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other, “and I will think over the subject again. But now, to return to your first question
What was the reason I had never learned to read, was it?”
“ It was.”
“ Well, I will tell you honestly : it was, first, total want of opportunity, and then pride, till I had got to be so old a dog, that I thought I would not attempt to learn any new tricks."
“ Those are rather unusual reasons, for this country, at least, are they not?
“ They are the true ones, in my case, nevertheless. My father was a trapper, and pitched his cabin at the very
outskirts of civilization, on one of the great rivers in Canada, where schools were wholly out of the question ; even books were so rare, that I don't recollect of ever seeing but one during the whole of my boyhood. That one was my mother's old worn and torn bible, which, at last, a gray squirrel, that came in through the roof of our cabin, one day when we were all out, knocked down from a shelf into the fire, as we concluded, because we saw him escaping with a leaf in his mouth, to help make his nest. This, as I said, was the only book I remember to have seen; and this I should not recollect, probably, but for the singular manner in which it was destroyed, and the fact also that my mother, when she discovered her loss, sat down and cried like a child - God bless her memory!-- if she had lived, she would have got another, and most likely have taught me to read it. But she died soon after, leaving me, at the age of about five, to the care of an ignorant hussy, that my father, in due time, married. Well, there I remained till I was twenty ; when I left, and found my way into this part of the country, among people, who, to my surprise, could all read and write. I was not long, however, in discovering, that I was about as ignorant a heathen as ever came out of the bush. But, instead of going
to school as I might and should have done, I felt ashamed to let people know my condition, and so let pride deprive me of a blessing which I could have easily obtained. And so it continued with me, till I married and settled down here on a new farm ; when, if the pride I spoke of died away, its place was soon supplied by business cares and a lot of little squallers, that took away all chance or thought of learning to read. But, though not able to read myself, I can easily get others to do this for me. And, late years, having bought a good many books of different kinds for my wife or boys to read to me, I have got, in this way, and by talking with book-men both round home and abroad, a pretty tolerable good run of most that has been printed. And the result has been, that I have been sadly disappointed in what I used to suppose the mighty wisdom of books. To be sure, there are many books that are full of information and true philosophy; but let me tell you, sir, there is a prodigious sight of nonsense bound up together in the shape of books."
The dinner being now announced as in readiness, Locke went out to call in his brother, whom he at length espied in the yard of a grist-mill belonging to Bunker, and situated at no great distance from his house. Ben had here collected round him not only the young Bunkers, but several other boys who had come to mill from different parts of the district; and he was apparently making some communications to them, to which they were very evidently listening with considerable interest and surprise. What might be the nature of his communication, however, Locke, at that time, neither suspected nor ascertained, as he did not go near enough to hear what was said, and as Ben, when questioned on the subject, after joining the other, refused or evaded any direct answer.
As soon as the brothers had finished the repast which had been prepared for them, Ben got up his team, and, bidding
his brother “ to remember to put on a stiff upper lip when he went into his school,” cracked his whip and started off for home.
The next morning, after breakfast, as Locke was about to leave for the school-house, for the commencement of his task, Bunker took him aside:
“I should like to ask you one question, master,” he said ; “ and if you answer it at all, which you can do as you like about, I hope you will do it candidly.”
“ Certainly, I will, Mr. Bunker," replied the other, in some surprise.
“Well, I overheard my boys saying last night, that your brother, who came with you, told them and some others down at the mill, that you had such a fiery and ungovernable temper, that your family, as well as all the boys in your neighborhood, always run from you, when you get offended (as you often do at almost nothing), lest you should seize an axe and split their brains out; and he begged of them, with tears in his eyes, not to cross you in school, or break any
of your orders ; for if they did, you would be almost certain to seize the shovel or a cleft of wood, and kill one of them on the spot; and then he should have to see his brother hung for doing only what was natural to him, and what he could n't help. Now, though I have said nothing, yet I think I see through the object of this story; and I want to ask you, not whether it is true - for I think it must be all humbug -- but whether you put your brother up to this little plot, or whether it was one of his own hatching ?
“ It was one solely of his own contriving, and used without my knowledge or consent,” replied Locke, promptly.
“I am glad of it,” rejoined Bunker ; " for, though there would have been nothing very criminal in such a course, yet, I confess, it would have lowered you in my opinion. It was well enough in such a chick as I suspect your brother to be
and I have concluded to have it go, for the present, just as he left it ; for there is no knowing how much it may help you in keeping the boys under. So I advise you to keep your own counsel, go to your school, be decided, but treat your scholars like men and women, and not like slaves or senseless puppets, as some of our masters have done, to their own sorrow, I think. Do this, and I presume you will have no trouble in managing them. But whatever method you may take to govern them, be sure that you make them good thinkers.”
On reaching the school-house, where he found most of the pupils assembled, Locke soon saw indications, which convinced him, that Ben's bugbear representations, which had been made with so much address and apparent honesty that the truth of them seems not to have been doubted, were already known to every individual in school ; and that, in consequence, he had become, with the younger portion of them especially, the object of a terror which he little thought it would ever be his lot to inspire. This, indeed, was plainly discoverable the first moment he entered the house ; for coming among them somewhat unexpectedly, while his fancied traits of character were under discussion, they scattered for their seats with nearly as much haste and trepidation, as they would have shown had a dangerous wild beast walked into the room. And, in two minutes, all was so still, that not a sound, unless it was the beating of the hearts of the more timid, could be heard in the apartment. Nor did the vivid impressions of their new master's severity, which had thus oddly been received by the scholars, and which had fairly frightened them into such unwonted stillness, prove of so temporary a character as he expected. And often during the day, while arranging his classes or attending to the ordinary duties of the school, he scarcely knew whether he felt most secret amusement or pity at the
evident sensations of many around him, as he observed with what trembling anxiety his movements were watched, and saw how many furtive and expressive glances were cast at his face, in which, as their excited imaginations then pictured him, they appeared to read that which put all thoughts of roguery or misbehavior to instant flight. All this, to be sure, had reference mainly to the younger portion of the pupils. The older part, it is true, though their demeanor was marked by a respectful quietness, appeared rather to be debating in their minds the expediency of taking their former courses, than entertaining any particular alarms for themselves, while their behavior should be, to a decent degree, orderly. And during the intermissions of the first two or three days, little groups of the usually insubordinate might have been seen engaged in discussing the momentous question, how far it might be safe or feasible to attempt to subjugate the master, in the same way they had several of his predecessors. In all these consultations, however, Tom Bunker, whom his father had secretly engaged to take Locke's part in case of trouble, unexpectedly hung back, telling them they could do as they pleased; but perhaps they would find out, that they had better let the man alone. This coming, as it did, from their acknowledged champion, and one who had generally acted as ringleader in their former outbreaks against their teachers, not a little dampened the ardor of the advocates of rebellion. And after a few idle threats and expressions of defiance, thrown out by the way of warding off any imputations which might be made on their courage for retreating from their position, they finally relinquished their designs on the master, and concluded to submit to his authority, at least till he became the aggressor, in those acts of tyranny that they expected he would ere long exhibit towards them. The movements of the latter, therefore, were watched with no less silent suspicion by the larger, than with fear by the smaller pupils,