Rev. Samuel Robert Calthrop

Syracuse, New York



[From the Harvard Graduates’ Magazine, March, 1923]


SEPTEMBER, heat, dust, noise, the F ---- railroad. A red-cheeked boy of twenty at the car window, dreamily watching the passing panorama. The sordid little wooden houses had gone and a lovely river was winding its way through the evergreens and maples, clear and dark as it eddied and tumbled in crisp foam along its rocky bed. And the boy dreamed - dreamed of the past, of the simple life of his childhood in the country, of the handsome figure of his father starting in the early morning on his daily ride to town with our neighbor F ----. Erect on their cantering horses, Inverness capes flying in the wind, they sped away over the hill. Of his mother, so beautiful, so simple, so perceptive; of her life of devotion to her husband and her children; of the example she had set of purity and beauty with barely a word of precept; of how, amid her absorbing domestic duties, she had yet found time to help him in his studies -- in his Caesar and his Sallust and his Cicero in the days when he was wasting the opportunities he so little appreciated; of how, after the little spurt in which he had sought to repair some of the wasted hours, he had fallen back in college; and of her wisdom and sweetness and tolerance and loyalty and patience in moments when her heart must have been breaking with anxiety and fear, during that year when his father was in Europe and he was treading the primrose path. Of the two years that had followed of aimless laziness and prevarication as the debts accumulated. Of his father's tired, weary, anxious face. Of the final confession and explanation and decision that he might finish his college course and begin his professional studies only if he would give up his senior year at Cambridge and put himself under the tutelage of a private master, an Englishman, a clergyman, that he might break from habits and associations ill becoming the son of a college professor whose meagre salary was his all. This or leave college and "go into business." "Go into business!" What that meant he had never really considered. When he faced it, his heart sank. He had not been a student, but that was impossible. That he could work and study now, he doubted not. That he could no longer deceive his father and his mother, he knew -- and the thought of that brought tears to his eyes, and a great sense of love and a realization of what they were and had been to him filled his heart. How was it that he had never really known this before?


As a boy he had had a dream, a dream that had followed him ever since -- always the same. He is on Jarvis field. On the track, away over there on the other side, just beyond the North Avenue -- Everett Street turn, is a little boy, a rather nice, clean little boy with a straw hat and a blue ribbon. He is walking around the track. By and by he nears Oxford Street and then, as he comes nearer -- why yes, it is he, himself. He's no longer looking at the boy; he is the boy, and he's walking around the track. But somehow, he can't help it; he's drawn on his way. It is his track. Whither does it lead? What is it? What is coming? -- He cannot escape. It is something fearful; and, fatally, he is moving toward it. Nothing can save him. Fear; fear; what fear was he never knew before -- Fear -- Terror -- Horror -- Anguish! Hot, burning anguish -- Heat, stifling, scorching -- A great, indescribable, red, fiery blaze -- The end -- the awful end of all things! And trembling, he wakes.


This was his life; it was but too clear. And as the dream came again and again, and as he grew older and the old innocence and purity faded, the dramatic force of the picture half pleased, half disturbed him. For he found early that he could step out of himself to a considerable extent and smother not only conscience but sometimes even fear and anxieties. And more than once, he asked himself whether, after all, he were not destined for the life of a criminal -- whether the evident prophecy of his dream were not fatally coming true. One period only, in the allegory of the dream, was vague, indefinite, unfulfilled. The beginning, innocence, and the end, calamity and disaster -- hell the beginning and the end were clear. And this ability to enjoy life and to stifle conscience and remorse -- was not this fatal evidence of the tendency toward that which must inevitably lead to the end? But then, again, there were those hours in which, shut in his own room, he wept warm tears over beautiful and high words, -- words of patriotism or moral aspiration. Then he used to hope that perhaps, after all, it was but a dream. But the future he could not see. And his own powers -- how could he estimate them?


And now, as he looked out of the window, he dreamed of the past and the future. Could it be that, in the end, he might yet redeem his life? Could it be that this destiny that in his careless fatalism he had half accepted, might, after all, be but the passing figment of a nightmare?


But could he make up in any way that which he had neglected? And if he could, was it worth while? The foundation was so miserable! Surrounded from boyhood by scholars, what had he read? Nothing. Wilkie Collins, his one enthusiasm! All his studies for three years so shiftlessly neglected.


The work that vaguely he had intended to do -- the work leading toward his professional career -- he could not continue, for this unknown English minister was a classical scholar, not a naturalist. But he could read Greek with him and in that he had some basis, thanks to dear old "Brad." Then, somehow, Greek appealed to him. When he read the lines of Homer he saw the blue waves and the hills of the Mediterranean, and the heroic figures as they spoke and moved; and the beautiful rhythm and music of the words echoed in his ears. But who and what was this man? His father had met him when he first came to America in 1853, fresh from Trinity College. Tall and athletic, he had made an agreeable impression. He had taught school, and now he was the Unitarian minister in S. H. vouched for him. But what manner of man was he? Words, even barren figures readily took form in the boy's mind but this man he could not visualize.




The lovely river ended. N. and luncheon, while the cars were shifted and the train divided. The first part of the train moved. The boy became uneasy. Yes, it was his train! He had misread his schedule. No train for eight hours! It was hot and very dull; and his wise father had given him very little pocket money -- not enough, really, for dinner and night at a hotel.


She was very pretty, that girl whose close-fitting dress set forth an engaging and graceful figure. But there was little consolation in an hour or two of rather disappointing conversation. The charm, was clear, was absorbed by the eager eyes of the youth; no reflection called forth an answering spark.


A weary wait. A tiresome journey. Night at a musty hotel. But the sleep of youth and a morning on which all nature smiled. A horse car to B. and then a funny little bob-tailed car to the valley. A long avenue winding around a charming, wooded hill. A gabled red brick house with high, diamond-paned windows opening in the middle; grapevines spreading down along the slope of the hill toward the railway below. To the left, a barn and, on the edge of the unwooded slope of the hill, looking eastward toward the valley, a small observatory with a telescope.


The door opened and there he stood, something over six feet tall, in clerical garb, a white silk handkerchief about his neck, head thrown back, light blue-gray eyes, kindly twinkling behind gold-rimmed glasses, face and head almost hidden by the large square beard and the mass of curly almost white hair through which but here and there one could detect traces of the warm reddish yellow of former years -- a fine figure with broad shoulders, and spirit and vigor written in every line.


"Well, so this is X! Let me have your checks. I'll have the luggage sent for." Then, drawing himself up and with the air of one imparting an important confidence: "I say, do you remember that passage in the Count of Monte Cristo where he says: 'Gold, gold, illimitable gold'? Eh? Well, X, I have grapes, illimitable grapes. Come and see my grapes!" And so they walked out among the vines, tasting the grapes and talking like old friends.


A half hour later they found themselves at the door again. "Now," said the master, "let me show you my books." With pride he exhibited a number of school and university prizes, for the most part attractively bound copies of classical texts. And then: "Well, you can use these books, and here's my dictionary. Let's begin."


The house stood on a hill, perhaps two hundred feet high, with a lovely view over "the valley." A hall passing through the main building separated a parlor and a bedroom on the left from a living room and a dining room on the right. Behind the dining room was an ell with kitchen, pantry and wood shed. Above were bedrooms, two floors in the main building, one in the ell. The hall led to a lawn surrounded by a hedge which came around to the precipitous edge of the hill in front, and, to the left, separated the house and lawn from the wooded hillside descending to the road. On the lawn was an excellent tennis court and a beautiful great elm which was an unending joy. From its branches in the spring robins and blackbirds and orioles sang, and lovely red-headed woodpeckers squawked and tapped on its trunk. Through the hedge a winding path led down the hillside.


And the household? The quiet, devoted wife, three daughters and two boys. The oldest daughter, fair and delicate; the second, an energetic and unselfish friend; the youngest, a bright, spirited girl of seventeen; the older boy, about nineteen, the younger thirteen or fourteen, l'enfant terrible, -- and Uncle John. Uncle John! Was there ever a more engaging figure! An officer in Her Majesty's navy, as time went on, he had gathered together his all, invested it in a ship, and retired. On his first voyage he was wrecked, somewhere in the South Seas -- and he was uninsured. So he came to S. where he farmed his brother's land. From forty-five to fifty years of age, not tall but heavily built, with a fine chest and arms like iron, Uncle John labored in his brother's fields with faithful industry, at an annual loss. He was a simple soul. Modest, and apparently satisfied with life, he was proud of two things, -- the muscles of his arms, which were formidable and exhibited from time to time to his great satisfaction and to the admiration and awe of the young, and the cleanliness of his skin. He never came from the fields without immediately taking a bath in the tin tub in his room above the kitchen. And then he confided to you that the manager of the Turkish baths in S. had assured him that he had never seen a man from whom so little dirt could be extracted.


Dear Uncle John! The master loved to tell of the skunk that he caught in his rabbit trap. Uncle John was ignorant of the characteristics and capacities, if not indeed, of the existence of the wood pussy. He returned hastily, very pale, like a little boy to his father: "I say, Sam, there's a little animal in that trap that has a most horrible smell! Do you know, it almost made me sick!"


And of the dying Indian. A few miles beyond the hill was an Indian reservation. Here a small group of the "wards of the nation" lived with contentment on the produce of their farms and the allowance of their guardian. Whenever, through the favor of Providence or the United States Government, a member of the tribe happened to have a little ready money he followed the trail to the city. The trail to the city was clear and easy and straight but the return was devious, uneven, and beset often by difficulties quite insurmountable for the child of the forest. The monotony of the roadside was not uncommonly broken by a bronzed figure sitting on the ground, the feet extended, the back propped against a tree. If one stopped to investigate, an amiable grunt and a polite bow upset the happy balance of the peaceful slumberer who lay motionless, limp, and apparently lifeless on the grass. It was not always safe to walk by the roadside after dark. One day, soon after his arrival, Uncle John entered the house hastily, and with an air of concern exclaimed: "I say, Sam, there's an Indian lying near the gate. He's very ill. I think he's dying." With a smile of superior understanding the master descended the hill. He and Uncle John held the limp and grunting figure erect and slowly led him up the hill. Alone, Uncle John convoyed his charge down the steep incline toward the reservation, the Indian, for some time, lifting his feet high in the air with each step as for a continued ascent.


Uncle John smoked a pipe. Pipes were "taboo" in the house. He could only smoke in his own room. And so X's room became an asylum. Every night after dinner they sat before the glowing hard coal fire, one of the high windows on the other side of the room ajar. When the pipe was finished, Uncle John leaned back in his chair, his hands clasped over his head. Soon the clasped hands slipped forward, forward, until with a jump he righted himself, only to relapse. Then, sleepily: "I say, X, it's very close in this room!" Or awake and puffing at his pipe, he would chuckle, and to an enquiring glance: "Do you know, X, I was thinking of President Hayes offering a glass of lemonade to the German Ambassador at a State dinner!" Or again, "Do you know, X, I was thinking of the Pope." The apparent paradox between the celestial and terrestrial attributes, functions and relations of this dignitary was a never-ending source of pleasing suggestion to him. Dear Uncle John, those two pictures have given your quondam companion many a happy moment!


The farming was unprofitable and Uncle John moved to town and wore a derby hat -- O misery! And then, to D., where ten or fifteen years later, in the sordid current of a business life, he died. Ah, Uncle John, you should never have left the broad ocean or the moors and cliffs of Devon. You were too clean for this busy hemisphere; and O, Uncle John, never, never should you have worn a derby hat!


Then there was Fred, the man of all work, a clean, simple country boy whose grief and alarm at Blaine's defeat were pathetic and amusing -- and the dog, a short-haired, black nondescript with a deep distrust of all save proved friends, whose fixed hostility to tradesmen was sometimes an embarrassment. For he was a loyal defender of his home.


And the horses; there were three. The farm horses which alone or together, were often used for driving to town, and the pony. The dean of the equine faculty was "old Jack." Jack had had many and varied experiences in a life which had already attained the comfortable figure of twenty-eight years. His last was an apprenticeship in a stone cart. Jack's standard gait was a walk, stately, and incredibly deliberate. No ordinary persuasion could induce him to move at another rate. Whips -- amused him. But if he were touched up with the butt of the whip on his hind legs, he would sometimes slowly move his ears and break into a gentle trot. One thing only would start Jack -- noise -- and an Indian war whoop from one of the boys which always embarrassed the family, was the most effective stimulus. Then there was a worthy beast two years Jack's junior. He was slightly lame in one hind leg and blind in one eye, but relatively speaking, an active animal. Together in the farm wagon, they were an effective pair -- but they had sometimes an annoying persistence in backing. Lent one day to a neighboring farmer, they backed the wagon through his shed. The pony, æ. 22, was a small, amiable and efficient horse which was generally driven in the buggy or in the two-seated open wagon to town on a Sunday. Much of the lives of these faithful animals was spent in a coat of caked mud, for the road to the valley led also to quarries, and stone carts reduced the highways to quagmires in which one sank almost to the hubs of the wheels.


There he sits, the dear old master, his black felt hat pulled down over his eyes, the fringe of white hair beneath, the gold-rimmed glasses glistening in the sun, in the front seat of the open wagon, the stub of what was once a whip in his hand -- for whips were short-lived with Jack --leaning forward from time to time to stir up the sauntering animal by a touch of the butt on his hind legs, -- while a scandalized passer-by exclaims: "The brute!"


There was another youth in the household, a year older than X. Donald B. was endeavoring to pass his entrance examinations to Cornell. Well-to-do, rather pampered at home, by no means lacking in wit and intelligence and ability, he knew not what work meant. Study? He had not the least intention of studying! Early in the year the master said that he never despaired of a pupil, however recalcitrant, if he could teach him to play chess. Don learned to play a good game of chess. He failed to enter Cornell.


The master was the uncle of Sir R. W., later, as Lord A., the Chief Justice. A graduate of Trinity, Cambridge, he was an outstanding scholar, but he failed to take his degree, for in those days each graduate was obliged to sign the thirty-nine articles of the faith. No human creed could bind the master, and -- was it the first time in the history of the University? -- the degree was withheld because the student would not sign that which to him was a lie. Years afterwards the University offered him his degree; he refused it.


On leaving Trinity he came to the new country, to the other Cambridge with letters to some of the more distinguished of the faculty. The letters remained undelivered. On the Delta and at the river, at the wicket and at the oar, he found his best introduction. He coached the crew that rowed the first race with Yale. Soon, in the natural course of events, he met those to whom he might have delivered his letters. But for him his duty lay in the ministry and to B. he went, taking a struggling congregation. He was to give his services. His board and lodging only were to be paid. Later, when he had taken up other duties, he was dunned for his board.


Wherever he went his character, his vigor, his spirit, his learning, his charm of manner, his fine enthusiasm made a deep impression; and well-to-do acquaintances in New York induced him to start a boys' school. He gave up his charge and opened a school at B----t. From the outset it was a success; it could not have been otherwise. In every way he was one of the boys, in their studies, in their amusements, in their sports, in their fights; he stood by to see that their fights were fair. Success came rapidly. He married Miss P., his loving and loyal helpmate for so many years. The future was assured. And then, convinced that his real duty lay in the pulpit, he threw away assured success and took charge of a congregation in N. Later he was called to the more important post at S. With a small salary, a growing family and Uncle John, he lived in the house on the hill, and, from time to time, took into his household refractory boys who needed coaching to pass their college examinations -- lucky rascals!


Minister of the Unitarian church, the master was the friend of all his confreres of other faiths. On one occasion he was said to have been voted a prize at a Catholic fair as the most popular minister of the town. When the Jews celebrated the one hundredth birthday of Sir Moses Montefiore, he was asked to deliver the address. Every Tuesday Dr. Q., the leading Presbyterian minister of S., who, from his pulpit, thundered forth the law and the gospel according to the thirty-nine articles of the faith, came for a day of chess and relaxation with his liberal confrere. The master, who had met and played with Morphy and other experts, was himself a remarkable player, and blindfold, carrying on several games at a time, he could easily beat ordinary players. To Dr. Q. he always gave a substantial handicap.


These visits the boys enjoyed greatly, for Dr. Q. was a true sport and with little prompting embarked on stories of dogs and dog fights which delighted the irreverent youth who loved to draw the parson off his guard. One day, when there was a true "mix-up," it was their conviction that their reverend friend was as much interested in the melee as in the separation of the beasts.


And so for the young exile from college, work began. Out in the valley, three or four miles from the city, they were quite out of the world; and the domestic cares must have been very heavy for the kindly mistress of the house. The hour of breakfast varied, naturally, logically and delightfully, with the season -- early in summer, late in winter. After breakfast, study and recitations. And how stimulating were those recitations! To the youth who had reached the parting of the ways and was ready for work, it was a joy. The master's fund of general information was remarkable. He seemed to have met everybody. There was nothing about which he had not some interesting comment.


The beautiful lines of Æschylus and Sophocles took on a new meaning as they fell from his lips. And the vigor with which he defended the simple and natural interpretation of disputed passages against the Teutonic sophistry of a Hermann was an unending delight.


He had a true English sense of humor -- that humor, precious possession of our race, which is so much too subtle for the majority. Of his pupil he made a companion, and he felt himself his comrade. He was as keenly interested in sports -- as active a participant indeed as he had been thirty years before, and discussion of the Greek texts was interlarded with stories of athletic contests or comments on the leading pugilists of the day. Discussion of the texts? No, that was the very point; there was relatively little discussion of the texts -- much, of the beauty of the lines and the story and the symbolism and the relation of it all to the Greek life of the day. Greek texts! For that boy, the plays were a wonderful sequence of living figures whose actions, whose words, whose lives became a part of his own.


The master -- such a man he had never seen. This gray-haired man was a boy like himself -- a boy who understood and shared his enthusiasms and expressed them as he had never dared to do. And there were so many other thoughts and interests and visions, new and undiscovered, to which this companion introduced him. Above all was the contagious enthusiasm. This gray-haired man who could become as stirred and excited over a tennis game or a race or a prize fight as he, and wasn't ashamed to show it, was leading him as a comrade and half unconsciously, to feel that it was just as natural to show the same enthusiasm for beauty in all its forms. This energy and vigor and enthusiasm were protected by a power of concentration and a capacity for abstraction which constituted an almost impenetrable armor.


On the mantelpiece in the general living room stood a clock around and about which were sundry bits of paper, memoranda. No reminder was necessary to prepare the master for the duties of Sunday but any extraordinary function -- ah, that was a serious matter! The family was assembled, and with an air of humorous impressiveness, the little memorandum was waved in the air and fixed in its place: "A and B are to be married on Tuesday at ----. Now, for goodness sake, don't let me forget it!" And they did not forget. It was their function to remember it. As for the master, his mind was full of other things. No vulgar detail could break into his dreams.


The Æneid he could repeat in great part from memory. He never used a book when listening to Donald. It was almost the same with the Iliad and the Odyssey and with parts of the Greek tragedies. In the morning when rousing lazy members of the household one could hear him, repeating to himself, beautiful and resounding lines with the occasional interruption of: "Donald, McDonald, arise!" Nothing could break through his serene abstraction. Among the complications and perplexities of daily life -- and they were many for the dear lady who found it hard, indeed generally impossible, to keep servants so far from town -- in the midst of discussion and argument and dispute in the circle gathered on winter nights in the living room, his thoughts pursued their uninterrupted course, as he sat, book or pen in hand, nature's tonsure covered by a little black silk skull cap surrounded by his curly white hair, the firelight gleaming from his gold-rimmed glasses. Tales of his absent-mindedness they loved to tell -- of the wedding in the summer for which he had come to town from his camp at the lake. But he came alone, and at the appointed hour, emissaries found him peacefully absorbed in a book at the public library. For had he not left his memory at camp!


At 12 o'clock daily they assembled at the tennis court, the master, his son, and the two pupils for the daily rubber, an important hour of the day that none forgot. On Monday, only, was this function interrupted for on that unlucky day the master lectured on astronomy at Miss J.'s boarding school. Miss J. knew her duty, and in good time weekly, she telephoned to remind him that this was the day of the lecture.


Alas, once she forgot. The game was well under way when the telephone rang. In his white flannels, racquet in hand, he took up the earpiece of the telephone. "Ah, Miss J., ah, Miss J., you and I forgot. You must never, never forget to telephone to me again for I'm so very, very busy, I can't possibly remember. . . . Yes - Yes - But you know I'm so very, very busy, I can't possibly remember." . . . "Yes, yes, I know. I know. But then you must never, never forget to telephone to me in time, for I'm so busy I can't possibly remember." . . . "Ah, yes - ah, yes, exactly. But then, you know I've often told you that unless you do, I can't possibly remember." . . . And the game continued.


The telephone was one of those contrivances known as a party line. Each member of the circuit had a special call. Each call for someone in each house was very likely to seem to be his or her call. Eternal ringing -- many futile answers -- much confusion!


Friday evenings the boys and the family awaited with rising anticipation as the weeks went by; For on Friday evenings, after dinner, the master communicated to two newspapers the subject of his Sunday sermon. For weeks his subject was "God." "Yes, yes. Is this Central?" "Yes. Will you kindly give me the Standard?" . . . "Is this the Standard?" "Yes; this is Mr. C. Will you be so good as to print the subject of my next Sunday's sermon?" . . . "Yes. God." ... "God." "G-O-D, God!"... "Yes. Thank you. Good-bye"... "Is this Central?" . . . "Will you kindly give me the Courier?" etc., etc.


The rising emphasis with which the Almighty's name was uttered and the unction with which it was spelled, were a source of joy to the amused group gathered about the fire.


And so it continued until one evening, after he had spelled the name of his maker in no uncertain tones, there was a long pause and then, "Aoh -- A-oh - a-o-h, a-a-a-a-oh! It's the subject of my next Sunday's sermon!"


As he came back into the room, his wife quietly looked up from her knitting; "Sam, what did that man say to you?" Crossing his hands, and, throwing back his head, he raised his eyes heavenward, passed to his chair and took up his book. On the following Friday, alas, the subject was changed.


After meals and at odd moments, Donald and the master played chess, Don cleverly scheming to evade as many hours of study as he could.


At night after nine the master played piquet with the other boy. The black skull cap, the fringe of nearly white hair, the big white beard, the gold-rimmed glasses made him a venerable and impressive object even at fifty-four. As he examined the cards he murmured continually to himself in a tone of heroic solemnity: "Now, sir, I would have you understand, sir, that this is a most remarkable hand, sir. Extraordinary! extraordinary! MOST EXTRAORDINARY!" And then, in tones dying out almost to a whisper, "most extraordinary! most extraordinary!" "Sam," his wife would say, "if you're not careful, you'll come to talk to yourself as General Scott used to." To which there was no reply save perhaps a silent and a solemn bow.


Those games of piquet -- they began at nine and on week days ended at ten, for the selfish boy who was really working hard, wanted his full night's rest. But on Saturday nights, when he had no responsibility for the morrow, but the master had, it took the united efforts of the family to break up the game!


What a year it was for the two boys! At the outset there was but one disquieting thought. The master seemed so much better than those about him -- so much bigger. He lived in a plane so far above and beyond the life that went on around him that at first, one wondered just how real, after all, was his understanding of the frailties of common mortals. Could such a man look with comprehension and indulgence on our vulgar weaknesses? Was not this fellowship, this comradeship that was springing up, based on the assumption, that he, the boy, was a far nobler, far better character, than in his heart he knew himself to be!


The answer came soon. One cold fall evening not long after the beginning of the year, the master delivered an address in the city. The boys walked home -- three and a half to four miles. It was cold. It was their first opportunity. They stopped at various bars on the way. Suddenly to his dismay his companion found that Don was drunk -- maudlin. The walk was long; Don's gait was very unsteady. The minutes passed. The master was waiting in the living room. As Don floundered into the hall: "Don, you've been drinking." "No, sir, Mr. C., no sir, Mr. C., I haven't drunk a drop!" And he doubled up comically on the sofa. "Don, I don't care so much about the drinking, but don't lie about it," and he turned an inquiring glance from Don who, irresponsible, continued feebly to protest, to the other youngster who only could acknowledge that they had stopped by the way, and express his regret and his promise that it should never be repeated. Then, rising, and with the manner of one dismissing an unpleasant memory, almost cheerily: "Well, it's late. Let's go to bed!"


A wretched night the boy spent. On the very first occasion he had shown himself unworthy of trust. Somehow it seemed as if this were the end of all things. The master would never understand. And the wonderful comradeship that had begun? Was that all at an end? What would his father feel when he knew? How utterly discouraged he would be? . . . Never again was the incident mentioned. The master knew his boys. Without a word he showed them that he understood and that he proposed to trust them. They knew and were his slaves. From that moment mutual confidence was unbreakably sealed.


There had been other boys. One, they often spoke of. He had been with them fifteen years before. Rich, careless, lazy, engaging, at that time, before the days of dry plates, he had been a photographer. They had heard that when financial troubles had come, he had turned to photography for a living. Later he had married an actress who had stuck to him in his misfortunes. He had had misfortunes and he had "gone bad." There the story stopped. "E.," they called him.


One Sunday afternoon in winter or early spring, as they were sitting before the fire, X noticed a rather odd figure passing by the front window and toward the door -- a shabby looking man in a heavy overcoat, rather threadbare and worn, with a roll of manuscript projecting from one pocket, a dilapidated silk hat and a pale unhealthy looking face. He knocked. Mrs. C. opened the door. "Mrs. C. you don't recognize me!" She did not - but the boy did. It was the face of E. of fifteen years before -- the face of the little photograph on the mantelpiece. Poor E. They received him with open arms. The master led him from room to room and about the place, recalling incidents of bygone years, with something exquisitely tender and affectionate, almost caressing in his manner. Poor E.! His face showed the wreck that he was. The tears welled up into his eyes again and again -- but the spirit was gone. The waxy pallor, the dull, lifeless manner showed only too clearly that it was worse than alcohol. He was acting at a dime museum – Richard III one night, "The Black Diamond" or something of the sort, the next.


The boy was delegated to drive him to town. E. was a forlorn and wretched object, but on the way, he turned to his companion and with pathetic fervor and almost dramatic emphasis, said: "You have little idea, young man, of your opportunity, of your privilege at this moment. Mr. C. is the biggest, noblest, best man that ever lived. The year that I spent with him was the happiest, the fullest, the best of my life. I’d give my life to have that chance again!" And the tears came once more. Half an hour later he sought to persuade his companion to drink with him in the town.


On clear evenings the master sometimes took the boys to his little observatory or set up his second telescope through which the bright points of the sky took on new and wonderful forms -- the planets and their moons -- Saturn and its ring -- Jupiter -- Sirius -- the scarred and barren mountains of the moon.


It was the year of the Blaine-Cleveland election with all its feeling and excitement. The master was calm and singularly careful of his expressions. How did he vote? With all his vigor and his fervor he was slow to condemn others, but there were incidents in Blaine's career of which he spoke sadly. His disapproval he could show well enough -- but he rarely showed it by words. Never an unkind word of another man. If one of us spoke harshly or uncharitably of a fellow, he would ignore it or change the subject, or speak in words of sadness or pity or sympathy. He had no enemies.


An Englishman, says Herringham, "is taught that a cad is one who, when he is not giving offense is taking it, and that a properly behaved person never feels insulted because he never need." So it was with the master.


The bank of a friend and parishioner closed its doors. The depositors lost all or almost all that they had trusted to its care. The moral responsibility of the banker seemed but too clear. In this bank was the master's current account -- nearly a thousand dollars. His son urged him to join other depositors in taking steps to save what they could from the wreck and pressed him for a reply. "Do anything! Take any steps! How can you ask me such a question? How can you fancy that I can think of myself? It isn't that that hurts me. It is the thought of poor Mrs. W. and the family. What do I care for my money at such a time as this?"


There are those, says Maeterlinck in whose presence discord and strife are impossible. They have but to enter the room and there is peace. So it seemed with the master. Not the peace of compromise or sloth or cowardice, for there was no peace with that which was wrong or unclean -- no compromise with evil. But in his presence the sun shone. In its warm rays that which was best in all came to the surface; and humor and a kindly but none the less incisive irony drove away irritation and protest.


Once only did he show and express his anger. John L. Sullivan, then at the height of his powers, was to give an exhibition of sparring with Jack Ashton, his traveling mate. At the last moment the city government of S. with that fatuous hypocrisy which another generation may regard as characteristic of our era in America, forbade the match. The master was a good boxer. In an earlier year while he was walking along a railway embankment with a pupil in search of geological specimens, a big fellow working on the track, seeing safety for himself in the clerical garb, became gratuitously abusive. Off came the clerical coat and up the sleeves, and after a few passes, a surprised and tamed man rolled down the embankment.


That a group of vulgar politicians should take away from him his one chance of seeing the greatest fighter of his day, and should have the impertinence to pretend that their action was taken on moral grounds -- this was more than an honest, manly soul could bear; and there was an explosion which lacked nothing in vigor and expressiveness. Among the duties of the year for one of the boys were a number of themes and forensics for which a choice of subject was suggested by the instructor. Many of the subjects demanded thought and reflection. These the master delighted in discussing. Often the subject would engross him for days, and, on the succeeding Sunday, his thoughts on it were generally woven into the thread of his sermon. Into the mind of the pupil they sank like rain into the thirsty earth, and like rain in the earth they fostered and nourished new fancies and visions and ideals.


On Sunday mornings the family drove to the city to church. The master generally spoke ex tempore, and usually his sermons were not only inspiring spiritually, but intellectually absorbing. He was a master of English and it was a joy to hear him speak. His clean-cut enunciation and the purity of his accent were balm to the ear, and an unfailing appreciation of the value of words gave force and vividness to thoughts expressed simply and without the superlatives and expletives that emasculate the common language of the day.


From time to time there were interesting visitors. Especially entertaining was Mr. A., a former minister of State of King Kalikaua. On the European trip of this amiable and naive potentate, it was A.'s function to write the Royal speeches and to see that they were properly committed to his Majesty's memory, which appears to have been fallible. His account of this journey was excruciatingly funny. In all these conversations the master took an active part. With a seemingly inexhaustible fund of general information, a large and varied acquaintance, a lively imagination and an enthusiastic interest in all about him together with an engaging sense of humor, he talked well; and he loved to talk.


It might possibly be said of him as of the Oxford don, that knowledge was his forte -- omniscience, his foible; but, with the sweetness of his character and the liveliness of his wit, only the dull and self-centred could be seriously annoyed.


The intolerance of the fanatic always amused him. Some years later, Mrs. ----, a Boston "anti-imperialist," with characteristic and charmingly naive lack of comprehension that, among the elect, there could be a difference of opinion, held forth to him with blazing indignation, of the iniquity of the action of the government in assuming the responsibilities arising from the Spanish War. "My dear Boston friend, the earnestness of your convictions I doubt not. For your opinions, your fears and your forebodings I have a deep respect. But did it ever occur to you that there are others equally sincere who differ with you? And did it ever occur to you that infallibility is not of this world, not even of Boston? And that possibly, just possibly, those others may be right? Pray, pray, bear with us and hope, if you cannot believe, that Heaven may yet hold a refuge for those who see things in another light."




The clouds of winter passed away -- Sunshine and green leaves and birds and spring returned. Nine months had passed. The hour for the final examinations was near. The boy was ready to go home. He had found new and warm friends, almost a new home. From the master he had gained an inspiration which, already, he knew to be inestimably precious. But there was the real home and there were college associations to which he was attached. Then there was another thing. So deep was his gratitude that he disliked even to allow himself to think it, much less to say it or put it on paper; indeed it was one of those matters of personal pride that he could but keep to himself. He had been a little annoyed that, at S., there was hardly a full realization that he was a senior at Harvard -- a man of the world, accustomed to associate with men of the world. Somehow or other, he felt that he had been regarded as a boy, which slightly wounded his dignity. With all his regret at leaving S., he looked forward longingly to meeting the old friends and renewing the old associations.




June -- Night -- The college yard -- The bright stars in an unclouded sky, twinkling through the gently waving branches of the arching elms. The fresh, pure air of a summer night. Passing the old President's House, a youth of twenty-one. Examinations were over, and for a week he had been renewing old associations. He was disappointed. Nine months! How everything had changed! College life had lost its poise. He was on his way home from a convivial gathering; it had been very noisy, foolishly noisy it seemed to him. These men, many of them his own classmates, seniors, had behaved like freshmen. The occasion had bored him and he had left early. He thought over the events of the week. It had been the same story day after day. Certainly the tone of the college had changed, and for the worse. His companions had grown younger in their point of view and more boisterous -- really childish. He felt himself an outsider. O, not with Y or Z; they were understanding. But the others; how young they were!


 He had been away but nine months. He had looked forward so longingly to his return. He had come back to find that the old life had changed and that he was almost a stranger. How could such a change have come in so short a time?


Suddenly a thought flashed through his mind -- a thought so startling that he stood still. Could it be -- could it be that the change was in him?


A boy, more of a boy than most of his associates, he had left Cambridge, and for nine months he had lived by the side of the master just a little resentful that those about him had seemed to regard him as a boy. Nine months! And now it was the others, the men of the world that he had left behind, who had become boys to him. Nine months! Ten years! A life time!


Thoughtfully, soberly, he walked on. Yes, yes, it was he who had changed. In the nine months of association with the master he had become a man.


And the dream? The dream that had come to him so often? The dream had passed.




Dear Master, time laid its hand on you softly and led you gently to the peace from which you fell asleep. To you age could never come. And in the heart of one of your old boys you live forever young. Nearly forty years have passed. He himself is older than you were when first your blessed influence came into his life. He has had his share of joy and sorrow, of success and disappointment. His share of success and happiness has been far beyond his desert. Whatever success and happiness have been his, whatever good he may have done in this world are in great part due to you - to your example of courage and manliness and strength, of truthfulness and purity and simplicity, of tolerance and charity and love, of reverence for the past and confidence in the future, of consistent optimism - and to the great truth that you whispered in the ear of his conscience:


The secret of eternal youth is enthusiasm!




          Note: The fact the writer wishes this sketch to be printed anonymously robs the story in a sense of its completeness. The deficiency may be partly supplied by the statement that he is known by name to all Harvard men and that he is one of the most distinguished members of his profession.                                                                                      The Editor



Prepared for web page display on April 1, 2006