William Hawley Smith.

Walks abroad and talks about them online

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pends on dcr rat! Now off 1 got a goot, bright rat, I deach
him to do vot he vill learn in two, dree days. But off I
got a rat is a tarn fool (this man was a worldling, and he
spoke the vernacular), veil, I could nefer teach him
noddincf ! "

BATS. 91

"But," I said, "if a rat is bright can you teach him
anything you choose?"

"Oh, no!" he replied. '"'Some rats vill learn some
dings, wid some udder rats vill learn some udder dings. Und
dots a funny ding apout dat ! You cant always dell py der
looks of a rat yoost vot he inll learn f and as he said this he
spoke to a rat that was gnawing a bene:

" Cheneral Grant, come here ! "

The rat addressed caught up the bone and dragged it
over to where the man sat, who tlien continued, as he
picked the rodent up and stroked him with his hand:

" Now, I galls dis rat Cheneral Grant pecause he
shoots der gun. I try more as feefty rats pefore I gets
von dot vill shoot a gun. Und ven I gets dis veller, I
tries to make him valk der rope. Der Blondin vot I got
dot dime, he vas got his leg broke, und I vants a rat to
took his blace. But I don't could make him valk a rope
von leedle bit. // vos not in him to do somedi^tg like dot !

"Vel, den I try him mit der gun, und py chiminy he
make him go right avay ! He likes it ! He vill shoot all
der dime off I let him ! Eh, Cheneral ! " And he chucked
the rat under the chin as it jumped off his hand and re-
turned to its bone again.

Just at this moment a great lubberly rat came rolling
up towards the " Cheneral." He seized his military
brother by the scruff of the neck, and with an easy toss
sent him spinning through the air, the bone falling to the
lot of the bulldozer in the fray. But the master came to
the rescue, and with a smart rap he made the victor give
up his spoil, while he went on, a little excitedly, to
explain :

"Now, dot rat," indicating the big one he had just
calletl to order, " I calls John L. Sullifan ! He don^t know
nodding but viting, und you don't ncfer could deach him


nodding else! / don'l pclicvc Got Ahnighdy could cffer
deacJi dot rat nodding but viting I But lie can viglit ! Py
chiminy ! he licks any udder rat I effer see ! Dot's vy I
geeps him! Some dimes some vellers dey likes to have a
rat-vight. I don't myself lilce it so werry much, but I chust
geeps John L. SuUifan for dem fellers, und he can vip all
dc rats dey can pring him. Dot's all he vos goot for ! "

We all laughed, and he continued : " But all rats
don't been dot vay. Patti ! Patti ! " he called.

A plump little, fine-haired rat responded to his call,
and, leaving the group, climbed into his hand, while he
said : " Dot's der rat vot blays der moosic-box. Und she
like it, too, eh, Patti ? "

The little creature stood on its hind legs as he spoke,
and began moving one of its fore-paws round and round,
as if turning a crank, while her master went on :

" Eh, you see, she vant to tole me to got der moosic-
pox. No, no ! not now, leedle gal. Go ead your preak-
fast now, und ven ve gif anodder show, den you blays

He put her on the ground, and she ran away into the
crowd of her brethren and sisters.

"And so," I said, " I understand that you can't teach
any rat to do anything you happen to want him to learn to
do ?"

" Oh, nein, nein ! " he replied. " You can't only dcach
a rat to do vot he vos made to do / Und ven a man is a goot
rat-deachcr, he knows dot ding, und he voiit dry to dcacJi
a rat vot he can' f learn /"

" Und dot is yoost der tiffcrcnce betzveen a goot rat-de acker
und a shool-deacher /" he added. "A shool-deacher, he
dinks he can deach any shild anyding vot he bleases.
But he couldn't do id! Shildren is yoost like rats ! Some
vill learn von ding, und some vill learn anoder ding, und dofs

" DOT." 93

a goot sJiool-dcacJicr dot knows dot ding, iind vorks dot vay / "

" Do you suppose /could ever learn to teach rats as
you do ?" I faltered.

The man eyed me a moment, and then said : " No !
you couldn't do it ! You vasn't der right kint off a man !
Vol a man makes a goot rat-dcachcr lie vos got to been born
yoost on burpose for dot beesness, nnd I don t pelcef you vos born
dot vay ! ' '

The boys laughed, and I think they had a right to.
Then we all went away.

It was an old Roman who said, Poeta nascitur non fit.
A modern American has said : " Culture can increase the
size, quality and flavor, but it cannot change the kind ! "

When will our public school managers learn the lesson
and act accordingly ?


1 have a friend who often says to me when we meet,
" If you've got anything good about you, pass it around! "
I happen to have something good about me to-day, and
most gladly do I proceed to share it.

This something is in the shape of a letter. It was
never meant for the public eye, and so you will please con-
sider it as strictly inter hos. The man who wrote it is the
most modest man I ever knew, but the story he tells is so
good that I have finally persuaded him to let yon read
what he wrote just to me, as follows. He says:

" This is the first leisure moment I have had since we got back,
and I will improve it by telling you something of our trip. We hoped
to see you on our way home, but the train was away late, and we
hardly expected you to sit up for us. However, late as we were, the


conductor on the other road knew we were cominj,\ and /le-' held his
train for tis forty minutes.

And that is only a sample of the kind of treatment we received
all along the way. Everywhere, going and coming, and at the Capi-
tol, people seemed to vie with each other in trying to minister to the
enjoyment of the clean, bright-looking set of young people I had
with me.

" I remember that you once said, when you were here, that I
ought to be a proud man among my school children, and I can tell
you, without boasting, that my heart swelled not a little {perhaps my
head, too ) at the many compliments upon the appearance and be-
havior of the pupils, from the strangers with whom we came in con-

" There were an even fifty of us — all my high school pupils —
who left here Thursday morning at 3 o'clock, and we got back at
about the same hour on Saturday morning. Of course, the children
were pretty tired when we got home, but ' Dot ' was along and had
mothered them all so carefully that, after a good sleep, they every
one came up as well as ever."

( I take my hat off, here, ladies and gentlemen, and
reverently explain that " Dot " is the little woman who
sits at the table opposite the good man who wrote this
letter. Her true name is Rebecca, but she never grew
quite tall enough to match the ideal in person, either of
the stately Hebrew woman who lighted off her camel to
meet Isaac in the field, or that other Rebecca whom Sir
Walter has made famous; so her husband just calls her
" Dot," and that tells the whole story.

I should like to stop right here, though, and say a
word or two about her.

She is a born mother, and one who has never had to
adopt lap dogs to fill the places at her table! She has
borne six children. Four of these yet remain to call her
blessed, and two have " gone before." But there is mother
enough in her, you will observe, to meet the felt wants of
fifty boys and girls who are off on a two-day's outing.

She is a very quiet little woman. You would hardly

notice her among a crowd of grand ladies, and I never
heard of her being president of anything; but she is a
queen in her own honie, and that is what counts, according
to my way of thinking. Those fifty children think so, too,
and that is what counts in the town where her husband
is teaching!

But I started out to let the letter tell the story.)

" You want to know what we had planned for the trip and bow
it panned out.

"Well, in the first place, the plan was very simple. While I was
at the Capitol, during the holidays, it occurred to me what an educa-
tion it would be for our boys and girls to see that truly fine building,
with its elegantly finished halls and offices; its historical and symbo-
lical paintings and reliefs and statuary; how much of reality it would
put into their history study and into their cvcry-day reading, if they
could see our various state officers at work in their offices; and above
all, to see the legislature in regular session, carrying on its actual
work of law-making.

" Then there were the museums, and the libraries, and the grand
stairway, and the magnificent building itself.

" Besides this, we had planned only for a visit to the Lincoln
Monument and the Lincoln homestead. There was enough, however,
it seemed to me, for a two day's jaunt, and I kept thinking and
thinking how much the children would enjoy it and hov/ much good
it would do them.

" Well, somehow the idea stuck to me, and when I got home I
wrote to the agent of the railroad for rates. The first reply was dis-
couraging, for it would have made the cost of the round trip, hotel
fare and all, about $6.50 each. This was too much, for where there
were two or three from a family, or, in some cases if only one, the
cost would have shut out the very ones 1 wanted most should be ben-
efited by the plan.

" Here was one of the times when 1 wished I were rich enough to
just put my hand down in my pocket and haul out enough to pay the
children's way; but I couldn't, and there was no use fretting.

Yet the idea had taken such a hold on me that I couldn't drop it.
I stated the case to some of our good people, and told them that the
whole expense would be somewhere about $250. Almo-t to my sur-


prise one after another said ' I'll put in $io,' and ' I will,' and ' 1 will,'
until, in one afternoon I had the first hundred dollars in sight.

'■ It took a good deal of walking and talking to get it all, but I
got it, and the children have had their trip and there is nearlv a dol-
lar left!

" After a good deal of correspondence, I succeeded in getting
the railroad fare reduced so that the whole cost, per capita, for rail-
road fare, hotel fare, street car fare, and admission to Lincoln's Mon-
ument, altogether, was only $5.19, After a good deal of enjoyment
in anticipation, we started, made the whole trip in safety, delivered
the young folks to their parents, and checked them off.

" Thus ended my responsibility for them.

" How did it pan out? Well, in the first place, I suppose it would
have been impossible to chock any more solid enjoyment into those
two days of the children's lives with anything less than a ten-ton pile
driver. They just enjoyed every minute of it, and so did I. Nor has
there been any reaction, I never saw them better natured and nK)re
studious than they are this week.

" That isn't all; we know each other bettter, and I am, as I said,
prouder of them than ever before. Then, too, some little traits crop-
ped out here and there, that I shall keep in mind and deal with in a
sort of fatherly way when the proper opportunities come, from time
to time!

" We were fortunate in striking a very interesting session of the
House. An important bill was coming up. The children saw the
dallying over the reading of the journal — as we afterwards learned
to kill time and pass the introduction of the bill over into the next

" After a number of bills had been introduced and referred to
their appropriate committees, we got a glimpse of a little political
fine work. The bill in question was supposed to be in the hands of
a man whose nam_e was way down in the R's, and the opponents of
it expected to adjourn the session long before his name could be
reached in the call. But during the morning the bill was put in
charge of a Mr. Fowler — up in the F's you see — who plumped the
bill in upon the astonished House, and asked unanimous consent to
have it passed to first reading without going to a committee.

"Objection being made, he, without yielding the floor, moved a
suspension of the rules to the same purpose.

After some sparring, the vote was taken, the rules suspended,
and the bill read for the first time and placed on the calendar for

"DOT," 97

second reading. Since our return we are all alive and on the leok
out to watch the fate of that bill. We all have a personal interest in
it now, and shall watch it to its final fate.

" I speak of this so minutely, because it shows, better than I can
tell in any other way, how the ' Idea ' of the trip was realized. I did
not ask the children to carry note books and use their pencils; I just
let them go attd use their eyes and their ears. This they did, and I
am satisfied. They show it by their talk.

"Of course there were ever so many things connected with the
trip that I should like to tell you of, but I haven't time to write them
out, here and now. I only add that, on the way down, the route
agent took the boys and girls, in small squads, into the mail car and
let them see how mail is ' thrown.'

" Then, for the evening that we were in the city, I arranged with
some friends of mine who live there to entertain the young people at
their home. This they did in elegant style, and it was a most excel-
lent experience for the boys and girls.

" Besides this there was the ride there and back, the country and
cities we passed through, the jostling against people which all this
necessitated, and, by far from being least of all, the stay at the hotel;
and the ordering for the first time for many of them, of a meal from
a bill of fare.

" Very simple things, all these, to be sure, but I cannot help be-
lieving that the experiences of these two days have done more than
months of mere school-going could do toward fitting these children
to take a hold on the life they are destined to live. I counted that
the trip would put new life and meaning into their studies and all
their school work when they got home again, and I am certain that it
has done all that and more too.

"To be sure, if I had to lead out my flock again I see many
places where I could improve the management of such a trip. Who
couldn't? And yet, take it all in all, I am pretty well satisfied, and
so are the children, and so are their parents and friends who furnish-
ed the wherewithal for the outing. What more could I ask?"

There, that is the letter, and it struck me as one of
the best things I have seen or known about for many a

Of course there is nothing so very great about it all —



that is, great when measured by a world-wide-renown tape
line ; but the longer I live the better I know that it is not
what makes "all the world wonder" that is of value to
you and to me.

You see, there are so many folks in the world ; and,
take them altogether, they care so little for things — for
what you and I do, any how.

I am never so lonesome as when I am in a big city,
where there are thousands and thousands of people all
about me, not one of whom I know, not one who knows or
cares for me.

I am sure that the next edition of the " History of the
World, from the Beginning to the Present Time," will
make no mention of the incident which the above-quoted
letter describes. But, for all that, I would rather have
such a chapter as this written in my Book of Life than to
have pages and pages devoted to me in any World's His-
tory that ever went to press.

Perhaps I get this feeling from what I read between
the lines of this letter, and which I am sure is there for any
one to read who has eyes to see what there really is on the
pages before me.

That little touch about " Dot's being along," concern-
ing which I have already remarked (and you must re-
member that this letter was not penned in any studied
way — it was never written for effect. I have quoted it
just as it came to me, fresh from the warm and enthusi-
astic heart of the man who wrote it, and who never
dreamed, when writing it, that yoii would ever see it —
that would have spoiled all.)

How many pages do you think it would take to tell
all that is said in those three words, " Dot was along ? "

Put over against them the description even of a great
inauguration ball, and see if those three little words do

" dot:' 99

not mean more to yo7i than all the columns of description
about that magnificent affair ? I have nothing to say
against the ball. It was all right, in its place. But I read
in the paper for that day an incident connected with the
inauguration in Washington which means more to me (and
I believe to all the people in this country, as well) than
all else that took place on that great occasion.

And this is what I read : "Just before the President
left the White House to go to the Capitol to take the oath
of ofBce, after he had said an rcvoir to the company of
notable personages who had assembled to see him off, his
wife called him back for a moment, and, throwing her arms
around his neck, kissed him (even if all the people did
see), and, with happy and hopeful tears in her eyes said,
'God bless you, my husband, and Godspeed.' "

And I am here to state that if the president is the
man I take him to be, he prizes that loving tribute from
his wife more than all the honors that were showered
upon him during the entire inauguration ceremonies and
festivities. Give us a nation full of wives and mothers
like " Dot " and the mistress of the White House (and
they are of the same quality, though one lives in state and
the other is only a teacher's wife), and we will weather
through, and successfully settle the silver question, and
the tariff issue, and all the other ills that may rise up to
trouble this great nation of ours.

If only^ "Dot is along'' it will come out all right,
somehow, and I know it.

And then there is that quiet little passage: "Besides
this, we know each other better than we did before ; and
then, too, some little traits have cropped out, here and
there, that I shall keep in mind and deal with in a sort of
fatherly way, when proper opportunities come, from time
to time ! "


How many pages more would it take to write out all
that is between ^/lose lines ?

Truly, happy is that teacher that can do the like of
this, and happy is that pupil who has a teacher that can
deal with him in a fatherly way as opportunities offer !

What wonder that Mr. Emerson told his daughter
that he didn't care zv/iaf she studied, but that he did care
with whom she studied !

And, for my part, I would a thousand times rather
have a child of mine be the pupil of a teacher who could
and would " deal with him in t}^ fatherly way'' than to have
him sit at the feet of the most learned LL.D., A. M,,
B. A., F. R. S., and all the rest of the alphabet, that ever
set spectacles astride an emaciated nose, and grew dry and
sandy from digging in the graves of dead ages, but who
lacked this one thing.

• And then to have some one break the ice for you
when,yc';' tlie first time, you go to a hotel and are brought
face to face with a printed bill of fare ! As the old hymn
says, " O, what eternal horrors hang around " that bill of
fare, under such circumstances ! Don't / remember, and
d.oxv\.yoii remember what a time we had with it ?

It was at the Waddell House, Cleveland, Ohio, that
it first happened to me. I was seventeen, and was away
from home alone for the first time.

I got up at five o'clock in the morning, and was mad
because breakfast wasn't ready ! And I said so, too —
told the proprietor (night clerk) that I had my opinion
of a house that would charge a man (?) ^3.00 a day, and
make him wait around for an hour for breakfast !

And at six, when the big dining-room door swung
open, I went into breakfast all alone ! Not a soul else to sit
down to those two acres of tables and dishes but myself !

And when a red-headed waiter-girl, in a much-be-

"DOT," 101

starched calico gown which rattled like stage thunder
as she bore down on me, thrust that bill of fare under my
nose— O, I can't go on and tell it all! It is more than
thirty years since it happened, yet it gives me the horrors,
even now, just to write about it.

And to be saved all this. To have "Dot along" to
show a fellow how — as Mr. Gounod says in his opera,
" Oh, bliss ! oh, rapture ! "

But the chief thing about it all, to me, is, that this
teacher got an idea of his ozvn, and without consulting
Pestalozzi, or Froebel, or any other " authority," he had
the head and the heart to carry that idea to a successful

Not that you, or anybody else, should try to do just
what he did. Not that ! If you, teaching in a small
town, as this man is, or in a large town either, for that
matter, should try to do just what he did, you would prob-
ably fail at it.

But if you can get an idea that, worked out, you think
will be of value to your children ; and if you get that idea
so hard that it " sticks to you," and you can not and will
not let it alone until you can say : " I have done what I
planned and I am pretty well satisfied with the result, and
so are those for whom I planned and wrought " — if you
can do this, then you may know, to a certainty, that you
are among the elect in the fraternity ; that your " call to
teach " was a genuine voice from heaven, and not some
other noise that you heard, but didn't understand.

102 WALKS .\/:i:OAD.


It is a great comfort to nic, in my " walks abroad,"
to know that I am not traveling alone, but have com-
panions by the way, friends who chat with me as I go
along, and who call my attention to this or that object of
interest or importance, which I should, perhaps, miss
altogether if they did not point it out to me.

Indeed, this is the greatest thing in life, this com-
panionship by the way. Take that out, and there would*
be very little left in this world worth living for. It is
sympathy that we all crave ; and if there be any human
blood in us, we are heart- sick and discouraged if we do
not get what we so much long for.

Oh, I know what the poets say concerning solitude,
and all that, and I am well aware that there is a kind of
truth in what they are trying to get at ; nevertheless, I
am heartily in accord with Dundreary, when he says that
" of course birds of a feather flock together, for nothing
but a very idiot of a bird would go off and try to flock all
alone by its own self ! "

And Walt Whitman is equally correct when he says,
" Whoever walks a furlong without sympathy, marches at
his own funeral dressed in his shroud !"

And that is the reason why this batch of letters before
me is worth while — letters that have been written to me
by my fellow-travelers in my '' walks abroad " — for every
scrap of paper in the bunch contains some word from a
companion, some " See here," or " Don't you think ? " or
"Have you ever noticed?" or "It seems to me," or
something of that sort.


For instance, the letter on the top of the pile is writ-
ten in a feminine hand — a good, trim, tailor-made-suit
sort of a hand — and it says to me :

" The evolution of the bad boy of the school is a
problem that taxes my resources to the utmost, and when
there is added to this the involution of the bad boy's
mother, what is flesh and blood to do ?"

The interrogation mark which stands at the end of
this sentence in the letter is as large and as grappling
in appearance as the iron hook at the end of an old-
fashioned log chain. All of which I interpret to mean,
"Answer that, sir, so as to settle the business once for all,
and you shall have the biggest medal that the World's
Fair can possibly stamp out and mold up,"

" Well," as the preachers say when tackling a mighty
theme (and surely the bad boy's mother may justly be
considered a mighty almost anything), " I should make a
distinction." That is, it would make all the difference in
the world to me what kind of a woman the bad boy's
mother was, as to how I should treat her.

If she were a stupid female, who felt that something
was wrong, she hardly knew what, and whose boy had
worried the life out of her till she hardly knew whether
she were dead or alive — why, in such case, I should do
my best to be patient and keep still, and let the poor
creature unburden her mind. It does such a woman a
great deal of good just to talk, and if I could busy myself
at correcting papers, or making out averages, or going
through some of the other rigmarole and red-tape motions
that the system subjects me to, while she told her story,
or abused me, as the case might be, I should count myself

And, if she were an arrogant person, rich and mean, I


should be inclined to treat her in something of the same

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Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 7 of 16)