The calendar was finished, a jury sworn in a case, and the court adjourned.
How closely the young men watched the proceedings of the court, all the trials and points made, and the rulings, and how stripped of mystery seemed the mere practice, as at that time in Ohio it really was. Wise men had taken the best of the old common law practice, and with the aid of judicious legislation and intelligent courts, had got about the best it was capable of.
Bart managed to make himself useful and do himself some good on one occasion. Ranney had taken a position in a case, on a trial of some importance, on which the court was apparently against him. Bart had just gone over with it, in a text-book, and in a moment brought it in, with the case referred to, and received, as men often do, more credit than he was entitled to, Ranney carried his point, and could afford to be generous.
Bart had been introduced to Sartliff, who was an object of universal curiosity, even where he was best known, and coming out of the court-room one delicious afternoon, he asked the young students to walk away from the squabbles of men to more quiet and cleaner scenes. They took their way out of the town towards a beech forest, whose tender, orange-tinted, green young leaves were just shaping out, and relieving the hard skeleton lines of trunks and naked limbs. Passing the rude and rotting fences, by which rank herbage, young elders and briars were springing up:
“See,” said Sartliff, “how kindly nature comes to cover over the faults and failures of men. These rotting unsightly ‘improvements,’ as we call them, will soon be covered over and hidden with beautiful foliage.”
“With weeds, and nettles, and elders,” said Case, contemptuously.
“Weeds and nettles!” repeated Sartliff; “and why weeds and nettles? Was there ever such arrogance! Man in his boundless conceit and ignorance, after having ruined his powers, snuffs and picks about, and finds the use of a few insignificant things, which he pronounces good; all the rest he pushes off in a mass as weeds and nettles. Thus the great bulk of the universe is to him useless or hurtful, because he will not, or cannot, learn its secrets. These unknown things are standing reproaches to his ignorance and sloth.”
“Poisons, for instance, might become sanitary,” said Case.
“If man lived in accord with nature,” said Sartliff, “she would not harm him. It is a baby’s notion that everything is made to eat, and that all must go into the mouth. Men should have got beyond this universal alimentiveness, ere this. Find the uses of things, and poisons and nettles fall into their places in harmony, and are no longer poisons and nettles.”
“And accidents would help us on, instead of off,” suggested Case.
“They help as often one way as the other now,” replied Sartliff. “But there are really no accidents; everything is produced by law.”