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Scourhill's Adventures by E. V. Lucas

 

There was a review of a regiment of horse at a small distance from the Academy, and several of the boys were allowed to be present. On the road they fell in with a man who was walking, and leading a horse with two empty panniers suspended on each side of it. Scourhill requested a ride; the man consented, and the youth mounted upon the horse.

The animal had long been a dragoon horse, and when it became old it was sold to a farmer. But it had not forgot its early habits, for on arriving within sight of the cavalry the old charger pricked up its ears, and seemed to resume the fire of youth. The young men laughed, and complimented Scourhill on the appearance he made upon his war-horse; but while they were yet speaking the trumpet sounded, and the animal, roused into spirit, set off at a full trot, and fell into the front rank. Immediately the signal was given for a charge, and Scourhill and his horse, with the baskets dangling by its sides, flew off at full speed, amid the shouts and huzzas of the whole crowd. The instant that the regiment halted the youth slid off the horse, which he delivered to its owner, and, completely mortified with his military exhibition, he sunk into the crowd, and regained his companions.

The young men, on their return home, as they were about to enter the village, saw an ass feeding by the roadside. 'What a fine appearance,' said Falsesight to Scourhill, 'you would make upon this noble animal, at the head of the regiment!' Saying this, he attempted to leap upon its back, but was not able. Scourhill, in order to show his agility, made a spring, and easily accomplished what his companion had tried in vain. Instantly Falsesight took off his hat, and gave the animal a few slaps, and away it cantered into the village, pursued by the young men, urging it to full speed, while every boy whom they met joined in the pursuit, and every cottage poured out its matrons and children and dogs.

In the midst of this uproar, the Rector entered the village, and was coming full upon Scourhill and his retinue when the ass made a sudden halt before the door of a tinker, its master, and threw its rider upon a large heap of mire. The youth instantly started up, and, without ever looking behind him to thank his attendants for the procession, he ran home to the Academy.

He retired, and some time after his arrival he wrote a small note to the Rector, expressive of sorrow for his conduct, and requesting permission to keep his room for the evening. Mr. Macadam granted the request, and at the same time desired the servant to say that he was assured that Master Scourhill would find himself much fatigued after his brilliant display of assmanship, which so much astonished the village.

The errors of a boy must be corrected by corporal punishment, or by the deprivation of something which he values, or by his own self-reproach. The whole aim of Mr. Macadam, in the education of his pupils, was to raise them to that dignity of character which renders the last mode of punishment efficient for right conduct. To raise youth, however, to such a character requires knowledge, vigilance, affectionate severity, and prudent indulgence; and if few boys possess it, let us not complain of human nature. Will the husbandman who in spring has neglected his fields meet with commiseration when he complains that his harvest has failed?

Scourhill received no punishment, excepting what arose from his own sense of shame; but next day the Rector spoke to his pupils, and he particularly cautioned them against those pursuits which tend to debase the character. 'The rich,' said he, 'owe their virtues and talents to society as much as the poor man does his industry; and if the former fall into low amusements, they do not become useless only; they frequently become vicious, and sometimes they make as honourable an exhibition as did Master Scourhill on the ass pursued by the boys and dogs of the village.'

The youth was advised to make some reparation or apology to the tinker, the particular nature of which was left to his own discretion; and for this purpose he was permitted to leave the Academy for the evening.

The tinker had a child, and Scourhill thought that an apology to the father and a present to the son would amply atone for his imprudence.

[Illustration: Every boy ... joined in the pursuit, and every cottage poured out its matrons and children and dogs.—Page 163.]

Before entering the village, Scourhill had to pass a mill. A child playing on the margin of the stream that supplied it with water fell in, and was floating toward the mill-wheel, when the youth, seeing its danger, rushed forward, and caught it by the clothes just as it was on the point of destruction. Several people witnessed the event, and the report that a child was carried into the mill-wheel flew through the village, and every mother came running to the place. The woman to whom the child belonged soon heard its name, and, pushing in a frantic manner through the crowd, she flew to it, and, taking it in her arms, cried, clasping it to her bosom, 'My child, my child!' She then silently gazed upon its face, apparently to see whether it was really alive, and, shedding tears, she exclaimed, 'Heaven be praised!'

After her mind became somewhat more composed, Scourhill was pointed out to her; she in a moment put the child out of her arms, and, hastily making up to the youth, she embraced him, and gratefully thanked him for rescuing her child.

Scourhill, as soon as the general attention was withdrawn from him, retired from the crowd, and went to the cottage of the tinker. He entered, and, finding the man at work, he took off his hat, and in an obliging manner apologized for his conduct. The tinker said, smiling: 'To be sure, you had a grand procession, but my ass is nothing the worse for it, and I freely forgive you.' The youth politely thanked him, and just as he was about to retire, he slipped a little money into the hand of the tinker's son.

The child, proud of its present, showed it to its father, who instantly threw down his tools and ran out of the house after the youth. The crowd were returning from the mill; Scourhill had to pass through it, and the matrons were not a little surprised to see the deliverer of the child pursued by the mender of kettles. The tinker soon overtook him, and, having thanked him for his polite and generous conduct, he turned about and satisfied the curiosity of those who surrounded him. Scourhill received much applause, and while he continued his course every eye pursued him in admiration.

Mr. Macadam wrote an account of the preceding adventures to Scourhill's father, and the old gentleman returned an answer, in which he says: 'Your letter rejoices my heart. Make my son Joseph a scholar, but, above all, make him an honest man. I know little about your Latin and Greek, as being things very much out of my way; but this I know—that a man, if his heart is right, can look a fellow-creature in the face; but without being an honest man, why, he had better not live.

'When your letter came to hand, I was sitting at dinner, after a most noble chase, in the midst of my friends, all men of the right sort, downright hearty good fellows. The cloth was removed, and we had just sung, Bright Phoebus had mounted his chariot of day, when my servant Jonathan came in with your letter.

'But you must know my servant. Jonathan is none of your flighty, bowing footmen that whip in upon you with the spring of a fox. No, Jonathan is better trained. He opens the door leisurely, and marches slowly to within four yards of my chair, and there he halts, his eye resting upon me. If the conversation is general, he comes forward, and delivers his message; but if I am telling one of my hunting stories, he must neither speak nor move till he receives my orders. Well, as I said, Jonathan came in with your letter. I was in the middle of one of my best stories, and, according to custom, he took his station. I came to a pause and looked at him. He made his bow, but I continued my story. I made a second pause, and again turned my eye toward him. He bowed. “I see you, Jonathan,” said I, and went on with my story. At the third pause I took a few seconds to breathe. The honest fellow made one of his lowest bows. I said to him, “Come hither. A letter you have for me? Let me see it.” (I know your handwriting.) “Carry it, honest Jonathan, to your mistress,” said I; “for my story is not yet finished. It is from the worthy man, the Rector; it is about Joseph; return, and let me know whether the youngster continues to behave well.”

'One of the company remarked the peculiar manner of Jonathan, and this brought on a conversation concerning servants. “I have an Irish one,” said Squire Danby, “a fellow with a sly, blunt countenance; but his heart is honest and affectionate. Yesterday I sent him with a message; he stayed too long, and on his return I was much displeased. 'Where do you come from?' I cried in an angry tone. 'From Belfast,' he calmly replied. 'What!' exclaimed I, raising my voice, 'you are still the old man in your answers!' 'Old man,' replied he, with a blunt but respectful air; 'that is just what my father used to say. “Pat,” says he, “were you to live to the age of Methuselah, you would still be Patrick O'Donnar.”' I lost all patience. 'Sirrah!' cried I, 'to whom do you speak?' 'Sir, did you not know,' answered he, 'I would tell you.' I was extremely provoked; I gave him a push from me, and he fell upon a favourite dog, which set up a loud howl. Pat leisurely arose, muttering, 'Ay, Towler, I see you are ashamed,' and he walked slowly away. He soon returned, and, coming up to me, said with a grave countenance that he was determined to quit my service. My anger had subsided, and I, smiling, said, 'Why, Pat, leave my service?' 'Because, sir,' replied he, 'there is no bearing with your anger.' 'Tut, my anger,' I cried, 'it is a mere blast, which is quickly over.' 'Yes,' said he, with one of his vacant stares, 'it is a blast; but it is the blast of a hurricane which knocks me down.' I easily reconciled him to his situation.”

'In a short while Jonathan came back, and in a fluttered manner said that his mistress wanted to speak with me. Immediately I left the table, and went to my wife. As I entered the door of the apartment, I saw that she was in tears; my heart sunk; my limbs trembled, and, walking up to her, I took her hand, and kissed her cheek; for we have ever lived in a loving manner, and I cried, “My dear, be comforted. Is our son Joseph dead?” She in a hurried tone talked of a dragoon horse, an ass, a child, and a tinker. “What!” cried I, “my dear, has our son Joseph to do with dragoon asses and horses?” I unwittingly put the asses first. She laughed. I stared at her, and, shaking my head, I said to myself, “Ah! my poor wife!” For I really thought that she was touched in the brain.

'She then thrust the letter into my hand; I read it, and when I came to the last part I felt that I was a father. When I saw my boy catching the child, when I saw the mother embracing him, when I saw them all blessing him, my heart overflowed with tenderness, and I exclaimed, “He is indeed my son Joseph.” My wife, who saw that I was affected, wept, and, while I was drying my own eyes, I always cried to her, “My dear, do not weep.”

'I then descended to the company, with the letter in my hand, and told them that I should let them hear a story about my son. I then gave the letter to my friend, Squire Sleekface, and requested him to read it. My friend, who is almost as broad as long, has a jolly round countenance, and when he is merry he shakes the whole house with his laughter. The Squire read with decent composure till he came to the old horse at full charge, with the paniers dancing by its sides. Here he made a full stop; the letter fell upon his knee, and his sides were convulsed with laughter. He began again, and got tolerably well through with the ass race, till he arrived at the turning-post, where Joseph was laid in the mire. At this place my friend, with his immoderate laughter, slid off his chair, and fell with his back flat upon the floor, and there he lay rolling from one side to another, while we all stood round him shaking our sides with laughter. At this moment honest Jonathan stalked in with his solemn pace, and took his station waiting my orders. His appearance added still more to our mirth.

'At length said I, “Honest Jonathan, lend us a hand.” We got the Squire placed upon his chair; we all dried our eyes, and again took our seats. When the last part of your letter was read, all was silence and attention, and at the end of it my friend Sleekface called, “A bumper!” He then gave the toast, “May Joseph honour his father by being an honest man!” The second toast was, “May we, without being philosophers, embrace every man as a brother; and, without being courtiers, may we ever smile upon a friend!” We then drank the land o' cakes, and we concluded the whole with singing “Rule Britannia.”'

 
 
 

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