Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/536

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WE can imagine what would be the emotion of a college professor if the president of the institution were to shake him warmly by the hand and congratulate him upon the fact that, although he had been freely admitted for a year to the book-stack of the college library, he had not stolen so much as a single volume. We can conceive the embarrassment of a clergyman whose bishop would feel impelled to give expression to his satisfaction at the fact that, during a visit extending over a week or more, he had not been distressed by hearing any word of profanity or observing any act of violence. 'What in the world can the man have been expecting of me?' exclaims the indignant recipient of such a compliment. 'Does he take me for a blackleg? Perhaps the next time he sees me he will take it upon himself to felicitate me on having so far escaped the gallows.'

The fact is that whenever we speak of a man as deserving credit for this or that worthy action, our compliment is accompanied by something very like a criticism. It is implied that the action is one not easy to perform, at least in the given instance. We do not ordinarily think a mother deserves great credit for taking good care of her infant, or a father for supporting his family when he has it in his power to do so. We assume that these things are easy and natural, and quite in accord with the impulses which control the individual. But we do think a woman deserves credit for adopting and lavishing her care upon motherless children that have no special claim upon her, and a man for laboring to feed those who are not bound to him by the closest of natural ties. Were it as easy to care for the children of others as to care for one's own, were the impulse to do so just as strong, we should never think of such actions as especially creditable. They would undoubtedly be good actions, but it is one thing to recognize actions as good and quite another to single them out as deserving of credit. It is a good thing for a college professor not to steal, and for a clergyman to avoid acts of violence, but we never think of remarking upon the fact that their conduct is creditable, when we have nothing better to say of them than that they possess these negative virtues.

Some virtues we expect of men generally. We assume that the right course is the easy one to take, or, at least, is relatively easy, and we