« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
EDITED BY WILLIAM A. ALCOTT,
AND EDITOR OF THE LIBRARY OF HEALTH.'
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1837,
By William A. Alcott, In the Clerk's Office of the District of Massachusetts.
An incident, which occurred in the early history of the American Asylum, at Hartford, Connecticut, for the education of the deaf and dumb, has left an impression on the memory of the writer, of the efficacy of religious influence upon an untutored mind, which is still vivid with the freshness, as it were, of yesterday.
A boy had come to the institution, from a considerable distance, of a striking, and, in many respects, very interesting character. He was the son of a widow, living in one of our large seaports. She was in moderate circumstances; and, as is too often the case with parents who have a deaf and dumb child, had treated him with a degree of indulgence alike excessive and unwise. He had been brought under little or no restraint, and, by roaming about the city, and, especially on the wharves and among the shipping, bad acquired habits which made him a singularly fit subject on which to exercise all the skill and patience of those who had the charge of his instruction and government.
He was under ten years of age, but possessed of great muscular power and bodily activity. The tone of his will was equally strong; his temperament quick, ardent and courageous, - it might be said, reckless.
Subordination, in all its forms, he had yet to learn ; and to teach this, in any good degree, was no easy task. If any
Anecdote of a Deaf Mute.
physical coercion, affecting the free use of his locomotive powers, was attempted, or corporeal discipline threatened, he had a habit of uttering a violent and piercing shriek, of no small volume and extent of sound. He had probably found, at home, that doing this was the means of exciting either so much alarm or sympathy, as to arrest the course of parental discipline; and he resorted to the old device for relief on the new emergencies, believing that his success would be equally great.
It was necessary to watch him at all points, and, by a proper mixture of firmness and tenderness, to let him see that obedience to rightful and reasonable authority, would not be dispensed with.
There was then no chapel in the Asylum, as there is at present, and no religious exercises were held on the Sabbath, during the usual hours of public worship, - a custom which has since been introduced and continued, with deep interest, and, it is hoped, with great benefit, on the part of the pupils.
For the sake of forming a salutary religious habit, and of impressing their minds with some notions of the sacredness of the day and of the solemnities of public service, as visible to them in the large assembly and devotional aspect of a body of worshippers, the pupils of the Asylum were required to attend at one of the churches in the city. They were distributed in several pews in the gallery, accompanied by the teachers; the males occupying one portion, and the females another. And, generally, their deportment was of the most decorous kind, - impressed as they appeared to be, with the solemnity of the place and the occasion.
Now and then there were exceptions, of which the boy to whom I have referred was one. It was thought best to have him under my immediate inspection. He was accordingly brought from his usual seat among the boys, and placed in the pew where I sat, and which was occupied by female pupils.
One Sabbath forenoon, he seemed to be more restless than usual, and as full, as his overflowing animal spirits could make him, of a half-malicious sportiveness, showing itself in sly, antic movements of his hands and feet, and droll expressions of countenance, so irresistibly ludicrous, that really it was hard to blame the smiles and half-suppressed laughter which ran round the circle of his pew-mates.
After several severe admonitions with my eye and finger, which only answered the purpose of making him more cautious, so as to turn his former fuller expressions of roguery into more concealed, though not less provoking, hints and 'allusions of merriment, (as we of speech would say,) I directed him to
Extent of his Obstinacy.
leave his seat, and come and stand near me, before the door of the pew. He obstinately refused. Laying my hand upon his shoulder, to produce compliance, 1 perceived, as he struggled to resist me, that he was preparing for one of his tremendous shrieks, which, if uttered at the time, and under the circumstances of the occasion, would have electrified the whole assembly. I knew this from my familiarity with the foreboding movements and expressions of countenance that always accompanied this practice.
I dreaded such an explosion exceedingly, and saw that there was but one way to prevent it. In an instant, I took his hat and my own, and ordered him to go with me out of the church. The unexpectedness of the command, and the strong and stern air of authority with which I enforced it, to my agreeable surprise, (for, I confess that I had fears of not succeeding,) produced immediate obedience.
We went, with all possible expedition, to my study in the Asylum, adjoining which was a large closet. There I bade him be seated on a chair, and proceeded to tie his hands behind him with a silk handkerchief, and his feet together, in the same manner. All this was done with so much despatch, and with such an air of determination on my part, that he seemed not to have the time necessary to collect and array his turbulent feel. ings into a confirmed opposition. Had he done this, there is not much probability that I could have accomplished my object, single-handed; for his muscular strength and eel-like lubricity of motion, under the direction of his inflexible obstinacy, when it was once fairly roused to effort, would, I think, have proved an over-match for me.
I hoped, by tying him as I did, to make him feel that he was in my power, and, in addition to this, to produce, by the restraint, some more quietness of nerves, and possibly a subdued spirit.
I waited a sufficient time to have the effect follow, which did in a good degree, so far as bodily composure was concerned. There was evidently, also, some composure of mind ; but whether it was accompanied with any compunctions of conscience and a willingness to yield the obedience of the heart, or was only the calm to forebode a new storm, I was at a loss to determine.
I stood before him, and secured his fixed and steady attention. With all the mild yet firm expression of countenance that I could assume, exhibiting, what I really felt, a deep sorrow for his misconduct and a parental longing of soul, to convince him of it, and make him sensible of his guilt, I began to tell him, by