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Seeing Ourselves in Our Dogs
Condensed from The Century Magazine (February, '26)
DOG is probably never more hu-
Dogs of course have a decidedly noticeable trait of jealousy. Booth Tarkington once told me a story of two dogs, one his own and another belonging to Harry Leon Wilson. The two men and their dogs had been living together in Europe. Tarkington and Wilson made a trip to the United States, bringing along Wilson's dog, but leaving the Tarkington dog behind. The two dogs had always been great friends. But when the two men returned, having the Wilson dog with
them, Tarkington's dog seemed to realize that his one-time playmate had enjoyed a long trip with his master while he himself had been compelled to remain in a lonely kennel. He turned on the Wilson dog in jealous rage, and they were friends no longer.
One trait which I am sure most dogs possess more than their owners realize is a sense of embarrassment. I recall walking with old Badger one day when he started to chase what he thought was a rabbit but which proved to be only a piece of paper moved by the wind. When he discovered his error he immediately stopped short and looked around with a silly expression to see if I had noticed him.
I laughed at him he went slinking
Badger has long had an absurd habit, or one might almost call it a fetish, which I have never been able to explain except that the old rascal has a streak of get-even spirit. If I go away and leave him alone in the house, he is certain to go from one bedroom to another, jump up on each bed. and rumple it up. He never under any circumstances jumps on a bed if there is any one in the house, but the moment he is alone he seems to waste no time in carrying out this secret project. He is not prompted by a desire to lie on the bed, because he never remains longer than necessary to place the bed in a state of general disorder. It cannot be that he is doing it to try to find me, thinking I may still be in bed, because he has seen me go out of the front door. Can it be that he does it as a means of revenge for being left alone? He realizes each time that he is doing wrong and will later be scoided. Yet so great is his desire to commit this offense that ne would rather do it even though he must spend the rest of the day with a guilty conscience. Usually when I return from a brief absence, Badger comes bounding to the door in hilarious fashion to greet me. If he fails to do so I know that he has been alone in the house and is ashamed of having been up to his old tricks. I call him, and with great reluctance he finally comes, tail down, utterly dejected. It has been impossible to break up his habit of tearing up beds. never caught him in the act until one time when he and I occupied a small cabin in the Maine woods. I was in the habit of going to a near-by cabin for meals and would leave Badger in our cabin alone. Almost invariably when I returned the bed would be in a state of disorder. One day I went out, and then tiptoed back to where I could peek in the window. Immediately Badger jumped on the bed and began to rumple it up. He happened to glance toward the window and saw Without waiting for a word his
whole appearance changed to a shamefaced air that I have come to think of as his bedroom look, and he went slinking away. But as always under such circumstances he watched my face for a sign of forgiveness and at the first suggestion of a smile came bounding at me like a happy child. He has become acquainted with the joy of "making up."
Dogs like humans dislike to admit they are getting old or for any reason cannot do everything that they ever could. Badger, aged 15 at this writing, now prefers to lie quietly and sleep most of the time. But if he sees me playing with a younger dog, he is certain to make a great show of romping about, evidently to make me think that he is still just as spry as ever.
Dogs and folks share a broad-minded willingness to tolerate insults from those that they know they can whip. I once saw James J. Corbett smilingly permit an under-sized man to call him
I have often noticed that dogs practice a form of deceit in a spirit of politeness. My little Welsh terrier, Megan, seems to think my feelings might be hurt if she were to refuse food I offer her. When she has had enough she takes the food eagerly and dashes away as if to eat it in leisurely fashion in some favorite nook. But what she does is to drop it where she thinks I will not see it, hoping evidently that I will suppose she has eaten it.
How often I have wished I might do the same thing, especially when a charming hostess implores me to have a second helping of soggy pie prepared with her own fair hands! What a convenience it would be if I could run gaily with my plate out into the back yard and secrete it behind a bush!
When Lincoln and Beecher Met
Condensed from The Independent (February 13, '26)
Samuel Scoville, Jr.
ACK in the 'nineties, I accompanied my grandmother, Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher, across the continent and back. The incident of that trip which stands out most clearly in my memory is a story which Mrs. Beecher told me one day as we watched the prairies slip by.
She told me of a strange visitor who had come to the Beecher home in Brooklyn, late one stormy night toward the close of the Civil War. It was a time when the fortunes of the North were at a low ebb. Grant had failed to take Petersburg and had been outmaneuvered by Lee; the members of Lincoln's Cabinet were at odds with one another; Early had raided, unchecked to within sight of the dome of the Capitol, and only chance had prevented him from capturing Washington.
On the night of which she told, Mr. Beecher was in his study and Mrs. Beecher was the only other member of the household who was up, when the bell at the front door rang. She found a tall man on the steps, wrapped in one of the great cloaks which men affected in bad weather during the 'sixties.
The stranger asked to see my grandfather, apologizing for calling so late, but stating he came on a matter of importance. He refused to give his name, saying that Mr. Beecher knew him, and he also managed to keep his face shaded by his hat and cloak. These curious circumstances made Mrs. Beecher afraid to let him in. As far back as the days when Henry Ward Beecher helped to raise men, money, and arms for Kansas, and boxes of Springfield rifles-known as "Beecher's Bibles"-were shipped to the hardpressed settlers in that border war for freedom, there had been constant
threats against his life by fanatical sympathizers with the South. Since those times he had ransomed slaves from Plymouth pulpit and had denounced slavery in the pages of The Independent, of which he was the editor. Finally, he had, against tremendous odds of public sentiment, turned the tide in favor of the North in Great Britain by his speeches there -and the threats increased in violence and in number. With these in mind, Mrs. Beecher locked the stranger out in the rain until she could go upstairs and speak to her husband. As always, Mr. Beecher refused to be frightened. "It's too late for anyone to murder me now; the damage's done," he said jokingly. "Send him up."
As the stranger went into the study, Mrs. Beecher, listening below, heard her husband exclaim as at the sight of a friend, and the door was shut. For a long time she could hear the voices of the two men as they talked together. Then she heard Mr. Beecher's voice alone, rising and falling in those long cadences of pleading and communion which, up to his last day on earth, made his prayers as from one who spoke face to face with God.
He let his mysterious visitor out of the house himself; and next morning when Mrs. Beecher asked him who he was, her husband declined to answer.
The weeks went by, and the tide of the war turned. Finally, after Lincoln had been reelected on Nov. 8 and Lee had surrendered, it was decided Lo raise the flag at Fort Sumter and to celebrate the ending of the war at the place where it began. Henry Ward Beecher was selected to pronounce the oration at the raising of the flag, Lincoln saying that it was most appropriate that he should be chosen for the honor, since if it had not been for
his speeches in England there might have been no flag to raise.
My father, his son-in-law, accompanied him on this trip. The ceremonies were most impressive, and the oration pronounced by Beecher was said to have been one of the masterpieces of American eloquence.
The next day came the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and Mr. Beecher expressed the thought of the whole gathering when he said, "All good men should be at home at a time like this," and the party which had come to Charleston so joyfully returned in sorrow and mourning.
It was shortly after his arrival at Brooklyn, and when he was preparing the great eulogy which he later pronounced on Abraham Lincoln, that he told my grandmother that the stranger who had come to their home late that stormy night was none other than President Lincoln; and it was not until shortly before his death in 1887 that he told anyone other than Mrs. Beecher.
Oppressed by the burden of grief which was on nearly every household in North and South alike, Lincoln had seized an opportunity to see Mr. Beecher personally and have the help and consolation of his prayers.
My late father-in-law, Chaplain H. Clay Trumbull, a profound student of Lincoln's life, once told me that it was entirely possible that Lincoln could have been in Brooklyn not only once, but several times, without the knowledge of his secretaries or of his bodyguard.
Although Abraham Lincoln was not a member of any church, he often requested the prayers of clergymen with whom he came in contact-which seems indirectly to corroborate Mrs. Beecher's story.
To a minister from New York State who told him that the people were praying for him, Lincoln said, "Tell every father and mother you know to keep on praying, and I will keep on fighting, for I am sure that God is on our side."
Then Lincoln went on to say that out in his country when a parson made a pastoral call it was always the custom for the folks to ask him to lead in prayer, and that he would like to have the minister pray with him, that day, that he might have strength and wisdom. The minister did so, and when Lincoln rose from his knees he grasped his visitors hand and remarked, "I feel better."
Another time, Bishop Mathew Simpson called to see Mr. Lincoln, and when he rose to go Mr. Lincoln stepped to the door and said, "Bishop, I feel the need of prayer as never before. Please pray with me."
John G. Nicolay, one of Lincoln's private secretaries, said: "Many a time I have heard Mr. Lincoln ask ministers and Christian women to pray for him.”
Moreover, Lincoln never failed to emphasize his belief in divine guidance and his need of the same.
John Bach McMaster, the historian, told me only recently that, as a boy, his first sight of Lincoln was at a reception where the guests were marshaled past the President by watchful ushers and not allowed to come too close. One old chap, much disappointed at not having shaken hands with him, waved his hat and blurted out, "Mr. President, I'm from up in York State where we believe that God Almighty and Abraham Lincoln are going to save this country."
"My friend, you're half right," replied Lincoln.
Such is the record of the only time, so far as I know, that Lincoln and Beecher ever met. To me the story of their meeting gives a revealing glimpse of the real Lincoln as he was in that bitter year-tired, brokenhearted, despairing, seeking for help where alone it could be found; the same man who once said wistfully, "I have been driven many times to my knees because I had nowhere else to go."
What Babbitt Won't Talk About
Condensed from Harper's Magazine (April '26)
LD MAN BARTON, now past hard work, has come up from the rural county seat where he was born, and in a southern metropolis sits all day in the smart motor-service station kept by his middle-aged sons, sometimes attending to the simpler wants of customers. He probably never had three years of schooling in his life. Yet he keeps alive an ancient American practice from which the institutions of the republic once drew a wholesome vitality, now, it seems, sadly declining: the habit of critically observing and racily discussing what goes on in the world. Indeed, in four
years of close acquaintance, I have never yet found Old Man Barton at loss for an opinion on a consequential public issue, based on good critical faculties and well-digested general information, salted with wit, and cogently delivered.
Yet among social and business acquaintances in the same city, I find nothing like it. Most of them are men or women-of infinitely better educational advantages. But when
public questions intrude themselves in a conversation, they are promptly dismissed after a round of apathetic and vaguely polite comments.
"These young people who have been through high school and college think they've been taught everything," Old Man Barton frames the indictment. "So they figure they don't need to learn nothing any more, nor even to think. Us old-timers knew we didn't know much to start with, and so we've spent our lives mostly trying to study things out."
The old man's grandson-two years out of a state university and the town's youngest proprietor of a motor
car agency-is the pride of the Barton family. One evening the old man was deep in some shrewd observations on the war-debt question. "Aw, what good will it do us if these frogs and wops do pay up?" the rising young Babbitt inquired disgustedly. "The grafters will get it all anyway. Say, granddad," he went on amiably, "why don't you cut the bull and take up golf?" It was plain that he regarded his grandfather's interest in public affairs as a shameful confession of extreme old age and rather bad form to boot. . . .
Once, American talk was different. The mere existence of the republic was a perpetually exciting, almost a unique fact. Our brand-new, and supposedly original institutions, and the whirr of their machinery as they went round, were irresistibly attractive to the average citizen's curiosity and emotions. He devoted to them almost all the powers of observation, speculation, and argument that he had left over from his business and domestic life; and his newspapers rated only the most shattering disasters, the most gruesome murders, as on a par with the discussion of minor political issues.
The issues we have today are hardly more obscure or less intimate and consequential. The average man can surely think his way through to logical conclusions on the questions of government regulation of private conduct and private business initiative; of disproportionate taxation; of American participation in world affairs-if he cares to take the trouble. The difference is that the old-time American did care.
As far back as the 1790s, despite the almost total absence of "journals of opinion," men of only the slightest for