Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 31.djvu/817

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THE SAVAGERY OF BOYHOOD.

After we had wrung its head off, we got the wings, and threw the rest of the bird out of the window.J. F. T."

 

My twelve-year-old Procrustes has brought out his deed in all its stark brutality, and evidently he is not ashamed of it. His language, so entirely devoid of all compunction, is sufficient evidence on this point; but I can strengthen the testimony by my experience that a boy never puts into his composition any idea the propriety of which he questions in the least. As every one knows who has many dealings with children, they are remarkably shy about letting their feelings be known to grown people, and they will scarcely ever deliberately express a thought before their elders which they think may be disapproved of. Consequently, I feel very sure that the young savage just quoted saw nothing evil in his act, and that his unawakened conscience gave him no pang as he recalled the heartless butchery of the bewildered guest against whom he had violated the laws of hospitality. On the contrary, there is a tone about his words as of savage complacency—the complacency of the Dyak who recounts his successes in the head-hunt, and gloats over his barbarities as they rise bloody before his mind's eye.

Ruthless as Procrustes appears to be, it is highly probable that his barbarous state of mind is not in any great degree exceptional, but may rather be taken as a fair example of the mental and moral condition of most of the healthy boys of his time of life now growing up in this country. At first sight, this may seem far too disparaging an opinion of the moral nature of boys; and unquestionably it is a lower view than that reflected in the juvenile magazines and Sunday-school books. Yet some consideration, I think, will show that it is nearly correct.

Almost every father whose family contains two or three healthy boys under the age of fifteen, certainly every teacher in a boys' school, unless he altogether fails to reach the hearts of the youngsters around him, must feel, after reading a volume or two of current children's literature, that his own boys lack the tender sympathy, the overflowing compassion, which it is now the fashion to impute to the heroes of juvenile fiction. Those persons who are not in a position to come in contact with the children of to-day need only to recall to memory the scenes of their own childhood in order to find repeated episodes in which a suffering kitten or puppy was the central and unpitied figure. The callousness of the children of one's own circle will be made evident after a few minutes spent in such clarifying (though, to sensitive people, rather annoying) introspection; and what is true of one circle in this regard is approximately true of all. My own conviction is, that healthy boys under fifteen feel very little compassion for any suffering but that of their near relatives, their close friends, and occasionally their pet animals. Not only do they evince little compassion,