The Autobiography of a Southerner Since the Civil War

IV

TO “THE BITTER NORTH”

THE mill not only ran, but by this time it had, under my brother’s good management, been enlarged. I could have gone to Harvard College without my grandfather’s aid. In fact, I did not receive his aid, because of an event that he had not reckoned so near at hand as it was; but I should surely not have gone but for his suggestion.

It seemed wonderful to me then, and it seems even more wonderful now, that my grandfather should have selected Harvard College. “My heavens, man! ” said Tom Warren, when he heard of it, “the very hotbed of unbelief and old abolitionism!”

But my grandfather’s mind moved in a large orbit. He could have known nothing about Harvard College. He had not been to any college himself, and he was not a man of liberal education, — perhaps I should say of formal education. But he had, within his own lifetime, seen the circle of national thought and discussion become narrower and narrower, and finally come to be a mere point, and that point was slavery; and then the horrors of war came on. His reasoning was that men had become narrower because they had seen but one side of the controversy. He wished me to look at the country and at life from a point of view as far removed as possible from the one I had hitherto had. His idea, more or less vague, was that such an experience would broaden my vision. His large common sense was shown in many another judgment that he made. Moreover, he did not even know the bitterness and the suspicion that the war had aroused. He regarded it merely as a huge mistake; for the main current of his thought had taken its course before it came on.

It was only a week later when a messenger brought the news that he was dead. Old Ephraim must tell the story.

“I com’ out er de li’l room, same as I do ev’ry mornin’; an’ I mek a li’l fire in de fireplace, an’ I whets de razzor an’ gits de warm water ready. Den I look roun’ at de big bed, and ol’ mars’ lay dere jes’ as still as a chile. Mighty quare. He don’ usual sleep dat a way dis time er de mornin’. Den I stole close ter de bed, an ’ ’fore God! What did I see?

“Miss Mandy, she knock sof’ on de do’ an’ she say, ‘Unc’ Ephum, is father ’sleep yit?’

“When she see me lookin’ at him in de bed, den she say, ‘Father!’

“But ol’ mars’ never answer,

“ ‘ Dead ’ — she says.

“ ‘ Ol’ mars’er done gone home,’ I says, — ‘done gone home, sleepin’ jes’ lak a chile in de big bed, an’ lef’ his ol’ sarvant behin’.’ ”

When he was buried in the garden the next day, and the company had come back from the grave, old Ephraim remained standing in an attitude of prayer. I went back, took the old man by the arm, and led him into the house. “Ol’ mars’ done gone an’ lef’ his ol’ sarvant behin’.” My aunt had him drink a glass that she had herself prepared for him; and he sat long in my grandfather’s room, saying to himself, “Did n’t say nothin’, — jes’ went ter sleep same as a chile. Ol’ mars’er’s gone.”

My widowed aunt, — widowed by war, — who had kept my grandfather’s house, soon went to make her home elsewhere. When the estate was settled up by my brother, there was little of value left. My aunt inherited the house, but it had gone far toward decay. In fact, the whole plantation had outlived its natural life. The organization, such as it was, hung together till the master died. Then it fell to pieces. But my grandfather had left a piece of land to Ephraim; and, when my aunt went away, the old man went to live in the old house of his old master, to care for it.

The last year of my college life in the South was not eventful. I find it difficult to recall any incidents worthy of mention. In fact, that whole period was remote from the life of the time and from my own life afterwards. I learned to read Latin and Greek somewhat more easily, I think, than the average college boy of that day or of this. But that is all that I learned from the college work proper. This instruction might have been given anywhere, at any time during the last thousand years or more. It had as little to do with modern thought, and as little to do with the time and country that I lived in, as instruction given by teachers in the Middle Ages. It was only the literary society that touched modern or American life at all. We debated patriotic subjects, and we learned, in a way, the ready use of speech. I have never been quite sure, however, whether this strenuous debating exercise did harm or good. I fear it did harm to more boys than it helped.

For the Southern youth of that time in particular had what I shall call the oratorical habit of mind. He thought in rotund, even grandiose, phrases. Rousing speech was more to be desired than accuracy of statement. An exaggerated manner and a tendency to sweeping generalizations were the results. You can now trace this quality in the mind and in the speech of the great majority of Southern men, especially men in public life. We call it the undue development of their emotional nature. It is also the result of a lack of any exact training, — of a system that was mediæval. Every man that I can recall who was with me at college, and who escaped the oratorical habit of mind, studied afterwards at some other institution. Some of them went abroad, — a half dozen, perhaps. All the rest are to this day fluent and inaccurate, given to fine periods and loose generalizations.

It was definitely decided that I should go to Harvard College, but there was some criticism of such a decision among my friends. My mother had a silent misgiving: it would probably put an end to her hope that I would yet enter the pulpit; but it was not clear what my career would be. Tom Warren and the young fellows that I knew in town looked upon it as a wild scheme, tinged with a sort of treason. My aunt Margaret had this feeling, too. “Far away from your kinspeople and from everybody that knows you,” she would say; “what’s the use in going so far?” Among my academic acquaintances the natural thing to do would have been to go to a German university; for the movement in that direction was then just coming into fashion.

The “Old Place” had already ceased to have much interest for most of the family. Uncle Ephraim and his wife, Aunt Martha, lived in the old “big house,” now sadly gone to decay, and they kept the “new” part of the house for the white folks, if they should ever come to use it. With them lived a very light mulatto girl, who was a sort of adopted daughter of Aunt Martha. The other negroes on the place lived as they had lived in my grandfather’s lifetime, — in the cabins. Uncle Ephraim, old as he was, showed a masterful spirit. The place had lost a white master and had gained a black one. The negroes worked parts of the old plantation “on shares,”and they found Ephraim a hard taskmaster. The old man was thrifty, — they called him stingy. By this thrift, and by the depreciation in the value of the land, he gradually bought most of the plantation. The neighborhood decayed. It seemed as if my grandfather had been for years the only prop to its falling value. The city was extending itself in that direction, but chiefly by additions to its colored population. It was on the “Egypt” side of town, given over to negro residents. In the fall the young men of the city used to go there to shoot quail; but few other white people now visited the place.

Just before I went to Harvard I paid Uncle Ephraim a visit. Aunt Martha prepared an elaborate dinner for me, and she and Uncle Ephraim served it in the parlor, in the “new” house, talking incessantly of old times. All this side of my experience, too, was as remote from contemporary life as if I had lived a generation earlier. These old people called me “Mars’ Nick.” They were family slaves yet, — to me. Who the negroes in town were, or what they did, it did not occur to me to inquire or to observe. Nobody seemed to inquire or to observe. My mother had had much trouble in securing good servants, — that was all that was heard about the whole colored population, except in political circles; and I did not yet move in political circles.

I did not know the history of my own country, except in a set of grandiose political phrases; I did not know its economic or social condition; I had not read a dozen books of American literature. Poe was the only one of our poets who was regarded seriously in my circle of acquaintance. I had read widely and loosely about in English literature; and I knew the Greek writers better than I knew the American writers. If I had come out of a monastery, I should hardly have been a greater stranger to American life than I was the day I went to Cambridge. But my grandfather’s suggestion had caused me to think of my ignorance of our own history. I had already begun to realize that there was something colossal and elemental in that old man, who was a link between me and an epoch that closed before I was born. Somehow I owed the suggestion to him that I had now had experience enough with the mediæval world. It was, then, such studies as history and economics to which I should now give my time.

I found it hard to feel at home at Harvard. In fact, I did not feel at home. Everybody with whom I had to do was polite,— it seemed to me studiously and self-consciously polite; but I made no real acquaintances. My speech was noticeably Southern, — perhaps that was a barrier. Naturally shy, too, I was not tactful, I dare say, in making advances. Whatever was the matter, I encountered a reserve that was discouraging. Often it seemed to me that I was regarded with suspicion, — certainly only with polite toleration.

Some time before this there had been a Southern loafer at Harvard, a young dandy who made himself conspicuous by his manner and his dress. He brought letters with him to several persons of social prominence, and he had done the scandalous thing of making love to half a dozen young women during the winter. He had not paid his debts, either, — in a word, he had left a bad reputation. I heard the story of his conduct, and I was — or I imagined that I was — a victim of the suspicion that he had aroused about Southern students.

But it was this fellow’s career that at last brought me my best friend. At the table where I ate I had met a young New Englander, whose frank and hearty manner I greatly admired. We had something more than a formal acquaintance; but he, too, when we were alone, showed what seemed to me a studied reserve.

One day in my absence (I heard this story only after we had left college) the conversation at the table turned on me. Somebody recalled the self-conscious young fellow who had brought all Southerners under suspicion; and somebody else maintained that Southerners were all alike. I was a quieter sort of fellow, they agreed, — but wait and see. I’d make a fool of myself yet. Then my friend, Cooley, came to my rescue. “ I tell you, boys, he’s the real thing, — genuine. You do the man an injustice, — a nice fellow. He speaks his Southern lingo, but he’s square.”

I noticed that Cooley came nearer to me. There was never a human being who suffered an injustice within his reach to whom he did not come near. We soon became really acquainted. He asked me to dine at his home in Boston on Sunday and to meet his mother. By his good offices I became better acquainted with many men, and at the beginning of my second year (I was a senior then) I was elected to one of the most desirable college clubs. My gift of oratory, too, had won me on one or two occasions some little distinction. Thus, during my second year, I was as much at home as during the greater part of my first year I had been a merely tolerated stranger. My grandfather had been right. He had seen wisely, by that large intuition which great minds have to guide them, that a man who lived under a blanket of provincialism was not likely to breathe freely.

V

THE COLONEL AND THE GHOST

The Cooleys, who were my most influential friends in Boston, were Unitarians; and through them I met some of the leaders of that religious society. There must have been something in my temperament or in my manner at that period of my life to suggest a preacher; for they, too, without any active encouragement by me, conceived the notion that I might take the pulpit as my career. I was grateful to these people for demonstrating to me that men and women may be “good,” may even be religious, without accepting the old orthodox creeds; for during all my Southern life I had been assured that this could not be, and the matter had till now worried me much. And I showed my gratitude, I hope. No doubt this was the reason why the notion got current among my Boston friends that I might go into the pulpit.

One day I was told by an influential Unitarian preacher that a society in Kansas wanted a pastor. If I would consent to go, he would heartily commend me. I would find that a good place to begin work, he was sure. I was surprised, almost shocked. I had not seriously entertained the idea of becoming a preacher. What would my mother think if I became a Unitarian P But a larger question came up. If not this, what? To “give my life to the service of my country” — how, pray? My country showed no eagerness for my service. I had supposed that, of course, I should return to my Southern home. But what would there be to do there ? My brother had become a more and more capable manager of the mill. I had no fondness for the law, and except through the law there seemed to be no chance to enter public life. Worse yet, if I were frank, and freely made known my opinions, I should not find political favor in my state. During the weeks that I pondered on the situation, the more or less definite outlook in Kansas began to seem at least less absurd.

Finally I said that I would go and see the people, if I could go with a perfectly frank understanding. They were to know that I had not fully made up my mind to become a preacher; but I should like to consider the subject “on the ground.” My advisers — or their advisers — did not quite like this noncommittal mood; but in reply they said, with some humor, that they also would remain noncommittal.

Surely it was an extraordinary errand. I wrote to my mother and brother that I should spend a month or two in the West before I went home; and I started to Kansas. It was a pleasant prairie town to which I went. The society was a small one, but it was active. It showed a mood of boastfulness. It was very self-conscious, and sometimes belligerent. The most active members were women, and they seemed to me to keep their minds in an improper state of exposure. They read “advanced” books, books of more or less aggressive controversy; and they read more than they digested. Their conversation sounded like extracts from books on the freedom of thought and the freedom of most other things. It was a raw intellectual society.

In certain moods one enjoys this attitude toward life; but it soon became tiresome to me. The only part of the mind that seemed active was its nerves. Repose ? There was no repose in Kansas then. It was a clash of moods, of temperaments, of backgrounds; everything was seen in a shimmer. The parents of these Kansans had left New England and gone to Ohio and Illinois to get more room for their minds and bodies. This generation had gone on to Kansas to get still more room for mind and body; and they were nervous lest somebody should suspect that they were not “free.” I stayed there a fortnight. Then I visited two of the great growing cities of the Middle West. Then I went home, and the dream of the Unitarian pulpit, if it had been a dream, vanished. In a little while, in the midst of Southern Methodist and Episcopalian circles, it became an unthinkable enterprise.

As the summer wore away, the old question became a serious one, — how I should serve my country. The editor of the principal newspaper at the state capital invited me to write for him; and I did. But, since he was a censor of the opinions of all who wrote, and since also it did not seem to enter his mind to pay for my contributions, I could not do this work with great enthusiasm.

One day there came to see my brother a man who owned a cotton mill in one of the towns in the state that had begun an era of prosperity and boastfulness. He told me that they had the best public school system in the South. They had just built new schoolhouses; they were going to have a high school; they hoped even to persuade the trustees of one of the religious colleges to move the college there. “We’re in for the best of everything.” Why should n’t I go home with him and look over the ground ? It might be that I was the very man they were in need of for superintendent.

I went; and for a term I taught in the “graded school,” as they called it. It both interested me and bored me, and I did not yet know whether I had found merely a job or a career. At the end of the first term the man who had served as superintendent of the schools of the town had proved a failure. He resigned, and I was elected to the place. And now my work began in earnest.

I knew nothing about pedagogy, and I trusted my common sense to guide me. The schools were not bad; the people had a great enthusiasm about them,— that is, those who believed in public schools at all, for there was a strong minority party of the churches, — and the teachers were very willing. “The old land is waking up,” I said; and I went about my work with satisfaction. The books and the teaching still seemed to me too remote from everyday life; and I compiled two little books that winter, which a local printer brought out. One was a short history of the state, hardly more than a primer. There was then no history of the state suitable to use in the schools. The other was a primer about the products and industries. Both of them were received by the teachers and by the children with delight; and many persons complimented me. Here was a superintendent, they said, worth having: when he did n’t find good tools, he made them.

The negro schools were by no means so good as the schools for white children. The teachers were not so capable, the houses were not so good, nor was the amount spent on them proportionately so great as that spent on the white schools. I took up the problem of the education of the black children, also, with great earnestness. At least once a week I visited their schools. I worked out a plan of what I conceived to be the best training for these people. I made it practical. Most of them came from ill-kept cabins. I told them to keep their homes clean; I told them to keep their bodies clean; I forbade them to come in neglected clothes. I engaged a clever young negro to explain the whole process of planting cotton and growing it and spinning it. He traced the cotton from the seed when it was planted in the field to the back of the Chinaman who wore it as a garment. Some of the negroes of the town severely criticised me for not teaching their children “book-lamin’" to the exclusion of everything else.

Up to this time I had not thought very seriously about the education of the blacks. That they must be trained was, of course, self-evident. To make their schools as good as they could be made seemed an obvious duty. I surely had no theories or delusions about the negro. I applied only common sense and common fairness to the problem. When I heard of the criticism by the negroes of the practical studies that I had introduced into their schools, I called a meeting one night at one of the schoolhouses. It was packed with black men and women. I explained to them — but not at all as a defense of myself — what I was trying to do for their children. I told them that I meant to have their schools as good, in every way, as the schools for white children. My “cotton professor,” as he was called, delivered his lecture to them, with lantern slides, and criticism was turned to gratitude. And so the winter wore on, and I had come to regard my work as “giving my life to the public service” in a very helpful way. For the time I was content, and there were numerous evidences of the pride that many of the people took in my work.

But at the close of the school year, what a surprise awaited me! In the meeting of the school-board, one of its members, old Colonel Stover, who was not thoroughly convinced that there was a constitutional warrant for free schools anyhow, and who regarded the education of the blacks as a revolutionary and perhaps even criminal performance, moved that the board elect a superintendent for the next school year, and he put in nomination a broken-down old preacher who delivered lectures on “ Christian Literature” and “Education without Christ a Sacrilege” at church fairs and such places. This winter he had made a new lecture on “To Educate the Negro is to bring him into Competition with the White Man: Is our Civilization to be Anglo-Saxon or African?”

A part of the board were astounded. Was Mr. Worth not a satisfactory superintendent ? They had heard nothing but praise of him. The schools surely were well conducted. Was it not unjust to dismiss a competent man ? All this the colonel listened to in silence, and with patience. After every man whom he suspected of friendliness to me had spoken, he arose. “ Are you all done, gentlemen ? If you are, I will briefly explain my motion.”

He expressed great personal regard for me, — the sly and “eloquent” old colonel, — the profoundest admiration for my “learning and zeal.” (You would have thought him my beloved guardian.) But our sacred duty to our firesides, — ay, to our very religion,— the sanctity of our homes and the purity of our faith, and our reverence for our brave and noble heroes, —were we to be unmindful of these ? He was loth to criticise a young man of learning and zeal — and of a good family, too; and he had hoped that his motion would prevail without discussion. Some of the gentlemen surely knew the grave reasons for his action. He disliked to make public “charges,” and he insisted that what he said should not be repeated. Then he arraigned me, “not in anger, but in deep sorrow,”—

(1) In the name of our holy religion. I was not a communicant of any church, and I had on one occasion expressed, in the presence of a pious lady, doubt about the divinity of our Blessed Lord.

(2) In the name of our Anglo-Saxon civilization. I would teach “the nigger” just as well as I would teach the white child: I had held public meetings of negroes, and promised as much. I had promised better schoolhouses and more money. I had been taught in a Northern college where (if he was rightly informed) negro students and white students were on an equality; and I had imbibed ideas subversive of our civilization.

(3) In the name of our history and our honored dead. I had written in a book, which was put into the hands of our children, sentiments disrespectful to the Confederacy, for which so many gave their lives. (The sentence to which he referred was one that explained the threat of the governor of the state to secede from the Confederacy — a plain historical fact.)

Burke’s impeachment of Warren Hastings was less formidable than the colonel’s impeachment of me. Against the Church, and the Anglo-Saxon, and the ex-Confederate, and the pious lady, and our Honored Dead, nothing could prevail. I was dismissed — for a failure to reëlect me was, of course, a dismissal; and I had no appeal.

Thus I made my acquaintance real with three elemental forces about me, the existence of which I had hardly known till now. They were the Church, the race question, and the hands of dead men; and they together made the ghost called Public Opinion. Any Colonel, by skillfully invoking these, could then stop any man in a normal, independent career. Many a Southern man has been banished from the land that he loved and would proudly have served by this simple process of invoking these forces against him. You will find such men in almost every state in the Union, — men with the same burning patriotism that we dedicated ourselves to at college, winning success at every calling, and hoping in quiet hours of self-communion that a chance may yet come for them to show the genuineness of their boyhood ambition. The backwardness of the Southern people is to a great degree the result of this forced emigration of many of its young men who would otherwise have been leaders of the people and builders of a broader sentiment.

My dismissal was not published in the newspapers. To withhold news about public business at the request of the dominant Colonels was a familiar custom. But, of course, it was talked about all over the town. Little else was talked about by men or by women. In a few days the news would go by word of mouth all over the state; but it would not be published (“made public,” they called it) till the silent censorship was raised.

Early the next day I received this telegram from my sister:—

“Mother died suddenly at seven o’clock this morning.”

I thanked God at least for this — that she had not heard of it.

VI

THE GENTLE DAUGHTERS OF THE DEAD

A group of men about my own age, in the little capital city, who felt impatience at the inertia of life about them, had come together and called themselves the Sunrise Club. They met to discuss practical ways to quicken the life of the community, at first in a very modest fashion. They made a plan to have the streets kept cleaner. They had old public pumps in the town repaired. They managed to have the rusty iron fence about the capitol painted. They had no thought that they should ever play an important part in the life of the state. But they soon began to talk of larger subjects than little plans for improving the appearance of the town. Though there had been thirty men on the roll of the club, within a year the number of those who were active had dwindled to five. Five men, however, are enough to work a revolution, — as they proved.

After my dismissal as school superintendent had been much talked about, and a good deal of indignation had been expressed in many parts of the state — (always privately, for nothing was published in the newspapers against Colonel Stover’s wish, — I was elected a member of the Sunrise Club and invited to explain at its next meeting my plan of public school education for each race. I had no “plan.” I had simply worked at the task that had come in the course of my duties, and I had tried to apply earnestness and common sense to it.

The atmosphere of the club was congenial, and I told the whole story of my work and of my dismissal. When I said that the Church, our Honored Dead, and the Negro were used to make a ghost of Public Opinion, — this analysis of the conditions about us had the effect of a bugle call. That evening we decided to draw up a plan for the proper education of all the people. We at least got our own minds clear, and we had many meetings to discuss plans of action. We decided to bend our efforts first to the establishment by the state of a technical and agricultural school, where boys should be taught trades and be trained to till the soil with intelligence.

The state Superintendent of Public Instruction was a better man than most men who held that office in the Southern states in those days; and we aroused his interest in our plan. He had little power to help us except by talking. (Talking was the only way by which any one then thought of helping any plan in the South!) But he did talk much, and in his next report he recommended the establishment of such a school. No attention was paid to the recommendation by the public or by the legislature.

The superintendent, however, had procured from the legislature a small fund to pay for the holding of teachers’ institutes; and this work was to be begun that fall. He had only a vague idea of what teachers’ institutes were or ought to be. But they were at that time the fashion in the public-school world; and, if they had teachers’ institutes in other states, we must have them, too. The general notion was that the teachers must be stirred up to better methods and greater zeal. We had but one spoon to stir anything, and that was oratory. The superintendent, then, wanted two traveling educational orators, each to receive one thousand dollars for a year’s work and an allowance of five hundred dollars to pay railroad and stage fares. He offered me one of the appointments. My own education was now about to begin.

I spent much of that summer at the capital. One day when I called at my kinspeoples’, the Densons, where I was not now so much at home as I had been in my boyhood, I found the spacious house full of ladies. The maid told me that it was a meeting of the “Daughters,” — the Daughters of the Confederacy. I heard a voice in oratorical action. I soon recognized it as Colonel Stover’s. As I listened for a few minutes, I reflected that here was a group of the best young women of the town listening reverently to the bawling of that old colonel, who was explaining to them, in an artificial tone, “the heroic conduct of the President (Jefferson Davis), in his forced retirement from Richmond.” Up to this time that journey had not been regarded as a dignified or heroic journey; nor had Mr. Davis generally been regarded in the South as an heroic figure. He had a hard task, which he performed not well, even if not ill; certainly not heroically. But he had now lately died, and the Daughters of the Confederacy were to erect a monument to him at the capital.

I went away from the Densons’ that afternoon without permitting my presence to be known. But that evening I called again. I found my aunt and my cousin alone, and we talked much about the Confederacy and the part that the state had played in “that foolish enterprise,”— my father’s phrase ever stuck in my memory. When I said that General Lee was the one great Southern character revealed by the war, and that Mr. Davis was a sort of mock-heroic figure, my cousin’s eyes became moist and her voice tremulous, and she begged me to desist. I was “drifting far away from our people,” she feared. It was a pity that I had ever gone off—“to the North.”

I begged her pardon and made peace. But I discovered that many things I had done, or was supposed to have done, had offended her. She had heard that I had held “negro meetings,” that I wished to educate the negro and “to put him above the white man,” and that I had scoffed at religion. All these things she had tried long to believe were slanders. But my outspoken opinion of Mr. Davis, while her emotions were yet stirred by Colonel Stover’s eloquence, confirmed her fears. “Dear cousin,” she said, as I bade her good-night, “do not desert us, your own people.”

The Confederacy, — the horrid tragedy of it and the myths that were already growing over it, its heroes, its Colonels, its Daughters — all these were of little concern to me compared with this new revelation that I could not be frank with the women that I most loved. To my mother I had been willing to be silent, at least on one subject; for I owed an affectionate respect to any error that she might cherish. Nor was this hard to give. We had all life in common but this small section of it. Even an implied untruth — an untruth of silence — to her was hardly a tax on my frankness or honesty of mind. Our affection covered more than all conceivable differences of opinion. But this could not be so in my relations with anybody else, without open falsehood. To my aunt and to my cousin, and to all good women like them, I must either be offensive or I must be silent on our history, on the real condition of the Southern people, on the negro, on the church, — on almost all subjects of serious concern. I must suppress myself and live a lie, or I must offend them.

I now understood still better why so many men have gone away from the South. I should have gone myself, I think, but for the engagement that I had made to “stir up” the teachers that winter; for now even Kansas seemed attractive. One could at least talk frankly there about anything under heaven; even to all women. It seemed a world much awry. Where I found freedom I found rawness. Where I found grace I found a servitude of opinion. Surely there must somewhere be freedom with intellectual decorum.

There was in that very capital city (the little town was always called a city) a very great freedom of opinion and of discussion among men. Few men cared what opinion you held about any subject. In men’s society a liberty was granted that was never allowed at the fireside or in public. I could talk in private as I pleased with Colonel Stover himself about Jefferson Davis or about educating the negro. He was tolerant of all private opinions, privately expressed among men only. But the moment that an objectionable opinion was publicly expressed, or expressed to women or to negroes, that was another matter. Then it touched our sacred dead, our hearthstones, etc. In this fashion most men led a sort of double life; and to most of them there did not seem to be any contradiction or insincerity in such a life. It was the shadow of the Past that dominated them. They were afraid to move out of it. Their state of mind was like the state of mind of peasants in devout Romish countries. The wickedest serf would never dream of disrespect to the patron saint of his town or province.

But the suppression of one’s self, the arrest of one’s growth, the intellectual loneliness, and the personal inconvenience of living under conditions like these, — this was not the worst of it. For a man, even in the ardor of youthful freedom, can adjust himself to society, as, for example, one could adjust one’s self to society in Russia, and find many pleasures left outside the zone of necessary silence. Surely there were many pleasures left for me, much as I disliked to have any zone of silence. There could be no sweeter grace of womanhood than the gentle, wellbred characters of my aunt and my cousin. There was good companionship, too, with such men as my fellows of the Sunrise Club. Even Colonel Stover and men like him had a social charm that I have since found in few kinds of men.

We could all have contented ourselves and smothered our spirit of revolt, as indeed many men of naturally independent and frank temperaments learned to do, but for a fact of much larger significance than one’s own personal intellectual comfort. For these men, who ruled by the ghost called Public Opinion, held back the country almost in the same economic and social state in which slavery had left it. There was no hope for the future under their domination. The people who least suspected it were the most completely suppressed. The very land suffered.

Again it came back to Cotton, for Cotton was the chief source of wealth. The land was becoming poorer under a system of tillage that grew worse. The negro was the principal laborer in producing cotton, and, without training as farmer and as man, he was becoming a less efficient laborer. They practically forbade his training. The pitiful shortstaple yield of impoverished acres was sold for the starving price of low grades because it was not skillfully nor promptly gathered from the fields; it was wastefully handled; it was sold to pay mortgages on itself. Life could rise no higher till efficiency and thrift came in. There would be no broadening of thought, because only old thoughts were acceptable; no change would come in society, because society’s chief concern was to tolerate no change. The whole community would stand still, or gradually decay. If, then, we were ambitious for our country, if we were willing really to give ourselves to its service, we could not reconcile ourselves to the rule of dead men’s hands.

All this was made the clearer to me by my brother and by the results of his management of the little mill. It had twice been enlarged. Machinery was put in to make a better product and a more profitable one. A village had grown up about it. There at least were prosperity, orderliness, cleanliness, growth. He had not troubled himself to think out an economic or a social philosophy. He held to the old altars in religion. He concerned himself little about the history of our country. He left the race troubles for other men to worry about. He was disgusted with the conduct of political affairs, for he regarded it as insincere. But he was occupied from one week’s end to the next with the practical problems of the management of the mill. He had found his vocation, and his life ran smoothly.

I sometimes thought that he was the wisest man of us all. If every man had a definite task like his, and did it well, as he did, most of the results that I hoped for would quickly come. Was not this the way — perhaps the only way, after all — to change the old base of life ? But there were few men like him. The problem was to make many like him, — to wake them up. And surely there must be some swifter method than the method of waiting generation after generation, till a few examples of thrift and growth should be universally imitated.

I was greatly cheered, too, by my old Boston friend, Cooley. His mother owned shares in a cotton mill in New England, and the company was studying the problem of building a Southern mill. Cooley naturally sought my advice; he made me a visit; he saw the efficiency of my brother and the advantage of the site of our mill. (The river gave much more power than was used.) The result was — to my great happiness — that the New England company decided to build a large mill at our mill village. As a little while before I had been in half a mood to go to Kansas, so now I was tempted to follow my brother’s example and to become a man of practical affairs. I so expressed myself one night to Cooley and my brother and my sister.

“You will do no such thing,” they said in chorus. “You will find your work — work for which well-trained men are few — in the educational building up of the state.” They showed a degree of pride in me and of high expectation that surprised and gratified me. My half-serious threat to abandon my educational career was resented by all three of them in many conversations afterwards.

I was especially touched by my sister’s view of the subject. She was young, — just come into fresh young womanhood, robust in mind and body. I had not yet accustomed myself to think of her as a woman; and, close as we had come to one another during this summer since our mother’s death, I kept the same sort of reticence about religion toward her that I had kept toward my mother. She was sure that I would bring a new epoch into our educational life. She was a devout Methodist, and the most useful and active member of the little church in the village. She took a pious interest in the religious welfare of the mill people. She gave a large part of her income to the work of the church; and she was the most beloved person in the community, as she deserved to be. The affection that my brother showered on her, I often thought, revealed one of the most beautiful human relations that I ever saw.

My brother was married that autumn to a young woman who made for him a very happy home. She had much in common with my cousin and my sister, — a superficial cultivation, but a great depth of character. She accepted the prejudices that she was born to, regarding them as great principles; but she bore the burdens of a devoted life with a graceful cheerfulness that puts philosophy and learning to shame.

And during the winter, while I was traveling on my educational errand, the news came of my sister’s engagement to my old schoolfellow, Tom Warren, now an attorney of promise, and already of some prominence at the capital. This surprised me, when they asked my approval; and I was not quite pleased. Tom was one of the men of the future,— I was sure of that. But I feared that he would too easily go the nearest road to an easy success. He seemed to lack a certain independence of character which a man of his ability ought to have. He was one of the members of the Sunrise Club who never came to a meeting, and was subsequently dropped. But, if he seemed all things to all men, I reflected that he was a lawyer by nature as well as by training. I had a secret fear, but whether it had a reasonable basis I could not determine. There was one difficulty that the marriage would present to my sister. He had been born in an Episcopalian family, and had always attended that church; she was a determined Methodist. No doubt, however, she would prove equal to an adjustment of that difficulty.

To come back to my own story: before the cotton began to ripen I went on my educational itinerary. I was to visit the counties in one part of the state, and my associate was to visit the others. He had had a year or two of experience as a teacher, and he had studied “Methods,” or some such subject, in one of the normal schools of an adjacent state. I then knew him very slightly. His big body and ruddy face, and his contagious cheerfulness, no one could forget who had ever once encountered them. He was greatly liked by his friends. His name was William McWilliams; his intimates called him Billy; his semi-intimates Professor Billy; and the rest of the world Professor McWilliams, because for the preceding year he had lectured on pedagogics in the principal towns of the state; and it became a polite people to call a teacher of teaching Professor, since they could hardly call him Colonel.

Professor Billy and I talked over our extraordinary duties. He was equal to anything, as Voltaire said of Habakkuk. The rousing of a commonwealth from the intellectual inertia of a century, — it did not occur to Professor Billy that this was a hard task. He never found a hard task in his life; for he instinctively refused to recognize difficulties when we met them. His unconquerable cheerfulness, his “cloudless, boundless human view,” and his unselfish love of his fellows (with a sympathy and a humor like Lincoln’s), made him own brother of all genuine souls.

VII

THE SLEEPING PEOPLE

There were in those times statistics of schools, of school-attendance, of school expenditure, of illiteracy, and of all such things, as there are now; but Heaven help the man who accepts these as a good measure of social or intellectual conditions. I once read a letter that told more than all these reports. It was written by a Southern planter to his business correspondent in Boston in the forties, asking him to send by boat “ten kegs of nails, a dozen bolts of cloth, and a well-conditioned teacher” for his children. The teacher lay in his mind along with cloth and nails.

And Professor Billy picked up a story that told more than all the school reports. Some one asked a country woman how many children she had.

“Five,— two married, two dead, and one a-teaching school.”

From my boyhood I had heard our public men praise our people as the most contented and upright under heaven, home-loving and God-fearing. But I encountered communities from which all the best young men had gone, and nobody could blame them; and many who were left had homes ill worth loving. Slatternly women, illfed, idle men, agriculture as crude as Moses knew, — a starving population, body, mind, and soul, on as rich a soil as we have.

“’Pears dey gwine ter eddicate everbody, yaller dogs an’ all,” said one countryman to another. “Presen’ly dey’ll ’spec’ me and you to git book-larnin’, John, an’ read de papers.”

“I’d lak to know who gwine ter wuk an’ haul wood in dem days,” said John. “Yes; an’ atter you larn to read, dat ain’t all. It costs you a heap o’ money den. Yer got to buy a paper; an’did you know dat a daily paper costs six dollars a year ? Atter dey larn you to read, dey don’ give you de paper, nor no books nuther.”

The public men and the preachers — and these were the only two kinds of teachers that many of these country people had, — had kept them content with their lot. The politicians told them that they were the happiest and most fortunate people on earth. “In some other states the people are taxed beyond endurance,” they said. “We have light taxes. What we make, we keep.” This doctrine, repeated generation after generation, made tax-paying seem a crime; and it was the harder, for this reason, to levy taxes for schools or for any other purpose. The preachers told them that a man’s condition in this life was of little consequence. The main thing was that he should be ready for the life to come. Both public policy and church policy had been used for an indefinite period to make this hard lot of rural poverty and stagnation appear as the normal condition of mankind. Since few of these country folk traveled, and since they knew not how people elsewhere lived, their bondage was complete.

Myitinerary had been made out months before, and advertised in the counties where I was to go. My first county was far toward the mountains. I was to organize an institute at the courthouse on Monday at noon. The public school teachers assembled, — the whites only, for our work had nothing to do with the schools for negroes, — and I lectured to them for four days on methods of teaching. Most of them were women, and most of them intelligent women. But few were educated. In the rural counties I seldom found one that had been trained. Many of them had an aptitude for teaching, and most of them were ambitious. There were, of course, some who were utterly hopeless.

But as the months passed, and I met hundreds of these underpaid teachers of these backwoods schools, I had an increasing respect for them. They were the neglected women of the state, doing their best to find an intellectual life themselves and eager to do their duty to the children. For the first weeks of an experience of this kind the humorous and the pathetic incidents impressed themselves on my mind, and they were frequent enough to keep one’s emotions stirred. But in a little while the humor and the pathos ceased to attract, for the earnestness of these women overshadowed everything else. The men among them were their inferiors. They were less capable. The class of young fellows who were too weak to succeed at other callings undertook to teach.

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, I lectured and we talked; for after every lecture an hour was spent, sometimes two hours, in asking and answering questions. I went at the business of instructing them in a very direct, homely way. The teaching was on too low a level to require great technical skill. I laid emphasis on the purely practical tasks of the schoolroom, — neatness, orderliness, and the fundamental virtues which most of these children lacked.

On Friday the public were admitted to the meeting,— indeed, the meeting on that day was held for the public. I made a speech, stirring them up to an appreciation of education. Often a local citizen of note, a judge or a lawyer or an editor, sometimes a preacher, would address the crowd. Some of these did so because of their real interest in the subject, some because it was expected that they would speak on any occasion that commanded their approval. The speeches that we all made were hortatory. The fundamental fact was that the mass of these people did not care to educate their children. Compulsory education was unheard of among them, and they would have resented a suggestion of it, because it would “abridge personal liberty.” Even if we had had schools enough, and schools good enough, the task would have remained to persuade many of the people to send their children. The first task, then, was to convince them that schools — public schools — were desirable, and were worth paying taxes to maintain. We could not make much headway till the sovereign people should really desire schools.

The most effective facts that I found to tell were bits of personal history. The simple personal appeal seemed to me to be stronger than any other. A young man by working as a farm laborer could make from $12 to $15 a month. Even if he became a clerk in a village store, he could not earn more after he had paid his board. But a young man who had learned a good trade could make twice or thrice as much, and work at almost any place he pleased. I told them such facts as these. A man who worked his farm in the ordinary way made so much per acre (in fact, he made nothing but his own poor “keep”); but Mr. Smith, in such-and-such a county, by a proper succession of crops, or by making his own fertilizer, had made twice as much per acre. Now, since these things were true, what we needed was a school where young men might be taught trades and all the new methods of agriculture, a school to which any earnest boy might go free of charge. We shall see what came of a repetition of this argument a thousand times, with the aptest illustrations that I could find.

Professor Billy laid his greatest emphasis on the need of a great free college for young women. This appealed particularly to every woman who heard him. Many men thought it going quite far enough to talk about free schools for all the children in the state, and that to propose a free college for women was going too far. In the first place they had never associated education with women, — except, of course, the daughters of the rich, who needed to be “educated” to go into society, and young women who meant to earn their living by teaching. These must be educated; but they must pay for it. And their objection was against spending public money for educating anybody further than the country free school would go.

The direct study of the people in this fashion is, I believe, the most instructive experience that any man may have in a democracy. It enables him to correct the social theories that he has read of or constructed for himself. It gives him a test to try all sociological plans by, a body of positive knowledge that develops his common sense and balances his judgment. Of course, it is essential that a man, to profit by such an experience, should himself be or become a part of the people, so that their points of view may become his; and he must have a broad sympathy. I had so many interesting experiences that my love of my fellows became deeper, and I came to believe more and more firmly in the people. They were good enough to take me into their confidence. Parents consulted me about their children, and young persons asked my advice even about their love affairs.

The story of “Bud” Markham, for instance, is interesting. Bud was the son of a mountain farmer who kept a little mill. His corn grew on such steep hillsides that a wag of the neighborhood declared that he shot the grains from a shotgun when he planted his field. Old Man Markham, of course, wished Bud to help him run the mill, as Bud, now a lad of twenty-one, had done since he was twelve. But Bud had set his mind on going to one of the little colleges that led a starved existence half a hundred miles away. The old man could not understand for the life of him what more Bud wished to learn. He could already read. He could keep accounts. What else need a man know, unless he meant to be a preacher ? — and Bud had never “professed” religion; — or a doctor ? — and there were already two doctors in the neighborhood, and no need of another.

Bud could not give a very clear answer to these questions, and he sought my help to construct a stronger argument against his father. You may think that an easy task; but, if you had known Old Man Markham and the positive quality of his mind, you, too, would have been put to your wits’ end. I did the best I could to help Bud. He told his mother that I had been kind to him, and the mother, too, sought me, — drove ten miles to see me before I should go on to my next appointment. And she told me another part of Bud’s story. She said that the whole explanation of his ambition was his wish to marry Janey Yates. Janey Yates was the pretty schoolteacher, who had been to the “Sem’nary;” and she would not marry Bud unless he was educated. Mrs. Markham surreptitiously took Bud’s side of the controversy with his father. She had saved twenty-five dollars, which she would give him to pay his expense at college, and she would connive at his running away. “To be shore,” she said, “he’s come o’ age, an’ he kin do as he please. But he’s allers been a obejient son.”

Bud ran — or went — away. I heard nothing more about him for a long time. But — for I can’t tell everybody’s story in these short reminiscences — ten years later he was a successful electrical engineer in a busy town in Texas. Ten years later still, he had become a street-railway “magnate” in that same town, then a busy city; and he had married, — but not Janey Yates.

I have met in more than a dozen cities, since my educational oratorical itinerary of that winter, successful men who reminded me that they saw me first at a schoolhouse or a courthouse somewhere on that journey. There are many Bud Markhams. I became the more interested in them because I had yet no plan for my own life. Sometimes I would think of the future, how I should find a career; for this “rousing” missionary work would soon end. Besides, though it was a life that a man might lead for a time during his youth, no stomach that had once had good food could long survive such daily injury as was done mine during my travels.

These folk of unmixed English stock could not cook; but they held fast to a primitive and violent religion, all expecting to go to heaven. What, therefore, did earthly poverty matter ? They were determined not to pay more taxes. They were suspicious of all proposed changes; and to have a school, or a good school, would be a violent change. They were “ the happiest and most fortunate people on the globe.” Why should they not be content ?

The people, — the people of these fertile states,— a vast multitude, far apart as they dwell from one another; pioneers yet (for the land is unsettled and their life is primitive and hard), but holding fast to the notion that they are a part of a longsettled life; fixed in their ways; unthinking and standing still; a grim multitude, though made up of jovial individuals; credulous of all old formulas and sayings, whether true or false, and incredulous of any new thing however obvious; sprawling in the sun of this happy climate; hungry without knowing it, and unaware of their own discomfort; ignorant of the world about them and of what invention, ingenuity, industry, and prosperity have brought to their fellows, and too proud or too weak to care to learn these things, — I have looked them in the face from a hundred schools and courthouses, and I have had my passionate efforts to help them received as a passing amusement, — a stolid mystery these country people are in the mass. The years have rolled over them as a wind blows over brown stubble, — they are the same after it has gone as before it came.

After all, what are the active forces in a democracy ? They must be the pressure of population, the consequent coming of roads, of industries, of activities, the jostle of necessity. Not exhortation, surely, even of the most eloquent kind. I thought of the little mill that turned always, and of my brother’s busy life, dealing with real things. That was the way to solve the problem. And would educational exhortation ever do it ?

VIII

THE UNSLEEPING GHOST AGAIN

All the while it became clearer that Cotton is King, but few people so regarded it; for the farmers still led a life of servitude to the merchants in the towns. There was nothing royal in its culture. The crop was mortgaged for “provisions” and fertilizers before it was grown; and all provisions and nearly all fertilizers ought, of course, to have been produced by the farmers themselves. The wastefulness of such a thriftless and hopeless life now seems incredible; and the servitude of it brought despair. I sometimes thought that of all work done by men anywhere in the world the work of the small cotton-farmer at this period — white man and black man alike — was the worst done. To talk about educating their children to men who would not keep their cotton fields clean of grass, who would not even pick clean, who in the spring would mortgage the crop they had just planted, for salt, bacon, and meal, when they might have had better bacon and meal, and many other things as well, by their own slight labor, — that did seem a hopeless task. But once in three or four months I met Professor Billy, and then new light shone on the world.

“Yes,” he’d say, “I suppose it’s pretty bad.” Then he’d tell a story of an old woman who suffered incessantly from toothache, but congratulated herself that she never had had a headache in her life. “You can cure the toothache,” he would say; “but an old woman with bad headaches,— she’s past mending. Presently the toothache will get worse. Then it ’ll get better.”

And he held fast to the cure that would be wrought by a really good school for the country girls. “When the woman’s ambition is aroused, she’ll shame the man into better ways.” He made epigrams that illuminated all the dark problems of social life. “When you educate a man you educate one. When you educate a woman you educate half a dozen or a dozen, — her and all her children. The educated man may go away. The educated woman will remain.”

We had a meeting of the Sunrise Club when Professor Billy and I were at the capital preparing our reports of our first year’s work. A committee presented a revised and better matured plan for a state agricultural and mechanical school, to present to the forthcoming legislature. Professor Billy persuaded us in an hour to substitute for an agricultural and mechanical school a state school for girls. We easily changed our minds; for he was a man who carried about with him the power to work a popular revolution.

So far as we could find out, nobody in authority had seriously thought of such a school for women. There were “female seminaries” in the state, most of them church schools, which would, of course, oppose such a plan. The state university would not approve it, for it needed all the money that the legislature could be persuaded to appropriate for higher education; and few men were willing to appropriate any money for the higher education of either men or women. All these things we found out with discouraging certainty as soon as the petition which the club proposed to present to the next legislature was made public. The newspapers, especially the church papers, which had much more influence than the “secular press,” vigorously opposed it. There was even a note of fanaticism in their opposition. Of course, when the legislature met, the petition quickly found silence in a committee-room.

The brief vacation that came after my year as a “rousing bishop ” brought many events in my family life. My cousin Margaret had that year been the chief officer of the Daughters of the Confederacy in the state, and she had spent her energy in begging money to erect a monument to Jefferson Davis, to the exclusion of everything else that might have engaged her mind or heart; she had become a heroine in what I chose to call the Realm of Dead Men’s Hands. The legislature that paid no heed to the petition for a college for women appropriated money to aid the Ladies’ Memorial Fund; and with this money the monument was put up. Oratory in praise of my cousin rolled along the corridors of the State House, and “encomiums” illuminated the newspapers. “Chivalry,” “beauty,” “heroism,” “the peerless,” “the sacred dead,” “ the loyal Southland,” were the A B C of the epidemic vocabulary. I spent less time at the home of my kinspeople, the Densons, than I had thought to spend; for, since my cousin had become so conspicuous a heroine, she seemed to me to be a sort of public personage. The politicians and the preachers were her companions. I recall how she praised the eloquent prayer that a young clergyman made at the opening of a state meeting of the Daughters. “ A prayer for the dead ?" I imprudently asked. Before I could atone for the thoughtless speech, she was in tears.

It was not this form of activity that had impelled my sister to abnormally energetic endeavors. She had been a ministering angel to the factory folk until a deep grief seized her. She did not herself explain the cause of it till many years afterwards; but in a little while we discovered it. Rather, events brought it to light. In her pious, reticent way, after a visit that Uncle Ephraim and Aunt Martha had made to my brother’s, she wrote Tom Warren a note saying that she could never marry him. She told us what she had done, without comment. But she became increasingly sad and spent much time alone, even to the gradual neglect of her mothers’ meetings and the like that she had encouraged among the factory women. “All these things are now going so well,” she said, “that I don’t need to give so much time to them.”

The mill became more and more prosperous. My brother had built still another and larger mill out of the profits of the small ones; and this, with the “Yankee mill,” had of course made the village a little manufacturing town. My Boston friend, Cooley, did not often come South. The mill was managed well, and his mother’s share in it needed little attention from him.

This brief vacation had thus been somewhat discouraging. My plan for an agricultural school had been supplanted by Professor Billy’s plan for a school for women, and that had failed; and the Denson house, and even my old home, — which had of course become my brother’s, — were less cheerful than they had ever been. My sister’s melancholy disturbed me, but my brother was sure that it would soon pass. I made a visit to the “Old Place”—older and more dilapidated than ever. Uncle Ephraim was becoming feebler, and Aunt Martha was almost bedridden. Jane, her adopted mulatto daughter, with a child still fairer than she, was a dutiful attendant on them. But this family group, it was plain, could not hold together much longer. Uncle Ephraim’s only son, “Doc,” was a source of trouble to the old man. He had always been “a bad nigger.” Most of his life, since he had grown up, had been spent in the city near by, or in some other city. His habits were bad, and the old man had several times, in his rigid righteousness, driven him from home. “Doc” had now come back again, after a long absence. “I’se j’in’d de church,” he told his old mother; but he was a lazy member of the household. His chief occupation was in caring for the quail dogs that Tom Warren and other sportsmen in the city kept at Uncle Ephraim’s. Whenever they came out for a day’s shooting Doc was made richer by a few dollars, and he felt that he had again had a glimpse of the sporting world.

A still stronger reason for Doc’s long stay at home was Jane’s presence there. He assured her that his one aim in life, now that he had become pious, was to marry her and to settle down to happy domesticity. But Doc was not to her liking; and, as often as he made advances, she made a quarrel. Aunt Martha confided these family secrets to me, as she felt bound to do (good old soul), and she got some relief from her troubles by telling them. She had tried to persuade Jane to believe Doc and his promises of good behavior; but, even if she might have had a chance to succeed, Uncle Ephraim took it away by his stern unbelief in Doc’s reformation. The old man tolerated him “on trial,” with little hope.

On the day when I went to the Old Place to see the old man, and in a mood to recall my grandfather the more vividly and to live over the last interview I had had with him, I found that Doc had been gone from home for a week; the old couple were much worried. Aunt Martha had tried to persuade Uncle Ephraim to send some one to the city to see if Doc could be found, — she meant in barrooms of “Egypt,” though she did not say so. But the old man was resolute.

A heavy rain came on, which fell harder as night approached. I had not talked with Uncle Ephraim about the old times as I had meant to talk; and I decided to stay all night. The parlor in the “new house ” (it was now about seventy years old) had never been occupied since my grandfather died. It was there that his coffin had rested, and the old negro couple regarded it as a sacred place. They had put a bed in the room, with the expectation that some of the white folks might at some time use it. The house did not yet belong to Uncle Ephraim, but to my aunt. Nobody wanted it, and nobody would buy it. The old servants felt that they were keeping it in trust for the white folks. Since it was a wet night, with a late summer coolness, a fire was kindled in the “parlor.” Aunt Martha and Jane had served my supper there, had had their own supper in their kitchen as usual, and the old couple and I were seated about the fire, talking of old times. Jane was in the kitchen.

A smothered cry for help came through the damp air. We found Jane lying on the kitchen floor, blood streaming from her face. She had been hit on the head and face with a heavy, rough stick, or something like it, and there was a great gash on her cheek and chin. She soon recovered from the effect of the blows, and the wound in her face was more bloody than dangerous. All that she would say was, “It was him, — Doc.” But Doc was never seen again at the Old Place. The next day he was arrested in the city for a drunken fight. Then he disappeared forever.

I was about to start on my next oratorical educational visitations when a surprising thing happened. The old professor of history at the state university had died during the summer, and the executive committee of the Board of Trustees elected me to fill the place. This was a dignified appointment; and, since I had chosen — or drifted into — an educational career, there was every reason why I should be pleased. But the pleasure that it gave me was not keen. I could not help feeling regret that I was not to spend another year among the country-folk. I had become fond of my missionary work. In spite of the apparent hopelessness of the task of arousing them, I had come to have an increasing faith in their ultimate awakening.

A man never sincerely and humbly came close to the people in our democracy without acquiring high hope in them. At first many things discomfort him. They are rough. They are stiff. They are silent. They are immovable, stupid, — a mere mass. Dead men’s hands rest on them. But, at last, gradually, and in strange and unexpected ways, hopeful and even beautiful traits show themselves. You see the young mate. You see the old die. You find the same joys and sorrows that other folk feel. Your area of kinship with them widens. They had suffered an arrested development, — that was all. They were cut off from the world, not by untraveled distances only, but by the untraveled thought that slavery had imposed.

To go among them was to go into a neglected, far-off woodland, where the undergrowth is dense. You can hardly make your way. Wretched, stunted, and twisted forms shut out sunlight that would have made many beautiful things grow. Fallen trees have deflected growing ones. All the cruelties of untamed nature have had full play. But after a while you see what could be made of such a lowland forest by even a little culture and a little care; and you plan many an enticing task in bringing it to orderliness and health. If I have learned toleration, charity, patience, I learned them in this human low ground of tangled growths; and his life in it made Professor Billy the most hopeful and inspiring personality that I have ever known, a helpful and cheerful brother to all that is human.

But my missionary work could at best last only a year longer, and it was an unorganized sort of work. Nobody could think of it as a career. The chair of history at the university was a place of permanent usefulness; and, of course, I accepted it, — all the more willingly because it was, I believe, at that time the only chair of history in any Southern college. Southern lads who could read some Latin and a little Greek knew nothing accurately about the history even of their own country. Already, too, legend and odd distortions of facts were firmly fixed, even in the minds of educated men, about many important political events in our own history.

I set about my work with pride and eagerness. At the very start I had one unexpected adventure. The religious sects saw to it, in those years, that the faculty of the university was evenly “balanced” among them. The Methodists must be represented, but they must not have more professors than the Baptists, or the Episcopalians; and so on. I was supposed to represent the Methodists. When I discovered this expectation, I thought of resigning; but the good president told me that all would be well if I maintained a decorous silence. “Go to the Methodist church once in a while,” said he. “ It is enough that you come of a Methodist family, if you will be discreet. ”

I did not like this seeming to be what I was not. But my associates ridiculed my state of mind. “These old tyrannies are passing, — are already passed, if we are silent,” they said. “In a few years we shall have no more of them. Do not rudely disturb a dying notion, — that’s all you need do.”

What an eager, raw, almost aboriginal life I found among the students! They had the same patriotic ambitions that I had had at college, but less well expressed, less well organized. There was a quality of arrogance in them very like that which I had come to know at the Graham School. The sons of gentlemen of distinction assumed that they were patriotism incarnate. The raw youths who came from the rural counties on free scholarships had to adjust themselves to this arrogance. And yet it was a pretty good democracy, for youth is naturally democratic. I thought that I saw in these boys the hope of the future. All Professor Billy’s articles of faith applied to them, except that they would be the fathers, instead of the mothers, of families.

The year went well. Two of my associates were men at once of learning and of good companionship, — except that they had a tinge of despair. They had been trained in Germany, and they had acquired intellectual habits that were not congenial to their present surroundings. They locked up out of sight some of their books. They assumed an air of conformity that was a sham. They had an academic maladjustment to the life about them, and they were afraid; and a man who is afraid is never quite honest. I used to laugh at their fears; for I had never had a thought of tempering my conduct or my teaching to any shorn lamb. Nor did I. I had the satisfaction, too, of seeing every youth in my classes welcome the truth, even when it knocked the props from errors that he had harbored.

But the end of the academic year brought a greater surprise then the beginning. The trustees were in session, in full board, during the Commencement week. It was a large body of distinguished Colonels and men of prominence, — one from every senatorial election district. Their meetings were usually perfunctory. But this year, it turned out, they really had something to do.

My old friend, Colonel Stover, was a member of the board, and he was there. His friend, Judge Thorne, also was present. Judge Thorne had retired from the bench,—that is, he had not been reëlected,— and he had given his time to compiling a so-called history of the state’s troops in the Civil War. His compilation — chiefly of the rolls of regiments, interspersed with fulsome praise of their commanders — had been printed at the public expense; but I dare say that not a man in the state had read it. Everybody had praised it and — forgotten it. But the judge had nevertheless come into a flattering reputation as an historian.

It was he who arose in the midst of the session and moved that the board proceed to the election of a professor of history. The good president of the university suddenly recalled — he had not before thought of it — that I had been elected by the executive committee “pending the meeting of the full board.” He arose and spoke most heartily of me and of my work, and nominated me for the place.

Then it was that Judge Thorne arose and nominated a broken-down old Methodist preacher who had helped him in his compilations. “A man of learning and of patriotism,” he called him, “who reads our own history as it was enacted by our own heroes.” In the judge’s mind, “history” meant only the Confederate narrative of the Civil War; and the board was reminded by him of a fact that had been forgotten,—that, when the chair of history was established, the purpose of the board was “to teach our sons the heroism of their fathers.” I had used textbooks written “in the North.” In fact, I had been trained in the North. I taught “our sons” as the sons of the enemy were taught. And there were other objections to me.

After fulsome general compliments to my family, and even to myself “as an individual,” Colonel Stover felt impelled by a high sense of public duty to explain certain unfortunate facts. Then followed the same arraignment that the colonel had once before made. He was “very reluctant to speak on the subject at all,” and he could speak only “in the confidence of this board,” for he would not do the young man a personal injury. Yet “our institutions and traditions must be preserved.”

I must record in gratitude, that the president fought bravely for me, and for free teaching as well. He, too, was a Confederate hero, but he was made of good stuff, — a man every inch of him. But he could not win. The colonels and the judges elected the old preacher, and I was again — dismissed, by the simple device of failing of election.

It was nearly midnight. My rooms were in a little detached stone house near the university yard. A dozen of my students were gathered there to tell me goodby, and two of them — great mountain giants they were — were inviting me to a mountain trip with them during the summer. The president came in. His troubled countenance took a pleasant look for a moment from the company about him. But in a moment more the boys withdrew; and then he told me all that had happened. “ There is nothing to do,” said he— “nothing to say. I am broken-hearted; and, if I were younger, I should be tempted to resign and to go away.” Tears gathered in his eyes, he grasped my hand warmly, and almost leaped out of the door.

It was midnight, and I was alone. A yell of joy broke now and then from some student’s throat, as he ran across the yard, or a song rose from a group of them who were walking home from some student gathering, this last night of their year. These noises added only to my loneliness. I, too, walked out. The moonlight cast great shadows of the oaks across the road. In an hour my pleasantly planned career had been ended.

I summed up my sorrows that night, — a foolish performance, but a natural one. My old grandfather was gone; that was in the course of nature. But my father had been murdered in his prime; my mother was dead too early, doubtless from her cares during the first years of her widowhood; my sister had missed her happiness, — I would now see what could restore her cheerfulness; perhaps we might travel, she and I; — my cousin Margaret suggested a tender recollection, now only a recollection, for we had gone far apart; even old Ephraim would not last long. The only steadfast things on my horizon were my brother and Professor Billy. They were the only wise men that I had known, after all.

As I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that all these misfortunes had had a common cause; and that cause was visible in the negro. It was his presence that had brought war, stagnation, perversion. And yet the poor negro was himself innocent. It was slavery — a long time after, and in a way that could not have been foreseen or foretold — that had caused my father’s murder, my mother’s premature death, my cousin’s estrangement.

“I will leave it all,” — that was my last thought when I fell asleep, as the first shafts of daylight struck my window. Yet I knew when I spoke this resolve that it was a cowardly one. When I awoke, I said, “No, I will remain and fight.” How and when I could not foresee. But the day turned my discouragement into resolution.

(To be continued.)