William Hawley Smith.

Walks abroad and talks about them online

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all proper men. A grandfather whose grandchildren have
in their veins no trace of the blood of " the sweet little
thing" who sat with him on the bench in the moonlight
nearly fifty years ago; the other of the boy and the girl
who sat there. Photographs both; and what artist, other
than a camera that sees things as they are, and has power
and principle enough to reveal all that it sees, just as it
is, could have sufificed for those two scenes?

Yes, I like photographs. I like life as it really is. 1
like the truth. Who is it that says: " I do not want the
constellations any nearer. 1 believe they are well where
they are, and will be well when they have moved on," or
words to that effect? The ideal is good to dream of, but
the real is the thing to live with.

When you look at your schools, beloved, let your
eyes be the cameras that shall see what is to be seen.
Let them take pictures for you — pictures of things as
they are, in deed and in truth, and then, when you are
alone, look the prints over, and see what there is in them.

You may not be able to have an "Angelus" on your
wall, but you can have a thousand better things in your
heart's secret chamber — pictures that shall stay with you
here, wherever you are, and perchance adorn your " ' man-
sions on high " on the other side.



What a curious fad that is which expresses itself in
the preference some people have, or profess to have, for
things that are '^ hand-made. " There is my lady at the
ball who spreads and swells herself with pride over a bit
of lace which she boasts was " made by hand " on a pin-
cushion rather than on a loom in a factory. I know a
gentleman, too, who wears a watch-chain whose links he
tells me are "hand-hammered." It is so heavy, to be
sure, that it breaks all the button-holes out of his vests,
but it is " hand-made, "" and that atones for all its clum-

These are two instances that might be made two hun-
dred or two thousand, but they are enough for my
purpose, since they illustrate what I have in mind.

I have been thinking about this peculiar phase of hu-
man nature for a day or two, and trying to account for it.
And here is what has come to me. I think it is a rather
pronounced out-cropping of ultra-individualism, which
borders pretty closely on the confines of absolute selfish-
ness. It is a sort of mania for owning something that no
one else possesses or can possess.

Perhaps it arises from the fact that no two of us are
alike, and so we, as it were, naturally prefer that our be-
longings should smack of ourselves. But, if even this is
the source of the characteristic, and so may, in a measure,
be good, yet I am certain that it is a quality that can very
easily be carried too far, and that very soon reaches the
region of selfishness, pure and simple.

178 WALKS AliliOAD.

And selfishness, pure and simple, is the very thing
that this age seems set to overcome. The vital breath of
this era is democracy; and this, in its essential principle,
is the very antipode of selfishness. It is everything for
everybody — not everything alike, forsooth, but enough of
every good thing to go around. It is not what I can have
alone by myself, but what everybody can share with me.
This is the kernel of Christianity, the soul of the brother-
hood of mankind.

I thought about this the other day when I went into a
modern engraver's establishment and saw the artists there
at work upon some "half-tone" plates for reproducing, to
the very slightest detail, several great works of art that
have for years been the sole possessions of certain indi-
viduals or societies. It is a wonderful process. There is
very little "hand-work " about it. The sunlight is the
artist and it does such work as no human hand can ever

It is the photograph business again, only this time
for the masses, the millions. It makes the world familiar
with the faces of those whom we are all anxious to see
and to know about, and it is little short of a miracle how
accurately and perfectly it does its work.

Well, I stood and watched the process whereby a rare
charcoal sketch, by a celebrated artist, a picture that has
long been the sole property of a friend of mine, was vir-
tually " cut in brass" — transferred to a plate from which
a million duplicates can be made by machinery, and every
one of them a better copy than ever could have been
made by hand.

And I was glad of this beyond all telling, for the pic-
ture is one that to look upon " doeth good like a medi-
cine, " and I am rejoiced that the multitudes can have the


pleasure that must come even from viewing its " counter-
feit presentment. "

I asked the 'artist if lie could make '"half-tones" of
any and all pictures, old, nevy, and what not. " O, yes, "
he said, " if only the originals are well defined. The sun-
light is no respecter of times and places and people; all
it asks for is a fair opportunity to do its work. Meet its
conditions and success is assured. "

My reason for asking this question was, that I have
in my possession a number of pictures, some old and
some new, that I should like to have " half-toned,"' that I
might share them with — well, with everybody who may
care to look at them.

And so, partly by way of .experiment, I had an old
pen-and-ink sketch of forty years ago put through the
"half-tone" process, and here is the result. Possibly
some of your school children may care to look at it with
you. If so, I shall be doubly paid for having had it re-
produced. So here it is, as follows:


Thanksgiving now is not just what it used to be. It
used to have a characteristic quality, which was that on
that day everybody went to grandpa's. Three genera-
tions always met on that day. And there was always a
house full, for plenty of children was the rule and not the
exception when Thanksgiving was young.

It always snowed just a day or two before, and the
first grip of genuine winter came just in time to freeze up
the piles of mince pies that were baked the week before
Thanksgiving. The first sleigh ride of the season always
came when we all went to grandpa's, on that great day of
the year.

Grandpa lived up in the hills, a good day's drive, and

ISO WA LK^ A I'.nOA /).

we always used to go up the day before, on Wednes-
day. We had to get an early start, and the last stars had
not been put out for the day when we were off. How the
bells jingled and the horses' feet crunched the shining
road, and the runners squeaked over the frosty way !

We had to get out and walk over the covered bridge,
because they hadn't put the snow on for the winter yet.
But how we were tucked up when we got in again, and
how good the warm stone felt at our feet !

Then, away we went, up hill and down hill. Mary's
ears grew cold, and mother's muff — a great, big, fluffy
muff, but ever so warm — held to them was the only thing
that would keep them from freezing. But away, and
away, we went ! The sun came up, and we sang, " Away,
away, away we go. " Mother sang, father sang, and we
all chimed in.

That was just where the road turned and went down
hill into the woods and across the brook that never froze
over, it ran so fast. Goodness ! how the echoes rang ! I
can hear them yet, though half the voices that sang on
that morning are now still and have' been for long years.

After that the hills grew steeper and we went slower.
Then we got hungry and had lunch — seed cakes !

And so the way wore on till about two o'clock, when
we got to grandpa's.

The old man stood, bare-headed, at the gate, the
wind tossing his scanty hair. As we drove into the yard
he jumped on the side of the sleigh, like a boy, and came
piling down on top of us with a romp, as we moved up to
the front door. Then he took us out and kissed us. How
the whiskers pricked ! for it was Wednesday afternoon
and he hadn't shaved since Sunday.

Into the house to meet grandma, uncles, aunts, and
cousins, a troop of them, and for every one a place and


love without stint ! Up to the old fire-place, with its gen-
erous blaze of hemlock and hickory — was there ever such
cracking and snapping as used to welcome us at the old
hearthstone 1

We had an early supper and then went out to see
grandpa milk. He used to put on an apron to milk in,
and we thought that was because he was a minister, and
so something like a woman. He milked, making two
streams beat time in the pail as if they were one, and not
alternately, as father did, and that was a wonder. Then
into the house again to wait till it got real dark, when we
were to see the turkey killed.

Thanksgiving and turkey ! Indissolubly one !

So, when it was real dark, we went with grandpa to
the barn. Out through the woodshed, and the shop, and
the carriage house, and the corn house, clear to the barn
without going out doors ! What a line of boys and girls !
Fifteen of us, and the oldest not twelve — unless you count
grandpa 1 He led the van, with the lantern — the tin lan-
tern punched full of holes that the light could shine out
of, but the wind couldn't blow into.

All in, and such a row of little heads, covered with
aprons and towels and what not ! No wonder the old
mare poked her nose over the manger and snorted.

But hush ! The old gobbler sees us, too, and pokes
his head out, and turns it up to one side. Walter takes
the lantern, and grandpa steals up in advance. A breath-
less silence, broken by a flop and a tremendous flutter,
and the old fellow is on the floor. Then we all rush up to
see the poor creature blink in the lantern light, and gaze
on us in such a helpless way. But 7ve can't help it !
Think what he will be to-morrow !

And away we go, back to the wood-house, where; the


old fellow goes bravely to the block for the cause; then
into the house to see him picked; and then to bed.

Yes, to bed ! Three in a bed all around ! We all
undressed down stairs, hiding, modestly, each behind his
mother's chair, as she sat with her back half turned to
the fireplace.

Nightgowns all on and feet all bare, we stood before
the fire to see who was tallest, Ophelia at the head and
Lily at the foot — the stalk broke that winter and Lily

Then, as we stood there, grandpa came up behind,
and spread his hands out over us, and gathered us all into
his arms and about his knees. The tears trembled in his
eyes, and with stifled voice he said: " I thank thee. Oh
Father, for all these little ones; oh, bless them, every one.
Spare their precious lives, if it be Thy will, and help them
to be good boys and girls, and to grow up to be good men
and women. Amen."

That was the prayer, never to be forgotten. How
still we all stood for a minute after the amen was sa'd, till
grandpa stooped over and kissed Flora. That broke the
spell, and we all began to kiss all around.

And such kissing ! So many kinds ! Uncle George
had just come from the far west — St. Louis! — and had a
great long moustache. How it tickled ! And aunt Min-
nie's soft lips, and aunt Flora's fat lips, and grandma's
wrinkled cheek, and, last of all, grandpa. Then, off for
upstairs !

Ah, but the stairs were cold ! — had oilcloth on 'em !
Then into the great, high beds — feather beds and woolen
blankets; and grandma had warmed them with the warm-
ing-pan ! (Can anyone tell why that luxury has been for-

All snug in bed. Good-nights repeated again and


again, and sent in packages to the folks downstairs, the
door is shut. It is dark; Walter tells a ghost story, Wal-
lace tells another; then, one by one, we say our prayers.
Almon says "trespasses" instead of "debts; "but we all
agree on " Now I lay me." Emma begins another story,
but it's too long, and we fall asleep, one by one, till,
finally, she yields herself, and her eyes close with her
mouth full of words. And we dream. * * *

Morning — Thanksgiving morning ! Who shall write
the record of the day?

Down stairs to dress by the fire ! Breakfast ! Such
cakes ! And we all have coffee ! Then prayers. We all
have bibles. All who can read, read, each in turn; and
the little ones who cannot read, say over a verse, word by
word, as it is read to them. And then the prayer ! Surely
such prayers as grandpa prayed are answered. He called
us each one by name, and asked God to bless us and help
us to be good. None that heard that prayer will ever

Prayers over, there is a break for the kitchen, to see
the turkey stuffed and put into the brick oven; to crack
nuts, stone raisins, bring in wood, and help ( ?) do a hun-
dred things. And that brick oven ! What fragrance
■came from its spacious recesses when its mouth was
opened and disclosed, side by side, the turkey, two Indian
puddings, and an immense chicken pie ! That was
Thanksgiving !

Then, when all these were in the oven, we ali made
ready and went to church. Grandpa preached. First he
read a psalm that had the word "thanksgiving" in it.
Then the choir sang an anthem in which tenor, treble, alto,
and bass, scampered after each other with the words,
"with thanksgiv-," "with thanksgiv-," "with thanksgiv-,"
in a regular race; till, finally, when they had worn each


other out in the chase, they all came together on " ing,"
and then sang "amen," and retired behind the little green
curtain that was stretched before them.

At last it was over and vve were back again for dinner.
This was the climax. We children " waited," but that was
nothing. We had the sitting-room all to ourselves, and
we had no end of fun. We played " Robin." Do you know
"Robin?" It is an old game. We got a short pine stick,
half as big as your finger, and stuck one end into the fire
till it blazed. Then one of us took it and said: "Robin's
alive and live like to be; if he dies in my hands, you may
saddle-back me."

As soon as he said this he passed the blazing stick to
the next, who repeated the same words, and passed it on,
and so on round. When the flame went out "Robin"
was " dead," and the one in whose hands he died had to
be " saddle-backed."

Saddle-backing meant that he should be laid on his
face on the floor, and all the chairs, and tables, and stools,
and whatsoever in the room, should be piled on top of
him. No wonder it seemed a short time that the older
folks were at dinner.

And then came our turn. The table was re-set, and
one Indian pudding was left untouched for us. How we
ate! The turkey and chicken-pie were so good that
Henry ate his fill of them; and when the pudding came,
and the tart pie — with little scallops and rings on top —
and mince pie, and pumpkin pie, and plum cake and nuts
— he could eat none of them, and cried because his
stomach was so small.

Then grandpa came behind us, with his hands full
of raisins, and we put our heads back and opened our
mouths, like birds, and one by one he dropped the fat
plums between our lips.


And so the dinner ended. Apples and cider and nuts
came later in the day, as we sat in a large circle around
the old fireplace. Then, evening and games — " Pon
honor" — and such a pile of hands on grandpa's knee!
and such awful questions as were asked the unlucky ones!
"Whom do you love best?" and one said Lucy Trow,
when down in his little heart there was rebellion, because
he knew he ought to have said Eliza Winslow, for hers
was the image he cherished there! Ah, pure and true
little heart, that rebelled at even a seeming denial of its

And then a romp with grandpa! Down on his hands
and knees (he was seventy-four) and he was our horse.
In behind the lounge, he was a bear. How he watched
from his den, and sprang out and caught us, poor little
lambs, and ate us up and wanted more! Then blind-
man's-buff, and so on, game after game, till our little eyes
were heavy; then bed and a child's sleep.

Morning again. Breakfast and prayers; then good-
bye, and off for home. That was the Thanksgiving of the
olden time.



I have been trying my hand a little at the census
business, or perhaps consensus would come nearer ex-
pressing what I have been attempting to find out.

For a long time I have been greatly interested in the
matter of teaching reading in our public schools, and be-
cause "the proof of the pudding is the eating, " and that
the further fact remains that a "workman is known by his
chips, " I have been tasting the reading puddings, so to
speak, that our schools are now making and baking; and
examining the chips that fly off as our teachers " hew to
the line " in the reading classes, let what will come of it.

And here are some of the things that I have found:
To begin at the beginning (and let me say, right here,
that my report will, for the most part, like all other cen-
sus reports, merely state things as 1 found them, leaving
other folks to form conclusions therefrom), I started out
with the purpose of asking /w/zrt/T teachers just two ques-
tions, the first of these being. What method of teaching
reading do you use ? and the second, Will you tell me
yo7ir ozvn private opinion about the real merits of such
method, based on your own experience, and unbiased by
anyone else's opinion or say-so ?

With these two questions formulated I set out on my
census pilgrimage.

I had almost no trouble at all in getting prompt and
unequivocal answers to the first of my questions. When-
ever I propounded the same, the reply would come back
at me as a ball comes back from the bat, and always
straight at me. There were no " fouls " made, no "strikes "


called. It was a straight pitch :\\\'.\ :i '.quarc bat, every

And in almost every case, north, south, east or west,
in city, town, or country, I got one of two replies. Either
my respondent would say, " I use the word-method of
teaching, " or " I use the sentence-method." There were
some slight variations in these replies, some teachers
working in a personal adjective in their answers, as " I use
Brown's word method;" or "I use Jones's sentence
method;" but this seemed to be a small matter, so far as
the general trend of methods was concerned.

In one or two cases I got a reply, albeit from rather
old-fashioned folks, " I use the alphabet method; " but
the great bulk, at least ninety-five per cent, of the teachers
I put the question to, answered either "word-method" or
" sentence-method. "

And so my census, on this first question, seems to
have determined this fact (for I took schools at random
in some twelve different states) that the great bulk of our
primary teaching of reading is now done by the " word-
method, " or the " sentence-method. " I consider that
point fairly established. I make no comments; I onl\'
record the fact.

But when I propounded my second question, then
came the rub. To return to my base ball figure of speech,
it seemed almost impossible for me, at first, to get any-
body to "bat to my pitching " at all. Some would strike
towards what I said, but would take great pains not to
hit the real issue by so much as a "tick. " Others would
" swipe " my interrogation clear out of bounds on a " foul, "
and baffle all my efforts to get them to really "pla\'

But I finally got what T wanted. I am not a Mason,
but by working the " never'll tell," secret service system


on my reluctant non-respondents, I finally began to get
results. These results I am glad I am now able to make
public without betraying those who reposed their confi-
dence in me, since all the pledge I gave them (and,
indeed, all they asked me to give them), was that, in
anything I might hereafter say, I would not reveal the
identity of my informant.

Curious fact, that; that we all hesitate to give an
honest personal opinion unless we can run to cover under
an in cog. !

Well, when I had finally found the way to get any
replies at all to my second question, the answers came
with a uniformity that was somewhat remarkable, to say
the least; especially in view of the reluctance to respond,
noted above.

With a very few exceptions, which I can readily ac-
count for, the replies all agreed on the following points,
namely, that these two systems of teaching reading tend
to make excellent vocal readers of reading matter, the
words or sentences of which have been told to the cliildren
to start on; but the pupils thus taught do not read new
matter well, and they do not spell well.

How is it in your case, beloved ?

The census I have detailed is neither an imagined or
a fanciful statement. It is on the bed-rock of the actual;
and, being so, it seems to me to be worthy of some special

And what I am anxious for is that it should have the
special consideration of the rank and file of primary
teachers, because it is they w'ho know more about it than
anyone else. This may not seem so at first, but think
about it awhile and the light will appear.

To help out on that line a little, the line of theorist
versus the actual doer of the thing theorized about (call


them superintendent and teachers, if you would like to),
let me quote from a letter that lies before me. The man
who writes it lias been a superintendent of city schools
for many a long year, and is among the best of the lot,
and he writes me thus:

" I want to tell you of another new continent that I have dis-
covered, pre-empted, and explored second-handed.

" I have been reading for the past four or five years of the won-
derful discoveries by a few of the leading educational thinkers who
have been studying their children, their grandchildren, etc., and I
have been charmed, elated, almost transported at the wonderful
facility with which these little prodigies have absorbed and reflected

" More's the pity, bloated with this information, I have gone
systematically to work to make the life of my primary teachers an
absolute desert of misery and dread, by requiring them to do as
much work as was accomplished by these little prodigies of

" It is quite likely that I should have gone on at this nerve-
straining rate to the end of my superintending career had not the Good
Father sent one of those sunbeams to gladden my life, in the shape
of a flesh-and-blood boy. Like his father, he refused to be a prodigy,
and I have discovered, in my efforts to find what he knows and what
he can do, that he is many degrees removed from the perfection out-
lined by Perez and others of his kind.

" I think I have learned more about how much it takes to teach
some children a few things than I could have learned from a stack
of books high enough to enable me to see into the Promised Land.

" 1 think, also, I shall hereafter be more humane to my primary
teachers, in fact, to all my corps of assistants, than ever before. "

There, 1 think, that is a pretty fair setting forth of
" Theory vs. Practice. "

And there needs to be just such a rounding up of
these two, every now and then, if they keep in line as
they ought to. This theorizing business, especially when
it takes analogical reasoning along as a partner, is apt to
very soon become a gay deceiver, and to leave its votaries
in all sorts of predicaments, just when they are feeling


cocksure the next step will land them in die niillcniuin.

And so, to come back to that cold and heartless
census report (for such the like always are; but it is they
that put the ultimate test to all theories), these primary
teachers, who have honestly f^iven me their own [)rivate
opinions about the real vicrits of the present system of
teaching children to read, have brought out some facts
that must give all theorists about the matter something
to think of.

And just here will you kindly oblige me by pro-
nouncing, instantly and at first sight, by either the word-
or sentence-method, whichever you prefer, and without
having anyone tell you what the word is, so that you can
say it over after them, the following:

Honorificabilitudinity !

And if you fail to fetch it on sight, the first time, I
wish you would reflect just a little as to how you will
finally " down it. " For you will finally down it. And
when you have done so, just stand off a little ways, so
that you can put the act into perspective, and see how it
was that you did it. And then you will please ask yourself
if the methods of teaching primary reading that you are

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Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 13 of 16)