“But none inquired how Peter used the rope,
Or what the bruise that made the stripling stoop;
None could the ridges on his back behold,
None sought him shiv’ring in the winter’s cold.
* * * * *
The pitying women raised a clamour round.”
CRABBE, The Borough.
A great many people say that all suffering is good for one, and I am sure pain does improve one very often, and in many ways. It teaches one sympathy, it softens and it strengthens. But I cannot help thinking that there are some evil experiences which only harden and stain. The best I can say for what we endured at Crayshaw’s is that it was experience, and so I suppose could not fail to teach one something, which, as Jem says, was “more than Snuffy did.”
The affection with which I have heard men speak of their school-days and school-masters makes me know that Mr. Crayshaw was not a common type of pedagogue. He was not a common type of man, happily; but I have met other specimens in other parts of the world in which his leading quality was as fully developed, though their lives had nothing in common with his except the opportunities of irresponsible power.
The old wounds are scars now, it is long past and over, and I am grown up, and have roughed it in the world; but I say quite deliberately that I believe that Mr. Crayshaw was not merely a harsh man, uncultured and inconsiderate, having need and greed of money, taking pupils cheap, teaching them little or nothing, and keeping a kind of rough order with too much flogging,—but that the mischief of him was that he was possessed by a passion (not the less fierce because it was unnatural) which grew with indulgence and opportunity, as other passions grow, and that this was a passion for cruelty.
One does not rough it long in this wicked world without seeing more cruelty both towards human beings and towards animals than one cares to think about; but a large proportion of common cruelty comes of ignorance, bad tradition and uncultured sympathies. Some painful outbreaks of inhumanity, where one would least expect it, are no doubt strictly to be accounted for by disease. But over and above these common and these exceptional instances, one cannot escape the conviction that irresponsible power is opportunity in all hands and a direct temptation in some to cruelty, and that it affords horrible development to those morbid cases in which cruelty becomes a passion.
That there should ever come a thirst for blood in men as well as tigers, is bad enough but conceivable when linked with deadly struggle, or at the wild dictates of revenge. But a lust for cruelty growing fiercer by secret and unchecked indulgence, a hideous pleasure in seeing and inflicting pain, seems so inhuman a passion that we shrink from acknowledging that this is ever so.