Part 2 out of 3
Oh, Mr. Sliman, you were very sharp, weren't you? You thought you did
your little trick so cleverly that no one would find you out, but your
kind always think that!
It did make a fine showing for visitors, this clean whispering record
of yours, and it was a fine thing for you to talk about at teachers'
meetings, where you boasted to your fellows of what you had done, and
looked so honest, and made them all feel so envious, as you drew forth
your record-book from next your shiny shirt-bosom, and showed how there
was no denying your statement, for the testimony was all down in black
and white! It was all very nice, but it was very, very bad, for all
You knew it was, too, and most of us who heard you brag knew it was;
but that didn't make very much difference, because we were old and
could stand it, and as for you--the less said the better.
But not so with "Dodd."
Here was where the harm came in, you wicked man. You evolved the lying
element of this boy's nature. Heaven knows that he had enough of this
naturally, as I have plainly stated in the early chapters of this
story; but you forced a hot-bed growth out of the seeds of falsehood
that were lying dormant in "Dodd's" young mind.
Amy Kelly had covered these up, under the foundation walls of truth, so
deep that if you had built on what she started the germs would have
died where they lay. But no, you threw down the square blocks that Amy
had laid with so much care; you spread the dung of deception over the
dying seeds, and by the help of the unnatural heat which this foulness
generated, brooding down from above, you sprouted the germs of untruth
in the boy's soul, and set a-growing plants whose roots run down into
You taught "Dodd" Weaver to believe that a lie was better than the
truth; that it would serve him better; bring him more glory; make him
stand better in the eyes of his fellows, and that no one could find him
out in all this trickery and deception.
"Dodd" learned in your school; O, yes; he learned that which it took
him many years to forget, and you are to blame for it. Some day I hope
you may be compelled to face that lying old record of yours and that
lightning flashes of guilt may be made to blaze into your treacherous
eyes from out those pages that looked so clean when you showed them
off, while the thunder of outraged truth rolls about your head till
your teeth chatter in your mouth and your bones shake in your deceitful
You see things must be made even somehow, and somewhere, and such a
sinner as you have been deserves all this and more too.
Then, there was Mr. Sharp, who kept green and growing the shoots that
Mr. Sliman had sprouted. "Attendance" was Mr. Sharp's hobby. He kept
a blackboard in the front hall of his school house, where it would be
the first thing any one would see when he came into the building, and
on this he scored the record of attendance every day.
There was no harm in that, I am sure; but then, this teacher used to
keep the clock a little slower than town time, and besides, be had a
way of ringing bells and bells at morning and at noon, and of not
counting as tardy any one who got into the building any time before the
ringing of the last bell, which really did not go off until some
minutes after it should have done; and then there was the back way of
written excuses, by which a fellow could sneak up in the rear and rub
out a mark that really stood against him, and not have it count on the
board down in the hall; and absences of a certain character were not
counted either. So, take it all in all, "Dodd" saw clearly that the
shown record and the real record were not the same things by a long
way, but that it was the former on which Mr. Sharp relied for his power
and glory with the patrons of the school, and before the board of
education. So it was that Mr. Sharp watered what Mr. Sliman planted,
and "Dodd" had to stand it all.
And then there was Miss Slack, and Miss Trotter, and Mr. Skimpole (a
lineal descendant of the urbane Harold), and Mr. Looseley, and Mr.
Rattler, and Striker, and Bluffer, and Smiley; all these took a hand at
the mill that was rolling out the character of "Dodd" Weaver, and there
are marks of their varied crankings upon him to this day.
One year he fell into the hands of old Mrs. Heighten. She was a widow
who had been rich, but was now poor, and who had a place in the schools
because she needed it. She was so much like all the rest of this sort
that she need not be further described, and were it not for one
characteristic she should remain in oblivion, so far as this record is
concerned. But for this I must have her out.
She was poor and really a proud beggar of public charity, yet she was
of such genteel and lofty birth and bearing that teaching was a bore to
her. She really despised and hated her pupils, and they returned these
sentiments with interest. There was always rebellion in her room, and
to suppress it she resorted to all sorts of penalties and punishments.
She used to make pupils stand on the floor and extend an arm on a level
with the shoulder, and so hold a book till it seemed as if the arm
would break off. She herself stood by with a pin in her hand,
meanwhile, holding it at a slight distance below the extended arm and
sticking it into the hand of the suffering one if the aching member
were lowered an inch.
O Dante, you didn't begin to exhaust the possibilities of outrageous
punishments in all you saw in the infernal regions. Old Mrs. Heighten
could give you several points that you never dreamed of, and not tax
her powers of ingenuity very much either.
Yet "Dodd" worked the genius of this respectable old beldame to the
very verge of bankruptcy. She tried device after device upon the boy,
till at last it got to be a kind of race between the two as to which
should win. The old lady had no genuine interest in the welfare of her
pupil. He annoyed her and she wanted to rid herself of the annoyance.
That is a simple statement of the case from her side. As for "Dodd,"
he delighted in tormenting her as he would in teasing a snake. To be
sure there was danger in the sport, but boys are fond of danger,
especially if it promises fun.
So the days wore on, till at last the case became unbearable, and
"Dodd" was "suspended." Oh! but that was hard on the boy! It hurt him
terribly! The suspension came when the skating of the winter was the
very best, and "Dodd" skated the vacation away, and felt, Oh, so badly
about being out of school!
When the week of suspension was over he came back, fuller of the devil
than ever, and during a single forenoon did more mischief than he had
before been capable of perpetrating in a month. He was fourteen now, a
stout chunk of a boy, awkward, defiant, and reckless. He stayed in
school two days this time, and was again suspended. He came back once
more after that and was then expelled. He left school with a whoop and
was on the streets most of the time thereafter. It was then that his
reputation as a bad boy began to grow rapidly. He frequented the depot
of the town and was on speaking terms with the railroad employes of the
line. He chewed tobacco in great mouthfuls, swore a great deal, and
spent his days in loafing. He had plans for going on the road as a
brakeman when he became a year or two older. Every day he sunk lower
and people shook their heads and said, "How his mother's heart must
But old Mrs. Heighten drew her $55 a month just the same, right along;
and her daughter Amanda, who never did an honest day's work in all her
life, but lived in idleness, supported by the aforesaid $55--she was
the pride of the town. She went to church every Sunday and sang in the
choir, and at charity fairs she always stood behind the prettiest
table, dressed in the prettiest clothes, and smiled and blushed and
seemed so innocent and coy. And there were rich young men who hung
about her, and Amanda smiled on them, too, and people said, "What a
lovely girl!" And her mother hoped that her daughter might marry one
of these rich young men; it didn't make much difference which, so long
as he was rich and could keep Amanda in idleness, while she could go
and live on his bounty and quit the school room that she hated and have
a rosewood coffin and plenty of carriages at her funeral.
But until all these things were accomplished the old lady "had to have
a place," and Amanda lolled about in idleness.
Meantime "Dodd" "waxed worse and worse."
Do you see any relation between "Dodd" and Amanda, good folks? If you
do, remember that this boy was only one of scores of pupils that had to
suffer, substantially as he did, that the poor and proud Mrs. Heighten
and her lazy daughter Amanda might continue to keep up appearances, and
still have a chance to sponge a living off some man at the expense of a
legal relation which it is sacrilege to call marriage.
Out upon such proud and lazy frauds, every one of them, whose worthless
lives are sustained by the destruction of the characters of children
like "Dodd" Weaver, and all the rest who fall under such tuition!
So it was that "Dodd" got into the street and achieved the reputation
of being a boy that no teacher could do anything with. In the year or
two that followed he made several starts at school, but his reputation
always preceded him, and the old story was told over again--one or two
suspensions, then "expelled."
So time went on till "Dodd" was nearly seventeen. He was almost a man
grown now--a swaggering, profane, vulgar fellow, who ate his meals at
home and slept there, usually, but further than that lived apart from
his parents, who every day regretted that ever he had been born.
You all know this boy, don't you, beloved? He is in every town that I
know of, and there are duplicates and triplicates, not to say
centiplicates, of him in some of our larger cities. I wonder if it is
worth while to try to do anything with these boys, or for them? The
machine has dropped them, or thrown them out. They will not run
through the great educational mill known as the "graded system." They
seem destined to go to the bad, and it seems to me the tendency of the
machine, and some of its managers, is to let them go. Yet they ought
not to go. As there is a God in heaven, they ought not to.
But the machine does not care so very much for these things, either for
the boys or for the Personage just mentioned, whose name the managers
revere enough to teach the children that it should always be written
with a capital letter, but further than that do not trouble themselves
much about it. The machine is built on the theory that the pupils are
made for the schools, rather than the schools for the pupils, and that
the order of the grades must be maintained, no matter what becomes of
the graded. What is it to this great mill if the pupils do fall out of
the hopper? So long as the mill grinds and the grinders can hold their
places at the crank; so long as they can draw their pay, escape public
censure, dodge behind a stack of examination papers when individual
complaints appear, shield themselves from responsibilities by records
and marks, keep the promotions in order, graduate a class a year in
good clothes and with pretty speeches, see each of those who have been
ground through go out into the great world armed with a diploma tied up
with a blue ribbon, and so following--so long as the machine can do all
this, what is the use of paying any attention to "Dodd" Weaver and such
incorrigibles as he, who refuse to go into the mill and be ground?
However, you know the story of "the ninety-and-nine." At least you
ought to know it. It has an application in these premises.
But Elder Weaver shifted his base of operations once more, and "Dodd"
had another chance.
He had now got so far down on the ladder of his descent that he was
counted almost dangerous. His father feared him, and he was even the
terror of his brothers and sisters. In a word, he was a hard case.
It was the town of Emburg in which the parson was stationed this
time--one of those towns so common all through the West, places that
start out with a boom and the prospect of being municipalities of at
least 500,000 inhabitants in a few years; whose founders lay out into
town lots all the land that joins them and sell these at fabulous
prices to those who are credulous enough to buy; and which finally
settles down to a quiet village of about 2,500 souls, with a depot,
stores, seven churches, and a school requiring about ten teachers to
take care of its pupils.
Mr. Charles Bright was principal of the Emburg schools the fall that
Parson Weaver came to take charge of the Methodist Episcopal church at
that place. He was 30 years of age, a nervous, sensitive man, both of
which characteristics had been intensified by severe work in the school
room. He was less than the average height and thin in flesh, the scale
beam tipping at 120 when he stood on the platform to balance the
weight. His face was thin and his beard scattered, but his large black
eyes were as keen as a lance, and they always seemed to see everything
that came within the range of vision. He was fairly educated, but in
no sense a great scholar. His patrons called him "Professor," but he
made no claim to the title, and it was offensive in his ears when
applied to himself. He was characterized with excellent common sense,
and, best of all, was a man of resources. He was an excellent
classroom worker, managed his school well, and was held in high esteem
by his fellow-teachers and his pupils. Above all, he was a man whose
personality impressed itself upon those with whom he associated, and
whose character was strong and wholesome, making itself felt upon his
To this man came Parson Weaver on a memorable morning, when the
following dialogue ensued, after the two had made themselves known to
"I have a son," said the parson, "whom I should like to send to school
"Certainly," replied Mr. Bright, "send him along, and we will endeavor
to take care of him, amongst us."
"Yes," said the Elder, "but I am grieved to be obliged to say that my
boy is very wayward. He has been expelled from school so often, and
has had so much trouble with his teachers that I doubt if you can do
anything with him. I thought, however, that I would come and speak to
you about him, and if you were willing to try him, at least for a
little while, I should be under great obligations. For, really, it is
a terrible thing, sir, for one to feel that he must give up a
first-born son and see him go down to destruction. And yet I am
compelled to say frankly to you that I fear our boy is almost beyond
This was said in an agonized tone that told how deeply the sorrow had
taken hold of the father's heart. There is a sentence somewhere that
reads, "If thou canst, have mercy on us and save our son, for he is
grievously tormented." The world is much the same now as it was a good
many years ago, isn't it?
"How old is your boy?" asked Mr. Bright in a quiet, measured tone.
"Nearly seventeen," replied the parson, "but he is greatly behind in
his school work. As I said, he has been turned out of school till he
hates it, and, to tell the truth, he has done little but roam the
streets for the last few years. I feel that I ought to be ashamed,
being his father, to make such a confession, but it is the truth, and I
felt that you ought to know about it."
"Yes," said Mr. Bright thoughtfully.
"If you could take charge of him yourself," continued the father almost
imploringly. "I know it is asking a great deal, and that perhaps it
will be impossible for you to grant what I ask, for I am aware that my
boy is not advanced in his studies as far as the average of the pupils
that recite to you, and I have long since learned, by sad experience,
the inexorableness of the present graded school system, which forces
pupils into their places strictly according to their examination
records, regardless of all other contingencies. I beg your pardon, if
I seem to speak harshly," he quickly added, fearing that he might have
reflected too severely upon the gentleman to whom he was speaking.
"You need offer no apology," returned Mr. Bright. "I regret as much as
you can the too rigorous ways that have fallen upon our schools."
"Well, will you give the boy a trial?" asked the parson, bringing the
issue to a point.
"Most certainly," returned Mr. Bright, and then the gentlemen wished
each other "good-morning," the parson going home and the teacher
turning to his desk again.
It was not until the following Monday morning that "Dodd" Weaver made
his appearance in the school room. His father had urged him to go
sooner, but he cared little for the wishes of his sire, and took his
time in this, as he did in all else.
"Dodd" came late to school when he did come, and evidently counted on
making a sensation on his first appearance. He was very shabbily
dressed, and had purposely added to his generally slouching appearance
by deliberately "making up" for his debut. His hair was long, and he
had tangled and frowzed it all over his head till it looked like an
ungainly pile of corn silk. His face was grimy, a big quid of tobacco
bulged one cheek out, while stains of tobacco juice made the corners of
his mouth filthy. He wore no collar, one coat sleeve was half gone,
his vest was on wrong side outwards, his pantaloons were ragged, he had
a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, the former unlaced, and the
latter smeared to the top of the boot-leg with yellow clay; a leg of
his pantaloons bagged down over this, being held up on the inside of
his leg by hanging it over the boot-strap!
You who have not taught school, and are not familiar with boyhood at
this stage of its evolution, may insist that I have made "Dodd" up like
a crazy creature for his grand entry into Mr. Bright's school room.
Perhaps I have. But I have presented him to you as he presented
himself to the school, for all of that. I am myself inclined to think
that his mental state, at this time, bordered close upon insanity! The
Book remarks about a young man at this stage of his existence, that he
had to "come to himself" before his reformation, as though he had been
away from himself during his lawless and outrageous career. I am
inclined to think that boys are often a good deal nearer insane than
they get credit for being, at this period of their lives.
There is a psychological condition just here that it is worth while for
teachers seriously to consider.
So, tricked out in this disgusting fashion, "Dodd" slouched into Mr.
Bright's school room about ten o'clock in the forenoon, and flung
himself into a seat. The pupils looked up as he entered, and their
first impulse was to laugh---a result which, would have suited "Dodd"
exactly. But a glance at the school from Mr. Bright's quick eye
checked the risibilities of his pupils, and, this emotion dying out,
there came instantly in its place a disgust and almost a horror of the
loathsome person who had dared to disgrace the school room with such a
figure as "Dodd" presented. A silence like death fell upon the room,
and all held their breath for an instant after the boy was seated.
Under this silence "Dodd" became embarrassed. It was exactly the
reverse of what he had counted on. He meant to disturb the school.
Instead of this, he found the school disturbing him. He shuffled
uneasily in his seat, glanced furtively out from under the shaggy hair
that was matted over his forehead, cleared his throat in a restless and
seemingly defiant manner, but finally blushed to the roots of his hair
as he felt the eyes of three-score decent people, all bent upon him at
once. He stretched his neck up out of his collar-band a little, turned
his head about as though something were choking him, then dropped his
chin upon his breast, shrugged up his shoulders, and half hid his face
from the eyes whose looks he fain would shun.
All this really took place in much less time than it takes for me to
Mr. Bright was hearing a class in geometry when the boy entered, and a
handsome, intelligent girl was in the midst of a demonstration when the
door opened and the interruption caused thereby took place. The pupil
paused in her recitation, the end of her pointer resting upon the board
at the angle under consideration, and she stood thus during the brief
interval remarked above. As "Dodd's" head dropped Mr. Bright turned
his glance to the girl again, and said:
"If the angle at A--"
Upon which she took up the demonstration where she had broken off, and
finished it as though nothing had happened. After that, other pupils
recited, the lesson ended, the class was dismissed, other classes were
called, and the regular routine of the day's work went on without
change, as though teacher and pupils were entirely unconscious of the
presence of a stranger among them.
When recess came, Mr. Bright went down to the desk where the boy was
seated, accosted him in a civil manner, and told him that if he would
remain a few minutes after school was dismissed at noon he would talk
with him about his work and assign him to his place in the school.
Then he left him, and devoted himself to the other pupils during the
"Dodd" did not leave his seat during this recess. He sat as he had
finally settled himself, except that he now and then raised his head
and gazed defiantly over the school room. The pupils paid no attention
to him whatever, and he really felt himself as much alone as though he
had been in solitary confinement in a dungeon.
The recess ended, the school was in order again; the recitations went
on as usual, an hour and a quarter went by, noon came, the session
closed for dinner, the pupils left the room in groups, till all were
gone, and for the first time "Dodd" Weaver and Mr. Charles Bright were
alone, face to face.
Mr. Bright took a small piece of blank paper from his table, a
rectangular slip about four inches long by two inches wide, cut
expressly for the purpose for which he proceeded to use it, and went
down to the desk where "Dodd" sat sulking and defiant.
"Please write your name and age on this slip of paper," he said to the
"I can't write!" grumbled "Dodd," with a surly sneer and a wag of his
"I see! You have no pencil," returned Mr. Bright. "You can use mine,"
and he slipped that article into "Dodd's" hand as he spoke.
As soon as he had done this, he went to the rear part of the room and
began looking over some work upon the blackboard. He did not look
toward the boy to see if he obeyed, but his ears were on the alert.
For a little while "Dodd" sat unmoved, and made no sign that he
intended to write at all, but as Mr. Bright kept working at the board,
the boy gradually relaxed his unyielding mood, and after a few minutes
wrote his name in a very neat hand. He even added a little flourish in
one corner of the paper.
Mr. Bright heard the pencil moving on the desk and his blood ran
quicker in his veins, though he showed no outward sign of the fact. He
felt that in the first crossing of swords he had won. That was all.
He heard the pencil drop upon the floor, where "Dodd" let it lie. But
he still devoted himself to his work on the board. He knew that the
name was written. It was all he had asked.
As for "Dodd," he almost wondered how he happened to write at all. He
had made up his mind to be as mean and outrageous as possible when he
came to school, and here he had done the very first thing he had been
asked to do! When he replied to Mr. Bright that he could not write, he
fully intended to have a knock-down with the gentleman rather than put
pencil to paper. He even thought over hastily, how quickly he could
"put a head on the light weight" who had brought him the bit of paper.
For "Dodd" was strong now and prided himself on his skill with his
But the pencil was in his hand, and, before he was aware, his fingers
clasped it. His hand instinctively took the position for writing, and
somehow or other, there came to his mind, just at that instant, the
memory of Amy Kelly, and of how she had held her soft, plump hand over
his, as she taught him to hold a pen.
If he had observed closely, he would have seen that this was where the
first break came in his rebellion. It was the sunshine of Amy's
character shining down through the dark clouds that had closed in about
"Dodd" Weaver's soul, that first tempted his timid, shrinking, almost
forgotten real self out into the light again. Habit completed what
memory began, and his hand moved, though almost against his will, as if
guided by an impulse beyond himself. Perhaps it was so guided!
He wrote the name; but he did no more. When the pencil dropped to the
floor he would not touch it again. Nothing could have induced him to
do so. He would have fought a duel sooner than have picked it up. His
real self, so weak and so nearly dead, shrank back, exhausted by its
single effort, and his bad nature took control of him again.
But Mr. Bright finished the work at the board, and then went up the
aisle. He stooped and picked up the pencil, took the slip from the
desk, with a courteous "Thank you," and moved on to his own table. He
had tallied one point.
I wonder if he did this all by himself, or if there was another hand
behind it all. Certain it is this man did not plan all this campaign
that ended so successfully. He had not counted on the boy's refusing
to write his name. It was like a flash, that it came to him to answer
"Dodd's" refusal as he did. Nor did he really intend to put the pencil
into the boy's hand when he offered it to him. But, somehow, he did
just that, and it was the saving fact in the case. Had he laid the
pencil on the table, "Dodd" would never have picked it up. Much less
would he have reached for it, or taken it from Mr. Bright's hand. But,
with the pencil in his hand, he wrote.
We say Mr. Bright did as he did "instinctively." That may be a good
word for it. But I wonder if such "instinct" as this doesn't reach
away over to the other side, even into the realm of inspiration, whose
fountain head is the spirit of the great "I AM."
Be this as it may, though, Mr. Bright had won. He was thankful for his
victory--thankful, but not proud. Perhaps this is another thing that
goes to show that there was help from without that made for him in the
"Dodd" was disappointed that Mr. Bright did not compliment him on his
writing, for he had written very well and knew that he had. But this,
Mr. Bright took as a matter of course, and gave no word of commendation
for it. It was not time for that yet. "Dodd's" starved real self, if
fed with what might once have been wholesome food for it, would have
been choked, perhaps to death, by a bit of praise, just then, and a
wholesome sense of merit would have been changed into a detestable
A teacher has to be so careful about these things.
Mr. Bright seated himself at the table, transferred the name to his
register, then took another bit of paper and began writing on it,
remarking as he did so:
"You will please occupy the seat in front of you this afternoon, and
hereafter. I have written a list of the books you will need," he
added, picking up the strip he had just been writing on, "and you will
please procure them this afternoon. You will recite with the entering
class in this room, according to the programme that is on the board
behind my desk."
But "Dodd" did not move a muscle while Mr. Bright spoke. He did not
look up, even when reference was made to the programme. He made no
response when assigned his seat, or to his place in school. He sulked
and frowned and stood out against everything, and was sullen and
malicious to the last degree.
To all this, however, Mr. Bright paid no heed. He stepped down to the
boy's desk again, put the list of books upon it, then turned and left
the room abruptly, without a word.
The act was so sudden, so unlike what "Dodd" had expected, that it left
him, for a moment, utterly nonplussed.
He was vexed that he had not been able to get into a fight with a man
who had left him alone; and yet, as he raised his eyes cautiously, to
make sure that Mr. Bright was really gone, he smiled in spite of
himself, at the absurdity of the situation! He felt his cheeks wrinkle
up, good-naturedly, as the smile crept over his face from above (I
think smiles do come from above), and was angrier than ever. He
checked his rising good nature with an oath, and raising his arm, he
struck the desk a tremendous blow, that made the cover bound again, and
the room echo with the thud. Then he rose, grinding his teeth as he
got up, and slowly and noisily banged his way out of the room.
Not till three days after this did he appear again in the school room.
During this time he loafed about the town and took particular pains to
be where Mr. Bright could see him and have a chance to reprove him.
But though his teacher met him several times, he gave "Dodd" no other
word than such greeting as true politeness dictated. This was worse
than ever, for the boy, who was really "spoiling for a row" by this
time. The machine, or the machine man, would have had a row with him.
Mr. Bright was not a machine man.
Did you ever hook a big fish, when angling with a light rod and line?
If you ever did, and have succeeded in landing your game, then you know
something about the situation which I am now noting. You see, when the
odds are so much against you, you have to do as you can, and not as you
would like to, with the wily fellow at the other end of your weak
tackle. That is, if you accomplish what you ought to wish to
accomplish, if you fish at all!
Of course, there is a quick way of deciding who shall win, you or the
fish, and that is to pull away, with might and main, straight for
shore, and undertake to drag your captive to you by sheer muscle,
brutally matching your strength against his. But if you try this, you
know that the chances are a thousand to one that you will part your
line and lose the best end of it, and your game along with it.
You can do this, if you choose, of course--this is a free country; but
if that is your way of fishing, you had better give up any little pet
idea that may be lurking about you, that heaven made you for a
fisherman. Perhaps you might make a fair superintendent of school
machines, but you ought not to fish!
Or, you may despise the fish, if you choose, and when he has left you,
you may gloat over the fact that "anyhow you have stuck something into
his gullet that will stay there, and that he can't get away from." You
may hope that the trailing line will tangle to a bush and hang the
creature. All this you may do, and yet, of what avail is it all? It
benefits neither you nor the fish!
But if you know your business you can give your game his own way,
suiting your motion to his, till you wear him out, and then he is
yours. That is good fishing, and the good thing about it is that it
gets the game!
"Dodd" was hooked. His staying away from school was the first tug that
he gave the line that caught him. Mr. Bright let him run. He ran for
three days, and then gave up on that tack. The fisher reeled in the
line and watched for the next break.
But on Thursday morning "Dodd" came to school again. This time he went
to the other extreme in the matter of clothes, and came into the room
dressed like a dandy. He had failed to make a sensation, so far, and
he had not been used to that sort of thing recently. For years he had
been the cause of something unusual, every few hours, and in ways about
as he chose. As it was now, he seemed to have lost his knack at this
art, and to have fallen into the condition of an ordinary individual,
concerning whom no one cared particularly.
This annoyed him greatly. He had come to think he was of some great
consequence in the world, by reason of his being so frequently talked
to, and prayed over, and reasoned with, and pampered in a thousand ways
by those who were really afraid of him; and now, to be set aside
without a word or a look, except such as all other pupils got, this was
a sore stroke to his vanity.
You see, everybody grows proud of his own attainments, in course of
time, no matter what they are, and is anxious to have his fellows
appreciate them to their fullest extent, and to acknowledge their
excellence in his particular case. So when he fails to secure a
recognition of his supposed talents, then he is cut to the very quick.
"Dodd" felt that his eccentricity had not yet been fully acknowledged
in the Emburg school, and he reached still further for the object of
his desire by playing the fop rather than the tramp, on his second
entry to the school room.
But it was not a success. The pupils had evidently "sized him up"
pretty accurately, on his previous entry, and his second appearance was
a more signal failure than the first.
He did little with his books during the day. He had not come to school
to learn. That was the last thing he thought of doing. He was there
to make a fuss if possible,--a row, trouble, a sensation; these were
what he was after. He went mechanically to his classes, but paid no
attention to what was said or done in them. He hoped, though, that Mr.
Bright would put a question to him about some of the lessons. He was
aching for a chance to snub Mr. Bright, or defy him, by telling him
that he didn't know. But he got no questions from his teacher that
day, nor for some days after. There are many ways, so many ways, of
tiring out a fish, before landing him!
So the day wore on, the first whole day in school for "Dodd" Weaver,
for several years. At recesses he unbent a little, but he was only
accosted by some of the youngest pupils of the room, and he felt uneasy
and out of place among the larger and more advanced members of the
It was nearing four o'clock, and the closing work of the day was
pressing. Mr. Bright was more than busy with his class, and the room
was quiet, the pupils devoting themselves to their work assiduously.
"Dodd" sat listless for some time, but he finally straightened himself
up quietly, his face lighted with interest, and it would have been
evident to any one watching him (no one was watching him just at this
time) that he was about to do something. He was.
His desk was in the row of seats next the wall, and there was only a
narrow aisle between him and the blackboard. He could reach across
this easily. He reached across.
He picked up a piece of crayon and began drawing lines on the board.
He moved his chalk carefully, and it made no sound. Yet his movements
attracted attention, shortly, and one pupil, and another, and another,
turned to watch him.
When "Dodd" found that he had finally succeeded in securing an audience
he felt that his point was gained. He winked to a few of the boys
about him, and even half smiled at a somewhat coquettish girl whose eye
he happened to catch. He was winning his way, and he hastened to make
the most of his opportunity.
He had not made a half-dozen strokes with the crayon till every one saw
that his sketch was a caricature of Mr. Bright.
This gentleman was not handsome. His features were angular and
somewhat irregular, and upon every one of these individualities the
graceless artist enlarged at will. He turned up the nose, and set the
stray bits of whiskers, and dotted the cheeks, at war one with another.
He even went further, and with a few clever strokes sketched a dwarfed
body for the life-sized head. He worked rapidly and turned now and
then to view his subject.
And all this time Mr. Bright was unconscious of what was going on. He
sat with his face more than half turned away from "Dodd," and was
devoting all his energies to the elucidation of a problem that was
particularly troublesome to the advanced class in algebra. He had no
thought of the "order" of his school room. He was too busy trying to
help the boys and girls who sat before him, to have time to trouble
himself with the rest of the pupils, who were well able to care for
themselves between recitations. This was his way of "maintaining
But presently he became aware, by soul or ear, that something was wrong
about him, somewhere. For an instant he could not make out what it
was, so deeply was he engrossed in his work. Then, like a flash, it
came to him that it was "Dodd"! He turned his eyes quickly to where
the boy sat, and had the good fortune to catch that young gentleman in
the very act of adding the finishing touches to his sketch, with much
flourish and circumstance.
So much elated was "Dodd," that for an instant he forgot where he was,
and for more than a minute after Mr. Bright caught sight of what he was
doing, he continued to put in new lines, every one of which added to
the grotesqueness of the picture.
Meanwhile the school saw the situation and began to enjoy it hugely,
though now at "Dodd's" expense.
Presently the young man looked up from his work and, glancing quickly
to the teacher, saw that he was fairly caught. Like lightning he swept
the brush, which he held in his left hand, over the picture, and it was
gone. Then he squared himself in his seat.
But it was too late. He had overshot the mark. He heard a sneer of
disgust from the pupils instead of the laugh he had counted on. He was
down again. He was vexed at the result, and his face drew on an air of
injured vexation, after the manner of his kind.
Then Mr. Bright said, stepping down to "Dodd's" desk, and speaking in a
low tone, to the boy only:
"The picture was very good; very much better than I could have made. I
see you have a good deal of ability with the chalk; I am glad to know
it. If you care to try your hand on the board, you are welcome to do
so at any time; only please do not try to take the attention of the
pupils from their studies by your pictures, as you did just now," and
without another word he resumed the point under consideration when the
interruption took place.
"Dodd" tried to look defiant, but to little purpose. There was nothing
left to defy.
I have seen men strike so hard at nothing at all that they have fallen
headlong themselves, dragged down by the force of the blow they had
intended for another. "Dodd" was down, and it was his own hand that
had put him there.
And it is so much better that way!
Yet two points had been gained by this encounter. Mr. Bright had
discovered that "Dodd" had a genius for one thing at least, for the
sketch was really a remarkably strong one--so strong that the subject
of it would have been glad to have preserved it; and "Dodd" was fully
convinced that he had no ordinary man to deal with in the person of Mr.
Charles Bright. With these two new points developed, the party at the
reel end of the line began slowly to "wind up," yet again, and the
party of the second part let him wind.
Rome was not built in a day nor is a character formed in one round of
the sun. A man never reaches a great height at a single stride, and
many times he slips and falls back, even after he has been climbing a
great while. This is a thing that is common to the race.
"Dodd" Weaver possessed this trait. I say that he did, and shall
proceed to prove it, in two ways, which I plainly state for the benefit
of the two classes of people who can only see the same set of facts
from opposite points of vision.
For the practical people, those who believe only what they see,--the
unimaginative and severely scientific, if you will,--I present in proof
of the proposition stated above, the record of the boy's life up to
this point--the bare facts that have transpired. For those who bow
down at the shrine of pure logic, who accept no conclusion but such as
has been hoisted into place by a lever of syllogism, with a major
premise for a fulcrum, and a minor premise on the long end of the
bar,--for these, I submit the familiar form:
A--All men slip and fall back into old ways, more or less (chiefly
more), when striving to change a course of life that has become fixed
B--"Dodd" Weaver (Socrates) was a man (or near enough so to come within
the range of the first term above).
C--Therefore; "Dodd" Weaver (Soc.) slipped and fell back into old ways,
more or less (chiefly more), when striving to change a course of life
that had become fixed by habit. The form will bear study.
I am glad to record just here, too, though it may be counted a
digression, that for once the facts in the case and the logical
conclusion reached concerning the same tally exactly. What a blessed
thing it would have been for the martyrs, all through the ages, if
there had always been such happy coincidence between logical sequence
and actual facts! But what were the world without martyrs?
I have heard it said that pure logic has a mission to perform in this
world. The record of its doings so far shows that, chiefly, it has
been engaged in reaching conclusions that did not tally with
actualities, and in leading its devotees to persecute those who
accepted facts rather than its ultimatum. It is this that has fostered
more persecution in the past than all other forms of bigotry combined.
Even religion herself has often fallen a prey to this false god, and
the most relentless of religious wars have been waged with a logical
difference as a basis.
Nevertheless, pure logic has its use. I have used it to prove that
"Dodd" Weaver did not spring from groveling to grace without some
set-backs, I have done obeisance to logic. I can now move on
peaceably, I trust.
Mr. Bright made a point with "Dodd" by his quick discovery of the boy's
genius with the chalk. In a few days he scored another, when he found
how well he could read. Indeed, it was here the teacher and pupil
first felt their souls flow together freely, for an instant.
It was the old "Sam Weller's Valentine" selection that the class was
laboring with. The boys and girls tugged at the dialogue, but in the
main got little from it.
It came "Dodd's" turn to read. He had taken in the whole scene and was
full of the spirit of the piece. His place of beginning was at the
words with which "Sam" begins his letter, and, commencing there, he
read, assuming a high-pitched voice:
The school broke out into a laugh, as did also Mr. Bright. "Dodd"
raised his eyes for an instant to catch the cause of their mirth, only
to meet the approving smile of the teacher, and the slightest nod of
admiration from him. He flushed with a glow of wholesome pride, and
the next instant shouted, in the deep, husky guttural of "Old Tony":
"Stop! A glass o' the inwariable, my dear!" and so he continued with
It was a revelation to the school, this reading of "Dodd's." After the
first floating breath of laughter had passed over the room, every pupil
was full of attention, and was listening to the reading of this
proverbially bad boy.
"Dodd" read to the end of the letter and then sat down.
Mr. Bright said, "Very well!" and marked him 9 1/2! The two walked
home to dinner together, at noon!
For many weeks after this "Dodd" continued as he had begun, and grew in
favor with the pupils in general and with Mr. Bright in particular. He
came regularly to school, studied fairly, and advanced quite rapidly in
his work. This was very satisfactory to his parents, who saw their
son, whom they had mourned as worse than dead, once more "clothed and
in his right mind." The Elder was happy and felt that at last the
personal influence of one good man had done for "Dodd" what a half
dozen revival conversions had failed to do for him. Perhaps he did not
say it just that way, even to himself; but we often hear voices within
us saying things that we dare not say ourselves, even to ourselves. It
was a voice within that said this to the parson. I merely record the
fact without further comment. Why should anyone comment on such a fact?
But there came a day--there are always days a-coming. There came, too,
a deed, and there are always deeds a-coming. It was in this wise.
School had just begun, after dinner, when suddenly "Dodd" Weaver arose
to leave the room. There was nothing remarkable in this, for it was
not unlawful for pupils to leave Mr. Bright's room without special
permission. They were permitted to come and go at pleasure, subject,
always, to the direction of the teacher in each or every case.
Mr. Bright did not notice the young man till he had nearly reached the
door; then, suddenly, it occurred to him that there was no good reason
for his going out.
"Why are you leaving the room, 'Dodd'?" he inquired, a trifle abruptly.
"To get a drink of water," returned the boy.
"You need not go," remarked Mr. Bright. "A young man of your years
should attend to that at the proper time. You may take your seat!"
It was a little thing, but it was so sudden that it "riled" "Dodd" to
the very depths. Quick as a flash he returned:
"I'll go out whenever I ---- please for all of you, you ---- ---- ----
----," and here followed a string of blasphemous words which good taste
says I must not write, though the truth is, "Dodd" said them, very
loudly, before a whole school full of young ladies and gentlemen, who
had to hear them. But then, good taste has some rights which I am
bound to respect, and I put dashes where "Dodd" put most shameful oaths.
If a thunderbolt had fallen into that still school-room it would not
have produced greater consternation among the pupils than did these
words of "Dodd's." He turned pale with anger, and glared at Mr.
Bright, as he, "Dodd," stood with his hand on the doorknob.
"All right;" returned Mr. Bright, "do just as the 'Other-Fellow' says
about it," and he turned to his class again.
"Dodd" stood with his hand on the doorknob for a full minute, then
turned, and slowly walking to his seat, sat down! But Mr. Bright did
not even look that way.
And this was all there ever was of this episode. Mr. Bright never once
mentioned the occurrence to "Dodd" afterwards. He did not even
reprimand him before the school nor did he speak to any pupil of what
had happened. He had won, and yet the odds were so nearly against him
that be felt it best to be silent. This might not have been your way,
beloved, but it was Mr. Bright's way, and he was able to manage it.
Some months thereafter, he had occasion one day to reprove a rough
pupil for profanity on the play-ground, and the pupil came back at him
with: "You'd better talk to 'Dodd' Weaver about swearing if you are so
anxious about it. He cursed you to your face and you didn't say a
word." But Mr. Bright only replied: "That is my affair, but you must
not swear on the play-ground. Do you understand?"
The young man concluded that he understood, and said so.
And that is how this teacher was perhaps logically inconsistent, but
nevertheless just, and able to take care of his school according to the
individual needs of his pupils. Happy is that teacher who can do so
But the machine cannot do so much, nor can the men who run the machine.
The machine is logically correct and consistent, according to the laws
of the Medes and Persians. It "treats all pupils alike." Allah be
praised! Yet a single man like Mr. Bright is worth whole battalions of
machines. Thank God!
I must take space, just here, too, to explain a phrase quoted by Mr.
Bright, just above, namely, the "Other-Fellow."
The quotation marks are there in deference to Dr. Holmes, who is
responsible for the idea that Mr. Bright had made familiar in his
school. That idea was as follows, when elaborated by this teacher, and
was presented to his pupils on a Monday morning, a few weeks after
"Dodd" had entered school. I give this as Mr. Bright paraphrased it,
rather than in the words of the "Old Master" in the "Poet at the
Breakfast Table," where he first came across it.
"Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes says," Mr. Bright remarked to the school,
"that in every one of us there are two persons. First, there is
yourself, and then there is the Other-Fellow! Now one of these is all
the time doing things, and the other sits inside and tells what he
thinks about the performance. Thus, I do so-and-so, act so-and-so,
seem to the world so-and-so; but the Other-Fellow sits in judgment on
me all the time.
"I may tell a lie, and do it so cleverly that the people may think I
have done or said a great and good thing; and they may shout my
praises, far and wide. But the Other-Fellow sits inside, and says,
'You lie! you lie! you're a sneak, and you know it!' I tell him to
shut up, to hear what the people say about me; but he only continues to
repeat, over and over again, 'You lie! you lie! you're a sneak, and you
"Or, again, I may do a really noble deed, but perhaps be misunderstood
by the public, who may persecute me and say all manner of evil against
me, falsely; but the Other-Fellow will sit inside, and say, 'Never
mind, old boy! It's all right! stand by!'
"And I would rather hear," he used to add, "the 'well done' of the
'Other-Fellow' than the shouts of praise of the whole world; while I
would a thousand times rather that the people should shout and hiss
themselves hoarse with rage and envy, than that the 'Other-Fellow'
should sit inside and say, 'You lie! you lie! you're a sneak, and you
This was what Mr. Bright said to his pupils on a Monday morning, and it
made a wonderful impression upon them. The same thought always will
make an impression upon people if only it can be got to them.
After this, he let the "Other-Fellow" manage his school. You can see
how effective it was, my dear, by observing what it did for "Dodd," as
I have just related. It was even more powerful, if possible, with the
I commend this "Other-Fellow" to your notice, ladies and gentlemen, and
especially to yours, beloved, who are teachers of young men and women.
You can't use him to so good an advantage among the younger pupils, but
if you can once get him to take control of your larger boys and girls,
you have put them into most excellent hands.
For, see; he will ply the lash when it is deserved, and lay on heavily
where you would hardly dare to lift a finger. Does Mary whisper too
much? Quietly ask her to settle the score with the "Other-Fellow." Is
John doing something that he should not do? Hand him over to the same
authority. And if you can do this, and can succeed in making this
personage the Absolute Monarch of your school, whose assistant you are,
then be happy, and teach school just as long as you can afford to. You
are a god-send to any company of young people among whom your lot is
But if you are a stranger to the "Other-Fellow" yourself, don't try to
introduce him to any one else. It is not well for strangers to attempt
familiarities, yet I have known such attempts, even in the school room,
and by those high in authority, even among the machines.
But Mr. Bright had succeeded in putting this personage into his school
as head master, and he had wrought wonders, even in so hard a case as
that of "Dodd" Weaver. His presence in any school will always work as
it did in this case. It takes a man or a woman of character to use
this power, though!
I most heartily wish that I could go on with this tale without
recording any further lapses on the part of its alleged hero, but I
can't. The facts in the case will not warrant such a continuation.
Nor do I admit that it was "Dodd's" Methodist blood that occasioned
these fallings from grace. I have known men, women and boys, and whole
herds of other people besides, even those who were firm believers in
the tenet "Once in grace, always in grace," who yet had their
"infirmities" about them, and whose feet still clung to the miry clay,
though they did think their heads were in heavenly places!
On the whole, after observing human nature pretty closely for some
time, even till gray hairs are with me to stay, I am inclined to
believe, with Mr. Emerson, that "Virtue itself is apt to be occasional,
spotty, and not always the same clear through the piece." This may be
another case where facts do not tally with logical conclusions based
upon dogmatic theological reasoning. Yet if the fact is thus, my dear
reader, you need not be alarmed, so far as you are concerned. Ask
yourself if it isn't true, in your case, at least, that you have
slipped down from the lofty places of your desire and aspiration many a
time, even when you have done your best to keep in your high estate.
Human nature! That is the key to this condition. How to handle this
unstable quantity so as to keep it up continually, this is a problem
for the ages.
So "Dodd" slipped again, just as such boys are continually apt to do,
and Mr. Bright bore with him patiently, and "worked him," as a wise
teacher can and will.
The machine cannot and will not bear with boys and "work them." It
"suspends" them and "expels" them.
The "Other-Fellow" held "Dodd" to his work for days and weeks, but,
finally, even this power lost its grip, for a time.
It happened--as such things usually do, when the teacher is doubly
busy--that "Dodd" began whittling a stick at his desk and covering the
floor all about with the litter, in a most shameful and slovenly
manner. Mr. Bright discovered the fact just as he was in the midst of
a class exercise in which twenty pupils were taking part, all being at
the board at the same time and working together under pressure of his
rapid dictation. He had no time to stop then and there to put a pupil
into order. He was flushed and excited with his class work, holding
his boys and girls up to the vigorous drill he was giving them, and he
scarcely paused to say to "Dodd":
"Put up that knife and go to work!"
He did not wait to see it he was obeyed. He had not time.
The next act of "Dodd's" that he was conscious of was his opening the
door to leave the room. He saw at once that this move was made simply
to kill time, and to get rid of study, and as "Dodd" was in the very
act of closing the door behind him, Mr. Bright called out to him:
"Come back and take your seat!"
But "Dodd's" only answer was to slam the door as hard as he could and
dash down stairs, three steps at a jump.
Mr. Bright rushed out after him at the top of his speed. In his haste
to make time, and catch the fugitive, if possible, he revived a custom
of his youth and slid down the banister, making the time of an arrow in
Then he ran out of the hall, in still further pursuit.
But he was too late. He ran around the house, but at the corner he
lost the trail, and though he circled the building three times, and
listened, and dodged back and forth, to surprise "Dodd" if possible, he
could get no clue to his whereabouts. He went into the cellar and
looked all about, peering into the furnace-room and coal-bin, but
nowhere could he find the crafty object of his search. Finally he gave
up and returned to the school room. He came in out of breath and
perspiring, and met the inquiring eyes of his pupils as he went back to
"I could not find him," he said to the school, wiping his dripping face
with his handkerchief. Then he turned to the class on duty and resumed
the exercise he had broken off so abruptly.
I do not know what would have happened if Mr. Bright and "Dodd" had met
in the heat of this encounter. It is useless to speculate on what
would have occurred. Some of the boys, waiting in the room they had
just left, offered to bet two to one on the master if it came to
business. And, indeed, there were no takers at that, for Mr. Bright
had a prowess which would have stood him well in stead if he had had
occasion to use it. But he did not. I am glad that he did not.
Because, it is at such times as this that men get beside themselves,
and are apt to do desperate things. I have known men who had to go
behind bars and stay there for many years because they did meet the man
they were after, under much such circumstances as I have just detailed.
I remarked a few paragraphs above something about virtue being
"occasional," and we have all need to pray, "Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil."
But Fate, or Foreordination, or Good Fortune, or Destiny, or
Providence, or Luck, whichever one of these presided on this
occasion,--suit yourselves as to this, O infidel or orthodox!
capitalize them all, since some of you will have it so--elected that
these two people should not meet till they had both cooled off a
little. I hope these same powers may be as kind to you if you ever
have a like need of their good offices. Many a man has been made or
broken by the smile or frown of one of these deities which are so
entirely beyond our control, and which still make so important a part
of our lives. I state facts again, without further moralizing.
Indeed, I could not moralize on this theme if I tried. I don't know
any one who can, though the world is full of people who constantly try
to. They all fail. The mystery is as great now as it was in the days
when Eve happened to walk up to the tree where the serpent and the
apples happened to be together. One should take off his hat when he
speaks seriously of these things. They are stupendous!
Nor should you blame Mr. Bright too much for doing as he did. Hear the
story out before you pass judgment. He was only a man. You are under
the same condemnation, my self-contained critic!
I will admit without argument, however, that the machine would never
have slid down a banister in pursuit of a fleeing pupil. Never! It
never concerns itself enough about the doings of any individual pupil
to follow him an inch for any cause whatever. The machine would have
sat still and let the boy run. Then it would have suspended him the
next morning and expelled him a few days later. The machine always has
regular ways of doing things. It has all the rules for its movements
set down in a book.
But Mr. Bright was very anxious about "Dodd" Weaver. When he came to
reflect, he was glad that he had not met him while in pursuit of him.
Yet the question remained, what should be done when they did meet? He
thought about this, deep down in his soul, all the rest of the morning.
When noon came he was as much as ever at a loss how to proceed. One of
the worst features of the case, as he thought about it, was this:
"Dodd" had been going to school to him now a year and a half, and he
had begun to think that he had a permanent hold upon the boy. But here
it was again, back in the same old notch, and as bad as ever. It does
take so long to make anything permanent in the way of character! You
have found it so yourself, haven't you, beloved? In your own case, I
But on his way home to dinner Mr. Bright saw Mrs. Weaver out in the
yard, and remembering how much a mother may sometimes do for her son,
he went over and took her into counsel on the case. The machine would
not have done this either.
It is a rule of the mill not to consult with parents. If parents wish
consultation, let them talk to a stack of examination papers, or a
record-book. This will soon cure them of their desire to consult.
Mrs. Weaver heard Mr. Bright's statement with tear-filled eyes. She
had seen "Dodd" improve in every line of his life, for some months, and
had begun to form bright plans for the future of her redeemed
first-born. But, alas! here seemed to be the end of all her hopes.
However, she tried to apologize for her son, and, in any event, she
begged Mr. Bright not to give "Dodd" up yet. But the master shook his
"And another thing," pursued Mrs. Weaver, "I think it will be best not
to let 'Dodd's' father know anything about this. He is such a
passionate man that I am sure he would fly into a rage and attempt to
beat the boy if he should find it out. And he and 'Dodd' are so much
alike! If they should get into a quarrel, I fear that one might kill
the other before they could be parted."
Yet these persons were father and son, and one of them was a successful
minister and a devout man--most of the time,
"You see," Mrs. Weaver continued, "that my husband has such a high
opinion of you as a man, and he knows that you have done so much for
'Dodd,' that if he should find out how abominably the boy has treated
you, he would be ten times more angry than ever. So let us keep the
matter to ourselves, if possible. I will see 'Dodd' as soon as he
comes home, and will try what I can do. And if prayer, or--"
"There, there," broke in Mr. Bright, quietly, as the brimming eyes of
the woman before him began to overflow, "do what you can with the boy,
and I will not give him up till I have to;" and so saying, he went on
But in a country town news travels fast. As soon as school was out at
noon, three-score tongues were busy retailing the mild scandal to
attentive listeners, whenever met.
Parson Weaver sat in the postoffice, reading a "daily" that had just
arrived, when a boy came in, and not noticing the Elder, began to tell
the tale to the knot of men who stood about. They heard the story
through, with many "I-told-you-so" nods, and then, one by one, slipped
out of the office. Last of all Parson Weaver went also.
He went straight to Mr. Bright's house and pulled the door bell
The teacher admitted him, and began immediately to try to soothe the
infuriated feelings of the parson, who was really very angry.
"I hope the matter may come out all right," said the teacher, "for I
trust that 'Dodd' will see things as they are, when he comes to
"Tell me just what happened," said the parson, with a kind of
Mr. Bright carefully went over the particulars. When he had finished,
"I shall be very grateful to you for anything you can do to help us all
out of this dilemma and get 'Dodd' on his feet again. For what we must
do, in any event, is to save the boy."
"I shall do all in my power," returned Mr. Weaver, "but I thought he
was doing so well with you, and now he is all at sea again," and with a
groan he left the house.
Mr. Bright sat down to dinner and ate a few hurried mouthfuls.
He had just risen from his slight repast, when a twin Weaver burst into
the room and shouted out:
"Pap wants you to come over to the house as quick as you kin," and
having thus said, he turned and ran.
Mr. Bright remembered the words of "Dodd's" mother, and he feared that
father and son had closed in deadly conflict. He hurried down the
street, and made all haste toward the parsonage.
When Parson Weaver left Mr. Bright's house he went directly home.
"Dodd" was there before him, and when the elder arrived he found the
boy and his mother together, both apparently indignant and excited.
"To think that he should have struck you over the head with a stick,"
exclaimed Mrs. Weaver, "and then should have the face to come here and
trump up a story about your running away! I always did more than half
suspect that man of lying, and I have found him out now!"
"Why, what is this?" inquired the parson, with a puzzled look.
"Mr. Bright has been striking 'Dodd' over the head with a stick,"
explained Mrs. Weaver; "just see where he hit him!" She pushed the
hair back off her son's forehead as she spoke, and revealed a long red
streak, made, apparently, by a blow from some solid substance.
Elder Weaver was dumbfounded. "Tell me all about this affair," he
demanded of "Dodd," as he led the way to another room, leaving Mrs.
Weaver to go on with her housework.
"All there is of it," answered "Dodd," "Old Bright gave me some of his
lip because I couldn't do an example, and when I tried to explain he
got mad and hit me over the head with a club, and so I got up and left."
"Is that the actual truth of the matter?" asked the elder, anxiously.
"You don't think I'd lie about a thing like that, do you?" said "Dodd."
"You can see where he hit me," he proceeded, himself revealing the welt
on his forehead.
This mark was too much for the good parson. He might have doubted
"Dodd's" word, but there was no disputing the mark.
Now a welt raised by a teacher on the body of a child will drive that
child's parents to madness quicker than anything that I know of. The
elder grew very angry, and resolved to see the end of this as soon as
possible. Calling a younger member of the household to him he
whispered in his ear:
"Run up to Prof. Bright's as fast as you can, and tell him to come down
here as quick as possible." He would bring "Dodd" and his teacher face
to face, and then see.
It was this messenger that had brought the teacher to the parsonage on
"Dodd" saw his little brother shoot out of the door, and he was in a
worse dilemma than ever. Whether to run, or to stay and face it out;
to lie some more, or to confess the lie he had already told; these were
the things he grew more and more anxious about every minute. But
presently he caught sight of his teacher hurrying down the street, and
almost before he knew it he said:
"It's all a lie I've been giving you, old man! Bright never hit me a
"But the mark!" almost shrieked the parson.
"I done it myself," explained "Dodd," laconically, "to give you and the
old woman a stand off with!"
It was just as "Dodd" said this that Mr. Bright opened the door and
entered the room. "Dodd" was seated near one corner, and his father,
having just heard from the boy's own lips a full confession of his
wholesale lying, began raving like a maniac. He swung his arms wildly,
weeping and shouting as he strode about the room:
"My son! my son! Would to God that you had filled an early grave, or
that I had died for thee! O, my son! my son!" and uttering such
lamentations he continued to rave.
"Why, what is this?" exclaimed Mr. Bright, rather at a loss to know
just what to say or do.
"O professor," almost yelled the parson, "my boy has lied to me! lied
to me!! lied to me!!!" and again he paced the room and tore his hair.
Coming around again to where Mr. Bright stood, he went on: "He told me
that you struck him with a club, and showed me a mark on his head where
he said you had hit him, and then, when I sent for you, and he saw you
coming, he confessed that it was all a lie! a lie!! a lie!!! O, my
God, my boy! my lost, my ruined boy! A liar!" he shrieked again. "In
hell they shall lift up their eyes in torm--"
"Stop!" commanded Mr. Bright, confronting the almost lunatic parson;
"stop raving and sit down, and let us talk about this business like
sensible people," and he led Mr. Weaver to a chair as he spoke.
"Now 'Dodd,'" said Mr. Bright, speaking to the boy for the first time
since he had called him back in the school room, "tell me about this."
"Dodd" hesitated a minute, eyeing his teacher defiantly, and finally
"I have not got anything to tell."
At this the parson came very near going off into another paroxysm, but
a look from Mr. Bright checked him, and be sank back into his chair,
almost in collapse.
Then Mr. Bright spoke, directing all his attention to "Dodd."
"My boy," he said, "it is useless for either of us to go over what has
been said and done in the last hour or two. I need not tell, nor need
I ask you to tell, how thoroughly outrageous your conduct has been.
But I want to say this to you right here: I want you to steady yourself
right down as soon as you can and get to thinking reasonably about this
matter. There is only one thing that I am afraid of in this affair,
and that is that it will result in great loss to you, if you are not
careful. You have insulted your fellow students, you have defied the
reasonable authority of the school, and you have lied to your parents.
I don't care anything about what you have done to me, or said about
me--let that go; but I do care about the other things, and I am anxious
to have you make them right as soon as possible, before it is too late."
You know, good people, that when a bone is broken, the thing that needs
to be done is to set it as soon as possible; if it is left out of place
very long, it is ten times as hard to put it right again as it would
have been at first, and, even if set at last, it is apt to grow
together imperfectly, or perhaps make a crooked limb ever after. The
sooner a fault is redressed, the better for all parties to it.
"So now I have this to say to you," Mr. Bright went on:
"I don't want you to drop out of school on account of this occurrence.
This is what you are in danger of doing, and it is the very thing you
ought not to do. You have been doing well in your work for a good
while now, and you can't afford to let this affair break you off."
"Well, I guess it won't hurt anybody but myself, and that is my own
business," said "Dodd" sulkily.
Off, away off as yet. Drawn, but unwilling to come. Seeing, knowing
what he should do, but, ruled by some rebellious devil, persistently
turning away and doing the other thing. It is the way of perverse
human nature. Call it "total depravity," "original sin," "infirmity,"
"the natural man," I don't care what, only this--recognize the
condition and deal with it, when you come squarely up against it, so
that it will not ruin its victim.
"The very thing I am fearing," returned Mr. Bright. "In one sense it
is nobody's business but your own what becomes of you; in another
sense, it is the business of a great many. Young man, I tell you again
to get out of your present defiant mood as soon as you can. I know
that your life for the past few months has had more of genuine
enjoyment for you than you have experienced for years previous to this
time. I don't say this boastfully, I say it thankfully. And what I am
anxious for is to have you keep going in the same way. Just think it
over, and see what there is before you. On the one hand, a return to
your place in school, and with that a continuation of all that you have
so much cared for; on the other hand--but I leave that for you to think
out. There are two ways right here, and you must choose which one you
"Well, what have I got to do if I go back?" asked "Dodd," yielding ever
"You must apologize to the school for your conduct and pledge to your
fellow students your word of honor that hereafter you will behave like
"Dodd" gave his head an angry toss and was about to speak when the
parson sprang to his feet, and, rushing across the room, shouted:
"He shall do it, or I will disown him, and he shall never enter my
house again, but shall be--"
"Sit down, sir!" exclaimed Mr. Bright, almost forcing the distracted
parson into his chair. Mr. Weaver sat down and was silent.
Mr. Bright proceeded:
"So now, my boy, here it is for you to choose, and you must use your
own judgment about it." But "Dodd" looked down and said nothing.
It was a critical moment. A soul was at stake, and fiends and angels
were striving together for it. Mr. Bright was the captain of the
heavenly host, and devoutly he stood, waiting the issue.
There are no rules laid down in the machine guide books that lead up to
this high estate, nor does the machine manager care so much for
marshaling angelic forces as he does about controlling the election of
a member of the board from the --th ward.
As Mr. Bright spoke his last words a silence fell upon the group. The
father sat with his hands over his face, "Dodd" gazed at the carpet,
and the school teacher bowed his head reverently. For nearly a minute
this impressive calm brooded over all. Then Mr. Bright felt in his
soul that the tide was turned in his favor. He advanced towards "Dodd"
and extended his hand.
"Come!" he said.
The boy did not raise his eyes, but he did lift his hand, just a
little--only a little--and Mr. Bright grasped it with all the fervor of
his thankful soul. He drew "Dodd" towards him, and he arose,
hesitatingly. They walked out of the room hand in hand, nor did they
break their clasp till they reached the school-room. When people are
too weak or too timid to go alone they musk be led; yes, sometimes they
must be carried! But, led or carried, the point always to keep in mind
is this, that the nearly dead are to be made alive again, the lost are
to be found.
And this is the test that must be set over against all systems and
institutions that have to deal with unformed characters. The
everlasting question must be put again and again, does this, that or
the other save, find, restore, or benefit the individuals that come
under its influence? Whatever does this, is good; whatever fails to do
this is not good. It is fair to ask what the machine does in this
It was a trying time for both "Dodd" and Mr. Bright as they walked
together, hand in hand, towards the school-house. The trouble was that
neither of them could say anything. Mr. Bright felt that words might
only mar the matter, and "Dodd" was too busy thinking of what was just
before him, to say a word. The master realized the situation, and
counted their steps, almost, as they walked along.
Presently he felt "Dodd's" hand working nervously in his own, as if to
break their clasp. His heart sank, but, inspired by that same power
which had so often come to him in an emergency, he said:
"What is it 'Dodd'?"
"I can't apologize," returned the boy; "I don't know what to say," and
his lips trembled as he spoke, while tears welled from his eyes.
How many things there are that interpose between us and our duty! You
have found it so in your own experience, haven't you, my friend?
"Say that you did wrong this morning; that you are sorry for what you
did; that you apologize for your action, and that you pledge your word
of honor to your fellows that you will be a gentleman in school in
future," said Mr. Bright.
The nervousness was no longer in the hand, and both "Dodd" and Mr.
Bright felt that they were about to win in the strife. They quickened
their steps, and were shortly in the school room.
But there was a trial yet, and one that I fear would have been
insurmountable for a good many of us, brave men and women though we
think we are.
As teacher and pupil entered the room they discovered the three members
of the board of education seated upon the platform. One of the number
had heard the story told by the boy in the postoffice, and had hastened
to make up his mind that "Dodd" should be expelled from school. He
hurried to see the other members, and for the first time since Mr.
Bright had been in charge of the Emburg school, this educational
triumvirate appeared, in a body, in his school room. Their presence
was exceedingly annoying, just at this moment--the very time when they
should have kept their hands off. But this is apt to be the way with
boards of education in towns of the Emburg stripe.
I ought to take room, just here, too, to say that the president of the
board was really glad that an issue had come, and that they could now
rid the school of Parson Weaver's boy. The fact is, this man was
deacon in a church of a denomination other than that to which the
parson belonged, and the rivalry between the two sects had been brisk,
not to say thoroughly bitter and almost mean, for a long time.
Anything that would disgrace the family of the pastor of the opposing
church would weaken the influence of the church itself, and the same
would redound to the glory of the church in which the deacon
officiated. I grant that this is a side issue, but side issues are
often of more moment, in cases like this, than are main issues.
As "Dodd" and Mr. Bright came in, the deacon rose to meet them. The
school was already in order, and "Dodd" went on to his seat. Mr.
Bright turned to his own desk to meet the advancing president of the
"Can we have a word with you, before school takes up?" said the deacon,
drawing down the corners of his mouth and looking particularly pious
and exceedingly virtuous, as he thought.
"Wait a few minutes," replied Mr. Bright, crowding past the man in the
effort to reach his desk.
"But we prefer to speak to you now," urged the president. "The matter
is very pressing."
"I will attend to it presently," answered Mr. Bright, and then,
ignoring the dignitary who addressed him, he turned to the school and
"Before we begin the regular work of the afternoon, 'Dodd' Weaver has a
word to say."
A deep silence fell upon the school at these words. The pupils all
seemed to feel that they stood in the presence of a great strife. One
naturally holds his breath under such circumstances.
Then "Dodd" stood up in his place, and the latent manhood, that had
long lain dormant within him, asserted itself. In a clear though
somewhat subdued voice, he said:
"I want to apologize for what I did this morning, and I pledge you my
word of honor that hereafter, so long as I am a member of this school,
I will behave myself."
His voice trembled somewhat towards the close, but he went bravely
through to the end, and then sat down.
Then Mr. Bright bowed his head, and said:
"Our Father in heaven, whose weak and erring children we all are, bless
the boy whose confession we have just heard, and help him to keep his
word of honor like a man. And help us all, in all our strifes with
evil and with wrong, that we may come out of them better, and stronger,
and purer, even as our Master was made perfect through suffering,
Amen." That was all!
Perhaps there were dry eyes in the room just then. If so, they did not
After a pause of an instant, Mr. Bright said:
"You may go on with your work," and the pupils turned to their books
In five minutes more the hum of the busy school room was as if nothing
uncommon had happened, and classes were reciting as usual.
The deacon and his fellow-members sat upon the platform till recess,
listening to recitations, and then left; the president remarking to the
teacher as they went out, that they "thought the school was doing very
"Dodd" and Mr. Bright walked home together after school was out.
"Where do you suppose I hid?" asked "Dodd," as they walked along.
"I have no idea," returned Mr. Bright.
"I ran down cellar, and, crawled part way up the airshaft back of the
furnace," said "Dodd." And that was the last that was ever said about
the affair by either teacher or pupil.
For a few months after the event just narrated "Dodd" went to school to
Mr. Bright, and during the whole time he deported himself as a good and
faithful student should. But with the next meeting of the Conference,
Parson Weaver was shifted again, and with him went the hero of this
story. (I think "Dodd" may justly be called a hero after so bravely
doing what he did in the presence of the school and the board of
education, as just told.) Mr. Bright also left Emburg the following
year, and so he and "Dodd" drifted apart, as people are all the time
doing in this wide, wide world.
The parson had now been so long in the service that he was promoted to
a city pastorate, at this turn of the ecclesiastical wheel of fortune,
and so it fell out that "Dodd" went to the city to live. A more
unfortunate thing could hardly have happened to him.
Yet his lot was such as is common to most boys who go from country to
city life. They drift into the town where everything is new, strange
and rare to them, just at that age when they are the most curious, the
most on fire with new-born and wholly untamed passions, and the least
able to resist temptation. The glitter and tinsel of city life have
thus a charm for them which falls powerless upon young men who have
been familiar with such sights from their youth up, and the ignis
fatuus of gilded pleasures lures them into the quagmires of sin before
they are aware, where hosts of them sink down to death in the
quicksands of a fast life. "Dodd" was not an uncommon boy. When he
went to the city, he did as hosts have done before him, and as hosts
will continue to do. I suppose God knows why!
Yet the young man did not go all at once into by and forbidden paths.
Few folks do. Neither do they come out of such ways by one great leap.
There are those who preach a different doctrine.
Either "Dodd" or his father made a fatal mistake, too, on going to
town. Neither of them arranged to have the boy get to work, as soon as
he entered his new life. The elder thought his son was getting large
enough to look out for himself, and "Dodd" waited awhile to look
around. So, between the two, the cup of salvation that the boy should
have quaffed, fell, and was broken.
"Dodd" drifted about the town for many days, seeing what he could see.
His memory of Mr. Bright was still fresh and nourishing, and it often
held him from wrong, where his natural inclination would have carried
him clear over the line that separates evil from good. An iron, well
heated, will hold its heat long after it is taken out of the fire. It
grows cold, though, after a while.
So the boy began to circle about in the outer edge of the whirlpool
that sucks in its victims so relentlessly and remorselessly, always, in
I wish I did not have to tell the tale of still another descent into
Avernus, of this boy of the checkered career. But I have started out
to paint the picture exactly as it is, and I dip my brush in black
again with a sigh. You have to do the same thing in telling, even to
yourself, the story of yourself, don't you, my reader whose blood has
iron in it, and whose pulses beat fast? I am not writing of a
sluggish-veined person, nor for people of that complexion, good people
though they are.
"Dodd" had never been to the theatre. He was curious to go, and now
that he came within reach of this class of amusements he was all
anxiety to gratify his desire in this direction. He said nothing to
his father or his mother about this, however. Indeed, it would have
availed little if he had; that is, as these amusements were always
looked upon by the parson and his good wife. They would have contented
themselves by anathematizing the play-house and forbidding "Dodd"
attendance at such places; probably ending up their dissertation by
declaring to the boy that it was his "natural heart, which is enmity
against God," that led him to desire such sinful diversions.
So, one night "Dodd" went alone to the theatre.
Truth to tell, and to his credit be it said, he chose a reputable place
for his maiden visit. The play was "London Assurance." It was well
done, and the boy, who really possessed much innate dramatic genius,
enjoyed the performance greatly. He felt ill at ease, however, while
in the place, and went very quietly to bed when he reached home.
Indeed, as he lay awake for an hour or two after retiring, unable to
sleep because of the vivid visions of the play that his highly wrought
imagination and memory represented to his mental eyes, he resolved that
he would never again go to see a play, but would stop with a single
taste of the pleasure. Having made this resolve, be went to sleep
content. How easy it is to make good resolutions, and to be content
and satisfied in them when out of the reach of temptation.
But the next day, as he went about the city, he saw "Othello" billed
for that evening. He was restless in an instant. He talked the matter
over with himself something as follows, considering whether or not he
should go and see the "Moor of Venice:"
"'Dodd,' you are a fellow who cannot rest contented until you have seen
what there is to see in the line of plays upon the stage. There are
two kinds of dramas--tragedy and comedy. You saw comedy last night.
Go and see tragedy tonight and that will cover the whole field. You
will then have seen it all and will be satisfied."
So that night, Tuesday evening, he went to see the tragedy. Don't ask
about his resolve of the night before; just ask how you yourself have
done scores of times, under similar circumstances, when you have sworn
off, but when the trial came, have concluded not to count that time!
"Dodd" enjoyed "Othello" as much as he did "London Assurance." But
that night he pledged himself again not to pursue the pleasure further,
as he had now seen it all. The next day, however, he found "Uncle
Tom's Cabin" billed. Now even "ministers went to see this play," the
bills said. "Dodd" saw "Topsy," "Eva," "Marks," and "Uncle Tom" that
Thursday he found "Ten Nights in a Bar-Room" billed. He knew the
story, and was anxious to see the characters in it upon the stage. He
Friday, his friend John Oller, from Emburg, was in town, and "Dodd"
confessed to him that he had been four times to the theatre. John said:
"Well, 'Dodd,' I never went, and I want to go. Come and go with me
to-night." The boys followed "Marble Heart" through to the end that
Saturday they went down town together, and "Zoe, the Octoroon Girl,"
was on for matinee. They took it in. Saturday night was set for
"Hamlet," and that melancholy Dane died in their presence before the
city clock rang in the Sabbath morning.
Here is the story for you, good people. Seven times to the theatre in
one week, for a boy who had been to such a place but seven times in all
his life. It is the way of human nature. I suppose that when Adam and
Eve really got to eating the forbidden apples, they ate, and ate, and
ate. At least, this quality has been transmitted to their descendants.
Now, the bad thing about this affair, was not that "Dodd" had been to
the play-house seven times, but that he had been there clandestinely.
When a person begins to sneak about anything, he is on the down grade
to perdition, and the brakes are all off.
The result of this excess of "Dodd's" was a still further dissipation.
It is usually that way. The theatre soon had a fascination for him
that he could not withstand. He went whenever he could get money
enough to buy a ticket. After awhile he began to frequent places of
amusement of a low grade. The "variety" performance attracted him, and
he became an habitual attendant at such places. Here he formed
acquaintances and made friendships that were not to his advantage, to
say the best thing that can be said of them; and with these companions
he drifted down the descent he had started on so unthinkingly. Here,
also, he learned to drink, a vice which he had heretofore escaped.
So he kept on, down, and down. He needed money for the gratification
of his desires, and to procure it he began to venture a little now and
then on some gaming device. He was cautious and shrewd, and his early
"investments" were fortunate. He won small sums at various times, and
was elated with his success. He loitered much about the "bucket shop,"
and now and then took a "deal" as some friend gave him a "pointer." He
was fortunate here, also, and even though so young, his vivid
imagination began to picture the fortune he should some day make in
this way. He suddenly dropped his country ways, dressed flashily, and
took on, with marvelous aptitude, the customs and manners of
And still he kept his own counsel. The great gulf fixed between
himself and his parents grew wider and wider. It was through this gap
that the devils entered in and took possession of his soul.
The Book has it that wicked men wax worse and worse. It was so with
"Dodd." His love of liquor grew upon him with wonderful rapidity. He
began drinking to excess, his eyes became bloodshot, his hand became
unsteady, and his step halted.
But the better part of the young man rebelled at this retrogression.
He passed many an agonizing night alone, pledging himself to stop;
hoping, longing for his true life of a few months before, and cursing
his present condition. The "Other Fellow" was faithful to him, too,
calling loudly to him to turn about, to go the other way, to "be
But as is usual in such cases, after a night of such agony he would
take one drink in the morning, just to steady his nerves down, and one
being taken, the rest followed in course through the day, as they had
done the day before, and the day before that. He was drunk a good
share of the time.
It happened one night as he was going home, or rather as he was trying
to go home, being in a very mellow condition, that is, he "stackered
whiles"--that he was accosted by a polite and pleasant voiced, young
gentleman, who took his arm kindly and walked with him several blocks.
As they walked he told "Dodd" that he was on his way to attend a
revival meeting, and asked him to go along. Just then "Dodd" "took a
bicker," and in the lurch, he knocked a book out from under the arm of
his companion. It was a Bagster Bible!
But the two went on together to the meeting. They went well to the
front of the congregation, the guide steadying the wavering steps of
the man he was leading. "Dodd" sat down, and after a brief rest began
to come to himself, and to realize where he was. He hung his head for
shame, and wept as the service progressed. He was weak, unnerved, a
wreck. He looked at his shattered self, and groaned in spirit over the
ruin that he saw. He longed to break away from the terrible bondage
that held him in its thrall. He cried out in spirit, in an agony, for
help in this time of his great need.
The sermon came on. The minister seemed to "Dodd" to be talking
straight at him. (Indeed, the gentleman had observed his entrance to
the church, and frequently had him in mind as he made this point or
that, in his remarks.) Under the enthusiastic eloquence of this man
"Dodd's" anguish increased till he was almost in a frenzy. It was when
he had reached this point that the speaker uttered the following words:
"Young man, whoever you are, no matter how cursed with sin or polluted
with iniquity you may be, put your trust in Jesus and all your sins
will be blotted out. Are you a drunkard, with an appetite for drink
that is gnawing your life away? Throw yourself into the arms of Jesus,
and he will take away your appetite for strong drink and give you
strength to overcome all the temptations of your former life. Let the
light of Jesus once shine into your soul, and neither cloud nor storm
shall ever enter there again. All will be brightness and purity. Old
things will have passed away, and all things will become new. I offer
you this salvation to-night, O, weary, sin-sick soul. Take it, I
beseech of you. Let the Sun of Righteousness break in upon you at this
hour, and never will you be in darkness again."
The man glowed under his theme, and his audience warmed with his
impulsive appeal. "Dodd's" soul grew hopeful. All these things
promised were the very things he was longing for. He had pledged
himself time and again to stop wrong doing, and had broken his word in
every case. He hated himself for this, and he stretched out his hands
for salvation from his miserable estate. Here, help was offered.
Why should he not take it?
And then the great congregation arose with a sound as of a rushing,
mighty wind, and all sang together, with an effect that must be seen to
be realized, "Just as I am, without one plea," etc.
You know what followed, do you not, ladies and gentlemen? "Dodd"
Weaver "indulged a hope" before he left the church.
If it were not for clouds and storms what a sunshiny world this would
be, to be sure! But there are clouds and storms everywhere that I know
anything about. There are legends of lands of perpetual sunshine, I
know. I have visited such climates. I have found clouds and storms
there also. The natives have told me that such were exceptional.
Doubtless they were, but the clouds shut out the sunshine there, just
the same as they do elsewhere, and I took a terrible cold once, one
that came near being the death of me, from going off without an
umbrella, in a country where I was positively assured it never
rained--at least, not at that season of the year.
So the result of all this is that I have learned to distrust the tales
of eternal fair weather in any spot on all this green earth, no matter
how strongly they may be backed up by the affidavits of good,
well-meaning, and otherwise truthful men and women.
It is so easy to state an opinion that is not based upon a sufficient
number of facts to warrant its assertion.
What has happened to me in the matter of sunshine and storm, in this
weather-beaten world, happened to "Dodd" Weaver in his religious
He started out boldly in his new life. He hoped and trusted that he
had entered into a physical, mental, and spiritual condition in which
all that he had been he might not be; all that he should be he might
become; all that he ought to hate he would hate; all that he ought to
love he would cherish. He longed to believe and he tried to believe,
that he had entered into that land of perpetual sunshine which had been
promised him by the minister and his friend. He hoped, and really
expected, to dwell there henceforth, beyond the reach of clouds, and
storms, and tornadoes.
But everybody knows that there were no good grounds for his expecting
such continuous, perpetual, and unbroken fair weather in his formerly
storm-swept sky. The question strikes one, then, why should he have
been promised this, and why led to hope for and expect it? See what
came of this too generous inducement held out to an anxious soul.
For some days, while "Dodd's" newly developed fervor ran high, he lived
in the blessed light. For this light is blessed, and it shines with a
divine warmth into the souls that are open to receive it. The fact
remains, however, that clouds and storms--but I need not trace the
figure further; you all know about it. So, almost before the young man
was aware, he was under a cloud. It happened on this wise:
For many weeks he had been drinking freely and both smoking and chewing
tobacco to excess. The first thing he did, after his hopeful
conversion, was to quit all these stimulants at once. His intense
religious zeal held him up for a few days, but at the end of that time
his strongly formed appetites assorted themselves. He could scarcely
sleep, so hungry was he for a chew, or a smoke, or a drink! These were
the weaknesses that had driven him to seek for help through the
consolations of religion. He had been promised this help, and in no
equivocal terms either. He had been told, even from the pulpit, that
if he would put his trust in the Lord all these temptations would
depart from him. He had done this as well as he knew how to. He had
at least made an honest effort in that direction. His lips were
parched for liquor, and his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth
with a longing for a quid of fine-cut.
And so the clouds overspread "Dodd's" sky--clouds of doubt and
distrust, out of whose lurid depths leap lightnings that blast like
He doubted, first of all, the honesty of the men who had promised him
more than he found himself the possessor of. We always begin by
doubting some fellow-mortal. As the process progresses, it leads us,
ultimately, to doubt God.
But these men had meant to be honest--there is no doubt about that.
They had told the young sinner of that which they believed would help
him. They knew, of course, that he would have trouble with his old
habits, after a while. Perhaps they hoped that he would get over them
somehow. Perhaps they did not think very much about it. In either
case, they said nothing. The patient was suffering. They gave him
medicine that would afford him the quickest relief, without regard to
the permanency of the apparent cure. What an amount of such doctoring
has been done through the ages. Stand up in your graves, you armies of
dead men that have thus been dealt with, and nod a "yes" with your
The clouds grew thicker. "Dodd" went to his newly formed friends and
told them frankly of his condition. The minister advised him to be
much alone and in prayer. The young man told him that there was no
need of his suffering from such appetites, because, he himself--the
young man aforesaid--could keep from such evil practices easily enough,
and if he could, "Dodd" could.
"Dodd" acted on the advice of the minister, and went home and shut
himself up alone in his room to pray. He tried, but the words seemed
to go no higher than his head. Did you ever think that when the Master
received his severest temptation it was when he was alone? Let a man
who is tempted beware of trying to win a victory shut up in a room by
himself. The devil has him in a hand to hand fight, in such case, and
thereby increases several fold the probability of winning the battle.
"Dodd" tried to pray. He strove alone, as in an agony. He besought
the power that he had been told to invoke, to take from him the
horrible thirst that was gnawing within him. He wept, he pleaded, he
The gnawing kept on.
There was once one who prayed "If it be possible, let this cup pass
from me." It did not pass.
Then, indeed, the clouds did grow dark. "Dodd's" doubts left the
earth, and reached even to heaven. He not only doubted the men who had
led him to the promised relief; he doubted even the power of religious
experience to save a tempted man, and the reality of religion itself.
From this point it is but a step to the supreme doubt of all!
If only the boy had expected a storm, he might have weathered it. If,
in this hour of his trial, some faithful soul could have lived with
him, day and night, and never left him for an hour, till the storm was
over, he might have come through. Neither of these things happened,
He struggled on for several days. He gave up finally. He came home
one night drunk, almost to the verge of insanity. There had been a
cyclone in the land of promised eternal sunshine. "Dodd" Weaver's bark
lay upon its beam ends, and the jagged rocks of infidelity pierced its
You have seen such wrecks by the score, have you not, good friends?
And now the victim of these adventures was
in a worse case than ever. Up to this time
neither religion nor its lack had played any
particular part in his being. He had been a
bad boy, truly, but in his former low estate
he had thought little of anything that
pertained to another world, or to the future in
this. Now he disbelieved all things--man,
immortality, heaven, God.
It is a condition which few fail to experience,
in a greater or less degree.
I wonder if it is necessary that I pause here,
just an instant, and interlard a remark
regarding the scene through which I have just
traced "Dodd" Weaver. I do so, in any event.
In what has been said, I would not have it
understood that I rail at, or deride, or
impeach the honesty of the men who tried to help
"Dodd" out of the sad condition into which he
had fallen. Neither would I underrate the
value of religion, in such experiences, nor
impugn its power to save sinking souls from
death. But I cannot help reiterating the fact
that multitudes of young men have drifted on
to the rocks of infidelity as "Dodd" did,
because they have been promised too much by
There is such an experience as genuine
religion, and it is the most blessed estate that a
soul can aspire to. There is a place for prayer
in the divine economy of God's providence.
But neither religion nor prayer can help a soul
that is sick unto death with the malady of
doubt. "Dodd" was thus circumstanced. It
was the zealous overstatements, the ultra
promises, the unwarranted inducements held
out to him, which, unrealized, threw him into
And then doubt is such a breeder of its own
kind! As a single bacterium will, in a few
hours, under favorable conditions, develop
millions like unto itself, and poison a man's
blood to the last drop, even so doubt grows in
the soul, when once its germs are planted
there, and its noxious growth blights all one's