Henry John Wrixon.

Jacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) online

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It was not alone that all those well-fed, comfortably, if
roughly, clad children were taught to read and write. It
was the recognition of the grand principle that all were
entitled to a chance in life, that none were to be outcast,
never in the race, but pushed out of the running from the
first, and that the Social State, while not attempting to
enforce an impossible equality among men, yet endeavours,
by its equal justice to the young of all classes, to give free
scope to the natural powers of each one in the race of life.

' How do you do, Mr. Frankfort ? I am glad to welcome
you to our school. I may say that I will take the more
interest in your career as, like myself, you are a teacher, only
in a more exalted sphere.'

' Yes, we are both teachers,' replied Frankfort ; ' and


teaching the young, if one does it with heart and sincerity,
is a great work in school or university.'

' Truly indeed,' said the schoolmaster, ' I would rather
teach the children in a forest school than preach to men in
a city cathedral. You can perhaps instruct the one, but
the others you can mould and fashion altogether.'

' Still, I feel some wonder,' pursued Frankfort, after a
little pause, ' when I see a man of your attainments, as I
understand, giving your life up so contentedly to this little
group of country children.'

' Ah, there you see it is. They are country children
now, but after a while they are scattered over the Province,
perhaps over the world. And there is so much involved in
even one life. The influence I impart ripples out, I hope,
in widening circles, though it is a lonely, distant spot where
the stone is dropped. Yes, I may say it without disrespect,
it is a greater work than politics. It is a noble work truly
to govern men justly, but it's nobler to teach them to
govern themselves.'

' Quite true, it is just what I would say myself. And
I hear, moreover, that you have solved the religious diffi-
culty in your school.'

' In a way, I certainly have,' answered Ernest Hooper,
' and, to speak my mind, in what seems to me the best way.
You see that what we describe as the religious difficulty is a
logical, argumentative difficulty, not a practical one ; at least,
not a practical one with the plain men and women who are
the parents of the children. As far as they are concerned,
there is no difficulty in saying each morning a devout prayer
or two, that all Christians, indeed all sane men, could join
in, and singing an inspiring hymn.'

' Then you don't propose to teach the facts of religion to
the children at all ? '

' Of course we could not do that in the State School,
which is for the children of all creeds. Besides that, while
I am a believing man myself, I hold that religious lessons in
the daily school, and given by the State teacher, would be of
little value. I don't know how you look at it, but I think
that this teaching of the facts of religion to the young is,
and especially is in our time, a very critical and difficult


matter. I often think that as much unbelief springs from
unwise teaching as from no teaching. It wants both faith
and intelligence in the teacher ; and sometimes I fear,'
continued Hooper, looking earnestly at his companion, ' that
one or other is lacking in those who undertake to teach
the Bible to the young. The danger is obvious. When
children grow up and find that some things taught them
by rote as facts are not really facts, they are very apt to
think that all they have learned is much the same, and that
religion, generally, is a make-believe. It is,' added Ernest
Hooper in a solemn tone, ' a very serious and a very difficult
problem too.'

' Why, do you know,' said Frankfort, ' what you say
reminds me of what happened at The Blocks a week or
so ago when I was there. It was a Sunday, and Miss
Lamborn came in from the Sunday School, and mentioned
that she had been quite put out by a question asked by one
of the boys. She was reading the story of the Barren Fig
Tree, in St. Matthew, when one sharp little fellow asked
quite respectfully, and only in order to be informed, " Please,
miss, is that the same fig tree that we learnt about last
Sunday in St. Mark, that it wasn't the season for figs." She
was rather upset by this simple question, and did not know
what to say. And she is a highly intelligent girl, I must
say, and she seems to have religious feelings too. The
good lady, the mother- Mrs. Lamborn, you know was
quite indignant at the boy presuming to ask such a question.
" Why did you not tell him to hold his tongue ? " she said.
And, by the way, I was rather amused at the daughter's
answer " Now, mother dear, what would be the use of my
telling him to hold his tongue, if I could not make him hold
his mind too ? "

'Just so. That is a fair example of the difficulty of
teaching the Bible nowadays to our youngsters. But I hold,'
continued Ernest Hooper, ' that it is a great evil, and a
needless one too, to have school from week's end to week's
end with all mention of God blotted out.'

' Might I ask how you managed to get the Department
to '

' What, tolerate my religion, such as it is ? Why, I would


not have come in without it, though they put a big free
school next to me. It was in that way or no way.'

' You felt so strongly about it then, I presume ? '

' Well, to tell you the truth, this was it. The wife had
died only a little before. She used to come in and start
the hymn.' Turning to Frankfort, he continued, ' You don't
know what it is to lose a wife after nearly twenty years
together. They tell me you are not married. But when one-
half of you has been wrenched off, and at middle age too,
the fear of other of the world's losses and misfortunes don't
impress one much. The demands of duty, to do all you can
in what time may be yours, seem stronger than ever. It's
the only thing left standing in the wreck. So I was fixed,
and indifferent as to the result to myself, and the Depart-
ment very fairly, and I think wisely, thought it better to
take me, religion and all,' he added with a slight smile.
' All the parents like it, religious and irreligious.'

As they walked through the school Frankfort noticed
many young people who were clearly over the school age
of attendance, and a senior class of grown boys and girls
pursuing their studies in a small room by themselves.

' What are these young people working for ? Do you
keep them here as long as they desire to study ? ' he asked.

'The elder ones are studying for the Matriculation
Examination at your University, or to qualify for the State
Service, the girls chiefly to be teachers.'

' Do many of them go to take up their parents' work or
go to industrial callings ? '

' A few do,' replied the schoolmaster. ' The truth is,
that everything has its weak side, and that is the weak side,
so far, of universal high-class education. I am disappointed
that it is so. But that's no reason for denying it. They
don't sufficiently realise the dignity, the great dignity of
honest labour. Old Dr. Johnson's dictum, that when
education was universal people would not be above plain
work, as all would be the same, has not as yet been verified.
We want to learn that we ought to take intelligence into
manual occupations, not send it to starve, and at times
indeed degrade itself, in what are considered genteel employ-
ments. Naturally enough, too, the poorer the rank of the


parents, the more their ambition is gratified by seeing their
children raised, as they ignorantly think, to a higher lot in
life. They would rather see them pinched and miserable
with a quill pen than independent and comfortable following
the plough and that though, mind you, the proper use of
the plough often calls for more real intelligence than the
common use of the pen.'

' Well, to be sure, that's a phase that universal education
must pass through in young, small communities with easy
conditions of life ; and it can only be a phase, for men
must live, and they can't do so by reading and writing only,'
remarked our politician.

4 Certainly that is true. Even now one can see the
symptoms of a coming reaction, and in a curious way, too,
moving from above. Many of the boys who' now go upon
the land belong to the better-off classes. The professions
are left to the ambition of the poor.'

' Yes, yes, the tendency must correct itself,' continued
our politician. ' The education of all is a new idea, and like
most new ideas it is apt to throw out some false develop-
ments before we settle down to the true lines. But experi-
ence teaches. Great truth in this old copy-book heading,'
he said, as he took one of the books from a sturdy urchin of
about thirteen, who had produced a series of frightfully dis-
torted imitations of the beautiful copperplate at the top of
the page, which announced that great truth that all assent
to intellectually, but which it requires the stern lessons of
life to bring home to us personally.

' True, and after all it's only a spot on the sun. But we
must make learning practical. When an educated people do
take to practical work they do it better than ever. Look at
Prussia. What would Bismarck, or, for the matter of that,
Von Moltke, have done without it ? '

' All these youngsters,' said Frankfort, looking over the
silent except for question and answer busy, attentive
classes, ' appear to be well conducted, and should, I suppose,
be easy to manage.'

' Certainly they are,' replied Ernest Hooper. ' No
hoodlums here. To be sure, they don't understand the idea
of reverence as we have it in old countries,'


' No reverence ? '

' Not in the old sense. How could they ? What have
we to teach reverence ? We have scarcely yet among us
any very old people ; little of the domestic hierarchy of
grandparents and elder relations, from which reverence in
the family and the tribe grows up to things of the nation.
We have no ancient buildings, under the shadow of which
generations come and go. Our very trees are young ; our
fossils show recent formations. But I find the youngsters
teachable, if they have some one to look up to whom they
can respect for himself. A certain good feeling and sense
of what is reasonable takes the place of the old formal habit
of reverence.'

' I suppose the habit of independence is apt to be accom-
panied, even with young people, by an intelligence that tends
to correct its excesses ? ' said Frankfort. ' That boy whose
copy-book I took just now did not bob or pull his forelock
or even stand up, but he seems to be a bright, well-con-
ducted lad.'

' He is one of my good boys,' answered the schoolmaster
' none better ; and he has the reverential feeling in his
nature too, though, as I say, there is little scope for its
exercise with us. What else have we to trust to in our
time for men or children but intelligence supporting the
old principle of obedience ? For certainly the rule of
direct authority we see to be weakening on all sides
magistrate and subject, husband and wife, master and
servant, parent and child.'

' Yes, and there comes in the cheering confidence that
its place will be supplied by the higher principle of duty or
love in subject, wife, workman, child,' rejoined our politician.
' Intelligence takes the place and does the work of

' True. That constitutes, however, the problem of our
age, Mr. Frankfort. You are quite right to regard it with
cheerful confidence, as you say. Still, experience, not
argument, must prove how far all this is to go, and what are
its limitations ; for in no organisation, great or small, can
you wholly get rid of the principle of authority.'

As they walked through the main schoolroom they


came to a small apartment at the end, which served as an
office for the master and a place where he taught at times
a special class.

' This is your book of school returns, I suppose ? ' said
Frankfort, as he pointed to a long account -book -looking
tome on the master's desk.

' No, indeed,' answered Hooper, ' that's a record that
would have startled Busby or Keats, or any of the other old
masters of flogging memory. It is the Corporal Punishment
Record. The Regulations require that if a boy gets more
than one stroke with the cane, the date, name, class, and
age of the pupil must be entered here. When the inspector
comes round he is to examine it and initial.'

' Well, to be sure, a proposal to old Keats to keep such
a volume would have staggered him ; or cruel Busby, who
used to give even small boys severe floggings for mere
trifles. These men would have wanted a library of Record
Books. It would have surprised the earls and baronets
whose sons they flogged too/ remarked Frankfort.

' Why, it's one other instance, out of many, of how the
new principle of human government is to work. We
legislate for the feelings of the schoolboy. The idea now is
to incite men and boys to good, rather than to punish them
for wrong -doing. Attention to the bad side of nature is
fading out, and all is expectation from the free scope of the
good. It's a noble principle too,' said Ernest Hooper, ' so
long as we do not expect so much from this human nature
that we forget its faulty vein altogether. For myself, I
expect that experience will teach in this, as in so many
other matters, that the real truth of the subject does not lie
with either extreme.'

' I remember hearing of this regulation ; but I never
happened to see one of the books before. I notice that
several of the earlier pages are torn out.'

' Yes, I asked leave of the Department to take them out.
Results that are never thought of sometimes follow regula-
tions, and laws too, we may say. You see, such a book as
this in a small quiet school does for a generation. It so
happened that one of the boys here, some years ago,
committed a rather bad boyish offence. I caned him


soundly, and duly entered all the particulars. He turned
out in time an excellent boy, married when he grew up, and,
unlike many others, settled on a farm in the district. After-
wards he became President of the School Board what
Mr. Blow is now and, by the way, Mr. Blow wants to see
you about fencing the school, I think. He and I forgot all
about the entry, till one day, as he was showing some
visitors over the school, he turned over the book as a curious
record, and came right upon the entry of his own offence
and punishment. Since then I have got permission to cut
out the pages after a year or so.'

' The Regulations exempt girls from all corporal punish-
ment,' remarked Frankfort.

' Yes, that's another symptom of the humane tendencies
of our age.'

' Yes, and soon too,' continued our politician, ' we may
expect this enlightened feeling to extend to politics, and
give women everywhere equal voice there with men.'

'Well, that's for you political gentlemen to decide,'
remarked the schoolmaster. ' Meanwhile, our school training
does not point exactly that way. I teach all my boys to
show to the girls that deference and consideration that is
due to a weaker, but not to an equal, sex. If there is any
dusting to be done on a dusty day about the girls' forms, I
set a boy to do it. If there is anything to be fetched for
them on a wet day, I send out a boy. When I dismiss the
school, the boys have to wait till the girls get their hats and
go out first. In everything I seek to impress upon the
boys that when they grow up to be men they are to be
the protectors and champions of the women.'

' Good training that It will teach them, as men, to
value women all the more when they gain equal political
rights,' responded our politician.

' I am glad to hear it,' said the schoolmaster.

' What a handsome building you have, Mr. Hooper ! '
exclaimed Frankfort, as they walked round outside.

' Yes, really it is. And a little style in school buildings
is not thrown away. It gives a certain dignity to the whole
institution of popular instruction. It cost a good sum too,
I assure you. You see, the ground around is unfenced still.


They want to see you about that. As the Government are
so pinched for funds now, the Minister asked the districts
that had got new schools to do the fencing themselves. We
have the timber here, to be sure. But here comes the
President of our Board himself, Mr. David Blow. Mr. Blow,
sir, let me introduce to you our new Member, Mr. Frankfort.
I have to go back to my duties, gentlemen, so I will take my
leave, if you please.'

' I makes my respects to you on getting on top of Meeks,
though he warn't quite a bad job lot neither, and I'm glad
ye' re come along this way. I looked in, as I'm on my way to
see a mob of Crank's bullocks that I'm looking up, to see
about this 'ere fencing. Just look at that,' said Mr. Blow,
facing round to have a full view of the school ' look at
that there fine buildin', all open and exposed there, like a
ship at sea in a storm, no sails, nor fence, nor nothin'
about it.' Notwithstanding his confusion of metaphors, the
President made clear his idea as he stretched out both
hands to the exposed edifice.

' Yes, it certainly does want fencing,' said our politician.

' And why don't they take on to it then ? ' exclaimed
Mr. Blow.

' I suppose you have asked for it ? '

' Yes, a dozen times, and I've told old Hooper there to
write too. And what do you think they say? What are
they leading on to? Why, no more money. ^1500 gone
in building. Hadn't we better do the fencing ourselves, if
you don't object at all, if you please.'

' Fence yourselves ! well really ' began our politician.

' Yes, it's the Gospel truth I'm saying I can show you
the Secretary chap's letter. Minister suggests parents turn
out some Saturday afternoon, fence with odd lots timber.
Saw-mills. My word ! '

' The Government are very hard up now, you know,
Mr. Blow. It would certainly give them a lift if the
districts that have got these new schools did look after the

' Oh, come now, Mr. Frankfort, that ain't my idea of Free,
Sec'lar, and Compuls'y at all. Government takes on them
to make it free, and then ask us to pay. That ain't the


correct card at all. And we look to you, sir, as our Member,
to protect us from being put on to like that We do indeed.
How many of them all about have done the fencin' them-
selves ? Why should we be wictimised, sir wictimised, I'd
like to know ? ' And the President extended his arms in

' Ah, who's wictimising my friend Mr. Blow,' interposed
Quiggle, who had come up from the Red Parrot for
Frankfort, as his prolonged conversation with Hooper was
delaying lunch. 'Who is wictimising my old friend Mr.
Blow ? Not an easy thing for any one to do,' continued the
agent, in his blandest tones. He saw that something had
gone wrong.

' Why, here's Mr. Frankfort a-takin' on that we might
do the school fencin' ourselves Glooscap martyrs like.
We couldn't swallow that, no ways. Short commons like

' Ah, dear me, you don't say that ? Well, well, let us
come and swallow the lunch at the Parrot, and we can fence
about the fencing afterwards, can't we ? ' said Quiggle,
looking cheerfully at the President, and smiling at the
attempt at a joke.

' No thank'ee. I've to be after these bullocks of Crank's
I'm rather sweet on. I'll be down to the Deputation all
right. But don't lamb us down about the fencing, anyway.
No short commons on that score, no ways ' ; and away after
his bullocks the President hurried.

' David is riled a bit. I can see that David is riled,'
remarked Quiggle, with a serious air, as he and our politician
walked on to the Red Parrot. ' David is riled,' he repeated

' Well, really, I would be sorry to rile any of my con-
stituents ; but it does seem to me reasonable that, after the
State has spent all that money on the school building, the
parents should give an afternoon to run up a fence round
for the playground of their own children.'

' But, my dear sir, isn't it the system for the Govern-
ment to do everything ? When in Rome do you know
the rest. Fact is, David would not even so much mind the
afternoon's work ; but he feels a bit done at being asked to


fence when the other places don't. That's what sticks in
David. " Mops and brooms, sir," says David " mops and
brooms." '

' Whom have we to see after lunch, Mr. Quiggle ? It's
hard work this interviewing all day,' said our politician,
willing to turn away from the fencing question.

' Ah, you may say that, sir. Though I am pretty well
seasoned, I call it the hardest work that the two-footed
human animal can be set to,' replied the little agent. ' Whom
have we to see ? ' he continued. ' Why, the Deputation
first, after lunch, and then M'Glumpy wants a word with
you. He says only one word ; but there's often a good deal
in his one word, and behind his one word, too. Then I should
not wonder if Jacob Shumate would come sailing round for
something or other. But step in, sir step in ; here we are,
and not dead beat yet not dead beat by no ways.' And
the agent led on upstairs to the private parlour of the Red
Parrot, where he and the Member were to lunch.

During the meal Frankfort inquired the particulars
about the Deputation that Quiggle had referred to. Would
it keep them long ? He was anxious to get away and
return to Brassville in time to meet Dillon, who was coming
up by the evening train, at dinner at the Lake Reservoir.
The agent assured him that the afternoon's work would be
short. As to the Deputation, Birnie Farrar, the Town Clerk,
had told him that it was a very simple matter that the
Mayor and Councillors of Glooscap wanted to see their
Member about. The Mayor's half-yearly reception would
follow, but that need not take long ; only the usual toasts
would be proposed. They could perhaps slip away before
the whole list had been exhausted.

' Oh, it won't take long,' the agent continued ; ' and if old
Shumate turns up with some fresh grievance, why, you must
just choke him off. It's easy to back out some way. Easy
as falling off a log.'

' Then there's some one else to see me, is there not ? '
inquired Frankfort.

'Why, only M'Glumpy yes, he must have his one
word ; perhaps not much in it, this time something for his
son or nephew, or both. Promise him. Easy done. Rimy


is not half a bad sort ; Rimigius M'Glumpy isn't half bad,
I say.'

' A leading local man, I presume ? '

' Why, yes,' answered Quiggle. ' And he and the clan
voted straight on the polling day. They said so, and they
did so. Not like Barney Clegg there, at the Brown Jug, the
sinner. The day after the election says Barney to me : " I
give you my Sunday good wishes, Mr. Quiggle, for your
success in putting in your man ; I voted straight anyway."
" Yes, Mr. Clegg," says I, " you did vote straight for Meeks."
You should have seen Barney when he knew that I had
found him out you should indeed. But M'Glumpy is
straight, and we must go straight for him, we really must.'

Here the landlord looked in to say that the Mayor and
Council had arrived, and were waiting for the Member in the
long Commercial Room. When they went down they found
the room crowded with the citizens of Glooscap, with His
Worship the Mayor and the Borough Council, and especially
the Town Clerk, at their head. All seemed to be sensible of
the dignity of their respective offices, from His Worship
downwards. All appeared to be worthy and sturdy
burgesses, independent sons of the soil, such as in older
land and earlier times had stood forth to claim the rights or
defend the liberties of their borough. And they, too, were
vigilant guardians of the claims of their town ; but their
demands were of a different kind from those that the
corporations of towns used in the old days to present to
their sovereign. It was no question of asserting their rights
and liberties, or claiming exemption from some undue
demand of aid and supply to the throne that had brought
them together. It was, in fact, the other way. It was to
ask an aid and supply from His Majesty, which the King's
Government made the same difficulty about granting that
their ancestors used to raise about their aids and supplies,
but which they hoped to be able to secure by their own
persistence and the political influence of their Representative.
The aid and supply was to enable them to drain a large
swamp in the district which properly they should drain

Online LibraryHenry John WrixonJacob Shumate; or, The people's march (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 45)