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   Chapter 3 DOCTOR FOSHAY

The Reminiscences of an Astronomer By Simon Newcomb Characters: 55900

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


In the summer of 1851, when I had passed the age of sixteen, we lived in a little school district a mile or two from the town of Yarmouth, N. S. Late in the summer we had a visit from a maternal uncle and aunt. As I had not seen Moncton since I was six years old, and as I wanted very much to visit my grandfather Prince once more, it was arranged that I should accompany them on their return home. An additional reason for this was that my mother's health had quite failed; there was no prospect of my doing anything where I was, and it was hoped that something might turn up at Moncton. There was but one difficulty; the visitors had driven to St. John in their own little carriage, which would hold only two people; so they could not take me back. I must therefore find my own way from St. John to Moncton.

We crossed the Bay of Fundy in a little sailing vessel. Among the passengers was an English ship captain who had just been wrecked off the coast of Newfoundland, and had the saved remnant of his crew with him. On the morning of our departure the weather was stormy, so that our vessel did not put to sea-a precaution for which the captain passenger expressed great contempt. He did not understand how a vessel should delay going to see on account of a little storm.

The walk of one hundred miles from St. John to Moncton was for me, at that time, a much less formidable undertaking than it would appear in our times and latitude. A thirty-mile tramp was a bagatelle, and houses of entertainment-farmhouses where a traveler could rest or eat for a few pennies-were scattered along the road. But there was one great difficulty at the start. My instructions had been to follow the telegraph wires. I soon found that the line of telegraph came into the town from one direction, passed through it, and then left, not in the opposite direction, but perhaps at right angles to it. In which direction was the line to be followed? It was difficult to make known what I wanted. "Why, my boy, you can't walk to Moncton," was one answer. In a shop the clerks thought I wanted to ride on the telegraph, and, with much chuckling, directed me to the telegraph office where the man in charge would send me on. I tried in one direction which I thought could not be right, then I started off in the opposite one; but it soon became evident that that branch led up the river to Frederickton. So I had to retrace my steps and take the original line, which proved to be the right one.

The very first night I found that my grandfather's name was one to conjure with. I passed it with a hearty old farmer who, on learning who I was, entertained me with tales of Mr. Prince. The quality which most impressed the host was his enormous physical strength. He was rather below the usual stature and, as I remember him, very slightly built. Yet he could shoulder a barrel of flour and lift a hogshead of molasses on its end, feats of strength which only the most powerful men in the region were equal to.

On reaching my destination, I was not many days in learning that my grandfather was a believer in the maxims of "Poor Richard's Almanac," and disapproved of the aimless way in which I had been bred. He began to suggest the desirableness of my learning to do something to make a living. I thought of certain mechanical tastes which had moved me in former years to whittle and to make a reel on which to wind yarn, and to mend things generally. So I replied that I thought the trade of a carpenter was the one I could most easily learn. He approved of the idea, and expressed the intention of finding a carpenter who would want my services; but before he did so, I was started in a new and entirely different direction.

On her last visit to her birthplace, my mother brought back glowing reports of a wonderful physician who lived near Moncton and effected cures of the sick who had been given up by other doctors. I need hardly remark that physicians of wonderful proficiency-Diomeds of the medical profession, before whose shafts all forms of disease had to fall-were then very generally supposed to be realities. The point which specially commended Dr. Foshay to us was that he practiced the botanic system of medicine, which threw mineral and all other poisons out of the materia medica and depended upon the healing powers of plants alone. People had seen so much of the evil effects of calomel, this being the favorite alternative of the profession, that they were quite ready to accept the new system. Among the remarkable cures which had given Dr. Foshay his great reputation was one of a young man with dyspepsia. He was reduced to a shadow, and the regular doctors had given him up as incurable. The new doctor took him to his home. The patient was addicted to two practices, both of which had been condemned by his former medical advisers. One was that of eating fat pork, which he would do at any hour of the day or night. The new doctor allowed him to eat all he wanted. Another was getting up in the night and practicing an ablution of the stomach by a method too heroic to be described in anything but a medical treatise. [1] He was now allowed to practice it to his heart's content. The outcome of the whole proceeding was that he was well in a few months, and, when I saw him, was as lusty a youth as one could desire to meet.

Before Mr. Prince could see a carpenter, he was taken ill. I was intensely interested to learn that his physician was the great doctor I had heard of, who lived in the village of Salisbury, fifteen miles on the road to St. John.

One of my aunts had an impression that the doctor wanted a pupil or assistant of some kind, and suggested that a possible opening might here be offered me. She promised to present me to the doctor on his next visit, after she had broached the subject to him.

The time for which I waited impatiently at length arrived. Never before had I met so charming a man. He was decidedly what we should now call magnetic. There was an intellectual flavor in his talk which was quite new to me. What fascinated me most of all was his speaking of the difficulties he encountered in supplying himself with sufficient "reading matter." He said it as if mental food was as much a necessity as his daily bread. He was evidently a denizen of that world of light which I had so long wished to see. He said that my aunt was quite right in her impression, and our interview terminated in the following liberal proposition on his part:-

S. N. to live with the doctor, rendering him all the assistance in his power in preparing medicines, attending to business, and doing generally whatever might be required of him in the way of help.

The doctor, on his part, to supply S. N.'s bodily needs in food and clothing, and teach him medical botany and the botanic system of medicine. The contract to terminate when the other party should attain the age of twenty-one.

After mentioning the teaching clause, he corrected himself a moment, and added: "At least all I know about it."

All he knows about it! What more could heart desire or brain hold?

The brilliancy of the offer was dimmed by only a single consideration; I had never felt the slightest taste for studying medicine or caring for the sick. That my attainments in the line could ever equal those of my preceptor seemed a result too hopeless to expect. But, after all, something must be done, and this was better than being a carpenter.

Before entering upon the new arrangement, a ratification was required on both sides. The doctor had to make the necessary household arrangements, and secure the consent of his wife. I had to ask the approval of my father, which I did by letter. Like General Grant and many great men, he was a man of exceptional sagacity in matters outside the range of his daily concerns. He threw much cold water on the scheme, but consented to my accepting the arrangement temporarily, as there was nothing better to be done.

I awaited the doctor's next visit with glowing anticipation. In due course of time I stepped with him into his gig for the long drive, expecting nothing less on the journey than a complete outline of the botanic system of medicine and a programme of my future studies. But scarcely had we started when a chilling process commenced. The man erstwhile so effusive was silent, cold, impassive,-a marble statue of his former self. I scarcely got three sentences out of him during the journey, and these were of the most commonplace kind. Could it be the same man?

There was something almost frightful in being alongside a man who knew so much. When we reached our destination the horse had to be put away in the stable. I jumped up to the haymow to throw down the provender. It was a very peculiar feeling to do so under the eye of a man who, as he watched me, knew every muscle that I was setting in operation.

A new chill came on when we entered the house and I was presented to its mistress.

"So you 're the boy that's come to work for the doctor, are you?"

"I have come to study with him, ma'am"' was my interior reply, but I was too diffident to say it aloud. Naturally the remark made me very uncomfortable. The doctor did not correct her, and evidently must have told her something different from what he told me. Her tone was even more depressing than her words; it breathed a coldness, not to say harshness, to which I had not been accustomed in a woman. There was nothing in her appearance to lessen the unpleasant impression. Small in stature, with florid complexion, wide cheek bones that gave her face a triangular form, she had the eye and look of a well-trained vixen.

As if fate were determined to see how rapid my downfall should be before the close of the day, it continued to pursue me. I was left alone for a few minutes. A child some four years old entered and made a very critical inspection of my person. The result was clearly unfavorable, for she soon asked me to go away. Finding me indisposed to obey the order, she proceeded to the use of force and tried to expel me with a few strong pushes. When I had had enough of this, I stepped aside as she was making a push. She fell to the floor, then picked herself up and ran off crying, "Mamma." The latter soon appeared with added ire infused into her countenance.

"What did you hit the child for?"

"I did n't hit her. What should I want to strike a child like that for?"

"But she says you hit her and knocked her down."

"I did n't, though-she was trying to push me and fell and hurt herself."

A long piercing look of doubt and incredulity followed.

"Strange, very strange. I never knew that child to tell a lie, and she says you struck her."

It was a new experience-the first time I had ever known my word to be questioned.

During the day one thought dominated all others: where are those treasures of literature which, rich though they are, fail to satisfy their owner's voracious intellectual appetite? As houses were then built, the living and sleeping rooms were all on one main floor. Here they comprised a kitchen, dining room, medicine room, a little parlor, and two small sleeping rooms, one for the doctor and one for myself. Before many hours I had managed to see the interior of every one except the doctor's bedroom, and there was not a sign of a book unless such common ones as a dictionary or a Bible. What could it all mean?

Next day the darkness was illuminated, at least temporarily, by a ray of light. The doctor had been absent most of the day before on a visit to some distant patient. Now he came to me and told me he wanted to show me how to make bilious powders. Several trays of dried herbs had been drying under the kitchen stove until their leaves were quite brittle. He took these and I followed him to the narrow stairway, which we slowly ascended, he going ahead. As I mounted I looked for a solution of the difficulty. Here upstairs must be where the doctor kept his books. At each step I peered eagerly ahead until my head was on a level with the floor. Rafters and a window at the other end had successively come into view and now the whole interior was visible. Nothing was there but a loft, at the further end of which was a bed for the housemaid. The floor was strewn with dried plants. Nothing else was visible. The disillusion seemed complete. My heart sank within me.

On one side of the stairway at a level with the floor was screwed a large coffee mill. The doctor spread a sheet of paper out on the floor on the other side, and laid a line sieve upon it. Then he showed me how to grind the dry and brittle leaves in the coffee mill, put them into the sieve, and sift them on the paper. This work had a scientific and professional look which infused a glimmer of light into the Cimmerian darkness. The bilious powders were made of the leaves of four plants familiarly known as spearmint, sunflower, smartweed, and yarrow. In his practice a heaping teaspoonful of the pulverized leaves was stirred in a cup of warm water and the grosser parts were allowed to settle, while the patient took the finer parts with the infusion. This was one of Dr. Foshay's staple remedies. Another was a pill of which the principal active ingredient was aloes. The art of making these pills seemed yet more scientific than the other, and I was much pleased to find how soon I could master it. Beside these a number of minor remedies were kept in the medicine room. Among them were tinctures of lobelia, myrrh, and capsicum. There was also a pill box containing a substance which, from its narcotic odor, I correctly inferred to be opium. This drug being prohibited by the Botanic School I could not but feel that Dr. Foshay's orthodoxy was painfully open to question.

Determined to fathom the mystery in which the doctor's plans for my improvement were involved, I announced my readiness to commence the study of the botanic system. He disappeared in the direction of his bedroom, and soon returned with-could my eyes believe it?-a big book. It was one which, at the time of its publication, some thirty or forty years before, was well known to the profession,-Miner and Tully on the "Fevers of the Connecticut Valley." He explained bringing me this book.

"Before beginning the regular study of the botanic system, you must understand something of the old system. You can do so by reading this book."

A duller book I never read. There was every sort of detail about different forms of fever, which needed different treatment; yet calomel and, I think, opium were its main prescriptions. In due time I got through it and reported to my preceptor.

"Well, what do you think of the book?"

"It praises calomel and opium too much. But I infer from reading it that there are so many kinds of fever and other diseases that an immense amount of study will be required to distinguish and treat them."

"Oh, you will find that all these minute distinctions are not necessary when we treat the sick on the botanic system."

"What is the next thing for me? Can I not now go on with the study of the botanic system?"

"You are not quite ready for it yet. You must first understand something about phrenology. One great difference between us and doctors of the old school is that they take no account of difference of temperament, but treat the lymphatic and bilious in the same way. But we treat according to the temperament of the patient and must therefore be expert in distinguishing temperaments."

"But I studied phrenology long ago and think I understand it quite well."

He was evidently surprised at this statement, but after a little consideration said it was very necessary to be expert in the subject, and thought I had better learn it more thoroughly. He returned to his bedroom and brought a copy of Fowler's "Phrenology," the very book so familiar to me. I had to go over it again, and did so very carefully, paying special attention to the study of the four temperaments,-nervous, bilious, lymphatic, and sanguine.

Before many days I again reported progress. The doctor seemed a little impatient, but asked me some questions about the position of the organs and other matters pertaining to the subject, which I answered promptly and correctly by putting my fingers on them on my own head. But though satisfied with the answers, it was easy to see that he was not satisfied with me. He had, on one or two previous occasions, intimated that I was not wise and prudent in worldly matters. Now he expressed himself more plainly.

"This world is all a humbug, and the biggest humbug is the best man. That 's the Yankee doctrine, and that 's the reason the Yankees get along so well. You have no organ of secretiveness. You have a window in your breast that every one can look into and see what you are thinking about. You must shut that window up, like I do. No one can tell from my talk or looks what I am thinking about."

It may seem incredible to the reader that I marveled much at the hidden meaning of this allegorical speech, and never for one moment supposed it to mean: "I, Dr. Foshay, with my botanic system of medicine, am the biggest humbug in these parts, and if you are going to succeed with me you must be another." But I had already recognized the truth of his last sentence. Probably neither of us had heard of Talleyrand, but from this time I saw that his hearty laugh and lively talk were those of a manikin.

His demeanor toward me now became one of complete gravity, formality, and silence. He was always kindly, but never said an unnecessary word, and avoided all reference to reading or study. The mystery which enveloped him became deeper month after month. In his presence I felt a certain awe which prevented my asking any questions as to his intentions toward me.

It must, of course, be a matter of lifelong regret that two years so important in one's education should have been passed in such a way,-still, they were not wholly misspent. From a teacher named Monroe, [2] who then lived near Salisbury, I borrowed Draper's Chemistry, little thinking that I would one day count the author among my friends. A book peddler going his rounds offered a collection of miscellaneous books at auction. I bought, among others, a Latin and a Greek grammar, and assiduously commenced their study. With the first I was as successful as could be expected under the circumstances, but failed with the Greek, owing to the unfamiliarity of the alphabet, which seemed to be an obstacle to memory of the words and forms.

But perhaps the greatest event of my stay was the advent of a botanic druggist of Boston, who passed through the region with a large wagonload of medicines and some books. He was a pleasant, elderly gentleman, and seemed much interested on learning that I was a student of the botanic system. He had a botanic medical college in or near Boston, and strongly urged me to go thither as soon as I could get ready to complete my studies. From him the doctor, willing to do me a favor, bought some books, among them the "Eclectic Medical Dispensary," published in Cincinnati. Of this book the doctor spoke approvingly, as founded on the true system which he himself practiced, and though I never saw him read it, he was very ready to accept the knowledge which I derived from it. The result was quite an enlargement of his materia medica, both in the direction of native plants and medicines purchased from his druggist.

On one occasion this advance came near having serious consequences. I had compounded some pills containing a minute quantity of elaterium. The doctor gave them to a neighboring youth affected with a slight indisposition in which some such remedy was indicated. The directions were very explicit,-one pill every hour until the desired effect was produced.

"Pshaw," said the patient's brother, "there's nothin' but weeds in them pills, and a dozen of them won't hurt you."

The idea of taking weed pills one at a time seemed too ridiculous, and so the whole number were swallowed at a dose. The result was, happily, not fatal, though impressive enough to greatly increase the respect of the young man's family for our medicines.

The intellectual life was not wholly wanting in the village. A lodge of a temperance organization, having its headquarters in Maine, was formed at a neighboring village. It was modeled somewhat after the fashion of the Sons of Temperance. The presiding officer, with a high sounding title, was my mother's cousin, Tommy Nixon. He was the most popular young man of the neighborhood. The rudiments of a classical education gained at a reputable academy in Sackville had not detracted from his qualities as a healthy, rollicking young farmer. The lodge had an imposing ritual of which I well remember one feature. At stated intervals a password which admitted a member of any one lodge to a meeting of any other was received from the central authority-in Maine, I believe. It was never to be pronounced except to secure admission, and was communicated to the members by being written on a piece of paper in letters so large that all could read. After being held up to view for a few moments, the paper was held in the flame of a candle with these words: "This paper containing our secret password I commit to the devouring element in token that it no longer exists save in the minds of the faithful brethren." The fine sonorous voice of the speaker and his manly front, seen in the lurid light of the burning paper, made the whole scene very impressive.

There was also a society for the discussion of scientific questions, of which the founder and leading spirit was a youth named Isaac Steves, who was beginning the study of medicine. The president was a "Worthy Archon." Our discussions strayed into the field of physiological mysteries, and got us into such bad odor with Mrs. Foshay and, perhaps, other ladies of the community, that the meetings were abandoned.

A soil like that of the Provinces at this time was fertile in odd characters including, possibly, here and there, a "heart pregnant with celestial fire." One case quite out of the common line was that of two or three brothers employed in a sawmill somewhere up the river Petticodiac. According to common report they had invented a new language in order to enable them to talk together without their companions knowing what they were saying. I knew one of them well and, after some time, ventured to inquire about this supposed tongue. He was quite ready to explain it. The words were constructed out of English by the very simple process of reversing the syllables or the spelling. Everything was pronounced backward. Those who heard it, and knew the key, had no difficulty in construing the words; to those who did not, the words were quite foreign.

The family of the neighborhood in which I was most intimate was that of a Scotch farmer named Parkin. Father, mother, and children were very attractive, both socially and intellectually, and in later years I wondered whether any of them were still living. Fifty years later I had one of the greatest and most agreeable surprises of my life in suddenly meeting the little boy of the family in the person of Dr. George R. Parkin, the well-known promoter of imperial federation in Australia and the agent in arranging for the Rhodes scholarships at Oxford which are assigned to America.

My duties were of the most varied character. I composed a little couplet designating my professions as those of

Physician, apothecary, chemist, and druggist,

Girl about house and boy in the barn.

I cared for the horse, cut wood for the fire, searched field and forest for medicinal herbs, ordered other medicines from a druggist [3] in St. John, kept the doctor's accounts, made his pills, and mixed his powders. This left little time for reading and study, and such exercises were still farther limited by the necessity of pursuing them out of sight of the housewife.

As time passed on, the consciousness that I was wasting my growing years increased. I long cherished a vague hope that the doctor could and would do something to promote my growth into a physician, especially by taking me out to see his patients. This was the recognized method of commencing the study of medicine. But he never proposed such a course to me, and never told me how he expected me to become a physician. Every month showed my prospects in a less hopeful light. I had rushed into my position in blind confidence in the man, and without any appreciation of the requirements of a medical practitioner. But these requirements now presented themselves to my mind with constantly increasing force. Foremost among them was a knowledge of anatomy, and how could that be acquired except at a medical school? It was every day more evident that if I continued in my position I should reach my majority without being trained for any life but that of a quack.

While in this state of perplexity, an event happened which suggested a way out. One day the neighborhood was stirred by the news that Tommy Nixon had run away-left his home without the consent of his parents, and sailed for the gold fields of Australia. I was struck by the absence of any word of reprobation for his act. The young men at least seemed to admire the enterprising spirit he had displayed. A few weeks after his departure a letter which he wrote from London, detailing his adventures in the great metropolis, was read in my presence to a circle of admiring friends with expressions of wonder and surprise. This little circumstance made it clear to me that the easiest way out of my difficulty was to out the Gordian knot, run away from Dr. Foshay, and join my father in New England.

No doubt the uppermost question in the mind of the reader will be: Why did you wait so long without having a clear understanding with the doctor? Why not ask him to his face how he expected you to remain with him when he had failed in his pledges, and demand that he should either keep them or let you go?

One answer, perhaps the first, must be lack of moral courage to face him with such a demand. I have already spoken of the mystery which seemed to enshroud his personality, and of the fascination which, through it, he seemed to exercise over me. But behind this was the conviction that he could not do anything for me were he ever so well disposed. That he was himself uneducated in many essentials of his profession had gradually become plain enough; but what he knew or possibly might know remained a mystery. I had heard occasional allusions, perhaps from Mrs. Foshay rather than from himself, to an institution supposed to be in Maine, where he had studied medicine, but its name and exact location were never mentioned. Altogether, if I told him of my intention, it could not possibly do any good, and he might be able to prevent my carrying it out, or in some other way to do much harm. And so I kept silent.

Tuesday, September 13, 1853, was the day on which I fixed for the execution of my plan. The day previous I was so abstracted as to excite remarks both from Mrs. Foshay and her girl help, the latter more than once declaring me crazy when I made some queer blunder. The fact is I was oppressed by the feeling that the step about to be taken was the most momentous of my life. I packed a few books and clothes, including some mementoes of my mother, and took the box to the stage and post-office in the evening, to be forwarded to an assumed name in St. John the next afternoon. This box I never saw again; it was probably stopped by Foshay before being dispatched. My plan was to start early in the morning, walk as far as I could during the day, and, in the evening, take the mail stage when it should overtake me. This course was necessitated by the fact that the little money that I had in my pocket was insufficient to pay my way

to Boston, even when traveling in the cheapest way.

I thought it only right that the doctor should be made acquainted with my proceeding and my reason for taking it, so I indited a short letter, which I tried to reproduce from memory ten years later with the following result:-

Dear Doctor,-I write this to let you know of the step I am about to take. When I came to live with you, it was agreed that you should make a physician of me. This agreement you have never shown the slightest intention of fulfilling since the first month I was with you. You have never taken me to see a patient, you have never given me any instruction or advice whatever. Beside this, you must know that your wife treats me in a manner that is no longer bearable.

I therefore consider the agreement annulled from your failure to fulfill your part of it, and I am going off to make my own way in the world. When you read this, I shall be far away, and it is not likely that we shall ever meet again.

If my memory serves me right, the doctor was absent on a visit to some distant patient on the night in question, and I did not think it likely that he would return until at least noon on the following day. By this time my box would have been safely off in the stage, and I would be far out of reach. To delay his receiving the letter as much as possible, I did not leave it about the house, but put it in the window of a shop across the way, which served the neighbors as a little branch post-office.

But he must have returned sooner than I expected, for, to my great regret, I never again saw or heard of the box, which contained, not only the entire outfit for my journey, but all the books of my childhood which I had, as well as the little mementoes of my mother. The postmaster who took charge of the goods was a Mr. Pitman. When I again passed through Salisbury, as I did ten years later, he had moved away, no one could tell me exactly where.

I was on the road before daybreak, and walked till late at night, occasionally stopping to bathe my feet in a brook, or to rest for a few minutes in the shadow of a tree. The possibility of my being pursued by the doctor was ever present to my mind, and led me to keep a sharp lookout for coming vehicles. Toward sunset a horse and buggy appeared, coming over a hill, and very soon the resemblance of vehicle and driver to the turnout of the doctor became so striking that I concealed myself in the shrubbery by the wayside until the sound of the wheels told me he was well past. The probability that my pursuer was in front of me was an added source of discomfort which led me to avoid the road and walk in the woods wherever the former was not visible to some distance ahead. But I neither saw nor heard anything more of the supposed pursuer, though, from what I afterward learned, there can be little doubt that it was actually Foshay himself.

The advent of darkness soon relieved me of the threatened danger, but added new causes of solicitude. The evening advanced, and the lights in the windows of the houses were becoming fewer and fewer, and yet the stage had not appeared. I slackened my pace, and made many stops, beginning to doubt whether I might not as well give up the stage and look for an inn. It was, I think, after ten o'clock when the rattling of wheels announced its approach. It was on a descending grade, and passed me like a meteor, in the darkness, quite heedless of my calls and gesticulations. Fortunately a house was in sight where I was hospitably entertained, and I was very soon sound asleep, as became one who had walked fifty miles or more since daylight.

Thus ended a day to which I have always looked back as the most memorable of my life. I felt its importance at the time. As I walked and walked, the question in my mind was, what am I doing and whither am I going? Am I doing right or wrong? Am I going forward to success in life, or to failure and degradation? Vainly, vainly, I tried to peer into the thick darkness of the future. No definite idea of what success might mean could find a place in my mind. I had sometimes indulged in daydreams, but these come not to a mind occupied as mine on that day. And if they had, and if fancy had been allowed its wildest flight in portraying a future, it is safe to say that the figure of an honorary academician of France, seated in the chair of Newton and Franklin in the palace of the Institute, would not have been found in the picture.

As years passed away I have formed the habit of looking back upon that former self as upon another person, the remembrance of whose emotions has been a solace in adversity and added zest to the enjoyment of prosperity. If depressed by trial, I think how light would this have appeared to that boy had a sight of the future been opened up to him. When, in the halls of learning, I have gone through the ceremonies which made me a citizen of yet another commonwealth in the world of letters, my thoughts have gone back to that day; and I have wished that the inexorable law of Nature could then have been suspended, if only for one moment, to show the scene that Providence held in reserve.

Next morning I was on my way betimes, having still more than thirty miles before me. And the miles seemed much longer than they did the day before, for my feet were sore and my limbs stiff. Quite welcome, therefore, was a lift offered by a young farmer, who, driving a cart, overtook me early in the forenoon. He was very sociable, and we soon got into an interesting conversation.

I knew that Dr. Foshay hailed from somewhere in this region, where his father still lived, so I asked my companion whether he knew a family of that name. He knew them quite well.

"Do you know anything of one of the sons who is a doctor?"

"Yes indeed; I know all about him, but he ain't no doctor. He tried to set up for one in Salisbury, but the people there must a' found him out before this, and I don't know where he is now."

"But I thought he studied medicine in Fredericton or Maine or somewhere on the border."

"Oh, he went off to the States and pretended to study, but he never did it. I tell you he ain't no more a doctor nor I am. He ain't smart enough to be a doctor."

I fell into a fit of musing long enough to hear, in my mind's ear, with startling distinctness, the words of two years before: "This world is all a humbug, and the biggest humbug is the best man. . . . You have a window in your breast and you must close that window before you can succeed in life." Now I grasped their full meaning.

Ten years later I went through the province by rail on my wedding journey. At Dorchester, the next village beyond Moncton, I was shown a place where insolvent debtors were kept "on the limits."

"By stopping there," said my informant, "you can see Dr. Foshay."

I suggested the question whether it was worth while to break our journey for the sake of seeing him. The reply of my informant deterred me.

"It can hardly be worth while to do so. He will be a painful object to see,-a bloated sot, drinking himself to death as fast as he can."

The next I heard of him was that he had succeeded.

I reached St. John on the evening that a great celebration of the commencement of work on the first railway in the province was in progress. When things are undecided, small matters turn the scale. The choice of my day for starting out on my adventurous journey was partly fixed by the desire to reach St. John and see something of the celebration. Darkness came on when I was yet a mile or two from the city; then the first rocket I had ever beheld rose before me in the sky. Two of what seemed like unfortunate incidents at the time were most fortunate. Subsequent and disappointing experience showed that had I succeeded in getting the ride I wished in the stage, the resulting depletion of my purse would have been almost fatal to my reaching my journey's end. Arriving at the city, I naturally found all the hotels filled. At length a kindly landlady said that, although she had no bed to give me, I was quite welcome to lie on a soft carpeted floor, in the midst of people who could not find any other sleeping place. No charge was made for this accommodation. My hope of finding something to do which would enable me to earn a little money in St. John over and above the cost of a bed and a daily loaf of bread was disappointed. The efforts of the next week are so painful to recall that I will not harrow the feelings of the reader by describing them. Suffice it to say that the adventure was wound up by an interview at Calais, a town on the Maine border, a few miles from Eastport, with the captain of a small sailing vessel, hardly more than a boat. He was bound for Salem. I asked him the price of a passage.

"How much money have you?" he replied.

I told him; whether it was one or two dollars I do not recall.

"I will take you for that if you will help us on the voyage."

The offer was gladly accepted. The little craft was about as near the opposite of a clipper ship as one can imagine, never intended to run in any but fair winds, and even with that her progress was very slow. There was a constant succession of west winds, and the result was that we were about three weeks reaching Salem. Here I met my father, who, after the death of my mother, had come to seek his fortune in the "States." He had reached the conclusion, on what grounds I do not know, that the eastern part of Maryland was a most desirable region, both in the character of its people and in the advantages which it offered us. The result was that, at the beginning of 1854, I found myself teacher of a country school at a place called Massey's Cross Roads in Kent County. After teaching here one year, I got a somewhat better school at the pleasant little village of Sudlersville, a few miles away.

Of my abilities as a manager and teacher of youth the reader can judge. Suffice it to say that, looking back at those two years, I am deeply impressed with the good nature of the people in tolerating me at all.

My most pleasant recollection is that of two of my best pupils of Sudlersville, nearly my own age. One was Arthur E. Sudler, for whose special benefit some chemical apparatus was obtained from Philadelphia. He afterwards studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and delighted me by writing that what I had taught him placed him among the best in his class in chemistry. The other was B. S. Elliott, who afterward became an engineer or surveyor.

One of my most vivid recollections at Massey's relates to a subject which by no means forms a part of one's intellectual development, and yet is at the bottom of all human progress, that of digestion. The staple food of the inhabitants of a Southern farming region was much heartier than any to which I had been accustomed. "Pork and pone" were the staples, the latter being a rather coarse cake with little or no seasoning, baked from cornmeal. This was varied by a compound called "shortcake," a mixture of flour and lard, rapidly baked in a pan, and eaten hot. Though not distasteful, I thought it as villainous a compound as a civilized man would put into his stomach.

Quite near my school lived a young bachelor farmer who might be designated as William Bowler, Esq., though he was better known as Billy Bowler. He had been educated partly at Delaware College, Newark, and was therefore an interesting young man to know. In describing his experiences at the college, he once informed me that they were all very pleasant except in a single point; that was the miserably poor food that the students got to eat. He could not, he declared, get along without good eating. This naturally suggested that my friend was something of a gourmand. Great, therefore, was my delight when, a few weeks later, he expressed a desire to have me board with him. I accepted the offer as soon as possible. Much to my disappointment, shortcake was on the table at the first meal and again at the second. It proved to be the principal dish twice, and I am not sure but three times a day. The other staple was fried meat. On the whole this was worse than pork and pone, which, if not toothsome, was at least wholesome. As the days grew into weeks, I wondered what Delaware College could give its students to eat. To increase the perplexity, there were plenty of chickens in the yard and vegetables in the garden. I asked the cook if she could not boil some vegetables and bring them on the table.

"Mas'er Bowler don't like wegetable."

Then I found that the chickens were being consumed in the kitchen and asked for one.

"Mas'er Bowler don't like chicken," was the reply, with an added intimation that the chickens belonged to the denizens of the kitchen.

The mystery was now so dark and deep that I determined to fathom it. I drew Mr. Bowler into conversation once more about Delaware College, and asked him what the students had to eat when there.

He had evidently forgotten his former remark and described what seemed to me a fairly well provided students' table. Now I came down on him with my crusher.

"You told me once that the table was miserably poor, so that you could hardly stand it. What fault had you to find with it?"

He reflected a moment, apparently recalling his impression, then replied: "Oh, they had no shortcake there!"

In 1854 I availed myself of my summer vacation to pay my first visit to the national capital, little dreaming that it would ever be my home. I went as far as the gate of the observatory, and looked wistfully in, but feared to enter, as I did not know what the rules might be regarding visitors. I speculated upon the possible object of a queer red sandstone building, which seemed so different from anything else, and heard for the first time of the Smithsonian Institution.

On the very beginning of my work at Massey's the improvement in my position was so remarkable that I felt my rash step of a few months before fully justified. I wrote in triumph to my favorite aunt, Rebecca Prince, that leaving Dr. Foshay was the best thing I had ever done. I was no longer "that boy," but a respectable young man with a handle to my name.

Just what object I should pursue in life was still doubtful; the avenues of the preferment I would have liked seemed to be closed through my not being a college graduate. I had no one to advise me as to the subjects I should pursue or the books I should study. On such books as I could get, I passed every spare hour. My father sent me Cobbett's English Grammar, which I found amusing and interesting, especially the criticisms upon the grammar found here and there in royal addresses to Parliament and other state papers. On the whole I am not sure but that the book justified my father's good opinion, although I cannot but think that it was rather hypercritical. I had been taught the rudiments of French in Wallace when quite a child by a Mr. Oldright, of whose methods and pronunciation my memory gives me a most favorable impression. I now got Cobbett's French Grammar, probably a much less commendable book than his English one. I had never yet fathomed the mysteries of analytic geometry or the calculus, and so got Davies' books on those subjects. That on the calculus was perhaps the worst that could be put into the hands of a person situated as I was. Two volumes of Bezout's Mathematics, in French, about a century old, were, I think, rather better. Say's Political Economy was the first book I read on that subject, and it was quite a delight to see human affairs treated by scientific methods.

I finally reached the conclusion that mathematics was the study I was best fitted to follow, though I did not clearly see in what way I should turn the subject to account. I knew that Newton's "Principia" was a celebrated book, so I got a copy of the English translation. The path through it was rather thorny, but I at least caught the spirit here and there. No teacher at the present time would think of using it as a text-book, yet as a mental discipline, and for the purpose of enabling one to form a mental image of the subject, its methods at least are excellent. I got a copy of the "American Journal of Science," hoping it might enlighten me, but was frightened by its big words, and found nothing that I could understand.

During the year at Sudlersville I made several efforts which, though they were insignificant so far as immediate results were concerned, were in some respects of importance for my future work. With no knowledge of algebra except what was derived from the meagre text-books I could pick up,-not having heard even the name of Abel, or knowing what view of the subject was taken by professional mathematicians,-I made my first attempt at a scientific article, "A New Demonstration of the Binomial Theorem." This I sent to Professor Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, to see if he deemed it suitable for publication. He promptly replied in the negative, but offered to submit it to a professional mathematician for an opinion of its merits. I gladly accepted this proposal, which was just what I wanted. In due course a copy of the report was sent me. One part of the work was praised for its elegance, but a lack of completeness and rigor was pointed out. It was accompanied by a pleasant note from Professor Henry remarking that, while not so favorable as I might have expected, it was sufficiently so to encourage me in persevering.

The other effort to which I refer was of quite a different character. A copy of the "National Intelligencer," intended for some subscriber who had left Sudlersville, came to the post-office for several months, and, there being no claimant, I frequently had an opportunity to read it. One of its features was frequent letters from volunteer writers on scientific subjects. Among these was a long letter from one G. W. Eveleth, the object of which was to refute the accepted theory of the universe, especially the view of Copernicus. For aught I knew Mr. Eveleth held as high a position as any one else in the world of science and letters, so I read his article carefully. It was evidently wholly fallacious, yet so plausible that I feared the belief of the world in the doctrine of Copernicus might suffer a severe shock, and hastened to the rescue by writing a letter over my own name, pointing out the fallacies. This was published in the "National Intelligencer"-if my memory serves me right-in 1855. My full name, printed in large capitals, in a newspaper, at the bottom of a letter, filled me with a sense of my temerity in appearing so prominently in print, as if I were intruding into company where I might not be wanted.

My letter had two most unexpected and gratifying results. One was a presentation of a copy of Lee's "Tables and Formul?," which came to me a few days later through the mail with the compliments of Colonel Abert. Not long afterward came a letter from Professor J. Lawrence Smith, afterward a member of the National Academy of Sciences, transmitting a copy of a pamphlet by him on the theory that meteorites were masses thrown up from the volcanoes of the moon, and asking my opinion on the subject.

I had not yet gotten into the world of light. But I felt as one who, standing outside, could knock against the wall and hear an answering knock from within.

The beginning of 1856 found me teaching in the family of a planter named Bryan, residing in Prince George County, Md., some fifteen or twenty miles from Washington. This opened up new opportunities. I could ride into Washington whenever I wished, leave my horse at a livery stable, and see whatever sights the city offered. The Smithsonian Library was one of the greatest attractions. Sometime in May, 1856, I got permission from the attendant in charge to climb into the gallery and see the mathematical books. Here I was delighted to find the greatest treasure that my imagination had ever pictured,-a work that I had thought of almost as belonging to fairyland. And here it was right before my eyes-four enormous volumes,-"Mécanique Céleste, by the Marquis de Laplace, Peer of France; translated by Nathaniel Bowditch, LL. D., Member of the Royal Societies of London, Edinburg, and Dublin." I inquired as to the possibility of my borrowing the first volume, and was told that this could be done only by special authority of Professor Henry. I soon got the necessary authority through Mr. Rhees, the chief clerk, whose kindness in the matter deeply impressed me, signed a promise to return it within one month, and carried it in triumph to my little schoolhouse. I dipped into it here and there, but at every step was met by formul? and methods quite beyond the power of one who knew so little of mathematics. In due time I brought the book back as promised.

Up to this time I think I had never looked upon a real live professor; certainly not upon one of eminence in the scientific world. I wondered whether there was any possibility of my making the acquaintance of so great a man as Professor Henry. Some time previous a little incident had occurred which caused me some uneasiness on the subject. I had started out very early on a visit to Washington, or possibly I had stayed there all night. At any rate, I reached the Smithsonian Building quite early, opened the main door, stepped cautiously into the vestibule, and looked around. Here I was met by a short, stout, and exceedingly gruff sort of a man, who looked upon my entrance with evident displeasure. He said scarcely a word, but motioned me out of the door, and showed me a paper or something in the entrance which intimated that the Institution would be open at nine o'clock. It was some three minutes before that hour so I was an intruder. The man looked so respectable and so commanding in his appearance that I wondered if he could be Professor Henry, yet sincerely hoped he was not. I afterward found that he was only "Old Peake," the janitor. [4] When I found the real Professor Henry he received me with characteristic urbanity, told me something of his own studies, and suggested that I might find something to do in the Coast Survey, but took no further steps at that time.

The question whether I was fitted for any such employment now became of great interest. The principal question was whether one must know celestial mechanics in order to secure such a position, so, after leaving Professor Henry, I made my way to the Coast Survey office, and was shown to the chief clerk, as the authority for the information. I modestly asked him whether a knowledge of physical astronomy was necessary to a position in that office. Instead of frankly telling me that he did not know what physical astronomy was, he answered in the affirmative. So I left with the impression that I must master the "Mécanique Céleste" or some similar treatise before finding any opening there.

I could not, of course, be satisfied with a single visit to such a man, and so called several times during the year. One thing I wondered about was whether he would remember me when he again saw me. On one occasion I presented him with a plan for improving the Cavendish method of determining the density of the earth, which he took very kindly. I subsequently learned that he was much interested in this problem. On another occasion he gave me a letter to Mr. J. E. Hilgard, assistant in charge of the Coast Survey office. My reception by the latter was as delightful as that by Professor Henry. I found from my first interview with him that the denizens of the world of light were up to the most sanguine conceptions I ever could have formed.

At this time, or probably some time before, I bought a copy of the "American Ephemeris" for 1858, and amused myself by computing on a slate the occultations visible at San Francisco during the first few months of the year. At this time I had learned nothing definite from Mr. Hilgard as to employment in his office. But about December, 1856, I received a note from him stating that he had been talking about me to Professor Winlock, superintendent of the "Nautical Almanac," and that I might possibly get employment on that work. When I saw him again I told him that I had not yet acquired such a knowledge of physical astronomy as would be necessary for the calculations in question; but he assured me that this was no drawback, as formul? for all the computations would be supplied me. I was far from satisfied at the prospect of doing nothing more than making routine calculations with formul? prepared by others; indeed, it was almost a disappointment to find that I was considered qualified for such a place. I could only console myself by the reflection that the ease of the work would not hinder me from working my way up. Shortly afterward I understood that it was at least worth while to present myself at Cambridge, and so started out on a journey thither about the last day of the year 1856.

At that time even a railroad journey was quite different from what it is now. The cars were drawn through Baltimore by horses. At Havre de Grace the train had to stop and the passengers were taken across the river in a ferryboat to another train. At Philadelphia the city had to be traversed by transfer coaches. Looking around for this conveyance, I met a man who said he had it. He shoved me into it and drove off. I remarked with suspicion that no other coaches were accompanying us. After a pretty long drive the speed of the horses gradually began to slacken. At length it came to a complete stop in front of a large building, and I got out. But it was only a freight station, locked up and dark throughout. The driver mumbled something about his fare, then rolled back on his seat, seemingly dead drunk. The nearest sign of life was at a tavern a block or two away. There I found that I was only a short distance from the station of departure, and reached my train barely in time.

Landing in New York at the first glimmer of dawn, near the end of the line of passengers I was momentarily alarmed to see a man pick up what seemed to be a leather purse from right between my feet. It was brown and, so far as I could see, just like my own. I immediately felt the breast pocket of my coat and found that my own was quite safe. The man who picked up the purse inquired in the politest tone possible if it was mine, to which I replied in the negative. He retreated a short distance and then a bystander came up and chided me in a whisper for my folly in not claiming the purse. The only reply he got was, "Oh, I'm up to all your tricks." On a repetition of this assurance the pair sneaked away.

Arriving at Cambridge, I sought out Professor Winlock and was informed that no immediate employment was open at his office. It would be necessary for him to get authority from Washington. After this was obtained some hope might be held out, so I appeared in the office from time to time as a visitor, my first visit being that described in the opening chapter.

[1] I may remark, for the benefit of any medical reader, that it involved the use of two pails, one full of water, the other empty. When he got through the ablution, one pail was empty, and the other full. My authority for the actuality of this remarkable proceeding was some inmate of the house at the time, and I give credence to the story because it was not one likely to be invented.

[2] Rev. Alexander H. Monroe, who, I have understood, afterward lived in Montreal. I have often wished to find a trace of him, but do not know whether he is still living.

[3] Our druggist was Mr. S. L. Tilley, afterward Sir Leonard Tilley, the well-known Canadian Minister of Finance.

[4] Peake, notwithstanding his official title, would seem to have been more than an ordinary janitor, as he was the author of a Guide to the Smithsonian Institution.

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