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“THE POET FELT AS IF HIS FUTURE DEPENDED UPON IT” (SEE PAGE 116)

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MR. LONGFELLOW came walking up Brat- It was a late spring day in 1880, near the tle Street. For many years, that had been first of June. It was in marble season. his usual road home from Harvard Square. Five small boys from the lowest grade of the In his younger days, that way led him under Washington Grammar School were playing the spreading chestnut-tree where the village marbles after school, a little farther up Brattle smithy stood. But even forty years ago the Street, at the corner of Mason. The streets blacksmith and his forge had long since met at a rather acute angle, and on the gone, and the chestnut-tree did not spread southeast corner, just opposite St. John's, out its arms so wide as it used to do. The the Chapel of the Episcopal Theological necessary process of cutting off sections of School, the sidewalk afforded

fine space of the branches had begun, both for the much bare ground, trodden hard and smooth, older Washington Elm, two or three blocks plenty large enough for a game of big ring. away, and for the Spreading Chestnut-tree. The property on that corner was enclosed by But if the blacksmith and his forge had a broad low wall, just the thing to lean against gone, another interest still drew his steps in or to sit on while the other fellows were skirtthat direction, for Mr. Longfellow was quite ing around the circle to find the best place apt even to go out of his way to have children from which to shoot at the pyramid of maralong his path. The Washington Grammar bles in the center, and a glorious place from School stood on Brattle Street directly oppo- which to pounce down with triumph in your site the old tree.

nine-year-old heart, when your turn came, to All the boys knew him. And all the girls fire at the scattered shots the failures your too. Some knew that his name was Mr. predecessors had left exposed to your acLongfellow. But that was not necessary. curacy. You just spoke to him, and he spoke to you. It was pretty warm this afternoon, and Mr. He seemed always to know your name, which Longfellow was carrying a pongee-colored, pleased you, and the way he spoke your green-lined shade-umbrella. As he came name pleased you, too, somehow. But then along up Brattle Street, he stopped at the he knew everybody's name, all the boys' and game of big ring. The boys all looked up, girls', so there was not anything unusual and two of them, in whom the precepts of about that. We all liked him, of course. family tradition were strong, took off their Some one had said he was a poet, but we did caps to him. The others just grinned and not know exactly what that was. We liked looked a little shy. Mr. Longfellow smiled him just as much, whatever it was.

and bowed around to all of them.

resources.

“Well, who 's ahead so far this afternoon?' not much. He proposed to give way now to

"I am!" promptly responded a youngster the others and wait for his turn to come round who came from the poorer neighborhood on again. But none of the little fellows would the other side of Mount Auburn Avenue. listen to that. He must keep at it until he

Mr. Longfellow stood there several min- got something. That was the only moment utes, watching one small boy after another his cheery courage seemed to waver. Otherchoose his place on the ring, kneel and shoot, wise, no failure had seemed to dampen his pick up his winnings and shoot again, or give genial spirits. way to the next with a protesting shake of "I don't know about that,” he remarked. his head against Fate. The old gentleman His young instructor promptly came to watched the game with real interest, smiling the rescue with encouragement. “You might with congratulation at the winner over each yet!" And Mr. Longfellow smiled again marble knocked out of the ring, and sym- at once. His cheeriness returned-also his pathizing with you over each miss in a way that assured you of his certainty that next “Now you boys all take your turns. I time you would do better.

want to see how each one of you shoots. The game came to an end.

All the mar- Then maybe I can do better.” bles were knocked out and had found new Each nine- or ten-year-old boy took his homes in new pockets for a while. Marbles turn. Each now felt it incumbent upon him were stacked up in a pile in the middle of the to give their good friend an example of marring for the new game. Mr. Longfellow ble-shooting that would encourage him and started to move on.

show him how to knock the putties out of the Just then one of the small boys looked up ring with force and with success. The incenat him with one of those divining looks that tive brought forth fine results. By the time go straight to the heart of a man.

all five had had their turn, most of the marbles “Would n't you like to play, sir?”!

had shot or rolled over the line into private Mr. Longfellow was very much pleased ownership. Mr. Longfellow seemed to be indeed, and he showed it.

entirely unselfish about it, urged each boy on “Yes, I should. But I have no marbles. to deeds of prowess, and seemed sincerely And I do not believe I could hit anything." glad for every one's success.

"I 'll lend you a shooter. And you need When his turn came round again, there was not put any marbles in. Need he?”' He just one marble left to shoot at, and that was turned for confirmation of his generous pro- near the ring. posal to the other boys.

"Now you can either shoot across the ring “No indeed!" came the answer in hearty at it, or drive it all the way across from here. chorus.

I guess you'd better try from here. But "You might hit something. You could you 'll have to shoot it awful hard." learn, anyhow. I did."

The poet felt as if his future depended This assurance seemed to encourage Mr. upon it, and he did his best. He tried Longfellow a great deal. He smiled genially from near at hand. The arc of failure was through his large wavy white beard. He much smaller and the mark much larger near closed his umbrella and leaned it against the at hand. He shot. The potter did not go wall.

with force enough to get across the ring, but The small boy dove into his bulging little it did hit the mark a glancing blow upon the breeches pocket and pulled forth a handful of side. The marble rolled toward the circle marbles. He picked out a brown potter. and it stopped just on the line. There! You can take that one."

“That 's out! Oh yes, that 's out! We 'll Do you think I can hit something with call that out!” The generous clamor rose that one?

around the ring. Mr. Longfellow gratefully "It 's a brown potter! It has n't often accepted the lenient interpretation of the missed yet."

rule that “On the line is in,” although he Mr. Longfellow crouched down on the still had qualms of sportsmanship about it. sidewalk, while the small boy knelt beside “Do you call that out?” him and duly instructed him in the proper Yes! Yes!" came a unanimous chorus of way to hold and to shoot a champion brown five kind young voices. Mr. Longfellow potter. Mr. Longfellow tried, but the fa- seemed really happy. mous brown potter simply rolled off to one "Pile 'm up, Billy, for another game!" one side. He tried again. A little better, but youngster sang out instantly. “Yours first. You got the last one." This was addressed again. I think that was—well-kind of to Mr. Longfellow.

brave in him, don't you Mother?” But Mr. Longfellow had to go. No, he could not stay.

Now forty years have made him understand "Perhaps another day,” he said. “But I the poet's cheerfulness on that occasion. want to keep the marble that I won!"

And also, now that he does understand, Mr. “Of course you can keep it,” his teacher Longfellow's "cheerfulness" is not to be extold him. “It is yours.”

plained away by any forty years, nor by a He put it in his pocket, gave the best hundred. His smiles came from his love brown potter back, picked up his shade-um- of children, to whom he was a real person, brella, and smiling to them every one and not a mere grown-up; and he met his troubles, calling each by name, as he said good-by, all of them, with the same cheerfulness as he walked along up Brattle Street toward his displayed throughout his failure in playing house.

marbles. That night the chief instructor told his That brown potter! Every mark on it mother all about it when he went to bed. that small boy remembers still! It was his

“'It was too bad! He could n't hit a thing. special shooter! Long ago it disappeared. Really, he could n't. But he was cheerful But there is much that boy would give right about it just the same. He'd smile and try now to have that potter in his hand again!

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