William Hawley Smith.

Walks abroad and talks about them online

. (page 6 of 16)
Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 6 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was much of the same sort as you can hit upon almost
any Saturday, between September and June, in any one
of the forty-four states of this glorious Union of ours.

The county superintendent was in charge, and he was
ably flanked by a professor who has done institute work
fur several years. The latter was, of course, in the very
nature of things, "cocked and primed" for the occasion,
which was all very well and good ; but before I had sat in
his presence five minutes I found he was working his
"specialty business" for all that it was worth, and more,
too. But I didn't object to this so much, remembering
how, the night before, I had come to the conclusion that
the disease was wide-spread.

Before long, however, I found myself rebelling against
what was going on, and I herewith state, in open meeting,
why I did so, though it grieves me to tell it just as it was.

I very soon found that this conductor was working /«'.y
specialty far beyond the limits utilized by either actors or
preachers, or what not ; and this is how he did it. He not
only made his little pets do service to show to the best
advantage his own attainments, but he strove to heighten
this effect by making the same a means for humbling and
belittling the real powers and abilities of the group of
well-meaning people he was performing before.

And that " riled " me, and made me look further in
the same direction. And 1 say plainly that I have found
this transgression much more common than it ought to

" SPECIAL TY B U SINE 8 8." 77

be, especially among as good a set of men and women as
institute conductors generally are.

Why, the other day I came across a case of this kind
that, if it had gone a little further, would have been a
legitimate field for the exercise of the functions of that
officer of the law whose business it is to prevent cruelty
to animals.

The "conductor" was doing one of his "specialty
acts" in great form, it being, surely, his thousandth per-
formance ; and, having concluded, he called on an un-
sophisticated country girl, who had been doing her level
best with her first school for three months, and was still
greatly worried as to which was ahead, herself or the " big
scholar " — he called on her to " duplicate the bill," as it
were ! And when she, poor thing, arose and made a stag-
ger at it, he so quizzed, and twitted her, and snubbed her
generally, all along the line, that she finally gave up in
despair ; and, burying her rather fat and shame-flushed
face in her hands, she sat down and cried.

Honestly, I almost wondered that the chivalrous,
stout fellows who sat on the other side of the room and
saw it all, did'nt put the perpetrator of the deed out of

I grant (thank heaven I can honestly do so) that this
case was an extreme one, but it was one of the things I
saw in my "walks abroad," and I set it down seriatim,
verbatim, in statu quo. I remark, though, that from my
observations I find that cases approaching this one in un-
pleasantness are not anywhere near as infrequent as they
should be in this free and independent land of ours. They
should be less frequent still. As Mr. Shakespeare says,
" reform it altogether."

Because, the truth is, when you come to look close, a
" specialty act " is not the cleverest thing in the world,


after all, cither for the performer or the spectator. So far
as the former is concerned, if long indulged in, it tends to
paralyze the nerve of fresh and original thought and
endeavor, and so gradually debilitates its victim. And
for the latter, it is apt to discourage him, especially when
his own crude efforts are brought into strong contrast with
the finished performance of a cunning, not to say crafty,

Above all, the snobbishness of the fad should be
lopped off, for, truly, there aren't any " av uz all," as
Father Tom would say, who have so very much to boast
of by way of attainment, specialties and all ; and even
what we have is very soon learned by those who see us,
day after day !

Which puts me in mind of the remark of an Irish
friend of mine. He used to be very fond of hearing the
Bishop preach, and always went to service when that dig-
nitary held forth. I met him on the street the other
Sunday, though, when I knew the Bishop was preaching,
and asked him why he wasn't in his pew ? To which he
replied :

"Troth, I don't go to hear the Bishop ony more."

"Why! what's the matter ?" I said. "You haven't
gone back on a good man have you ?"

"No," he answered, "but it's the truth I'm tellin'
you, when you've heard the Bishop a half-dozen times

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 6 of 16)