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again; they talked of the school fever that attacks children when they are kept employed all day long. This dissatisfaction, which showed itself during the first months, resulted principally from the fact that many of them were ill, the consequence either of the sudden change of diet and habits, or of the severity of the weather and the dampness of the building in which we lived. We all coughed a great deal, and several children were seized with a peculiar sort of fever.
"This fever, which always began with sickness, was very general in the district. Cases of sickness, however, not fol lowed by fever, were not at all rare, and were an almost natural consequence of the change of food. Many people attributed the fever to bad food, but the facts soon showed them to be wrong, for not a single child succumbed.
"On the return of spring it was evident to everybody that the children were all doing well, growing rapidly, and gaining colour. Certain magistrates and ecclesiastics, who saw them some time afterwards, stated that they had improved almost beyond recognition.
"A few of the children, however, continued in ill-health for some time, and the influence of the parents was not favourable to their recovery. 'Poor child, how ill you look! I am sure I could look after you at home as well as you are looked after here. Come away with me.' That was the sort of thing said by women who were in the habit of begging from door to door. On Sundays, especially, numbers of parents used to come and openly pity their children till they made them cry, and then urge them to go away. I lost a great many in this way; and though their places were soon filled by others, you can understand how bad these constant changes were for an establishment that was only just beginning.
"Many parents thought they were doing me a personal favour by leaving the children with me, and even asked the Capuchins whether it was because I had no other means of subsistence that I was so anxious to have pupils. It was the general opinion amongst these people that poverty alone could have induced me to give myself so much trouble, an opinion which came out in their behaviour towards me.
"Some asked me for money to make up for what they had lost by their children being no longer able to beg; others, hat on head, informed me that they did not mind trying a few days longer; others, again, laid down their own conditions.
"Months passed in this way before I had the satisfaction of having my hand grasped by a single grateful parent. But the children were won over much sooner. They even wept sometimes when their parents met me or left me without a word of salutation. Several of them were perfectly happy, and used to say to their mothers: 'I am more comfortable here than at home.' At home, indeed, as they readily told me when we talked alone, they had been ill-used and beaten, and had often had neither bread to eat nor bed to lie down upon. And yet these same children would sometimes go off with their mothers the very next morning.
"A good many others, however, soon saw that by staying with me they might both learn something and become something, and these never failed in their zeal and attachment. Before very long their conduct was imitated by others, though not always from the same considerations.
"Those who ran away were the worst in character and the least capable. But they were not incited to go till they were free of their vermin and their rags. Several were sent to me with no other purpose than that of being taken away again as soon as they were clean and well clothed.
But after a time their better judgment overcame the defiant hostility with which they arrived. In 1799 I had nearly eighty children. Most of them were bright and intelligent, some even remarkably so.
"For most of them study was something entirely new. As soon as they found that they could learn, their zeal was indefatigable, and in a few weeks children who had never before opened a book, and could hardly repeat a Pater Noster or an Ave, would study the whole day long with the keenest interest. Even after supper, when I used to say to them, ' Children, will you go to bed, or learn something?' they would generally answer, especially in the first month or two, 'Learn something.' It is true that afterwards, when they had to get up very early, it was not quite the same.
"But this first eagerness did much towards starting the establishment on the right lines, and making the studies the success they ultimately were, a success, indeed, which far surpassed my expectations. And yet the difficulties in the way of introducing a well-ordered system of studies were at that time almost insurmountable.
"Neither my trust nor my zeal had as yet been able to
overcome either the intractability of individuals or the want of coherence in the whole experiment. The general order of the establishment, I felt, must be based upon order of a higher character. As this higher order did not yet exist, I had to attempt to create it; for without this foundation I could not hope to organize properly either the teaching or the general management of the place, nor should I have wished to do so. I wanted everything to result not from a preconceived plan, but from my relations with the children. The high principles and educating forces I was seeking, I looked for from the harmonious common life of my children, from their attention, activity, and needs. It was not, then, from any external organization that I looked for the regeneration of which they stood so much in need. If I had employed constraint, regulations and lectures, I should, instead of winning and ennobling my children's hearts, have repelled them and made them bitter, and thus been farther than ever from my aim. First of all, I had to arouse in them pure, moral, and noble feelings, so that afterwards, in external things, I might be sure of their ready attention, activity, and obedience. I had, in short, to follow the high precept of Jesus Christ, 'Cleanse first that which is within, that the outside may be clean also'; and if ever the truth of this precept was made manifest, it was made manifest then.
"My one aim was to make their new life in common, and their new powers, awaken a feeling of brotherhood amongst the children, and make them affectionate, just, and considerate.
"I reached this end without much difficulty. Amongst these seventy wild beggar-children there soon existed such peace, friendship, and cordial relations as are rare even between actual brothers and sisters.
"The principle to which I endeavoured to conform all my conduct was as follows: Endeavour, first, to broaden your children's sympathies, and, by satisfying their daily needs, to bring love and kindness into such unceasing contact with their impressions and their activity, that these sentiments may be engrafted in their hearts; then try to give them such judgment and tact as will enable them to make a wise, sure, and abundant use of these virtues in the circle which surrounds them. In the last place, do not hesitate to touch on the difficult questions of good and evil, and the words connected with them. And you must do this especially in connection with the ordinary
events of every day, upon which your whole teaching in these matters must be founded, so that the children may be reminded of their own feelings, and supplied, as it were, with solid facts upon which to base their conception of the beauty and justice of the moral life. Even though you should have to spend whole nights in trying to express in two words what others say in twenty, never regret the loss of sleep.
"I gave my children very few explanations; I taught them neither morality nor religion. But sometimes, when they were perfectly quiet, I used to say to them, 'Do you not think that you are better and more reasonable when you are like this than when you are making a noise?' When they clung round my neck and called me their father, I used to say, 'My children, would it be right to deceive your father? After kissing me like this, would you like to do anything behind my back to vex me?' When our talk turned on the misery of the country, and they were feeling glad at the thought of their own happier lot, I would say, 'How good God is to have given man a compassionate heart!" Sometimes, too, I asked them if they did not see a great difference between a Government that cares for the poor and teaches them to earn a livelihood, and one that leaves them to their idleness and vice, with beggary and the workhouse for sole resource.
"Often I drew them a picture of the happiness of a simple, peaceful household, that by economy and hard work has provided for all its wants, and put itself in a position to give advice to the ignorant, and help to the unfortunate. When they pressed round me, I used to ask the best of them, even during the first few months, whether they would not like to live like me, and have a number of unfortunate children about them to take care of and turn into useful men. The depth of their feelings would even bring tears to their eyes, as they answered, Ah, if I could only do that!'
"What encouraged them most was the thought of not always remaining poor, but of some day taking their place again amongst their fellows, with knowledge and talents that should make them useful, and win them the esteem of other men. They felt that, owing to my care, they made more progress in this respect than other children; they perfectly understood that all they did was but a preparation for their future activity, and they looked forward to happiness as the certain result of their perseverance. That is why steady
application soon became easy to them, its object being in perfect accordance with their wishes and their hopes. Virtue, my friend, is developed by this agreement, just as the young plant thrives when the soil suits its nature, and supplies the needs of its tender shoots.
"I witnessed the growth of an inward strength in my children, which, in its general development, far surpassed my expectations, and in its particular manifestations not only often surprised me, but touched me deeply.
"When the neighbouring town of Altdorf was burnt down, I gathered the children round me, and said, 'Altdorf has been burnt down; perhaps, at this very moment, there are a hundred children there without home, food, or clothes; will you not ask our good Government to let twenty of them come and live with us?' I still seem to see the emotion with which they answered, 'Oh, yes, yes!' 'But, my children,' I said, 'think well of what you are asking! Even now we have scarcely money enough, and it is not at all certain that if these poor children came to us, the Government would give us any more than they do at present, so that you might have to work harder, and share your clothes with these children, and sometimes perhaps go without food. Do not say, then, that you would like them to come unless you are quite prepared for all these consequences.' After having spoken to them in this way as seriously as I could, I made them repeat all I had said, to be quite sure that they had thoroughly understood what the consequences of their request would be. But they were not in the least shaken in their decision, and all repeated, 'Yes, yes, we are quite ready to work harder, eat less, and share our clothes, for we want them to come.'
"Some refugees from the Grisons having given me a few crowns for my poor children, I at once called them, and said, 'These men are obliged to leave their country; they hardly know where they will find a home to-morrow, yet, in spite of their trouble, they have given me this for you. Come and thank them.' The emotion of the children at these words brought tears to the eyes of the refugees.
"It was in this way that strove to awaken
feeling of each virtue before talking about it, for I thought it unwise to talk to children on subjects which would compel them to speak without thoroughly understanding what they were saying.
"I followed up this awakening of the sentiments by exer