“Since training children is the staple work of the human race,” said Augustine, “I should think it something of a consideration that our system does not work well there.”
“It does not for some things,” said Alfred; “for others, again, it does. It makes boys manly and courageous; and the very vices of an abject race tend to strengthen in them the opposite virtues. I think Henrique, now, has a keener sense of the beauty of truth, from seeing lying and deception the universal badge of slavery.”
“A Christian-like view of the subject, certainly!” said Augustine.
“It’s true, Christian-like or not; and is about as Christian-like as most other things in the world,” said Alfred.
“That may be,” said St. Clare.
“Well, there’s no use in talking, Augustine. I believe we’ve been round and round this old track five hundred times, more or less. What do you say to a game of backgammon?”
The two brothers ran up the verandah steps, and were soon seated at a light bamboo stand, with the backgammon-board between them. As they were setting their men, Alfred said,
“I tell you, Augustine, if I thought as you do, I should do something.”
“I dare say you would,—you are one of the doing sort,—but what?”
“Why, elevate your own servants, for a specimen,” said Alfred, with a half-scornful smile.
“You might as well set Mount AEtna on them flat, and tell them to stand up under it, as tell me to elevate my servants under all the superincumbent mass of society upon them. One man can do nothing, against the whole action of a community. Education, to do anything, must be a state education; or there must be enough agreed in it to make a current.”
“You take the first throw,” said Alfred; and the brothers were soon lost in the game, and heard no more till the scraping of horses’ feet was heard under the verandah.
“There come the children,” said Augustine, rising. “Look here, Alf! Did you ever see anything so beautiful?” And, in truth, it was a beautiful sight. Henrique, with his bold brow, and dark, glossy curls, and glowing cheek, was laughing gayly as he bent towards his fair cousin, as they came on. She was dressed in a blue riding dress, with a cap of the same color. Exercise had given a brilliant hue to her cheeks, and heightened the effect of her singularly transparent skin, and golden hair.
“Good heavens! what perfectly dazzling beauty!” said Alfred. “I tell you, Auguste, won’t she make some hearts ache, one of these days?”
“She will, too truly,—God knows I’m afraid so!” said St. Clare, in a tone of sudden bitterness, as he hurried down to take her off her horse.
“Eva darling! you’re not much tired?” he said, as he clasped her in his arms.
“No, papa,” said the child; but her short, hard breathing alarmed her father.
“How could you ride so fast, dear?—you know it’s bad for you.”