack said was true, for he was quite done up by having been so long down, although his courage had not failed him.
"Dang it, but there be somebody fallen into the well," cried the farmer; "no end to mishaps this day. Well, we must get a Christian out of a well afore we get a bull out of a saw-pit, so I'll go and call the men."
In a very short time the men who were assembled round the saw-pit were brought to the well.
"Down below there, hold on now."
"Never fear," cried Jack.
Away went the winch, and once more Jack had an extended horizon to survey. As soon as he was at the top, the men hauled him over the bricks and laid him down upon the ground, for Jack's strength had failed him.
"Dang it, if it bean't that chap who was on my apple-tree," cried the farmer—"howsoever, he must not die for stealing a few apples; lift him up, lads, and take him in—he is dead with cold—no wonder."
The farmer led the way, and the men carried Jack into the house, when the farmer gave him a glass of brandy; this restored Jack's circulation, and in a short time he was all right again.
After some previous conversation, in which Jack narrated all that had happened, "What may be your name?" inquired the farmer.
"My name is Easy," replied Jack.
"What! be you the son of Mr Easy, of Forest Hill?"
"Dang it, he be my landlord, and a right good landlord too—why didn't you say so when you were up in the apple-tree? You might have picked the whole orchard and welcome."
"My dear sir," replied Jack, who had taken a second glass of brandy, and was quite talkative again, "let this be a warning to you, and when a man proposes to argue the point, always, in future, listen. Had you waited, I would have proved to you most incontestably that you had no more right to the apples than I had; but you would not listen to argument, and without discussion we can never arrive at truth. You send for your dog, who is ripped up by the bull—the bull breaks his leg in a saw-pit—the bee-hives are overturned, and you lose all your honey—your man John breaks his jaw—your maid Susan spoils all the bread—and why? because you would not allow me to argue the point."
"Well, Mr Easy, it be all true that all these mishaps have happened because I would not allow you to argue the point, perhaps, although, as I rent the orchard from your father, I cannot imagine how you could prove to me that the apples were not mine; but now, let's take your side of the question, and I don't see how you be much better off: you get up in a tree for a few apples, with plenty of money to buy them if you like—you are kept there by a dog—you are nearly gored by a bull—you are stung by the bees, and you tumble souse into a well, and are nearly killed a dozen times, and all for a few apples not worth twopence."
"All very true, my good man," replied Jack; "but you forget that I, as a philosopher, was defending the rights of man."
"Well, I never knew before that a lad who stole apples was called a philosopher—we calls it petty larceny in the indictments: and as for your rights of man, I cannot see how they can be defended by doing what's wrong."
"You do not comprehend the matter, farmer."
"No, I don't—and I be too old to learn, Master Easy. All I have to say is this, you are welcome to all the apples in the orchard if you please, and if you prefers, as it seems you do, to steal them, instead of asking for them, which I only can account for by the reason that they say, that 'stolen fruit be sweetest,' I've only to say that I shall give orders that you be not interfered with. My chaise be at the door, Master Easy, and the man will drive you to your father's— make my compliments to him, and say, that I'm very sorry that you tumbled into our well."
As Jack was much more inclined for bed than argument, he wished the farmer good-night, and allowed himself to be driven home. The pain from the sting of the bees, now that his circulation had fully returned, was so great, that he was not sorry to find Dr Middleton taking his tea with his father and mother. Jack merely said that he had been so unfortunate as to upset a hive, and had been severely stung. He deferred the whole story till another opportunity. Dr Middleton prescribed for Jack, but on taking his hand found that he was in a high fever, which, after the events of the day, was not to be wondered at. Jack was bled, and kept his bed for a week, by which time he was restored; but, during that time, Jack had been thinking very seriously, and had made up his mind.
But we must explain a circumstance which had occurred, which was probably the cause of Jack's decision. When Jack returned on the evening in question, he found seated with his father and Dr Middleton a Captain Wilson, a sort of cousin to the family, who but occasionally paid them a visit, for he lived at some distance; and having a wife and large family, with nothing but his half-pay for their support, he could not afford to expend even shoe-leather in compliments. The object of this visit on the part of Captain Wilson was to request the aid of Mr Easy He had succeeded in obtaining his appointment to a sloop of war (for he was in the king's service), but was without the means of fitting himself out, without leaving his wife and family penniless. He therefore came to request Mr Easy to lend him a few hundred pounds, until he should be able, by his prize-money, to repay them. Mr Easy was not a man to refuse such a request, and always having plenty of spare cash at his banker's, he drew a cheque for a thousand pounds, which he gave to Captain Wilson, requesting that he would only repay it at his convenience. Captain Wilson wrote an acknowledgment of the debt, promising to pay upon his first prize-money, which receipt, however binding it may be to a man of honour, was, in point of law, about as valuable as if he had agreed to pay as soon "as the cows came home." The affair had been just concluded, and Captain Wilson had returned into the parlour with Mr Easy, when Jack returned from his expedition.
Jack greeted Captain Wilson, whom he had long known; but, as we before observed, he suffered so much pain, that he soon retired with Dr Middleton, and went to bed.
During a week there is room for much reflection, even in a lad of fourteen, although at that age we are not much inclined to think. But Jack was in bed; his eyes were so swollen with the stings of the bees that he could neither read nor otherwise amuse himself; and he preferred his own thoughts to the gabble of Sarah, who attended him; so Jack thought, and the result of his cogitations we shall soon bring forward.
It was on the eighth day that Jack left his bed and came down into the drawing-room. He then detailed to his father the adventures which had taken place, which had obliged him to take to his bed.
"You see, Jack," replied his father, "it's just what I told you: the world is so utterly demoralised by what is called social compact, and the phalanx supporting it, by contributing a portion of their unjust possessions for the security of the remainder, is so powerful, that any one who opposes it must expect to pass the life of a martyr; but martyrs are always required previous to any truth, however sublime, being received, and, like Abraham, whom I have always considered as a great philosopher, I am willing to sacrifice my only son in so noble a cause."
"That's all very good on your part, father, but we must argue the point a little. If you are as great a philosopher as Abraham, I am not quite so dutiful a son as Isaac, whose blind obedience, in my opinion, is very contrary to your rights of man: but the fact, in few words, is simply this. In promulgating your philosophy, in the short space of two days, I have been robbed of the fish I caught, and my rod and line—I have been soused into a fish-pond—I have been frightened out of my wits by a bull-dog—been nearly killed by a bull—been stung to death by bees, and twice tumbled into a well. Now, if all that happens in two days, what must I expect to suffer in a whole year? It appears to be very unwise to attempt making further converts, for people on shore seem determined not to listen to reason or argument. But it has occurred to me, that although the whole earth has been so nefariously divided among the few, that the waters at least are the property of all. No man claims his share of the sea—every one may there plough as he pleases, without being taken up for a trespasser. Even war makes no difference; every one may go on as he pleases, and if they meet, it is nothing but a neutral ground on which the parties contend. It is, then, only upon the ocean that I am likely to find that equality and rights of man, which we are so anxious to establish on shore; and therefore I have resolved not to go to school again, which I detest, but to go to sea, and propagate our opinions as much as I can."
"I cannot listen to that, Jack, in the first place, you must return to school; in the next place, you shall not go to sea."
"Then, father, all I have to say is, that I swear by the rights of man I will not go back to school, and that I will go to sea. Who and what is to prevent me? Was not I born my own master?—has any one a right to dictate to me as if I were not his equal? Have I not as much right to my share of the sea as any other mortal? I stand upon perfect equality," continued Jack, stamping his right foot on the floor.
What had Mr Easy to offer in reply? He must either, as a philosopher, have sacrificed his hypothesis, or, as a father, have sacrificed his son. Like all philosophers, he preferred what he considered as the less important of the two, he sacrificed his son; but—we will do him justice—he did it with a sigh.
"Jack, you shall, if you wish it, go to sea."
"That, of course," replied Jack, with the air of a conqueror; "but the question is, with whom? Now it has occurred to me, that Captain Wilson has just been appointed to a ship, and I should like to sail with him."
"I will write to him," said Mr Easy, mournfully, "but I should have liked to have felt his head first"; and thus was the matter arranged.
The answer from Captain Wilson was, of course, in the affirmative, and he promised that he would treat Jack as his own son.
Our hero mounted his father's horse, and rode off to Mr Bonnycastle.
"I am going to sea, Mr Bonnycastle."
"The very best thing for you," replied Mr Bonnycastle.
Our hero met Dr Middleton. "I am going to sea, Dr Middleton."
"The very best thing for you," replied the Doctor. "I am going to sea, mother," said John. "To sea, John, to sea? no, no, dear John, you are not going to sea," replied Mrs Easy, with horror.
"Yes, I am; father has agreed, and says he will obtain your consent."
"My consent! Oh, my dear, dear boy!"—and Mrs Easy wept bitterly, as Rachel mourning for her children.
In which Mr Easy has his first lesson as to zeal in his Majesty's Service.
As there was no time to lose, our hero very soon bade adieu to his paternal roof, as the phrase is, and found his way down to Portsmouth. As Jack had plenty of money, and was very much pleased at finding himself his own master, he was in no hurry to join his ship, and five or six companions, not very creditable, whom either Jack had picked up, or had picked up Jack, and who lived upon him, strongly advised him to put it off until the very last moment. As this advice happened to coincide with Jack's opinion, our hero was three weeks at Portsmouth before any one knew of his arrival, but at last Captain Wilson received a letter from Mr Easy, by which he found that Jack had left home at the period we have mentioned, and he desired the first lieutenant to make inquiries, as he was afraid that some accident might have happened to him. As Mr Sawbridge, the first lieutenant, happened to be going on shore on the same evening for the last time previous to the ship's sailing, he looked into the Blue Posts, George, and Fountain Inns, to inquire if there was such a person arrived as Mr Easy. "O yes," replied the waiter at the Fountain,—"Mr Easy has been here these three weeks."
"The devil he has," roared Mr Sawbridge, with all the indignation of a first lieutenant defrauded three weeks of a midshipman; "where is he; in the coffee-room?"
"Oh dear no, sir," replied the waiter, "Mr Easy has the front apartments on the first floor."
"Well, then, show me up to the first floor."
"May I request the pleasure of your name, sir?" said the waiter.
"First lieutenants don't send up their names to midshipmen," replied Mr Sawbridge; "he shall soon know who I am."
At this reply, the waiter walked upstairs, followed by Mr Sawbridge, and threw open the door.
"A gentleman wishes to see you, sir," said the waiter.
"Desire him to walk in," said Jack: "and, waiter, mind that the punch is a little better than it was yesterday; I have asked two more gentlemen to dine here."
In the meantime, Mr Sawbridge, who was not in his uniform, had entered, and perceived Jack alone, with the dinner table laid out in the best style for eight, a considerable show of plate for even the Fountain Inn, and everything, as well as the apartment itself, according to Mr Sawbridge's opinion, much more fit for a commander-in-chief than a midshipman of a sloop of war.
Now Mr Sawbridge was a good officer, one who had really worked his way up to the present rank, that is to say, that he had served seven-and-twenty years, and had nothing but his pay. He was a little soured in the service, and certainly had an aversion to the young men of family who were now fast crowding into it—and with some grounds, as he perceived his own chance of promotion decrease in the same ratio as the numbers increased. He considered that in proportion as midshipmen assumed a cleaner and more gentlemanly appearance, so did they become more useless, and it may therefore be easily imagined that his bile was raised by this parade and display in a lad, who was very shortly to be, and ought three weeks before to have been, shrinking from his frown. Nevertheless, Sawbridge was a good-hearted man, although a little envious of luxury, which he could not pretend to indulge in himself.
"May I beg to ask," said Jack, who was always remarkably polite and gentlemanly in his address, "in what manner I may be of service to you?"
"Yes, sir, you may—by joining your ship immediately. And may I beg to ask in return, sir, what is the reason you have stayed on shore three weeks without joining her?"
Hereupon Jack, who did not much admire the peremptory tone of Mr Sawbridge, and who during the answer had taken a seat, crossed his legs, and played with the gold chain to which his watch was secured, after a pause very coolly replied—
"And pray, who are you?"
"Who am I, sir?" replied Sawbridge, jumping out of his chair, "my name is Sawbridge, sir, and I am the first lieutenant of the Harpy. Now, sir, you have your answer."
Mr Sawbridge, who imagined that the name of the first lieutenant would strike terror to a culprit midshipman, threw himself back in the chair, and assumed an air of importance.
"Really, sir," replied Jack, "what may be your exact situation on board, my ignorance of the service will not allow me to guess, but if I may judge from your behaviour, you have no small opinion of yourself."
"Look ye, young man, you may not know what a first lieutenant is, and I take it for granted that you do not, by your behaviour; but depend upon it, I'll let you know very soon. In the meantime, sir, I insist upon it, that you go immediately on board."
"I'm sorry that I cannot comply with your very moderate request," replied Jack, coolly. "I shall go on board when it suits my convenience, and I beg that you will give yourself no further trouble on my account."
Jack then rang the bell; the waiter, who had been listening outside, immediately entered, and before Mr Sawbridge, who was dumb with astonishment at Jack's impertinence, could have time to reply—
"Waiter," said Jack, "show this gentleman downstairs."
"By the god of war!" exclaimed the first lieutenant, "but I'll soon show you down to the boat, my young bantam; and when once I get you safe on board, I'll make you know the difference between a midshipman and a first lieutenant."
"I can only admit of equality, sir," replied Jack; "we are all born equal—I trust you'll allow that."
"Equality—damn it, I suppose you'll take the command of the ship. However, sir, your ignorance will be a little enlightened by-and-bye. I shall now go and report your conduct to Captain Wilson; and I tell you plainly, that if you are not on board this evening, to-morrow morning, at daylight, I shall send a sergeant and a file of marines to fetch you."
"You may depend upon it, sir," replied Jack, "that I also shall not fail to mention to Captain Wilson, that I consider you a very quarrelsome, impertinent fellow, and recommend him not to allow you to remain on board. It will be quite uncomfortable to be in the same ship with such an ungentlemanly bear."
"He must be mad—quite mad," exclaimed Sawbridge, whose astonishment even mastered his indignation. "Mad as a march hare—by God."
"No, sir," replied Jack, "I am not mad, but I am a philosopher."
"A what?" exclaimed Sawbridge, "damme, what next?—well, my joker, all the better for you, I shall put your philosophy to the proof."
"It is for that very reason, sir," replied Jack, "that I have decided upon going to sea; and if you do remain on board, I hope to argue the point with you, and make you a convert to the truth of equality and the rights of man."
"By the Lord that made us both, I'll soon make you a convert to the thirty-six articles of war—that is, if you remain on board; but I shall now go to the captain, and report your conduct, sir, and leave you to your dinner with what appetite you may."
"Sir, I am infinitely obliged to you; but you need not be afraid of my appetite; I am only sorry, as you happen to belong to the same ship, that I cannot, in justice to the gentlemanly young men whom I expect, ask you to join them. I wish you a very good morning, sir."
"Twenty years have I been in the service," roared Sawbridge, "and damme—but he's mad—downright, stark, staring mad," and the first lieutenant bounced out of the room.
Jack was a little astonished himself. Had Mr Sawbridge made his appearance in uniform it might have been different; but that a plain-looking man, with black whiskers, shaggy hair, and old blue frock coat and yellow cassimere waistcoat, should venture to address him in such a manner, was quite incomprehensible;—he calls me mad, thought Jack, I shall tell Captain Wilson what is my opinion about his lieutenant. Shortly afterwards the company arrived, and Jack soon forgot all about it.
In the meantime Sawbridge called at the captain's lodgings, and found him at home. He made a very faithful report of all that had happened, and concluded his report by demanding, in great wrath, either an instant dismissal or a court-martial on our hero, Jack.
"Stop, Sawbridge," replied Captain Wilson, "take a chair: as Mr Easy says, we must argue the point, and then I will leave it to your better feelings. As for the court-martial, it will not hold good, for Mr Easy, in the first place, has not yet joined the ship, and in the next place, could not be supposed to know that you were the first lieutenant, or even an officer, for you went to him out of uniform."