Philosophy 4 by Owen Wister
A STORY OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY
Two frowning boys sat in their tennis flannels beneath the glare of
lamp and gas. Their leather belts were loosened, their soft pink
shirts unbuttoned at the collar. They were listening with gloomy
voracity to the instruction of a third. They sat at a table bared of
its customary sporting ornaments, and from time to time they
questioned, sucked their pencils, and scrawled vigorous, laconic
notes. Their necks and faces shone with the bloom of out-of-doors.
Studious concentration was evidently a painful novelty to their
features. Drops of perspiration came one by one from their matted
hair, and their hands dampened the paper upon which they wrote. The
windows stood open wide to the May darkness, but nothing came in save
heat and insects; for spring, being behind time, was making up with a
sultry burst at the end, as a delayed train makes the last few miles
high above schedule speed. Thus it has been since eight o'clock.
Eleven was daintily striking now. Its diminutive sonority might have
belonged to some church-bell far distant across the Cambridge silence;
but it was on a shelf in the room,--a timepiece of Gallic design,
representing Mephistopheles, who caressed the world in his lap. And as
the little strokes boomed, eight--nine-- ten--eleven, the voice of the
instructor steadily continued thus:--
"By starting from the Absolute Intelligence, the chief cravings of
the reason, after unity and spirituality, receive due satisfaction.
Something transcending the Objective becomes possible. In the Cogito
the relation of subject and object is implied as the primary condition
of all knowledge. Now, Plato never--"
"Skip Plato," interrupted one of the boys. "You gave us his points
"Yep," assented the other, rattling through the back pages of his
notes. "Got Plato down cold somewhere,--oh, here. He never caught on
to the subjective, any more than the other Greek bucks. Go on to the
"If you gentlemen have mastered the--the Grreek bucks," observed
the instructor, with sleek intonation, "we--"
"Yep," said the second tennis boy, running a rapid judicial eye
over his back notes, "you've put us on to their curves enough. Go on."
The instructor turned a few pages forward in the thick book of his
own neat type-written notes and then resumed,--
"The self-knowledge of matter in motion."
"Skip it," put in the first tennis boy.
"We went to those lectures ourselves," explained the second,
whirling through another dishevelled notebook. "Oh, yes. Hobbes and
his gang. There is only one substance, matter, but it doesn't strictly
exist. Bodies exist. We've got Hobbes. Go on."
The instructor went forward a few pages more in his exhaustive
volume. He had attended all the lectures but three throughout the
year, taking them down in short-hand. Laryngitis had kept him from
those three, to which however, he had sent a stenographic friend so
that the chain was unbroken. He now took up the next philosopher on
the list; but his smooth discourse was, after a short while, rudely
shaken. It was the second tennis boy questioning severely the
"So he says color is all your eye, and shape isn't? and substance
"Do you mean he claims," said the first boy, equally resentful,
"that if we were all extinguished the world would still be here, only
there'd be no difference between blue and pink, for instance?"
"The reason is clear," responded the tutor, blandly. He adjusted
his eyeglasses, placed their elastic cord behind his ear, and referred
to his notes. "It is human sight that distinguishes between colors. If
human sight be eliminated from the universe, nothing remains to make
the distinction, and consequently there will be none. Thus also is it
with sounds. If the universe contains no ear to hear the sound, the
sound has no existence."
"Why?" said both the tennis boys at once.
The tutor smiled. "Is it not clear," said he, "that there can be
no sound if it is not heard!"
"No," they both returned, "not in the least clear."
"It's clear enough what he's driving at of course, "pursued the
first boy. "Until the waves of sound or light or what not hit us
through our senses, our brains don't experience the sensations of
sound or light or what not, and so, of course, we can't know about
them--not until they reach us."
"Precisely," said the tutor. He had a suave and slightly alien
"Well, just tell me how that proves a thunder-storm in a desert
island makes no noise."
"If a thing is inaudible--" began the tutor,
"That's mere juggling!" vociferated the boy," That's merely the
same kind of toy-shop brain-trick you gave us out of Greek philosophy
yesterday, They said there was no such thing as motion because at
every instant of time the moving body had to be somewhere, so how
could it get anywhere else? Good Lord! I can make up foolishness like
that myself. For instance: A moving body can never stop. Why? Why,
because at every instant of time it must be going at a certain rate,
so how can it ever get slower? Pooh!" He stopped. He had been
gesticulating with one hand, which he now jammed wrathfully into his
The tutor must have derived great pleasure from his own smile, for
he prolonged and deepened and variously modified it while his shiny
little calculating eyes travelled from one to the other of his ruddy
scholars. He coughed, consulted his notes, and went through all the
paces of superiority. "I can find nothing about a body's being unable
to stop," said he, gently. "If logic makes no appeal to you,
"Oh, bunch!" exclaimed the second tennis boy, in the slang of his
period, which was the early eighties. "Look here. Color has no
existence outside of our brain - that's the idea?"
The tutor bowed.
"And sound hasn't? and smell hasn't? and taste hasn't?"
The tutor had repeated his little bow after each.
"And that's because they depend on our senses? Very well. But he
claims solidity and shape and distance do exist independently of us.
If we all died, they'd he here just the same, though the others
wouldn't. A flower would go on growing, but it would stop smelling.
Very well. Now you tell me how we ascertain solidity. By the touch,
don't we? Then, if there was nobody to touch an object, what then?
Seems to me touch is just as much of a sense as your nose is." (He
meant no personality, but the first boy choked a giggle as the speaker
hotly followed up his thought.)" Seems to me by his reasoning that in
a desert island there'd be nothing it all--smells or shapes--not even
an island. Seems to me that's what you call logic."
The tutor directed his smile at the open window. "Berkeley--" said
"By Jove!" said the other boy, not heeding him, "and here's another
point: if color is entirely in my brain, why don't that ink-bottle and
this shirt look alike to me? They ought to. And why don't a Martini
cocktail and a cup of coffee taste the same to my tongue?" "Berkeley,"
attempted the tutor, "demonstrates--"
"Do you mean to say," the boy rushed on, "that there is no eternal
quality in all these things which when it meets my perceptions compels
me to see differences?"
The tutor surveyed his notes. "I can discover no such suggestions
here as you are pleased to make" said he. "But your orriginal
researches," he continued most obsequiously, "recall our next
subject,--Berkeley and the Idealists." And he smoothed out his notes.
"Let's see," said the second boy, pondering; "I went to two or
three lectures about that time. Berkeley--Berkeley. Didn't he--oh,
yes! he did. He went the whole hog. Nothing's anywhere except in your
ideas. You think the table's there, but it isn't. There isn't any
The first boy slapped his leg and lighted a cigarette. "I
remember," said he. "Amounts to this: If I were to stop thinking about
you, you'd evaporate."
"Which is balls," observed the second boy, judicially, again in the
slang of his period, "and can be proved so. For you're not always
thinking about me, and I've never evaporated once."
The first boy, after a slight wink at the second, addressed the
tutor. "Supposing you were to happen to forget yourself," said he to
that sleek gentleman, "would you evaporate?"
The tutor turned his little eyes doubtfully upon the tennis boys,
but answered, reciting the language of his notes: "The idealistic
theory does not apply to the thinking ego, but to the world of
external phenomena. The world exists in our conception of it.
"Then," said the second boy, "when a thing is inconceivable?"
"It has no existence," replied the tutor, complacently.
"But a billion dollars is inconceivable," retorted the boy. "No
mind can take in a sum of that size; but it exists."
"Put that down! put that down!" shrieked the other boy. "You've
struck something. If we get Berkeley on the paper, I'll run that in."
He wrote rapidly, and then took a turn around the room, frowning as he
walked. "The actuality of a thing," said he, summing his clever
thoughts up, "is not disproved by its being inconceivable. Ideas alone
depend upon thought for their existence. There! Anybody can get off
stuff like that by the yard." He picked up a cork and a foot-rule,
tossed the cork, and sent it flying out of the window with the
"Skip Berkeley," said the other boy.
"How much more is there?"
"Necessary and accidental truths," answered the tutor, reading the
subjects from his notes. "Hume and the causal law. The duality, or
multiplicity, of the ego."
"The hard-boiled ego," commented the boy the ruler; and he batted a
swooping June-bug into space.
"Sit down, idiot," said his sprightly mate."
Conversation ceased. Instruction went forward. Their pencils
worked. The causal law, etc., went into their condensed notes like
Liebig's extract of beef, and drops of perspiration continued to
trickle from their matted hair.
Bertie and Billy were sophomores. They had been alive for twenty
years, and were young. Their tutor was also a sophomore. He too had
been alive for twenty years, but never yet had become young. Bertie
and Billy had colonial names (Rogers, I think, and Schuyler), but the
tutor's name was Oscar Maironi, and he was charging his pupils five
dollars an hour each for his instruction. Do not think this excessive.
Oscar could have tutored a whole class of irresponsibles, and by that
arrangement have earned probably more; but Bertie and Billy had
preempted him on account of his fame or high standing and accuracy,
and they could well afford it. All three sophomores alike had happened
to choose Philosophy 4 as one of their elective courses, and all alike
were now face to face with the Day of Judgment. The final examinations
had begun. Oscar could lay his hand upon his studious heart and await
the Day of Judgment like--I had nearly said a Christian! His notes
were full: Three hundred pages about Zeno and Parmenides and the rest,
almost every word as it had come from the professor's lips. And his
memory was full, too, flowing like a player's lines. With the right
cue he could recite instantly: "An important application of this
principle, with obvious reference to Heracleitos, occurs in Aristotle,
who says--" He could do this with the notes anywhere. I am sure you
appreciate Oscar and his great power of acquiring facts. So he was
ready, like the wise virgins of parable. Bertie and Billy did not put
one in mind of virgins: although they had burned considerable midnight
oil, it had not been to throw light upon Philosophy 4. In them the
mere word Heracleitos had raised a chill no later than yesterday,--the
chill of the unknown. They had not attended the lectures on the "Greek
bucks." Indeed, profiting by their privilege of voluntary recitations,
they had dropped in but seldom on Philosophy 4. These blithe
grasshoppers had danced and sung away the precious storing season, and
now that the bleak hour of examinations was upon them, their waked-up
hearts had felt aghast at the sudden vision of their ignorance. It was
on a Monday noon that this feeling came fully upon them, as they read
over the names of the philosophers. Thursday was the day of the
examination. "Who's Anaxagoras?" Billy had inquired of Bertie. "I'll
tell you," said Bertie, "if you'll tell me who Epicharmos of Kos was."
And upon this they embraced with helpless laughter. Then they reckoned
up the hours left for them to learn Epicharmos of Kos in,--between
Monday noon and Thursday morning at nine,--and their quailing chill
increased. A tutor must be called in at once. So the grasshoppers,
having money, sought out and quickly purchased the ant.
Closeted with Oscar and his notes, they had, as Bertie put it,
salted down the early Greek bucks by seven on Monday evening. By the
same midnight they had, as Billy expressed it, called the turn on
Plato. Tuesday was a second day of concentrated swallowing. Oscar had
taken them through the thought of many centuries. There had been
intermissions for lunch and dinner only; and the weather was
exceedingly hot. The pale-skinned Oscar stood this strain better than
the unaccustomed Bertie and Billy. Their jovial eyes had grown hollow
to-night, although their minds were going gallantly, as you have
probably noticed. Their criticisms, slangy and abrupt, struck the
scholastic Oscar as flippancies which he must indulge, since the pay
was handsome. That these idlers should jump in with doubts and
questions not contained in his sacred notes raised in him feelings
betrayed just once in that remark about "orriginal rresearch."
"Nine--ten--eleven--twelve," went the little timepiece; and Oscar
"Gentlemen," he said, closing the sacred notes, "we have finished
the causal law."
"That's the whole business except the ego racket, isn't it?" said
"The duality, or multiplicity of the ego remains," Oscar replied.
"Oh, I know its name. It ought to be a soft snap after what we've
"Unless it's full of dates and names you've got to know," said
"Don't believe it is," Billy answered. "I heard him at it once."
(This meant that Billy had gone to a lecture lately.) "It's all about
Who am I? and How do I do it?" Billy added.
"Hm!" said Bertie. "Hm! Subjective and objective again, I suppose,
only applied to oneself. You see, that table is objective. I can stand
off and judge it. It's outside of me; has nothing to do with me.
That's easy. But my opinion of--well, my--well, anything in my nature
"Anger when it's time to get up," suggested Billy.
"An excellent illustration," said Bertie. "That is subjective in
me. Similar to your dislike of water as a beverage. That is subjective
in you. But here comes the twist. I can think of my own anger and
judge it, just as if it were an outside thing, like a table. I can
compare it with itself on different mornings or with other people's
anger. And I trust that you can do the same with your thirst."
"Yes," said Billy; "I recognize that it is greater at times and
less at others."
"Very well, There you are. Duality of the ego."
"Subject and object," said Billy. "Perfectly true, and very queer
when you try to think of it. Wonder how far it goes? Of course, one
can explain the body's being an object to the brain inside it. That's
mind and matter over again. But when my own mind and thought, can
become objects to themselves--I wonder how far that does go?" he broke
off musingly. "What useless stuff!" he ended.
"Gentlemen," said Oscar, who had been listening to them with
patient, Oriental diversion, "I--"
"Oh," said Bertie, remembering him. "Look here. We mustn't keep you
up. We're awfully obliged for the way you are putting us on to this.
You're saving our lives. Ten to-morrow for a grand review of the whole
"And the multiplicity of the ego?" inquired Oscar.
"Oh, I forgot. Well, it's too late tonight. Is it much? Are there
many dates and names and things?"
"It is more of a general inquiry and analysis," replied Oscar. "But
it is forty pages of my notes." And he smiled. "Well, look here. It
would be nice to have to-morrow clear for review. We're not tired. You
leave us your notes and go to bed."
Oscar's hand almost moved to cover and hold his precious property,
for this instinct was the deepest in him. But it did not so move,
because his intelligence controlled his instinct nearly, though not
quite, always. His shiny little eyes, however, became furtive and
antagonistic--something the boys did not at first make out.
Oscar gave himself a moment of silence. "I could not brreak my
rule," said he then. "I do not ever leave my notes with anybody. Mr.
Woodridge asked for my History 3 notes, and Mr. Bailey wanted my notes
for Fine Arts 1, and I could not let them have them. If Mr. Woodridge
was to hear--"
"But what in the dickens are you afraid of?"
"Well, gentlemen, I would rather not. You would take good care, I
know, but there are sometimes things which happen that we cannot help.
One time a fire--"
At this racial suggestion both boys made the room joyous with
mirth. Oscar stood uneasily contemplating them. He would never be able
to understand them, not as long as he lived, nor they him. When their
mirth Was over he did somewhat better, but it was tardy. You see, he
was not a specimen of the first rank, or he would have said at once
what he said now: "I wish to study my notes a little myself,
"Go along, Oscar, with your inflammable notes, go along!" said
Bertie, in supreme good-humor. "And we'll meet to-morrow at ten--if
there hasn't been a fire--Better keep your notes in the bath, Oscar."
In as much haste as could be made with a good appearance, Oscar
buckled his volume in its leather cover, gathered his hat and pencil,
and, bidding his pupils a very good night, sped smoothly out of the
Oscar Maironi was very poor. His thin gray suit in summer resembled
his thick gray suit in winter. It does not seem that he had more than
two; but he had a black coat and waistcoat, and a narrow-brimmed,
shiny hat to go with these, and one pair of patent-leather shoes that
laced, and whose long soles curved upward at the toe like the rockers
of a summer-hotel chair. These holiday garments served him in all
seasons; and when you saw him dressed in them, and seated in a car
bound for Park Square, you knew he was going into Boston, where he
would read manuscript essays on Botticelli or Pico della Mirandola, or
manuscript translations of Armenian folksongs; read these to ecstatic,
dim-eyed ladies in Newbury Street, who would pour him cups of tea when
it was over, and speak of his earnestness after he was gone. It did
not do the ladies any harm; but I am not sure that it was the best
thing for Oscar. It helped him feel every day, as he stepped along to
recitations with his elbow clamping his books against his ribs and his
heavy black curls bulging down from his gray slouch hat to his collar,
how meritorious he was compared with Bertie and Billy--with all
Berties and Billies. He may have been. Who shall say? But I will say
at once that chewing the cud of one's own virtue gives a sour stomach.
Bertie's and Billy's parents owned town and country houses in New
York. The parents of Oscar had come over in the steerage. Money filled
the pockets of Bertie and Billy; therefore were their heads empty of
money and full of less cramping thoughts. Oscar had fallen upon the
reverse of this fate. Calculation was his second nature. He had given
his education to himself; he had for its sake toiled, traded,
outwitted, and saved. He had sent himself to college, where most of
the hours not given to education and more education, went to toiling
and more toiling, that he might pay his meagre way through the college
world. He had a cheaper room and ate cheaper meals than was necessary.
He tutored, and he wrote college specials for several newspapers. His
chief relaxation was the praise of the ladies in Newbury Street. These
told him of the future which awaited him, and when they gazed upon his
features were put in mind of the dying Keats. Not that Oscar was going
to die in the least. Life burned strong in him. There were sly times
when he took what he had saved by his cheap meals and room and went to
Boston with it, and for a few hours thoroughly ceased being ascetic.
Yet Oscar felt meritorious when he considered Bertie and Billy; for,
like the socialists, merit with him meant not being able to live as
well as your neighbor. You will think that I have given to Oscar what
is familiarly termed a black eye. But I was once inclined to applaud
his struggle for knowledge, until I studied him close and perceived
that his love was not for the education he was getting. Bertie and
Billy loved play for play's own sake, and in play forgot themselves,
like the wholesome young creatures that they were. Oscar had one love
only: through all his days whatever he might forget, he would remember
himself; through all his days he would make knowledge show that self
off. Thank heaven, all the poor students in Harvard College were not
Oscars! I loved some of them as much as I loved Bertie and Billy. So
there is no black eye about it. Pity Oscar, if you like; but don't be
so mushy as to admire him as he stepped along in the night, holding
his notes, full of his knowledge, thinking of Bertie and Billy,
conscious of virtue, and smiling his smile. They were not conscious of
any virtue, were Bertie and Billy, nor were they smiling. They were
solemnly eating up together a box of handsome strawberries and sucking
the juice from their reddened thumbs.
"Rather mean not to make him wait and have some of these after his
hard work on us," said Bertie. "I'd forgotten about them--"
"He ran out before you could remember, anyway," said Billy.
"Wasn't he absurd about his old notes? "Bertie went on, a new
strawberry in his mouth. "We don't need them, though. With to-morrow
we'll get this course down cold."
"Yes, to-morrow," sighed Billy. "It's awful to think of another day
of this kind."
"Horrible," assented Bertie.
"He knows a lot. He's extraordinary," said Billy.
"Yes, he is. He can talk the actual words of the notes. Probably he
could teach the course himself. I don't suppose he buys any
strawberries, even when they get ripe and cheap here. What's the
matter with you?"
Billy had broken suddenly into merriment. "I don't believe Oscar
owns a bath," he explained.
"By Jove! so his notes will burn in spite of everything!" And both
of the tennis boys shrieked foolishly.
Then Billy began taking his clothes off, strewing them in the
window-seat, or anywhere that they happened to drop; and Bertie, after
hitting another cork or two out of the window with the tennis racket,
departed to his own room on another floor and left Billy to immediate
and deep slumber. This was broken for a few moments when Billy's
room-mate returned happy from an excursion which had begun in the
The room-mate sat on Billy's feet until that gentleman showed
"I've done it, said the room-mate, then.
"The hell you have!"
"You couldn't do it."
"The hell I couldn't!"
"The hell it was!"
"Soft-shell crabs, broiled live lobster, salmon, grass-plover,
dough-birds, rum omelette. Bet you five dollars you can't find it."
"Take you. Got to bed." And Billy fell again into deep, immediate
The room-mate went out into the sitting room, and noting the signs
there of the hard work which had gone on during his absence, was glad
that he did not take Philosophy 4. He was soon asleep also.
BILLY got up early. As he plunged into his cold bath he envied his
room-mate, who could remain at rest indefinitely, while his own hard
lot was hurrying him to prayers and breakfast and Oscar's inexorable
notes. He sighed once more as he looked at the beauty of the new
morning and felt its air upon his cheeks. He and Bertie belonged to
the same club-table, and they met there mournfully over the oatmeal.
This very hour to-morrow would see them eating their last before the
examination in Philosophy 4. And nothing pleasant was going to happen
between,--nothing that they could dwell upon with the slightest
satisfaction. Nor had their sleep entirely refreshed them. Their eyes
were not quite right, and their hair, though it was brushed, showed
fatigue of the nerves in a certain inclination to limpness and
"Epicharmos of Kos
Was covered with moss," remarked Billy.
"Thales and Zeno
Were duffers at keno,"
In the hours of trial they would often express their education
"Philosophers I have met," murmured Billy, with scorn And they ate
silently for some time.
"There's one thing that's valuable," said Bertie next. "When they
spring those tricks on you about the flying arrow not moving, and all
the rest, and prove it all right by logic, you learn what pure logic
amounts to when it cuts loose from common sense. And Oscar thinks it's
immense. We shocked him."
"He's found the Bird-in-Hand!" cried Billy, quite suddenly.
"Oscar?" said Bertie, with an equal shout.
"No, John. John has. Came home last night and waked me up and told
"Good for John," remarked Bertie, pensively.
Now, to the undergraduate mind of that day the Bird-in-Hand tavern
was what the golden fleece used to be to the Greeks,-- a sort of
shining, remote, miraculous thing, difficult though not impossible to
find, for which expeditions were fitted out. It was reported to be
somewhere in the direction of Quincy, and in one respect it resembled
a ghost: you never saw a man who had seen it himself; it was always
his cousin, or his elder brother in '79. But for the successful
explorer a dinner and wines were waiting at the Bird-in-Hand more
delicious than anything outside of Paradise. You will realize,
therefore, what a thing it was to have a room-mate who had attained.
If Billy had not been so dog-tired last night, he would have sat up
and made John tell him everything from beginning to end.
"Soft-shell crabs, broiled live lobster, salmon, grass-plover,
dough-birds, and rum omelette," he was now reciting to Bertie.
"They say the rum there is old Jamaica brought in slave-ships,"
said Bertie, reverently.
"I've heard he has white port of 1820," said Billy; "and claret and
Bertie looked out of the window. "This is the finest day there's
been," said he. Then he looked at his watch. It was twenty-five
minutes before Oscar. Then he looked Billy hard in the eye. "Have you
any sand?" he inquired.
It was a challenge to Billy's manhood. "Sand!" he yelled, sitting
Both of them in an instant had left the table and bounded out of
the house. "I'll meet you at Pike's," said Billy to Bertie. "Make him
give us the black gelding."
"Might as well bring our notes along," Bertie called after his
rushing friend; "and get John to tell you the road."
To see their haste, as the two fled in opposite directions upon
their errands, you would have supposed them under some crying call of
obligation, or else to be escaping from justice.
Twenty minutes later they were seated behind the black gelding and
bound on their journey in search of the bird-in-Hand. Their notes in
Philosophy 4 were stowed under the buggy-seat.
"Did Oscar see you?" Bertie inquired.
"Not he," cried Billy, joyously.
"Oscar will wonder," said Bertie; and he gave the black gelding a
triumphant touch with the whip.
You see, it was Oscar that had made them run go; or, rather, it was
Duty and Fate walking in Oscar's displeasing likeness. Nothing easier,
nothing more reasonable, than to see the tutor and tell him they
should not need him to-day. But that would have spoiled everything.
They did not know it, but deep in their childlike hearts was a
delicious sense that in thus unaccountably disappearing they had won a
great game, had got away ahead of Duty and Fate. After all it did bear
some resemblance to an escape from justice. .
Could he have known this, Oscar would have felt more superior than
ever. Punctually at the hour agreed, ten o'clock he rapped at Billy's
door and stood waiting, his leather wallet of notes nipped safe
between elbow and ribs. Then he knocked again. Then he tried the door,
and as it was open, he walked deferentially into the sitting room.
Sonorous snores came from one of the bedrooms. Oscar peered in and saw
John; but he saw no Billy in the other bed. Then, always deferential,
he sat down in the sitting room and watched a couple of prettily
striped coats hanging in a half-open closet.
At that moment the black gelding was flirtatiously crossing the
drawbridge over the Charles on the Allston Road. The gelding knew the
clank of those suspending chains and the slight unsteadiness of the
meeting halves of the bridge as well as it knew oats. But it could not
enjoy its own entirely premeditated surprise quite so much as Bertie
and Billy were enjoying their entirely unpremeditated flight from
Oscar. The wind rippled on the water; down at the boat-house Smith was
helping some one embark in a single scull; they saw the green meadows
toward Brighton; their foreheads felt cool and unvexed, and each new
minute had the savor of fresh forbidden fruit.
"How do we go?" said Bertie.
"I forgot I had a bet with John until I had waked him," said Billy.
"He bet me five last night I couldn't find it, and I took him. Of
course, after that I had no right to ask him anything, and he thought
I was funny. He said I couldn't find out if the landlady's hair was
her own. I went him another five on that."
"How do you say we ought to go?" said Bertie, presently.
"Quincy, I'm sure."
They were now crossing the Albany tracks at Allston. "We're going
to get there," said Bertie; and he turned the black gelding toward
Brookline and Jamaica Plain.
The enchanting day surrounded them. The suburban houses, even the
suburban street-cars, seemed part of one great universal plan of
enjoyment. Pleasantness so radiated from the boys' faces and from
their general appearance of clean white flannel trousers and soft
clean shirts of pink and blue that a driver on a passing car leaned to
look after them with a smile and a butcher hailed them with loud
brotherhood from his cart. They turned a corner, and from a long way
off came the sight of the tower of Memorial Hall. Plain above all
intervening tenements and foliage it rose. Over there beneath its
shadow were examinations and Oscar. It caught Billy's roving eye, and
he nudged Bertie, pointing silently to it. "Ha, ha!" sang Bertie. And
beneath his light whip the gelding sprang forward into its stride.
The clocks of Massachusetts struck eleven. Oscar rose doubtfully
from his chair in Billy's study. Again he looked into Billy's bedroom
and at the empty bed. Then he went for a moment and watched the still
forcibly sleeping John. He turned his eyes this way and that, and
after standing for a while moved quietly back to his chair and sat
down with the leather wallet of notes on his lap, his knees together,
and his unblocked shoes touching. In due time the clocks of
Massachusetts struck noon.
In a meadow where a brown amber stream ran, lay Bertie and Billy on
the grass. Their summer coats were off, their belts loosened. They
watched with eyes half closed the long water-weeds moving gently as
the current waved and twined them. The black gelding, brought along a
farm road and through a gate, waited at its ease in the field beside a
stone wall. Now and then it stretched and cropped a young leaf from a
vine that grew over the wall, and now and then the want wind brought
down the fruit blossoms all over the meadow. They fell from the tree
where Bertie and Billy lay, and the boys brushed them from their
faces. Not very far away was Blue Hill, softly shining; and crows high
up in the air came from it occasionally across here. By one o'clock a
change had come in Billy's room. Oscar during that hour had opened his
satchel of philosophy upon his lap and read his notes attentively.
Being almost word perfect in many parts of them, he now spent his
unexpected leisure in acquiring accurately the language of still
further paragraphs." The sharp line of demarcation which Descartes
drew between consciousness and the material world," whispered Oscar
with satisfaction, and knew that if Descartes were on the examination
paper he could start with this and go on for nearly twenty lines
before he would have to use any words of his own. As he memorized, the
chambermaid, who had come to do the bedrooms three times already and
had gone away again, now returned and no longer restrained her
indignation. "Get up Mr. Blake! " she vociferated to the sleeping
John; "you ought to be ashamed!" And she shook the bedstead. Thus John
had come to rise and discover Oscar. The patient tutor explained
himself as John listened in his pyjamas.
"Why, I'm sorry," said he, "but I don't believe they'll get back
"They have gone away?" asked Oscar, sharply.
"Ah--yes," returned the reticent John. "An unexpected matter of
"But, my dear sir, those gentlemen know nothing! Philosophy 4 is
tomorrow, and they know nothing."
"They'll have to stand it, then," said John, with a grin.
"And my time. I am waiting here. I am engaged to teach them. I have
been waiting here since ten. They engaged me all day and this evening.
"I don't believe there's the slightest use in your waiting now, you
know. They'll probably let you know when they come back."
"Probably! But they have engaged my time. The girl knows I was
here ready at ten. I call you to witness that you found me waiting,
ready at any time."
John in his pyjamas stared at Oscar. "Why, of course they'll pay
you the whole thing," said he, coldly; "stay here if you prefer." And
he went into the bathroom and closed the door.
The tutor stood awhile, holding his notes and turning his little
eyes this way and that. His young days had been dedicated to getting
the better of his neighbor, because otherwise his neighbor would get
the better of him. Oscar had never suspected the existence of boys
like John and Bertie and Billy. He stood holding his notes, and then,
buckling them up once more, he left the room with evidently reluctant
steps. It was at this time that the clocks struck one.
In their field among the soft new grass sat Bertie and Billy some
ten yards apart, each with his back against an apple tree. Each had
his notes and took his turn at questioning the other. Thus the names
of the Greek philosophers with their dates and doctrines were shouted
gayly in the meadow. The foreheads of the boys were damp to-day, as
they had been last night, and their shirts were opened to the air; but
it was the sun that made them hot now, and no lamp or gas; and already
they looked twice as alive as they had looked at breakfast. There they
sat, while their memories gripped the summarized list of facts
essential, facts to be known accurately; the simple, solid, raw facts,
which, should they happen to come on the examination paper, no skill
could evade nor any imagination supply. But this study was no longer
dry and dreadful to them: they had turned it to a sporting event.
"What about Heracleitos?" Billy as catechist would put at Bertie.
"Eternal flux," Bertie would correctly snap back at Billy. Or, if he
got it mixed up, and replied, "Everything is water," which was the
doctrine of another Greek, then Billy would credit himself with
twenty-five cents on a piece of paper. Each ran a memorandum of this
kind; and you can readily see how spirited a character metaphysics
would assume under such conditions.
"I'm going in," said Bertie, suddenly, as Billy was crediting
himself with a fifty-cent gain. "What's your score?"
"Two seventy-five, counting your break on Parmenides. It'II be
"No, it won't. Well, I'm only a quarter behind you." And Bertie
puffed off his shoes. Soon he splashed into the stream where the bend
made a hole of some depth.
"Cold?" inquired Billy on the bank. Bertie closed his eyes
dreamily. "Delicious," said he, and sank luxuriously beneath the
surface with slow strokes.
Billy had his clothes off in a moment, and, taking the plunge,
screamed loudly "You liar!" he yelled, as he came up. And he made for
Delight rendered Bertie weak and helpless; he was caught and
ducked; and after some vigorous wrestling both came out of the icy
"Now we've got no towels, you fool," said Billy.
"Use your notes," said Bertie, and he rolled in the grass. Then
they chased each other round the apple trees, and the black gelding
watched them by the wall, its ears well forward.
While they were dressing they discovered it was half-past one, and
became instantly famished. "We should have brought lunch along," they
told each other. But they forgot that no such thing as lunch could
have induced them to delay their escape from Cambridge for a moment
this morning. "What do you suppose Oscar is doing now?" Billy inquired
of Bertie, as they led the black gelding back to the road; and Bertie
laughed like an infant. "Gentlemen," said he, in Oscar's manner, "we
now approach the multiplicity of the ego." The black gelding must have
thought it had humorists to deal with this day.
Oscar, as a matter of fact, was eating his cheap lunch away over in
Cambridge. There was cold mutton, and boiled potatoes with hard brown
spots in them, and large picked cucumbers; and the salt was damp and
would not shake out through the holes in the top of the bottle. But
Oscar ate two helps of everything with a good appetite, and between
whiles looked at his notes, which lay open beside him on the table. At
the stroke of two he was again knocking at his pupils' door. But no
answer came. John had gone away somewhere for indefinite hours and the
door was locked. So Oscar wrote: "Called, two p.m.," on a scrap of
envelope, signed his name, and put it through the letter-slit. It
crossed his mind to hunt other pupils for his vacant time, but he
decided against this at once, and returned to his own room. Three
o'clock found him back at the door, knocking scrupulously, The idea of
performing his side of the contract, of tendering his goods and
standing ready at all times to deliver them, was in his commercially
mature mind. This time he had brought a neat piece of paper with him,
and wrote upon it, "Called, three P.M.," and signed it as before, and
departed to his room with a sense of fulfilled obligations.
Bertie and Billy had lunched at Mattapan quite happily on cold ham,
cold pie, and doughnuts. Mattapan, not being accustomed to such lilies
of the field, stared at their clothes and general glory, but observed
that they could eat the native bill-of-fare as well as anybody. They
found some good, cool beer, moreover, and spoke to several people of
the Bird-in-Hand, and got several answers: for instance, that the
Bird-in-Hand was at Hingham; that it was at Nantasket; that they had
better inquire for it at South Braintree; that they had passed it a
mile back; and that there was no such place. If you would gauge the
intelligence of our population, inquire your way in a rural
neighborhood. With these directions they took up their journey after
an hour and a half,--a halt made chiefly for the benefit of the black
gelding, whom they looked after as much as they did themselves. For a
while they discussed club matters seriously, as both of them were
officers of certain organizations, chosen so on account of their
recognized executive gifts. These questions settled, they resumed the
lighter theme of philosophy, and made it (as Billy observed) a near
thing for the Causal law. But as they drove along, their minds left
this topic on the abrupt discovery that the sun was getting down out
of the sky, and they asked each other where they were and what they
should do. They pulled up at some cross-roads and debated this with
growing uneasiness. Behind them lay the way to Cambridge, - not very
clear, to be sure; but you could always go where you had come from,
Billy seemed to think. He asked, "How about Cambridge and a little
Oscar to finish off with?" Bertie frowned. This would be failure. Was
Billy willing to go back and face John the successful?
"It would only cost me five dollars," said Billy.
"Ten," Bertie corrected. He recalled to Billy the matter about the
"By Jove, that's so!" cried Billy, brightening. It seemed
conclusive. But he grew cloudy again the next moment. He was of
opinion that one could go too far in a thing.
"Where's your sand?" said Bertie.
Billy made an unseemly rejoinder, but even in the making was
visited by inspiration. He saw the whole thing as it really was. "By
Jove!" said he, "we couldn't get back in time for dinner."
"There's my bonny boy!" said Bertie, with pride; and he touched up
the black gelding. Uneasiness had left both of them. Cambridge was
manifestly impossible; an error in judgment; food compelled them to
seek the Bird-in-Hand. "We'll try Quincy, anyhow," Bertie said. Billy
suggested that they inquire of people on the road. This provided a new
sporting event: they could bet upon the answers. Now, the roads, not
populous at noon, had grown solitary in the sweetness of the long
twilight. Voices of birds there were; and little, black, quick brooks,
full to the margin grass, shot under the roadway through low bridges.
Through the web of young foliage the sky shone saffron, and frogs
piped in the meadow swamps. No cart or carriage appeared, however, and
the bets languished. Bertie, driving with one hand, was buttoning his
coat with the other, when the black gelding leaped from the middle of
the road to the turf and took to backing. The buggy reeled; but the
driver was skilful, and fifteen seconds of whip and presence of mind
brought it out smoothly. Then the cause of all this spoke to them from
"Come as near spillin' as you boys wanted, I guess," remarked the
They looked, and saw him in huge white shirt-sleeves, shaking with
joviality. "If you kep' at it long enough you might a-most learn to
drive a horse," he continued, eying Bertie. This came as near direct
praise as the true son of our soil--Northern or Southern--often thinks
well of. Bertie was pleased, but made a modest observation, and "Are
we near the tavern?" he asked. "Bird-in-Hand!" the son of the soil
echoed ; and he contemplated them from his gate. That's me," he
stated, with complacence. "Bill Diggs of the Bird-in-Hand has been me
since April, '65." His massy hair had been yellow, his broad body must
have weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, his face was canny, red,
and somewhat clerical, resembling Henry Ward Beecher's.
"Trout," he said, pointing to a basket by the gate. "For your
dinner. "Then he climbed heavily but skilfully down and picked up the
basket and a rod. "Folks round here say," said he, "that there ain't
no more trout up them meadows. They've been a-sayin' that since '74;
and I've been a-sayin' it myself, when judicious." Here he shook
slightly and opened the basket. "Twelve," he said. "Sixteen yesterday.
Now you go along and turn in the first right-hand turn, and I'll be up
with you soon. Maybe you might make room for the trout." Room for him
as well, they assured him; they were in luck to find him, they
explained. "Well, I guess I'll trust my neck with you," he said to
Bertie, the skillful driver; "'tain't five minutes' risk." The buggy
leaned, and its springs bent as he climbed in, wedging his mature bulk
between their slim shapes. The gelding looked round the shaft at them.
"Protestin', are you?" he said to it. "These light-weight stoodents
spile you!" So the gelding went on, expressing, however, by every line
of its body, a sense of outraged justice. The boys related their
difficult search, and learned that any mention of the name of Diggs
would have brought them straight. "Bill Higgs of the Bird-in-Hand was
my father, and my grandf'ther, and his father; and has been me sence I
come back from the war and took the business in '65. I'm not commonly
to be met out this late. About fifteen minutes earlier is my time for
gettin' back, unless I'm plannin' for a jamboree. But to-night I got
to settin' and watchin' that sunset, and listenin' to a darned
red-winged blackbird, and I guess Mrs. Higgs has decided to expect me
somewheres about noon to-morrow or Friday. Say, did Johnnie send you?
"When he found that John had in a measure been responsible for their
journey, he filled with gayety. "Oh, Johnnie's a bird!" said he. "He's
that demure on first appearance. Walked in last evening and wanted
dinner. Did he tell you what he ate? Guess he left out what he drank.
Yes, he's demure."
You might suppose that upon their landlord's safe and sober return
fifteen minutes late, instead of on the expected noon of Thursday or
Friday, their landlady would show signs of pleasure; but Mrs. Diggs
from the porch threw an uncordial eye at the three arriving in the
buggy. Here were two more like Johnnie of last night. She knew them by
the clothes they wore and by the confidential tones of her husband's
voice as he chatted to them. He had been old enough to know better for
twenty years. But for twenty years he had taken the same extreme joy
in the company of Johnnies, and they were bad for his health. Her
final proof that they belonged to this hated breed was when Mr. Diggs
thumped the trout down on the porch, and after briefly remarking,
"Half of 'em boiled, and half broiled with bacon," himself led away
the gelding to the stable instead of intrusting it to his man Silas.
"You may set in the parlor," said Mrs. Diggs, and departed stiffly
with the basket of trout.
"It's false," said Billy, at once.
Bertie did not grasp his thought.
"Her hair," said Billy. And certainly it was an unusual-looking
Presently, as they sat near a parlor organ in the presence of
earnest family portraits, Bertie made a new poem for Billy,--
"Said Aristotle unto Plato, 'Have another sweet potato? '" And
Billy responded, -
"Said Plato unto Aristotle, 'Thank you, I prefer the bottle.'"
"In here, are you?" said their beaming host at the door. "Now, I
think you'd find my department of the premises cosier, so to speak."
He nudged Bertie. "Do you boys guess it's too early in the season for
We must not wholly forget Oscar in Cambridge. During the afternoon
he had not failed in his punctuality; two more neat witnesses to this
lay on the door-mat beneath the letter-slit of Billy's room, And at
the appointed hour after dinner a third joined them, making five. John
found these cards when he came home to go to bed, and picked them up
and stuck them ornamentally in Billy's looking-glass, as a greeting
when Billy should return, The eight o'clock visit was the last that
Oscar paid to the locked door, He remained through the evening in his
own room, studious, contented, unventilated, indulging in his thick
notes, and also in the thought of Billy's and Bertie's eleventh-hour
scholarship, " Even with another day," he told himself, "those young
men could not have got fifty per cent," In those times this was the
passing mark. To-day I believe you get an A, or a B, or some other
letter denoting your rank. In due time Oscar turned out his gas and
got into his bed ; and the clocks of Massachusetts struck midnight.
Mrs. Diggs of the Bird-in-Hand had retired at eleven, furious with
rage, but firm in dignity in spite of a sudden misadventure. Her hair,
being the subject of a sporting event, had remained steadily fixed in
Billy's mind,--steadily fixed throughout an entertainment which began
at an early hour to assume the features of a celebration. One
silver-fizz before dinner is nothing; but dinner did not come at once,
and the boys were thirsty. The hair of Mrs. Diggs had caught Billy's
eye again immediately upon her entrance to inform them that the meal
was ready ; and whenever she reentered with a new course from the
kitchen, Billy's eye wandered back to it, although Mr. Diggs had
become full of anecdotes about the Civil War. It was partly Grecian: a
knot stood out behind to a considerable distance. But this was not the
whole plan. From front to back ran a parting, clear and severe, and
curls fell from this to the temples in a manner called, I believe, by
the enlightened, a l'Anne d'Autriche. The color was gray, to be sure;
but this propriety did not save the structure from Billy's increasing
observation. As bottles came to stand on the table in greater numbers,
the closer and the more solemnly did Billy continue to follow the
movements of Mrs. Diggs. They would without doubt have noticed him and
his foreboding gravity but for Mr. Diggs's experiences in the Civil
The repast was finished--so far as eating went. Mrs. Diggs with
changeless dudgeon was removing and washing the dishes. At the
revellers' elbows stood the 1820 port in its fine, fat, old, dingy
bottle, going pretty fast. Mr. Diggs was nearing the end of Antietam."
That morning of the 18th, while McClellan was holdin' us squattin' and
cussin'," he was saying to Bertie, when some sort of shuffling sound
in the corner caught their attention. We can never know how it
happened. Billy ought to know, but does not, and Mrs. Diggs allowed no
subsequent reference to the casualty. But there she stood with her
entire hair at right angles. The Grecian knot extended above her left
ear, and her nose stuck through one set of Anne d'Autriche. Beside her
Billy stood, solemn as a stone, yet with a sort of relief glazed upon
Mr. Diggs sat straight up at the vision of his spouse. "Flouncing
Florence!" was his exclamation. "Gee-whittaker, Mary, if you ain't the
most unmitigated sight!" And wind then left him.
Mary's reply arrived in tones like a hornet stinging slowly and
often. "Mr. Diggs, I have put up with many things, and am expecting to
put up with many more. But you'd behave better if you consorted with
The door slammed and she was gone. Not a word to either of the
boys, not even any notice of them. It was thorough, and silence
consequently held them for a moment.
"He didn't mean anything," said Bertie, growing partially
"Didn't mean anything," repeated Billy, like a lesson.
"I'll take him and he'll apologize," Bertie pursued, walking over
"He'll apologize," went Billy, like a cheerful piece of mechanism.
Responsibility was still quite distant from him.
Mr. Diggs got his wind back. "Better not," he advised in something
near a whisper. "Better not go after her. Her father was a fightin'
preacher, and she's--well, begosh! she's a chip of the old pulpit."
And he rolled his eye towards the door. Another door slammed somewhere
above, and they gazed at each other, did Bertie and Mr. Diggs. Then
Mr. Diggs, still gazing at Bertie, beckoned to him with a speaking eye
and a crooked finger; and as he beckoned, Bertie approached like a
conspirator and sat down close to him. "Begosh!" whispered Mr. Diggs.
"Unmitigated." And at this he and Bertie laid their heads down on the
table and rolled about in spasms.
Billy from his corner seemed to become aware of them, With his eye
fixed upon them like a statue, he came across the room, and, sitting
down near them with formal politeness, observed, "Was you ever to the
battle of Antietam?" This sent them beyond the limit; and they rocked
their heads on the table and wept as if they would expire.
Thus the three remained, during what space of time is not known:
the two upon the table, convalescent with relapses, and Billy like a
seated idol, unrelaxed at his vigil. The party was seen through the
windows by Silas, coming from the stable to inquire if the gelding
should not be harnessed. Silas leaned his face to the pane, and envy
spoke plainly in it. "O my! O my!" he mentioned aloud to himself. So
we have the whole household: Mrs. Diggs reposing scornfully in an
upper chamber; all parts of the tavern darkened, save the one lighted
room; the three inside that among their bottles, with the one outside
looking covetously in at them; and the gelding stamping in the stable.
But Silas, since he could not share, was presently of opinion that
this was enough for one sitting, and he tramped heavily upon the
porch. This brought Bertie back to the world of reality, and word was
given to fetch the gelding. The host was in no mood to part with them,
and spoke of comfortable beds and breakfast as early as they liked;
but Bertie had become entirely responsible. Billy was helped in, Silas
was liberally thanked, and they drove away beneath the stars, leaving
behind them golden opinions, and a host who decided not to disturb his
helpmate by retiring to rest in their conjugal bed.
Bertie had forgotten, but the playful gelding had not. When they
came abreast of that gate where Diggs of the Bird-in-Hand had met them
at sunset, Bertie was only aware that a number of things had happened
at once, and that he had stopped the horse after about twenty yards of
battle. Pride filled him, but emptied away in the same instant, for a
voice on the road behind him spoke inquiringly through the darkness.
"Did any one fall out?" said the voice. "Who fell out?"
"Billy!" shrieked Bertie, cold all over. "Billy, are you hurt "
"Did Billy fall out?" said the voice, with plaintive cadence. "Poor
"He can't be," muttered Bertie. "Are you?" he loudly repeated.
There was no answer: but steps came along the road as Bertie
checked and pacified the gelding. Then Billy appeared by the wheel.
"Poor Billy fell out," he said mildly. He held something up, which
Bertie took. It had been Billy's straw hat, now a brimless fabric of
ruin. Except for smirches and one inexpressible rent which dawn
revealed to Bertie a little later, there were no further injuries, and
Billy got in and took his seat quite competently.
Bertie drove the gelding with a firm hand after this. They passed
through the cool of the unseen meadow swamps, and heard the sound of
the hollow bridges as they crossed them, and now and then the gulp of
some pouring brook. They went by the few lights of Mattapan, seeing
from some points on their way the beacons of the harbor, and again the
curving line of lamps that drew the outline of some village built upon
a hill. Dawn showed them Jamaica Pond, smooth and breezeless, and
encircled with green skeins of foliage, delicate and new. Here
multitudinous birds were chirping their tiny, overwhelming chorus.
When at length, across the flat suburban spaces, they again sighted
Memorial tower, small in the distance, the sun was lighting it.
Confronted by this, thoughts of hitherto banished care, and of the
morrow that was now to-day, and of Philosophy 4 coming in a very few
hours, might naturally have arisen and darkened the end of their
pleasant excursion. Not so, however. Memorial tower suggested another
line of argument. It was Billy who spoke, as his eyes first rested
upon that eminent pinnacle of Academe.
"Well, John owes me five dollars."
"Ten, you mean."
"Why, her hair. And it was easily worth twenty."
Billy turned his head and looked suspiciously at Bertie. "What did
I do?" he asked.
"Do! Don't you know?"
Billy in all truth did not,
"Phew!" went Bertie. "Well, I don't, either. Didn't see it. Saw the
consequences, though. Don't you remember being ready to apologize?
What do you remember, anyhow?"
Billy consulted his recollections with care: they seemed to break
off at the champagne. That was early. Bertie was astonished. Did not
Billy remember singing "Brace up and dress the Countess," and "A noble
lord the Earl of Leicester"? He had sung them quite in his usual
manner, conversing freely between whiles. In fact, to see and hear
him, no one would have suspected-- "It must have been that extra
silver-fizz you took before dinner," said Bertie. "Yes," said Billy;"
that's what it must have been." Bertie supplied the gap in his
memory,--a matter of several hours, it seemed. During most of this
time Billy had met the demands of each moment quite like his usual
agreeable self--a sleep-walking state. It was only when the hair
incident was reached that his conduct had noticeably crossed the line.
He listened to all this with interest intense.
"John does owe me ten, I think," said he.
"I say so," declared Bertie. "When do you begin to remember again?"
"After I got in again at the gate. Why did I get out?"
"You fell out, man."
Billy was incredulous.
"You did. You tore your clothes wide open."
Billy, looking at his trousers, did not see it.
"Rise, and I'll show you," said Bertie.
"Goodness gracious!" said Billy.
Thus discoursing, they reached Harvard Square. Not your Harvard
Square, gentle reader, that place populous with careless youths and
careful maidens and reticent persons with books, but one of sleeping
windows and clear, cool air and few sounds; a Harvard Square of
emptiness and conspicuous sparrows and milk wagons and early
street-car conductors in long coats going to their breakfast; and over
all this the sweetness of the arching elms.
As the gelding turned down toward Pike's, the thin old church clock
struck. "Always sounds," said Billy, "like cambric tea."
"Cambridge tea," said Bertie.
"Walk close behind me," said Billy, as they came away from the
livery stable. "Then they won't see the hole."
Bertie did so; but the hole was seen by the street-car conductors
and the milkmen, and these sympathetic hearts smiled at the sight of
the marching boys, and loved them without knowing any more of them
than this. They reached their building and separated.
One hour later they met. Shaving and a cold bath and summer
flannels, not only clean but beautiful, invested them with the radiant
innocence of flowers. It was still too early for their regular
breakfast, and they sat down to eggs and coffee at the Holly Tree.
"I waked John up," said Billy." He is satisfied."
"Let's have another order," said Bertie. "These eggs are
delicious." Each of them accordingly ate four eggs and drank two cups
"Oscar called five times," said Billy; and he threw down those
cards which Oscar had so neatly written.
"There's multiplicity of the ego for you!" said Bertie.
Now, inspiration is a strange thing, and less obedient even than
love to the will of man. It will decline to come when you prepare for
it with the loftiest intentions, and, lo! at an accidental word it
will suddenly fill you, as at this moment it filled Billy.
"By gum!" said he, laying his fork down. "Multiplicity of the ego.
Look here. I fall out of a buggy and ask--"
"By gum!" said Bertie, now also visited by inspiration.
"Don't you see?" said Billy.
"I see a whole lot more," said Bertie, with excitement. "I had to
tell you about your singing." And the two burst into a flare of talk.
To hear such words as cognition, attention, retention, entity, and
identity, freely mingled with such other words as silver-fizz and
false hair, brought John, the egg-and-coffee man, as near surprise as
his impregnable nature permitted. Thus they finished their large
breakfast, and hastened to their notes for a last good bout at
memorizing Epicharmos of Kos and his various brethren. The appointed
hour found them crossing the college yard toward a door inside which
Philosophy 4 awaited them: three hours of written examination! But
they looked more roseate and healthy than most of the anxious band
whose steps were converging to that same gate of judgment. Oscar,
meeting them on the way, gave them his deferential "Good morning," and
trusted that the gentlemen felt easy. Quite so, they told him, and
bade him feel easy about his pay, for which they were, of course,
responsible. Oscar wished them good luck and watched them go to their
desks with his Iittle eyes, smiling in his particular manner. Then he
dismissed them from his mind, and sat with a faint remnant of his
smile, fluently writing his perfectly accurate answer to the first
question upon the examination paper.
Here is that paper. You will not be able to answer all the
questions, probably, but you may be glad to know what such things are
1. Thales, Zeno, Parmenides, Heracleitos, Anaxagoras. State briefly
the doctrine of each.
2. Phenomenon, noumenon. Discuss these terms. Name their modern
3. Thought=Being. Assuming this, state the difference, if any,
between (1) memory and anticipation; (2) sleep and waking.
4. Democritus, Pythagoras, Bacon. State the relation between them.
In what terms must the objective world ultimately be stated? Why?
5. Experience is the result of time and space being included in the
nature of mind. Discuss this.
6. Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensibus. Whose
doctrine? Discuss it.
7. What is the inherent limitation in all ancient philosophy? Who
first removed it?
8. Mind is expressed through what? Matter through what? Is speech
the result or the cause of thought?
9. Discuss the nature of the ego.
10. According to Plato, Locke,ÊBerkeley, where would the sweetness
of a honeycomb reside? Where would its shape? its weight? Where do you
think these properties reside?
Ten questions, and no Epicharmos of Kos. But no examination paper
asks everything, and this one did ask a good deal. Bertie and Billy
wrote the full time allotted, and found that they could have filled an
hour more without coming to the end of their thoughts. Comparing notes
at lunch, their information was discovered to have been lacking here
and there. Nevertheless, it was no failure; their inner convictions
were sure of fifty per cent at least, and this was all they asked of
the gods. "I was ripping about the ego," said Bertie. "I was rather
splendid myself," said Billy, "when I got going. And I gave him a huge
steer about memory." After lunch both retired to their beds and fell
into sweet oblivion until seven o'clock, when they rose and dined, and
after playing a little poker went to bed again pretty early.
Some six mornings later, when the Professor returned their papers
to them, their minds were washed almost as clear of Plato and Thales
as were their bodies of yesterday's dust. The dates and doctrines,
hastily memorized to rattle off upon the great occasion, lay only upon
the surface of their minds, and after use they quickly evaporated. To
their pleasure and most genuine astonishment, the Professor paid them
high compliments. Bertie's discussion of the double personality had
been the most intelligent which had come in from any of the class. The
illustration of the intoxicated hack-driver who had fallen from his
hack and inquired who it was that had fallen, and then had pitied
himself, was, said the Professor, as original and perfect an
illustration of our subjective-objectivity as he had met with in all
his researches. And Billy's suggestions concerning the inherency of
time and space in the mind the Professor had also found very striking
and independent, particularly his reasoning based upon the well-known
distortions of time and space which hashish and other drugs produce in
us. This was the sort of thing which the Professor had wanted from his
students: free comment and discussions, the spirit of the course,
rather than any strict adherence to the letter. He had constructed his
questions to elicit as much individual discussion as possible and had
been somewhat disappointed in his hopes.
Yes, Bertie and Billy were astonished. But their astonishment did
not equal that of Oscar, who had answered many of the questions in the
Professor's own language. Oscar received seventy-five per cent for
this achievement--a good mark. But Billy's mark was eighty-six and
Bertie's ninety. "There is some mistake," said Oscar to them when they
told him ; and he hastened to the Professor with his tale. "There is
no mistake," said the Professor. Oscar smiled with increased
deference. "But," he urged, "I assure you, sir, those young men knew
absolutely nothing. I was their tutor, and they knew nothing at all. I
taught them all their information myself." "In that case," replied the
Professor, not pleased with Oscar's tale-bearing, "you must have given
them more than you could spare. Good morning."
Oscar never understood. But he graduated considerably higher than
Bertie and Billy, who were not able to discover many other courses so
favorable to "orriginal rresearch" as was Philosophy 4. That is twenty
years ago, To-day Bertie is treasurer of the New Amsterdam Trust
Company, in Wall Street; Billy is superintendent of passenger traffic
of the New York and Chicago Air Line. Oscar is successful too. He has
acquired a lot of information. His smile is unchanged. He has
published a careful work entitled "The Minor Poets of Cinquecento,"
and he writes book reviews for the Evening Post.
OWEN WISTER was born in Philadelphia, July 14, 1860. He is the
fourth generation of his family in direct descent that has occupied
itself with literature, both prose and verse. Among his forbears were
members of the famous Kemble family of actors, to which belonged Mrs.
Siddons, and her gifted nieces Adelaide Kemble (Mrs. Sartoris, singer,
and author of "A Week in a French Country House") and Fanny Kemble,
actress and writer, who was Mr. Wister's grandmother.
In 1892 he abandoned his chosen profession, the law, and began to
devote himself steadily to imaginative writing, which had already for
some years previous to this occupied him from time to time. His first
literary production was entitled " Down in a Diving Bell," and was
published in the boys' paper at St. Paul's School, when he was
thirteen years old. His first contribution to a standard magazine
appeared in the Atlantic Monthly when he was twenty-one, before his
graduation from Harvard, and was a poem addressed to Beethoven. His
latest published writing is a story entitled 'How the Energy was
Conserved," in Collier's Weekly, February 21, 1903. Mr. Wister's
published volumes are : "'the Dragon of Wantley," 1892; "Red Men and
White," 1895; "Lin McLean," 1891; "Ulysses S. Grant," 1900; " The
Jimmyjohn Boss," 1900; " The Virginian," 1902.
The reception of his latest book has been increasingly
enthusiastic. The Nation says:--
"The dramatic thrill in it is very quick, and the outcome so
satisfactory that one realizes an immense fear of disappointment. 'The
Virginian' is one of the most popular books of the season; it deserves
to endure through many seasons."
A large part of the appeal which his books make lies in their
absolute truth to the life which he studied so thoroughly, making
fifteen separate journeys to the Western country within ten years. As
all the critics say of his nameless hero :--
"'The Virginian' is a 'sure enough' man."
Mr. Hamblen Sears, reviewing " The Virginian" at length in the The
Book Buyer, says that this is
"fiction of the sort we want. It tells us of the real man of
America in such a human, such an accurate way that we keep on saying,
'I've seen that a dozen times,' when not one of us would ever know he
had seen it unless a Wister had set it down."
But almost equally strong is the charm of their perfect
wholesomeness; along with the heartache of wide spaces, it is true,
comes the grim tragedy of primitive life before the law reached the
plains, but through it all is felt the sweep of Western winds, and
sunny, exhilarating fresh air which, so the Boston Transcript
"ought to help the consumptive nearly as much as to breathe the
real air of the real country."
"To read this book is an unalloyed delight. It carries you along
with a rush and a sweep, and at the final page you lay it dawn feeling
full of the best brand of Western ozone, and almost sunburnt from
perusing it."--New York Sun.
"It is in humor--spontaneous, genuine, contagious humor--that the
book especially excels. Passages that provoke hearty laughter are
many, but that is a detail beside the main point, that this humor is
of the essence of American life, that it springs naturally from the
situation, and because it is the real thing it is funny as often as
you come across it."--Boston Herald.
Yet there is far more to the book than jest or tragedy, or even its
convincing picturesqueness, and pride of youth and strength.
"It is a love story which constitutes its burden, but it is the
quaintest lovemaking--exquisite in its humanity, its insight, its
humor, its fidelity to truth." --Brooklyn Eagle.
"It is a very human, very tantalizing love story."--Boston
In England as in his own country, "The Virginian" has proved "very
human, very satisfying." The well-known critic, Mr. W. D. Courtney,
made it the text for a long and remarkably appreciative article on the
recent advance in American fiction. And "it is books like Mr. Wister's
that make the true American," says the Chicago Tribune.
"It is one of the best romances of the West in American literature,
and by far the most striking picture of a genuine cowboy that has yet
been painted."--San Francisco Chronicle.