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WILLIAM BURCELL-A SCENE IN WHICH HE IS REPROVED FOR CRUELTY-A LESSON ON HUMANITY-THE CHARACTER OF INHUMANITAS-WILLIAM BURCELL PROFITED BY HIS REPROOF -A SCENE BEFORE THE SUMMER-HOUSE-THE AUTHOR OBTAINS THE NAME OF THE PHILOSOPHER.
MR. WHITE had said to my parents, that he superintended the actions of his pupils in their recreations with the same vigilance that he did their studies in the school-room. This was not mere boast. No sooner was he set at liberty, than he appeared with a book in his hand, and seated himself in a summer-house erected for the purpose, at the corner of the play-ground, from whence he might observe all that passed. His face, however, assumed such a deep, thoughtful expression, that, as I looked at him, I considered all might do as they pleased, and yet escape his observation. But it was not so. A short time
only had elapsed before all were summoned to the door of the summer-house, and William Burcell bade to take the prominent place in the group.
"Now, William," said our master, as we thus stood before him, "I have called you to this, what may be deemed high station among your companions, in order that you might give us a specimen of your powers of oratory. Repeat, for I know you can, the beautiful lines of Cowper, on cruelty to animals. William hung down his head, and mumbled out—
"I would not enter on my list of friends
(Though graced with polished manners and fine sense,
And charged, perhaps, with venom, that intrudes-
Sacred to neatness and repose,-th' alcove,
Not so when, held within their proper bounds,
As God was free to form them at the first;
At this point William grew pale and stopped, and it was only at the imperative command of our master that he continued :
"The spring-time of our years
Is soon dishonoured and defiled; in most
By which Heaven moves in pardoning guilty man;
"Well, William," resumed our master, "you have at length got through your task; but why did you mumble so, and halt in the midst of it? Did you think the piece not worth repeating?" "No, sir,” replied William "I think it very
"Indeed!" exclaimed Mr. White; "and doubtless it is very good, for it contains a fine lesson on humanity, which a boy before me would do well to follow. Can you tell which boy it is among you, William ?"
"No, sir," rejoined William, as the colour flew into his hitherto pale cheeks.
"What, add sin to sin, William !" exclaimed our master gravely. "I will venture to say that there is not a boy before me who did not at once perceive that your confusion denoted guilt. Follow me, boys."
Mr. White led the way, holding William by the hand, till at length he halted over the fragments of a poor butterfly. As all stood around him, he continued:-"I will not ask you, William, who has been guilty of this atrocious act, lest you should add to your guilt by telling another falsehood. Boys, as I sat in my summer-house, I saw this poor butterfly gaily flitting from flower to
flower in your neat little gardens, and I imagined, as I saw it thus happy, that if it had reason and speech, it would say:
I love those good boys who are playing around,
"Ah, hapless insect! as thou wast thus enjoying the labours of these 'good boys,' one of them, out of wanton cruelty, grasped thee in his rude hand, and destroyed thy pleasures and thy life. That boy was William Burcell !"
As Mr. White uttered this last sentence, his countenance betrayed such deep anger and determination, that the culprit trembled before him, confessed his fault, and began to beg pardon. "What mercy," asked our master, "did you
show to this mangled insect ?"
"None, sir," replied William, now evidently deeming frankness his only hope of escape from punishment.
"Then how can you hope for mercy?" replied Mr. White, "for it is the merciful alone that can obtain it. However, it is not for me to avenge the death of this poor butterfly. It was not my creature. All the skill and ingenuity that I possess, could not produce half so beautiful and wonderful an insect. Oh! William, William, you have destroyed one of the fair creations of infinite Wisdom, and that out of mere wanton sport. And what, think you, would your parents say, if some one, hardened to pity, should with rude hand destroy their beloved son William ? Would they not cause him to be punished ?”
"Yes, sir," replied William; "for I know they love me."
And think you, then," continued our master, "that God does not love his creatures? Mean though that poor insect may seem in your eyes, he tenderly cared for it, and your wanton deed is noted down in his book of remembrance, to be punished on some future day, if his pardon is not obtained. Let me exhort you then, William, to seek pardon for the wanton outrage you have committed on this his creature, and for the falsehood by which you endeavoured to conceal your fault."
William promised to obey, as the tears flowed down his cheeks; and Mr. White took the opportunity of giving us all a word of advice on the subject of cruelty to animals.
"Mankind act in general," said he, 66 as if every creature but man is insensible to pain. Hence it is we see the finished gentleman, alike with the sturdy wagoner, belabour his horses to urge their speed or their strength. Hence it is, also, we see the boy spin the chafer, and crush the butterfly. It was from the love that God bears to his creatures, that we find in Scripture so many injunctions to mercy on the part of man. Under the law of Moses, the Jew was enjoined to assist the beast of a foe, if he saw it in a helpless situation, and if any one discovered a nest of young birds he was to let the parent go free. This proves that the meaner works of the Creator are the objects of his care.
"And there is yet another powerful consideration why we should not indulge ourselves in acts