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grateful for such an education as Madam Tucker's, and have wished they could find something similar for their own children, even in these days of ladies' colleges and aristocratic seminaries. That old Exeter dame taught nothing she did not know, and made her pupils learn.
When Silvia and Silvester Silchester were out of the nurse's hands, their mother thought it time they should learn their alphabet. She opened the subject to the Squire.
“ Alphabet!” he exclaimed. “My dear Joan, “they shall learn nothing of the kind. It would be absurd to teach children what is really a nonentity. How many alphabets are there ? how many letters in each ? how many sounds without a letter to represent them?"
Mrs. Silchester, though one of Madam Tucker's prize pupils, was taken thoroughly aback by this eloquent outburst of her husband. He, standing with his back to the great wood
fire in the hall, waxed more voluble as he waxed warmer.
Alphabets, my darling Joan, are the ruin of realms and religions. I object to printing,” -a strong statement from the owner of the choicest library in Devon—“ but printing was inevitable when that scoundrel Cadmus invented an alphabet.”
Mrs. Silchester was not unused to the Squire's volubility. She had a vague idea that Madam Tucker had introduced her to Cadmus, but not, she thought, as a scoundrel. However, she was far too wise a woman to interrupt her husband in the full flush of his oratory: On he went, like a rivulet after rain.
Aristophanes taught the Athenians that true gentlemen ought not to be able to read or write. Imagination and memory are what
want. Learn your Homer and your Solon. Get poetry and law into your brain; the one will teach you the pleasure and peril of life, the other its method and management.”
“But really, John,” says Mrs. Silchester, “ would you like our son and daughter not to know reading and writing ?”
“Yes," he replied, with an emphasis that deserves small capitals. My dear girl, you talk of teaching them their alphabet. Do you know your alphabet ?
“I ought to," she answered. “What alphabet do
” “Why, the English, you goose,” said Joan, pulling his whiskers. They had left the hall, and were sitting side by side on one of those dear old parlour window-seats that held out in Devon longer than in any other county. Is there a parlour all through England now? Or have the [with]drawing-rooms exterminated them?
Parlour! How I like the word! A room for chat, talk, gossip. A room without stiffness. A room for afternoon. It had no antimacassars; and the big mastiff lounged in to see who called; and there might be a volume of Swift
or Fielding on the window-seat.
Where are they gone, those rooms ? Where are the pretty demure damsels gone-our aunts or our aunts' aunts—who sat and flirted in them?
“Well, you know,” quoth John Silchester, gravely, “English has no alphabet. English has a rude a b c, I admit, just as Etruscan had a rude l m n, whence the word element. But here am I with a girl and a boy to educateand I am told that the proper way to begin is to teach them a heteroëpic abracadabra.”
“I wish you could manage without such long words, dear,” said Joan.
“I am very sorry, my darling, but indignation drives me to use strong language.”
“My dear Jack,” says Mrs. Silchester, “it isn't your strong language I don't like, it's your long language."
The Squire laughed.
“ Never mind, my pet,” he said. to behave better. You want these two little rascals to learn the alphabet because you and
- I'll try
I learnt it, and it has not done us much injury. But aren't most people better without it? You teach a scoundrel to sign his name, and he forges a cheque. You teach a fool the art of writing, and he produces an epic poem, or a new way of squaring the circle. No: I have made up my mind about the education of my son and daughter. Two things will I never teach them : two things they must learn of their own free will when capable of teaching themselves : one is the alphabet, and the other the multiplication table.”'
“Well,” said Joan, “I suppose I must . submit, as I vowed to obey, and I don't much admire the multiplication table, because I always thought that seven times nine was ninety-one; but I should like to know why you are angry about the alphabet.”.
Alphabet! My dear child, we haven't got an alphabet. Our vowels and consonants are a set of maniacs fit for Colney Hatch. Look at other nations. We have twenty-six charac