IN THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS OF HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY MR. MCCULRE TOLD OF HIS EARLY CHILDHOOD IN IRELAND, THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER, AND HIS VOYAGE TO AMERICA, WHEN HE WAS NINE YEARS OLD, WITH HIS MOTHER AND YOUNGER BROTHERS; OF HIS MOTHER'S COURAGEOUS EFFORTS TO SUPPORT HERSELF AND HER CHILDREN IN THE NEW COUNTRY; OF HER SECOND MARRIAGE TO AN INDIANA FARMER; AND OF HIS LIFE UP THROUGH HIS FOURTEENTH YEAR, WORKING ON THE FARM IN SUMMER AND GOING TO COUNTRY SCHOOL IN THE WINTER. WHEN HE WAS FOURTEEN HIS MOTHER ADVISED HIM TO TO GO VALPARAISO AND WORK HIS WAY THROUGH THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL THERE. THIS HE DID WITH GOOD SUCCESS. HE WAS SEVENTEEN WHEN HE RESOLVED TO TRY FOR A COLLEGE EDUCATION AT KNOX COLLEGE, ILLINOIS, AND ARRIVED THERE WITH FIFTEEN CENTS IN HIS POCKET.
KNOX COLLEGE is situated in the heart of the great corn region, in one of the most fertile districts of the fertile Middle West. Although I arrived there without resources, I knew that food was plenty and cheap. Such being the case, I felt sure that I would get through college some day. The first thing to do was to get a place in which to stay until I could find work, and I set out to find my uncle, Joseph Gatson. On the college campus were two dormitories known as "the Bricks," low, one-story brick structures, one on either side of the main building. In one of these my uncle shared a room with another student.
During the first month I lived on bread and grapes, varying this with soda crackers and grapes. I could get three pounds of delicious Concord grapes for ten cents. I found an unrented room in the dormitory building, perfectly empty except for a box. In this room I studied that first month, and there I ate my meals, keeping my supplies hidden under the box. I've forgotten how I arranged for a place to sleep.
At the end of a month I got a place with J. C. Stewart, then mayor of Galesburg, to work for my board. I lived in his house for the rest of the year, and was in every way treated like a son. I earned extra money for books and pocket-money by sawing wood about town. During the winter my mother sent me money enough to buy a suit of clothes to replace my home-made suit, which was half worn View Image of Page 96 out when I left the farm. Beyond this I had no outside help at all; and at the end of the school year I had made my own way, and had six dollars left.
Of course, I knew that I would have to work in vacation; so, when examinations were over, before the Commencement exercies, I got on the train and rode to Wataga. There I struck off into the farming country, picking my way along the sod beside the muddy roads. I worked all that summer as a farm-hand. The first job I got was grubbing out a locust grove. I grew very lonesome at this kind of work, and asked the farmer, after several weeks, whether I couldn't work overtime for a few days and then get half a day off to go to town. He told me that there was no way of making up time on his place—that all my time was paid for, and so there wasn't any overtime. This was true of farm-hands in general then; a man had no time that he could call his own.
When I got the locusts grubbed out, the farmer passed me on to his son-in-law. Here, besides doing the chores and milking, I plowed all day. That plowing was a little different from any I have ever done. This young farmer had a most remarkable team of horses. They were so strong and full of spirit that they would trot in the plow. I could not hold them back. So every day we plowed three acres instead of two, the amount a man usually plowed in a day. Any farmer will realize that this was pretty hard work. I used to get up in the morning so stiff and sore that I could scarcely walk from the house to the barn, harness my horses, and then off on the trot. In the field I soon got limbered up, but by night I was a tired boy. I got the usual wages of a farm-hand at that time, twenty dollars a month.
Toward the end of the summer, before the college term opened, I went back to Indiana to visit my mother, and stayed with her for a few days. On my way back to Galesburg I had to spend a few hours in Chicago. Walking along the street, I stopped before a cheap clothing store and looked at some suits of clothes that were displayed in the window. The proprietor came out and simply worked a suit of clothes off on me. I did now know how to resist his importunities, and to buy the clothes seemed the only way of escape. I paid twenty dollars for the suit, and it wore out in a few months. That unwise purchase helped to put me behind in funds. Before Thanksgiving my money was all gone, and I saw that I would have to leave school until I could make some more.
I got a country school near Dwight, Illinois, and went to teaching about Thanksgiving time. There I was marooned in a perfectly flat prairie country, a most depressing sight in winter. Illinois roads are proverbially bad in winter, but that season there was a rainfall even heavier than usual. The whole country was like a sponge and the roads were simply impassable. The school term lasted only four months, but after three months I simply had to throw up the job. I couldn't stand the dullness and the flatness and the wetness of the country any longer. When I got back to Galesburg, it seemed the finest place in the world. I had kept up my studies in my absence, and now went on with my class.
A word about the college curriculum. Four-fifths of the students at Knox then took the old-fashioned classical course, in which Greek was obligatory. This course still seems to me the soundest preparation a young man can have, and I still feel that Greek was the most important of my studies. During the years that he reads and studies Greek a boy gets certain standars that he uses all the rest of his life, long after he has forgotten grammar and vocabular.
I enjoyed Greek and mathematics more than any other subjects I took at college, and Homer more than anything else we read in Greek. After I began Homer, I used always to give four hours to the preparation of the next day's lesson, my best study hours, too—from six to ten in the evening. I looked forward to those hours all day. I went so far as to write out a vocabulary of the first book of Homer, giving, with the help of Liddell and Scott and Curtius' Etymological Dictionary, the Latin, German, and English equivalent of each word. This exercise made the succeeding books easy reading. About this time I read Professor Whitney's book on "Language and the Study of Language" and Trench's book "On Words," books of a new kind to me.
Of college life, in the sense in which it is now used, there was then none at Knox. There were no fraternities, no organized athletics, no student dances, no concerts, no students' orchestra or glee club. All the students were earnest, and most of them had had a hard time getting there. A boy's standing among the other boys depended entirely upon his scholarship, and every one did his best. View Image of Page 97 View Image of Page 98 We were allowed to take only three college studies at a time, and we had three one-hour recitations a day. There was no sense of drive or hurry. On the contrary, one felt that Knox College was a place set apart for boys to grow strong and to develop in mind and body. One felt no pull of the world there, but a kind of monastic calm. In seven years I scarcely read a newspaper.
The three strongest men in the faculty of Knox College then were Professor George Churchill, Albert Hurd, and Milton Comstock. Professor Churchill was at the head of the Preparatory School, and it was he who took the green boys that came in from the farms and directed their efforts. He had such a love for humankind in general, and for boys in particular, that he could awaken ambition in the dullest and give confidence to the shyest. He became the friend and encourager and insprier of the boys in their first and hardest years at school. Professor Comstock was at the head of the department of mathematics, and his scholarhsip was much respected among the boys. Professor Hurd was nominally head of the Latin department, but he taught other subjects as well. He was generally recognized as the most accomplished scholar in the faculty, and as one of the greatest natural teachers the country then possessed. There are never too many of these at any time.
By the time I finished my second preparatory year, my mother had sold the farm for between three and four thousand dollars, and, as all of her boys were pretty well able to take care of themselves, she decided to go home to Ireland to visit her people. As I was the oldest son, she took me with her. We left Galesburg on June 6, 1876. The Centennial rates were on then, and we went from Chicago to Philadelphia for $11. There we stayed for some days with relatives, and went to the exposition. As I remember the exposition, the telephone exhibit, which was certainly the most important thing there, attracted little or no attention, while people crowded around the butter statue and things of a like nature.
One June 15, 1876, we sailed from Philadelphia on the Illinois, American Line. When we reached Liverpool, we found a lodging-house where we got lodgings for ninepence a night. After we were rested from the voyage we took a boat for Belfast—always a most disagreeable passage—and from Belfast we took the train to Glarryford. I had left Ireland when I was nine years old, and I was now nineteen. Nineteen is a fine age, and Ireland is a fine country. I have never forgotten that ride from Belfast to Glarryford. It was a beautifual day late in June, with brilliant sunshine and a sky intensely blue, and everhwere the wonderful green of Ireland, like no other green in the world. I could see, as it were, the cleanness of the grass, washed by so many rains. The whole countryside presented the look of neatness and tidiness that I had always missed in Indiana and Illinois. THe whie houses, plastered and graveled outside and then whiteashed, glistened in the sunshine, and the rose bsuhes were eveywhere in blook about the doors. I noticed the rich green of the boxwood hedges about the gardens, View Image of Page 99 and the dark laurel bushes which I had always loved when I lived among them.
The train seemed to go very slowly. The fields looked very small, of course, to a boy who had been a farm-hand in the great corn country of the West; but they looked very restful, too, and well kept behind their green hedges. Many of the country people were out weeding in thet potato and beet fields that morning. Most of the early wild flowers were gone, but here and there on stony hillsides the yellow gorse bushes were in bloom.
After mother and I alighted at Glarryford, we went at once to visit my mother's brother, Samuel Gaston, at the Frocess. In the immediate neighborhood there were twelve or fiteen families of Gastons and McClures, and we visited about from one to another, calling on our old friends and neighbors as well. I was struck by the industry and thrift of the country people, and by the dignity of respectable competence. Every one seemed to have his place, and to enjoy filling it as well as he could. One felt everywhere the peacefulness of a long-established order.
I spent a good deal of time with my grandfather McClure. He was then an old man, and he had never got over the loss of his son. The affection he had felt for my father he seemed to transfer to me, and I think he got great pleasure out of my visit. Before I returned to America he begged me to stay in Ireland. I told him that I would come back some day, but he said he would not live to see that day—and, indeed, he did not.
As I went about among our old neighbors, watching the field work and the peat harvest, people talked to me a great deal about my father, in a way that moved me greatly. He had been a man much trusted and beloved by his neighbors, and his sudden death at the age of thirty-two had caused genuine sorrow there. The people talked about him as if he had been dead only a short while, and they told me many things about him that I have always been glad to remember.
There are, of course, always certain disappointments attendant upon going back to the country that one left as a child. I remember View Image of Page 100 how bitterly disappointed I was upon going back to my old school, which throughout the ten years since I had left it I had remembered with so much pleasure. My old schoolmaster had gone aawy, and the school itself seemed to have gone away. At least, the school I remember was no longer there. Everything seemed so different that I could not feel that it was the same school at all.
Although I was glad to see Ireland again, and had such a good time visiting among my relatives and greeting old neighbors, I soon began to feel very restless. My mother had decided that she would not take me back to America with her, but that I should go to work either in Ireland or England and make my living there. As for me, I wanted to back to Galesburg to go on with my college course. Moreover, I had then met Harriet Hurd, who eventually became my wife, and I was very much in love.
Miss Hurd's father was Professor of Latin at Knox, and Harriet herself was that year a senior. We had corresponded since I had been away from Galesburg, and, though my letters from her were not many in number, I had maanged to spend a great deal of time reading them as I wandered about the fields. At last I became too restless to stay still any lonver. I wanted to get away, where I could be alone and where I would not have to talk to my relatives or to any one else.
One day, unencumbered by any luggage, I struck off across the country toward the east coast. Before I reached it, I had to cross the line of purple hills which I used to watch from the door of our house when I was a child. These hills are a good deal like those in the Highlands of Scotland, and were covered with pink and whit and purple heather. As I climbed them, the farm-houses grew fewer and fewer, until at last I was quite alone amid the heather. This was exactly what I had wanted, and I felt a great relief. The quiet was so absolute that I could hear my watch ticking away in my pocket, and before the day was over that watch seemed like a pleasant and unobtrusive companion. I felt as if it were alive and conscious. .
I was gone on this tramp for two weeks. I walked from Larne to the Giant's Causeway down the rugged coast, nearly always keeping the ocean in view, and wondering how I was going to get across it. I had then two shillings and odd pence, but I spent very little of this on my tramp. Wherever I went, the people refused money. They gladly kept me overnight to hear me talk about America. In the late afternoon I would come to a house, and see some children playing in the yard, and a pleasant-faced woman leaning on the half-door and looking out at me with curiosity. I would stop and tell her where I came from and who I was, and ask her if she could give me some supper and a place to sleep. By nine o'clock I would be asleep in the bed with those same children.
The shore-line along that coast is steep and corrugated granited cliffs, with the turf growing down to the very edge. I remember I narrowly escaped a tumble of five hundred feet when I was crossing Fairhead Mountain. It was a particularly pleasant time to be adrift on the road, for the hay-making was going on, and it was a dry season. I do not think it rained once during those two weeks. I remember the pleasure of coming suddenly upon a little glen, with hay-fields on the hillsides, and a village tucked away by the stream down in the valley. I have gone on a great many tramping expeditions in my life, both as a boy and as a man, in View Image of Page 101 the Alps and in the Michigan woods, through Illinois and Indiana, and among the Great Lakes; but I have never enjoyed any tramp as I did that one in Ireland, the summer I was nineteen.
When I got back to my relatives at the Frocess and Drumaglea, I had determined that, by some means or other, I would get back to Galesburg. My perplexities never long remained a secret to those about me, and I suppose that in a few days all my relatives knew that I was bent upon going back to America, and that I had no money. At any rate, when I got up one morning, and went about from house to house to tell my aunts and uncles good-by, each of my unclse gave me a present, some a sovereign, some a half-sovereign; so that by the time all my good-bys were said I had about thirty dollars. I went to Belfast and from there to Liverpool. In Liverpool I found the lodging-house where my mother and I had stayed six weeks before. The Illinois was in dock, preparing for her next trip to Philadelphia. In those days a steamer lay in dock ten days after every crossing, and was ten days going and ten days coming, so that she made the round trip in thirty days. At that time it took a fleet of six ships to keep weekly sailings. I had made up my mind to return on the Illinois, and to return without paying my fare.
It would, I knew, be useless to try to get a berth to work my way across; there was a dullness in shipping just then, and many hands were being laid off. With the port full of experienced men looking for a job, there was no chance for a green hand, so I decided to stow away. While the boat was outfitting, I went on board several times a day and talked to the baker and several of the stewards, with whom I had become acquainted on the way over. I told them frankly what I wanted, and they said they guessed they could fix it all right. I suppose they were hoaxing me, but I had not the slightest doubt that they meant what they said and that everything would be easy. As I have said before, credulity was my native virtue.
When I was not hanging round the ship's docks, I sat in my room at the lodging-house, eating penny buns and reading penny dreadfuls—the kind that Stevenson said were "a penny plain and tuppence colored"—listening with pleasure to the interesting noises of a strange city. After living so long in the Middle West, the inflections of the English speech, and particularly the fresh voices of the children, seemed delightful to me.
One day when I was on board the Illinois, talking to the baker and the stewards as I got a chance, I was unfortunate enough to attract the attention of the first officer. I was wearing a gray linen hat, and that helped to make me conspicuous. The officer called out, "Come here, boy! I mean you with the light hat."
I went up to him, and he said, not roughly but in a very final way: "I've seen you about here before. Now, I want you to get off this boat, and stay off."
I went on shore and sat on the dock in the deepest dejection. I simply had to cross on that boat. I bought some writing-paper, and, sitting on the docks, I wrote the first officer a long letter, telling him that I simply had to View Image of Page 102 cross on his boat; that I had to get back to America to finish my college course; that when I got through college I was planning to go to a medical school and study to be a doctor. I don't know what made me tell him all this, though it was perfectly true: that morning I did intend to become a doctor. I got one of the seamen to take this letter to the first officer, and I sat on the dock, overcome by despondency.
I had no idea that my letter would have any weight with the officer, or that I should ever hear from it again. I had written the letter to relieve my own feelings; I had no hope that it would influence his. Indeed, the fact that I had written the first officer a letter had almost passed from my mind, when the officer himself came to the side of the vessel and beckoned to me. I went on board, and he spoke very kindly and said that he would see that I got to America; that he would take me over as a helper to the ship's doctor—this, of course, in deference to my professed ambitions. We had not been twenty-four hours at sea before the doctor discovered my utter unfitness for any such job. It happened that the officers' mess-boy had a felon, so I was made mess-boy, to do the work under his supervision.
The officers' mess-boy, my superior, was a very clever fellow. During our passage over on the Illinois I had often noticed him and admired his accomplishments. He sang very well indeed, and danced clogs in a really remarkable fashion. He used to sing and dance on the steerage deck, to the great delight of the passengers.
As mess-boy, I had to work for my passage indeed. We left Liverpool in a storm, and for the first three or four days the vessel was on her beam-ends most of the time. I had to get up at five o'clock in the morning, and take rags and a pail of suds and scrub out the corridors. When the boat was pitching, the corridor was like a bowling alley, and my pail and I were bumped first into one wall and then into the other, up and down, back and forth. Seasickness added to the precariousness of this work. I had, of course, had no breakfast, but the cook game a cup of coffee before I began to scrub, and I remember with gratitude that the coffee on that boat was excellent. By eight o'clock I had breakfast laid for the officers, ten places in all, and I served the breakfast. Lunch again at twelve, etc. I had to wash all the dishes, and for the first four days, when I was very seasick, this was disagreeable work.
One of the mess-boy's duties was to make pastry, not only for the officers' mess, but for the cabin passengers as well. This I soon learned to do very well. I baked fifty pies every day. I would have my stewed fruit ready, of course, before I began to make the crust. Then I took a large dish-pan and filled it with cracked ice and water. In this I put the butter, and left it there until it became as cold and hard as it could pssibly become. I then put the mass of butter on the rolling-board, worked the flour in rapidly with my hands, rolled it thin, cut out the lower crust, placed it in the pan, filled it, placed on it the upper crust, slashed this across the middle, and then dented it around the edge with a fork. Making good pastry is such a simple operation I have often wodered why there are so many poor pies in the world. The most important thing is to have the butter very cold, and about this I believe many cooks are careless. I did not mind making paies; but when, on Thursdays and Sundays, I was required to freeze ice-cream in addition, I thought people were a little unreasonable and that they would not demand ice-cream if they knew how much trouble it was to make it. On the whole, I thought the ten days of that crossing stretched out very long.
Whenever I was not doing anything else, I had to polish the brasses. I had no time off duty except an hour from four to five in the afternoon, when I used to crawl up on deck and sit still very limply. My berth was next the smokestack, and was so intolerably hot that nobody could have slept there, even on the most comfortable bed. And that bed was the worst I had ever seen. When I lifted the mattress, the under side of it was brown with cockroaches, alive and dead, spread as evenly as if they had been put on with a paint-brush. When I went off duty, at eleven o'clock at night, after arranging the officers' midnight lunch, I took my blanket, lay down in the hall, and got such sleep as I could until I had to fall to work with my scrub rags and pail at five.
When we got to Philadelphia, I was asked to stay on board for a few days and help the men who were unloading the vessel. The first officer told me that I would lose nothing by being obliging. I didn't lose anything, but I didn't gain anything, either. I didn't get a penny for my pains. However, I was not sorry that I had obliged the officers. The first officer was a fine man, and I respected him. Ten years afterward, when I was in Philadelphia on business, I tried to find him. I leaned with regreat that he had been accidentally killed on a shooting expedition along the Chesapeake.View Image of Page 103
From Philadelphia on, I had to pay my fare. When I got back to Galesburg on the 7th of September, I went up to the campus, and met a lot of the boys I knew. There was a new building going up, a gymnaisum. All the students were contributing something toward the new building, and they were all very much excited about it. Until that time student enterprises had been few. I got off the train at Galesburg with exactly one dollar in my pocket, and this dollar I at once gave to the gymnasium fund. I thought I might as well start even.
As soon as I got rid of my dollar I went to call upon Harriet Hurd. I had met her only six times before I went to Ireland, but our correspondence during the summer had ripened our friendship. When I went to see her after my return, I asked her whether, if I turned out to be a good man, she would marry me in seven years. She said that she would, and I went away feeling that the most important thing in my life was settled. But, like many another boy, I was to learn that such arrangments between young people are often very far from final, that outside powers can intervene very potently, and that such settlements can be to the last degree unsettling.
It is necessary to explain, perhaps, why Miss Hurd's parents and friends felt that her friendship for me was very undesirable. Although in actual age there was only a year between us, Miss Hurd was then a senior at Knox, while I was not yet a freshman, being only in the last year of the preparatory school. A brilliant and beautiful girl, Miss Hurd not only led her classes, but had reached a higher average of scholarship than any student who had graduated from Knox up to this time. The old system of exact grading then obtained, and it was many years before another student equaled Miss Hurd's record. As a girl of very unusual promise, the daughter of the ablest man in the faculty, she held a unique position in Galesburg. She had behind her a background of calm and culture as different as possible from the vicissitudes of my early life. Professor Hurd and his wife naturally looked with disfavor upon their daughter's attachment for a rough country boy who had already a reputation for being visionary and unstable, and who had certanly no very encouraging propsects. I felt that their opposition was reasonabble and yet intolerable, and it was this feeling that made matters go as badly with me that winter as they did.
That winter of my twentieth year I let myself very nearly perish from cold and insufficient food. I say "let myself," for of course I was always perfectly well able to make my living, and had done so many kinds of work that I could turn my hand to almost any sort of emmployment. Up to this time I had rather enjoyed the shifts by which I got along on small sums of money, and the readiness iwth which, when I needed books or clothes, I could go out and turn up a job. But now certain kinds of work that I had always done became hateful to me.
All through my life, there have been milestones at which I simply got through certain kinds of work. I got to one of these milestones in the winter of 1876-77. I told myself that I had got through sawing wood and tending furnaces, and I had got through doing chores. I had always hated chores, and I had been a chore-boy since I was eleven years old. Now my patience was exhausted. I detested currying horses, for instance; I hated the dust and the hair and the smell; and now I had come to the place where I simply couldn't take care of stables any more. To this day "chore" is to me the most hateful word in the English language. I am sure that thousands of country boys share my detestation of it. Chores are to country boys what dish-washing is to country girls—a dreary, drudging routine that hangs over the most cheerful day. So that year I struck, so far as chores were concerned; and hard times came of it. But, in whatever straits I found myself, it did not even occur to me to relieve the pressure by turning to the odd jobs at which I had once been so handy. When I went to bed supperless, there was no question in my mind, "Shall I go back to chores?"—none whatever. I had finished all that kind of work; it had ceased to exist for me. It was as if I had absolutely fortten how to take the clinkers out of furnaces, or had never known how; as if I had never seen a furnace, or a stable, or a wood-pile.
In so far as my college work went, that year opened up brilliantly. By this I mean, not that I did anything brilliant, but that the studies I took up that fall were more engaging and interesting than any I had had before. We began Virgil's Æneid, which I read with the greatest delight as a story of adventure and romantic love. I suppose it was the first time my imagination had been greatly stirred by anything in print, and I had reached an age when one's imaginings begin to be colored by one's per- View Image of Page 104 sonal feelings and are more alive than the fancies of childhood. I used to feel for hours together as if I were actually along with Æneas and his companions, wandering about the blue Mediterranean. The Æneid, naturally enough, set me to hunting for other books of a romantic flavor. I read Jean Paul Richter's "Titan" and Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister." I also discovered Carlyle and Emerson.
When the first snow fell in late November, I was wearing a straw hat. It was not so much the time that I spent in reading these books that made more practical occupations impossible to me, as the mood which they induced. Less than ever did I want to poke the clinkers or milk the cow. I was full of all sorts of new impulses, but none of them led to the stable or the saw-buck. And safety, for a poor boy like me, lay with the cow and the wood-pile. Instead of hustling about as I had always done, I read and studied most of the day, and in the evening I walked about the town and the fields and the woods, preferring the dark and the stillness to the company of the other boys.
Of course, it was very illogical in me to adopt this mode of living when I needed money as much as ever. But life is illogical. I believe that most people who believe that their lives have moved according to a plan, carefully made and consistently followed, deceive themselves. There are exceptions, but caprice and chance have their way with a good many of us.
The winter began in November, and was one of the coldest I have ever known. I had a room in "the Bricks" that winter. This building was only one story high and one room wide, so that I was once on the ground, under the roof, and between two outside walls. The cold was evenly distributed on the four sides of my cube. There was a fireplace, but until the 13th of December I had no coal at all. Then Harriet Hurd had a birthday, and her father gave her five dollars for a birhday present. She gave this money to me, and with part of it I bought half a ton of coal. That was the only coal I had during the whole winter.
Nearly every night the pail of of water in my room used to freeze solid and swell up in the center. I had a fur cap by this time, and I used always to eat my meals walking up and down the room, with my cap and woolen mittens on. I seldom had anything to eat but bread, and it froze so hard that it was full of ice and hard to chew. I can not remember anything more dismal than those meals in that terribly cold room. A very poor divinity student roomed with me a few weeks—a solemn, pious fellow with protruding teeth; and I remember, one Sunday when we came home from church and had nothing but cold corn-meal mush for our Sunday dinner, he varied his usual blessing as we confronted the dish, and said: "O Lord, View Image of Page 105 bless, we pray thee, this miserable food to our perishing bodies."
Going to bed, however, was the greatest hardship. The sheets were so cold, and had been cold for so long, that getting into bed was like plunging naked into a snowdrift. At night I usually studied in the public library, or in the office of the hotel, or in the waiting-room of the depot, where there was always a red-hot stove. Though we were not to read those authors until the next year, I set about making a vocabulary of Homer and the twenty-first book of Livy. Doing this sort of work in the evening, I thought, would make me sleepy. But, on the contray, I became more and more wakeful. Lack of nourishment probably had a good deal to do with my wakefulness. But the idea of going hungry was much less repugnant to me than the idea of hustling about hunting chores to do. I got so that I could go to bed supperless without feeling any great discomfort. I knew plenty of people who would have been glad to give me a good dinner, people with whom I had often had dinner when I did not need it. But when a boy is really hungry it is difficult for him to go out to dinner. There is something about it that makes him unnaturally shy. My theory, when I first came to Galesburg, was that nobody could be hungry in a place where food was plenty and cheap. I now found that supposition to be a mistake. The reason was purely psychological. I couldn't bring myself to ask for this food which was so plentiful.
The year wore on to spring, and the Commencement exercises took place toward the end of June. I had never stayed for the Commencement before, as I had always been off a few weeks before school was out, hunting for work. But this year Harriet Hurd was among the graduates, the valedictorian of her class.
Perhaps because of her part in the Commencement exercises, perhaps because they were the first I had ever seen, they seemd very impressive to me. The little procession, headed by the trustees, in which the graduates marched across the campus from the main building and down the street to the Opera House, seemed to me very solemn. Although the ceremonial aspect of the Commencement was so slight, it served to make me feel that there was a long distance between a gradute student and a freshman.
The exercises took place in the morning. That afternoon I fathered a bunch of pansies and took them to Miss Hurd's house. She was in the parlor, with her father and mother and several of her relatives. When I was shown in, I felt at once the chill in the atmosphere. Professor Hurd was a very frank man. He always showed me plainly that he did not like me, and on that afternoon his greeting was very cool. None of the others were any more cordial. Usually, the more embarassed I felt, the View Image of Page 106 harder it was for me to take my leave and get away; but that time I mianged to get away very soon. I gave my pansies to Miss Hurd with the best grace I could under such hostile supervision, and, after a few awkward moments, escaped.
After Commencement was over, I was still hanging on at my room in "the Bricks." I do not know why. With no means of self-support in view, I was still working away at comparative etymology and making up my Greek and Latin word-books for the next year. I had by this time a think manuscript book. I have no very clear recollection of that period. I worked a little every day, but I grew weaker all the time. For some reason, probably for coolness, I had put my matteress on the floor, and I used to lie there and study. Some one told Mr. Bangs, whose wife was principal of the girls' seminary, that I seemed to be in a pretty bad way, and he came over to my room and looked me over. My appearance must have confirmed the report, for he at once got a buggy and took me over to the seminary. I was put in one of the empty bedrooms there, where his wife could look after me. I was so weak that for several days I could take no nourishment but toast water.
With proper food I recovered rapidly, and on the 10th of July I went to call upon Harriet Hurd. She met me at the door in tears, and told me that her father was going to send her away to school, and that she had promised him not to see me again or to write to me. I said good-by to her on the porch, and went down the path. I did not see her or hear from her again for four years and two months, though I do not believe that she was out of my mind for a single day during that time. I had then not the least hope that she would ever marry me, or even that I would ever see her again. My feeling for her became a despairing obsession, as fixed as my longing to get an education had been. During the rest of my years in college, I used to look every week at the list of marriages in the Galesburg Register, always fearing to find an announcement of Miss Hurd's marriage to some one whom I did not know.
As fall came on, and it was time for me to begin my freshman work at college, I decided to leave Knox and go to Oberlin and enter there as a freshman. It seemed to me that I would get on better in a place where there would be no distrurbing memories and ssociations. If I stayed at Knox I would be in Professor Hurd's classes. I felt his disfavor keenly, and seeing him served to keep my troubles fresh in my mind. I realized that for a boy in his freshman year heartaches were a serious disadvantage. I had my trunk packed, when my uncle Joseph Gaston, who had been my mentor before, convinced me that this would be a very foolish change to make and that working my way in a strange town might hold me back.
During my freshman year I heard nothing from or of Miss Hurd except once. As I was going down the corridor of the main college building one day, I heahrd Nan Bateman, the president's daughter, ask Professor Hurd where Harriet was. He replied that she was at Bertheir, on the St. Lawrence, studying French. I had never heard of the place, but I dashed upstairs and got an atlas in which I soon found Bertheir-enHaut, where there was a French Protestant school for girls. I at once wrote Harriet a long letter and sent it to that address, but I received no reply. Years after I learned that my letter did not reach her.