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OBSERVATIONS OF A RETIRED VETERAN

By HENRY C. TINSLEY

("P. Boyzy")




Introduction.

The essays contained in this little book comprise a selection from
many of a like character which were contributed at intervals through
a series of years to the columns of the VINDICATOR, a weekly newspaper
of Staunton, Virginia, by its editor, the late Henry C. Tinsley, under
the pen-name of "P. Boyzy." The perusal of them in their present form
will serve to confirm the opinion of those who read them as they then
appeared, that they possess in marked degree the unusual quality of
a winning humor coupled with the pathos that is often humor's most
exquisite accompaniment; and that they combine a shrewd if homely wit
with a profound knowledge of the workings of the human heart.

In the more strenuous life of political journalism, to which Mr. Tinsley
devoted his energies from the time when he laid down his arms at the
close of the War between the States to the beginning of his last
lingering illness, these "Observations" were for him but an inadequate
outlet for the expression of the courageous and hopeful philosophy
which was always his distinguishing characteristic. To cover his pain
with a jest, - to preach without cant the gospel of love, - to do the
best that he could do according to the lights before him - these generous
motives and high purposes are to be read between the lines by those
who knew him as legibly as if they shone out in words upon the printed
page.

During his lifetime he was frequently asked to gather into book form
these little essays which had delighted so many of the readers of his
newspaper; but to all such requests he smilingly turned a deaf ear.
His innate modesty esteemed their value at far below their real worth.
They are given here just as they were written by him and printed in
the VINDICATOR, without change or correction other than of typography.
It goes without saying that if their author might have revised them
with a view to their publication in a permanent form, there would
probably have been many changes; but it is believed that as they came
warm from heart and brain, they will serve to reproduce him most vividly
for those who knew him best and to illustrate once more for them in
all its dignity and sweetness the simple courage of his life.

It is for such friends that this book is published.

ARMISTEAD C. GORDON.
Staunton, Virginia.
October, 1904.




BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.


Henry C. Tinsley was born April 7, 1834, in Richmond, Virginia, and
lived on the corner of Franklin and Governor streets, in his father's
residence, which was opposite the old WHIG office. His father was a
native of Ireland and died at the early age of 28, the day after the
birth of his only daughter, Ella, who was educated at the Virginia
Female Institute in Staunton, while presided over by the Rev. Dr.
Phillips. She and his mother have since died, and it is not believed
that he has at this time any living relative.

Mr. Tinsley's education was obtained at the old Richmond Academy of
that city, a classical school. In his 18th year he began his
journalistic career as a reporter for the Richmond DISPATCH, in which
profession of his choice he soon attracted attention.

The war coming on, he enlisted in the Richmond Howitzers and served
during the whole war as a faithful and brave soldier.

After the war he returned to the Richmond DISPATCH and soon became one
of the most valued men upon its working corps.

Early in the '70's he became by purchase, half owner and editor of the
Staunton VINDICATOR, being associated with the late W. H. H. Lynn until
1876 when Mr. Lynn sold his interest to Capt T. C. Morton. The paper
was then for eight years conducted under the style of Tinsley & Morton.
After this Capt. Morton retired from the paper and his eldest son, A.
S. Morton, became in turn half owner, the firm continuing as before
until 1895 when it was dissolved, Mr. R. S. Turk purchasing the office
and good will of the VINDICATOR and consolidating it with the SPECTATOR,
since which time it has been known as the Staunton SPECTATOR and
VINDICATOR, Mr. Tinsley retiring from the paper of which he had been
chief editor for twenty-four years.

Mr. Tinsley died in Staunton, after a long and painful illness, August
21, 1902.




OBSERVATIONS OF A RETIRED VETERAN I


I saw the Sweet Harbinger of Spring last week. A violet? No. A swallow?
No. A bud? No. Ah! no; put up your encyclopedia of Spring information
and I'll tell you. It was the annual boy with his shoes off for the
first time since the warm weather. He stepped gingerly; he stood still
longer than usual; he hoisted the bottom of his foot for inspection
often; he let a cat go by, though a rock lay in a yard of him; he
picked out a velvety place on the tan-bark sidewalk before he put his
feet firmly down and squared himself on them to give the two-finger
whistle for his chum, which is the terror to the nervous. Much of the
boy had gone out of him. He moved with the motion and sloth of decrepit
age. Next week you will not know him for the same boy. His feet will
be hardened, he will dance over the macadam mixed streets with the
callosity of a stone-crusher, and the fugacious cat will be lucky if
it gets its tail through the fence in time. The mourner's bench humility
of today will have changed to the noisy glee of the hardened criminal.
His baseball practice will pervade the middle of every street, and his
large and assorted stock of general trouble and annoyance will be
displayed under all our noses with the request that we will call and
examine before purchasing elsewhere. I cannot understand how any man
can be indifferent to the blessings of the church, when he remembers
that one of them is the Sunday School - invented by the Fathers as an
ingenious and effective place of torment for this Boy. Through the
week he is intolerable, but the blessed Sabbath is to him a day of
retribution. It is the awful day when his ears are washed and touseled
about; when his eyes are punched out by the towelled but unsparing
hand of a Christian mother; when his shoes are put back on him for a
day, and when, with a neck encircled by a collar starched to maddening
stiffness, and with a pocket handkerchief the consistency of pasteboard,
he is sent to the place of punishment. I have read many beautiful poems
about the sweet quiet of the Sabbath, but few of the poets have given
the right solution of it. It is because all over the civilized world
on that day, millions of Boys have been captured and corraled in Sunday
schools. The very church bells understand it, and in the early hours
ring out triumphantly, "Got-'em-in-here! Got-'em-in-here!"

* * * * *
Of course, as we move on through this alternately delightful and
disagreeable world, we must be brought face to face with bores of many
varieties. Setting aside that pest, the egotist, for whom there can
be no excuse, I should like to mention the man or woman who conceives
that the way to talk about books is to deal with the acts and characters
instead of what they say. It seems to me that it is just one of the
modes, if I may call it that, of talking literature that is little
better than no mode at all. It is a rare thing to meet with even the
most modern work - I am speaking of fiction - by a fairly successful
writer, that does not contain some utterance to arouse thought and
challenge us to mental debate. The acts must of necessity be commonplace
from familiarity, for man has behaved himself for a million of years
from the same motives and only varied his manner with the advancing
material circumstances which surrounded him. But his thoughts are not
obliged to be commonplace. The thoughts of men are marching in ever
moving procession towards the Light, and as each one emerges from the
darkness it catches on its forehead a ray which transforms it. It is
these that are to be discussed when we talk about books, and not the
mere acts of the actors therein. What, as a matter of conversation,
is the suicide of Dido, compared with the fine lines in which she so
touchingly summarizes what her life would have been had the false
AEneas never seen her? I lately heard two exceptionally intelligent
young people discussing the novel - Put Yourself in His Place - which
though a very second rate work was written with a very first rate
purpose. Their criticism and discussion was confined wholly to the
action of the characters and they seemed to have thought the purpose
of no account compared with the plot and love-making. And it is not
young people alone who are given to this skimming process. I have known
people who really deserved the title of readers, to find their chief
if not their only criticism in the decision of how well this or that
character was drawn, and what surprises the plot contained; while as
to the thoughts, good or bad, old or novel, the critics seemed to be
oblivious. If we expect really to improve ourselves by books - still
I am speaking of fiction - we should try to remember and afterwards
discuss the thoughts they contained and which we found in the mouths
of the characters or in the comments of the author. There has never
been in my recollection a time when the fiction of the day was more
completely abreast of the advancing thought of the world, or in which
it teemed with more new and practical views logically connected with
passing events and new situations. It is when, closing the book, we
take away with us those seeds and subject them to the attrition of
discussion, which wears off the pollen, that we arrive at, possibly,
a new and valuable thought which may deserve the name of knowledge.

* * * * *

"It seems to me your observations are nothing but opinions," said Mrs.
Boyzy to me the other evening. She called it o-pin-ions. Women have
an art of expressing contempt by syllabic emphasis that men never
acquire. It is their failure to accomplish this that induces men to
substitute profanity. Nevertheless, as that excellent woman remarked,
the things I say in these papers are for the most part opinions. But
what of that; what moves the world but opinions - what has moved it up
to where it is now, but opinions? Where would the world be if it were
not for new opinions; where would men be? Suppose every public man
clung to precedents in public affairs; every politician pinned his
faith on his party policy, and every preacher planted himself on
orthodoxy - all with a determination to go no further. The world would
come to a standstill. There would be no progress. Opinions are the
lever that works the world. Precedents become mouldy, politicians
change with the times, and creeds advance with the public thought.
What do we care what a man thought two hundred years ago, when we have
what a man thinks to-day? What is to us the policy of a political party
when the moss has commenced to grow over it. Who would attempt to
enforce in this day the medieval creeds and religious practices and
church government? What are we put here for, if it is not to learn,
every year, every day, every hour if we can. And of what use is all
this learning if we are not to advance by means of it? And how could
we move a step if we did not tell our neighbor what we think we have
learned - that is, tell him our opinions. I say to you, Madam (and I
say it the more freely that she is out of hearing), that opinions rule
the world, and while it may be possible that mine do not rule my own
household, it impairs their value no more than imprisonment and
persecution did those of other philosophers in the past. An opinion
is a valuable thing - in its information if it is true, in the mental
exercise it gives in combating it, if it is error, and in any event
as a feather that indicates which way the wind is blowing - in what
direction the blind mole of man's finite judgment is groping around
its prison in search of an outlet to the infinite. And that is true,
Madam, whether you call them opinions, or o-pin-ions!




OBSERVATIONS OF A RETIRED VETERAN II


You have been to the Conference? So have I, but it was twelve years
ago. Still I shall never forget a scene I witnessed there. It was in
the same Methodist church that this one is being held in. For days I
had been interested in a plain, homely-faced minister, considerably
past his half century, who came in evidently with great pain on
crutches. The town bell striking the hour was not more punctual than
the sound of his crutches. His hands were distorted by rheumatism, his
limbs twisted, and his face had a patient look as of one who had
suffered for a hundred years. His face was rough, but somewhere about
its expression there was a graciousness that attracted my attention.
One other expression in it struck me; it was the air of a man who had
finished his work. Not that he hadn't frequent consultations with the
ministers who approached him, or showed any lack of interest in what
was going on, but just a look as if he was doing anything for the last
time. Once he got up and made an official report of some kind to the
Bishop. As he closed it, his eyes burned with an intense anxiety and
he opened his lips as if to say something. But it was left unsaid, and
as he painfully resumed his seat the old look returned. As the close
of the Conference approached, I saw him several times with his head
bent over the back of the pew. It was on an evening very near the
close. The rays of the westering March sun shone through the windows
with a cold, cheerless light. His name was called. He raised his head.
His face was flushed. He struggled to his feet and with his crutches
hobbled around the aisle to the front of the pulpit, where he stood,
balancing himself on his crutches. And then the story came out. It was
told to those in the seats rather than to the Bishop. He had entered
the ministry young and had hoped to give his whole life to God. But
of late years disease had overtaken him. He had struggled against it
and tried to do his duty through great suffering, but lately he had
found that he could be of no further use and he asked - here he paused
and turned from the pews to the Bishop. It seemed that he was about
to say something that he had striven for years not to say. His eyes
filled and in a thick voice he said: "I ask to be put on the
superannuated list." And then he sat down on the nearest seat and wept
like a child. What it would have broken the heart of other men to have
staid in, it broke his heart to leave. I viewed him with intense
curiosity. Five or six of his brother ministers came up one by one,
and silently took hold of his twisted hands. I don't think they said
a word; I am sure he did not. He did not look at them, for his head
was buried on one of his cheap, home-made crutches, and from his pocket
he had taken a worn and faded handkerchief, with which he was checking
his tears. After he had gotten back to his pew, some ministers here
and there over the audience got up and testified to what the man had
been and what work he had done. Some of them had seen him, crippled
as he was and suffering the agony of rheumatism, driving miles through
the falling snow to fill an appointment to preach. Somehow it seemed
to me a eulogy of the dead - and it was. When I saw him the next morning
he had the air of a man who had met a great loss, instead of a man who
had just parted with a life of labor and physical anguish, but there
was still the last time look about him. And it was the last time. In
six months from that time he was dead. What shall we say when such a
life of self-sacrifice passes on to the stars? What can we say, except
to speculate on the boundless possibilities that eternity must contain
for such a life. What must such a little minute-hand life as sixty
years, develop into on the dial plate of eternity, when it is begun
as this man's was. Such a man as this, it seems to me, must at some
time or other have touched the very hem of the Master's garment.

* * * * *

I saw in your paper this week an expression which continues to run
through my head. It is an advertisement of a poultryman for poultry,
in which he says with rough frankness, "Old roosters not wanted."
Whether it is good policy in him, while attempting to secure tender
and succulent birds for the clerical stomach, to affront that venerable
class of fowls upon which we sinners are to live long after the clergy
have left, I will not say. I do not believe, however, that it will go
unresented or unpunished. I believe that many an old rooster will so
beplume himself and take on such an extra strut, that he will at last
succeed in forcing himself as a young bird between the teeth of our
clerical visitors. This will be a sweet revenge. But with this I have
nothing to do; what I have now to do with, is the fact that over every
department of life I see the same announcement. In society where the
sweet amenities of life are monopolized by the young, the aged beau
is met by the flaming inscription, "Old roosters not wanted." In
politics we hear the cry that the favorite candidate is a representative
of the "Young Democracy" or "Young Republicans," as the case may be,
and that, except at the ballot-box, "Old roosters are not wanted." If
a congregation loses its pastor and commences looking around for a
successor, the first thing it does is to print in large letters across
the pulpit, "Old roosters not wanted." Across the door of every new
enterprise is the same inscription. What, I desire to know, is to
become of us old roosters? Not fit for broiling, too tough for roasting,
too old for congressmen, for preachers - what are you going to do with
us? Ah, the very question shows where we stand. It used to be a few
years ago, what we were going to do with you, but the tables have been
turned and now it seems to me that the cemetery gate is the only place
not decorated with the legend, "Old roosters not wanted." There they
are more than welcome; indeed, if it were not for their patronage that
institution would do an amount of business very unsatisfactory to its
stockholders. Having then this refuge, brethren, let us take courage!
Let us take consolation in the thought that we have gotten over so
much of the rough road over which those following us have yet to travel,
and that having once passed that portal we shall have reached perfect
peace. Let us find a spiteful satisfaction in the fact that long after
we have entered the silent gates, the young roosters will still have
to rise early and crow hungrily for corn, still will have to skirmish
with other roosters for bread, and the highest pole in the roost, and
that as they show up in the race of life, they will have to read, in
their turn, the fatal sign-board along the track - "Old roosters not
wanted."




OBSERVATIONS OF A RETIRED VETERAN III


I have often heard people lament ill-health because, they say, sickness
loses to a man friends. On the contrary, I hold that it brings him
many new and unexpected ones. Let me see - December 15, - July; seven
months; that was long enough to make the experiment, wasn't it? Well,
let me look over some of the new friends I have made lying all this
time in bed. The first new friend that I made, and one who had evidently
seen better days, was a Tomato Can, that ever present denizen of the
back-yard. On his head he jauntily flew a cocked hat bearing a damaged
new picture of himself evidently taken in youth, and across his red
waistcoat, in blue letters, was the word "Trophy." There he stood, day
after day, leaning jauntily against the doubtful company of a whiskey
barrel hoop, telling me the time of day, as if that was his only
business in life. If the sun's light lay across his red stomach it was
9 o'clock, if it glistened on his cocked hat it was noon, and if it
soberly lighted up the cherry red tomato on his side, it was 6 o'clock.
"Sir," he seemed to say, "I have not been always as you see me. I have
seen the day when I roosted on the highest shelf in the family grocery,
and when I was dusted daily by well dressed clerks - if the employer
was around. I was for many years the tenant of a French plate glass
window and I have been carried by the soft hand of Beauty, sir, and
laid gently in the market-basket. I do not boast, but Beauty itself
has carried me through the streets in its arm. I have seen great larks,
sir. I have travelled that Main Street at the rate of a mile a minute
at the tail of valuable dogs, and at the midnight hour I have bounced
into the midst of cat caucuses with great sport. I have been the friend
of Man, sir, but what has Man done for me. He has left me here in this
miserable back-yard, company of barrel-hoops and brick-bats and bottles.
He has - " But here the next door neighbor's servant threw a bucket of
slop-water on my friend and cut off his complaint. His red vest peeled
down a little further, his cocked hat depressed further over his face,
and a potato skin stopped his mouth. How true it is that no person can
be in such disreputable circumstances that he has not the remembrance
of better days to soothe him, and like the Tomato Can, ever find true
comfort in the top-shelf on which he long ago may have roosted.

* * * * *

But as a new friend, the Street must always take the first place with
a sick man. How new everything in the Street becomes to the man who
views it from a sick bed! You would think he had never seen it before.
Nor has he. No man in health lies and sees the Street wake up in the
morning. Nor does the man in health, walking about the Street, see how
prettily it goes to sleep. The lengthening shadows make it drowsy for
a little while, but as evening comes it makes a great stir. It sends
hundreds of hustling people along its walks hurrying home. It lights
up hundreds of windows and shop fronts and looks as much as to say,
"I think I will make a night of it. I've sent all the children to bed
and now I'll have a time of it." But the steady old Street on which
I live gives up its dissipated idea early, turns off light after light,
and soon the lonely sidewalks are without a passenger. The Street does
one thing for the sick man you wouldn't expect; it arouses a spirit
of rebellion that is astonishing. Resignation is a beautiful virtue,
but it chiefly exists on side streets and out of town. The man who is
sick on a main street and professes to be resigned is a hypocrite. My
friend, the Street, presents to me Thompson. What do I say? "Ah,
Thompson, take the blessing of a sick man?" Not a bit of it. I say,
what right has Thompson to be walking along attending to business and
possibly taking surreptitious cooling drinks, while I am doomed to
staring out of the window and drinking beef tea? But Thompson don't
drink? Oh, well, what do I care if he don't! I threw that in about
drinks to make it as hard on him as possible. It makes a good point
on a man just to suggest it. There; there goes Robinson going to church
with a new suit on, and a wife hanging on his arm! What has he done
to deserve that sort of luck? Why, isn't he up here flat of his
back - and there they all go. Resigned? Ah, no, the sick are not
resigned. It is only the dead who are resigned.

* * * * *

A perfectly new friend is the Sky. How often does one in health look
at the Sky save to see about the weather? But once a year. But in
sickness it is an ever present friend. You watch for day breaks in it,
and for the fading stars, and find an exciting interest in which of
two stars will go out first, something like you were betting on a race.
And then the figures in the blue field all day long; for it is not at
evening and night alone that they appear. What have I not seen march
across my window in the procession - a castle, a fan, a swan, a kerosene
can, the king of spades, a cream jug, troops of angels, in short,
anything that an idle imagination wants to conjure up. And when it
dresses for the evening, in what glorious costumes does it appear. But
all that is garish compared with the Sky upon which the night has
settled down. That is the sort of Sky to bring calmness and content.
The quiet lighting up of the stars, with no step ladders and no hurried
match scratching of the police; the ease with which the moon climbs
up her route, no puffing, no machinery clanking; the deepening of the
blue to better show the celestial sparks that glow on it - and the


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