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Page 43


With the end of March the winter term of the school
came to a close. I had established my position as an apt
and rapidly advancing scholar; others had the start of me,
but no one made better progress. I had mastered, among
other things, Geometry and a Latin epitome of Sacred History.
The mystic words — “Deus creavit cœlum et terram
— which I had approached with wonder and reverence, as
if they had been thundered out of an unseen world, were
now become as simple and familiar as anything in Peter
Parley. Miss Hitchcock, with the air of a queen conferring
the order of the Shower-Bath, promised me Cornelius Nepos
and Fluxions for the summer term; and Dr. Dymond
hinted to the composition-class that we might soon try our
hands at original essays. Something was also said about a
debating club. The perspective lengthened and brightened
with every forward step.

The close of the term was signalized by a school exhibition,
to which were invited the relatives of the pupils and
the principal personages in Honeybrook, — two clergymen,
the doctor, the “squire,” the teacher of the common school,
and six retired families of independent means. To most
of us boys it was both a proud and solemn occasion. I was
bent upon having mother to witness my performance, and
hoped she could come with the Rands, but their biggest
and best carriage would hold no more than themselves.
At the last moment Neighbor Niles made the offer of an


Page 44
ancient horse and vehicle, which she used for her own occasional
visits in the neighborhood. As the horse had frequently
been known to stop in the road, but never, of his
own will, to go faster than a creeping walk, it was considered
safe for mother to drive him over alone and take
me home with her for my month's vacation.

At the appointed time she made her appearance, dressed
in the brown silk that dated from her wedded days, and the
venerable crape shawl which had once covered the shoulders
of Aunt Christina. She was quite overawed on being
presented to Dr. Dymond and Miss Hitchcock, but made
speedy acquaintance with Mother Dymond, and, indeed,
took a seat beside her in the front row of spectators. The
exercises were very simple. Specimens of our penmanship
and geometrical diagrams (which few of the guests understood)
were exhibited; we were drilled in mental arithmetic,
and answered chemical, pneumatic, hydraulic, and astronomical
questions. But the crowning pride and interest of
the day was reserved for the declamations, in which at least
half the pupils took part. From the classic contents of the
“Columbian Orator,” we selected passages from Robert
Emmet, William Pitt, Patrick Henry, and Cicero; Byron,
Joel Barlow, and Milton; Addison and Red Jacket. Dr.
Dymond assigned to me the part of “David,” from Hannah
More's dramatic poem. I did n't quite like to be addressed
as “girl!” by Bill Dawson, — the biggest boy in the school,
who was Goliath, — or to be told to

And hold fond dalliance with the Syrian maids:
To wanton measures dance; and let them braid
The bright luxuriance of thy golden hair.”—
especially as Thornton and the younger fellows snickered
when he came to the last line. My hair might still have
had a reddish tinge where the sun struck across it, but it
was growing darker from year to year. I gave it back to
Goliath, however, when it came to my turn to say, —


Page 45
“I do defy thee,
Thou foul idolater!”
or when, dilating into prophecy, I screamed, —
“Nor thee alone, —
The mangled carcasses of your thick hosts
Shall spread the plains of Elah!”
I think I produced an effect. I know that mother looked
triumphant when I swung a piece of leather with nothing
in it, and Bill Dawson tumbled full length on the platform,
occasioning mild exclamations and shuddering among the
female spectators; and I fancied that Emily Rand (in the
crimson merino) must have been favorably impressed. I
certainly made a better appearance than Charley, who
rushed through his share of the debate in the Roman Senate,
in this wise, —


The great, the auspicious day of Cato and of Rome came
to an end. I said good-bye to the boys: Caruthers was going
off to his carpenter-work, and would not return. I liked
him and was sorry to lose him. We never met again, but
I have since heard of him as State senator in a Western
capital. Even the dark eyes of Penrose looked upon me
kindly as he shook hands, bestowing a side-bow, as he did
so, upon my mother. Miss Hitchcock gave me a parting
injunction of “Remember, Godfrey! — Fluxions and Cornelius
Nepos!” and so we climbed into the creaking vehicle
and set off homewards.

We might have walked with much more speed and comfort.
The horse took up and put down his feet as gently
as if he were suffering from corns; at the least rise in the
road he stopped, looked around at us, and seemed to expect
us to alight, heaving a deep sigh when forced to resume his
march. Then he had an insane desire of walking in the
gutter on the left side of the road, and all my jerking of
the reins and flourishing of a short dogwood switch produced
not the slightest effect. He merely whisked his


Page 46
stumpy tail, as much as to say, “That for you!” We
reached the Cross-Keys at last, long after sunset; but the
abominable beast, who had been so ready to stop anywhere
on the way, now utterly refused to be pulled up at our gate,
and mother was obliged to ride on to the bars at the end
of Niles's lane, before she could get down. Our good
Neighbor thereupon sallied out and took us in to tea; so
the end of the journey was pleasant.

The vacation came at a fortunate time. I succeeded in
getting our garden into snug trim: the peas were stuck and
the cabbages set out before my summer term commenced;
nor were the studies neglected which I had purposed to
continue at home. Bob Simmons had finally left, and I
missed him sadly: Rand's great house, whither I was now
privileged to go occasionally, with even the attraction of
Emily, could not fill up the void left by his departure. I
was not sorry when the month drew to an end. The little
cottage seemed to have grown strangely quiet and lonely;
my nest under the roof lost its charm, except when the
April rains played a pattering lullaby upon the shingles;
looking forward to Cornelius Nepos and Fluxions, I no
longer heard my mother's antiquated stories with the same
boyish relish, and something of this new unrest must have
betrayed itself in my habits. I never, in fact, thought of
concealing it — never dreamed that my mind, in breaking
away from the government of home ideas and associations,
could give a pang to the loving heart, for which I
was all, but which, seemingly, was not all for me.

I returned to Dr. Dymond's with the assured, confident
air of a boy who knows the ground upon which he stands.
My relations with the principal had been agreeable from
the commencement, and the contact with my fellow-students
had long since ceased to inspire me with shyness or
dread. I had many moderate friendships among them, but
was strongly attracted towards none, except, perhaps, him
whose haughty coldness repelled me. I was at a loss, then, to


Page 47
comprehend this magnetism: now it has ceased to be obscure.
I was impressed, far more powerfully than I suspected, by
his physical beauty. Had those short, full, clearly-cut lips
smiled upon me, I should not have questioned whether the
words that came from them were good or evil. His influence
over me might have been boundless, if he had so
willed it — but he did not. The tenderer shoots of feeling
were nipped as fast as they put forth. He was always just
and considerate, and perhaps as communicative towards
myself as towards any of the other boys; but this was
far from being a frank, cordial companionship. His reticence,
however, occasionally impressed me as not being
entirely natural; there was about him an air of some sad
premature experience of life.

Few of the quiet, studious, older pupils remained during
the summer, while there was an accession of younger ones,
principally from Philadelphia. The tone of our society
thus became gay and lively, even romping, at times. I
was heartily fond of sport, and I now gave myself up to it
wholly during play-hours. I was always ready for a game
of ball on the green; for a swim in the shallow upper part
of Honeybrook Pond; for an excursion to the clearings
where wild strawberries grew; for — not at first, I honestly
declare, and not without cowardly terrors and serious
twinges of conscience — for a midnight descent into the
cellar, a trembling groping in the dark until the pies were
found, and then a rapid transfer of a brace of them to our
attic. The perils of the latter exploit made it fearfully attractive.
Had the pies been of the kind which we abominated,
— dried-apple, — we should have stolen them all the
same. Nay, such is the natural depravity of the human
heart, that no pies were so good (or ever have been since)
as those which we divided on the top of a trunk, and ate
by moonlight, sitting in our shirts.

The empty dishes of course told the tale, and before
many days a stout wooden grating was erected across the


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cellar, in front of the pastry shelves. This device merely
stimulated our ingenuity. Various plans were suggested,
and finally two of the boldest boys volunteered to descend
and test a scheme of their own. They were absent half
an hour, and we were beginning to be more amused than
apprehensive at their stay, when they appeared with the
coveted pies in their arms. They had secreted matches
and a bit of candle, found the oven-shovel, and thrust it
through the grating, after which it was an easy matter to
reach the dish, withdraw the pie perpendicularly, and replace
the dish on the shelf. I fancy Mother Dymond must
have opened her silly eyes unusually wide the next morning.

The enemy now adopted a change of tactics which came
near proving disastrous. Thornton and myself were chosen
for the next night's foray. We had safely descended the
stairs (which would creak tremendously, however lightly you
stepped), and I, as the leader, commenced feeling my way
in the dark across the dining-room, when I came unexpectedly
upon a delicately piled pyramid of chairs. I no sooner
touched the pile than down it crashed, with the noise of artillery.
Thornton whisked out of the door and up-stairs
like a cat, I following, completely panic-struck. I was none
too quick, for another door suddenly opened into the passage
and the light of a lamp struck vengefully up after us.
By this time I had cleared the first flight, and all that Dr.
Dymond could have seen of me was the end of a flag of
truce fluttering across the landing-place. He gave chase
very nimbly for his years, but I increased the advantage
already gained, and was over head and ears in bed by the
time he had reached the attic-floor. Thornton was already
snoring. The Doctor presently made his appearance in
his dressing-gown, evidently rather puzzled. He looked
from bed to bed, and beheld only the innocent sleep, knitting
up the ravelled sleave of care. If he had been familiar
with Boccaccio (a thing not to be for a moment suspected),
he might have tried the stratagem of King Agilulf with


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triumphant success. Even the test which Lady Derby applied
to Fenella might have been sufficient. I fancy, however,
that he felt silly in being foiled, and thought only of
retreating with dignity.

He finally broke silence by exclaiming, in a stern voice,
“Who was it?”

Bill Dawson, who had really been asleep, started, rubbed
his eyes, and finally sat up in bed, looking red and flustered.
The Doctor's face brightened; he moved a step nearer to
Bill, and again asked: “Who made the disturbance?”

“I — I 'm sure I don't know,” Bill stammered: “I did
n't hear anything.”

“You did not hear? There was a dreadful racket, sir.
I thought the house was coming down. It roused me out
of my sleep” (as if he had not been watching in the adjoining
room!) “and then I heard somebody running up
and down stairs. Take care, Dawson; this won't do.”

Bill made a confused and incoherent protestation of innocence,
which the Doctor cut short by exclaiming: “Don't
let it happen again, sir!” and vanishing with his lamp.
Whether he was really so little of a detective as to suspect
the first boy whom his voice brought to life, or merely made
use of Dawson as a telegraphic wire to transmit messages
to the rest of us, I will not decide. At dinner the following
day, and for several succeeding days, Bill was furnished,
in accordance with private instructions to the waiting-maids,
with an immense slice of pie, which he devoured in convulsive
haste, Dr. Dymond's sharp eye on him all the time,
and Dr. Dymond's thumbs revolving around each other at
double speed. It was great fun for us, although it put a
stop to our midnight excursions to the cellar.

A few weeks later, however, we found a substitute which
was more innocent, although quite as irregular. The
weather had become very hot, and our attic was so insufferably
close and sultry that we not only kept the window open
all night, but kicked off the bedclothes. Frequently one


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or the other of us, unable to sleep, would sit in the window
and cool his heated body. And so it happened one night,
when we were all tossing restlessly and exchanging lamentations,
that Thornton's voice called in to us from the outer
air, “I say, boys, come out here; it 's grand.”

The roof of the house was but slightly pitched, with a
broad gutter at the bottom. Thornton had stepped into
this and walked up to the comb, where he sat in his breezy
drapery, leaning against a chimney. The prospect was so
tempting that all of us who were awake followed him.

It was a glorious summer night. The moon, steeped in
hazy warmth, swam languidly across the deep violet sky, in
which only the largest stars faintly sparkled. The poplar-leaves
rocked to and fro on their twisted stems and counterfeited
a pleasant breeze, though but the merest breath
of air was stirring. Stretching away to the south and
southwest, the whole basin of the valley was visible, its
features massed and balanced with a breadth and beauty
which the sun could never give. The single spire of Honeybrook
rose in darker blue above the shimmering pearly
gray of the distance, and a streak of purest silver was
drawn across the bosom of the pond. Those delicate, volatile
perfumes of grass and leaves and earth which are
only called forth by night and dew, filled the air. On such
a night, our waste of beauty in the unconsciousness of slumber
seems little less than sin.

We crowded together, sitting on the sharp comb (which,
gradually cutting into the unprotected flesh, suggested the
advantage of being a cherub) or lying at full length on the
gentle slope of the roof, and unanimously declared that it
was better than bed. Our young brains were warmed and
our fancies stimulated by the poetic influences of the night.
We wondered whether the moon was inhabited, and if so,
what sort of people they were; and finally, whether the
lunar school-boys played ball, and bought pea-nuts with
their pocket-money, and stole pies.


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“By George!” exclaimed one of the composition-class,
“that 's a good idea! Next week, the Doctor says, we may
choose our own subjects to write about. Now I 'm going
to write about the inhabitants of the moon, because, you
know, a fellow can say just what he pleases, and who 's to
prove it may n't be true?”

“I guess I 'll write a poem, or a tragedy, or something
of that sort,” said Brotherton, sticking up one leg into the
air as he lay upon his back.

“What is a tragedy?” asked Jones.

“Pshaw! don't you know that?” broke in Thornton,
with an air of contempt. “They 're played in the theatres.
I 've seen 'em. Where the people get stabbed, or poisoned,
and everything comes out dreadful at the end, it 's tragedy;
and where they laugh all the time, and play tricks, and get
married, and wind up comfortable, it 's comedy.”

“But I was at the theatre once,” said Brotherton, “and
two of them were killed, and he and she got married for
all that. I tell you, she was a beauty! Now, what would
you call that sort of a play?”

“Why, a comic tragedy, to be sure,” answered Thornton.

“Where do the theatres get them?”

“Oh, they have men hired to write them,” Thornton
continued, proud of a chance to show his superior knowledge.
“My brother Eustace told me all about it. He 's a
lawyer, and has an office of his own in Seventh Street. He
knows one of the men, and I know him too, but I forget
his name. I was in Eustace's office one afternoon when he
came; he had a cigar in his mouth; he was a tragedician.
A tragedician 's a man that writes only tragedies. Comedicians
write comedies; it 's great fun to know them. They
can mimic anybody they choose, and change their faces into
a hundred different shapes.”

“How much do they get paid for their tragedies?” asked
the inquisitive Jones.

“Very likely a hundred dollars a piece,” I suggested.


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“A hundred dollars!” sneered Thornton; “tell that to
the marines! Why, I suppose my brother Eustace could
write one a day, — he writes like a book, I tell you, — and
he 'd make tragedies quick enough, at that price. We had
a boy, once, in father's store, that swept and made fires,
and he went into the theatre for a soldier in the fighting-plays,
for two dollars a week, — uniforms found. I should
think if a regular tragedician got twenty dollars a week,
he 'd be lucky.”

“Why don't your brother write them?” I asked.

“He? Oh, he could do it easy, but I guess it is n't
exactly respectable. A lawyer, you know, is as good as any

“Shut up, you little fool!” exclaimed a clear, deep voice,
so good-humored in tone that we were slightly startled, not
immediately recognizing Penrose, who had come up on the
other side of the dormer-window, and was seated in the
hip of the roof. His shirt was unbuttoned and the collar
thrown back, revealing a noble neck and breast, and his
slender, symmetrical legs shone in the moonlight like
golden-tinted marble. His lips were parted in the sensuous
delight of the balmy air-bath, and his eyes shone like
dark fire in the shadow of his brows. I thought I had
never seen any human being so beautiful.

“You forget, Oliver,” he continued, in a kindly though
patronizing tone, “that Shakspeare was a writer of tragedies.”

“I know, Penrose,” Thornton meekly answered, “that
Shakspeare was a great man. His books are in my
brother's library at the office in Seventh Street, but I 've
never read any of 'em. Eustace says I could n't understand
'em yet.”

“Nor he, either, I dare say,” Penrose remarked.

“Boys,” he added, after a pause, “Brotherton has had
an idea, and now I 've got one. This is a good time and
place for selecting our themes for composition. We are in


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the higher regions of the atmosphere, and where the air
expands I should n't wonder if the brain expanded too.
Moonlight brings out our thoughts. Who 'd have supposed
that Thornton knew so much about `tragedicians' and

We all laughed, even Thornton himself, although he
was n't sure but that Penrose might be “chaffing” him.
The latter's suggestion was at once taken up, and the
themes discussed and adopted. I believe mine was “The
Influence of Nature,” or something of the kind.

“Why could n't we get up a Fourth-of-July Celebration
among ourselves? We have lots of talent,” Penrose
further suggested, in a mocking tone; but we took it seriously
and responded with great enthusiasm. We appealed
to him as an authority for the order of exercises, each one
anxious for a prominent part.

“It might do, after all,” he said, reflectively; “they
usually arrange it so: — First, prayer; that 's Dr. Dymond,
of course, always provided he 's willing. Then, reading the
Declaration; we want a clear, straightforward reader for

“You 're the very fellow!” exclaimed Thornton. We
all thought and said the same thing.

“Well — I should n't mind it for once, — so you don't ask
me to spout and make pump-handles of my arms. That 's
fixed, we 'll say. What 's next? Song — `The Star-Spangled
Banner,' of course; hard to sing, but four voices
will do, if we can get no more. Then the Oration; don't
all speak at once! I think, on the whole, Marsh would do

“Marsh is n't here,” Jones interrupted.

“What if he is n't! Are we to have a school celebration,
or only a fi'penny-bit concern, got up by this bare-legged
committee, holding a secret session on the Academy
roof? Let me alone till I 've finished, and then say and
do what you please. Oration — after that, recitation of


Page 54
What-d'-you-call-him's `Ode to the American Eagle'; one
or two more addresses — short — to give the other Daniel
Websters a chance; then, we ought to have an original
poem, but who 'd write it?”

This seemed to us beyond the combined powers of the
school. We were silent, and Penrose continued, —

“I don't know about that, I 'm sure. But it 's part of
the regular programme, — no gentleman's Fourth of July
complete without it. If Godfrey would try, perhaps he
might grind out something.”

“Godfrey?” and “Me?” were simultaneous exclamations,
uttered by Jones, Brotherton, and myself.

“Yes, I can't think of anybody else. You could try
your hand at the thing, Godfrey, and show it to Dr. Dymond.
He 'll put a stopper on you if you don't do credit
to the school. There 's nothing else that I know of, except
a song to wind up with; `Old Hundred' would do.
But before anything more is done, we must let the rest of
the boys know; that 's all I 've got to say.”

While the others eagerly entered into a further discussion
of the matter, I rolled over on the roof and gave myself
up to a fascinating reverie about the proposed poem.
How grand, how glorious, I thought, if I could really do
such a thing! — if I could imitate, though at a vast distance,
the majestic march of Barlow's “Vision of Columbus”!
“Marco Bozzaris” I considered hopelessly beyond
my powers. The temptation and the dread were about
equally balanced; but the idea was like a tropical sand-flea.
It had got under my skin, and the attempt to dislodge
it opened the germs of a hundred others. I had
never seriously tried my hand at rhyme, for the school-boy
doggerel in which “Honeybrook” was coupled with “funny
brook” and “Dymond” with “priming,” was contemptible
stuff. I am glad that the foregoing terminations are all
that I remember of it.

It was long past midnight before the excitement subsided.


Page 55
Two boys, who had meanwhile gone to sleep on
their backs, with their faces to the moon, were aroused,
and we returned through the window. I got into bed,
already linking “glory” with “story,” though still tremblingly
uncertain of my ability.

“Oh, Penrose,” I whispered, as I lay down beside my
bedfellow, “do you really think I can do it?”

“Don't bother me!” was all the encouragement he gave,
then or afterwards.

Our airy conclaves were repeated nightly, as long as the
warm weather lasted. The boys in the other rooms were
let into the secret, and issued from their respective windows
to join us. I remember as many as twenty-five,
scattered about in various picturesque and sculpturesque
attitudes. Dr. Dymond, apparently, did not suspect this
new device: if we sometimes fell asleep over our books in
the afternoon, the sultry weather, of course, was to blame.
We afterwards learned, however, that we had been once
or twice espied by late travellers on the neighboring highway.

The plan of our patriotic celebration matured and was
finally carried out in a modified form. Our principal made
no objection, and accepted our programme, with a few
slight changes, such as the substitution of the Rev. Mr.
Langworthy, of Honeybrook, for himself, in the matter of
the prayer. There was some competition in regard to the
orations, but Marsh justified Penrose's judgment by producing
the best. No one competed with me, nor do I
believe that any one supposed I would be successful. It
was a terrible task. I had both ardor and ambition, but
a very limited vocabulary, and, unfortunately, an ear for the
cadences of poetry far in advance of my power to create
them. After trying the heroic and failing utterly, I at
last hit upon an easy Hemans-y form of verse, which I
soon learned to manage. I was very well satisfied with
the result. It was a glorification of the Revolutionary


Page 56
heroes, in eight-line stanzas, with a refrain, which is the
only portion of it I can remember, —

“Give honor to our fathers' name,
Strike up the glorious lay:
Sound high for them the trump of fame, —
'T is Freedom's natal day!”

“Not bad, not bad,” said Dr. Dymond, when he had finished
reading this effusion, and I stood waiting, with fast-beating
heart, to hear his decision. “`Great oaks from
little acorns grow,' even if the acorn is not perfectly round.
Ha!” he continued, smiling at the smartness of his own
remark, “the Academy has never yet turned out a poet.
We have two Members of Congress and several clergymen,
but we are not yet represented in the world of letters.
It is my rule to encourage native genius, not to
suppress it; so I 'll give you a chance this time, Godfrey.
Mind, I don't say that you are, or can be, a genuine poet;
if it 's in you, it will come out some day, and when that day
comes, remember that I did n't crush it in the bud. These
verses are fair, — very fair, indeed. They might be pruned
to advantage, here and there, but you can very well repeat
them as they are, only changing `was' into `were,' — subjunctive
mood, you know, — and `them' into `they' —
`did' understood. The line will read so: —

“`If 't were given to us to fight as they.'

And, of course, you must change the rhyme. `Diadem'
must come out: put `ray' (`of glory,' understood), or
America — poetic license of pronunciation. I could teach
you the laws which govern literary performances, but it is
not included in the design of my school.”

Miss Hitchcock would have preferred one of the classic
metres, only I was not far enough advanced to comprehend
them. She repeated to me Coleridge's translation
of Schiller's illustrations of hexameter and pentameter.
I thought they must be very fine, because I had not the
least idea of the meaning.


Page 57

When I took the verses home to mother, she thought
them almost as good as “Alcanzor and Zayda,” the only
poem she knew. I was obliged to make her an elegant
copy, in my best hand, which she kept between the leaves
of the family Bible, and read aloud in an old-fashioned
chant to Neighbor Niles or any other female gossip.

When the celebration came off, the effect I produced
was flattering. The excitement of the occasion made my
declamation earnest and impassioned, and the verdict of
the boys was that it was “prime.” Penrose merely nodded
to me when I sat down, as if confirming the wisdom of his
own suggestion. I was obliged to be satisfied with whatever
praise the gesture implied, for I got nothing else.