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while we children tried for ourselves the edge of the ocean, and fished off the rocks, that, at low tide, lie along the shore at Hyannis like sea-monsters. David was the most venturesome, and was in perpetual excitement at wind and wave, throwing himself, after his impetuous manner, into the life of a Cape-Cod boy, as if he never had lived in Boston, and scorching his feet in a fearful manner, because he would go barefoot like his cousins, though the sand was hot and the beachgrass sharp.
When he was eleven years of age, the family removed from the city. Some change was necessary, for the neighborhood of the house had become changed by the approach of the foreign population, that, with business, turns so many families out of their old homes. The purity of the childrens' lives, however, formed the strongest reason for moving to a place then on the country side of the city of Roxbury, three miles from Boston. The house was a large brick one, on Warren Street, standing high enough to command, from its upper windows, a noble view of the harbor, and surrounded by thirty acres of land, partially under cultivation. A half-dozen acres only were attached to the house; but no visible boundaries separated the remainder, while there adjoined the place quite an extensive piece of wood and pasture land, since reclaimed, together with the grounds, for building purposes, but then affording an excellent play and roving field. Beyond was pretty open country, with half-wild patches of woodland and small ponds; so that, with the city at handy distance on one side, and the country on the other, abundant variety of scenery and occupation was furnished. It was no great distance either to the waterside, where the harbor pushes its way to the border of Roxbury and Dorchester, affording a capital swimmingplace.
The restless activity which, with David, had spent itself in street sports and on such pets as a city yard would permit, found in the country unlimited range; and as he had a healthy practical side to his nature, all possible pleasure and good seemed contained in a farmer's life. He became instantly all alive to such pursuits, and was by no means a play-farmer boy, but one in good earnest. He had his plot, where he made vegetables grow whether they would or not, watching them with untiring vigilance ; he kept hens and pigs, which always throve under his care; and in the larger cattle he seemed to claim an ownership by the interest which he showed in them; while to his collection of pets, rabbits, pigeons, and fancy fowl, he gave the most zealous attention. His generous and simple nature showed itself in the intense interest which he felt in the tribe of animals about him; he loved them almost as if they were children, not with any foolish sentimentalism, but with a wholesome, hearty affection. I remember an instance of that steadfast, unflinching affection with which David held to anybody or anything once finding a place in his heart, in the persistence with which he clung to a house-dog when it grew old and was afflicted with a loathsome disease. Nep had some horrible ulcer in his head, and spent his days flapping his ears and howling and rolling over and over, but David stood stoutly by his shaggy and disgraced friend, walked with him, played with him, defended him against all the reproaches of those unable to find Nep endurable, and never bated one jot of his affec
tionate care to the end. The end was the drowning of the poor animal, after David had entered college, and he writes home, upon hearing of it, “I had a real crying spell over Nep. However, I am glad he is dead.”
The same strong attachment took hold of the place itself. He scoured all the country about in his walks and sports, knew the wood-paths and the depths of the ponds; and afterward, when he had left college and the family had returned to the city, he took many an excursion to the place and lingered about his old haunts. May-day became a sort of anniversary to him, when he would walk out to Roxbury, lie down in the woods overlooking the pond where he had skated and fished, or sent Nep in on errands after sticks and stones, and mingle these recollections with ardent anticipations. It was a most hearty and natural life which he led in those days, entering with such contagious zest into all his pursuits, and finding in the free air which bore his shouts a spirit akin to his own, in his dog bounding beside him a companion that could respond to his exuberance better even than his playfellows.
Of playfellows he had an abundance, both because he was so popular and because his father's place afforded such a capital rendezvous. Something always was going on. Up early in the morning, he was out feeding his dependants in the barn-yard; rushing off to his plot with Nep at his heels; riding the horse bareback or chasing his rabbits; running to school across fields at the last moment, and coming in out of breath with just enough surplusage of spirits to keep him on the verge of disgrace or difficulty; rushing for the bats or the football at recess, and going home on the same fast run which never fell off into a saunter; using every spare moment at noon for farm-work; repeating the morning in the afternoon, and ending the day in a race with his dog up or down street, or across the pasture. In short, one remembers him in those days as half intoxicated with life, wilful in his love of freedom, and impatient of all restraint. His wilfulness frequently was obstinacy; he was a hard boy to manage, but down at the bottom of his heart, beneath the rough exterior, was a strong love, and in all his actions one could read the manly stuff of which he was made.
Shortly after the removal to Roxbury he was sent to the Latin School of the town, and spent four years in immediate preparation for college.
Mr. Charles Short, now President of Kenyon College, was the master of the school, and under his instruction David formed a more thorough, and at the same time more genial acquaintance with the classics than falls to the lot of most lads not living in the city. He always was extremely apt at acquiring language, and indeed so glib in his use of a tongue as to be obliged to guard against the superficiality of ready linguists. His taste for pure nonsense took the form of a liking for outlandish vocables, and kept him not only airing his new languages at odd moments, but also contriving new combinations and discoursing in tongues unknown even to himself. When he came to exercise himself upon the Tamil speech, he found his organs of utterance in a tractile condition which may have owed something to these boyish practices. For mathematics he had no inclination, while letter-writing and composition of any kind were very distasteful. This was natural enough, for he had not yet begun to think; he was thoroughly a boy in his entire freedom from speculative
habits; he did not know what an abstraction was,
and indeed pure meditation never was very natural to him; his mind seized most firmly upon what was presented in some concrete form. His early letters, few enough in number, are amusing for the naiveté with which this outness of life is displayed; he begins with what he has last seen, and if, before he has finished the account, something comes to interrupt it, down goes a notice of that in a parenthesis, and then he resumes his thread. I think that he went through his preparatory course with very little intellectual excitement; his quickness and habit of obeying, rather than any fondness for study, carried him through with credit.
It was this habit of attending to what was right at hand which gave him so tenacious a hold of life, and induced such hearty concern for all his interests and associations. Thus in school he studied hard ; in playtime he played with a will ; and as for all the drudgery of farm-work, he entered into it with a spirit which never flagged. It was not strange, therefore, that places and animals and friends to whom he had given so much of himself should have a strong hold upon his affections. Toward his school - comrades he never grew cool. In after-years he would come home delighted at having met in the street some one of them whom perhaps he had not seen for years; he sought them out and cared for their spiritual interest when that became the chief thing in his mind; and in his letters from India, would sometimes break out into a naming of one after another of his playmates, with whom school connection was quite all that he had ever had, and ask a remembrance of them should his brothers ever chance