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An Object-Lesson
by [?]

It was early in the autumn. Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, with their two hopefuls, had returned from a month of rest at the mountains, and the question of school for Thaddeus junior came up.

“He is nearly six years old,” said Bessie, “and I think he is quite intelligent enough to go to school, don’t you?”

“Well, if you want my honest opinion,” Thaddeus answered, “I think he’s intelligent enough to go without school for another year at least. I don’t want a hot-house boy, and I have always been opposed to forcing these little minds that we are called upon by circumstances to direct. It seems to me that the thing for us to do is to hold them back, if anything. If Teddy goes to school now, he’ll be ready for college when he is twelve. He’ll be graduated at sixteen, and at twenty he’ll be practising law. At twenty-five he’ll be leader of the bar; and then–what will there be left for him to achieve at fifty? Absolutely nothing.”

Mrs. Perkins laughed. “You have great hopes for Teddy, haven’t you?”

“Certainly I have,” Thaddeus replied; “and why shouldn’t I? Doesn’t he combine all my good qualities plus yours? How can he be anything else than great?”

“I am afraid there’s a touch of vanity in you,” said Mrs. Perkins, with a smile. “That remark certainly indicates it.”

“No–it’s not vanity in me,” said Thaddeus. “It’s confidence in you. You’ve assured me so often of my perfection that I am beginning to believe in it; and as for your perfection, I’ve always believed in it. Hence, when I see Teddy combining your perfect qualities with my own, I regard him as a supernaturally promising person–that is, I do until he begins to show the influence of contact with the hired man, and uses language which he never got from you or from me.”

“Granting that he is great at twenty-five,” said Mrs. Perkins, after a few moments’ reflection, “is that such a horrible thing?”

“It isn’t for the parents of the successful youth, but for the successful youth himself it’s something awful,” returned Thaddeus, with a convincing shake of the head. “If no one ever lived beyond the age of thirty-five it wouldn’t be so bad, but think of living to be even so young as sixty, with a big reputation to sustain through more than half of that period! I wouldn’t want to have to sustain a big name for twenty-five years. Success entails conspicuousness, and conspicuousness makes error almost a crime. Put your mind on it for a moment. Think of Teddy here. How nervous it would make him in everything he undertook to feel that the eyes of the world were upon him. And take into consideration that other peculiarity of human nature which leads us all, you and me as well as every one else, to believe that the man who does not progress is going backward, that there is no such thing as standing still; then think of a man illustrious enough for seventy at twenty-five–at the limit of success, with all those years before him, and no progress possible! No, my dear. Don’t let’s talk of school for Teddy yet.”

“I am sure I don’t want to force him,” said Mrs. Perkins, “but it sometimes seems to me that he needs lessons in discipline. I can’t be following around after him all the time, and it seems to me some days that I do nothing but find fault with him. I don’t want him to think I’m a stern mother; and when he tells me, as he did yesterday, that he wishes I’d take a vacation for a month, I can’t blame him.”

“Did he tell you that?” asked Thaddeus, with a chuckle.