Colonial Schools of the Eighteenth Century 43
Various were the rogueries that were played upon him; but the most audacious of all was the following. At the hour of convening in the afternoon (that being the most convenient, from the circumstance of Mr. Beveridge being usually a little beyond the time) the bell having rung, the ushers being at their posts, and the scholars arranged in their classes, three or four of the conspirators conceal themselves without for the purpose of observing the motions of their victim. He arrives, enters the school, and is permitted to proceed until he is supposed to have nearly reached his chair at the upper end of the room, when instantly the door and every window-shutter is closed. Now, shrouded in utter darkness, the most hideous yells that can be conceived are sent forth from at least three score of throats; and Ovids and Virgils and Horaces, together with the more heavy metal of dictionaries, are hurled without remorse at the astonished preceptor, who, groping and crawling under cover of the forms, makes the best of his way to the door. When attained, and light restored, a death-like silence ensues. Every boy is at his lesson: no one has had a hand or a voice in the recent atrocity. What, then, is to be done ? and who shall be chastised ?
This outrage, from its succeeding beyond expectation, and being entirely to the taste of the school, had a run of several days, and was only put a stop to by the interference of the faculty.
The ferule was the standard implement for reforming the erring pupil, but some masters used a rattan or a cowhide. Even a cat-o'-nine-tails was not unknown. It was a time when young men were publicly whipped in colleges, and the severity of the treatment meted out to the pupils in the minor schools is not at all surprising. One New York