Here he has remained for several years, and, being honoured by the countenance of the Squire, and the fast friendship of Mr. Tibbets, he has grown into much importance and consideration in the village. I am told, however, that he still shows, now and then, a degree of restlessness, and a disposition to rove abroad again, and see a little more of the world; an inclination which seems particularly to haunt him about springtime. There is nothing so difficult to conquer as the vagrant humour, when once it has been fully indulged.
Since I have heard these anecdotes of poor Slingsby, I have more than once mused upon the picture presented by him and his schoolmate, Ready-Money Jack, on their coming together again after so long a separation. It is difficult to determine between lots in life, where each one is attended with its peculiar discontents. He who never leaves his home repines at his monotonous existence, and envies the traveller, whose life is a constant tissue of wonder and adventure; while he who is tossed about the world, looks back with many a sigh to the safe and quiet shore which he has abandoned. I cannot help thinking, however, that the man that stays at home, and cultivates the comforts and pleasures daily springing up around him, stands the best chance for happiness. There is nothing so fascinating to a young mind as the idea of travelling; and there is very witchcraft in the old phrase found in every nursery tale, of “going to seek one’s fortune.” A continual change of place, and change of object, promises a continual succession of adventure and gratification of curiosity. But there is a limit to all our enjoyments, and every desire bears its death in its very gratification. Curiosity languishes under repeated stimulants, novelties cease to excite surprise, until at length we cannot wonder even at a miracle.
He who has sallied forth into the world, like poor Slingsby, full of sunny anticipations, finds too soon how different the distant scene becomes when visited. The smooth place roughens as he approaches; the wild place becomes tame and barren; the fairy tints that beguiled him on, still fly to the distant hill, or gather upon the land he has left behind; and every part of the landscape seems greener than the spot he stands on.
But to come down from great men and higher matters to my little children and poor school-house again; I will, God willing, go forward orderly, as I purposed, to instruct children and young men both for learning and manners.
Having given the reader a slight sketch of the village schoolmaster, he may be curious to learn something concerning his school. As the Squire takes much interest in the education of the neighbouring children, he put into the hands of the teacher, on first installing him in office, a copy of Roger Ascham’s Schoolmaster, and advised him, moreover, to con over that portion of old Peacham which treats of the duty of masters, and which condemns the favourite method of making boys wise by flagellation.